☆ Chapter 57
儿 | er | (lit. child) diminutive marker used as a form of endearment
里 | li | unit of measurement that has varied over time but has now been standardized to 500 meters (Wikipedia)
Having had tea poured all over his head by his wife, both water and tea powder dripped across Ruan Zi Xu’s face and he became infuriated. His eyes flashed with a rage that could not be restrained and he pointed at Madam Ruan, angrily shouting: “You’re crazy. For a filthy product from the red district, you don’t even care about your family anymore and still dare to mention your Ju’er. It was precisely your evil creature that nearly caused my family to be ruined and homeless.”
“Do not point your finger at me.” Madam Ruan slapped her Husband Lord’s finger away. Her ire increased and her eyes seemed as if flames would spill forth: “My Ju’er making a mistake, only I, her mother, can discipline her. Even that spring onion, you need to mange. Who do you think you are?”
Ruan Zi Xu was even more outraged: “Whose family’s Master am I? All of your food, drinks, expenses, poison are all provided by me. To dare harm my child, I will let them see a good play!”
“So many years have gone by, yet you’ve eaten the wrong medicine today. Have you let your conscience been eaten by a dog, ya? Who is it that day and night painstakingly serves you, and takes care of your family? You do not appreciate your wife……” Madam Ruan picked up a Guan porcelain arabesque teapot from the table and threw it on the ground. With a great pa, pieces flew in all directions: “You old fart with nothing to do decides to pick a quarrel. Hasn’t Zhu’er‘s child been born and is living well? Yu’er is also well. How had they met with disaster? Why in the world have you gone insane?”
“I see it is you that has gone insane and have exhausted your capability as a wife. You spoil a fickle courtesan regardless of the law and of natural morality and have set my Ruan clan to also have bad luck.” The volcano that had laid dormant over all of these years erupted at this moment and Ruan Zi Xu was so enraged, his entire face was flushed: “Just because I was too tolerant of you in the past, you have gone to the extent where you increasingly are unable to differentiate good from bad. Which part of Zhu’er and Yu’er is worse than your evil creature? They’re all your daughters yet you’ve always cupped the courtesan’s daughter in your hands and loved her dearly. Since they were small, how many times have you held my two daughters? How many times have you given them your smile? I just don’t understand, how could that disaster that is so insolent and bossy, so unruly and headstrong, be able to enter your eyes? I won’t talk about how she almost caused my daughter her life, but she even dared to imprison an imperial prince! Me not handing her over to His Highness to be put to death by a thousand cuts is already not letting you down. What was that? You want to divorce me? No need to be troubled, you can take your group of concubines, bedwarmers, and children with you and leave my Ruan home today, right this instant. I, Ruan Zi Xu, am not qualified.”
“You old fart, I’ve troubled you! If you don’t find me pleasing, then you should’ve long said so, ah! I will leave to avoid being a thorn in your side!”
“If you are leaving, take your group of concubines, bedwarmers, and children entirely away, my Ruan family will not retain all of you.”
Madam Ruan was so full of enmity she put both her hands on her hips: “You have no sense of shame and are so capricious and stubborn. Not retaining is not retaining, who cares?! Tomorrow we’ll scatter!”
Ruan Zi Xu impatiently waved his hand: “No need for tomorrow, you can leave right now. Take all of your people with you. You must not take a single thing of my Ruan clan’s. Silver banknotes, land deeds, real estate deeds, if you take a single one of these then you are shameless. Steward Yang, prepare a carriage……” He strode to the doorway and loudly shouted.
Madam Ruan spat: “You smelly old fart, who cares about your small amount of money?”
A small attendant standing by outside the door hurriedly ran over: “Has Master forgotten? Steward Yang went to the capital yesterday and has yet to return.”
“Hurry, hurry, your family’s Madam is returning to her parental home. Quickly go prepare a carriage and let Xiao San Zi go to each courtyard and inform Third Concubine-Father, Fourth Concubine-Father, Fifth Concubine-Father and their children, and also that bedwarmer called Mei Yue, call all of them over. If you want to scatter, then scatter. It is impossible to resolve this now.”
Not even two quarters of an hour later, over ten people had gathered in the courtyard of Jin Se Hall. All of them were Madam Ruan’s secondary husbands, bedwarmers, and all of their children. The youngest was only three or four years old and was still wearing split pants[a] and being led by a secondary husband.
