“This lowly one cannot remember if there is anything else that might identify the carriage as belong to our Guo family, but I will definitely speak with my husband about this matter,” Xie shi said in a low quick voice. “This lowly one thanks Su xiaojie for her insight on the matter!”
Su Jing Fei shook her head lightly. “This one has been thinking about it for awhile and was only able to come by once I recovered.” She returned to finishing her tea as they spoke about other matters. “How has Ming’er been since returning home to Fuo Lan?”
Xie shi gave a small smile. “Ming’er has been doing surprisingly well. However, he still cries most nights whenever he awakens to find that his parents are not at his side.”
“I hope we are able to find Li Guo Wei and Han shi soon. It is not good for a young child to be separated from his parents too long.” Su Jing Fei said softly, recalling her own memories of a parentless childhood. She wished Mingyu would be spared the harshness of growing up without parents; however, she knew that Mingyu still had a loving family and close relatives to take care of him. That was something to be thankful for at least. “This one also has a question for Xie shi. Mudan-yu has a distinct lack of protection, and with all the current troubles surrounding Fuo Lan, this one hopes to find a reliable source of guards to watch over Mudan-yu.”
“It is definitely not good to lack protection in one’s own home. This lowly one will procure a few reliable guards from the workhouse and send them to Mudan-yu.” Xie shi replied, but Su Jing Fei shook her head lightly in response.
“No need to trouble yourself,” Su Jing Fei smiled. “This one will make a stop at a workhouse downtown to procure the guards personally.”
Xie shi nodded in understanding. They continued chatting for a little bit until Ming’er and everyone else returned. Su Jing Fei and Da Chun took their leave, promising to visit again soon. However, instead of returning immediately to Mudan-yu, they stopped at the workhouse to procure a few guards hand-selected by Su Jing Fei herself. Then they stopped by each shop; first the medicine shop, then the accessories shop, and lastly the clothing shop. However, once they arrived at Lanhua, a commotion could be heard from inside the shop. Someone, a female’s voice, was shouting and causing a ruckus inside.
“Da xiaojie, this lowly one will go take a look,” said Si Qiang from outside the carriage.
“No need,” replied Su Jing Fei as the carriage rolled to a stop. “It sounds to be nothing but a customer making a ruckus. I will go take care of it personally.” Si Qiang parked the carriage, moving quickly to help his xiaojie off the carriage. Yize stepped out to stay by her xiaojie’s side; however, they were all surprised when Da Chun decided to come with as well. Mu Tan stood behind Da Chun, having been appointed by Su Jing Fei as her younger sister’s personal yatou.
“I want to come,” Da Chun said firmly, giving Su Jing Fei a small smile. “If I don’t learn how to deal with a rude customer, then I won’t be able to help you with the businesses in the future.”
“En,” Su Jing Fei replied. “You make a good point. Follow me then.”
Si Qiang stayed with the carriage as the four women made their way inside the Lanhua clothing shop. As they arrived inside, no one was there to greet them; instead, they heard a loud shrill voice shrieking, “Take her outside and whip the truth out of her!” They came upon the scene of the shopkeeper being dragged by a man while two young women stood by and watched. The other workers watched helplessly from the sidelines, and Su Jing Fei could tell that it had to be a young noblewoman causing trouble. Who else would dare to be so commanding and authoritative in another person’s store?
“For the moment, please unhand that woman until the issue has been resolved.” Su Jing Fei spoke in a firm voice to the guard who was trying to drag the shopkeeper out. He hesitantly paused, glancing back at the young woman dressed in light pink.
The young woman was dressed quite well, so she certainly came from a family with money. However, her pretty face was bunched up into a haughty expression, glowering at Su Jing Fei when the latter had spoken. “Who do you think you are to obstruct me?” The young girl argued, looking displeased at Su Jing Fei’s calm expression as she continued to block the man’s path. “Push her aside and bring the girl out to be whipped!”
Just as the man was about to forcibly push his way past, Mu Tan stepped forward and stopped him from coming in contact with Su Jing Fei. “You dare try to put your hands on my da xiaojie?”
“Insolent servant! The Feng family will not tolerate this!” commanded the young woman in a vicious voice. The other workers looked terrified. “Take her outside and beat her as well!”
