Two thousand taels.
Fourth Madam Ning repeated these three words in Eldest Madam Ning's room.
"Of silver," she added.
It was good that it wasn't gold.
That thought made her very annoyed.
The Ning Family was not destitute, so two thousand taels of gold did not scare her. But right now, she was not thinking about the issue of money.
But the matter at hand was really about the money.
Eldest Madam Ning's expression turned strange.
"She really said that?" she asked.
Fourth Madam Ning nodded.
"She did not cry or make a fuss, like she is not attached to the marriage at all," she said. Then she thought and added, "Her expression was not contrived."
Was she backing out because of the difficulty?
Eldest Madam Ning muttered to herself but did not speak. Ning Yunyan recovered from her shock.
"Mother, this is her scheme to try to confuse us. Of course, she still wants to marry into our family," she said.
Eldest Madam Ning shook her head.
"If she wanted to confuse us, she wouldn't want this little amount of money," she said.
Two thousand taels wasn't a small amount to an ordinary person, but to the Ning Family, it was nothing.
If this Miss Jun was really playing a trick, she would have stated an amount that the Ning Family would have trouble fulfilling.
Could it really be that she truly agreed to back out of the marriage?
She had played so many tricks, brought out the marriage contract at the most crucial moment, and then suddenly just got over it?
Eldest Madam Ning muttered to herself for a moment, then stood up.
"I will go and meet her," she said.
Ning Yunyan stamped her foot.
"See, Mother, this is part of her scheme. Now she's made you go meet her!"
Eldest Madam Ning looked at her and smiled.
"So what if I go and meet her? She could not even beguile you, Ning Yunzhao's little sister. How could she do that to me?" she asked.
She was, after all, Ning Yunzhao's mother.
There was no one in the world who loved a son more than his mother. In a mother's eyes, their son is the best under the heaven. Even if the best girl in the world were to marry him, she would feel wronged. What was more, Miss Jun wasn't even that girl..
No, Miss Jun wasn't someone who was worth anything. For the Ning Family, she was just a puddle of mud.
Eldest Madam Ning would definitely not let her son's spotlessly white clothing be splashed by that puddle of mud.
Hearing the vague sound of people calling out to the lady, the young servant girl, who was bored, immediately stood up straight. Her eyes gleamed as she looked at the woman entering.
"It's a different madam," she muttered. "There really are many madams of the Ning Family."
The males of the Jun Family were frail, so they weren't a big clan. Jung Yingwen devoted the entirety of his weak body to do the duty of an official. His wife of the Fang Family came from a merchant background. The daughter that they tried so hard to get was arrogant and willful. She was not restrained by rules and did not know how people were to converse. It was obvious from the way her servant girl behaved.
Eldest Madam Ning did not care. Her gaze fell directly onto Miss Jun.
The girl was almost the same age as Ning Yunyan. Her face was still youthful and tender, and her looks weren't bad, but 'not bad' was all that they were.
When Eldest Madam Ning entered the room, the seated Miss Jun immediately stood up to pay her respects.
"Eldest Madam," she greeted.
Eldest Madam Ning didn't think it was a coincidence that Miss Jun was able to recognise her.
For half a year, Miss Jun had not been successful in getting near the ladies of the Ning Family, but after investigating them for so long she had to have some idea of what her future mother-in-law looked like.
When she heard Miss Jun's greeting, it was hard for the young servant girl to cover up her happiness.
Indeed, she had not heard the greeting wrong. Miss Jun was really able to call out Eldest Madam into meeting with her!
When they first came to Yangcheng, it was very difficult to persuade her Fang Family's aunt to act as a matchmaker. As a result, when the Ning Family said they didn't know about the betrothal at all, Miss Jun was ridiculed by the annoying young misses from the Fang Family.
Her uncle's wife had always found Miss Jun displeasing and was also afraid of causing trouble with the Ning family, so she was not dedicated to helping them at all. It meant Young Miss could only handle things by herself. In the end, her hard work paid off, and she was finally able to get to know the young misses of the Ning Family. However, she could do nothing when they did their best to avoid contact with her.
So, she could not use the path of making friends with the misses of the Ning Family.
However, Miss Jun and her servant had heard that Eldest Madam Ning had a gentle and kindhearted temperament. So, they thought that if they could get in front of Eldest Madam Ning, since the young miss had such a sad history, if she cried, she might be able to gain Eldest Madam Ning's sympathy.
Only, it was even harder to meet with Eldest Madam Ning. When they had been thinking of other plans, they had heard that tenth noble son of the Ning Family was actually getting engaged with the young miss of the Yang family, and Young Miss panicked. She urged Old Lady Fang and her aunt to meet with the Ning Family. Those two seniors played dumb and made all sorts of excuses.
