As the New Year Festival drew closer, the weather became even colder. However, the Ning Family young misses' room was still warm as spring.
Water boiled on a small clay stove.
A young girl was sitting before a table, her sleeves rolled up to expose her white wrists. Her three golden bracelets jingled as she lifted up a small pot containing boiling tea, and a faint scent spread throughout the room.
"The plum snow water tea is very fragrant," said the girl sitting in front of her, sighing lightly.
The tea overflowed with scent on this side of the screen while a rapping sound came from the other side.
A bamboo arrow softly glided into a ceramic pot, causing it to sway slightly.
"Seventeenth Sister is very amazing!" A girl clapped in admiration.
Ning Yunyan pulled down her sleeve, accepting the handkerchief from the servant girl to wipe off her sweat.
"It's not a big deal. It's tiring to play this game everyday inside the house, " she said. She took several steps over to where the sisters were brewing tea and drank a cup in one gulp.
"Yunyan, drink slower. This is the good tea that Tenth Brother has specially brought from the capital," rebuked the girl brewing the tea.
When she mentioned Tenth Noble Son, Ning Yunzhao perked up.
"Big Brother is to leave the capital and come back home. Right now, he should have already left," she said.
"Is Second Uncle coming back with him," asked the other girl.
For the New Year, Ning Yan's whole family was supposed to return home to offer sacrifices to the ancestors. Even if Ning Yan was caught up in official work and couldn't leave, his wife and children would return.
"Yes," said Ning Yunyan with a smile, secretly pleased.
Second Uncle's family had a very good relation with them. The family had many sons, but only Tenth Brother would go with Second Uncle.
"This time, Tenth Brother will return to a peaceful New Year," said one of the sisters. "Not like at the Mid-Autumn Festival."
When that was mentioned, Ning Yunyan made a face.
At Mid-Autumn, Jun Zhenzhen had created a ruckus in Yangcheng, making the Ning Family have to go out of their away to avoid her. The whole family had not been able to hold their lanterns freely.
But right now, everything was well. The engagement had ended, and everybody no longer needed to be so careful.
"What has been resolved." Ning Yunyan snorted. "Tenth Brother cannot help but be made fun of by others. This is all instigated by that Jun Zhenzhen."
"Yanyan, do not worry so much. Now, the whole city knows that Jun Zhenzhen extorted our family's silver and no longer has a marriage contract with Tenth Brother," placated one of the girls. "She is a scoundrel. Being harassed by a scoundrel isn't our mistake. The ones who are being laughed at isn't us."
"Yes, Seventeenth Sister. You don't know, but these days Jun Zhenzhen does not dare to go out," said the other sister.
Ning Yunyan was still angry.
"But sooner or later she will go out," she said, her eyes gleaming.
The servant girl next to her stepped forward.
"Young Miss, do not worry. Third Madam said that the Fang Family is looking for someone to marry Miss Jun to. Before the year is out, she will be married off to somewhere far, far away," she said softly.
This servant girl was sent by the madam. She held some of the responsibilities in raising her. Because she was not that much older than Ning Yunyan, she was more easily accepted by her.
These Young Misses, although they were raised to be well-educated, they were yet young. Young people couldn't help but feel competitive and impulsive.
The servant girl advised her in a timely matter.
As expected, when she heard this, Ning Yunyan's mood took a turn. Not only was Jun Zhenzhen given a bad name, but she was also abandoned by the Fang Family.
"The Fang Family should have done this earlier." She snorted. "Why did they wait for the new year?"
One of the sisters held her shoulder.
"All right, this thing is not worth us talking about further. We should continue to play pitch-pot," she said with a smile. "If we practice, then we might be able to win at the event at the Jin Yun Hall during the New Year."
She pulled her up to standing. The maid took the opportunity to step backward, silent as if she wasn't there.
But just as the girls were playing happily in the room, a servant girl strode in in a rush. She pressed herself close to the maid and whispered something in her ear.
"How could this be?" blurted out the maid in surprise.
When Ning Yunyan was about to throw her arrow, she turned upon hearing her speak. She knew that the young servant girl was one of her mother's.
"What's going on?" she demanded.
The maid's expression was somewhat hesitant.
"Young Miss, that Miss Jun is engaged," she said.
Ning Yun made an affirmative sound. Hadn't she just said that? What so surprising about it?
"To the young master of the Fang Family," added the maid.
The young master of the Fang Family?
