After winding through the granite screens of the connecting halls, they arrived at a bright and spacious courtyard. Facing them was the main residence which consisted of five rooms. In front of the gates stood a row of maids wearing light purple jackets. Their heads and hands were all lowered as they stood at attention.
As the crowd approached, the maids knelt and called out in unison: “Greetings to the madams and misses.”
They entered the residence. The inside was naturally luxurious as well, and all the decorations were top quality.
Ma Quan Fang and Shen Yi Yao sat down. Shen Yi Yao told Yan Ru and the rest: “This is the Yiyong Marquis Estate’s madam-in-waiting.1 You may call her Aunt2 Liu.”
Yan Yan had already greeted her earlier so she stood to the side. Yan Ru and the rest stepped up one by one to pay respects.
Ma Quan Fang was dinified and also not lacking in an intimate smile. There was no sign of any dislike. After everyone gave their greetings, some maids brought over gold plated trays, upon which were red pouches embroidered with begonias. Everyone received one. This counted as a greeting gift.
When the maids offered the pouch with both hands to the two misses from the eldest branch, Yan Ru and Yan Ling looked at Shen Yi Yao. Only after seeing her nod did they accept it. The rest of them paled in comparison. They were either too daring, like Yan Qian who was looking everywhere with flashing eyes, or too timid, like the other three who didn’t dare raise their heads the entire time.
“These are all minor things. Treat it as a small greeting gift.”
At this time, a thirteen or fourteen year old girl walked out. Her skin was fair and bright, and she had a pair of lively and mischievous eyes. She wore a hibiscus colored short jacket embroidered with begonias paired with a verdant skirt with pearls and twelve fortune characters. There was a jadeite necklace of longevity around her neck. She seemed extremely wealthy, and was clearly a pampered young miss from a noble household.
“Ah Yan, Ah Yan, is it you?” Shu Yi jumped in front of Yan Yan and grabbed her hand. “How did you get so tall? I don’t even recognize you anymore.”
Seeing her childhood playmate, Yan Yan was also filled with smiles. “Shu Yi, you’ve grown as well.”
“But not as tall as you!” Shu Yi compared their heights with her hand. Yan Yan was taller than her by over half a head. This matter had been a sticking point ever since they were little. “You’re actually so much taller than me.”
“You’ve always been shorter than me.”
The two girls speaking to each other both looked like ice or jade scultpures, and were both pure and cute. They were incomparably stunning, and seemed to be like a beautiful painting.
Yan Qian looked at Yan Yan who was chatting casually with that noble young miss, and couldn’t help but bite her lip. Ever since they entered the Yiyong Marquis Estate, it was like Yan Qian had stepped into a new world. This place was magnificent, imposing, exquisite and grand. It was completely different from the Weiyuan Marquis Estate.
Not only was the building different, the servants they encountered were all dressed appropriately and well-trained. That madam-in-waiting was dressed so gorgeously and looked so poised and wealthy. Yan Qian could be said to have been pampered from birth, but she still felt inferior. Seeing Yan Yan calmly chatting with that girl made her incessantly jealous.
Why? Just why? What was different about Yan Yan that made her a level higher not just at the estate, but also when going out!?
Yan Qian glanced at Yan Chan out of the corner of her eyes, as well as Yan Xia and Yan Juan. They were awkward and unsettled, not daring to even breathe too loudly. Although they weren’t dressed any worse than the others, their attitude gave them a sort of dirty appearance. This perception made Yan Qian feel like she was also lumped in with them.
By the time Yan Qian snapped out of it, she had already made her way over to Yan Yan’s side. “Is this third sis’s good friend? I am Ah Yan’s second sis. I’m called Yan Qian.”
She was smiling and acted calm and magnanimous.
Of course, that was just in her own mind. In the eyes of others, this girl suddenly walked over. Her hands and feet were trembling with excitement but she still wanted to act easygoing. Her smile was especially rigid.
