Power went out yesterday so no internet and no cell phone service either for some reason….
Apologies for missing a day. Extra long chapter today to make up for it.
What Shen Yi Yao knew, Yan Yan naturally knew as well.
She was wondering if her dad had shed all pretenses.
Whether he had or not wasn’t important at the moment. She naturally had to worry about the situation at the Jinhua Hall. Therefore, Yan Mo was sent over once again. However, he wasn’t really needed this time. His mom was very calm.
Only after hearing this did Yan Yan relax.
Luo Huai Yuan had been coming to the manor diligently.
Sometimes he would fumble over without Shen Qi. After coming, he would first go to the Jinhua Hall and coax Shen Yi Yao into smiling happily and wishing she could cherish him as her own son.
He would bring quite a lot of things everytime he came. Sometimes it was food, othertimes it was playthings. Some were for Shen Yi Yao, some were for Yan Mo. It was Yan Yan who received the least from him. Even if she got something, it was at most some snacks.
Shen Yi Yao was very satisfied at seeing this. Yuan’er was a child who understood societal taboos. Therefore, she relaxed her guard and didn’t have Yan Yan avoid him. She viewed him as someone similar to her nephew Shen Qi.
The days gradually grew warmer. The manor was extremely busy recently. The arrival of spring signaled the start of farming season.
Shen Yi Yao’s manor appeared to occupy a sizeable area, but the farmland only occupied half of it. Qiao Rong had considered things thoroughly and chose to plant trees and vegetables on mountainous and sloped lands, or used them to raise poultry. The manor’s harvest each year could be sold for a good amount of money.
Therefore, this manor could be considered outstanding amongst Shen Yi Yao’s dowry. It was even better than some businesses.
The weather had just gotten better when construction started in the plum flower forest behind the Guiyan Chambers.
Yan Yan saw it early on but didn’t think too much about it. Only after Mei Xue told her did she find out what was being built. Mei Xue had only just found out from one of the little lasses before hurrying over to inform the miss.
The madam had instructed for a martial training grounds to be constructed in the clearing.
After Yan Yan heard this, she was a little startled.
Truthfully speaking, the reason she was able to learn martial arts in the beginning was because Yan Ting allowed her to. How could a five year old child know what she liked? It was because Shen Yi Yao had told her many stories about her grandfather and uncles that her interest in martial arts was aroused.
After learning for two years, Yan Ting went to the border. Her mom was no longer willing to let her continue learning. Only then did she find out that Shen Yi Yao hadn’t wanted her to learn martial arts to begin with.
The small training grounds she was given got taken down. Mom said girls needed to be elegant and dignified. Learning martial arts would make others look down on her. No one liked girls who played around with blades and spears. Might as well learn a few things girls should learn.
Yan Yan was stubborn. The more she was forbidden to do something, the more she wanted to do it. Gradually, it became a habit she couldn’t get rid of. Afterwards, she started training bitterly because she truly enjoyed it.
Yan Yan quickly brushed these thoughts away.
She should be looking to the future, not the past.
As of now, things were very good.
She was well, her brother was well and her mom was also well. The sky was the limit and it was bright and clear.
The martial training grounds were quickly completed. Although it couldn’t be compared to the one at the Zhenguo Duke Estate, it also wasn’t small.
The day it was done, while eating dinner at the Jinhua Hall, Shen Yi Yao spoke: “Mom won’t stop you from practicing martial arts. However, you’re no longer young and should also get started with the other things you should be learnaing. Ah Mo as well. It’s time to arrange a teacher for his studies. I’ve already instructed Qiao Rong to arrange it.”
Yan Yan didn’t raise any objections.
When women married off, they would transform from a daughter to someone else’s wife.
Apart from loving her husband, being filial to her parents-in-law, educating her children and managing the relationships between her siblings-in-law, she also had to handle all sorts of household affairs. The man was responsible for external affairs and the woman handled internal affairs. If a girl didn’t know how to manage a household, her days wouldn’t be good.
