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At daybreak on the morrow, the Patriarch sent someone to invite Tang Fan and Tang Yu over, the place of their discussion being the middle hall of the He’s primary courtyard.
The Patriarch and Matriarch were seated at the head seats, while two rows of chairs were arranged below them, separated out for Tang Fan, Tang Yu, and He Lin. The Tang siblings sat on one side, while He Lin sat on the other.
The rift between them was clearly defined.
No one had a great-looking expression.
He Lin’s was overcast, some traces of a hangover still on his face. Despite sitting here, he never looked at Tang Yu.
Tang Yu’s was placid, as if she didn’t even notice that He Lin existed. Her head was slightly bowed, yet her line of sight was fallen to the overlapped hands on her lower abdomen.
After the Wei incident, as well as He Lin’s fuss at the entrance of the bamboo courtyard, He Ying and Lady Xu’s spirits weren’t that great, either.
The Wei’s were inconsequential; even though they had lost lives, they were just the He’s in-laws, and ultimately partitioned a layer away from them. This son that was He Lin, however, gave He Ying a headache.
Though the parents each had their own favorites amongst their three sons, they had never treated any of them particularly unfairly on account of their consciences. It was simply that He Lin himself had made no progress in life, failing the tests repeatedly over these years without one accomplishment to himself, and beginning to blame everyone but himself for it. He had even blamed his parents for ever getting him a wife that had no natal family to rely on, saying to outsiders more than once that if he had gotten one that was from an official’s family like the Eldest’s, or one from a wealthy family like the Third’s, she would have at least been able to give her husband some aid.
He Ying distinctly remembered that when Lady Wei had just married into the He’s, He Lin had believed that as a merchant’s daughter, her status was unpresentable, while Tang Yu, in contrast, was well-bred, and thus completely satisfactory.
Alas, time had passed, and the satisfaction of the past had become the present’s dissatisfaction. No matter what, this was nothing other than a failure of He Lin’s own self, but he refused to admit that, forever finding the cause in others.
Coupling that with last night’s incident, He Ying was entirely disappointed in this son of his.
“Uncle,” Tang Fan was the first to speak, “as I recall, before my sister entered the He’s door, our Tang elders had already passed. We siblings thought that she wouldn’t be able to claim connections to you all, and expected the engagement to be dropped, only for you to stand your ground against the opinions of the public by persevering with fulfilling the promise you made on that day. That sort of honor is something I admire to this day.”
He Ying shook his head. “Since the betrothal had already been drawn up, it deserved to be fulfilled. People that don’t keep their word have no standing. The He’s only did what should have been done, and your praise is something this old man doesn’t deserve.”
“You do indeed deserve it,” Tang Fan answered mildly. “You must know that human relationships change between hot and cold, the ways of society flipping between fire and ice. In this day and age, people of the world only know how to adhere themselves to that fire; how many know how to stand by their promises? My sister and I are extremely grateful to your actions, but this nephew has something that I’m unclear on. I would like to ask you two elders for your wisdom.”
He Ying knew what he probably wanted to say, but had no choice but to answer. “Do ask, good nephew.”
“I dare then, Uncle and Aunt; after my sister married into the He’s, has she ever acted in violation of womanly virtues?”
He Ying was now completely clear on what he wanted to say, yet still had to answer. “No.”
“In this past decade, my brother-in-law has tested and failed repeatedly, becoming moody, suffering jeers and nasty looks. Not only did she not disdain him, but she instead treated him the same as she always had, gentle and considerate. Is that not true?”
He never looked at He Lin, but even the latter couldn’t say sleepy words while wide awake, remaining silent.
He Ying sighed. “It’s true. Our eldest’s wife went abroad with him and isn’t before us, while our third’s wife only came later. In the years prior to that, thanks to our second’s wife’s virtuousness and filial piety, she attended to us parents, and birthed Qilang. She has been meritorious to the He’s.”
