Chapter 207: The stone-hearted Second Young Master Pei Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
“There’s no way he wouldn’t come,” Lou Zigui grinned after dropping those heavy words. “I’m only joking.”
Ning Xiaoyao was still wooden-faced and staring at Lou Zigui. “Even if you were serious, I’d never do something like that.”
“…..” said Lou Zigui.
“Wait, you were really joking with me just then?” Ning Xiaoyao asked suspiciously. Why couldn’t I tell at all?
Lou Zigui, who rarely made any jokes, felt a blow from her words. “Go and eat instead,” he said as he walked towards the door. I had better not try making any jokes in the future.
“Should we get someone to bring Pei Yan to the palace?” Ning Xiaoyao asked as she chased after him. She wasn’t content with leaving things just like that. If Pei Yan didn’t come, then they wouldn’t be able to put on their big show at the court assembly later.
“No need.” Compared to Ning Xiaoyao’s nervousness, Lou Zigui was very steady.
“There’s really no need?”
“There’s no need.”
Ning Xiaoyao nodded. If there’s no need, then there’s no need. It’s not like I could really do anything if Pei Yan didn’t come anyways.
Currently, over at the Lord Protector’s estate, the old madame was sitting in the main seat of the audience hall. To her lower left was the Lord Protector, while Pei Yan sat to her lower right. The three of them sat in positions of equal power to stare at each other in silence. They’d been at it for quite a while now.
Standing behind Pei Yan was a young woman dressed in clothes of fine make but ordinary hues. She had sparse ornaments in her hair, making it hard for outsiders to discern her rank from her attire alone.
Finally, the Lord Protector caved in first and said, “Old Second, just what do you mean by this?”
“Big brother, you’ve finally thought to ask for my opinion?” Second Young Master Pei still looked like the world owed him 1,000,000 silver taels. He didn’t even bother to look up when he spoke.
The Lord Protector wiped his face in order to suppress his growing temper. He wanted to simply flip the table and leave, but he couldn’t do that, not just yet. His little brother would never accept it from him. “Then, are you going to go to court or not?” he asked nicely instead.
Pei Yan replied offhandedly, “I’m only a commoner, so how could I go to the palace?”
“No,” the Lord Protector replied, “Haven’t I told you? His Majesty wants you to be the Nine Gates Infantry Commander.”
“Where are my virtues and abilities?” Second Young Master Pei replied.
“……” said the Lord Protector. I don’t know either!
“Big brother, you’re the one who is the Lord Protector. Your little brother is nothing more than common plebeian, so I can’t get involved in affairs of court,” Pei Yan said before turning to leave. The Lord Protector’s knuckles crackled as he clenched his fists.
Slam! The old madame slapped the tabletop, causing Pei Yan to pause. That didn’t seem to relieve her temper, because the next thing she did was flip over the table, sending its various articles crashing into pieces on the ground. Now the Lord Protector rose to his feet and approached his mother with a pained expression.
“Mother, let’s talk nicely. Don’t lose your temper.”
“Go find a few sets of white clothes,” the old madame replied. “This old woman will bring the whole family to see His Majesty.”
“W-wearing white to visit the palace?”1 the Lord Protector stammered.
“We’ll go to ask for our deaths,” the old madame replied. “Better to do that than to wait for His Majesty to punish us instead.”
The Lord Protector nodded. “Then this son shall leave first.”
“Go on,” the old madame waved a hand.
When Pei Yan saw that his big brother was actually leaving, he raged, “Mother, you’re trying to force me!”
“That’s right,” the old madame replied. “I am forcing you! It’s this old woman who is useless, having raised the likes of you. I can’t beat you in a fight or outtalk you, but I can still control whether I live or die. Eldest son, what are you doing? Hurry and prepare the white clothes. Have someone get the carriages ready so we can leave this instant.”
“Mother!” Pei Yan shouted.
“Let me ask you,” the old madame said, “Who is our family’s enemy?”
“Xie Wenyuan,” Pei Yan answered.
“Now you can take your revenge on him, so why aren’t you seizing the chance?” the old madame asked. “Are you afraid of Xie Wenyuan?”
“How could your son fear that crafty old thief?” Pei Yan denied flatly.
“Then you’re simply angry at His Majesty,” the old madame stated.
“Mother,” the Lord Protector hastened to her side while shaking his head. How can you say such things?
“This old woman’s already finished preparing to meet her death. What else is there for me to fear?” the old madame looked at her youngest son with a cold smile. “If I were you, I would’ve faced the risk of dismemberment to get my revenge on the late emperor. How old is the current emperor now? You didn’t have the skills to beat the strong one, so now you’re picking on the small one who treats you politely? How did my Pei Clan raise such a coward like you?”
“Mother, just forget about it,” the Lord Protector felt that Second Young Master Pei was exasperating as well, but his mother was really going too far. He tried to smooth things over instead. “How about speaking to old second nicely?”
“Then he has to be human first!” the old madame didn’t have any more tables to flip, so she slapped her armrest instead. Pei Yan met with disaster in his childhood, so the old madame had doted on him ever since. Her biting words today left him unable to bear them.
With a black face, he replied, “Mother, does your son deserve death just because I don’t want to take up an official post?”
“His Majesty cured you!” the old madame raised her voice.
“How was I injured in the first place?!” Pei Yan’s voice was just as loud.
“Fine, if you want to count it that way, then His Majesty owes you a dead father as well,” the old madame replied. “I and your older brother will take the whole family to ask for our deaths. You can just avenge us afterwards.”
“Old Second,” Lord Protector said, “Do you want to raise a rebellion?”
