☆ Chapter 58
时辰 | sichen | time system comprising of 12 two-hour periods of the day; one sichen is the equivalent of two modern hours
The residence in the capital was quite close to Zhu Que Street–one could arrive there after walking for two minutes. It was a rather tastefully chosen three compound courtyard. The central building was magnificently carved and decorated; grand beyond the ordinary. It could be seen that the previous residents had been extremely wealthy.
Ruan Zi Xu stayed in the central building with a few servants; Ruan Zhu and her husbands stayed in the second compound; Ruan Yu was in the inner compound; and Third Concubine-Father led his two sons in staying in the side courtyard.
As the eldest daughter, Ruan Zhu had the responsibility of managing the household in the absence of the Madam of the residence. Fortunately, the current number of inhabitants in the residence was not many and the job was easily done. Switching to seasonal clothing; the everyday use of wood, rice, oil, and salt; expenses and keeping the accounts–outlines for each and every one of these categories were made.
Each day, essentially no trace of the family’s men could be seen. Ruan Zi Xu led the two Yun brothers to manage their businesses and they had a great deal of things to do.
The majority of the Ruan clan’s shops in Yu Zhou needed to relocate. However, it wasn’t to move to the capital but rather to Lan Zhou.
The current political situation was unstable, with some saying the capital was defendable while others claimed the opposite. Every day, soldiers could be seen coming and going on Zhu Que Street. Some were headed towards the battlefield to reinforce the army and there were also the scattered remains of battalions that carried their wounded back in carriages.
Lu Piao Xiang left early and returned late each day. Upon his return, he would consistently rifle through a book on military strategies that he had yet to finish reading and jot down important notes. Any trace of his figure would disappear before daylight on the next day.
As for Xuanyuan Min Zhi–on the second day he arrived in the capital together with the Ruan clan, he left without a word.
Following what Ruan Zi had instructed, Ruan Zhu took out the ledgers from the storeroom and thoroughly verified them over a span of a few days before finally straightening everything out.
She hadn’t expected the Ruan clan to be this wealthy. Not counting the gold and silver jewelry and precious stones, just the amount of pure gold and silver alone was in the tens of millions. Converted into RMB, it would amount to several hundred million!
The several tens worth of large carriages that had been driven from Yu Zhou were actually completely filled with chests of money and other valuables. All of the profit from the Ruan clan’s enormous amount of businesses that they could bring were essentially piled up in there.
But these valuables would only stay in the capital temporarily. After a few days, the chests would be loaded onto ships personally escorted by Ruan Zi Xu. Following the Yangtze River, they would move towards Jiang Nan and then travel north up Lan River towards Lan Zhou.
In this family, perhaps only Ruan Zi Xu was clear how much wealth the Ruan clan had. It was possible that even Madam Ruan didn’t know.
Thinking of Madam Ruan, Ruan Zhu’s head started aching again. The day before yesterday, she had come into an agreement with her second sister, Ruan Yu, to visit their maternal grandparents’ place together to pick up their mother. Unexpectedly, they had been found out by Ruan Zi Xu and he had stubbornly ordered the two sisters back into his courtyard where he firmly admonished them for a spell.
Why did this pair of husband and wife care so much about their faces? There obviously was still feelings there, and it wasn’t to the point where a divorce should be considered!
Taking the ledgers with her, she walked to her own Yi Xin Residence and checked up on the wet nurse, where she saw her child was sleeping soundly. Entering the library, she put the ledgers down and started writing. The capital was full of aristocracy, and there was no lack of capable people that could set themselves up against her in terms of reciting poetry. She felt somewhat inferior and would spare some time every day to practice calligraphy. Fortunately, she had spent a few years studying it in her previous childhood and after a month of practicing, there was already some improvement.
After half a sichen, her hand was sore. Placing the brush back in the brush-wash dish, she stood up, just about to return to her room for a nap.
Lu Piao Xiang walked in from outside and was surprisingly clad in gorgeous official robes. Added with his tall and handsomely bright appearance, all who looked at him would be attracted. She looked at the musical score before his chest–it was leopard print, something that was exceptionally rare.
“Lord Husband, when did you become an official?” To give the Head of her family some face, she called him ‘Lord Husband’ in private but ‘Big Brother Lu’ in front of Yun Shi Yi.
“Wife, I have treated you coldly during this period.” Lu Piao Xiang hugged her from behind while simultaneously sucked on her sparkling earlobe. His hands also moved from around her tender body to stretch inside her lapel. Each of his hands fondled a soft mound for a while before one hand moved downwards into her skirt, separated her two flower petals, and explored her depths.
A man and woman making love in broad daylight often results in extreme arousal and delicate moans quickly spilled out of Ruan Zhu’s mouth as she was unable to withstand the teasing.
Lu Piao Xiang’s enthusiasm also became increasingly hard to bear after hearing the tantalizing sounds his wife was making. Hiking up her long skirt, he pulled her underpants to her knees, and supporting his member that had already swelled to an unbearable degree, pushed inside her.