So, Young Miss had to call on the Ning Family herself. As a result, she could not even enter through the second door of the Ning house, let alone raise the matter of meeting with Eldest Madam.
Just now, threatening with the white silk could not call out Eldest Madam Ning, so, the girl was shocked to see that the money could.
It seemed that this Eldest Madam Ning, besides being gentle and charitable, was also greedy.
Eldest Madam Ning naturally did not know what crazy ideas the little servant girl was imagining, and was instead looking at Miss Jun.
"Does Miss Jun feel like she is suffering?" she asked.
Her face was warm and gentle, and her voice was soft and slow, unconsciously making people's feelings become more sincere. The young servant girl thought of the days after Old Master's passing, and her eyes couldn't help turn red from sadness.
Suffering. They had suffered so much.
At this time, Young Miss was supposed to kneel towards Eldest Madam Ning and cry loudly so that this clay Bodhisattva-like lady would become softhearted to them.
The young servant girl looked at the young miss. Miss Jun was still standing upright. Because the girl was behind her, she could not see her expression , so she didn't know whether or not she had already started crying like raindrops on a pear blossom .
"Does Eldest Madam also feel like she has suffered much?" asked Miss Jun.
Her voice was soft and slow, laced with a slight sigh that made it sound more sincere.
Eldest Madam Ning looked at her and smiled.
"Yes, as a mother who saw her precious child-raised by her very own blood, sweat and tears-bitten by a depraved pig-dog that cannot be beaten or cursed, for it is an animal and does not know the way of humans. Indeed… I truly am suffering," she said.
The little servant girl was struck dumb by what she heard. She looked at the lady wearing a smile like she was as kind as Bodhisattva in shock.
D-did she just curse at them?
These acerbic words were actually said by this madam?
There were no sounds of tears from the Young Miss in front of her.
"I am not a mother, but I would not be able to bear such a thing if it were to happen to me." Miss Jun's voice was as soft as ever when she replied with a nod.
"If I myself met with such a thing, I could bear it," started Eldest Madam Ning. "But if a mother saw her children meet such a thing, she could not bear it. If her child is sick, a mother wishes that the sickness were her own. If someone harms her child, a mother would wish to bite that person's flesh."
After she said this, she smiled.
"Miss Jun is still young, wait until you are a mother, then you will know."
Her expression when she said this was warm and friendly, like she was discussing a much more cheery topic.
"I know that Miss Jun has been suffering. Obviously, we have gone back on what we agreed on. I ask Miss Jun to forgive me. For you, this agreement was something that would allow you to leap through the dragon gate  into a wealthy life. Our Ning Family has always been charitable and benevolent. No matter if it were refugees coming to our doors or beggars on the roadside, we have not been stingy in our support of them. But to support your life..."
She looked at Miss Jun, still smiling as she shook her head.
"This thing really would make us feel wronged and disgusted."
The servant girl's tears fell.
The way the maidservants had disregarded them coldly when they first visited, the two madams' cold and threatening attitudes just before…All of them were nothing in comparison.
Eldest Madam Ning's smiling and friendly face saying those words was scarier than both indifference and intimidation.
The girl did not even know how it was frightening, but she felt like a knife was flying towards her. She wanted to dodge but there was nowhere to go. Trembling, all alone, she was filled more with despair than anger or exasperation.
Eldest Madam Ning looked at Miss Jun. This Miss Jun's expression was still as calm as before. Her eyes were bright and black, without a single flicker of emotion in them.
She was silent, like a respectful and obedient girl listening earnestly to her senior's words. There was no dissatisfaction, no retort, not even a comment from her.
When it seemed that Eldest Madam Ning was done talking, she nodded.
"Yes," she said, "this kind of thing really does make people feel bad. I do not know what Old Master Ning was thinking. Obviously, he could have used money to resolve the matter, but instead, he insisted on repaying his gratitude with marriage. As a result, the favor was still unpaid and have turned us into enemies. Or maybe Old Master Ning did not want to pay the money and was scared that we would bother him, so he did this."
She then smiled.
"Old Master Ling was really overthinking things. Our Jun family treats illnesses not for compensation, but as the duty passed on from ancestors to be kind and charitable. No matter, if it is refugees who come to our door or beggars on the road side, we aren't stingy with giving treatment to people."
These words were very familiar.
The servant girl with tears in her eyes could not help but stare, wide-eyed, at Eldest Madam Ning's stiffening smile.
"If Old Master Ning did not want to pay his medical fees, then it would be fine if he said he had no money. The thing is, he playd this kind of trick. It's fine if he reneged on his debt. But he also put us in the position of the evil ones."
She smiled at Eldest Madam Ning as she spoke.
"This thing really makes us feel wronged and disgusted."
Eldest Madam Ning's smile cracked.