Chapter 23: Stifling, isn’t it?

Zhao Shi’s face was pale, her hands clutching at the sides of her skirt. Her pearl golden hairpin trembling with her unease.

Shen Linghan hurried to Zhao Shi’s side, and knelt beside her. “Father, Mother has always treated others with kindness. She unintentionally offended Elder sister because she is worried about you! She wanted to protect her image in your heart, that’s why she was so affected by the words of those servants. Linghan is willing to take Mother’s blame. Please, Father, don’t be angry anymore.” Shen Linghan said with teary eyes.

Shen Dong went silent for a moment at those words before he went forward and helped Shen Linghan up, “this girl, you’ve always been so timid, but your heart’s so kind. Alright, your Mother is definitely at fault here, but so long as Ninghua understands, then everything is fine.”

Shen Ninghua narrowed her eyes, laughing contemptuously to herself. Shen Dong was clearly trying to force her to forgive Zhao Shi! As if she would play into his plans!

“Ninghua left the Shen family for a long time because of illness, and was unable to perform her filial duties to Grandmother and Father. Ninghua hoped that her return this time could make up for all those lost opportunities, but did not expect to face Mother’s opposition. As such, Ninghua would like to request to be sent to another manor to stay. Please give your permission, Father.”

Shen Dong gave a slight frown, his lips pressed into a thin line.

Zhao Shi nearly passed out from anger. Shen Ninghua actually went against Shen Dong’s intentions completely!

“Nonsense,” the Old Madam exclaimed, helping Shen Ninghua up and wiping away the tear streaks on her face, “you silly girl, the Shen family is your home. Since you have returned, there is no reason to send you away again. Eldest, are you trying to force Ninghua out of the Shen family?”

It seems, Xiao Shi was really angry this time. Shen Dong thought to himself as he hurriedly passed her a cup of tea to soothe her nerves. “No such thing, Mother. Ninghua is my daughter, why would I chase her away! Hm, Ninghua’s courtyard is indeed rather secluded, have her move to Yingyue courtyard tomorrow. Zhao Shi, you can oversee this.”

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Zhao Shi clenched her fists, her face turning a shade darker, but she couldn’t go against his orders. “Yes, I will personally oversee this and provide for anything she may need.”

Shen Dong nodded, “it will be the Old Madam’s birthday in a few days. Linghan, go and copy Xiaojing* a hundred times as a present for your Grandmother. Mother, calm down, if you need anything, you can tell Zhao Shi and have her help you.”
*It’s a book. Classics of Filial Piety. Teaching people the virtues of being filial and stuff.

The Zhao family’s influence was at its peak. Xiao Shi also understands that Shen Dong could not risk making Zhao Shi’s life too difficult. Seeing Zhao Shi’s pathetic state today was already more than enough, there were still plenty of opportunities in the future.

“Ninghua, is there anything else?”

Shen Ninghua bit on her lip with an uneasy expression on her face, “your daughter has no other requests, except one. My birth Mother’s death day is in one month, I would like to visit her courtyard then.”

Zhao Shi’s expression grew even uglier. If Shen Ninghua went into the courtyard, she would surely find out that Xia Shi’s dowry had mostly been thrown away by her. How was she going to explain all that?

“Ninghua, your Grandmother’s birthday is coming up soon. It would be better to visit your birth Mother’s courtyard after that. After all, it would be difficult if the dates clashed.” Zhao Shi answered stiffly.

Shen Ninghua flushed with embarrassment, “Ninghua did not think this through. Mother is right, then I shall put this off for the moment.”

Xiao Shi glanced at Zhao Shi, “the Shen family should always uphold their image at all times, and not forget their duties regardless of the situation. Alright, we have all suffered enough today. I shall take my leave.” She took the Second Lady Su Shi by her arm and left.

“Be careful on your way out, Mother (Grandmother).”

“Linghan, you’ve also suffered much today, go have a doctor look at you when you go back. Alright, you can leave your Mother.” Shen Dong said before turning to Shen Ninghua, “you…… if you lack anything, tell your Mother.”

Shen Ninghua looked at Shen Dong for a split second, her dark eyes seemed to glitter in the light, “yes, thank you, Father.”

Shen Dong froze, and gave a hum in acknowledgement before leaving.

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Zhao Yunxiang glared at Shen Ninghua a deeply, before going back to the courtyards with Shen Linghan.

Looking at the two retreating figures, Shen Ninghua’s eyes gradually grew colder. Wiping her tear streaks with a handkerchief, a cold smile curled at the side of lips. Today was merely a warning to them. If the First Lady dared to plot against her again, she’d skin her alive!

“Bairuo, Bizhu, take note of everything we are going to need in Yingyue courtyard and give the list to Mother.” Since Shen Dong and Zhao Shi had said so earlier, then she shall follow the instructions given to her. Zhao Shi better not regret this!

As they reached their own courtyards, Shen Linghan rushed to embrace Zhao Shi, crying, “Mother, that wench Shen Ninghua caused your daughter to be humiliated in front of so many people! Why didn’t Father punish her! It’s so infuriating……”

Yingyue courtyard was just beside her own courtyard, it was the only place that was as elegant and beautiful as her own Qinxue courtyard. Father actually gave it to Shen Ninghua! Not to mention the hundred copies of Xiaojing she had to copy. How was she supposed to finish it? Shen Dong was clearly trying to ground her. Why did Father do that? Was he trying to support Shen Ninghua?