Ruan Zhu had been lying on her stomach against the writing desk. Her body abruptly jolted forward by the force of the insertion, and she couldn’t help but to scream out, “Ah!”
Lu Piao Xiang was immediately smothered by the tightness and warmth of her insides and started quickly thrusting. Wave after wave of intense pleasure surged forth. Pulling her head back, he kissed her lips, his lower half becoming even more violent.
Lu Piao Xiang was both violent and enduring. Ruan Zhu had already become limp from his attacks twice before he shouted and emptied his passion inside her.
Ruan Zhu’s face was flushed as she nestled inside Lu Piao Xiang’s arms, “Lord Husband, you’re not acting normally today.”
Lu Piao Xiang sat in the taishi chair and rearranged his wife so that she was sitting properly in his lap: “His Imperial Majesty has appointed me as a fourth rank generalissimo, with the title of Zhong Wu, and has given me the reorganized Fei Sheng army to train.[a] In the future, I need to live in the barracks and will not have much time to come back and accompany you.”
It was as if Ruan Zhu had seen a rare animal as her eyes widened: “Fei Sheng army is Tian Chu’s most elite army, right?”
She had read Tian Chu’s history books before and knew that the Fei Shen army was comprised of excellent troops picked out from various battalions and were specially appointed to protect the imperial family. Precisely because they were too noble, they rarely went onto the battlefield and had little real combat experience.
Lu Piao Xiang brushed her sweat-soaked hair away from her forehead: “The previously received news said the situation at the battlefield was unfavorable for Tian Chu and there was a very high chance for the rebel army to break through our defenses. Any time now, the imperial court will finish the preparations to move the capital.”
Perhaps it was because she couldn’t hear the flames of war, but Ruan Zhu had continuously thought the conflict was very far from her. But since now Lu Piao Xiang had suddenly become a general, couldn’t she provide him with some advantageous help?
“Lord Husband, how did you become an official? A fourth rank is a very high position, right?”
“Don’t ask these unnecessary things. Isn’t your father going to transport a batch of goods to Lan Zhou in a few days? I will assign a division to escort him.”
“Sending the army–where did such a large power come from?”
“I, your Lord Husband, still has the power to allocate two to three thousand forces.”
Both his hands were roaming around her body. The feeling of her delicate torso made him tingle and his little brother that had just gone soft once again rose up with enthusiasm. He changed her position and let her straddle him. Pointing his thick staff at her secret entrance, his hands gripped her waist and pushed her down.
The tremendous object entered her and she instinctively clamped despite his furious onslaught inside her.
Lu Piao Xiang had ample energy and ate her three times in a row before letting her go.
Because of him, her entire body was limp and sore, and she was even unable to lift a foot up to walk. Wiping her entire body clean, he directly carried her into the bedroom and placed her onto the bed to rest before instructing Nuan Chun to bring in the evening meal for them to eat here.
At night, the two of them laid in bed. Lu Piao Xiang was at her side and hugging her, his eyes flashing with pity: “No one knows the outcome of this long conflict, but the situation is becoming increasingly worse for us. I’m afraid it may no longer be possible to defend the capital for long, but if we go to Lan Zhou, who knows how long the peace will last?”
Ruan Zhu’s eyes moved back and forth as she pondered: “What sort of weapons does the imperial court use? Is it that they are not powerful enough, to the extent that they have no other option against the Red Eyebrow army?”
“The imperial court has arms, but the Red Eyebrow army is also not lacking in them. Most of their weapons come from them breaching cities. Their troops also have many artisans that understand smithing, so forging weapons is not something that is difficult. Mo swords, trebuchets, ballistas, and all other sorts of siege weaponry are all not bad.[b]”
“What about gunpowder? Yes or no?”
Gunpowder was already invented in the Tang dynasty and used in war during the Song dynasty. Even though history had switched to another space-time, intrinsic things would not change.
Lu Piao Xiang disapproved: “For the strength of gunpowder, you’re better off with the usefulness of the ballista. The noise is only slightly less than thunder so it’s possible to use it to scare people but after using it a few times, we will instead be jeered at by the enemy.”
“The strength of gunpowder not being high is because the formula is not correct. If you change it to 75% saltpeter, 15% of toner,[c] and 10% sulfur, then you’ll have an explosion that is ten times, perhaps even several tens, stronger than before.”
The ancients’ way of manufacturing gunpowder was quite primitive and its power was not very strong. It was still possible to use them as fireworks, but there was a big difference in using them for war. Recorded in ancient texts was a formula: two taels of sulfur; two taels of saltpeter; and three tenths and a half of a tael of slender Dutchman’s Pipe (Chinese herbal medicine, burnt coal); equaled gunpowder.
Lu Piao Xiang was somewhat astonished: “Who did you hear this from? Okay then, I’ll have some of my men test it out. If it works, I will submit a memorial to the imperial court to ask them to grant you a title.”
