The next morning, the Yun matriarch sent a maid over with tonic and snacks as breakfast, as well as to inform Yun Ruoyan at approximately what time their carriage would be leaving for the Minghuang mountain.
Because the Yun matriarch would be going herself, this was a formal excursion, and each miss would have to bring a few servants.
Because Peony was more responsible and eagle-eyed, Yun Ruoyan left her behind to keep an eye on Ling Lan, and instead chose to take Xi Lan with her.
“It’s your first time going outside with the mistress, so make sure you’re alert and wary,” Peony instructed Xi Lan once and again before they left.
“Yes, Peony, and I’ll also bring you back the almond pastries you like from outside.”
As Yun Ruoyan walked toward the main courtyard with Xi Lan, they saw three large carriages waiting for them.
The first carriage was sizable and pulled by two horses. The carriage was made of mahogany, and the drapes with silk muslin. Clearly, this was intended for the old matriarch.
The second carriage was slightly smaller, with drapes of blue muslin, and it didn’t look like a bad choice either.
Although the third carriage seemed decent, it couldn’t compare to the first two. It had no drapes and only thin, flimsy curtains, and it looked to be considerably smaller.
“Sister Ruoyan.” At this time, Yi Qianying’s head popped out from the window of the third carriage. “Why don’t we sit together?”
Yun Ruoyan ignored Yi Qianying and walked straight to the second carriage. Before she could get on it, however, Yun Ruoyu’s voice rang out from behind. “That’s our carriage!”
Yun Ruoyan turned around and saw Yun Ruoyu and Yun Ruoyao heading her way with their own servants.
“Miss, we…” Xi Lan subconsciously began tugging on Yun Ruoyan’s wrist.
Yun Ruoyan glanced askance at Xi Lan so coldly that she released her grip in shock.
Peony was the more intelligent of her two servants, and because she often went with Yun Ruoyan to pay greetings to the Yun matriarch and to Yun Lan, she knew a little of the delicate power plays of the aristocracy.
On the other hand, Xi Lan was one of those maids who was relatively innocent and happy to just do her work. She’d mainly been assigned manual labor and tended to be responsible for Yun Ruoyan’s food and clothes. Today was her first day going out with Yun Ruoyan.
In the past, Yun Ruoyan was timid and gave way to her sisters in just about everything. Xi Lan used to have a short temper, but after getting ostracized and bullied because of her mistress, she had gradually grown more and more conflict-averse.
And although it had gotten better in recent times, when Xi Lan saw Yun Ruoyao and Yun Ruoyu, the memories of her being bullied began pouring out, and she was so scared that she didn’t even dare raise her head.
Yun Ruoyan retracted her gaze and murmured to Xi Lan, “Straighten your back. With me around, I promise no one amongst the Yuns will dare to bully you!”
Xi Lan hesitated for a moment, her terrified expression finally morphing into one full of smiles.
“Yes, mistress!” She immediately raised her head high, so high that her nose was almost level with her eyes.
The duo stepped into the second carriage.
“Sister Ruoyao, look at her!” Seeing that Yun Ruoyan had just shrugged off her words, Yun Ruoyu was understandably vexed.
Their grandmother hadn’t yet arrived, and Yun Ruoyao and Yun Ruoyu stood in the courtyard and looked at the two large carriages, uncertain of how to proceed.
“The second miss is getting more and more daring!”
“The eldest and third misses have always been the ones sharing this carriage, and now the second miss is trying to snatch it too?”
“That’s right, she’s really flouting the established standard!”
Yun Ruoyao and Yun Ruoyu’s two servants stood by their respective mistresses and commented, clearly dissatisfied with Yun Ruoyan’s behavior.
“Oh? Established standards?” Yun Ruoyan parted the muslin and glanced out the carriage, her gaze cold. It passed over Yun Ruoyao and Yun Ruoyu, landing on the servants behind them. “Qiuhong, Xiangcao,” she commanded coldly. “Please come forward and tell this second miss of the Yun family what standards you’re talking about!”
Faced with Yun Ruoyan’s severe gaze, the two maids were at a loss for words. They’d never before seen this supposed second daughter behave so confrontationally; after all, in the past, she never had a nasty word or unkind glance toward the servants.
But her behavior now had upturned that. The two maids weren’t particularly fearful of her person, but rather of her status. They stood there hemming and hawing, unsure of how to respond.
At this time, Yun Ruoyao smiled and stepped forward. “Our two maids have been spoiled and were speaking nonsense. Ruoyan, please ignore them.”
“That’s right. Why are you so angry today, Ruoyan? You can have the second carriage if you’d like,” Yun Ruoyu added.
“I’m not angry—it’s just that I didn’t understand what their comments meant, and wanted to find out.” Yun Ruoyan smiled coldly. “How about I ask Grandmother directly when she gets here?”
“You…” Yun Ruoyu wanted to speak, but Yun Ruoyao interrupted her before she could.
Her face cold, Yun Ruoyao turned back to the two maids. “Qiuhong, Xiangcao, apologize to Ruoyan.”
