Thank you anonymous supporter for your compliment and your generous donation. I did say no more sponsored chapters due to the streak of extra long chapters. However, the next two chapters happen to be shorter, so I’ll release an extra one this weekend.
The dew still clung onto the grass. The early autumn morning was a little cold.
When the sky turned slightly bright, Yan Yan and Yan Mo rode their horses over to this place and let them loose to graze. The two of them settled into horse stances and went through a set of techniques.
Being active made them not feel the cold anymore. They naturally couldn’t wear anything thick while training. The two of them both wore light and simple garments that were convenient to move in.
After warming up, Yan Yan and Yan Mo started running.
Training was actually an extremely dull affair. There was no instant gratification, and only through repeated days of hard work could the results be seen. Yan Mo was jealous of his sister’s skills. She had been able to handle herself in the middle of a wolf pack, and also turn the tables against Yan Ting, forcing him to admit defeat. Only after Yan Mo started training himself did he understand how much effort had gone into this.
After running ten laps around this field, the sky had already fully brightened. Yan Yan took out two towels from her saddle pouch. She wiped herself off with one and gave the other one to Yan Mo. Afterwards, Yan Mo went and continued sitting in horse stance while Yan Yan took out a prayer mat. She sat cross-legged, closed her eyes and began to breathe in and out.
Time passed slowly. Yan Mo’s face gradually flushed as beads of sweat trickled down his forehead. He gritted his teeth and persisted.
Suddenly, he was prodded from behind.
His big sis was sitting where Yan Mo could see him and she hadn’t moved. The reason they picked this spot to train was because it was remote and no one came here. Who could this be?
As Yan Mo was wondering this, he heard a swoosh and a cry before someone rolled out.
That person was round and chubby, wearing a standard prince’s outfit. He had quite a bit of grass stuck to him, looking incredibly amusing.
That person laughed mischievously, a dimple on his left cheek. “Little sis Ah Yan.”
Yan Mo couldn’t help but burst out laughing. Expelling this breath made him immediately unable to maintain his posture. He fell panting on the floor.
“Go wipe your sweat off in case you catch a cold.” She turned and looked at that person with her brows raised: “Why are you here?”
Seeing the little consort paying attention to him, Luo Huai Yuan was like a snake slithering up a pole. He sidled over and sat next to her. Seeing that she didn’t stop him, he thickened his skin and scooted closer. He scooted closer once again until Yan Yan raised her hand to push him and rolled her eyes at him. Only then did he move back a little in embarrassment.
“This is for you.” He stuffed some small wildflowers into Yan Yan’s hands. Seeing Yan Mo looking at him, he hurriedly tightened his face and scolded: “Shoo, shoo, shoo. What’re you looking at, child?”
Yan Mo smothered his laugh and obediently turned away. He walked until he couldn’t hear the conversation over there before continuing to sit in horse stance.
Yan Yan dug through a bunch of scattered grass and leaves in her hand. There were several white and pale yellow little flowers.
Luo Huai Yuan scratched his chin, his face turning rigid for a moment before smiling and saying: “These flowers are a gift for you. Do you like it?”
He felt a little guilty saying these words. He did want to gift the little consort some beautiful roses or what not, but unfortunately this wasn’t the modern world. Not only were there no such things, but in this wilderness there weren’t even any good looking flowers. He had looked around for a long time with Xiao An Zi before finding these little wildflowers.
These were flowers?
Fine, they were truly flowers.
Yan Yan stroked those tiny flower petals, her expression a little weird.
She had scene many rare and precious flowers before, but had never seen someone gift what looked like random weeds and scattered flowers before.
“That, while I was in the Fu Province, I learned that in western culture it’s traditional for men to gift the girl in their heart flowers. It represents a heart filled with love. In this wilderness, I spent half the day looking but could only find these little wildflowers. When we get back to the capital I’ll gift you nice looking ones daily.” Luo Huai Yuan spoke without shame and wasn’t bashful at all. It was like the words “heart” and “love” hadn’t come from his mouth.
Yan Yan’s face was rigid as she considered how she should respond.
“You don’t like it….” His voice was aggrieved, and even had a whine towards the end.
