☆ Chapter 25: Reorganizing
 午 | wu | one of the ancient Chinese two-hour periods; designated for 11 am to 1 pm
时辰 | sichen | time system comprising of 12 two-hour periods of the day; one sichen is the equivalent of two modern hours
Yun Shi Yi was not a person that played a critical role[a] in Lan Zhou, but nevertheless, in the merchant circle, all who heard his distinguished name greatly admired him and would give him a big thumbs up in approval. At only twenty-some years old, he had the ability to earn who knew how many-fold more than the young heirs of rich families who survived by relying on the path built by their forefathers, could in a day.
But now his full-blooded little brother actually had no prospects and wanted to go work in the docks to haul sacks around. This was simply mocking him.
Up til now, the two brothers hadn’t yet eaten their evening meal but neither of them were willing to get up. Rather, they only wanted to cuddle their beloved woman.
The servants were well aware they should not disturb their masters and placed the dishes that the kitchen had already prepared inside pots to preserve heat.
Finally at midnight, Ruan Zhu woke up and accompanied the two in eating a few bites. But not long after, she collapsed on the bed again and returned to the ‘God of Dreams’, the Duke of Zhou.[b]
She was truly exhausted.
She continued sleeping until noon the next day. With the sun shining brightly inside the room, she finally got up. The Yun brothers had already left as they were both busy with their own matters so she was the only one in the bedroom. Nuan Chun carried a bowl of water inside and attended to her as she freshened up. She picked out a snowy white silk skirt that dragged on the ground and paired it with a diaphanous muslin cape of the same color. Both pieces were long enough to reach the ground and the entire effect was unspeakably graceful.
Nuan Qing served up all the breakfast dishes, and it was a very luxurious spread. There were seven or eight exquisite small dishes as well as two soups that she didn’t know the names of but was positive there was more to them than meets the eye.
“Master said Miss’s body is weak, so before he left this morning, he specially instructed the kitchen to make Eight-Treasure Decoction and Ten Supplements Tonic for Miss to drink to enrich her body.”
Recalling how she had fainted in the bedroom last night, Ruan Zhu thought of how Yun Shi Yi must have felt guilty. She glumly labeled herself as useless. This period had many males but few females. How exactly did the women with so many husbands serve them all? It couldn’t be that they were all like her, so immature as to always faint, right?
Finishing the meal, Nuan Chun and Nuan Qing accompanied her as she sat in Yaoguang Courtyard’s main reception hall to receive Steward Wang’s account of the residence’s financial state.
Because Steward Wang was skilled in bookkeeping, not only did he supervise the household duties, but Yun Shi Yi also appointed him to manage the residence’s accounts.
Ruan Zhu randomly picked up a ledger to scrutinize from the pile of reports in front of her. But what she saw recorded on every page was, on X Year X Month X Day, this was the amount used to buy food and grain, this was the total amount of expenses spent on this day, and this was how much each servant’s monthly payment was.
After looking at the numbers for a while, Ruan Zhu began to feel light-headed and dizzy and golden cartoon stars seemed to swirl around her head. Massaging her temples, she sighed in dismay. How the ancients managed their bookkeeping was indeed a big issue. If this kind of account book was to be seen by one of those big bosses in the current era, not only would the one in charge of accounting be scolded to death, they’d also be sacked.
“Steward Wang, is this how you’ve always kept the accounts?”
“What’s the matter, Mistress? It’s not that this one, Wang, wants to brag, but I am the master of accounting in Lan Zhou and reckoned to be first or second best. How many large restaurants and large businesses have asked me to be their account manager? But they’ve all been declined by me, ah ha. Who is this Wang, ah? I, of course, am Lan Zhou’s top ranked accountant and not just anyone can invite me for my expertise. If they request me, even if I don’t have a palanquin with eight carriers, I should still have one with four carriers, right?[c] What was that, that account book thing, it’s not me brag……”
Steward Wang was drunk and the strong smell of alcohol wafted over with every word that he spoke.
“Stop……” Ruan Zhu disgustedly waved her hand. Steward Wang’s words erred on the side of irrelevancy. If he really was as talented as he had so bragged from his own mouth, how would Yun Shi Yi have kept him here in the residence? He would have long dragged Steward Wang to Tian Yi Pavilion and entrusted him with the heavy responsibility of managing the books there.
“You can withdraw for now. Come back once the hour of wu has passed.”
Having kicked Steward Wang out, she headed for the study and used a homemade dip pen to scratch on some paper. After half a sichen, she finished creating and inputting a table of accounts. Most of the work was fine but those traditional Chinese characters caused her body to be weary and exhausted her strength.
Towards their Miss’s abnormality, Nuan Chun and Nuan Qing didn’t take it to heart. They didn’t recognize many of the more difficult characters and the average handwriting was the same as the Miss they had served for so many years now. It had just so happened that Ruan Zhu displayed the same characteristics as the original owner.
