Yan Ting returned to the estate smelling of alcohol. He first stopped by the Jinse Pavilion.
He met with Shen Yi Yao and told her he had been eating and drinking with friends he hadn’t seen in a long time. He volunteered to sleep in the study since he knew she didn’t like the smell of alcohol.
Yan Ting’s attitude was very calm and Shen Yi Yao didn’t think too much about it.
After leaving the Jinse Pavilion, Yan Ting turned towards the Ziyu Pavilion.
Concubine Pei knew that her cousin had stayed at the Jinse Pavilion for three days already, which meant he would definitely come to her place today. She had long since taken a bath and changed in preparation. When Yan Ting arrived, he saw the exceptionally alluring and lovely Concubine Pei.
She wore a pale blue gown embroidered with cloud patterns. It looked very simple, but actually had some intricacies. The silk was extremely thin. At first glance it looked no different from normal gowns, but looking closely or when it was under the light, the fair skin on the inside was faintly discernable.
Concubine Pei had a lithe figure to begin with. Despite giving birth to two children, she still maintained herself well. Her waist was still narrow, her breasts full and her butt perky, looking extremely attractive.
Yan Ting’s gaze darkened and his passion burned brightly. The rest naturally didn’t need to be mentioned.
After they were done, Concubine Pei started telling Yan Ting about the happenings within the estate over the past couple of years.
Yan Ting alternated between looks of praise and displeasure as he listened silently. Concubine Pei told him everything that needed to be told, with the exception of Yan Mo falling into the water. Yan Yan making a huge fuss and the Zhenguo Duke Estate’s reaction wasn’t mentioned either.
Having grown up with her cousin, Concubine Pei understood Yan Ting far too well.
He was always cautious in doing things, and was very strict. Towards Shen Yi Yao and her children, he was always very considerate and treated them with the utmost respect and dignity. He looked to be the model husband and father all around. He even made Concubine Pei act respectfully as well.
Sometimes Concubine Pei felt that Shen Yi Yao wasn’t the only one who was fooled. He fooled himself too.
At first, Concubine Pei was fooled as well. She was aggrieved and unresigned. She felt abandoned by her cousin, but why would he take her as concubine if he abandoned her? If he wasn’t abandoning her, why was he showing the utmost concern and love towards Shen Yi Yao? If she was the slightest bit disrespectful towards her, he would scold her strictly.
She only found out the truth when she tried something secretly once. Perhaps Concubine Pei had been too sullen, or perhaps she was truly dissatisfied. Her move was extremely small, but it was discovered by Yan Ting. This time however, he didn’t scold her. He only looked at her with a profound gaze.
This gaze made Concubine Pei feel both worried yet overjoyed. She felt that she realized something. After testing things out little by little, starting out bit by bit, she finally figured out Yan Ting’s deepest thoughts.
At that moment, she had been overjoyed at the unexpected realization. She hated Shen Yi Yao. If it wasn’t for her, she definitely could have married the cousin she had a crush on for a long time. Every time she pulled a scheme or screwed her over a little, she felt uncontrollably excited.
She took all sorts of advantage and pandered to him in every aspect. Her cousin grew to cherish her more and more.
But she gradually also felt a sense of inexplicable sorrow. Everyone said that Yan Ting had feelings for her, including her aunt. Only she herself knew that her cousin had always been very cold to her in the past.
Why did his attitude change? Why did things turn out like her dreams? The root cause was still…probably because she suited his thoughts more. In reality, he didn’t love Shen Yi Yao as much as he appeared to. In reality he probably hated Shen Yi Yao quite a bit. In reality, he wasn’t as close with the Zhenguo Duke Estate as he appeared to be. In reality, every time someone mentioned that he was the Zhenguo Duke’s son-in-law, he hated it the most….
As she understood Yan Ting more and more, Concubine Pei felt closer and closer to her cousin. He liked weakness and being relied upon, so she became as soft as water, and rarely contacted her maternal family. He liked obedient and sensible people, so she became obedient and sensible. He liked keeping his thoughts hidden, so she did her best to guess at his thoughts and act accordingly.
So what if he had been cold. That was all in the past. Now, the person he loved most was her. It had never been that Shen Yi Yao!
