Last chapter recap: Kang Xian offers to help Ding Ning if he really wanted to pursue some ambitions, despite marrying in as a zhuixu.
Chapter 20 Speculation.
“I know that if I say this, people may not believe me. However … I do not want to do certain things. Talent, reputation, scholarly merit, I am not willing to touch them. This is … true.”
Ning Yi’s tone was indifferent but the persuasive power in his words was unquestionable. He was seriously answering the question without any struggle or bitterness, just pure openness and honesty yet he looked like a young person in his twenties. If he had been that pedantic bookworm of the past, he probably would be stammering in front of Elder Kang and Elder Qin. But at this moment, his presence was unable to be dismissed. With his figure, he looked otherworldly and unconstrained. If this presence emanated from a middle-aged man of his forties and fifties, it would be called maturity, steadiness, determination and absoluteness.
It was because of this fact that his answer puzzled the pair of old men even more. For someone like Elder Kang to give such an offer, the meaning in his words was not a simple one. Also, with how they interacted, Elder Kang was not making a transaction with Ning Yi or wanting him to pay back. Ordinary people might be so stupid to refuse out of pride, but Ning Yi was not a greenhorn. Ning Yi could only grimace helplessness at the others’ puzzlement.
“Ah, I understand this puzzles people, but …” he pointed at his forehead, “you may not know but my head was hit a few months ago, and I only woke up after being unconscious for a few days. I forgot all past events. It is hard for me to focus on the scholarly achievements. I have no great interest in touring the pleasure towers and boats with those scholars and win favors of those women. But those children in school are interesting. I feel at ease, occasionally telling stories to them and coming here to drink tea and play. I have some ideas in mind that I can slowly work at. I am satisfied with this life now. Who cares about the occasional mockery? But I still do not know what my future will be like but this one can understand Honorable Ming’s good intentions.”
He bowed and nodded, “And I will remember this matter.”
His words were a mixture of truth and lie. Of course, he could not explain the truth to them. The best way was to link his mood to amnesia. A reason like this did not be explained. It was natural, logical and did not make people feel that they were meddlesome. He was just the one with the affliction.
As expected, after he said this, Elder Qin and Elder Kang were both puzzled. Ning Yi narrated how he had gotten amnesia and the two had expression of realization. Kang Xian shook his head and laughed. “I had not imagined such a matter.” They only thought his way of thinking was strange after losing his memories.
Elder Kang did not speak more of that matter. After drinking a cup of tea, Ning Yi took the white board and the charcoal, bid farewell, and return to Mount Yu School. When his figure disappeared on the distant street, Elder Kang sighed. “I hadn’t expected such an incident. A beating like this created an indifferent personality. It is rare for a young person to have such a mental state. Pity for his talent.”
Elder Qin laughed and drank a sip of tea. “He is in his early twenties so it is hard to say what he will be in the future. With his talent, he cannot avoid the matters he should encounter. But based on today’s events, some things are worrisome … Honorable Ming, Li Heng is too practical a person.”
Kang Xian frowned. “Now that you say this, I feel it is true. His spontaneous poetry is wonderful, but he does not care about poetry. How long will the full moon appear, hang oneself on the northeastern branch … he is also capable in calligraphy, and can reach such a level in so many scripts. He most likely just does it to while away the time. These things are not as interesting in his eyes as that chalk …”
Elder Qin nodded. “It is good to be practical, but if one is too practical and straightforward, I fear there will be trouble in the future … While Li Heng understands to avoid danger and pursue his self-interests, he is young, and very proud on some matters. He is not willing to go through those students’ tests, he rejected their invitation and did not conceal from us, it is most likely due to this …”
He thought and then laughed. “We have no need to think too much on this. We are just weiqi friends. It will be an overstep to worry too much. We know his thinking. We will see what the future will be like.”
For a few days, Ning Yi’s name created some waves in Jiangning. Those that learned of the Prelude to the Water Melody would naturally have all kinds of speculations and perspectives. The majority of those were innocent, but if one was closer, they had more complicated feelings. For example, Elders Kang and Qin, the members of the Su Family, the close and distant relatives, the stewards, the servants. Even closer were Old Grandfather Su, Su Bo Yong and the others. Then it was Xing’er, Juan’er and Chan’er. For a few days, Xing’er used “man will live as long as he can” to tease the pair. While Xiao Chan was prepared, Juan’er would blush like a boiling little teapot. In secret, she complained to Chan’er, “Why did Guye write this …”
So for these days, she would lower her head and hide away when she saw Ning Yi.