“Who wants to be granted a title?” Ruan Zhu pushed him, her eyes moving: “If some fine iron shards are placed in the gunpowder bag, its strength will become larger. After it has been ignited, you can use a trebuchet to throw it and a wide expanse will die.”
Lu Piao Xiang stared blankly at her before murmuring: “Mix in iron shards–this idea is actually wonderfully clever.”
Ruan Zhu thought about her past world’s TV program “Approaching Science”[d]: “It would be best to replace the trebuchet’s cowhide sling with a large metal spoon. That way, the stones can be thrown further. As for the ballistas, they can actually be changed to be simpler. I remember they require at least ten people to operate, correct? Actually, only three people are necessary. But how to improve it, let me think……”
When she had read 《New Song》before, there was a situation where the transmigrated male lead had altered the ballista. 《Chemically Engineering the Great Tang》had seemed to gone into greater detail but what exactly were the specifics in altering the ballista?[e]
She must carefully think about this and then rely on her high school knowledge of physics and the theories of machines and mechanisms. Coming up with a method to improve the ballista was not hard as it only required using several basic mechanical theories, that’s all.
Ruan Zhu had a rough idea in her mind, but was using a ratchet good, hmm? Or was using gears better? Ratchets were very easy to manufacture while gears were relatively complicated, but how advanced was Tian Chu’s skill in smelting?[f]
Lu Piao Xiang had been shocked by his wife’s words! He stared at her unfathomably for a very long while with wide eyes. It was only at this point that he truly understood he had unearthed this world’s most precious treasure.
Ruan Zhu was now wide awake. Reaching out to find a brush and some paper on the nightstand, she handed them to Lu Piao Xiang: “I have never seen a ballista before. Draw a diagram of it for me, I’ll look for a way to improve it.”
Lu Piao Xiang was in disbelief: “You’ve never seen it before yet can modify it?”
She laughed: “I am just trying. If it doesn’t work, you can’t laugh at me.”
Lu Piao Xiang was skeptical. Because he understood some of the mechanical theories, drawing it out was not difficult at all, and after a moment, he passed a blueprint for her to look at.
Ruan Zhu studied the diagram for a while and discovered that it was rather simple to modify the necessary areas. She lowered her head in concentration for long time before handing the adjusted drawing back to him.
She had drawn different improvements based on both rackets and gears and pointed at them along with the places where they should be installed while explaining it all to him.
The power of large-scale ballistas were matchless with one round being able to fire out hundreds of bolts. If over a hundred ballistas were to open fire at one time, the scene of over ten thousand bolts firing at once would be a magnificent sight to behold. But operating these machines would be equally inconvenient as over a dozen soldiers would need to align their thoughts together for it to work.
Ruan Zhu had altered it so that each ballista only required three people to work in tandem. Not only was the operation simple, it also saved a lot of effort.
Lu Piao Xiang was naturally intelligent and understood her meaning after she went through it once.
He was overjoyed and grabbed his wife for a fierce kiss. There was a voice from the bottom of his heart: Emperor-Father and Empress-Mother, didn’t you worriedly insist that a commoner wife could never match up to your noble son? On the contrary, I would like to show you how outstanding my wife is. Not even mentioning Tian Chu, there is no one under this Heaven that could compare.
Because he was too excited, he kept tossing and turning in bed until he finally decided to take out the blueprint. He didn’t sleep a single wink and animatedly left the house at the first glimmers of sunshine.
The author has something to say: The word count is lacking. I’ll make it up tomorrow, I’m tired.
[a] 四品忠武大将军; The title of ‘Zhong Wu’ is part of a series of titles given posthumously and this particular title is considered the highest honor. 大将军 directly translates to ‘important general’ (lol) or ‘generalissimo’ and the meaning is someone with the highest rank in the military and/or someone that holds power over the entirety of the armed forces. (Wikipedia) A fourth-rank official is around mid-rank. If anyone’s curious, there’s 9 main ranks with a bunch of sub-grades and -classes making for 30 total grades. // 飞胜军 literally translates to Flying Victory army
[b] 陌刀 Mo sword is a type of long-handled sword in the Tang dynasty but they were rarely found in history books after this era. They were also not allowed to be buried with their owners so all pictures (such as this one) that currently exist of this sword are artistic representations. Trebuchets and ballistas are siege weaponry with the former using rocks, etc., as ammo while the latter fired bolts.
[c] 碳粉 is used here, which literally means toner as in laser printing toner. Wikipedia says early mixtures of this powder contained carbon powder and iron oxide, so perhaps RZ is referring to these two ingredients.
[d] 走进科学 “Approaching Science” was a Chinese documentary film program from June 1998 to September 2018.
[e] Both novels involve a main lead that transmigrated into the past and changed things around. 新宋 New Song was previously mentioned in Chapter 51 and I tried my best with translating 化工大唐.
[f] A ratchet (荆轮) is a mechanical device that only allows continuous movement in one direction. (Wikipedia)