☆ Chapter 26: Punishing Mister Peacock
时辰 | sichen | time system comprising of 12 two-hour periods of the day; one sichen is the equivalent of two modern hours
里 | li | unit of measurement that has varied over time but has now been standardized to 500 meters (Wikipedia)
Ruan Zhu led the servants in window shopping, constantly stopping before continuing their stroll. She walked into a few stores and bought some items for them to carry. When they arrived at Ming Xiang Cui Yu, over half of a sichen had already passed. The male servants were fine but she was feeling rather tired.
Manager Yu warmly received her and led her to the drawing room specially for VIP customers, where he offered her some Shanming tea. Yun Feng and the rest were led by a shop assistant to a room where servants waited.
After a moment, Manager Yu cautiously and solemnly placed a delicate box on the table. Removing the lid, a set of exquisitely handcrafted jewelry was revealed.
Ruan Zhu picked up each piece one at a time to scrutinize them. Not bad. They were forged exactly as she had requested. Each piece was adorned with sapphires imported from Persia that had been carved into angular shapes. When the gems reflected the sunlight, they appeared even more dazzling.
“Saying this is a little shameful, but this old one has been dealing with jewelry for a lifetime yet has never known that cutting gems into angular shapes could make them shine so brilliantly, practically resembling the bright stars in the Heavens. It really causes one to be amazed. How did Miss think of this?”
How should she answer? Say she stole the idea, that she heard it from someone, or that she saw it in some place? She wasn’t as noble as the transmigrated girls in novels. Transmigration, that bizarre affair, was something that the Heavens bestowed after all. Only a fool would not use the knowledge in their head to give themselves benefits.
“I randomly thought of it.” She insipidly responded with a sentence.
Picking up a bracelet, she slid it onto her left wrist. The chain bracelet was connected to a slender ring via a thin connecting chain. She slid the ring onto her ring finger and held her hand up for a look, exposing a satisfied style. This era did not have chain bracelets so the one she designed was the first in this period. This style should be very eye-catching, right?
“That indeed is hard to come by. Miss Qin just randomly thought of it and it turned out so well. If you were to carefully think about it, wouldn’t the results be exceptional?”
In the middle of admiring her masterpiece, Ruan Zhu’s line of thought was interrupted by a man’s voice. Raising her head, she discovered it was the peacock man, Liu Fei Xu. He was indeed called Liu Fei Xu. Though his name was about the same as Liu Ruins, this time she did not confuse the two.
“Has Mister Liu been well?” With an indifferent expression, Ruan Zhu stood up and bowed in greeting. In order to not lose face, she had spent a great deal of time learning the etiquette of the ancients after transmigrating.
“Why use that expression? I am not a ghost.” Liu Fei Xu felt unusually gloomy. When other females saw him, which one of them wasn’t like flies attracted to honey, sticking next to him?
“Does Mister Liu have a matter?” Ruan Zhu placed two silver banknotes on top of the table. Turning her head around, she realized Manager Yu was no longer in the drawing room. “These two banknotes are sufficient to cover the cost of this jewelry set. I still have some matters, so will take my leave.”
The first time they met, she had teased Liu Fei Xu because she had just transmigrated and thought everything was novel, but now that the other party continued to nag her, she only felt dislike and disgust. People were just like so, doing things they knew were wrong but still doing them anyway. Not cherishing others’ visiting you; feeling too disinclined and lazy to respond to others’ questions; yet thinking that your own self stands out from the masses. Ruan Zhu was also just an average person.
“Don’t go, ah!”
Ruan Zhu had already reached the entryway of the drawing room when a figure flashed before her eyes. Liu Fei Xu blocked the doorway, one hand grabbing onto her arm……Such a delicate and weak arm, as if without bones. This sensation tickled Liu Fei Xu’s heart and he couldn’t help but to rub it a few times.
Humiliation and anger flashed in Ruan Zhu’s eyes. Her other arm pushed against his chest and she lifted up her right leg, ruthlessly bringing it down on his foot. The strength she was using to stomp on him wasn’t light but the other party didn’t even wrinkle his brow.
Was he another one that knew martial arts?
She became alarmed and realized she couldn’t force her way free. Just like how she dealt with Yun Shi Wei, she had to use her head. Using tears against a member of her family was fine and good, but using it against an outsider would first of all, throw her pride away, and second of all, it might not be effective.
