Yan Yan had an extremely deep impression towards this dangling hairpin ornament.
When she was six years old, Shen Yi Yao had lost an ornament. It was this twin Luan ornament made of ruby and jade inlaid with golden threads. This piece was part of the Zhenguo madam’s dowry back in the day. She had given it to her daughter when Shen Yi Yao got married. Although it wasn’t extremely precious, Shen Yi Yao had been rather fond of it. Yan Yan was still young at the time, and liked these colorful and exquisite things. She would always flip through Shen Yi Yao’s jewelry box and play with the things inside.
One day, this ornament went missing. The senior maid Fang Cao said the third miss had taken it out to play. In reality, Yan Yan remembered she hadn’t played with the ornament that day, and she would never take her mom’s jewelry outside. She would at most play with it in front of the makeup counter or on top of the large kiln. But this ornament had inexplicably vanished.
If it were anything else, naturally no one would notice it. Shen Yi Yao had many ornaments, and didn’t care about a single hairpin. But this ornament was special to her, so her heart ached dearly. She had ordered everyone to search all over without success, and had even scolded Yan Yan a few times. She forbade her from playing with her jewelry in the future.
This was a small matter to begin with, but Yan Yan kept it in mind for several years. After she grew up, she figured that this ornament going missing definitely had something to do with Fang Cao, but unfortunately had no proof.
Who would have thought the ornament would turn up in Concubine Pei’s jewelry box.
It was karma after all!
The others merely assumed Yan Yan grabbed the ornament because she liked it. Xue-shi said flatteringly: “If the third miss likes it, we can ask the old madam to bestow it to you.”
Yan Yan ignored her and walked directly in front of Concubine Pei, “Do you remember this thing?”
Concubine Pei was distracted. Her gaze was blank when she first saw it, and then her face turned pale.
Yan Yan didn’t stand on ceremony with her. She stooped down and gave her a slap. She didn’t hold back any strength, making Concubine Pei’s face directly swell up. The maids on the side didn’t have a chance to stop her.
Concubine Pei panted urgently. She held her face as she started crying.
“Ah Yan, why are you hitting people!?” The old madam shouted hurriedly.
“I’m hitting her no matter what! Come, Concubine Pei, tell me. How did my mom’s missing hairpin end up with your things?!”
These words made the hall immediately fall silent. Everyone’s eyes flickered and contained some disbelief.
“This is my own hairpin. How can it be the madam’s hairpin….” Concubine Pei sobbed, not daring to raise her head.
Shen Yi Yao’s face was filled with astonishment. She stepped up and examined it, her expression complicated.
“Yours? Your Pei household has this kind of hairpin? Even ignoring the fact that this jade was crafted during my great-grandmother’s time, this hairpin was given to my mom by my grandmother. Don’t assume that no one remembers it. Is it yours just because you say so?”
Shen Yi Yao’s face was rigid. She said quietly to the old madam: “This truly is part of my dowry.”
The old madam smiled rigidly, “Could there be some mistake?”
Let’s put aside the matter of embezzlement for now. Embezzlement could either be a large matter or a small matter. As long as someone protects her, Concubine Pei would at most get her “personal savings” confiscated and her authority divided up. A small punishment would be enough, and she would get off almost unharmed. But stealing someone’s dowry was a large crime. If that person’s mother was slightly more powerful, she could absolutely use this excuse to have Concubine Pei sent home to her maternal family.
Of the seven sins, theft was one of them. If she was guilty of this, Concubine Pei’s reputation would be completely finished.
“Grandmother, could this thing be mistaken? Do we have to bring mom’s dowry list over, or perhaps have my maternal grandmother come to the estate to take a look?”
The old madam’s expression was even more rigid. She said awkwardly: “There’s no need for that. Concubine Pei is in the wrong. But since you have a younger brother and sister, you wouldn’t want their reputations stained as well….”
Her words were very soft and contained a hint of flattery. She currently didn’t dare provoke this little ancestor.
“Grandmother let’s not mention this for now. Matron Zou, go have someone bring Fang Cao over. I’m going to question her in front of everyone today. Back then when this hairpin went missing, she falsely accused me of taking it out to play. How did it end up with Concubine Pei? Was it because I was young and easy to bully?”
At this point, everyone understood why Yan Yan had such a large reaction. The third miss was still young back then. How could children that age be sensible. If the maid said it was the miss who lost it while playing around, wasn’t it the case?
Everyone’s expression turned weird. Shen Yi Yao suddenly recalled the matter back then. She had scolded Yan Yan over this matter.
This was to say, she had wrongly blamed her daughter?
She wanted to apologize, but looking at Yan Yan’s taut side-profile, she couldn’t get the words out. She could only take a seat on the side and inwardly shed her tears.
Fang Cui’s face was pale, her heart burning with anxiety. She had the urge to flee, but Mei Xiang was glaring at her like a tiger on the side.
Fang Cao was quickly brought over. Her face was pale as she tried to act calm. Looking at Concubine Pei’s tragic appearance out of the corner of her eyes, she shivered with fright.
She wanted to go over to Shen Yi Yao, but was pushed to her knees by Matron Zou. Yan Yan flicked her glance over and Fang Cui was dragged to kneel with Fang Cao as well.
Yan Yan walked over and shook the ornament in her hand. “Remember this ornament?”
Fang Cui hurriedly smiled and shook her head. Fang Cao’s eyes flashed. Her face was blank as she also shook her head.
“Very well.” Yan Yan nodded. “Drag them out and beat them. Beat them until they remember.”
The two looked terrified and cried out: “Third miss, have mercy. Madam….”
However, Shen Yi Yao didn’t look at the two of them.
