This will be the last post for this novel. For further chapters, please head down to Sandy’s Read Receipts
Edited by Halley & Larkspar
Chapter 15: Hibiscus
After sending me back to the residence, Wei Tan returned to the barracks again.
I was used to it and would calmly express care and concern at the doors by asking him to take care. Upon returning to the room, I quickly wrote a letter to inform Li Shang that Wei Jue would be going on an expedition soon. After handing the letter over to Ah Yuan, I thought for a while and brought out a jade bracelet from the adornment box.
“If you are able to see your older brother these days, give him this. It is Ruo Chan’s birthday at the end of the month. Instruct your older brother to send it over to Ning Xiang Guan on my behalf.”
Ah Yuan was somewhat surprised at the words.
“Furen wants to give this to Chen NiuJun?” She frowned. “Furen, Chen NiuJun is currently… .”
NuiJun 女君 is a higher form of Young Lady of Noble household.
“She is still Chen NuiJun.” I interrupted, “Tell your older brother to be careful about it.”
Ah Yuan complied and kept the jade bracelet.
“Furen.” She whispered after a while, “Do you want to make a lot of money?”
“En.” I took a glance at her and smiled, “Of course I want to make a lot of money.”
“So what if there is a lot of money?” Ah Yuan pouted in disagreement, “Even if one can become as rich as Lord Lu, one can only be a yes-man before Prime Minister and Eldest Young Master.”
“That is still better than being a refugee.” I said.
“Refugee?” Ah Yuan felt that it was ridiculous, “Furen is the daughter-in-law of the Prime Minister. How can it be comparable to a refugee?”
“How can it not be comparable?” I pointed at her head with my fingers and said lightly, “Don’t forget that before the Heavenly One came to Yong Province, he was also homeless and miserable, without the full three meals a day.”
Ah Yuan still wanted to continue but the voices of servants greeting sounded. Wei Tan had returned. Ah Yuan quickly fell silent and stood aside.
Ruo Chan’s reply quickly came. She said that the hibiscus at Qiong Hua Temple of the Western Mountain were blossoming and that she would be going over the day after, on the fifteenth, to admire them.
I had not traveled for some time and thus upon receiving this invitation, my interest was piqued. In the past, the females of the noble families in ChangAn liked to meet up in temples at various blooming periods. On such a day, Ruo Chan and I would definitely follow Mother there. Both of us enjoyed looking at flowers and would specially dress up, painting a scene of little girls playing among the flower bushes.
On the fifteenth, I took a leave of absence from Wei Furen early in the morning and headed towards Qiong Hua Temple with my offerings.
Unlike Bai He Guan, Qiong Hua Temple was rather small. Even on a day like the fifteenth, there were not many people who came to worship.
The first and fifteenth days of the month are usually days where believers would pray or visit temples.
I did not see Ruo Chan when I entered the temple. It was when I finished worshipping, a child from the temple came over to greet and told me that the Enlightened One (Taoist title) was lecturing in the back courtyard. I nodded and instructed Ah Yuan to take care of matters in the temple before following the child in.
As expected, in front of the hibiscus in the back courtyard, Ruo Chan was sitting on the stone table, brewing tea. However she was not alone. Across the table, sat a young man on a small couch, holding a tea cup with a tall and thin stature. It was Gong Yang Gui.
I looked at them in surprise and stopped going up.
“Ah Jin.” Ruo Chan greeted me with a smile. She wore a light coloured dress today, her black hair was tied up with a silk ribbon and decorated with a pearl hairpin. There was no makeup on her face, making her look like a maiden in a boudoir.
“Ruo Chan.” I walked over and looked at her before looking at Gong Yang Gui and greeting, “Gentleman Gong Yang.”
Gong Yang Gui clasped his hands in front and greeted calmly, “Madam Fu.”
“Sit down.” Ruo Chan poured a cup of tea and said, “This is Lu Mountain’s Wu Cha. I bought it with great difficulty.”
Her voice was soft and there was none of the aggressive attitude that she had shown during the first encounter.
“Is it?” I smiled relaxedly, “That is good.” After speaking, I sat at the stone platform as Ruo Chan handed the teacup over.
I picked up the teacup and took a gentle sip as the tea fragrance lingered long.
One was ashamed to say that I have Father who was fond of tea but I was incompetent in tea brewing. Ruo Chan’s parents did not like drink tea but Ruo Chan’s tea brewing skills were impeccable.
There was no politeness and small talk but the current scenario was instead very familiar. It was as if one had returned to the past.
“How is it?” Ruo Chan asked me.
“It is still that fragrant.” I sincerely praised.
Ruo Chan looked at me as her lips curled up. After a moment, she looked at Gong Yang Gui again, “Do you want more again?”
Gong Yang Gui nodded and pushed the tea cup over.
Ruo Chan scooped up a ladleful of tea and poured it into his cup.
I looked at Ruo Chan. Her brows were lowered slightly and the profile of her face was elegant. Her hand that was holding the ladle was like an orchid and her other hand was gently lifting the sleeves, displaying an indescribable charm. Upon looking at Gong Yang Gui again, his expression was relaxed and there was a faint smile between his brows, making his original cold face soft.
“Did the family say anything when you came out alone?” Ruo Chan asked me.
“Mother-in-law is a believer of deities and god thus there was no objections.” I continued, “Father-in-law and Husband are busy and do not care about household matters.”
“Oh?” Ruo Chan smiled lightly, “It is actually unrestrained.”
I smiled uncomfortably, “The weather today is good. Does Ruo Chan often come here?”
