An Shi Arrives
Man Xi looked at Bao Tang and reluctantly said: “I haven’t been frightened by the second young miss. I’ve been frightened by his Highness Prince Yu. You were here in the yard and didn’t go out, so you don’t know, but when you have a moment after eating, go out and ask around. Go see how many in the manor will say they aren’t afraid of Prince Yu’s contingent.”
Saying it like that, Bao Tang would not suspect anything. Since coming to Willow courtyard, they had not eaten their fill once. Seeing the delicious food before them, Bao Tang almost began drooling. Except, she worried about how to report to the happenings of the day to the head wife. Although the head wife had given this assignment to granny Li, since she was here as well, she would obviously also have her own sense of duty. The head wife might not ask, but for her not to say anything would be her fault.
That afternoon, Yao shi coaxed Zi Rui in to taking a nap. Huang Quan was in the yard with granny Sun taking inventory of the betrothal gifts.
Feng Yu Heng had not slept much the previous night, so she felt a little sleepy. Originally, she had wanted to take a nap, but who knew that as she was about to lie down, Wang Chuan entered the room and whispered in her ear: “Second young miss, the manor’s third concubine mother came with the third young miss.”
Feng Yu Heng and Yaos hi went out to receive them, but found that An shi and Feng Xiang Rong had already been escorted in to the main room’s waiting room.
Thinking back, Yao shi and An shi’s relationship was a harmonious one. That year, An shi had entered the manor immediately after Chen shi. She really suffered quite a great deal of bullying by Chen shi, but An shi was not one who liked to compete. If she could endure, then she would endure. Thankfully, Chen shi was merely a concubine at the time. With Yao shi as the head wife keeping her in check, she could not be too outrageous.
Seeing Feng Yu Heng and Yao shi enter the room, An shi and Feng Xiang Rong quickly rose. An shi faced Yao shi and bowed, calling her “sister.” When she raised her head, her eyes became red.
Yao shi also sighed with emotion. Holding An shi’s hand, they spent a while unable to say anything.
Feng Yu Heng really did not want to see this kind of sad scene and advised Yao shi: “Quickly let concubine mother An and third sister take a seat. The days for conversation will become more plentiful.”
An shi then turned around and bowed facing Feng Yu Heng: “Greetings to the second young miss.”
She quickly stopped her: “Concubine mother, don’t be like this. There aren’t any such rules here. You are my elder. It isn’t worthwhile to greet a junior.”
An shi bitterly smiled, “I am a concubine. How could I possibly be an elder. These two words, the second young miss is praising me too much. Logically speaking, in front of the second young miss, I should be considered a servant.”
“I sincerely hope that concubine mother will not do that.” Feng Yu Heng gestured for her to stop and for them to sit.
Granny Sun had already brewed some tea and brought it over. The fragrance of the tea quickly filled the room, and Xiang Rong couldn’t help but exclaim: “What tea is this? It’s so fragrant!”
An shi compressed her lips in to a smile, “It must be one of the teas gifted by his Highness Prince Yu. Our manor most definitely does not have such a high quality tea.”
Feng Yu Heng shrugged her shoulders: “Even if there were, it would never reach Willow courtyard’s people.”
An shi lightly sighed, “Speaking of, it’s the Feng family that’s too outrageous in its handling of such thi
ngs. But the second young miss has just returned to the manor. It would be best not to have too many enemies right?”
Feng Yu Heng knew that An shi did this for her sake. She nodded and gave thanks to An shi, but she also shook her head: “From the moment we knocked on the Feng family’s main gate, the number of enemies was countless. What need is there for us to provoke them.”
An shi agreed with that point, “In these few years, when you were not at the manor, that Chen shi has already changed out most of the servants. Even granny Sun was sent to the outer courtyard to do hard labor. Only after hearing news of the ninth prince’s return was she sent to receive you.”
Yao shi felt bad for granny Sun, as her heart began to feel unwell once more.
Feng Yu Heng did not speak of such emotional things, so she stood up and returned to the inner room. Earlier, she had carried some boxes of jewelry to her boudoir. Opening one of them, she chose a pair of peach blossom earrings and put them in her hand. Returning outside, she pressed the earrings in to Xiang Rong’s hands, “Second sister just returned to the manor and previously had not a single nice thing. Thankfully, Prince Yu’s contingent gave me some. I will give this to third sister as a greeting gift!”
Xiang Rong was immediately stunned upon seeing the pale-pink, peach blossom earrings. Nobody knew what sort of material was used for the earrings. It appeared to be jade, but she felt it might not be jade. She could not say, but she just felt that this was significantly more beautiful than anything she had ever seen before.
The girl was slack jawed in awe for quite some time before exclaiming: “It’s too beautiful!”
An shi also came over. Taking a look, she felt quite shocked: “Silly child, what you are you still in a daze for. Why have you not thanked your second sister! This is an extremely rare rose quartz!”
In this era, there still wasn’t much in the way of quartz mining, but quartz’s value was something recognized by royalty. Currently, the most common was white quartz, followed by yellow quartz. For rose quart and amethyst, it’s likely that even the imperial family could not find a piece, much less be given to an artisan to work on. It truly was a material only masters would dare work on.
Hearing that it was quartz, and rose quartz at that, Xiang Rong immediately understood the true value of this item. She quickly and solemnly performed a salute: “Xiang Rong thanks second sister.”
Feng Yu Heng smiled and helped the girl up then patted the back of her hand: “Between sisters, there is no need for this worship. Don’t worry, I said so before that I would give Fen Dai a handkerchief. Naturally, I will not forget yours. When I use the materials to make clothes, some will be left over. I can secretly use that to make a pair of embroidered shoes. Save them for when you marry out of the family. Does that sound good?”
