Likewise, Qi Zheng noticed Shen Family’s horse carriage passing by as well. He was drinking tea by a spot near the window of the Shangpin Teahouse. Across from him was a young man wearing a sapphire blue robe with violet and golden embroidery designs. The young man was just chatting nonstop when Qi Zheng fell into a daze as he glanced at the horse carriage in the distance.
“Hey you, what are you looking at? Are you listening to me?” The young man was unhappy, shouting at Qi Zheng to focus on him.
Qi Zheng glanced at him faintly and asked, “I understand everything you’ve just said.”
“You understood? Then yes or no?” The young man asked.
“No.” Qi Zheng was absent-minded. Where was that silly girl going? He hadn’t seen her in a few days. He heard that she got back her dowries. She must be thinking about something right now.
The young man got angry and almost slapped the table, jumping up. “What’s wrong with my sister? She’s educated and reasonable, gentle and virtuous. There are tons of young masters begging for her hand in my marriage, but my father refused all of the suitors. I’m only asking you because you saved me in the past before, yet you refused me?”
“Young heir, no matter how good your sister is, I don’t like her.” Qi Zheng glanced at this young man with his pitch-black eyes, his deep and hoarse voice mixed with an indescribable tint of determination.
This young man was the second son of the Provincial Duke and the only legal son too. He was Gu Feiyang, the current heir of Provincial Duke Residence. Under a coincidental chance, Qi Zheng saved him from almost being hurt by a wild animal in the hunting grounds. As a result, he viewed Qi Zheng as his benefactor and treated him like a friend.
Gu Feiyang’s sister was known as a virtuous and gentle unmarried daughter of a noble house within the capital. Who knew that Qi Zheng wasn’t even interested in her.
“How is my sister unworthy of you?” Gu Feiyang’s handsome face flushed. This was the first time someone said that they didn’t like his sister.
Qi Zheng glanced in the direction that the horse carriage left again, saying, “I’m the one unwrorhty of your sister.”
Uncle Qun was anxious, pacing around. That was the eldest miss of Provincial Duke Residence. There are countless people that want to marry her, so why isn’t the eldest master moved in the least bit?
Most importantly, if the eldest master married Eldest Miss Gu, then the heir’s status would definitely be his.
Gu Feiyang seemed to have read Uncle Qun’s mind. “If you marry my sister, you’ll be the heir to Duke An Residence. How can your stepmother beat you down anymore?”
With Provincial Duke Residence helping him, why should he worry about Xiao Gu?
Qi Zheng faintly smiled, saying nothing. He didn’t need a woman to help him win over the heir’s position.
Plus, he disdained being an heir or whatnot.
“Feiyang, my heart is already with someone else.” He picked up the teacup, unconsciously revealing a smile and a gentle glint flashed by his eyes.
Gu Feiyang was shocked and so was Uncle Qun. He didn’t know since when his eldest master fell in love with a lady.
“Which… which young lady do you have your eyes set on?” Gu Feiyang asked.
Qi Zheng lowered his head and said, “A silly girl.”
Gu Feiyang glanced at Qi Zheng, stunned. Only he knew that this dude was pretending to be stupid when everyone thought he was a fool. In reality, no one ever knew what this cold and resolute person was thinking about.
He actually said that his heart was with someone else...
“Who?” Gu Feiyang asked in a daze. Who was better than his sister?
Qi Zheng suddenly stood up. He was about to leave the capital. Instead of staying here and thinking about that silly girl, he might as well go and bid farewell with her. “Thank you for this meal, I’m leaving now.”
Gu Feiyang let out an interjection. The dishes weren’t even ready yet.
Qi Zheng seemed like he hadn’t heard his words as he already walked out of the private room.
When he walked out, he saw Sheng Peiyin talking to a man wearing a dark gray robe. He didn’t know what they were talking about though. Qi Zheng looked at them faintly before walking out of Shangpin Teahouse in large strides.
Shen Ziqiao arrived at the biggest store. Besides going through inspections, she wanted to see Liang Jianhai.
Pan Madam trained him but he ended up betraying her after she passed away, currying favor to the old woman. He helped her manage the two stores Pan Madam left.
She felt like Pan Madam was a very intelligent woman. Plus, the subordinates that she trained have strong capabilities like Lady Meng and Shopkeeper Fan. One could tell by how they had been loyal to her for decades.
Did Liang Jianhai really betray Pan Madam?
She recalled the incident at the rice store last time. Shopkeeper Fan had told her secretly that Liang Jianhai has had a difficult time.
Shopkeeper Fan and Liang Jianhai had worked together for many years, and he should know him the best. Since he said Liang Jianhai had a difficult time, then that meant he probably knew some hidden secrets.
“Lady Meng, which store did Liang Jianhai work at?” Shen Ziqiao asked. She wanted to personally meet that person.
Lady Meng resented Liang Jianhai. Hearing that Shen Ziqiao wanted to meet him, she pursed her lips, saying, “Third Miss, why do you want to see him? He’s an ungratified person.”
“Maybe he was troubled.” Shen Ziqiao smiled, saying.
“What trouble could he have?” It felt as if someone had ripped Lady Meng’s wound. “Does Shopkeeper Fan not have any trouble? Only he has trouble? I refuse to believe that. He must be up to no good.”
Shen Ziqiao covered her mouth and laughed. “If Liang Jianhai was a bad person, why did you set your eyes on him back then? If it weren’t for my mother who passed away, maybe I’d have to call you Liang Madam.”