Tang Fan nodded. “Thank you for your impartial words, Uncle. They mean that the wrongs my sister has suffered over the years have not been in vain. Last night, my brother-in-law said that he wants to divorce her; what do you think about that, Uncle?”
“That was nonsense my stupid son said after drinking. How could it be taken seriously?” He Ying answered without a thought.
The other shook his head. “Isn’t it actually that the truth is always spat out after drinking? To divorce a wife in our Great Ming, the female party must have committed one of the Seven Ousts: not being filial to parents, having no heirs, being adulterous, being jealous, being contagiously diseased, talking too much, or thieving. I dare ask you, brother-in-law; which of those has she committed?“
He Lin’s eyes were shot red. No mistake should be made, though — he wasn’t crying, he was hungover.
He also didn’t appear to feel any sort of shame towards his words and actions from last night, despite his sobriety, instead sneering. “Your sister has been married into the He’s for years, but how many times have you visited? Now that you’ve got the Brocade Guard backing you up, you swagger up to the door to show off your might? Even like that, what’s between her and I isn’t for you to stick your nose into! What kind of thing even are you?!”
“My brother isn’t a thing, he’s a person! You’re the only one that isn’t anything!”
Upon hearing He Lin’s scolding, Tang Yu hadn’t been able to hold back anymore, snatching the conversation before Tang Fan could speak. She was typically poised; never had there be a time where she became red-faced in rage, and she had endured everything silently, even if she was being treated coldly by her husband. The He’s had never seen her when she was furious, and all of them — He Lin included — were stunned for a minute.
As Tang Fan saw it, this was the sister he was familiar with.
Before getting married, the Eldest Miss of the Tang’s had been this lively. After marrying into the He’s, being a wife was ultimately different from being a daughter, so she had had to conceal all of her sharp edges. It was only today that she could no longer withstand it, returning to her original personality.
Tang Fan knew that if he hadn’t shown up, she would have had to keep enduring this for who knew how long, and as soon as he thought such, his heart was drowned with self-blame.
Her expression was frosty. Once she had shed the mask she had always had in front of people, she became slightly unfamiliar in the eyes of the He’s.
“The Tang family was strict in its traditions, and taught its daughters from the Four Books for Women ever since their childhoods. I can’t claim to be perfect, but I’ve read each and every one of the admonishments for women until I knew them by heart. In the He home, I performed dawn and dusk visits to you, served my in-laws, attended to my husband, and birthed a child. I dared not have any slack for one day. Even though He Lin didn’t test into being a Provincial Honorate, I never thought that he was completely useless.
“That’s because, from how I see it, a man’s goodness doesn’t depend on how big of an official he is, it depends on whether or not he’s broad-minded and has upstanding conduct. From the very beginning of when I married him, I didn’t expect him to give me any amount of glory, only wholeheartedly wishing to spend life with him nicely.”
“Liar!” He Lin growled. “You never thought that at all! You hate that I’m useless and can’t add any shine to your reputation! You hate that I won’t make you the wife of a Provincial Honorate like the Third’s is!”
She scoffed at him. “Is being the wife of a Provincial that great? I’m the sister of a Palace one!”
Tang Fan nearly couldn’t resist smiling, quickly blanking out his face. Tang Yu’s fighting prowess was not only making him look at her in a whole new light, but made the He’s do so, too.
“Father, mother, you’ve seen as much, as well. I know myself that I’ve already done all I can, yet the Second still completely misreads me. He insists upon saying that I hate him, and he treats me with all sorts of coldness. From whence can I defend this?
“When I wedded, I had no support because my elders had died, but Runqing cherished me, using nearly all of his possessions as dowry for me to enter into the He’s. Over these years, the He’s set aside for our second branch an allowance of thirty monthly taels, and four annual sets of clothes. That had originally been enough, but because of the Second going out to visit friends, throwing dinner parties, and buying references, he spends more than a half month’s worth at times.
