Last chapter recap: Ning Yi get bored on Midautumn night and decides to teach Chan’er a pop song … … which is a remix of a famous Midautumn poem.
Read the translator ramblings at the end of chapter twelve.
Chapter Eleven Upon The Pleasure Boats
It was close to midnight, and Jiangning City’s celebrations were nearing its climax. The carriage came out of the Su Compound, passed through streets that had relatively less people, and then its speed gradually slowed down as it moved closer to Black Robe Lane.
Along the way, fires reflected on the carriage. When one opened the curtain to look out, it was busy even on the usually quiet streets. When the carriage came to the business streets near Black Robe Lane, the street ahead was filled with people. The carriage seemed to sink into a bog and had difficulty moving forward. A troop with a dancing dragon and cymbals were coming towards, and the young carriage driver could only move the carriage to the side of the street.
“Older Sister Xiao Chan, it’s hard to travel up ahead.”
This youth was one or two years older than Xiao Chan but still called her older sister. While Xiao Chan had been running after Ning Yi these last few months, in reality, this girl and her two other sisters had worked for many years under Su Tan Er. Su Tan Er was going to be the leader of the Su Family in the future, and her most trusted three servant girls were people that the stewards had to give some face to. This was also the reason that she, a young servant girl, could call a carriage. This youth who had entered the Su Family compound and signed a contract for twenty years knew a bit about her status and was naturally respectful to her. He also looked with curiosity at the young female that seemed younger than him.
“I can see, I will get off here. You may return.” Xiao Chan lifted the curtain to get out and then jumped off the carriage. She turned to smile at him and then waved a hand. “Thank you.”
“I, I’m Dong Zhu.” The young male gathered his courage and stammered out his name. He then raised his head and said, “There are a lot of people up ahead, let me accompany you.”
“Brother Dong Zhu.” Xiao Chan bowed in thanks, and then waved before turning. “There’s no need, it will be fine.” She ran into the crowd of people like a butterfly, her small hand still waving in the air. Then she disappeared.
Xiao Chan had come to this part of the city many times and was familiar. Also, if some situation did occur, in terms of connections, taking care of some small troubles, Xiao Chanm who looked innocent and adorable, was more skilled than that village youth called Dong Zhu. Also, this place had many people. There probably wouldn’t be anyone that would harass a young girl out to roam the streets and see the celebration. There were many playboys and spoiled second generation sons, but it was not so easy to encounter them.
The noise bounced through the shifting crowd. Ethereal singing came from a pleasure tower on the side. Among the sounds of a city, someone sprinted over with a piece of white paper in his hand. “Beautiful River Poetry Conference, the new poem of Tang Yu, Master Tang, Song of Bamboo … …” Then he pasted the paper to a poem board in front of a store. The crowd shifted closer. An old person who was pushing a cart selling tea eggs and thousand layer pastries avoided the crowd with a smile. Xiao Chan hurriedly dodged the little cart and went forward with a smile to join in.
After reading a few lines, Xiao Chan hurriedly followed the flow of people to move towards the shore of the river. The Black Robe Lane was near this street. The lane was slightly narrow but was filled with a busy atmosphere. Lanterns shown brightly above people’s heads, and when she came close to the shore of the river, she was able to see the most busiest place, the Confucius Temple.
The region of streets near the river was the brightest pearl of Jiangning City. The streets were filled with exquisite flower lanterns. The six interconnected pleasure boats of the Pu Park Poetry Conference would patrol for an entire night on the Qinhuai River. It would definitely pass this place when the time came. Xiao Chan had experience in attention poetry conferences so she directly ran here to wait. She found a knick-knack store owned by the Pu Family and handed over the invitation. The other called someone to get a small boat. At this time, that glorious palace on the water appeared on the end of the Qinhua River. In the company of many other pleasure boats, it moved towards this direction.
Little boats moved close and then moved away. This little boat left the short under the lantern light towards that pleasure boat coming close. The light of the flower lanterns on the pleasure boats gradually illuminated the hair buns and longing expression of the young female. Music came from the river and a dance inside was probably nearing the end. However, she did not feel any regret. It was already very good that she could come out to play. If she could learn a few more songs here … … she thought of Guye who had liked seeing her sing … … en Guye would definitely be very happy.
The song and dance upon the pleasure boat ended and then furious clapping sounded. After that were boats from the short that sent up the outstanding works from the large poetry conferences, some of them with the praise and review from the famous scholars. A poetry conference wasn’t just a group of people sitting there to review poems and write poems. There were many festivities taking place on the pleasure boat such as listening to music and song, guessing riddles and looking at the scenery in order to give people inspiration through the atmosphere. However, by this time, it reached the most important part of this celebration. While the celebration of tonight would continue to three in the morning, but in reality, after one, the poetry conferences would gradually cool down.
