Great Tang Idyll - Chapter 16
Shiliu was also sent out to do things. After Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan woke up, they discovered that seated by the doorway there was actually another maid servant.
’’I am really a bit impressed with your Mom [modern] of this lifetime for overseeing the manor's affairs, breastfeeding us milk as well as maintaining control over her children's surrounding situation at all times. If it were switched to that time period of ours, she would definitely also be a howling whirlwind1 of a superwoman.’’2 Wang Juan said with a sigh.
’’That is, you don't even look to see whose Mom she is? In the future, don't keep saying your Mom [modern], your Mom [modern] like that it's like you're insulting people. Follow the local customs3 and say Dad or Mom. Who's that by the doorway again? Can't assign any more tasks, otherwise there won't be enough people to use in the household.’’
Zhang Xiaobao looked at the maid servant keeping watch there as another idea emerged from his heart. He thought on it before finally overruling it. Seeing that Wang Juan was grumpily looking over here, he smiled as he said: ’’Too used to it, I keep on feeling like I'm still that person controlling large-scale organizations, ~ne.’’
’’Then, keep reminding yourself from time to time, especially when facing outsiders. Let's go. Go to the sandy grounds. Let's use the fast recovery rate of a child's body to quickly grab the time to train.’’
Once Wang Juan's voice fell, the two of them began to kick the mat down to the floor. This was the only way the both of them could get down by themselves.
’’Little Mister, you [honorific] are up?’’ Just after kicking down one mat, that maid servant vigilantly walked over.
’’Don't need you. We'll go ourselves. You're called...?’’ Seeing the maid servant stretch out her hand to carry him and Wang Juan, Zhang Xiaobao spoke up to stop her.
’’In reply to Little Mister's words, I'm called Xiaohong. Many thanks to Little Mister and Little Miss' intercession. From now on, I and Xiaoqi won't ever dare be loose-lipped again.’’ The person calling herself Xiaohong was a bit cautious in her reply.
’’Oh, you're Xiaohong. Work well at the manor;we won't mistreat you. Quickly, down.’’ Wang Juan said a sentence to Xiaohong before pressing Zhang Xiaobao to roll down first.
Deeply inhaling a breath with both hands protecting the head, Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan consecutively rolled on top of the mat on the floor under that flummoxed gaze of Xiaohong's. Xiaohong felt like the ones tumbling down there weren't two children but two great boulders that were tightly pressing down on her chest, frightening her until she didn't know what to do.
’’Go to the cooking hall to get the water we need. Once you mention it, they'll understand. Go to the sandy grounds of the backcourt to find us. Remember to bring two or more changes of our clothing.’’
Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan ignored the mat on the floor. This kind of matter should be done by Xiaohong. One in front and one in back, they tottered while walking outside.
Gazing at that vanishing silhouette of Little Mister and the Wang Family's Little Miss, Xiaohong blankly stood there. Only after a long while did she react as she used a hand to cover her mouth as she whispered: ’’Not monsters. I don't know anything at all, won't say anything at all.’’
Trembling, Xiaohong went to the kitchen as ordered. The kitchen had already readied the items. As she carried the water while walking to the back, Xiaohong was still in the middle of a trance. As she walked and walked, she suddenly stopped mid-stride as she said to herself: ’’If Little Mister really is a monster, then wouldn't the future patriarch be a monster? Doesn't seem too bad, ~ah. With a monster as the patriarch, who would still dare to bully the manor's people?’’
In an instant, Xiaohong who had come around to the idea became happy. She sped up her footsteps to arrive at the sandy grounds in the back here, only to see Little Mister and the Wang Family's Little Miss there, currently holding hands as they walked, ~ne. Nearby under a tree, Old Madam and Old Master were sitting, their faces filled with kind smiling expressions as they watched the two fellows over there mess around.
The proud sun slowly sinking in the west,4 Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan once again dragged their exhausted bodies back to their own room. Bearing with the aching soreness, they massaged each other once before lying down there to gradually fall asleep.
Mrs. Zhang-Wang had already given the orders these few days, requesting a pig elbow to eat every day the kind without any salt. For her, for the sake of the children, it seemed that there wasn't anything she couldn't endure.
