On second thought, could it be that Ah Ti was attending to the crown prince so well that he let go of his grievance After much deliberation, that seemed to be the only explanation.
Women and men, it was just a matter of what happens in bed, after all.
They all entered the hall together and took their seats.
After exchanging some brief pleasantries, Marquis Yong Wei looked amiably at his wife and Tao Ti.
“Wife, why don’t you and Ah Ti have a chat in the inner house.”
Madam Zhang assented, glanced towards Tao Ti’s side and said in a mild tone, “Let’s go.”
Tao Ti gave a little nod and said to Pei Yan, “Your Highness, I’ll be going then.”
Pei Yan smiled, “Mm, there’s no hurry, take your time.”
Tao Ti was smiling on the outside but bitter on the inside, Take my time If the conversation derails, I might just be exposed.
She followed by Madam Zhang’s side obediently.
Hearing their departure, the women in the side hall also left their seats, clustering around Tao Ti and her mother as they headed off together to the inner house.
There were four branches in Marquis Yong Wei’s family; the first and second branches were that of the Old Madam and the legitimate bloodline, and the third and fourth branches were of the concubines and their offspring.1 Because the Old Madam was still alive, the four branches had not split up, and were continuing to live “happily and harmoniously” together.
Today was Tao Ti’s return to her maiden home, so basically all the members of the four branches have gathered, resulting in the grand display at the entrance.
While the men stayed in the front hall to accompany the crown prince, Tao Ti was not idle in the inner house either.
Wearing an awkward but polite smiling face, she greeted all kinds of aunts and sisters obediently.
This feeling was like returning to her hometown during the Chinese New Year, and being forced by her parents to greet a bunch of elders whom she didn’t know at all; it was simply a nightmare for those with social phobia, and utterly suffocating.
As the aunts and sisters of the various branches chattered and gossiped away, they looked Tao Ti up and down, as if wanting to closely examine every single strand of her hair.
It was in the middle of spring; Tao Ti’s attire was neither grand nor magnificent, but rather, elegant and demure.
Goose-yellow robes embroidered with pine green circular prosperity patterns, a ‘flying cloud’ updo, a delicate silk flower hair accessory on either side of her head, a gorgeous tassel phoenix hairpin stuck in her hairdo, and dangling jade earrings on each of her fair and tender earlobes.
Her face was lightly powdered, her lips painted a little red—a visage like the morning glow reflected in the snow, graceful and beautiful.
When everyone saw her like this, they were surprised and puzzled, but mostly full of amazement.
Was this still that woeful and gloomy eldest daughter of the manor, Tao Ti
Although it was said that a woman’s marriage was equivalent to reincarnation, this transformation was way too thorough, right Her entire being felt different.
There were some sisters of the various branches who didn’t usually have dealings with Tao Ti; they had wanted to see Tao Ti’s gaunt and haggard state, but now, seeing her brilliant and vivid appearance, it was becoming a little difficult to keep the smiles on their faces.
Fortunately, this scene of familial love and affection did not last long.
With utmost courtesy, Madam Zhang invited everyone to leave with a very simple reason, “This my Ah Ti’s first time returning to her maiden home, please let us have a conversation in private for a while.”
Everyone left sensibly, and the house of the main branch suddenly fell silent.
Tao Ti jabbed at her palms uneasily, staring at Madam Zhang with wide eyes.
After a moment of silence, Madam Zhang also dismissed all the maids and servants in the house, and the house became even quieter.
Seeing that there were no longer any outsiders around, Madam Zhang’s no longer youthful face sank at once as she struck the table forcefully.
The dull “bam” frightened Tao Ti so much even her little heart was sent trembling as well.
“You have really grown capable huh! How dare you commit suicide with poison! What wrong have we done to you, for you to harm us like this Tell me!”
Tao Ti looked in astonishment at the disgruntled woman before her who was standing akimbo, and memories regarding Madam Zhang surfaced in her mind.
Madam Zhang was old-fashioned, fierce, and capable.
As the presiding madam of the manor, as large as the household was, she handled all its affairs in perfect order, and never made a mistake.
As the legitimate wife of the principal branch, Marquis Yong Wei’s houseful of concubines and concubine-born children were all docile and obedient under her administration, and no one ever dared to disobey.
But as a mother, Madam Zhang was a failure.
From the time she made the engagement for Tao Ti, she had always been holding her daughter to the standard of “Crown Princess”, adopting the usual Chinese parental approach of disparagement——
For example, “Why are you so stupid You’re going to be a crown princess in the future.
Why can’t you even learn this Look at how capable and virtuous that girl from so-and-so’s family is, and then look at your stupid half-dead appearance” and so on.
Such words were spoken almost every day, hardly ever ceasing.
1 Old Madam refers to Tao Ti’s grandmother, and the concubines of the third and fourth branches are not just her father’s concubines, but also her grandfather’s.
As the matriarch of the family, the Old Madam, is still alive, they were all still living together.