Ever since Shen Yi Yao agreed to attend the hunt, Yan Ting and the old madam became more pleasant.
Without mentioning Yan Ting’s changes, it was clear just based on the old madam’s sudden change that something fishy was going on!
Regarding Yan Qian’s confinement, neither one raised any objections. Yan Ting even spoke up and told Shen Yi Yao to hurry with the matter of Yan Qian’s marriage, the further the better.
Of course, this was something Shen Yi Yao was prepared to do no matter who objected. But when the words came from Yan Ting, it made her feel especially cold. As a father, no matter how many mistakes his daughter made, he shouldn’t be so emotionless. He didn’t even ask about her.
Was this man still the indomitable man of character she held in her heart back then? Or had he never changed, and had she just never seen him clearly? Every time she saw him more clearly, Shen Yi Yao’s heart would get a little colder, until the chill penetrated her bones.
However, she no longer wanted to bother herself with what he was like. If it weren’t for her two children, she wouldn’t stay in the Weiyuan Marquis Estate at all.
Compared to Shen Yi Yao, Chen-shi was under a lot of pressure these days. First of all, she hadn’t managed the household before. No matter how much the Weiyuan Marquis Estate had declined, a rotting ship still had three jins of metal. Without any experience, how could she be doing a good job?
Additionally, she had been suspicious and jealous of Xue-shi. The moment she got the authority, she had switched out all of Xue-shi’s former people. This was also par for the course. Otherwise, why would there be the saying that when a person grasped the dao, his chickens and dogs would also ascend? Since the third branch’s madam was now in charge, the third branch’s servants naturally got quite a few benefits. But the problem was that she was inexperienced, and her servants were also quite inexperienced. She also didn’t understand to do things gradually and replaced everyone right away. The estate became a mess.
The main kitchen was the first place where issues arose. The kitchen was the place where the most benefits were to be had. Now, Chen-shi’s wet nurse Matron Wang was in charge of it. The managing granny from before was sent to wash vegetables.
Why were some people called hopelessly stupid?
Someone who could manage the kitchen couldn’t have been someone Xue-shi appointed by herself. This granny had Matron Zhao behind her. When her person was replaced, Matron Zhao didn’t say anything and allowed that granny to wash vegetables in the kitchen.
Chen-shi was still smug about replacing Xue-shi’s peole. She scarcely imagined Xue-shi was laughing her head off, waiting for Chen-shi to get dealt with.
That Matron Wang was also a useless one. She seemed awe-inspiring but actually wasn’t able to handle anything. She couldn’t even tell when those under her was tripping her up. Before long, the masters in the estate started complaining.
Some received mandarin fish when they ordered bass. Orders were delivered to the wrong place. There were too many instances to list out. Furthermore, these days the quality of the dishes had gone downhill. While allowances were continuously reduced, people weren’t even able to get the dishes they wanted anymore.
Part of it was due to people purposefully screwing up, but part of it was also due to Chen-shi.
It turned out that Chen-shi was eager to show some results to the old madam. For the sake of saving silver, she had removed many of the kitchen’s regular dishes that were prepared in advance. These dishes were made in case one of the masters wanted a change in flavor. Chen-shi figured this wasn’t needed most of the time, and would only benefit the servants if it was left uneaten. Therefore, she got rid of this practice.
Xue-shi kept quiet for various reasons. Shen Yi Yao was good natured and didn’t make a fuss despite eating food that wasn’t to her taste. She had her own little kitchen in the Jinse Pavilion start making her food, and no longer planned to eat the main kitchen’s meals.
Seeing the eldest branch and second branch not make a sound, Chen-shi grew even more smug. She directly removed all the backup dishes from the kitchen and maintained only a single menu. Each branch could only order things that were listed on that menu.
This idea was approved by the old madam. Chen-shi did the calculations for her and showed that it would result in quite a lot of savings every month. Since the old madam wouldn’t be included in this reduction, she naturally didn’t say anything about it.
Yan Yan hadn’t gotten her food from the main kitchen in a while, but that didn’t mean she was ok with seeing someone leaping around in front of her. After some discussion with Shen Yi Yao, Shen Yi Yao ordered someone to tell Chen-shi that the Jinse Pavilion’s meals will no longer come from the main kitchen. She had Chen-shi send over the silver directly instead.