The biggest reason was because the great majority of the old people, or middle-aged people of ill health—most scholars did not have good health— could only manage to this time. After this time, their energy would run out, and it would be time for them to return home. Among the scholars, it was naturally these people who had some fame. If one wanted to become famous and receive attention, the opinions of these people were the most important. After they left, what was left was the stories of scholars and beauties. Enjoying the pleasures of females would only become the main topic after one in the morning, it would be like a great prostitute gathering. While in this era where vising prostitutes was something that could have an elegant name, the meaning was not as important as the former matter. If men of this era had to choose between fame and beauty, they would first choose to become famous.
So when it came to this time, the good poems would have already come out. There had been some good ones passed around already. There were many poems about the moon that had been spectacular in word. Su Tan Er had copied a few onto the white paper in front of her. At this time, she was chatting quietly with a woman from the Wu Compound that she knew.
She actually liked poetry. While she herself was not skilled in this area, poets in this era were like modern superstars. Which girl didn’t have some romance in her? She was not skill so her affection for poetry was even greater. Her heart was naturally moved by talented scholars displaying their scholarly accomplishments in front of the public.
Yet this was just one of the mental pleasures in life. Just like many in the modern era liked Andy Lau, she liked this, but she would not show this. Also, her husband, Ning Yi, was not skilled in poetry. From that ““Three lotus roots floating in a clear water pond (San ou fu bi chi) … … raft has daughterly thoughts (fa ke you ai si),” she knew that. Also, he had told her this. This was actually meaningless.
After a while, Xoa Chan came over under the guidance of a female usher.
“Is Husband asleep?”
“Yes, he is asleep.”
“Juan’er and Xing’er are over there. How about adding a cushion and squeezing with them?”
“Alright, Miss, I will go … … greetings to Third Miss Wu.”
After exchanging a bow with the female of the Wu Compound, Xiao Chan then ran to where the two servant girls were waving at her. Juan’er and Xing’er were sitting together at a low table that was covered in all kinds of exquisite dried fruits and foods. Xiao Chan sat in between them, and the three servant girls giggled and cuddled together.
Nearby, Su Tan Er and the woman from the Wu Compound stood up to walk together. In gatherings like this, the guests were separated by sex and there were screens in between. However, it was not strict. The Pu Park Poetry Conference did not invite unmarried misses but husbands and wives that came with their families. While one part was separated, people would abide by etiquette and move along the borders so that husband and wife could see each other and speak. Su Tan Er accompanied the woman from the Wu Compound to see the lantern fires at the rivershore. The other’s husband walked over. The Wu Family was the largest cloth merchant in Jiangning. They knew each other from before and so they exchanged greetings and discussed some information about the cloth business. Su Tan Er originally wanted to duck away so that husband and wife could speak in secret when she saw Xue Jin and several other young masters come over as they swung their fans. They wore the headcloths of scholars and had removed the attire of businesspeople to dress like students. When the night wind blew, they seemed to be like a scholar with their feathered fans and headcloths — or rather, folded fans. 1
Xue Jin had been applauded this night. He had written a poem to the moon that was then sung by other people. This was one of the few poems tonight at the Pu Park Poetry Conference that was acceptable. When he came over, that male from the Wu Compound raised his folded hands and said with a smile, “Brother Xue is greatly talented. Tonight, Miss Ji Lan will most likely give you her favor, congratulations.”
Ji Lan was a famed courtesan that had come up these past years in the Qinhuai Area. She only sold her skills and not her body. She was said to have both talent and beauty. The Pu family had some connection to her which was how they were able to invite her. She chose to sing a few poems that she liked tonight. Of course, she also had other events planned but the poems that she chose to recite would usually become the most popular of the poetry conference.
The machinations behind this were complex, and it was not talent that decided everything. However, talent could decide the majority. Xue Jin’s poem was good, he had the family and the background. Therefore, the possibility it would be left for last was high. And if he received favor here, then in the next few months, he would have chances to get closer to Miss Ji Lan, and be invited to attend banquets or poetry discussions. This was getting into the limelight. If he could go a step further and obtain Miss Ji Lan, taking her virginity and into his room, then it would prove his masculine charisma.
The Qinhuai River had existed for hundreds of years, and this kind of story would occur every year and they would always become mainstream stories after a period of time. The men involved in these stories would usually become famous. In the future, when they said their names, everyone would admire you for being a romantic and gifted scholar, and your reputation would rise.
Being complimented, Xue Jin naturally spoke modestly in response. The Wu Compound woman said with a smile, “Young Master Xue’s poetry is something that even qie is moved by.” Su Tan Er also liked that poem and gave a few words of praise. Actually, this was a man that was being elevated by a sedan. Those that were familiar, such as this woman of the Wu Compound and Su Tian Er, they all knew that the other’s poem was most likely bought from a distinguished scholar in order to get fame.
