A Realization

Xiao Yuan squinted her eyes and it took her a while to recover her senses. She raised her lips into a sneer and groaned, “So you’re not scared of him. What are you doing coming to my place then? Are you purposefully showing off or did you just come over to make fun of me?”

Zhao Zun saw that she still had not gotten things straight. His lips twitched and swallowed the words that came to his mouth. He thought about it and realized that any explanations he could give would actually end up embarrassing her.

“We shouldn’t talk about this anymore. Let’s talk about something else. This morning, I saw you running away, what happened?”

Zhao Zun switched topics and unexpectedly had asked about something that had been weighing heavily on Xiao Yuan’s heart all day so she was caught off guard.

“Ugh, it’s still because of that annoying matter of the Third Prince and my Fifth Sister. The two of them did their own evil deeds, but they still insist on putting the blame on me. They’re pretending they’re righteous so as to not tarnish their reputations.”

As Xiao Yuan spoke, the angrier she got and the rims of her eyes even turned bright red. How could she be blamed for Xiao Ruo losing her child?

When Zhao Zun heard this, his hands gradually formed into a tight fist. She really was a silly girl. These two people had been plotting against Xiao Yuan while having their own illicit relationship. They had gone too far with their schemes.

“It’s not your fault. It’s their own opinion. They think they can dictate other people’s fate but also aren’t willing to suffer the consequences. One word: Selfish.”

Xiao Yuan nodded and asked with some insistence, “And who did I provoke? Why should I suffer just to satisfy them? I would never. You tell me, am I the bad one here?”

Xiao Yuan stared intently at Zhao Zun.

Zhao Zun reached out his hand and rubbed Xiao Yuan’s eyes to get rid of the pearl like tears. It made him feel awful to see her cry and for some reason his heart sunk at the sight of it.

“Is it worth it to cry over him? What you did was right and I will support you so what does this matter? If it had been me…”

Zhao Zun paused while Xiao Yuan looked at him in confusion.

Zhao Zun switched to another topic for the moment, “In short, if someone is looking to provoke you and you retreat, then they obviously wouldn’t be satisfied with that small gain. You’ve already said everything plainly and clearly, but he’s still incessantly bothering you. You don’t need to be polite anymore. Don’t forget that you are the daughter of the Right Minister’s first wife. You cannot end the Right Minister’s family line, now can you?”

When Xiao Yuan heard this, she started furiously nodding her head. She finally felt much more at ease.

“Yes, you’re right. I won’t ever make myself suffer! The next time he dares to come, I will definitely not hold back. I’ll prepare a whip so I can punish him at anytime. My dad’s the Right Minister. The worst that can happen is that I don’t get married.”

When Zhao Zun heard her say this, his brows furrowed and his anger towards Lian Jiye deepened.

“Perhaps he’s waiting to see you fail. You not only have to marry, but you have to be married in a lavish fashion so that when he sees, he’ll be pissed off.”

Zhao Zun paused for a moment before speaking again, this time with a softer tone of voice, “Let him see how much better your life is without him.”

Xiao Yuan delicately nodded her head like a baby chick pecking at rice. “You’re right. I must get married. And to piss him off, I have to marry well. Third Imperial Concubine, this lady certainly doesn’t want that position.”

The corner of Zhao Zun’s mouth slightly lifted up and a smile adorned his face.

“Now you’re talking.”

A whistling sound was heard coming from outside the room. Zhao Zun sighed and stood up somewhat reluctantly.

“I’m going now. Take care of yourself. If you run into any problems, take this and come to the Zhao manor to find me.”

Zhao Zun removed a jade pendant from his waist. The pendant was made of the highest quality purple jade and had a string of purple tassels hanging from it. It felt warm and smooth at the touch. Just from a glance, you could tell it wasn’t just any ordinary item.

Xiao Yuan didn’t even have time to reject the offer before Zhao Zun walked away.

When Zhao Zun left, his face had a faint glow to it. He thought, a lesson must be taught to this adulterous couple.

Zhao Qi couldn’t help but retract his neck, fearful of Zhao Zun’s imposing manner. He had been fine just a moment ago, how come his mood had changed so suddenly?

Xiao Yuan stared blankly at the jade pendant in her hand. She finally felt much more at ease. She touched her cheek. It felt cool and soothed. She laid back in bed, closed her eyes and quickly fell asleep.

Next Day

Xiao Yuan went to the old madam’s house to wish her good morning. Fan gave her multiple quick looks and her face had a regretful expression on it.

