Chapter 77

Translator’s notes:

The struggle continues. Where are the normal-length chapters!

***

Prior to leaving, Luo Huai Yuan stopped by the manor one more time.

This time, Yan Yan no longer tried to convince him otherwise. She gave him a letter and a person.

This letter was personally written by the Zhenguo Duke. The Fu Province’s City Commander Office’s Commander Xie used to be someone under the Zhenguo Duke in the past. The contents of the letter was extremely simple, overall just saying the holder of this letter was someone of the younger generation and should be taken care of.

Yan Yan had personally made a trip to the Zhenguo Duke Estate to ask her grandfather for this. She didn’t say who it was for, but the Zhenguo Duke probably knew without her saying.

The person she gave him was Lady Hui.

Yan Yan had decided this after thinking about it over and over. Lady Hui was skilled in martial arts. If something really happened, it shouldn’t be a problem for her to grab Luo Huai Yuan and run. Especailly since Lady Hui had spent her early years as a wandering martial artist. She had a lot of experience on the road, and was definitely better off than someone from the capital blindly running off in one go.

Luo Huai Yuan chuckled foolishly, and hid his gratitude in his heart. He asked, “Little sis Ah Yan, do you have any silver?”

Yan Yan thought he had no silver, and felt like dragging him out for a beating. Wanting to go earn money without any silver. What on earth was he thinking?

Being stared at by Yan Yan made Luo Huai Yuan feel very awkward. He rubbed his nose and said quietly: “I have silver, just not a lot.”

These few months the barbecue business netted him a good amount of profit. There were around thirty thousand taels. Although this seemed like a lot of silver, it actually wasn’t enough to do anything. Of course, him asking Yan Yan this wasn’t just because he lacked silver.

Yan Yan didn’t say anything before going back to the Guiyan Chambers and grabbing a little box. She handed it over to him.

“This is everything I’ve saved up over the years. I’ll give it all to you.”

Opening the box, everything inside was gold and silver. There were gold and silver ingots as well as all sorts of gold and silver nuggets. They were all given to Yan Yan by her elders. On the very top were several banknotes. The contents were worth around five thousand taels all together. This was all the currency Yan Yan had authority over.

Yan Mo also went to grab his little box. He was small and wasn’t as strong. Yan Yan went and helped him carry it out onto the table. Yan Mo silently pushed it towards Luo Huai Yuan.

The contents of this little box was similar to Yan Yan, but Yan Mo was much poorer. There were only several hundred taels.

“Big bro Luo, Ah Mo doesn’t have much money. This is for you.”

Looking at the two boxes, Luo Huai Yuan rubbed his nose and laughed awkwardly: “This, I’ll count these as investments. I’ll give you dividends later on.”

In his several lifetimes, he had experienced the warmth and coldness of human nature. Yet this was the first time he met someone as straightforward as this brother and sister pair. It would be a lie to say he wasn’t moved. He was about to start tearing up, but that wasn’t his style. He could only smile, and smile like a blooming flower.

Others might not be able to tell the meaning of his smile but Yan Yan understood.

She scoffed and said fiercely: “Enough, stop acting. Having it here isn’t of any use. It’s just sitting around. There isn’t that much anyway. That Lady Hui is my martial arts master. I’ll lend her to you so you better bring her back in one piece.”

Lady Hui smiled faintly. “Miss doesn’t have to worry. Lady Hui has been to the Fu Province before, and is very familiar with the place. Even if an accident were to occur, it wouldn’t be a problem to protect young master Luo and myself.”

Luo Huai Yuan obediently went up to Lady Hui and gave her a bow. “I’ll have to trouble Lady Hui in the future.” This fellow never missed an opportunity to go with the flow.

Lady Huai repeatedly waved her hand. “Young master Luo musn’t say that.”

Luo Huai Yuan said his farewells to Yan Yan and Yan Mo and planned on carrying the boxes. These boxes didn’t look big but were actually very heavy. He actually couldn’t lift them up.

Lady Hui twitched her lips in a smile and took them over.

Luo Huai Yuan only now understood what the little consort meant when she said martial arts master. Could this be an expert?

