“Miss Shi is joking,” The smile on Rong Xia’s face vanished, “Reputation is very important for a lady, Rong-mou1*-mou = This Person (refers to self, humble) is not that careless. Junzhu and I wouldn’t be alone as Ban-shizi will be along, please Miss Shi don’t misunderstand.”
Shi Feixian forced herself to smile, “I have misunderstood.”
Ban Hua had turned to leave, seeing the frozen smile on Shi Feixian’s face, she couldn’t help but shooting a glance at Rong Xia who was also looking at herself. Her eyebrows raised, a fair and slender index finger pointing at the gate, going now?
“Farewell.” Rong Xia smiled and bid farewell to Shi siblings.
“Junzhu.” Yan Zhen ran out of the pavilion, sloppily threw his salute to the Shi siblings, he chased after Rong Xia and Ban Hua. His was totally the image of a proper scholar in love in story books who abandoned all propriety along with his studies for the sake of one more sight of his beloved lady.
Shi Feixian coldly watched Yan Zhen throwing his face away in a pursuit of a woman, her tone was chilled as she said, “What scholar, what gentleman. Just a vulgar creature who is unable to control himself once he sees a beauty.”
“Are you talking about Yan Zhen or Rong Xia?” Shi Jin looked at his sister, “You are a noble girl from a major family, you have lost yourself in front of Rong Xia.”
“What thing is he, how can he compare to Count Rong.” Her brother seeing through her heart, Shi Feixian’s expression was somewhat ugly, but inwardly she felt quite relieved, there was no need to conceal it anymore. “Isn’t Count Rong a very good match for marriage?”
“He is not suitable for you.” Shi Jin was going to say Rong Xia had no eyes for her, but the feelings in her sister’s eyes softened his heart. “Sister, you deserve a better man.”
“A better man?” Shi Feixian laughed, then sneered, “Of all young men in the world, only Brother and Count Rong could be considered talented youths, everyone else are just vulgar men. Who do you think I should marry?”
The most ridiculous thing was, her family had intended to marry her to Yan Zhen to make Left Minister completely supportive of the Crown Prince, but unexpectedly he was smitten with a woman who had had her engagement withdrawn three times. She really didn’t understand what was so good about Ban Hua that the gongzi of Left Minister family got infatuated into such state.
“Should I be glad that noone else in the Capital knows that our family planned to be in-laws with Yan family?” Shi Feixian felt it was utterly embarrassing that the man intended for her was stubbornly chasing another woman. “I am born to be a sacrifice for Eldest Sister anyway.”
“If in the future Eldest Sister doesn’t produce a son, wouldn’t I have to be the Crown Prince’s concubine so I can give birth to a son for Eldest Sister?” The fact that her whole family revolved around that Crown Princess sister had always been a knot in her heart. It was all Crown Prince this, Crown Princess that. Who was she, this second daughter, was?
She was more talented than Eldest Sister, more beautiful than Eldest Sister, she had just been born a few years too late. Otherwise, wouldn’t her marriage be left hanging in the air for the sake of Eldest Sister?
“Feixian!” Her words became increasingly more absurd, Shi Jin darkly said, “It is not easy for Eldest Sister in Eastern Palace either. If she heard her own family saying these things, how could she live with herself?”
“It is not easy for her, so my whole life has to be sacrificed for her glory?” The rims of Shi Feixian’s eyes turned slightly red, “I am also a Shi family daughter!”
Seeing his sister in such state, Shi Jin sighed once again, he tried to gently persuaded her, “Don’t worry, I won’t let you marry Yan Zhen.”
“His eyes are on that beautiful-like-fairy Fule Junzhu. Even if you want it, he is not willing.” Shi Feixian crossly said, “I am not such a devastating beauty2* 倾国倾城 devastatingly beautiful, lit. capable of causing the downfall of a city or state. T/N – like, oriental Helen of Troy?.”
