The slender and fragile Concubine Pei lay prone on the edge of the kiln, coughing with all her strength.
The red embroidered gauze mattress had been messed up due to her struggles. She coughed while tears streamed down her face. The maids outside heard the commotion and quietly inquired within. They were scared into silence by Yan Ting smashing a teacup on the ground.
Concubine Pei looked extremely wretched. Her fair and slender neck was a shade of purple, her eyes were swollen and her makeup was running all over due to her tears.
Yan Ting gave her a dull glance. He half lifted the hems of his robes, turning to sit in one of the chairs.
After a long while, Concubine Pei finally recovered. She wasn’t able to do anything about her appearance, merely using her sleeves to wipe her face before crawling over to Yan Ting and hugging his leg.
“Co-cousin, you’ve truly…accused me wrongly. I know about this matter….not having told you earlier was my-my fault. But you’ve only stopped by the Ziyu Pavilion once after coming back. I hadn’t seen you in so long and forgot about it due to excitement. I remembered afterwards and wanted to go tell you, but was afraid the madam would be unhappy if she saw me…..”
Her normally soft and delicate voice was now raspy like an old woman’s. Concubine Pei’s throat was in a lot of pain, but she couldn’t care about it at this moment. She was trembling all over from shock, but still forced a sweet and pitiful expression on her face.
She didn’t know just what on earth had happened, but Yan Ting’s words had revealed quite a lot. Concubine Pei had never been stupid. She thought of how Yan Ting was mysteriously relocated, thought of how the servants found out the lord marquis left early every day and returned late in a bad mood. Having managed the household for several years, she also had her own people placed in the front courtyard. Therefore, she was clear he hadn’t been in a good mood these days.
Connecting this with the words he just spoke in a rare fury, Concubine Pei came to an astounding conclusion. Did the Zhenguo Duke take his anger out on her cousin over last time’s matter, and have him relocated back to the capital?
Concubine Pei understood what was most important to Yan Ting. Therefore, no matter what, this couldn’t have anything to do with her. Otherwise, he definitely wouldn’t let her off! She wasn’t as naïve as Shen Yi Yao. She knew too well what lay beneath her handsome cousin’s normally mild expression!
She still remembered something that happened many years ago when Yan Ting’s marriage with Shen Yi Yao had been arranged but not yet occurred. One of Yan Ting’s chambermaids secretly switched out her birth control soup and got pregnant. That chambermaid was clever and kept it hidden until her stomach made it impossible to do so.
The old madam couldn’t bear aborting the child since it was Yan Ting’s first child. However, Yan Ting personally had the granny brew the abortion medicine and watched as they force-fed it to her. Finally, the chambermaid bled out. Two lives were lost in one go.
It was at this moment Concubine Pei realized that the gentle-looking Yan Ting was actually very ruthless. He would kill anyone who got in his way, regardless if they were god or human.
“…..that matter was due to Hong’er losing his temper, and wasn’t on purpose. But the third miss refused to let it go and insisted that Hong’er pushed the fourth young master on purpose. The fourth young master’s health isn’t good so it isn’t convenient for him to make aunt happy. Hong’er on the other hand has made aunt happy countless times, and let her feel the joy of having a grandson. Therefore, aunt was a little biased towards Hong’er….”
Concubine Pei’s expression was melancholy and mournful, as though having suffered limitless grievance.
“…..that day the third miss made a huge fuss. Aunt heard the noise and came over, her attitude being slightly biased towards Hong’er. The third miss saw that aunt’s attitude ignored the fourth young master’s safety. That third miss was overbearing, and actually used the Zhenguo Duke Estate to threaten the old madam. Aunt is already old. How can she endure being angered so? This servant concubine couldn’t endure any longer and spoke a few words in argument…the madam has always been filial, and was truly angered at that time. Thus she ordered the third miss to be locked up. Who knew that someone would come over from the Zhenguo Duke Estate….
This was what it meant to have a glib tongue.
Although everything sounded like the truth, wasn’t she just speaking up for herself? She also had the old madam take the blame. The old madam truly took the lead in that matter. Could Yan Ting say his own mom was in the wrong? Of course, part of it was also the Zhenguo Duke Estate bullying others with their status.
Concubine Pei understood what Yan Ting hated most. Therefore, she never failed to exaggerate the Zhenguo Duke Estate’s blame in front of Yan Ting. At this time, she put all the responsibility on Yan Yan and the Zhenguo Duke. Second Madam Shen, who had come to pick Yan Yan up, was also described as extremely domineering.
“….this was an unexpected event to begin with. This servant concubine knows about cousin’s plans. How could I purposefully mess things up at the last moment….”
After speaking, Concubine Pei started crying heavily. She wiped her tears and looked inconsolable.
