Xiao Yuan nodded her head, lifting both hands in approval. She suddenly directed her line of sight to Xiao Ruo, who was paper white and biting her lip.

Fan was not aware of Xiao Ruo’s complexion and did not see any expression. Xiao Ying bit her lip and looked at Xiao Yuan, feeling like something wasn’t quite right here.

Wasn’t Xiao Yuan supposed to be so scared that she’d be crying and screaming like a baby and have a cloudy mind? Saying what was what? How could her head be this clear? And her every phrase was like a gem? She didn’t clearly say these words, but with one move, she and Xiao Ruo had been pushed to an awkward position.

Xiao Ruo pulled on Fan and quickly leaned in close to her to whisper a few words into her ear. Fan’s complexion underwent a huge transformation. Xiao Ruo was terribly anxious and was continuously wringing the handkerchief in her hand.

Fan’s mind was racing as she pondered, but she had to calm down. The old madam was going to check cinnabar marks. As Xiao Ruo was already pregnant, it’d be strange if she could be marked.

(TN: Cinnabar marks refer to an ancient Chinese method of verifying virginity. A lizard is placed inside a container and fed cinnabar every day until its entire body turns bright red. After this, it is ground into a paste. This paste is then dabbed onto the girl’s body and if the girl is still a virgin, the mark will not wash off. However, if the girl is not a virgin, then the mark will disappear. There is no scientific basis to this practice.)

Just as Fan was beginning to become anxious, Xiao Yuan suddenly opened her mouth, “Grandmother, the sky’s already this dark. Making everyone go through such a hassle wouldn’t be good. How about we wait until tomorrow?”

The old madam pitied Xiao Yuan and naturally what she said was what would happen. She hesitated for a moment but nodded her head. “Tomorrow morning, everyone come to the Qing An courtyard!”

When Fan heard this, she let out a sigh of relief. “Oh yes. It’s already this late. Little Ninth has been constantly travelling; she must certainly be tired beyond belief. It’d be best to retire early.”

Xiao Yuan raised her eyebrow and looked at Fan with a faint smile. “I’ve let mother worry.”

Fan laughed, “Oh, this child, what are you being polite for? If I wasn’t worried about you, who would I be worried about?”

The old madam had not slept for many days so her mental state wasn’t good.. At this moment, she was already somewhat weary. Her hand tightly grasped onto Xiao Yuan.

“Sleep at grandmother’s place. Grandmother has been terribly worried about you.”

Xiao Yuan nodded her head. “Okay.”

This gave Fan one evening’s time to prepare. It was enough. Xiao Yuan wanted to see what kind of game she could play by tomorrow.

Once they returned to their rooms, Fan’s face darkened and Xiao Ruo pulled in her neck.

“You! Making people worry too much. You haven’t even married. How can you already have a child? How many months along?”

Xiao Ruo had only known for a little while. Her period had been late in arriving. She was scared so she made herself up as a maidservant and went to find the physician. She didn’t think she’d actually be found to be two months pregnant.

“Two months.” Xiao Ruo sincerely explained, “Mother, we originally thought this time Ninth sister definitely wouldn’t be able to come back. His highness has already made arrangements. We were only waiting for father’s approval and he’d immediately take me to be his wife. Then the matter of the child would be easy to deal with.”

Once Xiao Ruo mentioned Xiao Yuan, she was so filled with hate that her teeth itched. “Who knew that Ninth sister would be this lucky? She actually returned and it was even the Princess who saved her. Tomorrow, if I’m discovered…”

Xiao Ruo looked at Fan with a begging look. Fan unhappily replied, “Now that you know, you ask me for help. Why didn’t you earlier? You! Fool! Ugh.”

Fan also didn’t know what to say. Xiao Ruo was certainly too stupid. Even if she’s lost her innocence, she could absolutely not have this child. If one day it was to be discovered, then she’d be put into a pig cage and thrown into a river or sent into the family temple. They were faced with these circumstances.

(TN: An ancient Chinese method of punishing people who had premarital sex was putting them inside a bamboo basket that is normally used to transport pigs and then tossing them into a river to drown.)

Fan paused for a moment. “This child cannot remain any longer. Tomorrow, mother will get you some medicine, which you must take with haste. If another month or two passes, your stomach will become more obvious and be impossible to conceal.”

