Sure enough, what the guard handed over was one package of the sleeping medicine and a large amount of money.
Nurse Dou and Madam Du's faces were white.
They couldn't figure out how these people had managed to find Wuzhou and Wang. Weren't they supposed to leave Sheng, why were they found?
Wei Kun crushed the bank notes and the medicine in his hands, that was trembling with anger. He waved the items then threw them at Nurse Dou and Madam Du, "What is this? Do you have anything else to say!"
A madam, who rarely went outside the residence, unexpectedly kept this kind of thing on her. Obviously, her conscience wasn't clear.
Wei Kun was both furious and disappointed. What was more, he felt sorry to Wei Luo. These years, he had thought Madam Du was taking care of Ah Luo very well, going along with any of her wishes, showing how much she loved her all the time. But he hadn't considered that she would be hiding such evil intentions. If Ah Luo hadn't been rescued today, she would've been sold to the slave traders. That small child, who had only turned six earlier this year, was well-behaved and sensible. Just what kind of ruthless heart would hate her?
Wei Kun grew more and more uncomfortable, his heart heavy. He couldn't stop himself thinking of Jiang Miaolan. If she was still here, if she hadn't gone, Ah Luo wouldn't be in the current situation… He would properly love the mother and daughter pair, making sure nothing would harm them… He was so in love with her, why had she left?
With so many years since then, he'd believed his love for Jiang Miaolan had faded, the only resentment remaining. But the truth was, he still loved her. Loved her brighter than the sun smile, her gentle and passionate eyes, and her whimsical nature. She had taken root in his heart, and nothing could uproot her for as long as he lived.
She had appeared in his life without a warning, but it had never crossed his mind that she would leave the same way, without a trace.
Since then, whenever he saw Ah Luo and Changhong, he would think of her.
Wei Kun was in pain, his back hunched over as if he had suddenly aged several years. Standing up, he said to the fourth madam: "As soon as father and mother come back, fourth sister-in-law, please help me tell them, Madam Du is not virtuous, and her heart is malicious…" Closing his eyes, he said resolutely: "I want to divorce her."
His words were like thunder, exploding in the gathered people's ears, startling even the meddlesome third madam Liu.
Shocked, Madam Du staggered back a few steps. If it wasn't for Nurse Dou holding her in place, she would've collapsed on the ground.
Divorcing wasn't a minor incident. Coupled with Wei Kun's accusations, it was enough to give her a reputation of a vicious wife. If she wanted to remarry afterward, it wouldn't be easy. Not to mention her own daughter's reputation would be implicated, also affecting her future marriage.
Moreover, Madam Du was the maternal niece of Count Zhongyi's madam, she was backed up by the Count of Zhongyi's house. Duke Ying and Count Zhongyi were good friends for many years. Even if Wei Kun wanted to divorce her, it wouldn't go so easily.
Nurse Dou crawled on her hands and feet, hanging onto Wei Kun's foot, and wept noisily as she begged for mercy: "Master, please investigate this issue thoroughly, Madam is innocent… Madam wasn't aware of anything, it was all planned by this old servant, the madam isn't related to it… Begging Master to think it over…"
Madam Du looked at her dumbfounded. She hadn't expected that at the critical moment, Nurse Dou would take the fall to save her.
Speaking of it, Nurse Dou was truly loyal to Madam Du. The two of them, master and servant, had a close relationship. Nurse Dou was Madam Du's wet nurse, as Madam Du's parents had perished early. Since childhood, she had been placed in Count Zhongyi's residence with only Nurse Dou as a devoted servant. Nurse Dou had raised her, hence their feelings could be compared to those of any mother and daughter.
Wei Kun flapped his robe, kicking her out of the way: "She wasn't aware? The two of you always stick together, how can she not be aware!"
The kick wasn't light, it had hurt Nurse Dou's chest, but she still insisted: "Madam truly didn't know, it was me who deceived her at Huguo Temple, the hidden sleeping medicine is also mine. There is a rich family in Liulin county, who want a beautiful girl to become their daughter. The Wuzhou couple then contacted this old servant… This old servant lost her mind for a moment, thought the fourth miss fit their condition, and made those plans. Master, if you must punish someone, it's me. This matter has nothing to do with the madam!"
Wei Kun was enraged, did this old thing really believe he wouldn't punish her? He leaned over and grabbed her neck, the fingers squeezing, and asked through gritted teeth: "Your courage is really great. The fourth miss of Duke Ying's family is not something you can sell just because you decided so. Did you think I would spare you because you have Madam Du backing you?"
A man's strength was obviously larger than a woman's, even if he was a scholar.
