The room was not small, with the bedroom connected to the study, separated by a sandalwood bookcase with elegant and antique lattice work.
The windows did not have glass, but were pasted with old-fashioned paper, with good lighting and a view of the wildflowers beginning to bloom in the courtyard.
From Ling Shu's perspective, he could see a vibrant spring scene.
But all of this could not hide the poverty of the room.
There should have been a desk next to the window.
The bookcase should have had neatly arranged books.
The curio cabinet should have had vases and other common household decorations.
Perhaps there should have been a gentleman orchid or bonsai, the four treasures of the study, or open calligraphy or letter paper on the desk.
There was nothing.
This was an empty room. "No, there's still something here," he thought to herself.
A bed and some bedding were all that was in the room.
This couldn't possibly be a guest room, it seemed more like a place to mistreat disobedient concubines.
Even Steward He knew that the environment was too shabby. He couldn't come up with anything nice to say, so he desperately tried to think of excuses to cover up the situation.
"Yes? Yes! Young Master Yue, what can I do for you?"
Upon hearing Yue Dingtang's voice, he quickly looked up and forced a smile.
"May I ask if all of the guest rooms in the Guan family are like this?"
Steward He repeatedly said, "Yes, yes, you are half of our own family and also an honored guest. I dare not show any neglect. To be honest, this room is already the best among all the guest rooms. The others either haven't been cleaned or don't even have bedding. The bedding on your bed was specially prepared and delivered yesterday!"
Ling Shu asked, "Steward He, what about my room?"
Steward He smiled and replied, "If you don't mind, this pull-out bed is also quite large. I can have someone bring an extra pillow for you later."
Ling Shu: ...
Yue Dingtang's face visibly darkened. He didn't say anything, but a storm seemed to be brewing in his eyes, which might erupt soon.
Steward He couldn't quite read the other's temperament, but he had heard of the Yue family's background. The young master from the Yue family is probably used to being treated like royalty at home.
But now, he has come to pay his respects to the deceased and is being treated poorly. Anyone in his shoes would be unhappy.
"You don't understand," the steward explains. "After the old master fell ill, everything in these guest rooms, regardless of its value, was taken away. This room is the cleanest and most well-equipped of all the guest rooms. I have prepared it for you, and I cannot bear to let you stay in any of the others."
Yue Dingtang furrows his brow. "The servants sold everything? Why didn't you report this to the master?"
The steward can only smile wryly.
Suddenly, Ling Shu speaks up. "Perhaps the sons of Old Master Guan have already divided up everything."
Yue Dingtang looks at the steward intently.
After a moment of resistance, the steward finally succumbs to his gaze.
"Master Yue, if I tell you this, please don't go to Second Master, or else I won't be able to stay in the Guan family anymore with my big mouth," the steward said nervously.
"Go ahead and tell me," Yue replied calmly.
"During the old master's illness, he called several sons together and divided the family's wealth among them, allowing them to go their separate ways. However, he did not mention who would inherit the house. The Eldest Master bought a new house in the city and moved his belongings out, saying that he could make his own decisions about his own things without reporting to the old master. The Second and Fourth Masters followed suit, at first only taking things from their own rooms, but gradually moving on to the guest rooms, afraid of missing out and not wanting to fall behind. Even the servants began to sneak around and steal things, and I caught several of them, but I couldn't interfere with the masters' affairs. Fortunately, the things in the storeroom were still untouched. The old master gave five keys to the five masters, but no one could open the storeroom without all five being present."
Yue Dingtang knew that there were internal conflicts within the Guan family, but he didn't expect it to be so chaotic.
In the guest room, the originally displayed vases and decorations were either sold off or taken away to fill their own new homes.
With the old master gone, there was no leader and everyone was out for their own gain.
As the masters acted, the servants naturally began to steal and deceive, becoming more and more unscrupulous.
"What about the Third and Fifth Masters?" Ling Shu asked.