Lady Meng’s face flushed and she felt embarrassed. After a while, she cursed, “I was blind back then!”
“Enough, enough. Don’t insult yourself. Let’s go hear what Liang Jianhai has to say.” Shen Ziqiao smiled.
The horse carriage stopped at the crossroad of the east street. Hong Ying helped Shen Ziqiao down the horse carriage. These were the two biggest stores that Pan Madam had left.
One was in charge of rouge business while the other sold wine. They had the best businesses amongst the other stores of the same industries.
The two stores were relatively across from each other. Customers now flooded the stores.
“Third Miss.” A middle-aged man with a skinny figure walked over with his head down. This man wore an azurite-colored robe which appeared to be loose on him, making him seem rather flimsy.
Shen Ziqiao looked up and observed him. Seeing how respectful he was and that ashamed expression, she guessed who it was.
“Shopkeeper Liang?” She faintly smiled at him.
Lady Meng softly hmphed behind him, expressing her disdain for him.
“Third Miss, it’s cold outside. Talk inside.” Liang Jianhai pretended like he was ignorant to Lady Meng’s displeasure. He respectfully invited Shen Ziqiao inside the store.
Shen Ziqiao smiled and nodded, following Liang Jianghai into the store selling rouges. It was a whole new world inside the store. There was a small courtyard with pomegranates and wisterias planted.
They sat in the small lounge. Looking ahead, they saw the courtyard dyed in autumn colors.
“It’s pretty nice here.” Shen Ziqiao smiled.
Liang Jianhai replied in a low voice, “Madam always enjoyed sitting here and reading the accounts book whenever she went to inspect stores.”
“You’re quite devoted to my mother.” Shen Ziqiao drank a sip of tea, glancing at Liang Jianhai interestedly. She really couldn't tell that he was a fickle person.
Lady Meng glanced at the pomegranate in the courtyard. It had already beared fruits. “Madam personally planted them.”
“We can pluck the fruits now. Third Miss, do you want to try?” Liang Jianhai asked in a low voice.
Shen Ziqiao’s eyes brightened. “Sure.”
It felt as if Liang Jianhai had prepared beforehand. He quickly had someone bring over a peeled pomegranate.
It was sparkling and translucent like a ruby, full of juice.
“Liang Jianhai, the Old Madam hasn’t come to seek you out lately?” Shen Ziqiao ate the pomegranate and casually asked.
Liang Jianhai froze, smiling guiltily. “Reporting to Third Miss, the Old Madam hasn’t come to seek me out.”
“That’s because the stores are now back in Third Miss’ control. Why would the Old Madam need you?” Lady Meng mocked.
“I…” Liang Jianhai looked at Lady Meng sorrowfully, saying nothing as he kept his head down.
Shen Ziqiao wiped her fingers with her handkerchief, smiling at Liang Jianhai. “Before I came, I read over the decade or so account books from these stores. The businesses were still as good as it was back when my mother was alive. The shop assistants were almost all the same still. This was all your contribution.”
Liang Jianhai suddenly looked at Shen Ziqiao, wondering if she really said that.
“Shopkeeper Fan said you have it difficult and so do I. Tell me. Did you really betray me and my mother for the past decade or so? She believed that if Liang Jianhai had disobeyed the old woman like Shopkeeper Fan, Old Madam’s people would’ve made sure the stores would end up shutting down and going out of business.
One could tell just looking at Mama Li’s nephew.
Would she believe whatever he said? Liang Jianhai looked at her confusedly.
That’s what Shen Ziqiao meant.
“Third Miss, I’ve never betrayed Madam.” Liang Jianhai lifted his head, not feeling guilty or ashamed. Even if no one knew about his loyalty for the Madam, he didn’t resent or regret anything.
Lady Meng cursed, “You’re not ashamed to say this? You’re saying that you haven’t betrayed the Madam after doing all of this?”
“I believe you.” Shen Ziqiao said. “How about this? I’ll be going to Minyue in a few days. I still need you and Shopkeeper Fan to look after the stores in the capital.”
That’s it? She didn’t question him?
Was this the Third Miss he knew? Liang Jianhai looked at her questioningly. Her bright eyes were full of trust towards him just like the past Madam.
They all said that Third Miss had changed. He had been doubtful, but who knew this was the truth.
“Third Miss, how can you hand him the stores?” Lady Meng was strongly against it, afraid that Liang Jianhai may betray Shen Ziqiao again.
“Lady Meng, you know Liang Jianhai better than me. Do you really think he’ll betray me? It’s been a while. If he really wanted to betray my mother in order to obtain more benefits, why bother staying here? Old Madam didn’t treat him that good either. He was still only a shopkeeper even after a decade. He didn’t gain much profit either.”
With Liang Jianhai’s ability, he should be valued anywhere. Did he need to watch that old woman’s expression?
Lady Meng stayed silent. Back when she knew that Liang Jianhai betrayed the Madam, she didn’t believe them either.
Madam valued him the most when she was alive.
If it weren’t for Madam, Liang Jianhai would probably still be doing bitter work somewhere.
“Thank you Third Miss!” Liang Jianhai suddenly kneeled down and kowtowed three times firmly.
T/N: We've finally reached the 100th chapter, yay! As a celebration, I'm thinking about doing daily updates starting Monday for the week, whatcha think?~