Nurse Dou's face turned red, her eyes rolled back: "Madam…"
That woke Madam Du up. Like a drowning man finding a lifeline, she hurried to Nurse Dou's side and said with astonishment: "Nurse, how can you be so muddled! Why did you want to do such a thing? Ah Luo is my daughter. I don't even have enough time to spend with her, how can I be willing to sell her!"
Madam Du's response was quick, also fixing her expression appropriately. She was thinking that as long as she could avoid this disaster, it was not a bad idea to trouble Nurse Dou to take on the blame. She would certainly compensate her later. She couldn't get divorced, she wasn't willing to, and she believed Wei Kun had at least some feelings for her.
Seeing that Nurse Dou couldn't breathe, Madam Du knelt to Wei Kun, pleading: "Nurse Dou was muddled for a while. Begging Master to forgive her this once…"
Did she think Nurse Dou's words were enough to wash her hands off this matter? Wei Kun had said, today he didn't plan to let them off. First, he would punish those servants who thought themselves untouchable, then he would wait for Duke Ying to come back and discuss the divorce. He loosened the fingers around Nurse Dou's neck, and said to the gate guard: "Bring Nurse Dou out to the courtyard, use the wooden rod to beat her to death!"
Nurse Dou went soft from fear, and couldn't rise from the ground. With two bodyguards on both sides, she was dragged out.
Wei Kun was still not done, he said: "Find the servants who went to Huguo Temple with Madam Du today, give them 30 hits each, lock them in the woodshed after. Sell them off tomorrow!"
Among those were Madam Du's trusted maidservants, one was Ning Xue, the other — Han Shuang.
Madam Du suddenly lost her closest people. She wanted to beg for mercy for them, but she was in trouble herself. Her mouth opened, but couldn't utter a single word. In the end, she helplessly watched as they were led to the courtyard, tied up, and hit with the wooden rod. Her despair was indescribable.
Seeing this, the fourth madam Qin initially intended to placate him, but Wei Kun didn't seem open to any words. She had to swallow the words that were on the tip of her tongue.
These people were truly wretched, even 100 hits wouldn't be sufficient to let out his anger.
Wei Luo was the dignified Duke of Ying's family legitimate Miss. Having such evil intentions toward her, they were really tired of living.
Third madam Liu, listening to the crying coming from outside, knitted her brows: "These servants are so wicked, but fifth brother-in-law, you also heard, fifth sister-in-law is innocent… Isn't a divorce too much?"
Madam Liu was usually close with Madam Du, at this time she naturally spoke up for her.
Wei Kun was indifferent to the sounds coming from outside, his resolve firm, he said: "Even if she was unaware of this matter, she didn't show proper care for Ah Luo, that's for certain. If she can't manage the servants of her own courtyard well, I can blame her incompetence. If I don't divorce her, should I keep her so she can go on harming Ah Luo?"
Madam Liu added: "This is no small matter. It's better to discuss it with Father and Mother before coming to a conclusion…"
Cries kept coming from the courtyard. Nurse Dou was old, she couldn't endure the rod punishment. Several hits already brought her to death's doorstep. Madam Du glanced at the entrance. She wanted to tell the servants to hit lightly, but Wei Kun's orders were 'beat to death'. Would the servants dare disobey? So whether she pleaded for Nurse Dou or not, the rod would keep hitting steadily, and soon she would be bruised all over.
Madam Du was holding onto the door with water chestnut flowers design. The March day was cold, while the sun was blindingly bright from above. Her head dizzy and her body weak, she fainted on the ground.
In the blue-screened room, Ah Luo was lying next to the window, looking out to the row of kneeling servants. She was listening to the rod hitting the bodies, finding the sounds delightful and refreshing to hear.
Nurse Dou thought hiding behind Madam Du would save her? Naïve.
Madam Du couldn't save herself, where would she find the ability to help her? She was already useless. No matter whether Nurse Dou lived or died, or how ugly her death would be, these were now beyond Madam Du's control.
Wei Luo was grinning. Under the bangs, a pair of clever eyes were spinning around. One didn't need to guess, to know that evil thoughts were definitely lurking there.
Wei Changhong was standing behind her, silent for a long time. At last, he couldn't help but ask: "Ah Luo, why did madam want to sell you? Is it because she's not our mother?"
Ah Luo turned around, meeting his puzzled eyes. She jumped down from the short couch to stand before him, "You know she isn't our mother?"
Changhong nodded, he knew, he had always known. Apparently, there had been a maidservant, who had let it slip in front of him, saying that biological and non-biological was different. He had heard it, and since then, had always kept it in mind. He had more on his mind than his peers. He hadn't told about it to Ah Luo before, however, he was only a six-year-old child. After much deliberation, he still couldn't figure it out, so he asked in the end.
Ah Luo held his hand and let him look out the window at the servants getting hit. She answered happily: "That's right because she is not our mother. She is Wei Zheng's mother. So in the future, you can't consider her as 'mother' anymore, you must stay away from her, she's a bad person."
