Edited by Tnyhy
Chapter 71: Setting Fire to the Ancestral Hall (Part 3)
As time passes, the birthday banquet in the Shen residence was about to start. The various Furens and young ladies were seated and there were ten full tables of them. Old Shen Furen’s reputation was very big as such to an event, all the officials’ Furens with a little rank had all come. Of course, all the people who came to this banquet were not because of Old Shen Furen’s face but because of Shen family’s Shen Xin’s reputation. Even so, this birthday celebration banquet was bustling, just like previous years.
Shen Yue wore a hundred pleated Ruyi moon dress (T/N: no idea what is it) and the white moon colour made her look incredibly tender and gentle. She was already adorable and attractive but with today’s specific dressing, there was a scheme of showing her maturity. Now that Shen Qing and Shen Miao had someone to marry, all the Furens that were present had various thoughts on Shen Yue and naturally thought about the benefit of having this Second Young Lady of the Third household in the Shen residence married into their residence.
The men who had handed over their gifts were all at the other side, accompanied by Shen Gui and Shen Wan.Those two of course would not give up this opportunity to win over their hearts and in no time, people were laughing and bustling around.
Master Su held a cup of wine but he was in somewhat a headache. His family had good relations with the Marquis of Lin An residence and the Shen and Xie family were always opposing one another but the Shen family unexpectedly send an invitation to him. Master Su was a good person and since others had sent an invitation, there was no reason to refuse so he thickened his skin to participate. But his heart was somewhat envious of his own ‘lying sick in bed’ eldest son. At least he need not watch these bunch of wily old foxes harbouring ulterior motives pushing cups and testing one another.
“Father.” Su Ming Lang blinked his eyes. Today he was also dressed up by his mother and even so, he seemed to look like a upright and principled dumpling. He tugged Master Su’s sleeves, “I want to walk around.”
“Do not anyhow run about.” Master Su warned. Even though his eldest son did not participate, his youngest son who was usually not interested in such stuff clamoured noisily the wish to participate, and Master Su did not know the reason why. But Su Ming Lang vented out so much that Su Furen agreed and Master Su could only bring this little child.
Su Ming Lang put his hands down in grievance. He heard that this was Old Shen Furen’s birthday celebration, which was Shen Miao’s grandmother’s birthday celebration. Thinking of the long period that he had not seen Shen Miao in Guang Wen Tang, he was especially concerned. He thought of taking advantage of this opportunity to see Shen Miao but who knew that Shen Miao did not even reveal a glimpse today. When he heard that Shen Miao had rash and was unable to see others, Su Ming Lang’s heart ached as he wanted to see Shen Miao. He had very little friends and others would always dislike his clumsiness but only Shen Miao was gentle to him. In this heart, Shen Miao was long considered his only friend.
Out at the female side of the banquet, Jiang Furen laughingly coaxed, “Heard that Huang Furen and Wei Furen, should specifically offer a cup of wine to Old Furen, after all…”
After all, in the future they would be their children in-laws.
Those words were not spoken but all the Furens present in the banquet were well aware of them. Huang Furen was a refined and delicate Furen, and only smiled when she heard those words and one was unable to feel anything out of it. Most likely she was well aware of it, that this marriage was not considered a good marriage as each took what they needed from it. If the Shen family really doted on their daughter, even on the righteousness they would not agree to this marriage. The so called noble and benevolent character was only a pretentious surface. Thus it was somewhat ridiculing in one’s eyes.
But it was Wei Furen that was somewhat uncomfortable. The Shen family background was indeed not bad, so being related to the Shen family was considered climbing high branches but previously, Shen Miao was just too stupid and it was unbearable to let her have the position of the primary mother. After the academy examinations and inquiring that Shen Miao seemed to have matured and her temperament had calmed down a lot, is when she then proposed marriage on behalf of her son.
But who knew that she would not see Shen Miao today and also heard that she had contracted a rash. Wei Furen was somewhat worried. If it was an unpleasant ailment, would it spoil her son’s life? Thinking of these, a somewhat reluctant expression appeared on her face.
When Chen Rou Qiu saw these expressions, she sneered a few times in her heart. She was not a fool, and how could she not see Ren Wan Yun’s plan of exchanging the marriages for both sisters. Old Shen Furen and Ren Wan Yun could hide it from others but were unable to hid it from her. But these were considered as good news for her. Ren Wan Yun cared of the current chaos but one would not know how furious Shen Xin would be when he returns. At that time the First and Second household would be fighting and each would hurt their strength and her Yue-er could then be revealed to the fore.
