Published at 22nd of August 2019 07:57:20 AM

Chapter 132

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The Last Time (1)

Proofread by DragonRider

As soon as Sheng Hong returned to Sheng Mansion, Wang shi drew him to the bedroom and told him that Gu Tingye wanted to marry Rulan. As an official, Sheng Hong had the keen eye and knew the situation of Imperial Court inside out. So he had a more intuitive understanding of Gu Tingye's status and power than those women living in inner mansion did. After weighing the advantages and disadvantages of this marriage, the next day he went out and inquired about Gu Tingye. Just as what he had done to Yuan Wenshao that year, he made detailed inquiries about Gu Tingye's characters, birth, family and so on.

A few days later, Sheng Hong told Wang shi that he agreed to this marriage.

When Rulan, who had been in great trepidation in the past few days, heard the news, she flew into a rage. She screamed and smashed half of the ornaments in the room, her hair hanging loose over her shoulders, which scared all her maids. Wang shi came to scold her but Rulan glared at her with red eyes and directly contradicted, “I don't want to marry Gu Tingye. If you like him, you can marry him yourself.”

Wang shi trembled with anger and asked Rulan why she was unwilling to marry into the Gu family. Rulan couldn't think of a suitable reason to refuse this marriage. She knew that if she told Wang shi the truth, Wen Yanjing would be put in an awkward situation. Rulan searched her mind for a reason and roared, “…Mother, are you muddle-headed? Gu Tingye is my elder. I used to call him ‘Second Uncle’.”

Xique, who was on her knees and quietly picking up the pieces of broken porcelains, gave a bitter smile. In the past few days, Rulan had forced Minglan to think of a way to help her refuse this marriage. Minglan dared not openly go against the wishes of Sheng Hong and Wang shi but Rulan had kept pressing her. So, at last she provided Rulan with such an untenable reason to refuse this marriage.

Wang shi exploded with anger, pointed at Rulan and shouted, “Don't talk nonsense! At that time, you were young and ignorant. So you followed others to call him 'Second Uncle'. But you are unrelated to him by blood and he is not your uncle! None of your nonsense! Or I will call your father to teach you a lesson.” Wang shi hated Junzhu Pingning to the utmost degree. Because of the relationship between Junzhu Pingning and Gu Tingye, Sheng family's daughters used to call Gu Tingye "Second Uncle". Now the appellation became a thorn in her heart.

Wang shi used to frighten Rulan several times but never took actions. However, this time she acted on what she said. In the evening, Sheng Hong came back to Sheng Mansion and gave Rulan a good scolding.

Rulan was the last daughter Sheng Hong liked because she was overbearing and self-willed. She had been punished often by Sheng Hong in the past. However, she was reluctant to say some honey-sweet words to flatter Sheng Hong. So Rulan feared his father most. Sheng Hong scolded her with a cold expression on his face and shortly afterwards, Rulan began to cry.

“You have read so many books written by saints, but never get any wisdom from them. What you did violates filial obedience and female virtue. Marriages are always arranged by parents. As a girl, you shouldn't be involved in the discussion about this marriage. You have no sense of shame. I really feel ashamed for you.” Sheng Hong's harsh criticism was a severe blow to Rulan's pride. She covered her face with her hands and ran out with tears. Wang shi's heart ached for her daughter but she didn't intend to comfort Rulan.

Since Sheng Hong agreed to this marriage, Wang shi had someone send a message to Hualan who, upon getting it, told Yuan Wenshao at once. Soon afterwards Gu Tingye got the news. He was very efficient. A few days later, he went to visit Sheng family with Yuan Wenshao. Old Madam Sheng refused to meet with Gu Tingye on the pretext of illness. So Wang shi had to meet with him alone. Minglan didn’t know their conversation, but she knew that Wang shi must be satisfied with Gu Tingye. After Gu Tingye left, Wang shi stood in front of Rulan and continuously praised him for his tolerance, outstanding character, handsome face and great moral integrity as if he was the best man in the world in Wang shi's eyes, which made Minglan's flesh creep.

Rulan sat still with her head bowed and her eyes glassy, silent as a post. Minglan standing beside was very surprised. Wang shi launched into endless praises of Gu Tingye like a crazy fan, but Minglan felt that Wang shi was more like a pastor making a speech in a memorial meeting held for a distinguished hero. She quietly walked over to Hualan and said under her breath, “Madam has the keen eye. She has only met General Gu once, but she already knows many of his good points.”

Guilt appeared in her eyes as Hualan looked away from Minglan. “Your brother-in-law won't put Rulan in harm's way. General Gu is a good match for her.” In truth, although Gu Tingye tried his best to be modest in his behavior, as a general who had risen from the ranks, he looked fierce and awe-inspiring. Wang shi feared him and spoke only a few words to him. But Yuan Wenshao expressed that his mother-in-law was braver than many people.

Hualan saw the stubbornness on Rulan's face and felt puzzled, so she asked Minglan in a low voice, “What's wrong with Rulan? Why does she make a stand against this marriage? Has something unpleasant happened between her and General Gu?”

Minglan got nervous and immediately explained, “We all know that Sister Rulan has an excitable temperament. She was given a good scolding by Father a few days ago and now she hasn't cooled down yet. Sister Hualan, you should try patiently to talk her round.”

