Luo Huai Yuan and Shen Qi had only stayed at the manor a few days when Yan Yan realized there was a problem.
Little fatty Luo was very well liked by her mom, and he also seemed to like getting close with her mom. These days, whenever she went to eat breakfast at the Jinhua Hall, she would see him already sitting there making her mom laugh.
In the past, it didn’t matter where they ate breakfast. Yan Yan practiced martial arts in the morning and would always eat breakfast at the Guiyan Chambers. These days, strangely, Shen Yi Yao would always have her maids invite Yan Yan over for breakfast. Of course, Yan Mo was included as well. The brat little second Shen could’t get up that early, and would only go sometimes.
Yan Yan’s emotions were very strange.
After enduring for a couple days, she found some time to pull Luo Huai Yuan over for questioning.
“Don’t you think it’s pretty good like this?” Luo Huai Yuan said beaming.
Yan Yan froze. “What does that mean?”
Luo Huai Yuan sighed and said: “Aunt is your mom after all. Isn’t she changing herself? It feels like she has quite a lot of troubles in her heart, but just doesn’t know who to tell it to.”
Yan Yan trembled all over and didn’t speak.
It wasn’t clear if Yan Yan listened to Luo Huai Yuan’s words. Regardless, she started taking the initiative to speak a few words with Shen Yi Yao. Although it wasn’t much and her face was still rigid, it was still an improvement.
Luo Huai Yuan and Shen Qi couldn’t just remain at the manor without going back. After staying for a few more days, the two said their farewells. Before they left, Shen Yi Yao said they should come again when they had time, her expression rather reluctant. Luo Huai Yuan and Shen Qi beamed and agreed.
In the afternoon, Matron Zou came and reported that someone from the estate came.
This estate was naturally referring to the Weiyuan Marquis Estate.
This was the first time someone came ever since Shen Yi Yao left. Yan Yan asked who it was and Matron Zou said it was the old madam’s Matron Zhao. She had a matter to discuss and asked to meet the madam.
“You stay here, I’ll go take a look.”
Yan Yan didn’t give Shen Yi Yao the opportunity to express her opinion before directly leaving.
Shen Yi Yao opened her mouth, looked at her daughter’s back and sighed.
Cui Qiao looked at her expression and said quietly on the side: “The third miss is just afraid madam will be troubled. The old madam looking for you definitely isn’t for anything good.”
Ever since that time, Cui Qiao grew more daring with her words to Shen Yi Yao. She could tell the madam wasn’t unwilling to hear them. It was just that no one spoke sincere words with her in the past. They would all speak false words to coax her. No wonder the madam would view bad people as good.
“I know, it’s just—–” Shen Yi Yao paused and let out a sigh. “Forget it, let Ah Yan handle it.”
Yan Yan didn’t go meet with Matron Zhao. She just had Matron Zou ask about the matter and send her off at the same time. She wouldn’t have been surprised to see her dad come, but Matron Zhao coming was worth pondering over.
Before long, Matron Zou came over to report, saying Matron Zhao truly had something to discuss. She had seemed very anxious. But when asked what it was, she wasn’t willing to speak. She was only willing to speak with the madam.
Matron Zou used the excuse that the madam was still sick and had her leave.
Yan Yan didn’t know what had happened in the capital. After some thought, she sent someone back to investigate. Prior to leaving, Yan Yan had left people back at the Ningxiang Chambers to keep watch. Her previous spies were all there as well. It wasn’t too difficult to get this information.
It truly wasn’t difficult because the old madam’s maternal household had made a huge fuss in the estate. Everyone knew that the Pei household suffered a major calamity. The old brother-in-law might lose his head this time. The person Yan Yan sent back effortlessly got the information, and even brought back news that the Pei household’s old madam went daily to the Rongan Hall to cry.
Putting together the Pei household’s matter and Matron Zhao’s sudden arrival, the old madam’s thoughts didn’t need to be said.
Yan Yan didn’t hesitate before telling Shen Yi Yao about this matter and also described the situation in the capital.
Shen Yi Yao’s face turned red and white.
No one would feel good about this. Without even mentioning the previous matter, just this matter alone was sufficient. Normally you don’t show any concern, but the moment I am of use you show up at the door?
