“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Shen Ziqiao proclaimed, making Old Madam Shen look at her in shock.
She thought she had heard wrong.
“You did nothing wrong?” Old Madam Shen asked with uncertainty. “You dare to say you’re not wrong?”
Shen Ziqiao’s gaze was bright and clear. She stood up straight, her figure imposing in a powerful manner. “Even if this granddaughter shouldn’t have left the village without your permission, you should’ve asked me why I had done so first instead of closing the Shen residence’s door and keeping me locked out. If I did something wrong, you can scold or hit me, but punish me behind closed doors. After all, we shouldn’t let the family scandal be known to the public. Don’t you understand this?”
Before Old Madam Shen could reply, Shen Ziqiao continued calmly, “Let’s not talk about how the people will despise the Shen Family’s way, but about grandmother in general. What will the public think about you? Which affluent family would discipline their daughter this way? Even if grandmother hates me, think about the other sisters in the family. It’s fine if I can’t marry anyone, but what about them?”
“Plus, I lost my mother at a young age and my father has been outside all these years. You’re the one that taught me my manners and the rules. If people start gossiping about how I lack manners, isn’t it your fault in the end, since you don’t know how to discipline me? I am young, so I don’t know anything. Is it my fault then?” Old Madam Shen stood up angrily, pointing her fingers at Shen Ziqiao while trembling. “You, you’re just good at worming your way out of this. I can’t even scold you now, huh?”
Mama Li hurriedly helped Old Madam sit back down. “Third Miss, stop saying so much. Old Madam is getting old and can’t be tormented by your words.”
She poured a cup of warm tea for the Old Madam to drink.
Shen Ziqiao faintly glanced at Mama Li, curling her lips into a mocking smile. “If Old Madam was more generous and forgiving, you wouldn’t be tormented.”
“Good! Good! Good!” Old Madam Shen said thrice. She took a deep breath before saying, “I can’t scold you now. Whenever I do, you retaliate ten fold. I clearly don’t know how to discipline you.”
“I’m just saying the truth. I’m just scared that grandmother might be deceived by the servants. They’re just using your name to purposefully bully your granddaughter. Grandmother is known for being peaceful, kind, and reasonable. Therefore, how could you possibly do something muddle-headed like this?” Shen Ziqiao watched as Mama Li’s expression turned worse by the moment. Her lips curled up more.
Old Madam’s heavy breathing immediately stabilized. The anger in her chest seemed to have dissipated. She tossed the anger and humiliation to the back of her head, glancing sternly at Mama Li. “Mama Li, what’s going on? Who was the one that blocked Third Miss from entering?”
Mama Li swiftly kneeled down, feeling wronged and bitter in her heart. Yet, she didn’t dare say that the Old Madam was the one that commanded her to do so. You were clearly the one that told me to teach Third Miss by locking her outside the door. “It’s this mama’s fault for making her own decisions. Old Madam asked this mama about the Third Miss and this mama watched you have no appetite because you were angry at the Third Miss so this mama decided to teach her a lesson for you. But this mama did this because this mama felt bad for the Old Madam.”
“Old Madam, this mama knows her fault. It’s this mama’s fault for making her own decision that led the Third Miss to misunderstand Old Madam. It’s this mama’s fault that the Old Madam’s reputation was harmed. Please have mercy on this mama. This mama won’t make the same mistake again in the future.” Mama Li begged for mercy, her eyes brimming with tears. Even Old Madam’s heart seemed to have softened.
She was about to just feign scolding Mama Li before letting this pass when the Old Madam heard Shen Ziqiao’s voice.
“You want to teach me a lesson on behalf of the Old Madam? Without the Old Madam’s order, you dare to casually lock your master outside the door just because you think you’re experienced and irreplaceable in the residence? Who knows if you’ll dare to hit my father and elder brother in the future? Grandmother, this wicked servant doesn’t place anyone in her eyes. If we continue to leave her in the residence, she’ll only cause trouble for us. It’s better if we give her a beating then kick her out of the residence. That way, the Shen Family will really be peaceful.” Shen Ziqiao said clearly.
Mama Li’s face paled when she heard this. She hugged Old Madam’s feet and begged, “Old Madam, please have mercy on this mama.”
Old Madam Shen obviously knew that Mama Li was doing this for her sake. Yet, she never thought that the unruly and willful Shen Ziqiao would actually calmly point out Mama Li’s faults. If it were in the past, she would’ve made a fuss and thrown a tantrum already. She would’ve cried to her father and complained about this…
“Mama Li, you think that Old Madam is easily bullied and you can take advantage of her?” Shen Ziqiao coldly asked.
“If you can learn from your mistake, that’s best. Since she knows her fault, give Mama Li another chance.” Old Madam’s face darkened and said this without any room for rejection.
Shen Ziqiao smiled and said, “Grandmother, you are forgiving like always. Mama Li, you need to do your best in serving Old Madam in the future. Don’t make her lose face. You should be glad that it was the Old Madam. If it were me, I would’ve had someone drag you out to slap you dozens of times, and then sell you off to a brothel.”
Mama Li cursed Shen Ziqiao out in her heart, yet she could only swallow her grievances in her stomach. “This mama doesn’t dare anymore.”
Old Madam stared at Shen Ziqiao coldly. Hearing her words, she felt a burst of anger and interrogated, “Don’t scold someone else just yet. As for you, what’s your explanation for leaving the Liu Yun Village without permission? Do you admit that you’re in the wrong for beating up your younger sibling?”
“Grandmother, I had no choice but to leave the village. I know it’s my fault. I will correct myself for the future.” Shen Ziqiao lowered her head and admitted her fault. “I won’t hit Ziyang anymore. I’ll make sure to scold him if he does something wrong. Grandmother is very generous and forgiving. This granddaughter will learn from you.”
