Today was the day of Bai Jinxiu’s return home after three days and Liu-shi, the second wife, had been up early to oversee her daughter’s return. Although she was currently sitting in the Princess Dowager’s room, her heart was already outside the gates of the residence. She kept craning her neck to look outside eagerly, waiting for the news of her daughter and son-in-law’s arrival from the servants.
“Why haven’t they returned yet?” Second Madam Liu-shi put down her teacup. Then she turned to her eldest maid, Qingshu, and asked her to go out front to welcome them.
Fifth Madam, Qi-shi, who was pregnant, could not help but cover her smile with a handkerchief, “Sister-in-law is too impatient. Second Miss and new son-in-law are newlyweds so it’s inevitable that they would have woken up late. We’ve all been through this, so you should understand.”
“Look at Fifth Sister, daring to talk nonsense even here in Mother’s room!” teased Third Madam, Li-shi.
Dong-shi, seated towards the head of the table beside the Princess Dowager, smiled silently. She simply lowered her eyes, gently touching the jade bracelet on her wrist, feeling a complex mix of emotions. After all, this was her daughter’s marriage.
The other Bai daughters were also sitting at the table, chatting lively.
Bai Qingyan watched the lively atmosphere in the room and felt a warm sense of happiness.
Soon, Qing Shu, Second Madam Liu-shi’s maid, hurriedly entered the Changshou Courtyard along with Aunty Wu from the Zhongyong Marquis’ household.
Aunty Wu was the most respected maid beside the Madam of the Zhongyong Marquis’ family. As soon as she spotted Aunty Jiang standing in the corridor, she hurriedly walked over to her and curtseyed, “Elder Sister…”
“Why has Aunty Wu come today? Did our Second Miss and Young Master wake up late?” Aunty Jiang asked politely as she pulled up Aunty Wu and smiled.
Aunty Wu’s expression worsened and she replied uncomfortably, “Our Eldest Daughter-in-law slipped and fell into the lake yesterday while playing with our Second Daughter-in-law and choked on the water. It didn’t seem serious at first, but this morning, she suddenly developed a high fever! That’s why she couldn’t return home today…”
Aunty Jiang was shocked when hearing this and said, “Aunty Wu, please wait for a moment. Let me go in and report this to the Princess Dowager.”
Inside the room, Second Madam Liu-shi stood up in shock when she heard the news, “What?! What is this Qin family doing?! Jinxiu fell into the lake yesterday, and they only sent someone to tell us today? Are they bullying us because our Duke and Jinxiu’s father aren’t here?”
Bai Qingyan tightened her grip on the teacup and peered through the partition screen at Aunty Wu wringing her handkerchief outside. Suddenly, she gritted her teeth and her anger flared.
In the previous life, the second daughter of the Minister of Civil Affairs had married into the Zhongyong Marquis’ household. On the day she was due to return home after marriage, she also had not been able to go home due to a similar incident. She had heard that she had slipped while playing with her sister-in-law and fell into the lake.
She recalled the fate of the second daughter of the Minister of Civil Affairs who had ended up dying of depression before reaching 30 years. She gripped her teacup tightly and her face turned slightly pale.
Could it be that Bai Jinxiu could not escape this fate after marrying into the Zhongyong Marquis’ household?
Bai Qingyan’s hand trembled as she held the teacup, unsure if it was due to the intense training in recent days or her anger.
“Don’t worry, Second Aunt!” Bai Qingyan calmed down and set down her teacup. She stood up and said “Grandmother, let Second Aunt take Physician Hong to the Zhongyong Marquis’ household to check on Second Sister!”
“But… They just married. For us as the wife’s family to bring a physician to the husband’s house, would the Zhongyong Marquis’ household not think our Zhenguo Duke’s household is too arrogant and complain?” Fourth Madam Wang-shi asked cautiously. She had always had a gentle temperament.
“Second Sister is skilled in martial arts and is good with water! Is it believable that she slipped and fell into the lake while playing and choked on the water? There must be more to this story,” Bai Qingyan raised her voice, unable to contain her anger, “Grandmother, you and Mother are the eldest princesses of the imperial family. With an imperial title, it is indeed unsuitable for you to bring Physician Hong! However, Second Aunt loves her daughter deeply… It would not be surprising.”