If this was before when she was still foolish, wouldn’t she have easily been persuaded to go ask her maternal family for help?
Cheating on the imperial exam was never a small matter, and there were many implications. Even if Shen Yi Yao didn’t understand the seriousness of the matter, just hearing her daughter describe the situation made her realize it wasn’t a small matter. If she truly went to her maternal family, would they help? If they didn’t, she definitely would cry and beg. Her dad and brother cherished her and would be put in a difficult position. If they helped, it would bring trouble to her own family.
Actualy many things couldn’t withstand scrutiny, especialy when it came to someone who suddenly saw things clearly. When blind trust, reliance and goodwill were completely destroyed, what collapsed wasn’t just her worldview, but also her trust in others.
Shen Yi Yao even thought that the Pei household’s person definitely did some corrupt things. Otherwise, why would he be locked up and interrogated?
Thinking further, this Assistant Minister Pei was Concubine Pei’s dad. Why did the old madam believe she would help? Especially since Concubine Pei had continuously tried to harm her. Also, did Yan Ting know about this?
He definitely knew about it, even though his presence couldn’t be felt in this matter.
It was just like the many matters in the past. The old madam was always playing the role of the villain while he didn’t say much. If things went as planned, he would comfort her and say she was troubled due to his mom being too insensible. If things didn’t go as planned, he would say he didn’t know about this matter and say he would go handle his mom….
In the distant past, she had felt she married a good husband who always stood by her in matters between her and her mother-in-law. She even felt ashamed that she stole her husband’s affection and treated the old madam with even more filial piety.
But what was the truth? The truth couldn’t withstand scrutiny!
Thinking of all the foolish things she had done previously, Shen Yi Yao suddenly felt overwhelmed with shame.
In the past, whenever she recalled what her dad said when he scolded her, she could never figure it out. She even felt some faint resentment, thinking her dad was too domineering and never listened. He didn’t listen to her explanations before making such a heartless judgment.
Thinking back now, her dad’s words were truly correct. She had truly been unable to distinguish between evil and loyalty, right and wrong, and was thoroughly muddled….
Shen Yi Yao’s face was very pale. She stood up and went to her bedroom. Cui Qiao glanced at the madam’s back and then at the third miss. She said quietly: “Don’t worry third miss. This servant will console her properly.”
Yan Yan nodded.
Dinner time arrived but the Jinhua Hall hadn’t sent anyone over to invite Yan Yan and Yan Mo to go eat. This was very unusual.
After a while, a little lass came over and told them big sis Cui Qiao said the madam hadn’t eaten yet.
Yan Mo was practicing his characters. He raised his head and gave his sister a glance. Mei Xiang gave the lass some coins and sent her on her way.
Yan Yan sensed her brother looking at her and muttered: “You have to be focused when writing.”
Yan Mo hurriedly sat upright and properly, making Yan Yan laugh. She took the writing brush from his hand and put it on the counter. “Make a trip to the Jinhua Hall and eat dinner there.”
Yan Mo froze. After thinking about it, he understood.
He called the maids over to help put on his shoes and put on a satin fur cloak. Yan Mo then let Matron Dong hold his hand and went to the Jinhua Pavilion.
As of now, Yan Mo no longer let the grannies carry him and walked by himself.
The Jinhua Hall was silent enough to hear a pin drop.
The maids were all walking on tiptoes. Seeing Yan Mo come, they greeted him quietly.
Entering the bedroom, only two of the gold Vermilion Bird nine-wick lamps in the corner were lit. Therefore, the room wasn’t very bright, but it also wasn’t dark. The faint yellow light shone on the crimson woven blanket, making the room seem as if covered in golden cloth. There was a black palanquin bed with carved butterflies and flower patterns further inside. The cyan curtains embroidered with flowers, and birds were half lowered, covering the inside.
“Madam, the fourth young master is here.” Cui Qiao said quietly as though afraid of disturbing someone.
“Mom, why are you still sleeping? Ah Mo is hungry.”
Only after hearing this voice did a rustling sound from inside the bed. Shen Yi Yao’s slightly hoarse voice sounded.
