By the time Shen Zixin returned to the Shen Family, the gloominess in her eyes had vanished and was bright once again. She went straight for Madam Zhou’s room once she got out of the horse carriage.
“Mother, I’m not going to the Plum Appreciation Banquet anymore.” Shen Zixin smiled at Madam Zhou. Seeing that the latter was still worried over what outfit she should wear, she hurriedly went over and stopped her.
Madam Zhou clearly froze after hearing this before her face darkened. She had the lady in charge of embroidery leave as she stared at Shen Zixin unhappy. “What’s the matter? You’re scared that you might not be able to attend it? I’m telling you. Even if your father disapproves, I have my own way.”
Shen Zixin smiled and shook her head. “That’s not it. Mother, I’ve thought this through. I don’t want to marry the crown prince anymore.”
Madam Zhou felt as if she had heard a joke. She glared at Shen Zixin. “What did you say?”
“Mother, I’m telling the truth. Father is right. Life in the palace isn’t as easy as I thought. I don’t want to enter the palace anymore.” Shen Zixin said in a determined tone. “Mother, don’t fight with father over this.”
“Your father doesn’t want you to live a life of rich and glory but I refuse to let my daughter suffer.” Madam Zhou said angrily, “Look at the number of people kissing up to Shen Ziqiao. She used to be an idiot and the laughing stock of the entire capital.”
Shen Zixin furrowed her brows. “Mother, why don’t you want Jiao Jiao to marry well? She’s also your niece.”
“If it weren’t for her, you would’ve married Qi Zheng.” Madam Zhou was upset over this.
“Mother, did you know that Jiao Jiao was supposed to marry Qi Zheng when he was still a fool three years ago? Did you know that Jiao Jiao and Qi Zheng had known each other already? Even more, uncle plans on marrying Jiao Jiao to him too?” Shen Zixin looked at Madam Zhou and asked seriously.
Madam Zhou’s gaze flickered and she looked away. “How am I supposed to know? Who told you this?”
“You knew already!” Shen Zixin sighed. “Mother, Jiao Jiao didn’t steal my marriage. You think that because Qi Zheng had become Da Zhou’s hero and the future general so you’re trying to settle a marriage between me and him, right? And you’re trying to do this before Jiao Jiao comes back yet. But Madam Qi didn’t have the same thought. Right?”
“Xiao Gu is Qi Zheng’s stepmother so she naturally won’t want Qi Zheng to have a wife from an affluent background.” Madam Zhou said in disdain. “In short, I’m in charge of your marriage. Don’t say anything else.”
Shen Zixin said, “Mother, you’re aware of father’s attitude. Who can change his mind on something he refuses?”
Madam Zhou pursed her lips and hmphed but didn’t persist anymore.
“Mother, I’m going to visit grandmother.” Shen Zixin smiled.
Old Madam Shen seemed to be better. She was able to get out of bed and walk around.
When she arrived at De’an Courtyard, Shen Xiao was talking to Old Madam.
They were talking about Shen Zikai’s marriage.
Because Shen Zixin was unmarried, after paying respects to Old Madam Shen, she retreated. Madam Zhou still had control over the household. Now that the eldest son of the main household was getting married, she naturally had to stay.
“You want to act as a matchmaker for Kai’er?” Madam Zhou’s eyes brightened. She smiled. “Brother-in-law, I have a niece in my maiden home who is around the same age as Kai’er. She is an expert in the four arts and Old Madam had seen that lady before as well. She likes her really much. I think we should hurry and propose marriage to the family already.”
Shen Xiao smiled faintly while remaining expressionless. “You may not know but Kai’er is already engaged. His mother had settled the marriage down for him actually.”
“No!” Old Madam Shen’s face darkened, her sallow face revealing her unhappiness. She said determined, “Lady Zhu isn’t good.”
“Mother, you hadn’t seen her before so how do you know she’s not good? I’ve already asked Pan Family’s aunt to propose marriage. Let Kai’er and Lady Zhu get married this month.” It was rare but Shen Xiao had acted unyielding in front of Old Madam Shen this time.
Old Madam Shen’s chest heaved up and down but she was only able to make out a few words, “No, I refuse! Zhu Family...no!”
“Mother, I know you don’t like Lihua but the Zhu Family has been a literary family for generations. Lady Zhu is cultured and refined, gentle and filial. She’s a perfect match for Kai’er. What else do you dislike about her?” Shen Xiao asked in a dark face.
She was unhappy because this marriage was settled by Pan madam, that bitch!
“Brother-in-law, since mother doesn’t like her, why not…” Madam Zhou wanted to speak up for her niece but she was frightened by Shen Xiao’s stern gaze.
“Mother, Pan Madam had died for so many years so why are you still holding a grudge? Kai’er is your grandson and also the oldest grandson of the family. Don’t you want him to live a good life? If we ruin the marriage with the Zhu Family, we’d be backing out on our words. How is Kai’er supposed to maintain his dignity in the military camp in the future? How could he convince the masses? You also don’t...Our Shen Family’s men need to have good reputations.” Shen Xiao said genuinely, in a solemn tone.
Old Madam Shen hmphed. “Excuses.”
“Mother, you’ve just gotten better lately so you should rest well and wait to drink tea served by your granddaughter-in-law.” Shen Xiao didn’t mind Old Madam Shen’s unhappiness. After all, he knew that she’d refuse.
Madam Zhou hurriedly exclaimed, “Mother, Xin’er is also turning old now. Should we also…”
“Didn’t you want...Xin’er...to attend the Plum Appreciation Banquet?” Old Madam Shen asked with difficulty.
“Right but Second Master refuses.” Then Madam Zhou looked carefully at Shen Xiao.
Shen Xiao said faintly, “Duke Zhen’s second son has reached a marriageable age. He’s a good match for Xin’er. Yesterday, when I encountered Duke Zhen, he has the intention of forming connections with our family through marriage too.”
How could Duke Zhen’s second son compare to the crown prince?
Madam Zhou wanted Old Madam to speak up for her and allow Xin’er to attend the banquet. But before she could say anything, Old Madam Shen had become drowsy and tired.
“Mother is tired. Nanny Li, quickly help Old Madam to rest.” Shen Xiao interrupted Madam Zhou’s words and had Nanny Li help Old Madam Shen lay down in bed.
“Old Madam isn’t feeling well so don’t have her manage all these little matters.” Shen Xiao furrowed his brows at Madam Zhou.
Madam Zhou clenched her teeth and lowered her head in agreement.
At this time, Shen Ziqiao and Qi Zheng had arrived in the village in the suburbs. The forest was snow white and the village was huge, paired with grassland. Right now, the grassland was covered by thick snow.
“Let’s build a snowman, Qi Zheng.” This was the first time Shen Ziqiao could play in the snow as she wished. She was so happy that she had forgotten about the cold.
“What sort of snowman can you build?” Qi Zheng smiled and asked, putting his arm around Shen Ziqiao’s waist, afraid that she might slip by accident.
Shen Ziqiao cupped snow and asked, “You never played in the snow when you were young?”
He used to be hit by snow frequently when he was young. Qi Zheng smiled, watching as Shen Ziqiao happily built a snowman. She ordered the two maids around, having them find her branches and handkerchiefs every now and then, enjoying herself quite much.
“Have someone cook some ginger water for the First Madam later on.” Qi Zheng ordered Mo Zhu and smiled at Shen Ziqiao as he walked over.