Last chapter recap: Ning Yi’s poem is recited and arouses suspicions of plagiarism and buying poems.
Chapter 14 Adding Fuel To Fire
Water Point Poetry Conference.
After Kang Xian suddenly shouted, the entire place quieted. Yu Zi Xing had studied for a while under Kang Xian previously. Seeing this usually stern teacher suddenly erupt in anger for no reason, he jumped in fright, lowered his head and bowed. “Tea-Teacher Ming …”
Kang Xian was a great Neo-Confucian and had a high background. While he did not have many students, most people present knew his name. His gaze swept around and landed on Yu Zi Xing. He appeared to be only lecturing his student, “Can you casually speak such words!?”
A moment of silence. Kang Xian put down his brush and looked over. “Let me ask you. There are hundreds of poems today, if this poem is nonsense, and unable to be read, what would you do?”
When he said this, Yu Zi Xing already understood his meaning. His body shook and he bowed. His voice was hoarse. “This student … this student will put it to the side, and ignore it.”
“Then … have you ever seen this Ning Li Heng? Do you know him, have you heard his name, seen his appearance, know about his conduct, and heard negative things about his actions?”
“This student … this student has learned.”
This was enough. Kang Xian smiled. “If you know the logic, then sit down … Everyone, there are many good works today. Honorable Qin and I have reviewed, for example, this one from Ming Yi … ” he raised his voice and started to review the best works, pointing out the best parts. He was a knowledgeable person, and his review was not flattery. These works were truly good and Yu Zi Xing’s two poems received high praise.
He spent a long time and at the end, Kang Xian put the paper with the Prelude to the Water Melody on the table. “At this time … how about we review this Prelude to the Water Melody again?”
After he spoke, Cao Guan stood up. “This student has learned from Honorable Ming. This one is embarrassed. This poem is wonderful, full of beautiful literary talent, and has great meaning. This student is far less and just now felt competitiveness. This one only woke up at Honorable Ming’s teachings. It is good fortunate to receive such a good work at today’s poetry conference. However, everyone, this one has some more sentences and is willing to review them with everyone. Haha, while the pearl is ahead, everyone present has great talent. Who is willing to finish this poem for me. We cannot fail the reputation of our Water Point Poetry Conference.”
After he said this, Kang Xian laughed, “A gentleman should be so.” Everyone else laughed and the mood instantly become lively. Some said with a smile, “Zong Chen, you have a few sentences and dare speak wildly. This one has an entire poem. I should be the one to take back our honor for the conference.”
Then there was a fierce poetry competition. No one was willing to lose, and it seemed even hotter than previously. Kang Xian looked at the scene and raised his teacup with a smile. At the side, Elder Qin laughed.
“Haha. Why is Honorable Qin laughing?”
“Ha, Honorable Ming is not generous in doing this. Little Friend Li Heng just won a few matches against you, but you want to roast him on the fire. It is not good for a gentleman to remember grudges. When you meet again, he would try to settle debts against you.”
While he said this, Elder Qin was laughing happily and only wanted to anticipate the spectacle. There was no first in scholarly pursuits, and no rules in reviewing works. When it reached a certain degree, the words of people were of great weight. This Prelude to the Water Melody was truly high quality, but not all accepted being less and not having any words to respond with. Kang Xian’s few words had a second meaning: you dismiss the works of others, you first think of slandering the character of others, and it was not a gentleman’s conduct.
Qinhuai’s night did not just spread poems. When Kang Xian’s lecture of everyone present spread, the effects could be imagined. After Honorable Qin said such words, Kang Xian’s smile did not change, and he was still very happy.
“Ha. This old man likes talent, and helps him become famous. If he sees me, he should be grateful to this old man. Honorable Qin, you are small-minded to have such an idea. Gentlemen are composed, the villains distressed. Haha, one has to be open-minded.”
The two had not seen with their own eyes how much talent Ning Yi had but their opinion of him was not a simple one. As they spoke, an old man came over. “This Ning Li Heng is …” He had once went to the riverside to play a match with Elder Qin and met Ning Yi once. He knew the other’s surname was Ning and guessed. Pan Guang Yan walked over with a smile, heard the words, and said, “This Ning Yi and Honorable Ming …”
Kang Xian laughed and whispered, “This person is a young friend of Honorable Qin and myself. The poem should not be fake. But this person is low-key and our friendship with him is a gentleman’s one without any other intentions. Crane Man, please keep this a secret, and not spread it.”
Pan Guang Yan suddenly realized, and laughed.
” … So that’s how it is.”
If Ning Yi could have predicted what would have happened in Jiangning City this night, no one knew if he would still have found Xiao Chan and made her sing in order to find a feeling of the modern world. But due to his cold, his thoughts were muddled and he was tired. He had never attended a poetry conference and did not think much about them.
