Inside the package was a rectangular wooden box.
When it was opened, there was another wooden box inside.
Yan Yan took the box out. This wooden box was much more exquisite than the one on the outside. The surface was carved with fine decorative designs and inlaid with gems of various colors. It looked incomparably gorgeous.
Yan Yan had seen quite a lot of rarities but she still felt a little startled. This was because she had actually never seen many of the gems before.
There was a strangely shaped little golden lock hanging on the side of the box. If Yan Yan was from the modern world, she would have been able to tell right away that the lock was in the shape of a heart. On top of the lock was a delicate little key, under which was a small piece of paper. There were several words written on it: Use this key to open my heart.
Yan Yan thought: this little fatty Luo, acting mysterious on purpose!
She put the little key into the lock and gently gave it a turn. The box opened. At this moment, due to Luo Huai Yuan acting mysteriously, Yan Yan felt a little nervous.
She slowly opened the box. There wasn’t anything mindblowing inside. There was a reflective brass surface, upon which stood two little people.
These two little people were made extremely exquisitely. They weren’t like those porcelain dolls seen in the markets. It wasn’t clear what the material was made out of, but they truly looked like miniature versions of the people. Even more interesting was that both of them were wearing a set of clothing. Yan Yan could tell these clothes were handmade. They were exquisite and cute.
The tiny people’s postures were very strange. They were leaning forward. One was a girl. Her hair was done into two circular buns and she wore a set of pink colored skirt and jacket. She had an ornamental flower in her hair and a gold necklace around her neck. Her facial features were extremely lifelike.
The other was a chubby boy. His round body wore a cyan robe and there were two large eyes on his chubby face. Even the eyelashes were visible. He was also slightly leaning forward, his face brimming with happiness.
Yan Yan had never seen such dolls before. They were actually so realistic. She even felt that boy was very familiar. After looking properly for a moment, she realized it was clearly a miniature little fatty Luo. She then realized that the girl was clearly her.
She wanted to touch them admiringly but also didn’t dare do so. She was deeply afraid of breaking these dolls. There was a piece of paper inside the box with a few words written on it. Yan Yan followed the written instructions and slowly turned the handle on the side.
It could actually really be turned. Faint sounds could even be heard from inside the box. When it was turned until it could no longer be turned, Yan Yan let go. A clear melody suddenly sounded from the box, giving Yan Yan a fright.
Looking back inside the box, the two little dolls actually started moving slowly with the music. She was truly startled. But what startled her even more was yet to come….
She watched the two little dolls spin a couple of times and slowly get closer, closer and closer again….under Yan Yan’s wide-opened eyes, the two little dolls’ lips locked in a kiss.
Yan Yan’s face immediately turned red and her mind became a mess.
This, this, this….
That crisp melody still sounded out….
The tone was extremely simple but it created an unknown melody that was very pleasant.
Yan Yan wasn’t able to snap out of it until the melody stopped and the two little people returned to their original positions. It was as though she had imagined everything. She blinked her eyes and then turned the handle again. Comapred to her previous careful turning, her movements were much faster this time.
Then came the crisp melody once again, and the two lifelike little dolls approached each other under Yan Yan’s eyes….
She wanted to have it stop, but didn’t know how to do so. She could only stare blankly as the little dolls spun closer and further, closer and further….
There was a letter inside the lid. Yan Yan unconsciously took it down and opened it.
Little sis Ah Yan, if I said I liked you, how would you react? I’ve always, always liked you. I’ve liked you for a long time. I want to take you as my consort!
There were only a few words inside but they shattered Yan Yan’s entire being to pieces.
The melody had stopped at some point.
Yn Yan swiftly closed the lid with trembling hands. She even knew to lock it with the golden lock. She then held it in her arms and didn’t really know what to do.
After thinking for a while, she went inside her bedroom and put the box into the little cabinet inside her palanquin bed. She then flopped onto her bed, wondering how things became this way.
Little fatty Luo likes her? He’s liked her for a long time? Just when did it start?
If Luo Huai Yuan had just written a love poem or something, Yan Yan probably wouldn’t have such a large reaction. She had never liked such literary things after all. It was because this was too blunt and too honest. It was honest enough that Yan Yan couldn’t avoid it!
