Chapter 13: Xiaoqi, Don’t Go Past the Walls
After being in Song fu so many days, Ha Pi finally got his own food; a yellow and savory corn bun filled with chicken bits. Qian Xiaoqi bit her chopsticks as she watched Ha Pi bark softly as he ate the delicious and hot corn bun on the ground. Then, she shot a baffled glance at Song Liangzhuo.
Song Liangzhuo gave a light cough and said, “If you like it then just keep it. It’s not like I can’t afford to raise even one dog.”
Qian Xiaoqi felt a bit uncomfortable and shifted in her seat as if there were nails poking her butt. After half the day, she finally whispered, “That ah, he doesn’t that much. Um, I’ll just pay you back later.”
Song Liangzhuo didn’t comment. Ruoshui who had been leaning over the table edge to watch Ha Pi asked in a puzzled voice, “Song gege, you even made that bag of chicken bits into a corn bun for Ha Pi to eat? I thought you would have just fed it to him like that!”
Song Liangzhuo lowered his head and began to eat happily. Qian Xiaoqi, as before, only ate vegetables and didn’t touch the meat. Song Liangzhuo picked up a piece of meat and carried over, saying in a low voice, “Stop abstaining, I’m not low on money.”
Ruoshui retrieved her head from below the table, right in time to see Song Liangzhuo pick food for Xiaoqi. Annoyed, she also lifted her bowl and moved it in front of Song Liangzhuo. Song Liangzhuo could only picked something for her as well. Just, he didn’t lift his eyes to look at Qian Xiaoqi again.
Not even four days later, Wen Mingxuan had arrived. He even brought along a tall, robust, white-clothed man with bright sparkling eyes. The moment that man saw Wen Ruoshui, his eyes which were already bright shone even brighter and even faintly carried a smiling expression.
In Qian Xiaoqi’s eyes, men that wore white were of two types: either a holier-than-thou scholar or a hypocrite that liked to pretend to be noble and virtuous. Song Liangzhuo is a holier-than-thou scholar. With one glance Qian Xiaoqi had sorted this bright-eyed man into the second category.
Wen Ruoshui hid behind Xiaoqi’s back and whispered, “Xiaoqi, help me block him. That guy is a horrible meanie.”
Xiaoqi met the white clothed man’s shining eyes and frowned. “Official Song has gone to the county office. If you guys need him, go there to find him.”
“You’re Liangzhuo’s little wife? You really are small!” The white-clothed man smiled as he sized up Xiaoqi, then nodded. “But still quite delicate and pretty. Presumably there’s something that’s superior to others, otherwise why would Liangzhuo, that monk, break his chastity vow?”
The “chastity vow” is actually breaking his “lust ring” which is a figure of speech that means what it sounds like.
Xiaoqi frowned and beckoned a manservant over, saying, “Kick them out. How could you let just anyone come in!?”
The manservant glanced at the two well-dressed men and said in an embarrassed, quiet voice, “These two said that they were da ren‘s friends.”
Wen Ruoshui nodded. “Kick one out. Kick out that fox-eyed one over there.”
The manservant took another glance. Evidently, he could not figure out which one was fox-eyed so he awkwardly wrung his hands, gave a bow, and went back to standing at the side motionless.
Ruoshui stuck her head out from behind Xiaoqi and was caught head on by Wen Mingxuan’s gaze. Wen Mingxuan didn’t speak, he just lifted his chin with a displeased expression and Ruoshui automatically shuffled out. Trembling with fear, she called in a soft voice, “Big Brother.”
Qian Xiaoqi touched her ear. Seeing that Ruoshui didn’t seem to be acting, she looked closely and realized that these two actually looked somewhat similar. Qian Xiaoqi curled her lips into an unamused smile, then nudged Ha Pi who was next to her foot and half walked, half skipped to the back courtyard.
The white-clothed man clicked his tongue towards Qian Xiaoqi’s leaving figure and said in a low voice, “Has that guy, Liangzhuo’s tastes changed? Didn’t he use to like the dignified type? But I say that lively ones are better, they seem to have more life.”
Wen Ruoshui moved to Wen Mingxuan’s side to hug his arm and swing it. “Big Brother, I was just talking about going home when Big Brother just happened to arrive.”
The white-clothed man gave a sneer and switched to giving Wen Ruoshui an exaggerated eyeroll.
Chinese “eyeroll” actually translates to “white eye”. It’s literally showing another person the white of your eyes to express your disgust.
Wen Mingxuan said warmly, “You’ve gotten thinner?”
“I haven’t, I’ve been eating really well. Xiaoqi and Zhuo gege are really nice too.” Wen Ruoshui half hung off Wen Mingxuan’s body as she pulled him towards her own courtyard. When she reached the small courtyard entrance, she gave the white-clothed man a glare and said, “A lady’s courtyard, men are not allowed to enter!”
