When the miss next to her heard the name, she curled her lips, slowly waved her fan, and said, “That is a very busy person, different from ordinary people like us.
Knowing her, she must be making contacts now.”

When the misses not far away heard it, they burst out laughing, “She is a woman, what contacts can she make? Everyone is only considering the faces of Old Madam Ren and the late Pingnan Marquis, that’s why they can’t bear to reject her.
Does she actually regard herself as an important character?”

“Right.” The young ladies agreed one after another, “For the sake of Old Madam Ren, the imperial court still keeps the gates of Pingnan Marquis manor open.
Once Old Madam Ren passes, Pingnan Marquis manor has no heirs, so wouldn’t they have to withdraw from the nobility? I heard that Old Madam Ren has even brought back the shu1 branch which separated from the main branch many years ago.
In my opinion, if Ren Yao is smart, she should build a good relationship with her shu uncle and cousins, in case the shu branch really has a chance to inherit the Marquis title.
If she flatters the new Marquis, at least they will prepare a dowry for her, and she’ll have a natal family to return to in the future.
Otherwise, no one will care about her if she is wronged by her husband’s family.”

The woman who spoke first covered her lips and smiled, “With the way she is, who would dare to marry her?”

“That’s right.” The noble ladies laughed together, and Ming Huashang was listening on the side felt very uncomfortable.

Ming Huashang couldn’t take it anymore, stood up suddenly, and said, “This hall is a bit stuffy; I’m going outside for a walk.
Everyone, please stay seated.
Excuse me, I will be going now.”

Seeing that Ming Huashang was about to leave, the womenfolk tried to persuade her to stay, but Ming Huashang ignored those people and walked out of Nuan Pavilion quickly, entering into the dark snowy night.

It was sunny during the day, and at night the westerly wind blew again, and snow particles fell from the sky.
Perhaps it was going to snow again.
Ming Huashang wore a thick and heavy cloak, held the gold-plated hand stove in her hand, and walked slowly across the deep corridor without carrying a lantern.

When Ming Huashang listened to those young ladies make sarcastic remarks about Ren Yao, she imagined what it will be like for her a year later.
They hug her now and act affectionately, but Ming Huashang knew that they didn’t sincerely want to be friends with her.
They just wanted to use her to curry favor with Ming Huazhang.

After another year, when the real daughter returns to the Zhen Duke manor, how will they talk about her behind her back? When she died alone in a remote courtyard in the middle of the night, in the eyes of Luoyang’s nobles, did they think that she deserved it?

Ming Huashang exhaled a turbid breath, and at this time she turned the corner.
Ming Huashang raised her head, and suddenly saw a deathly pale face who was also wearing a red dress; she was terribly startled.

Unexpectedly, the woman in red before her also staggered two steps and screamed, “A ghost!”

Ming Huashang recognized that she was just a servant girl, and her face was illuminated by the light, which made her look especially eerie.
Ming Huashang breathed a sigh of relief, and said, “I’m not a ghost, I’m the second young miss Ming of Zhen Duke manor.”

The girl on the opposite side held her lantern and carefully illuminated Ming Huashang’s silhouette then her expression relaxed, “So it’s young miss Ming.
Forgive this servant for acting discourteously.
Miss Ming, it’s so dark outside, why don’t you carry a lantern?”

Ming Huashang deliberately shook off the servant girl who had led the way, not wanting to be disturbed.
She said, “It’s rare to see such heavy snow.
I wanted to see the snow’s glow, so I didn’t light a lantern.
By the way, do you know where Miss Ren from Pingnan Marquis manor is?”

The servant girl dressed in red frowned and thought for a while, then said, “She seems to be over there.
When this servant came over, this servant saw Miss Ren standing under the rockery motionlessly; it was quite frightening.”

Ming Huashang thanked her, lifted her skirt, and walked in the direction the servant girl pointed to.

There was snow outside the corridor, and the snow reflected a burst of brightness.
Even without additional light, she could still find her way.
Ming Huashang walked along the servant girl’s path and soon saw a dark figure leaning on against the rockery in the corner, staring blankly at the snow falling from the sky.

Ming Huashang struggled to lift the large and heavy hem of her clothes, and called out, “Sister Ren!”

Ren Yao turned her head and squinted for a long time before recognizing Ming Huashang, “Why is it you?”

Ming Huashang ran over and said with a smile, “I’m appreciating the snow here.
I heard the servant girl say that you were here, so I came to chat with you.
Why are you standing in the snow? Is it cold? My stove has just been refilled with charcoal, and it is still hot, here you go!”

Ren Yao glanced at the steaming hand stove and then looked at Ming Huashang’s bright eyes, and for some reason, she became even more downcast, “No, I’m used to training in martial arts, so this kind of coldness is nothing at all.
You look delicate, so you should keep it for yourself.”

Ming Huashang let out an “oh” and silently took the hand stove back, but still stood beside Ren Yao, chatting with her, “I heard about what happened at the banquet.
This world will always have more people who can’t watch others succeed than people who sincerely wish you well, so don’t pay too much attention to it.”

Ren Yao snorted lightly and said, “A group of young misses who depend on others for food, clothing, shelter, and transportation, why should bother about what they say? I just find it difficult to bear.
I don’t want to become like them.
All these years, I’ve been practicing martial arts relentlessly only for the day when I can finally depend on myself.
But, I’ve realized that there is no way for women to rely on themselves in this world.”

Ming Huashang listened silently.
If her downcast mood was caused by others who sneered at her then Ming Huashang could explain in a way to make her feel better; but what Ren Yao cared about was the invisible oppression by this society to which Ming Huashang couldn’t say a word.

Ren Yao forgot that the girl in front of her was someone she had known for only a day, and the frustrations that have accumulated in her heart for many years rushed out, “After my father and brothers’ old friends heard about what happened, they all sympathized with me and said that they would definitely take care of me in the future.
But whenever I mentioned wanting to inherit the Marquis manor, they acted like they heard a fairy tale, as if they couldn’t understand how I came up with such a bizarre idea.
Everyone agrees that my shu uncle who only eats, drinks, enjoys prostitutes, and gambling is not a good person, but they still take for granted that the Marquis manor should be handed over to a man, if not my shu uncle, then a young cousin who can be adopted and raised by me.
There are still men in the Pingnan Marquis manor, so why should they hand the title over to me, a woman?”

“But, that’s obviously my home! When did living in my own home and keeping my parents’ property become someone else’s favor?”

Ming Huashang was silent for a long time, walked down the steps, and silently held Ren Yao’s hand.
Sure enough, her hands were cold, who knew how long she had stood in the snow?

Ren Yao didn’t cry when she practiced martial arts rigorously in the hot summer or cold winter; she didn’t cry when she was punished by her grandmother to kneel in the ancestral hall; she didn’t cry when she repeatedly faced rejections at banquets; but now, being held with warm hands, she was suddenly defeated.
Ren Yao lowered her head, and her tears fell, she choked up and whispered, “If women can be emperors, then why can’t they inherit a Marquis title?” 

Ming Huashang understood the bitterness in Ren Yao’s heart, but she still had to remind her, “Sister Ren, speak cautiously.”

Ming Huashang’s voice was deep and soft, and at the same time as she spoke, a piercing scream resounded through the night sky, completely overpowering her voice: “AH, a ghost!”



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