C53 – Disappointed
In the Kingdom of Great Yang, only merchants or lesser-known families would engage in such marriages. Such unions were typically arranged through concubines, and if the official wife passed away, she would ensure support for her husband. Both families involved in such unions retained their social standing.
Nevertheless, individuals with a scholarly background considered this practice disgraceful, and the Cao Family, regardless of their identity, would not accept such an arrangement.
Furthermore, his Third Sister, Zuo Shuqi, held the status of a concubine and was not qualified to become the official wife of the Cao Family. Moreover, her loss of virginity before marriage made it impossible for her to hold that position.
Additionally, one could even accuse the Cao Family of benefiting from the situation.
Zuo Shaoqing thought with relief: Fortunately, the Zuo Family had a suitable young lady. Otherwise, he might have had to endure further repercussions after last night’s ordeal. However, his Second Uncle was astute, and he probably wouldn’t agree to such a farce.
Zuo Shaoqing also had an unfavorable view of the two newborns in the Zuo Family. They behaved obediently in front of Mrs. Xue and her daughter but displayed a different demeanor in front of his inexperienced brother, Zuo Shaoqing.
“Madam has sent a messenger to the Cao Family to request a meeting. It seems both families need to discuss the annulment of the engagement.”
Zuo Shaoqing nodded, saying, “Find an opportunity to discreetly visit Master Cao and relay a message from me: Why search where there is no grass? Why fall in love with a flower? Also, inform him of what we witnessed last night.”
Both Luo Xiaoliu and Nanny Liu weren’t naive. They immediately opened their eyes and asked incredulously, “Could Master Cao have been set up by someone?”
Zuo Shaoqing looked at them with a wry smile and replied to Luo Xiaoliu, “Didn’t you see last night that Master Cao was ‘assisted’ into the backyard by two sturdy individuals? Do you believe he could have entered the backyard in a sober state?”
Moreover, if he accidentally found himself in Third Miss’ room and things took a favorable turn, who would believe that there was no manipulation involved?
“Ah?” In other words, someone deliberately orchestrated the encounter between Master Cao and Third Miss?” Nanny Liu promptly covered Luo Xiaoliu’s mouth when he uttered those words. “Don’t utter such remarks casually. Keep them to yourself!”
Luo Xiaoliu vigorously nodded his head. Even without Nanny Liu’s warning, he understood the gravity of the situation. Clearly, Nanny Liu was acting in his best interest.
“Master, do you wish for Master Cao to discover the truth? Wouldn’t that turn the Cao and Zuo Families into adversaries?”
Zuo Shaoqing chuckled wickedly, “So what if it does? Does it concern us? What I desire is a feud between the two families!”
A shiver ran down Luo Xiaoliu’s spine. He was convinced that Madam had somehow offended San Ye; otherwise, why would San Ye continuously conspire against them?
Nevertheless, given Madam’s cruel disposition, she hardly warranted sympathy!
“Let’s go observe the spectacle as well!” Zuo Shaoqing rinsed his mouth, donned a fresh white robe, and strolled out of the courtyard with an air of nonchalance.
Nanny Liu, trailing behind him, cautioned, “Master San, please don’t get involved. Let’s focus on our own affairs.”
Zuo Shaoqing waved her off, obediently acknowledging her advice. However, he mused to himself: I can’t simply stand by and watch! Someone needed to add fuel to the fire and escalate the situation.
When they were a mere hundred steps from the main hall, Zuo Shaoqing overheard a heated argument within. From the sound of it, it appeared to involve Cao Zongguan’s wife.
Standing quietly by the window, Zuo Shaoqing cupped his ears and discerned someone crying out from inside: “My poor Yuan’Er… She was such a gentle soul, but… Ah… I can’t go on living like this…”
Luo Xiaoliu let out a quiet laugh and whispered, “Why is Second Aunt making such a spectacle of herself?”
Her unwavering loyalty to Mrs. Xue had earned her a secure position within the Zuo Family. Normally, she remained hidden in the courtyard and rarely emerged, never expecting to stir up such a commotion.
“Isn’t it all just a grand drama? If Zuo Shuyuan hadn’t found any fault, all she could say was ‘steady.’ Becoming a concubine in the Cao Family is already the best outcome.”