“Haha, looks like Brother Mingxuan doesn’t count as a man!” The white-clothed man laughed with an eyebrow raised.
“Hmph, he’s my Big Brother. Male strangers are not allowed to enter.” Wen Ruoshui pulled Wen Mingxuan in first, then blocked the courtyard entrance. She waved at the white-clothed man as if she were shooing off a fly and closed the courtyard doors with her brows knitted.
The white-clothed man rubbed his chin and smiled as he followed the manservant to somewhere else.
The white-clothed man strolled aimlessly around the courtyard and happened to bump into Song Liangzhuo who had returned early. The white-clothed man beamed as he stared at Song Liangzhuo who was walking in, then folded his arms and clicked his tongue. “You move quite fast, don’t you? Say marry and you marry. Aren’t you worried about how to explain to the old man when you get back?”
Song Liangzhuo handed the coarse cloth bag he was holding to the manservant and replied with his brows raised, “The old man only cares about whether I marry, he doesn’t care who I marry.”
The white-clothed man cut off the path of the manservant that was heading towards the kitchen and looked inside the cloth bag. His lips drew back and he waved his hand in disgust. “Why did you bring such a disgusting thing home?”
Song Liangzhuo took out a silk cloth to wipe his hands, then lifted his head to glance towards the back courtyard. “For feeding the dog.”
The white-clothed man smiled with a wink. “Who would have thought you were the type of person to have tender feelings for the fairer sex?”
Song Liangzhuo didn’t reply and started walking towards the courtyard. The white-clothed man, with sharp eyes and deft hands, pulled out a small cloth bag that was tucked into Song Liangzhuo’s chest.
Song Liangzhuo frowned. “Hand it back.”
The white-clothed man opened it. After he glanced at the clay models and clay whistle inside, he laughed. “You’ve started to play with these types of things as well? You really have changed!”
Song Liangzhuo knitted his brows as he took the items back. The white-clothed man grabbed Wen Ruoshui’s out of his hand and said with a smile, “Give me this one. Otherwise, Sister-in-Law might become unhappy if she sees it.”
Song Liangzhuo shook his head and lifted the corners of his mouth. “You explain it to Ruoshui, just don’t have her ask me for it.”
Song Liangzhuo once again put the things in his chest and while keeping a hand over them, headed towards the study.
“You’re not going to see Sister-in-Law first?” The white-clothed man smiled with squinted fox eyes.
Song Liangzhuo shot a look over. However, he knew that this guy’s personality was just this smug. Thus, Song Liangzhuo just gave a light humph and brushed it off.
The man glanced down to look closely at the clay figure in his hand. He gently brushed it with his finger before happily putting it in his sleeve pocket. Following that, he took out a letter and handed it to Song Liangzhuo.
“But, Brother Liangzhuo, when will you go back to Ruzhou? It looks like Uncle Song’s meaning is since you’ve married, you should hurry and go back.”
“These two years there’s flood, it’s inconvenient to immediately return. At best it will still take one year.”
The white-clothed man shook his head. “Wrong, wrong. Brother Liangzhuo, once you leave, someone like you, or perhaps even better, will naturally arrive to become Tongxu’s county magistrate. The waters will be managed nevertheless.”
“I should still give the people here an explanation.” Song Liangzhuo exhaled and said, “Watching Tongxu change under my governance truly brings my heart joy.”
The white-clothed man looked over playfully. “Yes, yes, yes. Liking the fact that you have such ability, right?”
Song Liang Zhuo smiled and shook his head. “Let’s stop talking about me. What are Hengzhi’s plans?”
“Me ah, haha. I’ll continue my family business, developing it and bringing it to greater prosperity!”
Song Liangzhuo nodded. “It’s also difficult.”
“But before this, I have to acquire my wife first.” The white-clothed man shrugged.
Song Liangzhuo couldn’t help laughing: “This task of Hengzhi’s can also be considered arduous.”
Dinner became much more lively. Qian Xiaoqi took advantage of the time while they were drinking and chattering about events back home to sneakily feed Ha Pi a lot of pork shoulders. She fed Ha Pi to the point that his originally already round stomach was starting to drag a bit on the floor.
Xiaoqi was once again, for the umpteenth time, carrying a piece of meat to drop under the table when Song Liangzhuo intercepted her hand and guided it to her own bowl, saying a in low voice, “He’s already full, you should eat it yourself.”
Xiaoqi lifted her foot to nudge Ha Pi who had ran two circles chasing his own tail before lying down on the floor motionless. Then, she lifted her hand to drop the meat into Song Liangzhuo’s bowl.
“I don’t eat pork.”
The white-clothed man laughed. “Brother Liangzhuo and Sister-in-Law are so affectionate. Haha, Hengzhi salutes a cup to Sister-in-Law.”
