Last chapter recap: We learn about Kang Xian’s identity and some of the aftereffects of Ning Yi’s poem.
Chapter 21 Autumn End, Winter Start (1)
After the cold dew of the ninth month, the speed at which the temperature dropped by became more obvious. When the heavy rains came down, Jiangning City seemed to be enveloped in mist. The rains of late autumn were not as noisy as the summer. They carried the incoming cold of winter and permeated into people’s clothes.
When Ning Yi walked across the wooden bridge opposite the alley, he patted off the water that stuck to his robes. On rainy days like this, long robes were inconvenient to wear. In comparison, Xiao Chan, who was running behind him, was much better off. When the rains came, she did not wear a dress, but a water green upper blouse with long pants. She still wore her buns in her hair and light blue embroidered slippers on her feet. Just now, she had fallen behind when buying something and was now flying forward, avoiding the puddles in the street with an umbrella held above her.
“Guye, Guye, wait for me.”
“What is it?”
“I bought something.” Xiao Chan took out a small book when she ran in front of Ning Yi. “I saw this had just been released when passing by the store just now. Guye probably hasn’t read it so I bought it.”
This was a plain language novel which had been just released on the market. This novel was called “Fantasy of the Ghost Fox.” A novel like this was commonly seen in this era. The writing was relatively easy to understand. The books would be historical stories, legends, or even love stories. There were many stories about loves stories involving ghosts and spirits. When stories became popular, the storytellers would narrate them at teahouses and wine shops. Ning Yi had read many of these novels recently. Xiao Chan would note it down, and would buy them when she saw new ones appear.
These kinds of novels could not compare to modern stories in terms of entertainment value. But one would pick the tallest from the shortest bunch. When he was bored, he would flip through a book. These was in the medieval language and could help him assimilate into this time. Ning Yi took the book with a smile and flipped through as Xiao Chan followed him and talked.
“That person at noon was horrid. Xiao Chan wanted to go and curse him.”
“He knows nothing and just speculates blindly. He dares to boast that he is a talent. People like him cannot even qualify in the county level exam and become a distinguished talent”.
“Guye, Xiao Chan is feeling injustice on your behalf. That person spoke badly of you.”
“How can it be nothing? This person … hmph, alright, alright, I know that Guye does not care about the words of these mediocre people. But Xiao Chan is discomforted hearing them, they insult Guye. If Guye wrote a poem to scold him, Xiao Chan would take it and hit him over the head with it!”
“Ha, he doesn’t even know me.” Ning Yi flipped a page in the novel. “I was sitting next to him.”
“That’s why I am this angry …”
It had been almost a month since that poetry conference on Midautumn’s night. The discussion around the Prelude to the Water Melody had changed constantly. In the first ten days, the praise regarding this poem reached a peak. The discussion and curiosity regarding Ning Yi was highest during that time. Afterwards … the discussion quickly declined, and started to develop in special directions.
The attention on this topic in the streets was time-sensitive. For the common people, they might care about what happened during the poetry conferences in the days after the festival. Then other topic would grow more popular than this matter. Life was busy and hurried. When people stopped mentioning the matter, he would hear less discussion concerning it.
More admiration and doubts started to gather among the different groups of scholars. The effects of the Prelude to the Water Melody started to ripple outwards through the conversation and letters among these scholars. However, the suspicions regarding Ning Yi was limited to Jiangning. For example, when a scholar in Dongjing heard the Prelude to the Water Melody, his admiration would not decrease greatly. He would not care too much about who Ning Yi actually was or if he really wrote this poem — he was too far away.
The Wu Dynasty was similar to the Song Dynasty. The study of Confucianism was at its peak, and the influence of scholars in society was enormous. This enormity was only large compared to the previous thousand years. Even in this dynasty which had the highest number of scholars ever in history, the ratio was minuscule compared to the era that Ning Yi had lived it. Due to this, in less than a month, he felt the matter start to quiet down. Of course there were still incidents like at noon today when he accidentally heard some scholars voices their doubts as he ate lunch outside.
After telling Elder Qin and Elder Kang of his thinking that day, perhaps Elder Kang felt that his actions in encouraging the matter at Midautumn were extraneous. He had went around on Ning Yi’s behalf afterwards. Ning Yi heard that those students who wanted to find Ning Yi and learn from him were scolded by their teachers. In the last month, there had been many more invitations to gathering but Ning Yi ignored all of them. There were only three groups who really came to learn from him. One of them had missed him. When the other two groups came and saw Ning Yi explaining the Analects of Confucius to the children, they first found a topic to discuss like “They frequently say that half of the Analects of Confucius is enough to govern the world. I hear Brother Ning explain today so you must be skilled in this. How to explain xxx?”
