Ning Yunyan, who was located in Beiliu, really wanted to go see the lanterns in Yangcheng.
But she could not go, so she was angry.
"Our town's lanterns are very beautiful too. Yangcheng is far and it's so cold out. There's no need to insist on going there," said Eldest Madam Ning kindly, stroking her daughter's head.
Ning Yunyan twisted around.
"I cannot swallow this injustice," she said.
All of the Ning Family in Beiliu refused invitations from their friends and family this year to go to view the lanterns this year. Meanwhile, news of the Fang Family promising one thousand taels of silver to the most beautiful lantern at the festival had been long since spread around.
Eldest Madam Ning smiled.
"There is no need to fight with the straw worm over spring," she said. Though she was smiling, there was a nipping chill in her eyes. "Your brother is right. We should temporarily avoid them and let everyone see their frivolity. As for teaching them a lesson, we don't have to do it now. There are still many days ahead of us."
Hearing her brother's intentions, Ning Yunyan's expression softened immensely. There are still many days ahead of us, Big Brother will definitely get back at her. She nodded cutely.
"Then what about Big Brother? Is he going to come with us to see the lanterns?" she asked.
Eldest Madam Ning shook her head.
"Your elder brother has gone with some of his schoolmates to see their teacher. He won't be back on that day," she said.
At New Year's, many relatives and friends had come around, particularly Second Uncle's family. This year, there were many, many relatives at home. Big Brother had hidden around this time, because of the word circulating about his worth compared to a prostitute's.
That's right, that piece of gossip had not only been spread through Yangcheng. Right now, even Beiliu knew of it, so all of the relatives and friends definitely knew.
Ning Yunyan hung her head, squeezing her handkerchief viciously.
Jun Zhenzhen, there are many days ahead of us, just you wait and see.
The Lantern Festival arrived in the blink of an eye.
The three young misses of the Fang Family had changed into new clothes. Fang Chengyu also wore new clothes under his thick cloak like the throngs around him.
Lady Fang was still worried, pushing a hand-stove into Fang Chengyu's hands.
"Mother, we already have one. And a foot stove. And there is a heater in the carriage," said Fang Jinxiu.
"It's cold at night," Lady Fang said, rubbing Fang Chengyu's hands for the third time. When she felt them warm, she relaxed marginally.
Chengyu was not the same as everyone else. His blood vessels were damaged so blood did not flow smoothly. Cold was more frightening to him than other people.
Of course, no one could say that out loud.
Fang Chengyu smiled despite his mother's thorough examination.
"And don't go too far. The street in front of our residence is as far as you can go," said Old Lady Fang.
In the past, the Fang Family undertook decorating the most conspicuous spot in Yangcheng, Fire Temple Street. But this year, because Fang Chengyu was going to see the lanterns, the Fang Family had decorated another street, the one in front of their residence, as well as the very busy Fire Temple Street.
There was only one carriage at the side door. If they went to see the Fire Temple Street, they would sit in the carriage, but this year they would not need a carriage to see the lanterns in front of their door.
This carriage was only for Fang Chengyu.
Several servant boys lifted Fang Chengyu into the carriage, and Lady Fang personally went to sit with him.
"All right," said Old Lady Fang, giving it a look over.
The three granddaughters were standing next to her, then after them were Concubine Yuan and Concubine Su, and farthest away was Jun Zhenzhen and her servant girl.
A cursory glance revealed bright and florid jeweled hairpins and bracelets sparkling in the crowd. There were no men.
"Open the gates. We are going to view the lanterns," said Old Lady Fang, turning back. She stepped forward.
The many servants immediately complied, several servant boys pushing the doors open.
Lantern light from the gleaming street outside poured in, as well as the clamor.
"They've come out!"
People were squeezed together outside the gate. Just as the Fang Family's great gates had opened, everybody immediately turned to look, attracting a surge of people.
The young master of the Fang Family had not gone out in nigh ten years. To the people of Yangcheng, he only existed in rumors.
"So they have money, what's the use of having money? The cripple of the Fang Family has money but will still die young."
Today that cripple came out to view the lanterns. Many people were striving for a glimpse of this cripple's true appearance.
