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Published at 4th of August 2019 01:03:57 PM


Chapter 125

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The Triumphant Return (2)

Proofread by DragonRider

After he left, Minglan slowly walked out of the inner room with a calm look and went toward her grandmother. The smile on Old Madam Sheng's face gradually disappeared. She tiredly leaned against the pillow on the arhat bed and slowly said, “Hongwen is a conscientious person.”

Minglan came up to Old Madam Sheng, picked up a small wooden mallet and gently pounded her grandmother’s legs while saying in a strangely calm voice, “Everyone has a conscience.”

“Hey!” Old Madam Sheng eyed Minglan's tranquil face with interest and asked curiously, “Don’t you want to do something to win this marriage?”

Minglan paused for a second, shook her head helplessly and answered, “I have done all I could. Grandma, you are right. The marriage will be blessed only if both families are consensual. A forced marriage won't come to a good end. Please take full charge of my marriage and I will stay out of it. Sheng family brought me up. Even if I'm unable to bring glory to our ancestors, I will never bring shame on the family name.”




Old Madam Sheng’s heart ached when she saw the look of determination on Minglan's pale face. So she comforted in a soft voice, “Good girl, I'm glad that you know what to do for the best. You are still young and we have enough time to look for a good marriage. Anyway, we have showed extreme patience and magnanimity towards He family. If your persuasion takes effect and Hongwen succeeds in making Cao Jingxiu his sister, we can see that he's a dependable man and I will agree to this marriage. But if he fails…” Old Madam Sheng hesitated for a moment and said firmly, “The Spring Imperial Examination will be held soon. There are so many young talented men in the capital. And our family have no intention of fawning upon the influential people. So, you can rest assured that I will try my best to find an honest man of good character to be your future husband.”

Minglan knew that Old Madam Sheng thought highly of Li Yu but this time she dared not let fall a hint of her intentions because she regretted having introduced Minglan to He Hongwen without making thorough inquiries about him.

The remaining sadness in Minglan's heart disappeared. She curled her rosy lips into a sweet smile, revealing two beautiful dimples on her cheeks. “Yeah. Grandma, you are right. If I can marry an honest man and live in peace and harmony with him for the rest of my life, it will be a good thing.”

Growing up is a painful process and everyone will be forced to be mature by fate. If possible, every girl wanted to be a proud princess and have a happy marriage. There was no need for girls to pretend to be unconcerned with their marriages and future.

However, as they grew older, they had to face the brutal reality and gradually, they lose their innocence. Finally, they became worldly-minded women who wore expensive clothes and ornaments, accommodated their husbands' concubines, arranged marriages for their illegal children and busied themselves about the domestic affairs. After death, their memorial tablets were placed in ancestral temples and their descendants regarded them as decent women. But in reality, their lives were monotonous and unhappy.

Minglan didn’t want to be such a decent woman. She was selfish and wanted to live happily with her future husband for a lifetime without any concubines beside them. Gradually, the thought became an obsession with her. ‘I should think about things positively. Farmland, mountain spring, fishing, delicious food and books. Without a man, I can also live a happy life. As long as I save up enough money and bring up my children to be capable persons, I will live well in the future,’ Minglan thought to herself.


……

In early September, Minglan reached the age of fifteen and Sheng family held a hair-do ceremony for her. Only a few guests were invited to attend the ceremony. Old Madam He had prepared a fine emerald-inlaid pink gold hairpin. At the ceremony, she twisted Minglan's hair into a bun and pinned it at the back of the head. Since Old Madam He was the one who did the most important job at Minglan's hair-do ceremony, if someone asked why Minglan was so close with He family, Old Madam Sheng could easily offer an explanation.

Hualan sent Minglan a pair of fine gold phoenix-shaped hairpins inlaid with white jades as a gift for her fifteenth birthday. Molan’s gift was a painting. Even Junzhu Pingning, who hadn't contacted with Sheng family for a long time, sent Minglan many brocades and pearls as a birthday gift. Rulan was generous because she had sent some gold from her collection to Shop of Crystal Jewels and asked the jeweler to cast them into a heavy golden thread necklace in the shape of a hornless dragon's head. This gift was so valuable that Wang shi was a bit jealous.

When no one was looking at them, Minglan secretly tugged at Rulan's sleeve and said under her breath, “Sister, you don't need to bribe me with the costly present. I won't tell others your secret.”

Rulan rolled her eyes at Minglan and said in a low voice, “Brother Jing asked me to give you this gift. He often tells me that I should show solicitude for my young brother and sister because I'm the older sister. I have also given Changdong some fine cloths so that he can ask the tailor to make some new clothes.”

