As winter approached, the weather grew increasingly colder and colder. The whole manor was busy with New Year preparations and the number of visitors began to increase, many of whom were strangers that Lei Lei had never seen before. After asking around in private, she learned that they were rich men or shopkeepers that were here to make rental payments on their land or to send gifts. It was only now that Lei Lei learned about the manor’s source of income. Due to the whole Longevity Fruit issue, the gongzi wouldn’t be able to spend New Year’s day at home so he decided to settle the accounts in advance. He was very busy so Lei Lei tactfully refrained from bothering him, occasionally helping to entertain the guests or making an inventory of the new year goods they had purchased. Of course, more often than not, she would go for a stroll in the east courtyard because there was a strange old study room there.
In the courtyard, Steward Zhao sat on a chair as he basked in the sunlight.
Lei Lei handed him an accounting book: “Take a look, is there anything wrong?”
Steward Zhao took the book and flipped through it for a long time, satisfied: “To think that you’re so good at settling the accounts, you didn’t even use an abacus.”
It turns out that Steward Zhao lived here. For the past few days, Lei Lei had tried to enter but had always been stopped by him. Fortunately, she’d been getting along quite well with everyone in the manor and wasn’t treated like an outsider. In addition, this girl had played her flattery skills to the highest degree and requested to help out with the accounts. With her quick witted mind, the prejudices that Steward Zhao had towards her had disappeared, bringing them even closer than others.
Hearing his praise, Lei Lei knew to be modest: “There’s nothing else I can do anyway, I should help out with the accounts.”
Steward Zhao smiled: “Previously, the gongzi had even asked who was the one who did up the accounts.”
Lei Lei hurriedly asked: “What did he say?”
Steward Zhao had lived for tens of years and knew how to win people over. So he cut off a large chunk of the words that had been said and told her: “He complimented you, saying that you’d done a pretty good job with the accounts.” The handwriting……
Lei Lei was still young and didn’t manage to glean the deeper meaning in his words. She was happy, “Xiao Bai” finally knows my merits! At the same time, she hadn’t forgotten about proper business and pointed to the study room as she asked: “Why isn’t entry allowed into that room, is there something inside?”
Hearing this, Steward Zhao’s originally kind expression sank: “Even if there’s something, it shouldn’t be any concern of yours. You just have to know that you’re not allowed to enter. Why are you asking so much!”
Lei Lei feigned indignation: “Isn’t it just Old Master Xiao’s study room?”
Steward Zhao shot her a glare, but she was just talking about it and he wasn’t suspicious of her. Actually, he himself had once been curious about the things that were in that room so he gave her an explanation: “This was the rule set by Master Xiao Min himself. This room has always been closed to outsiders and it was Old Master who changed it into a study room.” He paused and let out a sigh, his expression sullen: “A single phrase of ‘upholding justice’ has caused generations of Bai Sheng Manor descendents to be inextricably linked to the affairs of Jianghu, to be in a constant fight against evil, it’s the will of Heaven!”
Hearing these strange words, Lei Lei was about to ask further but Steward Zhao suddenly stood up: “Gongzi.”
Lei Lei turned her head. It turns out that the gongzi was standing at the courtyard’s entrance.
The gongzi looked at Lei Lei, then Steward Zhao: “We’ll be setting out in two days, is everything ready?”
Steward Zhao replied with a smile: “The carriage has been prepared and everything has been gathered. I’ll be bringing along Wang Cong and Zhang Qian this time. It’s our first time travelling during the New Year and everyone’s a little unused to it.” He paused when he suddenly recalled something and hurriedly headed for the courtyard’s entrance: “The day before yesterday, I asked someone to send letters to the relay stations that are en route our journey, to have them prepare a change of horses. I’ll go and check on this.”
The gongzi nodded: “This is an important matter, we cannot be careless.”
Steward Zhao agreed and left.
Seeing that he had left, Lei Lei became emboldened and tugged on the gongzi as she quietly asked: “Why isn’t anyone allowed to enter that study room?”
The gongzi’s gaze shifted to the tightly shut doors: “You want to go in?”
Lei Lei was momentarily stumped by this unexpected question so she faked a smile: “Everyone’s curious about it.” After some thought, she gave him an implicit reminder: “But many have said that there’s definitely something important inside.” With such tight security around the courtyard, isn’t it just like putting up a sign that says “there isn’t three hundred silvers here”? Smart people wouldn’t be so obvious about it.
The gongzi fell silent for a moment, then he walked towards the study. She didn’t know if he understood what she meant.
According to Steward Zhao, the room had existed during Xiao Min’s lifetime and it was clear that it had hundreds of years of history. The pillars looked antique but were very sturdy, all having been made from the best quality logs. The tightly shut doors were actually not locked and opened with a push. As all the windows were closed, it was a little dark in the room. The floor and bookcases were very clean, probably having been cleaned regularly by Steward Zhao and the rest.