Managing her own dowry and the household businesses was also a must. Although there were usually shopkeepers and managers included in the dowry, the mistress at the least must know how to use these people and understand accounting. If they reported that they used ten taels of silver to buy a dozen eggs, any amount of savings would end up being emptied out.
Prior to Shen Yi Yao getting married, she was praised as the perfect proper lady. It wasn’t without reason. Not only did a housewife need to manage internal affairs and external communication, she had to be good at accounting and running businesses, needlework, cooking (no need to cook herself as long as she can judge and give pointers), and not to mention the four arts as well. She was known as a talent in the capital back then.
Since she made up her mind to guide her daughter, she set about it seriously. However, she made some adjustments based on Yan Yan’s personality.
Regarding needlework, she didn’t hope for Yan Yan to learn it.
Yan Yan could perform a whip routine, but to have her do needlework would cause her more injury in a day than she had received in her life. There was even less need to mention zither, go, painting, calligraphy, poetry and couplets. Yan Yan had never liked these things.
However, these things weren’t too important. Which woman still did these things after marriage? They were at most used to pass the time, and it’s not a big deal if they didn’t learn it. As for cooking and needlework, Yan Yan’s marriage wouldn’t be too poor. There would be maids and grannies who would do the needlework, make clothes and there’d be cooks in the kitchen. Therefore, Shen Yi Yao focused her daughter’s attention on managing internal affairs as well as her etiquette.
The so-called etiquette was merely the established conventions within social circles. If everyone did one thing while you did something else, it would mean your upbringing was lacking.
Shen Yi Yao was born in a major household. Yan Yan had been under her influence since she was born, and she was also born into a wealthy household. Therefore, Yan Yan’s etiquette wasn’t bad. Since she wasn’t lacking for anything since birth, she even had the air of nobility. She just needed careful polishing regarding etiquette and it would be sufficient. Shen Yi Yao had considered getting a nana from the palace to teach her, but this was rejected firmly by Yan Yan. She could only drop it.
Then there was the matter of managing internal affairs. Shen Yi Yao decided to first teach her daughter how to read accounting ledgers.
At first Yan Yan merely watched how Shen Yi Yao interacted with the various shopkeepers and managers. Afterwards, she took an accounting ledger back to study. If she had any questions, she could ask.
On the other hand, it was also time to start carefully nourishing Yan Yan’s body.
Yan Yan didn’t like to eat sweets and only drank tea normally. She never ate desserts, and forget about those nourishing foods. She felt those were a hassle.
She had never been lacking swallow’s nest, ginseng, knotweed, red ginseng, Koryo ginseng, and other nourishing things. But she didn’t have the habit of ordering the kitchen to prepare them. Everytime she got these things, she would send it over to Yan Mo or keep it in storage. After a while, she would forget about it.
These things were all precious so the servants didn’t dare touch them without the miss giving orders.
Once Mei Xiang and Mei Xue felt bad for the miss and brewed some for her to nourish her health. Unexpectedly, the miss didn’t eat it. Yan Yan never ate outside of meal times. When it was meal time, she would say these things weren’t rice and weren’t filling.
That’s right, Yan Yan had to eat rice. Rice replenished stamina so she didn’t like eating things other than rice.
Actually, Yan Yan’s eating habits were very similar to the men in the Zhenguo Duke Estate. She would eat five times a day. There was breakfast, lunch and dinner. Because she practiced martial arts in the morning, she would eat a little beforehand. Sometimes she trained at night as well so she ate a little before bed. She used up a lot of energy so she would get hungry if she didn’t eat at night.
As for any other times, she didn’t have the habit of eating snacks.
This wasn’t to say Yan Yan was unsophisticated. Every major household’s misses and madams ate some nourishing food, so those things weren’t anything special. After all, they’ve never been lacking in them, and even had excess. She was also influenced by someone when she was very young.
This was something that happened in the past.
In Yan Yan’s faint memories, she recalled her second maternal uncle and his wife arguing. They were arguing about some sort of nourishing food which second uncle didn’t eat and ended up going to waste. Second aunt was complaining.
Second uncle Shen had said something that left a rather deep impression on Yan Yan.