Within a nearby bush, Xiao An Zi felt his ears itch. For the sake of preserving his mind, he decided to go over to young master Ah Mo. Although Xiao An Zi was a eunuch, he still understood his highness was here to flirt with his future consort. He might as well tactfully keep his distance.
Yan Yan’s eyes swept over at him before looking at that fair and chubby face.
“I don’t dislike it.”
“Then you like it?”
The chubby face suddenly bloomed in a smile.
Yan Yan lowered her head. She couldn’t bear to give him a blow, and thus quietly let out an “en”.
Hearing this “en”, Luo Huai Yuan felt that the world had become beautiful, filled with rainbow colors and pink bubbles.
After being immersed in happiness by himself for a bit, he became gutsy and his chubby claws grabbed the young miss’s hand. Yan Yan’s hand ended up getting grabbed in a moment of carelessness. She wanted to pull it back but it was tightly held.
“That, today’s weather is pretty good eh? The air is fresh and the surroundings are quiet. Little sis Yan really knows to pick the spot.” Luo Huai Yuan beat around the bush for a while before saying: “That’s right, I heard little second Shen say aunt wants to divorce Yan Ting, but that jade green lotus1 won’t agree?”
Yan Yan’s attention was drawn to the “jade green lotus” part. Her eyes filled with confusion: “What does that mean?”
Only then did Luo Huai Yuan realize he had let slip some profanity. He hurriedly coughed and explained: “I misspoke, I misspoke. It means someone shameless.”
Yan Yan nodded. “My mom cannot divorce him. Ah Mo is still young.”
Thinking of this, she couldn’t help but frown.
She would be married off in a year. At that time, her mom and brother would be left in the estate by themselves. Without her, she was really worried her mom wouldn’t be able to handle the various bad characters there. Especially since they had shed all pretenses with Yan Ting. His parting gaze that day made her heart involuntarily shiver even now.
Yan Yan’s expression was too serious. Luo Huai Yuan couldn’t help but ask about it. Yan Yan didn’t hide anything from him and told him the whole story.
Although Shen Qi had told him a bit, there hadn’t been any details. Only now did Luo Huai Yuan find out that jade green lotus Yan Ting wanted to hit his little consort. Absolutely intolerable! He himself couldn’t bear laying a finger on his little consort!
He cursed countless itmes in his heart. If Luo Huai Yuan could actually cast curses, Yan Ting probably would have died without a corpse already.
Luo Huai Yuan’s face filled with righteous indignation “Tell me, how do you want to mess with him? We’ll lead him to his death. As long as he dies, everything is solved. Aunt and Ah Mo’s days will be much better off.”
His words had come out smoothly, but prior to saying the word “death”, he had snuck a glance at Yan Yan. Seeing her indifference, he couldn’t help but continue speaking, “Truthfully speaking, that dad of yours cannot remain. If we continue to suffer him, not only might the Zhenguo Duke get implicated, even your mom and brother might become involved. Wasn’t the matter this time due to him? Luckily royal father wasn’t willing to let Senior Concubine Xu succeed. Along with this smart and handsome prince’s help, things didn’t go as he planned.”
This thick-skinned person started praising himself again as he spoke.
What was initially a very serious matter seemed to have a different tone now. Yan Yan couldn’t help but start laughing. Only now did she realize her hand was still gripped by his.
It was still acceptable if this fellow merely held the young miss’s small hand. However, he even used his fingers to caress her palm. Yan Yan’s heart itched from his rubbing and couldn’t help but panic. She forcibly pulled her hand back. It wasn’t clear if she used too much strength or if this fatty was truly not sturdy enough. Luo Huai Yuan ended up being pulled over by the momentum.
This was essentially suppression by Mt. Tai!
Yan Yan had been sitting cross-legged initially. When Luo Huai Yuan came, she changed her posture and sat with her legs together. She wasn’t able to exert any force in this position and ended up being knocked over by him. That was fine by itself, but this vulgar fellow saw his opportunity and happily fell along with her. His puckered his lips hard and planted a kiss on her cheek.
Not only that, his lips also made a smacking sound.
This fellow was definitely doing it on purpose!