Ren Wan Yun stood up with a smile, “That being the case, then I should first congrats the two Furens with a cup.”
Everyone laughed louder, Feng An Ning frowned and gave an expression of displeasure.
In the other side, inside the ancestral hall, after dispersing all the maids, Shen Miao knelt in front of the ancestral tablets and looked at the hourglass in her hands. The sand had flowed quickly and the time that she had arranged was almost here.
She inserted the three joss sticks in her hands into the urn and gently prayed.
But just at this moment, a slight movement was heard.
In the past lifetime, those years in Qin country made her develop the habit of being very vigilant no matter the time or circumstance. Shen Miao stood up in a moment and said, “Who?”
“Little girl’s senses are sharp.” A familiar voice sounded. Shen Miao turned her head and saw that purple clad youth leaning against the window, looking at her with smile but not a smile. Seeing her head turning over, he leaped over and jumped into the ancestral hall.
No matter how calm Shen Miao was, she could not help but be somewhat stunned. Xie Jing Xing actually wandered randomly into other people’s residence in broad daylight. It was not possible for him to be invited as the Shen and Xie families’ relationship was like on thin ice, unless Shen Gui and Shen Wan went crazy.
“Now that the courtyard outside the ancestral hall were guarded, how did he come in?” Shen Miao accidentally asked the question that was in her mind.
“The guards in Shen residence cannot be put into good use.” Xie Jing Xing said, “I walked in.”
Shen Miao frowned, “What are you doing here?”
Xie Jing Xing smiled and did not pay attention to her and was like searching for something in the room. However in only the time of a stick of incense, it was completed. But the result was obviously unsatisfactory as he did not find anything.
Shen Miao stared at his every move and doubts sprouted in her heart. Xie Jing Xing being like this was like searching for something in the Shen residence. But what kind of thing could the General residence possess that would make him be a gentleman in the air (aka thief), and braved such a big risk to personally search for it. Was there something that she did not know about?
“What are you looking for? Say it, I can help you to find it.” Shen Miao said.
Xie Jing Xing’s actions paused and he turned his head around and looked enquiring at her and said interested, “Shen family girl, I know that you are the smartest in the entire Shen family but it is better not to devise a plan on me.”
“When you come over to my residence to steal things in broad daylight, does not this be considered as devising a plan against the Shen family?” Shen Miao remained unmoved. She was somewhat resentful in her heart that Xie Jing Xing was one that was rigorous in his words, that not one drop of water could leak out and she admitted defeat, but she only wanted to know what was it. But at the end this person was so vigilant and did not give her a little chance.
“Steal?” Xie Jing Xing seemed to have heard something funny and his beautiful peach blossom eyes sparkled in a dangerous light, “That was originally this marquis things and it can only be considered as take it back.”
Shen Miao heart moved as if it had caught something, but that idea disappeared too quickly that she was unable to capture it at all.
“However,” Xie Jing Xing looked at the ancestral hall, “With so many people guarding here, I thought it was to protect something but it is arranged so as to monitor you.” He looked at Shen Miao and crossed his arms around his chest before saying, “What wrong did you do that so many people were ordered to monitor you? An ancestral hall is not what a young lady should stay at.”
“What does it got to do with you?” Shen Miao looked at that hourglass and the last bit of sand had already flowed down and the time had reached. But Xie Jing Xing had not left yet. Her patience had also exhausted and she said, “Since Little Marquis had not yet found ‘your thing’, then please leave. The ancestral of the Shen family does not want to see the heroic bearing of a gentleman in the air.”
Her words were filled with sarcasm and suspicion that Xie Jing Xing had lived for so long, and there has not be anyone that dared to say such things to him, moreover it was from a girl. But he did not get angry and just teased, “Indeed, the ancestors of the Shen family are not willing to see this Marquis, but are willing to see their future generation being forced into marriage and that can be considered as exciting.”
“You are not willing to marry Wei Jian?” He asked.
“What of willingness? What of not willingness?” Shen Miao answered a question with another question.
“Wei Jian can be a good husband but you are not necessarily a worthy wife, so you are in an advantageous position. Such a person who is unable to tell good from bad, it is the first one I see.” He narrowed his eyes and his lips pulled up into a evil smile that was dazzlingly handsome as he frivolously said, “It cannot be that you admire this marquis so you are not willing to marry to Wei Jian?”