“You women are all so fussy. Do people like us who practice martial arts need such nourishing foods? Look at dad and eldest bro. They don’t eat any of this stuff and aren’t they still robust and sturdy? They never get sick.”
Second Madam Shen muttered something quietly.
Shen Ding spoke again: “Don’t worry, your husband’s body is very sturdy. You’ll see later tonight….”
An adult would naturally understand what he meant.
But Yan Yan was still young back then. She and Shen Qi were only around three or four. The two little fellows were playing on the kiln and unexpectedly heard an earful. If Second Madam Shen knew her moment of inattentiveness would leave such a deep impression, she would definitely be embarrassed to death.
Luckily, she didn’t know about it.
Of course, this matter wasn’t necessary for outsiders to know about, but as her mom, Shen Yi Yao knew her daughter’s personality.
But since she was still young back then, Shen Yi Yao let her do as she wished. Now it was different. Girls usually started their period when they were around ten. Prior to this, it was important to maintain their internal condition.
This could only be blamed on the current living situation.
Girls were different from boys. They would be married off in their teens and would give birth to and raise children as well as manage the household. If their foundations weren’t good, it was very easy to be malnourished. By the time they grew a little older, it would accumulate into illness.
Therefore, mothers in major households would start nourishing their daughter’s body early on. If there were any issues with their health, they had to be suitably treated. Only then would the process of giving birth be smooth in the future. Therefore, it was extremely rare for such girls to discover they were deficient and unable to give birth after marriage. Normally they would have already been appropriately adjusted prior to marriage.
Of course, this adjustment wasn’t only internal. It was also necessary to adjust the outside.
Girls liked to appear beautiful for the one they liked. It wouldn’t do if other girls appeared soft and tender while your own daughter was hard and rough. How would she receive her husband’s affection in the future? When a girl was good looking and raised well, it would be beneficial when discussing marriage.
Shen Yi Yao gave the order for the Guiyan Chambers’ maids to send all sorts of nourishing foods and soups to Yan Yan’s side. Knowing that this was arranged by her mom, Yan Yan pinched her nose and endured.
There were also all sorts of secret recipes for improving complexion that resulted in various ointments, powders and liquids for the maids to rub, smear and apply on Yan Yan’s body.
In the past Yan Yan would just randomly wash up when taking a bath. Now, that was no longer possible. Every once in a while, she would have to soak in water that was mixed with medicine and flower petals. After she was done soaking, she would have to wash once again with clean water. After that was done, she would have to apply specially made hair oil and brush it into her hair. It needed to be brushed over a hundred times before it was sufficient.
Mei Xiang and the rest were in high spirits. Which girl didn’t like beauty? These were the madam’s collection of secret recipes. Such formulae were mostly never revealed to others, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say it was hard to buy even with thousands of gold. Every day after finishing up with the miss, they would get to use whatever was leftover. They were all overjoyed.
But Yan Yan was annoyed. Even without mentioning all the prodding she had to endure, it took up a lot of time. In her mind, she would rather spend this time training.
Every time Yan Yan revealed an impatient expression, the maids would all console her. They would talk about the madam’s efforts and the benefits thereof. They even brought up the benefits for her future children.
Their words weren’t wrong. These formulae were mostly kept secret and passed on from mother to daughter. Yan Yan didn’t like these things, but what if she had a daughter in the future? She was born beautiful, but what if her daughter wasn’t. There was also granddaughters and great-granddaughters to consider….
This line of thought was brought up by Mei Xue and it made Yan Yan’s heart thump.
Yi Yun also spoke up: “Miss isn’t willing at the moment because you’re young. After you get older, you will see the benefits. Look at the madam and then look at the eldest madam. They are similar in age, but why does the eldest madam look older than the madam? Madam could even pass off as an eighteen year old.
Poor Xue-shi was used to make this blunt comparison.
It wasn’t that Xue-shi was old. She was only slightly over thirty. The point was that Shen Yi Yao looked too much younger than her, making it such an obvious comparison.
Thinking of this, and then thinking of Shen Yi Yao and the training grounds, Yan Yan continued enduring.
But it had to be said that all this was truly effective.