He was truly doing it on purpose.
After the kiss, he used his lips to rub her fair and tender little face. He had an intoxicated look as he said with a hoarse voice, “Little sis Ah Yan, your face is so smooth!”
Yan Yan was directly stunned. Her voice was incoherent as she pushed at him. “You, what are you dong? Hurry, hurry and get up.”
Luo Huai Yuan seemed to have snapped out of it. He suddenly started panicking. “Ah….I didn’t do it on purpose. I’m getting up right away. I’m not crushing you, right?”
He scrambled around and Yan Yan somehow ended up in his arms. A chubby arm wrapped around the young miss’s waist and no longer moved. His other hand held her hand as he pretended to be worried, asking “Are you hurt? Are your hurt?”
When Yan Yan got up, she was sitting in his soft embrace, her small waist held by his arm.
Yan Yan’s face was flushed. It wasn’t clear if it was from being crushed or from embarrassment.
“I’m not hurt. Hurry and let go!”
“Really not hurt? You aren’t lying to me, right?”
“Really not! Hurry and let go!”
Luo Huai Yuan let out an “ohh”, but was still reluctant to let go.
The little consort’s firm waist was really slender. It was narrow, and seemed soft yet sturdy….
After giving it another rub, he reluctantly let go.
Yan Yan strongly suspected this little fatty Luo had done it on purpose, but it didn’t seem like it from his expression. He truly looked worried. However, thinking of when he said “so smooth”, she felt things weren’t quite right.
Luo Huai Yuan suppressed his smile and put on a bitter expression.
How did he never notice the little consort was so cute? So cute and so innocent, making him seem like a perverted uncle. However, recalling that they were about to get married in a year, he wasn’t ashamed at all.
He stood up with a blush. Seemingly recalling the awkwardness earlier, he said, “That, little sis Ah Yan, I didn’t do it on purpose.” I did it intentionally. The second part couldn’t be said out loud or he would definitely get beaten up.
Yan Yan’s face turned red as she glared: “Don’t mention it!”
“I really didn’t do it on purpose.”
“I said don’t mention it!”
“Fine, fine, fine. I won’t mention it.” He licked his lips as he leaned over to Yan Yan who was brushing bits of grass off her body. “That, we’re about to return to the capital in a few days. Little second Shen says the three of us should go hunting one more time. Such a good outing was ruined by the matter last time. His mom has been keeping him cooped up recently. He finally managed to persuade her to let him go play.”
“Think about my words earlier. I’ll go find little second Shen and tell him the good news.”
His words earlier?
Her dad cannot remain?
Actually, Yan Yan was very surprised little fatty Luo would say such a thing. It was extremely unconventional, but it suited her thoughts extremely well. Patricide wasn’t a small matter after all. Yan Yan had considered a few possibilities recently as well, but found it hard to bring up.
This matter really needs to be considered properly!
Yan Yan fell into thought.
During this time, Luo Huai Yuan who had taken enough advantage earlier went to fetch Xiao An Zi and left.
Ever since the banquet, Yan Ting hadn’t seen Xu Xiang Rong.
He had asked to meet several times but was refused every time. Yan Ting didn’t have the luxury to consider his pride anymore. He had gone up to the door several times. With his status, he wasn’t qualified to meet the second prince or Senior Concubine Xu. He could only look for Xu Xiang Rong and start with him.
Xu Xiang Rong had always admired his foresight and strategy. Hopefully he was willing to consider his previous successes and help speak up for him to Senior Concubine Xu and the second prince.
This time, Yan Ting was finally brought into Xu Xiang Rong’s tent.
After entering, he saw Xu Xiang Rong sitting on the couch with an unpleasant expression. He held a cup of alcohol in his hand. His robes were wide open, revealing a sturdy chest. He only wore a pair of underwear below, seeming rather licentious.
This Xu Xiang Rong was always reserved and dignified in front of others, but was extremely absurd in private. Yan Ting also knew this so he wasn’t surprised at this sight.
There was a small table in front of the couch filled with quite a lot of delicacies and several alcohol jugs.
