Edited by Halley & Larkspar
Chapter 10: Family Banquet (Part 1)
I could only walk up to Wei Tan and help him unbuckle the armour.
Previously when one was in the family in Chang An, I used to see Older Brothers unbuckling their amours. It was not difficult to undo it as one needed to first remove the belt then take off the shoulder armor and breastplate. It was only untying a few knots.
However, even though I knew it was so, I still encountered some difficulties at the beginning. Wei Tan’s belt was inlaid with gold and it was secured firmly that even when I tried to pry it apart, it did not move at all.
A hand suddenly covered mine. It was warm but it possessed a type of strength.
“I will do it.” Wei Tan said. He took my hands off and his knuckles seemed to be on the brass buckle and in two or three moves, the belt was undone.
The amour loosened in a moment and the chains tinkled as they swayed. Wei Tan placed the belt on the rack before turning to me and opened up his arms slightly.
That meant that it was up to me to do what was next.
I reached out and started undoing the shoulder armor and breastplate.
Those knots were easy to untie and I removed them a piece at a time. Wei Tan placed them on the rack.
He had hurried an entire day of journey and thus when his middle garment was revealed, I could smell a strong scent of sweat.
Wei Tan walked over to the water basin and washed his face. The water splashed everywhere and in a short time, he got up and used the towel to dry the water off his face and neck.
The middle garments were half opened but it was already wet. I went over and reached out to untie his belt and took off his top.
His muscular chest and arms were exposed right before my eyes. I took a glance back up before turning to wet the towel and helped Wei Tan wipe his back.
The moisture left a dull glow on his skin and under the candlelight, the complexion around his neck was particularly dark but smooth. Using an adequate amount of strength, I began from the back of his neck and wiped downwards. With just a cloth separating my palm, I could feel the rise and fall of the muscles underneath his skin.
“Are you used to the house?” Wei Tan suddenly asked.
“The In laws family are very kind.” I had picked the most error-free words to reply.
Wei Tan nodded his head.
“A few things have been added to this room.” After a short while, Wei Tan glanced around and remarked.
“It is exactly so.” I replied, “Mother-in-law instructed the steward to send a number of things over to this side.”
Once the stench of sweat was wiped off by the towel, I could smell a faint scent. It seemed to be the freshness from the moisture and yet also the grass that one smelt that night. I stared at the skin in front of me that had turned red from my wiping and placed the towel into the basin of water to clean and wring it dry after a moment.
I walked over to Wei Tan and started to wipe the front of his body.
Although it was not the first time that I saw Wei Tan’s body, when my sight landed on the contours of those muscles, I felt my cheeks warm up.
In the past, I had never felt that there was anything special about a man’s body. When Pei Qian was young, he used to change clothes in front of me.Back then, he was thin and lanky, with a pale and delicate complexion, just like a piece of porcelain originating from a famous kiln. When he saw me staring, he teased me for being lecherous but I had disagreed. One felt that females were also born like that and there was not much difference between a male and female.
In ChangAn, I would sometimes take the carriage through the city and catch sight of those strong men that bared their chest on the roadside. Their physique differed from Pei Qian’s as their muscles were very firm. My nanny would wear an expression of disdain and forbid me from peeking, saying that only those coarse people from the countryside were born like that. At that time, I had learnt that those who grew up looking like Pei Qian were the true sons of nobility.
Thus, the present Wei Tan made me confused. He was of noble-born but was akin to a strong man in the marketplace. That kind with a broad chest, strong, firm arms and an abdomen that was unlike that of my previous husband’s. Han Gang had a flabby stomach, but this one was taut and flat instead. A question rose in my heart. Shouldn’t all men have big bellies?
“Thinking of what?” Wei Tan’s voice rang by my ears.
I looked up to find him staring at me.
I was stunned. Just when I was fumbling for an answer, he said in a low voice. “Look at where your hand is wiping.”
I followed his instructions and looked before becoming embarrassed.
