The next day, Nanny Ning left the Hong household for the Shi household with two other servants to deliver the message.
When Wang Shi heard that their city’s magistrate had sent people over, she quickly invited them in without much thought as she assumed that they were here to invite them to Old Mistress Hong’s dinner party.
To her surprise, Nanny Ning mentioned Shi Lian’s marriage right after a formal greeting, which caught Wang Shi off guard.
“Well, why did Old Mistress Hong think to do so for no reason?” Wang Shi couldn’t help but laugh as she asked.
She actually did not feel anything was wrong when Old Mistress Hong requested for Shi Lian to be married over as a concubine. The Hong family served the imperial court; how could Shi Lian be a legal wife of their legitimate son? It was already in favor of Shi Lian to be able to marry into such a family, even if it were as a concubine.
“Isn’t this just fate?” Nanny Ning laughed, “Old Mistress Shi, did you bring her and a few other nannies along when you went to Plum Blossom Temple a few days ago? Our Young Master happened to pass by and decided to take a walk up the hills to watch the plum blossom flowers. Ever since he laid his eyes on her from afar, he has been thinking about her, and that’s why our old mistress has sent this old servant over to deliver this proposal! There is no need for you to worry, Old Mistress Shi, our old mistress is extremely kind, and our Young Master does not have a legal wife yet. Although your missy will be married into our family as a concubine, she will be granted a higher position and enjoy the same rights as if she were his legitimate wife! We will never treat your missy poorly!”
Nanny Ning spoke with a bright smile on her face. These words had already been rehearsed with Old Mistress Hong and they turned out fluent and pleasant to the ears. She expected Wang Shi to say nothing but yes to their proposal, but to her surprise, Wang Shi’s face stiffened slightly when she heard her.
“At Plum Blossom Temple…Young Master Hong met our family’s third daughter there?” Wang Shi forced a smile on her face as she asked.
“Yes!” Nanny Ning laughed, “That’s why I said it was all fate! Hehe, there is this saying that ‘Though born a thousand miles apart, souls which are fated to meet will meet’!”
Old Mistress Hong and Nanny Ning did not expect Shi Fengju and Sang Wan to keep it a complete secret from Wang Shi, and Wang Shi had no idea at all. They thought that what they had proposed would show that the Hong family was willing to take responsibility for what had happened and Wang Shi would definitely be relieved as well as pleased with them. But who knew that they had instead surprised Wang Shi instead!
Wang Shi was both surprised and furious, and thought to herself: that foolish girl was really not a good one, all she has done was bring trouble to this family! She didn’t seem to wander a lot when she’s at home, so why had she gone astray once she went out? What was she doing in the plum blossom forest? What’s more, she ended up attracting the Young Master of the Hong family here. Even though he only looked at her from afar, if word were spread to the public, who knew what the rumors would be? The public might even think that they were having an affair!
That would be an embarrassment to their Shi family!
Wang Shi had the urge to call Shi Lian over right this instant to ask her about it and teach her a proper lesson; how could she still be interested in the marriage proposal? So she laughed and excused herself, “For this, I’ll have to thank Old Mistress Hong for the effort! Who knows whether our third missy deserves such good fortune? How about this, I will reply to your old mistress in a few days.”
“Marriage is a big thing so it definitely has to be considered carefully!” Although disappointed, Nanny Ning still forced a smile and said, “Why don’t this old servant come back to receive the reply from you three days later? Old Mistress Shi, what do you think?”
“Good! Then we’ll discuss this again!” Wang Shi nodded and smiled before she had the servants see Nanny Ning off.
Right after sending Nanny Ning away, Wang Shi’s face turned dark and she sent servants to call Shi Lian over.
Shi Lian had received a fright in the plum blossom forest, and the more she thought about it, the more it became a trauma for her. She was feeling as uncomfortable and frightened as a bird on a wire, and the moment she heard that her stepmother was looking for her, her face immediately turned pale!
