15th year of the Aoyue era, early spring
Sanjing Street, Changhe Town
“Hurry, hurry, something big has happened to the Shen family, let’s go and see the commotion.”
The once peaceful and prosperous town suddenly erupted into chaos, triggered by someone’s loud exclamation. The idle village women, with nothing better to do, always listened eagerly for gossip, and when news spread about something involving the wealthiest family in town, they swarmed over like a swarm of bees. A few slightly smarter ones even tried to inquire for more information.
“What happened to the Shen family?”
“I heard that Shen An, the precious daughter of the Shen family, brought a man back from somewhere and was caught in the act by her father. Now they want to beat her to death with sticks!”
“Tsk, tsk, tsk, how shameful and disgraceful, a well-behaved girl who hasn’t even been married yet, but she has no sense of propriety and is now going to seduce men everywhere. This has ruined the Shen family’s reputation forever.”
“I heard she was engaged to the young master of the Kang family, with this kind of behavior, how could the Kang family still want her?”
“Ahem, who knows? The Shen family has only one precious daughter, who is usually spoiled to the heavens. Now that this has happened, the Shen family is in for a good show.”
The crowd of people were all blaming Shen An, as if she was already guilty of all crimes.
In the Shen family courtyard, a woman knelt straight on the ground in a long blue dress that trailed behind her. Her delicate facial features were silent, but her shimmering eyes revealed an unmistakable stubbornness.
At this moment, a man in his prime stood before her. A glass bead the size of a bird’s egg was set into his headdress, displaying his high status. Although his brilliant clothing was stunning, it was slightly disheveled due to his angry frustration.
“You disobedient girl! You’ve ruined the reputation of our family! How will I have the face to meet our ancestors? You’ve completely disgraced me!”
He was agitated, hitting himself on the face while speaking.
“I will kill you today!”
Seeing her like this made Old Master Shen even angrier. He immediately took a long stick from a servant and was about to strike her.
However, he was stopped by a woman by his side. The woman wore gorgeous clothes and swayed as she walked. If she wasn’t too hysterical at the moment, she would have looked like a dignified and elegant lady.
“Master Shen, An’er is our only daughter, and she has always been frail since childhood. If you want to kill her, you might as well kill me first!”
The woman tightly hugged Shen An, showing a determination to die for her.
Old Master Shen trembled with anger, shouting, “It’s all because of you! Look at her now, is this a small mistake? She is destroying herself and our entire family! Where can I put my face in the future? How will others talk about our Shen family?”
“I am not wrong!” Shen An, who had been silent all this time, suddenly spoke. Her voice was small, but firm and unshakable.
“Listen to me, listen to me…” Old Master Shen laughed with anger. “Is this the good daughter you’ve raised? Even at this point, she still dares to argue? Do you think I’m blind? I can see the shameless looks on your faces clearly. Today, I must kill her! No one can stop me!”
Old Master Shen was also deeply distressed. He only had one daughter and naturally doted on her like a precious gem. He had originally planned to arrange her marriage to Kang Yu after she came of age, but he never expected to see his own daughter embracing a stranger with disheveled clothes. He almost fainted.
Moreover, that stranger was a homeless and foolish man. How could he explain this to the Kang family? How could his daughter still receive the Kang family’s respect? How could they still want her? How could their Shen family hold their heads up in Changhe Town?
All the hard work and effort they had put in was destroyed in an instant. How could his once-good daughter do such a foolish thing?
“Master, An’er has already said that she has no connection with that man. She only gave him some food because she felt sorry for him. How can you accuse your own daughter like this?”
“Accuse her? I saw it clearly. Since you said that there was no connection between Shen An and that man, fine, An’er, you tell me, is there really no connection between you and him?!”
“No,” Shen An lowered her gaze. Due to kneeling for a long time, her body was already weak, but she still gritted her teeth.
She had rescued the somewhat foolish man on the way and had indeed taken him home because she felt sorry for him, but she didn’t even know why she ended up lying in his arms with disheveled clothes and was caught red-handed by her own father and stepmother.
Thinking about it, the only person who could have done this to her was him. However, she couldn’t understand why they had met by chance and why he pretended to be foolish and framed her like this.
What was the benefit for him to doing this? Or, who instructed him to do so?
“You are still denying it! The fact is already in front of us. How do you want outsiders to look at our Shen family?!”
“The onlookers have been peering at our door for a long time. Our Shen family’s reputation has already been ruined in the streets,” said Shen An’er’s mother, Shen An’er, who was charming and seductive, and was adding fuel to the fire in a strange tone.
