Edited by Halley & Larkspur
Chapter 6: Birthday Banquet (Part 2)
Wei Rong did not bring me to Wei An’s courtyard but nearby the kitchens. It was next to the firewood store. There was a simple wooden room and a small black burning kiln a few steps away.
Before reaching the doors, I heard sounds of wood knocking from inside.
Wei An wore a single robe and sat on a low bed, engrossed in wedging a piece of wood into a plank. He was so engrossed that sweat-drenched his hair.
“You are playing these things again. Have you memorized the homework the teacher has given out?” Wei Rong said.
Wei An looked up and was startled upon seeing Wei Rong and I standing at the door.
“It is none of your business.” Wei An said faintly and rose to greet me, “Eldest Sao.” Finishing, he continued to keep his head lowered to fiddle.
Wei Rong seemed to be used to it, she pouted.
I looked at Wei An’s handicraft and felt that it was interesting. After looking around, one saw that the small wooden room was filled with wood, bamboo and some odd-looking half-completed items on the floor. I saw that there was a variety of ceramics on a wooden shelf. There were small people and animals too.
“These are made by Fourth Shu?” I asked curiously.
“En.” Wei An answered.
I picked up one of them, “ This dog is truly well made.”
“It’s a tiger.” Wei An said.
I was embarrassed and placed the item back before picking up another, “This deer is realistic.”
“It’s a horse.”
“It’s a male.”
I turned my head back and saw that Wei An was looking at me. His face was a bit red, seemingly annoyed.
“Male… Hahaha…” Wei Rong, who was at the side, laughed so hard that she was gasping.
I was somewhat embarrassed and left the wooden shelf to walk to Wei An. I looked at the pieces of wood that Wei An was putting together and after understanding for a while, I was sure that there was no mistake before I spoke, “You are making a carriage?”
Wei An did not raise his head, “En.”
I looked again. “It does not seem to be similar to the usual ones.”
“Those are not good enough.” Wei An wiped his sweat, “Those spoil easily and the axles are not effective. Upon encountering muddy waters, it would get stuck on the road.”
Wei Rong disapproved, “All carriages are like this. Horses pull it, humans drive it. There is no need for you to spend this much thought on it.
Wei An ignored her.
I felt that I was the one making Wei An uncomfortable and thought that it was better that I left sooner, thus I handed the bag of new clothes to Wei An, “These are the new clothes that are made for Fourth Shu. May Fourth Shu accept it.”
Wei An looked at that cloth bag in surprise, his hands stopped moving.
“It is made by Eldest Sao, quickly give thanks.” Wei Rong said.
I quickly said to Wei Rong, “Fourth Shu is busy. Let’s not disturb him.” After finishing, I pulled her and turned around to leave.
If it was said that the Wei family could have an audience with the Emperor due to a new bride entering the family, then I was no longer surprised that during Wei Furen’s birthday banquet, hundreds of official families were invited.
In front of the gates of the Prime Minister’s residence, horse carriages were lined up like a long dragon. In addition to the families of important officials in court, there were many families from Wei Jue’s barracks. Wei Furen highly valued them and especially vacated the back gardens to entertain them. She greeted the guest at the hall and especially sent me to receive them, fearing that they would be treated coldly.
Looking at the garden that was filled with women who were talking cheerfully and wittily, I could not help but think of those officials that helped Wei Jue besiege cities. Wei Jue also treated them very well, at least he had used all means to win them over.
Being warm and urging others to drink, was a must-have technique for the noble women of ChangAn. Previously, I followed Mother and thus had long mastered it without a teacher. Due to the hardship and chaos of war, many military officials only set up families after Wei Jue chose a capital thus there were very few women from the countryside and many of them were neat looking daughters of ornamental scholars.
This made me relax a lot. At least they could understand my graceful words of persuasion to eat.
After being busy for a while, one saw that there were fewer guests streaming in and felt exhausted. After handing it over to the servants, I headed to the back of the hall for a drink.
“Ah Jin?” Just as one went up the stairs, a voice called out from behind.
Upon turning back, one saw a young woman standing behind, looking at me with a face full of questions.