After being breastfed by Mrs. Zhang-Wang, by the time Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan flopped down there to read the Thousand Character Classic,5 Erniu and Yingtao had already returned while Shiliu was bringing several people to the market fair there to gather vegetable leaves, foul fish, and rotten shrimp.
’’Little Mister, the sauce base6 has been prepped. Making sauce in this season isn't that good. My Mom has said that it can still be made it'll be done after a couple days have passed. The money for the small ceramic jars that were commissioned will be sent over at the same time.’’ Only waiting until Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan raised their heads to rest their eyes did Erniu open his mouth to make the report.
’’Unh, first work on this matter;you pay more attention to it. The stuff received through trade that's not soybeans, keep a tenth for your family. Transport the rest back to the courtyard. Find a place to store it for me. The amount of every item, find a person who's literate to record it and give to me.
You also don't need to constantly come here every day. Come once every 2 or 3 days. When you encounter unresolvable matters, you can also come seek me out for advice. Rest in the courtyard house tonight. Return tomorrow morning.’’
Zhang Xiaobao deliberated slightly, after instructing Erniu, he then glanced Yingtao who was standing to the side. Nodding his little head, Yingtao came forward to say: ’’Little Mister, that kang [bed-stove] that you [honorific] spoke of has already been set and dried. Quite a few chicken eggs have also been purchased. I've been touching the chicken nests every day. I feel like I can do it.’’
’’Properly prepared? This is good, then. Do it according to what I say. Around 20 days later, there will be chicks hatching. Wait for me to think on it. I'll describe the matter in detail for you to hear tomorrow. This stuff... I'm familiar.7 When you see Shiliu, have her be a bit quicker.’’ Zhang Xiaobao was pensive for a moment before slowly speaking.
When Yingtao had also left, Wang Juan stared at Zhang Xiaobao before suddenly smiling: ’’Even thought you really knew of everything. So you were actually insecure. You familiar with it? Why were you so unconfident when speaking of it?’’
’’Can't say I'm unfamiliar. Yingtao had already grasped the temperature so what she needs is for me to give her confidence. Being in power isn't easy, ~ah.’’ Zhang Xiaobao smacked his lips, continuing to read after he finished speaking. This wasn't simply reading but also memorizing.
Wang Juan didn't say anything more at the moment as her eyes looked straight at the characters with too many brush strokes.8 Only after a while did she speak: ’’Actually, living isn't that easy. Who even knows what tomorrow will be like? Natural catastrophes, man-made disasters if they can't be avoided, then confront them. What do you want to use that stuff for?’’
Wang Juan's tendency for leaps in logic was a bit stronger she had been lamenting previously and then, with a switch in topic, had gone elsewhere.
’’Rewards. From now on, the money made will be even greater and be subject to the suspicions of other people. I may not have the inclination to oversee the internal affairs. Right now, consolidating the hearts of the people is needed. My request is that the two manors of the Zhang and Wang families must be like a monolithic iron block. It's good that there are people to help out.’’ Zhang Xiaobao said as he flipped a page.
Wang Juan flipped it back as she hadn't finished reading it, ~ne: ’’Still short two lines not used to reading the vertical version.9 Who did you say was helping?’’
’’Song Jing-gong, that swindler. We can get a sum of money from him. Read quickly. Read a page and then, sleep.’’ Zhang Xiaobao yawned as he spoke.
It was another brilliantly sunny day and the early morning breeze still carried a bit of coolness;the chirping of the birds were like the sunlight passing through the gaps in the foliage as their presence could be sensed only inadvertently. The little kids and idle adults with nothing to do were all at home flipping over the firewood piles as they dug out the decayed stuff from underneath to carefully heap it up to the side as they awaited the arrival of the people from the manor to trade for it.
Song Jing-gong didn't return yesterday and had randomly found a household of the manor to request lodging with. Ordinarily, with a philanthropist like him staying for a few nights, the people of the house should have included the food to be taken care of by them without asking for even 1 wen [cash]. But who knew that the people of these two neighboring manors actually wanted money out of him.
