Cen Bihua returned home in tears, deeply saddened by the loss of her prized possession. She couldn’t help but notice that it was done deliberately, but what could she do? The daughters of Dukes Chu and Wei were not legitimate princesses, but they belonged to the family of dukes, so the Cen family had to act carefully when dealing with them. That’s why Cen Xueshi didn’t want Cen Bihua to speak about it.
Madam Cen felt heartache and anger but realized that she, as a woman of the family, couldn’t take matters into her own hands in the capital. So, she just consoled her granddaughter. “Grandma will write a letter to your little uncle and ask him to make you one or two new bags. Stop crying, dear.”
Cen Bihua was still very sad. “I really liked this bag.”
“Grandma will have your little uncle make an identical one.”
Cen Bihua nodded. “Thank you, Grandma.”
Her granddaughter was so sensible that Madam Cen, who was pained by her plight, couldn’t help but be more distressed. After comforting her granddaughter, Madam Cen wrote a letter in front of her and sent it to her younger son. Seeing that her grandmother was indeed writing a letter to her little uncle, Cen Bihua wasn’t as sad anymore.
Cen Xueshi understood that the matter couldn’t be resolved and she advised her mother-in-law not to write a letter to her little son. While her parents-in-law didn’t explicitly state it, she wasn’t foolish and could sense that her younger brother-in-law probably had connections with a palace. If they escalated this issue, others might view their family as petty. Madam Cen wasn’t happy with her daughter-in-law’s decision and seeing her granddaughter endure such a grievance, she thought she had to get a new bag for her granddaughter.
Madam Cen, who wasn’t dissuaded by her daughter-in-law, called for a servant who had traveled with them to the capital and asked him to leave immediately to deliver the letter. Cen Xueshi couldn’t stop her mother-in-law and had the servant go quickly to find her husband.
Madam Cen sent the letter and then took her granddaughter to the Weng Mansion. Lady Weng was surprised by Madam Cen’s quick return. Typically, she stayed at her son’s home for several days during her visits. However, upon seeing the visibly tearful Cen Bihua, Lady Weng immediately understood that something had happened.
After inquiring, Lady Weng felt equally helpless. No matter where, incidents of young lords and ladies bullying others were quite common. Moreover, these were daughters of dukes and as elders, they couldn’t confront the children. Besides, the offenders were young ladies so all they could do was endure. Lady Weng consoled Cen Bihua and instructed the kitchen to prepare some delicious snacks for her.
Both ladies refrained from involving their husbands in this ‘small matter.’ So, Master Cen only learned of it four days later. He and Master Weng had been immersed in the study of “Zhou Yi” for the past four days. They hadn’t left the study, and their food, drinks, and other needs were all met by servants who entered daily to clean. Master Weng’s wife, understanding the situation, finally told the two scholars to come out and get some fresh air and only then did they leave the study.
Master Cen’s reaction to the situation was the same as that of Madam Cen. He sent a letter to Yunan, asking him to make several bags for his granddaughter. When it came to his daughter’s affairs, as elders, they couldn’t interfere further. After seeing his wife and having a good meal, taking a bath and changing his clothes, Master Cen and Master Weng immersed themselves in their studies again. Compared to these minor incidents, the research they conducted in their study was the real priority. If they could complete their study of Zhou Yi, the Imperial Astronomer could be replaced.
Since their own young lady had been wronged, the family’s servant naturally hurried to deliver the letter to the young master. When the letter arrived at the Wang residence in Xiushui Village, Shao Yunan, Wang Shijing, King Rong, and Guo Zimu were engrossed in a game of mahjong. Guo Zimu had originally been busy in the kitchen, but King Rong, who was needed to make up the numbers, forcibly pulled him away.
In their game, no money or food was at stake; instead, the loser had to attach a piece of paper to their face. Guo Zimu’s unusual face ended up with several sheets of paper attached, which somehow led to a harmonious atmosphere. Perhaps it was because something was covering his face. After a few rounds, Guo Zimu unexpectedly loosened up. They then heard loud voices from Guo Zimu and King Rong, the latter enjoying teasing Guo Zimu, who tried to shield his tiles to prevent any peeking, creating a joyful commotion.
Yan Fusheng entered and said that there was a letter from the capital, sent by Madam. Shao Yunan instructed Yan Fusheng to arrange for the Cen family’s servant who had delivered the letter to rest. He then opened the letter.
After reading a few lines, Shao Yunan expression soured. King Rong, noticing this, removed the piece of paper from his hands and asked, “Yunan, something happened?”
Wang Shijing leaned over to read the letter and Guo Zimu also peeled the paper from his face. After finishing the letter, Shao Yunan looked up, his expression already back to normal, and said with a smile, “It’s nothing. My mother wants me to make a few more bags for my niece, Bihua.”
King Rong was unhappy and asked, “Why are you still fooling around with me? What’s going on? Speak up!”
