Recap from last chapter: Ning Yi goes to Elder Qin’s house and has a weiqi match with Elder Kang.
Chapter Eight Huyan Leifeng
Ning Yi didn’t have much confidence in his present body. However, he had exercised for a few months. It was normal to be slightly dizzy when he got up. Opening the door and letting the wind blow on him, his mind cleared up.
At this time, the sky was not yet light. All of Jiangning City was covered in darkness. However, because it was near sunrise, as he looked out from the second floor, there were dots of fire inside the Su Family Compound, and also in the distant city. There were servants moving about the nearby yards. It was possible to hear the sound of people speaking. Further away, over the compound walls, there were faint lights inside the homes along the streets.
Warm yellow light shone through the window of the second level tower on the other side. It added a layer of warm light to the yard. The three young servant girls had woken up a long ago. Su Tan Er’s time would vary but it seemed that she was already up today. From the window, it was possible to see the shadow of a female that was sitting in front of the mirror, and a servant girl moving busily. When Ning Yi walked down the tower, Juan’er was walking towards the opposing tower. She bent down in a shallow curtsey and then said, “Guye has also woken up.”
Then the window of a room on the ground floor was pushed open and showed Chan’er who was working hard inside. “Guye, don’t come down, I will bring water up.”
“Ah, there’s no need for such trouble, I can come.”
The Su Family had a main kitchen. Due to this, the two little towards would not have their own kitchens for cooking. However, there were places to boil water and wash on the ground floor. Because people who washed in the winder would burn fire under the tub, it was not good to set the wash room upstairs. Xiao Chan was used to Ning Yi getting up early to exercise and was planning to bring hot water up. However, Ning Yi came down. He was a modern person and he did not pay too much attention to these minor conventions. It was nothing if he had to boil water himself. A few days ago when he had gotten up, he would add kindling to the fire when he came down and bored waiting for the water to boil. He had caused Xiao Chan to not know what to do. When he had been eating with Su Tan’er, she had said tactfully, “Husband, do not do those things.” Xiao Chan had been standing with her head bowed as though she had done something wrong. He had just smiled and said it was alright.
He would not deliberately display his unique actions. He would not do things that would actually break with convention but he did not need to hide himself and become a true “medieval person.” Otherwise, there was no interest in coming here and living.
If everyone was going to be living together for many years—if there really was a possibility of becoming husband and wife, then rather than hiding himself on these minor matters—it was better to have the other gradually become accustomed. Therefore, he would act as he wished on minor and unimportant matters. Therefore, he would not object to occasionally going into the kitchen to feed the fire, and he would tell stories and speak of other matters to the students at the school. He would not change this. He would also occasionally add a few modern terms that people did not know. He did not think too much of this.
In front of that old man Qin, he could occasionally talk about slightly progressive ideas. It was alright if they were slightly unconventional. This old man had been an official and liked to think about things. He also did not mind minor details of conduct. Everyone was just good friends and there was nothing else involved in the relationship. Just like the old man had said, he had married into a merchant family. It would be difficult for him to rise higher in things like reputation and achievement. Gentleman relationships were probably like this. The other would not try to harm him. After playing weiqi for such a long time, Elder Qin had been studying him, and he had been studying the other.
Since they could be friends, then it did not matter. It really was satisfying to his ego to occasionally talk about some progressive ideas and watch the other sink deep in thought. For him, it was just idle chatting. Actually, it wasn’t that these ideas did not exist now, but the way they were described was different. Naturally, he would not touch those truly sensitive topics.
He brushed his teeth and washed his face on the ground floor—there were toothbrushes and tooth powder at this time, but the feeling was not good—and then left the yard. He walked towards one of the side entrances. Along the way, the roosters had started to crow, and there was a dim white light coming from the east. He would occasionally encounter servants and stewards from other yards. They would call him guye and greet him.
Coming out of the Su Family’s compound, he started to jog along the path that already existed. On the way, he thought about what he would talk about in class today. He then thought of some of the Chinese-style songs that he knew. He didn’t remember all of them completely, or they were not suitable to this era. However, entertainment was truly too lacking in this time. He would probably forget even more as time passed. He felt that he needed to write down these songs and poems. After thinking a while, he thought back to poetry. In the past, he had not been a good student during his education, and he had not deliberately memorized many poems. However, after his experiences in the later decades, he still remembered many famous phrases. This was a good resource and it would be a pity to forget this.
