Second Madam Shen walked out wearing a crimson and golden jacket covered in butterflies and flowers. She wore a long orange-red skirt embroidered with golden crab-apple flowers and luan tails. Her willow brows, phoenix eyes and snow-white skin gave her an imposing aura even when she wasn’t angry.
Her clothes were extremely eye-catching and garish, but it was actually well matched with Second Madam Shen’s disposition. It seemed as if this sort of clothing should be worn by this sort of domineering person.
“Ah Yan, well struck. Such despicable things should be ruthlessly hit. Make her never dare to do it again!” It wasn’t clear if the despicable thing she referred to was Yan Qian or Wu Qiong Qiong.
Wu Qiong Qiong had come with her mom Eldest Madam Wu, but she wasn’t currently present. Everything had happened too fast. By the time everyone snapped out of it, Wu Qiong Qiong had had already been slapped to the floor and Second Madam Shen had walked in overbearingly.
When the crowd realized she was Second Madam Shen, they all made way for her.
Ma Quan Fang had gone to welcome Second Madam Shen earlier, and had been informed of the situation on the way back. As the host it wasn’t convenient for her to say anything at the scene. She could only order the servants to help Wu Qiong Qiong up.
Wu Qiong Qiong was still making a racket. “I’m going to tell my grandfather….”
Second Madam Shen waved her sleeve and sneered disdainfully. “Hurry and go. Tell High Official Wu that he can come to the Zhenguo Duke Estate if he has something to say. You’re quite the laughable little thing, picking quarrels for no reason and then playing the victim. Even if you guys are willing to cover this matter up, I still have to go ask the Wu Estate if this is how they raised their miss!”
Wu Qiong Qiong’s right cheek was extremely swollen. She choked up in astonishment and started sobbing. Ma Quan Fang signaleld with her eyes and a few servants brought her away. Pei Jia Yu saw things weren’t looking good and followed along with her neck tucked in.
Second Madam Shen hurried forward and grasped Yan Yan’s hand before saying to Shen Yi Yao: “Sis-in-law, you’re just too good natured. If you were slightly firmer, Yan Yan also wouldn’t end up in this situation!”
She then embraced Ah Yan and and fussed over her incessantly with heartache: “My little Ah Yan, your second aunt is so sorry. Even if you wanted to clear your name, you didn’t need to act yourself. Does our Zhenguo Duke Estate’s people need to fear a bad reputation? Those who are clean are naturally clean and those who are dirty are naturally dirty. If those with vile mouths wish to spread rumors, then let them. We aren’t afraid!”
Ma Quan Fang smiled and followed up: “What is Second Madam Shen saying? All these madams here are astute people. It’s easy to see that this concubine born daughter had malicious intentions and splashed dirty water onto Yan Yan. There were also people who wanted to see the world burn so they fanned the flames. She confessed herself, so how would there still be anyone who would spread lies, inverting right and wrong?”
This song and dance forced the bystanders to express their attitudes, or it wouldn’t be too appropriate.
“That’s right, that’s right.”
“This madam hates shameless people the most. You treat them nicely but they’ll turn around and bite you!”
“Put it this way: petty women are ultimately petty!”
“Those shameless things are all ruthless and insidious.”
“Also that Wu household’s miss is something as well. I’ve heard she was rude and unreasonable for a while, but today really broadened my horizons.”
No one was willing to offend the Zhenguo Duke Estate, especially after seeing Second Madam Shen declare her support clearly. If anyone dared spread rumors in the future, they would not only become “vile mouths”, they would also suffer the Zhenguo Duke Estate’s wrath. Therefore, even those who wanted to see the world burn still had to consider things carefully.
The Zhenguo Duke Estate’s people were famously domineering. A minor matter between women could end up getting their household’s old lord involved. At that time, the Shen household wouldn’t even have to make a move. They would be skinned alive by their own household’s old lord.
They were all intelligent people and they quickly went along with the flow. Ma Quan Fang invited everyone to move to the Yaoyue Pavilion. The group of noblewomen were tactful. They all smiled and beamed as though nothing had happened, and took their own misses along with them. Afterwards, they forbade their juniors from mentioning this event anywhere.
