Wife Doting Addiction：My Abducted Tsundere Husband - Chapter 214
Chapter 214: Punishing Yun Zhu
When the moon reached its zenith high in the sky, Ji Yuxian carried Su Jiu back.
The girl limped in his arms, as if all of her bones had melted away.
He hadn’t been able to control himself and they had coupled twice in the night, rendering the girl utterly exhausted.
It was close to midnight and all the tribespeople had gone to sleep.
Silence enveloped everywhere.
Only the yellow lanterns dangling down the tree branches swayed on, dotting the darkness with their flickering light, casting faint shadows onto everything.
Ji Yuxian carried Su Jiu into the main courtyard.
A servant hurriedly opened the door and lit up a lamp.
“Would Island Master and the madam like to eat something?” asked the servant.
“Bring me some fish broth,” Ji Yuxian answered curtly.
“Yes, sir!” Before long, the servant brought him a steaming bowl of fish broth, together with rice and several vegetable dishes.
Upon the servant’s departure, Ji Yuxian proceeded to spoon up the milky broth and fed it to Su Jiu.
“Eat something before going to sleep.
You didn’t even have dinner today.
” Huddling in his embrace, Su Jiu shook her head, all sleepy-eyed.
“Be a good girl,” the man whispered softly.
“Just have half a bowl, all right?” .
Su Jiu parted her lips and took the spoon into her mouth.
Her eyes were half-open.
A lazy, content expression was etched in her face.
Ji Yuxian chuckled.
One spoonful at a time, he fed the girl the fish broth.
Soon the entire bowl was finished.
Su Jiu tumbled onto the bed, lifted the cover and squeezed under.
“Don’t disturb me anymore,” she muttered, wrapping the cover around herself tightly.
Ji Yuxian lowered the bed curtains and hugged her from behind.
Gently, he pulled the cover down to reveal her face.
“Don’t sleep with your head covered.
” Continue reading on MYB0XN0 V E L.
COM Su Jiu groaned faintly.
Finding it impossible to keep her eyes open, she soon drifted into a deep slumber.
Ji Yuxian hugged her tightly and kissed the dimples in her cheeks.
“Sleep tight, my baby.
” The next morning, muffled whispers seeped into the room from the courtyard.
Ji Yuxian opened his eyes and knitted a frown.
Turning his head, he saw Su Jiu still sound asleep.
He slowly got up, put on his clothes and headed out of the door.
Upon descending the stairs, he found Shangguan Yunkun and Jin Feng in the main hall.
Mu Zhen, the tribal chief, and another tribal elder were also present.
The island tribe consisted of three families: the Mu family, the Yun family and the Wen family.
All the affairs in the tribe were jointly handled by the three families.
Of course, above them there was Ji Yuxian, the island master.
Seeing Ji Yuxian coming down the stairs, Mu Zhen, Yun Ao and the others all rose onto their feet to pay their respect.
Ji Yuxian glanced around and saw Yun Ao’s face ghastly pale and visibly tense.
“This early in the morning, what is the matter?” Ji Yuxian sat down in a wooden chair and nonchalantly sipped his tea.
“I have something to report.
We shall await Island Master’s decision,” Yun Ao took a step forward.
” “Yesterday, when my daughter and some other girls were washing clothes on the beach, they encountered Island Master’s servant girl, who insulted my daughter and caused her to suffer serious injuries,” Yun Ao said, struggling to stay calm and repress his fury.
“Till now my daughter is still bedridden.
I would like to ask Island Master to hand the servant girl over.
She ought to be brought to justice for what she did to my daughter!” Every person in the tribe knew very well that Yun Ao had only one daughter, who had been spoiled rotten and feared by all tribespeople.
Ji Yuxian frowned briefly and cast Shangguan Yunkun an enquiring look.
His servant girl? It was Su Jiu who had gone to the beach with Shangguan Yunkun yesterday.
Shangguan Yunkun step forward and whispered in Ji Yuxian’s ear.
His face remaining blank, Ji Yuxian gaped at Shangguan Yunkun coolly.
Someone had played a distasteful trick on his wife yesterday, yet no one had reported the incident to him.
Comprehending his accusing gaze, Shangguan Yunkun arched his eyebrows, as if declaring his innocence.
Before they had returned from the beach yesterday, Ji Yuxian had already gone there.
He and Su Jiu had spent time together all the way to late at night.
No one in their right mind would have dared disturbing the two.
“How is your daughter now?” Ji Yuxian asked, his face still blank.
“Yun Zhu was badly insulted and injured yesterday.
She is crying nonstop at home as we speak,” Yun Ao answered, visibly heartbroken.
“Bring her over,” Ji Yuxian smirked faintly.
“Let me see how badly she has been injured.
” Thinking Ji Yuxian was concerned about his daughter, Yun Ao immediately nodded in agreement and hurried back to take her daughter.