As someone who played with Yan Yan from a young age, Shu Yi was naturally not someone who was easy to deal with. With a mom who wasn’t easy to deal with along with her pampered upbringing in the Yiyong Marquis Estate, how could she be someone who wouldn’t be angered at such an interruption?
She raised her brows and was about to speak when Ma Quan Fang spoke up: “You haven’t seen my mother-in-law in a while. I’ll go take you to see the elder.” She was speaking to Shen Yi Yao. She then acted like nothing was wrong and ordered the servants: “Take these misses to the Yunxiang3 Building to rest for a bit. Entertain them properly.” It was as if she didn’t see what just happened.
Yan Ru’s group all stood up. Yan Qian still stood in place, smiling earnestly at Liu Shu Yi.
“This little sis, where are you guys going? Can I come with you?”
Yan Ru knit her brows and wanted to call Yan Qian back. However, she couldn’t due to the other people present. Yan Chan’s group all looked nervously at Yan Qian. A hint of mockery flashed in Yan Ling’s eyes.
Liu Shu Yi laughed in spite of herself. She rolled her eyes and pulled Yan Yan’s hand. “Come, we’ll go see grandmother first before going elsewhere to chat.”
Ma Quan Fang had already left with Shen Yi Yao. Yan Yan and Liu Shu Yi followed behind them. No one gave Yan Qian a glance the entire time, as though she was nonexistent.
“Misses, this way please.” A servant bowed and said.
Yan Ru wanted to leave but looked over at Yan Qian who was still standing in place, her back facing them. It was clear her body was rigid, but they couldn’t see her expression. Yan Ling walked over and pulled Yan Qian with a smile, saying: “Second sis, what are you spacing out for? I know you can’t bear parting with third sis, but third sis is busy at the moment.”
Yan Qian wanted to struggle free but Yan Ling exerted all her strength and she actually couldn’t pull her hand away. Yan Ru also walked over, and together they pushed Yan Qian along behind the servants.
Yan Ling was still smiling, but her voice in Yan Qian’s ear was ruthless and merciless, “Second sis, if you continue being shameless, you’re losing the Weiyuan Marquis Estate’s face. If you lose all face for the estate, do you think the eldest madam, third madam and the old madam would spare you?”
Yan Ling blinked her large eyes and smiled at her. She even pouted her little lips at her, seeming pure and innocent.
“Hurry, let’s go second sis. You’re so old already but still like sticking to third sis.”
Her voice was neither soft nor loud. The servants accompanying them looked over curiously. Yan Ling looked at Yan Qian in embarrassment and bashfully smiled at the servant. The servants suddenly had a revelation and their gazes towards Yan Qian became sympathetic.
Now it made sense. Otherwise, how could there be such an impolite miss? Yan Qian’s previous actions had been seen by the servants in the hall. They were all incessantly startled. Now they had an explanation.
It turns out she had some problems up there. How pitiful!
By the time Yan Qian reacted and wanted to speak up, no one would listen to her explanations anymore. They all looked at her sympathetically, and even considerately asked Yan Ling if she needed help.
Yan Ling shook her head and indicated for Xiao Tao to come help. Yan Xia and Yan Juan’s granny and maid didn’t want to help, but had no choice after being glared at by Yan Ru. That’s right. If the second miss embarrassed the Weiyuan Marquis Estate and the old madam found out they didn’t help, they wouldn’t be let off.
Yan Xia’s granny was rather strong, and picked up Yan Qian as though picking up a chick. Yan Qian’s maid was already stunned and could only follow along with everyone. Actually, Yan Qian also knew she couldn’t make a fuss outside. However, she couldn’t get over Yan Ling speaking about her that way.
They arrived at the Yunxiang Building. It was facing a little pond with green Japanese Bananas4, interesting rocks, and various rare plants and flowers. Within the blue waters, koi could be seen swimming occasionally. The scene was very unique.
The servants brought over refreshments before leaving. Yan Ling gave a glance and Xiao Tao closed the doors. Only then did that granny let go of Yan Qian. Her makeup was currently a mess. She panted as she looked at her wrinkled clothing and shrieked: “Yan Ling, just what are you trying to do?”
