Miss Liu’s name was Liu Yunmeng. Although she and Sheng Peiyin were both famous and notable young ladies within the capital, Liu Yunmeng didn’t appear in public as frequently as Sheng Peiyin. She was a low-profile woman of talent, giving people a sense that she is a silent beauty.
Shen Ziqiao liked women like her.
“You do not know how happy I am to hear about you visiting me. Quickly, come here.” Liu Yunmeng personally walked to the courtyard entrance to welcome Sheng Peiyin. She had not seen Shen Ziqiao before, so she did not know how to address her.
Sheng Peiyin amiably held onto Liu Yunmeng’s arms and replied, “I am just scared that you might not accept me if I visited you uninvited.”
Liu Yunmeng appeared annoyed, reassuring, “What are you saying? I am more than happy that you are coming over to talk to me.” As she said this, she glanced at Shen Ziqiao. Towards this cute and lovely young lady, younger than Sheng Peiyin, Liu Yunmen was very curious.
“This is Shen Family’s Third Miss. Her nickname is Jiao Jiao,” Sheng Peiyin smiled as she introduced Shen Ziqiao. “Jiao Jiao, this is the Sister Liu, whom you have been wanting to meet for a long time.”
When did I say that I want to see Liu Yunmeng that badly? Shen Ziqiao muttered in her heart. Meanwhile, with a loving smile, she followed up her introduction with, “Miss Liu.”
Liu Yunmeng knew that her sister-in-Law wanted her to marry Shen Xiao as the second wife. Meeting Shen Ziqiao, who might become her stepdaughter in the future, Liu Yunmeng’s face flushed quickly. She nodded awkwardly in response.
Now, Shen Ziqiao took the time to earnestly observe Liu Yunmeng.
Liu Yunmeng’s beauty was exquisite, but it was not as charming as Sheng Peiyin’s. Liu Yunmeng looked like the pretty daughter of a humble family. Her eyebrows were long and shapely, and her eyes were shaped like almonds. Her skin was smooth, fair, and white, and she seems to always be laughing, exuding an amiable aura that encourages people to want to know her better.
“Let us talk inside.” After all, Liu Yunmeng wasn’t a young lady in her teens. Although she became very bashful, she quickly recovered.
When the three ladies entered the parlor, a maid carried in and served tea and snacks.
“Jiao Jiao, this is your favorite white sugar sponge cake.” Sheng Peiyin pushed the cake towards Shen Ziqiao, then turned and continued, “Does Sister Yunmeng like to eat white sugar sponge cake, as well?”
Liu Yunmeng smiled and replied, “I do not really like sweets.”
Shen Ziqiao bit the white sugar sponge cake, saying nothing. She wanted to see how Sheng Peiyin planned to make her dislike Liu Yunmeng from the bottom of her heart, convincing her to prevent Shen Xiao from marrying Liu Yunmeng.
Sheng Peiyin was an expert at using Shen Ziqiao to deal with Shen Xiao.
“Jiao Jiao, do not just eat. Sip some tea.” Liu Yunmeng encouraged gently. She didn’t say this just because she wanted to deliberately please Shen Ziqiao, since Shen Ziqiao might become her stepdaughter in the future. She said this from her instinct that led her to take care of younglings like Shen Ziqiao, who acted like a child.
Shen Ziqiao gulped the tea and then giggled at Liu Yunmeng, thanking her.
Sheng Peiyin’s eyes flickered. While talking to Liu Yunmeng about verses and feminine arts, she stared deeply at Shen Ziqiao.
Shen Ziqiao wasn’t an expert at any of this, so she quietly listened to this without interrupting. She was definitely a well-behaved and quiet child.
How could the normal Shen Ziqiao be so quiet? Sheng Peiyin noticed that she understood this straw bag less and less.
Liu Yunmeng naturally wasn’t a person who would neglect her guests, so she turned around to look at Shen Ziqiao. “Jiao Jiao, I made dried plums, honey juice, and sour plums. Do you want to try them?”
Shen Ziqiao nodded and agreed, “Ok.”
Liu Yunmeng sent a maid to fetch the dried plums, honey juice, and sour plums over.
“How does it taste?” Liu Yunmeng smiled and watched, as Shen Ziqiao grabbed a sour plum and tossed it into her mouth. Her entire face scrunched together.