Upstairs, Su Jiu was still sound asleep.
Suddenly, from the half-open window, a hand shoved in and held onto the wooden frame.
A teenage girl poked her head inside the room.
Glancing about for a moment, the teenage girl pressed both hands on the window frame and slowly crawled into the room.
Her feet landed on the floor and the girl gaped at the lowered bed curtains, before approaching one step at a time.
Someone seemed to be sleeping in the bed.
The teenage girl gingerly moved closer, parted the curtains slightly and peeked in.
Before she could see anything clearly, someone abruptly grabbed onto the girl’s wrist and dragged her in.
The teenage girl tumbled onto the bed, shocked to feel a sharp pain in her neck.
She looked up in panic and found Su Jiu on top of her, clamping her wrist with one hand and pressing a knee on her chest.
“Who are you?” asked Su Jiu coldly, her other hand wringing the girl’s thin neck.
The teenage girl gawked on in awe.
Her darting eyes were not particularly big, but they glistened with a mischievous light.
Su Jiu found the girl’s face familiar.
“Were you…,” she pondered for a moment, “were you the one slapped by Yun Zhun in the forest yesterday?” The teenage girl nodded hurriedly.
Su Jiu let go of the girl, removing her knee from the girl’s chest.
“What are you doing sneaking around here?” she studied the girl from head to toes.
“My… my name is Guo Mei,” the teenage girl stuttered, rubbing her red and swollen neck.
“Who asked your name?” Su Jiu chuckled.
“I asked what you were doing here.
” “I saw the head of the Yun family coming this way to seek trouble,” answered Guo Mei out-of-breath.
“I rushed over to inform you, so you can go into hiding!” Su Jiu put on her shirt and got out of the bed.
“You’re a informant, is that it?” she smiled.
Guo Mei nodded repeatedly.
“Hurry up and hide!” “I didn’t do anything wrong.
Why should I hide?” Su Jiu chuckled again.
Upon hearing voices coming from downstairs, she waved a hand.
“Yun Zhu slapped you yesterday, didn’t she? Come with me, and I’ll make sure she pays for what she did.
” “You’re really not afraid of the tribal chief?” Guo Mei studied her doubtfully.
“Who do you think has a higher authority? The tribal chief or the island master?” asked Su Jiu.
“Of course the island master,” Guo Mei quickly replied.
“There we go.
” Dragging the girl behind her, Su Jiu descended the stairs.
Guo Mei gaped at Su Jiu’s back with a frown.
Even if the island master had a higher authority, what did it have to do with a servant girl? Meanwhile, Yun Zhu had been brought over into the main hall downstairs.
Her whole body was tightly wrapped and her face was covered by a veil.
On the small patches of exposed skin, swollen red dots were clearly visible.
Upon entering the hall, Yun Zhu immediately knelt down.
“Please help me get justice, Island Master!” “Justice?” Shangguan Yunkun grinned coldly.
“Didn’t you tricked Su Jiu? Didn’t you insult her first?” Yun Zhu lowered her head.
In front of Ji Yuxian, her arrogant demeanor from the day before had vanished.
“I was only joking with her,” she muttered, sobbing faintly.
“And Su Jiu was joking with you, too.
You shouldn’t take it to heart, Yun Zhu,” stated Shangguan Yunkun.
The ambiguous smile on his face was tinged with a sinister shade.
“Taking off my daughter’s clothes and letting others laugh at her? Was that just a joke?” Yun Ao instantly retorted.
“It was absolutely outrageous!” “But I heard Yun Zhu took off her clothes all by herself,” said Shangguan Yunkun.
“She put a snake inside of my clothes,” said Yun Zhu hurriedly.
“That’s right,” Shangguan Yunkun shot her a sharp stare.
“Su Jiu only put a snake in your clothes as a joke.
You were the one who got all naked and frisky with a man.
What did it have to do with Su Jiu?” Dumbfounded, Yun Zhu didn’t know what to say.
Either she couldn’t find the words to retort, or she was baffled by Shangguan Yunkun’s shameless defense.
Yun Ao gaped sharply at Ji Yuxian.
“Please bring out your servant girl and we shall interrogate her in person!” “I don’t think I can help you in any way,” Ji Yuxian lazily leaned back in his chair, his eyes cold and distant.
“Who can help me then?” asked Yun Ao.
“Bring my wife down here, Jin Feng,” said Ji Yuxian blankly.
” Jin Feng took the order, turned around and headed up the stairs.
As he looked up, he saw Su Jiu appearing at the top of the stairs, with the teenage girl following behind her.
” Ji Yuxian stood up, walked over, and reached out a hand to Su Jiu.
Yu Ao and his daughter gawked on, their eyes bulged wide in confusion.
Behind Su Jiu, Guo Mei was also startled.