Yan Ling’s palm-sized little face was without any hint of smile, “That’s what I want to ask you! Normally playing dumb in the estate, where did you pull this performance out of after coming to someone else’s estate? Don’t you feel it’s embarrassing?!”
“You’re the embarrassing one! Don’t you forget I’m older than you!”
“Then don’t you forget your status!” Yan Ru stood up and looked at her in disgust. “Where did you learn such actions from? You interrupt when others are speaking, and play dumb when they ignore you. Don’t forget your surname is Yan. You may not care about your own face, but don’t implicate the rest of us misses with the same surname.”
The fifth, sixth and seventh misses were cowering and didn’t dare speak, but they held some faint resentment in their gazes towards Yan Qian.
“How was I embarrassing? How did I embarrass myself? Yan Yan can speak with her, but I can’t?”
Yan Qian’s face was twisted and she was hysterical. She had been petty and vain since birth. In the past Concubine Pei had sheltered her so it wasn’t apparent. Now that Concubine Pei was sent to the Qingpu Nunnery, Yan Qian no longer had someone to rely on. It could be said she had fallen from heaven to hell overnight. In the past, her life wasn’t any worse off than others. Now, although she didn’t worry about food or clothing, she no longer felt as superior.
Especially since Concubine Pei’s tragic fate was due to Yan Yan making a fuss. After Concubine Pei was sent off, the confined Yan Qian had come out while the servants weren’t present and ran over to the eldest branch to ruthlessly curse Yan Ru. Ever since then, Yan Ru and Yan Ling never even spoke with her. Her life in the estate was lonely and impoverished. Apart from venting her anger on Concubine Wu and Yan Chan occasionally, she didn’t even have anyone to talk to.
She did have a brother. Yan Hong had become a little more sensible after Concubine Pei was sent off. He knew he had to protect this older sister of his. But Yan Qian and Yan Hong had never gotten along. The two would start arguing whenever they talked, so they weren’t really intimate normally.
These years Yan Qian’s heart had become twisted. She felt everyone in the world owed her, and that they were all bad people. This included Concubine Wu and the old madam. There was no need to mention Yan Yan who she hated most.
“I feel you’re really laughable. What status do you have? What status does third sis have?”
“What is my status? What is Yan Yan’s status?”
Yan Ling sneered. There was no getting through to this person. She pulled at Yan Ru and said: “Eldest sis, forget it. This person’s mind doesn’t quite work like ours. Let’s sit a little further away from her.”
The two went to sit at the table by the window. From there, they could see the pond outside and the view was scenic like a painting.
Before Yan Chan left, Concubine Wu had instructed her to keep an eye on Yan Qian. At this time, she went up and quietly tried to persuade Yan Qian: “Second sis, you shouldn’t mess make a ruckus anymore.”
“Scram, who needs you to care?!”
Yan Chan stumbled in fright. The sixth miss Yan Xia couldn’t watch any longer and secretly waved her over. Yan Chan walked over and the three misses sat together, also staying far away from Yan Qian.
No one bothered with Yan Qian. After a while, she calmed down by herself and summoned her maid to tidy up her appearance. Once she recovered her previous cute and delicate appearance, she also sat down on the side. She didn’t say anything and it was unclear what she was thinking.
After visiting the Yiyong madam, Ma Quan Fang and Shen Yi Yao remained behind to chat with her. Liu Shu Yi took Yan Yan to her own residence.
“Was that girl your concubine sister? She wouldn’t have something wrong with her here, right?” Liu Shu Yi’s finger pointed at her temples. She stuck out her tongue: “If it weren’t for my mom being there, I would definitely make her eat a loss. She’s rather talented at saying whatever she wants!”
“Enough, don’t mention her anymore, ok? I get annoyed whenever I think about her!” If it weren’t for Auntie Fang and Shu Yi being present, Yan Yan had really wanted to slap her to death.
