Edited and Proofread by KitKat
Wu Juan Shu heard someone reporting that the nunnery outside the city was on fire and had rushed there on horseback. To his dismay, when he arrived at the scene, he saw Wu Liu hugging Jiao Ying and his eyes landed on her slightly bulging belly. There was a frown on his face but he still reached out to her and said gently, “Jiao Ying, come here.”
In a panic, Jiao Ying subconsciously took a step forward. Wu Liu on the other hand sneered and grabbed her back, “Where do you think you’re going? You have my child in your belly, you’re not allowed to go anywhere!”
Wu Liu was now forty but only had one daughter. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to leave himself an heir but the doctors who had diagnosed him had said that his manhood was a little lacking, making it very difficult for him to get a woman pregnant. He had long given up hope but who would’ve thought that Jiao Ying had managed to bear his child?
Jiao Ying was formally the wife of a horse breeder in the Wu Manor. He once bumped into her when she was delivering food to her husband. Seeing that the horse breeder was submissive and a lowly worker, Wu Liu brazenly coaxed his wife into bed.
Since then, Jiao Ying had continued to keep him company. One day, she came to him crying that her husband had found out and wanted to kill her. At that time, he was deep in passion and decided to have someone get rid of the husband. He had planned to make her his concubine after the heat had died. What he did not know was that some time ago, this harlot had hooked up with his nephew. Before he could bring her into the house, Wu Juan Shu had hidden her in the nunnery, costing him much effort just to find her.
But when he finally found her, Wu Liu was no longer in a hurry to bring Jiao Ying back. Instead, he continued their affair in the nunnery, occasionally staying for the night. When he found out that Jiao Ying was pregnant, he calculated the time and knew that the baby was his.
Anxious to have a son, Wu Liu’s attitude turned crude. He pulled her back and passed her to a servant, “Take her away. Be careful with her stomach.”
“Sixth Uncle!” After shouting, Wu Juan Shu realized that there were people watching and quickly lowered his voice, “Do you really want to make a scene right here? What if father finds out…”
At the mention of Marquis Wu, Wu Liu shrunk back. Nonetheless, thinking that Jiao Ying might give birth to a son for him, he straightened up and said with discontentment, “No matter what you say, she is already mine. If you like her so much, after she gives birth, I’ll give her back to you!”
“You!” Wu Juan Shu was tongue-tied. His sixth uncle had always been unscrupulous but he had never dared to go overboard thanks to his father keeping him in check. He grit his teeth and said, “How can I rightfully marry her after she has given birth to your child?!”
Wu Liu scoffed, “Oh? I didn’t know you’re such a devoted lover. Still willing to marry this loose woman.”
Wu Juan Shu turned red at his words but looking at Jiao Ying with her pitiful eyes, he suppressed the thorns in his heart and reached for her. Repressing his anger, he said, “Why don’t we keep her at my place for now and discuss what to do later?”
Wu Liu was not an idiot. He immediately pulled her back and the two began a round of tug-o-war with Jiao Ying caught in the middle. During the struggle, someone accidentally used too much force, causing Jiao Ying to trip and hit her stomach on the hard ground.
“My stomach!” She screamed in pain as her hands covered her belly.
Wu Liu hurriedly pulled her up only to find that the ground was stained with blood. His face turned pale, “My son…”
Wu Juan Shu also panicked, “Quick! Someone go get a doctor!”
The villagers were there to watch the excitement of two men competing for a widow at a nunnery but who would’ve thought that things would lead to this?
Someone in the crowd shouted, “Officer! Officer! Over here! Someone’s dead!”
Wu Juan Shu heard the call and knew that it was too risky to stay. He tried to run to the carriage and hide but he was not quick enough. The city chief had brought along some officers and they were approaching fast.
“Who died?” Hearing of the arson outside the city, the chief gathered his officers and got here as fast as possible. Before he could take a breath, someone shouted that there was a casualty, giving him a bigger headache. He did not even take the carriage and decided to run to the scene instead.
