One more chapter coming after this one. See translator ramblings for more details.
[i] 姑爷: Literally man-of-aunt. It means son-in-law if used by the wife’s family. Obviously, it is also a term form master since it is a servant speaking in this example.
Chapter One The Son-in-Law of the Su Family
When he woke up from unconsciousness, what he saw was a white mosquito canopy. His head was aching dully. He did not know what environment this was so he closed his eyes and thought for a long time before he sighed gently.
He was not dead.
Then was he under house arrest now?
Pushing off the blanket, he sat up. It was probably because he had been unconscious for a long time that his body was uncoordinated. He looked down. The style of the clothes he was wearing was very strange, the quality was also very cheap. Only when he stood on the wood flooring of the room did he find many more unusual objects.
An old-fashioned room, an old-fashioned bed, tables, and chair. Even though the material used and the craftsmanship was good, the entire room seemed to be full of medieval-style furnishings. There were also porcelain that appeared to of excellent quality but there was not any electronics. What are you doing, Tang Ming Yuan? Thinking about the man in the glasses, he cursed, and then … …
This hand had also changed. His hand … … did not seem like his own.
He looked at his two hands that seemed very pale. A moment later, he sat down on the chair in front of the table. He loosened his clothing. This body … … did not have any bullet holes. What joke was this? He clearly remembered many bullets shooting at him, both from the front and back. Had plastic surgery been done on him? That wasn’t right, this body wasn’t his. All of the signs pointed to this, especially when he looked into the copper mirror and saw the reflection. He was even surer.
Tang Ming Yuan, what have you done? He had once been one of the richest people in the world, a self-made man that naturally would be not defeated by a small question. Under the support of modern technology, anything was possible. Changing his body, a large-scale modification? What was the use of this? To make him someone else that would not compete with him? This person was usually soft and indecisive. It was possible that that person would do this to protect him. But why did he arrange for this kind of room?
His head was wrapped in bandages and was slightly throbbing. He pushed open the door to the room. Bright light came in and he instinctively put up a hand to block. This was the second level of a wood tower. Looking down from the entrance, he could only see row upon row of compounds and gardens, buildings of all kinds, gardens in the style of the south, ponds and mountains that stretched out beautifully in front of his eyes.
There were no high towers, no signs of the modern era.
He inhaled and then exhaled. Tang Ming Yuan, how much money did you spend for this? He glanced a few times, and turned to walk towards one side. A voice instantly sounded, “Guye[i] … …” Woah, background actors.
He was not in a good mood at this time, and had no interest to drag it out with these people. The servant girl walked over and he glanced over her and then pointed with a finger. A ruler of an enormous business empire that he had built up by himself, when he really displayed that presence, just one action and gaze was enough to make this woman dressed as a servant girl to shake and then stop at her spot. She murmured, “Guye, you woke up … …”
He walked pasted this servant girl. A few steps later, he turned back and idly took the robe that the servant girl appeared to be holding for him. After opening it, he was slightly puzzled. “How to put this on?” Recalling that the servant girl seems to be speaking in the dialect of the Jiangzhe area, he changed his speech. “How to wear this?”
“Gu, Guye, I’ll help you … …” The servant girl hurriedly helped him put on the robe, and then examined him puzzledly. Tsk, pretty good acting skills … … as he dressed, the servant girl shouted to the ground, “Guye has woken up, Guye has woken up … …” Consequently, more people came from all the other buildings.
Putting on the robe, he went past some of the servant girls and boys, passed through the yard and started walking to the outside without a backward glance.
In the end … … he was blocked … …
Ten days later, he sat in the hallway as he looked at the fireworks in the sky. He sighed.
Afterwards, he had walked out.There was no sign of modernity in the enormous city. Any building, any person, the mountains and rivers outside, they all told him that this was the medieval era. It could not be anything else. Even if he used all the wealth and power of his business empire, he would not be able to construct such a flawless world. Just all these actors could not be this perfect. This was not Truman’s word, and he was not Truman that had been shut inside the studio from the moment he was born.