It was rare for a man of Tian Chu to dare take liberties with a woman. Liu Fei Xu’s courage was not small. Was this called being fickle or was it more of a display of flirtatious behavior? It was rare for females of the same status to look kindly on these men with such bad reputations. Other than selling themselves off, becoming a secondary husband, or perhaps marrying a woman of bad character, the only other option of these men was to stay at home and stink it up for the rest of their lives.
Or maybe not? After all, didn’t Pan Jin Lian have Ximen Qing to adore her?[a]
It looks like no matter which space-time it was, there was no lack of people like Pan Jin Lian. No matter how strict and fixed society was, it was unable to prevent obscene men from changing at once on seeing something different[b].
“Pan Jin……um……Mister Liu, if you have something to say, you can say it. No need to act like this.” Her mind was wandering again.
Liu Fei Xu did not release her arm. He stared at her, revealing a faint but cold sneer: “This Liu has no other intention but would just like for Miss to explain something. I remembered you had said you were surnamed Qin and had yet to marry. Why is Lan Zhou’s Yun residence written on the custom order?”
Ruan Zhu was expressionless: “At the time, I had said it out of fun. You were willing to believe it so what could I do?”
The criticism in Liu Fei Xu’s eyes deepened: “You said you lived in a Qin village that was twenty li south of this city. I’ve inquired and there really are two families surnamed Qin that reside outside of the city, but there is no Qin village, much less a Miss Qin like you.”
He was still holding onto her arm. The strength of all who learned martial arts was not light and because he was angry, he had unconsciously exerted strength. She was trembling all over from pain and sweat dripped from her temples.
“Young Madam Yun, why did you have to deceive me?”
He was aware of her identity.
She endured the pain in her arm and coldly smiled: “Mister Liu, you have a problem with your brain. Could it be that if you randomly ask a stranger on the road their home address, the person would just tell you the truth? Is the person a fool or senseless, not worried whether you harbor unfathomable motives; are two-faced and duplicitous; are a thief that treats human lives as grass; or a vicious bandit strung through and filled with evil[c]?”
Liu Fei Xu was flabbergasted: “I cannot find any words to argue with you.”
Seeing he still hadn’t let her go, Ruan Zhu angrily said: “Let go, it really hurts.”
Liu Fei Xu somewhat loosened his hold on her arm but refused to let go. Her arm was so tender and nice to the touch, he couldn’t bear it any longer and gave her a few extra pinches. He thought of a phrase: muscles of ice, bones of jade[d] .
Ruan Zhu was furious and aimed a kick at his family jewels. She was not a virgin maiden and had nothing to be embarrassed about.
“You can’t kick this place.”
Liu Fei Xu extended a hand and caught her little foot. Ruan Zhu’s footing wasn’t steady and she started falling backwards but with one tug of his other hand, was pulled to his chest. He smelled a trace of the female’s fragrance and it was unexpectedly such a nice scent. This was truly what fully holding a warm and fragrant jade in your arms and heart[e] meant. The women in the past at once lost their color and faded into nothingness.
His heart swayed and he held her as he made his way to the taishiyi and sat down, placing her on his legs.
At this moment, contrary to expectations, Ruan Zhu had calmed down and was pondering a countermeasure for this situation.
Virtue didn’t account for anything when it came to the women of this era, but she wasn’t used to that custom and at the very least, definitely didn’t have this habit with Mister Peacock.
She had become gentle and agreeable and quietly sat in his lap.
“Now you’ve become obedient.” Liu Fei Xu saw that she no longer rebelled and smiled out of self-satisfaction. He just knew that his charm was boundless. Didn’t all of those other Madams put on an act in the beginning but in the end kept begging him over and over? But compared to the prefectural magistrate’s Madam, the little beauty in his arms seemed to be even more pure and sweet. He didn’t know what eating her would taste like.
He was rather looking forward to it.
He didn’t know when but the beautiful face of the belle in his embrace had become tinged with red and her eyes were filled with tender feelings. It was an appearance as if she couldn’t restrain her joy. She softly laid her head on his shoulder, her arms wrapping around his neck……
Hehe, she couldn’t endure it anymore? He really was someone that was liked by everyone, a person that attracted all women until they couldn’t hold back any longer.
“Beauty, Elder Brother will properly show you tenderness.”
The corner of Liu Fei Xu’s mouth was lightly raised and his eyes and brows were clearly curved into a smiling expression. But when an ice-cold metal object touched his neck meridian, he could no longer smile.
“This is a fatal area for a human. Just a slight move will cause you to lose your life. How about I send you to the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss[f] to play?”
“I’m not familiar with Buddha so there’s no need.” Liu Fei Xu bitterly smiled. How could he have been so careless?
“Then how about sending you to Fengdu[g] to play?”