Shen Yi Yao didn’t care about this small amount, but as Yan Yan put it, not taking it would only result in it being used to line other people’s pockets. Since that was the case, why would they let others take advantage?
Chen-shi didn’t overthink it and agreed.
The next day, Xue-shi came as well and said the same thing, asking Chen-shi to send the money over instead.
Chen-shi hadn’t thought anything about it when it was Shen Yi Yao and the Jinse Pavilion. Yan Yan and Yan Mo’s food allowance had already been regularly going to them ever since the matter with Concubine Pei. As of now, things naturally proceeded according to the rules.
But now that the entire eldest branch’s meals no longer came from the main kitchen, things weren’t looking good. The reason the main kitchen had a lot of benefits was because it was responsible for the masters’ meals. It was easy to take some of the silver here and there, and it would add up to a good amount every month. Now that none of the masters were ordering from the kitchen, where would they get the silver from? Spending wool on sheep required there to be sheep!
Of course it could be pointed out that even without the eldest branch, the Jinse Pavilion and the Ningxiang Chambers, there was still the Ziyu Pavilion, Lanyue Pavilion and Yan Ting, the Rongan Hall and the third branch. But no one dared to restrict Yan Ting and the old madam’s meals. The Ziyu Pavilion and the Lanyue Pavilion were minor places. The only important place left was the third branch, but wouldn’t it be a joke to embezzle their own silver?!
But Chen-shi also didn’t dare refuse Xue-shi. Otherwise, she would ask why second sis-in-law was allowed to do so while she, as the eldest sis-in-law, couldn’t. Even if they looked down on her, they shouldn’t forget her husband was the third lord’s older brother.
Chen-shi could only fork over the silver honestly. Xue-shi asked for the money to be distributed as a lump sum annually but Chen-shi didn’t agree. There wasn’t so much surplus silver in the account.
Xue-shi heard this and didn’t argue further. She turned and left.
When the old madam heard about this, she was furious. She called Chen-shi over and gave her a thorough scolding, saying she was messing around blindly.
This matter made Chen-shi’s head hurt but made the old madam’s entire being hurt.
Every master had an allotted amount of silver for their meals, but the amount wasn’t really reflective of the actual cost. On the surface the main kitchen proceeded via the quota but in reality they had reduced things quite a bit due to the estate not doing well. Furthermore, the old madam had instructed Matron Zhao to have them secretly reduce things even more.
Let’s take the simplest example. In the past, Shen Yi Yao’s quota was a hundred silver taels a month. After the reductions over the years, it was now sixty taels. However, Shen Yi Yao wasn’t able to use up all sixty taels. The old madam would take the difference in amount based on past experience.
Now that Shen Yi Yao asked for the silver to be directly sent over, it meant that they would have to send the full sixty silver taels over every month. Not only would the servants be short on benefits, even the old madam had to fork over a little extra.
In the past it was fine if it was just Yan Yan and Yan Mo. Now with Shen Yi Yao added to the mix along with the eldest branch, they would have to spend almost two hundred taels. The old madam hurt all over.
But apart from scolding Chen-shi for doing things blindly, she couldn’t say too much. It wasn’t like she could say they were hurting over such a small amount of silver. Wouldn’t that be revealing everything?
Within two days, the old madam’s mouth was surrounded by pimples. It was caused by excessive worry. When her daughters-in-law asked about it in concern, she couldn’t even tell the truth and could only say she had been eating too oily recently. To express that this was the case, the old madam ate three days of plain porridge.
Was it really due to oily foods? Apart from the foolish Chen-shi, no one in the eldest branch or second branch believed it.
The old madam was overworked to begin with and she had been physically and mentally strained recently. Having eaten porridge for three days, she finally couldn’t hold on and fainted.
The servants assumed the old madam’s illness had erupted again, and didn’t realize she had fainted from hunger. Right as they were prepared to call a doctor in panic, the old madam awoke again. It turned out that Matron Zhao acted resourcefully and pinched the old madam’s central accupoint.
Knowing her own body’s situation the best, the old madam didn’t allow them to call a doctor. After hurriedly eating some soft foods, she became lively once more. As the old madam rested on her pillow that night and counted the silver on hand, she thought of how old she was but still had to spend her days like this. She couldn’t help but shed tears.