He didn’t have time to overthink it. He waved his hands in farewell. “You guys wait a little. Big bro Luo is going to get a chicken that lays golden eggs for you guys.”

…..

Luo Huai Yuan left secretly. He brought along four guards and Xiao An Zi, as well as Lady Hui.

Apart from his own thirty thousand silvers, he also had Yan Yan and Yan Mo’s little storage boxes. That’s right, Shen Qi’s as well. Shen Qi had gone to send him off in advance, and given him a large stack of silver banknotes. There were around ten thousand taels. This was Shen Qi’s share of the profit this month as well as everything in his savings.

Along with this silver which could also be called heavy friendship, Luo Huai Yuan departed for the distant Fu Province. This journey was full of unknowns, but Luo Hai Yuan started feeling more and more confident.

The silver was one thing, but the key was the letter in his robes. With this, as long as it was used appropriately, nothing would be difficult.

Little sis Ah Yan, wait for me. Wait until I earn enough to come back and marry you!

*

After Luo Huai Yuan left, Yan Yan’s life became peaceful once more.

A few days later, the teacher Shen Yi Yao found for Yan Mo arrived.

This teacher was surnamed Wu, and was a withered old man over fifty who had quite a lot of white hairs. It was said he used to be a heaven-shaking talent in his early years. He was helpless against misfortune and repeatedly failed the imperial exam. In his anger, he decided to educate people instead. He only had the status of someone who passed the county-level exam, but many of his students actually passed the provincial level exam, and there were even a couple who passed the metropolitan exam. He was very sought after as a teacher.

Shen Yi Yao was only able to invite him over with a large amount of money while also using the allure of the hotsprings.

When the old fellow heard he would be paid quite a lot for tuition, given clothes for all four seasons, room and board, and there were even hotsprings included in the deal, he immediately packed up and came over.

Back then, his wife worked bitterly and stayed home to support him while he took the imperial exam. She ended up falling ill. They had gone to several doctors who all said there weren’t any major issues. She just had to properly recuperate. He had worked for some major households in the past and heard from them that hotsprings have healing properties. Unfortunately these things weren’t something normal people could see let alone soak in. Therefore, when he heard there were hotsprings at the manor, he immediately decided to come.

Luckily he and his old wife only had a daughter. After she married out, the old couple lived together by themselves and it didn’t really matter where they lived.

When the two arrived, they were given a one compound residence outside the Peaceful Garden. They even got a little lass and a granny to serve them. The old couple was very satisfied.

This residence also had a couple of hotspring pools. It wasn’t just the Peaceful Garden that had them. Other areas in the manor had them as well. Back when the Peaceful Garden was constructed, it was built around two hotspring sources. Another source was left outside, and was used to construct two large pools. One was for men and one for women. Only a few limited people were able to make use of it.

After old teacher Wu’s wife arrived, she was taken to soak in the pool by Qiao Rong’s wife. After she came back, she said it was very comfortable and felt much more relaxed all over. Old teacher Wu made up his mind to properly instruct this little young master so he could live here for a long time.

Yan Mo thus started his lessons, which happened every day for around half a day. Yan Mo was very motivated and hardworking.

After old teacher Wu taught Yan Mo a few days, he told Shen Yi Yao that the young master was innately intelligent. After studying a few years, he would definitely be able to pass the exam.

Shen Yi Yao remained silent.

This old teacher Wu had only been here for a short time and he didn’t know the background of this family. He only knew they were wealthy and weren’t simple. Of course, he was rather curious about the single mother and her children in this manor. However, he had worked in many major households in the past and knew to be cautious with his words. Therefore, he didn’t ask.

Only after listening to the people in the manor did he find out this was a mistress and young master from a marquis household.

He immediately lamented and felt it was a pity. His words hadn’t been flattery. Yan Mo was truly innately intelligent, and was rather talented in studying. Unfortunately the Grand Xi had a rule that descendents of royalty and nobility were not allowed to take the imperial exam. Wasn’t this a pity?

On second thoughts, these descendants of nobility were a higher level than others the moment they were born. There was no need for them to take the exam. Wasn’t it preposterous to feel pity for him? Thus he no longer had these thoughts.