I want to take you as my consort!
In Yan Yan’s mind, Luo Huai Yuan was just a friend whom she got to know at her most indecivise moment.
Because of this, she treated him differently. First of all, Yan Yan was quite impressed with him, and felt he was very resourceful. Compared to him, she was clumsy and only knew to hit people when angered. Every step of his plans would strike people in their weakspots, to the extent that those being screwed over wouldn’t know what hit them.
But this sort of impression was only temporary because little fatty Luo messed around too much. He liked joking around and also liked acting weird. Anyone who used to be impressed by him would be speechless after seeing his antics and weirdness.
They had gotten more and more familiar with each other, and it wasn’t too far off from her relationship with Yan Mo. After he went to Fujian, they hadn’t seen each other for three years. However, they remained in contact the entire time. It could be said that Yan Yan was the only person in the world who knew what Luo Huai Yuan had been up to abroad. This included Lady Hui and those guards. Because they had acted separately, they weren’t too clear of the overall picture….
While she knew many things about him, he knew many things about her as well.
They were too close, close enough to know each other’s deepest secrets. Yan Yan had even thought that little fatty Luo would probably be her closest friend in this life.
But how did this turn into liking?
What did liking mean?
Seeing the miss hide in her room without coming out, the few maids were extremely curious.
Yi Meng was the one who brought the thing over so Mei Xiang and the rest all looked at her.
Yi Meng waved her hands, “I also don’t know what was inside. It was a little box, and wasn’t too heavy.”
Without any conclusions, they could only continue to wait.
With the sound of crashing thunder, it started pouring outside. It was like a hole had appeared in the heavens and water was being poured through it.
Yi Yun ran in from outside, her hems and shoes soaking wet. “Luckily I hurried back after seeing things not looking good. Otherwise I would have been drenched.”
“Wait, you didn’t manage to get the stuff?” Yi Yun’s hands were completely empty.
As the weather started changing a few days ago, the summer clothes could gradually no longer be worn. The senior maids of the Ningxiang Chambers had decided to fetch the estate’s allotted autumn clothing for themselves and the junior maids. Although they normally didn’t wear what the estate handed down, they could give it to the little lasses under them. Unexpectedly, despite having gone over twice, they didn’t manage to get anything.
Servants in the estate got clothes for every season based on their level. Those first ranked maids like Mei Xiang’s group got pretty decent things. The estate sometimes handed out clothes and sometimes handed out material for them to make clothes themselves. No matter what, there would always be something. But now that it was getting cold, why haven’t they allocated the clothes yet?
Yi Yun nodded. “We’ve just come back from the manor so we didn’t know about it. I heard others saying that the previous season’s hadn’t been handed out yet either. Many people are complaining endlessly.”
The group looked at each other, their expressions weird.
“What hasn’t been handed out yet?”
Yan Yan walked out. Nothing could be seen from her expression.
Yi Yun summarized the situation.
“We aren’t lacking in these things. When the rain stops, I’ll go discuss with my mom. If the estate isn’t handing them out, we’ll make our own. We can’t drag things out while waiting for them.”
“Miss, we aren’t actually lacking in clothing. You often bestow cloth to the servants. Even the junior maids and grannies aren’t lacking, let along us servants. We just went out of habit.” After speaking, Yi Meng also relayed all the rumors and gossip going around these days.
As of now, the estate cared less and less about appearances. Those above didn’t give any silver, making it difficult for the managing grannies and managers to operate. To put it plainly, everyone underneath them worked for the sake of silver. Now that today’s wasn’t given and tomorrow’s was delayed, there would inevitably be discussions amongst the servants.
Chen-shi was having a hard time managing the household at the moment. Especially since she didn’t have much past experience.
When Xue-shi was in charge, she would listen to the old madam on the surface but actually knew what to do better in her heart. But Chen-shi couldn’t do this. Whatever the old madam said, she would carry out obediently. For example, she obediently dealt with the servants’ allowances. Also the estate had several suppliers of cloth. Due to the large volume, they could purchase on credit and didn’t need to pay right away. They could wait to settle accounts later.