Yan Yan practiced martial arts so her hands, feet and joints couldn’t avoid becoming coarse. Now they all felt smooth and tender. Yan Yan was fair-skinned to begin with, and now she became even more so. She was so fair she seemed to glow.
Gradually, she no longer rejected it.
The next time Luo Huai Yuan came, he realized something.
He leaned in slightly closer. How fragrant!
He licked his lips and smiled: “Little sis Ah Yan, what did you put on? It’s so fragrant.”
If it were a regular maiden, she would have definitely spat and cursed him for being a creep. It wasn’t clear if it was because Yan Yan was too familiar with him or if it was her nature, but her expression was unperturbed. “My mom made me put it on. She said her daughter is grown now and needs to mind these things.”
Along with her voice, another wave of faint sweet fragrance assaulted Luo Huai Yuan. This fragrance was very subtle, and seemed to not be there at all, but one couldn’t avoid being captivated.
Luo Huai Yuan sniffed and sniffed again, feeling that this smell was different from the one before. He then looked at the jade-like skin that was so close, and was simply infatuated.
What to do? It’s too much, it’s too much. How can the little consort be so attractive? She’s making him wish he could pull her into his arms and ruthlessly give her a kiss, two kisses, three, four kisses….
Yan Yan felt his gaze changing and turned to look: “What’s up? Something to say?”
Luo Huai Yuan rubbed his nose before remembering his purpose in coming today: “There is indeed a matter. I might have to leave the capital for a period of time.”
“Leave the capital?” Yan Yan was a little surprised. “How come?”
Normally, the princes would grow up in the palace and be given a vassal state once they came of age. They would leave the capital and couldn’t return unless summoned by imperial decree. This was to say that prior to leaving, the princes wouldn’t get an estate, and would remain within the palace.
This was to prevent princes from networking with officials. Of course, there were exceptions. For example, those who the emperor favored a lot naturally wouldn’t have to follow the rules. Another example was Luo Huai Yuan, who was thrown out of the palace early on after rousing the emperor’s disgust. It could be called “out of sight out of mind”. It could also be said that Luo Huai Yuan might only ever be a prince in his lifetime.
“Going off to make money!” Luo Huai Yuan said without the slightest shame. “There are so many people in the estate and the internal affairs estate is discriminatory. If I don’t go earn some money, my fourth prince estate is about to go under.”
Yan Yan gave him a glance and felt he was exaggerating too much. No matter what, how could his majesty let his own son go bankrupt? At most he wouldn’t be comfortably off.
Luo Huai Yuan felt a little guilty being stared at by Yan Yan, and hurriedly spoke the truth, “Actually I won’t be gone for long. It’s just that there’s a matter I must personally handle. I’ll be back in a few months. Little sis Ah Yan, no need to worry about me.”
Yan Yan wasn’t worried at all. Fine, she was a little.
This was because she knew it wasn’t that easy for him to leave the capital. Without mentioning whether it would be discovered by the palace, the spies in his estate were also a concern. Furthermore, little fatty Luo was still so young and he intended on travelling far away. Was it safe on the road? He definitely couldn’t bring too many people or it would attract attention. He might only be able to bring a few people with him.
It was as Yan Yan had guessed. Luo Huai Yuan intended to do just that. Apart from a few he knew he could trust, he didn’t plan on bringing anyone else.
Yan Yan still wanted to question him further when Cui Ping came over from afar.
“Miss, young master Luo. The madam is calling you to come eat.”
She could only leave it for now as the two headed to the Jinhua Hall.
Actually, Luo Huai Yuan’s plan wasn’t made without consideration.
His goal this time was the Fu Province.
After transmigrating, Luo Huai Yuan had wanted to figure out where he ended up. In the modern world, he had never heard of a Grand Xi Dynasty in Chinese history. After looking through many historical records and documents, he found out that this was ancient China, but it also wasn’t.
Overall speaking, this place had the Sui, Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties. However, history diverged after the Yuan Dynasty. The one who overthrew the Yuan Dynasty wasn’t the awesome Zhu Yuanzhang, but rather the ancestral emperor of the Grand Xi Dynasty Luo Jian.
