Published at 11th of August 2019 03:15:55 PM

Chapter 127

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The Barren Land (2)

Hearing what Old Madam Sheng said, Rulan realized that Hualan didn't live an easy life in Earl Zhongqin Household. Feeling sorry for her eldest sister, she slowly stood up, apologized to Hualan and said, “Eldest Sister, don’t worry too much about Shi. Eldest Brother-in-law is a capable, experienced man. My nephew will grow up to be a useful person like his father. Maybe he will become an outstanding general.”

Hualan wiped her eyes and deliberately joked, “But as the saying goes, ‘most of boys resemble their mothers both in appearance and character.’ Although your Eldest Brother-in-law is outstanding, Shi is unlikely to be like his father.”

Rulan was choked by these joking words because she lacked the intelligence to speak according to circumstances. So she pinched Minglan's arm and gave her sister a hint. Minglan, who often helped Rulan out of the embarrassment, sighed quietly and said, “… According to Eldest Sister's logic, most of boys must resemble their uncles both in appearance and character. If Shi resembles Eldest Brother, alas…”

“What kind of person will he be?” Hualan asked with a smile.

Minglan intentionally let out a long sigh, opened her hands and answered with a worried look on her face, “It will be very difficult for him to fail the imperial examinations.” Rulan clapped her hands and laughed, “That’s great! Shi will grow up to be either the general or the Number One Scholar.”

All the people in the room laughed. What Minglan said soothed Wang shi's nerves. Hualan came up to Minglan, pretended to be annoyed and gently pinched her arms. Rulan helped Hualan suppress Minglan's resistance. The three sisters frolicked by pinching one another's cheeks or shoulders, giggling happily.

Seeing that Hualan had the support of Yuan Wenshao and Earl Zhongqin, Wang shi felt relieved and thought of Molan who had married into Marquis Yongchang Household, then she couldn't help asking, “Hualan, you... Do you know what happened to Marquis Yongchang Household recently? Are they in dangerous situation?”

Old Madam Sheng cast a glance of displeasure at Wang shi who obviously took pleasure in Molan's misfortune instead of feeling sorry for her. Apparently, Wang shi was not good at hiding her emotions.

Hualan shook her head and sighed, “Alas! The Liang family is too slippery. We all know that Third Prince and Fourth Prince fought violently for the throne in Shen Chen Mutiny. At that time, if Prince Jing had succeeded in taking the throne, those who fought against him would have been severely punished or killed. So, the Liang family performed their duty perfunctorily in the army. His Majesty naturally dislikes them. Although the illegal eldest young master of the Liang family followed the imperial army to the North of Xinjiang and made some contributions in the Northern Expedition War, he was the one promoted by Old General Gan… Now Old General Gan has been promoted to the Minister of War. His Majesty will certainly appoint his man to take over Old General Gan's previous position.”

Before the Emperor had ascended the throne, it hadn't been his days. The influential officials and aristocratic families in his fief had looked down upon him. Furthermore, every time he had returned to the capital, he had often seen that those noble families had fawned on Third Prince and Fourth Prince but ignored him. He had probably borne a grudge against the aristocratic families in the capital for a long time.

Wang shi was attracted by what Hualan said. Recalling the gossip she had recently heard, she hastened to say, “Now the Shen family is the most famous family in the capital. Their lady has been the Empress and their young master is brave and battlewise. Tut-tut, the Shen family is so lucky!” Her implication was obvious: she envied the Shen family for having good taste in choosing their son-in-law.

Hualan instantly understood what Wang shi meant. She covered her mouth with her sleeve, giggled and said in a mocking tone, “My mother-in-law is overcome with regret these days. Six months ago, my sister-in-law, Wenying was formally engaged to the young master of Earl Shoushan Household. Unexpectedly, a month after the engagement, Lord Shen's first wife passed away. Now lots of noble families want to marry their young lady into the Shen family.” Recalling that Countess Zhongqin had beat her breast and stamped her feet with remorse in her room, Hulan was amused.

Old Madam Sheng slightly shook her head and sighed, “Marrying into a powerful and influential family is not necessarily the smartest move to make. I think that your husband’s aunt, Countess Shoushan is a good-natured woman and sincerely likes her niece Wenying. Besides, there aren’t many people in Earl Shoushan Household. It's really lucky for your sister-in-law to be betrothed to the young master of Earl Shoushan Household.”

Hualan always admired Old Madam Sheng’s wide knowledge and experience, so she repeatedly nodded, “Grandma, you are quite right. The Yuan family, for example, always has few visitors and doesn't have close contact with other noble families. So, although this time His Majesty strictly cleans up the aristocratic families, the Yuan family is safe and well.”

Minglan had a brainwave and interrupted, “Eldest Sister, you just said that His Majesty intended to send his men to take over the important posts in the army. Eldest Brother-in-law hasn't attached himself to any forces at Inperial Court. Maybe His Majesty will put him in an important position.”

Yuan Wenshao had already recognized the possibility but Rulan was embarrassed to boast that her husband might be promoted by the Emperor in front of her family members. Now that Minglan pointed out this possibility, Hualan enjoyed pleasure, twisted her lips into a proud smile and said modestly, “It's still uncertain whether Wenshao will be promoted. It's all up to His Majesty.”

Old Madam Sheng was filled with joy and said, “If your husband wins the favor of His Majesty, you will lead a better life in the Yuan family.” Wang shi said frankly, “If you can live apart from your mother-in-law, you will lead a really happy life.”