But Chen-shi saw there wasn’t much silver left in the account and nothing new showed up. She went to find the old madam. The old madam naturally delayed where she could and avoided what she could. She gave the order to skip the summer allotment for the servants. This had happened before in the past. After all, they needed to control their expenses. But skipping two seasons in a row inevitably made the servants gossip.
The rain came quickly and went quickly as well. Some little lasses who understood farming commented that this year’s harvest wouldn’t be good. It was harvest season now but the weather was so strange. Wouldn’t the people relying on the crops suffer?
Seeing the rain stop, Yan Yan went over to the Jinse Pavilion.
After she explained the situation, Shen Yi Yao very straightforwardly said to have the cloth businesses under her send over a batch. Having been the mistress for so long, she knew servants didn’t require much, but should be given what they were owed. Otherwise, if they started slacking, who would handle their affairs?
Back onto the topic of the weather. Since Shen Yi Yao had a lot of farmland and businesses under her name, she understood the effect of the weather on the harvest quite well. Seeing this autumn’s weather, she had some idea of what was coming. The spring and summer had been good. It was only when it was harvest time that the weather suddenly changed. There would probably be quite a few farmers who would be crying over spoiled crop.
“Mom has already given the orders. Once the situation is confirmed, we will waive the rent for the tenant farmers.”
After speaking, Shen Yi Yao continued; “You haven’t seen your Auntie Fang in several years. Last time she asked about you at the Yiyong1 Marquis Estate. They’ve arranged a chrysanthemum viewing2 banquet at their estate in a couple of days. Come along with your mom at that time. Bring the eldest and fourth misses along as well.
Yan Yan nodded.
Hearing about the chrysanthemum viewing party, Yan Ru and Yan Ling were immediately thrilled.
They set even stricter standards for themselves and often bugged Nana Chang to pick out their shortcomings. They then bugged Yan Yan about the Yiyong Marquis Estate’s situation, deeply afraid of messing up.
Everyone had some idea of what it meant to attend this banquet. This counted as them formally entering society. There would definitely be many noblewomen at the banquet, and there would be some who had younger generations who were ready to discuss marriage. Most of the wealthy daughters in the capital found their marriages this way.
After Xue-shi found out, she braced her heart and spent her silver to buy some jewelry for her daughter. Even Yan Ling had a set. These movements were naturally noticed by those paying attention.
In the blink of an eye, the day arrived. When they went to pay respects at the Rongan Hall, Yan Yan saw Yan Ru and Yan Ling full of smiles. The two had faint bags under their eyes. It was clear they didn’t get much sleep.
Normally, after they paid respects, the old madam would have everyone disperse. In the past she would still have them stay for breakfast but this hadn’t been done in a while. Unexpectedly, she didn’t let them leave after they paid respects.
“Old second daughter-in-law, it looks like you’re heading out?” The old madam’s voice was weird.
Shen Yi Yao nodded and merely answered yes.
“It doesn’t seem quite so simple. Since you’re even bringing the eldest lass and fourth lass, might as well take the second, sixth and seventh lasses along.”
The old madam made it sound like a minor thing. Everyone’s gazes couldn’t help but focus on Shen Yi Yao.
Yan Yan wasn’t pleased: “Grandmother, my mom is taking me to Auntie Fang’s estate. We’re going to be guests and haven’t seen them in a while. Eldest sis and fourth sis are coming along with me as playmates. What performance are you having us put on by making mom bring them?”
“Since they are playmates, isn’t it better for there to be more?”
“Do you think it’s good to bring so many people when we’re guests at someone else’s place?!”
Yan Yan’s tone was rather impolite and the old madam’s face sank. Yan Ru and Yan Ling looked at each other while Xue-shi’s brows were tightly furrowed. Chen-shi half lowered her head. Yan Qian was looking over intently.
“Old second daughter-in-law, I’m not speaking with Yan Yan. What do you say about it? Lass Qian isn’t young anymore. Although she is concubine born, she still calls you principal mother. Don’t you have to worry about her marriage? Also the sixth and seventh lasses are your nieces. It shouldn’t be too much to take your nieces out and help them discuss marriage, right?”