Some servants stepped up and lifted the limp Yan Qian out, leading Shen Yi Yao’s group to a different location.
The group was brought to the Yunxiang Building. Yan Chan and the rest who had remained there the entire time were pretty much stunned at seeing Yan Qian’s appearance. Xiao Cui immediately fell to the floor in fright.
Yan Ru and Yan Ling’s expressions weren’t good, looking both anxious and depressed. Yan Qian was thrown to the floor on the side. Second Madam Shen had several servants tie her hands and feet and gag her before having them leave.
Everyone knew without saying that Yan Qian must have provoked some trouble to end up this way. Yan Chan had long since realized Yan Qian disappeared, but also didn’t dare go look for her. She could only sit there anxiously. Seeing Yan Qian’s wretched appearance now, she also didn’t dare ask anything due to her fear.
In the other room, Shen Yi Yao was a mess of tears.
Second Madam Shen sat with her arm around Yan Yan and watched her cry.
“Ah Yan, it’s all mom’s fault. Mom has harmed you.”
How could Shen Yi Yao not understand the situation? The truth had ultimately come out due to Yan Yan’s actions, and Second Madam Shen had also backed her up. Ma Quan Fang assisted in keeping any rumors from spreading.
However, since this matter had occurred and there were so many madams present today, anyone slightly influential in the capital would know about it. Although they wouldn’t spread it wantonly, who would dare marry such a fierce girl? She would get physical at the slightest offense, and after the beating there were people behind her who would back her up. Wouldn’t their household’s son be completely suppressed by her in the future?!
Those who were slightly sensible wouldn’t choose such a daughter-in-law. Of course there were those who wanted to borrow the Zhenguo Duke’s influence, but would there be any good households among people like that?!
Shen Yi Yao was incessantly distressed thinking about this. It was all because of her. Ah Yan wasn’t willing to let Yan Qian’s group tag along. If she had been firmer, the old madam probably wouldn’t be willing to fall out with her. But she had to consider her dignity and also thought that the juniors were ultimately innocent, resulting in this matter.
Actually Shen Yi Yao had been stuck between a rock and a hard place. Since the old madam had said what she said, her refusal would have resulted in her being called malicious and unkind towards concubine born children. The old madam used this against her. Furthermore, Chen-shi had been there as well. If they fell out, the unstable peace they enjoyed would no longer be sustainable.
Her thinking had truly been very simple. The madam of a major household should strive for harmony regardless of her personal feelings. After all, Ah Yan was about to discuss marriage so it wouldn’t do to have internal strife.
But what she hadn’t understood was that since this grudge had been formed long ago, the old madam only wished to make her sullen. Yan Qian had long since hated this mother and daughter pair to the bones. She was more or less a little clever, so how could she not take the opportunity to get revenge? She made a fine pair with someone like Wu Qiong Qiong who wanted to see the world burn.
Yan Yan’s thoughts were in turmoil due to Shen Yi Yao’s crying.
Actually she had blamed her mom a little at the start. But seeing her current appearance, those thoughts faded somewhat. Who could have predicted something like this? It was an accident after all.
“Enough, don’t cry anymore. Wasn’t the matter dealt with?”
“It’s all mom’s fault. How are you supposed to get married in the future….”
Now that her name was ruined, Yan Yan did feel a little uncomfortable. But since it had already happened, what could she do about it?
“If I can’t get married, then so be it. Since I don’t even care about it, why should you?!”
Hearing these words, Shen Yi Yao cried even harder. She almost felt like fainting.
Second Madam Shen had endured for quite a while. Finally she could endure no longer and stood up with a swish. “You only know to cry now. What were you doing all this time?”
Shen Yi Yao was startled into silence for a bit before continuing to cry, albeit much more quietly.
“Who can you blame for the current situation? The household didn’t want you to marry Yan Ting back then, but you cried and insisted on doing so. What did I tell you back then? I told you this man wasn’t suitable for you. You are good natured and your thoughts are straightforward. That sort of complicated household doesn’t suit you. You are no longer young anmore, and have given birth to two children, but you’ve never been living in reality. I know you want to maintain harmony, but have you considered that ever since Concubine Pei was sent to the Qingpu Nunnery because of you, those concubine born children could never get along with you, Ah Yan, or Ah Mo? You should be glad that little thing wasn’t vicious enough. What if she had slipped some poison into your food, or that of your children? That would be sufficient to make you all suffer.”
