The Zhao family’s father and sons sat silently .
All three generations of the Zhao family were commanders in the military . Zhao furen, Su shi, had three sons and one daughter . Zhao Mei was the third child, and being the only daughter, the entire Zhao family doted on her without end . Although Zhao Guang was a military commander and his mannerisms were rough, he was extremely patient towards Zhao Mei . From a babbling baby to a delicate little girl to a slender and elegant young woman, she had always been raised like the pearl in his hands . When Zhao Mei liked horse riding, he spent a good sum to find a string of superb ponies; when Zhao Mei wanted to learn archery, he personally taught her . Zhao Yuan Jia and his two brothers were scolded until they were black and blue every day, but when it came to Zhao Mei, no one reprimanded her even a tiny bit .
 Shi ( 氏 ) – clan name / maiden name .
The Zhao family only had this one daughter and Zhao Guang loved her to bits . Su shi and Old Zhao Madame even more so, while the brothers protected Zhao Mei every day, to the point that not one child in the capital’s circle of aristocracy dared to bully Zhao Mei .
Growing up under such circ.u.mstances, as if she was blessed by the heavens, Zhao Mei naturally had a naive and una.s.suming temperament, so it was a pity she met someone like Jiang Quan .
At that time, Jiang Quan was the upstart of the court . Young, handsome and coming from a literary family, he had a kind of elegant scholarly air . For Zhao Mei who was used to casual, offhand military men, it was truly too attractive . She was very daring and thought of ways to get close to him, but was seen through by Zhao Guang .
Zhao Guang disliked Jiang Quan; although he was a military officer, it was not like he was all brawn with no brains . After weathering through the bureaucracy for so long, he could see this upstart’s wild ambitions at a glance .
It was fine to have wild ambitions, but after the Emperor was prevented from changing the Crown Prince by Xiao Shao, the court was constantly filled with covert maneuvers and open fights . Many courtiers had secretly chosen a faction to back . At the time, the Zhao family belonged to the neutral faction, insisting on not being involved with those vying for succession in these muddy waters . But Jiang Quan, on the other hand, faintly revealed his intentions to support Eighth Prince .
Even if one day they had to join the fight, the Zhao family definitely would not choose Eighth Prince . After all, Xuan Li was an unfathomable person, dealing with him was like dealing with a tiger . And so, Zhao Guang disliked Jiang Quan even more .
Although Su shi doted on her daughter dearly, on this matter she agreed with Zhao Guang . Moreover, as a married woman, she could instinctively see that Jiang Quan did not look at Zhao Mei as a man would at a woman . Rather, it was when he faced the captial’s most talented woman, Xia Yan, that his expression would become affectionate . Su shi was only a married woman, if Jiang Quan really liked Zhao Mei then she could accept it, but he proposed marriage when he obviously disliked Zhao Mei – it was clear that he definitely had a plan brewing in his heart .
At that time, Zhao Mei insisted on marrying Jiang Quan and refused to listen to anyone .
One was a rebellious daughter, the other was a stubborn father .
It was the first time Zhao Guang fought with Zhao Mei and it ended with Zhao Mei being put under house arrest . Who knew Zhao Mei would escape from a window and meet Jiang Quan .
Thus Zhao Guang flew into a rage, threatening to disown Zhao Mei .
Although Zhao Mei was sad, she knew that in the end they were related by blood . With Zhao Guang this angry, naturally he would say as much . After she and Jiang Quan married and Zhao Guang calmed down, she could go to their door and apologise . After all, they were still a family in the end . The Jiang family also thought this way; the Zhao family was, after all, a meritorious and influential aristocratic family . Moreover, they also had a respected status in the capital . So, Old Jiang Madame did not continue to object, and took care of the marriage privately .
But when the time to visit the maternal family came, the Zhao family did not admit Zhao Mei . They truly had intended to sever relations with Zhao Mei .
Zhao Mei was naturally heartbroken and as the days pa.s.sed, with the Zhao family showing no signs of reconciliation, the Jiang family’s att.i.tude towards Zhao Mei quickly cooled . Not long after, Jiang Quan brought in Xia Yan and became increasingly indifferent towards Zhao Mei .