“Mo’er, mom accidentally overslept. Have the maids serve you some food first. Mom will be right there.”
Yan Mo had Matron Dong take him outside. Cui Qiao lifted the curtains around the bed. She didn’t say anything after seeing Shen Yi Yao lying on the bed with red-rimmed eyes. She had the maids on the side bring warm water and a towel.
After slightly washing up, Shen Yi Yao specially had Cui Qiao apply some makeup around her eyes before going out.
Dinner had long since been prepared. Cui Qiao had arranged it. Since the fourth young master came to eat with the madam, Cui QIao ordered for it to be set up on the kiln table in the western warm room.
“Has Ah Yan eaten?”
“Sis is eating at the Guiyan Chambers.”
Before leaving, Yan Mo had heard Mei Xiang order a little lass to bring food.
Shen Yi Yao grabbed some food for her son and said gently: “Since you’re hungry, you should eat more.”
Yan Mo ate a few bites and lifted his head to look at her. It was a very deep look.
After a long while, he let out a sigh. “You have to eat as well. Be obedient.”
Shen Yi Yao looked at her son, and saw him acting like a little adult. She wanted to laugh, but her laughter was shaky and didn’t dare come out.
Yan Mo said again, “Look how obedient I am. If you’re not obedient, sis will have me come coax you. I don’t know how to coax people though. What a dilemma.”
The normally bashful and taciturn little person suddenly put on this appearance, making the maids and grannies unable to resist smiling. Shen Yi Yao’s expression was complicated. “Your sis said this?”
“Sis didn’t say it like that. It’s just my assumption. A little lass said you hadn’t eaten yet and sis had me come keep you company.”
Shen Yi Yao half lowered her head, her expression obscure.
After a bit, she said: “En, mom will definitely be obedient.”
“That’s how it should be.” Yan Mo nodded and patted her with his little hand. “It’s fine, don’t be scared. You still have me and sis.”
Shen Yi Yao couldn’t endure any longer. She threw her chopsticks down and firmly covered her mouth with her handkerchief. The few lasses on the side all turned away their faces as well and wiped their eyes with their sleeves.
Seeing this, Yan Mo sighed in his heart.
Big bro Luo said sis was grown now and was thin-skinned. There were many things she was too embarrassed to say. As for him, he was still young. It was fine for him to act cute and foolish at times. No need to worry about face.
But he had ended up making them cry. Looks like he wasn’t talented at cheering people up.
It wasn’t clear if the childish words had moved Shen Yi Yao’s soul. Regardless, she became more spirited by the day. She was no longer depressed and unsmiling.
When someone was spirited, it would be clear from their actions. It was the beginning of spring and Shen Yi Yao no longer stayed indoors the entire time like before. She would occasionally take the maids out for a walk. She also started doing needlework, thinking about making spring clothing for her children.
This bustling made the Jinhua Hall liven up all over.
It was at this time that Yan Ting arrived.
Hearing the news, Yan Yan really wanted to have people throw him out.
But as long as he was still her dad, she couldn’t do such a thing. Especially since her mom was still there. How could it be her turn to make a move?
Yan Yan knew her own temper. If she went, she would definitely ruin things. Thus she sent Yan Mo over for support and had him check out the situation. If anything happened, he would let her know.
When Shen Yi Yao heard Yan Ting had come, she first froze. After pondering, she put down her needlework and had the servants invite him inside.
Qiao Rong was bitterly obstructing him in the front.
This wasn’t anyone else. It was the madam’s husband. He couldn’t treat him lightly but also not too significantly. He could also not block him firmly. Otherwise he would say he was looking for his wife and children, and that it was none of Qiao Rong’s business.
Luckily, Matron Zou came very quickly.
Matron Zou was full of smiles. She wasn’t intimate but wasn’t distant either. It was the sort of smile one showed to a guest.
“Madam was just taking a nap. She hasn’t been sleeping much lately so the servants didn’t dare disturb her. She just woke up and invited the lord marquis inside.”
Yan Ting gave Matron Zou a glance and headed inside. Matron Zou followed behind.
When they reached the Jinhua Hall, Shen Yi Yao was sitting on the large kiln. Yan Mo was cuddled up next to her. Under these circumstances, Shen Yi Yao couldn’t get up to welcome him. He took off his own jacket and took a seat across from her.