History diverged at this point and everything changed dramatically.
Many things were different, though some things did remain the same. For example, ever since the Grand Xi Dynasty started, there were frequent embargoes on ocean travel. There was also a eunuch who sailed west, although in this case he wasn’t called Zheng He, but Wang Bao instead. During the embargoes of the Ming Dynasty, they only prohibited its citizens from sailing outside but not outsiders from coming in. The Grand Xi prohibited everything. The people couldn’t sail outwards and while the foreign subsidiaries could come pay tribute, they weren’t allowed to exchange goods.
What the reason behind this was couldn’t be found. At least, based on Luo Huai Yuan’s identity and those historical documents, he couldn’t get the complete picture. However, he knew one thing. Within a year, the embargo on ocean travel would be completely lifted and the ocean trade would be booming. As for the Fu Province, it would become one of the major ports. As long as he could take the opportunity to get a foot in the door ahead of time, he would definitely make a ton of profit.
Of course this wasn’t what he told Yan Yan since he couldn’t explain how he knew all this. Could he say he had lived two lives? That she was his consort in his past life but unfortunately he only dared drool about her and didn’t dare truly take her down? He would probably get sent flying against the wall by the little consort and be stuck in there for a long while.
Unfortunately he had underestimated Yan Yan’s determination. She was always a direct person and didn’t know how to do things subtly. But the good part about this was that she was sufficiently stubborn.
Of course, whether this stubbornness was a good thing was relative. For example, if she was very worried about you, she wouldn’t give it a rest.
After the meal, Yan Yan used playing cards at the Lincang Residence as an excuse to take both Luo Huai Yuan and Yan Mo away.
They arrived at the Lincang Residence and all the maids and grannies were shooed out. When Yan Mo was about to get sent out as well, he put on a pitiful appearance. Since she and Luo Huai Yuan also needed to consider some propriety, Yan Mo lucked out. This was the benefit of being younger.
If Yan Mo weren’t present, seeing Yan Yan’s mighty appearance, Luo Huai Yuan really wanted to curl up in the kiln’s corner, bite the hem of his robes and cry out “yamete”.1 Luckily Yan Yan didn’t give him the time to continue fantasizing. Otherwise, this fellow was about to play out a scene of the oppressive lord vs. the little sweetheart in his mind.
“Now that no one is present, obediently explain what you’re going to do.”
Having known Luo Huai Yuan for a long time, Yan Yan could be said to understand him extremely well. To put it plainly, this fellow was shameless and indecent. In any situation, he would always be smiling mischievously. He would be this way even when facing mountains of daggers and seas of flames.
As Yan Yan expected, Luo Huai Yuan still avoided the subject at this point and wasn’t willing to tell the truth.
“You don’t see me as a friend.”
Yan Yan didn’t lose her temper. She merely looked at him and said a single phrase.
This phrase actually terrified the fearless Luo Huai Yuan. He wiped his face. “It’s really not easy to mention the details. I wasn’t lying. I’m really going off to make money.”
“Can’t you make money without leaving the capital? Also, just where are you planning on going?”
Luo Huai Yuan wanted to run off crying. He realized he was truly defenseless against the little consort. Her hands on her mighty hips and her glare completely defeated him.
“The Fu Province.” He rubbed his nose and honestly explained. “Don’t ask me how I know this, but the ocean embargo will be lifted in around a year’s time. I want to take the opportunity to test the waters first.”
Yan Yan didn’t know what the Fu Province had to do with the embargo lifting. To put it plainly, she was just a young maiden. But she knew a little bit. One reason for the embargo was because of pirates. When she was young, she had heard her grandfather telling her uncle this at the Zhenguo Duke Estate.
“You’re insane. Are you throwing your life away for money?”
Fine, Luo Huai Yuan also knew this trip would be dangerous.
The court repeatedly ordered embargoes, apart from some other reasons, mostly because of pirates. These pirates moved around on ships and frequently went ashore to kill and plunder. The court repeatedly sent troops to suppress them but were unsuccessful.