“Hmph,” the old madame gave a scornful laugh. “Does he have the skills? For the past few years, we’ve lived with our doors shut and our tails between our legs. We even have to smile and live alongside the likes of Xie Wenyuan. What has he ever done? This old woman believes in the old sayings—some people don’t deserve to be given any face!”
Pei Yan’s face grew red from the piling invectives.
“Over the past few years, you’ve been eating, dressing, boarding, and using everything from your older brother,” the old madame continued. “But you still want to send your older brother’s entire family to death? He’s been raising you since you were four until now. Whenever you made a racket, he and your sister-in-law all yielded to your whims. They humored your and let you have your way. Even if your heart’s made out of rock, your brother and sister-in-law must have warmed it some with their care, didn’t they? Maybe you were just born heartless! Ah?!”
Née Zhang, the Lord Protector’s wife, gave a tiny sigh from outside the door. She beckoned to her children and led them away. Pei Yan had a moody disposition and was hard to get along with, but she had tried her best as a sister-in-law despite the lack of results. Still, hearing old madame rebuke the boy like that made undid the knots in her own heart. So, mother-in-law really has understood my struggles all these years.
“Yes, yes, you’ve never asked your older brother for anything,” the old madame continued with her lecture, “This is what he owes you as your brother. Who told him to be related to you? That’s his bad luck.”
A red-faced Pei Yan shot back, “I never said those things.”
“After your father died,” the old madame ignored him to speak, “His old friends were all held back from achieving greatness by Xie Wenyuan. Not only that, the man didn’t even spare their sons and grandsons. Now, His Majesty wants to use you and give you a chance to avenge your father. This is a chance for your father’s friends to have a new start as well. But what are you doing? Because of your own temper, you’ve turned a blind eye to those men. Your own father has yet to close his eyes in peace in his own grave! You black-hearted bastard, if I knew you’d grow up to be like this, you should’ve died with your father all those years ago. At least then your ghost could keep his company so he wouldn’t be so lonely.” As she spoke these words, tears streamed down the old madame’s cheeks.
“Mother,” the Lord Protector fell to his knees, his eyes rimmed with red. “Old Second isn’t that kind of person. Mother, please don’t say any more.”
“Scram!” the old madame sobbed at him.
“O-old Madame,” the young woman standing behind Pei Yan felt a need to speak up as well.
“Níng Yan, ah,”2 the old madame replied, “Don’t defend such a bastard. You’ve done so for so many years, but has he ever thought of you?”
“Old Madame, second young master isn’t that kind of man,” the girl called Níng Yan also fell to her knees in front of the old madame.
“When you were young, your father had made a marriage agreement with the Luo Clan for you,” the old madame continued. “But once our Lord Protector’s estate ran into trouble, the Luo Clan rejected the agreement. They even publicized the news of what happened to you and gave their daughter to Xie Anshi in marriage instead.”
Pei Yan said, “I know I had lost face for the Lord Protector’s estate.”
“Who’s talking to you about face?!” the old madame retorted. “I want you to think for Níng Yan’s sake!”
“Old Madame,” Níng Yan said hastily, “Níng Yan is only a servant.”
“Rise, child,” the old madame stood up and personally helped Níng Yan to her feet, then patted her hand as tears fell from her eyes. “Originally, this old woman was thinking that you could marry this bastard since His Majesty had cured him. Then you would finally enjoy the sweet after the bitterness. But Heaven’s plans supersede our own. Who knew that Pei Yan would be such a heartless wretch? This old woman has let you down, ah.”
“I’ll go to court,” Pei Yan said. “I’ll go, so please don’t say anymore, Mother.”
The old madame slowly sat back in her chair. Pei Yan stomped his feet and headed off to his rooms.
“Aren’t you going to court?” the Lord Protector exclaimed. “Where are you off to now?”
“To change clothes,” Pei Yan replied with a gloomy face.
“Go on,” the old madame smiled with teary eyes at Níng Yan, who was still standing there blankly. The girl quickly chased after Pei Yan out of the rooms.
The Lord Protector rose from the floor and wiped his forehead, which had long been covered in sweat.
“You should clean yourself up as well. Go with that bastard to court,” the old madame said.
The Lord Protector then grew uneasy. “Mother, can Old Second really be a good servant for His Majesty like that? Suppose he turns stubborn at the Hall of Golden Chimes, what do we do then?”
“He’s no match for His Majesty,” the old madame picked up the walking stick by her chair as she lowered her voice. “His skills will only make him a helper, nothing more. You don’t need to worry about that.”
The Lord Protector replied, “Isn’t this son worried more for his mouth’s sake?”
“His Majesty can even manage Xie Wenyuan, much less Old Second’s tongue,” the old madame wiped her face free of tears. “Let him do what he wants. After bumping into a few nails, his personality might actually change for the better.”
When the Lord Protector recalled yesterday’s events over at the Grand Preceptor’s estate, he nodded his head. That’s true. With His Majesty’s skills, dealing with Old Second should be nothing.
“After court’s dismissed, I’ll go ask for an audience with Esteemed Empress,” the old madame added.
“Ah?” the Lord Protector scratched his head.
“I’ll go ask for an imperial sanction for marriage as a favor,” the old madame explained. “Níng Yan might be a servant, but she’s spent all her years looking after Old Second. She deserves something from the Pei Clan.” (Author: But Esteemed Empress isn’t home right now…)
- wear white – in traditional Chinese culture, the color white signifies death and mourning. Naturally, both are considered inauspicious things, so to blatantly parade your whole family in white before the emperor would be quite the shocking event. ↩
- Níng Yan (凝烟) – Ning means “congeal, condense,” Yan means “smoke.” Note that this is a different character Ning from the one in Ning Xiaoyao (宁). ↩