☆ Chapter 33
时辰 | sichen | time system comprising of 12 two-hour periods of the day; one sichen is the equivalent of two modern hours
 亥 | hai | one of the ancient Chinese two-hour periods; designated 9-11 pm
“Mister Lu, what are you looking at, hmm?”
From his ear came a question. The prefectural magistrate’s wife had walked over with Liu Fei Xu in accompaniment.
“Just a moment ago I saw someone walking upstairs. It was precisely the female who recited the poem that day on the pleasure boat.”
“Ah, her.” The prefectural magistrate’s wife snorted. There was nothing special about that girl’s appearance. How could Mister Lu have an interest? Should she invite the other party to another gathering?
Lu Piao Xiang’s heart had slightly moved, but he remained expressionless.
Liu Fei Xu’s eyes contained a trace of coldness: “That little girl has a rigid way of thinking and only has her husband in her eyes. No matter who the other person is, she doesn’t pay any attention to them. I urge you to not give yourself any be fooled. Madam Yuan, not all of the women of Tian Chu are as how you imagine.”
“Is Mister Liu saying this out of personal experience? I am very curious.” The prefectural magistrate’s wife delicately smiled, her elegant almond eyes coquettishly flashing.
Liu Fei Xu had been exposed and he somewhat resentfully replied: “Don’t forget you still owe her one hundred taels of gold. If you refuse to send them over and word gets out, you will certainly lose face.” Having said that, he left Yu Ping Restaurant without turning back, not even when the prefectural magistrate’s wife shouted after him.
The prefectural magistrate’s Madam shouted a few times. Seeing that the person in front of her acted as if he hadn’t heard, she became angry: “A guy who doesn’t know how to appreciate favors. Hmph! Who has refused? It’s only a hundred taels of gold. This madam does not put them in my eyes!”
“Yu Ping Restaurant’s business is so good, it’s exploding off the charts. Especially during meal times, when they usually have a full house. But I am very familiar with the owner of Yu Ping Restaurant so no matter what time I come, there will always be seats available. If it was other people, they would have to reserve a spot in advance.”
“Wherever Head Yun goes, he will be given face, allowing this wife to also share in the honor.” Ruan Zhu looked at the table full of dishes. There were more than ten varieties of buns alone–meat options such as beef, pork, chicken, duck, venison, swan……celery, napa cabbage, Chinese leeks, mustard, Chinese toon sprouts, carrots–all kinds of fillings were available……The shape of the bun was small and exquisite. She ate quite a few until she could eat no more.
“You ate this little? If Shi Wei was here, it’s likely that he would have swept all of this into his belly.”
“Then let’s just bring these back for him to eat. Don’t squander them. ‘If one can’t eat it all, one has to take it home.‘ The ancients have long reminded us to conserve resources.” She had been accustomed to being poor from her previous life and felt uncomfortable at seeing others being wasteful.
“My wife is an honorable young lady from a reputable wealthy family, yet feels grievances for these few stuffed buns.” Yun Shi Yi slightly smiled and placed a dainty bun into the small saucer in front of her with his chopsticks: “Don’t you love eating fish? This is stuffed with Crucian carp and the taste is very good. Try it. Last night when we returned, it had been too late to cook the fish we bought, so try this one.”
When they had gotten home yesterday, she had felt exhausted after bathing so randomly ate some pastries and then fell asleep without waiting for the fish soup to be made.
Ruan Zhu eagerly picked up the bun and took two bites. Nausea suddenly overwhelmed her and she spit it all out.
“What’s wrong?” Yun Shi Yi patted her back and brought over some water to let her clear her throat with. His entire face expressed his concern: “Do you not feel well? How about we return home and I’ll send for a doctor to check your pulse?”
After drinking a few sips of water, Ruan Zhu felt much better: “I’m not that fragile. I just felt a little nauseous but it’s fine now.”
“Are you truly all right?”
“Why would I deceive you? Don’t invite a doctor over such an insignificant matter. It would be such a pointless expense.” She had gone to the hospital in her past life because of a headache and a fever. Small cases would cost several hundred RMB while severe cases would be several thousand RMB. It wasn’t like her family owned a money-printing business. Where would she get all of that money to give as charity to the doctors?
Yun Shi Yi stretched out a hand to stroke her cheek, his fingers sliding across her bright and clean skin. With a heavy look in his eyes: “Wife, your current condition makes me worried. How could I leave with my heart at ease?”
Ruan Zhu’s eyebrows lifted and her eyes widened in disbelief: “You’re leaving me? Where are you going?”
