Edited by Halley & Larkspar
Chapter 12: Receiving Guests (Part 2)
Wei Furen should think that I was an obedient daughter-in-law since I was already waiting outside the doors like usual when she got up the next day.
Wei Jue had stayed over at the concubine’s, Madam Zhang’s, courtyard last night thus there was no need for any evasion.
“Young Furen is rather early today.” Wei Furen was all smiles and sweetness, “Eldest Young Master is not up yet?”
I smiled lightly. “Eldest Young Master had gone to the barracks last night and did not stay the night at home.”
“Oh?” Wei Furen looked at me and her eyes roamed for a moment before smiling, “Eldest Young Master is very busy. Young Furen has to be more considerate.”
I replied softly, “Respectfully comply.”
Unexpectedly, Second Young Master, Wei Zhao, came over not long after.
“Greeting Mother. Greeting Eldest Sao.” His head was wrapped with a scarf and he was wearing a narrow-sleeved robe. He was dressed in an attire to practice martial arts, but his every move was very elegant.
“Zhong Ming.” When Wei Furen saw him, the smile rose from the bottom of her eyes. “You only returned from the barracks last night, why did you get up this early?”
“This child was practicing swordplay with Father before the day broke and is not at all drowsy.” Wei Zhao answered.
Wei Furen took his hand lovingly before asking about other daily matters and Wei Zhao answered each one of them.
On normal days, Wei Zhao and I would only nod at one other as greetings thus, I could only stand aside on such an occasion to watch the deep affections between the Mother and Son.
Wei Furen feared that swordplay would be too strenuous for Wei Zhao and after a brief chat, she turned to order the maid to bring some porridge from the kitchens. During the break, Wei Zhao suddenly looked towards me.
As our gazes met, I nodded my head.
He smiled as his eyebrows rose slightly, making him look more elegant.
Upon exiting Wei Furen’s courtyard, I walked along the corridors when I suddenly heard footsteps behind me. Upon turning my head back, one saw Wei Zhao walking over.
“Eldest Sao.” Wei Zhao greeted with a gentle voice.
“Second Shu.” I returned the greetings and smiled gently, “Where is Second Shu headed to?”
Wei Zhao replied, “To the barracks. Father wants to watch the forward troops drills and has ordered me to follow.”
I nodded in response. “Second Shu has worked hard.”
“I dare not accept the honour.” Wei Zhao said. When his lips were slightly curved, he looked a bit similar to Wei Tan but was more effeminate. “If one were to compare with Eldest Brother, I am far behind.”
My brows wrinkled slightly.
Speaking of which, even though Wei Tan and Wei Zhao were brothers of the same Father, they were very different in the eyes of everyone else. I had heard some discussions about Wei Tan taking resolute actions at the speed of lightning and was a man of one’s words, thus being quite prestigious amongst the military commanders. In contrast, Wei Zhao treated others amiably and had a good capability for writing, making him popular among the scholars in Chang An. Wei Jue’s treatment towards both sons also made others contemplate. Whenever he was on an expedition or dealing with national issues, he would rely on Wei Tan but would often bring along Wei Zhao whenever he went out.
I smiled gently, “Father-in-law works hard for the country. Husband, as the younger generation, would not dare to have any slights.”
Wei Zhao smiled lightly.
“The weather today is rather good.” He looked out the passageway. “The scenery in Yong Capital is beautiful in spring. Has Eldest Sao been to an outing yet?”
“Last month, I went to the temple to worship. However it was only done once or twice.” I replied.
“The original green willows are now scattered with peach blossoms.” Wei Zhao said slowly, “The spring sight in Yong Capital is rather good.”
I was startled.
Wei Zhao smiled gently, “When I was young, I had the honour to visit Minister Fu. When I was taught, had used his poetry as a model. Until this day, I can still recite it from memory.”
I looked at Wei Zhao, the morning rays were scattered on his face, his brows looked particularly delicate with the ends slightly raised. I carefully traced it in my heart. I had to admit that I did not have an ounce of impression of this handsome and elegant face.
“Young Furen.” Just at this moment, the steward’s voice was heard from behind.
The two of them looked over and saw him walking over quickly and greeted before speaking to me, “Young Furen, Eldest Young Master is receiving guests at the back gardens and has invited Furen to make a trip over.”