“Not often.” Ruo Chan tasted the tea and continued, “My shop conduct a lot of entertainments and every month there would only be two or three days of free time. Since it is bright and shinning today, I came out for a walk. Tomorrow one have to go to Lord Jia’s side…”
“Lord Jia?” Gong Yang Gui suddenly interjected, “You are going personally?”
Ruo Chan looked at him and smiled lightly, “Of course I have to go personally. I have inquired that of the Nine Ministers, three of them are coming.”
“You said that you will not personally attend a banquet in the future!” Gong Yang Gui’s face darken as he said anxiously, “That old man is famous for being lustful so how could you go?”
“Which man is not lustful?” Ruo Chan disapproved, “How many shops are there is Yong province now? For such a big client like Lord Jia, if I do not follow up closely, others will snatch.”
“A newly rich salt merchant is considered as a big client? Ruo Chan, even if you…”
“Even if one does not conduct oneself with dignity, one should still be picky.” Ruo Chan sneered, “Like your Father, is it?”
Gong Yang Gui’s face suddenly turned green as he stared at her.
Ruo Chan turned her head away and added water to the copper kettle unhurriedly.
“I am indeed unnecessary!” Gong Yang Gui gnawed his teeth as he spoke and kicked the small couch before turning away to leave.
I watched as he leaved in a rage and felt somewhat awkward, thus I could not help but look at Ruo Chan.
Ruo Chan also looked over and her face was somewhat pale, with a little regret in that complex gaze. After a while she looked at me and her lips hooked up unnaturally.
“He is like this.” Ruo Chan said, “Obstinate and will get angry after a few words.”
I nodded my head.
The tea in the pot boiled again and Ruo Chan reacted upon earring the sound by stopping up the tea. She filled my cup with a steady hand but it was obvious that it was done absent-mindlessly.
There was no words spoken between the two person and the surroundings was quiet, except for the bird that was chattering in the tree.
“Just ask what you want to ask.” After a while, Ruo Chan finally could not tolerate my constant peeking over.
I looked over at her, “What is with Gentleman Gong Yang and you?”
“It is what you see.” Ruo Chan said lightly.
Because of Second Older Brother and my relationship, Ruo Chan and Gong Yang Gui had always known each other but since there were differences between male and female, they did not have much contact in the past, based on my understanding.
Ruo Can and Gong Yang Hui only met again two years ago. At that time Wei Jue just settled on the capital with the Emperor and Ruo Chan just opened her performance house. In one of the banquet, Ruo Chan brought her performance to liven things up and Gong Yang Gui, who was a guest, recognised her in an instant. Afterwards, Gong Yang Gui would frequently visit the performance house but did not listen to any songs nor required any accompaniment, wanting to only see Ruo Chan.
After getting used to the cold and indifference of human interactions, Ruo Chan treated him as a honoured customer at first but after half a year, Gong Yang Gui suddenly said that he wanted to marry her.
This shocked Ruo Can and Gong Yang Gui’s family did not allow it.
Gong Yang Gui had an unyielding personality and actually moved out without caring being in a deadlock with his family. The matter became bumpy and Ruo Chan make a living and could not lose her performance house. Gong Yang Gui’s family refused to allow Ruo Chan to enter the family and even put it out that if Gong Yang Gui dared to marry Ruo Chan, the Gong Yang family will remove him from the family genealogical records.
Remembering about the matter of Gong Yang Gui’s resignation, I said, “I heard that the Prime Minister had intended to take Gentleman Gong Yang into the army to serve but Gentleman Gong Yang resigned and refused it.”
“Minister Wen Zhen submitted a report in appreciation and recommended him to the Prime Minister. Imperial Censor Gong Yang wanted take one step further and wanted Zhong Ping to marry Wen Zhen’s daughter. Zhong Ping was furious and resigned.”
I looked at her in surprised and was unable to speak for a while. I knew about Imperial Censor Gong Yang’s temperament and he was one who kept his word. For Gong Yang Gui to take such a step, one feared that Ruo Chan and his matter were even more hopeless.
“He treats you very well.” I said after a while.
“En.” Ruo Chan sighed softly.
“He was genuinely angry just now.” I said.
Ruo Chan smiled bitterly and there was a distance silence in her eyes. She did not speak and after a moment, she turned her head to pour more tea.
“I heard that the Prime Minister want to go to war with Tan Xi, so your husband is busy lately?” She asked.
“En.” I nodded.
“One heard that he always stays in the barracks at night?”
I froze and looked at Ruo Chan.
“How do you know?” I asked.
Ruo Chan continued with a smile but yet not a smile, “You have forgotten what I do. What kind of news in Yong province can be hidden in the idle chat during a banquet? Ah Jin, you have entered the Wei family for about half a year?”
I nodded, “Almost.”
“Did the family urge for descendants?”
I blushed with embarrassment.
Ruo Chan’s eyes was thought provoking, “Husband is often away in batter and it is not easy for him to return but there are a few times where you share a bed. Ah Jin, it is not me saying you, but this matter is the most important thing.”
It was not just a few times sharing a bead, it was even worse than that. I thought to myself and my face felt a little hot.
Ruo Chan seemed to see my embarrassment and smiled gently.
“Ah Jin is still a shy person.” She said softly.
“Who says!” I glared back to refute.
Ruo Chan instead laughed and stroke my hair, just like in the past when I felt wronged and complained to her.
“Actually it is not that difficult to keep a hold onto a man.” Her fingers lightly combed my hair and there was some mysterious look in her smile, “Ah Jin, let me take you to see some things.”