Old Madam Sheng sighed quietly and had a feeling of helplessness in the face of Wang shi. ‘Although what you said is the common aspiration of the Sheng family, you shouldn’t have said that in front of me because I’m your mother-in-law,’ she thought.

At the sight of Old Madam Sheng’s unhappy face, Hualan, who was clever and sensitive, realized that Wang shi had said something improper. So she immediately changed the subject, “Grandma, Mother, Sister Rulan and Sister Minglan, do you know what's the most interesting thing in the capital these days?” Everyone in the room had a puzzled look on the face. Hualan chuckled and continued, “You all know Gu Tingye, right? The same as Lord Shen, he made great contributions in the Northern Expedition War.”

Minglan was stunned but soon she calmed herself down and straightened up on the couch.

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On hearing this Wang shi burst into laughter and answered, “Of course I know him. He is not only a rake but also the unfilial son of Marquis Ningyuan Household. But now he has got rapid promotion in his official career. Marquis Ningyuan Household, Marquis Jinxiang Household, Duke Ling Household and four other aristocratic households were all linked to Fourth Prince. Except for Marquis Ningyuan Household, they have been all deprived of the peerages and put on trial, and their property has been confiscated. As for Marquis Jinxiang Household, His Majesty only removed the plaque built by imperial edict. It is said that His Majesty let off Marquis Jinxiang Household for the sake of Gu Tingye. What happened to him?”

Hualan picked up the teacup and took a sip of tea before she slowly said, “Before this Spring Festival, Marquis Jinxiang Household took a fancy to the legal daughter of the Peng family who are Marquis Fuan's distant relatives, and wanted to make her Gu Tingye's second wife. But at that time, he was far away from the capital and didn't know his brother's intention. When he received the news, Marquis Ningyuan Household had had the matchmaker go to the Peng Mansion and propose the marriage. However, the Peng family thought Gu Tingye a good-for-nothing and refused to marry their legal daughter to him. What's more, they tried to marry an illegal lady from collateral branch of their clan to Gu Tingye. The Peng family really went too far! Gu Tingye was completely annoyed by them, so he asked several brothers in the army to accompany him to the Peng Mansion and firmly turned down the marriage.”

A look of delight came into Wang shi's eyes as she listened. “So that is what it is! Now I know all about that. The Peng family used to refuse to marry their daughter to Gu Tingye, but now it is too late for them to repent,” she said with a mocking smile.

“That's right!” Hualan smiled at Old Madam Sheng and said, “Now Gu Tingye is not the man he used to be. The Peng family regretted their hasty decision and wanted to marry their daughter to Gu Tingye, so they took the matchmaker, who had been appointed by Marquis Ningyuan Household, and alleged everywhere that their daughter had been betrothed to Gu Tingye.”

Wang shi snorted in disapproval, “What a shameless family!”

Old Madam Sheng repeatedly nodded in agreement and said in a low voice, “Even though the Peng family did go too far, it's inappropriate to offend them openly because they are Marquis Fuan's relatives.”

Hualan pressed her white, slender fingers to her rosy lips and said with an undisguised smile, “Gu Tingye is not broad-minded. He had someone send a painting to the Peng family. They were very delighted and opened the painting in front of many people. On the painting, there's a stretch of barren land and a peasant who holds the plough and walks away.”

On hearing this Minglan couldn’t help laughing and almost spurted tea from her mouth. Wang shi and Rulan looked at each other with confusion. Old Madam Sheng seemed to realize the meaning of the painting and twisted her lips into a faint smile. Rulan dared not to ask other people in the room, so she grasped Minglan’s arm and asked under her breath, “What does the painting mean?”

Minglan swallowed the tea, took a few breaths to calm herself down and answered, “… No one wants to plow the barren land. But when the barren land is ploughed, many people come and want to grow food in it.”

Rulan understood and clapped her hand with laughter. Wang shi said with a satirical look on her face, “Well said! The Peng family deserves the humiliation.”

Hualan smiled, “Gu Tingye used the painting as a racy metaphor for what the Peng family has done to him before. The Peng family knew that they were in the wrong and dared not spread rumors anymore. I think Gu Tingye has gone a bit too far, but Wenshao doesn’t think so. He told me that if Gu Tingye was the man he used to be, he would possibly have gone to the Peng Mansion to make a scene.”

Minglan nodded in agreement when she recalled that Gu Tingye had been ablaze with anger because of the failure of his marriage with Yanran, and besides, he had killed many pirates without mercy a year ago. The man really had a bad temper.

Hualan laughed until tears came to eyes, then wiped the tears off her face with a handkerchief and said, “People laugh at the Peng family because of the dishonorable things they have done. Even Marquis Fuan Household is unwilling to help them. Now numerous nobles want Gu Tingye to be their son-in-law, but recently he has been busy dealing with military affairs in Governor's Mansion and not come back to the General Mansion. So, the matchmakers continuously go to Marquis Ningyuan Household to bring up proposal of marriage. The Peng family is utterly forgotten.”

Minglan quietly drank the tea without saying a word and thought to herself, ‘The Peng family can't be entirely blamed for this matter. Second Uncle Gu used to be a powerless rake but now he becomes a young upstart who has won the favor of His Majesty. It's natural for the Peng family to change their mind. Now the matchmakers swarm to Marquis Ningyuan Household and he will certainly marry a legal lady who’s gentle, virtuous, agreeable and considerate. I’m really happy for him.”

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