“I had some savings on my end. As an official’s family, the He’s have dinner parties every once in a while, and as its daughter-in-law, I absolutely must not wear those clothes more than once when I leave the house, thus causing the He’s to lose face — that requires expenses, too. Adding onto that is Qilang’s reading and writing materials, where I need to buy inksticks and stones. Frankly speaking, the thirty taels the He’s give are not enough to use, so I’ve had no choice but to use my dowry as a supplement.”
Lady Xu was a little displeased, and had to speak up. “We give the same allowance to the Eldest and the Third’s families, and they never complained before!”
Tang Yu laughed. “Everyone knows that Zhejiang is affluent. The eldest is Jiaxing’s Magistrate, so those thirty taels are nothing to him at all. Father used to be a high official; he must know that my words are true. As for our younger siblings, setting aside the fact that she’s the daughter of a wealthy family, judging from your favor towards the Third, I expect that you give him private supplements, so as not to cause them to feel wronged.”
She saw that Lady Xu’s face had gone ugly, but she didn’t relent on her words. “Mother, these statements are not me blaming you, they are just assertions of fact. Over these years, I have used my dowry to subsidize the Second. I have no complaints, as a husband and wife are one unit, and that is how it should be. However, just because that is how it should be doesn’t mean I will let others completely ignore my investment, or even be ungrateful, abandoning me like worn-out shoes. Father, mother, tell me; does that make sense to you?”
Tang Fan couldn’t help but laud his sister.
The other three people in the hall had different expressions. He Ying and Lady Xu still had some dignity, and inevitably found it hard to take getting called out like this, but He Lin wasn’t thinking the same at all, sneering. “You talked for so long just to exonerate yourself! If you really were perfectly happy to do all this, you wouldn’t have made such a clear mental list of everything!”
Tang Yu had gone cold towards this man, and sneered right back without mercy. “What of it? You can’t even test into being a Provincial! All day long, you lose your mind in your room, shutting your door and saying that no one in the family values you! Since you’re so bold, go find a way to support yourself! Why even need to take the thirty taels your parents give you?!”
“Y… you wench!” He Lin went pale with anger at once, unable to say more.
She paid him no attention, continuing to speak to He Ying and Lady Xu. “I had thought that when Qilang grew up fully, and I was considered as not having failed to live up to the expectations you had for me, there would be no need for me to have somebody divorce me then, as I would ask to leave the hall myself. However, you both have witnessed with your own eyes that he, as a father, can be so ruthless to his own son for no rhyme or reason. Had Runqing not come in time, how badly would Qilang have been beaten? You were present yesterday, mother and father! Please speak some justice for Qilang and I!”
He Ying coughed lightly. “Ganyu’s act… was indeed excessive. I scolded him harshly yesterday, too…”
“I’m afraid that ‘excessive’ doesn’t describe it enough,” Tang Yu answered placidly. “It would’ve been fine if he only hit me then, but if Qilang was hit, and something terrible happened to him, I wouldn’t have been able to live. I would have hung myself right here, letting the world have a good look at how heartless He Lin is.”
He Lin had his own justification, of course. “Everyone was suspecting Qilang, and he wasn’t saying anything! If I didn’t beat him, how could I have cleared away his suspicion? How could I have maintained the He’s reputation?”
“The He’s reputation relies on a child being beaten?” Tang Yu shot back. “As Qilang’s father, you’re no bystander. Why do you not understand his nature? Why did Runqing not need to ask Qilang anything to ascertain the truth?”
He Lin’s shame turned to rage. “All that talk, and you just hate that I’m not as capable as your little brother!”
“…” Tang Fan finally understood why his sister was completely disappointed in her husband.
The man was beyond reason. Ever since his path of the imperial exams had been obstructed, it became the only thing left that filled his heart and eyes, practically becoming his obsession. Inferiority led to sensitivity, and sensitivity led to irritability, hence why, no matter what anyone else said, he could drag it into relating to this.
