These words were insults to Zong Yue.
His status was the most noble, and in this world, he could easily choose any woman he wanted, only that he never had the desire to. Never was it anyone else who didn’t want him. Today, a woman actually humiliated and played such a proud and arrogant man.
Zong Yue stared ardently at the pair of eyes in front of him, his face as cold as ice and his gaze like a knife.
Unlike that day, this time there was neither shyness nor cowardice in those eyes. No flattery, no weakness, and no panic. There was only an overwhelming sense of righteousness, only a determination that was neither humble nor overbearing, only a resoluteness out of cutting off all paths of retreat and then emerging victorious, almost as if…… one was really as she said, so despicable and shameless.
Zong Yue had grown up witnessing a lot of various scenarios, but this was still the first time he faced such a ruse. Yesterday, she was still curled up in his arms, tenderly persuading him to ask for her from her elders, but today, that very moment had become his own attempt to seize a subject’s wife.
He felt like the entire world had collapsed into an illusion.
“Does the third prince want to kill this ordinary woman out of rage? If His Majesty were to know of this matter, how disappointed will he be with the third prince! If the people outside were to find out, how will the third prince be any different from a tyrant who takes away weak women against their will?”
Hearing this, Zong Yue only realized that he had already grabbed the other party’s hand.
He yanked it away as though it were a hot potato, awfully irritated, “Preposterous! Ridiculous! Absolutely ridiculous!”
Then, he whisked away.
De Wang, who stood idly by, quickly followed a step slower and pointed at the crowd: “Good, very good! You’re all very good. What nerve! Especially you, Lord Sun. Let’s see how you’ll explain this to His Highness!”
The hall was utterly quiet, and everyone was immersed in shock.
It took a while to process Fang Feng Sheng’s sudden outburst of fearlessness and hostility. That sudden arrogance, daring to insult a prince in such a manner.
Old Madam especially felt that everything was all a mirage.
“Fang Feng Sheng, what do you want?! “
“What do I want? I should be the one asking what Old Madam and the Second Master want. I gladly came here for Old Madam’s birthday, but was suddenly offered to the imperial family in exchange for wealth and honor. Does Old Madam think I shouldn’t refuse and happily accept?”
“You, we clearly agreed before……”
“What agreement? Does Old Madam have a witness for the agreement, as well as the date, time, and place? Old Madam, I don’t want to say anything too repulsive as you’re an elder, but you’re going too far, aren’t you, to throw such dirty water on me?”
Old Madam was at a loss for words.
Yes ah, when did she and Fang Feng Sheng even reach an agreement? It was supposed to be borne in upon mutual understanding. She wouldn’t have uttered those words to her face if she hadn’t been certain of that understanding, but now that the other person lacked that ‘tacit understanding’, she could only eat the dumb loss.
By now, what did Old Madam still not understand?
Fang Feng Sheng deliberately took advantage of this heartfelt understanding in order to humiliate her and the Sun family.
“You’re good, you’re very good!” Old Madam was so outraged that she slapped the armrest, and Zhou mama stepped forward to soothe her chest.
“Mother, why are you still talking to this slut? The most pressing matter right now is that the third prince stormed out in rage. What if he bears a grudge against us? It will be a calamity that can exterminate the entire family!” Sun Qing Hua exclaimed impatiently.
Hearing this, Old Madam, who had just caught her breath, shot up in a daze.
With a stern glare, she directed a finger at Fang Feng Sheng: “It’s all because of this slut. It’s all because of you, this slut! Zhou mama, drag her down and lock her up……”
“Want to solve this problem? It’s very simple, as long as I’m not a member of the Sun family.”
In the midst of the chaos that permeated the hall, Fang Feng Sheng’s calm voice was very lucid.
So after hearing this, everyone looked over.
“What did you say?”
“I said it’s easy to get the third prince to eliminate his anger against the Sun family as long as I’m not one of you, don’t you understand?”
Yeah, as long as Fang Feng Sheng was no longer a member of the Sun family, all problems would be eradicated.