Second Madam Shen’s words may seem shocking, but the scenario was indeed extremely possible.
Ever since Yan Qian took the initiative to admit her wrongs to Shen Yi Yao, she had rarely paid attention to her. However, she didn’t forbid her from entering the Jinse Pavilion. Coming in and out every day, it wasn’t impossible for her to slip something into the food when no one was watching. This sort of thing has happened in major households before. There was no going back after that.
Shen Yi Yao couldn’t help but shiver after hearing this. She blamed herself even more.
Second Madam Shen’s intention wasn’t to criticize Shen Yi Yao, but merely to remind her of this fact. Seeing Shen Yi Yao’s messy appearance, her heart softened and she said gently: “Alright, it’s also not as bad as you think. Since when did our Shen household’s girls need to worry about marriage? There are so many men under the heavens. There’ll definitely be one that suits Ah Yan.”
“You must understand, Ah Yan’s personality is just so. If someone would avoid her due to this, then it’s better for them to do so early on. Those who can marry our Ah Yan will only be those who can appreciate her for who she is. If the marriage is just for the sake of marriage, then it’s better not to go through with it.”
Shen Yi Yao understood her sister-in-law’s meaning. Ah Yan would only be happy after marriage with someone who appreciated her personality. Otherwise, she would either have to suppress her true self or end up in a cold marriage. Children didn’t realize how much their parents did for them. Which mother didn’t want the best for her daughter?
“I will also help look around for Ah Yan’s marriage. Girls in the capital marry late to begin with. There are some who don’t get married until seventeen or eighteen. Ah Yan is only fourteen.”
Only then did Shen Yi Yao seem to calm down a little.
Second Madam Shen looked at her with a complicated gaze and continued speaking: “Mom always blames herself. Back then she protected you too much which was why you ended up this way. She wanted everything to be perfect, but failed to take into account the hearts of others. Our household’s situation isn’t like others, and we ended up making your personality too soft. This isn’t saying that it’s a bad thing, but you must also understand when to be kind and when you cannot afford to be. Since this matter has developed to this extent, it’s no use to overthink it anymore. You should instead make sufficient preparations if you plan on returning to that household, because you are responsible for more than yourself now. You have two children as well.”
Shen Yi Yao trembled all over and her face was full of shame. “Sis-in-law, understood.”
Second Madam Shen patted her hand and sighed: “Your sis-in-law isn’t criticizing your errors. You merely have to understand that many things cannot be reverted once they happen. It’s naturally good if everything goes smoothly, but if not, you should also know how to respond. That concubine born daughter truly cannot remain any longer. Have her confined after returning, and then marry her off far away in the future. I have other matters to attend to and cannot remain any longer. You probably have a lot to do back home as well. I will deal with the Wu household. You should go back now.”
Seeing this, Yan Yan said quietly: “Second aunt, I’ve made trouble for you.”
She merely felt bad about making trouble for her grandfather’s household, but she didn’t regret her actions.
Second Madam Shen smiled brightly and stroked Yan Yan’s hair. “Silly child, what are you saying? Apart from the current emperor, who else has our Shen household ever feared?!”
Her words were calm but truly overbearing. The Zhenguo Duke Estate’s people have always been this way. Second Madam Shen had married in for so many years that she had also been infected by this spirit.
“Oh, right. Sis-in-law, aren’t you planning on going to visit mom and dad?”
Shen Yi Yao hesitated and shook her head. “Not yet, for now.”
Second Madam Shen looked at her meaningfully. Looks like she wasn’t a fool. It’s good that she wasn’t. As for how she’ll develop in the future, they could only observe the changes.
She muttured to herself and said: “Dad wanted me to tell you that Yan Ting has been very close with Senior Concubine Xu’s faction recently. He’s afraid Yan Ting will use Ah Yan’s marriage to get connected with the two princes.”