As he approached, he smelled the thick stench of alcohol. Yan Ting cupped his hands and bowed. Xu Xiang Rong looked drunkenly at him and waved his hand, allowing him to sit and drink with him.
“Heir, my little girl truly messed up this time. I scolded her when we got back but she actually said it was arranged by the Zhenguo Duke.”
Yan Ting had thoroughly considered things before coming up with this explanation. Blaming the Zhenguo Duke was better than admitting he was incapable and was jointly screwed over by the Zhenguo Duke and his own daughter.
Xu Xiang Rong didn’t respond to what he said. He merely slurred: “Bro Pengyuan, you must know you’ve thoroughly harmed me this time! That sister of mine has never lost her temper at me before. This time she heaped a torrent of abuse on me. She said you couldn’t even handle your own daughter before encouraging all of us to proceed. Now, the second prince and senior concubine have both lost a lot of face, and his majesty was also angered…..”
Yan Ting looked extremely apologetic, dejected and helpless. “Who knew things would have ended up like this? Previously my little girl had said she admired the second prince. However, she has always been close with her grandfather. Heir, think about it. My little girl isn’t even fifteen yet. Although she likes martial arts, how is it possible for her to say such shocking words which also happened to resonate with his majesty?”
This was truly the case. Perhaps the reason people thought this young miss was unusual was not only because of her astonishing words, but also because she had struck some of Emperor Xi’s hidden thoughts.
But how would such a young girl know these things? Although she appeared to be belittling herself, Emperor Xi had admired her more and more. No one believed a teenage girl came up with this.
During these days, many people guessed that it might be something the Zhenguo Duke came up with to protect himself. Senior Concubien Xu’s group had the same thoughts.
“Is there perhaps a leak by the second prince’s side? Otherwise, how could the Zhenguo Duke know ahead of time and make arrangements?” Yan Ting did his best to direct all of the second prince faction’s anger onto the Zhenguo Duke. “That father-in-law of mine is truly a stubborn old man! Regarding the second prince’s intentions, I’ve mentioned it to him several times. He’s always brushed them aside, and even said a few unpleasant words….heir has asked me in the past but it was never convenient for me to say anything. After all, how can I criticize my father-in-law…”
“Oh? What unpleasant words did the Zhenguo Duke say?” Xu Xiang Rong’s interest was piqued.
Yan Ting sighed deeply and grumbled about the difficulties of being the Zhenguo Duke’s son-in-law. He mentioned how he was firmly suppressed the whole time. He wasn’t young anymore but the duke would always talk down to him. His tone was filled with resentment.
This wasn’t false. Yan Ting only had to reveal a little of the resentment he felt inside to lend credibility to his words.
He then said the Zhenguo Duke had previously boldly stated that the Zhenguo Duke Estate has no need to show the second prince goodwill. No matter which prince ascended the throne, the Zhenguo Duke Estate would always be powerful. According to him, the Zhenguo Duke also said things like the Xu household who came from a common butcher’s background wanting the throne were the ravings of lunatics.
The Zhenguo Duke Estate truly didn’t need to show goodwill to Senior Concubine Xu’s faction. The Shen household had maintained their position for so many years and were only loyal to the current emperor. Everyone was aware of this.
This was already clear during the early years of the previous emperor. No matter how the previous empress dowager tried to rope him in, the Zhenguo Duke never responded. He even remained at the distant border for over a decade without returning just to avoid getting involved in the princes’ struggles.
After Emperor Xi succeeded the throne, the previous empress dowager and his two brothers caused chaos. The Zhenguo Duke returned to support Emperor Xi merely because he had been previously appointed the crown prince with the rights to the throne. The Zhenguo Duke Estate had always been loyal to the monarch.
The reason such libel was believable was because it contained some truths.
Yan Ting’s words were seventy percent true and thirty percent false. It was precisely the false part that enraged Xu Xiang Rong.
Everyone knew the Xu household had a common background as a butcher’s household. Even though they shed that layer of skin and became the Chengen Marquis Estate, it couldn’t wipe away their past.
Senior Concubine Xu was favored and also gave birth to two princes. No one dared to gossip about their household in the capital.