“Nonsense.” Shi Jin reached out to stroke her head, “Our family’s Feixian is the Capital’s number one beauty. Men who want to marry you line up from one end of the city to the other. A bookworm like Yan Zhen doesn’t know what real beauty is.”
“Tell me Brother, Fule Junzhu and me, who do you think is more beautiful?” Shi Feixian looked at Shi Jin, “Hmm?”
“In my heart, you are naturally most beautiful.” Shi Jin patted her shoulder and turned around, “Let’s go, don’t make the other guests wait too long.”
Shi Feixian gave him a sweet smile and followed, “Forgive me Brother, I shouldn’t have lost my temper with you.”
“I am your brother, you don’t have to say sorry to me.” Shi Jin gently stroke the top of his sister’s head. He blinked a few times, completely hiding the last trace of frustration in his eyes.
“Finally getting out.” Outside the bieyuan‘s gate, Ban Heng saw the servants who were nodding and bowing at him, he told his pageboys, “Go. This shaoye me is happy today, reward them some broken silver.”
“Yes.” Ban Heng’s pageboys always had broken silver with them because Ban Heng had the habit of rewarding people when he was happy. Whenever he told them to reward, they could grab some out to give. Doing this for long, the pageboys close to Ban Heng were nick-named “Bounty Boys”3T/N – Read about the Bounty Boy / Wealth Boy at the bottom..
Actually one of Junzhu’s close maids was known as the “Bounty Girl”, but with how much Junzhu was favoured, noone dared to call her maids names as they were afraid of punishment.
“What are you so happy about?” Holding the edges of her skirt, Ban Hua was stepping on a stool to enter the carriage. The money giving out made her pause to watch in curiousity.
“Nothing.” Ban Heng laughed happily and came up to her, whispering, “I like that those bookworms who pretend to be dignified gentlemen couldn’t stop stealing glances at you.”
“Am I an object? You have much fun letting them look at me.” Ban Hua flicked his forehead, “Alright, go tell Count Rong, I am getting into the carriage.”
“Be careful.” Ban Heng carefully lifted the rims of Ban Hua’s skirt, his mouth was fretting, “This skirt looks good but too troublesome for walking, you ladies like to torture yourself.”
Countless times had he seen his sister suffering for beauty, and countless times too he had to air his complaints.
“What do you know.” Ban Hua got on the carriage, fanning out her skirt while smiling sweetly, “As long as I look good, then it worths it.”
Ban Heng obediently lowered the carriage curtain for Ban Hua. Jumped down, he said to Rong Xia, “Count Rong, please.”
“Please.” Rong Xia glanced at the securely covered carriage, climbed on his horse, pulled the rein and turned around.
“Ban-shizi,” Yan Zhen sprinted to catch him, a group of servants following behind. “Please wait.”
Ban Heng frowned when he saw who it was, he tried to pretend as if he hadn’t heard anything. Unfortunately this Yan Zhen was very persistent, he managed to stand in front of Ban Heng’s horse so Ban Heng couldn’t keep on pretending.
“Yan-gongzi, may I ask what is the matter?” Ban Heng’s hand on the whip tightened. If only this hadn’t been the Left Minister’s gongzi, he would have smacked the whip to this person’s face. They said Yan family discipline was strict, how could they produce a rascal who chased after a lady’s carriage?
“Zaixia4* Zaixia 在下 = I, myself (humble). still have one more thing to say to Junzhu. Please could Junzhu see me.” Yan Zhen walked to the front of the carriage, bowing very deeply.
“Junzhu, Yan-mou is not good with words and is not familiar with ladies, but zaixia is sincere with what was said before. Please Junzhu reconsider.”
“Yan-gongzi please return.” Ban Hua’s voice came out of the carriage. As the carriage curtain didn’t move at all, Yan Zhen’s eyes dimmed a part.
He knew, she was not willing to see him.
“A lot things in the world are difficult to make perfect. Yan-gongzi is handsome and talented, will certainly find someone to adore. This little woman is not a good match for gongzi, please gongzi not bring up this matter again. Farewell.”