“My lady, your servant has served you for many years, and you were the one who raised Yuanyuan. But now…” Her voice broke into sobs. “You must seek justice for her…”
Zuo Shaoqing peered through a gap in the window and spotted Cao Zongguan, his face weary and his eyes lifeless. Though still tall and upright, he had lost much of his former vigor.
Mrs. Xue, her eyes moist, spoke with concern, “Nephew, look at this… Considering that our two families are about to become relatives, I truly wish for minimal discord.”
Cao Zongguan remained in a daze. Beside him, a middle-aged woman jeered, “What does Madam Zuo propose, then?”
Mrs. Xue sighed, “Given that my family’s third young miss is already affianced to your son, it’s only natural for this individual to marry into the Cao Family. We can’t just brush aside this minor matter concerning the Cao Family.”
Cao Zongguan’s mouth twitched, but he remained silent. Zuo Shaoqing observed his tightly clenched fists, indicating his struggle to restrain his emotions.
The middle-aged woman displayed no signs of weakness. “The Third Miss of the Zuo Clan is merely a woman. It’s improbable for her to enter our house in a three-on-six situation. Moreover, it’s uncertain who was responsible for last night’s incident. My master was intoxicated, while the three ladies were sober. In such a significant matter, why didn’t the three ladies make any noise or call for help? Who’s to say that the Third Young Miss didn’t frame our grandfather?”
Mrs. Xue’s expression shifted as she shattered a porcelain cup. “Audacious! You, a servant, dare to tarnish the reputation of my Zuo Family’s daughter! Even if Mrs. Cao herself were here, she wouldn’t utter such slanderous words!”
The middle-aged woman, not the official host, faltered under Mrs. Xue’s stern rebuke.
Zuo Shaoqing understood that Zuo Shuyuan would inevitably enter the Cao Family. Everyone wanted to exhibit their influence.
In essence, if the Zuo Family aimed to shift all blame onto Cao Zongguan and the Cao Family refused to bear this burden, retaliation was unavoidable.
Cao Zongguan, who had been silent, finally spoke, “Master Zuo, Madam Zuo, it is true that your nephew overindulged last night. I am unaware of how he entered the inner courtyard or the reason behind it… However, since this has occurred, I will honor my word. Nevertheless, our two families are still in the midst of discussing the marriage…”
Mrs. Xue impatiently cut him off, “Nephew, you understand that it’s impossible for sisters to marry the same man. I propose that we continue discussing the marriage between our families, but Shuyuan should be the bride.”
“Madam Zuo, you indeed have grand aspirations!” the middle-aged Cao woman retorted. “A woman like her, who seems up to no good, cannot become the mistress of the Cao Family. That’s what our lady would say even if she were here.”
“Then, what do you suggest…?” Mrs. Xue emphasized slowly, “The deed is done. If it weren’t for the interconnection of our families, the Zuo Family would never have accepted a delinquent nephew like him in the first place.”
Cao Zongguan’s eyes reddened, and he couldn’t help raising his voice in self-defense, “Madam Zuo, please exercise caution! Though I, Cao Zongguan, may not be a virtuous and upright man, I disdain such petty actions… Last night’s incident was a mere accident…”
Mrs. Xue waved her hand. “Whether it was an accident or not, it’s in the past. Let’s discuss Shuyuan and our nephew’s marriage now.”
When he woke up this morning, he found himself lying unclothed beside a girl. Initially, he assumed it was a servant girl seeking entry into the Cao family. However, a maid entered with a basin of water, and upon discovering the scene, she shrieked in shock, spilling the water and summoning help.
With that shout, he instantly recognized the woman in the bed. Fear gripped him as he realized… he had been intimate with his future sister-in-law.
Before he could comprehend the situation, a throng of people burst in, including members of both the Zuo and Cao families.
As he stood there, bewildered, listening to their clamor, his heart grew heavier with each passing moment.
He understood that his destiny with Zuo Shuhui had come to an end, and there was no longer any possibility of them becoming husband and wife. His typically affable face twisted into a grimace as he gazed at Mrs. Zuo and her husband.