Ruan Yu had hurriedly rushed over after hearing the news. Seeing the husband and wife pair standing in the courtyard in a state of mutual hostility, she had no choice but to try to mediate: “Pa, Ma, you are both getting older. Don’t make a fuss anymore, all right? Each of you cool your temper and give each other a smile to put this behind you. You’ve been married for so long yet are letting others see such a joke.”
The husband and wife stood at the ends of the courtyard–one in the west, one in the east–both of them with stiff faces; neither of them willing to lower their head.
Ruan Yu scampered to Ruan Zi Xu’s side and pulled on his arm: “Pa, you are a man. Be a little more magnanimous and make up with Mother?”
Ruan Zi Xu snorted and turned his head aside.
Helpless, Ruan Yu then walked over to Madam Ruan’s side, hugged her arm, and gave her a fawning smile: “Ma is the best. Don’t lower yourself to argue with Pa and follow daughter in returning to the room and rest. Look towards the new year; at that time, Ma will still need to work hard and look after us, hmm? It also won’t be too late to return to maternal grandfather’s place then. Once the year is over, Yu’er will return to the capital with you for a visit.”
Madam Ruan started loudly crying and clung to her daughter as if she had just found a pillar: “Yu’er, you don’t know how vile that old thing is to actually go as far as to sell your Second Concubine-Father to a brothel. Reportedly that same night, even your Third Sister was also sent to a poor farmer’s family outside the city. That family has seven brothers who are all of peasant-birth; how poor must they be? That old guy has no sense of shame and even wanted to conceal it from me. If it wasn’t that Jia’er had brought it up with me, then Mother would still be kept in the dark!”
Ruan Zi Xu coldly gazed at Wei Jia from among the group of people: “If you understand how to complain of the injustices towards your own family and you little boy have at least a little bit of backbone, then leave my Ruan home and use the money you have personally earned to redeem them. I will accommodate you then. At the moment, you are being raised by me and thus do not have the right to oppose me.”
Wei Jia hung his head. Shame and resentment emerged in the corner of his eyes while his two hands unconsciously clenched into tight fists.
Madam Ruan’s anger flared: “Ruan Zi Xu, don’t you dare think I cannot be separated from you. Without you, this old lady can still live as well as before. Get on the carriage; get on and return to the capital, Jia’er, Yu’er, come with Mother. This father of yours is not a good person.”
Madam Ruan called to her group of concubines and bedwarmers and strode outside while dragging Ruan Yu.
Ruan Yu looked at Madam Ruan sadly: “Mother, you’re confused. My family name is Ruan. What would it be regarded as if I went with you?”
Ruan Zi Xu was thirty-some years old and only had two offspring that he cherished the most in his life. How could he allow Madam Ruan to drag one away? Pulling on Ruan Yu’s other arm, he shouted towards Madam Ruan: “Want to leave, you can leave, but do not take my daughter to suffer hardships. Now you know how to flatter, so what were you doing previously? If a mother like you did not exist, my daughter would not have suffered so bitterly and been subjected to so much fault!”
Madam Ruan let go of Ruan Yu, weeping endlessly.
The group of concubines and bedwarmers held onto their children and parcels and followed behind her while putting on a brave face. Their Head Mistress had left. If they remained, wouldn’t they be bringing embarrassment onto themselves? Only Third Concubine-Father kneeled before Ruan Zi Xu and stated he was unwilling to go and may Master grant him a bit of food.
Third Concubine-Father came from a scholarly background and had taken the imperial examination over ten times but had never passed. He was a bookkeeper in one of the Ruan clan’s shops and received a wage that could be considered not bad. His two male twins were only twelve years old. If he left the Ruan family and lost the source of his livelihood, he wouldn’t be able to undertake the responsibility of tuition.
Ruan Zi Xu looked at him. He didn’t say a word but it could be considered a silent acceptance.
The fifteen or sixteen years of marriage between husband and wife noisily ended like this. After the event, Ruan Zi Xu had a bit of regrets. His two daughters also urged him to take Madam Ruan back, but he couldn’t let go of his face and the matter kept being delayed.
Ruan Zhu sometimes thought: If she had not transmigrated, she would not have encountered Xuanyuan Min Zhi; would not have been pushed to the ground by Ruan Ju; and wouldn’t the Ruan couple still be living in blessed harmony?
When the year was over, Ruan Zhu turned sixteen. After she came out of the one-month confinement period, she insisted on postpartum exercise and her waist once again returned to its former shapely figure. This body had inherited Madam Ruan’s physique that was oh so delicate and exquisite, such that even after having a child, her body was no different from that of a young lady’s.