“Yan-gongzi, please give way.” Ban family’s guard politely requested Yan Zhen to move aside.
Yan Zhen stared as the carriage moved under his eyes. Along with the tinkling sound of the brass bells, his heart was also taken away by that carriage.
He didn’t know how long he had been standing there, the sound of someone calling from the back brought him back from the trance.
“Yan-gongzi,” Kangning Junzhu smiled as she saw him staring at the road like a dumb, “Autumn wind is very cold, what are you doing there?”
“Kangning Junzhu.” Yan Zhen bowed, “Farewell.”
Kangning was totally baffled by his demeanor. She turned and saw the faces of the servants standing wasn’t natural either. She asked one of them, “What happened just now?”
The one asked lowered his head, “Please Junzhu forgive me, This Lowly One has just arrived, don’t know anything.”
The son of Left Minister Yan set his heart on Fule Junzhu of Marquis Jingting’s residence whose engagements were withdrawn three times, and he was rejected!
Such a shocking thing hit him hard too, but he still didn’t dare to say a word to outsiders.
Kangning was not happy this servant refused to tell her the truth, but this wasn’t Hui-wang residence’s servant so she couldn’t show her dissatisfaction. “In the case, bring out someone who knows.”
All of the servants kept their heads down without a word.
The atmosphere suddenly became very awkward. Kangning forced a smiled, “As none of you know, then it is fine.”
After getting inside the carriage, her face turned darker and darker. Everyone in the Capital looked down on her, even Shi family’s servants despised her.
The dogs that borrowed their master’s air, their dog eyes dared to look down on people.
There would be a day, sooner or later, there would be a day…..
She took a stack of crispy cakes from the carriage’s drawer, she finally felt better after crushing the cakes into powder.
Ban Hua’s carriage stopped at the entrance of Jingting residence. When stepping out of it, she unexpectedly found that Rong Xia was still there. She flashed him a brilliant smile.
Rong Xia couldn’t help but returning her smile with one of his own, “Junzhu, zaixia take my leave.”
“Wait.” Suddenly remembered something, Ban Hua climbed back into the carriage. With some sound of rummaging from inside the carriage, Ban Hua came back out after a while. Lifting the edges of the skirt, she jumped out with one hand holding on to the carriage shaft, “This is for you.”
Rong Xia accepted what was handed, his face slightly changed, “This…..”
“Shhh.” Ban Hua winked at him, “It is quite useless in my house. They say prized sword goes with the hero, good book goes with the talented, isn’t that logical?”
Rong Xia quietly looked at the smiling woman in front of him, he slipped the book into his robe and cupped his hands towards Ban Hua, “Thank you for Junzhu’s kindness.”
“Welcome.” Ban Hua walked towards the gate, after two steps she turned and saw Rong Xia was still standing there unmoved. One hand letting go of the skirt ends, she waved at Rong Xia and entered the gate.
“Farewell.” Ban Heng gave Rong Xia a salute in a haste. He ran in to chase after his sister, bent down to pick up the ends of her skirt.
The siblings soon disappeared behind Ban’s family gate.
Rong Xia took it out to look again, clutched it a little tighter and put it back in.
* Bounty boy / Wealth boy 善财童子 is the boy in red who usually appears in paintings of bodhisattva Avalokitesvara / Goddess of Mercy Guanyin. The Jade Emperor in original Chinese myths has Jade Maiden and Golden Youth around, so after being introduced to Buddhism, probably ancient Chinese gave Avalokitesvara a pair of children acolytes too. In Mahayana Buddhism, this boy is Sudhanakumara who achieved enlightenment by studying from 53 masters. Read the story of shancai tongzi in this Wiki entry here.
- 1*-mou = This Person (refers to self, humble)
- 2* 倾国倾城 devastatingly beautiful, lit. capable of causing the downfall of a city or state. T/N – like, oriental Helen of Troy?
- 3T/N – Read about the Bounty Boy / Wealth Boy at the bottom.
- 4* Zaixia 在下 = I, myself (humble).