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Published at 16th of May 2019 05:56:46 AM


Chapter 87

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Brother Changbai Has a Good Wife (1)

North winds were whistling at the end of autumn and the start of winter. Because it was still in the period of the national mourning, Molan's hair-do ceremony was held in a low-key way. Wang shi only gave her a new dress, invited a few familiar Madams to attend the ceremony and set up three tables of dishes to entertain the guests. Concubine Lin thought that her daughter was given the cold-shoulder but she dared not kick up a fuss because she knew that the atmosphere of the imperial court was so tense that many nobles and high officials had been punished. At this point, Sheng family should not be extravagant.

For this reason, Concubine Lin felt aggrieved and cried long to Sheng Hong during the night. She showed understanding of this affair pitifully in tears, which brought a sense of guilt to Sheng Hong. He promised her 300 ounces of fine silver so that Molan could buy a piece of pure gold jewelry. That night Concubine Lin repaid Sheng Hong in the bed for his generous gift.

In winter the weather in the capital was much colder than that in Deng Prefecture and Quan Prefecture. The cold wind chilled one to the bone. The servants in Sheng Mansion changed into thick winter clothes one after another. Wisps of steam puffed from their lips and blurred their face. In such a cold day, Minglan would rather tuck herself up in bed with a handwarmer than go outside. But contrary to her expectations, she was invited to Sheng Hong's study.

Old Madam Sheng wrote to say that First Old Madam Sheng was going to die in the following days. Molan was about to negotiate a marriage, so she was unsuitable to attend the funeral. Rulan caught a cold by "accident". Changfeng had to prepare for the exam. Hai shi should stay at Sheng Mansion to take care of Quan. Sheng Hong counted the family members on his fingers, then he asked Minglan to pack up and go to Youyang with Changdong.

Looking at his youngest son and youngest daughter standing in front of him, Sheng Hong felt guilty when he recalled decades of brotherhood with Sheng Wei, who sent several carriages of goods and silvers to him before Spring Festival every year. Now Sheng Wei's mother was going to die, but he only appointed his youngest son and daughter to return to Youyang. Did he go a bit too far?

"It seems…improper. Maybe I should go myself," Sheng Hong hesitated.

"I can understand Father's misgivings." Changbai stood up and made a bow to Sheng Hong, "But nothing seems certain in this crucial period. Now new Emperor has just taken the throne. Father, you are the official of Department of Supervision and there are plenty of opportunities for you here. So it's inadvisable for you to ask for leave now. We can first send Minglan and Changdong to show filial piety to First Old Madam Sheng. If she really... I will ask for some days off and hasten to hometown for the funeral."

Sheng Hong sighed. He knew that Changbai, who worked in Hanlin Academy, would be allowed to take days off. But he was the fourth rank official. If he asked for leave to attend his Aunt's funeral, he would be vilified by other officials.




Changbai looked at his father and comforted, "Father, you need not feel sorry for your absence. Cousin Changwu has asked for leave and will return to hometown. If First Old Madam Sheng really passes away, he should be in mourning for his grandmother. By then you can help him at Court."

His words relieved Sheng Hong's guilt. He smoothed his knitted brow and turned to Minglan and Changdong, "When will you leave?"

Minglan stood up and answered respectfully, "Brother Changwu has hired carriages and boats. He will pick us up in five days."

Sheng Hong nodded and enjoined solemnly, "On the way to Youyang, you two should listen to your cousin. When you arrive in Youyang, you should speak and act cautiously. Remember not to be mischievous and not to trouble your eldest uncle and aunt. And take good care of your grandmother, okay?"

Minglan and Changdong bowed to Sheng Hong and consented with one voice. Sheng Hong looked at their young faces and sighed. Wang shisitting beside Sheng Hong smiled at them and exhorted, "Don't walk away alone. Don't run around on the boat. Don't get too close to the side of the boat. Don't show your face in public…" At last, she turned to Minglan and said, "Minglan, as the older sister, you should look after Changdong on the way."

Sheng Hong twisted his head and cast a glance at Wang shi with a pleased expression when he saw Wang shi treat his children, who were born of his concubines, with kindness.