Receiving guests? I was a little surprised. I turned to Wei Zhao, “Since Husband has requested, I will leave first.”
Wei Zhao bowed, “Eldest Sao do go ahead slowly.”
The residential courtyard of the Wei Residence was previously the official residence of the Marquis of Yong. In the troubled times, royalty, marquis, generals and ministers were all waste, thus the entire family of the Marquis of Yong died at the hands of bandits. When Wei Jue entered Yong Capital, the property was empty and he set this place up as the Prime Minister Residence.
The Marquis of Yong was considered to be born from the Imperial clan and even though the Marquis Residence was nothing compared to the noble households, the courtyard was constructed very elegantly. There were towering old trees, various flowers, bridges and flowing water. It was quite pleasant to enjoy the sights and play here.
When Wei Tan said that there were guests, I had thought that it was only one or two. I did not expect to see several people when I reached the back gardens. It seemed that there were at least twenty.
There were a few banquet tables and in front of the first painted screen was Wei Tan, wearing a wide-sleeve robe and a bamboo headgear. When I entered the gardens, one could feel his eyes glancing over sharply.
“Young Furen.” The people that were standing by the garden gates greeted me, their voices neither loud nor soft but able to reach the banquet.
The discussion suddenly stopped and the guests all looked over curiously.
“Furen.” Wei Tan got up from the seat and came forward with a smile.
Under everyone’s gaze, I walked over to Wei Tan and greeted, “Husband.” Before the greeting was finished, a pair of hands held me. Looking up, Wei Tan had a warm expression and his usually grave and stern facial features looked radiant under the sunlight.
“Gentlemen, this is my humble wife, Madam Fu.” He supported me with one hand and turned towards the guests.
I looked over and saw the individual faces of the guests. I was taken aback. Except for a few that I had never met, the majority were familiar.
“Furen, the gentlemen that attended today are all ChangAn’s scholars. Back then, Minister Fu had feasted with these gentlemen here today. One does not know if Furen remembers?” Wei Tan said warmly.
I looked up and his head was slightly lowered, displaying a warm attitude of a husband to a newly wedded wife. Only from my angle, one could then see the calm and scrutiny behind those eyes.
“This wife was young at that time and only remembers some voices.” I replied softly.
Wei Tan smiled slightly, took me to the banquet and introduced these scholars to me individually.
I greeted everyone gracefully and elegantly like my mother. These scholars came bearing gifts and some were even filled with emotions as they spoke to me of their friendship with Father and Older Brothers.
I listened to their words and kept a modest and dignified smile.
Ever since that year when the Fu Family was overturned, I had never met these people again. To encounter such a gathering of distinguished guests in the Wei Residence again today, there was a strange feeling that was difficult to explain. However, I understood where my value was. I did not like to be exploited but before my feathers were fully developed, to escape all these matters, I will do what I need to do dutifully.
They had submitted to the Wei Family but it was not due to the sake of this orphan of the Fu Family.
DongKuang was obliterated, ShangDong was returned to Wei Jue,half of the Central Plains was under his control. This was enough for the wavering scholars and those watching from the sidelines to realign their allegiance. Wei Jue had the Heavenly Son and was considered right and proper. With the addition of me, it had made their reasons for re-allegiance very pure.
Sure enough, upon seeing me, their topic of discussion had turned to the dissatisfaction of Empress Bian’s authority and the striving clans that lead to the neglect of the country. It was as if those praises and laments for the Fu Family had always been this resounding. I didn’t even know that the scene where I wore mourning clothes and sang farewell to my Father and Older Brothers at the execution grounds had already been revised and included in the ‘Biographies of Exemplary Women’.
These scholars, some already with grey hair and some still in their youth, I had heard of many of their names. But as one was young previously, one had never taken the effort to remember who they were.
However, there was an exception.
Sitting at the last seat was Gong Yang Gui, the second son of the Imperial Censor, Gong Yang Ou. He was the only person among the guests that I could match the name to the person.
He was the same age as Second Brother and was his good friend. The Gong Yang Family was from a lineage of great scholars but Gong Yang Gui had an unruly and intractable personality, admiring wandering heroes. He was a different type compared to the hedonistic sons of the wealthy families, who liked Five Minerals Powder (aka ancient psychoactive drugs) and dusting rouge (aka visiting brothels). Perhaps it was this reason that Second Older Brother, who revered wandering heroes, had good relations with him and would invite him to the residence to have swordplay competitions.
