Demotion to Fifth Rank
When Feng Jin Yuan returned to the manor, he saw Jin Zhen from far away, standing at the entrance and repeatedly looking for him. For a while, he felt a little moved. He had taken in so many wives and concubines. Just counting the head wives of the Feng family, there had been four, and there was even a pair of even-ranking head wives now. But at this sort of time, the one to stand at the entrance to wait for him was Jin Zhen, who had been raised from a servant.
Feng Jin Yuan got out of his carriage, and Jin Zhen immediately went up to receive him. He reached for Jin Zhen’s shoulder and gently patted it twice, saying in a heavy voice: “Let’s go in to speak.” Letting go, he grabbed Jin Zhen’s small hand and pulled her into the manor.
Jin Zhen was a little worried and wanted to ask a few things; however, she felt that Feng Jin Yuan’s expression was very bad. This made her too scared to dare ask, but she still had to remind him: “Elder madam became infuriated because of eldest young miss’ matter. When this concubine came out, she was still crying and screaming. I don’t know how she is now.”
Feng Jin Yuan held her hand even tighter, his brow becoming covered in sweat.
Before the two reached the entrance, they heard the matriarch loudly scream: “Burn all of her things! Don’t leave a single thing behind. It’s disgusting to look at!”
Feng Jin Yuan paused for a moment then quickly entered. Just as he stepped past the sill, a cane went flying straight at him. Immediately following this, the matriarch angrily cursed: “You still have the face to come back! If it was not for you indulging that girl time and time again, could she possibly have caused this disaster for the Feng family? Would she have been able to harm her younger sister time and time again? The one the Feng family must rely on is A-Heng. It’s absolutely not Feng Chen Yu. Do you understand this or not?”
Once this was said, nobody expected that Xiang Rong, who never liked speaking, would suddenly sneer then say: “Grandmother’s thoughts sure have changed quickly. If it was like this from the beginning, how great would that have been. Second sister would not have suffered so many hardships.”
The always cautious An shi did not stop her, using her silence to agree with her daughter’s opinion.
Feng Jin Yuan, however, became unhappy. “What hardships did she suffer?” When these words were spoken, his jaws were firmly clenched. Everyone could clearly see that this father hated his second daughter to the extreme limit.
If this was said earlier, Feng Jin Yuan’s attitude would have received praise. At least Fen Dai and Han shi would definitely be on the same side as him; however, this time was different. Not only did Fen Dai not agree with him, she even quietly said: “Third sister is right.”
“What did you say?” Feng Jin Yuan practically thought that he had misheard.
But, very quickly, Han shi, An shi and the Cheng shi sisters, and even Jin Zhen, began to launch an offensive. Especially Han shi, who held her own belly and said: “Eldest young miss not examining herself is whatever, yet she was sent to the Xiang Palace to lose face. If she alone dies, that’s not a problem; however, it absolutely must not implicate others!”
Feng Jin Yuan’s face turned green with anger. He pointed at the people in the room and asked: “Indeed, something has happened, but Chen Yu has been sentenced to be executed by being cut at the waist. Why do none of you feel a trace of grief? She is your family!”
His words did not receive any response. Although the matriarch no longer cried, her expression did not improve. Feng Yu Heng had frightened her, and she had no place to vent. She could only vent it all on Chen Yu.
After a long time, so long that Feng Jin Yuan believed that nobody would speak, he suddenly heard Xiang Rong speak coldly once more: “It serves her right!”
These words gave voice to what everyone had been thinking, but Xiang Rong and An shi were feeling outraged for the injustice that Feng Yu Heng had suffered. The others were worrying about their own affairs. Feng Chen Yu courting death was something that they could watch for fun, but if it became related to their own survival, then her death was something that she deserved.
Feng Jin Yuan felt a cold aura exuding from his body. Had this family’s hearts finally begun to lean toward Feng Yu Heng? He was extremely angry and pointed at Han shi, asking: “Exactly how many benefits did that girl promise you? And you,” He looked at Fen Dai: “Do you truly understand who is the master of the Feng family?”