Gasping for air as he arrived only to find a woman lying on the ground, clutching her stomach.
The chief adjusted his official crown and made a more dignified stance before asking, “I heard there’s a casualty, where is it?”
A meddlesome onlooker from the crowd replied, “The two men were fighting over that woman and caused her to fall. She could be having a miscarriage.”
The chief saw that the woman’s skirt did have a lot of blood and immediately told an officer to send her to the clinic. He then shouted sternly at the two men facing their backs to him, “You two, turn around!”
Beads of sweat appeared on Wu Juan Shu’s forehead. He turned and gave Wu Liu a signal but Wu Liu had already withdrawn like a turtle, shrinking back his neck and staying petrified.
The chief was getting impatient with their unresponsive behaviors and motioned the officers to turn them around.
The officers boorishly grabbed the two men and turned them around. They did not struggle but continued to cover their faces with their hands, causing the chief to feel that these two were incredibly strange. Thinking that they were up to something shady, he ordered, “Pull their hands away and let them show their faces! What’s your name…”
His words came to an abrupt stop right after the officers had forcibly pulled their hands away.
Wu Juan Shu, Wu Liu and the chief looked at each other. The expressions on their faces were hard to put into words.
The chief made a series of convulsions before he could calmly decide the right course of action. He bent down and asked in a whisper, “Sirs, this is…”
Wu Juan Shu mulled over and said, “It’s just a misunderstanding…”
Wu Liu immediately echoed, “Yes, yes, yes, it’s all a misunderstanding.”
Unfortunately for them, these words were heard by the crowd and someone rebuked, “Don’t be fooled by them. They were both fighting for the same woman from the nunnery. It’s unsure whose child is in her belly…”
Someone else then went on to tell the life story of the widow Jiao Ying entering the nunnery. The more the chief heard, the deeper his heart sank knowing that it was now impossible to cover this up.
Everyone in Yejing knew that Marquis Wu’s family was the most upright. Although the children and grandchildren did not make outstanding achievements, they were still more decent than those of most families. The Marquis’s wife and concubines were harmonious and his children were noble, these were the rumors that upheld their respectable reputation.
If word of the Wu uncle and nephew dating the same girl got out, he could pretty well lose his job.
The chief was in hot water but he stayed dignified and ordered, “Let them go for now. Who set the fire?”
When the onlookers saw that he was not going to investigate the two men, they lost interest and dispersed. An officer brought the crazy woman to the chief, “She’s the arsonist.”
The crazy woman was in ragged clothes with hair as messy as a chicken’s nest. She was still giggling when the officers caught her.
The chief grimaced and said, “She’s the one who set the fire?”
Before the officer could answer, the passive woman suddenly turned violent. She lunged towards Wu Liu and screamed, “Give me back my son!”
Wu Liu could not dodge in time and had his ear bitten by her. He screeched like a pig being butchered.
The officers hurried to pull her away but she refused to let go until she had managed to bite off one of Wu Liu’s ears. The onlookers who were about to leave saw Wu Liu wailing and rolling on the ground and decided to continue watching.
An anonymous person in the crowd said, “Isn’t that the man who’s seen hooking up with Jiao Ying?”
Another said, “He’s that sixth master of the Wu family! I saw him while working at Ying Chun!”
Once they heard the mention of the Wu family, the crowd was in an uproar.
When the chatter reached the chief’s ears and with fingers being pointed, his heart grew cold. It seemed he could no longer cover up this incident.
He told the officers to escort the men into the carriage and left the scene as fast as he could.
After everyone had scattered, An Chang Qing signaled for the coachman to take them back. Having seen the big scene played out with his own eyes, he was elated thinking that it wouldn’t be long before this was spread all over Yejing. The spotless reputation of the Wu family would finally be torn down.
How much An Chang Qing had hated them in his previous life, now, he was extremely delighted to see what they would become.