It was after midnight. Ning Yi was still sleeping and ignorant of all events. The carriage moved along the streets that were becoming slightly unpopulated and still moved slowly. The crowds were still squeezed on the streets. Light reflected from outside the carriage. Su Tan Er, still holding the paper with Prelude to the Water Melody, looked at Xiao Chan. Xiao Chan’s head was low, not daring to speak, her mouth closed tight.
Even she found the events that occurred today bizarre and was still confused. Her ability to evaluate poetry was not top notch. She did not know how much weight the poem she had held. At the start, she had been shocked and astounded, not believing it came from Xiao Chan’s hand. The later developments proved she had underestimated this poem.
It was a happy matter to see Xue Jin, who had malicious intentions, show a shocked expression. The words that Pu Yang Yu and the other teachers invited to the conference made her feel as though she was treated with great importance. As a daughter of a merchant, she knew the weight of this kind of attention.
The people always said that businessmen searched for profit and their status was always on the lower end of society. While they had money to solve many problems and increase their status, there were still all kinds of discrimination. They gave money and manpower to the major and minor disasters each years, but still did not get a good reputation. Grandfather spent a great amount of money on the school so that the Su Family could produce a group of scholars. Even if it wasted money, at least they could join the scholar class. She had seen this kind of urgency from childhood.
The Pu Family was the same, and had had some success. Each year, they spent a great deal of effort to make this Pu Park Poetry Conference, and now some results showed. They could be considered to have a foot in the class of the scholars. But there was still a great distance before the other foot could also get there. When people mentioned the Pu Park Poetry Conference, they would first think of the tycoon. From their attention to this poem that suddenly appeared, she had a general understanding of the benefits of this poem, yet … some people said that this poem could compare to Cao Guan, Li Pin and the others. How was it possible?
Her skill had not reached a high enough level. She only liked or revered poems. Because they were distant to her, what she felt was the feeling one had towards idols. She had attended several other poetry conferences before marriage, and seen the top students composing on the spot. She felt that poems were good, and the feeling was of fascination. Right now, Cao Guan, Li Pin and the others were the representatives of the Jiangning scholars. Grandfather wanted some scholars to come from the family, but he had not wanted to produce one like them. This poem … came from Xiao Chan, supposedly from her husband at home who clearly had no literary skill. His previous work before had clearly been strange poems like “Three lotus roots floating in a clear water pond (San ou fu bi chi), raft has daughterly thoughts (fa ke you ai si) .” While this poem was good, it could not be like those others, or … were there some secrets.
One part of her, due to admiration of scholars such as Cao Guan and Li Pin, felt anxious but the other side of her, a businessperson, was still clear-minded and could respond to these unexpected events. She had only started to ponder all this after she left the boat. She looked at Xiao Chan who was curled up and laughed. “Did Guye really write this?” She naturally had no doubts about Xiao Chan.
“Then … Xiao Chan, tell me what happened tonight with Guye?”
Xiao Chan nodded and started to describe what happened after they left. She first spoke of the story, skimming over the Journey to the West by saying it was about a demon monkey, and then it was singing, dancing, and magic tricks.
“Ah ah, it is like this … first hide this bead in hand …” Xiao Chan performed the magic trick. Originally, when she had wanted to show off in front of the other two servant girls, she had failed. Now she failed again and was depressed. But moments later, she spoke of singing and writing poems.
“… Another kind of singing?” Su Tan Er said with a frown.
“Yes, very pleasing.” Xiao Chan nodded and then whispered, “Guye told me to not go and sing. Otherwise, if Xiao Chan, a servant girl, changed the way of singing, they would say that I am unintelligent …”
Xiao Chan knew that other people would not be just saying that she was unintelligent. She had nothing to hide from Miss. Soon later, at Su Tan Er’s request, the servant girl cleared her thought and started to sing the “Prelude to the Water Melody” in the “new method.” The voice echoed in the carriage.
When the song ended, Xing’er and Juan’er were still enchanted. “So pleasing … “Su Tan Er was silent for a long time, leaning against the carriage wall, before she asked, “Xiao Chan, you have followed Guye the longest, what … kind of person you feel he is …”
Xiao Chan thought for a while. “Guye, Guye … Xiao Chan feels that Guye is not a pedantic bookworm. He … is very funny, likes to make jokes, but feels reliable as though anything will be alright … but he does not speak like those teachers with their thys and shalls, and … uh, there is nothing else. Anyway, he just seems different from what we heard before …”
Su Tan Er nodded slightly after hearing this.
They turned around the street corner, and almost reached Su Mansion…
Translator Ramblings: Old men and their amusements … This chapter introduces a bit more about the motivations behind the marriage. For Su Tan Er, she marries, and doesn’t have to worry about the societal pressure. Additionally, the marriage is one where she “marries up” as the merchants are lower than scholars on the social strata. The Su Family wants to copy the Pu Family and become respected as a “scholar” family but Ning Yi being a very good scholar is not something they necessarily want.