The thing in Ruan Zhu’s hand was the Emei dagger that Yun Shi Wei had given her, and she had worn the hoop attached to the dagger as a ring on her finger. The length of the rod was less than ten centimeters so if it was held in the palm of a hand, it wouldn’t be noticed by others. Coming across danger, a pointed dagger would automatically spring out with one press of the mechanism. This blade was sharp beyond compare and was currently held on top of one of Liu Fei Xu’s carotid arteries. As long as she gently dragged it, blood would immediately spurt out like an open faucet. Even if one was an immortal, one’s life would be difficult to save.
“You are a female without martial arts. Why on earth do you have lethal weapons on you?”
“Because there are man-eating tigers in this world.”
Ruan Zhu’s voice was soft and gentle, as if she currently was not blackmailing him by holding a dagger to his neck. But the quieter she was, the more he trembled with fear. The ferociousness of the women of Tian Chu was not inferior to the men. And among those, there was no lack of men that killed for money or committed other crimes in the city. He did not dare to gamble on her courage.
“Have Manager Yu and my attendants called in here.”
“I can call for Manager Yu but I have no right to call for your attendants.”
Ruan Zhu lightly exerted some strength and the Emei dagger lightly cut, leaving a line of blood on Liu Fei Xu’s pretty neck. “I’ll call for them.” A wise man knew better than to fight when the odds were against him. He hurriedly answered her, and loudly shouted for Manager Yu to bring Ruan Zhu’s attendants in with him.
If the men of Tian Chu did not become more aware of their sense of honor and knew that they should not harm their reputation under thousands of staring eyes, then they wouldn’t shamelessly use their fox charms to publicly fool around with women, right?
Ruan Zhu waited until there were footsteps outside the door before swiftly jumping off Mister Peacock’s lap.
If by chance others saw that she had ‘ruined’ this coquettish man’s reputation and integrity, she would actually have to take this fungus as a husband. She was definitely not willing to suffer such a loss. Even if this male slut found her a gold mountain, she would still not want him.
“What’s with that expression? I’m not a man-eating tiger.” Was he that unlikable in her eyes?
“I’m worried your body has sexually transmitted diseases.” Ruan Zhu disdainfully smiled.
“Who has sexually transmitted diseases?” Liu Fei Xu faintly smiled when his expression suddenly changed. “You know everything?” There was a chilliness in his eyes. The matter of him being the flower thief was only known by a few close confidantes. The majority of the time, he committed his crimes with a mask, so how did she find out? His hands slightly tensed. Should he take advantage of this time when no one had entered yet to silence her?
Liu Fei Xu could be said to have a guilty conscience. Ruan Zhu hadn’t thought of this at all.
“Know what?” She gave a light hmph: “I know you forced a weak woman. If this matter was to be known outside, could you still conduct yourself with integrity?”
Liu Fei Xu released a breath.
Her three attendants walked inside and Ruan Zhu no longer looked at Mister Peacock. Instructing them to pick up the jewelry case, she led them in exiting Ming Xiang Cui Yun.
She vowed that this would be the last time she came to this blasted place.
Thus, it became the third day of the third lunar month and the banks of Lan Zhou filled with visitors. Since ancient times, the Chinese people had the tradition of looking for scenic spots next to water. Lan Zhou’s Lan River was very famous as it was connected to the ocean on the east and to the imperial capital on the west. It was always busy and the number of pleasure boats owned by the rich on the river each day were tantamount to clouds and could not be counted.
Ruan Zhu had brought Nuan Chun and Nuan Qing out to play but actually came across an unexpected matter.
[a] Pan Jin Lian is a femme fatale and one of the most famous villainesses in classical Chinese literature. (Wikipedia) Ximeng Qing is a very lustful merchant with six wives and concubines. The two appear in two related novels–In Water Margin, Pan has an affair with Ximeng while in The Golden Lotus, Ximeng takes Pan as a wife after her original husband dies. In both novels, Pan murders her original husband.
[b] 见异思迁, idiom meaning never satisfied with what one has
[c] 恶贯满盈, idiom meaning guilty of monstrous crimes
[d] 冰肌玉骨, idiom used to praise women for having skin as bright and clear as jade and a pure and refined figure
[e] 软玉温香抱满怀, phrase from Dream of the Red Chamber that, you guessed it, describes a woman being like jade
[f] 西方极乐世界 aka Sukhavati aka Buddhist ‘Heaven’ (Wikipedia)
[g] 酆都, a famous necropolis nicknamed the ‘Ghost City’ (Wikipedia)