Han shi lacked courage and did not dare speak. Seeing her father become angry, Fen Dai lowered her head and did not speak. At this time, Cheng Jun Man spoke up: “Husband, don’t blame the women and children. It’s not that county princess promised them any benefits, it’s that eldest young miss promised too many bad things. At this sort of time, shouldn’t husband think about how to get through this difficult time? Or perhaps you should wonder why you are complaining entirely about county princess, when it was the Feng family that raised that sort of shameful daughter? This matter is completely unrelated to county princess.”
The matriarch also thought this way and asked Feng Jin Yuan: “For this matter, what has the palace said?”
Only then did Feng Jin Yuan regain his senses. Only then did he realize that it was the palace’s attitude that mattered in this pursuit of responsibility, but… “I was completely unable to meet his Majesty.”
Cheng Jun Mei asked: “Did husband not go, or did his Majesty not see you?”
Feng Jin Yuan replied: “His Majesty did not see me.”
The entire family fell silent and began to formulate guesses. What sort of disaster would befall the Feng family this time.
Outside the hall, housekeeper He Zhong hurriedly ran inside with a face full of panic. Even his voice was trembling: “Elder madam, master, the palace has sent people with a decree.”
Feng Jin Yuan felt a “boom” sound near his ear, and his body leaned sideways, nearly causing him to fall. Jin Zhen supported him from the side, but she did not have much strength, and her hand began to shake too.
The matriarch had Cheng Jun Man help her up from the ground. Everyone helped each other out to the front yard. Feng Jin Yuan looked and saw that Zhang Yuan had personally come to announce this decree.
Although Zhang Yuan was a eunuch, he was the Emperor’s personal eunuch. He was extremely spoiled, and he would not be easily convinced to act as a messenger. Although this was not his first time coming to the Feng manor to announce an imperial decree, the last time was to send Feng Yu Heng the Hou Yi bow. What would he be doing this time?
Feng Jin Yuan stepped forward to receive him, “Eunuch Zhang, what sort of imperial decree would have you come personally?”
Zhang Yuan glanced at Feng Jin Yuan, and his expression became ugly. After looking around the group, his expression became even uglier.
“Why do I not see county princess?”
Feng Jin Yuan was stunned then said: “She might be at her own manor. Does eunuch need for her to be here to receive the decree?”
Zhang Yuan waved his hand, “There’s no need for that. It’s just that the chef at the palace made a roast duck. The skin is very crispy and fragrant. Right before coming out, his Majesty specifically instructed me to bring some to county princess. Since county princess is not at the Feng manor, I will have someone send it to the county princess’ manor.” Saying this, he raised his hand, and the two eunuchs behind him that were carrying food boxes immediately turned to leave the manor, going next door.
Feng Jin Yuan wanted to say that this Zhang Yuan should not have come for the sole purpose of sending Feng Yu Heng some duck, right?
It was very clear that his thoughts were too optimistic. Immediately following this, he saw Zhang Yuan unfurl the imperial decree and loudly say: “Feng Jin Yuan to receive the imperial decree.”
All of the members of the Feng family kneeled on the ground, and the announcement of the imperial decree came: “Prime minister Feng Jin Yuan was not strict in raising his daughter. Disrespecting the imperial family and ruining the imperial family’s reputation, a punishment must be handed down. But We have noticed the work that county princess Ji An has done for the country, thus the Feng family shall be spared the punishment of death. Feng Jin Yuan will be demoted to standard fifth rank official and will no longer be permitted to attend morning court sessions. That shall be the case.”
Once this was said, the matriarch fell to the ground, and Cheng Jun Man caught her. Her expression showed that this was not unexpected. This sort of outcome was not an exaggeration for Feng Jin Yuan.
