Shen Linghan stood straight. She had slender brows and eyes as clear as the autumn waters. Her lips were like flower petals that were slightly stained red, and her skin was smooth and flawless… she was just standing there, but she gave others the feeling as if the entire sky lit up when they looked at her. Such a beauty was hard to come across, otherwise Baili Jinze would not have treated her as if she was a priceless treasure and showered her with endless riches.
“Elder sister, we have not seen each other for so long, I really cannot recognize you. Mother has told me that elder sister’s sickness was cured, but there was no information from other courtyards and I even secretly asked Mother a few times. What kind of miraculous encounter caused elder sister to experience such a dramatic change?” Shen Linghan asked Shen Ninghua with a voice full of concern. She came forward and pulled Shen Ninghua close as an act of friendliness.
This gentle and kind aura, added with a tender and sympathetic tone. If Shen Ninghua had not known Shen Linghan’s true nature, she would really have believed that her little sister truly cared for her. Was it not the same “kind-hearted” person that back-stabbed Shen Ninghua repeatedly in her past life?
“I did not want to cause Mother to worry, so there wasn’t much detail in my letters. However, I did detail my experiences to father so little sister need not worry.”
“It’s alright, I am just happy that elder sister is back. From now onwards, us sisters should spend more time together.” Shen Linghan did not seem to notice the obvious excuse that Shen Ninghua gave.
Seeing the two sisters chatting heartily, Xiao Shi’s features relaxed quite a bit, “Ninghua has just come home, why don’t you bring her to sit down and rest? You will have plenty of time together in the future. It’s a pity your aunts left early today, but no worries, there are plenty of opportunities later.”
Xiao Shi had three sons and one daughter. Her daughter moved to Zhangzhou after marriage, and later died of disease. Her three sons, Shen Dong, Shen Liang and Shen Qing, lived in the Shen House. The aunts that Xiao Shi was referring to would be Shen Liang and Shen Qing’s wife, Su Shi and Meng Shi. As far as Ninghua knew, the two may look kind, but they all had schemes when out of sight. In her past life, Zhao Yunxiang could only completely control them when she became Queen.
Shen Linghan brought Shen Ninghua to a nearby chair, and said, “Elder sister, have a sit.”
Shen Ninghua nodded. Just as she was about to take a step forward, she suddenly felt the hem of her skirt tighten, and someone pushing her from behind, causing her body to lurch forward.
The maid holding the hot tea set could have stepped back and avoided her, but instead she screamed and knocked into Shen Ninghua, sending the pot of hot tea towards Shen Ninghua’s head. A pot filled with scalding hot tea, should it spill on anyone, would leave a huge burn on their skin!
“Elder sister!”, witnessing the situation, Shen Linghan gave a frightened expression and screamed.
At this critical moment, Qing Que grabbed the curtain from a nearby pillar. With a strong flick of her arm, she used the curtain to block the incoming tea. Hong Ling took this opportunity and hurriedly pulled Shen Ninghua to safety.
The teapot landed on the ground with a crash and broke into pieces.
Shen Ninghua turned around and stared at the shattered teapot. She shifted her expression and gave Xiao Shi, and the maid who was now kneeling, a helpless look.
“Elder sister, are you injured? Why are you so careless? Is this how you serve tea? You nearly scalded elder sister.” Shen Linghan said angrily as she grabbed Shen Ninghua’s arms.
“It’s not a big deal, little sister need not worry. I was not walking properly, and almost fell flat on the ground.”
“It was fortunate that Ninghua’s maid was of no ordinary talents, if not she really would have been scalded. It is all daughter-in-law’s fault, I did not teach them strictly enough, causing the maids to be so sloppy. I humbly request that mother do not blame them, I would punish them later myself.” Zhao Yunxiang finally said to Xiao Shi. She had been sitting down since Shen Ninghua came in.
“Since you admitted that you failed to discipline them, then just punish the maid with 10 strokes of caning and throw her out of the House.” Xiao Shi frowned slightly, with a hint of unhappiness in her expression. “Ninghua, your mother is in charge of housekeeping. You just returned, so should you need anything, approach your mother. Do not sell yourself short. After all, you are the Eldest Daughter of our Shen family, you will be treated as such.”