“This servant concubine minded her responsibilities diligently while cousin was gone these few years. I’ve managed the household properly while raising the second miss and third young master. I never dared slack off in the slightest. The third miss’s personality has always been overbearing. She frequently beats and scolds the servants. She doesn’t even give me face as a concubine. The madam is a pushover and isn’t able to control her. The old madam gives the Zhenguo Duke face and doesn’t dare scold her. Everyone in the estate yields to her….yet despite this, the Zhenguo Duke still feels his granddaughter is being wronged and made a show of sending the third miss people and gifts. He fell just short of claiming this place as his own….”
Yan Ting didn’t show any expression, but his hand gripped the armrest tightly, his veins faintly visible.
Concubine Pei was pleased at seeing this and continued complaining tearfully.
After a long time, Yan Ting’s voice sounded from above.
“You should get up.”
Concubine Pei raised her eyes and glanced at him before lowering her head. “Then, is cousin still angry at Yu Jin?”
The air stagnated for a moment and Concubine Pei was nervous. Yan Ting’s voice sounded again. “Play your part properly. I dislike people who don’t know their place.”
Don’t know their place? What does it mean to not know one’s place?
This “place” was definitely not from society’s perspective, but rather from Yan Ting’s own perspective.
Concubine Pei understood. She felt relieved in her heart and carefully stood up.
“Cousin, this servant concubine was insolent!” She weakly wiped her tears and looked extremely pitiful.
Yan Ting stood up and gave her a glance. “Recuperate properly.”
After speaking, he left.
At this time, the maids who were keeping watch outside finally came in.
Seeing the mess in the room and the wound on Concubine Pei’s neck, they teared up in fear. Xiang Liu wanted to call a doctor but was stopped by Concubine Pei.
Her cousin had said to “recuperate”. He meant to let it rest and best not to let outsiders know.
Concubine Pei carefully gave instructions before lying back weakly on the kiln and having the maids apply medicine.
After leaving the Rongan Hall, Yan Zhi stumbled back to the eldest branch’s pavilion.
Seeing Xue-shi when he entered, he scolded: “Damn woman, you really didn’t hold back!”
Xue-shi didn’t respond and pulled him into the inner room.
“Why did the old madam make such a big fanfare about looking for you?”
Yan Zhi didn’t conceal anything and explained the situation.
Xue-shi let out a breath in relief and patted her chest: “I had thought it was because of that matter. I figured we had to make a big fuss to muddy things.”
It turned out that due to the eldest branch lacking money, Xue-shi and Yan Zhi had decided after some discussion to lend out their silver as high interest loans. Although the interest wasn’t a lot, it was still sufficient to supplement their income.
In the past, due to major households giving out high interest loans, several debtors had been hounded to death. Once the matter got blown up, the present emperor strictly investigated things and everyone involved ended up suffering.
Therefore, high interest loans had become a taboo for noble households. Every manager of the household would strictly order their descendants not to get involved in such things. The eldest branch was truly out of options and ended up doing so.
Yan Zhi’s posting was low and his monthly salary wasn’t enough to even make a decent outfit. Xue-shi’s maternal family wasn’t any help, and her initial dowry wasn’t much. Life in the estate was luxurious and she needed to prop up her dignity. To do so naturally required silver, but where was she to get it? The eldest branch only got so much allowance every month. They could only think of their own methods.
Seeing the commotion over finding Yan Zhi today, Xue-shi thought that the old madam had discovered this matter. This was why she made a huge scene. As for Yan Zhi raising a mistress, he merely said so to prove the he wasn’t hiding anything. This was a secret signal he shared with Xue-shi so she could make a huge distraction.
If things weren’t looking good, Xue-shi would have continued to make a fuss. At that time, Yan Zhi kicking her and having her go back was also another signal that said the matter wasn’t related and she could stop.
The couple could be said to have good coordination for the sake of money. Unfortunately, they didn’t apply it on the correct path.
“According to what you said, the relocation order was the Zhenguo Duke’s retaliation?” Xue-shi’s eyes burned brightly.
Yan Zhi stroked his chin and leaned against his chair. “I’m almost a hundred percent certain. Smart people always like seeing others as fools. But if the Zhenguo Duke Estate’s people were truly fools, they wouldn’t have lasted this long. I’ve told them long ago they couldn’t keep this up, but unfortunately my words don’t mean anything.”
“Don’t involve yourself in this matter. Otherwise you might get blamed while trying to help. Let them struggle however they wish. If things are truly bad, we can pool together some silver and live on our own.”
This was also their last resort. Anyone would prefer having a marquis estate behind them, but unfortunately the eldest branch didn’t have any say in things. Sometimes Xue-shi couldn’t understand. Having the Zhenguo Duke Estate as a backer was a wonderful thing. How did things turn out this way?
Why did they have to scheme? Wasn’t it good to be the Zhenguo Duke’s son-in-law? Was this the difference in thought between smart people and stupid people like them?
This question was really profound.
“Don’t show up around the old madam during this period of time!” Yan Zhi said.
Xue-shi rolled her eyes, “I know, no need to tell me.”