When Xiao Ruo heard that she’d have to abort her child, she repeatedly rejected this idea, “Mother, this is his highness’s first child. His highness said that it is most certainly a boy. Your daughter would truly hate to abandon it.”

Fan was growing angrier, jabbed Xiao Ruo’s forehead with her finger. “You’d hate to abandon it? You truly think everyone else is stupid? Today, little Ninth came back so the matter of marriage has definitely changed. The soonest that we can get you married would still be two months. If in five months you give birth, who would believe that?”

Xiao Ruo suddenly pursed her lips, unwilling to say anymore. What Fan said made sense. After more time passed, her stomach would be too large to conceal. But if she aborted it like this, it would be such a pity.

“Mother, tomorrow I will invite his highness to come. I will ask his highness for his opinion.” Xiao Ruo bit her lip, looking forward to Lian Jiye giving her a more satisfactory compensation.

Fan was beyond angry, as matters were already like this, what else could they do? “This matter cannot be dragged on any longer. If more time passes, it will start affecting your future. Don’t worry about tomorrow. You must by all means not give away the game. Just entrust everything to your mother.”

At this did Xiao Ruo finally relax and smile. “Many thanks to mother for your care.”

Fan unhappily glared at Xiao Ruo. Xiao Ruo stuck out her tongue and wrapped herself around Fan’s arm. Fan rubbed her temples, angry and helpless at the same time.

Early the next morning at the Qing An Courtyard

After the old madam had eaten her morning meal, the young women of the three courtyard rooms were all gathered. The room was completely filled with young maidens, who were like beautiful flowers, sweet and charming ladies that when looked upon, one couldn’t help but be happy.

The old madam put down her teacup and coldly said, “I’m sure everyone already knows the reason for why we called all of you to come. When a girl reaches an appropriate age they must be anointed with a drop of cinnabar, so today you will all do this one by one.”

After these words fell, a few ladies looked at each other but everyone lowered their heads, not daring to say anything. Who didn’t know that today was to prove Xiao Yuan’s innocence?

The old madam was truly biased–she summoned an entire mansion to clarify this. A few ladies were privately complaining, daring to be angry but not daring to voice it.

“Wet Nurse Liu, let’s start,” the old madam ordered.

Wet Nurse Liu nodded, only separated by a small screen. Everyone was lined up in order from oldest to youngest. The first was Xiao Ying.

“Big sister, please expose your arm.” said Wet Nurse Liu.

Xiao Ying shot a glance at the contents of the pot, which had a lizard sticking out its tongue and couldn’t hold back a shudder. She closed her eyes and revealed half of her beautiful arm.

Wet Nurse Liu dabbed the cinnabar and lifted the lizard to the area where the cinnabar was dabbed. The lizard stuck out its tongue and licked it.

After Xiao Ying left, she revealed an arm with a fresh, plump dot of cinnabar. The old madam glanced at it and nodded. Xiao Ying quickly stepped to one side and switched with the second young lady.

After a short while, it was Xiao Ruo’s turn. Xiao Ruo took in a deep breath before calmly and collectedly walking inside.

An estimate of the time passed until she walked out was approximately after half a teacup was drank. Astonishingly, on her arm, there was a bright red, plump dot of cinnabar. After she showed it to the madam, she let out a huge sigh of relief and sat back down on the chair.

Once it was Xiao Yuan’s turn, the old madam said, “Wet Nurse Liu, come out.”

The old madam intended to dot the cinnabar in front of everyone.

This was also Xiao Yuan’s demand, she looked sideways at Wet Nurse Liu, who had been part of the old madam’s dowry. She had at an earlier time been bribed by Fan and frequently whispered ideas into the old madam’s ear.

As she had been with the old madam for over ten years, the old madam resolutely trusted in her and never suspected her.

Xiao Yuan laughed; she would personally remove this malignant tumor.

After a short while, Xiao Yuan’s arm had a bright red, plump drop of cinnabar, brightly colored and glistening.

After the old madam saw it, she let out a huge sigh of relief.

Suddenly, at this moment, Wet Nurse Liu brought up some refreshments.

The air was filled with a rich aroma. When Xiao Ruo smelled it, she made a great effort to silently endure it as her stomach flipped.

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