Just now I was thinking about those messy things and the towel in my hand went all the way down and the dripping water had drenched a large part of his pants.
“Ah…” I was somewhat at a loss as to what to do, I quickly put down the wet towel and picked up a dry one. However just as I was about to wipe the pants, Wei Tan grabbed my hands firmly.
“No need.” He took a deep breath and smiled a smile that did not look like a smile. “Bring over a set of dry clothes.”
I looked at him and only felt my cheeks getting warm, I complied and walked towards the chest.
When I finally found the clothes, Wei Tan had already walked behind the screen. I handed him the clothes from over the screen. One could only hear the sound of clothes rustling. Not too long after, Wei Tan walked out. The clothes wrapped around his toned stature and the size was just right.
“How is it?” He asked.
I was surprised, “En?”
Wei Tan said profoundly, “You keep looking at my body.”
My face heated up and I retorted, “I am not looking at your body.”
Wei Tan’s brows slightly quirked up, “Then what are you looking at?”
I opened my mouth to speak but no word came out.
Wei Tan did not seem to be in a rush as he glanced out the window before looking at me again. “The family banquet has yet to start. I have brought back some tea from the ShuDi. How about Furen accompany me to taste it?”
The crickets outside the windows were calling while the copper kettle sitting on top of the charcoal furnace was making ‘gu-gu’ sounds in the room as a white smoke wafted.
Wei Tan and I were sitting opposite one another. I placed the tea bricks from the ShuDi into the copper kettle, the fine tea leaves rhythmically danced in the boiling water. Before long, white foam gradually gathered on the surface.
In the past, in ChangAn, my father was famous for his love for tea. Whenever he was at leisure, he indulged himself in drinking tea and would always personally brew it, reluctant to let anyone lend a hand. When I was very young, I learned to distinguish the quality of the water and the colour of tea from my father and could tell the source of the tea with a single sip.
However, because I was very lazy, the technique for making tea was learnt so badly that my father had never once drank the tea I made. Second Older Brother had once sneered at me and commented that in the future, if I were to encounter a man who would drink the tea I brewed without frowning, I must decisively marry him. I wasn’t the least bit irked and had even proudly replied that there was no need to encounter such a person as Ah Qian was the one.
“Shang Yu’s pottery?” Wei Tan picked up a tea cup and suddenly said.
“It is exactly so,” I said, “Husband knows about pottery?”
“No.” Wei Tan turned the cup over, “It is written on it.”
Wei Tan put down the teacup in a composed manner. “I am a coarse man and do not understand or appreciate elegant things like pottery.”
The self proclaimed coarse man even invited me to appreciate tea. I gave a small smile and used a silver spoon to pick up the foam, “A person who can appreciate pottery might not be a General.”
Wei Tan looked at me and the corners of his lips hooked up.
“Every time when the family letters were delivered over when I was out fighting the war, they would be filled with praises of Furen’s virtuousness.” He continued, “My courtyard has been abandoned for a long time and it is very different today.”
“Husband has overpraised.” I said humbly.
The tea in the kettle was boiling again and I placed the foam, which was previously taken out, back into the tea before letting the servants remove the charcoal furnace, then poured the tea into the teacups.
“May Husband please have it.” I placed the tea cup down and handed it to Wei Tan.
Wei Tan blew onto the teacup, paused momentarily and tasted it.
“How is the taste?” I asked.
“It is rather good.” Wei Tan nodded.
I smiled gently. My aptitude was still inferior but at least Husband could deal with my tea-brewing skills. Father and Eldest Brother would feel comforted.
“Was Husband’s punitive expedition smooth?” I also took a sip of tea and asked.
Wei Tan said, “ShangKe and ShangDong have been pacified and the Central Plains has been returned to the courts.” After finishing, he looked at me, “When I was returning, Duke Han was still the governor of LaiYang and Han Guang had married a new wife last month.”
I was astonished.