It looked like this was because of instinct formed over a long period of time.
Instinct to regard this person in front of her as a true senior.
"Be strict on those close to you, because you know the benefits of strictness. Without rules, nothing can be done. No one wants their children to live without rules, otherwise the ones to bear hardship in the future will be them," added Head Shopkeeper Song, his expression grave. "Be lax on those distant from you. Because they have nothing to do with you, you have no need of wasting thought on them. Now, Miss Jun is not an outsider. She is one of you. How could you ignore her because of your personal feelings, not to mention the negligent pampering."
"What Uncle says is right," responded Lady Fang sincerely, thankful.
She had indeed been deliberately indulgent with Jun Zhenzhen, because she didn’t regard Jun Zhenzhen as one of her own.
This could be seen by others, but not said so bluntly by them. Only one of her people could so honestly rebuke her like this.
"Miss Jun does not have a good personality because no one taught her well. She was born to a bureaucratic family, and Son-in-law had a loyalty acknowledged by heaven. Using her status, she could get away with some things," said Head Shopkeeper Song. "You and Old Lady must teach her slowly. We cannot hope that she becomes a great merchant, but at least she can understand some things so that our days will be longer."
Or days will be longer.
For the women of the Fang Family, nothing was more moving then thinking of how long their days would be.
The lonesome nights, protecting an empty room alone, forever not daring to forget about the business, no one to rely on and no way to back out, waking up from every nightmare and saying how the days are really long.
Lady Fang was distressed. She thought of Fang Chengyu and how he was much better these days. It seemed as if Jun Zhenzhen really could cure him.
"How is Chengyu doing?" Head Shopkeeper Song said into her ear.
"Much better," Lady Fang answered, unable to cover up her hope and happiness.
Head Shopkeeper Song made an ‘oh’ sound, and nodded.
A light of embarrassment flashed through Lady Fang’s eyes.
"It seems that the marriage to drive away bad luck was useful," she supplemented.
"How is he better," Concubine Yuan could not stop herself from interrupting. "Lady, the servant girls were just saying that Young Master could not find a servant girl when he wanted to relieve himself and almost soiled himself."
"The servant girls?" Lady Fang started.
Although she promised Jun Zhenzhen that she would be leaving everything up to her, she couldn’t help but hurt at the treatment her son was receiving.
"Two girls were just sold, and the other servant girls are too scared to act freely," Concubine Yuan reported.
Old Lady Fang rested a hand against her knee and squeezed.
Head Shopkeeper Song coughed lightly.
"You cannot hope for other people to immediately show the care they would to birth parents and siblings," he said. "Hearts change slowly. Do not get anxious."
Lady Fang squeezed out a smile for him and made a sound of confirmation.
"I made Uncle mock me," she said, indicating Concubine Yuan not to say anything again.
Concubine Yuan lowered her head and backed away.
Head Shopkeeper Song did not ask anything more. After a bit more of conversing, he left.
Lady Fang went to her inner chambers.
"Did you look over the medicine?" she asked.
This was part of the prior agreement. The prescription that Jun Zhenzhen passed was to not attract people’s attention, so Lady Fang could use it to fool others.
The true needed drugs would be personally bought by Jun Zhenzhen when she used some excuse to go out.
Concubine Yuan nodded.
"I looked over it," she said, hesitation on her face. "It’s just that… these are all made to supplement sex drive. Chengyu’s body is weak, is it appropriate for it?"
She looked at Lady Fang’s expression.
There was no change at all.
"It’s fine, it’s just a supplement medicine," she said, waving a hand. "As long as it’s not poison, it’s fine."
But a supplement can become poison.
Concubine Yuan hesitated to say something. She thought of how there was a rumor passing around that Old Lady and Lady were using medicine so that Chengyu could leave behind an heir. Although Old Lady Fang and Lady Fang denied it flatly, it now seemed likely to be true.
It looked like Jun Zhenzhen was using Fang Chengyu’s sickness as a pretense to dominate the Fang Family, while Old Lady Fang and Lady Fang were feigning belief in her when they actually wanted Fang Chengyu to leave behind an heir. Everybody was engaged in mutual deception. Each had their own intentions.
What could be asked and what couldn’t, Concubine Yuan was very clear on. She lowered her gaze.
"I will go and purchase the drugs and send them to her," she said.
Lady Fang made a sound of confirmation and nodded absent-mindedly.
When night fell, a light went on in an isolated room in the corner of the Fang Family’s residence. It was then covered up by people so that the majority of the light was blocked.
The room was still dark and two people’s shadows swayed on the wall.
A piece of paper was pushed under the lantern on the table.