Apart from guiding her daughter, Shen Yi Yao started making clothes and sending it to the Zhenguo Duke Estate in her free time. Although her maternal family didn’t show any response, it didn’t matter. As long as they accepted them, it was sufficient to make her happy.

The next time Shen Qi came over, he divulged a secret. His grandfather had put on the clothes aunt sent over. Shen Yi Yao was happy for several days, and became much more proactive.

The more she realized the truth, the more Shen Yi Yao felt she had let her parents down. Even if they hadn’t forgiven her, it was enough that they accepted her filial piety.

As for Yan Ting, he hadn’t come by again. Apart from Xue-shi occasionally sending some things over along with some news from the estate, the Weiyuan Marquis Estate seemed to be very far away from their lives. It was as though the Yan household had already forgotten Shen Yi Yao and her children, and they had forgotten them as well.

But Yan Yan didn’t neglect the news from the estate. Every time Shen Qi came, he would give her some.

She knew Yan Ting had gotten connected with the Chengen Marquis Estate and was very smug nowadays. She also knew that the woman Yan Ting brought back was pregnant so the old madam now saw her in a different light. She was promoted to a concubine….

Yan Yan had mentioned this to Shen Yi Yao, who was very calm about it.

Time passed like a boat through the water. Three years passed in the blink of an eye.

Many things happened in these three years. Yan Yan and Yan Mo both grew up, and in a few months Yan Yan would be turning fourteen. Yan Mo was almost ten as well. Compared to his previous frail self, not only was he two heads taller, he was also much sturdier.

He no longer had to worry about catching a cold, getting sick and eating medicine. While he couldn’t be compared to those muscular boys, he was no different from most of the other boys his age. He studied with his teacher daily and trained with his sister to strengthen his body. In his free time he made a few friends around his age at the manor.

There were a few children at the manor. At first they didn’t dare approach Yan Mo because he was the young master. As time passed, they understood that this young master didn’t put on airs and would play together with them. He would steal eggs from trees and grab fish in the river.

Apart from this, he also had an extremely beautiful and extremely awesome sister.

This impression came from what they saw when Yan Yan came to call Yan Mo home. Yan Mo who normally directed them to split up into teams to play shoulder wars and officials catching bandits suddenly became a quail when he saw his sister. These brats couldn’t help but feel some reverence.

Of course this wasn’t the extent of it. This was something that happened previously.

Every manor had several tenant farmers under it. These farmers were mostly born in farming households but didn’t have their own farms. They would cultivate the manor’s land and sent their harvest upwards. Normally this sort of rent required them to offer up sixty percent while they kept forty. Shen Yi Yao was kindhearted, so the manor only took fifty percent.

These tenant farmers were naturally moved to tears and all praised the madam as a benevolent person. But since ancient times, people couldn’t be generalized. There were many types of people. Some were hardworking and capable and they naturally lived in peace and worked happily. Others were naturally lazy and were naturally without clothes, food or money.

These years, the weather was good for the crops and there was a bountiful harvest each time. There would never be tenant farmers who couldn’t pay their rent or have to be in debt. However, this year dozens of households were late in their payment. These people weren’t trying to not pay, but when the time came, they all had matters to attend to and didn’t show up. The manor sent people to hurry them up and those people all had excuses on hand. They said they would pay in a couple of days.

The ones who came for the rent were naturally people who often interacted with these farmers. The head of the farmstead could tell what these people were up to. But since it wasn’t appropriate to call them out, he turned around and left.

These tenant farmers continued to drag things out and didn’t pay the rent.

At this time, Yan Yan had just taken over the manor’s affairs from Shen Yi Yao. This matter was reported to her.

In theory, this could be handled by the head of the farmstead. If he couldn’t do it, there was still Manager Qiao.

But as was mentioned before, Shen Yi Yao was a kindhearted person. Normally there would be a couple of households who couldn’t pay the rent every year for various reasons. When the servants reported it, Shen Yi Yao would take pity on the distressed farmers. She would feel they didn’t even have enough to eat and thus waive the rent.

Because they had this precedent, every time this happened the managers would report it. In the past, they would mention it during their monthly reports. Now that the mistress was living in the manor, she would naturally know about it right away.

