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Ze Prefecture, Yangcheng, Beiliu Town, Ning Family. Since their ancestor had dug up that first lump of coal from the Beiliu Town hills, they had existed for two hundred seventy years.

Over one hundred years ago, the Ning Family was not only fabulously rich, but the Ning Family patriarch also spent the family wealth to establish his clan's learnedness by hiring famed scholars. The descendants of the clan lived up to their expectations. In the latter century they had produced forty candidates for the imperial civil service examination, twenty of whom passed the imperial provincial civil service examination. Out of those nine passed the imperial palace civil service examination, and six entered the Hanlin Imperial Academy. Thus, the Ning Family acquired the reputation of the "Nine palace graduates from accumulated benevolence, and six Hanlin imperial secretaries from three worlds of goodness and dignity." [Note 1]

A hundred years and forty descendants as government officials had spread the reputation of the Ning Family far to the north and south. According to the genealogy records, there were over a dozen locations where Ning officials went to officiate.

Today, the second eldest son of the older generation was the Right Vice-Minister in the Ministry of Works.

With such a grand clan of over a hundred years in power, it was inconceivable that there would be a person who would actually provoke them like this, and it was absolutely intolerable.

Fourth Madam Ning was very angry.

"What does she take our Ning Family for? If she wants to hang herself, then let her hang." The Fourth Madam stood up. "Eldest Sister-in-law, it is not proper for you to meet her. I will go meet her and set her straight."

After she said it, she turned to leave.

"Fourth Sister-in-law," Eldest Madam Ning called out hurriedly, standing up.

Third Madam Ning stopped her.

"Eldest Sister-in-law, do not worry about it. Let us go," she said.

Eldest Madam Ning could only helplessly watch them turn and go out.

"You should be good to her when you speak. She is quite pitiful, do not frighten her," she said anxiously. "Moreover, give the Fang Family face."

"The Fang Family's face? They did not give us face, so we do not need to give it to them!"

The Third Madam Ning was angry without the Fang Family being mentioned, so the suggestion only served to infuriate her more.She did not wait for the Eldest Madam to speak again, and left followed by the servant girls and the other women.

Silence returned to the room. Eldest Madam Ning did not bear the unease from just a moment ago. She looked faintly onto the three girls standing off to the side.

"Why would Miss Jun think to use suicide to threaten our family?" she asked suddenly.

The three girls exchanged glances, their eyes sparkling.

"Who knows. She definitely must have heard of Tenth Brother's and the young miss' of the Yang Family betrothal and could not sit still," said one girl.

"Right, right. Since she met Tenth Brother at the Lantern Festival on August 15, she has been increasingly pestering us without knowing any shame. It's good that Tenth Elder Brother is not often at home. She has been proclaiming to the young misses of the city that she is our future sister-in-law." The other girl said with hatred. "Suddenly hearing that Tenth Elder Brother was betrothed, she must have gone crazy."

Eldest Madam Ning's gaze fell onto Ning Yunyan, who hadn't said anything.

"Yanyan, it was you who told her about the thing with Miss Yang," she said.

Ning Yunyan pursed her lips.

"I definitely did not. I do not talk to her normally at all." She then said with a giggle, "I only told Lin Jin'er, but I definitely warned her that she could not tell other people."

What she had warned her against doing was not this, but something else. It probably had something to do with Miss Jun's hanging herself.

Teenage girls' behavior could both be innocent but also fearless.

Eldest Madam Ning frowned slightly.

"This is something that the family is dealing with. You sisters do not need to take part in it. Lest you become entangled with her reputation," she said.

She did not pursue the matter any farther and did not reprimand them further.

The three girls gladly responded.

"I know that there is no need to worry." Ning Yunyan coiled her arm around her mother's and giggled. "If she wants to die, then she can die. We aren't afraid of her."

"Besides, she didn't die," said the other girl, eyes full of ridicule. "If she does not dare to die herself, then how will she threaten our family? Who does she think she is?"

Eldest Madam Ning smiled but did not say anything.

"Mother, I am done writing the characters."

"Eldest Aunt, I am also done."

The girls veered off the subject with their pleasant voices.

"Okay, I will take a look. If you have written them poorly, there will be a punishment," warned Eldest Madam Ning.

The girls immediately gathered around Eldest Madam Ning as she walked to the eastern side room. Their chattering was warm and lively.

There was no need to take that young miss of the Jun Family seriously.

Hearing the calls of the madams from outside, the young servant girl who had been setting out refreshments on the table suddenly stood up straight.

The door curtains were opened, and the sounds of footsteps stopped upon reaching the room.

The ever quiet and with a lowered head, Miss Jun lifted her gaze to look at the two madams.

"Ah? One of you is the eldest madam Ning?" asked the young servant girl, staring.

The last time they could not even get through the second gate, let alone meet Eldest Madam Ning. This time, they were finally able to enter, and there were even two madams coming to meet them.