This was completely using morals to pressure someone beyond their comfort zone. If Shen Yi Yao dared to say no, the old madam had countless more morals and ethics to throw out.
The morals were correct, but the point was that it depended on the situation. Even without mentioning what Concubine Pei had done, Yan Qian had never treated Shen Yi Yao as her mother. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say she had a grudge against her. Only someone with brain damage would help their enemies find a good marriage.
Then there was the sixth and seventh misses. Apart from putting on a good front, the third branch never cared about anything except themselves. They didn’t even give Shen Yi Yao an extra smile. Now they wanted to rely on her to discuss marriage? Where was there such a good thing under the heavens?!
Yan Yan still wanted to sepak but was lightly held back by Shen Yi Yao.
“Mom, you’re overestimating your daughter-in-law. I don’t have the ability to discuss marriage for others. The capital has many official and private matchmakers who should be doing this. As for the eldest and fourth misses, I’m only bringing them because they get along well with Ah Yan. Ah Yan and the Yiyong Marquis Estate’s eldest daughter Shu Yi were playmates as children.”
Shen Yi Yao’s voice was still very calm and unhurried, but her tone was unusually firm.
She was deliberately misinterpreting the old madam’s words. She wasn’t a matchmaker, and discussing marriage was something a matchmaker should be doing. She wasn’t planning on being responsible for everyone’s marriage. Additionally, she treated this time’s outing as a playdate for the misses.
After she spoke, most of the people’s faces fell. The old madam’s expression was gloomy and Chen-shi’s expression was very rigid. Resentment flashed in her eyes for a moment. Concubine Wu and Yan Qian naturally were the same way.
There wasn’t anything wrong with Shen Yi Yao’s words. It was truly the case. What noblewoman would act as everyone’s matchmaker? Wouldn’t that be lowering her own value? They would at most probe things out with a few conversations and come to a mutual understanding. If the other side had similar thoughts, then things would naturally proceed.
Of course the old madam wasn’t that easy to deal with. Actually everyone knew this trip wasn’t for the sake of seeing old friends. It was to take these misses to socialize, and prepare them for marriage.
But the old madam didn’t understand when Shen Yi Yao became so hard to deal with. Shouldn’t she be going along with whatever she said?! Also, what’s the big deal about bringing a few more misses along!? The old madam had never been willing to consider other people’s feelings or troubles. If anything happened because of it, she would naturally blame the person who took them out.
After all, they were going to someone else’s estate. There would be many people and many pairs of eyes. Their mom couldn’t follow them around and they could at most bring a couple of maids. It wasn’t like they could show up with a grand procession. If any accidents, quarrels or lack of etiquette occurred, they would become laughing stocks. This was everything Shen Yi Yao had to consider, and no one wanted to be responsible for this!
“Since Ah Yan can bring the eldest and fourth lasses, why can’t she bring the sixth and seventh lasses too? Since children like playing together, isn’t it more lively to have more people!? Enough, it’s just a playdate so it’s not a big deal. Bring them since I’m telling you to!” The old madam made the decision final.
Shen Yi Yao could only agree.
Leaving the Rongan Hall, Yan Yan’s expression was ugly enough. The people from the eldest branch were the same way. Especially Yan Ru and Yan Ling. What should have been a happy occasion had now become something nauseating.
When had someone been pressured out of their comfort zone like this before?
Xue-shi’s expression wasn’t good either. “Second sis-in-law, it’s all your sis-in-law’s fault for provoking trouble for you.” If it weren’t for the sake of bringing Yan Ru and Yan Ling, the others wouldn’t have been able to climb up the pole and make it difficult for Shen Yi Yao.
The old madam fell just short of saying since she can care about the two misses of the eldest branch, why can’t she do so for the rest?
“Eldest aunt, since they had the thoughts, they would still bother my mom even without the eldest sis and fourth sis.” This situation didn’t exceed Yan Yan’s expectations. She just didn’t think they could be so shameless.
Xue-shi also gritted her teeth in anger. “I just can’t figure out what Chen-shi is thinking. Since it’s for her daughters’ sakes, couldn’t she come discuss in person? She only knows to instigate the old madam to stand up for her. How can she be so disgusting!?”