He had a general idea of his present identity. He was called Ning Duan, his scholarly name was Li Heng. At this time, he was the son-in-law of Jiang Ning’s wealthy Su Family, one that was marrying in. Speaking of it, this identity was slightly an embarrassment, but since it was done, there was no solution. Even though he was marrying in, looking at these past few days, the situation was really quite complex.
The Su Family was one of the famed and wealthy merchants in Jiang Ning. Su Bo Yong was the head of the Main Branch and the leader of the family. He had no sons, only a daughter called Su Tan Er. He had not yet seen his wife yet. Supposedly, the day of the marriage, something had happened to a batch of cloth from the Su Family. Su Tan Er had gone to resolve it. Simply said, he could see that she was not agreeable to this marriage, and this could be considered an escape.
As to himself, he was Ning Yi. Supposedly, his grandfather had been on very good terms with Old Grandfather Su. They had set down a betrothal for their children before they had any and when it turned out they both had males, the betrothal had been passed down. Ning Yi’s family had declined due to an accident. When it reached Ning Yi, both of his parents were deceased. While he had been educated, and could be said to be a scholar, but in reality, he did not have a good amount of education. He was just a very obedient person, and Old Grandfather Su saw this and wanted him to marry in. Ning Yi had not been willing to start will and he did not now if this had been a force marriage. However, many people also disliked that he had married in and the day of the marriage, the bride had run away. The marriage ceremony was forced to proceed. Then after, a son of a rich family that was interested in Su Tan Er had hit him with a brick so he had been unconscious for many days before he woke up.
These last days, he pretended that the brick had messed up his mind as he met many members of the Su Family. The first time Old Grandfather Su saw him, the situation was complex but in his view, he could see it with a glance. Old Grandfather Su’s body was very good, and was the true leader of the Su Family. The saying went “the third generation could be seen from food, the fourth generation from clothing, and the fifth from their essays.” The present Su Family had been rich for five generations, the fifth generation being Su Tan Er and her male cousins. The situation was clearly that there was no successor. The best at bsuiness was Su Tan Er, the daughter.
If those eldest and second brothers were slightly stronger, if Su Tan Er wasn’t the daughter of the Main Branch, if Su Tan Er did not have the talent and interest in business, maybe everything would be different. However, at this time, the Old Grandfather of the Su Family clearly supported Su Tan Er and treated her like the heir so Old Grandfather Su picked someone like him to marry in. Maybe there was friendship from the previous generation, but most important was most likely that Old Grandfather Su saw that Ning Yi was obedient enough that other people could easily suppress him.
Due to this, the other branches were clearly unhappy with his position as the son-in-law that had married in. These people had liked to match-make Su Tan Er in the hopes that a young master of a rich family would marry her and make her the water that was thrown out as she married out and would not pose a threat tot the family. Yet Old Grandfather Su grabbed onto a betrothal and found a son-in-law to marry in. He naturally became an eyesore to other people. It was hard to say if it was an outsider that had knocked him out with a brick that night.
He thought of his past life.
The hidden battles on the market, the scheming and back-stabbing, he had used almost all the time of his life on those matters. Even when he had built up his enormous business empire, he guarded against infighting, but in the end, he had been tricked by his closest friend and was killed. Seeing these matters again, he couldn’t help but find it humorous. He really did not want to come into contact with these matters again, especially child play like this … …
He should learn what was going on, accumulate some silver and then leave. He thought of this plan. Even though he did not have notion of what marrying in meant for him, and he did not care about the appellation, he did not feel good being stared at all the time.
As to this world, he wasn’t quite able to understand.
Jiang Ning, Nanjing had been called this when it had been the Song Dynasty, but this was not the Song Dynasty. What puzzled him the most these last days had been the problem of history. All the history books he read seemed slightly disconnected with the history of the modern world. The present Dynasty was caleld Wu, and like Southern Song, its capital was Ling’an. Some of the details of history seemed to have changed around the Sui Dynasty, and when it reached the Tang Dynasty, it was greatly diverged. The chaotic fighting between the princes after the Tang Dynasty seemed similar to the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms. After that, it was the Wu Dynasty. There were more poems and famed people, but some more people had disappeared, for example, Li Bai. He had written several good poems and was called the Poem Immortal, but when he had been young in Chang’an, he had died during a duel. Du Fu had been a government official. Due to being too pedantic and unable to fulfill his duties, he had been executed by the Emperor—it had taken him great effort to find this, there was only a small sentence about it on the history books.