Zhao Shi patted Shen Linghan in comfort, clenching her fists as her nails sank into the meat of her palms. “We underestimated Shen Ninghua today. I thought she was just a pitiful dog with a few parlour tricks, but who knew she was actually a cunning and vicious wolf! It’s our mistake today, and now she has Su Shi and your Grandmother by her side. We cannot be so careless anymore, or your Father will be even more annoyed with us. But fret not, Mother will definitely deal with that annoying Shen Ninghua. Be patient.”

Shen Linghan looked up, her face downcast with her beautiful features twisted, “are we just going to let that Shen Ninghua do as she pleases?”

“Don’t put too much attention on the small details or you’ll overlook the big picture. The events today will definitely spread to the public. We cannot let the Shen family’s reputation take any damage, and you cannot have any undesirable rumours spreading around. So for today’s events, it’s all just a misunderstanding, a plot by someone else to harm the both of you. Do you understand, Linghan? You will go far in life, so you must know how to endure.” The First Lady looked at Shen Linghan, and heaved a sigh of relief when Linghan nodded at her words.

She had already planned everything in her heart. Shen Linghan was the most valuable pawn for the Shen family and the Zhao family. Shen Linghan must be treated like a pure being, no harm must befell her and no flaws must be seen from her. As for that Shen Ninghua…today’s plot may have failed, but there are still plenty of chances in the future. Let’s see how long she can keep up!

“Alright, you can go back first. I still have things to discuss with Nanny Qin.”

“Yes,” Shen Linghan said as she got up and left with her servants.

When Shen Linghan left, the First Lady finally couldn’t maintain her composure. She flung herself on the chair and her expression gradually grew uglier. Nanny Qin was also shocked by that. She hurriedly handed her a cup of tea and said, “lady, don’t be too angry…it’s bad for your health.”

“Nanny, how can I not be angry? Who would have expected Shen Ninghua to actually benefit from all this? Not only do I have to endure her presence, I still have to collect Xia Shi’s dowry that I had thrown away…” Zhao Shi placed her hand on her chest, feeling as if her heart was about to explode from all this.

Nanny Qin frowned at that. When the First Lady was going to throw Xia Shi’s dowry initially, Nanny Qin had disapproved of it. But the First Lady did not listen to her advise and was focused on trying to vent her anger then. Now it’s already too late to regret.

“Lady, Xia Shi is long dead, and there is only a small chance that anybody even kept a record of her dowry. As such, you could always spend some money to get the expensive ones back, and complete the rest at a later date.”

Zhao Shi nodded, “that makes sense, I guess that’s our only choice now.” Shen Ninghua has mentioned Xia Shi’s dowry many times. If Zhao Shi took too much time, Xiao Shi would no doubt intervene in this and even Shen Dong might start to suspect her.

Just as they finished talking, a servant, Chunxiang, reported, “Lady, the servant Bizhu, from the Eldest miss’s side, is here.”

“What is she doing here?” Zhao Shi frowned. She took a moment to regain her composure and fixed her clothes. “Let her in.”

“Bizhu greets the First Lady.” Bizhu greeted the moment she entered.

A faint smile was seen on Zhao Shi’s face, there was almost no trace of the anger that she displayed earlier.

“Ninghua sent you here? Is there something she needs?”

Bizhu handed over two pieces of paper, “in reply to Lady, the young miss asked us servants to sort out her courtyard so that we can move to Yingyue courtyard tomorrow. She didn’t want to ask for these at first, but since Master and Lady both offered to supply anything that the young miss lacked, she decided to do so. As such, this servant went through all of the young miss’s belongings and made a list which contains everything that she needs.”

Looking at the list that was packed with words, Zhao Shi’s breath hitched, even though the list contained everything that the Eldest miss of any rich family should have, but Shen Ninghua was previously treated as a non-existent being. Now that she was to supply all this, it would definitely cost her more than a few hundred thousand silver pieces! That wench was really pushing it!

Bizhu smirked in secret, Shen Linghan didn’t own even a third of the things that her young miss had requested. Hmph, the First Lady sure was selfish. Still, she didn’t even blink an eye when spending for Shen Linghan, but now that young miss needs money from her, she looked as if the young miss needed a piece of her flesh. Bizhu took out two more pieces of paper:

“Lady, the young miss was afraid that you might find it difficult to arrange the previous First Lady’s dowry and ordered this servant to look for a list that documented the dowry which I actually found it. The young miss ordered this servant to give a copy of it to you to help you organise it.”

Zhao Shi’s vision darkened, her breathing grew heavier from anger and her lips bled from nibbling.

Nanny Qin jumped, and hurriedly took the dowry list from Bizhu, “this old servant shall accept this list on behalf of the Lady. I’m sure the Eldest miss is also shocked by today’s events, not to mention the rashes on her body. You should go back to take care of the Eldest miss, Bizhu.”

“Yes, this servant will take her leave now.” Bizhu took a look at the First Lady before leaving.

After she left, Zhao Shi could no longer support herself and fell off her chair.

Nanny Qin’s face paled, and hurriedly rushed forward.

“Lady!”

Zhao Shi sat on the floor, punching the ground with her fists, shattering the jade bracelet on her wrists. The jade pieces caused a few wounds on her hand, but she didn’t seem to notice it. “Nanny, I shall have Shen Ninghua’s head one day!” she growled.

“Yes, do not worry, milady. This servant will definitely help you!” Nanny Qin swore, her expression determined.


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