The moment these words were said, Ruoshui became a bit unhappy and looked towards Qian Xiaoqi with a pout. Qian Xiaoqi blinked her eyes and looked towards Song Liangzhuo, only to see him smiling towards her. Her heart leaped violently and her face flushed conspicuously red. Qian Xiaoqi lifted her hand to touch her own face, while raging inwardly at herself for being a good-for-nothing. Why can’t she look at him when he smiles at her? It’s not like he’s the reincarnation of Pan An* or some exceptionally beautiful man, nor is he her peach blossom.
In Chinese symbolism, peach blossoms symbolize good luck, or in this case, intense love. Pan An is a writer during China’s Western Jin Dynasty, born in Henan, which is where this story is set! He’s known as a beautiful, melancholic writer, and one of the five ancient Chinese men known for their beauty. XD
“Sister-in-Law?” The white-clothed man called again with a smile.
Qian Xiaoqi recalled what Song Liangzhuo said earlier about acting as a proper county magistrate’s wife during these days and saluted a cup with a slight pout. She raised the cup towards the white-clothed man and drank it in one gulp.
“Haha. Sister-in-Law, nice drinking capacity.” The white-clothed man also downed it in one gulp, then picked a bite to eat before continuing. “Sister-in-Law really is such a refreshing lady, no wonder Brother Liangzhuo treats you so special.”
Wen Ruoshui became even more unhappy. Changing the subject, she asked Song Liangzhuo, “Zhuo gege, did you bring back my clay figure?”
Song Liangzhuo nodded.
Wen Ruoshui’s delighted eyes sparkled as she hurriedly asked, “Where, where? Let me see!”
Song Liangzhuo aimed a glance at Liu Hengzhi and lifted his chin in his direction.
The dimples on Wen Ruoshui’s smiling face instantly vanished as her expression turned fierce as a tiger. “Zhuo gege, how could you give it to him? Forget it, Zhuo gege, compensate me!”
Wen Mingxuan gave a light cough. Wen Ruoshui glanced over, then hung her head while pouting.
Song Liangzhuo didn’t speak and just glanced at Liu Hengzhi with a smile. Liu Hengzhi smiled and said, “Ruoshui, don’t be mad. Isn’t it better if I take it? I’ll store it carefully, just treat it as a gift you gave me.”
“You’re shameless!” Wen Ruoshui abruptly raised her head; her eyes were already faintly filled with tears.
Liu Hengzhi rubbed his chin and said warmly, “Then tomorrow I’ll accompany Ruoshui to just make one. Yours, yours, I accidentally lost it. En, yeah, lost it!”
Xiaoqi and Ruoshui spoke at the same time. The two shared a glance. Xiaoqi lifted her chin indicating for Wen Ruoshui to speak first. Wen Ruoshui said angrily, “Taking someone else’s thing without permission and still acting so self-confident as if you are in the right, you really are shameless!”
Xiaoqi nodded. “It’s something that Official Song just brought back and you didn’t even leave the courtyard. How could you possibly lose it? You can’t take other people’s things, it’s not right!”
Liu Hengzhi was clearly amused by Xiaoqi’s declaration. He lifted his eyebrows and looked towards Song Liangzhuo. However, Song Liangzhuo didn’t show any reaction so Liu Hengzhi said with a laugh, “Taking other people’s things really is not right.”
Xiaoqi nodded, waiting for Liu Hengzhi to take the clay figure out, but she waited in vain.
Wen Ruoshui wanted to continue scolding him and calling him shameless, but she was also afraid of Wen Mingxuan who was sitting next to her. Thus she was mad with repressed anger to the point that her nose flared.
Liu Hengzhi moved over to say softly, “Ruoshui, don’t worry. I’ll make you a better one.”
“Who wants your things!” Wen Ruoshui fiercely stomped on Liu Hengzhi’s foot under the table, then ran out crying.
Liu Hengzhi winced in pain. Wen Mingxuan knitted his brows and said, “Hengzhi, you shouldn’t take things too far.”
Qian Xiaoqi indignantly said, “How could you snatch something from a lady? No wonder Ruoshui jiejie doesn’t like you.”
’jiejie’ is older sister. So Ruoshui was older, I always thought because of her spoiled behavior that she was younger.
Qian Xiaoqi turned and glared at Wen Mingxuan. “Not even caring when your own sister is being bullied.”
As she spoke she bent over to pick up Ha Pi and accidently touched Ha Pi’s oily chin. Xiaoqi knitted her brows and wiped her oily hand off on Song Liangzhuo’s arm, complaining angrily, “Humph, you’re all the same!”
Xiaoqi walked out quickly carrying Ha Pi, leaving behind three dazed men who just looked at each other.
Credits: Translated by Chiyomira, Edited by Sonia
Hmm, it’s not really sister-in-law. It’s just a way to address the wife of a close friend. But sister-in-law is pretty much how familiarly he’s calling her.