Normally, when people walked into an unfamiliar room, they would usually look around but Lei Lei didn’t because the thing that was in the room was too conspicuous and attracted her attention once she stepped through the door.
The thing was placed on the altar table, covered by a yellow silk cloth.
Lei Lei was surprised: “What’s that?”
The gongzi stepped forward and uncovered the silk cloth.
A memorial tablet.
Unlike ordinary memorial tablets, there were no words on it and it was completely blank.
The gongzi lit a lamp and retrieved a stick of incense from somewhere. After lighting it up with the lamp, he placed it in the small incense burner that was at the front of the table altar.
Lei Lei recovered from her shock, feeling slightly guilty: “This is your mother?”
The gongzi shook his head.
Lei Lei quickly corrected herself: “Your father?”
The gongzi shook his head.
Lei Lei was bewildered: “Then……”
The gongzi remained silent for a long time before saying: “This had been put up by Old Master Xiao Min a hundred years ago. Back then, he had aided the chief in eliminating the evil sect and had made great contributions.”
Lei Lei had also heard of this and was puzzled: “But why did he put this up?”
The gongzi said: “After that battle, Nan Xing He that devil was finally eliminated, dealing a great blow to the evil sect. However, he felt that too many had been killed and that there were countless spirits that had died by his sword so he set up this tablet and ordered generations of Xiao family descendants to enshrine it in hopes of……flourishing numbers and that the descendants will be safe and sound.”
It dawned on Lei Lei. Flourishing numbers? She’d heard that Xiao family’s numbers have been dwindling since Old Master Xiao Min. There would only be one son in every generation and any other births would always be daughters. No more and no less, there would only be one son. Once a boy was born, there wouldn’t be any more children. This has practically become a rule. In this generation, there’s only “Xiao Bai” and he didn’t even have any sisters. If something were to happen to him at this moment, there would be no one left in the Xiao family. Here, “no male offspring” was considered the worst crime. It seems like Xiao Min had foresight. It’s said that that battle was like a bloodbath and countless had died. Even if the Evil Sect had done bad things, not everyone deserved to be killed. No wonder he was uneasy and did such a superstitious thing to find peace. He probably had no expectation for “flourishing numbers” and was only seeking “safe and sound”.
“You have to pay tribute to it often?”
“Only during the New Year and on holidays. It’s just that ever since my father changed it into a study room when he was still alive, the incense had never stopped.”
Lei Lei nodded. After such a long time, it turns out that this room was used to repent and had a deeper meaning to it. Ancient people took the continuation of the family line very seriously and it’s no wonder that they sent so many people to guard it.
The gongzi suddenly said: “Actually, upholding justice is a heavenly principle and he didn’t need to……” he stopped.
Lei Lei was puzzled: “Didn’t need to what?”
With a bitter smile and furrowed brows, the gongzi said with an overwhelming spirit of heroism: “Generations of Xiao family descendants have regarded the affairs of Jianghu as their duty, upheld justice and rid the people of evil. They’ve acted open and aboveboard. It’s enough to have a clear conscience, what has it to do with Heaven’s will!”
“Well said.” Lei Lei echoed, looking at her surroundings.
Could that xinfa be here……
An old scroll hung behind the table altar. On it was an untitled poem but it’s content had been plagiarised from Du Fu’s 《Dream Li Bai》: “I’ve already swallowed my cries over separations by death, I often grieve over separations (no deaths). Jiangnan is plagued by diseases, there’s no news from the guests I’ve chased out. The departed enter my dream, knowing that I’ll remember their appearance……The descending moon fills the beams of the house, hesitating to illuminate it with colour. The waters are deep and the waves are wide, just don’t send the flood dragon!” It was signed by “Xiao Min”. Due to its age, the scroll had yellowed and the ink had faded.
This poem was about missing a friend. The handwriting was bold but revealed hints of loneliness. The last few lines became more and more sloppy, as if his emotions had been stirred up. Thinking about it, Xiao Min was world renowned and probably had many friends so it was normal for him to be down as he thought of old friends and Lei Lei wasn’t surprised. What she mulled over was the TV shows she had watched in the past, where there would usually be secret doors installed behind calligraphy or paintings in the study that housed various treasures.
“Master Xiao Min’s writing is pretty good.” Lei Lei pretended to examine the calligraphy as she quietly stepped forward to lift up the scroll.
There was nothing on the wall behind it.
Disappointed, Lei Lei was about to cast it aside when she inadvertently caught sight of a few lines of small characters that had been written on the back of the scroll: “A sudden dream, like I’ve seen brother’s face in person, fortunately your appearance is unchanged, brother will be involved to this point, in the future when we’re down in the Nether World, I’ll speak with Brother He Yan!”