Shen Yi Yao nodded slightly at him and lowered her eyes. Yan Mo held a book “Differentiating Ghosts and Monsters”, pulling on her clothes and urged her to continue reading to him. Shen Yi Yao continued reading to her son.
Actually this “Differentiating Ghosts and Monsters” wasn’t scary. It mostly described strange and weird matters. Yan Mo had just started studying, and was especially interested in such stories. Of course, the reason he was here this time wasn’t to listen to the story.
Yan Ting took a sip of tea and put the teacup on the kiln table. “Mo’er’s health looks much better. Wife has truly worked hard.”
Since Yan Ting spoke, she naturally couldn’t continue telling the story. Shen Yi Yao understood mostly what her son was here for. She put the book down and had Cui Ping take Yan Mo to the side room. Only after promising to read to him later did Yan Mo leave.
“I am ashamed to say it. Yan Mo’s health isn’t due to my efforts. Ah Yan accompanies him in training every day, so the child’s body has become stronger.”
Her use of “I” allowed Yan Ting to notice something was off. In the past, Shen Yi Yao always referred to herself as “this one” in front of him. Yan Ting understood Shen Yi Yao’s personality very well. The slightest discrepancy revealed many things.
Yan Ting covered her hand with his own and sighed: “Yao’er, are you still angry with me? You are never willing to listen to my explanations. That day I was truly not calm enough, which was why I didn’t manage to stop mom from losing her temper. That was my mistake. But you also know things happened so suddenly. Mom was so angry and it’s not convenient for me as her son to say anything.”
“You also know mom’s temper. She’s a kindhearted person but when she loses her temper no one can persuade her. Since I’ve been gone for so many years and haven’t been able to fulfill my filial duty, I also can’t bear going against her at times. This matter only fell out to this extent because it happened too suddenly. Mom also regretted it afterwards. After you left, she became bedridden. She would always hold my hand and say she had wronged you and wants me to beg you for forgiveness. She wishes for you to return.”
Yan Ting’s palms were warm and dry. There were a few calluses. Shen Yi Yao didn’t withdraw her hand. She allowed him to place his hand on her back and silently listened to his explanation.
Something that she felt was very intimate in the past was actually very distant.
Just like now, despite their hands being connected, she actually couldn’t see through his thoughts. This voice that made her involuntarily infatuated somehow sounded extremely unfamiliar.
Shen Yi Yao raised her eyes and looked at the face in font of her, those brows, those eyes, those pupils. She had traced over them countless times in her mind, and was even able to portray his expressions based on his voice without having to look at him. Currently, the center of his brows were furrowed and his expression was apologetic. His gaze was sincere and focused. When he gazed intently, his pupils were a warm brown color, and their depth was extremely alluring….
Shen Yi Yao heard her own voice sound out slowly. It was mild and relaxed.
“I’m not angry at mom. I’m just always cooped up in the estate and wanted to come clear my mind.”
“Then you mean you’re willing to go back with me?”
Shen Yi Yao looked at him silently. Her eyes suddenly shone with watery light, which congealed into tears that flowed down. Her voice contained uncontrollable grief, “I don’t want to go back to the capital for now. My dad has disowned me….this time he’s really disowned me….I want to stay here and properly calm myself…”
“Father-in-law wouldn’t do that. You’re his daughter after all.” Yan Ting had said these comforting words many times.
Shen Yi Yao took a deep breath and looked straight at him. “My dad said unless I left you, I’m not allowed to step through the Zhenguo Duke Estate’s doors anymore.”
Yan Ting’s pupils suddenly dilated. He wanted to laugh but couldn’t do so. After some time he said: “Father-in-law is definitely joking.”
“I also hope he’s joking. But my dad said as long as I’m part of the Yan household, I shouldn’t step through the Shen household’s gates.” Shen Yi Yao cried uncontrollably and gripped Yan Ting’s hand tightly as though it were a lifeline.
“I’m not the Shen household’s daughter anymore. My dad no longer wants me. Husband, would you leave me as well?”