But they were only two and dressed in a similar ordinary, luxurious style. Which of them was the Eldest Madam?

{A certain type of owner would have a certain type of servant. Truly vulgar and disrespectful.}

The Ning Family madams' eyes glinted with contempt.

"If you have a problem, then you can tell it to us," said Third Madam Ning.

The young servant girl was about to say something when Miss Jun raised a hand to stop her.

"Okay." She stood to greet them, while stroking the white silk on the table.

Third Madam Ning and Fourth madam Ning's brows furrowed.

{She wants to threaten us.}

"Young Miss Jun, we have already made the matter of the betrothal clear. Your maternal family was also very understanding. As outsiders, you would not listen to our words. Go back and ask them, they are your relatives," said Fourth Madam Ning.

"I am very clear on what you said; I do not need to make any inquiries," said Miss Jun. She shook out the white silk on the table that had been originally covering a piece of paper. "Since we are all very clear on the topic, then we should talk over how to resolve the matter."

She passed over the paper.

What was this?

Third Madam Ning and Fourth Madam Ning looked at the thin paper. When they saw the words on it clearly, they were immediately dumbstruck.

A marriage contract!

Third Madam Ning snatched it up, examining it incredulously.

It was a marriage contract with the names of three generations; and marriage relatives' five grades of mourning clothes, their lands, and their government positions[1] written clearly.

For such a marriage contract to have been written, it could not have been just a slip of a tongue like Eldest Madam Ning had said previously.

Old Master Ning had truly written this marriage contract, seriously agreeing for the two families to become in-laws. At least, it was genuine and sincere at the time. But it was unknown when afterwards he had reneged on the deal and sealed his lips,, since Old Master Ning had already passed away.

How come she did not bring out the marriage contract before?

Without a marriage contract, the Fang Family and Miss Jun were just fine. Whether both parties lived or died could not put any pressure on the other. However, if there was a marriage contract and Miss Jun genuinely committed suicide, their Ning Family would be troubled.

This, as expected, was a threat. Third Madam Ning and Fourth Madam Ning exchanged glances.

"Miss Jun, it is not that we do not believe in your marriage contract," started Fourth Madam Ning. "It's just that our family's Old Master has never brought out this contract and did not mention this betrothal in the last ten years."

"If you don't know why you haven't seen it, then that's your problem. It's unrelated to me," Miss Jun said while looking at the Fourth Madam Ning. The girl's voice was yet soft, without a single undulation in excitement. It was like her emotions were flat, without waves.

This did not match Ning Yunyan's description of an unruly, aggressive Miss Jun.

She had been in Yancheng for half a year and had not directly taken out the marriage contract. Instead, she had been flamboyantly spreading the news, so that everyone knew of it. Bringing out the marriage contract now would not make it easy for the Ning Family to cover up the matter.

Her conduct was actually planned out so well.

Fourth Madam Ning wanted to say something, but Third Madam Ning stopped her. She sized up Miss Jun and smiled.

"Young Miss Jun, do you know what it means to marry? Marriage is marriage, not starting a feud[2]," she said. "Sometimes things can be accomplished by taking a particular action, but other times it cannot. At times, even if you manage to fulfill your wish, you might still end up being sad for the rest of your life."

{You might use a thousand different plans to marry into the Ning Family, but if your husband is not happy, your parents-in-law hate you, even if you take the position of the first wife, how could your days be happy? What's more, there are many ways to take the position of the first wife.}

Third Madam Ning was from Cang Prefecture. Her ancestor had started out as a bodyguard, but just like the Ning Family, now her family were not simply a merchant family. The descendants of her ancestor had also studied well and became government officials. However, they always operated the bodyguard business. Third Madam Ning's father was responsible for bodyguard business, so the children of the family also had some training in martial arts as well as scholarly pursuits.

Third Madam Ning had not learned much, but her temper was different from the typical noble girl. She was much more tyrannical.

If you enter the gates of our family, then we will make your life worse than death.

These words were, no doubt, a naked threat.

"Young Miss Jun, one must be self-aware. You are not suited to become a daughter-in-law of our Ning Family." Fourth Madam Ning, who had come from a scholarly family, did not try to intimidate her but spoke clearly.

The girl before them, who had lost her parents and had no choice but to rely on her maternal family, was neither angry nor scared. Rather, she smiled.

"Since it is like that, then how do you plan to take back this marriage contract, and make me back off the betrothal?" she asked.

Note 1: The family background is not meant to vilify the Chen Family[3]. It is just blatant plagiarism, I apologize. [Author]

[1] The names of three generations; and marriage relatives' five grades of mourning clothes, their lands, and their government position were an essential part of an ancient Chinese marriage contract.

[2] In Chinese, marriage and starting a feud sound similar.

[3] The Chen Family and Chen Tingjing are famous for their scholarly pursuits. The Ning's family background is almost identical to the Chen Family's.

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