It was very pleasant to see one’s beloved on an early morning under the rising sun which gradually banished the morning fog away, provided the beloved person didn’t happen to be together with one’s hated person.
Shi Feixian had never realised how much she hated Ban Hua. The two of them should have only minimum interaction, but why was Ban Hua kept approaching Master Rong?
Master Rong was in mourning for 3 years for his mother, then another 3 years for his father, and finally his only brother also passed away in illness, leaving him alone in the huge Count Cheng’an residence.
His Majesty valued his talents and pitied him for losing his whole family at a young age so the title wasn’t demoted, he was allowed to keep the Count title.
Shi Feixian felt heartache for Count Cheng’an. He was always graceful and unaffected, spoke in a learned manner that made the listeners felt like being embraced by spring breeze, but how could he be not sad after all the tragic things, Master Rong’s smiles….. must be just a cover.
She often thought, how wonderful it would be to live with Master Rong.
However the current scenery wasn’t that wonderful. She gazed without expression at the pair of man and woman on horse-back not far away. The distance between them remained at half-horse length, but it had made Shi Feixian felt uneasy.
“Stop.” She lifted the curtain and stepped down supported by her maid. She didn’t believe Master Rong wouldn’t see her standing here.
A beauty in the haze would look even lovelier. Seeing the delicate and fragile Shi Feixian over there, Ban Hua couldn’t help but stopping her horse to admire the beauty a bit longer.
Rong Xia laughed, “Junzhu, why do you suddenly stop?”
“I am enjoying the view,” Ban Hua blinked, “The fluttering gracefulness of a celestial being.”
Rong Xia followed her gaze and saw Shi Feixian under a tree. She was wearing a light green dress and a plain silver cloak, she looked a kind of unsurpassed beauty.
“What beautiful view in such a thick fog?” Rong Xia withdrew his gaze, lightly laughed, “Junzhu is jesting with this Rong person?”
Ban Hua looked at Rong Xia with surprise, he really didn’t have Shi Feixian in his eyes?
But the man in front of her was smiling so gently that even the most fussy woman on earth wouldn’t be able to find anything wrong, she laughed, “Master is very interesting.”
So in Rong Xia’s eyes, the Shi Feixian that had made Second Prince head over heels was no different from white fog. This was very interesting, too interesting.
As they were talking, Shi Feixian and her maids had walked over, “Count Rong, Ban-junzhu, what a coincidence.”
Ban Hua felt the way Shi Feixian looked at her wasn’t ‘what a coincidence’ but more like ‘what is this nuisance doing here’. She was not the kind of person who cared about these things, so she just nodded lightly without a word.
It’s useless to say anything in such situation. She had no interest in feigning sisterly love with another woman in front of a beautiful man, she better used the time to peek at the beautiful man. Good looking men were always worth a few more glances.
“Miss Shi.” Rong Xia greeted Shi Feixian from his horse, “I wonder where is Miss Shi going to?”
Shi Feixian bowed to return his greeting, “Today my older brother is accompanying me to pray. I didn’t expect to meet Master here.” She paused, her eyes swept over Ban Hua, “Master Count and Junzhu are going out?”
Ban Hua turned to Rong Xia, “Master Rong, we will not disturb you and Miss Shi conversing. We’ll take our leave first.”
“I just happened to meet Ban-junzhu,” Rong Xia patted the horse he was riding, “Miss Shi, farewell.”
Shi Feixian forced a smile, “Take care.”
She watched Rong Xia’s back as he went away following Ban Hua, she had to squeeze her handkerchief tightly before the smile on her face could recover back to be as warm and gentle like a flower.
“Master Rong,” A man in black on a big horse cupped his fist towards Rong Xia. His eyes fell on Ban Hua, “Ban-junzhu.”
Ban Hua looked at that man with her head tilted, “Shi-gongzi1Gongzi 公子 = a son of nobility, or a son of an official.?”
Was wearing black the current trend in the Capital? After Xie Chong’an in black, now Shi Jin was also in black.
Shi Jin’s slightly tensed face eased up, “That’s me. Ban-junzhu, greetings.”
“Didn’t you go to the Northwest camp?” Ban Hua had some impression of him because his riding and archery skills among the noble sons were outstanding. Some even praised him as ‘having the style of Jingting’.
Of course Jingting here didn’t refer to her father the Marquis Jingting, but her grandfather the Duke Jingting.
“My mother is ill, as her son I can’t be running outside and let Mother worries,” Shi Jin cupped his fist in the direction of the Palace, “Fortunately His Majesty took pity on me. I have now taken up the position of Commander of Guards at the Court of Judicature and Revision, so that I can be reunited with my family.”
No wonder Shi Feixian was going to pray, so Shi-taitai2Taitai 太太 = Elderly Lady was unwell.
“So that’s how it is.” Ban Hua returned the greeting, “I wish your mother a speedy recovery.”
“Many thanks Junzhu.” Shi Jin saw Ban father and son rushing over slowly3I just find this funny, and typical of the Ban father and son!, he saluted them both as well.
Shi family and Ban family were famous for being total opposites. One was the paragons who gave it all and would strive to death for the Court, and the other one was the idle nobles who pranced around doing useless things. There was not much interaction between the two families.
Ban Huai‘s position at the Court was an empty post that paid him for doing nothing, and Ban Heng had no position at all.