She took a fearful step back.
Yun Zhu had told everyone that this woman was the island master’s servant girl.
Su Jiu took Ji Yuxian’s hand and glanced around the main hall.
“I heard someone was here to punish me.
” “We’ll see who will get punished,” Ji Yuxian smiled.
The tribal chief hurriedly bowed down.
“We didn’t know Island Master’s wife had arrived.
Please forgive our discourtesy.
” Yun Ao lowered his head, his arrogance and fury instantly dissipated.
“It turns out you are Island Master’s wife.
My daughter made a terrible mistake in offending you.
Please forgive her, ma’am,” he said, sweat beading on his forehead.
Kneeling on the floor, Yun Zhu kowtowed, pressing her forehead aground, not daring to say another word.
Su Jiu walked over to Yun Zhu.
“Tell everyone one more time, Miss Yun Zhu,” she asked nonchalantly.
“What did I do to you?” Trembling, Yun Zhu held her breath and shook her head in fear.
“Nothing!” “Nothing?” Su Jiu said, a faint smirk curling her lips.
“So you actually brought your father and the tribal chief here to ask for my forgiveness? For having played a trick on me yesterday?” Keeping her head lowered, Yun Zhu blinked and nodded incessantly.
“I didn’t mean to offend you.
Please forgive me, ma’am!” “It’s good you’re admitting your own mistake,” Ji Yuxian said, coldness flickering in his almond-shaped eyes.
“Yun Zhu, the eldest daughter of the Yun family, insulted her master’s wife.
You shall be exiled into the mountain and take on the duties of a kitchen lady.
” His words astonished everyone present.
Yun Zhu lifted her head in utter disbelief, her face turning sheer white.
“I was wrong.
I made a mistake,” she kowtowed, teary-eyed.
“Please give me another chance, Island Master.
Please forgive me, madam!” Yun Ao also knelt down beside his daughter.
“I’ve spoiled my daughter.
She didn’t do it on purpose.
Please give her another chance, Island Master!” In the northern mountain, there was a coal mine with several hundred men residing.
The workers needed some women to do their laundry and cooking.
These women were known on the island as the kitchen ladies.
Some of the kitchen ladies were hired from Daliang.
Some were women from the tribe who had committed offenses and needed to be punished.
The kitchen ladies’ chores were well-known to be very physically draining.
Every day when the sun rose, they had to get up to cook, clean and wash clothes.
The chores went on all the way to the evening when the miners returned to eat and rest.
Only when all the work had been completed could the kitchen ladies get some shuteye.
With the endless physical labor, the kitchen ladies’ skin quickly turned rough and their spirits hopelessly dampened.
All of them grew old at a rapid pace.
Some women were willing to come to the island to take on the job, only because the Ji family paid a reasonable salary.
Moreover, as over ten women resided alongside several hundred burly men, unspeakable incidents happened on a regular basis.
Although the coal mine’s supervisors were supposed to forbid the men from taking advantage of the kitchen ladies and ensure the women’s safety, some kitchen ladies could not endure their isolation and loneliness, and actively seduced the men.
Prostitution thus often carried on in secret.
All the tribespeople were fully aware of the situation.
When some women in the tribe had the misfortune to be sent into the mountain, even if they were lucky enough to return later on, no men in their right mind would ever marry these former kitchen ladies.
Naturally, Yun Zhu didn’t want to see the rest of her life descend into ruins.
In utter panic, she knelt down in front of Su Jiu and kowtowed repeatedly.
“Please spare me, ma’am!” she begged, bawling out of control.
“Please help me plead with Island Master, Chief,” Yun Ao begged Mu Zhen.
“I only have one daughter!” “Take her away,” Ji Yuxian gave his order before the tribal chief could say a single word.
Wrapping an arm around Su Jiu’s waist, he obviously had his mind all made up.
“Yes, sir!” Two guards came in to drag Yun Zhu out.
“I made a mistake! I won’t do it again! Father!” Yun Zhu cried and struggled.
Her strength was no match to that of the guards.
Before long, she was yanked out of the hall.
“Save me, father!” Her screaming continued to echo into the distance.
Weeping and huddling on the floor, Yun Ao regretted having come here without a thorough investigation of all the details.
He had literally ruined his own daughter’s life.
“I’ve told you many times not to spoil your daughter,” the tribal chief helped him up onto his feet.
“She was a disaster waiting to happen.
But you never listened to me.
” “You watched Yun Zhu grew up, Chief,” Yun Ao clutched onto the tribal chief’s arms, his face ghastly pale.
“Please save her.
If she gets sent to the northern mountain, her whole life will be ruined!” Knitting a deep frown, the tribal chief turned to look at Ji Yuxian, whose face was colder than ice.
“Go home first,” the chief whispered to Yun Ao, not daring to speak to Ji Yuxian.