Since Yun Ruoyao was protecting the two of them, their faces weren’t as fearful as they were before. Unwillingly, and even with a hint of pride, they walked toward the carriage. Just as they were about to speak, they suddenly heard two loud slaps. It took them a moment to realize that each of them now had one numb, tingling cheek.
Yun Ruoyao and Yun Ruoyu hadn’t expected that Xi Lan would actually hit them, and didn’t know how to respond.
“You dare hit me?!” Qiuhong was the first to react, pointing and staring angrily at Xi Lan.
“I did it for my mistress.” Xi Lan stood up straighter. “The two of you deserved it, and I’m afraid my mistress would be unable to control her strength and kill both of you!”
Although Xi Lan wasn’t a cultivator, the muscles that she’d built up on manual labor caused her to be far stronger than the standard maid, and Qiuhong and Xiangcao’s cheeks became red and swollen almost immediately.
The two maids were used to bullying all the servants in the Yun family, backed by their two mistresses, and they’d never encountered such humiliation. In their rage, they actually reached into the carriage and grabbed her, trying to pull her down.
“Insolence!” Yun Ruoyan grabbed Qiuhong and Xiangcao’s wrists with her two hands. At the same time, she lightly injected a small amount of spiritual energy into their bodies through her fingers.
The two girls immediately felt as if a current had burrowed into their body through their wrists, as if a needle had been jabbed into their heart. It was an exceedingly strange feeling, and it hurt so much that they both let out pained screams.
Yun Ruoyan released her grip on the two maids, and that spiritual energy was retracted along with her grip. The two mais couldn’t help but look at Yun Ruoyan with fear.
She continued to smile back at them coolly. They were truly two servants befitting her sisters!
Under Yun Ruoyan’s cold gaze, the two maids knelt as one, begging and kowtowing to her. “Second Miss, we were wrong! Please spare us!”
It was to this scene that the Yun matriarch and Madam An appeared. When Madam An saw the two maids kneeling on the ground, she immediately stepped forward and asked, “What happened? Who was shouting so loudly just now?”
The coldness on Yun Ruoyan’s face vanished, replaced instead by a vapid smile at the two servants. “Mother’s asking you a question, so respond!” She stretched out a hand to help them up.
But, terrified by their former contact with Yun Ruoyan, how would Qiuhong and Xiangcao dare to let her touch them again? They immediately turned toward Madam An. “We spoke out of turn and angered the second miss, and we accept her punishment.”
Madam An’s face turned dark as she glanced at Yun Ruoyao and Yun Ruoyu, but they only looked at each other, their faces filled with confusion. Neither of them had understood why their maids had suddenly become so fearful of Yun Ruoyan.
But the Yun matriarch’s eyes sparkled. As her maid helped her up the carriage, she slowly commented, “Some servants do need to be punished on occasion, or they’ll quickly grow too prideful.”
Since Yun Ruoyao and Yun Ruoyu didn’t feel inclined to speak, Madam An simply scolded Qiuhong and Xiangcao casually before following the Yun matriarch up the first carriage.
They were almost ready to depart, but Yun Ruoyao and Yun Ruoyu still hadn’t gotten into a carriage. They’d each brought their maids with them. It would clearly be impractical for six people to squeeze into such a small carriage, but no one wanted to sit with Yun Ruoyan.
The two girls were in a quandary when Yi Qianying stepped down from the third carriage and said, “Shall I sit with Sister Ruoyan and leave the third carriage to the two of you, Sister Ruoyao, Sister Ruoyu?”
The two girls were only too glad to agree.
On the carriage, Yun Ruoyao looked out the window the entire trip, unwilling to deal with Yi Qianying’s plastered smile and false pleasantries.
On the other hand, Xi Lan and Yi Qianying’s maids chattered quietly for the entire trip. Yun Ruoyan listened in for a moment and began ignoring them as well: all they discussed was how to make this or that pastry, a certain type of soup, and so on and so forth.
The weather was indeed unusually pleasant that day. It wasn’t quite summer, and the sun not yet scorching. The gentle wind blew comfortingly on Yun Ruoyan’s face. If not for the annoying girl by her side, she really would have been able to relax in peace.
Yi Qianying’s gaze flitted to Yun Ruoyan from time to time. Her pink, gauzy dress perfectly complemented her snow-white skin, and even the lotus-leaf gauze covering her birthmark seemed a natural extension of her outfit.
Yi Qianying couldn’t help but feel shocked at how beautiful this ugly waif had become after hiding her scar. No wonder even Brother Ziao seemed to be looking at her differently now.
In the past, although Pei Ziao had been very attentive toward Yun Ruoyan, Yi Qianying could detect the disdain from his eyes, but now, that disdain had dramatically lessened and been replaced by some complicated mix of emotions, a change that left Yi Qianying very much uncomfortable.
“Brother Ziao’s mine. No one can snatch him away from me, let alone an ugly wench like you!” Yi Qianying was still smiling cheerily, but the handkerchief in her hands was warped from how hard she’d been clenching it.
She remembered how, yesterday, after pleading with him for half the day, Pei Ziao had finally agreed to her plans, and the smile on her face deepened.
Just you wait, Yun Ruoyan. Even if you don’t die today, I’ll at least make you suffer!Previous Chapter Next Chapter