Zhao Shi’s expression darkened, if Shen Ninghua was the Eldest Daughter*, then what was Linghan? Has the old Xiao Shi gone senile?
*See TL notes
Shen Ninghua realised, grandmother was clearly trying to disrupt the relationship between her and the Zhaoshi mother daughter pair. However, even if she did not incite trouble, Ninghua and the pair would never get along well. Since it has come to this, Ninghua might as well play along. She gave Xiao Shi a bow and acknowledged her instructions before following her stepmother out.
After leaving Songtao garden, Zhao Shi turned around and said, “Ninghua, you just arrived. Why don’t you go rest first? Your courtyard has been prepared. If you lack anything, send someone to tell me. Your father is still busy with his errands in the palace and cannot see you now, but don’t take it to heart.”
“Mother worry too much. Father is a minister and is well-liked by His Majesty. It is natural that he would be busy. Ninghua already feels bad for being unable perform her filial duties to father these few years. Ninghua does not dare have any other ideas.”
Shen Linghan replied, “Just after seeing elder sister once, I already feel very close to you. I stay at Qinxue house. If elder sister is free, do come and visit me. Do not listen to the rubbish that others may say, like how Father had never seen elder sister, that’s why he…… would be very happy to see you when you visit him.”
“Linghan, it’s late, let’s go.” Zhao Shi frowned and cut Linghan off.
Shen Ninghua blinked, a cold, deep gaze came across her features, and disappeared without a trace in the next instant. Her little sister was especially talented at reading peoples’ heart. In her past life, she was extremely disturbed by Linghua’s words and was a nervous wreck when meeting her father. Only causing more disdain from him. Even though she made up for it later, she still brought him a certain amount of shame.
As her gaze landed on Xuezhu, who was just walking out of the hall, Shen Ninghua’s expression changed, she looked at Bairuo and said, “Bairuo, help me wipe my dress, it seems to be dirty.”
“Yes, young miss.” Bairuo bent down and started wiping her dress with a handkerchief. But the dress still had stubborn water marks, “young miss, you should just change to a new set of clothes.”
Shen Ninghua smirked and left after seeing Xuezhu stop in her tracks. When she was in the hall, Shen Linghan was careless and did not use much force when stepping on her dress. The push she gave was also not enough to trip Ninghua. But the scene still happened because Ninghua decided to go according to their plans.
In her past life, she only discovered unintentionally that Xiao Shi was in a relationship with her cousin* before her marriage to the Shen family. Her cousin instead took a daughter from the Zhao family as his wife. Xiao Shi, feeling betrayed, decided to marry to Shen Lin, who just entered the palace.
*It was legal/normal during that time. Relax
When Zhao Yunxiang married to the Shen family, Xiao Shi strongly objected to it. Xiao Shi did not expect Shen Dong, who was always filial to her, to go against his wishes. Not to mention the Empress, Zhao Huisheng, also came from the Zhao family. Xiao Shi could not be too harsh to Zhao Yunxiang. Thus, the old woman held deep resentment towards Zhao Yunxiang. Ninghua had made it clear to Xiao Shi that she would not ally herself with Zhao Yunxiang….
Eldest Daughter (嫡女):
In ancient China, there was a heavy emphasis on the firstborn. The firstborn son had priority in inheriting the family business, the firstborn daughter had more influence in the family.
If you are confused about the daughter part of it, this is mainly due to the fact that firstborn daughters were given special attention when seeking a husband. Mainly because the firstborn daughter was considered of high social status compared to the rest of the family’s daughters. So
The Eldest Daughter title is only given to the firstborn daughter of the head of family (the one who inherited the family business, mostly firstborn sons). This title is extremely important to women in that era as it means that you have more influence in your family and more resources are available to you.
In the novel, Shen Linghan (the evil one), had that title before Shen Ninghua came back. Now that Shen Ninghua comes back and is crazy pretty, Xiao Shi wants to give the title back to Ninghua. Meaning Linghan would lose a lot of influence outside the Shen family.
Imagine: you wanna marry this handsome rich guy from some big family, but they reject you because you not the eldest (you are seen as less “influential”). It’s really similar to how the royal families in Britain decide on marriage in present day, like they want the rich, pretty and influential family daughters?