“How could the princes be interested in Ah Yan?” Shen Yi Yao said anxiously.
Her meaning wasn’t that her daughter wasn’t worthy of a prince. In her mind, even if her daughter had some shortcomings, she was still irreplaceable. She meant that princes needed to consider many things for their marriage, and their choices would have special status. The Weiyuan Marquis Estate was just a fallen noble household. How could the princes be interested? But thinking of Yan Yan’s special background, she suddenly understood.
“Second sis-in-law, I understand. Our household has always had the rule of not getting connected to the royal family through marriage. Even though Ah Yan isn’t surnamed Shen, her identity is still special. I naturally won’t make things difficult for dad and for our family.” Shen Yi Yao’s words were gentle but her attitude was very firm.
People from the Shen household had their own awareness. Shen Yi Yao had witnessed the Zhenguo Duke Estate’s glory from a young age, so how could she not understand the implications? Although the Zhenguo Duke Estate looked imposing and magnificent, she still faintly saw the dangers hidden beneath their towering radiance. Why was the Zhenguo Duke Estate able to remain standing since the founding of the dynasty and receive the trust of generations of emperors? It was precisely due to loyalty, as well as tactfulness and understanding how to conduct themselves.
The Zhenguo Duke Estate had always been impartial from the very beginning, and only remained loyal to the current emperor. For the estate, many of the Shen household’s descendents had sacrificed a lot. For example, they would never live extravagantly. The Shen household didn’t have the convention of taking concubines. Even if someone did for various reasons, they weren’t allowed to give birth. Every generation had very few people. Another example was that while Shen Dong was at the border, no one from the eldest branch remained behind in the Zhenguo Duke Estate. The second branch’s eldest son Shen He had left home to travel prior to coming of age. Only the youngest son Shen Qi remained within the capital. The eldest branch’s three sons remained in low positions as of today. With the exception of Shen Xuan who had been buried in Chaohu’s navy for a decade before getting the opportunity to command Fujian’s navy, the other two held ordinary positions.
This was all worth serious consideration. So-called glory wouldn’t arise for no reason at all. The sacrifices involved were far more than outsiders could imagine. The Shen household’s people were all brought up this way, including Shen Yi Yao.
Second Madam Shen nodded and stood up. “Then I’ll head out. You should head back earlier as well.”
After Second Madam Shen left, Shen Yi Yao took Yan Yan and the rest back to the estate.
She had wanted to say goodbye to her friend in person, but unfortunately Ma Quan Fang was still at the Qinxiang Garden hosting the banquet. Therefore, Shen Yi Yao felt very remorseful. Because she had brought a concubine born daughter along, she had almost ruined the Yiyong Marquis Estate’s annual chrysanthemum viewing banquet.
Today had been a mess, and Shen Yi Yao found it hard to remain still on the way back.
After getting back, she didn’t go anywhere else before making a trip to the Rongan Hall. She threw Yan Qian who was still tied up in front of the old madam.
Shen Yi Yao’s actions not only stunned the old madam, but also Xue-shi and Chen-shi who had heard the news and hurried over.
When they arrived, they saw the old madam with a sunken expression as well as Shen Yi Yao who sat drinking tea with an obscure expression. Xue-shi saw her own daughter in the hall, and could naturally tell she had been crying. Her brows couldn’t help but furrow.
“Since eldest sis-in-law and third sis-in-law have arrived, let’s have a talk about what happened today. Eldest miss and fourth miss, you were both present. Can you describe what happened?” Shen Yi Yao only spoke up slowly after Xue-shi and Chen-shi sat down.
Yan Ru and Yan Ling gave Yan Qian a look of disgust before summarizing what had happened. One narrated while the other filled in any parts that were left out. The account was rather thorough.
As they spoke, everyone’s expressions changed. The old madam’s expression was especially ugly.
“Yan Qian was naturally wrong, but Yan Yan shouldn’t have hit her in front of everyone. Wouldn’t this be confirming everyone’s suspicions?” After a moment of silence, the old madam spoke up.