The first year Shen Yi Yao moved to the manor, the harvest was pretty bountiful. The head of the farmstead also knew the tenant farmers got a pretty good harvest, but suddenly several more households didn’t pay the rent. When it was reported to Qiao Rong, he had some thoughts about it in his heart. When he reported it upwards, he hinted that there might be some people intentionally defaulting on rent.

Shen Yi Yao felt that there was no need to quibble with impoverished commoners. Perhaps they really had some difficulties at home and thus didn’t pay up? They each had truly given a reason, like sick children, people marrying in and so on. She thus ordered rent to be waived.

The second year the weather was also favorable but the amount of households who didn’t pay rent increased.

The head of the farmstead reported it up and Qiao Rong implemented some measures. There were only a few solutions to such a situation. One was to forcibly collect the rent, and if they really couldn’t pay it they would have to owe it the following year. Otherwise, depending on the situation, they would take the farmland back.

Some of the more timid households immediately paid up. There were still a few others who acted shamelessly and didn’t pay. When they saw the rent collectors, they sat in front of their doors and cried.

The madam was currently at the manor and Qiao Rong knew she was kindhearted. Therefore, he didn’t dare use any forceful methods. When the matter was reported, Shen Yi Yao waived the rent once more.

This was the third year, and it was also Yan Yan’s first year managing the household.

Actually Yan Yan had already known about this matter the previous year. She hadn’t approved of her mom’s actions at that time.

But she understood what her mom was thinking. First of all, they truly weren’t lacking this little bit. It was like if one had a mountain of gold, there was no need to care about a few missing coppers. She treated it as charity. Many women in major households had such a mindset.

In theory, this also wasn’t excessive. But Yan Yan knew that indulging this would result in chaos down the line. The number would multiply and there would be more and more in the future.

These tenant farmers might not be bad people. They might have never done anything bad in their lives. Perhaps their families were poor, and seeing that the mistress was kindhearted, they got the idea to take a little advantage. They thought they could muddle through it by acting shamelessly.

It was fine if it was only a couple of households, but what about ten or a hundred? How could the manor operate in the future? Many people would follow the crowd. If they saw others doing so, they would naturally do the same.

Yan Yan wasn’t planning on tolerating this and ordered Qiao Rong to deal with things according to the rules.

Human nature was sometimes a strange thing. For example, if a swindler one day decided to do some good, people would praise him for changing his ways. If someone who had been kind their entire lives suddenly did something bad, they would receive a torrent of abuse, as though all their previous kindness was just a cover for their malicious nature.

This had to do with expectations. If something occurred outside of expectations, it would be viewed with a different perspective. On the other hand, if high expectations suddenly ended up being unmet, then the disappointment would be especially heavy.

Yan Yan didn’t understand this reasoning, and she wasn’t planning on understanding it. She just knew since growing up that some people cannot be indulged. Indulging them would only exacerbate the situation.

The heads of the farmstead was unsuccessful in collecting rent. Those tenant farmers were all crying their heads off, as though they were peasants being oppressed by landlords. If the rent collector became a little sterner, they would make a fuss and ask to see the madam. They said the madam was a benevolent person and would definitely not force them this way. It was definitely these heads who were abusing their authority and trying to line their pockets.

The rent collectors gave countless explanations but those tenant farmers didn’t believe them. Even Yan Yan was implicated. They said the madam was kindhearted but how did she raise her daughter to be someone so unsympathetic towards impoverished commoners. They fell just short of calling Yan Yan vicious. Even Shen Yi Yao was brought up, with people saying this madam wasn’t as benevolent as they thought.

People always followed the herd. Even if they knew this wasn’t the case, they couldn’t help but say a word or two.

When the matter was reported, Shen Yi Yao turned pale from anger.

Yan Yan didn’t say anything and immediately took the sedan chair over to the small village where those tenant farmers lived.

These villages weren’t far from the manor and were all close to the fields. When Yan Yan arrived, there was still a ruckus going on. The rent collectors and their helpers all gritted their teeth in anger, their fists clenched. Those who owed rent were in discussion with other tenants while using their words to attack the collectors.

Seeing two grannies carrying a sedan chair wrapped in violet gauze, with the faint silhouette of a young beautiful girl visible, many people fell silent.

