This man appeared to be around thirty-six or thirty-seven years old, in the prime of his life. He still had the vitality of youth, with fair and clean features. His neatly trimmed stubble added a touch of mature charm, allowing one to imagine his youthful elegance.
However, at this moment, his face was as cold as water, and he strode quickly with a group of robust servants into the Yufang Garden, heading straight for the ritual altar.
“Fourth Master!” Nanny Tong exclaimed in shock, casting a worried glance at Mrs. Ming San.
Oh no, Fourth Master had found out about this! Among the masters of the Ming family, the Fourth Master had the most stubborn temperament, and he wouldn’t tolerate any wrongdoing. If anyone had caused trouble that reached his ears, regardless of who it was, there would be consequences.
Ignoring attempts to stop him, the Fourth Master arrived at the scene and, with a sweeping gaze, pointed at the recently set-up incense table, commanding, “Smash it!”
The servants loudly acknowledged this and proceeded to smash the incense table without hesitation.
Shouts and crashing sounds merged into chaos.
Nanny Tong became anxious. “Fourth Master, please hold on! Madam had approved of this!”
Fourth Master also know as Ming Si turned around, and his piercing gaze fell on her face. He looked at Tong with a cold smile. “Are you using Third Madam’s name to pressure me?”
Nanny Tong dared not meet his eyes and quickly lowered her head. “I dare not! But there are other circumstances in this matter. Please listen, Fourth Master…”
“What other circumstances could there be?” Fourth Master had no intention of listening and cut her off. “You are a servant of the Ming family, don’t you know our family rules? You dared to encourage the masters to engage in such superstitious rituals. The first person who should be punished for this is you!”
With a wave of his hand, he ordered, “Hold this old woman down and beat her!”
The servants complied, moving to restrain Nanny Tong.
Seeing this, Third Madam Mrs. Mingsan couldn’t remain silent any longer. She walked towards the Fourth Master and raised her voice. “Wait! Fourth uncle, and I am still your sister-in-law. Even if I did something wrong, there is no reason for you to physically confront my personal maidservant!”
Fourth Master’s sharp gaze lingered on her face for a moment before he said coldly, “So, Third Sister-in-law, do you also acknowledge your mistake?”
Hearing this, Ming Si furrowed her brow. “Fourth Uncle, there’s no need to be so confrontational. If you have any grievances, we can discuss them calmly. Is it appropriate to barge into my garden with violence and destruction?”
“Discuss?” Fourth Master nodded. “Alright, let’s discuss. Third Sister-in-law, you are known for your intelligence. Do you remember the family rules of the Ming family?”
“Of course, I remember. But…”
Fourth Master didn’t give her a chance to speak. “If you remember, why did you openly violate them? Not only did you invite a shaman, but you also set up an altar for rituals! Such actions are no different from those of ignorant villagers! Don’t waste words. Get rid of all these messy things for me! If I find out about anything like this again, it won’t end well.”
Mrs. Mingsan continued, “I also know that this is inappropriate, but Wei was so scared, I…”
Fourth Master Ming interrupted again, his gaze shifting to Mingwei behind her, saying, “She should see a doctor if she is scared and sick. Isn’t she already cured?”
Mrs. Mingsan frowned and said, “She is better this time, but the root cause of the disease has not gone away. I don’t want her to be frightened again.”
A hint of ridicule appeared on Mr. Mingsi’s handsome face, “I heard some things earlier and thought they were just gossips from the servants. So it turns out that the third sister-in-law thinks the same way? Hehe, saying that she has seen a ghost really! Where do ghosts come from in this world? You ignorant women and children, hearing a rumour and taking it as truth, it’s truly absurd!”
Nanny Tong couldn’t bear it and defended Mrs. Mingsan, “No! What Mrs. Liu did just now, we really saw a ghost! Everyone can testify!”
Several bold servants chimed in, “Yes, Fourth Master, we all saw it, there really was a ghost.”