What does this mean? Had Xiao Min perhaps done something that let down a friend?
Lei Lei was surprised and gestured to the gongzi: “Look at this.”
The gongzi stepped forward to look at it. He was also taken by surprise and looked pensive: “It turns out that there’s also writings on the back of this, perhaps he was missing his friend while writing this.”
Lei Lei said: “Your father hadn’t mentioned this to you?”
The gongzi shook his head: “My father doesn’t necessarily know about the ancestor’s affairs.”
Lei Lei doesn’t reply.
The gongzi put aside the writing: “When my father was alive, he would often sit in the study for a short while. On his deathbed, his only instruction was to pay tribute to this memorial tablet. As for other things, even I might not be aware of it, it’s just that……”
Lei Lei asked anxiously: “Just what?”
The gongzi remained silent for a long time. With a trace of doubt in his eyes, he whispered: “He was careless and got poisoned by Shang Guan Qiu Yue. At that time, we had invited Ba Xian Residence’s Medical Sage, Old Sir Bu to treat him. According to Old Sir Bu, the poison wasn’t incurable and there was a 70% chance that he could be cured. However, his condition only worsened and he finally died. Old Sir Bu had blamed himself for this matter.”
Beauty gege had taken many lives indeed. He was even “Xiao Bai’s” sworn enemy who had killed his father. If “Xiaobai” were to learn of her identity, what would happen to her? Lei Lei was secretly worried and sighed: “Everyone makes mistakes.”
The gongzi shook his head, hesitating: “I think……that my father didn’t take the medicine.”
Lei Lei was shocked: “Didn’t take the medicine?”
The gongzi was quite uneasy and turned to look at the door: “He liked plum blossoms and enjoyed sitting under the plum tree at the southern side so he often instructed that the medicine be sent there. I once passed by and saw what seemed to be powdered medicinal residue under the tree.”
Lei Lei was also puzzled. This was really strange. Bai Sheng Manor upheld justice and beauty gege was the big devil so it was normal for there to be conflicts. Yet Xiao Yuan’s behaviour was an obvious refusal to live on. Could it be that he was tired of living and wanted to commit suicide?
The gongzi muttered: “I really don’t understand why he refused treatment.”
Lei Lei felt that it was necessary to make up for the wrongs her brother did. She comforted him: “Perhaps you had seen it wrongly.”
The gongzi couldn’t be certain so he nodded.
Lei Lei only cared about the xinfa and soon lost interest in the affairs of dead people. Feigning an appreciation for the art of calligraphy, she uncovered all the calligraphy and paintings in the room but didn’t find anything.
It wasn’t behind the calligraphy and paintings but it could be behind the bookshelf! Based on her experience from watching TV series, she took advantage of the gongzi’s dazed state to shake the bookshelf, touched the lamp stand’s table, reached out to knock on the wall now and then and stomped her feet.
The gongzi snapped out of his thoughts and looked at her: “What are you looking for?”
Lei Lei was inspecting the wall behind the bookshelf and was startled when she heard this. She calmly withdrew her hand and made up an excuse with a smile: “Old Master Xiao Min writes very well so I wanted to learn. I’m looking to see if there’s any brush and ink.”
The gongzi walked to the front of the table and opened a small drawer: “It’s all here.”
She had thought that this study hadn’t been used for several years and wouldn’t have all the necessities. Unexpectedly, everything was still here but it was too late for regrets. Since she had already spoken, Lei Lei could only move closer to him.
The gongzi was in a rare good mood and personally grinded the ink for her. Lei Lei laid out the paper and picked up a large brush. Due to her two years of calligraphy practice, her posture looked decent.
The gongzi looked at the ink’s colour: “It’s ready.”
Lei Lei held the brush in her right hand, feeling rather awkward, what should she write? There were too many plagiarised poems in this world and she had long lost interest in it. She couldn’t think of anything else to write so she tugged on the gongzi: “Say, what should I write?”
The gongzi gave it some thought: “Since we’re in the study room, write about our predecessor’s admonishments or something like that.”
Well-known words of wisdom? Lei Lei had to admit that she wasn’t a good student and although those things had been hung on both ends of her classroom wall, she hadn’t looked at them as many times as she had looked at handsome guys so she had practically no impression of them. She would occasionally remember one or two but she had now forgotten them, racking her brains to no avail.
The gongzi looked at her suspiciously.
Lei Lei was anxious and could care less about inspiration and what not. With a wave of her brush, she wrote down two phrases that had profound significance in education, a famous saying by great figures of new China’s era ——
“Study diligently, make progress everyday.”
The gongzi was dumbfounded.
