Great Tang Idyll - Chapter 3
The woman hugged her own son and future daughter-in-law, almost floating as she walked out. This time, Zhang Xiaobao didn't continue wallowing in the warmth of having a mother in this lifetime. He kept communicating through trading looks with Wang Juan and the occasional use of lip speech.1 His meaning was to have Wang Juan coordinate with him to figure out as quickly as possible what their current location was like.
Wang Juan still had some internal conflict and temporarily could not adapt to her new identity. She was even more unused to being carried around the place by a young woman. Seeing the message that Zhang Xiaobao transmitted, she suppressed all of her inner emotions to start observing the surrounding scenery including the apparel that people were wearing and how the rooms were decorated.
The two of them could be said to be of the elite in their previous lifetime. In this moment, they unleashed all of the expertise, knowledge, and experience that they had accumulated.
’’Ancient time?’’ While being carried in his mother's arms outside, Zhang Xiaobao mouthed the words to Wang Juan.
Wang Juan nodded slightly. Her eyes sweeping the table, she discovered two coins on top. She squinted as she took a closer look before replying: ’’If my guess is not wrong, it should be Tang dynasty. I saw some money Kaiyuan Tongbao.2 Don't know which reign it is.’’
At this time, the woman had already exited the door. Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan started sizing up the outside circumstances too and discovered that they actually weren't directly looking outside but that there was a courtyard entrance quad3 in front of them.
’’A wealthy family? Manor lord? Official family? Merchant?’’ Upon seeing this situation, Wang Juan immediately gave her speculation.
’’Not the family of an official. My ma my mom4 doesn't have that sort of air around her. Listening to what my mom just said, my initial conclusion is landlord class with peasants.’’5 Zhang Xiaobao answered after some analysis.
’’Mistress, how could a single you [honorific]6 carry two? Quickly, let me carry one of them.’’ Just as Wang Juan was about to reply, a man's voice sounded. She had assumed it was this woman's husband. But then she saw that it was a 40-something year old uncle wearing silk clothing. Although calculating based on her current age, she should perhaps call this person a grandpa. As he walked over, she immediately shut her mouth, resuming the semblance of an innocent child.
Here, Zhang Xiaobao was also the same as he used a curious gaze to look at this person, focusing especially on their eyes, intent to see if there was any deception or anything else suppressed within toward his mother. The position he assigned this person was a steward. According to his temperament, if he saw any hint of disrespect toward his mother in this possible steward's eyes, then he was going to kill someone.
’’No harm. The two children aren't heavy. Carrying them is pleasant, even. Steward Zhang should go busy yourself. Oh, and reward all of the people in the courtyard house today with an extra helping of meat at dinner time tonight.’’ Upon mentioning the children, the woman could not stop smiling and naturally wanted all of the people inside the courtyard house to be happy with her as well.
’’Yes, Mistress. You must be busy. I'll go fetch someone to look after you. The weather's hot so they can hold up an umbrella for Little Mister and Little Miss.’’ Steward Zhang respectfully replied before quietly walking away with his head bowed not revealing a hint of disrespect, not even knowing that this attitude saved him from the calamity of a death by murder.
The woman continued walking ahead while carrying the two children. Before even reaching the courtyard house in front, another maiden of a similarly young age came over to hold up an umbrella to block that scorching sunlight. At this time, Yingtao also presented a moistened silk handkerchief for Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan to use to lightly wipe their faces with.
’’Shiliu,7 do you know where the Master is?’’ The woman kissed Zhang Xiaobao's face as she asked the maiden holding up the umbrella.
’’In reply to Mistress' words, Master is currently in the study reviewing the books. Around this time, Old Madam8 and Old Master should be under the shade of the tree in the forecourt.’’ Shiliu cleverly replied. With her service experience, she naturally understood the Mistress' intentions and that was to let the family members see the children.
The woman nodded her head: ’’Unh, then let's go to the forecourt. Yingtao, after a bit, tell the people renovating the courtyard house in the back not to slack off. After the repairs are complete, let Old Madam and Old Master return to living there. It gives off a bad appearance for ones of their status to keep living up in front.’’
After turning her head to once again look at the two children in her embrace, her face immediately transformed into a smiling one. Slightly leaning to the side, she said: ’’Xiaobao, Juan-Juan, the one from just before was the steward of our manor. This maid servant is called Yingtao. The other one is called Shiliu. In a bit, we'll have you see your Grandpa and Grandma.’’
Then, without minding if the children could understand, she continued talking while walking in order to teach the two children how to speak. This is called a house and the center area of the house is the door and windows and so on and so forth. Up until reaching the forecourt where they saw two 'elderly people' that weren't even 50 yet who were sitting at the stone table under the large pagoda tree9 did she stop speaking and quickly took two steps forward.
’’Qiao-er10 came by? Quick, let me, this old lady, see our good grandson and granddaughter-in-law.’’ The old lady being waited upon as she sat there drinking tea immediately stood up in welcome once she saw the woman. Speaking while reaching out a hand to take over Zhang Xiaobao, she even griped: ’’Qiao-er, carrying two children in such hot weather, what if you get exhausted? Let the servants do it next time.’’
Though she said this, she herself didn't even show any intention of letting the servants help her carry the children. Holding onto Zhang Xiaobao with two hands in front of her to stare at him, however much she looked, she couldn't look enough. The wrinkles at the corners of her eyes crinkled together as the smile on her face wouldn't diminish.
’’I'm not tired. How could I get tired from carrying my own child? Oh, right. Dad [in-law],11 Mom [in-law], Baolang is able to call Mom. He said it just now in the room. Also, Juan-Juan, she called me Mom [in-law], too. Come, Baolang, call me again.’’ Mother Zhang12 recalled this as she spoke and wanting to let her mother-in-law and father-in-law to be happy together, she reached out to stroke her son's plump fat face as she bade him to talk.
