After reorganizing the entire courtyard, Yu Youyao turned to Zhou Linghuai. “Cousin, is there anything else you don’t like?”
Zhou Linghuai smiled. She had picked out everything that could pose an inconvenience, even ones he had not thought of. “Everything’s great!”
Yu Youyao was very delighted to be affirmed. “Well, as long as you like it.”
“It’s been a long afternoon. You should go home and get some rest.” The sun had set, and the young woman must be tired after her busy afternoon.
Yu Youyao was indeed feeling quite exhausted, so she nodded. “See you at dinner.”
Zhou Linghuai nodded.
When it was time for dinner, the families from the two houses of the Yu Residence gathered together, and separate tables were prepared for the men and women. There were dishes of every kind, as well as wine, snacks, desserts, and fruits. It was a sumptuous feast.
Zhou Linghuai wasn’t in good health and couldn’t drink, so in place of wine, he offered a toast with tea instead, one by one to each elder in the residence, to show his respect.
With the whole family gathered together, it was such a lively scene!
Yu Youyao secretly poured herself a glass of plum wine when her grandmother wasn’t paying attention to her. After pouring the wine, she straightened her back self-consciously. Sitting upright, she looked obedient and polite, but her eyes were big and bright, sparkling as they darted around. When she was sure that no one was looking at her, she broke into a wide grin—like a cat that had just stolen a fish.
She thought that she had done it without anyone noticing, but little did she know that her every move had been noticed by Zhou Linghuai, who was sitting opposite her.
He couldn’t help but chuckle, so he raised his teacup to cover the faint smile on his lips.
He was actually starting to feel that this noisy dinner was bing more interesting and less unbearable.
Yu Youyao was unaware that her little actions had already been spotted by someone. Holding the small cup with both hands, she drank from it secretly.
The plum wine tasted both sweet and sour, which Yu Youyao had always liked.
However, her grandmother was very strict with her. Other than allowing her to drink a small glass during the holidays for good luck, she was usually not allowed to drink at all. Her grandmother said that it was too improper for girls to drink.
Zhou Linghuai, who had just taken a bite of food and looked up, couldn’t help but pause to stare for a moment.
The young lady’s lips were stained with wine, and she looked lovely. Her face was a little flushed, and her black, bright eyes were dazzling. Probably because she had a low alcohol tolerance, she was a little tipsy after two small glasses of the plum wine. She sat obediently in her seat like a little doll, without moving or making a fuss, looking delicate and adorable.
Realizing her granddaughter hadn’t spoken in a while, Old Madam Yu turned to check on her, and immediately found herself both angry and amused. She patted on her granddaughter’s head. “You gluttonous girl!”
“Grandmother?” Yu Youyao called out softly. She blinked and looked up at Old Madam Yu. Her eyes were dewy, with pupils that were black and shiny like agate gemstones, lookingpletely dazed.
Old Madam Yu couldn’t get angry at the sight of that. She turned around and asked Nanny Liu to pour a cup of sobering-up tea.
Since there was a banquet at home, such tea had already been prepared beforehand.
Nanny Liu smiled as she served Yu Youyao some of it.
But Yu Youyao wrinkled her nose as it tasted bitter and fishy. “This tastes bad. It stinks.”
Old Madam Yu was amused. “Let’s see if you still dare to drink secretly in the future.”
The Plum Wine was a type of fruit wine, so it was very light. Normally, three to five cups wouldn’t have much effect, and it usually wouldn’t get Yu Youyao drunk. It was just that she was a little excited and got a little tipsy, but she would be fine after drinking the tea and resting for a while.
After the feast, the maidservants brought some mouthwash in. The old maids cleared the table, then refilled it with exquisite pastries, dried fruits, and snacks. Only then did everyone start chatting.
Yu Zongzheng asked Zhou Linghuai about his life in Youzhou.
Zhou Linghuai lowered his eyes and said in a hoarse voice, “After the incident at home, both my father and mother passed on. Grandmother’s health declined, and she didn’t have any relatives or friends. The clan found a reason to cut ties with us. Fortunately, I learned how to make ink and was able to make ends meet. But Grandmother really suffered…”
Yu Zongzheng was furious when he heard this. He couldn’t help but exclaim, “The Zhou Clan is too much!”
The position of Commander was an official position that had a longstanding lineage. It was also considered a rather grand position, so the Zhou Clan must have benefited quite a bit from Zhou Linghuai in the past as well.
However, after the incident in Youzhou, officials of all positions were either killed, exiled, or imprisoned. The reason that the Yu Residence had the guts to mediate on behalf of the Zhou family was also because of the family’s generations of kindness.
Even the emperor showed mercy and grace, yet the Zhou clan did not bother to help this orphan and widow at all.
But Yu Zongzheng was just an outsider after all, so he didn’t continue to say anything further. He only patted Zhou Linghuai’s shoulder and said, “You and Aunt have suffered for the past few years. From now on, you can live in peace at our residence.”
And he added some more words of concern and encouragement.
Yu Zongshen asked Zhou Linghuai about his studies and came up with a few questions to test him on the spot.
Zhou Linghuai answered everything with ease.
Yu Zongshen asked a few more questions from this year’s imperial examination. Zhou Linghuai was accurate and concise, and his answers were even more insightful than those of this year’s top scholar.
Upon realizing Zhou Linghuai’s standard, Yu Zongshen was secretly shocked. He turned to Yu Shanyan and Yu Shanxin and said, “Although Linghuai is only a few years older than the two of you, he is already incredibly knowledgeable. You can ask him for guidance in the future.”
After saying that, he couldn’t help but glance at Zhou Linghuai’s legs.
If his legs were intact, he definitely would have been in the top three positions of the Imperial Rankings this year. He was an outstanding talent, in no way inferior to Song Mingzhao.
Furthermore, Zhou Linghuai was only a little over 14 years old, which was a year younger than Song Mingzhao.
Hearing their father’s high praise for Cousin Zhou, Yu Shanyan and Yu Shanxin took the opportunity to talk to him. The three of them chatted, and the more they talked, the more they got along.
Yu Youyao listened with a tilted head, her eyes sparkling.
On the left, Yu Qingning stretched out her arm and passed a plate of sweet fruits to Yu Youyao. “Big Sister, have some fruits.”
Yu Youyao thanked her and ate a piece.
Yu Qingning was also eight years old, two months younger than Yu Jianjia, and she had an extroverted personality. Yu Youyao’s father cared more about this daughter of his concubine than about her. At the very least, she had never heard of Yu Qingning being scolded.
Yu Youyao did not interact with her often.
“Eldest Sis, you and Third Sis were both sick previously, but why did you lose so much weight? Third Sis doesn’t seem to have changed much.” Yu Qingning turned to look at Yu Jianjia several times.
In the past year, Yu Jianjia had been sick most of the time, but she didn’t look much different each time she fell sick or recovered, and did not have much weight gain or weight loss. However, she still coughed and panted often.
When she was younger, Yu Youyao had once said that Yu Jianjia was deliberately pretending to be sick, but was berated when her aunt had heard about it.
Yu Jianjia bit her lip and looked aggrieved. “I’ve lost some weight too, but you probably couldn’t tell because I was thin to begin with.”
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