Enduring both a frosty relationship between husband and wife, and also the Jiang family acting apathetic towards her, Zhao Mei, who was alone, thought through many matters . Self-aware of what she had done, she could not bear to see her parents and brothers . Furthermore, she did not want the Zhao family to get involved with the Jiang family’s muddy waters . So later when the Zhao family heard of Xia Yan’s affairs and came to visit the Jiang family, with an extremely harsh tone, she had chased the messenger away .
With such interactions, gradually, the Zhao family and Jiang family really became strangers to one another .
The atmosphere in the hall became strange .
Zhao Guang looked at Jiang Ruan with a complicated expression .
Over the years, it was not that he had not sent people to the Jiang fu . When Zhao Mei was alive, her att.i.tude was always extremely harsh as if she was facing an enemy . Therefore, eventually, Zhao Guang had also hardened his heart and just pretended he did not have this daughter- even turning a blind eye to the entire Jiang family . Not one bit of news about the Jiang family could be heard in the General fu .
But now, this granddaughter of his suddenly came forward and not only that, Zhao Mei’s old momo, who had once cared for Zhao Mei, had borne such shocking news . The people of the Zhao family were those who would shield their dear ones the most even if they were at fault – upon hearing these words, they were inevitably furious with unappeased indignance .
Zhao Yuan Ping, who had all along been silent, spoke up: “According to what you say, you are my niece? Why have you been distributing congee?”
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 Wàishengnǚ ( 外甥女 ) – sister’s daughter .
Jiang Ruan smiled thinly . “I saved a great part of the Zhao family’s fortune, and also rescued the City Garrison daren, who is also a member of the Zhao family . This array of favors, Ruan niang believes, are more than adequate . As for the deal, I hope the General can save my elder brother . If we consider on the count of blood relations, my dage also has half of Zhao’s blood in his body . ”
 Dage ( 大哥 ) – eldest brother / big brother .
“Your elder brother?” Zhao Guang frowned . “What happened to your elder brother? Also, what do you mean by ‘saving’ Yi’er?”
Before Jiang Ruan could speak a word, Zhao Yi opened his mouth . “Zufu, the young lady I met that day on the way to Chong Xin farmstead is her . ”
 Zufu ( 祖父 ) – paternal grandfather
Zhao Yuan Jia was momentarily shocked . “So that’s how it is . ”
Jiang Ruan said, “Things are like this: regarding my dage, he’s currently fine, but the situation is critical . Xia Yan and Jiang Quan want to take his life . ”
She didn’t even call Jiang Quan ‘father’ and had directly called him by his name . One could clearly see how much she hated him .
“Niece, you must be clear about this . What does that Jiang family want to do?” Zhao Yuan Ping remarked with the faintest show of a smile .
“When my mother pa.s.sed away five years ago, I was sent to the residence and Dage entered the barracks . I only returned to the capital late last year . I’m acquainted with the young master of the Commander-in-chief’s fu, so I asked him to inquire about Dage for me . Now, Dage has been promoted to Deputy General and in a few days, is expected to return in the near future . My maidservant overheard Jiang Quan and Xia Yan’s plans to murder him . ”
“Niece, are you sure you didn’t hear it wrong?” Zhao Yuan Jia exclaimed . “He’s still Jiang Quan’s own flesh and blood, how can he bear to do it?”
Jiang Ruan indifferently glanced at him . “Jiang Quan loves that pair of siblings from Xia Yan dearly . Without my elder brother, Jiang Chao, who was born from Xia Yan, would be able to inherit all of the Jiang family . If Dage comes back, Jiang Chao’s position would become precarious . In addition, now that Dage is a Deputy General, in comparison with Jiang Chao who is still a blank slate, he is definitely the greatest obstacle in Jiang Chao’s path . Both of us, brother and sister, have long become thorns in Xia Yan’s eyes . And as for being flesh and blood…” Jiang Ruan smiled thinly . “Eldest Maternal Uncle has probably had too many comfortable days and probably is unaware of how we have struggled for life under the hands of these stepmothers . If Jiang Quan truly cared about his flesh and blood, Xia Yan wouldn’t have been able to bribe the Taoist priest to slander me with being born under a cursed star, nor would I have been repeatedly harmed when I was sent to the rural residence . If not for my good fortune, I’m afraid that long ago, my mother’s grave would have had another coffin beside it . ”
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