Anfu clicked his tongue and pondered, “This Jiao Ying is pretty skillful. How did she manage to wrap both the uncle and nephew around her finger? But when this gets out, I don’t think she’ll have a good ending.”
“The wicked will have a wicked end.”
She was the catalyst for soiling the Wu family’s reputation; it was unlikely that Marquis Wu would let her off.
An Chang Qing lowered his eyes without a trace of sympathy. In his previous life, An Xian Yu had to endure countless hardships only to die with her unborn child. This time, it seemed that Jiao Ying was given a small taste of what his sister had to go through.
When he returned to the Wang Manor, he happened to meet An Xian Yu. She was looking for him with two small sachets in her hand. During the days that she lived in the Wang Manor, the freedom and support from the people around her had made her more lively and less timid.
“Mother and I made these, one for you and one for Wangye.”
Seeing her cheerful smile, An Chang Qing couldn’t help rubbing her hair, “Didn’t I tell mom to rest more and not to make herself tired?”
An Xian Yu pouted, “I said the same thing to her but she refused to listen. I could only do my best to help her.”
She did not like needlework and would rather spend the time reading a few more books. But Lady Yu was always saying that every girl should at least know how to do needlework to not be despised when she entered her husband’s house.
“It’d been hard on you, “An Chang Qing said, “The gold shop had sent over some jewelry. I’ve asked Anfu to bring them over so you and mom can pick out a few.”
An Xian Yu happily handed him the sachets and said, “I’ll take my leave then.”
An Chang Qing saw the spring in her step and smiled. He looked at the clear blue sky above and was thankful that everything was moving in a positive direction.
He then took the two sachets and went to find Xiao Zhige.
Xiao Zhige was training in the main yard when An Chang Qing found him. He did not make a sound and stood to one side. He smiled sweetly while admiring the man. Xiao Zhige had long heard his footsteps. After throwing a few more punches, he ended his workout and went to him, “You’re done?”
An Chang Qing sniggered as he pulled Xiao Zhige back into the room, all the while retelling him the farce that happened at the nunnery. He then merrily gloated, “There’ll be a great show tomorrow.”
Xiao Zhige contemplated and said, “It’s not enough.”
An Chang Qing did not understand, “What’s not enough?”
“The heat.” Xiao Zhige explained, “This dispute between uncle and nephew is just a scandal. It’s not enough to topple the Marquis.”
He then handed An Chang Qing an envelope that was prepared some time ago, “You should learn the trick of using someone else’s knife to do your bidding.”
An Chang Qing opened it and found that inside was a letter listing all the crimes that were committed in the Wu Manor. He looked for a signature at the bottom but found nothing, not even the name of the recipient.
“How should this letter be used?”
“Marquis Wu has a deceased wife. She was the second daughter of the Imperial Supervisor- Zhong Cheng. After marrying the Marquis for three years, she passed away due to illness.”
“What is the connection here?” An Chang Qing ventured a guess, “Is there something suspicious in the death of the late Madame Wu?”
Xiao Zhige looked at him kindly and said, “After her death, the then Imperial Historian Zhong Cheng cut off all contact with Marquis Wu. And even after he had been promoted to Imperial Supervisor, their relationship remained estranged.”
With all the information revealed to him, An Chang Qing pondered for some time then said, “So what you mean is… We send this letter to the Imperial Supervisor and have him deal with the Wu Manor instead?”
The Imperial Supervisor was one of the three State Counsellors with the duty of overlooking the officials. No one could mitigate the cases he brought to court, even if it involved high-ranking officials like Marquis Wu. It was inevitable to pull out a radish without disturbing the dirt. These secrets from the past were finally coming back to haunt the Wu Manor.
An Chang Qing was filled with anticipation as excitement filled his eyes.
“Wait till tomorrow to send the letter,” Xiao Zhige took the envelope away and handed him a paper bag instead, “Your reward.”
An Chang Qing opened the bag and saw that inside were brilliantly glossy and beautifully shaped pine nut candies.