“Our Mother is not home; there is no meaning to this new year.” Ruan Yu complained while teasing her little nephew that was in Ruan Zhu’s arms.
“They still wish to reconcile, right?” When the two Heads of the Ruan family had fallen out, she had still been in confinement and could not leave her room during the wintry twelfth lunar month. The two Yun brothers and Lu Piao Xiang were outsiders and it had not been appropriate for them to step in.
However, Ruan Zhu privately believed Madam Ruan ought to learn a lesson.
All wives would feel grateful in their hearts towards their family’s man if the latter had raised a large group of secondary husbands, bedwarmers, and children for them. Perhaps Madam Ruan did not intend it, but she had unexpectedly done the worst thing possible. If she didn’t wound her principal husband’s heart, then they wouldn’t have fought to separation, right!
“Ruan Ju was really wed out by Pa to a farmer’s family with seven sons that lives outside of the city?”
“The same day Wei Rong was sold off, Pa gave five hundred taels of silver to the seven farmer brothers for them to throw Ruan Ju into a carriage that same evening and take her to their old Tree Village outside the city. That same night, they had hastily kneeled and gotten married. However, the servants have whispered that the day Mother left home, she passed through Tree Village to save her daughter with threats and bribes. But those seven brothers remained firm and were unwilling to give Ruan Ju up no matter what, so with nothing else she could do, Mother took our Concubine-Fathers and brothers to the capital.”
Ruan Zhu laughed. For men who had been bachelors for so long, occasionally having a taste of a woman must be so fresh, right! It didn’t matter how much money Madam Ruan handed over as the other party may not necessarily be tempted–and this was also without mentioning how Ruan Ju was extremely beautiful.
Ruan Zhu held her son and gently pat him to coax him to sleep. She smiled at Ruan Yu: “I’m afraid those seven brothers have received a gem. The bad things this Ruan Ju has done are not few and this conclusion is not too terrible; she has gotten off lightly.”
“Eldest Sister is really confused. Ruan Ju is accustomed to eating exotic delicacies and wearing damask silk gauze. Having gone to a rustic family, how could she be able to accept that sort of bleak lifestyle? Not to mention, the short and only house they have is riddled with holes everywhere for the wind to pass through and even a brazier to warm oneself with is considered a luxury. I heard the servants say that after the seven brothers received Papa’s five hundred taels of silver, the eldest brother went to a gambling house not even a few days later and gambled it all away and returned wearing only a pair of pants. At first, the people in the gambling house wanted Ruan Ju to pay back the debt but the family’s brothers blocked them and swore up and down they would return the money no matter what, so the gambling house ended up not having their way.” Ruan Yu shook her head, sympathy across her face: “I’m just afraid that the Third Miss of the Ruan family bathes her face with tears everyday now, hmm.”
“Did Papa go a little overboard this time?” Ruan Zhu had transmigrated and her thinking always carried some of the morals from her first life. She had never experienced the cruel battles within a clan full of low-handed methods and two-faced minds where one frequently did not know how they had died.
Ruan Yu sneered: “If Papa’s methods weren’t fierce, we wouldn’t even know when we had been killed by them. Wei Rong previously still understood how to fawn for some few small favors but had been spoiled by Mother these past few years into becoming increasingly without ken. I won’t talk about how a slave took major advantage of its Master, but his methods have also become much more shameless.”
Perhaps Ruan Yu was right! Ruan Zhu remained silent.
There was a sound at the door and Lu Piao Xiang walked in. Entering the bedroom, he took the child out of her arms before calling for the wet nurse to enter and handed him over. The wet nurse then exited the room.
Ruan Yu saw that there were deep feelings between this husband and wife pair and thinking there was no reason for her to stay, got up and left.
Lu Piao Xiang walked over and securely shut the door. Ruan Zhu saw his solemn expression and hurriedly asked what was wrong, her mind full of apprehension. She thought of how he and Yun Shi Yi had left for the capital five days earlier to ask about the current battle situation.
She didn’t know what sort of methods a commoner could use to pry into imperial secrets, but she knew Lu Piao Xiang definitely had a way.
Lu Piao Xiang did not answer and walked over to hug her, breathing in deeply her body’s fresh and clean scent; intoxication in his eyes: “Wife, you’re out of confinement now, right?”
Ruan Zhu recalled how ever since they had gotten married, they had slept in the same bed together but never did anything beyond that. It has truly been hard for him. Her face slightly red, she nodded, when her body abruptly flew into the air as her entire body was lifted up.