Shen Miao almost burst out in anger-laughter. She turned around and glared at Xie Jing Xing, “There is no room for criticism if you think it this way. I only can advise Little Marquis that for some things, one must not interfere with, else it would be too late for regrets.”
Her complexion was somewhat pale, most likely it was due to the improper sleep and food that were taken in the ancestral hall, and thus became thinner but it made the silhouette of a young lady more prominent. Her chin sharpened and that pair of eyes was especially clear and Xie Jing Xing could see fire burning inside.
“Young Lady!” Jing Zhe ran in and was shocked when she saw Xie Jing Xing. She suddenly protected Shen Miao by standing in front of her and pointing at Xie Jing Xing, “You, you, you, how did you came in?”
Xie Jing Xing shrugged his shoulders and did not answer.
“Treat it as though he is not here.” Shen Miao was too lazy to be bothered with him as she questioned Jing Zhe, “How was your arrangement?”
“I have let the courtyard’s Yin Xing buy wine and dishes and say that it was sent over from the birthday celebration banquet. They are now eating happily and slacking. But it is not possible to leave.” Jing Zhe was still somewhat afraid of Xie Jing Xing and kept looking at his expression as she spoke.
“Good.” Shen Miao looked at Jing Zhe, “Jing Zhe, can you be trusted?”
When Jing Zhe heard these words, she did not bother to worry about Xie Jing Xing. She immediately lowered her head and said, “This servant is loyal and devoted to Young Lady. Young Lady’s instructions, this servant will risk life and limb to fulfil it.”
“Then you listen, no matter if it was you or Gu Yu or even Bai Lu or Shuang Jiang. Afterwards, no matter what happen later, you all must not come in, nor look for me and also do not obstruct.” She put the hourglass in Jing Zhe’s hands, “Wait till the sand has flowed to this side—” She pointed to a little mark at the hourglass, “You then go out to call for people. You must take advantage of the confusion to run out and directly rush into the Eastern courtyard’s birthday banquet, and shout out for people in front of all the guests. I believe that you are one who have a mind of your own and is bold. No matter what I do not tell you to do, you will know what needed to be done the best.”
“This…” Jing Zhe was at a somewhat loss as she did not understand the meaning of Shen Miao’s words. But when she saw Shen Miao’s expression, she swallowed all the questions into her belly and solemnly said to Shen Miao, “This servant understands.”
“Good. Then leave now.” Shen Miao then solemnly instructed again, “Remember, no matter what is seen or what happen, you are not allowed to come in.”
Jing Zhe bit her lips and took a glance at Xie Jing Xing before looking at Shen Miao again then nodded her head before turning around and leaving the ancestral hall.
After Jing Zhe left, Xie Jing Xing then looked at Shen Miao and said lazily, “So mysterious. What are you planning to do?”
“What am I planning to do?” Shen Miao stared at him. Xie Jing Xing’s posture was leisurely and his pair of beautiful peach blossom eyes were as sharp as a knife. To be looked at by that pair of eyes was like all the thoughts in one’s mind could not be hidden.
“If Little Marquis do not want to be implicated, then leave first.” She coldly said.
“There is no one under the skies that can implicate me.” His words were arrogant as if it was true.
“Since you want to be buried with the dead, then I have nothing to say.” Shen Miao turned around.
Xie Jing Xing frowned. He had yet to understood the meaning of Shen Miao’s words, when he saw Shen Miao suddenly walking to the incense urn and stopping in front of the Shen family’s ancestral tablets. He stood rooted on the spot in shock in the next moment.
Shen Miao suddenly picked up those neatly arranged tablets and without a second word, she carried them and threw them into the charcoal brazier on the floor. The wooden tablets caught fire easily, so in an instant the withering glow of the charcoal burst into a big fire in a ‘Hong’ sound. The flames swallowed those wooden tablets and the names on it were faintly discernible in the fire.
“Are you crazy?” Xie Jing Xing looked at Shen Miao with eyes full of surprise.
Damaging ancestral tablets violates all morality and filial code, and such behaviour was enough to be strike off from the family registry. After a hundred of years, when one goes to the underworld, one’s own ancestors would not let one off with such an action. Moreover Shen Miao sudden action made one really puzzled. Was this due to dissatisfaction of the confinement? But her actions could only be subjected to greater punishment in the future.