Changhong obediently agreed. His understanding of good and evil was still a little fuzzy, but whoever bullied Ah Luo was surely a bad person. After a while, he asked: "Then who is our mother? Where is she?"
Ah Luo hadn't seen her, either. She didn't know what Jiang Miaolan looked like. She thought for a moment, then said:
In the afternoon, Duke Ying Wei Zhangchun and his wife came back from their trip to their ancestors' home. Immediately after entering the residence, they learned of the situation and called everyone to the reception pavilion to discuss how to settle the problem.
Wei Kun was wholeheartedly decided on divorce, regardless of some of the other masters' (his brothers) efforts to dissuade him. Madam Du had fainted at noon and had yet to wake up. The third madam had called for a doctor a moment ago, and they had no results for now.
Wei Zhangchun was over 50, a man of integrity. Having heard the whole story, he pounded his fist on the table angrily: "How can Madam Du be so irrational!"
Beside him was his wife, Madam Luo, wearing a patterned plum-colored dress and golden jewelry encrusted with a green jade going around her forehead. She said with a frown: "Didn't you say Nurse Dou personally admitted to planning everything, so it's unrelated to Madam Du? Where is she?"
The quiet fourth madam Qin said: "Fifth brother-in-law had her punished with a dozen hits by the rod. She couldn't endure it, barely alive, she was locked in the woodshed along with the other servants."
Actually, in accordance with Wei Kun's wishes, Nurse Dou should've been killed, but at that time Madam Du had fainted, causing the scene to fall into chaos. The third Madam made the servants stop, for now, then let them bring the people into the woodshed, so when Duke Ying and his wife returned, the matter would be handled again by them.
The old Madam ordered someone to bring in Nurse Dou, who stumbled onto the ground like a pile of mud. She was covered in wounds from top to bottom, beaten to the point that she was barely breathing.
The old Madam asked her: "How did you plan everything? Tell us again in detail."
Nurse Dou was very loyal to Madam Du, given this chance, she didn't forget to protect her. She repeated today's excuse, taking in all the blame, she wept and yelled: "Madam was wrongly accused… Madam didn't know anything. If she made a mistake, it's the mistake of trusting this old servant too much. Begging the Duke and old Madam to exonerate Madam…"
The old madam waved, letting someone bring the person back to the woodshed.
The room with a dozen people inside suddenly turned quieter.
The eldest master, Wei Min, thought things through, then said: "Fifth younger brother, it's better to think again, just in case what fifth sister-in-law's Nurse said was true. While we don't know all the facts, if you break the marriage, our family's relations with Count Zhongyi's family will get damaged in the future. After all, father has decades of friendship with Count Zhongyi…"
That was exactly what all the people present had to consider, Count Zhongyi's status wasn't to be taken lightly. Most importantly, Count Zhongyi was from the same clan as the current Noble Consort Ning (Ning Guifei). She was being favored now, Emperor Chong Zhen's heart was set on her. Duke Ying's house was powerful, they weren't willing to offend Noble Consort Ning…
Wei Kun stood suddenly, saying with red-rimmed eyes: "Eldest brother needs not persuade me again. In the first place, when Ah Luo and Changhong were just born, you said that no one was looking after the children, and advised me to marry Madam Du, so Ah Luo and Changhong would also have a mother. But now, what is this mother doing? Whether she's related to today's matter or not, I've decided to end this!"
Wei Min opened his mouth, feeling guilty toward his brother, after all, had nothing good to retort.
On his right side was sitting the third master, Wei Chang, who smiled coldly and secretly tightened his fist. Wei Min looked at him startled, afraid that he would punch someone the way his eyes threatened of violence.
It was good that Wei Chang knew propriety and reigned in his impulses.
These two brothers really gave him a headache. That was the case 6–7 years ago, and it was the case now. When all was said and done, the root of the problem was a woman.
The year Wei Kun brought Jiang Miaolan to the family, no one in the Duke's residence had expected that the two brothers would end up liking the same woman.
At that time, the two of them had fought for Jiang Miaolan quite a lot. After Wei Kun and Jiang Miaolan had gotten married, the two brothers' relations not only didn't get better but dropped below the freezing point. These many years, it still hadn't gotten better.
In third master Wei Chang's eyes, Wei Kun didn't know how to cherish people. At present, he viewed him as a hoodlum.
And in fifth master Wei Kun's eyes, Wei Chang was a lunatic, who coveted his younger brother's wife.
Eldest master Wei Min was in the process of getting a headache when the third madam led the doctor inside. Madam Liu's complexion was very subtle, greeting Duke Ying and his wife, she hesitantly said: "Father, Mother, just now, the doctor diagnosed fifth sister-in-law… Fifth sister-in-law is one month pregnant."
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