This was a common way of thinking. These people would try to find a topic of discussion based on what the other said. Ning Yi had read through the four books and other books to prepare. Being influenced by the information explosion of the modern era, it was not difficult to speak of a section and focus on the main point to make people think. Even if he went off the main path, the others could not easily make an argument on the spot. These people had naturally prepared other questions before they visited, including obscure ones. But with Ning Yi’s mannerisms and mood, he could lead these scholars, and even women like Nie Yun Zhu to where he wanted. Those people had no chance to raise other questions as Ning Yi would leave quickly after an answer concerning the Analects of Confucius,. These people just felt that he was widely read or profound. When they thought after the matter, they found they weren’t able to ask most of their questions.
Other than group challenges like this, other people would come in private. One person called Li Pin would come over daily. He appeared greatly interested in the stories Ning Yi told and came over to listen everyday. A few days ago, after the lesson finished, he asked Ning Yi questions, primarily regarding the viewpoint of those stories. He wanted to learn from Ning Yi. In truth, all the questions were regarding the meaning of the Analects. He had no intentions of challenging Ning Yi so Ning Yi spoke for an hour with him. After this, the other did not visit again.
In Ning Yi’s viewpoint, as long as no one could prove that he was ignorant in scholarly matters, the doubts about the Prelude to the Water Melody could not become a stain on him. If he really needed fame one day, it would be easy to prove himself. There was no need to act on something he could do at anytime. He did not keep a matter like this in mind.
Among the stories spreading outside, there were also rumors that Ning Yi had stolen a Taoist’s poem. Not many believed it. Naturally, no one could figure out where the rumor came from. Ning Yi had predicted this would occur and only dismissed it with a laugh after hearing about it.
On the matter of chalk, Kang Xian had produced a batch of chalk half a month after that day. The quality wasn’t bad. The transformation from the white board to the black board only took another ten or so days. Lessons became much more convenient though the effects could not be seen immediately. His teaching process was still the same: read the books, explain the meanings, tell stories. Even so, the growth of enthusiasm the children had towards learning was obvious.
This kind of lively atmosphere in the classroom was most likely rare in this time. Students liked it but teachers shook their heads at this. Su Chong Hua had mentioned the matter subtly to him. After Ning Yi discussed the possible benefits of this kind of teaching, Su Chong Hua stopped. Firstly, Ning Yi had a reputation as a talented scholar. With the halo of the Prelude to the Water Melody, Su Chong Hua could not manage him. Secondly, the school had not shown any effects all this time. In the worst case scenario, this would be it. It would be good to see the effects of this method.
Ning Yi taught class in the morning, and in the afternoon, walked around or went to Elder Qin to play a match — of course, only when it wasn’t raining.
Xiao Chan still followed him most the time. She also came to the school to listen to the lessons — she liked Ning Yi’s stories which contained all kinds of strange things. When she returned, she could show off to her friends. Ning Yi felt that Su Tan Er was the one who made Xiao Chan follow him so closely. He could understand, especially after he wrote the Prelude to the Water Melody, and did not mind this.
Of course, he was puzzled what reason his wife had found to explain how he was able to write that poem. In the first few days, the other had looked appraisingly at him during mealtime. Then the gaze changed and she focused back on her work and travelling around in her carriage. During mealtimes, she returned to her usual attitude when talking, and did not showing any intentions to dig. Ning Yi was slightly interested in this. What reason had she found to accept and understand this … he really did not know …
Ning Yi would occasionally search for information regarding martial arts or internal arts. The Su Family had a group of guards. Supposedly, some of them were very good, but they were at the same level as the techniques of modern soldiers. They could break stones with their heads. As to the more magical inner arts, they should exist in this time based on the rumors he heard. Some experts from the major sects might know the internal arts but it would be difficult to learn them.
Ning Yi just started to gather information regarding this — he was most interested in this. Being an official, being a businessman, being a rebel. Those were all occupations that he once held in the modern times, and were just interactions between people. Only martial arts were novel to him. If possible, he really wanted to learn about the internal arts — he only hoped that they were not fake like in the modern era. He was not greedy. He just wanted to jump three meters high from the ground. Of course, he would not mind six meters.
He needed a healthy body to practice martial arts. Thinking about getting a great warrior to teach him was not a reliable idea right now. It was better to work slowly and steadily. So on mornings without rain, he would exercise, and multiply the degree of intensity based on the maximum effect he desired. Sit-ups, push-ups, endurance running. A few days ago, when he passed the building where Nie Yun Zhu lived, the woman had been standing there and waiting for him. When he ran close, she bowed. “Young Master Ning.”
Ning Yi was sweating heavily and panting. He forced out a smile and waved his smile. Before she could say “hi,” he … ran away …
He left Nie Yun Zhu standing behind him for a long time.
She … had struggled to decide to come out and greet him …
Translator Ramblings: Almost everyone uses vernacular Chinese nowadays and not “Literary Chinese” which was the dominant form of writing for a long time. I’m not sure when vernacular Chinese first started to become mainstream, but since novels and storytelling are mass entertainment, it’s not a stretch for them to be in “plain” Chinese rather than literary.