“Wait a couple of days until the island master is no longer angry.
We’ll then come back to plead with him again.
” The damage had already been done and there was not a thing they could do.
Yun Ao had no choice but to leave, after having kowtowed to Ji Yuxian and Su Jiu repeatedly.
Mu Zhen the tribal chief also excused himself and left the hall.
Knitting a frown the whole time, Guo Mei gently pulled on Su Jiu’s clothes.
“May I plead with you to set Yun Zhu free, ma’am?” the teenage girl whispered.
“She bullied you,” Su Jiu arched an eyebrow.
“Why are pleading on her behalf?” “Yun Zhu has a bad temper, but she’s not a bad person,” Guo Mei said, biting her lip.
“When I was little, my family was dirt poor.
It was Yun Zhu who fed me.
We literally grew up together.
I really don’t want to see her become a kitchen lady.
” Su Jiu pondered for a moment and nodded.
“All right, I understand.
” A sweet smile spread on Guo Mei’s face.
“Thank you, ma’am! I’ll go home now.
” “All right.
” Guo Mei cast Ji Yuxian a timid glance, then sprinted out of the hall.
“What a great joy to see a bad person getting punished,” Shuangguan Yunkun burst out laughing and turned to look at Su Jiu.
“Someone spoiled our fun yesterday.
We should go catch more fish around noontime, what do you say?” Before Su Jiu could answer, Ji Yuxian lifted her up and carried her sideways toward the stairs.
“Those who have no business being here can leave now!” Shangguan Yunkun gaped at Ji Yuxian’s departing figure.
“I have no business being here?” he turned to Jin Feng and pointed at himself in anger.
“He asked me to come back and help his wife take care of the Ji household.
Why didn’t he call me someone who had no business being here back then?” “Having business here or not, it’s all up to the young master,” Jin Feng replied sternly.
Royally pissed off, Shangguan Yunkun’s face changed color.
“In that case, I’m not staying here to serve anyone anymore.
I’ll go back to Shengjing to spend time with my wife,” he exclaimed, swinging his arm.
Shangguan Yunkun stormed out of the hall.
Upon exiting, he promptly bumped into Old Gu, who was on his way into the main hall.
“I just stewed some fish.
Why don’t you come and have a taste?” the old man grabbed his arm.
Jin Feng looked over at Old Gu, surprised to find the doctor becoming obsessed with cooking.
Maybe cooking food and concocting medicinal potions weren’t all that different.
The old doctor couldn’t make his medicine on this island.
Maybe that was the reason he picked up cooking as a substitute to pass the time.
The minute he heard there was food waiting for him, Shangguan Yunkun instantly forgot everything he was saying and left excitedly with Old Gu.
Holding his sword, Jin Feng leaned against the staircase and listened intently.
Before long, a faint tremor came from upstairs.
At this hour…? Jin Feng gazed up in disbelief, then lowered his head again and headed outside.
The tremor upstairs might grow in intensity soon.
It was better for him to go outside and stand guard there.
The bed curtains dropped down.
So did the clothes Su Jiu was wearing, piece by piece.
The girl gawked at the man in awe.
“It’s still daytime, Ji Yuxian.
What are you doing?” The man’s virility was staggering.
They had done it twice last night, which had already exhausted her to no end.
She couldn’t even recall how she had managed to recover.
And now, it was not even noon… “Be a good girl.
Just lie down if you’re tired.
Your husband will do all the work!” A passionate light glistened in the man’s eyes.
With scorching desire, he kissed her forcefully.
“Enough already, Ji Yuxian,” Su Jiu hurriedly reeled back, finding the whole situation farcical.
The man again pulled her towards him and pressed against her body.
“Not enough, not at all,” he said in a husky voice.
“With so much free time, we ought to find something to do anyway.
” Su Jiu fell speechless.
“Wait a minute, I have something to say,” she pressed both hands on his shoulders to push him away, panting faintly.
“What do you want to say?” the man leaned over on top of her, his long black hair cascading down, covering her soft, willowy body.
“It’s about that girl Yun Zhu,” Su Jiu said.
“Just punish her for a couple of days, and we call it a day.
” Ji Yuxian leaned his head sideways and kissed her supple, fair fingers.
“Do you feel bad for her?” he pouted.
The man’s shoulders were strong and broad.
His skin was tight and his torso muscular.
Everything about him was exuding a startling, almost intimidating charm.
Su Jiu couldn’t help but swallow hard.
“I punished her enough yesterday already,” she managed to whisper hoarsely.
After all, the Yun family was prestigious in the tribe.
She was concerned that Yun Zhu’s severe punishment might cause Yun Ao to hate Ji Yuxian.
Such hatred could lead to some undesirable consequences down the line.
Once the poison was forced out of his body, Ji Yuxian would have to leave Wushan Isle.