She didn’t know that this matter also involved Concubine Wu and Yan Qian. Since all the misses were brought along, the fifth miss naturally wouldn’t be left out.
“Luckily my mom rejected everything else. Let them come if they want to. It’s just a normal playdate after all!”
Chen-shi and the rest merely assumed Shen Yi Yao was taking the misses out, and didn’t know the details. Since they didn’t know, then it should be easy to deal with. Yan Yan’s temper had never been good, and she would never swallow a grievance without returning in kind.
Shen Yi Yao also didn’t know what to say. After chatting a little longer, they each returned and prepared to depart.
When they all reconvened, everyone was wearing new clothing.
Yan Yan, Yan Ru and Yan Ling were especially well-dressed. They each had their own unique flavor. Yan Qian, Yan Chan and the rest showed up as well. They were all carefully dressed. No one would believe that they hadn’t been prepared beforehand.
Knowing they couldn’t bring too many people, the sixth and seventh miss only brought a granny and a maid. Yan Qian only brought a maid and Yan Chan was the same. They split into four carriages and the group majestically departed.
Shen Yi Yao sat with Yan Yan in one carriage along with Cui Qiao and Mei Xiang. The rest of the carriages had two misses and their personal servants each.
The carriages arrived at the Yiyong Marquis Estate’s gates. They got off and transferred onto small palanquins, which could fit two people each. They fit perfectly into four palanquins while the maids walked alongside them.
Yan Yan had been frowning the entire time. Shen Yi Yao said comfortingly: “Enough, you shouldn’t stay angry. You must have a smile when seeing your Auntie Fang later.”
“She’s precisely doing this on purpose. I feel her worries about Yan Qian and the rest’s marriages are fake. She’s really just trying to disgust us.”
Shen Yi Yao helped adjust her daughter’s golden necklace. “Enough, don’t take things to heart. She can think whatever she wants to. We just need to mind our own business. There are maids and grannies with us so there shouldn’t be any major issues. Especially since your Auntie Fang will be there as well. Just have the servants keep an eye out some more.”
The palanquin stopped by the secondary gates. After getting off, they saw a colorful woman standing by the gates along with a group of servants. She had a Ruyi symbol phoenix hairpin and wore a shirt embroidered with golden peony flower patterns paired with a purple skirt covered in roses. She was colorful like peaches and plums, and was extremely beautiful and moving.
This was the Yiyong Marquis Estate’s madam, Ma Quan Fang.
Seeing Shen Yi Yao, she smiled. “What a Madam Yan, making me personally come welcome you.”
In comparison, Shen Yi Yao was dressed much simpler. However, she had never liked to appear too eye-catching. Her noble and poised manner had its own elegance.
Shen Yi Yao seemed quite pleased at seeing her old friend. She smiled and said: “I didn’t have you come. You were the one who wanted to.”
“Fine, fine, fine. It’s all my fault. I was the one who impatiently rushed over.”
The two of them looked at each other and laughed. Ma Quan Fang’s gaze fell on Yan Yan. “This is little Ah Yan, right? Having not seen you in several years, you’ve grown so much. You look better than your mom!”
Yan Yan smiled and greeted: “Auntie Fang.”
Ma Quan Fang pulled her into her arms and said warmly: “This naughty monkey from before also knows to act bashful know. Our Ah Yan has become a grown miss. Auntie Fang likes beautiful girls. Shu Yi is waiting for you inside. You guys can go play together later.”
As she spoke, the three of them went inside first. Yan Ru, Yan Ling and the rest followed behind them accompanied by the Yiyong Marquis Estate’s servants.
Along the way, they saw richly ornamented buildings that were extraordinarily magnificent. They were extremely luxurious and impressive.
The Yiyong Marquis Estate was naturally not somewhere that can be compared to a declining noble household like the Weiyuan Marquis Estate. They counted as one of the cornerstones of the court, and was rather favored by the emperor.
This estate was similar in construction to the Weiyuan Marquis Estate, but there were fine carvings and engravings everywhere. How could this be something Yan Qian’s group had seen before? They couldn’t help but feel intimidated. They all lowered their heads and stifled their breaths, afraid to even breathe too loudly.