Shao Yunan smiled and said, “It’s really not a big deal. I had Aunt Zhou make a seashell bag for Bihua and the little girl really likes it. Now, in the capital, many people know about the limited editions from the Yunlong Bag Shop. They envy and admire her because her bag is unique and everyone knows there’s only one. Two girls ‘accidentally’ damaged Bihua’s bag and she was very upset, so my mother asked me to make a few more bags to send to the capital to comfort her.”
King Rong frowned and said, “Accidentally? I bet it’s from someone in a Duke’s or Marquis’s family, or even a high-ranking official’s family. Even though your older brother’s status is lower, he’s the teacher from the Capital Academy, and who wouldn’t want to enter the Capital Academy? Nobody would want to unnecessarily offend a Chief teacher.”
Shao Yunan didn’t reveal whose family they were from and just said, “Girls getting jealous is normal. I didn’t think it through, and I wanted to make a special bag for Bihua. I forgot that in the capital, apart from officials, there are many influential people. I’ll ask the people from the bag shop to make a few more bags and send them to the capital. That way, Bihua can give them to her friends, and if more people have them, others won’t easily destroy them.”
King Rong responded, “Don’t send someone else. Instead, you go to the capital yourself. Deliver the bag to your niece and her friends in person. Let them know that the Yunlong Bag Shop is run by you. Those arrogant girls won’t dare to bully your niece so easily.”
Shao Yunan immediately expressed his reluctance, saying, “I don’t want to go to the capital.” King Rong gave him a stern look and said, “Do you think the Emperor would invite you if you don’t go?” Shao Yunan fell silent.
King Rong seized the opportunity to educate him. “You absolutely can’t avoid this trip to the capital. Besides, don’t wait for the Emperor to send an invitation. It’s better to be clever and visit the Emperor and the Empress in the capital on your own initiative. Take this red tea as a good reason. And it’s time for you to show yourself; after all, the bigger the tree, the more wind it catches. You’ve mentioned that before. If you don’t go until the Emperor invites you, others might think you’re arrogant.”
Guo Zimu chimed in for the first time. “Yunan, you should listen to Uncle Murong. You’ve said that a big tree catches the wind, right? You’re worried about the Emperor inviting you, but why not go and pay respects to him and the Empress on your own? Your big brother is the Chief teacher of the National Academy and you’re right to make an impression. Furthermore, you’ve got this new tea to offer.” King Rong added, “See, Zimu is more sensible.” Shao Yunan felt quite awkward as he said, “I’ll go to the capital then.”
King Rong gave him a look of approval. “That’s right. It’s a great opportunity. Take Zimu with you, others should go as well. Housekeeper Yan can oversee things here. I’ll inform Mr. Chen and he can handle any issues. Your senior brother is still around, so everything should be fine. You’ve all been busy for so long; it’s time for a break and to take the children out.”
Shao Yunan agreed. “Yes, you’re right. We need a break. Besides, this trip to the capital would be good for the children. Let’s plan the visit.”
King Rong inquired if Shao Yunan’s mother mentioned when they would return. Shao Yunan responded, “My mother said they might be gone for quite some time. My father and Elder Weng are engrossed in their research so they might not return for some time.”
King Rong smiled. “Even better. If you’re worried about your parents not eating well in the capital, then this is your chance to visit.”
Shao Yunan was intrigued by King Rong words, but someone wasn’t too keen. Guo Zimu said hesitantly, “I won’t go; I’ll stay home. Yunan, don’t worry about me. I won’t go out.”
King Rong’s stern gaze fixed on him. “What are you saying? You’re a person, not livestock. Even livestock need to go out.” Shao Yunan massaged his forehead, thinking that this comparison wasn’t quite appropriate. Guo Zimu lowered his head and mumbled, “I… I don’t like being around people.”
A trace of heartache flickered in King Rong’s eyes, then he reassured Guo Zimu by saying, “Don’t be afraid. With Uncle Murong here, no one will dare to bully you. If you’re worried, you can wear your mask when you’re outside. My guards will be with you, so no one will dare to harm you.”
Shao Yunan looked at Wang Shijing, who contemplated for a moment before saying, “Then, let’s go to the capital. Zimu will come too, as well as others. Housekeeper Yan can manage the household. I’ll inform Mr. Chen; he can handle any issues. Your senior brother is still here, so there shouldn’t be any problems. You’ve been busy for so long; it’s time for a break and you can take the children with you.”
“Right, right, Shijing is reasonable.”
With the head of the household making the decision, Shao Yunan ceased to hesitate and said, “I’ll think about what gifts to bring. Zimu, you can select a few easy-to-make cookies and snacks and give them to the master chef in the shop. When you’re not around, the shop can sell these. If people want something more special, they’ll have to wait for your return. In the capital, we also have a pastry shop. This is a good opportunity for you to see if there’s anything that needs improvement. Uncle An asked in his letter before if you could come to the capital to provide some guidance.”
Guo Zimu was about to respond, but King Rong shut him down with a single word. “Behave.” In this manner, Guo Zimu, who had no say in the matter, had to follow the group to the capital.
Edited by: Jaisland