Yan Yan’s days have been very peaceful recently, without any turbulence.
Matron Zou was a very capable person. Not only did she take charge of everything, big or small, within the Ningxiang Chambers, she also didn’t neglect what was happening on the outside.
The Ningxiang Chambers had several grannies and maids who have been serving there since the beginning. When Yan Yan expelled a bunch of people, she had gotten rid of all the sneaks with backing. Those who remained were all honest and played their part well. These people all grew up within the Weiyuan Marquis Estate, and were innately honest. However, this didn’t mean they were useless. Matron Zou collected these people and after their daily chores were done, she would have them network with others in the estate. They targeted people that didn’t have much to do with the Rongan Hall or the Ziyu Pavilion, and made a few connections.
Yan Yan was generous and since Matron Zou was trusted by her, everything was left to her. After all the incentives and rewards were handed out, they ended up with quite a few useful people. The Ningxiang Chambers was no longer blind to things happening within the estate.
Matron Zou would always use real world examples when teaching Yan Yan to navigate household affairs. Although Matron Zou kept things simple and concise when discussing the gathering of news, her words were all to the point.
“Miss’s status is high enough that you don’t have to carefully plan and behave like those concubine borne children. However, nothing is out of the question within the household. Miss has a resolute nature and is very direct, but this is rarely seen in a girl. Girls are normally weak in nature, and can only rely on various schemes and tricks. Examples include tripping someone up, making false accusations and so on. These actions aren’t obvious, but they often make one have to suffer in silence, or perhaps remain oblivious. Being able to obtain some information in advance in such cases makes it possible to avoid, hence the saying “battles are won on intel.”
Yan Yan didn’t enjoy reading the books other girls liked to read. She never read those folk tales and poem collections. The only books she could bear to read had to do with military strategy. Actually there wasn’t much use for girls to read such books, but Yan Yan liked them and the Zhenguo Duke liked them as well. No one dared to say anything about it.
The so called plots and schemes were all ideas people used to deal with their enemies. There wasn’t much difference whether it were two opposing armies or two opposing people. Yan Yan didn’t understand collecting people to gather intelligence, but she knew that armies would send out scouts prior to battle. The meaning wasn’t too different.
Matron Zou had studied up on the third miss’s personality prior to coming, and would always give examples that were easy for her to understand. Compared to the military books, Yan Yan felt that women in the household were too senseless. They fought like cocks in the ring every day, just for the sake of money, clothes and some jewelry?
The saying was correct: those not involved couldn’t understand the thoughts of those who were. Matron Zou’s words made a lot of sense. They could choose not to get involved, but they couldn’t remain ignorant.
Yan Yan had already eaten several losses in the past, and deeply understood.
Matron Zou’s actions were also very useful. Information came in from all sides these days. Events that happened in the Rongan Hall and the Ziyu Pavilion seemed to be transmitted to her immediately after the fact.
Every time the maids came to report, Matron Zou would listen together with Yan Yan. After listening, she would let Yan Yan analyze things herself before filling things in when necessary. After a few rounds of this, the two got quite into their discussions. The only thing they forgot was little Ah Mo who was still sitting on the side.
Yan Yan wasn’t planning on hiding her actions from Ah Mo. Being born in this household, there wasn’t a place for innocence. He would have to know sooner or later. Although it was a little cruel, it would allow him to protect himself properly. These days in the Ningxiang Chambers, Yan Mo had listened to the maids talking in private. In addition to some of the things he saw recently, he understood a few things.
But he had always been bashful and spoke little, and seemed like an obedient child. He didn’t reveal any abnormal expression towards Shen Yi Yao and Yan Ting, making it hard for others to figure out his true thoughts. They merely treated him as a child.
When the report came in today, Yan Yan felt something was wrong.
She guessed her dad had noticed the weirdness behind his relocation order, and called her eldest uncle over, probably assuming he had offended someone. Then, his raging at the Ziyu Pavilion meant that he had figured things out.
Her grandfather always planned far ahead. Yan Yan felt she merely needed to watch how things played out.
She gave the orders for everyone in the Ningxiang Chambers to remain low-key. She herself planned on not going out unless absolutely necessary.
Yan Yan was correct in her assumptions. During dinner time, the Jinse Pavilion suddenly sent someone over to invite her and Yan Mo over to eat. They said that apart from the lord marquis and the madam, there wasn’t anyone else.
This “anyone else” naturally referred to Concubine Pei’s group. It meant that it would just be their family of four eating.
The dishes tonight were very sumptuous. There was poached chicken, ruyi fish rolls, dragon whiskered four veggies, ginger steamed bass, stir-fried kidneys, bamboo chicken, barbecued duck, and bronzed tofu and so on. These were all dishes Yan Yan and Yan Mo enjoyed.
The atmosphere at the table was very good. Shen Yi Yao was all smiles, seeming to like this sort of gathering very much. She would grab dishes for Yan Ting and Yan Mo every once in a while. Of course, Yan Yan wasn’t left out either.
Yan Yan felt a little complicated. This sort of scene was joyous and harmonious, but when combined with the things that happened during the day, it made one feel complicated.
After dinner, as Yan Yan was leaving with Yan Mo, Yan Ting gave Yan Yan a deep look, his pupils unclear. Yan Yan’s heart tightened. When she looked over again, her dad wasn’t looking at her, making it seem as though it was an illusion. However, Yan Yan knew that it wasn’t.
Did he finally find the “main culprit”?
On the way back to the Ningxiang Pavilion, Yan Yan’s face was a little gloomy. Her hand couldn’t help but tighten on Yan Mo’s. Little Ah Mo looked at his big sister, but couldn’t understand her expression.