After returning to the boudoir, Minglan asked all her servants to gather in the courtyard and carefully told left-behind servants the points for attention one by one. Then she went to the Hall of Peaceful Ages with Dangju and Xiaotao. The doorkeepers got out of the way at the sight of Minglan. So Minglan went straight to the inner room. She asked Dangju to take out a yellow marten hat, a dark-grey fur coat, a dark-brown silk cape and some other winter clothes from a black wood wardrobe with mother-of-pearl inlay. Xiaotao folded the clothes up and packed them up with Dangju.

Minglan walked to the back of Old Madam Sheng's bed. Then she took out her keys and unlocked several big boxes behind the bed. She reached into the boxes and extracted a large bag of silver and a stack of bank notes. Considering that it was no longer the safe place to keep her property after she left Sheng Mansion, Minglan picked up the remaining stack of her title deeds and put them in the bag that she always carried with her.

In the following days, Minglan was busy packing the luggage. Xiaotao energetically filled the bags and boxes with gold and jewels. Minglan could not help laughing at Xiaotao, "This time I'm going to Youyang... Just take some silver ornaments. If I carry so many treasures with me, perhaps I will fall victim to bandits."


Xiaotao replied in a serious tone, "Then we can use these treasures to ransom you."

Minglan covered her face with her hands, speechless.

Just after Dangju packed up two inkstone and several writing brushes, Luzhi came in and said with a smile, "Lady Minglan, Marchioness Yongchang comes to visit Madam, and Madam asks you to chitchat with them." She blinked at Minglan meaningfully.

"Does Madam call Sister Molan and Rulan to her room?" Minglan felt that Luzhi was a bit strange.

"No. Madam only invites you to her room, saying that Marchioness heard that you would leave the capital tomorrow, so today after visiting her parents, she came specially to see you," Luzhi said with a proud expression on her face, "Lady, come on."

Dangju and Xiaotao exchanged a look with each other, and their face slightly darkened because they knew clearly about the relation between Minglan and He family.

Madam Liang had come to Sheng Mansion twice in the past half year and both times she had been accompanied by others. The first time she had asked Countess Shoushan and Hualan to come with her, and the other time she had come to Sheng Mansion with several officials' wives. In truth, Sheng family and Marquis Yongchang Household were not closely related to each other, and there was no need to keep close connections. Madam Liang's abnormal behaviors caused a guess that she wanted to choose a young lady of Sheng family to be her daughter-in-law, which gave Concubine Lin a hope. So she often asked Molan to show herself off in front of Madam Liang.

Madam Liang was so cautious and meticulous that she never showed any intentions in her words. Even Wang shi could not read her mind. As the girl's parent, Wang shi restrained herself and didn't take the initiative to ask about Madam Liang's intention. So every time she just asked Minglan, Rulan and Molan to accompany them.

When Madam Liang first came to Sheng Mansion, she gave everyone the cold shoulder. She sat quietly, watching Wang shi talking with others lively, and sometimes gave some responses. As for Molan's enthusiasm, she turned a blind eye and never responded, which embarrassed Molan several times in the public.


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But the second time when Madam Liang came to Sheng Mansion, she showed obvious goodwill to Minglan. After sitting down in the chair, she took Minglan's hand and asked about the young lady's daily life with gentle look. And even her attitude toward Wang shi softened. Molan was so jealous that she almost wanted to tell Madam Liang frankly that Minglan had been betrothed to He Hongwen. But she choked the impulse back because it would ruin her own reputation if she talked about her sister's privacy in front of guests.

Once when a Madam mentioned that even the imperial physician couldn't make an accurate diagnosis, Molan finally seized the opportunity and cut in, "The Old Madam of He family in Baishitang is born in a medical family and has superb healing skill. She and my Grandmother are good friends. Every time she comes to our mansion, Grandmother asks Sister Minglan to accompany Old Madam He."