For all these years, from how gentle-natured Tang Yu was, she had probably comforted and tried to communicate with him plenty. If there was even a bit of a hope for turnaround right now, however, she wouldn’t have been how she was now, wanting nothing more than to take Qilang with her to leave the He’s.
He Lin was completely submerged in his own little world. It had long become difficult for him to free himself from it.
He Ying knew that having a son like this was too shameful. Before Tang Yu could speak to Tang Fan, he slapped his armrest hard, saying “Shut up!”, then turned to the Tang siblings. “Second Lady, what are you getting at? If you have an idea, there’s no harm in stating it. If we have the power to assist, we will naturally handle things for you.”
He knew that Tang Yu had said this much, and so gravely, not only to air her wrongs.
The issue of the second branch not having enough allowance to use was something he had heard a little about before, but, first of all, his three sons were all the same on the surface, none owed, nor favored. Even if any of them had difficulty getting by in life, or were wealthy, that would rely on their own capabilities.
Second of all, power over the inner residence was grasped in Lady Xu’s hands. As her husband, he wanted to give her that face, and couldn’t rashly get involved; all three sons had been born from her, anyways, so she wouldn’t treat them unfairly.
Hence, he had never asked.
Tang Yu understood as much, so she had never complained before. Now that a decision had already been made, though, and everyone was in open discussions, it had been necessary for her to lay things out piece by piece, lest others believe her to be making trouble for no reason.
As soon as she heard that question, she looked at Tang Fan. The two had already agreed that he would step forth to take care of this.
“My brother-in-law said earlier that he was going to divorce my sister,” he said. “However, she has not only not violated any of the Seven Ousts, but occupies the clause of ‘has no natal family to return to’ under the Three Stays. He can’t divorce her, according to standards. With things how they are now, even if they barely manage to stay together, they likely wouldn’t have a good life. Since he feels that she lacks virtue, my sister is willing to relinquish her status as his first wife to let him take another, more virtuous woman.”
With how intelligent the Patriarch was, he quickly understood. “You wish to separate?”
Tang Fan nodded. “Yes, separate. And also take Qilang with her.”
The He’s all looked shocked.
Undergoing the previous spread of things, everyone had already anticipated that they would propose a separation, but they had an objection towards where Qilang would be.
“That’s impossible,” He Ying said automatically. “Qilang is a descendant of the He’s, so he should remain with the He’s. There is no reason for any woman to take children with her in a separation!”
Seeing that the Tang siblings’ faces were unchanged, he had to warm up his tone to persuade them. “Runqing, things getting messed up to this extent is not what we want. Luckily, it’s not too late, and there’s still margin for redemption. Regardless of whether a woman can remarry or not after a separation, she will suffer people’s nasty looks everywhere, which is likely not a scenario you wish to see. Moreover, the Second Lady is not one to abandon Qilang. Don’t interfere with this affair, and just allow the couple to talk it out. What sense is there in you urging your sister and her husband to separate?”
Tang Fan sighed. “Uncle, I only have respect towards you, and wouldn’t normally have such an intent, but with things as they are now, why trouble yourself with forcing things? It doesn’t matter whether separation happens or not, as my sister will always be my sister. If it won’t be easy for her to remarry, I’ll just support her all her life. As for Qilang, we aren’t trying to make things deliberately difficult, but just imagine; he still almost got beaten badly with my sister around, so if she isn’t, how much worse will it be? You may treasure your grandchildren, but you can’t keep an eye on them every single day. It’s best for children to grow up in the presence of their mothers. We aren’t asking for Qilang to change his surname; he’ll be a descendant of the He’s no matter what, he will simply live with his mother.”
But if that spread around outside, wouldn’t the He’s no longer have any face?
He Ying shook his head, predictably unwilling. Seeing that the Tang siblings had expressions of determination, he then mumbled to himself for a bit, and conceded a step. “How about this; separation is doable, but Qilang must remain in the He household.”