Concubine Pei was very pleased with herself, but she was also clear what Yan Ting’s taboos were.
If he knew about Yan Mo falling into the water and Yan Yan making a huge fuss, as well as the Zhenguo Duke Estate’s dissatisfaction, he would definitely be furious. Hong’er would also be punished, and she as well.
Of course, she didn’t think it was too serious. It was in the past after all. She merely felt this matter could be brought up later. Her cousin had just returned and their nights together were short. It was better to let it sit for now.
She didn’t know that her not bringing it up in time would lead to Yan Ting’s extreme humiliation. He would fly into a terrible rage afterwards.
The department of military assignments was a subsidiary of the Ministry of War. They were responsible for evaluating military rankings, giving out medals and promotions, and assigning merit. The staff were composed of ministers, assistant ministers, managers, scribes as well as other similar low-ranked officials.
The area in front of the doors of the department was bustling with people bright and early. From time to time, people dressed as military officials would come in and out. Mixed in were a few who were dressed as bureaucrats. Some military officials looked refined, yet most of them were brutes. Every now and then, someone would walk out cursing.
Yan Ting stood for a while. There were a few military officials arguing with bureaucrats. The minor officials responsible for receiving visitors looked frail and scholarly, but they weren’t afraid of these burly military officials. They rolled up their sleeves and argued back. Although the military officials brandished their bowl-sized fists, they never struck out. It was clear some things were still taboo.
The military official who wanted to hit people still left in the end. The minor official responsible for receiving visitors spat on the floor and cursed: “Acting tough with this daddy? Go take it up with your direct superior if you’re so capable.”
The minor official’s gaze moved to Yan Ting’s group. Based on his clothing, let alone the two followers by his side, he was clearly wealthy. He walked over with a smile and asked: “Can I help you?”
“Our lord marquis wishes to see your manager!” One of the followers said.
Lord marquis? The minor official looked Yan Ting up and down doubtfully, and indiscernibly twitched his mouth.
“Which manager are you looking for? You should know that our department has several managers.”
Yan Ting named one of the managers and the minor official smiled: “So you’re here for Manager Wang. Sincere apologies, Manager Wang isn’t here today.”
After speaking, the minor official cupped his hands and prepared to leave, but was pulled back by one of Yan Ting’s followers. “What’s wrong with this minor official? We’re not done talking, what’re you leaving for?!”
The minor official jerked his sleeve back and scolded: “Speak if you want to, what are you pulling for!?” He then said to Yan Ting: “This superior, Manager Wang is truly not here. You’ve also seen how our department has a lot to do, and cannot stand around chatting with the elderly. Please understand.”
His last few words had a mocking tone. However, it wasn’t clear in his speech and wasn’t easy to point out.
Yan Ting clenched his hands behind his back, and gave his other follower a glance. That follower’s temper seemed to be mild. He walked up with a smile and pulled on the minor official’s hand. “Then, when can we find Manager Wang here?”
The minor official weighed the thing in his hand and revealed a smile. He cleared his throat and said: “You also know our job is difficult. We’re not like those military officials, who can act out whenever they want. Manager Wang has quite a lot going on. How about this. You guys come back tomorrow at this time. You should be able to find Manager Wang.”
After speaking, the minor official cupped his hands and left.
“Peh, what was that about!? Lord marquis, what should we do?”
Yan Ting had a calm expression. “Come again tomorrow.” After speaking, he took the lead in leaving.
“Lord marquis is so good natured. Those kinds of people need a proper beating to make them more honest.”
“As the saying goes, the lord of hell is easy to get along with but the little demons are troublesome. The department of military assignments is used to working with military officials. If beatings led to results, those people would have long since been beaten. You should also change your temper, don’t make trouble for the lord marquis….”
The two followers muttered as they tagged along. Yan Ting didn’t show it on his face, but his emotions were billowing inside.
Merit-based nobility weren’t actually as glorious as they sounded, especially those whose line of succession were about to end. Their family had no influence, and only had this empty noble title. There were many of these merit-based noble households in the capital. Although they looked glamorous on the surface, no one truly thought much of them.
That minor official was such an example. Despite hearing his followers call him lord marquis, he didn’t change his attitude much. Since he had fallen to the extent of coming to the department of military assignments, it was clear he didn’t have much influence, and others naturally wouldn’t take him seriously.