The young misses in the room were all stunned for a moment, unresponsive
"Who is the master of the Fang Family?" someone blurted out.
Compared to the Ning Family, that were still dazed silent by the news, the Fang Family in Yangcheng was in an uproar.
Just this morning, Old Lady Fang had suddenly announced the marriage of Fang Chengyu and Jun Zhenzhen. Moreover, she had immediately summoned the shopkeepers and managers of the exchange firm to discuss the matters of the marriage. Once this news had blown through the family like the wind, the Fang Family exploded.
This was Fang Jinxiu's only query as she stormed into Old Lady Fang's quarters, her eyes red from anger.
Although Fang Yuxiu and Fang Yunxiu weren't saying anything, they were also looking at Old Lady Fang.
"Why are you talking like this to Old Lady?" berated Lady Fang.
Fang Jinxiu took a deep breath.
"Yes, I know. Interrogating Grandmother like this is disrespectful, but," she said, "I just want to ask, why?"
Old Lady Fang maintained her calm expression.
"Because next year, your little brother will be fourteen years old," she said.
The doctors had said that Fang Chengyu would not live past fifteen.
"So I wanted to give him a marriage to drive away the bad luck," said Old Lady Fang.
A marriage to drive away bad luck?
Fang Jinxiu and her sisters were amazed.
"Grandmother, you, how could you believe such a thing?" asked Fang Jinxiu hastily.
"I believe in it," answered Old Lady Fang immediately, her expression cold and stern.
Getting Fang Chengyu to live was Old Lady Fang's obsession. The wise Old Lady lost all reason in the face of it.
Fang Yuxiu tugged on Fang Jinxiu's sleeve.
Lady Fang was the one who gave Fang Chengyu incense ash water from the Nantong Temple.
But that was Lady Fang. Old Lady Fang did not do things like that. She did not even make friends with the Buddhist or Daoist nuns, monks, that the other women liked so much. Obviously, she didn't believe in the strange, occult.
Fang Jinxiu bit her lip.
But right now, with the guillotine hovering overhead coming ever closer, Old Lady had finally crumbled?
It was devastating when Grandfather and Father had died, but those were sudden happenings. The sorrow rushed upon them. But Fang Chengyu's predicament was like having people watch a knife slowly come down to sever off his life, without being able to do anything about it. This torment really made people go mad.
"Even if we were to have a marriage to drive away bad luck, why couldn't we find some other young lady?" She took a deep breath, then continued, "Why does it have to be her? This is one of her demands, right?"
Jun Zhenzhen was this kind of person. If it was something she didn't want, who could make her marry Fang Chengyu?
This was a logical reasoning that everyone in the family knew. Old Lady Fong went silent for a moment.
"She desired it," was all she said.
She didn't say who proposed it.
Fang Jinxiu stamped her feet.
"Grandmother. So since she desires it, she can lord over our family? Wait until Chengyu isn't here. Then with the position of the young lady of the house, she will have complete authority?" she said. She thought of something that suddenly filled her with hatred. "So that's why she went to talk to the manager of the exchange firm. She wants to know how to deal with our exchange firm in the future. She wants to stay in our Fang Family. How nice of her!"
Her voice was suddenly cut off. Old Lady Fang threw the teacup in her hand to the ground. The tea and ceramic shards flew everywhere. The people standing around immediately were sent into disarray.
"I also want it," she shouted, looking at Fang Jinxiu. "You are able to stay here because the blood of the Fang Family runs in your veins. Jun Zhenzhen's body also bears the blood of my Fang Family. Why can't she stay here with us? She is the only daughter of your aunt, so why can you not tolerate her so? You want to chase her out without caring about her happiness?"
Although Old Lady Fang had been cursed by her kinsmen as cold-blooded, she had never gotten so angry against the children of her family. This was probably the first time she had shouted so strictly.
Everyone in the room immediately kneeled.
Only Fang Jinxiu was still standing, almost stunned by fear.
"Jinxiu," said Lady Fang urgently. "Admit your mistake to Old Lady."
Fang Yuxiu and Fang Yunxiu quickly grabbed at her lapel.
Fang Jinxiu's red eyes were wet, and her chest was heaving heavily. She shook off Fang Yuxiu and Fang Yunxiu and ran out of the house, not caring about Lady Fang's shouts from within.
Fang Jinxiu ran while wiping the tears from her eyes.
The world's most dastardly person had someone that hurt for them, that loved them. It was really nonsensical.