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Chapter 48 - Return to the An Family
The next day, they finally arrived at An Yuan County.
The night before, they stopped in a small town and stayed at an inn there for one night. The next morning, they set off early and arrived at their destination in half an hour. The farmers in An Yuan County were used to getting up early and sleeping late. The sky was not yet bright when they glimpsed the silhouette of An Zi Ran's group.
The location of An Yuan County was not remote. Occasionally, some caravans could be seen pa.s.sing by. But those were merchant caravans; therefore they were definitely not very luxurious. So when the farmers saw the opulent horse carriage from the Fu palace, most of them would pause in their work and stare. They watched until the carriage pulled onto one of An Yuan County's streets. Then they exchanged a few words and went back to farming.
The carriage soon stopped before the main gates of the An estate.
The absent-gaze doorkeeper sitting by the gate jumped up in shock. He stared nervously at the carriage. He had never seen such a luxurious carriage before, and the An family did not own such a good carriage. So he did not expect that the young master of the family would be coming back, until Fu Wu Tian helped An Zi Ran get off the carriage, and then the doorkeeper's chin fell to the ground.
"Young Master, you've finally returned."
The doorkeeper fixed his rivet gaze on An Zi Ran as he came closer.
An Zi Ran asked, "In the time that I was away, did anything big happen in the family during my absence?"
The doorkeeper shook his head at first, but then he returned to his senses and nodded his head instead. "The Big Master* and his wife came by once. They caused a big ruckus, but because you weren't here and Concubine Fang doesn't have the authority to make decisions, they left after that."
[*T/N: Referring to the uncle. Steward Su called him 二老爷 (Second Master) but the doorkeeper called him 大老爷 (Big Master)]
An Zi Ran nodded and walked inside. He did not ask what his uncle and aunt came for.
The doorkeeper looked at the man who walked in with the young master. He opened his mouth and seemed to want to say something. Although he was a servant, even he could tell that this man was no ordinary person. He didn't think that the young master would go out on a trip and bring back such a person.
At first, w.a.n.g Qing Lan and them (the concubines) could not guess the purpose for why An Zi Ran left An Yuan County with his younger siblings. They could not have known that the Old Master was hiding such a big secret. Furthermore, he didn't let news of the marriage contract slip out, so not many people knew about this matter.
And then An Change De came to cause a scene.
An Chang De found out from the county head magistrate that An Zi Ran went to Jun Zi City to look for relatives (through marriage). He had been apprehensive all this time. Later, Prefectural Magistrate Jiang also found out about this matter. It was impossible to determine the ident.i.ty of the mysterious person, so they did not dare to hastily try taking advantage of the An family again. Thus, their plans were temporarily postponed. For this reason, he had always felt choked with resentment.
If An Zi Ran really does find a big backer from Jun Zi City, then he would surely take care of him first thing when he returned (to An Yuan County).
But no matter what, he was still An Zi Ran's uncle. He didn't think that small brat would dare to start something with him. But what if that brat suddenly hardened his heart and became ruthless?
Because of that tiny possibility, he had made a trip to the An family not too long ago, hoping to see if he could find anything out from w.a.n.g Qing Lan and the others. Who would have thought that the information was so tenaciously concealed from them? He could not get a single word of information from them.
w.a.n.g Qing Lan and them were very shocked by this news (of the marriage contract).
When An Zi Ran left with his younger siblings, he had only told them (the concubines) that he was going out to visit some distant relatives. But the truth of the matter was that the An family did not have many relatives, so they guessed that it must have something to do with the uncle.
An Chang De once stirred up the local farmers to cause trouble for the An family. This was not a secret, because later, a few people stepped up to confess the truth and pointed out the mastermind behind the mess. The uncle's target was the An family's a.s.sets. At that time, he was among the group of rioters. He was the first one to take the lead and start trouble. He left an impression, so there were quite a few people that still remembered him. Everyone believed him when he spoke.
Since then, An Change De became a target of scorn.
Every time he went out on the streets people would point at him and blame him for the riot. Although he held the t.i.tle of a scholar, he started eyeing up his nephew's a.s.sets not long after his younger brother's death. Not to mention, he even found people to cause trouble for the An family. This kind of person, even if he achieved scholarly honor (in imperial exams), he would still be spurned by the ma.s.ses.
(T/N: Looks like our protagonists won't have to do much to bring down this uncle. He's already dragging his own reputation through the mud. XP)
An Change De was a temperamental person. He could not stand the eyes of contempt, so he went to seek the county head magistrate. He wanted the magistrate to find and capture those people who were talking bad about him behind his back. The result, he was ridiculed by the county head magistrate.
(T/N: No, duh.)
He was a scholar, how could he not understand this point? To capture all the people that gossiped behind other's backs… that would be a huge number of people. To arrest all those people, let's not mention that the Da Ya Dynasty did not have that many jail cells, but to feed all the people within those available jail cells would be enough to collapse the empire. That kind of brainless action could only be thought up by a brainless person.
Regardless of how An Change De tossed about and resisted, his reputation has become as stinky as sewage water.
However, An Change De had a wife that came from a literary family, and w.a.n.g Qing Lan and them knew this.
The An family was engaged in business and trade. After An Chang Fu's death, some of the former business contacts were broken. The other contacts did not have the power to fight against a prefectural magistrate, so the concubines thought that An Zi Ran left to avoid this trouble. They never thought that it would be because of a marriage contract that the Old Master had concealed from a long time ago.
"Why? Why is it An Yu Zhi? How is my daughter any worse than that An Yu Zhi?"
In a fit of anger, Fang Jun Ping swept the things off the top of her dressing table with her arms. Crash. Bang. The things clattered to the floor. The force of her arms sent pieces of jewelry flying to the four corners of her room.
When she heard that the marriage partner was some wealthy person in Jun Zi City, she threw a fit of dissatisfaction. It was as An Zi Ran had predicted. Her daughter was already eighteen and still not married yet, so how could An Yu Zhi get married first. So what if she was Liu Mei Xiang's daughter? That woman was already dead.
An Qiao E stood to the side without talking, but her face was evidently gloomy.
In another room, the third concubine Zheng Bi was unexpectedly calm.
Zheng Bi was shred and had a poisonous tongue. She wasn't like Fang Jun Ping. She wouldn't throw a fit and make a mess in her room when she was angry. Ever since An Zi Ran took over as head of the family, the concubines' expenses have been cut in half. If the things inside their rooms were broken, the replacement fees would be deducted from their monthly allowance.
"Mother, you just wait for an opportunistic time. Your daughter, I, will marry a man with more status than Prefectural Magistrate Jiang. Then we'll see how he can keep being arrogant in front of us. Even if he is the big landlord of An Yuan County, he will still have to kneel and pay respects to me." The person that An Ke Xin loathed the most was An Zi Ran. Their birth dates were three days apart, so she always hated him for stealing their father's attention away ever since their childhoods. She'd always believed that the reason she did not received their father's love and attention was because of An Zi Ran.
Zheng Bi immediately took her by the hand. "Daughter, you must get vengeance for your mother."
"Mother, don't worry, your daughter won't let you down." An Ke Xin inherited her mother's beauty. She was very confident in herself.
As for w.a.n.g Qing Lan, she had no children. Unlike the other two concubines, she knew that her future could only depend upon An Zi Ran. Her mind was full of calculations. So when she heard that An Zi Ran came back, she was the first one to come out and welcome him.
From afar, she could see Fu Wu Tian standing shoulder to shoulder with An Zi Ran. With this one look, she suddenly froze up.