If someone were to carry out an insidious plot afterward, it would be impossible to resolve easily.
“I think Yun Zhu has learned her lesson this time,” Su Jiu continued.
The man continued to kiss her, his lips moving along her fair arm to linger around her neck.
“We’ll talk about that later,” he whispered.
“Ji Yuxian!” Su Jiu hollered in resistance.
She rolled aside to avoid him.
Panting heavily, the man again moved over and pressed against her back.
“All right, I promise you,” he muttered throatily, wrapping an arm around her waist.
“I’ll have someone send her back in a couple of days.
” Su Jiu’s body abruptly lunged forward.
Since the man had agreed, she was resigned to her fate.
Before losing all of her senses, a thought flashed across her mind: would this building really shake that badly, as Shangguan Yunkun had put it? But within moments, the thought vanished, as Su Jiu’s energy was wholly consumed by “something worthwhile”.
… Shengjing City, Daliang.
It was already the end of April.
In the Qingyu Commercial House, a poetry session was in progress.
It had been drizzling for three days straight, but it didn’t stop a sizeable crowd from coming to attend the session.
It was Qiao An’s day off.
He also came to the commercial house to attend the poetry session.
With the bad weather, all the attendees were young folks.
None of them knew Qiao An, who didn’t mind that at all.
Disguising as an unimportant civilian, he stood in a corner to participate in the fun.
The session carried on, with several young men composing their poems.
A sizeable crowd circled them and watched on.
Upon arrival, Qiao An saw one of the young men raising a long sheet of calligraphy in his hands.
“Have you ever seen this poem?” stated the young man.
“This came from Year Twenty-nine of the Zhao Ping Epoch.
It was written by the honorable Master Qiao An.
Back then Master Qiao was only a sixth-ranked literary official.
Now he has been promoted to a third-ranked vice minister.
” “The calligraphy is amazing indeed! The brushstrokes are powerful yet light.
It’s definitely a masterpiece!” “Master Qiao has gone up three ranks within two years.
That’s a splendid achievement in itself!” “Master Qiao cracked down on corrupt officials, handled the aftermath of several natural disasters and subsidized many citizens in dire poverty.
He has done a great deal of good deeds!” “Indeed.
Master Qiao is an honest official with impeccable integrity.
Such amazing ethics can be seen in his calligraphy, too!” The compliments went on and on.
Standing in the back of the crowd, Qiao An listened with a faint grin.
“Is the calligraphy really that good, miss?” There were also a number of young girls in the crowd.
Standing beside Qiao An was a young woman wearing a jade-colored long dress.
Her face was gorgeous, her eyes bright, exuding an air of good education and proper upbringing.
The one asking the question was a servant girl standing next to the young woman.
“It’s just all right, not great,” the young woman whispered.
“The person started out full of confidence, his brushstrokes were light as a puff of smoke.
Too bad he rushed to finish it.
To put it bluntly, he was intentionally trying to hide his shortcomings.
” Hearing her words, Qiao An couldn’t help but glance over at the young woman.
What she had said was totally accurate.
When Qiao An had produced this sheet of calligraphy, it had been for a contest with an intellectual in the capital city.
Back then he had just won the national exam.
Joining a poetry session had only been a gimmick to bring business to the commercial house.
Since the intention hadn’t been pure, he had consciously played it safe and allowed the opposing intellectual to win the contest.
It had been nothing but a business promotion.
The sheet of calligraphy had been left in the commercial house for over two years.
Only now did someone accurately point out his state of mind when he had produced it.
The young woman watched on for a while longer, then turned and walked away.
Unable to control himself, Qiao An’s gaze followed the woman’s departing figure.
He stayed in the commercial house for another couple of hours.
Finding all the young contestants mediocre and utterly unoriginal, he lost interest and decided to leave early.
When he exited the establishment, he again saw the young woman who had critiqued his calligraphy earlier.
The rain had stopped briefly in the morning, but it started pouring again.
The woman seemed to have forgotten her umbrella.
She and her servant girl stood there and waited for the rain to simmer down.
Qiao An looked down at the bamboo umbrella in his hand, and decided to walk over.
“Did you forget to bring your umbrella, miss?” he asked with a warm smile.
The young woman turned around to look at him.
Her face blushing briefly, she nodded yes.
“You’re more than welcome to borrow mine,” Qiao An handed over his bamboo umbrella.
The young woman didn’t take the umbrella.
Gazing at him with caution, she seemed to suspect Qiao An’s true intention.
“No need to be alert, miss.
I can see it’s getting dark, and it’s not appropriate for a young lady to be outside alone,” he smiled and again handed the umbrella to her.
“The streets are not safe at night.
” The young woman blushed again, surprised by the fact that he had read her mind.
“Thank you, sir,” she took the bamboo umbrella with a smile.
