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55 The Maid and Her Troubles

    Hui'er soon left the room again, carrying a few scrolls of paper and a set of clothes over the box that her Fourth Miss handed her. If anyone saw her right now, she would just look like she was doing her everyday tasks, especially since some servants must've already noticed that the Fourth Miss was recently interested in materials involving painting.

    She took the path closest to the courtyard of the Fourth Miss, the one that servants frequented but anyone with any official authority would not. It was a rocky path, very crudely built and with numerous weeds sprouted all over it. Usually, the path was used for supply shipment and nothing else. Shipment only happened once every month, so the path was fairly empty.

    A little while after Hui'er walked along the path, right near the exit to the villa, she saw a cloaked figure rushing inside, keeping their head bent down so that Hui'er couldn't tell who they were. Even so, Hui'er wanted to avoid any unnecessary situations from happening, so she didn't stop the questionable person from entering.

    On the other hand, this individual seemed to be in such a rush that they didn't see where they were going.

    Before Hui'er could step aside, they crashed into her, causing everything in her hands to fall to the floor. The box of silver taels, just like the other objects, landed on the dirt floor with a solid thud, the contents falling out.

    Instantly, Hui'er's eyes widened. She quickly stepped in front of the silver taels, hiding the scene with her long skirt while looking down with anger at the person she bumped into.

    The person, meanwhile, didn't look at who they bumped into, but was in fact, hastily picking up some scattered beads that fell onto the floor along with them. She seemed nervous, trembling, her hands shaking as she picked up the beads.

    Hui'er's gaze fell downwards along with the person, who seemed to be a young girl. The beads that she was picking up were a set of round porcelain beads that were all a deep turquoise shade. A few of them were shattered, but the girl was still focused on picking up the unbroken ones.

    The beads were familiar. Too familiar.

    Hui'er knew them. She racked through her memories, trying to recall when she saw them, and remembered the First Miss and her box of jewelry. Amongst all of them was one of her favorite necklaces, one made with the same beads that the girl was picking up now.

    The First Miss, as far as she knew, would never give the necklace away. It was one of her favorites. So, what was this servant doing with it?

    The girl finished with gathering the beads before Hui'er could say anything. She looked up, finally, and gave Hui'er a full display of a face she knew.

    Manyu.

    Manyu- one of her close servant friends- worked in the kitchens. What would she be doing with such precious jewelry that belonged to the First Miss?

    A look of surprise also passed over Manyu's face when she saw Hui'er.

    \"Hui- hui- Hui'er-\" she stuttered, instinctively clutching her handful of beads tighter.

    Numerous thoughts and reasons appeared in Hui'er's head. Tentatively, she began, \"What... what are you doing with the First Miss's necklace?\"

    Manyu didn't seem to have a response to this. Instead, she looked back at Hui'er quietly, a guilty expression surfacing on her face.

    All of a sudden, Hui'er recalled the rumors she heard floating around the household.

    The Old Master's antiques were going missing in the household. Numerous pieces of jewelry from various courtyards were going missing as well. The storage room was missing more and more things every month as various food items, supplies, and taels were vanishing without explanation or documentation.

    They said that there was a thief in the Yang Household.

    Could it be that Manyu was the one they were talking of?

    \"No...\" Hui'er shook her head and muttered to herself. She took a hesitant step back, her skirt fluttering a bit in the breeze.

    That was all it took for Manyu's attention to divert to something else. She caught a glimpse of silver behind the other girl's skirt.

    Hui'er noticed her gaze and immediately took a few more steps back, attempting to cover the silver. Yet it was already too late. Manyu noticed the behavior and stood up, pushing Hui'er to the side to see what she was trying to hide.

    Her lips parted slightly when she saw the pile of silver spilled out of the box when she viewed the scene. Staring at it incredulously, both of them were now at a loss of words, unsure of what the situation was.

    \"Could you be- are you one of them?\" Manyu looked at the silver, her expression unreadable.

    \"Them?\"

    What was Manyu talking about?

    \"No. You can't be.\" Instantly, Manyu answered her own question, ignoring Hui'er's confusion. \"You serve the Fourth Miss. There's no way they would let you join them.\"

    \"Who are 'they'?\" Hui'er asked. She was shaking her head, utterly incapable of deciphering the situation.

    Manyu opened her mouth, seemingly about to answer her question, but before she could do so, she suddenly moved quickly, dropping the beads she just gathered all over the floor and bowing towards someone behind Hui'er. She began to tremble once more.

    Hui'er spun around to see who it was. Upon seeing the person, she bowed as well.

    \"Steward Liu,\" she acknowledged briefly while struggling to keep her voice steady.

    She didn't expect the steward of the house, the one who managed all the supplies and servants in the villa, to go through this path, and not at this moment at all. How was she supposed to explain all of this? How could she explain the one hundred silver taels in the box?

    The steward looked at the two of them with narrowed eyes, his gaze scanning over the two of them and the scattered silver on the ground.

    \"What is this?\"

    Hui'er opened her mouth to speak, but Manyu cut in front of her faster, speaking while trembling continuously, \"Stew- Steward Liu- I was just running an errand for the kitchen and accidently bumped into Hui'er. She was the one- the one to drop the box and a necklace in her hand too! I really don't know what all of this is, Steward, I really don't.\"

    \"What?\" Hui'er stared with disbelief at Manyu. She thought of the girl as one of her closest friends in the household, but here she was, putting all of the blame on her! \"Manyu, don't speak so blindly! Clearly, you were the one who dropped the necklace. I was going to the bank for the Fourth Miss to exchange some silver taels, yet you were the one who was so suspiciously in a rush and holding the necklace too.\"

    The steward listened to the two of them speak their parts, then held up his hand. Gruffly, he ordered, \"Enough. I'm sure that both of you know of the recent... thievery that has been going on in the household. Regardless of what happened, this must be reported to the Old Master.\"

    Manyu stared at him in fear while Hui'er questioned, \"Steward Liu, do you think of me as a thief?\"

    The look in his eyes was enough of an answer. Of course- how could he not? She had one hundred silver taels in a box while exiting the villa. Even if she said that this was a belonging of the Fourth Miss, who would believe that a mere Fourth Miss would own twice the amount of what the Old Master would earn in a month?

    Hui'er could only swallow her grievances and follow along with the steward to the Old Master's courtyard. The only thing that she could do was to wish for her words to be believed then.
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