Matron Zhao was also incessantly sorrowful. The master and servants held each other as they cried.
Be that as it may, they still had to go about their business the next day.
In the blink of an eye, the Great Autumn Hunt arrived.
The hunting grounds of Mt. Meng was not far from the capital. It was a little over a day’s journey.
The ancestral emperor had marked out that spot as the royal family’s hunting grounds.
The area was rather large, and included mountains, rivers and boundless grassland. The ancestral emperor had fallen in love with this place after seeing it. He said this geographical arrangement was rarely seen and would be good for hunting. He thus designated this place as the royal hunting grounds.
When the Grand Xi was first established, its people were fierce and everyone practiced martial arts. The ancestral emperor was a warrior. To ensure his succesors would follow in their predecessors’ footsteps and not lust after wordly pleasures, he established the annual hunt at Mt. Meng.
This tradition had remained until today. Although it wasn’t held annually like before, it would still be held once every two or three years.
When Yan Yan’s group arrived, quite a few people were already at the campsites around Mt. Meng. Conical tents of different sizes were already set up in groups of three to five.
The Weiyuan Marquis Estate was allocated two tents. One was slightly larger than the other. After Shen Yi Yao arrived, she took her son and daughter into the larger tent. The smaller tent was left for Yan Ting.
This tent was very big. Inside was a large space covered by red padding. In the middle was a folding screen, in front of which was a small table. There were two chairs as well as some cyan cushions. This was for receiving guests. Behind the screen there were doors in the middle and to the left and right. They each led to a resting area. Shen Yi Yao was in the middle room, Yan Mo on the left and Yan Yan on the right. The rooms were about the same size. Inside, there was a small futon, some more chairs and a table as well as another screen.
The boxes and valuables on the carriages were unloaded one by one. The people responsible were all guards of the Weiyuan Marquis Estate. Once they put everything in place, they would have to return to the capital. When the masters were ready to leave, they would come pick them up. The campsite couldn’t accommodate so many people.
This time, Yan Yan brought Yi Yun and Yi Meng while Yan Mo brough Ying’er and Yan’er. Shen Yi Yao brought Cui Qiao and Cui Ping. The place was only so big and there wasn’t anywhere for the servants to live. Luckily their rooms were all quite large. The personal maids could live with their masters.
Before long, things were set up. A soft and smooth bedding was placed on the futon and a thin canopy was set up around it. The tables on the side served as the makeup counter, and was filled with makeup, as well as a comb and a mirror. Yi Yun and Yi Meng’s bedding was placed in the corner of the tent. There was clean red padding on the floor. All they had to do was spread their bedding out and cover themselves with blankets to be able to sleep.
Yan Yan had just settled down when Liu Shu Yi came over.
It turned out that the Yiyong Marquis Estate’s people had arrived first. Liu Shu Yi had been bored when she heard Yan Yan had arrived. She thus came over to play.
She wore a blue riding outfit. A broad sash was wrapped around her waist, making her sides seem very narrow. Her jet-black hair was tied in a knot behind her with two narrow braids hanging on either side. She looked rather charming.
“Aiya, why are you still wearing these things? Hurry and change. Let’s go riding.”
Liu Shu Yi loved coming to Mt. Meng’s hunting grounds because she was free here. She didn’t have to wear those complicated clothes, do her hair up nicely and cover herself in jewelry. Her dad, the Yiyong Marquis’s heir, was the Jinwu Guard’s commander and the trusted aide of the emperor. They would come for every hunt and Liu Shu Yi was very familiar with this place.
Yan Yan had also come a few times, but that was when she was young. She wasn’t as familiar with the place.
Yan Yan smiled at Liu Shu Yi and went to change behind the screen. She came back out wearing a begonia red riding outfit with narrow sleeves. She sat down in front of the makeup counter where Yi Yun helped redo her hair. Liu Shu Yi insisted on Yan Yan having the same hairstyle as her. Yi Yun helped do Yan Yan’s hair up the same way.
After she was done, the two went to see Shen Yi Yao. They were like a pair of beautiful sisters. One was cute and charming while the other was tall and gorgeous. They were two lovely flowers.