Rulan behaved like a considerate, virtuous older sister, which stunned Minglan who immediately had a completely new appraisal of Wen Yanjing. He seemed to be a good man.


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Since then, Minglan lived a peaceful life. Li Yu went to Sheng Mansion every five days on the pretext of asking for Changbai's advice on how to get good grades in the imperial examination. Every time he came to give his greetings to Old Madam Sheng, he ate snacks while looking steadily at the screen as if he could see through it to find Minglan's graceful figure, before he left.

To be honest, although Li Yu peeped at Minglan for a long while each time he came to visit Old Madam Sheng, he didn't make any mistakes in other aspects. He studied hard in Changwu’s house every day and seldom took part in social activities outside. Even though sometimes he went outside to attend a banquet, he was well-behaved and always kept away from other women. What was more, his five older sisters were all married and his two young sisters were babies.

Wang shi was busy making some inquiries about those scholars who came from good families and lived in the bungalows of Sheng Mansion now. Hai shi was pregnant and always held a can of smoked plums because she suffered a lot from morning sickness. Quan began to learn to walk and liked shuffling on his feet around Minglan with his mouth open, drooling.

There was some news coming from He family. In just over twenty days, Aunt Cao had attempted suicide once, He Hongwen’s mother had fainted twice and Cousin Jinxiu had fallen seriously ill three times. Besides, Uncle Cao and He Hongwen’s cousins had gone to He Mansion and made a scene. Completely annoyed, Old Madam He had asked the servants to drive them out of He Mansion, forbidden all members of He family to give financial help to Cao family and prohibited Cao family from entering He Mansion.

By the end of October, Madam Cao went to He Mansion, apologized repeatedly and begged piteously for mercy with tears. She also said that she already knew what Cao family had done was completely wrong. Old Madam He didn't have the heart to drive Cao family to a hopeless situation, so she gave Madam Cao some money. However, she still refused to let Madam Cao see He Hongwen’s mother who was confined to bed.

What Old Madam He did was exactly what Minglan wanted to do but couldn't do.


As autumn approached, Government of Shuntian Prefecture announced that the Imperial Army won decisively in the Northern Expedition. They had beaten the main forces of Jienu tribe, killed numerous enemy troops and destroyed many enemy camps. Besides, they had also killed three princes of Jienu tribe and the Left Seigneur Luli, and captured numerous military supplies and war-horses. The soldiers of Jienu tribe had been soundly defeated and fled. The Imperial Army had pursued them and killed tens of thousands of enemy troops.

It was said that the Empress' brother, Shen Congxing, led the Imperial Army to march day and night towards the capital, in order to arrive in the capital city before the anniversary of the death of the previous emperor so that the Emperor could offer the heads of chief commanders of Jienu tribe and many captives as a sacrifice.

On October 27, the city gate of the capital was wide open. The soldiers of the capital camp, who wore new helmets and coats with red-tasseled spears, leather-thonged whips and iron chains in their hands, cleared a broad road in the street and stood guard. The Emperor personally led the palace guards and the honor guard of Eighteenth Army to line up to welcome the Imperial Army. The people in the capital city took up their positions in two rows on either side of the street to welcome the heroes. The capital was not far away from the North of Xinjiang, and the people in the capital city were always afraid of being attacked by the nomads. So, from their point of view, the generals, who had beaten the Jienu tribe, were more outstanding than those who had put down the revolt.

When the auspicious time arrived, there came a 3-gun salute from afar. Old General Gan marched into the city at the head of the army with Sheng Congxing and Gu Tingye by his side. Firecrackers were crackling and spluttering all over the city. Numerous tall colored flags were flapping in the wind in the road. The streets were all decorated with lanterns and festoons, crowded with the civilians who warmly welcomed the return with full honors of the Imperial Army by following them and continuously applauding for their remarkable contributions to the country.

In the evening, the Emperor held a banquet in the Imperial Palace and promoted the generals who had gained merit.

Old General Gan was promoted to the Minister of War. Sheng Congxing was conferred the title of Marquis Weibei which was nobler than the officials of the highest rank and could be carried to his offspring. Besides, he was also promoted to the second-ranked Military Governor of Main Army. Gu Tingye was promoted to the second-ranked Military Governor of Left Army. The Emperor also bestowed mansions and handsome rewards on Sheng Congxing and Gu Tingye. Their junior officers and soldiers were all rewarded. All the people in the capital city joyously celebrated the victory.

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