Shen Miao coldly looked at the tablets that were gradually burnt black. It was not her that was disobedient and admittedly it was true the ancestors’ souls cannot be trample on lightly. But the most important thing in the world was the immediate future, her future, Shen Xin’s future, Shen residence’s future journey was more important. If the ancestors knew that this move would be able to resolve the Shen family’s crisis, then the spirits in heavens would be pleased.
“It is still not too late for Little Marquis to leave now.” Shen Miao did not care for Xie Jing Xing’s shock, and carried another big batch of tablets and threw them into the charcoal brazier. In a short moment, the flame became more powerful.
But she did not seem to be satisfied. After thinking, she walked inside and carried out several blankets that Gu Yu brought in after sunning them. The blankets were all quilts and after sunning, they were dry and soft.
“Shen Miao!” Xie Jing Xing softly shouted, “You do not want to live!”
Shen Miao spread all the quilts all over the ground. Most of the structure of the ancestral hall was made of wood and would be burn up easily. She picked up a tablet that was half lit in flames and lit the corner of the quilt.
The blaze raised up into the skies and thick smoke gradually emerged from the ancestral hall. Jing Zhe clenched her teeth as she stood outside. Her eyes were half red and until the sand flowed till where Shen Miao instructed, and until the guards outside were alerted by the fire and ran over to put out the fire, Jing Zhe then took advantage of the chaos and suddenly ran out.
She ran out in a breath to the Eastern courtyard where the birthday banquet was held. The entire courtyard was filled with guest and it seemed that no one discovered this somewhat sorry figure of a maid. Jing Zhe’s lips pulled back to a fierce and vicious smile and loudly shouted, “It is not good! It is not good! The ancestral hall caught fire and Fifth Young Lady is trapped in the fire—”
When the words were spoken, the entire courtyard was up in an uproar.
Was not Shen Miao recuperating in her own courtyard? Why was she in the ancestral hall? Without any rhyme or reason, why would it suddenly catch fire?
Ren Wan Yun was also shocked and she suddenly stood up as she did not know how did the fire started in the ancestral hall. Just as she was about to instruct others to quickly fight the fire, she saw Jing Zhe panting and without knowing why, her heart suddenly wavered.
If Shen Miao died in this fire then it would be more than justified to let Shen Qing marry in exchange, and as for the Huang family, she would go up to their residence to formally apologise. As for Shen Miao’s death, it can only be attributed to an accident. Who told her not to recuperate properly and ‘ran’ to the ancestral hall and cause a fire?
Thus Ren Wan Yun stood up and said pretentiously, “Everyone do eat and drink first, it seems that fire is not big. Most likely it was a child that played with flame and accidentally set a fire. I will go take a look first, and you.” She reprimanded Xiang Lan, “Quickly find guards to extinguish the fire!”
The whole ambience of the birthday banquet fell into a strange atmosphere. Old Shen Furen was not happy in her heart and hated that Shen Miao put a damper at such a time. However she still put on a matronly expression and anxiously asked Ren Wan Yun, “Quickly go and see what is Fifth Lady’s situation!”
But of course acting and real expression were not the same. If one were to really dote and love Shen Miao, knowing that Shen Miao had fallen into such a situation, one would absolutely not be this calm. Chen Rou Qiu and Shen Yue did not leave their seats and that could tell Shen Miao’s status in the Shen residence. The Furens and Young Ladies present were not fools, and could see the attitude of everyone in this Shen residence towards Shen Miao, and that made them feel some sympathy for her.
But just at this moment, there was a loud and bright laughter that sounded from outside, “General Shen, Shen Furen and Young Master Shen has returned to the residence— Open the doors and welcome the General—“
“What?” Not only the womenfolk, the male guest were also stunned. Shen Gui and Shen Wan looked at each other. It must be a joke that Shen Xin was back. There was still a number of days till the end of the year.
And at the same time, flames surrounded the ancestral hall and guards encircled the area. It was said to fight fire but no one actually went forward. People cherished their own life and seeing that this fire was violent, who would dare to enter and give up their lives.
“Shen family girl, you want to die?” Xie Jing Xing looked at the beams that had started to burn and frowned.
“It is is better for Little Marquis to quickly leave.” Shen Miao remained motionless, “There will be more people coming and even if you want to leave, it would not be successful.”
“Talk less nonsense.” Xie Jing Xing grasped her arm, “Leave!”
“Let go.” Shen Miao struggled out of his hand and her eyes were so determined that it was almost wilful. “Can you not see it? I am using my own life to bet on a future.”