The residence of the Second Madam of the Wei Manor was tenderly remarked as the Plum Fragrance Residence. That was simply a representation of the Second Madam’s love for plum blossoms, but also a slight towards her obsession towards them.
Once stepping beyond the courtyard gates, what greeted the Third and Fifth Young Misses of Wei was a sea of plum trees, with plum blossoms scattering and floating amongst the wind, decorating the freshly paved ground and giving the servants an endless hassle.
For fear of angering the Second Madam by ruthlessly sweeping the cobbled pathway clear of the blossoms with a broom, the servants had to lower themselves to pick each individual blossom up with their fingers before stowing them in an earthenware jar.
Unable to be ruthless to the blossoms, they had to be ruthless to themselves.
Fortunately, the Second Madam had no short supply of healing salve, and would even join them in picking up the scattered plum blossoms from time to time.
Waving back to the servants who stopped by to greet her, Wei Yan Yue blazed through the pathway, her loose sleeves occasionally capturing the falling blossoms as she raced towards the residence at the heart of the courtyard.
Shaking her head, the Third Young Miss strolled along at a slow pace, a small smile displayed on her face as she cheerfully appraised the decorations of the courtyard.
If one were to disregard the overabundance of plum trees, the Plum Blossom Residence was not bad in terms of aesthetics. A line of azaleas guarded each side of the cobbled pathway, and the grass was neatly trimmed, not a single weed poking out.
There was even a small pond at the western side of the courtyard, and a reading pavilion by its edge.
“…Sister! Third Sister! Hurry up, stop dawdling!”
Wei Yan Yue’s cheery shout rang, and the Third Young Miss raised her head to discover the young girl waving towards her at the door of the residence.
With a joyful smile, the young maiden similarly shouted towards the Fifth Young Miss of Wei, greatly accelerating her pace to reach the residence’s gates in a flash.
“Alright, alright! This sister will stop dawdling and come now!”
Coming to a stop next to Wei Yan Yue, the Third Young Miss saw a woman tinkering with a ball of fabric with her hands, an embroidery needle locked between her lips.
Just as the Third Young Miss began to call out towards the woman, Wei Yan Yue quickly covered the former’s mouth with her hand, making a quieting motion.
“Don’t disturb Mother,” she whispered to the confused Third Young Miss.
“You know Mother doesn’t wish to be disturbed while she’s embroidering.”
“Alright,” The Third Young Miss replied. Grasping Wei Yan Yue’s sleeves, she guided the young girl to sit at a bench in the outer chambers. As she admired the various jade accessories and luxurious decorations, the Third Young Miss released a sigh of appreciation.
“Father truly dotes on Mother,” she said, pointing towards a jade accessory of a rabbit, then towards a golden vine with a coiled dragon.
“The Heart-Cleansing Jade Rabbit that was obtained from contending against the Yan Empire’s young heroes and the Dragon Vine of Kunlun Temple, Mother truly has a vast assortment of luxuries. Most of the objects here, you can’t find even in the black markets!”
“However, doesn’t First Madam have much more?” Wei Yan Yue retorted.
“Just take a look at her ‘Sheng’ authority tablets, they’re made of Snow Jade! The Snow Jade that is usually given exclusively to the Imperial Family as part of an annual tribute, and whatever the markets can obtain, they’re priced at astronomical prices. But the jade authority tablets are at least ten liang, and First Madam must have at least a few dozen of them!”
“Alright, alright,” the Third Young Miss reached out to calm the girl.
“But our Mother is favored as well. We don’t have the family troubles that many officials experience, and Mother and the First Madam have never fought ever since they entered the Wei Manor. Be good, alright?”
Wei Yan Yue repeated, a curious glint emerging in her teal irises. The young maiden reached out to pull on the Third Young Miss’ right sleeve, adopting a flattering tone as she persistently wheedled her elder sister.
“Third Sister, tell me!” she pleaded.
“You are the only one given permission among the two of us to explore the streets of Jiang’an, surely you wouldn’t leave your younger sister to hang and dry in shame later in the future, right?”
“Be good, be good! Third Sister will tell you a story…one that happened just a few days earlier.”
