Chapter 13: Xiao Qi, 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 Xiao Qi bit her chopsticks as she watched Ha Pi who was near her feet barking softly while eating the delicious and hot corn bun, then shot a baffled glance at Song Liang Zhuo.
Song Liang Zhuo 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 Xiao Qi felt a bit uncomfortable, and shifted as if there were nails poking her butt. After half the day, she finally whisper: “That ah, he doesn’t that much, um, I’ll just pay you back later.”
Song Liang Zhuo didn’t comment. Ruo Shui 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 feed it to him directly!”
Song Liang Zhuo lowered his head and began to happily eat. Qian Xiao Qi still as before only ate vegetables and didn’t touch the meat. Song Liang Zhuo picked up a piece of meat and carried over, saying in a low voice: “Stop abstaining, I’m not low on money.”
Ruo Shui raised her head from below the table, right in time to see Song Liang Zhuo pick food for Xiao Qi. Annoyed, she also lifted her bowl in front of Song Liang Zhuo. Song Liang Zhuo helplessly also picked something for her. Just, he didn’t lift his eyes to look at Qian Xiao Qi again.
Not even four, five days later, Wen Ming Xuan had arrived, even bringing a long-lined, robust, white clothed man with bright sparkling eyes. The moment that man saw Wen Ruo Shui, his eyes which were already bright shone even brighter, and even faintly carried a trace of a smile.
In Qian Xiao Qi’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 Liang Zhuo is a holier-than-thou scholar. With one glance Qian Xiao Qi had sorted this bright eyed man into the second category.
Wen Ruo Shui hid behind Xiao Qi’s back and whispered: “Xiao Qi, help me block him. That guy is a horrible meanie.”
Xiao Qi 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 Liang Zhuo’s little wife? You really are small!” The white clothed man smiled as he looked up and down, sizing up Xiao Qi, then nodded: “But still quite delicate and pretty. Presumably there’s something that’s superior than others, otherwise why would Liang Zhuo, 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.
Xiao Qi frowned and gestured 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 Ruo Shui nodded: “Kick one out. Kick out that fox-eyed one over there.”
The manservant took another glance, evidently could not figure out which one was fox-eyed so he awkwardly wringed his hands, gave a bow, and went to stand at the side, not moving anymore.
Ruo Shui stuck her head out from behind Xiao Qi and was caught head on by Wen Ming Xuan’s gaze. Wen Ming Xuan didn’t speak, just lifted his chin with a displeased expression and Ruo Shui shuffled out, trembling with fear, and called in a soft voice: “Big Brother.”
Qian Xiao Qi touched her ear, seeing that Ruo Shui didn’t seem to be acting, looked closely and realized that these two actually looked somewhat similar. Qian Xiao Qi curled her lips into an unamused smile, 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 Xiao Qi’s leaving figure and said in a low voice: “Has that guy, Liang Zhuo’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 Ruo Shui moved to Wen Ming Xuan’s side and hugged his arm, swinging 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 Ruo Shui 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 Ming Xuan said in a warm voice: “You’ve gotten thinner?”
“I haven’t, I’ve been eating really well. Xiao Qi and Zhuo gege are really nice too.” Wen Ruo Shui half hung off Wen Ming Xuan’s body as she pulled him towards her own courtyard. When she reached the small courtyard entrance she gave a glare at the white clothed man, saying: “A lady’s courtyard, men are not allowed to enter!”
“Haha, looks like Brother Ming Xuan 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 Ruo Shui pulled Wen Ming Xuan in first, then blocked the courtyard entrance, gesturing 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 aimlessly strolled in the courtyard and happened to bump into Song Liang Zhuo who had returned early. The white clothed man beamed as he stared at Song Liang Zhuo 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 Liang Zhuo handed the coarse cloth bag he was holding off 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 Liang Zhuo 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 Liang Zhuo 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 Liang Zhuo’s chest.
Song Liang Zhuo frowned: “Hand it back.”
The white clothed man opened it and glanced at the clay model and clay whistle inside, and said with a laugh: “You’ve started to play with these types of things as well? You really have changed!”
Song Liang Zhuo knitted his brows as he took the things back. The white clothed man grabbed Wen Ruo Shui’s out of his hand and said, smiling: “Give me this one, otherwise if sister-in-law sees it she might become unhappy.”
Song Liang Zhuo shook his head and lifted the corners of his mouth: “You explain it to Ruo Shui, just don’t have her ask me for it.”
Song Liang Zhuo once again put the things in his chest and, holding 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 Liang Zhuo shot a look over, knowing that he just had this sort of smug personality, gave a light humph and brushed it off.
The man glanced down to look closely at the clay figure in his hand, his finger gently brushed it, then happily put it in his sleeve pocket. Following that, he took out a letter and handed it to Song Liang Zhuo.
“But, Brother Liang Zhuo, when will you go back to Ruzhou? It looks like Uncle Song’s meaning is since you’ve married then 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 Liang Zhuo, once you leave, someone like you, or perhaps even better, will naturally arrive to become Tongxu’s county magistrate. The waters will nevertheless be managed.”