No one moved in the room. This Rongan Hall was the old madam’s place. Since the old madam didn’t give the order, Yan Yan’s instructions weren’t quite sufficient.
Seeing Yan Yan look over, the old madam hurriedly said: “Didn’t you hear the third miss’s words? Why aren’t you dragging them out and beating them for me?”
She gave Matron Zhao a veiled glance.
Matron Zhao nodded and had a few tough grannies called over. These grannies were all thick and sturdy, seeming extremely strong. They were normally responsible for manual labor in the estate. Of course, if servants needed to be beaten, they would be the ones carrying it out. They were strong and skilled, able to control the severity of the beating.
The few of them grabbed Fang Cao and Fang Cui like grabbing chicks, and prepared to drag them out.
Yan Yan suddenly spoke: “Hold it.”
What was this third miss planning now?!
“When you people drag them out for the beating, don’t beat them to death. You can stop whenever they remember this hairpin. I know you are all skilled. If you accidentally beat them to death, you’ll pay with your own lives.”
The few grannies looked at Yan Yan in fear, and then looked at Matron Zhao.
Matron Zhao lowered her head without speaking. The few people looked at each other, and could only say with a sobbing tone: “Yes, yes, third miss. We definitely won’t beat them to death. We definitely won’t let them die.”
Yan Yan nodded and the grannies dragged the two off. Fang Cao and Fang Cui were still crying hysterically, but their mouths were quickly gagged.
The two were pressed down on the bench.
One of the grannies said: “You two girls shouldn’t blame us. This was ordered from above. If you recall something, just nod your head. This is the Rongan Hall, so your cries will not be tolerated.”
Fang Cui struggled as though she wanted to do something but was stopped by Fang Cao’s glance.
Soon the sounds of thudding rang out in the hall, as well as muffled cries.
Yan Yan turned around, ignoring the heavy silence. “You guys keep going. The sooner we finish sorting, the sooner we can go home.” She then said to Shen Yi Yao: “If there’s one, there will be a second one. It’s best if mom’s dowry list is brought over to match things up. I really want to know how many of my mom’s things Concubine Pei has.”
The last words were spoken for Shen Yi Yao, but also for everyone else.
Shen Yi Yao froze, and then nodded.
The proceedings in the room continued, accompanied by the thudding sounds of people being beaten.
The servants responsible for sorting were still fine. Since they couldn’t delay, they had to focus on their tasks. The hearts of those sitting on the side however were beating in trepidation and fear.
It wasn’t that they hadn’t seen people being beaten before. But they had never seen such a scene. A ten year old girl ordering people to be beaten, and not even letting them get beaten to death. If they died, those responsible would pay with their lives. Her calm and unperturbed expression made their hearts tremble.
Xue-shi secretly decided never to offend this third miss in the future.
The old madam was unsettled as she continuously drank her tea.
Yan Qian had long since shrunk into a corner in fear. Concubine Pei was prone on the floor without moving.
The sounds of beating stopped. One of the grannies came and reported, “Third miss, it’s done.”
She seemed to be relieved of a burden.
Fang Cao and Fang Cui were dragged back inside and thrown to the floor. The appeared like dead dogs.
Fang Cao slowly spoke, quickly shedding light on the truth of the matter.
It turns out that the madam’s ornament had caught Concubine Pei’s eye. She spent some money to bribe Fang Cao. Fang Cao saw that the third miss was young and liked playing with madam’s jewelry, so she stole it and blamed the third miss. She knew the madam cherished the third miss and wouldn’t punish her. It was fine if the thing went missing.
Yan Yan’s smile blossomed like a blooming peony flower. It was beautiful and ostentatious. Despite her young age, her future peerless appearance could be seen.
She muttered, “Still not telling the truth at this point? What you’re trying to say is that it has nothing to do with you?” Her obscure gaze turned to Fang Cui.
Fang Cui’s face was a mess of tears and snot. She sucked in a breath and said: “Begging the third miss to see things clearly. This servant had merely heard Fang Cao talking about this back then, and spoke a few words in agreement.”
This couldn’t be called abandoning the carriage to save the general. This was merely Fang Cao sacrificing herself. This matter was personally handled by her, and she had also told Shen Yi Yao that it was the third miss who had lost it. She knew her own outcome wouldn’t be good, and for the sake of saving Fang Cui, she changed the narrative. At the same time, she hoped to beg the madam to spare her life.
“Drag them out and keep going.”
Yan Yan no longer looked at the two. They still didn’t tell the truth at this point. They were truly devoted.
“Madam, madam save us. It’s all this servant’s fault for being greedy. Begging madam to spare us on account of our service. We won’t dare do it again in the future….”
The two of them looked extremely tragic. Their clothes were stained with blood, their hair was scattered and their eyes swollen. They faces were a mess.
Since they had served her for several years, Shen Yi Yao’s heart softened, “Ah Yan, how about…”
Yan Yan suddenly stood up and said shrilly, “Didn’t you understand my meaning? They were greedy? They were blinded by money for an instant? It’s more like they were in someone else’s pocket the whole time! You are my mom, but I really don’t know how to interact with you sometimes. I really want to ask you one thing: Are! You! Really! Dumb! Or! Just! Playing! Dumb!?”
Her eyes were astonishingly bright at this moment. Looking closely, one could see a torrent of burning flames that made the heart tremble. The flames seemed to be at risk of shooting out.
An immature, soft and tender voice sounded out, calming Yan Yan down. She took a deep breath, slowly let it out and sat back down on her chair.
“Let me say this. If things aren’t clearly investigated, we’ll continue to work on it. If there isn’t a conclusion before dark, I’ll have someone report it to grandfather, and go to the Heavens Abiding Estate to have the authorities come investigate!”
Each and every word was resolute, startling everyone to their core!