After she finished the accounts, she rested for a while. Calling for Steward Wang, she handed the sheet over to him and instructed him to do all the future bookkeeping in this format and to also change all of the previous accounts to this format before handing them over to her. Steward Wang suspiciously accepted the paper and was initially confused as he looked it over, but the more time passed, the more frightened he became until he finally prostrated himself in admiration[d].
“I didn’t think Mistress had such skill like this. Mistress is truly Lan Zhou’s number one accounting master. I, this Wang, can be considered as having had the chance to meet such an esteemed person. In the future, this one will no longer dare to casually shoot off this one’s mouth by saying how this one’s ability is uninhibited and able to reach the Heavens. But Mistress, it’s not that this one, Wang, wants to brag, but if I were to do accounts based on your format, this Wang should count as Lan Zhou’s second best accounting master, right?”
With a headache, Ruan Zhu gestured with her hand: “You can withdraw. Once you’ve converted all of the accounts, bring them for me to see.”
After Housekeeper Wang left, Ruan Zhu had some people look for Xiao Feng.
“Where did this Steward Wang come from? He’s really too irritating. Is it not possible to drive him away?”
After Xiao Feng arrived, Ruan Zhu questioned him regarding Steward Wang’s origin.
“If Mistress finds him troublesome, just clearly tell Eldest Young Master. Everyone that works for the Yun family has some history. Actually, it’s not that serious. Steward Wang is the nephew of one of the secondary fathers of the Young Masters’. Because of their concubine-father’s sentiment, he arranged for Steward Wang to work here. Luckily, this Steward can be considered diligent and hasn’t caused much trouble.”
Ruan Zhu remembered him. This concubine-father was one of the numerous side husbands of her mother-in-law, who was also her paternal aunt. The man was currently taking care of over a dozen shops in Lan Zhou for Master Yun, and was quite a remarkable managing figure. He had three sons with Madam Yun and worked closely with Master Yun.
Every day, Steward Wang got together with other servants to drink and gamble. This was an obvious case of corrupting their family’s customs. In the future when she had a child, if by chance they blindly followed the crowd and became a small drunkard or a small gambling addict, she’d be worried to death.
Ruan Zhu coldly smiled: “I do not care how well he did things before. Now that I am the one managing this house, all must heed my words. Pass this on: From today henceforth, as long as someone in the residence drinks alcohol, gambles, or corrupts the general atmosphere, they will be hit twenty times with a cane for breaking the rules once, and double offenders will be sold outside. That Steward Wang is not a servant of my Yun family so I do not have the right to sell him, but if he dares to violate the rules in my home, then don’t blame me for ruthlessly firing him.”
Xiao Feng’s spirits were raised: “What Mistress said is correct. This residence ought to have been reorganized long ago. That rotten-faced slave took advantage of when Eldest Young Master was not home and often drank and gambled on the sly, simply making our residence into a tavern and gamblers’ den.”
That night, Ruan Zhu informed Yun Shi Yi of her decision.
“I just knew that my wife was a capable one.” Climbing onto the bed, he had her sit on his lap: “You can do whatever you want to do. There’s no need for any worries. Steward Wang has also become unsatisfactory in my eyes and I’ve long wanted to get rid of him. But because work has been too busy, this matter kept getting delayed.”
“To be honest, I think a home ought to have the appearance of a home. If he continues to act this way, in the future when we have children, would it not be ‘like following like’, and they would all become drunkards and gambling addicts?”
“It is this husband’s lapse of judgement. I should have thought of this earlier.” Yun Shi Yi deeply contemplated before revealing a smile and placing her horizontally on the bed: “Since Wife has brought up the topic of children, we should put in more effort and make a child come out.”
“But……” Ruan Zhu’s face was flushed red and she looked towards the door, afraid Yun Shi Wei, that hothead, would suddenly barge in.
“Don’t worry, he won’t come here tonight.”
“You punished him again?”
“Us husband and wife ought to have some alone time together.” Yun Shi Yi gently removed the clothes on her body, his hands resting on top of her plump breasts. “Wife, it was this husband that was too impetuous last night. I will definitely be careful tonight.” He murmured this while trailing kisses from her chest and moving downwards.
“Nn……Eldest Cousin……I am also not that delicate, I’m just not used to it……Ah!……How could you kiss there?”
He had unexpectedly pried open her legs and kissed her most private area. “Wife did this for me last night, this husband is returning the favor with a kiss.”
“Ah……Eldest Cousin……how come your finger also……” He inserted his fingers as well and the dual torment immediately made resistance impossible. Gasping for breath, she arched her back, demanding more.
“Wife, call me Lord Husband!”