The crisp sound of a teacup being placed on the table rang out. Shen Yi Yao’s expression looked both angry yet not. “Then mom’s meaning is that Yan Qian was right to slander Ah Yan, and that my Ah Yan deserved it?”
The old madam stopped herself and then stammered: “That’s not what I meant. What I mean is that it’s better to deal with it back at the estate. Why make a fuss in front of everyone? Especially since our dirty laundry shouldn’t be aired out in public. What matter can’t be dealt with back at the estate, and needed to be argued in public? What about our Weiyuan Marquis Estate’s reputation?” Speaking up to here, the old madam became more and more dissatisfied and her tone became harsher.
What made the old madam embarrassed was the estate’s reputation but also because this matter involved the Pei household’s miss.
“Then mom’s meaning is that this bucket of feces should be dunked on Ah Yan’s head? You don’t look into the source of this matter and blame the victim instead?” Shen Yi Yao’s tone was rather indignant.
The old madam grew even angrier at seeing this usually obedient daughter-in-law talking back to her. In her mind, Yan Yan was precisely as Yan Qian said, a little devil. She wasn’t sticking up for Yan Qian, but rather felt that Yan Yan was to blame in the first place. Yan Yan’s unreasonable nature was to blame for the estate’s loss of reputation.
Shen Yi Yao was angered into laughter. She stood up. “Fine, fine. I wasn’t planning on letting mom mediate in this matter anyway. The reason I spoke so much was to highlight something. My power is limited, and I cannot manage anyone else in this estate. I will ask everyone to please refrain from placing undue expectations on me. You should all sweep the snow off your own doorsteps!”
The old madam didn’t expect Shen Yi Yao to behave this way and her face turned dark from anger. “Old second daughter-in-law. What do you mean by this?”
Shen Yi Yao was unusually firm. “Nothing much. I just don’t want something like this to happen again in the future. Since I’m so hated, why should I bother being a good person!?”
Seeing Shen Yi Yao’s determination, even Xue-shi couldn’t help but panic. She hurriedly started persuading her.
Shen Yi Yao’s eyes were teary but her attitude was firm: “Eldest sis-in-law. The eldest miss and fourth miss are good people. Just based on the fact that they spoke up for Ah Yan today, I will not neglect them. I am clear who treats me well and who doesn’t. Those who treat me well will naturally be repaid many times over. Those who don’t can carry on, but they shouldn’t take me for a fool!”
These words resounded throughout the hall. The old madam’s chest rose and fell rapidly and Chen-shi’s expression was also extremely ugly.
“Since the second miss is a concubine born daughter of the second branch, it’s my responsibility to discipline her as the principal mother. Servants, confine the second miss in her own residence. Until she is married off, no one is allowed to visit her.”
When these words fell, some servants carried Yan Qian out.
Shen Yi Yao didn’t remain either and walked towards the door.
The old madam didn’t expect Shen Yi Yao to show so little respect. She angrily slammed the table. “Do you still have this mother-in-law of yours in your eyes?”
“If mom feels this daughter-in-law isn’t good, then write a declaration and get rid of me.”
These words stunned everyone in the hall. Xue-shi was able to understand why Shen Yi Yao had changed so drastically but Chen-shi smacked her lips in confusion. The old madam fell over herself in anger and lay crooked on the arhat bed.
Shen Yi Yao didn’t even look back as she walked out of the Rongan Hall.
Yan Yan who was following behind her suddenly felt her mood improve. This situation seems to be pretty good?
When Yan Ting returned that night, he sensed the strange atmosphere within the estate. Before he could figure out what was going on, he was called over to the Rongan Hall by the old madam.
She naturally did her old song and dance of crying and complaining. This time Yan Ting didn’t beat around the bush and clearly stated he wouldn’t get rid of Shen Yi Yao.
The old madam was very startled. In the past her son had expressed this but had never been so firm. He would always been hesitant. Why was it so different this time?!
Yan Ting smiled as though victory was in his grasp and slowly explained his plans.
“You plan on marrying Ah Yan to the second prince as his consort?”
“Your son is pretty close to the Chengen Marquis’s heir at the moment and my prospects are bright. If I can become the second prince’s son-in-law….” He paused and continued: “With Senior Concubine Xu being favored and the emperor’s bias towards the second prince, the second prince may not be limited to just being a prince.”