“Little Ninth, yesterday you experienced something awful. Your Fifth Sister wasn’t thinking. She was just temporarily confused. Don’t put too much weight into what she said. Once her health returns, mother will definitely make her apologize to you.”

Xiao Yuan’s face was expressionless. She took out her hand from her sleeve. “Little Ninth doesn’t hold grudges. After all, Fifth Sister did just lose her child.”

The old madam heard this sentence just as she was coming out. She snorted a few times and glared at Fan. “The Lord Minister and I have discussed this matter. In two days time, you will take Xiao Ruo to go live at another manor for a few days and settle your tempers.”

Fan was a bit surprised and rushed to explain, “Mother. Xiao Ruo is still very delicate. If we don’t wait for her health to recover, I am afraid she will suffer lingering side effects.”

The old madam sneered, “If you won’t go to another manor then you will go to the nunnery. You’re still acting as if you’re some kind of precious lady? The Xiao family’s reputation has been completely ruined because of her. If it had been our young lady, our reputation would’ve stayed intact and that would’ve been the end to all of our problems.”

The old madam was absolutely disgusted by Xiao Ruo. Her outburst yesterday scared Xiao Yuan terribly. If it hadn’t been for the Right Minister stopping her, she would have had them sent off yesterday. She wouldn’t have given them two days time to recover her health.

Fan’s heart sunk when she saw a streak of coldness flash across the old madam’s eyes. When the old madam made a decision, the Lord Minister generally wouldn’t overturn it. Fan couldn’t help but direct her gaze to Xiao Yuan.

Xiao Yuan lowered her eyes and pretended as if she didn’t notice. In her past life, she had done many favors. But what did she get in return? Over time the favors only became more demanding.

Fan was besides herself. But when she met the old madam’s cold gaze, she had no words to say and just nodded in agreement.

The old madam waved her hand; she didn’t care to see Fan’s sad expressions. Fan’s expression changed slightly. She looked for an excuse before hurriedly leaving.

At lunchtime, the Right Minister coincidentally had also returned. The old madam had left him his meal and Xiao Yuan even got a free meal.

The Right Minister’s eyes from time to time would look at Xiao Yuan’s fair and healthy skin, not even a hint of red swelling could be seen. The sight of her unblemished face put his mind to ease.

The old madam still had not realized that Xiao Yuan was being stared at by the Right Minister. Xiao Yuan’s face turned bright red. Her conscience felt a little guilty and she wanted to find a hole in the wall to crawl into.

“Little Ninth, father received a weasel bristle calligraphy brush. Weren’t you always going on about how you wanted to learn kuangcao*?”

(TN: Kuangcao, or literally crazy grass, is a cursive style of Chinese calligraphy. Example)

The Right Minister put down his chopsticks and directed his words at Xiao Yuan. Xiao Yuan nodded and smiled and her eyes even curved up.

“Thank you so much father.”

The two of them entered a study room. The Right Minister ordered his subordinates to leave so that the father daughter pair could be alone.

The Right Minister took out a brocade box and inside of it was a high-quality weasel bristle calligraphy brush. He passed it along to Xiao Yuan. Xiao Yuan closed her eyes when she received it. She loved it so much that she didn’t want to let it go.

The Right Minister brought his fist to his mouth and gently cleared his throat. “Little Ninth. The bruise on your face has disappeared quite a bit. Does it still hurt?”

Xiao Yuan’s little face flushed as she shook her head. The Right Minister asked another question, “Do you have something you want to tell your father?”

Xiao Yuan thought about it. “Since the day Little Ninth and father were discussing that matter, has father come up with an answer yet?”

The Right Minister was taken aback by Xiao Yuan’s direct question. He unhappily gave Xiao Yuan a look. “Watch your mouth! Daughters must be more reserved.”

“It’s just that Little Ninth really doesn’t want anyone to think that I’m still holding out for the Third Prince and I’ve been purposefully scheming. It makes me so annoyed.”

Xiao Yuan’s brows furrowed and it was clear that she still remembered what Xiao Ruo said the other day.

The Right Minister gave her a look. He pushed all the responsibility of wrongdoing onto Zhao Zun. It was him who led Xiao Yuan astray. Before Xiao Yuan was very well behaved and considerate of others, but now she was cocky and had a thicker skin.

“Well, father is still reviewing this person. The deciding factor is you though. If you think it’s okay.”

The Right Minister carefully examined Xiao Yuan’s gaze. Her face had a distrustful expression.

“But Father is a worldly, knowledgeable man while I haven’t really encountered many things. How would I know who he is?”

Halfway through her sentence, her brain suddenly connected the dots and she came to a realization.

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