“Do you love me because I’m useful? How is that even considered love?” Yan Miao shrilly cried. “Father is the head of the Yan family. He has everything he could ever want. What can I do for him? There are so many servants here. Would food cooked by me be needed? It’s like you’re trying to find bones in a chicken egg! You’re all afraid of those three families. You’ve all abandoned me! You are my father, my big brother, yet you don’t treat me half as well as He Yuan does! How could you say you love me? Your love for me is so minuscule that it can’t even be seen! I hate you! I hate all of you!”
Through bloodshot eyes, Yan Cheng looked at her as though it was the first time he had ever seen her. It was a long time before he spoke.
“Father and I offered up our hearts to you, but you don’t see them,” Cheng said in a choked voice. “He Yuan only has a slick tongue yet you treat him like treasure. Since you hate us, why are you still here? Go back home.”
Tears streaked down Miao’s cheek as she raised her chin high and said, “Look! Look, look, look! You’re not going to pretend to be the great big brother anymore? You’ve finally shown your true self. You all find me bothersome so you want to use this chance to kick me out of the family! However, my surname is still Yan. This is also my home! What right do you have to chase me out?”
The old Mr Yan stood up and slowly walked towards the staircase. Exhaustion laced his voice as he said, “Have you really thought of this place as home? Since I’m useless, why are you still here? Go back. Go.”
When Miao saw that her father was saying the same thing as well, she angrily stomped her foot and shouted, “You are not my father or brother anymore! I never want to come back to this house ever again! I hate all of you!”
Miao then ran out, crying. Mrs Liu was an old servant at the Yan family home. She had watched Miao grow up. When she saw that Miao had forgotten to put on her coat or change back into her heels, Mrs Liu hurriedly grabbed Miao’s coat and heels before chasing after a woman. Instead of gratitude, Mrs Liu was instead greeted by a kick. As Mrs Liu fell to the ground, the enraged Miao snatched up her belongings and ran off.
With a hand on Kong Wen’s arm for support and another on the stairway railing, the old Mr Yan walked up the stairs one step at a time. “Children are born to us because of past debts. SuMei, I couldn’t raise our daughter into a good woman. I’m so sorry…”
Cheng watched as his father hunched forward. It seemed like the elderly man had aged further in just a few moments. It was as if all of the old Mr Yan’s energy had been sapped away in an instant. Looking at the back of his weakened father, Cheng’s hands clenched into fists, veins throbbing visibly. Two streaks of tears soundlessly rolled down that strong and steadfast face.
For the entire afternoon, the old Mr Yan’s mood never recovered. Cheng didn’t return to the office. Instead, he spent the day at home with his father. Wen had mentioned a few times that they should call for the family doctor but the elderly man refused to do so. As the man was in a bad mood, the couple didn’t dare force the man to agree. All they could do was keep a wary eye on his condition. Early that evening, the old Mr Yan chased his son and daughter-in-law off to bed. However, how could they sleep? Every so often, they’d sneak over to check in on him.
Around midnight, the old Mr Yan started to feel some discomfort. He felt like he couldn’t breathe, as if something was restricting his lungs. His breaths came out in short bursts. He couldn’t catch his breath. Thankfully, Cheng and his wife soon found him. They disregarded the elderly man’s objections and rushed him straight into the hospital. According to the doctor, the man had luckily arrived within the time window for treatment. If they had been any later, the old Mr Yan might’ve lost his life.
The couple was so terrified by the information that they broke out in cold sweat. They stayed by the old man’s bed, too afraid to close their eyes. A few hours later, Yan Hui, Zhang Su, Yan Yan and Xu YouRan came charging into the sick room. It was only then that Cheng and Wen were able to have a moment of respite. When the two brothers heard the cause of the old Mr Yan’s illness, they were so furious that their faces went pale.
As dawn crawled closer, the old Mr Yan eventually fell asleep. Wen had been wound up for the entire day. Exhausted, the woman took a brief nap on the sofa. Zhang Su and Xu YouRan stood guard by the elderly man’s bed while Cheng and his two sons walked out of the room for a chat. The three men’s faces had similarly unpleasant expressions.
“Father,” Yan Hui said, first to break the silence, “I know as part of the younger generation, I shouldn’t say this. However, if I don’t say this now, I’m afraid I might burst one day.”
“I know what you want to say,” Cheng responded, jaw clenched.
“Everyone knows you and Grandfather love Aunt dearly,” said Hui. “The three of us as kids did our best to let her have her way. No one ever dared to fight with her for anything she takes a liking to. We don’t even need to talk about her attitude when it comes to Mother. The woman never looks Mother in the eye. If Mother says one word, she can come up with ten different retorts. At the mere mention of Mother, she’ll always be mentioning the word ‘outsider’ over and over again. She makes it feel like my mother, the woman who had been married into the Yan family for over twenty years, who had raised us two, handled all of the housework and taken care of Grandfather, will always be an ‘outsider’.
“I won’t mention the past. There’s no use in bringing it up now. But Pei-Pei is also a girl yet our Aunt insists on overshadowing Pei-Pei in everything. Even now, when people speak of the Third Miss of the Yan family, they still refer to our Aunt. It’s fine. Pei-Pei is still a student. It’s better for her to stay low. When I married Su, she refused to attend as it was too humiliating. She came for Yan’s engagement party but she might as well have not attended. She only arrived as the party was about to end.