“Where is your abode? I’ll have my servant return the umbrella to you later.
” “That won’t be necessary.
It’s only an umbrella.
See it as my humble gift to you,” Qiao An answered, then walked unhurriedly into the drizzling rain toward his horse carriage.
The young woman froze briefly, gazing at his elegant figure.
Clutching the umbrella, she suddenly had the urge to rush over and shield the man from the rain.
“We bumped into a nice man, miss,” the servant girl chuckled.
“Indeed,” the young woman nodded.
“Now we have an umbrella, let’s head home.
If we get back too late, Second Mistress will scold us again.
” Hesitation flashed across in the young woman’s eyes.
She slowly nodded, opened the umbrella, and exited the commercial house.
This young woman was in fact the daughter of Fang Mingtai, Secretary-General of Imperial Censor.
Her name was Fang Zhen.
The servant girl with her was named Liu’er.
By the time the two reached the Fang mansion, the sky was almost completely dark.
The rain continued to pour down.
Holding the umbrella, Fang Zhen slowly entered her own courtyard.
Passing by the reception pavilion, she heard loud laughter seeping out from inside.
She could tell the one who was laughing was Auntie Sun, her father’s second mistress.
A slew of shadows could be seen roaming in the hall.
They appeared to be visitors.
Just as Fang Zhen was about to circumvent around the pavilion, the servant girl guarding outside saw her and hollered aloud.
“Is it you, Eldest Young Lady? You’ve finally come home!” Auntie Sun’s voice instantly boomed from inside the pavilion.
“So it’s our eldest young lady.
Please come in and meet our guest!” Fang Zhen had no choice but to enter the reception pavilion.
Once inside the pavilion, Fang Zhen looked up at the guest.
Startled, annoyance flashing across in her eyes, she hurriedly gazed down to conceal her distaste.
“Allow me to introduce, Zhen,” Auntie Sun was all smile.
“This is Yuan’s fiancée, the second son of Minister Zhang of the Ministry of Ceremonies.
” The second young master of the Zhang family was named Zhang Yun, who was supposed to become Fang Zhen’s husband in an arranged marriage.
A few years back, after the death of Fang Zhen’s mother, Master Fang had promoted Auntie Sun from a second mistress to the official wife.
Soon Auntie Sun had also given birth to a girl, who was one year younger than Fang Zhen, and her name was Fang Yuan.
Last year, Fang Zhen had fallen gravely ill.
During which time, Auntie Sun had urged Master Fang to replace Fang Zhen with her own daughter in the arranged marriage.
As a result, Fang Yuan had been promised to marry into the Zhang family instead.
At this moment, it was in fact the first time that Fang Zhen and Zhang Yu got to meet in person.
The young man was tall and slender.
His eyebrows were thin and his eyes were almond-shaped.
He sized up the girl without discretion, demonstrating a frivolous nature.
“Nice to see you, Young Master Zhang,” Fang Zhen said blankly and bowed.
“No need to bow,” Zhang Yun quickly replied, smiling.
Turning sideways, he was startled by the young woman’s stunning beauty.
He had known very well that this had been the girl whom he had been promised to marry.
But Master Fang had abruptly come to their house last year and told them Fang Zhen had been gravely ill.
Even with a full recovery, the girl would have been too feeble to bear any children.
For the sake of the Zhang family’s future, the two families had decided to switch the bride-to-be to Fang Yuan.
The Zhang Family hadn’t been pleased.
After all, Fang Zhen was the first daughter of the Fang family.
Marrying the second daughter would have lowered the family’s status.
Then again, the two families had been friendly for a long time.
With Auntie Sun now the official wife, Fang Yuan could be considered a genuine heir.
Moreover, Minister Zhang had asked around and confirmed that Fang Zhen had indeed been sick.
An agreement, therefore, had been struck in the end.
However, as Zhang Yun saw Fang Zhen with his own eyes at this very moment, he regretted that agreement instantly.
Although from the same father, Fang Zhen was much more beautiful than Fang Yuan.
Her charisma was also far superior.
Seeing Zhang Yun kept peeking over at Fang Zhen, Fang Yuan hurried to move sideways and block his view.
“You went out for a long time, elder sister,” she pouted.
“Did you have a secret rendezvous with some man?” “What are you saying, Second Miss?” Liu’er was irritated.
“Somebody stole my young miss’s future husband.
What man does she have now? Please don’t talk nonsense and tarnish my young miss’s reputation.
” Fang Yuan’s face dropped.
She shot the servant girl a harsh stare and turned away.
Fang Mingtai was also present in the pavilion.
“We have a guest here.
Behave yourself, Yuan,” he stated blankly, putting down his teacup.
“Why don’t you scold the servant for being insolent and disrespectful, father?” Fang Yuan pouted with displeasure.
