There’s no supplement for this chapter. And no new footnotes. (yay?). Sorry to disappoint some of you (I didn’t write this novel) but this chapter isn’t what you hoped for. There is a saying in Chinese which they like to change to English. It’s “no zuo no die.” The Urban dictionary has a pretty good definition of it. (Also remember there is very limited human rights in the era this novel was set in.)
Chapter Five I Am A Protector of Beautiful Women
Cui You Yuan was located in the west side of the wang fu. It was a bit out of the way but the surroundings were neat and quiet. Qu Qing Ju held Mu Jin’s hand as she travelled through a half-moon door and Cui You Yuan’s entrance was in sight. The mamas guarding the door and the steward of Cui You Yuan had been waiting at the door. Seeing Qu Qing Ju, they quickly came up with smiles on their faces.
The kitchen incident had already been spread to the entire wang fu. In a flash, no one dared to disobey wang fei. Didn’t they see that even wang ye was on wang fei’s side? They were only servants, who dared offend the zhuzi?
“Nubi greets wang fei,”The mama who was the steward came forward and made a full bow. She then look fawningly at the first-ranked yahuan, “Refreshments have been prepared inside, wang fei can come in and rest.”
“I hope it didn’t trouble you,” Qu Qing Ju inclined her head slightly. Disregarding the ingratiating smiles on the gatekeeping and steward mamas, she walked gracefully into Cui You Yuan.
Wang fei clearly was very courteous to them but the two mamas felt that wang fei was full of nobility and pushed their own attitudes lower.
Cui You Yuan wasn’t very big but it was of high quality. Qu Qing Ju scanned the surroundings and at last, her gaze landed on the white-clad woman in the middle of the yard. Her hand holding a flute, the woman was very beautiful, wearing a wide-sleeved silk dress, almost as though she was untouched by mortal sins. She really didn’t look like a huakui that came out of a prostitute house.
This was the first time Yun Qing met the wang fei that was rumoured to be not favoured by wang ye. She had thought that it would just be a normal woman, but who knew it was such an eye-catching woman. Phoenix eyes and brows like the willow. She had a feixian hair arrangement, the jewel on the headpiece perfectly falling between her eyebrows, contrasting with the porcelain skin. She wore a wide-sleeved dress made of Shu-brocade the color of moonlight. It was so fitting and beautiful that it appeared as though the dress was made to be worn by her. Just the two ornaments tied at her waist were more valuable than all the belongings she ever had.
This was the rumored Duan Wang Fei?
Yun Qing’s mind stopped and she strangely felt inconceivably inferior. The hand that held the flute tightened. She performed a soft bow: “Yun Qing greets wang fei niangniang.”
“Yun Qing guniang doesn’t have to be too courteous,” Holding Mu Jin’s hand, she sat down at the carved mahagony table underneath the grape trellis. She took a sip of the tea that a little yahuan presented: “This tea is not bad.”
“The water for this tea comes from the dew that I collect every morning. To be able to receive wang fei’s compliments, it hasn’t wasted my efforts. Wang ye also likes this tea.” Yun Qing went forward two steps and smiled as she replied.
Mu Jin heard how she addressed herself and frowned. She saw that wang fei’s expression didn’t change and her own expression recovered.
The hand that held the cup stopped moving. Qu Qing Ju place the cup down. She used her handkerchief to wipe the corner of her mouth, “I think that Yun Qing guniang knows why ben wang fei has come. I do not know if I have the luck to admire Yu Qing guniang’s flute.” She didn’t have the interest to drink the dew of this flower or that grass. Who knew if it was clean or not.
“Wang fei, I’m not one of this fu’s musicians,” Yun Qing’s face turned pale, as though she was humiliated, as she gazed at Qu Qing Ju, “Yun Qing’s skill is poor. I don’t dare let it enter wang fei niang niang’s honourable ears.”
The moment the words came out, the entire yard suddenly quieted. One of the yahuan that served Yun Qing was frightened to the point of visibly shaking. She wanted to curl into a ball and didn’t have the courage to even look in Qu Qing Ju’s direction.
Smiling at the other’s attitude as though she would die rather than comply, Qu Qing Ju threw the handkerchief she used onto the table, her hand supporting her chin, one slender hand picking a fine piece of pastry.
“How dare you!” Mu Jin’s face darkened, “Just a huakui that somebody gave as a present to the wang fu. How dare you talk to wang fei in this manner? You really are something that came from such an unclean place, no sense of good behaviour. Come, slap her mouth.”
