When Yan Ting returned, he learned about the situation.
He first took a trip to the Rongan Hall where the old madam summarized things for him. He didn’t say much and left, making his way to the Ziyu Pavilion.
Concubine Pei had finally moved out of that decrepit house and returned to the Ziyu Pavilion, which was infinitely better. After Yan Qian left, Concubine Pei had her servants prepare a bath for her. She soaked in the tub with flower petals, and used white magnolia scented soap to scrub herself all over. Finally, she lay onto her soft mattress and fell deeply asleep.
She was in the middle of dreaming when a chill startled her awake. She opened her eyes and met Yan Ting’s deep and obscure sharp gaze.
Yan Ting snorted coldly and stood up. Concubine Pei hurriedly sat up within her blankets.
Concubine Pei bashfully lowered her head and turned ever so slightly to reveal her neck and shapely collar bone. She let out a soft “en” and raised her eyes to look at Yan Ting.
“Cousin, are you happy? Yu Jin is pregnant.” She completely exhibited the cute demeanor of a bashful and timid but also excited girl.
Yan Ting’s gaze was a little obscure. Concubine Pei’s heart quivered.
She half turned her neck, lowered her head and said sobbingly, “Cousin, I was wrong. Yu Jin truly knows her wrongs. Yu Jin was too short-sighted, but definitely wasn’t greedy for those things. Yu Jin was just jealous, jealous of the madam, jealous that you gifted her so many things. That’s why Fang Cao and Fang Cui were instructed to steal those things….”
Shen Yi Yao’s missing jewelry, apart from that dangling hairpin ornament and various other trinkets, were all gifted to Shen Yi Yao by Yan Ting over the years.
Yan Ting was meticulous and considerate, treating Shen Yi Yao extremely well. Every once in a while he would find some unique jewelry to gift her. When those things were turned out that day, Yan Ting understood at a glance. However, he didn’t say anything. Instead, it was Shen Yi Yao who didn’t have much of a reaction. Perhaps he had gifted her too many things, so she herself didn’t know where some of those things came from.
No man who thinks highly of himself would refuse a woman such as the one in front of him. She was delicate, gentle and pitiful. She thought as he thought and loved what he loved. She was completely reliant on him, and also loved him sufficiently. This was a boost to such a man’s self-confidence.
Yan Ting was no different.
“Since you’re pregnant, you should properly recuperate. I do not wish to see you make the same mistake again.”
After speaking, Yan Ting left.
After a long time, Concubine Pei raised her tearstained face, and laughed.
Yan Yan kept a close eye on Concubine Pei, but couldn’t see anything abnormal.
Concubine Pei was very well-behaved. Apart from raising her fetus in the Ziyu Pavilion, she spent her time going between the Rongan Hall and the Jinse Pavilion. No matter if it was raining or snowing outside, it didn’t stop her seemingly repentant steps.
She paid respects to Shen Yi Yao at the Jinse Pavilion every day before going to the old madam’s place together. After returning, she served Shen Yi Yao during her meal and chatted with her. The old madam told her to focus on her fetus a few times but she never listened.
Doctor Chang came over and took her pulse again. He said the initial three months had passed and that the pregnancy was stable. It was also good for her to exercise more. The old madam no longer tried to stop her. She merely assumed she was trying to obtain Shen Yi Yao’s forgiveness.
Such a Concubine Pei wasn’t unfamiliar. She had always treated Shen Yi Yao respectfully and played her part as a concubine dutifully.
She had always been this way.
Even after becoming the household manager and becoming very busy, she always found time to serve Shen Yi Yao during her meals, and even massaged her shoulders and legs.
If it weren’t for the overwhelming evidence that day, Shen Yi Yao definitely wouldn’t believe the always behaved Concubine Pei would do such a thing.
But she had truly done so.
Shen Yi Yao’s heart was scarred so she wasn’t as intimate with Concubine Pei as before. Concubine Pei came daily but Shen Yi Yao’s eyes were unenthusiastic. She suggested Concubine Pei go back a few times but she would always cry that the madam hasn’t forgiven her. Thereafter, Shen Yi Yao stopped suggesting it.
Concubine Wu also increased her presence at the Jinse Pavilion, and would always chat with Shen Yi Yao together with Concubine Pei.
During this freezing and snowy weather, time passed by more quickly when there was someone to talk to.
This situation made Yan Yan feel extremely uncomfortable. She wasn’t able to point out what sort of discomfort, but it was like a sort of helplessness that was hard to source.
Concubine Pei was very honest, honest to a fault. Her attitude was very respectful, so respectful she was almost denigrating herself. She didn’t do anything and there was nothing to nitpick about her words. There was nothing anyone could fault her for.
Yan Yan had twice tried to pick a quarrel with her. Concubine Pei didn’t cry or make a fuss. When Yan Yan turned around, she saw Shen Yi Yao pretending not to have seen. Turning around once more, she still said nothing but there was some dissatisfaction in her eyes.
Actually, after so many things have happened, Yan Yan also understood the meaning of her dissatisfaction. She wasn’t dissatisfied with her going against Concubine Pei. She merely felt this wasn’t how a proper lady should behave.
Unfortunately mother and daughter were estranged. Even if Yan Yan understood now, she would pretend not to know about it. Just like how she never accepted Shen Yi Yao’s actions, Shen Yi Yao also didn’t accept hers. Just as a summer bug wouldn’t know the cold, how the Jing and Wei rivers never met and how south was different from north.
Towards Concubine Pei, Yan Yan felt her overflowing strength had nowhere to be applied, just like hitting cotton.
Matron Zou suggested that she have Concubine Pei stay in her own pavilion, using the weather as an excuse not to randomly go out.
Concubine Pei stopped going out as expected.