The ink was of good quality and the eight large honourable words glistened and shone. No mother would scorn her child for being ugly, Lei Lei put down the brush and held up her writing, getting increasingly pleased the more she looked at it. These were undoubtedly the most beautiful characters she had ever written.
“How is it?” She nudged the gongzi with her elbow.
The corner of the gongzi’s lips twitched: “……it’s quite meaningful.”
Lei Lei didn’t dwell on the meaning behind his words and generously offered up her treasure: “For you.”
The gongzi was silent.
“You don’t want it?” Lei Lei was disappointed and lowered her head to scrutinise it, “it isn’t very well written……”
She was giving it to him with good intentions and he shouldn’t complain that it was inferior. The gongzi’s good upbringing compelled him to reach out and accept it: “It’s good, thank you.”
Lei Lei happily kept away the brush and ink, suddenly recalling an important matter: “It’s going to be the New Year soon, about the Longevity Fruit……you had instructed Steward Zhao to pack things, are you heading to Bi Shui City with Qin Liu Feng?”
The gongzi nodded.
“Xiao Bai” was heading out and she wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything by remaining in this courtyard. Lei Lei asked anxiously: “Can I go too?”
The gongzi hesitated: “It’ll be inconvenient for us to travel together. Besides, we are going to do business and it’ll be dangerous. Brother Qin……probably has to send Leng Guniang back too.”
What does Qin Liu Feng sending someone have anything to do with me? Lei Lei was baffled but she didn’t give it further thought, rubbing herself against him: “Good Xiao Bai, I’m not afraid of danger, if you leave and I’m left all alone in the manor, that’s even more dangerous.”
The gongzi shot her a glance before turning and heading out the door: “I’ll increase the number of guards.”
Lei Lei clung to his arm: “No need to increase the guards, I’ll go with you. I promise not to cause any trouble.”
The gongzi couldn’t get away and was helpless: “But……”
Lei Lei hugged his waist instead: “Isn’t it better to bring along someone to wait on you? I’ll take care of you, meals and rest, ordering food, massaging your back, I can also help you……”
Having seen all of this girl’s shameless acts, the gongzi was already immune to it and he pulled her off him.
Lei Lei latched onto him again: “Bring me along, okay?”
“Good Xiao Bai……”
This went on for a long time as she followed him from the East courtyard to the West courtyard, talking about topics like the complementary advantages between male and females, to the advantages of good fortune. It was just as Lei Lei had lost hope and was about to give up when the gongzi suddenly agreed: “Alright, go and get ready, we’ll be leaving the day after tomorrow.”
Lei Lei returned to her room excitedly. Just as she was cracking her knuckles and thinking about what she should bring, she caught sight of a note that had been placed at her bedside. She quickly reached out to retrieve it.
“Xiao Chun Hua, come quickly to Ancient Pine Pavilion, Qiu Yue.”
Small cursive letters that revealed three parts of wildness, flying handsomely, still carrying the fragrance of ink. Lei Lei stared at it for a long time before snapping out of her daze, feeling discouraged and blushing with shame. It wasn’t easy for laoniang to finally complete a calligraphy piece that I’m pleased with but now that I compare it with beauty gege’s, it’s simply the difference between heaven and earth. Why is there such a large disparity between Chua Hua and Qiu Yue!
She quickly picked up the note and ran out the door.
Just an update:
Long story short, advance chapters at ko-fi.
P.S. Lynn if you’re still here, send me the contact form and I’ll send you the advance chaps.
Long story, everything’s a mess so I’ll just tell it in sequence:
So. There’s this novel that I was thinking of picking up (to translate) and doing advance chapters for but I felt like it’ll be rude to post regular updates for that novel while CHQY only gets monthly updates and leave ya’ll feeling like ‘hello, how bout CHQY?’ so I decided to give ya’ll the chance to reject me 😂
I haven’t done advance chapters before so idk how this will go but my friend said, and I quote “don’t doubt avid readers” but ya’ll are drama watchers so it probably doesn’t apply. Anyway ~ I’ll be trying this for a month and will stop if it doesn’t go anywhere – Stop the advance chapters, not CHQY. And the next plan was to try sponsored chapters, aka additional chapters on top of the one per month but then, I discovered something.
I just found out that there’s another person who’s also translating CHQY and although she’s slightly behind us in chapters, her current update speed is similar to mine, aka monthly-ish, sometimes faster.
My plan is to contact her to see if we could maybe collaborate and bring ya’ll updates every two weeks instead. Imagine, we could have already been at Chapter 30 🥲 I’m not too sure how it’ll work out or if she’ll agree because the terms we use are different (e.g. she doesn’t use gongzi/gege) and she has her own site but I’ll update ya’ll in the next chapter.