“Fine, fine, fine. Let’s not talk about her. Let’s talk about something else. Tell me what you’ve been up to these past few years. I heard my mom say you and your mom went to the manor by Mt. Xixia and lived there for a few years. If I wasn’t at my maternal grandparents’ place these couple of years, I would have definitely gone to play with you.”
After around half an hour, servants came to invite the two of them over, saying the Qinxiang5 Garden’s banquet had started and their madam requested their presence.
The Yiyong Marquis Estate had a garden that was rather large. It had many rare plants. The Yiyong madam loved planting flowers, and was especially good at raising chrysanthemums. Every time chrysanthemum month (September) came around, the Qinxiang Garden would be filled with a large field of chrysanthemum flowers. It was incomparably beautiful. Around this time, the Yiyong Marquis Estate would arrange a chrysanthemum viewing banquet and invite everyone over to admire them.
They went through a black painted corner gate and walked along a long passageway. The passage was paved with cyan and light yellow cobblestone arranged in compasses, hexagons and circles. There were trees on either side, and across was a pool with a rock garden. A clear spring flowed from the artificial mountain and became a small waterfall. It could even be called divine craftsmanship.
Walking further, a large sea of yellow chrysanthemum appeared before their eyes. Only after getting closer did they see that it was a large flowerbed. Due to the positioning and angle, it gave others the impression that it stretched as far as the eye can see. Of course, this flowerbed wasn’t small either. Its area was rather large.
After circling around this flowerbed, there was a covered terrace in the distance. It had a traditional feel, with curved awnings and raised corners. There were also several small pavilions scattered in the area. There were yellow, white, red and violet chrysanthemum flowers. The covered terrace had several pots of chrysanthemums arranged in various shapes. The pot in the middle was actually highest quality chrysanthemum “green peony”.
The branches on the green peony were thick and sturdy and the leaves were shaped irregularly. The petals were multilayered and their buds were covered. When they bloomed, some of the petals were light green while the central petals were emerald green and curled upwards. Their core petals were dark green and the corolla was a compact flattened sphere. One plant could be said to be a thousand gold, and can only be stumbled across and not sought out.
The center of the other layout was a “flapping phoenix wing”. This flapping phoenix wing’s branches were ash green and firm. The leaves were long and the flowers were circular in shape. The central petals were fine tubes and the outer petals were reddish brown while its base was yellow. The flowers bloomed in all directions and their petals curled upwards like a phoenix flapping its wings. The petals near the middle curled inwards like a phoenix resplendently rising. The outer reddish brown petals were dazzling, making the entire flower elegant and moving. When people heard the name and then looked at the flower, they would associate it with the beauty of a phoenix.
This was also a top class chrysanthemum!
Those who understood flowers naturally understood the beauty within. Those who didn’t understand merely thought they looked nice. Yan Yan and Liu Shu Yi were precisely people who didn’t understand flowers. Yan Yan felt flowers were too weak. The slightest wind or rain could ruin them. As for Liu Shu Yi, she had seen too many of them growing up. In her household, people her age all pretended to love and understand flowers to flatter the Yiyong Madam, making her feel disagreeable and revolted.
There were quite a lot of people who came for the viewing today. Most of the madams from various households were sitting in the covered terrace. That was the liveliest place. Ma Quan Fang and Shen Yi Yao were there as well. The various misses were gathered next to the terrace, in a place called the Wangxian6 Pavilion.
Liu Shu Yi and Yan Yan first went to greet Ma Quan Fang and Shen Yi Yao. They were then pulled in for a brief chat by a few noblewomen before heading over to the Wangxian Pavilion. Despite its name, it was more of a kiosk constructed on a stone platform. The area was rather large and there were two banquet tables. Next to the railings were several chairs and small tables.
In the middle of the kiosk were around a dozen misses. They were chatting together in smaller groups, and all seemed to know each other. Yan Ru and Yan Ling were there as well. The two of them sat silently in the corner, and no one went to speak with them. There was no sign of Yan Qian and the rest.