Yan Ting stroked her shoulders comfortingly, seemingly thinking about something. He seemed to be unfocused. “How could that be? Impossible, impossible….”
It wasn’t clear whether “impossible” referred to leaving her or to the Zhenguo Duke’s heartlessness.
Shen Yi Yao looked at the side of his face through her tears. She had thought she definitely wouldn’t be able to endure it, but she realized she was actually mysteriously calm. It was just that her heart felt cold as though it was placed into a freezer…..
Yan Ting didn’t stay too long. After comforting Shen Yi Yao for a bit, he left saying he still had things to take care of.
After galloping on his horse for a while with the cold wind blowing in his face, he finally calmed down. He slowed his horse and allowed the people behind to catch up.
He was a little surprised at the Zhenguo Duke’s current attitude, but it wasn’t unexpected. There had been clues previously, and the event on the Lantern Festival merely broke through the window paper.
It was definitely impossible to get rid of his wife.
Without even considering whether the Zhenguo Duke would take revenge, as long as he was the Shen household’s son-in-law, they wouldn’t touch him. Especially since this status was more useful than he thought. As of now he was already without a path of retreat. He no longer cared if it was humiliating to borrow other people’s status.
There would come a day when his influence reached the heavens. At that time he would immediately destroy this Shen household!
Yan Ting took a deep breath and pulled on the reins, galloping in a different direction.
After around half an hour, he stopped in front of a small manor.
A servant had already come and taken the reins, leading the horse away.
A respectable-looking middle-aged man came over and bowed. “Lord Yan, you’ve finally arrived. Our heir has asked several times.”
“There was some delay on the road. Where’s the heir?”
“In the Fuxiang1 Pavilion.”
This manor was under the Wuding Marquis Estate’s name. After the hot springs were discovered near Mt. Xixia, many nobles bought property in this area. This was the Wuding Marquis heir Liu Xi’s favorite pleasure seeking spot.
This Liu Xi was a true hedonistic young master. He drank, gambled, ate and whored. However, there were few people in the capital who dared provoke him. He was the Chengen Marquis Estate’s heir Xu Xiang Rong’s younger brother-in-law. The two of them were extremely close. To be more precise, he was Senior Concubine Xu’s younger brother’s brother-in-law. Wasn’t this relying on connections?
Now that Senior Concubine Xu’s influence was growing rapidly, others naturally wouldn’t get in her way.
Yan Ting was introduced to Liu Xi through a mutual friend. Liu Xi was a lecherous person so Yan Ting adapted his tastes as well. After a few times, the two of them became very close. Along with Yan Ting’s connection to the Zhenguo Duke Estate, the two of them were happy to make each other’s acquaintance.
Liu Xi was truly a useless young master, but he wasn’t Yan Ting’s target.
The heavy smell of cosmetics was present even before entering the Fuxiang Pavilion. Various cries and calls sounded out as well.
The servant opened the door and Yan Ting entered. A scene of extravagant debauchery entered his eyes.
The entire floor was covered in a flower patterned woven Persian rug. There were no seats in this place, and everyone sat on the floor. In front of every mat was a long table filled with various dishes and alcohol. On the right was an enormous hotspring pool, with steam curling outwards making the entire room feel warm.
The people in the room wore very little. Several men only wore innerwear and sat barechested and barefooted. Each of them held a pretty good looking prostitute in their arms and were in the middle of enjoying themselves. These prostitutes wore even less. They had an outer layer of gauze that both covered and revealed, and a chest wrap around their neck. A small piece of underwear covered their lower half. Their sweet shoulders and arms were very alluring.
“Ha! Our Weiyuan Marquis has arrived. Since you’re late, you have to drink up.” Liu Xi raised his glass of alcohol and said.
“That’s for sure.”
A maid led Yan Ting to a small room to change. When he came back out, he looked the same as the other men on the scene. Yan Ting was handsome to begin with. He was well built and tall, and his current appearance gave him a roguish look. Several prostitutes on the scene couldn’t help but take a few more glances.
Yan Ting sat down across from Liu Xi and drank three glasses as punishment.
Liu Xi cried loudly in approval and drank another glass with him. Liu Xi signaled with his eyes and a slender and beautiful prostitute came over…