Last chapter recap: Ning Yi’s poem is disseminated.
Chapter 13 Turtle and Crane Garden
At the same time, in the rooms inside the Pan Mansion, the women that were performing were putting on their makeup or resting in the rooms. The garden where the Water Point Poetry Conference was being held was separated from them by a wall. If they walked into the corridor, they could see the gathering proceeding through the silk curtain at the doorway.
The women who were able to attend tonight were mostly women of some fame around the Qinhuai River and had their own unique traits. If this was an ordinary poetry conference, one of them could support the entire event, but they could not today. Guests of the Water Point Poetry Conference were not all men. Many people came with partners. For example, Elder Qin came with his concubine Yun Niang who knew poetry. The other people mostly came with their wives or young misses of other families. In a situation like this, they could not become the main focus, and not even go sit and attract stares outside of their performances.
Even if they were just performing songs and dances, if they had outstanding skill, they could leave deep impressions on people. Women like them, if they had many men around them, could put themselves on a higher pedestal. In a situation like this, they would be quiet and act like green leaves, silently making people remember them. Pride and reserve were only tactics. Fame was the most important thing.
The two most famous women tonight were most likely Yuan Jin Er of Gold Phoenix Tower and Lu Cai Cai of Spring Luring Pavilion. In her room, Yuan Jin Er was looking at herself in the mirror with her makeup on, her maid looking on from the side as she talked with her miss. “Miss, when you went out to perform, Young Master Cao had been looking at you the entire time without blinking.”
Yuan Jin Er glanced at her with a smile. “When I went to perform, of course they are looking at me, there is nothing strange. But Kou’er, you only saw Young Master Cao only. So strange.”
“Miss, really.” Kou’er frowned to protest. “His eyes didn’t even move!”
“If you were not looking unmovingly at him, how would you know that he was looking unmovingly at me.” Yuan Jin Er continued to tease. The young servant girl pouted and decided to ignore the other. However, moments later, she came back. “Miss, who will get first for poetry tonight.”
Yuan Jin Er put a small flower in her hair. “There is no first in scholarly pursuits. There is no true qualifications in comparing poetry, and no first. You just like asking about these things. But we can see which will be passed and recited the longest.” She picked up some papers from the desk. “Young Master Wang, Young Master Xi, and the Young Master Cao you like. ‘The sky water clear, the galaxy in the shallows near’. This is most likely the best. Are you happy now …. and also Young Master Li and Young Master Tang over at Beautiful River …”
The servant girl pouted. “Who likes Young Master Cao.”
“Um, you dislike him?” Yuan Jin Er looked brightly at her.
“Not really. But Kou’er is thinking for Miss. Young Master Cao likes you, you came today with him. If you receive the help of Young Master Cao, the Qinhuai Courtesan would be Miss. And if Young Master Cao tests well in the spring examinations next year …”
The young servant spoke incessantly. Yuan Jin Er laughed and nudged the other’s nose. “I know.” Then she picked up the poem that Cao Guan had written. Lu Cai Cai was skilled in the lute, while she was skilled in the zither. She was better at singing. She would have to go and sing this poem later. As she read, she sang mentally, and then laughed softly. She looked to be laughing happily at being pursued by a great scholar.
Among the prostitutes of the Qinhuai River who had some professionalism, most of them would say that they had a tragic history. Most of it was fake, and fabricated, but just in the details. The basic concept they all had tragic backgrounds was correct. When it came to famed prostitutes such as Yuan Jin Er, they learned poetry and naturally learned to admire talented scholars of all fields. However, while there were occasionally famed prostitutes who admired the talent of others and married a poor scholar, those were the rarest of rarest. She had accepted the Pan Mansion’s invitation and came with Cao Guan in the same carriage. They looked close, and she admired Cao Guan’s talent. However, even she wasn’t clear if she liked him like Kou’er said she did. They appeared like the moon surrounded by the stars, but they did not have much choices to really chose.
However, if she could avoid thinking like this, she had have gains in tonight’s poetry conference.
She repeated the poem. Moments later, Kou’er came out through the doorway. “Miss, Miss, there seems to be another good poem, let’s go see.”
