De’an Courtyard. There was a faint medicinal scent in the room spreading. The faint smokey sandalwood rose in spirals, and the windows were tightly shut. The light in the room was a bit dim.
Old Madam Shen leaned against the green satin pillow. With one hand, she supported her forehead. Her face was ashened and she said, “You’ve seen her today. She’s just that arrogant and savage. She doesn’t even place me in her eyes. She’d talk back if you scold her…”
Madam Zhou carried the bowl of medicine and blew on it, feeding Old Madam Shen scoop by scoop. She said softly, “It’s because she has brother-in-law’s support. He is too lax and pampers her too much.”
“He not only pampers her!” Old Madam Shen thought of how much her son protected Shen Ziqiao, and coughed violently.
“Don’t be mad. Brother-in-law is only lenient on her because he still has Pan Madam in his mind. When he stops thinking about her, will he still be so lenient on her?” Madam Zhou placed the bowl of medicine down. While calming Old Madam Shen, she also comforted her.
Old Madam Shen panted, her voice a bit rough. “You have an idea?”
“I think it’s time for my brother-in-law to marry a proper madam.” Madam Zhou said.
“I’ve been thinking about that too. However, he’s unwilling to get married. It’s not like I can force him.” Old Madam Shen said unhappily.
There was a faint smile on Madam Zhou’s smooth and round face. “It’s not like brother-inlaw can be in charge of his own marriage. It’s been many years. Is he just going to remain unmarried?”
“Even so, Pan Madam’s items...I would have to return it back to that girl.” Thinking of this, Old Madam Shen felt as if someone was dragging a knife against her heart.
“She won’t get it that easily!” There was a glint of sternness in Madam Zhou’s eyes. “Can a girl like her really manage all that wealth?”
“The young miss from the Liu Family that I took a fancy to…” Old Madam Shen started.
Madam Zhou picked up the bowl of medicine again. She smiled and said, “Do you still remember? There was a young lady from the third aunt’s family that had gotten engaged with the Tang Family from the alley next to us two years ago? Before the wedding, the Tang Family’s young master eloped with a widow nearby, and the Chen Family had declined the marriage proposal. The girl is still not engaged yet. She’s nineteen now.”
Old Madam Shen was moved. “You’re saying?”
“Lady Chen has a gentle and peaceful personality. She is respectful and kind towards elders. Plus...Third Aunt has helped out their family before, and she is usually respectful to you. If you ask her about it, it’d definitely work out for sure.” Madam Zhou smiled.
“I just don’t know whether the Lord will be interested or not.” Old Madam Shen was touched. Naturally, it was best to have a daughter-in-law who she could manipulate and control easily.
Madam Zhou said in a low voice, “So what if brother-in-law isn’t interested? He was never interested in a woman besides the Pan Madam. If Lady Chen marries into the family, she’d be the girl’s mother. Just hand the dowry to her. Could that girl snatch the dowry from her own mother?”
“The dowry...I gave you most of the things.” Old Madam Shen knitted her brows. “Do I really have to hand it over?”
“Lady Chen obviously doesn’t know how much dowry there is. After a year or two, Kai’er will be getting married. Brother-in-law will have his own wife and children. Who cares about the girl?” Under the faint light, Madam Zhou’s smile appeared a bit sinister.
Old Madam Shen made up her mind. As expected, Madam Zhou was a great assistance to her. “We’ll do it your way.”
Madam Zhou’s smile became brighter. “Could a girl really be that powerful? Just don’t overthink and rest well.”
“Go tend to your matters.” Old Madam Shen said.
Madam Zhou smiled and nodded.
Shen Ziqiao saw Shen Zixin off carrying a strange mood. She could tell that Shen Zixin was genuine but she didn’t dare to believe in her cousin wholeheartedly. After all, Old Madam Shen and Madam Zhou weren’t that good to her.
Was it a bit bad to treat others the way she treated Sheng Peiyin?
Maybe she should try to believe that female supporting characters would have their own heaven too. Not everyone held ulterior motives to her just like Qi Zheng and Shen Zixin.
When evening approached, Shen Xiao returned home. Everyone met again at Old Madam Shen’s. Shen Xiao wasn’t curious as to the reason why Madam Zhou suddenly returned to the capital. He already guessed that Old Madam would have her come back.
Madam Zhou unintentionally mentioned about managing the household.
When she didn’t go with her husband to tend to matters, Madam Zhou was usually in charge of the household.
Shen Xiao acted stupid, saying that everything was going well at home lately. All the departments and courtyards were peaceful too. Madam Zhou knitted her brows after hearing this.
He was clearly complimenting his daughter. Was he saying that the family was restless and chaotic when she and Old Madam were managing the household?
Madam Zhou was unhappy but didn’t reveal this on the surface. She started mentioning other things.
“Kai’er is not that young anymore. It’s time for him to get engaged.” Madam Zhou shifted her gaze to Shen Zikai, thinking that since Shen Xiao didn’t have a proper madam, he would need her help to find suitable candidates for his son.
Before Shen Xiao could say anything, Shen Zikai faintly replied, “It’s not that urgent.”
“What are you saying? Look at how old you are. You’re still not anxious? There are many guys your age who have children already.” Old Madam Shen scolded unhappily.
“Grandmother, I’m going to battle next month. Let’s talk about it when I return.” Shen Zikai said.
Old Madam Shen was stunned before continuing to complain. “You just came back, so why are you going to battle again? You and your father rarely come home nowadays.”