At the mention of that family’s name, Su Jing Fei’s calm demeanor shifted, and her skin prickled with suppressed anger. However, she could feel uneasiness and fear coming from Da Chun and Yize, so she dampened her mood and revealed a polite smile. “And what exactly will the Feng family not tolerate?”
“Stupid girl, this is the Feng family’s er xiaojie, Feng Eu Heng!” spat the older yatou at the young girl’s side.
“Jie jie…” whispered Da Chun worriedly at Su Jing Fei’s side. Her hand tugged nervously at Su Jing Fei’s sleeve.
Su Jing Fei gave Da Chun a comforting smile. “It’s okay. I’ll take care of it, so just stay by Yize’s side.” The young woman stepped forward and laid a hand on Mu Tan’s arm. “Stand down, Mu Tan. If Feng xiaojie has any complaints, this one suggests she give them to me. As the owner of a shop, responsibility naturally falls on my shoulders.” Su Jing Fei turned to the guard. “Release the young woman as I have taken responsibility for the matter.” The guard looked hesitant, but he let go of the shopkeeper who quickly scrambled to her feet and ran to Su Jing Fei’s side.
Feng Eu Heng looked a bit surprised, realizing that the calm young woman before her was none other than Su Jing Fei! She’d heard from her family about the trouble this girl had caused, about the threat Su Jing Fei posed by taking back the shops from the Feng family. The girl was supposed to be bedridden with an illness, so Feng Eu Heng had decided to come by to make some trouble. She hadn’t expected to find Su Jing Fei walking around looking as calm and in good health as she did. However, her confidence only wavered for a second before she remembered all the things she’d heard about Su Jing Fei from the imperial city. “Hah, a girl with a horrible reputation such as yours still dares to go against me, the Fuo Lan city lord’s granddaughter?”
Su Jing Fei smiled. “It seems Feng xiaojie forgets. What is Fuo Lan’s city lord compared to the Right Prime Minister of the Emperor?”
Feng Eu Heng glared at Su Jing Fei; however, she didn’t have the words to refute the other young woman. She gritted her teeth as she replied next. “Then would the Right Prime Minister’s daughter like to explain how this happened to clothes I had ordered from your very shop?” She threw a piece of clothing in Su Jing Fei’s direction. It landed on the floor in front of them.
The shopkeeper quickly ran forward, grabbing the cloth and holding it up in front of Su Jing Fei as she remained on her knees and bowed respectfully. “Xiaojie, please take a look! When this item was sold to Feng xiaojie, it was not in this state!”
Su Jing Fei took the clothing into her hands. It appeared to be a pretty floral outer coat. However, upon further inspection, one could see the lining of the collar was ripped out to reveal crude hay hidden underneath. This was clearly made with ill intent since the crude hay would rub against the cloth and irritate the back of the wearer’s neck and likely cause redness and uncontrollable itchiness ; however, there was no reason for Su Jing Fei to abuse her power in this way to offend the Feng family. Therefore, there was only one conclusion; the Feng family was specifically looking for trouble with her. “The shopkeeper says that this piece of clothing was not in such a state when sold to Feng xiaojie. There is no reason for Lanhua to do this to Feng xiaojie’s clothing, so it can only be said that the alterations were made after being brought back to the Feng manor.” Su Jing Fei voiced her opinion honestly. “Please take back this clothing and investigate properly at the Feng manor.”
“Nonsense!” argued Feng Eu Heng persistently. “This piece of clothing never left this one’s side, even when returning to the Feng manor. No one would have been able to alter the clothing without my knowledge! Therefore, it must’ve been done here at the shop before one had purchased it!”
Su Jing Fei held back a sigh. It was like trying to reason with a child, and her patience was wearing thin. She knew that it was an unreasonable accusation against her shop; due to its immature nature, this scheme was most likely initiated by Feng Eu Heng herself. However, she wanted to spare the young girl further embarrassment, so she spoke the truth in her next words. “There is no reason why Lanhua would personally alter Feng xiaojie’s clothing with such wicked intentions. Feng xiaojie is mistaken, and this one urges you to return home to resolve the matter peacefully.”