What was this? Quantum mechanics? Multiple universes?
Thinking this way, he couldn’t help but marvel.
The Wu Dynasty was similar to the Song Dynasty and extremely prosperous. However, it might also be conquered by the minority people like the Song Dynasty. The history he was familiar with had been completely changed, and he was too lazy to think about it. Right now, what he had do to was absorb everything, and after familiarizing himself with the world, he would get away from this large family. Then … … he would have a little business and travel everywhere. He would deal with matters as they came up.
As he was pondering, a ruckus came from the yard outside. Today was a holiday and he had just come from the outside. Just as he was thinking how long he could live like this, the servant girl he saw first after being reborn, Xiao Chan, ran in. Her round face was flushed. “Guye, Guye, Miss has come back, Miss has come back.”
This wife of his would come back in the end, this was something he had already thought about. She could not stay away from home because her husband had married in. This fortnight most likely was a kind of warning for him to see the situation clearly. This Eldest Miss was of a strong personality. He didn’t have anything to complain about. Xiao Chyan called him and then pulled him from the front compound onto the road to the inner compound. From far away, he saw a crowd of people walk over. The woman at the front that was wearing a red cape was exceptionally eye-catching among the crowd. So this must be her.
At this time, there were the brothers from the second and third branches that were around the female, as well as the servant girls and managers of the Su Family. The female was tall in stature with a narrow face. Her long black hair was tied up and fell down to her waist. She smiled as she spoke to others and handed her cape to servants beside her. When she walked closer, she saw Ning Yi and Xiao Chan. A slightly judgemental expression flashed through her eyes. Then she bent down slightly. “Husband.”
It might be that this was the first meeting between them that Su Tan Er’s expression was extremely natural as though she had not walked away on the day of the marriage. She walked over as though they were an old married couple, and naturally grasped Ning Yi’s hand. She then smiled and turned to the other people. “Second Brother, Tan Er has found the white tiger hide that you have always wanted, you cannot blame me anymore … …”
One by one, Ning Yi looked with interest as the woman beside him spoke to these people. She had thought of everything and her casual words were full of perfect hidden meanings that caused them to have their own affairs to attend to. Then she looked on with a harmonious expression and turned with Ning Yi. “Husband, let us return.” Along with the three servant girls, she walked with Ning Yi back to the original yard.
This woman was beautiful and her presence was soft and willowy like the women of the south. Her conduct just now had inner strength but this kind of scholarly and feminine presence was perfectly melded with her speech and conduct. From a purely objective and professional point of view, Ning Yi felt some admiration. However, when she treated him with this attitude, he felt it was slightly humorous.
Along the way, she asked a few inquiries that seemed intimate but actually maintained a distance. Ning Yi naturally responded indifferently. When they walked back to the building and no outsider could see them, that Su Tan Er naturally let go of his hand. “Husband has not recovered from the injury, rest well. If you have something, just order Chan’er … …”
This yard had two small towers. The two-level tower on the opposite side that still were pasted with the crimson red joy characters was Su Tan Er’s original boudoir. Ning Yi had stayed in the other tower ever since he woke up and never went over to the opposite side. At this time, Su Tan Er finished speaking, bend down slightly again, and then took her servant girls with her back to her own rooms. Ning Yi waved his hands with a smile as a farewell. He understood if he was going to live here, it would be in this kind of circumstances for al ong time.
This was pretty good, I won’t touch you, you don’t bother me. If he could be idle forever, and not get pulled into the scheming of this family, then it didn’t matter if he left or not. The medieval lifestyle was pretty idle.
On the other side, Su Tan Er went back to her boudoir.