“Oh?” She put down the paper, and walked out of the door with Kou’er towards the long corridors covered in silk.Several women were already gathered over there. Lu Cai Cai had come already. She said softly, “Elder Sisters, what is it?” Then she looked through the curtain, and heard the “Wine cup in hand, I ask the sky.” Pan Guang Yan had read this once, and one of the other students was reciting for the second time.
The mood of the poetry conference right now was strange, and slightly quiet. Previously, everyone had been lively when reciting poetry and full of laughter. At this time, they seemed to be suppressed by a certain mood. Everyone was still reflecting on the poem. Then these women got a copy of the poem and circled around to read it. Then they read it again. Yuan Jin Er lifted her head and met Lu Cai Cai’s gaze.
“Pu Park Poetry Conference …”
“How is it possible …”
“Su Mansion, Ning Yi, Ning Li Heng, who is this?”
“Never heard of him …”
Compared to the group of students outside who were first immersed in the poem, the women on this side, after detecting the meaning in the poem, was firs concerned who had composed the work. They examined the signature several times, and asked each other, but never heard the name before. At this time, people outside were already asking, “What does everyone feel about this poem?”
“Men have sorrow and joy; they part or meet again; The moon is bright or dim and she may wax or wane. There has been nothing perfect since the olden days…”
“This poem …”
“Who wrote this poem?”
No one could state a review at this time, but some people were nodding and murmuring “Marvelous.” Then the person who recited the poem said the inscription, “Su Mansion, Ning Yi, Ning Li Heng, does anyone know this person?”
A quiet moment.
“However, since this person has the surname Ning, why is the inscription Su Mansion?”
“Which Su Mansion?”
“Pu Park Poetry Conference, probably the Su Clothing Business.”
“Is this person a manager or advisor of the Su Mansion?”
“I’ve never heard of this person before …”
The people looked at each other and discussed. However, everyone was confused about the name which no one had heard before. Pan Guang Yan could only call the person who went to obtain the poem. This person was not a servant, but partially his student who had some talent. Hearing the teacher ask him, he smiled and said what he knew.
“Oh, I hear that this person is a zhuixu of the Su Mansion. Some months ago, he married into the Su Family, and became the second miss Su Tan Er’s husband. Interestingly, this one heard some things. Supposedly, this Ning Li Heng had a cold today, and did not come to the Pu Park Poetry Conference. Tonight, when resting at home, he said this poem to a servant girl to entertain himself. Someone at the poetry conference said that he had no talent. This servant could not accept it and took out the poem … keke, that is what they said, and this one does not know the truth.”
“Su Mansion … zhuixu?”
At this words, the people present, and the women behind the curtain looked each other. Then they started to talk.
“Did not come to the conference?”
“This event is so bizarre …”
“I have … never heard of a person who married in with such talent …”
“Ning Yi, Ning Li Heng, never heard it …”
Over behind the silk curtain, the young servant girl said confusedly. “Did this person buy this poem to get famous through Pu Park Poetry Conference?”
It was not strange for people who wanted to buy poems and get famous during poetry conferences. Everyone kenw, but even if it was true, a poem of such quality could not be brought. After learning the other’s identity, everyone had such suspicions. If a person really had such talent, how could they go and marry in? At this time, someone stated their suspicion.
“It is hard to let people believe this matter …”
“Did the Su Mansion buy this poem in order to get famous?”
The voice was not loud and the person spoke haltingly but everyone could hear. Moments later, someone stated their agreement, “A matter like this …”
Everyone had been infected by this poem at the start and did not think too much. But as the information such as “zhuixu” and “nameless fellow” spread, and was compared to the poem, there was a great different. Some suspicions could not avoid rising up. Some steadier people did not speak, but there was competition in these poetry conferences, and some people unconsciously spoke up. At this time, a harsh voice suddenly came from the stage, “Zi Xing! Shut your mouth!”
The one who spoke was Yu Zi Xing. He jumped in fright at this voice and looked over. He saw Elder Kang holding a brush and looking at him sternly. He suppressed all discussion. At this time, the place became silent.
Translator Ramblings: Lovely that cheating is the first thing that comes to people’s minds.