“I’ll go over right after getting changed. Sister Xiu Chun, you can report back to Mother first!” Shi Lian quickly forced a smile and said.
“Then I’ll be taking my leave first. Third Missy, please make haste!” Xiu Chun smiled and left.
Shi Lian held Cai Yun’s hands tightly and instructed her, “Quickly send someone reliable to inform Sister Sang Wan that Mother has called for me. You have to hurry!”
Cai Yun was anxious as well, and hurriedly nodded once Shi Lian had instructed her, “I understand, Missy you can get changed first, this servant will send someone to inform Young Mistress now! She would definitely not leave you be!”
The pair of master and servant, finished their preparations in a hurry and composed themselves before calmly walking towards Wang Shi’s place.
Wang Shi was waiting for her in the warm room; Xiu Chun directly led Shi Lian in when she arrived before leaving to stand outside the door. There was only Nanny Jiang left inside to serve Wang Shi.
“Kneel! You shameless fool!” Wang Shi clenched her teeth and scolded her sternly.
“Mother!” Shi Lian kneeled in front of Wang Shi. Her feet were suddenly too weak to stand, and she said with tears in her eyes, “This daughter is ignorant and must not have been filial to anger Mother. Mother, please tell me what I’ve done wrong!”
“You dare to ask me?” Wang Shi sneered and said, “Keep putting on an act, I will watch you keep up your act! You shameless fool! What on earth happened that day in the plum blossom forest at the back of Plum Blossom Temple?”
Shi Lian almost fainted when she heard Wang Shi asking her about it. How could she dare say anything before Sang Wan arrived? Moreover, that was not something a missy could say.
Shi Lian’s eyes were immediately full of tears, and all she could do was lower her head and cry without saying a word.
“What are you crying for? What a disappointment you are. Tell me right now, who did you meet with in the plum blossom forest on that day?” Wang Shi said angrily.
“I don’t know who that was!” Shi Lian cried, “I really have no idea who that was!”
Shi Lian cried bitterly to herself, merely hoping for Sang Wan to save her. Would Wang Shi simply believe her? No matter how Wang Shi interrogated her, she kept her mouth shut and was not willing to spill a word. Seeing that she could not get anything out of Shi Lian, Wang Shi thought that Young Master Hong must have only happened to see her from afar while she remained oblivious to it! At the thought, her expression relaxed a little, but she continued to scold Shi Lian quite a bit before forbidding her from wandering about in the future. Shi Lian hurriedly accepted it, almost as if she had received a pardon from Wang Shi.
Seeing her still kneeling on the floor, Wang Shi looked at her and said, “What are you still doing here? Get out now! Copy ‘Lessons for Women’ and ‘Principles for Women’ thirty times each and send them to me in three days, now go!”
That was it? Shi Lian was surprised, but hurriedly accepted right after she collected herself before slowly taking her leave.
Sang Wan left for something else just when Cai Yun sent a servant to Ning Garden1Ning GardenSang Wan & Shi Fengju's place of residence. When she heard about it the moment she got back, she had a feeling that it would be a disaster and hurried to Wang Shi’s place. She ran into Shi Lian and Cai Yun who were on their way back to Fu Qu Lodge.
“Third Sister!” Sang Wan called out to her and went up to them. She held Shi Lian’s hands and looked at her thoroughly, “How did it go? Are you alright?”
Shi Lian’s eyes reddened. She shook her head and said, “Thank you, Sister Sang Wan, I’m alright now!”
“That’s great, that’s great then!” Sang Wan was finally at ease too, but she could not help but wonder why her mother-in-law would let Shi Lian go so easily as well.
Shi Lian seemed to have read her mind and said softly, “I don’t know why either. I kept my mouth shut but Mother only scolded me for a bit before letting me go and copy a few books.” As she said, she laughed as well, “That can be considered the best that I could ask for; at least it was better than what I expected!”