"Third Master loves woodworking and often locks himself in his room, so no one dares to disturb him. Fifth Master wasn't here at the time. When he returned and heard about this, he was furious. I saw it with my own eyes, he even had a fight with the Eldest Master," replied He, the steward.
"What about you? Whose side are you on?" Yue Dingtang asked.
He was taken aback. "Why do you ask?"
Yue Dingtang asked, "After exposing all the misdeeds of the masters, can you still continue working in this household?"
"Master Yue, you don't know the whole story. I used to serve the old master, but when he passed away, the other masters didn't want me. It was only the Second Master who asked me to receive you. If he doesn't want to keep me after you leave, I'll have to pack up and return to my hometown."
With nothing else to say, he bowed and took his leave.
"You two can rest for now. Hot water and towels have been sent for and will arrive soon. In an hour, I'll come to escort you to the dining hall."
"Why so quiet now?"
After Steward He left, Yue Dingtang glanced at Ling Shu.
"It's rare to see you at a loss for words like this."
"Old Yue, your maternal family is really something else," Ling Shu clicked his tongue twice. "Look, not only is there nothing on the table, even the chairs have been moved. That chair was originally made of yellow pear wood, right? If they didn't want to save face, I bet the table would be gone too!"
Yue Dingtang frowned, "What kind of language is that? They're not my maternal family, they're my mother's maternal family."
"Close enough, close enough!" Ling Shu laughed, "So where do I sit?"
He directly sat on the yellow flower pear wood table, his long legs dangling in the air, arms crossed.
"Interesting, really interesting!"
Yue Dingtang asked, "What's so interesting?"
Ling Shu exclaimed, "Everywhere is interesting! According to Steward He, it seems that there isn't a single one of your uncles who is pleasing to the eye. What did the old master leave for you that required you to travel all the way from Shanghai to here? Does he not know the character of his own descendants and wants you to come and witness a joke?"
Yue Dingtang replied, "We cannot fully trust Steward He's words."
Ling Shu waved his hand, "I know, but you have seen how your eldest and fourth uncles are always at odds. Now, only the Fifth Master can be relied upon."
Yue Dingtang pursed his lips, revealing a hint of helplessness on his face.
With his calm and composed personality that never showed his emotions, he must have been impressed by the lively scene that greeted him upon entering the house and amazed by the eccentricities of the entire Guan family.
But he was still a relative, a relative who hadn't visited for decades. If it weren't for the old master's funeral, he probably wouldn't have remembered that there was still this relative, let alone come here.
"Old Yue, there's something I need to tell you in advance," Ling Shu interrupted his thoughts.
Yue Dingtang looked puzzled.
Ling Shu said, "Um, I don't sleep well."
Yue Dingtang responded, "Then you can sleep on the floor at night. I'll have Steward He take care of it and bring an extra blanket."
Ling Shu exaggerated his expression: "How can you bear to let your old classmate who came from afar to accompany you at the risk of his life sleep on the floor!"
Yue Dingtang replied, "But you are still my subordinate. The boss sleeps on the bed, and the subordinate sleeps on the floor. Isn't that how it should be?"
The more serious Yue Dingtang's expression was, the more Ling Shu believed that he had some ulterior motives. Under the eaves, one must bow their head.
Ling Shu didn't want to spend his own money on a hotel, let alone settle for other unswept rooms.
If this room was so rundown, it was hard to imagine how other rooms would be.
Ling Shu approached with a flattering smile.
"I know you talk tough but have a soft heart, and you always cherish old friendships with your former classmates. How about we go back to Yuelai Inn and stay for another night?"
Yue Dingtang shook his head. "I have to go up the mountain early tomorrow morning to pay my respects to the old master. I'm afraid I won't make it back in time. I'll just have to make do tonight."
"Okay, okay. I sleep pretty well, I promise not to move around."
With that, Ling Shu took advantage of his unpreparedness and lay directly on the pallet bed, taking the initiative and rolling around before getting up.
"See, now the bed has my scent. Don't be disgusted, okay?"