Wang shi thumped down her teacup on the table at once. No one in the room dared to reply to Molan, some of them lowered their heads and drank tea, the others changed the subject and continued chatting. Molan felt somewhat embarrassed, so she stopped reciting poems and began to flatter Madams present, serving tea and snacks. Molan was a better speaker with plenty of wit and humor. Soon she amused all the Madams, who grinned from ear to ear and expressed that Wang shi was lucky to have such a clever daughter. Even Madam Liang praised Molan. Molan was pleased by the flattery, but Madam Liang's following words disappointed her, "Sister Wang, Fourth Young Lady in your mansion is fifteen years old now. You'd better make for her a suitable match as soon as possible. Don't delay any more."

Molan's eyes reddened as soon as she heard that.

After the guests left, on the way back to their boudoirs, Molan sneered in front of her young sisters, "What a noble family! Marquis Yongchang Household has so many sub-families and the Old Marquis also has so many sons. How much property can they finally get? Maybe a little."

Rulan replied with a big smile on her face, "Sister, you are right." Wang shi had hinted that her future husband's family was rich, so at this moment Rulan enjoyed Molan's anger.

Minglan didn't participate in the talk.

Today, it was Marchioness Yongchang's third visit to the Sheng Mansion.

A maid drew back the bamboo curtain for Minglan. She walked sideways through the curtain, elegantly and gracefully, just like a flower swaying with willowy motions. Madam Liang, sitting beside Wang shi, nodded lightly with a satisfied expression on her face.


Minglan curtsied to Wang shi and Madam Liang. When she straightened up, she saw a big box in front of Wang shi. There seemed to be some hairy things in it. In the next second, Wang shi spoke with uneasiness, "Madam, you are so kind. I'm ashamed to accept these furs."

Madam Liang slowly replied, "My brother is living in the north. It's very cold there, and the animal fur is soft and comfortable to wear. So he brings me a carriage of furs every year. I picked some for you. They are crude and coarse, but I hope you will like them."

Wang shi said quickly with a smile on her face, "Of course we all like them. Gee, I've never seen such a piece of good fur. Madam, thanks to you, I widen my field of vision. Later I will enjoin the tailor to be careful when she cuts the furs… Minglan, come on, say thank you to Madam Liang."

'These furs are not all for me.' Minglan thought disapprovingly. But she came up and expressed thanks to Madam Liang, who didn't move but just looked at Minglan with a mild look and said with concern, "It's cold now. When you are out, you should wear more clothes and take care of yourself." Madam Liang, who was such an indifferent woman, showed much tenderness to Minglan in those words.

Minglan gave a smile and replied, "Madam Liang, thank you for your reminding. Madam has given me a thick fur gown. I won't be afraid of the cold weather as long as I wear it." In fact, the gown was originally made for Rulan. The tailor measured Rulan this spring and sewed this gown. But by winter, Rulan grew much taller and the gown was unsuitable for her anymore. So Wang shi gave it to Minglan.

Madam Liang smiled appreciatively at Wang shi, which pleased the latter. Wang shi said to Minglan in a teasing tone, "You silly girl. Madam Liang has just given us those good furs, now you are bragging about your gown. You know, you give us a chance to laugh at your ignorance."

Minglan bowed her head with her face blushing shyly.

After Madam Liang left, Minglan felt a bit uneasy about Madam Liang's intention. This time she only asked Minglan to accompany her, and showed obvious solicitude for Minglan. Moreover, Wang shi was enthusiastic in her manner as if they had come to an agreement. Minglan frowned, slowly walking back to the House of Clear Dusk. Upon getting back, she saw Changdong sitting in a chair while Xiaotao served him a bowl of hot tea with a helpless look as Minglan went through the door. Changdong smiled at the sight of Minglan, "Sister, you finally come back. It's my third cup of tea. I have asked for leave, so from now on, I don't have to go to the school."

Minglan kept a straight face and said, "It's too early to be cheerful. I will ask Concubine Xiang to pack your books up so that you can study on the way to Youyang." She handed an ermine muff, which was given by Madam Liang, to Dangju and asked her to put it in the luggage.

Changdong grinned at her fearlessly, "Don't scare me. This time I bring you good news. After inquiring for half a year, I finally find that…"

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