After running half of the way, he felt that there was a problem with his body. Going into water yesterday did have a negative effect. But he had warmed up. Maybe if he ran for a while, and sweated, it would be good for his healing so he continued to advance.
Mist floated in the city and the scene was just like yesterday. When he neared the place where he had climbed out of the water yesterday, he heard noise coming from the river surface. When he looked, he found a figure that was swaying on the surface as though it was controlling a little ship.
He slowed and looked over in puzzlement. The little boat was shaking violently on the water. The figure of a female was standing on the boat with a long bamboo pole. She was not standing in a stable position. She wavered for a long time as Ning Yi watched before she fell back down into the boat. He didn’t know if this was the woman from yesterday morning. The woman today was covered in a pink cape. Her body was fine and tall, she was pretty beautiful. However, falling down and then climbing up the little boat damaged her presence slightly.
The little boat was swaying strongly. The woman carefully climbed up, one of her hands holding the side of the boat. When she raised her head, her hair was slightly dishevelled. She glanced and saw a figure of a male that was watching the spectacle. Her eyes immediately widened and she became slightly panicked. Ning Yi saw a long net with some mud on it. When the female stood up, there was a kitchen knife on her hand.
Oh, it was the one from yesterday… …
The cape was beautiful but it was slightly old. This woman did not have much swimming skill but she might know a bit about moving a boat. She had actually waited for morning when people were not around to scoop up this kitchen knife. Was she embarrassed? She probably was a girl that used to live in a pretty good environment. However, her present situation was not very good. Ning Yi observed and concluded this. He was not very concerned with other people. That female seemed panicked. She tried to push the boat using the bamboo pole to go near the shore. Perhaps out of panic, the little boat was spinning around on the water. She was also unable to stand up and almost fell a few times, then … …
Ning Yi was preparing to leave when he sneezed. The female on the boat also sneezed and fell back with a bang into the boat. When she climbed, she looked over embarrassedly. Ning Yi twisted his mouth with slight awkwardness. “The chicken is already dead, why did you scoop up the knife for … …”
A short silence.
“The chicken came back … …”
Ning Yi had just randomly spoke up. Truthfully, it had been a very bad and unskilled joke. But he had wrongly predicted the other’s answer. When the voice from the river passed over, Ning Yi stilled in surprise.
“… … the chicken did not die, Auntie … … Auntie from the Chen Family found it,” the other explained.
“ … …oh.”
Yesterday, the woman had chased the chicken into diving into the river and Ning Yi had been pulled down as well. He had not been able to see what had happened after. That chicken probably had been a strong one. After flapping for a while, it managed to get on shore again. The people were kind and honest here. They knew that she had lost a chicken so they delivered the chicken back. Ning Yi praised the other inwardly. Moments later, he said, “Can you hand over that pole?”
There was still a distance between the little boat and the shore. That long pole originally was able to reach the shore but the woman did not have the strength to raise it parallel. The weight of the pole also caused the boat to be in slight danger. AFter trying a few times, the head of the pole reached the shore, but it was still underwater. Ning Yi was unable to reach it. He could only go along the river and found another bamboo pole along the road. He held it from the shore and then pulled the woman and the boat over.
“Thank you, Young Master … … for yesterday as well, When this servant just woke up at the time and did some … …”
This woman was not an unreasonable one. After getting to shore, what she said first was an apology to Ning Yi for what had happened yesterday. Yesterday morning, the other had saved her but she had slapped the other. She felt embarrassed. Ning Yi did not care too much and waved his hand. “Nothing, nothing, I needed to keep running, I’m leaving first.”
Turning, he sneezed again. He ignored the woman behind him asking a strange question “Young Master, is someone chasing you?” He ran further away. Someone repaying a favour was like someone extracting revenge, both were troublesome. Not speaking of anything material, if the other expressed her gratefulness, he would have to respond with humbleness. The manners that males and females had to abide by were troublesome. There was no need. He had also caught a cold, and it was more practical to run and sweat.