“I should still give the people here an explanation.” Song Liang Zhuo 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 Heng Zhi’s plans?”
“Me ah, haha. I’ll continue my family business, develop and bring it to greater prosperity!”
Song Liang Zhuo nodded: “It’s also difficult.”
“But before this I have to acquire my wife first.” The white clothed man shrugged.
Song Liang Zhuo couldn’t help laughing: “This task of Heng Zhi can also be considered arduous.”
Dinner became much more lively. Qian Xiao Qi 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, feeding Ha Pi to the point that his originally already round stomach started to drag a bit on the floor.
Xiao Qi was once again, for the umpteenth time, carrying a piece of meat to drop under the table when Song Liang Zhuo intercepted her hand and guided it to her own bowl, saying a in low voice; “He’s already full, you should eat it yourself.”
Xiao Qi lifted her foot to nudge Ha Pi who had ran two circles chasing his own tail before lying down on the floor motionless, and lifted her hand to drop the meat into Song Liang Zhuo’s bowl.
“I don’t eat pork.”
The white clothed man laughed: “Brother Liang Zhuo and sister-in-law are so affectionate. Haha, Heng Zhi salutes a cup to sister-in-law.”
The moment these words were said, Ruo Shui became a bit unhappy and looked towards Qian Xiao Qi with a pout. Qian Xiao Qi blinked her eyes and looked towards Song Liang Zhuo, only to see him smiling towards her and her heart gave a violent pound, her face flushed conspicuously red. Qian Xiao Qi 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 and 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, melancholy 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 Xiao Qi recalled what Song Liang Zhuo said earlier about acting as a proper county magistrate’s wife during these days and saluted a cup with a slight pout, raising the cup towards the white clothed man and drinking 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 Liang Zhuo treats you specially.”
Wen Ruo Shui became even more unhappy. Changing the subject she asked Song Liang Zhuo: “Zhuo gege, did you bring back my clay figure?”
Song Liang Zhuo nodded.
Wen Ruo Zhui’s delighted eyes sparkled as she hurriedly asked: “Where, where? Let me see!”
Song Liang Zhuo aimed a glance at Liu Heng Zhi and lifted his chin in his direction.
The dimples on Wen Ruo Shui’s smiling face instantly disappeared as her face turned fierce as a tiger: “Zhuo gege, how could you give it to him? Forget it, Zhuo gege, compensate me!”
Wen Ming Xuan gave a light cough. Wen Ruo Shui glanced over, then hanged her head while pouting.
Song Liang Zhuo didn’t speak, instead glanced at Liu Heng Zhi with a smile. Liu Heng Zhi smiled and said: “Ruo Shui, don’t be mad. Isn’t it better if I take it? I’ll store it carefully, just treat it as a gift to me from you.”
“You’re shameless!” Wen Ruo Shui abruptly raised her head, her eyes were already faintly filled with tears.
Liu Heng Zhi rubbed his chin, warmly spoke: “Then tomorrow I’ll accompany Ruo Shui to just make one. Yours, yours, I accidentally lost it. En, yeah, lost it!”
Xiao Qi and Ruo Shui spoke at the same time. The two shared a glance. Xiao Qi lifted her chin indicating for Wen Ruo Shui to speak first. Wen Ruo Shui angrily said: “Taking someone else’s thing without permission and still acting so self-confident as if you are in the right, you really are shameless.”
Xiao Qi nodded: “Something that Official Song just brought back, you didn’t even leave the courtyard, how would you lose it? You can’t take other people’s things, it’s not right!”
Liu Heng Zhi was clearly amused by Xiao Qi’s declaration and lifting his eyebrows, looked towards Song Liang Zhuo whose eyes did not show any reaction, saying with a laugh: “Taking other people’s things really is not right.”
Xiao Qi nodded, waiting for Liu Heng Zhi to take the clay figure out, but waited in vain.
Wen Ruo Shui wanted to continue scolding him and calling him shameless, but was also afraid of Wen Ming Xuan who was sitting next to her so she was mad to the point that her nose flared.
Liu Heng Zhi moved over to say softly: “Ruo Shui, don’t worry. I’ll make you a better one.”
“Who wants your things!” Wen Ruo Shui fiercely stomped on Liu Heng Zhi’s foot under the table, then ran out crying.
Liu Heng Zhi winced in pain. Wen Ming Xuan knitted his brows and said: “Heng Zhi, you shouldn’t take things too far.”
Qian Xiao Qi indignantly said: “How could you snatch something from a lady? No wonder Ruo Shui jiejie doesn’t like you.”
’jiejie’ is older sister. So Ruo Shui was older, I always thought because of her spoiled behavior that she was younger.
Qian Xiao Qi turned and glared at Wen Ming Xuan: “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. Xiao Qi knitted her brows and wiped her oily hand off on Song Liang Zhuo’s arm, complaining angrily: “Humph, you’re all the same!”
Xiao Qi walked out quickly carrying Ha Pi, leaving behind three dazed men who just looked at each other.
Credits: Translated by Chiyomira, Edited by Mintzu
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.