The Reborn Noble Girl is Hard to Find | Chapter 5: Stepmother

“Is sister serious?!” Zhuang Hanming immediately became excited, “I won’t say it to others, but you must keep your word.” Then he became serious again, “If I learn martial arts, I will definitely not let anyone bully my sister.”

Han Yan’s eyes warmed up, touched in her heart. She said, “Protecting yourself is the best way to repay your sister. However, practising martial arts requires endurance, don’t give up halfway.”

“I won’t.” Zhuang Hanming suddenly thought of something and asked, “I heard Jilan say that Father just came by. What did you talk about?”

Ming’er also knew about the discord between her and Zhuang Shiyang. Han Yan shook her head, “Nothing much, just planning to meet  Zhou Shi and her daughter who are coming tomorrow.”

“You agreed?” Zhuang Hanming incredulously exclaimed, “Sister, this can’t be. We only have one mother.”

“Stop talking.” Han Yan hurriedly interrupted him, aware that walls have ears, “You don’t understand. Listen, don’t mention this in front of Father, just pretend you don’t know. When we meet them tomorrow, just be indifferent, don’t act on your own.”

Zhuang Shiyang already didn’t like this son. If Ming’er caused trouble again, it would probably make Zhuang Shiyang even more disgusted, playing into Zhou’s hands. Filial piety might be a facade, but it was necessary. Previously, because of Han Yan’s illness, Ming’er had a conflict with Zhuang Shiyang, was punished, and locked in the ancestral hall. This time, he shouldn’t repeat the same mistake.

“Sister, but she wants to be our mother.” Zhuang Hanming said with grievances, “Mother just passed away, how can Father…”

Han Yan shook her head, “We only have one mother, fifth brother. If you trust me, follow my lead. I have my own plan.”

Zhuang Hanming thought for a moment and finally said, “I trust sister.”

Han Yan looked at the small figure at the door and smiled slightly.

Today would be the last day she shed tears. From now on, Zhuang Hanyan would swallow all her tears to protect the people she wanted to protect.

Ji Lan, Shu Hong, Aunt Chen, and Zhuang Hanming.

The early winter sun carried a hint of warmth, shining through the carved mahogany windows into the room. In the courtyard, there was a quaint little pavilion with upturned corners and flying eaves. A clear pool flowed around the pavilion, reflecting red plum blossoms on the mirror-like surface as if a few ruby gemstones were embedded in jade.

The garden was deep and secluded, with trees pruned in an artistic arrangement, creating a delightful and elegant atmosphere. Zhuang Shiyang, a third-ranking minister in the court, preferred exquisite and delicate aesthetics for his own residence—a small courtyard with rocks and trees, all meticulously arranged.

Just by looking at the garden scenery, one could tell that the person who arranged it had a delicate and refined taste. Unfortunately, that person had already gone, leaving behind this picturesque beauty, benefiting certain individuals.

Han Yan sat in the small pavilion, spreading a piece of snowy white rice paper on the bluestone table. Ji Lan was grinding ink on the side. Han Yan dipped her brush in ink, pondered for a while, and then wrote a character on the paper.

Ji Lan curiously glanced at it and exclaimed, “It’s the character ‘静’ (quiet).”

The white paper still retained the fragrance of ink, and the ink strokes were full and unrestrained, showing a free and elegant style. Ji Lan couldn’t read, but she felt that Miss’s usual writing was delicate and disciplined, while this time it seemed a bit casual, different from the past, but pleasantly so.

“Why did Miss write the character ‘静’?” After holding back for a while, Ji Lan couldn’t help but ask curiously.

Han Yan smiled and said, “This character is for you and for myself.” Considering that today was the day the mother and daughter entered the mansion, and Zhuang Shiyang had not sent any messages, she couldn’t proactively inquire. Being quiet and patient was the smart approach.

Ji Lan blushed, “Is Miss saying that this servant talked too much and disturbed Miss from writing?”

“The most pleasant thing in the world is adding fragrance to a sleeve. How could I dare to complain that our Ji Lan is too talkative?” Han Yan deliberately looked her up and down, feigning an admiring expression.

“Miss is teasing me again.” Ji Lan became even more embarrassed. Since Miss woke up, her temperament had changed a lot, and she acted much more boldly than before. Although they used to banter and tease each other, it was not as unrestricted as it is now. However, this was not necessarily a bad thing. Miss being able to emerge from the shadow of losing her mother was the best outcome. Speaking of which, after Furen’s death, this was the first time she had seen Miss smile so sincerely. As long as Miss was happy, being teased a few times didn’t matter.

Just as she was about to say something, Han Yan saw Shu Hong approaching and quickly stood up.

Shu Hong walked closer and handed her a small cloth bag, saying, “A total of two hundred taels of silver notes. The remaining quartz bracelet was exchanged for some broken silver.”

Han Yan glanced at the bag’s opening, put it in her sleeve, and nodded to her.

She had asked Shu Hong to pawn some jewellery in the house for silver at the pawn shop. When her mother was alive, to prevent her from developing extravagant habits, she had been given a monthly allowance. Fortunately, she didn’t usually spend much money, so her life had always been relatively comfortable. After her mother’s death, everything changed. Han Tang Pavilion used to follow her mother’s orders and would come every month to tailor clothes for her. Now, with no one providing silver, they stopped coming. Several aunts were not close to her and would not proactively mention this matter. Even the food in the kitchen was not as delicate as before. She was always picky, but now she had developed a habit of eating everything.

Originally the young lady of the Marquis’s mansion, now even having enough to eat and wear had become a problem. In addition, with the arrival of the Zhou mother and daughter, she wanted to place trustworthy people as informants, and she had to prepare rewards in silver. If Ming’er wanted to learn martial arts and invite a martial arts instructor, it would also be a considerable expense. The dowry her mother left for her was locked in the warehouse, meant for her wedding; she couldn’t touch it now. Distant water couldn’t quench immediate thirst, so she had no choice but to sell some jewellery.

This matter could only be done by Shu Hong. Shu Hong had been with her for many years, was meticulous in her work, and was a very reliable person. Although she didn’t like getting close to people, she was cold on the surface but warm-hearted. Ji Lan needed to be clever and lively, and she had good relations with many maids in the mansion. Having such people around was like having a source of information; some news became especially easy to obtain. Both of these maids were extremely loyal to Han Yan, a crucial quality for maids. Being in sync with the mistress, there were many things Han Yan wouldn’t avoid them from knowing.

Just as she finished collecting the silver notes, Lin, the steward, came over to inform her that Zhuang Shiyang had summoned her to the front hall.

Han Yan understood that the Zhou family mother and daughter should have arrived. She thought it would be later; however, in such an early morning, they were evidently in a hurry to enter the mansion. She lowered her head, a hint of coldness flashed in her eyes, and then raised her head with a gentle and serene smile, “Shu Hong, Ji Lan, let’s go.”

Walking through the corridor and around the pavilion, just as they were about to enter the front hall, they heard crisp laughter coming from inside.

Han Yan raised her eyes to see Zhuang Shiyang sitting on the central wooden chair, with Zhou Shi sitting beside him. Zhuang Yushan brought a small table and lay down in front of the two, saying something that made Zhuang Shiyang burst into laughter. Zhou Shi looked at her daughter lovingly, speaking softly. If someone who didn’t know the situation saw this scene, they might admire the idyllic family’s happiness.

3 thoughts on “The Reborn Noble Girl is Hard to Find | Chapter 5: Stepmother”

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