“Brother, let’s head to Grandfather’s place. I have something I need to tell you.”
The Lins and Yuns had grown estranged over the years. For the Yun matriarch’s birthday celebration, the Yun family had sent the Lins an invitation as a superficial courtesy; in a similarly superficial gesture, the Lins had quickly left after dropping off a small gift.
These last few days, Lin Zainan had gone into seclusion. Lin Qingchen spent all her time in her little bamboo garden except when she had to manage the family’s physician practice. Even Lin Qingxue, normally the most active, had remained home the past few days to finish the homework that her grandfather had assigned her.
As a result, although news of Yun Ruoyan’s abduction had spread far and wide throughout the capital, no one from the Lin family knew about it.
It was only this morning that Lin Bo had overheard the news while out shopping. He hurriedly went to find Lin Qingxue, who then rushed to her sister’s garden.
And then the two sisters went to their grandfather’s pillmaking chambers, but when they found that the room was still entirely sealed, neither of the girls dared disturb their grandfather.
Just as they were at a loss for what to do, Lin Bo led Yun Ruoyan to the Lin family’s backyard.
“Misses, look who’s here!” Lin Bo called out to Lin Qingxue and Lin Qingchen from afar.
The two girls turned around to see Yun Ruoyan and a tall youth standing behind her.
“Sister Ruoyan, you’re alright?” Lin Qingxue rushed to her cousin and grabbed her hand. “I heard Lin Bo mention that you were abducted by a demon! We were so worried that we went straight to Grandfather, but he’s still in the middle of his pillmaking, so we didn’t know what to do… but you’re safe, you’re safe!”
“Yes, I’m alright now, don’t worry.” The Lin sisters’ glum faces turned bright the moment she appeared, and Lin Qingxue looked so happy it seemed like she could cry at any moment.
The two of them really seemed to be concerned for her, and she was both touched and somewhat apologetic.
“And this is… Cousin?!” Lin Qingchen exclaimed in shock.
“Qingchen, you remember me?” Yun Moxiao began to smile, his stern expression turning as gentle as the sun.
“Of course I do!”
Lin Qingxue had also shifted her attention from Yun Ruoyan to her cousin, whom she hadn’t seen for many years. “Wow, Cousin, you’ve grown taller and even more dashing!”
Yun Moxiao chortled at Lin Qingxue’s enthusiastic praise.
“Hmm?” Lin Qingxue circled Yun Moxiao, looking at his clothes. “Cousin, didn’t you bring anything for us? I loved the dried horse jerky you brought back that last time! I’ve been waiting for you for so long, but… don’t tell me you didn’t bring anything?!”
“Ah! I came back in such a rush that I completely forgot…”
“I don’t care, I want a gift! I want a gift, a gift! It’s been so long since you last came back…” Lin Qingxue’s expression immediately turned sullen. “Anything will do, even if it’s not horse jerky!”
Lin Qingxue tugged on Yun Moxiao’s sleeve, pouting.
“Cousin, ignore her. All she does is make a fuss.”
Lin Qingxue’s personality meant that she was most rowdy among people she liked being with. Yun Ruoyan and Lin Qingchen were both used to her antics. Although Yun Moxiao hadn’t seen his two cousins for quite a few years, his personality was really quite compatible with Lin Qingxue’s. Rather than getting annoyed with her, he found her unadulterated petulance somewhat charming.
“If we have the time to go shopping, I’ll buy you whatever you want!”
“Really? Brother, you’re not lying?” Lin Qingxue’s round face wrinkled into a sunflower as she smiled, her even rounder eyes brimming with desire. “Great! There’ll be a temple fair within the next few days to celebrate the changing of the seasons, and the streets will be packed!”
Lin Qingchen smiled and sighed. “Cousin, ignore my sister’s words. You must be tired after your long trip, so spend some time resting.”
“No, no, it’s fine. I’m glad to be able to spend time with all of you.”
Both her brother and her cousins’ faces were filled with smiles, and the anger and disappointment from the events at the Yun household were slowly dissipating.
Just at that moment, the doors to the pillmaking chambers opened up, and the white-haired Lin Zainan walked out.
“Grandfather!” Yun Moxiao’s voice cracked as he saw the old man. On the way to the Lin manor, Yun Ruoyan had told her brother about how Lin Zainan had sacrificed his cultivation to help her cure her poison.
That was why Yun Moxiao felt a sudden kinship for the wizened, white-haired old man even though he didn’t remember him.
“Xiao’er…” Lin Zainan had been busily working in his chambers when he heard a male voice in the yard. His intuition told him that it had to be Yun Moxiao, and he hurriedly unsealed the chambers.
Although he had heard the Lin sisters and Yun Ruoyan describe Yun Moxiao to him a few times, Lin Zainan’s eyes nevertheless brightened when he saw the youth in person.
He looked sturdy and strong, his dark hair tied up in a golden crown and his body garbed in a dark-red martial artist’s outfit. His facial features were similar to but sharper and more pronounced than Yun Ruoyan’s, giving him a sunny, masculine grace.
Yun Moxiao quickly stepped forward and knelt down in front of his grandfather. “Grandfather, please allow me to pay my respects to you on behalf of my mother.”
