Chapter 2.1: Recognizing Kin

First Lady Chen and the group of people that she brought with her were in the midst of barging in when Second Madam rushed out.

“In-law…” Second Madam did not know what expression to show in order to help calm the First Lady down.

“What a brilliant daughter you have!” First Lady Chen’s eyebrows were knitted and her footsteps closing in. “The marriage sedan was already in front of her husband’s residence, yet she had the audacity to simply leave. I have never seen anyone like her!”

Second Madam summoned her courage and braced herself, “In-law, although my daughter is slightly pampered, she has also been wronged. Before she could even step into her husband’s home, she was forced to go through an examination outside the main entrance, that is…” 

First Lady Chen cut her off, “That was for her own good! There were rumours about her floating around. I was generous enough to give her a chance to prove her innocence! But given that this is her first offence, I will let it go. From now on, when she wishes to return, she will have to ask me for permission. There are rules in our Chen family!”

Third Madam hid behind the door as she gleefully watched the scene unfolding in front of her. Watching First Lady Chen criticize Second Madam, she chuckled quietly, “Amitabha, good. Scold her more!”

Third Madam had just gotten a hold of the book of accounts and was not ready to hand it back.

At this moment, Ziyun and Mo’er appeared, both carrying crescent stools which they placed at the corridor. Fu Rou walked out leisurely with Fu Jun and delicately took a seat on the stool, gesturing for Fu Jun to do the same. Fu Jun frowned as she sent Fu Rou a look indicating to her to stop being so wilful. Fu Rou pretended not to see as she let out a dry cough.

First Lady Chen turned back only to see Fu Rou sitting comfortably and became extremely displeased, “Why are you still sitting there? Let’s go.”

“Go where?” Fu Rou smiled as she asked.

First Lady Chen huffed, “Of course to the Chen Residence.”

“Ah.” Fu Rou acted as if she finally understood, “Mother-in-law, you may not know but according to Tang’s law (Laws in the Tang dynasty), if a woman is mistreated in her husband’s home, she can return to her maiden home. I was still unmarried when you asked to examine my body in front of everyone. I was extremely humiliated. Because of that, I have returned to my maiden home, and no one can say anything about it.”

First Lady Chen suppressed her anger. “Okay, even if you were slightly wronged, that is no big deal. I came personally to fetch you and this should be considered as giving you face.”

“Mother-in-law, you don’t have to trouble yourself, when my grievance subsides, I will return on my own.” That time will never come.

“Very good, you are invaluable and cannot suffer even a little grievance. Then don’t enter my Chen family! I…I reject you as my daughter-in-law!” First Lady Chen was regretting more and more.

“Reject me as your daughter-in-law? What a joke!” Fu Rou stood up, her gaze penetrating, “I wore the red veil, rode the marriage sedan and went to your residence in front of everyone in Guangzhou. To someone that has already been married out, how can you reject me as you wish?”

“You, you, you…” First Lady Chen stumbled over her words in anger, “I have never met a daughter-in-law as wicked as you. When I get back, the first thing I am going to do is to ask You’er to write a letter of divorce! If I can’t reject you, I’ll make him get rid of you!”

Fu Rou pretended to be sympathetic. “You really can’t get rid of me.” 

First Lady Chen was stunned.

Fu Rou immediately asked, “What right do you have to get rid of me?”

Once again, First Lady Chen was speechless.

Fu Rou continued, “Based on me disrespecting you?” She then sighed, “But I didn’t even get to step into my husband’s home, how could I disrespect my parents-in-law? You can be condemned for getting rid of your daughter-in-law for no good reason. Out of the seven reasons [1]  for possible divorce, not a single one can be used against me. The people will be the judge on who is right and wrong.”

“You! You!” Lady Chen shouted “You!” repeatedly before spitting out, “If you are not going to my residence then return the endowment gift!”

Fu Rou replied calmly, “I am afraid I am going to have to disappoint you. Since I have been married out, I am now only back at my maiden home to rest. No one asks for the bride’s endowment gift after taking the bride.”

First Lady Chen pointed at Fu Rou, her finger trembling in anger. “You wish to stay in your maiden home, fine. I come to fetch you, yet you refuse to go. In the future, don’t you dare to step into the Chen Residence. Don’t think for a second that you can swallow my family’s five thousand taels. When I gave you the money, I already bought you. Whilst you stay here, if you even dare to behave inappropriately or ruin our name, I will throw you in a cage and drown you!”

First Lady Chen turned to leave but was held back by Second Madam. Second Madam pleaded, “Please, we can discuss this.”

First Lady Chen, however, shook Second Madam’s hand off as she glared at Fu Rou. “That’s right, I will immediately find You’er a concubine that is obedient and gentle to take care of him. She will be much better than a sly fox like you.”

“You can’t get a concubine.” Fu Rou seemed to stifle her laughter. How unfair would it be if she wanted her daughter-in-law to know her place yet allow her son to indulge.

“You have no business in whether my son gets a concubine!” First Lady Chen bellowed. Everything she said had been repeatedly denied by Fu Rou.

Fu Rou brought up the Tang law once again. “You see, as a new bride, my wedding dress and marriage sedan is still here. For as long as I do not return, our marriage ceremony will be considered incomplete. The law states that as commoners, there is always a master for internal and external affairs. In the month after the official wife marries into the family, the husband is not allowed to take in any concubines. I am doing this for Chen You’s sake. If he were to take in a concubine on the exact same day as I marry into the family, he will be marrying his official wife on the same day as his concubine. The punishment for stopping your marriage with a woman so as to marry another is exile.”

First Lady Chen wanted to choke. “You! You!”

“Mother-in-law, please don’t get angry. Be careful of your health. Everything I say is the truth. If you don’t believe me, you can go to the magistrate office to ask my brother-in-law. He is very familiar with Tang laws.” Fu Rou was extremely patient as she slowly sat down.

First Lady Chen’s eyes rolled to the back of her head and fainted.

Third Madam looked on as First Lady Chen was carried away, her anger still burning strong within her.

“She is definitely a demon. Even her mother-in-law cannot control her.” Third Madam suddenly stomped her foot. “Is she really going to stay here? I don’t care! I won’t return the book of accounts even if it kills me!”

Old Maid Chang ran around the corner and almost knocked Third Madam over in her hurry.

Third Madam scolded, “Do you want to die?! Why are you panicking!”

“Third Madam, there is a guest.” Old Maid Chang was still out of breath. “It is a young lord.”

Third Madam froze, “What? Where is he from?”

Old Maid Chang replied, “The eldest son of the Duke Lu, Young Lord Sheng.”

Third Madam paused for half a second before running to the front hall.

Sheng Chumu was in the midst of telling Old Master Fu why he was visiting. “I had a nanny with the surname Xi. She treated me extremely well and was like my own mother. When she passed on, she did not have a single relative beside her and asked me for a favour. She requested that if I ever come across someone with the same surname as her in the future, I should treat them as if they were her relatives. She hoped that they would be able to light an incense for her during festivals.”

His servant, Junhui, chimed in, “We heard that the Third Madam from this residence also has the surname Xi. In order to help Nanny Xi, my lord is here to recognize his kin.”

Sheng Chumu could not forget Fu Rou and did his research on the background of those from the Fu Residence. He decided acknowledging a kin from the residence was the easiest way to get closer to Fu Rou.

Third Madam heard this from outside the door, and could not stop grinning. She believed that it was heaven’s will for her to have such a useful surname. She quickly entered the room and greeted Sheng Chumu. Her eyes shifted to the table and she saw the numerous gifts that were shining gold. Her eyes glittered.

Third Madam eagerly asked, “Young Lord, may I know the name of your nanny?”

Sheng Chumu thought for a while before answering, “Nanny Xi said that her childhood name was Yanzhi.”

Third Madam cried out loud, “Aiya! My uncle lost contact with his daughter in the past. Wasn’t her name also Yanzhi? She must be my pitiful older cousin. Elder Sister, we finally have news of you after you left all those years back. My pitiful uncle longed for you till the day he passed.”

Sheng Chumu rubbed his nose in order to hide the smile that he was trying to conceal. “Third Madam, please do not be sad. Today, we have found each other. If Nanny Xi were to know of this in the afterlife, she will indeed be very happy.”

Third Madam pretended to fake cry as she patted Sheng Chumu’s arm. “You don’t have to treat me like a stranger. From now on, we are one family. You can call me Third Aunt.”

Sheng Chumu improvised, “Third Aunt.”

Third Madam exclaimed, “Then you – err –” She did not know his name.