“Heh. She even kicked up a big fuss that evening and nearly pissed off the Bai and Mu families so much that they turned hostile. She humiliated the Yan family. Even so, it’s our fault in the first place. It’s a family member who crashed the party. There was nowhere for us to complain to or do anything about. Our aunt feels like she’s been wronged but, be objective here, are your son and his lover not wronged as well?
“We can put that aside. We’re family, after all. It’s fine to suffer a little injustice. However, she actually came to our home today and shouted and argued so much that Grandfather is now hospitalised from anger! Father, pardon me for my unpleasant words but what if you and Mother didn’t find him in time? If anything ever happened to Grandfather… Where would we find the cure for regret? Even if we beat our aunt up, could she have revived Grandfather?”
Hui violently ran a hand over his face to wipe away the tears brimming in his eyes and continued, “Father, if you still insist on unconditionally spoiling her, I can do nothing about it. However, let me put it out there now. From today on, I, Yan Hui, have nothing to do with her. Even if I have to beg for food, I will never beg her!”
Cheng’s lips twitched but he didn’t speak in the end.
Yan, who had always been rather reserved, then spoke up, “Actually, Father, you and Grandfather dote on her so unconditionally but have you ever thought about what she thinks of you? If she even cared an ounce about Grandfather, she wouldn’t have infuriated him this badly despite knowing that he’s so old that his heart has weakened. None of us was home. In our aunt’s eyes, Mother, to put it bluntly, is just a servant. Mother couldn’t have stopped her. If Mother hadn’t called you today, who knows what might’ve happened?
“Just as Brother said, there is no cure for regret in this world. This time, Mother called you just in time. When Grandfather was feeling unwell, we were able to act in time. That’s why Grandfather is safe this time. But what about next time? And the time after that? Do we have to have someone home at all times just to prevent her from doing this again? Don’t you think you and Grandfather’s love for her has all been for nothing? In my opinion, she just thinks of our family as a long-term meal ticket. When we’re useful, she comes back. When she doesn’t need us, she won’t even visit our doorway. No matter what kind of help she requires, it is expected of us. Just once we don’t help her and she holds a grudge against us.”
“My brother’s not wrong,” said Hui. “Heh. Aunt is already over thirty. To her, it’s not just us who are part of the younger generation. Mu JingYuan, Bai Yan and Qi MingYang are too. However, some of us are family heads while others are independent powers. To think thrice before acting is a basic skill. Even Mu JingYuan, who came into power young and is quite powerful, wouldn’t dare to act as brazenly as our aunt. She is a daughter of the main branch of a great family. Does she not even understand this logic? He is the head of a great family. Is he any less powerful than her? She can’t handle the insults and injustice. Does that mean that other people can?
“In the end, she just doesn’t care about what happens to the Yan family. She also doesn’t care if her actions and words would create enemies for the Yan family. This is already proven in how she’d create trouble at her family’s own banquet for the sake of her emotions. Frankly, there have been countless other incidents like this. What does it matter? If she gets into a mess, she has you and Grandfather to help her clean up. If she needs anything, she just needs to ask her father and brother. Why bother upsetting herself? In her eyes, you two are likely hands used to clean up her messes and to obtain an infinite amount of help from.
“Just as Yan said, we don’t help her once and she holds a grudge against us, even if it’s for her own good. Honestly, she just needs to use her mind a little and she can clearly understand the current situation. The Bai and Mu families are furious right now and the Yan family is the party in the wrong. If we act now and go against them, it would undoubtedly fuel their rage. While they’ve targeted the He family, they have left the He family some hope. Once Mu JingYuan calms down, based on our close friendship with Bai YiHan, we just need to talk to YiHan and this matter could be de-escalated. This is the best solution.
“But has our aunt ever considered this? She stubbornly insists you two act. When our logic is explained to her, she refuses to listen. She is a daughter of the Yan family, someone raised by Grandfather himself. Does she really not understand anything? She just doesn’t want to understand. She thinks she has the right to be selfish and kick up a fuss. She thinks everyone has to let her have her way. Mother told me just now that she kept moaning to Grandfather; why must the Bai and Mu families go after her? Ha. Who does she think she is? What’s her relationship with them? We can forgive her for constantly fighting with us, always wanting to one-up us. What duty do other people have to let her win?”
Yan continued on where Hui left off, “Mother heard the majority of what they discussed. Aunt said that the He family could hold on until now because of the years of hard work He Yuan put into the company, growing the company into a powerful force that isn’t easily swayed. She really has the guts to claim that. The He family could be what they are now because you and Grandfather have been helping them in all manner of ways.
“It’s all because of He Yuan? I’m not looking down on him but the man really doesn’t have the capability. The three families are acting together. Even if it’s one of the Great Five, that family could very likely be defeated, let alone the He family. With just one sentence, our aunt has thrown away the years of work you and Grandfather had put in. It’s evident there’s probably nothing left of love or familial ties. Everyone says you can’t clap with one hand. You two have let this clap go on for years. It’s about time you stop. A while ago, Grandfather spent his days laughing in joy like a kid. Look at him now. His brows are locked in a frown. His skin looks pale. He’s an old man. His body can’t handle the strain. Your heart aches for the sister who doesn’t care about you at all, but does it not ache for the father who raised you?”