“Good child, good child.” Lin Zainan quickly leaned down to help him up, but Yun Moxiao insisted on kowtowing thrice. He was very agitated at meeting his only grandson for the first time in recent memory, so much so that he was almost at a loss for words.
After losing his only daughter, then having his two sons go missing, all he had left were Lin Qingchen and Lin Qingxue. Although Yun Ruoyan and Yun Moxiao weren’t part of the Lin family, his blood still ran through their veins. To Lin Zainan, they were equally important existences.
“Old Lin, Old Lin!” As Lin Zainan smiled serenely, he called out to Lin Bo, who ran in from outside the yard.
“Have the kitchen prepare a feast with meat!” Lin Zainan declared. “And then get the fifty-year-old alcohol from the cellar. Tonight, I’m going to have a good drink with my grandson!”
Lin Zainan had long abstained from eating meat, and he’d even stopped drinking as much as he used to in recent years. When Lin Bo heard his sudden request for meat, he hesitated for a moment before bowing and rushing off in preparation.
“Meat, meat!” Lin Qingxue yelled out happily. Neither Lin Zainan nor Lin Qingchen were particularly fond of meat, so Lin Qingxue was a frequent customer at food stalls and restaurants all throughout the capital. Today, finally, she would get a chance to have meat at home!
Everyone retreated to Lin Zainan’s study to talk. Lin Zainan recounted a story of how he’d cradled Yun Moxiao as a baby, but in what seemed like almost no time, Yun Moxiao was already a head taller than he was.
The grandfather and grandson had no shortage of things to discuss, and Lin Qingchen, Lin Qingxue, and Yun Ruoyan sat by the side listening to them talk.
Lin Zainan asked Yun Moxiao quite a number of questions about his stay at the army, a topic of great interest to Lin Qingxue. She would often interject, but Yun Moxiao answered all her questions patiently.
When Lin Qingxue heard Yun Moxiao mention that the army was recruiting female soldiers, she was very excited and eager to participate, but it would conflict with her plans to attend Kongming Academy.
Lin Qingxue’s face turned conflicted as she debated whether or not to give up on the academy, but Lin Qingchen and Lin Zainan quickly excised that notion in alarm. Lin Qingxue could only sigh theatrically, causing everyone to smother a smile.
The afternoon passed by in the blink of an eye.
In contrast, back in the Yun household, time seemed to pass at a snail’s crawl. Although the lanterns that had been hung up yesterday for the Yun matriarch’s birthday were still swaying in the wind, the atmosphere in the household was cold and chilly.
After the Yun matriarch left with Yun Ruoyan and Yun Moxiao in tow, Yun Lan pronounced, “All of you, return to your quarters, reflect on your past actions, and think about whether you have the right to stay in this household.”
Then he too walked off.
What did those words mean? Is he planning on chasing me away? Madam An’s heart froze over. Ever since she had married into the Yun family, no matter how hard she tried to gain his favor, Yun Lan had never cared for her.
When she was young, Madam An fell in love with Yun Lan at first sight, conquered by his handsome features and cold, aloof aura. Even when she found out that he’d fallen in love with some other woman and was to marry her, she was nevertheless willing to be his concubine.
As a result, Madam An and Lin Yuemei entered the Yun household at the same time.
By tradition, the groom’s first night would be in his wife’s chambers, but his second night should have been in his concubine’s. However, Madam An waited for two whole weeks before Yun Lan visited her for the first time.
That day, Yun Lan was so drunk that he called out Lin Yuemei’s name even while engaging in sexual relations with her. Like poisoned needles, his drunken mutterings stabbed into Madam An’s tender heart.
She would have been sufficient with just the slightest portion of his affection, but the only woman in his eyes was Lin Yuemei. How could she be satisfied? Oh, how she hated Lin Yuemei!
In the end, Madam An, who was once the flower and pride of a noble household, slowly transformed into a malicious, vengeful wife and stepmother. When Lin Yuemei died, Madam An thought that her chance had finally come. However, Yun Lan then took in three concubines in quick succession.
Each of those concubines shared a fraction of Lin Yuemei’s features.
Madam An’s heart shriveled. She might not have been able to best Lin Yuemei in life, but how could she monopolize Yun Lan’s feelings even in death?! Lin Yuemei, I might be nothing compared to you, but I won’t lose to even your daughter!
The more Madam An stewed, the angrier she became. In the end, she felt so short of breath that she couldn’t help but start huffing and coughing miserably.
“Mother, are you alright?” Yun Ruoyao asked in concern as she patted her back.
“I’m fine. Let’s go back to our quarters.” Madam An stopped coughing relatively quickly, and her tone seemed neutral enough. However, when Yun Ruoyao reached out to support her, she found that her entire body was trembling lightly.
“Sister, Mother,” Yun Ruoyu began, “Madam Qin has asked me to accompany her tonight, so I won’t follow the two of you.”
Yun Ruoyao frowned at Yun Ruoyu. She was about to lecture her when Madam An shook her head, allowing Yun Ruoyu to leave.
“Why haven’t we seen Qianying lately?” Madam An turned to her daughter.
“She’s still preparing her bridal clothes,” Yun Ruoyao replied. “Sister Qianying’s still attached to Young Master Pei, and she’s been quite distressed lately.”
Madam An straightened up, a smile suddenly appearing on her face. “Let’s go visit her at some point.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter