Chapter 16: Xiaoqi, Don’t Go Past The Walls
By the time Song Liangzhuo successfully flung out his third fish, the upper river was already filled with people. The fish on this side had also decreased significantly. The black spines that were easy to see earlier now took half the day to spot. But Qian Xiaoqi seemed to have finally gotten up the courage. She pulled up her bloomers and also entered the water.
Song Liangzhuo looked at the naked calf Qian Xiaoqi exposed and knitted his brows in disapproval. But seeing that the peasant boys all deliberately avoided this section of the river and seeing Xiao1i’s delighted expression, he held back and didn’t say anything. Uncle Wang also returned to the bank and he threw Xiao Qi his bamboo hat for her to use as a fishing net.
Xiaoqi stuck her butt out as she searched for half the day. Finally catching sight of a black spine, she slowly shifted over with a smile then cautiously pushed the bamboo hat into the water to capture it.
Song Liangzhuo watched her movements with his mouth hooked, waiting for her to joyously lift up the hat. River water leaked down. As expected, there was nothing in there at all.
Xiaoqi’s smile turned puzzled. Glancing at Song Liangzhuo, she saw that he was actually despicably laughing at her! She fiercely shot him a glare then angrily used the bamboo hat to fling water at him.
Song Liangzhuo didn’t get angry. Lifting a hand to wipe away the muddy water on his face, he spoke with a smile, “To catch fish here you must be fast. From the start, the fish are only a little stuck. Being slow and taking forever will let a lot of them to get away.”
Xiaoqi gave a humph and muttered, “As if you know so much. Didn’t you only catch a few as well?”
Song Liangzhuo walked over. Taking the bamboo hat from her hand, he bent his waist and speedily scooped up a fish on the other side. The fish flopped for a few seconds, then with one violent move, jumped into the water again.
Xiaoqi spoke with a ‘shame on you’ tone. “Song Liangzhuo was wrong as well. It can’t be too slow or too fast. Hehe, this is called too far is as bad as not enough.”
“Xiaoqi is correct, just don’t know how much would be just right?”
Xiaoqi tilted her head. “To get it just right ah, only successfully catching the fish means it’s done right. The process doesn’t matter, only catching the fish means it was done just right.”
Xiaoqi bent her waist and tried again. This fish wasn’t big, when it left the water it also rapidly jumped a few times. Xiaoqi hastily threw it towards the shore and even threw the bamboo hat with it. Xiaoqi proudly pointed to the fish that was jumping on the shore. “How is it? Just right, isn’t it!?”
Song Liangzhuo’s mouth hooked into a smile. When he spotted Wen Mingxuan leading Liu Hengzhi and Wen Ruoshui this way, he hurriedly pulled Xiaoqi out of the water and stooped down to let down her trouser legs. While at it, he also pulled down the skirt that she had tucked intoto her waist.
Song Liangzhuo’s actions were smooth. With one hand he even swept out the wrinkles her skirt before realizing that this action was a bit improper.
From the moment he bent down to let down her trouser legs, Xiaoqi had already became a bit dazed. Seeing Song Liangzhou straighten up and look over, she hurriedly turned her face away and lifted the fan to fan herself. Laughing ‘haha’ she said, “This place, ah, so refreshingly cool.”
Song Liangzhuo swept his glance over her piping red ears and didn’t expose her. He just said warmly, “Brother Mingxuan and the others have arrived. Go put your shoes on.”
“Oh!” Qian Xiaoqi scuttled over in three steps. Holding the shoes, she ran back again, mumbling, “How am I supposed to wear it with dirty feet?”
Song Liangzhuo sighed in his heart and signaled Wen Mingxuan. He then pulled Qian Xiaoqi towards the riverside and crouched down to lift her leg. Then, he proceeded to rinse it clean in a clearer area of the river and wipe it dry using the fringe of his clothes before helping her put her shoe back on. Song Liangzhuo waited until she balanced herself before taking her other leg and slowly starting to wash it.
Originally Xiaoqi felt a bit embarrassed. But for some reason, as she gazed at the top of Song Liangzhuo’s head, some place in her heart went ‘badump-badump’ and a sort of warm filling sensation rushed in. It was as if something she had waited for a long time had finally fallen into her hands; she was filled with the feeling of joy and sweetness.
Song Liangzhuo’s movements as he used his hand to scoop water to wash her foot seemed to be playing in infinitely slow motion. Xiaoqi seemed to feel sort of dizzy. Vaguely she remembered someone telling her, if a man washes a woman’s feet, then that means he is sincere and will hold your hand his entire life.
Xiaoqi stared dazedly at Song Liangzhuo. Even after he washed his hands and stood back, she still didn’t return to her senses.
Song Liangzhuo didn’t ask either. He just pulled her hand and started walking towards the outside, picking the sturdy parts of the riverbank. Xiaoqi followed Song Liangzhuo and took several steps before asking dazedly, “Official Song, I liked you a lot in the past, didn’t I?”
Song Liangzhuo’s steps paused, then he gave a nod. “Yes.”
“You don’t like me, do you?”
Xiaoqi looked at their clasped hands. For some unknown reason, she felt a thread of sadness. That happy bubble in her heart was punctured by a hole and with a ‘whoosh’ it shouted grievances as it rushed away to the skies.
Song Liangzhuo didn’t know how to answer. He didn’t hate her, but he also couldn’t say that he liked her. He didn’t intend to take a wife, even if it was someone whose eyes would sparkle the moment she saw him, even if she was also a bit foolish of a pretty lady.
Perhaps he did like her a little, otherwise he wouldn’t have thought of borrowing money from the Qian family in the first place. Or perhaps, he only, only didn’t wish to continue seeing such a small frame stand in front of the government office with two parts timidness, two parts bashfulness, three parts admiration, and three parts adoration while looking at him.
Song Liangzhuo opened his mouth with embarrassment, but before he spoke Xiaoqi had already shaken off his hand. Xiaoqi jumped a step ahead and lifted her chin, saying, “Just pretend I didn’t ask, okay? I don’t know what’s going on with me either.”
Xiaoqi shook her head, vexed. “That wasn’t something I wanted to ask. I don’t like you anyways and I still have to return to the Qian family to be the Third Miss!”
Song Liangzhuo lowered his head to look at his empty hand, feeling a faint sense of loss.
Xiaoqi patted her face. Looking away, she saw Ruoshui wearing a large bamboo hat standing with those two men she disliked outside the riverbank. She shot a glance at Song Liangzhuo and said with a laugh, “Your Ruoshui meimei has arrived la. Haha, you should go accompany her!”
Song Liangzhuo looked at the smile on her face and slightly frowned. Xiaoqi turned away to walk towards the outside. For some reason, her chest felt a bit stuffy. Xiaoqi patted her chest. Before she even let out a breath, Wen Ruoshui heavily swatted at her.
“Xiaoqi has no loyalty. How could you run off first with Zhuo gege?” Ruoshui said sharply, fuming.
Xiao1i pouted. “Who asked you to get up late? It’s not like we sneaked away!”
Ruoshui also didn’t pursue what that meant and tugged her sleeve. “Why are there so many people here?”
“To catch fish.”
Ruoshui saw Song Liangzhuo walk over barefooted and hurried over with small steps. Hugging his arm, she asked with a smile, “Zhuo gege went to catch fish? How many did you catch?”
Xiaoqi pouted as she glanced at the two, then flipped her hair with rather ease and went to the carriage. Liu Hengzhi saw Qian Xiaoqi pout in Song Liangzhuo’s direction and gave a creepy laugh. “Ruoshui, let’s go. I’ll take you to catch fish.”
“Humph, no thanks.” Ruoshui swung Song Liangzhuo’s arm. “Zhuo gege, take me to catch fish please!”
Song Liangzhuo gently pushed away her hand and said, “I still have some things to discuss with Brother Mingxuan, Ruoshui should go play with Hengzhi.”
Ruoshui pouted unhappily. Liu Hengzhi approached with great timing. Grabbing her hand, he pointed to the front. “Ruoshui, look, look at what that person over there is doing? Wow, another one!”
Ruoshui couldn’t resist looking over. By the time she turned back, Song Liangzhuo had already put on his shoes and walked some paces away with Wen Mingxuan. Wen Ruoshui angrily stomped her foot and said in a high pitched voice, “Liu Hengzhi, stop following me!”
“I won’t follow. I’m going to watch them catch fish first.” As Liu Hengzhi spoke walked off with large steps. A few moments later, he paused and ask Ruoshui, “Ruoshui, do you want to come take a look too? We can roast the fish we catch to eat tonight.”
Ruoshui pursed her lips as she looked at Song Liangzhuo who had his hands clasped behind his back and was slowly walking away with Wen Mingxuan. Then she swept her gaze towards Qian Xiaoqi who was wearing a white gauze hat and sitting next to the carriage in the shade. Ruoshui pouted unhappily.
Liu Hengzhi purposefully cried loudly as he entered the water. Not long after, with over-exaggerated motions, he lifted up a fish as he yelled and shouted. Ruoshui’s heart was tickled and she couldn’t help but run over.
Xiaoqi watched Liu Hengzhi’s exaggerated movements and gave a heavy snort, then lowered her head to concentrate on looking at the hand that had been pulled by Song Liangzhuo.
Xiaoqi ruefully rested her chin on her knees, thinking, that was close. She almost got deceived by the pretty face.
Wen Mingxuan turned his head to glance at Xiaoqi who was sitting in the shade as he spoke with a smile, “Liangzhuo has finally taken a wife. I thought you were going to be single forever.”
Song Liangzhuo gave a wry smile as he shook his head. “If I didn’t marry, let’s not say the parents, even outsiders would probably look at me with a strange gaze.”
“True ah, Hengzhi at one time even guess that you were homosexual.”
Song Liangzhuo laughed self-mockingly. “He just has this kind of laidback personality.”
Wen Mingxuan turned back to look at Wen Ruoshui who was already playing happily with Liu Hengzhui and sighed. “I know Ruoshui’s feelings towards you and I also know your attitude towards her. But everything has finally passed. Liangzhuo, since you’ve already taken a wife, treat everything of the past as if it died yesterday and just let it all go.”
Song Liangzhuo slightly knitted his brows. “Brother Mingxuan, why do you say such a thing? I’m not an insensitive person. That year regardless of whether Zixiao was self-willing, since she has already chosen to enter the palace, we no longer have a future.”
Wen Mingxuan nodded and walked a while before giving a light sigh. “Last month I visited the capital with Father. After making some inquiries, I found out that lady Zixiao had already been bestowed by the emperor to Hao wang ye. But,” Wen Mingxuan glanced at Song Liangzhuo before continuing, “I didn’t hear that Hao wang ye‘s fu had a ce fei or chong fei named Zixiao. Or perhaps it may be that lady Zixiao has changed her name.”
王爷 – “wang ye” = Prince/Master, wang by itself meaning something along the lines of king
ce fei and chong fei are titles of favored consorts.
Song Liangzhuo pursed his lips but didn’t speak.
Wen Mingxuan clasped his hands behind his back and looked around before sighing. “Without the support of family background, to cling to this kind of road and trying to ride on someone else’s success is like throwing a pebble into a lake.”
“wanting to ride on someone else’s success” is kinda hinting that Zixiao wanted to marry into success or try to marry someone that will get a high rank in order to elevate her status, but Mingxuan is saying that without family support, it’s hard for most girls to hit and not miss the goal.
Song Liangzhuo shook his head with a bitter smile. “No matter if it’s the Imperial Palace or the wang ye’s fu, how can she survive in that type of place?”
Wen Mingxuan sighed. “Everyone has their own fate. But then again, you really tied this marriage knot in a rush. Why did you only send news to Ruzhou after you got married?”
“Perhaps it was delayed on the road. It should have arrived much earlier.”
Wen Mingxuan hooked the corners of his mouth. “What did Uncle Song say?”
“Haha, what could he say? Just some complaints about how the son is unfilial.”
Wen Mingxuan looked ahead of him at the Yellow River that seemed to almost have no river bank and said gently, “Managing the flood isn’t something to be done in one or two years. Liangzhuo should properly think about it.”
“I know. After the next two years where there’ll be extreme amounts of rain I’ll return.”
Some fish were on their last breath inside the cloth bag. As Qian Xiaoqi watched those mouths open and close as they gasped, her heart also felt tugs with them. She did like to eat fish. But seeing them suffocate it seems, a bit, mm, inhumane.
Xiaoqi stretch out a finger and poked the fish’s head. Turning around, she asked Uncle Wang who was sitting under a poplar tree and dozing off, “Uncle Wang, this fish is about to die. What do we do?”
“Haha, Madam. We don’t have a water jar so it can only be like this.”
Xiaoqi gloomily nodded. Not far away she saw Song Liangzhuo who had his hands clasped behind his back, giving off a rather worldly atmosphere. Xiaoqi didn’t like seeing him like this, acting like the celestial beings that placed themselves above the common populace. Though she still has to go back to the Qian family to be the Third Miss Qian, as the magistrate’s wife for this period of time, she couldn’t let him act like this. If he left home (to become a Buddhist monk), wouldn’t other people say she didn’t discipline (the child) well?
Worldly has 2 definitions. Of or concerned with material values or ordinary life rather than a spiritual existence and (of a person) experienced and sophisticated. This is referring to the latter. The words in parenthesis are implied because they’re what her choice of words usually refer to, lol.
Qian Xiaoqi nodded then brushed the dust off her hands and got up. She shouted in Song Liangzhuo’s direction, “Official Song, it’s about time to go home!”
Song Liangzhuo was originally gazing at the wide Yellow River and pondering deeply as he sighed. However, he was immediately provoked to smile by Qian Xiaoqi’s yell. That anxious moment turned into yellow sand and scattered from between his fingers. Song Liangzhuo unconsciously hooked the corners of his mouth as he turned around to say to Wen Mingxuan, “Brother Mingxuan, shall we head back?”
Wen Mingxuan took a look at Song Liangzhuo who had unconsciously exposed a trace of tenderness and gave a laugh. “You return first. No need to say goodbye to Ruoshui, in a while I’ll bring them back.”
Song Liangzhuo nodded and took another glance at the river bank before slowly walking towards the carriage.
Credits: Translated by Chiyomira, Edited by Sonia