Back when they first entered the capital, a noble descendent had once mocked them during an argument with Xu Xiang Rong. Xu Xiang Rong didn’t react at the time. Afterwards, that person died while visiting a brothel. Everyone knew that person was young and vigorous. How could he die in the middle of doing the deed? However, all the investigations showed this was the case.
Due to the manner of his death, that household became a laughing stock in the capital. Afterwards, some shameful secrets of that household were brought to light, and along with Senior Concubine Xu slandering them in front of Emperor Xi, they were expelled from the capital.
There was a saying that those who butchered pigs were all ruthless people.
Although this was a generalization, it wasn’t without reason. It was known that butchers slaughtered countless pigs every year. Although people viewed them as food, they were still living things. Naturally it wasn’t apparent when eating, but to personally wield the knife and cut them apart was extremely taxing on the mind.
Xu Xiang Rong had accompanied his father in butchering pigs from a young age. When he was around ten, he could already butcher a large fat pig by himself. That year, Senior Concubine Xu was chosen as one of the commoners to enter the palace. The commoners knew that this selection was brutal and would do their best to avoid it but the Xu household had a lowly status. The magistrate had seen that the quota for the selection was far from being filled and personally sent his bailiffs to grab people.
Senior Concubine Xu was famously good looking from a young age. Her father cherished her and hoped to find her a good marriage when she came of age. Unexpectedly, before that could happen, her good looks had attracted calamity.
Commoners couldn’t struggle against officials. Senior Concubine Xu thus entered the palace.
Due to her looks, Senior Concubine Xu was conferred as an unranked attendant, the lowest rank of imperial concubines.
While Senior Concubine Xu was battling in the rear palace, Xu Xiang Rong wildly butchered pigs. He planned to earn more money so he can provide his sister a means of living after she was released from the palace.
The commoners assumed those who were selected would become palace maids in the palace. A palace maid was a bitter position. Not only was it easy to lose one’s life but they would only get released when they were twenty-five. No one was willing to marry a girl who was that old. Those who married them were all widowers.
They didn’t realize that once these people entered the wealthiest and most powerful place under the heavens, anything was possible. Who would have thought a commoner girl like the Xu household’s daughter would end up becoming the most favored concubine within the six palaces?
After a few years, the news was spread back to the countryside and the Xu household leapt through the dragon’s gate overnight.
At that time Senior Concubine Xu wasn’t the senior concubine yet, but merely a concubine. She had just given birth to the second prince.
Xu Xiang Rong had been opinionated from birth. His father was a forthright person. He never bothered with household matters, and focused on butchering pigs and earning money for the family. His mother was the one responsible for the household. Senior Concubine Xu had shared half that responsibility after growing up. After she entered the palace, Xu Xiang Rong became responsible for the household’s direction.
When Xu Xiang Rong heard the news, he didn’t rush to move the family to the capital. Instead, he continued to mind his own business, butchering pigs.
In his free time, he invited some teachers and learned to read and write. He had been streetwise from a young age, and wasn’t a shortsighted person. He naturally understood the capital was where all the nobility and officials gathered. His household’s background was lowly, and moving there now would only lose his sister’s face. His father, the old yokel, had also been forced to read and learn etiquette. He was quite miserable.
Everyone in the county knew that an imperial concubine had come from their Xu household and that she had given birth to a prince. She may even become the empress in the future (please don’t take the thoughts of commoners seriously). The Xu household rose like a boat with the tide. They could even visit the magistrate’s office. However, the Xu household remained low-key. They even stopped their butcher business. The entire household rarely went out, and never abused their new status to dominate the countryside.
The remained hidden for several years, until Senior Concubine Xu gave birth to the third prince and became the senior concubine. Only then did Xu Xiang Rong bring the family to the capital. At that time, while they didn’t have the bearings of a major clan, they had at least gotten rid of their crude habits. They could pass as a well off proper little family.
Emperor Xi naturally wouldn’t fail to observe the maternal family of his favored concubine. After watching them for several years, he was extremely satisfied. He didn’t mind their lowly status. He was afraid they would forget themselves due to their newfound status. The news that Senior Concubine Xu had become an imperial concubine was naturally spread with Emperor Xi’s permission. Otherwise, the remote county where the Xu household resided would never have gotten this news.