Yan Ting was this way many years ago, and it was still the same many years later. Actually this wasn’t truly the case. If he brought out his identity as the Zhenguo Duke’s son-in-law, those people would definitely invite him inside respectfully, and not make things difficult.
But he wasn’t willing. He felt it would be disgracing himself. Therefore, he left silently, and used the humiliation that filled his chest as a sort of motivation.
It’s impossible for one to be down forever. His day will come!
The next day Yan Ting came to the department of military assignments and met with Manager Wang, who was in charge of this matter.
Manager Wang was extremely respectful, offering him a seat and serving tea. He spoke a whole lot of superficial words, and also offered respects to the Zhenguo Duke. Finally, he informed that since the relocation order had been sent down from above, he himself wasn’t clear about the prior and future arrangements. After all, how could a small sixth-ranked official know about the matters of someone with Yan Ting’s status?
Above the manager was the assistant minister and the minister. Yan Ting came two more times and met with these two officials, but ended up with the same results. He no longer came back after that.
Actually, Yan Ting was also aware he was making things hard on himself. All he had to do was take Shen Yi Yao and visit his in-laws, and this matter would be resolved. However, he kept holding it in. He seemed to want to prove something, yet also seemed unable to prove anything.
Ever since Yan Ting returned, his movements were completely reported to the Zhenguo Duke Estate. The Zhenguo Duke revealed an obscure smile upon hearing this, but didn’t say anything.
These days Yan Ting had been leaving early and returning late. The eldest branch couldn’t sit still and made some inquiries, but were all scolded back by the old madam.
The old madam remained silent for several days, not wanting to put pressure on her son. This day, she was no longer able to endure and brought Yan Ting over for questioning.
She understood her own son well. Yan Ting started off saying everything was fine, but couldn’t overcome the old madam’s tears. He could only recount his experiences in the capital after getting back. Up until this point, he still wasn’t clear on why he was relocated. He also wasn’t able to find out where he would be assigned to next. Even the department of military assignments who were responsible for the relocation orders said it was arranged by the higher ups. This meant he could only ask the Ministry of War’s esteemed left and right senior ministers.
After listening, the old madam muttered to herself for a while and decided to call her eldest daughter back to have her help.
Yan Ting frowned and was a little displeased.
The old madam had a daughter. She was Yan Ting’s big sister, Yan Feng. Yan Feng had married into the Chen household early on. Although the Chen family wasn’t a major influential family, they had several members of their younger generation pass the civil service exam. Yan Feng’s husband Chen Chun was the second son of their principal line, and his father worked for the Ministry of War’s esteemed left senior minister.
Yan Ting didn’t like this brother-in-law of his, to the extent of hatred.
That year, the Chen family moved to the capital to develop themselves. Yan Feng just happened to reach the age of marriage, and after repeated selection by the old marquis and madam, the marriage was arranged with the newly elevated Chen family.
Normally poor households who relied on the civil service exam to elevate themselves thoroughly looked down upon the descendants of nobility who relied on their family background. The Chen family more or less all had this sort of common problem. But since they were used to upholding their reputation, they didn’t show anything on the surface. Only Chen Chun was very opinionated. Putting it harshly, he didn’t know how to conduct himself properly. Despite obeying his family and marrying Yan Feng, he never concealed his disdain towards her maternal family.
Yan Feng was put in a difficult position, and could only interact less and less with her family. Of course, she still kept in contact, but just very little.
This situation lasted for several years until Yan Ting married Shen Yi Yao. After becoming the Zhenguo Duke’s son-in-law, the Chen family finally became a little more intimate with the Weiyuan Marquis Estate.
Everyone swept this matter under the rug, apart from Yan Ting. Although he still recognized his older sister, he never accepted her husband. This matter should have been easy to deal with, but Yan Ting truly hated Chen Chun’s disdainful, arrogant or mocking appearance. This was why he never viewed them as an option.
The old madam understood her son’s conflicted feelings, but since it was her own daughter and her son-in-law’s character couldn’t be changed, she could only smooth things over on the side. Yan Ting didn’t refute the old madam’s suggestion.