After saluting the three of them had nothing else to say, they could only stare at each other.
Shi Jin couldn’t help but looking at Ban Hua again. She was dressed in goose yellow riding clothes with an apricot yellow cloak, her hair was styled in a man’s bun but tied with a dazzling gold hairband, and a bright red five-petal flower was drawn on her forehead, her whole person looked extremely lively.
“Haven’t met for more than two years, Junzhu has become more graceful than before.” After saying this, he felt it a little rude and immediately changed the subject, “The morning fog is cold, please Junzhu return home soon, I’ll take my leave.”
“Lord Shi is generous.” Rong Xia lightly smiled, cupped his hand at Shi Jin, “Lord Shi, please.”
“Marquis Jingting, Count Cheng’an, Junzhu, Shizi, please.” Shi Jin rode his horse a step back as a gesture for the other party to pass first.
Seeing his action, the smile on Rong Xia’s face didn’t change, “Lord Shi, farewell.” He turned to Ban Hua, “Junzhu, let’s go.”
Ban Hua nodded and gave Shi Jin a smile, her legs pressed on the horse’s sides and it started to trot away.
“Brother.” Shi Feixian lifted the carriage’s curtain, looked at Shi Jin who was riding next to the the carriage, she hesitated a bit, “Are you familiar with Ban-junzhu?”
Her elder brother had always been a man of few words, but he had spoken with Ban Hua just now. Did all men in the world change in front of beautiful women? His brother did, and ….. Master Rong as well.
Shi Jin shook his head slightly, “She is of the same age with you and you will often meet her, so I just talked a little with her.”
Shi Feixian thought to say she didn’t like Ban Hua so there wouldn’t be any contact, but she was afraid elder brother would think she was rude, the words were swallowed back.
Cheng’an residence and Jingting residence were some distance apart, so after sharing the road for some time they separated to each of their ways.
The same day after lunch Ban Hua received a report that Cheng’an residence had sent some things over, Ban Hua hurriedly went to look. Several boxes of furs were laid in the yard, there were fire fox fur and white fox fur. Each sheet of the furs was flawless, there was not even a bit of mixed colour.
“Sister, you can’t buy these furs even if you have money.” Ban Heng came to the side of Ban Hua’s, “Count Cheng’an is very generous.”
“Yes he is. Count Cheng’an is so generous, but you, when are you going to buy me something?” Ban Hua rolled her eyes at Ban Heng, “And you are my own brother.”
“If I wasn’t your brother, would you give me money?” Ban Heng bashfully laughed, “I don’t have money.”
Noone would believe it, he was a Shizi but he had to come to Ban Hua from time to time for money for going out with friends, it was sad.
Ban Hua opened a small box placed at the top. Inside the box was a complete set of red gems headdress. After reading the memo enclosed in the box, she picked it up.
“Sis, Count Cheng’an is so generous, I feel a bit uneasy.” Seeing the head pieces, Ban Heng felt something was not right. Count Cheng’an sent the gifts to his name, but everything in it was for his sister’s use, wasn’t this a bit….
“Do you know this set of headdress was originally for whom?”
Ban Hua placed the memo on his hand, “Read it yourself.”
Ban Heng sobbed after reading, it’s not an easy life being Count Cheng’an. He lost his mother at 15 year-old, lost his father and elder brother at 19 year-old, and the sister-in-law had remarried. This set of headdress was for his sister-in-law, but it’s never given because brother had passed away and sister-in-law had remarried.
Calling it ‘uniting precious gems with the beauty’ sounded nice, but the real reason was likely to be not wanting to see this distressing item anymore, so it was gifted with the furs.
Rong Xia received the return gift from Jingting residence before dinner time, it was a sheet of pastry recipe, two boxes of pastries, and….. a case of books.
The handwritten copy of the <<East Sea Records>> scribed by a very famous great talent a hundred years ago, it was said to have been lost
The only copy left of <<Western Journey of the Living>> that hadn’t been seen for long.
The last copy of <<Journey to the North>>. According to the legends, reading this in entirety was equal to going on a journey of ten thousand miles.
And there was also <<A Dream Under the Southern Bough>>4A Dream Under the Southern Bough’《南柯梦》= a book by Tang Xianzu, written post year 1600. It’s about a discharged army officer who dreamt that he entered an ant hole. It follows his story in the ant realm from marrying the daughter of the king and his pursuit of an illustrious career until his downfall as his wife died and he was expelled of the dream realm. I can’t find the other books.?! ……Which learned man on earth didn’t dream of reading this?!
With these four books in his hand, Rong Xia felt as if he had been holding a golden mountain.
The literary officials at the Court who looked down on Marquis Jingting…… Did they know that Marquis Jingting had such a rich collection of books?
- 1Gongzi 公子 = a son of nobility, or a son of an official.
- 2Taitai 太太 = Elderly Lady
- 3I just find this funny, and typical of the Ban father and son!
- 4A Dream Under the Southern Bough’《南柯梦》= a book by Tang Xianzu, written post year 1600. It’s about a discharged army officer who dreamt that he entered an ant hole. It follows his story in the ant realm from marrying the daughter of the king and his pursuit of an illustrious career until his downfall as his wife died and he was expelled of the dream realm. I can’t find the other books.