However, as soon as he finished, He Lin stood up with a bang, throwing sentences out. “I refuse! I’ll only divorce you! Don’t even think about separation!”
Then, he left without a care. The Patriarch shouted several “Stop!”s from behind him, yet he never turned his head.
Despite his typically sullen temperament, he had always been obedient to his parents. His current behavior made Patriarch He’s nose scrunch in anger.
This breakdown of negotiations had been predicted as such, too. Tang Fan had had no belief that the He’s would immediately agree to his conditions in the first place.
In their view, separation was just that. Their daughter-in-law was ultimately an outsider, while their grandson belonged to their family. The He’s had more than just the one grandson, but, just as the Patriarch had said, if they let Tang Yu take He Cheng, others would believe that the He’s couldn’t even make one grandson stay with them.
Such were the feelings of the world, which humans did not have the power to alter. It was better to put forth terms that another party wouldn’t accept in the first breath, then slowly raise the stakes higher; that way, there would be a much greater certainty that one’s goal could be achieved.
From the very beginning, their ultimate aim was not separation, but split residency.
This was another method that differed from separation and divorce. In this day and age, setting aside how difficult it was to separate, if a wife’s natal family was influential, a husband wanting a divorce wouldn’t be able to get one. He Lin, for example, might have been able to divorce Tang Yu if Tang Fan didn’t exist, but since Tang Fan was around, he couldn’t even think about it — and even if he did, the Patriarch wouldn’t let him.
For that reason, what he had just said in the reception hall had been pure anger. No matter how know-nothing he actually was, he certainly knew that since Tang Yu now had her brother’s backing, she wasn’t someone the He’s could possibly bully.
Yet, in terms of separation, it was as the Patriarch had described. People were unfair to women; what one would go through after separation was certainly more than just nasty looks.
Thus was this middle-of-the-road method: split residency.
To say it plainly, the husband and wife would live separately, but since there was no official separation, it would be said to the outside world that the woman’s health was weak, so she had returned to her natal family for recuperation and whatnot. Both sides had a justification, and the man’s ego was preserved, as was a lot of headache saved.
Within larger families, if a couple didn’t have a harmonious relationship, while the woman had her natal family’s support and refused to just deal with it, this was the method that would be brought up. Tang Fan had seen it before in the capital, but Xianghe County was a tiny area, where it was relatively unseen.
When it came to the woman, this would make it so that the marriage connection was not broken off, and Tang Yu would not be able to remarry. That was a disadvantage. However, Tang Fan had discussed with her ahead of time, and she had expressed that she had absolutely no intention of remarrying, merely wanting to raise He Cheng to adulthood and pass her own version of a peaceful life.
As that was so, split living became the best option.
The reason why he hadn’t proposed it from the start was that he feared that the He’s would abruptly not accept it; since he had brought up separation first, by the time they slowly came to face reality, throwing out this method thereafter would go a lot smoother.
…On the premise that He Lin would agree and not get in the way, of course.
After coming out of Patriarch He’s place, Tang Yu was still a little unhappy. In the end, married couples were one, and this plight was something no one wanted to see. Had it not been too difficult to live like this, she wouldn’t have wanted to do things like so.
Her overnight change had, in reality, been completely because of Tang Fan, but he wouldn’t be in Xianghe County forever. Once he left, she would lose her support again, and be all the more upset by her lonesome in the He’s.
That was something she understood well, so she had had to be crueler, and use this opportunity to sever herself away completely, preventing future mishaps.
“I just hope that Qilang doesn’t blame me when he grows up,” she sighed.
Tang Fan smiled. “He’s so thoughtful, and has already grown into a good kid. Everything you’ve done is for his sake; he’ll certainly be able to forgive it.”
She nodded distractedly.
“Don’t look so dismayed, my dear sister,” he comforted. “If Qilang sees you, he might think something happened. The boy has a meticulous and sharp mind; there’ll be a chance for him to temper himself someday.”