Both Feng Eu Heng and Su Jing Fei knew that Su Jing Fei had taken the shops back from the Feng family, thus causing trouble between the two parties. However, this dispute was a private matter, and Feng Eu Heng’s accusations held no real threat in the public eye due to its nonsensical nature. However, Su Jing Fei was not prepared for Feng Eu Heng’s next words.
“There is a reason!” Feng Eu Heng stubbornly insisted. “Su xiaojie is jealous that I have caught the attention of an imperial prince while your own engagement to one was broken!” Feng Eu Heng gave a smug look, knowing just how much Su Jing Fei had coveted her engagement to the third prince Chen Hui Zhe. She had guessed that the broken engagement would be a sore spot to the other young woman, especially since it was quite damaging to one’s ego and reputation when rejected by a prince! However, she wasn’t expecting for Su Jing Fei to break into a smile, and she felt a cold chill run up her spine at the sight of it. Su Jing Fei was nothing like how the rumors had made her out to be! Where was the haughty, prideful, and childish young woman they spoke of?
Su Jing Fei was unfazed by Feng Eu Heng’s words, keeping a refined manner as she continued to speak. “If Feng xiaojie insists on maintaining the accusations against this one, then there is no other choice than to seek a third party to give an unbiased judgment on the matter. This one thinks that calling for the city justice official shall do.”
Feng Eu Heng was hesitant, but before she could protest, Su Jing Fei had already ordered Yize to take Da Chun outside and have Si Qiang get the city lord official. There was nothing left to do but wait for his arrival as the two young women stood apart from one another, observing each other carefully. Feng Eu Heng had taken notice of Su Jing Fei’s calm and cold demeanor. She knew that her accusations were a bit far-fetched; however, she wouldn’t have come if she wasn’t properly prepared to slander Su Jing Fei’s name. Earlier when they had purchased the clothing, Feng Eu Heng had ordered her personal yatou Shan to carefully remove the collar to add the crude hay. Then they had proceeded to resew the collar into place with new thread that was identical to the previous thread used. Although her accusations were a bit far-fetched, there was no way anyone could deny that the clothing was not from Lanhua. Feng Eu Heng grew happy at the thought of the city justice official coming to arrest Su Jing Fei once the blame fell on Lanhua. That’ll teach the stupid woman what happens to those who mess with the Feng family!
When the city justice official finally arrived, the older man looked just a bit irritated at having been called out to settle a petty dispute between two noblewomen. He had more important matters to attend to, but he couldn’t deny the request of xiaojie from such prominent families either. He hoped that the matter could be resolved quickly, but when he was briefed on the dispute between the two xiaojie, his brows furrowed further in irritation.
“Please seek justice for this lowly one, city justice official!” spoke Feng Eu Heng in a soft voice that differed greatly from her shrill argumentative one from earlier. The young woman acted like she had truly been wronged, making herself appear weak and soft as compared to Su Jing Fei who kept her calm and refined manner.
“Get me a similar piece of clothing from the shop,” commanded Sun Rong Shu to a nearby servant as he ignored Feng Eu Heng’s attempts to garner his pity. He had no use for emotions in his judgment; there was only truth and lies in the matter that would dictate his fair verdict. While the servant went to fetch another piece of clothing, the city justice official finally addressed the two xiaojie before him. “Since this city justice official has been called for, he will treat this matter seriously. Therefore, this means that whoever is found to be the true culprit will be arrested for their crimes accordingly.”
Feng Eu Heng became a bit nervous at the city justice official’s words, but she tried to keep as calm as Su Jing Fei was. However, her posture was just a little too upright, and her hands were clasped just a bit too tightly in front of her. Su Jing Fei remained standing to the side with Mu Tan at her side; while she was relatively relaxed and calm, one could see the coldness in her expression that was unbefitting for a young woman her age. Her dark black eyes seemed pools of deep water, reflecting everything and nothing at once. Sun Rong Shu was just a little curious about this Su xiaojie he’d heard about before, and he was honestly impressed by her calm demeanor. Most other people would be pleading for his fair judgment, hoping to gain his pity and support through their words, but he saw no such attempt from the young girl. She had quite a refined air about her; Sun Rong Shu wondered if it was the effect of having grown up in the imperial city that caused Su Jing Fei to be so well-mannered. Either way, he wasn’t here to pass judgment on people’s characters; merely on their actions and the consequences stemming from them. In the meantime, he heard both young women tell their side of the stories and the circumstances leading up to his arrival.