“Lord Husband……oh……don’t……” Ruan Zhu’s snowy white skin was dyed pink with arousal as the places being harassed by him became more and more tingly. Her two eyes were glazed over with lust and soft moans steadily spilled out of her mouth.
The night was long and dense. The moon shyly hid among the clouds and the stars shined even brighter than normal. In the courtyard, the several Chinese parasol trees quietly unfurled their leaves in the wind. It was as if nature itself became a bit abnormal because of the charming and gentle demonstration in the main room.
On the second day, Xiao Feng caught Steward Wang gambling with a few servants. With no trace of politeness, Ruan Zhu punished the servants with the cane and gave Steward Wang a demerit.
Ruan Zhu was not a heartless person. Seeing the caned servants being lifted away all drenched in blood, she felt extremely uncomfortable. But being in the ancient period meant one had to adapt to the ancient customs. If she were to try to use the humanitarian values of her previous world here, that kind of thinking would not be accepted in this world and others would think she was a lunatic.
Her heart felt unbearably stifled and she wasn’t even in the mood to eat dinner. Yun Shi Yi looked at her in distress and after carelessly eating a few bites, had the servants remove the dishes and withdraw. Actually, he could eat outside every day as there were many banquets when one was a businessman. But because he was worried about her, he frequently came home with an empty belly to accompany her during the evening meal.
Yun Shi Yi sighed: “Why must you suffer so? Under the laws of Tian Chu, even if a master has a few servants beaten to death, it is not a big matter.”
Many of the laws in the country of Tian Chu followed the Tang dynasty. A servant’s life was the same as an ant worker–low status and dispensable. These servants couldn’t even guarantee their own survival. All of this was considered normal in this era, but Ruan Zhu remained unable to accept this kind of thinking.
Yun Shi Wei heartlessly ran over to fuss around, and was forced by Yun Shi Yi to sleep on the chaise lounge in front of the bed. The latter knew she was feeling uncomfortable in her heart and considerately didn’t ask her tonight. He dropped a lingering kiss on her lips and embracing each other, they each entered the land of dreams.
The servants that had been caned were well-behaved for the next few days. But Steward Wang obviously did not think too much about the punishments. Or perhaps, it was due to it naturally being difficult to just suddenly drop a bad habit, but one afternoon about five or six days later, Xiao Feng discovered and captured Steward Wang gambling with the same servants in the cowshed.
Ruan Zhu had someone call for a slave trader and sold off those servants to him. She also arranged for Steward Wang to receive two salary payments as compensation and released him as well.
From this action, the position of Steward in the Yun residence became vacant. Xiao Feng was clever and quick-witted and was considered devoted to his Master. As a plus, he had accompanied Yun Shi Yi since childhood, so the number of characters he recognized was not few.
Ruan Zhu promoted his position to acting Steward of Yun residence. If he did well, he would receive the formal position; if not, he would return to his original position.
A lowly servant that had been promoted to a large role such as a steward should be given some face. Being called Xiao Feng was not too suitable, so let’s just call him by the full name then![e]
Xiao Feng and Xiao Shan are full brothers and thus, their formal personal names became Yun Feng and Yun Shan.
The father of these two brothers was Master Yun’s capable assistant. He had been abandoned by the side of the road by his heartless parents as they lacked the funds to treat his childhood illness.
At that time, a young Master Yun brought him home after they happened to meet while the former was out on a trip. To everyone’s surprise, the young boy gradually recovered after he was brought back to Yun manor and seen by a physician. With his life saved, he threw away his family name and was more than willing to follow the Yun surname. After he reached adulthood, Master Yun arranged for him to become a secondary husband to Auntie Zhang of the kitchen, and the sons that were born were Yun Feng and Yun Shan. His two sons were also clever in their work and Master Yun arranged for them to follow the Yun family’s eldest young master, Yun Shi Yi.
Ruan Zhu reorganized the Yun residence to quite some degree. After a few days, she received a message from Ming Xiang Cui Yu saying her custom-made jewelry has been forged, and to please pick up her goods.
Not bothering to prepare a carriage, she decided to walk. Taking along Nuan Qing, Nuan Chun and Yun residence’s Steward Yun Feng, they headed towards Ming Xiang Cui Yu.
[a] 举足轻重, idiom meaning influential
[b] 周公, the Duke of Zhou is also known as the God of Dreams because Confucius has been recorded as saying “It has been such a long time since I dreamt of the Duke of Zhou” and people interpreted it as the Duke will come to visit a person if something important will happen. (Wikipedia)
[c] Pun. 八抬大轿 is an idiom that I translated literally above which means to treat guests with honor.
[d] 五体投地, idiom meaning to adulate somebody
[e] The 小 ‘Xiao’ in their names literally means small/tiny, and is generally used for nicknames or as endearment aka not formal at all.