Sheng Chumu reacted quickly, “Third Aunt, you can just call me Chumu. The guest inns in this entire city are fully occupied, I am currently troubled on where I should go for the night.”

“If you do not mind, we have a few empty rooms…” Third Madam did not even stop to consider the strange circumstance and enthusiastically welcomed him.

This was exactly what he wanted and Sheng Chumu replied, “I don’t mind!”

Third Madam’s eyes flickered as she turned around and called out, “Aunty Chang, quickly get someone to clean up the guest rooms. Inform the kitchen to prepare a good dinner. Oh yes, hurry and get Young Lady to come out and greet Brother Chumu!”

Sheng Chumu got excited thinking that he was about to meet Fu Rou. 


The drizzle came to a halt as the residence bustled with activity. Fu Rou sat by the window, working on her embroidery of an eagle. She turned a deaf ear to the commotion outside.

Ziyun informed her that Third Madam had acknowledged a relative. He was a young lord from a duke family and she had prepared a banquet to celebrate the occasion. Fu Rou found it a little strange but could not be bothered and told Ziyun to close the windows.

All of a sudden, the doors to her room were flung open and a young man walked in. His demeanor resembled Fu Rou. He was tall, well-built and pleasing to the eyes.

Fu Rou immediately shot to her feet and grabbed the feather duster. She headed straight for the young man. 

“Fu Tao, you have really outdone yourself this time!” This younger brother of hers had been learning martial arts on Jiuhua mountain. He finally completed his studies and left the mountain when he got into trouble and even caused someone's death. Because of him, Fu Rou had to ‘trick’ the Chen family for their money.

Fu Tao dodged his sister’s feather duster as he pleaded, “Second Sister, let me explain!”

Fu Rou fumed, “You went to Jiuhua mountain to learn martial arts. Was that all for you to have a love rivalry? And you even caused a person’s life?”

Fu Tao reacted quickly as he grabbed onto the feather duster. However, Fu Rou’s deathly look scared him so much that he hastily let go and could only continue hopping around.

“There was a group of local ruffians. They were bullying a young lady who was forced into becoming a prostitute in order to earn money to bury her father. I could not stand it, that's why…Aiyo!” Fu Tao grimaced as the feather duster whacked his leg, “I merely stood up for her and then the group pounced on me to beat me up. Pitiful me could only return a single punch. Who knew that that scoundrel could not even take a hit? He was the one that smashed a wine jar against my head first. I still have cuts on my head.”

Of course, Fu Rou would not really hit him but simply scolded. “You caused so much trouble and made our family pay the compensation of five thousand taels. You still dare to argue?”

Shouting and wincing, Fu Tao escaped out of her room. When Fu Rou chased after him into the yard, Fu Tao had disappeared. She was angry but she also wanted to laugh. She knew that Fu Tao’s personality was pure and good. If not, she would not have gambled with her happiness on the line to help him out.

At this moment, the sound of a flute filled the air. Fu Rou could not help but fall into a slight trance as she tilted her head up to look up at the night sky. Fu Rou’s features were illuminated by the moonlight.

“Yan Zifang, is that you?” Was she mistaken?

Fu Rou sighed softly at the moon, “If that really is you, please give me a reply.”

The man behind the fake mountain stared fixedly at Fu Rou and eventually imitated an eagle, giving out several ‘hoots’ in response.

Under the moonlight, traces of emotions flicked in Fu Rou’s eyes as an innocent smile appeared on her face. “Do you remember that eagle from before? You caught it for me to play.”

The eagle hooted once again.

“We have played together ever since we were young. So many years have passed, and you have never once visited me in my dreams. Why have you thought of me today?” Fu Rou’s expression was dreamlike. “If it is because of the wedding, you can rest assured. I will not go to the Chen Residence and I will not marry anyone else in the future. Around me, there are only incompetent people that lust for beauty. Perhaps there are really men who are well-rounded in both literature and martial arts, but I, Fu Rou, will not have a chance to meet them.” 

“Ah ah ah!” Sheng Chumu fell down in front of Fu Rou. His limbs splayed out.

“Who are you?!” Fu Rou was stunned as she quickly backed off.

 

 


1. The seven acceptable reasons in Ancient China for divorce include: disrespect to parents, no children, wanton, jealousy, having a foul disease, being too talkative or stealing.

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