“All right, all right, enough said,” Auntie Sun hurried to stop her daughter, then turned around and smiled amicably at Fang Zhen.
“You just got back, Zhen.
Must be tired.
I’ll have someone prepare a bowl of ginger soup for you.
You can drink it in your room.
” She had asked Fang Zhen to come in, with the intention of gloating about his daughter’s successful marriage arrangement.
But Zhang Yun’s reaction showed that he was instantly bewitched by Fang Zhen.
Fearing the young man would fall for the girl, Auntie Sun now wanted nothing more than sending Fang Zhen away quickly.
“Thank you, auntie,” Fang Zhen said nonchalantly, then turned to Zhang Mingtai.
“Please excuse me.
” “All right, go to your room and get some rest.
” With a faint nod, Fang Zhen exited the pavilion.
Zhang Yun’s eyes were locked on the young woman’s departing figure.
He was hopefully infatuated.
Knitting a deep frown, Fang Yuan slammed her teacup on the table.
The loud thud startled Zhang Yun, snapping him out of his daze.
As Fang Zhen and Liu’er entered the inner courtyard, the servant girl was still indignant.
“Young Master Zhang is handsome, and he is from a good family.
No wonder Auntie Sun seized him to marry her own daughter!” “Is he really that handsome?” Fang Zhen grinned.
“He has nice features.
Not bad at all,” said Liu’er.
Fang Zhen smiled again, saying nothing more.
The rain had stopped.
Liu’er was still holding Qiao An’s umbrella.
Upon entering the room, she put it aside without much thought.
“Fetch me a basin of water.
I’ll do some reading after washing my hands,” Fang Zhen said, as she changed her clothes.
” Liu’er exited the room.
All the servants were used to the young miss’s routine.
Every time she came back from outside, she would always wash her hands before reading a book.
Someone had already prepared a basin of warm water sprinkled with rose lotion.
Liu’er brought the basin into the room.
After helping Fang Zhen wash her hands, the servant girl promptly left, not wanting to disturb the young miss’s reading.
Fang Zhen sat down behind her desk and picked up a book with her slender fingers.
Sitting upright, she opened to the page where she had left off, and began reading.
Yet for some reason, she found herself unable to concentrate today, her heart pounding out of control.
Her gaze swung to the umbrella resting quietly in a corner.
Qiao An’s gentle face stubbornly reemerged in her mind.
Finally, she stood up, walked over and picked up the umbrella for a closer look.
Some people would carve their names in their umbrella handles.
Would there be a name carved into this one? The umbrella handle was smooth and clean.
There was no carving whatsoever.
A bit disappointed, the young woman opened the umbrella and studied the ink-painted patterns on its surface, her mind gradually drifting far away.
That man appeared to be no older than thirty.
Most likely he was already married.
Or was he? She was not attracted to Zhang Yun.
Those young men from rich families didn’t interest her.
But the man she had met in the commercial house, who was so very gentle and educated, now that was a different story.
Then again, what was the point thinking about him now? He had to be a married man.
To think about him would be shameful.
Blushing slightly, Fang Zhen immediately put down the umbrella.
She returned to the desk and lit a joss stick, trying hard to calm herself down.
The next morning, Fang Zhen had Liu’er help her fix her hair and clothes.
“Are you going out today, miss?” Liu’er asked.
“Yes,” Fang Zhen answered softly.
“I’m going to return the umbrella.
” “Where to? We don’t even know where he lives,” Liu’er frowned.
“I’ll go to the commercial house.
Maybe I’ll bump into him again there,” said Fang Zhen.
“That’s a good idea.
” The weather was good this day.
The commercial house was even more crowded than the day before.
A few genuine intellectuals attended the poetry session, forcing the posers from the day prior to stand aside.
Fang Zhen waited until noon, but she didn’t encounter Qiao An again.
She had no choice but to return home glumly.
For the next three days, Fang Zhen attended the poetry session everyday.
But she didn’t see the man who had lent her the umbrella.
Even Liu’er was ready to give up.
“He may never come again, miss,” said the servant girl.
“It’s only an umbrella.
Not all that valuable.
Besides, that man didn’t seem to be financially strapped in any way.
There is no need to return it.
” Holding the umbrella, Fang Zhen stood in the roaming crowd outside the commercial house.
“Monetary value isn’t everything,” she put it simply.
“He helped us when we were in need.
The least we can do is to return the umbrella to him.
” “But what if we never bump into him again?” “I’ll come here one last time tomorrow,” Fang Zhen said, at a loss.
“If I don’t see him, then I’ll give up.
” The next day, a good friend of Fang Zhen’s came to visit early in the morning.
The two girls chatted for two hours until close to noontime.
Fang Zhen again picked up the umbrella and headed out.
As she walked past the courtyard gate, she was surprised to see Zhang Yun and Fang Yuan hugging each other under a willow tree ahead.