Actually how could these be just simple pirates? There were ronins from Fusang2 as well as sea merchants who suffered major losses due to the embargo. There were also struggling commoners who were prohibited from making a living via fishing along the coast.
The reason the embargo would be lifted was mostly to reduce the plundering. This was because the officials were slowly starting to realize it was better to reduce than try to prevent.
This matter had been brought up in court before but the officials couldn’t come to an agreement so nothing was decided.
Therefore, the coast was currently in a state of chaos. There were bands of pirates being led by sea merchants. Not only did they bribe the officials into speaking up for them, they continued causing chaos outside to pressure the court into lifting the embargo.
Luo Huai Yuan might very well end up running into these pirates on his trip. But behind the danger lurked an extremely large business opportunity. He knew that these merchants would only get to be smug for a short while before the court cleaned them up one by one. At that time, the ocean trade would be a huge cake to be snatched by the capable.
If you’re wondering how he planned on snatching that cake, he would say once the carriage arrived in front of the mountain, there would have to be a way through. Regardless, he would figure it out once he got there.
Luo Huai Yuan cherrypicked a few things to tell Yan Yan. Although she didn’t quite understand, she could see the opportunity as well as Luo Huai Yuan’s determination to go.
“When are you leaving?”
“Probably in a few days.”
“Then stop by one more time before you leave.”
Hearing this, Luo Huai Yuan merely assumed the little consort couldn’t bear to see him leave. He couldn’t bear to leave her either. But for the sake of their future, he had to make this trip. There may be a lot of difficulties ahead, but how would he know without trying?
Luo Huai Yuan rushed back to the fourth prince estate before nightfall.
After returning, he ate dinner before going to the storage room behind his residence.
The doors were firmly shut and no lamps were lit. Luo Huai Yuan took a flint from his robes and lit a lamp before going towards the wall. It turned out there was a person lying there. His hands were tied and his mouth was gagged. Seeing Luo Huai Yuan, he started crying and yelling through his gag, though it wasn’t clear what he was saying.
Luo Huai Yuan beamed. “Are you hungry? It’s all my fault for being extremely busy today. I actually forgot to give you food.”
It wasn’t just today, you also forgot yesterday! The person cursed silently.
This person was precisely Eunuch Xi.
At this time, he was no longer living large and no longer had his calm appearance. His clothes and hair were a mess and he looked extremely tragic.
“Don’t be scared, I won’t tie you up any longer.” Luo Huai Yuan’s tone sounded like he was coaxing a child. He pulled out Eunuch Xi’s gag and wiped off the dust on his face.
Right as Eunuch Xi was about to speak, something was stuffed into his mouth. After it entered, it immediately dissolved.
“I finally got this thing but ended up using it on you. But it couldn’t be helped. You belong to someone else and I can’t get rid of you. This is the only way.” Luo Hai Yuan looked very regretful.
Eunuch Xi choked and coughed a couple of times but it was no use: “What did highness feed this old servant?”
“It’s nothing much, just a pill. It’s supposedly made with seven types of poisonous plants and seven types of poisonous insects. Normally it won’t do anything, but when the poison flares up, death only comes after seven days and seven nights of suffering.”
Eunuch Xi’s expression abruptly changed.
Luo Huai Yuan chuckled and untied his hands: “Relax, you won’t die. I’ll give you the antidote every year. As long as you remain obedient, I guarantee that you will die of old age.”
Eunuch Xi no longer knew what to say. He wanted to curse this person a thousand times for being an ingrate. He had covered up countless things for him but he ended up using such an unheard of pill/poison on him.
But could this be said out loud?
Would the fourth prince believe him if he said it? He belonged to the empress after all.
Forget it, forget it. He was here to retire anyway. Might as well continue to “retire” here in the future. He just didn’t know what the fourth prince was planning. He actually made such a big move.
“What does highness need from this old servant?”
Hey, this old fellow was tactful! Luo Huai Yuan was very satisfied.
“Nothing much. I’m taking a trip out of the capital. I just need to trouble Eunuch Xi to manage the estate.”
Eunuch Xi’s teeth ached until he felt like passing out.
The little fatty isn’t just going to earn money. He’s also looking for his escape route.