Once the servant returned, Sun Rong Shu was handed a similar piece of clothing; he began to inspect the clothing carefully. There was no doubt that the cloth and thread was the same as those used in Lanhua. Even the stitching was the same. However, as his fingers ran over the threading of the both pieces of clothing, he found something peculiar. “Would Su xiaojie please explain the process of how a piece of clothing like this would be made in Lanhua?” Sun Rong Shu asked as he stopped his inspection and turned his attention to Su Jing Fei.
“Yes, this lowly one can explain,” Su Jing Fei said politely. “The fabric is measured and cut to form the shapes of the clothing. For this type of particular clothing, the collar of the robe is important in its shape and ability to define the wearer’s features. However, it is also important to be comfortable and not heavy on the shoulders for long-term wear. Therefore, Lanhua uses light materials to form the collar of the robe and the threading is thin and tight. To avoid the thread from undoing, a small bit of wax is melted and poured onto the ends of the thread and cooled.”
Feng Eu Heng began to tremble fearfully; she had never heard of such a thing being done before! To have overlooked such a peculiar and insignificant method, she was truly afraid at the implications of what might happen if the city justice official found the small difference between the two!
However, Sun Rong Shu was not a dumb man, and he had indeed already noticed the difference between the two clothing. On the robe obtained from Lanhua, there was a small amount of melted wax at the ends of the threads; it was imperceptible to the eye, but upon touch, he could feel the difference in texture. “This city justice official was called to infer a fair judgment in the dispute between Su xiaojie and Feng xiaojie. After careful observation, this one has discovered that the clothing from Feng xiaojie differs from Su xiaojie. Upon respect for the city lord’s Feng family, this one shall ask Feng xiaojie if she still wishes to accuse Su xiaojie of tampering with the clothing with ill intent to harm.”
“That can’t be possible!” Feng Eu Heng said stubbornly, having forgotten her earlier demeanor. “This one has definitely been setup by Su Jing Fei! Why would this lowly one seek to harm herself? That doesn’t make any sense!” Just as she was about to argue some more, Su Jing Fei suddenly spoke up. Her calm voice irritated Feng Eu Heng to no end, but Feng Eu Heng was truly shocked to hear the other woman’s words.
“This lowly one also agrees with Feng xiaojie. Why would Feng xiaojie seek to harm herself?” Su Jing Fei remarked at the surprise of everyone around her. “When wearing such a robe, the weight of clothing will bring the collar down on the back of the neck causing irritations on the skin. It will be quite itchy and uncomfortable, prompting most people to scratch at such an irritation. For a xiaojie to suffer through such a thing, the delicate skin would need to be treated or else the skin will remain red and irritated.”
Sun Rong Shu knew what Su Jing Fei was implying. If Feng Eu Heng had truly worn the robe and suffered such an irritation, she’d suffer redness and marks on the back of her neck from the irritation; since Feng Eu Heng had claimed to return immediately to the store upon uncovering the hay hidden under the collar, that meant that she had no time to get the skin treated. Feng Eu Heng also realized this fact, glaring in Su Jing Fei’s direction. However, a cold gaze returned her anger, and Feng Eu Heng suddenly felt like prey caught in a hunter’s trap. Su Jing Fei kept the smile on her face as she calmly said, “Would Feng xiaojie please forgive our rudeness and let a doctor examine your neck for the purpose of confirming Feng xiaojie’s accusations?”
“I…” Feng Eu Heng stuttered, unsure of what to do next. She had merely come by to cause trouble for Su Jing Fei, not to become the victim of her own scheme!
Sun Rong Shu wasted no further time, gesturing to one of his guards nearby. “Take the Feng xiaojie to the city jail and keep her detained there. A notice will be sent to the Feng family informing them of her imprisonment for false accusations and disruption of the peace in Fuo Lan!”