The Fang Family had anticipated such a situation, and although it was a mocking situation, Old Lady Fang remained upright and calm.
"Aiya, this really is way too humiliating," said Liu'er, her lips curling. "Young Miss, let's go to the back."
Miss Jun smiled, but didn't say anything or move. Her eyes swept over this crowd.
The space in front of the gates wasn't blocked by the crowd thanks to the servants of the Fang Family pushing the people to either side. In addition to the servants, a group of beautifully clothed men and women stood there. When they saw Old Lady Fang and the rest, everyone immediately crowded around.
"Are these the shopkeepers of the exchange firm?" Miss Jun asked quietly.
Liu'er did not care about this at all, but she was a dutiful and responsible servant. She immediately turned to ask the others.
"Yes," answered the other servants.
Miss Jun's gaze fell on an elderly man respectfully greeting Old Lady Fang. The other shopkeepers stood behind him. Obviously, they deferred to him.
"That is Head Shopkeeper Song," said the servant girl. "He is an old employee from Old Master's time."
Head Shopkeeper Song and Old Lady Fang were about the same age. Miss Jun watched as Old Lady Fang gave a friendly smile to this head shopkeeper while reaching out to hold an older woman following behind Head Shopkeeper Song.
Evidently, they had a very intimate relationship.
Miss Jun's line of sight shifted to look at the street.
More and more people were passing through.
"We still haven't moved yet. Are we looking at the lanterns or talking?" complained Liu'er loudly.
Sadly, it was very noisy. A firecracker exploded in the distance, covering up her voice. Fortunately, Old Lady Fang was no longer talking with those people and took a step onto the street under the crowd's watchful eyes.
The three sisters followed Old Lady Fang closely. They of course knew what these people were looking for, but though they were nervous under their gazes, they were not timid.
"Second Sister, my lantern is hanging in the front," Fang Jinxiu said with a smile. She pointed while turning to look at the carriage behind them.
She wanted to yell 'Little Brother', but she swallowed her words back.
She did not shout, but the bystanders around them couldn't help themselves.
"Young Master Fang!"
"Young Master Fang!"
The Fang Family's carriage was very handsome, but the delicate curtains obstructed the view of the people inside. Nobody had come to look at a carriage.
"How can he see lanterns like this?"
"Pull open the curtains!"
"Young Master Fang, see the lanterns I made!"
All sorts of sarcastic or insincere shouts were thrown to the carriage.
Sitting in the carriage, Lady Fang suddenly thought of the story of the beautiful man who was looked at till he died. Fang Chengyu's body was even weaker than Yu Weijie's, and the people here weren't looking at him to admire his beauty.
"Speed up the carriage," Lady Fang couldn't help but urge.
Fang Chengyu lifted a hand to pull back the carriage curtains.
This movement was so sudden that Lady Fang cried out involuntarily. When the people outside saw the curtains shake, the clamor renewed.
"Chengyu," Lady Fang pushed down the curtains, her expression troubled.
She was really disturbed that her son became an amusing attraction for people's entertainment.
Fang Chengyu's hand on the curtain did not let go.
"Mother, I am not doing anything wrong," he said. "I do not feel ashamed."
Yes, he was not doing anything wrong. Why couldn't he see people, why would he be scared of people, why couldn't he appear upright and strong in front of people.
Lady Fang looked at him for a moment, then pulled open the other curtain.
"Good. Chengyu, see the lanterns," she said gently.
A smile bloomed across Fang Chengyu's face for his mother.
At that moment, they had already arrived at the first wave of lanterns on this street. It was a tall frame for hanging lanterns. Ninety-nine sparkling glass lamps hung from its beams while the center portion rotated illuminating paper horse cutouts, resulting in a dazzling light display.
Everyone's gazes were drawn to the carriage. The curtains opened to reveal a youth wearing a black cloak that set off his pale face. But under the illumination of the brilliant light of the lamps, his skin turned glistening and bright.
No one could think of anything else besides the rays of light falling on this youth's face. For a moment, they were stunned.
This cripple was not ugly and depressed as thought, but actually a jade man.
A jade man that would die this year.
"It really is too pitiful," thought everyone at the same time.