“Quickly put me down.” Since giving birth, her body was not as healthy as before and no matter how she nurtured herself, it always fell a bit short. Suddenly picked up like this, she felt dizzy and quickly wrapped her arms around him.
“Wife, how could this husband possibly put you down? I’ve waited too long for this day.”
Regardless of how much happiness he had obtained under her affectionate care, none of it counted as truly having her.
He placed her on the bed and removed both of their clothing.
He had long become familiar with her body but his soul still couldn’t help but to be seized by her beauty again. He placed both his hands on top of her perky breasts. His ten fingers curved and covered them underneath his two palms.
The woman’s soft mounds were ruthlessly fondled and he lowered his head to grasp onto a tender bud and unexpectedly felt milk entering his mouth. The fragrant and sweet taste caused him to be at a loss and he swallowed.
“Why haven’t you stopped yet?”
He had suddenly eaten her and her cheeks were flushed. It wasn’t that she wanted to admonish him; she wanted to use the method of a child drinking their mother’s milk to deepen the mother and child bond. Although there wasn’t enough to drink, it could still achieve the end result of the child hating to part from their mother.
He was still sucking on the milk secreted by her breast. Being sucked by him and being sucked by her child was two completely different feelings. It was very strange, but there was also an unexplainable pleasure……She half closed her eyes and was under a haze of fog, her body’s sensitivity becoming abnormally strong.
“Nn, Lord Husband.” Secondary husbands normally did not have the qualification to be called ‘Lord Husband,’ but she wanted him to feel her love.
Since becoming pregnant, Ruan Zhu had not had sexual intercourse and was simply incapable of resisting neither his enthusiasm nor his unbridled teases. Her limp body was pressed into the bed and he held her hands on top of her head, holding her wrists against each other, yet tied them together with his belt.
“What are you doing?” She looked at him in astonishment.
“Wife does not need to do anything special as long as you wholeheartedly feel it. Relax, okay, baby.” Lu Piao Xiang lowered his head and kissed that pair of red lips. Sucking on that little tongue, he spent a while exploring her mouth. “This husband will give you the best. The only thing you have to do is to use your entire heart and body to receive it.”
“Don’t, don’t be like this.”
How could he be like this–he unexpectedly used the bed sheet to suspend her legs in the air with the ends of the sheet tied to the bed frame. Never had she realized Lu Piao Xiang was actually crazy, though the knots he used to bind her with were very gentle and did not hurt at all. On the contrary, she felt a ripple of excitement.
He laid on his stomach and examined her most secret place, his eyes completely tinted with arousal while he used his finger to gently fiddle with her two flower petals before entering inside.
“Nn!” She slightly twisted her body and couldn’t help but to beg: “Don’t always use just your finger.”
Lu Piao Xiang lightly laughed before removing his finger and placing it in his mouth for a taste.
Just when she felt she couldn’t bear it any longer, he pressed her down……
The man’s sturdy figure and the woman’s sweet and young body intersected at one spot.
Her most delicate flower entrance had already caused his rod to become fiery and stiff……The sensitive body trembled; a trail of flowery liquid faintly slid out of the delicate flower cave and actually seemed to be an invitation towards that colossal staff.
He lowered his head again to kiss her lips, the tip of his tongue sliding into her mouth in a teasing fashion.
“Oh!” She opened her mouth, wanting to release the moans that were hard to hold back, but the sensation of not having enough oxygen became increasingly apparent. In the split second where she wasn’t paying attention, one of his arms tightly held her body while the other had already moved into position between them. Grasping onto his member, he moved forward and directly entered.
“Ah!” Because both of her hands were tied and her two legs were suspended, she was thus unable to move. But it was like how he had said with using the entire heart and body to receive him, and the disguised love brought even more arousal that nibbled at her bones.
“Wife, you like it?” Lu Piao Xiang released his warm breath next to her ear and used a tender voice to speak to his wife. Just for this moment, he had done quite a bit of homework and specially bought books to study the art of bedroom affairs and knew what he should do to evoke even stronger reactions from his wife.
“Ahnn……” Ruan Zhu uncomfortably catered to his body. “A little faster.”
Lu Piao Xiang increased his speed and penetrated deep inside her, not holding anything back.
He had continuously been placing careful kisses on her small face, her eyebrows, her eyes, her pert nose, her mellow and full earlobe……His tongue extended to lap at her jaw before moving downward to lick her neck, her delicate collarbone, before finally pausing over her chest and taking a red plum into his mouth.
Not enough, it still wasn’t enough, she still wanted much more.