Xue Jin smiled happily and said a few modest words. The two sides conversed and that Xue Jin said, “It is a pity that Brother Ning has not come. Otherwise, if he saw this environment, he definitely will create another great work … …”
Su Tan Er frowned. Some other people saw the discussion on this side, and one of the middle-aged people from the host, the Pu Family, also walked over. This person was the younger brother of the Pu Family patriarch, called Pu Yan Yu. He had been a graduate in the past, and had talent. He had been walking around at this gathering to receive other people. At this time, he smiled and entered the conversation, asking everyone what they were talking about. Xue Jin explained and said that Su Tan Er’s husuand, Ning Yi, had originally prepared to come. It was a pity that he had coincidentally come down with the cold. It really was a pity, otherwise, with Ning Yi’s talent etc etc.
“I do not think so. I heard that Ning Yi, while educated for a few years, is just average and it’s the same whether he comes or not.” Someone spoke from behind.
Xue Jin smiled and turned his head. “Brother Feng, do not speak so. I have seen Brother Ning’s style. The Su Family went and searched through many before picking Brother Ning … …”
The Wu Compound members that had a relationship with Su Tan ER knew that Su Tan Er’s husband Ning Yi did not have any talent. As a result, while they had asked about Ning Yi’s health in their conversation, they had not touched on talent of poetry or such. At this time, they watched the other’s performance. The two from the Wu Compound naturally knew Xue Jin’s thoughts. Xue Jin had pursued Su Tan Er before, and his offer of marriage had been a failure. He was slightly angry so he was making some attacks. Truthfully, his acting was not good but the effects would not be discounted. If he continued to talk like this, possibly tomorrow, in certain circles, there would be rumors that Su Tan Er had married a good-for-nothing. That female of the Wu Compound gave her husband a look and wanted him to deflect slightly. The male saw this, but he hesitated. He seemed to think of something. Su Tan Er had a smile on her face and was about to speak when Xiao Chan suddenly popped up on her side.
“Yes, Guye‘s poetry is very good.” She had originally been eating and playing with Juan’er and Xing’er. She had used a pastry to act out the magic trick that Ning Yi had taught her but was seen-through. The pastry had fallen to the ground. Then the three noticed the situation over here. Juan’er and Xing’er said that the young master of the Xue Family did not have good intentions. Chan’er thought and then came over. “Guye wrote a poem tonight.”
When the little servant girl said this, Xue Jin and Su Tan Er both stilled. A moment later, Xue Jin laughed and sdaid, “Oh, Brother Ning also has another great work? Great, take it out for everyone to see.”
He had a surprised look of joy on the surface, but he was laughing inside. He had learned of that Ning Yi’s so-called talent a long time ago. He had been educated for so many years and should be able to write poetry but it was difficult to say what the quality was. At this time, he only thought that Xiao Chan did not know how to admire poetry. In the previous situation, people might say a few words, but there was no actual meaning. But if a terrible work was really taken out to be “assessed” by everyone, there would be effects, and the rumors would be substantiated.
“Oh, alright.” Xiao CHan nodded. She took out the piece of paper she had folded and muttered. At night, Guye was in discomfort and wanted Xiao Chan to sing, so Xiao Chan had taken out a poetry book for Guye to choose one. HOwever, Guye said that he didn’t like those and wrote one himself. Here, this one, Xiao Chan copied it … …”
He didn’t like those ones, so he wrote one himself … … such bravado. Su Tan Er and Pu Yan Yu at the side both frowned. Only Xue Jin smiled even more brightly. As Xiao Chan spoke, she handed the paper to Su Tan Er who had an uncertain expression. Xiao Chan looked at the paper, and after making sure there were words, she looked at Xiao Chan. Then she put her attention back to the paper. Her lips parted and as she read, she silently recited the words.
When she was halfway though, her lips slowed down, and her eyes gradually became complex. In the end, they stopped and she glanced at Xiao Chan again before going back to silently reciting the words of the poem. At the front, Xue Jin was laughing. His neck was streched as he tried to look. While he could not see, he was still very happy.
What’s the use in reciting silently. In any case, you still have to show everyone. Then I’ll recite for you, ha!
As though his mischief had succeeded, he thought happily.
Moments later, an enormous spray of fireworks erupted next to the ship. Among the light of the beautiful flames, Su Tan ER finally handed over the poem.
“Senior Uncle Pu, please assess … …”
Pu Yang Yu already saw something and nodded with a smile. He liked this Su Family miss that seemed fragile but was actually strong. Even though she now had a zhuixu who married in, that was normal. But that Xue Jin was rash and unkind. He immediately decided that even if the poem was not good, he was say a few good words in order to smooth the situation over. He took the poem and bent to look, already thinking of what evaluation to give.
The fireworks rose and the people waited for the first words of his opinion. Xue Jin was smiling elegantly, refined and respectful. Su Tan Er glanced at him and then her gaze went back to the paper in Pu Yang Yu’s hand. She lightly bit down on her bottom lip.
Among the fireworks lighting up and dimming, her gaze was complex … …
Translator Ramblings: Go to the next chapter and read my translator ramblings there.
- Feathered fan and silk headcovering was used to describe people with a calm or unhurried presence or famous strategists such as Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang. ↩