Emperor Xi was very satisfied with the Xu household’s low-key and dutiful conduct. Along with the fact that Senior Concubine Xu had quite some contributions (giving birth to two sons), the Xu household was given the title of the Chengen Marquis the moment they entered the city. This title was granted to relatives, and had no real authority. However, to them it was still like being born again.
The Xu household was naturally surprised and overjoyed. Only then did they understand why their son had done so many seemingly useless things. It turns out that his words “go big or go home” back then referred to this.
At that time, Xu Xiang Rong had just started learning to read and write. He would be lectured by the teacher daily. Anyone else would have been annoyed, but he took pleasure in it. Every now and then, he would even write an essay. Unfortunately his vocabulary was limited, and his essays were half formal and half colloquial. It even included some slang.
When the Xu household formally entered the capital’s social circles, his parents unavoidably made fools of themselves several times. However, they never abused their position and never argued with others. They would go back and study hard to change themselves. Gradually, people stopped laughing about their background. People could also see that Emperor Xi punished those who mocked the Chengen Marquis and his madam.
As time passed, everyone realized that they couldn’t be provoked.
Not only were they honest and straightforward, they even had a daughter who was favored within the palace. This “honest and straightforward” image was something Xu Xiang Rong had established for his parents. Their personalities were this way to begin with and he didn’t force them to change.
This sort of personality was the most looked down upon and also the least guarded against. It was sufficient for him to be the only perceptive one in the family.
Despite Senior Concubine Xu being at the height of her power, it was also illusory. She had no foundations and completely depended on Emperor Xi’s favor. The Xu household couldn’t afford to make any waves back then and couldn’t afford to provoke those people. They could only hide and slowly scheme. Over a decade has passed since. The Chengen Marquis Estate remained low-key but no one dared to take them lightly. To have struggled with the crown prince’s faction for so long, they couldn’t have only relied on his majesty’s favor.
Xu Xiang Rong was this sort of person. He had the street smarts of his lowly profession, but also the educated air that he had developed. Having been in the capital for over ten years, it was sufficient for him to obtain a qualified noble posting. He was also good at enduring and sufficiently sinister. Not only was he ruthless to others, he was also ruthless to himself. His schemes were outstanding but unconventional. His methods were very often rather underhanded, and normal people would disdain them, but they were oddly effective.
Yan Ting had interacted with him for several years, and had seen and heard quite a bit. Yan Ting had also witnessed how he had tripped up the crown prince’s faction several times. He naturally understood this person deeply.
The reason Yan Ting said these things wasn’t just to push the blame onto the Zhenguo Duke. He also wanted to create a demon-like hidden enemy for the Zhenguo Duke. He hated the Zhenguo Duke Estate’s people deeply, and wished to have their entire family executed in the streets. He naturally did his best to slander them.
“What a great Zhenguo Duke!”
Xu Xiang Rong narrowed his drunken eyes and threw out these words. Yan Ting knew he now hated the Shen household.
Yan Ting was smug that he had succesfully avoided this obstacle. Although the second prince’s side had a bad impression of him, he ultimately managed to divert their grudge. He could still improve things in the future, and could be said to have resolved the threat at hand.
He failed to consider that since the second and third princes didn’t have their own estate yet, all of Senior Concubine Xu’s outside influence was in Xu Xiang Rong’s hands. He wasn’t someone to be trifled with. How could Yan Ting’s minor schemes escape his eyes? They each merely had their own plans.
His plan was actually very simple. However, it wasn’t suitable to say out loud.
Xu Xiang Rong slowly roamed his eyes over the unaware Yan Ting. His alcohol-stained lips curved in a smile.
This author got restless when writing this chapter. Really want to write a novel about Senior Concubine Xu’s palace struggles. Fine, I’ll endure this urge and shelve it in my mind for now.
Things are getting more and more taboo. Is this really ok? There can’t be any danmei2 or this author will be scolded. Why does this author feel affection for Xu Xiang Rong’s type…..could it be that I’m perverse? Really want to let Xu Xiang Rong lock Yan Ting up, selling his body every day, and even pulling out a little whip…..