Without waiting for Xiang Rong to react, An shi was first to become emotional, “Second young miss!” Even if she was a stoic person, at this time, she did not know what to say. Earlier, in the front yard, Feng Yu Heng said she would save some material for Xiang Rong and Fen Dai to make a handkerchief. That was already something that would arouse jealousy in others. If Xiang Rong wore embroidered shoes made of the five treasures when she married out, then it would not matter who the groom’s parents were. They would have a high opinion of her.
“Concubine mother An.” Feng Yu Heng calmly smiled, “Although A-Heng has not been at the manor for a few years, I have not forgotten our early childhood years. That year, when mother was pregnant with Zi Rui, Chen shi had secretly replaced a medicine with a tonic, and it was concubine mother An who saw and told the matriarch. This allowed mother to safely ingest extra nourishment. A-Heng remembers debts but also will not forget favors.”
An shi let out another sigh. She did not expect that action from that time would pay off in such a way. She was a concubine and originally did not strive for anything. All of her hopes had been given over to her child, Xiang Rong. But she was just the daughter of a concubine. She could marry in as a concubine to a son of a first wife, or she could marry a concubine’s son and be his official wife. Either way, it could not compare with that of the daughter of the first wife. She thought of her identity and not about others. Thankfully, she had a shop gifted by her maternal family. These years, she had saved up some more money to help Xiang Rong in the future. But no matter how much money was saved, how could it compare to the embroidered shoes that Feng Yu Heng promised!
“Thank you second young miss.” An shi truly appreciated it. Suddenly, she remembered something and quickly turned her head to ask Yao shi: “Sister, after you returned to the capital, have you been to Hundred Herb Hall?”
Yao shi stared blankly and shook her head: “I haven’t. After returning to the capital, we came straight to the manor and haven’t left since.”
“Then it would be best if sister took some time to go visit. A few days ago, when I went to take care of my shop, I saw that the shopkeeper for Hundred Herb Hall had changed.”
Yao shi frowned, “Tian Bo isn’t there any more?”
An shi nodded: “I specially went in and wandered around a bit, but I did not see Tian Bo. The current shopkeeper is a young person.”
Yao shi saw that Feng Yu Heng was confused and explained to her: “The Hundred Herb Hall in the capital was a dowry from my family when I married in to the Feng family. At that time, you were young and didn’t care much for this sort of thing. Also…” Yao shi could not help but shake her head, “Although it’s said to be my dowry, since I married in to the Feng family, I haven’t been given any say.”
An shi carried on for her: “Not only that was she not given any say, if I recall correctly, sister has said before, the shop given as a dowry was taken away by the matriarch the day she entered the manor?”
“Un.” Yao shi nodded, “The day I entered the manor, all of my things were brought to the matriarch. On the second day, when the things were returned to me, the deed to the shop was missing. She said that since I married in to the Feng family, these things would be handled by the people of the manor. She also said that the Feng family wouldn’t be unfair to me.”
Feng Yu Heng laughed, “Mother, you believed her?”
“Even if I didn’t believe her, what then?”
“That’s right!” An shi continued, “Once the daughter-in-law enters the manor, then she becomes part of the husbands family.”
“That shop’s profit, has the Feng family ever given mother any?”
Yao shi shook her head, “They haven’t. They always said that the shop was losing money and that the Feng family was putting plenty of money in to it.”
Feng Yu Heng pondered the things An shi had said then asked: “I heard concubine mother say that she went to take care of her shop. Is it concubine mothers own?”
An shi nodded, “Yes, my maternal family gave me two shops. But my shops can not be compared to that of the Yao family’s. How could my shops enter the Feng family’s eyes. That’s how I could keep them.”
“Concubine mother An, could this be the standard way things are done in Da Shun dynasty?”
An shi shook her head, “How could this be the standard. Not only is this not the standard, but Da Shun allows for married women to take care of family shops. Concubines can request to go take care of their shops and the husband’s family would have no reason to stop them.”
“Then that is to say, the Feng family is at odds with the dynasty’s court?” She did not hesitate to slap that title on the Feng family.
An shi opened her mouth slightly, but did not say anything. After all these years, how could she not know what the face of the Feng family was like.
Feng Yu Heng consoled Yao shi: “Dear mother, do not worry. It is ours. Sooner or later it will be returned to us.”
An shi agreed with that: “Seeing today, it did not appear that his Highness Prince Yu is playing around. Instead, it seems he quite sincerely desires the second young miss. I trust that with Prince Yu’s contingent around, there won’t be any people who will try to disrupt your ideas.” The following words took a turn, “Yesterday, Xiang Rong came over here alone and returned to report the circumstances. I originally prepared some silver and wanted to deliver them today. It didn’t matter how much there was, but it would at least be useful for the situation. I did not expect that before I could give it to you, Prince Yu would take the lead.” An shi spoke while taking out a small bag of silver. “This small sum compared to what Prince Yu has given, almost makes me ashamed to bring it out. But the gifts Prince Yu has given are all in bank notes, and there will be some construction work in your courtyard, so having some actual silvers might be useful in dealing with the servants. So use it for now!”
Feng Yu Heng could tell that An shi was sincere, thus she was not too polite and received the bag of silvers: “Many thanks, concubine mother An. I was just wondering how I should go about leaving the manor to turn in some bank notes for silver. But concubine mother An has given us some. This delivery was very timely.”