Hualan shook her head, turned around and whispered in Minglan’s ear, “We don't have much time to persuade her. General Gu has told your eldest brother-in-law that his eldest brother is going to die. It's better to hold the wedding ceremony before the death of his eldest brother because wedding shouldn't be in the period of the mourning. Please help me persuade Rulan. I'm sure it's a good marriage for her.”

Hualan was anxious to marry Rulan to Gu Tingye. Minglan looked at Wang shi who was trying her best to persuade Rulan, and felt deeply sorry for Wen Yanjing. 'But... Maybe the first love is bound to be shattered and she can only cherish his memory and mourn for the beloved past,’ Minglan thought.

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Within a few days, the news that Gu Tingye was going to marry the daughter of Sheng family gradually filtered through the capital. No one knew how the news got out. Fortunately, Old Madam Sheng had warned Sheng Hong and Wang shi that they shouldn't tell outside anything about this marriage before Gu Tingye sent betrothal gifts and money over to Sheng Mansion. At first, Wang shi didn't take Old Madam Sheng's remarks seriously. But soon she realized that Old Madam Sheng had great foresight.

Madam Gu was the first one to react to this news. She immediately set about selecting Gu Tingye's future wife. Although Madam Gu was not Gu Tingye's biological mother, from the point of view of ritual law, she had the right to arrange a marriage for Gu Tingye, especially in the case of Marquis Ningyuan's death. As long as Madam Gu didn’t approve of the marriage between her stepson, Gu Tingye and the daughter of Sheng family, it was wrongful because he didn't report his proposal to his legal mother.

Wang shi was anxious to the point of neurosis. Hualan comforted, “Mother, don’t worry. Tingye has foreseen that and he will deal with it properly.” Recently, Hualan called Gu Tingye by his first name as if he had become her brother-in-law.

On November 12, Empress Dowager Sheng’an recovered from her indisposition. The Emperor was delighted at the good news and held a simple family feast to celebrate it. During the feast, Empress Dowager pointed at Empress Shen's brother, Shen Congxing who had just become engaged, and said with a smile, “Your older sister has put her heart and soul into the task of finding a good young lady to marry you. Thanks to her, now you have a good betrothed wife.” Empress Shen sitting beside smiled, “My brother is easily satisfied. Lord Gu, what about your marriage?”

Gu Tingye smiled and didn't reply. Shen Congxing sitting beside him stood up, made an obeisance to people present, and smiled, “We all know that my brother, Lord Gu has meager knowledge because he has never studied hard. But I'm afraid you all don't know that my brother wants to marry a daughter of a scholar.”

The feast proceeded in a very homely atmosphere. Emperor asked Gu Tingye with interest, “Whose daughter do you want to marry?” Gu Tingye answered, “She is Left Intermediate Censor's daughter.” The Emperor smiled, “It’s a good marriage. Sheng Hong has an unimpeachable reputation, prudent in his words and deeds. He is a self-controlled and diligent man. His daughter must be a good match for you.”

Empress Shen’s new brother-in-law, the Left Vice Commander of Palace Guards, General Zheng was young and uninhibited. After a few drinks, he teased, “His Majesty, Sheng family is a scholarly family and all the members are scholars. I’m afraid that they are unwilling to marry their daughter to this rude military commander.”

All people at the feast burst into laughter.

What happened at the feast was soon known by people outside Imperial Palace. Marquis Ningyuan Household dared not look for another lady to be Gu Tingye's future wife. Wang shi felt relieved at this news. When Old Madam Sheng knew that, she was silent for a while and said, “Hasten to persuade Rulan.”

Minglan knew what Old Madam Sheng meant. If what happened at the imperial family feast had been carefully planned by Gu Tingye, he must be a cautious plotter. If Emperor and the others at the feast had purposely done that to help Gu Tingye, it could show that he stayed in Emperor's good graces. Since Emperor thought highly of Gu Tingye, he would be certainly put in a more important position in the future. In either case, marrying Rulan to Gu Tingye was a good choice. Sheng Hong became ever more determined to make Gu Tingye his son-in-law.

In Korean TV series, most fathers are so softhearted that they would easily forgive their daughters even though they often scold their daughters loudly. However, Sheng Hong was not softhearted at all. He was a typical civil official in feudal society who often talked about the articles written by saints and the moral concepts of Chinese society, and regarded his official career and the family economy as the most important things. Although he was more lenient with his children than old pedant was, he always acted in accordance with the ritual law that officials should obey the emperor and children should obey their fathers. He had the absolute authority in Sheng Mansion.

From this point of view, few ancient civil officials unconditionally loved their children. Moreover, most of civil officials had more than one child. In their views, the only thing their daughters should do was to obediently wait for marriage without doing something against the feminine virtue. At that time, Hualan was valued and favored by Sheng Hong, however, she dared not intervene in her own marriage. Molan used to be Sheng Hong’s favorite daughter, but since he knew that she plotted to marry into Marquis Yongchang Household and almost ruined the reputation of Sheng family, Sheng Hong hardened his heart and treated her coldly. Minglan could clearly see the disappointment and disgust toward Molan in his eyes.

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