Yu Qing’s eyes suddenly widened. She didn’t believe that wang fei would act against her. Wasn’t she afraid that wang ye would feel she wasn’t virtuous?
Before Yun Qing could finish her thoughts, she felt pain appear like fire on the left of her face. The person who had slapped her was the steward mama that always fawned over her in the past. She covered her face and exclaimed in a trembling voice: “You dare …”
“Yun Qing guniang. Sorry for the offense.” The steward mama had a crying face as she gave Yu Qing a few more slaps. Inside, she despaired. Today, she offended Yun Qing and potentially enraged wang ye but if she didn’t offend Yun Qing, she would definitely offend wang fei. She could only blame her bad luck to have been sent here to serve. Originally, she thought it would be a profitable position but who know that she would have to face the ugly truth.
The beauty, after suffering the blows to the face, her originally beautiful visage became a sorry figure. Qu Qing Ju raised her head and her eyebrow rose: “What are we doing, ben wang fei is a protector of beautiful women. Yun Qing nuniang is virtuous and innocent, you cannot create difficulties for her.” Finishing, she looked playfully at Mu Jin, “Mu Jin, apologize to Yun Qing guniang. In the past, I saw that Yin Liu was the impatient one, I didn’t think you would learn from her.”
The people present lowered their heads silently. Hearing wang fei “scold” Mu Jin guniang, they couldn’t help but think in their minds that this was slapping somebody and beating them into the ground before saying that they were not violent. With this kind of strategy, wang fei wasn’t a wooden person. If she was made out of wood, it was the soft and flexible willow tree. She let somebody get beat up, and then made them have to rage against the wind for being too harsh, causing the willow to accidentally whip somebody.
Mu Jin heard Qu Qing Ju’s words and went forward a few steps. She stopped five paces away from Yun Qing and bowed: “Yun Qing guniang please forgive me. Nubi has offended you today.”
Yun Qing pushed aside the old pozi that was in front of her. She covered her face with one hand and stared hatefully at Qu Qing Ju: “Mu Jin guniang is too serious. You are an important person of wang fei. Yun Qing is a person of low status and doesn’t dare blame you.”
Qu Qing Ju’s index finger gently tapped on the tabletop. Hearing Yun Qing’s words, her eyebrow rose and she smiled: “Wang ye feels heavy affection towards Yun Qing guniang, how can you not be less than Mu Jin as a little yahuan.” Finishing, she let servants bestow a healing salve. Seeing Yun Qing behave as though she was humiliated, her smile grew wider, “Since Yun Qing guniang feels that ben wang fei isn’t worthy of hearing your flute, then we shan’t speak of it further.”
The steward mama who had been pushed to one side let out a long heavy exhale. An ignorant thing, to act so in front of wang fei. Did she really believe she held a part of wang ye’s heart?
The yahuan behind Yu Qing’s face grew paler and paler. After Qu Qing Ju spoke, she was scared enough to suddenly kneel with a loud bang. In this wang fu, wang fei was ranked the highest other than wang ye. The way that her mistress acted, it was clearly not respecting wang fei. Not saying that wang ye’s attitude towards her mistress was only that of one treating a plaything, but even if he truly favoured her mistress, her mistress wouldn’t have a good outcome today.
“Wang fei have mercy, wang fei have mercy,” The yahuan continuously kowtowed, “Yun Qing guniang doesn’t understand this wang fu’s protocols, wang fei please have mercy.”
“Jian Yun, what are you doing?” Yun Qing was covering her face but not one drop of tears fell down. She stubbornly widened her eyes, “You didn’t do anything wrong, why are you kneeling?!”
“Guniang, please don’t say anymore.” The yahuan that was kneeling was called Jian Yun. She despaired inside. In the few days she had been sent to serve Yun Qing guniang, she had sensed that the way Yun Qing acted would create conflict in the wang fu. After feeling apprehensive for a few days, the conflict really came. Thinking of the situation, she could only heavily kowtow twice again and didn’t speak anymore.