Compared to Yan Qian and the rest, Yan Ru and Yan Ling were much more dignified. They had received special training after all. First of all, it was important to walk with a dignified bearing. Even if they were worried, they couldn’t show it on their faces.
Ma Quan Fang held Yan Yan’s hand as they walked in the very front. She said in a low voice to Shen Yi Yao: “Didn’t you say you would only bring Ah Yan and two nieces today? Who are those other little misses?”
The two of them were close from a young age. If it were anyone else, Ma Quan Fang wouldn’t ask such an impolite question.
Seeing Shen Yi Yao looking unwell, she raised her eyebrows: “Don’t tell me that mother-in-law of yours forced you to bring them?”
Ma Quan Fang was also aware of what Shen Yi Yao had experienced these years. It naturally wasn’t hard to guess what had happened. Especially since Shen Yi Yao had come a few times to the Yiyong Marquis Estate after returning from her manor. Ma Quan Fang had often felt indignant for her sake.
She was also a descendent of a major household, but her temper was much more violent than Shen Yi Yao’s. She hadn’t approved of Shen Yi Yao marrying Yan Ting back then. Who would have thought Shen Yi Yao had set her heart on him. Afterwards, although her husband wasn’t outstanding, she still seemed to be living pretty well. Only then did Ma Quan Fang feel somewhat relieved.
Unexpectedly, it was actually just a shiny piece of donkey manure. She hadn’t known his true nature despite spending so much time with him.
“This old woman is quite optimistic. Not burning incense normally and only hugging onto Buddha’s legs at the last second. What was she doing all this time? Stuffing everything at you. You can care for your own daughter, and your nieces as well depending on the situation, but don’t tell me she wants you to take care of everyone?”
This was truly the case. Chen-shi had seen the eldest branch’s two misses running over to the second branch daily, and also saw Xue-shi sticking closely to Shen Yi Yao. She naturally understood the reason. She herself had two daughters, and naturally wanted them to marry up. But the problem was that Chen-shi had always kept to herself normally. Her relationship with Shen Yi Yao wan’t even that of outsiders, but now she needed to borrow her limelight. She didn’t have the face to bring it up to Shen Yi Yao, and thus instigated the old madam to speak up for her.
Although this wasn’t a large matter, it still made others feel unhappy.
When Shen Yi Yao recalled all this, she couldn’t help but furrow her brows.
Ma Quan Fang hated how iron couldn’t become steel. “You’re just so good natured. It goes without saying that those two concubine born ones have tagged along as well. Their concubines harmed you so, why are you still worrying about them!? If it were me, it would have kept them as far away as I could. When the time comes, they can go marry into whatever random household.”
“It ultimately had nothing to do with the children.” Seeing her friend wanting to speak further, Shen Yi Yao hurriedly spoke: “Enough, my good sister. It’s not that I’m good natured. These concubine born daughters are truly my responsibility as the principal mother. The ones from the other branches were due to the old madam speaking up. I can’t just care about one branch and not the other.”
Of course Ma Quan Fang understood this, but it was still hard to swallow. What made her even more uncomfortable was how someone could have been so shameless!
“Furthermore, I never said I would care about their matters. This time was too last minute and truly couldn’t be refused. I’ll be more careful in coming out next time.”
Ma Quan Fang harrumphed and no longer spoke.
Fatty: Dearest Ah Yan, have you received my feelings?
Ah Yan: You damn hooligan. You actually made those little dolls play kissyface. I’m a proper noble lady, don’t pollute my mind!
Fatty: Waah, but I like you!
Author: Little fatty, you’re too direct.
Fatty: Scram…..Ah Yan, I like you!
Ah Yan: What’s liking?
Cough cough, a little wtf performance. That, Ah Yan does understand a little what it means to like someone, but she cannot understand why the little fatty likes her.
The little fatty is a little too honest, but towards someone like Ah Yan, it’s not possible not to be honest. She is inexperienced to begin with, and if he used some flowery language, Ah Yan wouldn’t think in that direction even if she were beaten to death. The little fatty naturally wouldn’t use such methods. For the sake of marrying his wife, he’s giving it his all!