“Ahhh!” She suddenly screamed. Passion forced uncontrollable tears to flow down her face, and her bound hands suddenly rose up and locked around Lu Piao Xiang’s neck, drawing him deeper into her body.
And he had also became frenetic with all of the blood in his body suddenly flaring up with happiness and arousal. “Wife!” He roared and continuously pounded against her a few times, his body trembling tightly as he held her in his arms.
They mutually hugged each other like this. Only until the aftermath had gradually faded did he undo her restraints.
“That feeling was too beautiful, my wife.”
The sky outside had darkened. She cuddled against his chest, her eyes sleepy and hazy, yet thought of Yun Shi Yi and focused her attention: “Didn’t you go together with Eldest Cousin to the capital? Why is it that you returned alone?”
Lu Piao Xiang lowly laughed: “He is staying in Zhen Xia Pavilion tonight, saying it is for us to have our wedding night.”
A smile danced on Ruan Zhu’s lips. Tonight indeed could be considered their wedding night. “How did the matter you went to the capital for go?”
She didn’t know where Lu Piao Xiang had learned it from, but the civil war had become more intense and strained. Over ten days ago, he had traveled with Yun Shi Yi to the capital to buy a residence, saying they wanted to move the entire family there. She felt rather than the capital, it would be better to return to Lan Zhou. But the weather was still as cold as before and it would be troublesome if the child were to become sick during the long and difficult trek.
“It has all been settled. On account of His Imperial Majesty intending to move the capital to Lan Zhou, I’ve discussed it with Elder Brother Yun. To refrain from spending the pointless expense under these circumstances, we did not buy a residence but rented one for one year.”
“Is the Red Eyebrow army going to fight their way in?”
The power of the Red Eyebrow army was increasingly formidable and had reached a million troops. Wherever they went, they would open the granaries and put out grain, causing the poor common people to deeply love and respect them. The number of commoners that had joined were like a snowball–the more it continued, the more it accumulated.
“The main forces of the imperial army are currently deadlocked with the Red Eyebrow army at Cang Huang Mountain. But everyone is clear that a defeat is imminent and the only question is when.”
Cang Huang Mountain was the last barrier and after it was precisely a thousand li of fertile land that was not guarded against danger. At the time she had fled north, it was there that she had met the Sun household and Xuanyuan Min Zhi.
“The imperial army is truly useless like this?” Ruan Zhu thought of the China in the future. Why did the feeling the Red Eyebrow army gave her was extremely similar to the Red Army where over a million served?[b]
“The imperial court has been comfortable for too long. The army is too idle, and many soldiers have forgotten how to fight.” Lu Piao Xiang pulled her into his arms and lowered his head to kiss her for a spell again: “I have already discussed it with your father. In a few days, we’ll head to the capital. We’ll take advantage of the situation not yet being critical and leave a bit earlier. After a few days when martial law is in effect, it will not be easy to enter the city.”
The martial law Lu Piao Xiang spoke of was the closing of all of the capital’s gates and all outsiders being forbidden from entering. Because the capital was only so large, if the refugees all crowded inside, the foodstuffs and other goods necessary for daily life held in reserve would be wiped clean in a few days and everyone would have to wait to go home and eat themselves.
Lu Piao Xiang covered her properly with a blanket: “We’ll stay a few months in the capital. When the weather has turned warmer, and the child has also grown a little bigger and has immunity, we will return to Lan Zhou.”
During war in the olden times, the commoners all liked to run towards the capital as they were all thinking to follow the Emperor.
Three days later, the Ruan clan packed their money, foodstuffs, trinkets, clothing, and other luggage into several tens of large and grand carriages and traveled on the road towards the capital.
Ruan Zhu turned her head and carefully looked over the Ruan residence that she had stayed in during these past few months. It was very possible that after their departure, it would change households, such as becoming the Red Eyebrows’, or someone else’s family.
It was only a hundred li from Yu Zhou to the capital. They had left early in the morning and arrived only around dusk. Fortunately, the gates had yet to close and they entered the city and reached the residence that they had rented beforehand.
[a] 开裆裤 Split pants or open-crotch pants are pants without a seam at the crotch, allowing an infant to do their business by squatting without taking off their pants. These are used by infants before they’ve received potty training and also eliminates the need for diapers. (Wikipedia)
[b] The Red Army (红色大军) were the armed forces of the Communist Party of China from 1928 to 1937. It is short for Chinese People’s Red Army, previously known as the Chinese Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army. (Wikipedia) Not to be confused with the Red Army of the Soviet Union, which served a similar purpose.
TN: More than one thing went hard this chapter.