“Only Kai’er was going to the Northwest this time. It’s time for him to get some experience on his own.” Shen Xiao said in a deep voice, not against Shen Zikai going to battle.
Even if he wanted to refuse, there was no use.
Shen Ziqiao stood by Shen Zikai’s side, glancing at him with a complicated expression.
She wanted Shen Zikai to leave the capital so that he wasn’t attracted by Sheng Peiyin, but also hoped that nothing would happen to him had he gone to battle due to the changes in plot.
Shen Zikai was a good elder brother. She hoped that he was okay.
They didn’t talk about nonsense. Shen Xiao and Shen Zikai still had things to talk about, so they quickly left.
Shen Zixin gave Shen Ziqiao a gaze. The two were about to go when Madam Zhou looked over. “Xin’er, you haven’t talked to your grandmother in a while. Stay with your grandmother.”
“Okay, mother.” It was hard to conceal the disappointment in Shen Zixin’s eyes. She revealed a bitter smile at Shen Ziqiao and obediently walked to Madam Zhou’s side.
Shen Ziqao looked at her and smiled, leaving De’an Courtyard.
The next day, Luo Zhaohua went looking for her early in the morning.
“What? Going to the palace to celebrate the empress’ birthday? I have to go too? It’s fine!” Hearing that Luo Zhaohua was here to discuss the presents to give to the empress, Shen Ziqiao felt a headache.
“The empress wants to meet you. Can you refuse?” Luo Zhaohua glared at her with her almond eyes. She was about to tug on Shen Ziqiao’s ears, telling her to be grateful.
Shen Ziqiao was dumbfounded. Why would the empress want to see someone insignificant as her? “Why does the empress want to see me?”
“How would I know? I went to pay respects to the empress with my mother yesterday. Her Majesty coincidentally asked about you, saying that she wants to meet the girl she’d heard many things about. She was hinting at my mother to bring you into the palace.” Luo Zhaohua said.
What exactly is this?! Shen Ziqiao was confused.
“If you’re going to the palace to congratulate Her Majesty, you can’t just go empty-handed. What present are you preparing?” Luo Zhaohua asked.
“I don’t know…” She never thought that an insignificant character like her could enter the palace. Not to mention congratulate the empress on her birthday.
Luo Zhaohua acted as if she knew everything. “I knew it’s not like you have any presents prepared for the empress.”
That was because she never thought that she needed to prepare gifts for the empress, okay? Shen Ziqiao asked Luo Zhaohua, “What did you prepare?”
“The South China Sea’s coral tree. It’s very beautiful.” Luo Zhaohua said proudly.
Shen Ziqiao was jealous of Luo Zhaohua’s present. “Tacky!”
Luo Zhaohua pinched her harshly. “I was planning to choose a present with you. You can just do it on your own now.”
“Don’t be like this. Don’t be so stingy. I was just joking. I’m just envious of you, okay? Come and choose a present with me.” Shen Ziqiao hurriedly pleased Luo zhaohua. She really wanted to be like the heroines in the novel, handing sparkling and dazzling presents. But she… had no money, talent, or power. Where was she going to find an outstanding and surpassing present?
It’s not like she wanted to be in the spotlight. As long as the present was presentable, it was okay.
Luo Zhaohua humphed. “Go and change your clothes. Let’s go and search for some new and odd items.”
Since she became the female supporting character, Shen Ziqiao hadn’t really gone out shopping. The first time was with Sheng Peiyin. At that time, she was still thinking about preventing the heroine from harming and scheming her. She wasn’t in the mood to shop at all. Today was different. She could finally go out shopping like she did in the modern times with her bestie.
“Let’s go to Jinxiu Pavilion to take a look. The accessories of the best quality in the capital are all there.” Luo Zhaohua lifted the curtain of the window in the horse carriage and pointed at the pavilion not far from the street.
“What does Her Majesty usually like? Does she have any interests?” Wouldn’t gifting hairpins and accessories be too inelegant? Most importantly, it was too expensive. She didn’t have the money.
Luo Zhaohua turned around and rolled her eyes. “What could Her Majesty be missing? We’re just giving her thoughtful presents.”
“How about I embroider a handkerchief for her? That’s considered thoughtful, right?” Shen Ziqiao smiled and said.
“Is the handkerchief that you embroidered presentable?” Luo Zhaohua said in disdain.
Shen Ziqiao became quiet. Not only wasn’t it presentable, the flowers she embroidered looked like a pile of shit...
The horse carriage gradually came to a stop. Shen Ziqiao glanced at the people bustling about and the lively and noisy streets. Her vision was a bit blurry. She thought of the streets that she frequently shopped at. It appeared a bit similar to the streets here, but the people were different.
“We’re here. Let’s get out.” Luo Zhaohua waved her hands.
Shen Ziqiao concealed her bitter gaze. She couldn’t think about this anymore. No matter what, she couldn’t return. She still needed to be optimistic and persist.
After she got off the horse carriage, she saw a spacious pavilion about three floors tall. The doors were all open, revealing its luxurious manner. The arrangements were sumptuous and magnificent.
“...Her Majesty likes to wear jadeite bracelets. Let’s go pick one.” Luo Zhaohua walked in, wrapping her arms around Shen Ziqiao.
Shen Ziqiao thought that jadeies appear to be elegant and magnanimous-like. It was pretty good.
Who knew that the moment she walked in, she saw a familiar figure walking downstairs along with the shopkeeper wearing a flattering smile.
Why was Qi Zheng here?