The end of the year arrived in a flash. The Weiyuan Marquis Estate started doing some spring cleaning. Places with peeling paint were repainted and window panes that needed to be replaced were replaced. The windows were decorated with couplets and there were lanterns everywhere. It was extremely lively.
The masters in the estate all started making new clothing. The servants were allocated cloth and cotton to make an outfit for themselves. The New Year had to be welcomed with new clothing.
Mei Xiang and Yan’er were good at needlework, and immediately started on the third miss’s and fourth young master’s outfits. Shen Yi Yao also had Cui Qiao bring over a plate of pearls, earrings and bracelets for Yan Yan to choose from. They were all suitable for a girl of Yan Yan’s age. This was one of the estate’s conventions. The misses would all get new jewelry during celebrations, and Yan Yan would always get to choose first before Yan Qian and the rest got a turn.
Along with the jewelry also came two sets of clothing: one for a girl and one for a boy. It included inner and outer clothing, tops and bottoms. The needlework was extremely fine. Cui Qiao said they were made by the madam recently, and that she had spent quite some time on them. Actually Yan Yan knew this without having to hear it from Cui Qiao. Her mom’s needlework was good, and she often made clothing for her and Ah Mo in the past. She was able to tell it was her handiwork at a glance.
Actually, apart from those painful memories, Shen Yi Yao still rather cherished her two children.
In the past Yan Yan always attributed the distance between them to Concubine Pei’s instigations as well as Fang Cui and Fang Cao’s mischief. As of now, those people were no longer there and no one dared cause trouble anymore. However, they weren’t able to resume their past intimacy.
Only now did Yan Yan understand that although the passing of a boat left no marks on the water, it wasn’t possible to pretend nothing had happened.
The two sets of clothes were taken by the brother and sister to their individual rooms. When the two met up in the afternoon, their expressions were vaguely uneasy.
Yan Yan knew the reason why. Those clothes were a little tight on them. These days, both of them had gotten taller.
“I remember you used to stick quite close to her in the past. No need to worry about what I might think. She has been able to tell.”
No one knew better than Yan Yan how much Shen Yi Yao cared for Yan Mo. But ever since he moved into the Ningxiang Chambers, mother and son became quite a bit more distant.
Yan Mo was tracing over characters. He froze, and said quietly: “I have to grow up at some point. I’ve outgrown the age where I can stick to mom.”
On New Year’s Eve, the Weiyuan Marquis Estate’s custom was to offer tribute to the ancestors in the morning and eat as a family for lunch. When the sky turned dark in the evening, they would eat the New Year’s dinner and ring in the New Year together.
The Rongan Hall was the liveliest during the time.
The old madam wore a dark reddish purple jacket embroidered with clouds and cranes. She wore a black mink fur hat and two jasper earring the size of lotus seeds hung from her ears. She beamed at the gathered younger generation, appearing extremely benevolent.
The adults and children below were all dressed festively and everyone was smiling. At times like this, no one purposefully made trouble.
The New Year’s dinner was also set up in the reception, and there were two tables arranged once again. One for the adults and one for the children. Since they were all one family and it was also the New Year’s, they didn’t separate the genders.
Yan Zhi liked to drink so he loved these kinds of gatherings. The sound of him chugging alcohol was heard around the table. The third lord Yan Qu was usually taciturn, but he also drank a few more glasses than usual. Yan Ting also drank a few with Yan Zhi. After drinking, Yan Zhi became little looser with his words. He spoke randomly with others and also discussed the current political climate.
Unfortunately he merely held an idle posting and all his knowledge came from those scoundrel friends of his. Their statuses were similar to his own and all their news were unorthodox. It wasn’t clear what was true and what was false.
However, Yan Ting and Yan Qu also knew his personality. They merely listened and never took it seriously.
As they spoke, Yan Zhi brought up Yan Ting’s posting. The air at the table suddenly congealed.
Without mentioning the relocation order, Yan Ting had also used a roundabout method to ask the Ministry of War about his future posting. But unfortunately no one ever gave him an accurate response. They all more or less told him to wait for their arrangements.
The words “wait for their arrangements” could be interpreted in multiple ways. It could mean that the posting would be assigned within a few days, or it could mean that it would be a long wait. In the Grand Xi, not only were vacancies for officials hard to come by, even vacancies for nobles like them had a waiting list. Without the right connections or the emperor’s favor, they could only wait in line.
Yan Ting knew his situation wasn’t normal. Without mentioning his experience guarding the Ping Sha Pass as one of the generals, the nation-founding title of Weiyuan Marquis should be sufficient to not leave him jobless.
But the truth of the matter was that he had to wait for further arrangements.
That official had spoken rather grandly: The lord marquis is noble and has outstanding accomplishments. However, there isn’t any vacancy befitting your status at the moment. It’s not like we can send you to the barracks as a grunt, right? Yan Ting visualized the last part. Even if the department arranged it, he would refuse to go. That would definitely be a disgrace and there would be no need for him to remain in the capital.
No matter how one put it, someone was blocking him in the dark!
This damn Zhenguo Duke!
Of course, all this was something under the surface. It couldn’t be said out loud.
Yan Ting still wanted to maintain the veneer of harmony. The inner troubles could be dealt with on the inside, but they couldn’t fall out openly.
Actually, there was another explanation for it. It was just a son-in-law who offended his father-in-law. The father-in-law just wasn’t willing to respond to him at the moment. As for being blocked by him in the dark, the elderly all had short tempers. They just needed to be coaxed a little.
Yan Ting could only comfort himself this way.
The old madam said angrily: “Why isn’t the alcohol stuffing up your mouth? Why are you mentioning work at this occasion? We’ve been working the entire year. Why not give it a rest for now?”
Yan Zhi chuckled apologetically and the matter passed. The table resumed its previous harmony.