The head of the farmstead hurried forward and bowed: “Miss.”

Yan Yan nodded and looked out through the gauze.

There were still two people on that side with their backs towards her, speaking to the crowd. One was dressed as a tenant farmer and the other as a housewife. Only when the crowd repeatedly signaled them with their eyes did the two turn around and look over.

“These two are a couple, and they are both the type to take without giving. They are surnamed Li.” The head seemed to really hate these two, his expression full of disgust. “The Li family are late on their rent this year. They are late every year. They truly don’t have any harvest at home, but everyone can get three hundred catties of crop from one mu of land whereas the Li family can only get half of that. While others are tilling their fields, the two of them spend their time talking themselves up and putting others down. Then, come harvest time, this family cries their heads off at how pitiful they are.”

To put it plainly, they were lazy. They liked comforts without putting in the work. If the fields weren’t meticulously tended, how could there be a good harvest?

“Why haven’t these types of people been thrown out?”

The head had a troubled expression and didn’t respond.

Fine, Yan Yan understood. It was for the sake of having a good reputation. For the sake of their reputation, major households normally did a few benevolent things and sympathized with the hardworking commoners.

The couple had wanted to pounce over and say a few flattering words. The masters were wealthy and didn’t lack what little they paid in rent. The moment they got close, they heard this conversation. The woman’s expression immediately changed and started crying, “Kindhearted miss, you mustn’t throw us out. Without this place, this lowly woman’s entire family wouldn’t be able to survive.”

That man had a different expression, glaring with a red face at the head. “Head Hu, did our family offend you? You wouldn’t be slandering us in front of the miss because we didn’t treat you to alcohol, right?!” He then complained to Yan Yan: “Miss, you mustn’t listen to this head Hu. This lowly family is truly struggling. Our children are still young. This lowly one hurt his waist in the past and can’t do hard labor. The farming can only be left to my wife alone, which is why the harvest isn’t good.”

Truly pitiful, and truly moving.

If Yan Yan’s ears hadn’t been sharp enough to hear the two complaining in the distance about the master’s household not being benevolent, she might have mostly believed them.

Head Hu’s face turned red from anger. His lips trembled and he couldn’t get his words out.

The helpers on his side indignantly refuted: “Li old sixth, stop trying to muddy the waters. Your children are fifteen and sixteen, how are they still young? You say your waist is bad every day, but I never see you having issues when you’re bragging about yourself.”

Li old sixth had the look of a scoundrel. “Bragging is done with the mouth, not with the waist. Also, when did you see me braging to others? You can’t assume I do it all the time just because you saw it once.”

Just these words alone were sufficient for Yan Yan to understand why these helpers felt like beating people up.

Yan Yan used her whip to knock on her armrest. The grannies put the sedan chair down and the scene quietened down.

“I heard you guys saying the master’s household isn’t benevolent. I guess we truly aren’t benevolent. Everyone else takes sixty percent from their farmers while we only take fifty. Isn’t that benevolence?”

Hearing this, several people’s faces turned red. These people were mostly those who delayed their payments. The crowd all started talking amongst themselves, and quietly denounced those who weren’t paying.

Li old sixth had an angry expression as he pointed to the crowd with righteous indignation: “Who was it that said the master’s household wasn’t benevolent. Hurry and step forwards, don’t implicate others.”

After speaking, he turned around and licked his lips with a smile. “See, miss? No one said anything like that. Who doesn’t know our masters are the kindest people in this area who sympathize with us farmers. You even waive the rent when households are struggling. I, Li old sixth, have never seen such benevolent masters.”

This person was quite the talent. Yan Yan laughed in spite of herself.

“Enough, less of the idle chatter. Because of the continuous delay in payments, I’ve also discussed this matter with my mom. We can forget about it this year, but starting from next year the rent will be raised to sixty percent. Since it’s like this everywhere else, I feel it’s better to follow the crowd.”

These words immediately resulted in chaos. People were saying everything and there was an uproar.

Yan Yan used her whip to knock on her armrest and continued speaking: “The heads will explain the overall situation to you. Furthermore, for those who are late two years in a row, the manor will not be renting the land to them the following year. Head Hu, let the other heads know about this. Tell them I gave the orders. This includes the people who owe rent this year.”