One night's stay was 5 wen [cash];a single meal was 5 wen [cash] and it was even without meat while with meat, it was 10 wen [cash]. Just that single crummy dish not mentioning the flavor not being so good, there wasn't that much grease,10 either. Going to the town tavern to stay, 15 wen [cash] was enough and you could even drink a bowl of wine, ~ne.
When he left that household, Song Jing-gong even secretly swore a curse. All the money on his person had been given to that Zhang Family's little kid but they had gone so far as to take an ink stone11 from the Four Treasures of the Study12 that he always carried on him. That ink stone was priced at 50 wen [cash] and it had only been worth a broken down bed for a night's stay, a bowl of brown rice,13 and a plate of eggs with stir-fried garlic chives14 that they actually counted as a meat dish.
With such a dismal mood, even the weather being this nice couldn't make Song Jing-gong cheer up. If that jade and silver hadn't been taken by another person, Song Jing-gong was really prepared to leave here. Now that the stuff had been given away, if he didn't swindle any profit, whatever else he said, he couldn't accept it.
Imagining the spectacle of when the Zhang Manor's people would be swindled to tears, Song Jing-gong's heart was finally a bit comforted. He hurried along the way, only slowing down his footsteps after he had nearly reached the manor's largest courtyard. Tidying his clothes, he said in the direction of the great door: ’’I wonder if the one managing the affairs of the manor is present? Song Jing-gong has come to pay a visit.’’
The people at the doorway here had already received instructions so they glanced at the door and were silent.
Song Jing-gong waited for a while before reaching out to knock on the door. Only then did someone inside pull open the small portal, sticking their head out to look at Song Jing-gong as they said: ’’What?’’
’’I am Song Jing-gong, desiring to meet the person managing the affairs of your house.’’ Song Jing-gong cleared his throat, speaking in a clear voice.
’’Don't recognize you, have a name card?15 How could the person managing the affairs of my house be so easily seen?’’ The gatekeeper curled his lip in disdain.
’’I came here before yesterday along with your house's Little Mister. Why is this not known today?’’ Song Jing-gong was inwardly furious yet he couldn't directly demonstrate it and could only continue talking.
’’I only saw Little Mister yesterday and saw no other people. Eiyou~!16Isn't this Mister Zheng?17 You [honorific] have come;please quickly enter. This little one here will go inform them for you.’’ The gatekeeper was speaking when his face suddenly changed in expression, greeting Song Jing-gong afterward before turning around to run inside.
Song Jing-gong hearing this mention by the gatekeeper, turned his head to observe only to see a young person around 20 years of age with a face full of smiles who was currently standing there, his upper torso clad in a little jacket and lower parts in tight-legged trousers. He didn't appear to be a person with money so why did that gatekeeper treat him like this?
’’Oh, oh, greetings, Mister Song. Don't know if Mister Song is like this one20 coming here to borrow money?’’ This Mister Zheng didn't seem to know what secrecy was, revealing his purpose in coming upon opening his mouth.
’’Borrow money? Then, I wonder why the gatekeeper gives the two of us such different treatment?’’ Song Jing-gong wanted to figure it out where he was lacking.
’’Oh, Mister Song must be an upright person. Although I am borrowing money but every time I come here, I always...’’
’’Mister Zheng, you [honorific], please come inside.’’ Just as Song Jing-gong wanted to know the reason, the gatekeeper returned, standing by the doorway in welcome. Mister Zheng smiled as he said thanks, offhandedly handing over a string that was enough to be 300 wen [cash] in copper coins to the gatekeeper before walking inside with the gatekeeper in respectful attendance.
Gazing at Mister Zheng's silhouette in the distance, the gatekeeper weighed the money in his hands with a face full of smiles before happily stowing it away. When he was looking back at Song Jing-gong again, he suddenly gave a cold humph and not speaking at all, he turned around to go inside.
Song Jing-gong at once knew the reason. Gritting his teeth, he turned around to leave. This wasn't because he didn't want to swindle anymore but it was to go back to get money. He finally understood what was going on with this gatekeeper. This really was called King Yama21 is easy to see;an imp22 is hard to deal with.23