“It’s sour and sweet. Very tasty.” Shen Ziqiao smiled. In reality, she enjoys eating these sour and sweet things.
Not only was she talented in the feminine arts, but she also considered making these snacks. From this, Liu Yunmeng demonstrated that she knew how to live her life. A woman, who was as gentle as water, was a great match for Shen Xiao, a man who led armies into wars.
What a pity it would be if Sheng Peiyin managed to ruin this marriage. If Liu Yunmeng became Shen Ziqiao’s stepmother, then the Old Madam wouldn’t be in charge of the Shen Family anymore. She believed that Liu Yunmeng would treat her much better than the Old Madam.
According to the novel, she remembered that Liu Yunmeng was alright.
Seeing that Shen Ziqiao and Liu Yunmeng were having a good time, the result was completely different from what Sheng Peiyin had expected. She knew Shen Ziqiao’s personality. If the usual Shen Ziqiao knew that Liu Yunmeng would be marrying Shen Xiao, she should’ve thought that Liu Yunmeng was the one who purposefully wanted to see and please her. Otherwise, why would Liu Yunmeng smile and chat cheerfullly with Shen Ziqiao?
Could Shen Ziqiao possibly be willing to let Liu Yunmeng marry her own father?
In reality, Liu Yunmeng did intend to build a relationship with Shen Ziqiao first. She was already past the age of getting engaged. It wasn’t because she wasn’t good enough, but rather because she no men interested her. She felt as if they weren’t worthy of her. A year ago, she encountered Shen Xiao. He was the most charming man to her. Plus, he hadn’t remarried yet for the sake of his deceased wife. How could she not admire such a devoted man?
Sister-in-Law saw through her thoughts and actively approached Old Madam Shen, wanting to help her complete her wish.
However, without Shen Ziqiao’s approval, Shen Xiao wouldn’t marry her even if Old Madam Shen liked her.
The three continued to chat, each with their own motive. When sunset arrived, Sheng Peiyin and Shen Ziqiao bid farewell to Liu Yunmeng before leaving.
While the horse carriage moved along in the evening glow, Sheng Peiyin glanced at the two jars of dried plums next to Shen Ziqiao. She thought their presence was irksome. Although she felt very angry, she tugged a smile on and asked, “Jiao Jiao, you seem to like Miss Liu very much?”
Shen Ziqiao nodded and said, “I like her. See all the food she gifted me?”
Fool! Foodie! Sheng Peiyin scolded in her heart. “She really knows how to win you over. If she becomes your stepmother in the future, she will be a true mother to you.”
“So, you are saying that everything she did today was deliberate and that she only pleased me in order to marry my father?” Shen Ziqiao played along with Sheng Peiyin’s words and asked. She acted as if she didn’t notice the latter purposefully trying to drive a wedge into their relationship.
As if in a difficult situation, Sheng Peiyin knitted her eyebrows and answered, “This… I’m not sure. How did she coincidentally know that you like to eat white sugar sponge cake? Even moreso, she gifted you so many dried plums.”
Shen Ziqiao finally replied according to Sheng Peiyin’s wishes, saying, “She really does seem to have an ulterior motive. She’s so annoying.”
“What if she genuinely likes you? If she becomes your mother in the future and gives birth to a few more brothers and sisters, you will have a larger family.” Sheng Peiyin smiled. Normally, she, an unmarried woman, wouldn’t be able to say something like that. However, she seemed to have lost control today.
Right. If Liu Yunmeng eventually gave birth to a daughter or a son for Shen Xiao, he naturally wouldn't treat Shen Ziqiao like the pearl of his palm. With a stepmother, there will naturally be a stepfather. Everyone knows this. After telling her this, Sheng Peiyin was extremely certain that she had convinced Shen Ziqiao to prevent Shen Xiao from marrying Liu Yunmeng.
Shen Ziqiao kept her head down and contemplated.
Sheng Peiyin hoped for the Liu and the Shen Families to not forge connections through marriage. Therefore, she came up with this idea. If Shen Ziqiao didn’t act according to Sheng Peiyin’s expectations by pretending to hate Liu Yunmeng, who knows what other methods she would scheme to prevent this?
Keep quiet, rather than to make a move too soon!
After all, she must not allow Sheng Peiyin’s schemes to wrought enmity towards the Shen Family out of everyone.