When Yan Yan arrived, she went straight over. Liu Shu Yi accompanied her. There were quite a few who recognized Shu Yi and they smiled and greeted her. It was clear Shu Yi was quite popular.
“Eldest sis, fourth sis, why are you sitting here? Where are Yan Qian and the rest?”
Yan Ru said quietly: “Some servants led us over earlier and said Aunt Liu ordered it. They didn’t invite Yan Qian and the rest, so they didn’t come.”
Yan Yan nodded and didn’t ask futher. She went and sat down in one of the chairs. Liu Shu Yi sat next to her. She covered her mouth and laughed: “I told you my mom would help Auntie Shen vent her anger and you didn’t believe me. How about now?”
Yan Yan shot her a glare but she was also smiling.
This sort of method wasn’t unusual. Which noblewoman didn’t have a few tricks up their sleeves? Since they wanted to tag along, go ahead. But what they ended up doing wasn’t up to them to decide. The servants did as they were ordered. Could the guests forcibly question them?
Yan Ru finally relaxed. She had been worried the entire time about Yan Qian provoking trouble. Since she wasn’t here, there was naturally nothing to worry about. Of course, she had also experienced a noblewoman’s methods. That Yiyong madam-in-waiting had appeared full of smiles but her true thoughts were well concealed.
When the servants came to fetch them earlier, they had said their noble estate’s Miss Yan wanted to speak to them. They didn’t reveal anything else. Yan Qian had wanted to tag along but was blocked. They respectfully told her that since Miss Yan didn’t invite them and the estate was complex, it was better not to walk around in case the miss got lost.
Right as they were chatting, a gaze drew several people’s attention.
Looking over, they saw a fourteen or fifteen year old girl. She had a round face and large eyes. Her skin was very fair, but her figure was chubby. She was looking over in a very strange manner. She didn’t look away when she was noticed, and instead smiled condescendingly.
Liu Shu Yi immediately counterattacked and viciously glared back. At the same time, she asked Yan Yan: “Do you still remember that Wu Qiong Qiong?”
Yan Yan blinked. Liu Shu Yi could only continue speaking: “It’s that meatball from back then, the one who has a grudge against us!”
Putting it this way made Yan Yan remember who she was. This was something that happened several years ago. At that time, Yan Yan and Liu Shu Yi were both young, around four or five. They met Wu Qiong Qiong at a flower banquet in someone else’s estate.
The Wu Qiong Qiong from back then wasn’t like her current self. Perhaps her meals were too tasty back home, so she was very fat. This would have been fine, but she was also incredibly rude and unreasonable. She had started arguing with little Shu Yi for some reason, and they never got along after that. Whenever the two met, neither would give an inch. Yan Yan was close with Liu Shu Yi and naturally had to help her. Therefore Wu Qiong Qiong became enemies with both of them.
Yan Yan hadn’t gone out in several years. Unexpectedly, these two were still the same way.
“You don’t know since you haven’t been out recently, but she’s become even more hateful. Not only did she gather people to shun me, but she also spreads gossip about me everywhere. However, I’m also not easy to provoke!”
As she spoke, Wu Qiong Qiong walked over. There was another young miss by her side.
“You are Yan Yan?”
Wu Qiong Qiong seemed very startled, pointing at Yan Yan in surprise.
Liu Shu Yi stepped up. “Wu Qiong Qiong, your grandfather is the esteemed official of the Ministry of Rites. Does he know your etiquette is so lacking? Pointing fingers isn’t something a noble lady should do!”
“What, can’t it be me?” Yan Yan asked with raised brows. “From your surprised appearance, could it be you missed me?”
When they were younger, Liu Shu Yi was the one skilled with words whereas Yan Yan played the role of the muscle. She wasn’t able to win with words, so she usually used her fists. She still remembered whenever little Qiong Qiong finally got the upper hand in an argument with little Shu Yi, she would get pressed down and beaten while Shu Yi cheered from the side.