Mr. Mingsi sneered and glanced at Madam Liu, who dared not speak, with a contemptuous gaze, “Do you believe in the methods of charlatans? Why is there blood on the paper? It’s just that it was smeared with a potion in advance and fire was spat from the mouth. In reality, it contains flammable substances. This kind of deception is meant to fool naive women! There’s no need to say more; throw all these chaotic items out. Let it be known that any such incidents in the future will not end well.”
After giving the orders, Fourth Master turned to look at the third madam again. “If our third sister-in-law thinks I’m wrong, feel free to report me to our aunt! I’ll accept any consequences. But here’s a piece of advice for you, Third Sister-in-Law: You are a guardian of virtue. For the sake of the Third Brother’s reputation, manage yourself well and don’t tarnish the family’s honour!”
With that, the Fourth Master, accompanied by his servants, carried away the incense table and other items and departed.
Nanny Tong was trembling with anger. How could a younger uncle speak to his sister-in-law like that? Even if he were the head of the family, he should be more polite, especially when addressing a widow. Such harsh words could have serious consequences if the recipient had a strong temper.
Fortunately, Third Madam had long since tempered her disposition. Despite being scolded by her younger uncle in front of the servants, she remained calm and smiled gently. “Let’s tidy up these things. Carry on with your tasks.”
She also comforted Mrs. Liu , who had been frightened earlier. “Our shaman has been through a lot. Nanny Tong, please take her inside and have some tea to calm her nerves.”
“Yes, Madam,” Tong understood and led Liu inside, saying, “Please come with me, Miss Shaman.”
As they left, Third Madam carefully observed her daughter and spoke softly, “Don’t be afraid, Daughter. Fourth Uncle is actually a good person; he just has a short temper.”
Ming Wei didn’t want her mother to worry and simply nodded.
After ensuring her daughter was fine, Third Madam turned to her maidservant. “Duo Fu, accompany Miss to rest.” She then thought of the shock Duo Fu had experienced and called two more maidservants. “You two, go with them.”
The servants in Yufang Garden were always well-organized. With a few words, everything that needed to be done was taken care of, and those who needed to leave did so.
Returning to her room, Ming San waited for a while in the room that also worked as her study. Eventually, Tong returned.
“Madam, Fourth Master…” Nanny Tong began but was interrupted by Ming San.
“We don’t need to concern ourselves with that matter. Just update me on the shaman’s situation.”
Nanny Tong had no choice but to suppress her concerns and report, “The shaman said that practitioners of the occult usually keep things under control. If sealed properly, the Yin energy can be contained for three to five months.”
Mrs. Ming nodded thoughtfully. “Then we should arrange for us to go to the Xundu Temple in the capital as soon as possible.”
“Yes,” Tong concurred. However, she still worried. “Before, when we invited the shaman, it was approved by Old Madam. But this matter is much more significant, and it will require the intervention of the Masters. Unfortunately, with our family rules in place and the Fourth Master’s attitude, I’m afraid the other Masters won’t agree.”
The Ming family was divided into two branches. The head of the family’s first branch, Ming Xiang, had passed away ten years ago. Currently, there were four Masters in the family, ranked first, second, fifth, and sixth.
The head of the second branch, Ming Er, and his wife had passed away even earlier, thirty years ago. They left behind a pair of twins, Ming San and Ming Si, who were the sons of Ming Er.
At that time, Ming San and Ming Si were only six or seven years old, and it wouldn’t have been right to leave them without proper care. Thus, they were raised by their uncle and aunt. Although they eventually moved to separate residences and became part of different branch, their relationship remained closer than that of typical uncles and nephews.
Nevertheless, no matter how close they were, they still belonged to separate branches. Now that Ming San is no longer here
Ming Si, as the head of the second branch, held the authority. If anyone from the other branches wished to interfere in second branch affairs, they would need to seek Ming Si’s approval.
After a moment of contemplation, the Ming San said, “I will find a way to handle this. For now, let’s have the shaman seal the Yin energy.”