The dancing lantern light illuminated the delicate handwriting on the paper.
This was the prescription that Miss Jun had made LIu’er give to Lady Fang.
A brittle hand slid the prescription across the table so that it could be inspected by the lamplight. The light was blocked by a body, so that the opposing person’s face was enshrouded in shadows.
"Good, you can go," said a hoarse voice.
The person in the shadows did not say anything. He merely bowed and excited.
The door was opened and the room plunged into darkness.
In March in Yangcheng, the sky was bright and beautiful. Occasionally, a flock of birds would fly overhead, emitting joyful cries.
There was a burst of activity outside the secondary door. Carts and horses were being prepared, and so were tea and stoves.
"What is going on here?" someone asked.
"Young Lady wishes to go out," answered a busy maidservant.
The Fang Family did not have any relatives to visit; and for now, the business did not require Young Lady’s interference. What would a married girl do outside?
"She said that the spring weather is very right, so she wanted to go out of the city for a walk," said a servant quietly.
Really, how carefree. It seems she didn’t remember that her own husband has not been for a walk in the spring in a decade.
The servant's’ lips curled. What could they do, who would dare stop her?
"The mountains are no fun; the plants just started to turn green. It’s better to go to the river; the weeping willows are beautiful," suggested Old Lady Fang with a smile.
Miss Jun nodded.
"Okay, I will go for a walk on the riverside," she said.
Old Lady Fang had thought of something else and looked at the servant girl next to her.
"Go, call Yuxiu…" she started.
A shout from the neighboring room cut her off.
Fang Jinxiu stuck out her head from behind the screen.
"Grandmother, let me accompany Elder Cousin," she said loudly.
Old Lady Fang glared.
"What’s the use of you coming," she said. "You’re under house arrest."
"Grandmother, I can ride a horse; Second Sister cannot," said Fang Jinxiu while looking at Miss Jun with a challenging gaze. "It’s more interesting to go for a spring walk on horseback. Can Miss Jun ride a horse?"
"What horses are girls riding! Who let you come out, get back in there," Old Lady Fang scolded.
Miss Jun smiled.
"Little Cousin speaks the truth," she said. "Grandmother, I haven’t ridden a horse in a long time. Now, the spring is so beautiful. I will go on horseback, so let Little Cousin accompany me."
Since she had spoken, Old Lady Fang did not protest. She called over Fang Jinxiu to give her a warning.
"Behave when you’re out, and listen to what your Elder Cousin says," she reminded.
"Okay. Before I didn’t know that Elder Cousin was amazing, but March 3rd has opened my eyes. Of course I will listen to what she says," she said obediently, looking at Miss Jun with eyes filled with reverence.
A smile curled Miss Jun’s mouth, and she asked to leave.
Because it was changed to horseback riding, the servants were overcome with an additional layer of frenzy to their preparations. They found the servant girls who could ride horses. Good thing the Fang Family was ruled by women; when Fang Jinxiu was learning to ride, so did some of the servants.
After a moment’s time, the crowd exited the Fang Family’s gates, heading out of the city.
After passing through the city gates, Fang Jinxiu pulled a face at Miss Jun.
"I’m not afraid to tell you the truth." She tugged on her horse to turn it around. "Jun Zhenzhen, you are a magnet for trouble. I didn’t want Eldest Sister or Second Sister to accompany you because they might get involved."
Miss Jun smiled.
"And you are unafraid?"
Fang Jinxiu lifted the reins and swept her gaze over Miss Jun.
Fang Jinxiu had changed into a girl’s riding attire and was rapped in a red cape, so she could easily swing herself over her white horse. But Jun Zhenzhen was wearing her everyday clothes, except her hair which was tied up more simply. She was wearing a veiled hat and was seated sidesaddle.
Miss Jun’s ‘horseback riding’ was actually just a servant boy leading the horse forward.
"Of course I’m not scared, because I never planned on accompanying you." Fang Jinxiu snorted, flicking the reins and urging her horse forward.
The servant girls and servant boys were stunned, not knowing what to do.
Miss Jun just smiled.
"Let’s go," she said.
The servant boy hurriedly pulled the horse forward.
On either side of her sat servant girls on horses, lest Miss Jun fall down.
A goose yellow cape blocked Miss Jun’s hands. No one saw that she wasn’t holding onto the reins, rather supporting herself easily, while rocking along with the horse’s pace.
For years, she had ridden a fast horse back to the capital for her father’s illness, eating meals on the fly and camping out in the open.
Now, her father was no longer here, but her heart still had the speed of returning to the capital, but she did not need to urge the horse faster.
She was not fast but not slow. She simply moved forward, step by step.