It naturally didn’t last long. There were many maids and grannies after all, and they would get pulled apart. But this was an extreme humiliation for Wu Qiong Qiong. She had naturally tattled after returning, but fights between little girls weren’t taken seriously. They merely viewed them as insensible children.
Since it was two against one, Wu Qiong Qiong naturally lost more often. However, she was also one who grew braver the more she was oppressed. She repeatedly retreated in defeat but still repeatedly stepped up to challenge them. Both sides thus ended up with irrevocable “grudges”.
Children’s grudges were quite laughable in hindsight. But from what it sounded like, this grudge seemed to only get deeper.
Wu Qiong Qiong retracted her finger and sneered condescendingly, “What’s a violent girl like you doing at a chrysanthemum viewing banquet? Aren’t you worried people will hurt themselves laughing!? Don’t tell me you also know arts in addition to brute force?”
“What business is it of yours whether I’m artistically inclined? We don’t seem to be close? Since we aren’t close, then please keep your distance!”
Wu Qiong Qiong didn’t expect Yan Yan to be so inconsiderate of her face. Girls were naturally more polite and restrained as they matured. Even Liu Shu Yi had become more cautious with her words.
She naturally didn’t know that the past Yan Yan who was all brawn had undergone several years of “training”, and was now well-versed in the dao of angering others to death.
“You…..” Wu Qiong Qiong’s face trembled from anger.
The miss next to her interrupted: “Which estate are you from? How can you be so rude!?”
Pei Jia Yu’s face was filled with disdain. She often went to various estates and households but had never seen Yan Yan before. She assumed Yan Yan was an impoverished relative of Liu Shu Yi here to broaden her horizons. Therefore, her words were exceptionally impolite.
These words and actions made Liu Shu Yi laugh angrily.
“You guys are really laughable. You seem to have been the ones who came over and provoked us, but we’re the impolite ones?” She sneered and said to Wu Qiong Qiong: “Wu Qiong Qiong, hurry and take that dog of yours away. Don’t let her make a fool of herself. Your household’s esteemed official title is rather big, but Ah Yan’s grandfather is the Zhenguo Duke. Why don’t we compare whose houseold is more respected?! What noble lady uses her background to suppress others? Only those lacking in confidence would randomly ask about someone’s background!”
A round of sniggering sounded out. It turned out everyone was focused on this argument.
Liu Shu Yi wasn’t wrong. What noble lady of status would randomly throw out her own background? This wasn’t making one’s household seem impressive, but was losing its face instead.
Yan Yan’s identity did startle everyone a little. However, some at the scene had seen Yan Yan back then and weren’t too surprised.
Yan Yan didn’t feel insulted, but merely felt that the two people were very annoying. She had finally reunited with an old friend and everyone was chatting happily. These two flies buzzing over were truly hateful.
She gave Wu Qiong Qiong a sideglance. “Since you said I’m all brawn, don’t blame me for what happens if you don’t leave!”
Minor spoilers ahead for upcoming chapters.
Sweating, the scums will be bullied one by one. These days everything will come to a head and it’ll be a pot of chaos. Ah Yan’s marriage also needs to be handled at the same time. This is because this author is very impatient. Soon all these scum will be taken care of. Is that passerby Pei Jia Yu familiar? It’s good if she is. Yan Qian won’t be left out either. Yan Ting is about to jump out and make arrangements summarily for his daughter’s wedding. The conflict is about to come. Shen Yi Yao only cares about her daughter and her son. If Yan Ting violates her taboos, there will naturally be a falling out.
- She’s the wife of the Yiyong Marquis’s heir, who will inherit his title. The reason Shen Yi Yao is the Weiyuan Marquis Madam already is because Yan Ting’s father died early.
- Word for aunt here is different from the one used by Yan Yan. It’s more formal, so I try to reflect that by using aunt vs. auntie.
- citrus plant
- It’s apparently the English name for it.
- Seeping fragrance
- Forgotten immortal
This is excellent work, translator! I am learning about Chinese culture through your work.