Shen Yù, who normally doted on his daughter, treated her and his first wife with equal love. He had originally married her into the family based on Kang Shào’s advice, thinking that he could live a good life. However, after their marriage, he visited her room only a few times and was very cold towards her, not even lingering for a moment during their intimate moments. He had married her just to have a son, but unexpectedly, within two years, they had no children, and Shen Yù became even more indifferent towards her.
Now that Shen An had gotten into trouble, how could she miss this good opportunity to add insult to injury?
Shen Yu was already furious and was even angrier after hearing the words of his second wife, Liang Man. He shouted, “Someone come! Drag the madam away!”
Two family servants had to bow and say, “Madam, forgive us,” as they ignored her crying and struggling, and dragged her aside.
Shen Yu’s stick fell heavily on Shen An, once, twice…
But Shen An clenched her fists tightly and remained silent, not even crying out or begging for mercy.
“Master, Master, please stop! You’ll kill An’er! You’ll kill her!” The first wife cried out, struggling fiercely, but the two family servants held her tightly and she couldn’t move.
Shen An felt herself becoming weaker and weaker, as if something inside her was slowly slipping away. She couldn’t resist any longer and collapsed with a thud.
In the last moment before she closed her eyes, she seemed to see that familiar figure rushing towards her, still looking foolish, but with an unprecedented expression of anxiety and concern in his eyes.
She saw him pushing aside her father, taking the stick away and throwing it aside.
Was this a dream? How could he come back again?
At the moment when she felt her body being lifted and held in his arms, she realized that this was not a dream, he had really come back.
“Open your eyes, open your eyes!”
That idiot was shouting urgently, his heavy breathing hitting her face, and she felt like her body was being shaken apart by this man.
But her eyelids became heavier and heavier, and his face became more and more blurred.
Until the very last moment, her consciousness completely dissipated.
The only thing that remained in her mind was one sentence.
He didn’t frame her.
“An’er, An’er…” Madam Sheng let out a mournful cry, then rushed towards Shen Yu, pulling him fiercely.
“Shen Yu, Shen Yu, give me back my daughter, give me back my daughter!”
“This…this…” Shen Yu stood still in a daze, at a loss, staring in the direction of Shen An, his lips trembling for a moment, as if something was stuck in his throat, unable to make a sound.
Is An’er, dead?
Did he really beat his own daughter to death?
How could it be… how could it be… he just wanted to teach her a lesson!
“An’er!” He suddenly came back to his senses, rushing towards the man to take Shen An from him. But that man, despite his foolishness, had a stubbornness about him, holding Shen An tightly, his eyes fiercely staring at him like a wary leopard.
“You, don’t touch her!” Wei Jinyu suddenly spoke up.
“She is my daughter, I have the right to discipline her. What are you, dare to touch An’er? Give her to me, hurry up and leave. I won’t trouble you anymore.” Shen Yu stared at him. She had already driven him away early this morning, but he was shameless enough to come back again!
“You beat her, you’re a bad person, I won’t give her to you.” Wei Jinyu, afraid that Shen An would fall into his hands again, held her and stepped back a few steps.
Without a doubt, Shen Yu knew that the number of people outside was increasing rather than decreasing, all coming to see the jokes of his Shen family.
Now that Shen An has suddenly passed away, it is undoubtedly the biggest blow to him. He is physically and mentally exhausted and really has no energy to deal with this fool anymore. His voice became colder, and his tone was tired as he said, ‘Do you know why she died? It’s because of you! It’s because you made her the way she is now! You killed An’er, and you also harmed my entire Shen family. How many more people do you want to harm? I’m begging you please, will you just leave our Shen family alone and go away?'”
Wei Jinyu seemed to have already prepared to go all out with Shen Yu, but unexpectedly, when Shen Yu suddenly said this, he was caught off guard, his gaze blank for a few seconds, and his words were not as quick and sharp as before.
“I…I didn’t harm her…”
“But you have already caused her harm, can’t you see? She’s already dead! If it weren’t for you coming to our Shen family, how could she have been involved? You animal!”
“I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it! Don’t lie to me!” Wei Jinyu yelled, his originally dull eyes showing a hint of complex emotions.
“An’er is no longer with us. Why would I lie to you? If you take An’er away, can you give her a decent burial? She is better off with me. I will give you fifteen minutes to consider. Either you leave on your own, or I will report you to the authorities. It’s your choice.”
Shen Yu was already out of patience and gave him an ultimatum.
Wei Jinyu hesitated for a while, but finally made a decision. He gently placed the person in his arms on the ground and leaned down to whisper something in Shen An’s ear. A strange smile appeared on his face, making him look particularly eerie, before he stood up and left.