He had ran along this path many times. He turned back when he reached the destination. Along the way back, he finally found the woman’s place of residence. That was a two-level little tower near the river. It was pretty unique. There was a small balcony that reached out from the side facing the river. It seemed elegant but as a residence, it was not very practical. It would be colder in the winter. The female was standing next to a patch of vegetables outside the tower. The vegetable patch was fenced using bamboo. The chicken that she had been chasing yesterday was also inside the bamboo fence. The woman held the knife for a long time and hesitated before walking in and reaching to grab the chicken. The chicken furiously fought back. She then retreated in disarray and hurriedly closed the bamboo fence.
Now he was really sure that the woman had not done this before. Her situation was not good, and was staying in a little tower like this. She probably was a woman that was related to the famed entertainment business on the Qinhuai River. Some of the famed courtesans would choose to work on their own after buying themselves out. Or they would find a compound to stay in. They said they had gone back to being a normal person but there would still be guests that would come. They would still be socialites, not being controlled by others, and would seem even more high-end. This one seemed to have good looks. He didn’t know how she ended up in a situation where she had to kill chickens by herself.
Ning Yi watched as he ran. The female entered again and this time, she took hold of the chicken. However, when she turned, the chicken struggled free, feathers flying everywhere. The female panicked, and that chicken flew out of the bamboo fencing and was caught by Ning Yi. This time, both of the chicken’s wings were tightly held and it could not escape. The female stilled when she saw it was Ning Yi again. She probably was about to apologize and thank him again. Ning Yi reached out a hand. “Give me the knife.”
Ning Yi did not want to keep uh-ahing with her and took the kitchen knife. There had been a bowl already prepared on the ground outside the bamboo fencing. Ning Yi walked over and crouched down. He grabbed the head of the furiously struggling chicken whose wings were gripped and stretched out its neck. Then he lightly moved the knife.
“Young … … Young Master … … this … …. Gentlemen … …”
“Gentlemen what, did you boil the water?”
“… … it’s boiling.”
Ning Yi did not waste words. He sliced through the chicken’s throat with one swing and started to let the chicken blood drain into the bowl. He remained steady as he let the chicken completely bleed out. The chicken did not struggle too much. He threw the chicken onto the ground, put the knife on top of the bowl and stood up.
“Take it to the kitchen, and pluck it with hot water. Then cut it open and wash its internal organs. Coming back to the topic, do you know how to cook this?”
The female hesitated.
Lei Feng is regarded as a role model and hero in China for his selflessness. 活 (huo) meaning living, so Ning Yi is calling himself a living hero. Since the other person doesn’t know the story, she easily misunderstands it to be his name and then messes up the “name.”
“Fine, find a person that knows how to cook come help, like that auntie that helped you find the chicken. It is not easy to kill a chicken, don’t waste it. Also, find a doctor. You are probably ill … … I am also ill. I’m going now, don’t thank me, I am a Huo Lei Feng [i] … … achoo … …—”
He turned and started to jog away. The female behind him watched him leave before reacting. She frowned, “Huo … … Lei … … Feng? Huo? Or Hu? Hu Lei Feng … … so strange?” There was no one with the surname Huo but the closest was Hu. The female slowly pondered the word in her mouth. She felt that the other might be from a minority. Maybe his surname was Huyan, then it would be Huyan Lei Feng. This name was slightly strong, maybe this was it.
In the past, she could be said to be a skilled socializer and knew many people. However, this man only saw her at her worst. His actions and speech were also strange. She was unable to say the words that she usually used. She thought for a while. Since Ning Yi had already ran away, she could only resentfully hold the old chicken and the bowl of chicken blood to walk towards the kitchen … …
When he was teaching during the morning session at Mount Yu School, the discomfort he felt started to grow stronger. He threw up once after finishing classes when he was returning home. He was able to be certain that his body’s condition was worsening. This time, Xiao Chan was with him. Consequently, after he returned home, he was pushed to the bed on the second level to be protected as though he was seriously ill.
He probably had to live one or more two days of bedrest that he had experienced when he first came here … …
Translator Ramblings: Yes, it’s been a long time since I updated this. I was busy with real life and the work to maintain the update rate for my other translations. Ning Yi doesn’t want to change, he doesn’t want to be singled out for being unique but he doesn’t want to change how he acts. So he wants to accustom the people around him to his “weirdness.”
[i] Lei Feng is regarded as a role model and hero in China for his selflessness. 活 (huo) meaning living, so Ning Yi is calling himself a living hero. Since the other person doesn’t know the story, she easily misunderstands it to be his name and then messes up the “name.”