This person and I were not considered strangers. There were a few times when I wanted to go to the marketplace and since Second Older Brother had no leisure time, he requested Gong Yang Gui to take me there.
Having not met for years, Gong Yang Gui was no longer the high-spirited youth who would ride the streets of ChangAn carrying a sword. He had grown thinner and taller, even had a beard under his cheeks. He would even attend such influential banquets that he once disdained. There was one point that did not change. When he looked at another person, there was some sharpness in his eyes.
I gently lowered my brows and after listening to Wei Tan’s introduction, called out “Young Master Gong Yang” and greeted him. Gong Yang Gui did not express much and returned to the table after greetings.
People believed that warriors were reckless and did not have eloquence, but I discovered that these words were not necessarily so. Even though Wei Tan was considered a warrior, he was rather eloquent. He knew how to provide advice according to the situation and when those scholars talked about topics on the Late Emperor, Wei Tan would speak in a few words and mention about the current political situation and those scholars would then talk about the current situation.
Wei Jue currently occupied a large territory, from XiLiang to ShangDong. Even though the Heavenly Son made Yong Province the capital, the world was still torn apart. TanXi of the North had the strongest power and most of HeNan, HeBei and YouYun provinces were divided. In addition, Wu Zhang had set up an independent regime in HuaiYang, the Imperial relative, Liang Chong set up another independent regime in JingChu, Wang Mao also set up a regime in BaiYue and there were also countless numbers of smaller forces everywhere else.
To be able to be invited by my Father and Older Brothers for a banquet, they were in fact not mediocre people. I sat by Wei Tan’s side and listened to them compare the strength and weakness of various parties, discuss about matters of attacking and just as the discussion was hot, a voice suddenly sneered, “For Young Master to be this enthusiastic, has one forgotten that Prime Minister has just cut DongKuang down and Yong Province’s grain and wealth is almost empty? To start a war again, could it be that the commoners of the ten provinces would suffer from famines?”
The person who spoke was Gong Yang Gui.
Everyone in the banquet looked over. I looked at him, slightly surprised.
“Zhong Ping.” A middle-aged man sitting next to him glanced over at Wei Tan, seemingly embarrassed, as he smiled to Gong Yang Gui, “Why does Zhong Ping say such things? Prime Minister is a wise person and would not go as far as creating famines.”
Gong Yang Gui looked at him with a cold expression but no longer spoke.
Someone in the banquet timely mentioned a few latest matters of Yong Capital and diverted the topic away. Everyone then started to discuss actively.
Wei Tan smiled lightly as he listened to them speaking but rarely spoke.
I placed a cherry in my mouth as I moved my gaze to the last seat.
Gong Yang Gui had a serious expression as he held a cup in his hands. Suddenly he looked at me and met my eyes.
There was no expression on his face as he drank all the wine from the cup before turning his head back.
Both the guests and hosts were considered to be thoroughly enjoying themselves in this banquet.
Later, I instructed Ah Yuan to inquire details about the guests at the banquet. Upon her return, she told me that most of the people in the banquet had been appointed positions by Wei Jue but there was one exception and it was Gong Yang Gui.
I was surprised, Ah Yuan told me the full story.
Gong Yang Gui had already entered officialdom before the banquet and was the Senior Minister of Warehouse. His family was not satisfied with this position and thus Gong Yang Gui’s uncle, Deputy Minister Coachman (one of the Nine Ministry of court) brought him to the banquet, preparing to introduce him to Wei Tan.
I remembered that there was a middle-aged man sitting next to Gong Yang Gui and assumed that it was Gong Yang Gui’s uncle.
In fact, Wei Tan was not put off with Gong Yang Gui’s words even though it was unsightly. After that day’s banquet, Wei Jue personally met Gong Yang Gui. Ah Yuan told me that Wei Jue had thought that Gong Yang Gui was a talent and wanted to take him under his wings, and appoint him as a Military Registrar or Libations Chancellor. However, before the appointment messenger could arrive, Gong Yang Gui had hung up his stamp and did not even want to continue being the Senior Minister of Warehouse.
“Really a weirdo, right?” Ah Yuan said with hesitation while helping me arrange the mess by the loom.
I smiled lightly and nodded. Looking at the shuttle in my hands, I interlaced it with the main threads on the loom.