“A scholar he cannot be, a military he doesn’t want to. The only thing he knows is to play all day with those little concubines, does he want to anger me to death?” Old Madam Cheng couldn’t help but scold her eldest son even more. Zhang Mama simply listened patiently. The old Madam was scolding harshly now, but why did the eldest master have so many concubines and tongfang? Wasn’t it because the old Madam who doted on her son stuffed all those women to him?
Zhang Mama smiled and said: “Shizi is still young and naturally still playful. When he is older, he will be wise and sensible. Besides, don’t you still have the second master?”
“Since they were little, second child is indeed more diligent and obedient than his brother. Growing up, he becomes even better.” When talking about her second son, old Madam Cheng smiled. But soon frowned again: “Just, that wife of his, so weak and delicate, never had a spine and cannot be shown to the public. Look at the daughter she brought up, then look at the eldest girl. Even though they are twins, one is raised under Qingfu’s knees and much more sensible than the second branch’s upbringing. Alas, unfortunately, such a good chess piece is now half-ruined. For so many years, I have been holding her in vain. Originally, she can marry a good family, and in the future will be able to help her brother and father. Marquis Jingyong has a good future, what a pity.”
This wasn’t something that Zhang Mama could comment on. These years, the eldest miss was the model of her peers. Anything a noble girl should be able to do, she mastered it perfectly. No need to think hard, eldest miss was the best. In contrast, second miss Cheng Yumo was more approachable and popular with their brothers and sisters.
However, this had nothing to do with a mere family’s servant like Zhang Mama. No matter if it was the eldest or the second miss, they still the existence she couldn’t afford to climb. Old Madam Cheng didn’t know her servant’s thought, and said: “If we cannot rely on the girl, is it possible that Cheng Yuanjing will be the pillar of Cheng family? He is merely the son of an outside mistress…”
This idea made old Madam Cheng upset. It was clear at a glance who was the most remarkable among the second generation. Cheng Yuanxian was in his middle age, and his official rank wasn’t as high as the 19-year-old Cheng Yuanjing. Even the second master Cheng, whom Ruan-shi always bragged as an excellent talent, was still far from Cheng Yuanjing.
All the Cheng family men combined were not as good as one Cheng Yuanjing. Old Madam Cheng obviously wasn’t resigned, but what could she do? Zhang Mama patiently persuaded: “Old Madam, you aren’t young anymore. Your granddaughters are already at marriageable age, why are you still entangled with past things? Little Xue-shi has been died from illness for so many years, and the former outside child has become the highest-ranking official in Cheng family. Even if you don’t want to please the ninth master, you also shouldn’t push him out.”
Old Madam Cheng sighed: “I also don’t know. In the ninth years of Jianwu, little Xue-shi has already gravely ill. It was only after she saw Cheng Yuanjing passed the jinshi exam that she was willing to let go. Coincidentally, in the same year, the Xue family’s case was also rectified. Before her death, little Xue-shi heard that her son passed the exam, and her natal family’s crime was absolved, so she finally passed away in peace. If my two sons can get the same achievement as Cheng Yuanjing, I’m also willing to die.”
“Oh, old Madam, what are you saying!” Zhang Mama rushed to kneel. “Old Madam, you cannot say such despairing words. This old slave thinks that if you want to control the ninth master, there are some ways. Like marriage, the ninth master hasn’t been married yet. No matter what, he still had to rely on you on this matter.”
The old Madam sneered: “That’s not necessarily true. If I meddle in his marriage, afraid the Marquis will immediately interfere. But it also strange. He loves this sudden son like a pearl in his eyes, why doesn’t he arrange an engagement or give concubines for him? This year he is nineteen. Many people already a father at this age.”
This thing, of course Zhang Mama didn’t know the reason. Old Madam Cheng pondered for a bit before saying: “Well, just wait until I meet the Marquis later. I’ll try to probe his intention.”
Zhang Mama vaguely responded. After a moment hesitation, she asked: “Old madam, about the eldest miss…. what will you do?”
Old Madam Cheng stared at the incense burner next to her for a while, and said, “For the time being, let’s observe the situation. Release the news the Huo family was the one who broke their promise first. See if there are still good families who come to propose to the eldest girl. If not… then this granddaughter can only be regarded as a waste.”
It was really cruel. An eldest di granddaughter that was being raised up nobly for so many years might be treated as a waste. However, Zhang Mama only sighed secretly but did not plan to do anything else. The high and mighty noble family had their own ways. After all, what did the eldest miss future had to do with herself?
Cheng Yujin had ‘something to do’ and left early. She walked behind Cheng Yuanjin. But after a while, she felt bored and raised her voice to ask, “Ninth uncle, actually, why did you call me out?”
Cheng Yuanjing glanced back lightly and answered, “You look like a smart one, but doesn’t seem to use your brain now.”
This sentence stimulated Cheng Yujin’s desire to scold the other party. She hurriedly calmed herself. The man in front of her was her uncle, an elder. Anyway she still had to hold back. “Many thanks for ninth uncle’s praise. However, may I know why you say that I’m not using my brain?”
Cheng Yuanjing felt that this one was extremely stupid. It was rare for him to show kindness, but didn’t expect that after so many words, this girl still didn’t get it. Cheng Yuanjing’s face was still indifferent. His voice was similarly also devoid of emotion: “Those womenfolks, each and every one simply wanted to dig your matter out. Even if you stay there, what can you do?”
Only by one meeting, Cheng Yuanjing almost completely understood the situation of the Cheng family’s inner courtyard. Qingfu Junzhu was indifferent, Ruan-shi had her own intention, and old Madam Cheng simply wanted to sell her granddaughter out. Their malice was almost undisguised. How could she stay in this situation?
Cheng Yuanjing wouldn’t say this loud. He was a man who greatly maintained a proper boundary. In other words, he was born indifferent. What did other people matter had to do with himself? The words he just said to Cheng Yujin was the only concern he ever gave for many years.
Cheng Yujin immediately understood his meaning. Cheng Yuanjing could see the situation at a glance, so how could she not?
Cheng Yujin lowered her head, watching the snowflakes falling on her red coat, soon to be melted away. She fell silent for a while before suddenly said: “Sometimes I feel like this snow. Looks spotless and beautiful from a distance, but after approaching, there is nothing.”
Cheng Yuanjing was surprised. He paused his steps and turned to look at Cheng Yujin. The girl moved her head and looked at the roaring wind outside the corridor, blowing snowflakes around. Her silhouette reflected on the snow, exquisite yet almost transparent. “I certainly know that they will only embarrass me more if I stay. But I have no other choice. If I don’t properly placate mother and grandmother today, my situation will only turn to the worse tomorrow.”
Cheng Yujin reached out to the snowflakes, her red cloak reflected in the gray corridor was surprisingly dazzling. She smiled back at Cheng Yuanjing: “Ninth uncle may not understand it. Although you are a shu son, you are born with your parents’ love and care. After growing up, you can change your fate through the imperial examination. So how can you understand this feeling? I have nowhere to go, yet I still have to step forward.”
Cheng Yuanjing’s heart subtly crackled. Nowhere to go, but still had to step forward? How could he not understand?
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