I looked at her face and remembered, “Yu Ying?”
A smile appeared on Yu Ying’s face and she came forward to grip my sleeves, speaking with excitement, “Ah Jin, I indeed did not recognise incorrectly!”
I looked at her and likewise smiled gently.
Qiao Yu Ying is the daughter of Qiao Zhen, the Superintendent of State Visits (ref: 大行令), and was one of my playmates in ChangAn. After coming to Yong Province, I had seen numerous familiar faces and they were all those who used to be in court with Father. This was not difficult to explain since the Heavenly Son had moved the capital out of ChangAn, the hundreds of officials would also follow. However, Yu Ying was the second female that I was acquainted with after Xu Ping and this lifted my spirits.
“Where are you now? Are your parents well?” I held her hand and asked.
The smile on Yu Ying’s face dimmed, “Father is still around. Mother…” She did not continue and lowered her head to wipe her eyes.
I looked at her expression and understood that she was not doing well.
Yu Ying told me when ChangAn was being attacked by troops, her family fled to avoid the disaster. In the midst of the chaos, her mother and younger brother were killed by roving bandits. She followed her father and drifted through many places until they heard that the Heavenly Son declared Yong Province as the capital before returning. Wei Jue reinstated Yu Ying’s father’s official position, the Superintendent of State Visits (大行令). Yu Ying was now married to Wei Jue’s Division General and was currently settling down.
Upon hearing her narration, it was hard for me to avoid sobbing. However, similar stories existed everywhere. After listening to too many, even the one who loved to cry would become numb.
I softly sighed and could only gently touch Yu Ying’s hands while comforting, “The deceased have departed and you are safe. Furen would be able to rest contentedly.”
Yu Ying nodded and looked up at me. “Ah Jin, at that time you…” She just started speaking when she stopped and there was a look of cowardly yet ashamed inquiry in her eyes.
I knew what she wanted to ask and shook my head, “Yu Ying, there is no longer the need to mention the past.”
Yu Ying’s eyes slightly welled up with tears and after a few moments, she took a deep breath and smiled, “You are right, the past has passed. Ah Jin is now living well. One heard that you are married to Prime Minister Wei’s Eldest Young Master.”
I nodded in reply.
“How does Eldest Young Master treat you?” Yu Ying’s face was filled with curiosity and envy. “One heard that the Prime Minister mentioned you by name as the Daughter-in-Law! Ah Jin you are really amazing. One needs to know that there are numerous people in Yong Capital that want to marry their daughters off to Eldest Young Master!”
She was still similar to in the past where she liked to enquire about all sorts of things but she had skilfully avoided my past of marrying Lai Yang. Those years were neither short nor long but were able to turn an ignorant young girl into a tactful married woman.
After a change in topic, Yu Ying was obviously much more excited and pulled me over to speak some more.
“Ah Jin, did you see Eldest Young Master in ChangAn before?” Yu Ying asked.
“No.” I shook my head.
“I have seen before.” Yu Ying giggled, “Do you still remember when the Late Emperor once selected noble youths into the Yu Lin troops?”
Upon seeing my surprised look, she was somewhat proud, “Ah Jin, that year you were restricted within the Palace with the Empress Dowager. Didn’t you see those youths of Yu Lin? Eldest Young Master was one of them.”
“Really?” This indeed made me curious because no one had told me before.
“I have personally seen it.” Yu Ying said, “I also know who Eldest Young Master liked at that time…”
My gaze came to a halt.
Yu Ying’s face changed, like she was aware of her slip of the tongue, and she covered her mouth with her hands.
“Oh?” I calmly smiled as I asked, “Who?”
Yu Ying’s expression was somewhat awkward and smiled embarrassingly, “Ah Jin, if I say it out, you must not take it to heart.” After which, she bit her lips and whispered to my ears, “It is Older Sister Xu Ping. That time I entered the Palace for a banquet with Mother and Older Sister Xu entrusted me to pass a handkerchief to Eldest Young Master.”
I was startled and thought back to Empress Xu’s eyes quietly watching during the audience with the Emperor.