The young man and the young girl hid behind the tree.
Zhang Yun pressed Fang Yuan onto the tree trunk and kissed her incessantly.
Both were lost in the moment of passion.
Fang Zhen blushed.
If she continued to walk ahead, the two were bound to see her.
Which would have turned out extremely embarrassing.
She hesitated for a moment, then turned around and walked back to her room.
Back in her room, Liu’er protested aloud.
“They are going at it in the courtyard.
How shameless!” When Fang Zhen’s mother had been alive, Fang Yuan, being the illegitimate daughter, had kissed up to her older sister to no end.
However, as Lady Fang had died and Auntie Sun had soon been made into the official wife, Fang Yuan’s demeanor had changed entirely.
She had become arrogant and snooty, constantly competing with Fang Zhen, and even tried to turn all the servants against her sister.
That was the reason Liu’er hated Fang Yuan this much.
“It’s none of your business,” Fang Zhen scolded Liu’er.
“Don’t talk badly of people behind their back.
” “I understand,” Liu’er said obediently.
“So are we still going to the commercial house or not?” Fang Zhen looked at the umbrella in her hand.
“We’ll go after lunch,” she answered after a short pause.
This was the last time.
If she still couldn’t find that man, she would give up for good.
There was still a little time before lunch.
Fang Zhen leaned in her chair and did some reading.
Liu’er served her a cup of tea and exited the room, knowing the young miss enjoyed quietness during her reading session.
The sun rose higher in the sky.
Beams of sunlight shined into the room.
It was a beautiful spring day, filled with the pleasing fragrance of flowers.
Just then, the door squeaked open.
Thinking it was Liu’er, Fang Zhen didn’t pay any attention.
Someone lifted the beaded curtain, gingerly entered the room and stopped behind the girl.
He studied her delicate features for a moment, then stepped closer and grabbed the book from the girl’s hand.
“What are you reading?” the man asked.
Fang Zhen abruptly turned around, startled to see Zhang Yun standing behind her.
“When did you get in?” she asked coldly, her face dropping.
“The door was not closed, so I came in,” Zhang Yun smiled.
Fang Zhen hopped onto her feet and reeled back.
“It’s inappropriate for a man and a woman sharing the same room.
Please get out of here!” But Zhang Yun took another step forward instead.
“I didn’t expect you to be so beautiful.
Had I known that, I wouldn’t have agreed to marry your sister.
After all, you and I were supposed to get married even before we were born!” “Your marriage with Fang Yuan has already been decided,” Fang Zhen said, her face glacial.
“Please don’t say these meaningless words.
Get out at once!” “What if I hire a matchmaker and forfeit the marriage arrangement with Fang Yuan?” Zhang Yun asked, out-of-breath.
“Will you forgive me then, Miss Fang?” His insolence irritated Fang Zhen.
“I just saw you and Fang Yuan getting all intimate under the willow tree,” she smirked.
“And now you’re telling me you’ve changed your heart? Such behavior makes one suspect your decency.
Nothing will ever happen between you and me.
If you don’t get out now, I’ll scream for help!” “Don’t!” Zhang Yun hurriedly stopped her.
He cast the girl another lingering glance, before exiting the room.
Fang Zhen knitted a deep frown.
The two families had only begun discussing the marriage arrangement last year.
That was the reason Zhang Yun frequented the Fang household in recent days.
But judging by the intimacy between Zhang Yun and Fang Yuan, the two seemed to have known each other for a much longer time.
The marriage between Zhang Yun and Fang Yuan was already set in stone.
But the young man was still acting so flirtatiously.
Fang Zhen found herself extremely fortunate not having to marry such a infidel man.
Meanwhile, Zhang Yun exited the courtyard where Fang Zhen’s room was located.
At a loss, he was surprised to bump into Fang Yuan, who had been looking for him all over.
Seeing that the young man was coming from where Fang Zhen’s room was located, Fang Yuan’s eyes turned cold.
She forced a smile, walked over and held his arm.
“Where were you? Father and mother are waiting in the dining hall to have lunch with you!” “I got lost looking for the outhouse,” Zhang Yun smiled nervously.
Fang Yuan didn’t bust his lie.
“Hurry up,” she said.
“All right,” Zhang Yun answered, his mind still obsessed with Fang Zhen.
“Should we ask your sister to join us for lunch?” “That’s not necessary.
She enjoys having her meals alone in the courtyard,” Fang Yuan pouted.
“Why do you pay this much attention to her? Do you like her?” “What are you talking about?” Zhang Yun hurriedly said.
“I’m just trying to be nice.
” He reached out a hand and gently pinched the girl’s waist.
Fang Yuan spread a smile.
“If you’re ever unfaithful, I’ll never talk to you!” “I’ll never do that,” Zhang Yun chortled.
“Of course not.