“I’m going too!” Bai Jinzhi, the Fourth Miss, stood up and bowed to the Princess Dowager. “Grandmother, I’m worried about Second Sister! I’m going too!”
“Grandmother, I’m also going!” Bai Jintong, the Third Miss, also stood up.
“Me too! Me too!”
The girls in the room all clamoured to go see Bai Jinxiu.
“Mother!” Second Madam’s eyes welled up with tears, “Please Mother, allow me to go! I’m worried about Jinxiu!”
The Princess Dowager maintained a stern expression as she fiddled with her sandalwood prayer beads. Her second daughter-in-law had an impulsive personality and some of the children were too young to remain calm. This incident clearly had more to it and she was afraid that Bai Jinxiu had been wronged in some way. With as many people as possible… It would send a clear message to the Zhongyong Marquis’ household that their Zhenguo Duke’s household was not to be trifled with.
She turned to Bai Qingyan and after a long pause, she said “Second Daughter-in-law, take our young ladies to see Jinxiu. Ah Bao… Go with them and find out what’s really going on. Our young ladies from the Zhenguo Duke’s household are not to be mistreated when they marry into the Zhongyong Marquis’ household! Aunty Jiang, you go with Second Daughter-in-law.”
Aunty Jiang curtseyed.
Second Madam Liu-shi was deeply grateful and curtseyed to the Princess Dowager. Aunty Jiang represented the Princess Dowager to some extent. With Aunty Jiang accompanying them… It would send a clear message to the Zhongyong Marquis’ household that the Princess Dowager valued Bai Jinxiu.
Upon hearing that her daughter would be going, Dong-shi hurriedly said, “Mother, Ah Bao’s health…”
“Mother, it doesn’t matter. I can’t rest easy if you don’t let me go and see Second Sister!” Bai Qingyan reassured Dong-shi. Her heart was in turmoil. How would she know how Bai Jinxiu was doing if she did not go and see? And how would she know if Bai Jinxiu should still stay in the Zhongyong Marquis’ residence?
Bai Qingyan was the eldest daughter in the family. When she had been the only child in the Bai family, the Second Madam Liu-shi had also loved Bai Qingyan very much. She knew that Bai Qingyan was composed and had a keen mind. With Bai Qingyan also going… If there were things that Bai Jinxiu could not tell her own mother when the time came, she would still definitely tell Bai Qingyan.
Although Dong-shi was reluctant, she told her maid, Aunty Qin, to make the necessary arrangements for the carriages and horses.
Hearing that Second Madam Liu-shi was going to visit Bai Jinxiu, bringing along a physician and the young ladies from the Zhenguo Duke’s residence, Aunty Wu from the Zhongyong Marquis’ household panicked. She hurriedly said that she would go back and report to her Madam so that they could be prepared, then left quickly in a carriage.
Dong-shi went with Bai Qingyan back to the Qinghui Courtyard. She picked out a large cloak with extremely thick fur and fastened it on Bai Qingyan. As she sent Bai Qingyan off, she said, “Mother didn’t want you to go to the Zhongyong Marquis’ household, but you just had to insist on going! When you go, don’t be too confrontational… Otherwise rumours will spread and people will say that you’re narrow minded and can’t bear to see your second sister marrying the Zhongyong Marquis’ eldest son. Do you understand?”
“Mother, don’t worry. Daughter knows what to do!”
At the main gate of the Zhenguo Duke’s residence, several luxurious and spacious carriages slowly set off toward the Zhongyong Marquis’ household.
At the Zhongyong Marquis’ residence, Second Madam Liu-shi saw her daughter lying on the bed, her complexion pallid and lifeless. Her legs weakened and she almost fainted. She sat on the edge of the bed, holding her daughter’s hand and calling her name, “Jinxiu! Jinxiu… Mother is here! Open your eyes and look at Mother!”
Second Madam Liu-shi’s stewardess, Aunty Luo, supported Liu-shi and said with red eyes, “Second Madam, let Physician Hong examine Second Miss first.”
Bai Qingyan saw that Bai Jinxiu was only breathing out but not in. Her hands hidden in her sleeves clenched so hard that they shook with anger. Her fury boiled in her veins and she wished she could slice the Zhongyong Marquis Madam with a sword, the poisonous woman who had the face of a human but a beastly heart.