Yan Mo found out the two were going riding and looked at them pitifully. Liu Shu Yi pinched his little face and had him call her big sis before she would take him along. Yan Mo was straightforward and called her big sis Shu Yi with a smile. He flattered Liu Shu Yi until she didn’t know north from south.
The three left the tent and went over to the stables.
Each household’s horses were kept here, and were being taken care of by the hunting ground’s workers. Yan Yan had brought Black Jade along on this trip. Yan Mo had been given a small dark-red mare. Yan Mo knew how to ride now, but wasn’t proficient enough. Therefore, he could only ride this gentle little horse.
Liu Shu Yi’s horse was a snow-white mare called Little Flower. She treasured Little Flower quite a bit, and continuously stroked her nose and fed her sugar.
“Ah Yan, isn’t my Little Flower very beautiful!?”
Little Flower was truly a beautiful and fine horse. She was handsome and her shape was elegant. Her large amber eyes revealed that she was extremely gentle.
Right as Liu Shu Yi was feeling smug, her gaze was drawn by a black horse.
This black horse was a little higher quality than Little Flower. He was black all over and well proportioned. His muscles were filled with strength and beauty. He neighed softly and raised his head proudly. His full mane flew wildly.
“What a beautiful horse!”
Liu Shu Yi’s gaze was riveted.
She then watched as the worker leading the horse handed the reins over to Yan Yan. She asked in amazement: “Ah Yan, this is your horse? What’s his name? He’s so beautiful. Can I touch him?”
As she spoke, she approached without waiting for a response.
Unfortunately, Black Jade didn’t allow her to touch him. Seeing her hand reach over, he avoided it. Little Flower lightly stomped her hoof behind Liu Shu Yi and snorted, seeming a little jealous.
“He’s called Black Jade, and is around two years old.”
Yan Yan turned and stroked his nose comfortingly. After placating him, he allowed Liu Shu Yi’s hand to land on his body.
Liu Shu Yi looked at Black Jade and then looked at her own Little Flower. After looking back and forth a few times, she had to admit Black Jade was a little better looking.
She pursed her lips and scrunched up her face. She turned back and stroked Little Flower. “Although your Black Jade is very beautiful, my Little Flower is also not bad. I still like Little Flower a little more.”
Liu Shu Yi’s appearance made Yan Yan laugh. Yan Mo also started laughing on the side.
Little Flower stuck out her tongue and licked Liu Shu Yi’s face, making her both laugh and dodge away.
“Alright, alright you little bundle of jealousy. I was just looking. It’s not like I don’t want you anymore.”
Black Jade who was standing by Yan Yan let out a snort. He turned his horse head and looked over, seeming very disdainful of his own kind acting cute.
Yan Mo’s little mare had also been brought over. He looked bitterly at this gentle little mare, and then looked at the two tall, strong and valiant horses.
He was a boy but couldn’t compare to these two girls!
Yan Yan seemed to know her brother’s thoughts. She rubbed his head. “When you get better at riding and grow a little taller, we’ll get you a horse like Black Jade.”
Yan Mo grabbed the reins and nodded sternly. He decided he had to improve his riding during their time at the hunting grounds, and wouldn’t just trot around on his little horse.
The three got on their horses and left the campsite. Liu Shu Yi was in front, Yan Yan was in the middle and Yan Mo brought up the rear. The three only stopped after arriving at a large open field.
“Ah Yan, let’s race?”
Yan Yan nodded straightforwardly, “Alright.”
After telling Yan Mo to stay in place, the two loosened their reins and allowed the horses to gallop.
Fine horses were meant for open fields and not narrow stables. Although Yan Yan did her best to take care of Black Jade, it was clear he still liked open spaces more.
Black Jade’s long mane flowed as he galloped forward like a bolt of lightning. His hooves seemed to never touch the ground, like a gust of wind. Yan Yan could feel his excitement and his pulse beating under his muscles. She didn’t want to restrain him, and allowed him to gallop wildly.
After galloping a long while, Black Jade finally slowed down. Yan Yan heard Liu Shu Yi calling behind her.
She pulled on her reins and waited in place.
“No need to be so enthusiastic knowing I can’t outrun you! I’m exhausted!”
Liu Shu Yi had watched Yan Yan vanish like smoke. Initially her competitive spirit was aroused and she chased after her. After realizing she couldn’t catch up and seeing Yan Yan getting further and further, she continued to chase due to worry that she may get lost.