Qu Qing Ju sighed. She saw that this Jian Yun was only thirteen or fourteen. Maybe it was the fact that this yahuan had stayed for a long time in this wang fu, that she saw more clearly than Yun Qing did. She had no intentions of chastising this little yahuan. She motioned for one of the yahuan behind her to help this Jian Yun up. She had no more interest in looking at Yun Qing’s act of stubbornness and virtuous. She said to Mu Jin who was beside her, “Let’s return. Since Yun Qing guniang doesn’t prefer this wang fu, then in the future then this Cui You Yuan’s allowance will be halved.” Finishing, she pointed to Jian Yun, whose forehead was bleeding from the kowtowing, “This yahuan doesn’t have to serve here. Ben wang fei sees that she looks proper, she can go serve in the tea room.”
Upon hearing this, Jian Yun lit up. She was now one of wang fei’s people? Flooded with happiness, she started thanking profusely.
“This yard is very busy today.”
Hearing this familiar yet strange voice, Qu Qing Ju looked towards the door and saw Duan Wang come in with two taijian. She had some impression of the two taijian in Qu Qing Ju’s memories. They were the ones that served Duan Wang directly, Ming He and Qian Chang Xin. They had much more status with Duan Wang than Xiao Gan Zi.
Qu Qing Ju opened her mouth and heard Yun Qing cry tragically: “Wang ye.”
This “wang ye” was said in a soft voice, like a bird crying, like a bell ringing yet it had one part affection, two parts anger, three parts grief and four parts stubbornness. It was enough to stimulate, upon hearing it, pity and tenderness.
Her lips curled in a smile. This Yun Qing lived up to being a famous hua kui. No wonder that official came up and gave her away. Normal people couldn’t manage somebody of this skill. In her previous life, she had seen the truths and falsehoods of the entertainment circle. In one look, she knew what this icy and clean Yun Qing guniang really thought.
He Heng heard Yun Qing’s call and looked briefly at her before moving his gaze towards Qu Qing Ju, “Ben wang heard Xiao Gan Zi say wang fei was here enjoying music. Why is there no music?”
Yun Qing realized that something was wrong, her expression changing to be even more pitiful as she looked at He Heng. Who knew that the other’s gaze was still on wang fei and didn’t look once at her.
“It is qie’s fault to not know ahead of time that wang ye would also come to listen,” Qu Qing Ju walked to He Heng’s side and looked pityingly at Yun Qing’s slightly swollen face, “What can remedy this?”
He Heng finally looked at Yun Qing’s pitiful and sorry-looking face. He said callously: “It’s fine. In this state, there’s no interest in admiring the music. Ben wang should leave.” Finishing, he looked at Qu Qing Ju’s slight smile and felt that the other’s buyao was swaying slightly, making his eyes itch. He added, “After this, return earlier to zhengyuan. Ben wang is still waiting to eat together with wang fei.”
“Qie would never forget wang ye’s words,” Qu Qing Ju laughed lightly, the motion of her eyes seemed carry magnetism, “it should be wang ye that doesn’t forget.”
He Heng couldn’t resist reaching out to touch that trembling buyao before smiling and leaving. Walking out of Cui You Yuan, he turned and looked back once at Cui You Yuan before saying to Qian Chang Xin and Ming He: “Ben wang remembers that there was a finely crafted golden luan in flight buyao in the stores. Get somebody to deliver it to zhenyuan for wang fei to wear for her amusement.”
Qian Chang Xin and Ming He exchanged glances and quickly confirmed. They both were struck with realizations. In the past, they had only seen wang fei’s soft and weak nature. Only today did they know that they had been wrong. Her actions was both cruel and deft. What they also didn’t predict as that wang ye actually wasn’t angry and seemed to be letting wang fei have a free hand in managing the huoyuan.
After He Heng left, Qu Qing Ju looked at Yun Qing who had a gloomy expression. She smilingly held Mu Jin’s hand and swept the yard before speaking: “Ben wang fei said before, ben wang fei is a reasonable person and a protector of beautiful women. Today, you didn’t respect rank which is a big mistake, but since beautiful women are rare, I will forgive you today.” Finishing, she lazily blinked and looked at the steward mama, “In the future, you have to be attentive in your duties at this Cui You Yuan. Even though Yun Qing guniang’s allowance is halved, but you cannot slight her.”
The steward mama replied in agreement but after wang fei’s procession left, the steward mama spat at Yun Qing and declared loudly: “Why aren’t you carefully serving our honourable Yun Qing guniang back to her room. She is a goddess that even wang fei isn’t worthy of her service. Us mere mortals must carefully serve her, in case wang ye punishes us.”
After the declaration, laughter rose in the surroundings. Wang ye didn’t even properly look at Yun Qing earlier. What this steward mama said was really gouging at the heart.