They could just tell the third prince that this vicious woman was too arrogant, and as long as the person was no longer around, everything could be all up to them.
Sun Qing Hua even had the intent to kill, austere desire evident in his eyes.
The same was also true for Old Madam. Mother and son exchanged a glance and were about to say something, when Fang Feng Sheng’s voice rang out again.
“I advise you all, if you want to truly solve the problem, don’t move the thoughts you shouldn’t move. The third prince was completely enraged but didn’t lay a finger on me because it’s not worth it to carry the reputation of ‘failing to seduce a subject’s wife, then killing her out of rage’ for the sake of a woman. So if you all kill me, this crime will fall on the third prince’s head. Do you think he will be happy?”
“Bring a copy of the separation agreement. All issues will be shouldered by Fang-shi, not Sun-shi. That’s all, the rest is up to you to choose.”
Feng Sheng went to sit down on a chair in a composed manner. The tea that had been served was still warm, and she took the teacup and sipped at it, calm and relaxed.
Next to her stood Zhi Chun trembling with excitement, her eyes lit up like stars, shining brightly.
“You’re good, Fang Feng Sheng! So you put on a pretense in front of this old woman just to have today’s outcome?!” In the silence, Old Madam suddenly yelled out.
Feng Sheng looked up at her and smiled, “Old Madam is wise!”
“No matter how wise this old woman is, no one is as wise as you are. You’ve calculated the hearts of all the people in this manor. You feigned civility with this old woman, knew what this old woman was up to, but kept quiet and even went along with it. You even went so far as to risk your life to offend the Third Prince, and deliberately provoked him into storming out in front of everyone just to get what you wanted. From beginning to end, you thought of nothing but getting a divorce letter to leave the Sun family!”
“It’s not a divorce letter, it’s a separation agreement1. I’m the Fang family’s only daughter, I can’t tarnish my father’s name and my mother’s reputation.”
“Your father and mother are dead, and you still care about them?” Finally finding an opening to poke Fang Feng Sheng‘s sore spot, Old Madam chuckled very sarcastically.
But it soon disappeared because of the fierce gaze Fang Feng Sheng aimed at her.
She had lived all her life seeing all kinds of women, but this was the first time she had seen a woman with such sharp eyes. They were like a virtuous and elegant flower one moment, and a sharp sword unsheathed the next.
“Old Madam, you’re also advanced in age, so you should have propriety in speech to accumulate virtues.”
Old Madam wanted to retort, but for some reason endured it.
“Even if you think this old woman’s words aren’t pleasing to hear, so what? If you leave the Sun family, can you survive outside? Or are you planning to go back to the Fang family, thinking they will still accept you? Don’t you want to avenge your father’s death? This old woman paved such a good path for you to take, but instead of taking it, you put the cart before the horse. Fang Feng Sheng, you are indeed very smart, but don’t forget that, after all, you’re just a woman.”
“There’s no need for Old Madam to worry about that.”
“Old Madam, Master, just give her a copy of the separation agreement so we could send this plague away,” Song-shi interjected.
“Song-shi, don’t interrupt,” Sun Qing Hua admonished with a frown.
“Just give it! Give her the separation agreement! Give it to her!” Old Madam’s pale voice exploded in vain, “Give it to her and tell her to get lost!”
Zhou mama trotted over with a brush, ink, paper and ink stone, and Sun Qing Hua wrote a separation agreement on the spot. He was Sun Wen Cheng’s father and was perfectly capable of repudiating a wife on behalf of his son. Although it wasn’t necessarily a divorce letter, the principle was still similar.
Fang Feng Sheng received the separation agreement, read it, and slid it in her sleeve.
“Don’t worry, I won’t stay here any moment longer.”
Then, amidst the stares of several people, she drifted away.
Fang Feng Sheng left very quickly, seemingly already prepared.
She strode out of Xiwu Hall and then almost simultaneously departed, taking her people with her.
She only had a few things left in the residence, and had already moved some out days prior. While this side was still discussing how to appease the third prince, a servant had already rushed in to report that Fourth Young Madam had left with someone.