She nodded again. “I’ve been neglecting him. It’s impossible that he hasn’t felt terrible from seeing his dad like that every day.”
“You’re taking responsibility onto yourself again! If that’s the case, then I think Dad’s blame for this is much greater. Why did he promise you to a man like He Lin in the first place?!”
“Don’t say such things!” she said, annoyed. “How can you blame Dad? He wouldn’t have been able to see that far ahead into the future!”
Tang Fan beamed. “And isn’t that right? Our parents beneath the Nine Springs must not want to see you so unhappy. If they knew of this, they would definitely be angrier than you are. Okay, okay — since Qilang is injured and can’t go to familial studies, I’m bringing you two out to walk the market tomorrow!”
Upon the siblings’ return to the bamboo courtyard, Tang Yu went to see He Cheng. Tang Fan was just thinking of sending the Guards to inquire after progress on the Wei case, when Qian San’r happened to walk in from outside, his face full of mystery. “Can you guess what I heard outside, Sir?”
Tang Fan peered at him. “No.”
Qian San’r grinned evilly. “Try?”
Tang Fan smiled back. “If I don’t guess and you don’t tell me, I’ll get Yan Li to suffocate you to death.”
Qian San’r was hit with defeat. “Fine, fine! I’ll just say it. I heard… that the Wei home is haunted!”
The other paused in his tracks, attention successfully drawn. Qian San’r felt a little proud, at that. “You can’t guess why, right? There’s several versions to this! One says that before Wei Ce made his name, he’d had a childhood fiancee, but in order to climb higher via a wealthy family, he took his former wife, Lady Zhang, and thus betrayed that fiancee. In resentment, the fiancee jumped into a river and killed herself. Right before her death, she made a vow — ’In this life, you betrayed me for wealth, so in the next life, I will cut off your bloodline!’”
He pinched his throat to finish imitating that ‘swansong’, ending it with, “After that, a wisp of womanly soul turned into a fierce ghost, concealed inside the Wei home, watching the Wei’s all these years. All the girls being born had been that ghost causing mischief, and what do you know? Now, a male was just born, yet died in the blink of an eye!”
“…I can tell that you’re extremely talented.”
Qian San’r felt triumphant. “Sure am! Don’t look at anyone else; I’m the footman of the most intelligent person in the world, Sir Tang!”
Tang Fan didn’t have the strength to diss him for his brag. “I heard that Sky of Bluegreen Clouds lacks a storyteller for its halls. Do you want me to recommend you for a try?”
“No way. You definitely can’t leave without me! A footman as loyal and capable as me is hard to find nowadays!”
Tang Fan couldn’t resist kicking him. “Enough. Get to the main point!”
“A second version says that the Wei’s current capital was all seized from someone else by Wei Ce, which he had used despicable methods to achieve, after which he came to Xianghe County to start anew. Now, the one he killed has turned into a fierce ghost and come to take revenge, intending to cut off Wei Ce’s familial line so that he regrets everything he’s ever done. That’s the reason why the Wei’s are dying in succession.”
“…Why are they all fierce ghosts? Can’t you come up with anything new?”
“Yep! Something new iiiiiis…”
He had dragged out his tone, but upon seeing that Tang Fan wasn’t in any hurry, he could only continue. “Wei Zhuniang’s killer has been found.”
Tang Fan raised his brows. “Chai Ze?”
Qian San’r thus became depressed. “Eh? You already knew? Why’d you make me say it, then?!”
Tang Fan shook his head. “I only had a guess. Out of Chai Ze, Wang Da, and Bao Yi, Chai Ze was just the most suspicious.”
Forgetting his former wish to flaunt his information, Qian San’r instead asked curiously, “Why? Wei Ce had clearly said himself that Wang Da was the only one that had a grudge with him, while Chai Ze was on the best terms with him!”