Zhang Yuan saw that Feng Jin Yuan was still kneeling there without any reaction, thus he extended the imperial decree forward: “Official Feng, receive the imperial decree!”
He had been changed from a prime minister to a middle-ranking official, and he had been demoted from standard first rank to standard fifth rank. Feng Jin Yuan’s mind and heart were a mess. He practically extended his arms to receive the imperial decree without thinking.
Zhang Yuan added: “You have not yet given your thanks.”
He bowed in a kowtow and said: “Thank his Majesty for his imperial grace.”
The matriarch began wailing once more, gradually changing from a weak cry to a loud one. This caused Zhang Yuan to frown.
Feng Jin Yuan was already in a bad mood. With the matriarch crying like this, his mind became even more of a mess, and he could not help but shout: “Stop crying!”
He had never spoken like this to the matriarch. Now that he suddenly said this, the matriarch was given a fright. Her cries became stuck in her throat and could neither go up or down. This caused her to begin coughing.
When she finally finished coughing, she heard Zhang Yuan say: “Elder madam, do not rush to cry. There is another thing that we must remind Official Feng.” He coldly looked at Feng Jin Yuan then looked around at everyone in the Feng manor. Without any haste or laziness, he said: “This residence was conferred by his Majesty to the standard first rank prime minister. Presently, lord Feng has been demoted to a standard fifth rank official. This place, you naturally will not be able to continue living in. Of course, his Majesty is still sympathetic with lord Feng, specifically sending someone to the Southwest side of the capital to find a new residence to confer you. The Feng family has five days to move out.”
“This…” Feng Jin Yuan was stunned, “Move out? This residence was conferred by his Majesty!”
Zhang Yuan rolled his eyes, “Lord Feng, did you not understand what was just said? The residence was indeed conferred by his Majesty, but his Majesty conferred it to the prime minister. Right now, you are no longer the prime minister. Naturally, it must be taken back. But if the Feng family insists on not moving out, his Majesty said that if the Feng family wishes to continue living here, 8000 taels of silver must be sent to the governor’s office each month as rent. To rent it for half a year, lord Feng must send 48 thousand taels to the governor’s office.”
Feng Jin Yuan wiped away some sweat. 8000 taels for one month. This was not a small amount. Even if the Feng family was at its peak, if it was not for the Chen family’s support, it would be quite difficult for them to bring out this much money. Now, the manor no longer had any money. Where would he go to find 48 thousand taels?
The matriarch had already stood up with Cheng Jun Man’s support. Upon hearing this large number, she nearly fainted. She began to negotiate with Zhang Yuan: “Can it not be a little lower?”
Zhang Yuan said to the matriarch: “If you wish to discuss the price, it cannot be done with me. Please go into the palace to discuss it with his Majesty. But…” He paused then said: “His Majesty also had another imperial decree, but this one is for the elder madam. Elder madam’s body is weak, so there is no need to kneel. We will just speak like this, and you can just listen while standing. Since elder madam was formerly the mother of the court’s prime minister, his Majesty conferred you with the title of first rank noble lady. Now that your son is just a fifth rank official without the ability to attend court, your title of noble lady will also be taken back.”
The matriarch was completely numb. The repeated attacks caused her mind to become dazed. Without having any chance to think about giving thanks, she just asked Feng Jin Yuan: “In the end, will we need to move out or not?”
Feng Jin Yuan was thinking of something and was not in the mood to speak with her. Cheng Jun Man gently sighed and said: “We will need to move out. Presently, there are no funds left. Even if we became a merchant family, how long could we sustain it for? This residence will be lost sooner or later.”
Zhang Yuan nodded, “Madam is correct.” He then said to Feng Jin Yuan: “If lord Feng does not have any objections, on the fourth day, oh, that would be the second day after the manor’s eldest young miss is executed. At that time, I will come again to the manor to ask lord Feng to return the manor’s deed. That way, we can return to report to his Majesty.”
Feng Jin Yuan trembled. The deed?