The one who had the most complicated emotions was naturally Su Tan Er. In reality, what she cared about was not how much talent her husband had or how strange his personality was, but that she did not understand him.
She originally married Ning Yi because the other was simple and she could easily understand this person. Even in their marriage, the other was marrying in, and she could attend in the Su Family business without being talked about. While this marriage was still only in name, she already mentally accepted the other to some degree. The rest was just a matter of time.
But who knew that she could not see through this husband at all?
OF course, at this time, this matter was just starting. Her husband was aloof and not one with ulterior motives. Su Tan Er was a calm and intelligent woman. She would not panic. However, as she took care of the matters of the shops, she could not avoid thinking about this matter. In times like this, who, even the most intelligent and independent woman, would care nothing about their husband once they married?
She was still busy taking care of the silk cloth shops that the Su Mansion had around Jiangning. In her free time, she would call Juan’er and go to the alley where Ning Yi had previously lived to listen for news. Even when she was dealing with business, familiar people would ask, “Is that Ning Yi, Ning Li Heng your husband?” Then they would praise Prelude to the Water Melody.
After marriage, she should have taken along her zhuixu to meet the people she knew, and finalize the fact she had a husband. That way, she could be more casual when doing business in the future. However, she had given a tantrum during the ceremony, and Ning Yi had been knocked out. After that was the recovery period. Their method of interaction had almost settled down by now. They would only talk when eating together at home. She was natural in her attitude towards Ning Yi, but they were married, and she was reserved and proud. Up until now, she had never invited Ning Yi to participate in an event together except for the Pu Park Poetry Conference last time.
By now, she would have a more difficult time mentioning something.
Asking around and gathering information about Ning Yi had been done once before the marriage, mostly done by her father and grandfather. She and her own servant girls had went to see him once. She had Juan’er, Xing’er, and Chan’er all ask around for opinions about Ning Yi. The information they received at the time was that he was just a bookworm without much talent. Of course, he was not completely stupid. He had thought about it and then accepted the Su Family’s suggestion to marry in. In times like this, if a man was going to marry into another family, they most likely accepted their fate.
However, when Juan’er went asking this time, some of the news she obtained was slightly different.
Most of the opinions were the same as before. Ning Yi did not have a strong presence in the alley of his former home. Juan’er had to repeat several times which home he lived in before the neighbours remembered him. “Oh, so there’s a person like that.” Or they said, “That bookworm, I heard he married in somewhere, he sold his courtyard.” “He probably feels he cannot place in the exams.” This was most of the opinions.
However, some families had different words. “Oh, Li Heng, I knew he had astounding talent before. But he has always been low-key, steady and unwilling to compete with others. Those so-called talents like to be famous. This is called a full bucket makes no sound, a half-full bucket echoes … Miss, you came to ask because you heard of the Prelude to the Water Melody …”
“Married in, married in. Because there was an engagement. Li Heng is an honest child, he would hold to the engagement …”
“Third Aunt on the other side, and Second Uncle Niu at the entrance all said this. This servant gave them each fifty coins …” While Juan’er was just a servant girl, her ability to gather information could not be underestimated. She thought about it and smiled, speaking her own thoughts, “But this servant feel that they only say this after hearing about the Prelude to the Water Melody. Their words cannot be taken as true. That Teacher Zuo who taught Guye before has passed away. This servant went to ask, and Guye‘s teacher’s wife almost did not remember Guye. She said some good things after learning this servant’s intentions. Teacher Guo’s family does not seem to be living well. This servant sent over two taels and some smoked meat in Guye‘s name.”
“You were right to do that …” Su Tan Er nodded and then laughed. However, she was still greatly puzzled. She had information, but would not believe what other people said immediately. This time, she got some good reviews, but the basic information was the same as before. However, when Juan’er investigated in another direction, some seemingly accurate speculations gradually appeared for Su Tan Er.