“I’ve imported a batch of gold-threaded Phoebe zhennan wood from Lingnan[a] and I do not wish for it to be detained by the corrupt local authorities in Liu Zhou. This matter needs to be urgently resolved. If I am late, everything will have been squandered.” The bureaucracy was completely rotten so if he was late, all of his wood would have have cleanly embezzled away.
Gold-threaded Phoebe zhennan! That was indeed an extremely precious wood. It had been under the exclusive use of the imperial family during the Ming and Qing dynasties and the common people had been forbidden from using it. For the sake of decorating his tomb, Emperor Qian Long tore apart the majority of Emperor Yong Le’s tomb just to obtain gold-threaded Phoebe zhennan.[b] Therefore, among the common people, there was a saying that Emperior Qian Long was a grave robber.
Calling Emperor Qian Long a grave robber was not an exaggeration but because there was a cause, there certainly will be a resolution and Heaven’s law would manifest appropriate retribution. Perhaps Emperor Yong Le had looked on with a cold eye from the Heavens, as not long after the Qing dynasty perished, Emperor Qian Long’s luxurious tomb, as well as the tomb of Empress Dowager Cixi, were cleanly plundered by Sun Dian Ying.[c]
Yun Shi Yi linked his hands around her waist, letting her sit properly in his lap. Using chopsticks to bring a vegetable-filled bun to her mouth: “You have to eat more. Your body is too frail so raising you a little plumper is best.”
“But you had praised my waist for being so slender earlier. If I’m a little fatter, I’ll become ugly and you won’t like me anymore.”
“How is that possible? Being chubby is very adorable and you’ll also be less prone to being sick. You also do not wish for this husband to always worry about you, correct?” He recalled how during those days after they got married, she would often faint during their love making because her physical strength had been unable to endure until the end. His brows couldn’t help but to pinch in distress.
Ruan Zhu could only helplessly accept the offered bun and opened her mouth. But another spell of nausea hit her and she hastily put down the bun and buried her head in his chest. Yun Shi Yi saw that her face had gone pale and became alarmed. Carrying her horizontally, he headed downstairs: “Wife, this husband will take you home. Having a doctor come see you is a must.”
Ruan Zhu suddenly felt extraordinarily uncomfortable. With her head all dizzy, she actually fell asleep in his arms.
Exiting Yu Ping Restaurant, Yun Shi Yi happened to see Yun Shan and ordered him to quickly find a doctor. Placing his wife in the carriage, he personally drove the carriage towards their residence.
Returning home, he carried her to their bedroom in Yaoguang Courtyard and kept watch by the bedside. It was only when the sky had already turned pitch-black that he saw Yun Shan return, but he was alone.
“What happened? Why is it that you returned alone? Where is the physician?”
“Master, this small one was not able to invite a physician. This one heard that a great bridge collapsed in Dong Cheng and a great many people had perished. All of the physicians in the city have been temporarily recruited by the prefectural magistrate to assist. This small one has visited countless medical halls but was not able to find one physician.” Yun Shan had walked for many sichen and was unbearably exhausted. There had been no time for him to drink any water. His throat was so dry, smoke could rise up at any moment, and when he spoke, his voice was very hoarse.
Yun Shi Yi waved his arm: “You can withdraw to rest!”
Ruan Zhu slept for a very long time. Her wan complexion slowly regained its rosy hue. Perhaps it was because she had been exhausted from sightseeing for so long these past few days! He thought, yet again the blame was on him. He gloomily rebuked himself for not properly taking care of her. He originally was going to leave for the South tomorrow but it looked like he would have to postpone the trip for one day later. This young and silly girl’s body was so weak, how could he be able to leave with a light heart?
If she was to be handed over to Shi Wei for him to look after, well, that fellow only knew how to look for trouble, and he would feel even more unconvinced. What would be best to do?
After half of the time of hai had passed, Ruan Zhu finally woke up and her vitality was much better. Leaning against his chest, she tried to soothe him: “Why shoulder all of the blame? I am just a little tired and will be fine after sleeping for a while. See, aren’t I currently very well?”
[a] 岭南, old term for southern China, especially south of the Nanling Mountains that also extended to modern northern Vietnam (Wikipedia)
[b] 乾隆皇帝 Emperor Qiang Long (1711-1799), sixth Qing emperor, ruled from 1735-1799; 永乐皇帝 Emperor Yong Le (1360-1424), third Ming emperor, ruled from 1403-1424.
[c] 孙殿英 Sun Dian Ying (1889-1948) was a bandit leader and National Revolutionary Army commander that changed sides multiple times and also raided various tombs (Wikipedia); 慈禧 (Empress Dowager) Cixi (1835-1908), acted as regent in the late Qing dynasty from 1861-1908.