This is a long chapter.
Chapter Three Group: Old Man, Little Servant Girl, and Second-Generation Good-For-Nothing
The days were boring. If it had to be said in a more pleasant manner, it was idle. In the time that it rained, he occasionally played five-in-a-row with the little girl and practiced his writing, read some old books. Even though the entertainment could not compare to modern novels, he had always been someone that could tolerate boredom. Since he had come to this medieval era, it was not very painful in his view to look for a long time at the books that did not have even one punctuation mark and slowly decipher what it meant.
Of course, other things happened in the few months as well.
The new guye had come, and it was a matrilocal marriage. Those that were zhuixu did not have a lot of status. The state of the Su Family was actually complex. Right now, the one truly in charge of the Su Family was Su Tan Er’s grandfather who was still living. Usually, people called him Old Grandfather. The Old Grandfather had three sons, which split into Main Branch, Second Branch, and Third Branch. On the outside, it was Su Tan Er’s father, Su Bo Yong who was in charge outside. Su Bo Yong only had one child, Su Tan Er, a daughter, but she was very capable in business. She completely outdominated the males of the two other branches. This was the main cause of the complex situation. The men of the two other branches always hoped that Su Tan Er would marry out and they would have a chance to succeed the Su Family. Right now, this person who married in destroyed their hopes. Even if they could restrain themselves from mockery, rolling of the eyes could not be prevented.
Other than the main house, Old Grandfather Su also had sisters and brothers. The Su Clan was spread out like an enormous tree. There were not less than thirty that were male cousin to Su Tan Er. No matter how close the relation was, they could not be said to be warm to him, this guye who had married in—of course, if they were welcoming, he would have to expend mental effort. Just in this large family, it was extremely awkward when everyone ate the evening meal together. He could only sit there and count sheep. Other than his father-in-law, mother-in-law, the two concubines, and Su Tan Er, there generally wasn’t anyone that spoke to him. It was very boring. Also, these people did not have too much nutritional value in their conversation. It made him feel the meal was even more boring… … it would be so nice if he could take the food to his room … …
He naturally was not afraid of this feeling of being isolated. His past experiences were enough for him to easily face everything right now. However, taking a step back to look, no one liked or pursued this feeling. He found it interesting to watch weiqi, but if he had a choice, it would be more enjoyable if everyone got together and played mahjong.
The conflicts of interest, scheming and conspiracy, at this time, it had not affected him. Of course, if he stayed here, there would be waves sooner or later but the problem was not major. Right now, Old Grandfather Su and Su Bo Yong were healthy and alive. No matter how the people of the family fought, it was limited. Of course, the first problem of staying in the Su Family was work.
Because he had been hit by a brick, and he seemed to have lost some of his memories, many things had been delayed. As he slowly recovered, the Su Family did not hold any expectations about him. But if he really did not do a thing, it would not be good. Recently, people started to mention what he could do. He didn’t know too much about this. Business, being a shopkeeper at a shop, being the account keeper—he was more likely to be a supervisor—there really was no need for this. He was too lazy to come into contact with that again. Looking at his father-in-law’s attitude, it seemed the other intended for him to go the private school that the Su Family set up to be a teacher. He could also pursue scholarly activities since his previous image was a poor scholar that was a bookworm.
When this matter was brought up, it was temporarily rejected by Old Grandfather Su. Old Grandfather Su said to give a little more time for him to think about what he wanted to do. However, in Ning Yi’s eyes, the matter of going to be a teacher was pretty much finalized. He had a few conversations with Old Grandfather Su, mostly with the Old Grandfather talking about the friendship that had existed between the families and about daily matters. The old person was naturally a smart person to be able to support such a large family. He probably saw that Ning Yi’s recent presence was slightly different than that bookworm and lengthened the time.
Recently, he did not deliberately try to disguise too much and make himself appear a naive and stupid bookworm. The days would be long and pretending was not a solution. He was doing this with the attitude of being a spectator. Of course, it was possible to see some of a person’s personality from their conduct and presence but to be sure how a person was, were they suited to business or teaching, or if they were good or bad, that was like seeing a person’s personality through their weiqi playing style. It was not possible. As long as he didn’t do anything out of line, and continued for a time, the Old Grandfather would get bored of observing and would arrange for him to go teach.
That was pretty good.