“The old men who Guye met when playing weiqi by the river are extraordinary …. the one we know the most about is that Old Master Kang who spoke up for Guye at Water Point Poetry Conference.
“Hm?” The opinions about Ning Yi before his amnesia was confirmed. Then if something had happened, it should be after he lost his memories. She knew that Ning Yi had gone to the river and made some weiqi friends. But she had not investigated them. The news she received now gave her a fright. Her husband was able to meet such personages. She didn’t know if it was due to luck or something else. Then the other news stunned her.
The news from Water Point Poetry Conference only said that Kang Xian was a great Confucian, how skilled he was, and how well respected. But he had not concealed his background too much. He just did not speak of it. When one investigated, they would find out.
Kang Xian, Kang Ming Yun. He was not just a calligraphy master and a grandmaster of Confucianism. His other identity was the consort of Princess Chengguo. He was an imperial relative. While the Wu Dynasty managed its imperial relatives strictly and the consort of a princess could not participate in matters of the country or enter the court, Princess Chengguo was an aunt of the present emperor. So this Kang Xian could be said to be an uncle of the present Holy One. Even if he was just an idle noble, this kind of status was very noble, and something that a business family like the Su Family could not touch.
When this news spread, the shock it brought was indescribable. Su Tan Er was stunned, and then a clear path gradually appeared in front of her.
“How did Guye become friends with such a personage? Chan’er said that they just went over randomly and casually played a match,” Juan’er was confused and then became hesitant. “However, Old Master Kan’s identity and Guye‘s identity … ah …”
Juan’er did not dare to speak more, but this was enough. Those in business would have to filter all kinds of information at any time. Sometimes, some clues were hard to believe, but when other clues were filtered out, what remained would be information like this.
Her husband’s status, and that Old Master Kang’s status … they were both zhuixu …
While this answer seemed slightly absurd to ordinary people, this was the closest answer Su Tan Er had.
Her husband … might only have some interaction with the other person when playing a match. Maybe he did not know the other’s identity at all. However, the two people had this similar trait. The status of imperial son-in-law appeared to be a noble one. He married a princess, but in actuality, he married into the imperial family. With the other’s talents, he could never become an official. It was not hard to imagine that he would feel empathy when he met her husband. No wonder he would stop others from talking at Water Point Poetry Conference, and spoken on her husband’s behalf …
Her husband said the Prelude to the Water Melody came from a Taoist who passed over his doorway. Grandfather did not believe it, and she definitely did not as well. Xiao Chan would not lie to her. Would that Taoist sing that poem like it had been sang … Maybe her husband obtained it by accident, or maybe that Old Master Kang had created it. It was hard to say and she did not care too much. She had been puzzled, and now that she managed to see a path, she felt the clouds had parted, and did not mind some other matters.
Her husband was aloof in personality. His words and actions were not dislikable. She did not care about the degree of his talent. If he had less talent, he was marrying in and she did not care. If he had more talent, it was a surprise. He could not have thought of these secrets behind that poem at Midautumn. If it really was that Kang Xian’s scheme, maybe the old man had done it as a joke.
“Let this old man teach you, and give your wife and family a fright …”
This was not impossible. Her husband was aloof but, at his age, he might not be at peace at his status as a zhuixu. Grandfather was not willing to treat him strictly, and she did not want him to be discriminated against. However, it could not avoided that his identity as a zhuixu would attract the rolling of eyes. People would always have such thoughts. This was an obstacle he had to pass on his own. It was understandable if he wanted to display his talent.
If this was the case, her husband … wanted to tame her, the disobedient woman …
When some things were decided, it could not be changed. This was a major prerequisite. She did not have any requirements about marrying in or out. But one day, she would have to take on the business of the Su Family. With that as the prerequisite, her husband had to marry in. As she thought about this, she felt no dislike for the matters she speculated on, and even felt a thread of happiness.
There were no other possibilities, were there?
So on the road home, she laughed softly and warmly …
This was a private laugh that even Juan’er and Xing’er who were also on the carriage did not detect it …
Translator Ramblings: Poor Su Tan Er, she’s getting misleading clues all over the place. Also, due to the author’s style, everyone speaks in long sentences and trails off frequently. These dialogue paragraphs are very very long.