“Don’t forget; I said previously that only someone pretty familiar with the Wei home would have been able to find and kill her without alerting anyone else in such a short timespan. Only Chai Ze matched up with that point.”
Qian San’r slapped himself on the forehead. “Right, I almost forgot about that! Magistrate Weng asked as much, too, as Chai Ze couldn’t have done this alone. Purportedly, it was his younger cousin, Wei Ce’s primary wife, that had that pot of soup specially reheated, and after it was delivered, Chai Ze told Bao Yi that his cousin really hated Wang Da and wanted to embarrass him in public a little. He then made a plan with him to bump into the pot at the table, promising him a heavy reward, plus having him help him lie around it. The Magistrate interrogated that out of him immediately, though.”
“Why did Chai Ze kill Wei Zhuniang? What hatred would he have against a little girl?”
“Because Wei Ce had a son and they saw that he wanted to give him everything, Chai Ze and Lady Chai were unhappy, and thought to plot against him in order to steal his wealth. By ill coincidence, Wei Zhuniang had happened to pass by them. The two feared that their plot would be exposed early, so they struck first.”
Tang Fan shook his head. “That was probably just their own guilty consciences talking, wasn’t it? If she actually had heard them, wouldn’t she have long started shouting, and wouldn’t Wei Ce have not been clueless?”
“Right, right! You are a sagely one! That’s exactly the reason! Afterwards, Magistrate Weng also questioned Wei Ce and Wei Zhuniang’s mother, and it was clear that Wei Zhuniang had never said a thing to them. This was clearly all the cousins’ guilt that instead made them drop a rock onto their own feet!”
This case hadn’t been complex to begin with; with so many clues set out in the open, cracking it had only been a matter of when. Tang Fan still had a concern about something else, however. “What’s the progress on the son’s death, then?”
“Following this incident, Wei Ce has a bone-deep hatred with the cousins and insists that they killed his son, but they refuse to admit to that. There seems to be no conclusion as of right now.”
“I don’t think they did it. Since Wei Ce was able to have a son, with that one dead, he could just have another one. There would be no use in that. All they wanted to do was plot against Wei Ce himself, so killing the son wouldn’t have made a lick of difference.”
Qian San’r cocked his head. “As they could do something as stupid as murdering Wei Zhuniang, they might have also had ample grounds to want the son dead.”
Tang Fan burst out laughing. “You make sense, while I’m the one grasping at straws!”
Qian San’r was the type of person that would be able to open a dyeing shop if given only three different pigments, and he bloomed the second he heard Tang Fan’s words. “Ohoho, you saying that makes me so embarrassed! Could it be that I’m more intelligent than the most intelligent man in the world?”
The other glanced at him. “When was I ever that? From now on, when we’re on the road, don’t say you know me. You’ll make people beat me up.”
Qian San’r got in close with a stupid grin. “But we’re so familiar! Who in the whole of Xianghe doesn’t know that I’m your old pal? You mustn’t deceive yourself to deceive others!”
Tang Fan had no idea how to react to him. “You’ve obviously got the thickest skin in the world! Who’s your old friend? You’re using words improperly! Your mouth is like a dog’s butt letting out a bunch of farts!”
“Ow, ow! Use your words, don’t hit! Gentlemen move their lips, not their fists—“
The translator says: Fun fact: A certain term for ‘nonsense’ in Chinese is literally ‘dog butt/farts’.
Unsure if I ever stated this, but divorce/separation/dissolution have different historical contexts here.
Divorce is the husband kicking the wife out for violating one of the Seven Ousts, handled within the family.
Separation is a mutual agreement to split.
Dissolution involved some sort of criminal violation, and was forced by law.
 In contrast to the Seven Ousts, there’s three that prevent divorce altogether, and can possibly cancel them out; one is having no natal family to return to, the second is being in a three-year mourning period due to her in-laws’ deaths, or she is poor while her husband is rich.