“Listen well, this is about the Liang Family, the family of the Minister of Rites, Liang Gong Ming…”
The outer chambers of the Plum Fragrance Residence soon became engulfed in a young girl’s peals of laughter and a young maiden’s attempts of restoring peace and quiet.
“Third Sister, do you have anything else? The ending of the Liang family’s Second Miss, was it truly that bad?”
“Hehe, if you saw her face, you wouldn’t be so curious, Silly girl, she was angered to the point of vomiting blood!”
The Third Young Miss teased, her right arm reaching out to playfully pinch Wei Yan Yue’s small nose. Just as Wei Yan Yue was about to retaliate in mock anger, the rustling of clothes could be heard.
The sound caused both young maidens to pause their actions to gaze at the inner chamber, watching a woman emerge.
Presented before them was a beautiful and shapely figure, dressed in a red and white fox fur coat. Accompanying her long eyelashes and waist-length hair were a pair of multicolored irises, one a deep teal, the other a light gold. Blinking her eyes, the woman tilted her head towards her right as she spoke in a confused tone.
“Yue’er, Rou’er, what’s going on?” she asked.
“Making such a ruckus, did either of you find spring?”
“Mother!” Wei Yan Yue was the first to react, and the girl ran directly into her mother’s bosom. Looking up to face Luo Shuyan, the girl pouted and began to whimper like a hurt child.
“Mother, you have to seek justice for us, ah!” Wei Yan Yue complained as she tugged on Luo Shuyan’s coat.
“The servants are bullying us, not a single shred of respect can be found anywhere!”
“Oh?” The Second Madam raised an eyebrow.
Clasping Wei Yan Yue’s hand, Luo Shuyan guided the sniffling girl to sit at the bench, before extending both arms to encompass both the Third Young Miss and Wei Yan Yue in a warm embrace.
“Alright. Let’s hear which servant dared to bully my cute little daughter,” The Second Madam said as she cuddled with the two maidens.
“This Second Madam still has a good face and can’t be bullied in this manor!”
“Mother,” The Third Miss tentatively spoke, resting her head against Luo Shuyan’s shoulder.
“Father had conveyed orders that nobody was permitted to enter the study and view Fourth Sister. From how the servants were acting, I doubt that they would give even Mother any face!”
“Then let’s go to the Flowing Winds Residence,” Luo Shuyan stated with confidence.
“If Lord Minister was the one who passed down the order, then we can’t do much about it. But if it were merely the excuse of the servants, then this Madam shall see, hmph!”
“Mother is so domineering!”
Wei Yan Yue praised, her face beaming with joy and excitement. Grabbing her mother’s hand in a hurried manner, the young girl practically dragged her Third Sister and mother all the way to the Flowing Winds Residence.
Back in the study, An Fei had just dozed off to sleep when muted protests could be heard from outside, making the maidservants guarding inside gather around her once again.
Some holding trays, others dusting feathers, and Xiao Ying even holding a precious scroll of calligraphy in her hand, they vigilantly observed the door.
The protesting sounds gradually increased in volume, until the study’s occupants could adequately hear and comprehend the servant’s shouts.
“Second Madam, you can’t simply accuse this servant so! The Master himself was the one who passed the order, none of us dare to disobey!”
“Who knows if Father truly said such a statement?” Wei Yan Yue’s voice was sharp and piercing as she berated the male servant.
“Who knows if you’re just making it up to suppress us, since we’re not Eldest Brother or from the First Madam’s courtyard?”
“Yue’er, take a deep breath and relax.”
Facing Wei Yan Yue’s domineering accusation, the servant stilled, knowing not what to say. Luo Shuyan reached out to grasp the young girl’s shoulders, calming her with a soft voice. Just as the Third Young Miss seemed to wish to say something, the study doors opened to reveal a young maid.
The maidservant angrily strode out in a brisk pace, halting before Luo Shuyan to open the scroll held within her hand.
“Here are the Master’s orders,” Xiao Ying spoke without a hint of respect towards Wei Yan Yue. “Now can the Fourth Miss sleep in peace?”