There was no way that Old Madam could punish Shen Ziqiao at this point. Since she generously forgave Mama Li this time, if she were to punish her granddaughter now, she’d be slapping her own face.
She never thought that she would be schemed against by the granddaughter she looked down upon.
“Then tell me what happened with Young Master Qi.” Old Madam Shen asked.
Shen Ziqiao said, “That day, Young Master Qi was resting in the village. This granddaughter got into a disagreement with him. Who knew…”
“Nonsense! How can a lady like you allow a man to stay overnight? Are you shameless?!” Before Shen Ziqiao finished her words, Old Madam Shen already scolded her.
“Grandmother.” Shen Ziqiao wanted to explain that Qi Zheng hadn’t even stepped foot into the inner courtyard, so how was she being shameless?
“What would people think if they found out that you and Qi Zheng stayed in the village alone overnight? Can’t you think before doing something? Think about your family. You also said that if your reputation is tarnished, it’ll affect your sisters. Will you only be resigned once your other sisters land with the same consequences as you?”
Old Madam Shen didn’t let Shen Ziqiao talk. She finally found a way to scold Shen Ziqiao.
Shen Ziqiao lowered her head and obediently listened to Old Madam Shen’s reprimand. If she didn’t let Old Madam Shen vent her anger, she probably wouldn’t let her go.
Old Madam Shen reprimanded her for the next hour, her mouth dry and her voice hoarse.
Mama Li hurriedly poured a cup of warm tea for Old Madam Shen to relieve her throat.
“Nevermind this. You’ve matured lately. I won’t kick you to Liu Yun Village to reflect on your actions this time. Go to Nanyun Temple to reflect and transcribe the scriptures. When I find a mama that can teach and discipline you, you can then come back.” Old Madam Shen said.
Shen Ziqiao sneered in her heart. “Grandmother, you’re forcing me to leave the Shen Family?”
“This is for your sake.” Old Madam Shen said angrily.
“If it weren’t for me, Young Master Qi might not have recovered. What did I do wrong? There are so many servants in the village. He lived far away from my room. I only chatted with him for a while, so how did I tarnish the Shen Family’s face?” She really didn’t understand this old woman. How come she treats her granddaughter as her enemy? She just came back and she was being forced away again. Old Madam Shen treated a servant better than her own granddaughter.
Old Madam Shen naturally knew that forcing Shen Ziqiao away using this excuse was too far-fetched. She just hated that she hadn’t gotten any information against her yesterday.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to go to Nanyun Temple. You can stay in Qiao Xin Courtyard to reflect on your actions. Without my permission, you can’t leave.” Old Madam Shen said with a dark face.
Shen Ziqiao smiled and nodded, walking back home happily with Hong Yu.
Mama Li still knelt on the ground, her knees numb. She glanced at the furious Old Madam Shen miserably, saying, “Old Madam…”
“Get up. Don’t make decisions on your own anymore.” Old Madam Shen stared at her and said faintly.
Mama Li was screaming in her heart: but I’m innocent. Yet, on the surface, she said honestly, “Old Madam, what should we do now?”
“Who was sent over?” Old Madam Shen asked in a low voice.
“I had Housekeeper Cui go. Don’t worry. He’s reliable.” Mama Li responded.
Old Madam Shen hadn’t rested well the entire night. Right now, she was exhausted emotionally and physically. She wore a fatigued expression and said, “After he comes back, have him come over.”
Mama Li replied, “Old Madam, let this mama help you lie down to rest for a while.”
She was about to sleep when she heard weeping outside. Mama Li watched as Old Madam Shen’s expression remained unchanged and so she hurriedly said, “That little brat doesn’t even understand the rules. Let this mama go out to check on her.”
Cui Ping was outside crying and looking for Old Madam Shen.
“Old Madam is angry right now. You won’t get anything good from entering right now. Third Miss has changed. If you want to tell Old Madam something, wait a few days before telling her.” After Mama Li heard Cui Ping’s words, she wanted to slap her badly. This useless girl only knew to cause trouble for her.
Cui Ping was sobbing. After she heard Mama Li’s words, her tears flowed down her face even more. She was stunned. “What do I do now? Third Miss won’t let me go in the Qiao Xin Courtyard.”
Mama Li said impatiently, “Stay here for a while. I’ll find a chance to talk to Old Madam.”
After she dismissed Cui Ping, Mama Li returned back to the room. Old Madam had already fallen asleep in bed. It was unsure whether it was because she was too furious today or because she had vented her anger, but she’d quickly fallen into a deep slumber.
When she woke up, the sun had set and there were only flickers of colors on the gray blue sky.
“Old Madam, you’re awake?” Mama Li walked in from outside and lightly walked to the bed, draping a sleeveless jacket over Old Madam Shen’s shoulders.
“What’s the time?” Old Madam Shen asked.
“Late afternoon.” Mama Li combed the Old Madam’s loose strands of hair and replied softly.
Old Madam Shen narrowed her eyes and asked, “Are they back?”
“They should be on their way.” Mama Li said, “You haven’t eaten anything today. This mama will have someone bring the dinner over.”
Because Mama Li reminded her, the Old Madam felt her stomach growling in hunger, so she allowed the maid to go grab the dinner from the kitchen.
She was halfway through when someone reported that Housekeeper Cui had arrived.
Mama Li hurriedly had him come in.
“Old Madam, this servant almost couldn’t come back!” Housekeeper Cui came in and cried, throwing himself by the Old Madam’s feet, startling everyone with his cries.