Even though he had not been a very good student in his past life, he could understand the ancient language here. His previous identity had not been of a great scholar and no one should have any high hopes for him. If he had to teach, he could be conservative and have the students shake their heads and recite paragraphs. That would manage to qualify. If he was interested, he could use some modern knowledge to fool these people and that wouldn’t be problem or him to stay in the Su Family with a good reason. If he had to leave, one did not have to think about this in a place they did not know at all. Even in the modern world, if one wanted to live better, they had to have connections. This was also true for the medieval era. Even if he had once built an enormous business empire, he did not think that he could take a few taels of silver and think that “the world was mine.” No matter what, the Su Family was the best resting place for him at the moment.
The rain continued for a few days, so he stayed in the home for a few days. He would occasionally see the mistress and the servants of the tower opposite him hurriedly walk by with their umbrellas. He could also see their figures through the rain. The corridors and tower, the gardens and decks, the rains drizzling down that washed the white slate clean. They walked over from that side in green or white or light red dresses. In this time, these traditional females were really those with presence, different from the women in modern times that had been packaged up. No matter how they acted, those women possessed a mortal aura or the scent of money. He would feel that everything he saw now was an ink painting. They hurried in from the outside, avoided the dripping eaves, patted their damp clothing next to the stairs and then went up … … when the sun had set, lanterns would light up around the yard. The dark red lights could be stationary or moving. The darkness was exceptionally full of the enormous presence that was the deep compounds of the medieval era.
Of course, this was a medieval deep compound.
It was easy to learn five-in-a-row and was not difficult to master either. Xiao Chan quickly learned and became a master. In the next few days, Ning Yi lost more than he won when he played against her. This entertainment quickly “infected” the tower opposite his. In the night three days later, Ning Yi lit up an oil lamp and read. Xiao Chan came over a few times and made sure he had no order before she left. When Ning Yi came out with the scroll to move in the corridor, he saw the young female carry the weiqi board in the lower level corridor towards the opposite tower. Then she went with Xing’er and Juan’er into a room on the opposite side. The light lit up and he was able to see the three playing. There were occasional finger movements and it was very lively. Xiao Chan was probably chattering and teaching her two sisters how to play. He couldn’t help but laugh.
The rain continued for a few days before stopping. Even though he had said to Xiao Chan that he would not go the Qinhuai River to watch weiqi, that was just a joke. As expected, when he went this time, the old man called Qin noticed him and called out a greeting.
A short while later, this old man finished a match with his friend and waved his hand at Ning Yi who was watching from the side. He first introduced his friend and Ning Yi and then it was Ning Yi’s turn to exchange greetings with that person. After the basic courtesies were finished, the man had Ning Yi speak what he thought of the match just now. Even though they were not extremely serious, if there were good moves after each match, of course the friends would discuss or show off. It was similar to saying ‘If I didn’t do this, I wouldn’t have lost … …” Since the old man had him participate, the other naturally recognized his weiqi skill level and then threw out an invitation.
“Is Master Ning interested in another match?”
Ning Yi smiled and nodded in consent. He sorted out the pieces as he chatted with the old person.
“I’ve stayed home these days due to the rain, and replayed the match that day with some good friends. Master Ning has many good moves that are worthy of deep thought. For this, this old man had an itch for many days. Since the rain stopped, this old man came out, and Master has also come, haha … …”
Even though he had thought that day that Ning Yi’s playing style was not “gentlemanly” enough, he did not care too much. As an opponent, after suddenly seeing this style of playing, the more time passed, the more he thought about it, replayed it, and it “lingered” on his mind. They chit-chatted and played a match. The old person lost again. Ning Yi had a discussion with him and had another match before return when he saw the day was late.
He came back the second day, and not long after, the problem of his “job” was finally settled.
The first day of the seventh month, every member of the family gathered to eat together. Old Grandfather Su asked about the matter of Ning Yi’s recovery and then mentioned that a teacher in the school was leaving. He asked Ning Yi if he was willing to go teach in the school. The old person’s attitude was harmonious, but with his status in the family, if he spoke, then it was basically settled. Ning Yi had been prepared already and naturally nodded in consent. Then the Old Grandfather called Su Zhong Kan, the second son, who was in charge of the clan school and had him make arrangements before the teacher left.
There was still some time until that teacher left. His main method of passing time was still going and playing weiqi. Otherwise, he read, practiced his writing, played against Xiao Chan and other things. After a month, there was no major development in his relationship with the members of the Su Family but he became familiar with the people on that street next to Qinhuai River.