This was a room that did not seem very unique. At least when compared to its mistress’s conduct and personality, this was the boudoir of a young girl that seemed normal from any perspective. There were green and red adornments, all kinds of small decorations. Other than less embroidery, and more books—but these things were all in the range of normality.
The newly-married female youth that was eighteen this year stood by the window for a while. She took off the hair ribbon holding her hair and looked for a while at the man sitting under the tower opposite her who was gazing at the fireworks. She sighed lightly and then closed the window. “Xing’er, come in, Juan’er, go and get Chan’er.
A while later, when Chan’er came into the room, Xing’er was busily moving the small objects according to Miss’ order’s in order to change the room. Su Tan Er was using a towel to wash her face. When she put the towel down, Xiao Chan hurriedly walked over, took the towel and put it back by the face basin. “Miss.”
“How has Guye been these days?”
“En, Guye’s injury has healed but he seemed to be unfamiliar with many things. The doctor said that he might have forgotten some things due to the wound to his head.”
“En, the doctor said so.” Xiao Chan nodded. “Guye has been walking around these days, and Xiao Chan has been following him. I have not seen him go to find anyone, he just walks around the city and looks around. It really … … seems that he has forgotten many things.”
“Let him do what he wants, is there anything else?”
“Guye has been running these days.”
“En, he will come out before the sun is up and slowly run following Qinhuai river. He says he is exercising his body. Also, when he is in his room, he would do something strange … …” Xiao Chan’s hands reached out and then shrunk back, her small face full of bewilderment. “He would lay on the ground and push himself up like this. He said this is also to exercise his body. This servant finds it so strange.”
Imagining this movement, mistress and servant were all puzzled. Su Tan Er shook her head, “Exercising the body … … leave him alone. Is there anything else?”
“There is not anything else. Guye has met Eldest Master, Master, Young Eldest Master, Young Second Master, they were harmonious … … en, Guye is harmonious to everyone, other than … …”
“Chan’er doesn’t know if this is a false feeling. The day that Guye woke up and came out of the room, that gaze was so frightening … … no, it wasn’t frightening, it was just … … just … …” the young servant girl tilted her head back to think of a descriptor, “extremely authoritative, just like Eldest Master … … but not the same. When he looked, Chan’er didn’t even dare to move. Maybe … … maybe Chan’er’s eyes were not right … …”
The girl’s voice decreased in volume as she continued. Su Tan Er pondered this and then smiled. At the beginning when Grandfather had said for Ning Yi to marry in, she had gone to see this person and had people investigate him. The reason that Grandfather has chosen him was one, because of the betrothal from the previous generation, and second, that this person’s personality was not a strong one, and she could easily overpower him. His family was extremely poor. He was said to be a student, but he had not learned much and didn’t even have the pride that average students would have, there was no authority to speak of. It was probably an illusion. Having been hit, when he woke up, his state probably scared Chan’er. However … …
She recalled the scant words of conservation they exchanged in the recent meeting. He seemed slightly different than what she thought. When she came to take his hand and talked to him, she had thought that he would not know what to do. He had walked over casually and without any nervousness.
“Aright, he probably understands. This is good. Safe and stable, Grandfather has agreed, I can be like this … … like this.” She sighed, “but you few have to be more respectful to Guye. You cannot speak of the matters between Guye and I to others. No matter what, as long as he has not done anything to harm the Su Family, he is my husband, understand?
Sometimes, one would think of a perfect future, but one had to accept their fate in the end, especially women. She was much better off than most women. On this matter, she would temporarily … …
Accept fate … …
Translator Ramblings: The Wu Dynasty is the fictional one. This is alternate history. Also, the main character is a guy and this story (eventually) ends up a harem. Time travel + no magic but martial arts + harem + slow slow slow snail pacing. (I’m really not recommending this story well.)
I first read this novel because I was bored and then stopped because the marathon is hard. A few months ago, I found the audiobook version on ximalaya (which I recommend for people to listen if they understand Chinese or use it as a way to learn to read if you are at pre-school level like me, there is a lot of good stuff on the site.) So I listened to a few episodes … … and then translated the first chapters … … and am now out of motivation.