“Ah Mo, you have to be well.” She was talking to Yan Mo, but also to herself.
Unexpectedly, Yan Mo’s face didn’t have a bashful expression. His little face was very solemn.
“Does it have to be this way?”
This was the first time brother and sister were discussing this matter properly. Yan Yan had always felt her younger brother wasn’t as he appeared on the surface, but this was her first time realizing he wasn’t as innocent as he looked.
She crouched down and looked directly into his eyes.
“This is a multiple choice question. Grandfather has set everything up already. If he chooses correctly, he’ll still be our dad. If he chooses wrongly…..”
Yan Yan left the remaining words unspoken. Actually she had already prepared for the worst, for no other reason than Yan Ting’s gaze back then.
That gaze faintly concealed something. She felt unspeakable grief, but also as if a weight was taken off her mind….
“Before then, let’s just watch silently. As for you, be well.”
Yan Mo nodded. He suddenly smiled bashfully and used his little hand to stroke his big sister’s hair.
“Ah Mo will listen and definitely be well. Big sis has to be well too.”
Yan Ting went to bathe first, followed by Shen Yi Yao.
After bathing, Shen Yi Yao sat in front of the makeup counter, carefully applying some moisturizing fragrant lotion on her face.
Yan Ting leaned against the headboard, silently looking at her back. “It’s been several days since I came back. Let’s go visit my in-laws tomorrow.”
Shen Yi Yao’s hand slightly shook as she nodded: “Ok.”
The next day, they got up bright and early.
Concubine Pei called in sick today and didn’t come pay respects. Only Concubine Wu and the few children came. The second branch gathered at the Rongan Hall to pay respects to the old madam. She had everyone stay for a meal. Yan Ting said they were going to the Zhenguo Duke Estate today and the old madam naturally understood what it meant.
She was all smiles as she pulled Shen Yi Yao’s hand, telling her to stay a little longer at her maternal family’s place since Yan Ting would be there as well. She also considerately asked her to bring the two children along as well.
Yan Yan was seated below with her eyes lowered, her expression concealed. Shen Yi Yao said that Yan Mo had just gotten better and Yan Yan still had class, so they won’t be coming along.
After Shen Yi Yao and Yan Ting left, Yan Yan took Yan Mo back to the Ningxiang Chambers.
Yan Mo was a little worried, wanting to speak yet hesitating. On the other hand, Yan Yan didn’t show any strange expressions the entire morning. She still went to class like normal, and came back to eat lunch with Yan Mo.
Because Shen Yi Yao was cherished by the Zhenguo couple, the entire estate was always extremely respectful to this eldest miss who had married out.
Every time Shen Yi Yao returned, she would go directly to the Ninghui Chambers. However, things were different today.
The two of them were led to the Huju1 Hall for a seat.
The name “Huju Hall” sounded imposing, but was actually where the Zhenguo Duke received their guests. The two of them naturally knew this.
There was nothing wrong with this behavior and the servants were also extremely respectful.
But…..but they….weren’t guests!
Shen Yi Yao’s expression was a little unsettled. She wondered if her parents hadn’t forgiven her yet. As for Yan Ting, his thoughts were much more profound and plentiful.
“Did you guys make a mistake? Why did you bring us here? This is where guests are received. I want to see dad and mom.”
It wasn’t convenient for Yan Ting to speak up as the son-in-law, but that didn’t meant Shen Yi Yao couldn’t say anything.
That servant half-bowed and said quietly: “These orders came from above. This little one also doesn’t know.”
Some servants brought over tea and fruits. Nothing was lacking, but Shen Yi Yao’s heart beat faster and faster. Her red-rimmed eyes glanced at Yan Ting before moving away. She was nervous and restless.
“Then hurry and report back. Say that I’ve brought their son-in-law over to visit them!”
Shen Yi Yao was a very gentle person, but she could still get angry. This time, her words faintly contained some anger and her tone sounded urgent.
The servants all departed, leaving Shen Yi Yao and Yan Ting alone in this large hall. It was furnished extravagantly, but seemed extremely cold.
On the main wall hung a large painting of a fierce tiger going down a mountain. The giant tiger was vivid and lifelike, its mouth opened in a snarl. It seemed to be roaring and threatening. This was the Zhenguo Duke’s favorite painting. It was done by a famous painter back then. Due to the size of the painting, it took several months to complete.
The Zhenguo Duke treated it as a treasure after receiving it, and hung it up in this hall, changing its name to “Huju Hall”.
This painting completely captured the domineering spirit of the Zhenguo Duke, and it truly suited him well.
Yan Ting silently looked at this painting, his eyes obscure. Having vented his anger and let things stew, he had long resumed his controlled calm.
He had expected there to be abnormalities during this trip, and his expectations had become reality. His emotions were turbulent but his face remained tranquil. He even had the spare time to look comfortingly at his worried wife.
Actually, Yan Ting was quite impressed with himself sometimes. He could endure what others couldn’t. He dared scheme against people others didn’t. But why were the heavens so against him? Just what did he do wrong for the heavens to treat him this way? He could only comfort himself by thinking “people with great destinies needed to endure bitter trials first”.
Yan Ting was very pleased with his own self-control. He felt that failing in spite of this would mean the heavens were blind. He wasn’t afraid of temporary setbacks, because he felt he would come out victorious against fate in the end….
Everyone respected the Zhenguo Duke for being a formidable person in this age, a hero who could prop up the heavens. But did they know he was so petty? Yan Ting silently thought as he gazed at the tiger in the painting.
But no matter. Aren’t you just giving me the cold shoulder? I’ll endure it for now, but there will come a day when I get my revenge. Especially since your weakness is within my grasp. I can bear losing her, can you?