The one who left with them was Qiu’er, who had served beside Wang Yue’er, but Qiu’er was too inconspicuous and escaped everyone’s notice.
In Banyan Garden, there was an ongoing storm.
Zong Yue had always been stoic regardless of his mood, and this was the first time he lost his temper to this extent.
Everyone was frightened away, and De Wang shrunk his neck in and stood in the corner like a quail.
“Master, quell your anger. You mustn’t be angry. You’re not to blame for this. It’s all because of that extremely vile little woman. That married woman disguised herself as a pure maiden and deliberately swindled you.”
Unfortunately, instead of relieving Zong Yue’s anger, these words only made him increasingly livid, and in effect, the vases on the table were swept away.
With countless successive crackles, the remnants of broken porcelain burst everywhere.
De Cai stepped on the debris as he trod in and reported, “Master, it’s been found out that this woman is Sun Qing Hua’s eldest daughter-in-law and wife of Sun Wen Cheng, the Fourth Young Master of the Sun family. Sun Wen Cheng is studying with Mr. Nan Wu and thus hasn’t stayed in the manor for many years, leaving only Fang-shi at home. In addition, this woman is Fang Yan’s daughter. “
At the mention of Fang Yan, Zong Yue turned to look over.
“This woman was hurriedly married into the Sun family within a hundred days of her mother’s death. According to the local rules of Shaoxing, there was neither a banquet nor a wedding. They were waiting for her mourning period to end to make up for the wedding later on. Thus, the woman is still dressed as an unmarried woman. Those in the manor all address her as Fourth Young Madam, but her servant girl still calls her Miss.”
Zong Yue went to sit down on a chair and knocked on the armrest: “You’re saying that this woman married into the Sun family within a hundred days of her mother’s death?”
De Cai nodded: “They indeed acted in haste. It’s been said that the two were long engaged. However, the girl had passed the age of marriage, and if she were to marry after the mourning period, they were afraid that further delay would affect her capability to start a family. But in fact, she and Sun Wen Cheng never consummated their marriage, which isn’t quite in line with that claim.”
“This slave wonders if Fang Yan had anticipated the impending doom, that’s why he hastily married off his only daughter. The Liang Huai Salt Administration embezzlement case is full of suspicions. It’s reasonable to say that it shouldn’t have involved Fang Yan, a personal advisor. Unfortunately, he was branded as one of the case’s major convicts after the interrogation, causing him commit suicide in prison for fear of punishment. This slave wonders if it has something to do with……”
“Silence!” Zong Yue rebuked.
De Cai immediately stopped talking and knelt down.
Zong Yue reached out to grab the teacup, only to find that the teacup lid had been a victim of his earlier display of anguish.
De Wang failed to notice this minor inconvenience and also couldn’t take a hint. In the end, Zong Yue shot him a commanding glare, terrifying him into bustling out to look for tea.
A few servants shuttled in from the outside and tidied up the messy hall. De Wang carried the tea in and announced that Sun Qing Hua had come and was kneeling outside to ask forgiveness.
“Bring him in.” Zong Yue took the tea and sipped it.
1 休书 (xiū shū) vs 和离书 (hé lí shū): divorce letter vs. separation agreement. Basically, the 休书 divorce letter they’re talking about here is when a husband unilaterally declares a divorce, provided that the woman committed one of the seven reasons (七出). These reasons being: 1) not filial to in-laws, 2) jealous, 3) can’t bear a son, 4) is vulgar/adulterous, 5) has a vile disease, 6) is gossipy, and 7) commits theft. As far as I know, even her dowry is seized. Obviously if a woman is branded as any of these, her reputation would take a nosedive.
What Feng Sheng is asking for is a 和离 “peaceful separation,” which I just translated as a separation agreement. It’s a way that both husband and wife can have the power to separate. However, it requires both of them to agree. This way of separation is to ensure both husband and wife have the equal power to protect themselves, so it isn’t as damaging to the woman’s reputation.