The truth would eventually come to light. Shi Lian knew that even though both her brother and sister-in-law had been covering it up for her, her stepmother would know about it sooner or later. The sooner she knew, the sooner she would get taught a lesson, and the sooner she would be relieved from it!
Sang Wan smiled and patted Shi Lian’s hand lightly, “Just forget about it! Don’t take it to heart and have a good rest when you get back!”
“En!” Shi Lian smiled gratefully before the sisters-in-law said goodbye to each other.
Since Sang Wan was already on her way, she could not just leave halfway even though Shi Lian was now alright. As such, she still went to visit Wang Shi at her place.
When Wang Shi saw her, she couldn’t help but blame her for not keeping an eye on Shi Lian. Sang Wan knew that all she could get from Wang Shi were just criticisms, so she stood by the side and listened conscientiously, not daring to make a noise.
Wang Shi was only venting her anger, and once she was done, she let out a sigh, “You are here right on time, I have something to ask you right now! Sit down and listen to me slowly!”
“Yes Mother. If Mother has anything for me, please tell me!” Sang Wan forced a smile and sat down carefully.
Wang Shi then told her about the servants from the Hong family, and then added, “What’s your take on this marriage? Nanny Ning said that she would be back in three days for our reply!”
Sang Wan was perplexed. How could Nanny Ning and Liu Ya’s story be completely different? Since Shi Lian said nothing in front of Mother, it was no wonder that her stepmother only scolded her slightly! If she ever knew the truth, she would never let her go so easily! Wang Shi must have thought that Young Master Hong only looked at Shi Lian from afar and Shi Lian did not know about his existence!
“What are you in a daze for?” Wang Shi humphed with discontent when she saw her lost in thought.
Sang Wan collected herself and hurriedly forced a smile, “Mother would more or less have to handle Third Sister’s marriage. About that, Sang Wan is in no position to comment!”
Wang Shi said, “No worries, just tell me what you think about it!”
Sang Wan thought for a while before answering, “Mother, then Sang Wan be upfront, but please don’t take it too seriously if I mention anything wrong!”
Wang Shi smiled and said, “Why would I? Why would I blame you for answering my questions? Now tell me!”
Sang Wan then said, “Third Sister’s biological mother passed away, and Father-in-law is no longer around as well, which means that Mother is now fully in charge of Third Sister’s marriage. The public would more or less make thoughtless comments if you did not arrange a marriage that was good enough for her. Some might even judge you as a mother so wouldn’t you be wronged by that? After all, you have never treated Third Sister unfairly!”
“You are absolutely right! I think so too!” Sang Wan’s words echoed Wang Shi’s thoughts. She had never abused or treated Shi Lian harshly, and no one in the household had ever made a noise about how she had not been playing her role as a mother. If she failed to arrange a good marriage for Shi Lian, then all the good that she had done for her would become meaningless. Many years had gone by, there was no way she’d let a marriage ruin her!
“Speaking of which, it’s about time to think about her marriage! How muddle-headed I must be to have forgotten about it!” Wang Shi couldn’t help but sigh, but she did not look bothered. The marriage of a concubine’s daughter was not a pressing issue. Selecting a fine man as her husband was all it required!
“Third Sister has just turned sixteen this year, just the right age to arrange a marriage for her, and it isn’t too late yet, so how could Mother say that!” Sang Wan laughed again, “However, I’m somewhat concerned that even though the Hong family works in the imperial court, which makes their position slightly higher than ours, Third Sister is going to get married as a concubine. How could a concubine be compared to a wife? I’m afraid that…”
Wang Shi then answered, “Nanny Ning has already affirmed to us that when our third missy marries into their family, she would be a level above!”
Sang Wan said, “Mother, although a level above, she’ll still be a concubine! When Young Master Hong marries a wife, wouldn’t she have to serve her like a servant? It would bring shame to our Shi family if people knew that the concubine was a missy of ours! It isn’t difficult for us to find a better husband for her, is it?”