After speaking, the two grannies lifted the sedan chair and left.

Some tried to run up and beg or flatter, but were all stopped by the head and his helpers. Since the miss had spoken so firmly, people started taking out their anger on those who didn’t pay up. Li old sixth was especially abused, and was called the rat droppings that spoiled the entire pot of soup.

This won’t be mentioned for now.

When the matter of rent being increased was spread, there were some who wanted to group up and go beg the master’s household.

Fifty percent was quite a lot, but compared to sixty percent there was quite a big difference. Don’t underestimate this ten percent. This was sufficient to build up a dowry for their daughters or what not over the years. After getting used to fifty percent, this sudden change was hard for everyone to accept.

Before the people could gather, the master’s household passed down an additional rule.

Yan Yan’s announcement of an increase in rent wasn’t false. However, there were additional considerations. Those who paid on time within the past three years would only have to pay fifty percent. Those who were late within the past three years would pay sixty. The proportion wasn’t fixed, and depended on whether you owed anything or not. Of course, exceptions could be made for those in need.

Those who didn’t owe rent were naturally overjoyed. Those who delayed their payments naturally cursed themselves for their actions. It wasn’t possible for them to go elsewhere. They could only get through these three years and then behave properly in the future.

As for those who were kicked out due to continuously defaulting on their rent, no one spoke up for them. Ultimately, it was they who took the madam’s benevolence for granted!

Everyone understood at this point that the miss wanted to deal with those tenants who didn’t know their place. The heads and Manager Qiao all praised her and even the always kindhearted Shen Yi Yao didn’t have objections.

Actually, nothing had changed from before. It’s just that with this round of discipline and the additional rule, it prevented something similar from happening in the future.

It wasn’t bad to be kindhearted, but you cannot let people take it for granted. After all, no one owes you anything in life. Benevolence was nice, but there isn’t much you can say if it was lacking.

After this event, no one dared treat the young miss lightly. Everyone knew that despite her age, she was decisive in her actions and didn’t speak frivolously. She did things according to the rules but didn’t lack benevolence.

Not only did the adults know about it, the children knew as well. They all knew that this miss was extremely awesome.

Yan Mo lifted his head and looked at his sister who was riding a large black horse. He pursed his lips in a flattering smile.

“Sis.”

Yan Yan pulled him onto the horse in front of her.

“What were you playing today? You’re all sweaty.”

“Nothing much. Oh right, sis, they all say that you’re awesome. Even those naughty ones become obedient in front of you.” Yan Mo spoke as he looked at those dishonest little fellows behind them.

“They also say you’re very mighty. When I’m older, I also want to learn to ride a horse.”

This horse was brought over by Shen Qi for Yan Yan last year. He said grandfather had gotten several fine horses. Shen Qi had gotten one and Yan Yan was naturally not forgotten.

Yan Yan already knew how to ride, but there hadn’t been a need for it back at the estate. Now that they were at the manor, it was even fine to gallop around.

Ever since she got this horse called “Black Jade”, Yan Yan would go out riding every day. Knowing that Yan Mo was playing with the little fellows here today, she came to pick him up and take him back to eat.

Shen Yi Yao had some issues with her daughter riding horses. However, her daughter liked it and had always been opinionated. She could only turn a blind eye and comfort herself by saying it was fine at the manor.

“I heard cousin say last time big bro Luo is about to come back?”

“En.” Yan Yan answered.

Author’s words:

Ah Yan is grown. Little fatty is grown as well.

That Li old sixth is a so-called slacker. He’s never done anything bad before, and is just a little shameless, which ended up becoming a habit.

Shen Yi Yao’s methods couldn’t be called wrong. After all, she wasn’t lacking this bit of money. As for Yan Yan, her style is different and is more principled. Because their personalities are different, their way of handling things are different as well. This author prefers Ah Yan’s method. I don’t mind being benevolent as long as people don’t take it for granted. No one owes anyone anything after all.

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Y.E.
Y.E.
5 months ago

Yay🥳 Fatty’s coming back!!! Better arrange your marriage withe Yan’er before her stinky dad n granma try to use her as a bargaining chip 😳
Thanks for the chapter 😁