“You mean to say…”
The old madam couldn’t help but tremble in excitement. “You mean to say our household may have a future empress?” She then said doubtfully: “How are you so certain Ah Yan will catch the second prince’s eye? Such a rude and unreasonable daughter-in-law, if it were me I wouldn’t want her.”
“Don’t forget Ah Yan has the Zhenguo Duke Estate behind her.”
Yan Ting was too lazy to explain to his mom that influence was the only consideration in alliances involving marriage. No one cared about the person in question. So what if she was rude? After getting married, she would become well-behaved.
It was the Zhenguo Duke Estate again!
The old madam was dissatisfied but she had to admit that having them as a backer would be like adding wings to a tiger for the ambitious second prince.
She felt rather displeased in her heart and said: “That little thing has never been close to us. Are you sure she won’t bring trouble to her own household after marrying over?”
Yan Ting smiled disdainfully and didn’t speak. The old madam understood his meaning. As a tiny woman within the residence, she would be at the mercy of her husband’s household after marriage. This was the case no matter how capable she was or what her background was like. Shen Yi Yao was such an example. Didn’t she have to obediently stay in the Weiyuan Marquis Estate?
Women were different from men. Once they had their own children, even the suborn ones would soften up. This was their weakness. Especially since the Weiyuan Marquis Estate was Yan Yan’s maternal family. If she wanted some backing, she naturally wouldn’t burn this bridge. She was also restricted by ethics. Would she be so daring as to make a move against her own maternal hoeuhold?
Also, this was the second prince! Yan Yan and Shen Yi Yao would probably be extremely happy for this marriage to happen. This was an extremely great marriage!
As she thought of this, the old madam was even a little jealous of Yan Yan’s life in the future!
Truly, people had different fates. Why did such a fortune fall upon that little thing!?
“Alright, mom. You should rest properly. I’ll make a trip to the Jinse Pavilion. His majesty is about to organize the Great Autumn Hunt in a few days. Many of the royals and nobles will be in attendance. Your son is also on the list, and is planning on bringing Shen Yi Yao and Ah Yan.”
“To go meet the second prince?”
Yan Ting nodded.
“That little thing’s temper isn’t good, but her appearance is.”
Seeing Yan Ting wanting to leave, the old madam called him back: “Spend a little less silver. The household isn’t too well off. It’s not like you aren’t aware.”
Yan Ting had been spending a lot over the past few years. He was busy networking, so he naturally had to treat others to alcohol and entertainment. Having many friends had benefits, but there were also obvious drawbacks. One couldn’t be too stingy or no one would be willing to be friends. It would also be a loss of dignity.
If it weren’t for Yan Ting’s huge expenses, the estate wouldn’t be so strapped for silver.
Yan Ting nodded but didn’t take her words seriously.
His mom was getting older and was getting more and more fussy. She kept harping on about the household having difficulties, but whenever Yan Ting needed silver, it would always be there.
He naturally didn’t know that the old madam had put a lot of effort into allowing him to pursue his prospects without worry. Every little bit saved would be given to Yan Ting.
Thinking of the estate’s current situation, the old madam had a huge headache.
She could only comfort herself by thinking that it would no longer be an issue once they have the second prince’s backing. Recalling how Chen-shi was making a mess of managing the household, she felt another bout of annoyance. However, she was still happy to see it. When she truly made a mess of things, it would be thrown to Shen Yi Yao. At that time, she must have her accept this mess.
If this was in the past, the old madam was confident she could convince that fool to accept it. Now she was no longer confident, but she still had to do it. Otherwise, they couldn’t hold on any longer.
The old madam tossed and turned the entire night before finally falling asleep right before dawn.
The show’s about to start. Really admire Second Madam Shen. I feel like she should be Ah Yan’s mom. However, adults have a lot of influence on children in their infancy. Perhaps Ah Yan has been subconsciously influenced by Second Madam Shen. Perhaps in her mind, this was the kind of mom she wanted, but unfortunately it wasn’t the case in reality.