Yan Yan smiled in embarrassment and stroked the horse underneath her. “Black Jade has been confined for too long. There was no reining him in once he let loose.”
Liu Shu Yi could understand this sort of feeling. She had arrived at the hunting grounds early, and Little Flower was the same way when she brought her out.
“Let’s go back. Your brother is still waiting for us. Let’s not make him worry.”
The two galloped back. On the way there it felt very fast, but going back took almost fifteen minutes.
There were several small black dots in the distance. Yan Yan’s eyes were better than Liu Shu Yi’s by quite a bit. She squinted her eyes and squeezed her legs around her horse, urging it onwards faster.
Yan Mo had been a little bored waiting in place, and had his little mare slowly canter around.
He had just started learning and didn’t dare go too fast.
Right as he was practicing, several people suddenly came.
These people were all around thirteen or fourteen and were all riding horses. Those that could show up here were mostly descendents of nobility or high-ranking officials.
They seemed to have come here to gallop, and when they saw a child riding in circles, they went to shoo Yan Mo away. Yan Mo ignored them and rode a small distance away. Unexpectedly, those people came up to shoo him again, saying there were going to gallop here and asking him to go further.
This place was so large and they could gallop anywhere. Instead, they came to drive a child away. This was clearly being overly domineering, but the youth leading them was just so overbearing. Yan Mo thus started arguing with them.
Yan Mo only acted obedient in front of Yan Yan, but he wasn’t actually easy to get along with. Perhaps his inability to move around due to his health as a child gave him the ability to anger people to death with his mouth.
He had a bashful smile and appeared leisurely, but his words made those teenagers cry out in anger.
The well-dressed teen in the lead raised the whip in his hand out of anger. Yan Mo saw things weren’t looking good and planned on getting his revenge served cold like a gentleman. He would hide first and then get back at them when his sis returned. Unfortunately, he had the will but not the means. His horsemanship was truly too poor. He wanted to dodge to the side, but his horse didn’t respond to his commands.
At this moment of peril, a brown whip flew over and wrapped around his waist, pulling him off his horse.
He squinted in a smile and wasn’t afraid. He felt someone catch him. He took advantage of the moment to pounce in his sister’s arms and look teary-eyed. “Sis, they bullied me!”
A sharp gaze flew over like a blade. Those teenagers were all frozen in place.
They saw a girl dressed in a red riding outfit astride a fine black steed. She had a pair of painted brows that rose upwards. Her nose-bridge was upright and well formed. Her skin was fair, making her lips gorgeously red. Her calm confidence radiated a subconscious and extraordinary air of dominance.
Her beauty was like a flame that burned the eyes. A moment of carelessness would result in injury.
“Quite daring, huh?”
The teens all rode decent horses, but they were far lacking compared to Black Jade. His long and vigorous legs made their own horses seem stubby. Those on the horses’ backs also became shorter by a head.
Liu Shu Yi galloped over on Little Flower. Seeing the teenager in front of the group, she immediately scolded: “Great, it’s you again Chu Ming Chen! Would you die if you didn’t bully someone for a day?!”
That teenager called Chu Ming Chen stammered as he averted his eyes: “I didn’t bully anyone, Liu Shu Yi. Don’t slander people!”
“You clearly raised your whip earlier wanting to hit people. Didn’t you!?”
“That child’s words were too infuriating.”
He had planned on pointing at Yan Mo, but the person in question was sitting behind Yan Yan. He seemed a little afraid to look at Yan Yan, and could only glare at Liu Shu Yi with a rigid neck. He snorted and puffed out his chest.
“I merely wanted to scare him a little. Right, that’s what happened!”
Yan Yan had been a little angry at first, but seeing his immature actions made her anger fade. Especially since she knew her own brother’s personality clearly. He had basically inherited little fatty Luo’s dao of angering others to death.
She gave Yan Mo a glare. Yan Mo shrunk his neck in and looked obedient like a quail.
The little Ah Mo is a baddie. This chapter was overly long, ha. Those who should appear will appear soon.
Xue-shi continues to probe, not sure if everyone can tell. However, she definitely has some thoughts already, and is waiting to see what will happen. With Xue-shi’s personality, she generally wouldn’t take the lead. Chen-shi is probably out of luck.