’’Mom.’’ Of course, Zhang Xiaobao wouldn't refuse. He could finally enjoy having parents in this lifetime, prepared to say all of the words that he previously couldn't say. Not waiting for praise from the others, he said to the old lady hugging him: ’’Grandma.’’
Then turning his head toward the old man who was sitting there and looking over here, he continued to call: ’’Grandpa.’’
At this moment, the old man could no longer sit still, either. In one bounce, he stood up to quickly walk in front of his grandson: ’’Aiyou,13my good grandson! Let Grandpa see you. Good, better than the grandsons of others. No other family can compare to our family. Call me again for Grandpa14 to hear.’’
’’Grandpa.’’ Zhang Xiaobao closely scrutinized his grandfather and thought to himself that if he encountered a flood that he was washed away by again, this grandfather would probably be able to pull him up onto land, too.
’’Grandpa, Grandma.’’ Wang Juan followed in greeting at this time too. When meeting the elderly, there should be fundamental respect.
This speech from the both of them at once caused everybody to be happy. The old lady took Wang Juan while the old man hugged Zhang Xiaobao as they sat together. The praises being spouted from their mouths were never-ending as they praised their son, praised their daughter-in-law, praised their future granddaughter-in-law, and even all of the servants waiting on them were praised too as if everything was wonderfully good.
The weather no longer felt hot and they no longer felt so bogged down. Even the guard dog that was normally not allowed to come near was able to lie down under the tree with them to be praised, too.
At this time, Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan enjoyed the tender atmosphere on the one hand while listening closely to their conversation and observing the surroundings on the other so they could evaluate what their later living conditions would be like.
It was especially after hearing his grandfather, grandmother, and mother discuss some trivial family matters that the two of them listened with even closer care while not stopping with their lip speech.
’’Who said your family's not officials? Don't you have a fief? There's even 100 heads of shiyi.’’15 Wang Juan said this to Zhang Xiaobao upon hearing Zhang Xiaobao's Grandpa speak of his worry that the awarded grant of land that his forefather risked their life to earn would be confiscated.
Zhang Xiaobao listened along, too. His own forefather went to war, had military exploits, and was granted an honorary title as well as gaining several hundred mu16 of land. Later on, that forefather died and the honorary title was lost but the land and the 100 heads didn't get taken back. Now that the regnal era17 had changed that is, the emperor had changed there was the fear that the land would be taken back.
’’There's been so many years between now and Forefather's time, the family hasn't been officials for ages. Besides, it was only honorary before. This isn't important though. What's important is that we know the time period the 2nd year of Kaiyuan.18 Looks like we can be stable for several decades. Li Longji19 just took care of his aunt20 and is currently in the rapid development stage.’’ Zhang Xiaobao learned of this most important piece of information from the mouth of his Grandpa.
Things are easier to handle with intelligence. People don't fear facing danger or difficulty but they fear facing the unknown. Being blind in the dark was the most uncomfortable.
’’Good, what's good? Why not a bit earlier like the Zhenguan21 era? At least we wouldn't need to worry about the Anshi Rebellion.22 I reckon that your family's land can't be saved. It should have been taken back ages ago. It's not like it's hereditary. Don't even know what kind of methods were used to hide it for so many years.’’ Though Wang Juan's mouth was full of sarcasm, in her heart, she was worried, too. If Zhang Xiaobao's family's land was lost, then their revenue would decrease. If something like a disaster happened, without enough food, life would not be good.
However, Zhang Xiaobao was not anxious about this. Big deal whether it was taken back or not he could just make money and buy more land. It wasn't like making money was hard. Even if he didn't run scams and so couldn't make a large fortune, he could still easily make a small fortune. The only worry of his was the Anshi Rebellion that Wang Juan mentioned. Thinking for a bit, he said to Wang Juan: ’’No fear. Saving a person isn't easy but isn't doing away with a person even easier?’’
’’Kill An Lushan?’’ Wang Juan asked.
’’Unh, that's one of them. Right now, it's not urgent. Wait until we've grown up a bit, then we'll do away with An Lushan, kill off Shi Siming,23waste Li Linfu,24 and exterminate Yang Guozhong.’’25 Zhang Xiaobao said with certainty.
’’Keep blowing.26 Even if you really kill An Lushan, there would still be a Li Lushan, Wang Lushan.’’ Wang Juan didn't give Zhang Xiaobao any face whatsoever.
Zhang Xiaobao carelessly rolled his eyes as he said: ’’Theoretically, there would be this type of situation but those who actually change history are people. One of the deciding factors in history is an important person's character. There's only one Napoleon. Let's not debate this question for now. Let's see when the time comes and then, we'll know.’’
Wang Juan also knew about these matters that touched upon philosophy and didn't have any conclusions at this time. So deciding to prioritize being realistic, she asked: ’’Then, what do we do? Just wait until we grow up bit by bit?’’
’’Of course not. Our primary mission is to make money and then buy more land. The golden age of Kaiyuan is an economic boom though no matter how prosperous it is, it still can't compare to our time. Food supply has an indispensable status in our time then, not to mention here.’’ Zhang Xiaobao gave his thinking.
’’How do we do it? Just based on us two little brats?27 Will anyone listen to us?’’
’’Foolish people consider difficulty. Smart people consider opportunities. Wait until we can get a grasp of the circumstances for 2 days and then I'll tell you how.’’ Zhang Xiaobao took on an appearance like he had it in the bag.