The scenery on the street was good. The trees were green but the location was remote and there were no large shops. Other than the tea stalls that were regularly present, there were also some little merchants that would come and sell morning pastries or vegetables. The buildings were also sparse, and some of the buildings built by the river would have a part overhanging by the river. It was possible to occasionally see people go to the river to wash clothing and get water.
The old person with the surname Qin probably had a pretty good family state. He was extremely knowledgeable about a variety of topics. The common saying was that the medieval scholars were inflexible and pedantic but this old person was not like that. He would not speak semi-incomprehensible words, nor refer to the Holy People frequently. When he spoke, he knew to change with the topic. If one listened closely, they would find that the core did not leave behind the path of Confucius and Mencius. This was truly someone that understood the philosophies of Confucius and Mencius.
If the learning’s of Confucius and Mencius took off that outer layer that changed due to governance, the core part was actually the philosophy of life that medieval people concluded. There were many things on the level of philosophy that was accurate no matter the place. Ning Yi could converse with this old person and did not have to restrain himself when they chatted idly. This old person had probably been an official before. Now that he was old, he would come out and put up a weiqi stall when he was bored. His home was near. He had a wife that was more than fifty years old, and a thirty-year old something concubine that were all very beautiful. She would occasionally come out to deliver lunch and Ning Yi would see her once or twice.
The old person also had some stable weiqi friends, most of those old people with great education. Some were from rich families, but there were those that did not have any money. At the beginning, Ning Yi sat at the side to watch, and later on, he would gradually speak a few words when they started a discussion. Naturally, some people would rely on their status and criticize his words, the one of a junior. For example, the old person that had the surname Dong had criticized his little moves that did not care for honor. He was extremely proud and Ning Yi ignored him. It wasn’t interesting at all to argue with this kind of old person about morals.
Every day, sitting by that tea stall, he naturally would eat something and drink some tea. He gradually became familiar with the tea shopkeeper’s family. Xiao Chan was bored and would occasionally sit and talk with the tea shopkeeper’s daughter. At the beginning, the tea shopkeeper’s daughter had bashfully asked about Ning Yi’s background. When she learned that Ning Yi was the zhuixu of the Su Family, she showed disappointment. It could be seen that Ning Yi seemed to be a noble master from a good family. This could be seen as he walked everywhere was a servant girl. He could also chat with Elder Qin and occasionally speak about things other people could not understand. This meant that he was education. If she could marry him … … it was a pity he married in.
When they were playing at the beginning, the matches were conducted in a friendly and harmonious atmosphere After two weeks, they became familiar, the old person felt that some of what Ning Yi said was worthy of deep thought but were unorthodox. This was a difference in style. Ning Yi did not care about the details. The two would play and discuss at the same time. One month later, they finally discussed the question of his status.
Ning Yi did not try to disguise his status. When he spoke about it before, the old person had only said “oh” and nodded his head. At that time, the other only thought of him as a new weiqi friend. This time, the two of them were closer and could be considered good friends across generations. The meaning in bringing it up again was naturally not the same.
“You do not unlearned but skilled. It is a pity … … marrying in … …”
Ning Yi did not know much about the four fields and was not good at pure memorization. He could not be considered to have an orthodox education. Elder Qin could be considered a very important scholar and naturally saw this after being in close contact for this long. This was why he gave the judgment “unlearned but skilled.” In truth, this was already very high praise but Ning Yi just smiled.
“There’s nothing bad about marrying in, look at me. I come out every day, drink some tea, and play some weiqi. Xiao Chan gives the money, I have those that provide food and residence to me. A few more days and I will go be a teacher. There is no burden in teaching some students. I’m lazy and fond of food. This is also very good.”
That was true, but in this era, the status of a zhuixu was even lower than the status of a legitimate wife. If a wife married in, after she passed, her memorial tablet could be put into the ancestral hall. But a zhuixu wouldn’t even be allowed to enter the ancestral hall. The status was akin to that of a concubine. If he did anything, other people would look down on him. He had basically cut off all his paths to getting fame and status. He could only act as an accessory to the Su Family. Ning Yi had gone through everything in his past life but the average young person would not have his state of mind. Elder Qin probably saw that he had some talent, so he couldn’t help but wring his hands.
“Also, that Su Family is a business family. Merchants are at the lowest tier. Even if they have a good reputation, even if you have skill and knowledge, affairs of position and wealth will not land on you.”
The old man said this because he could see deeply. Disregarding the attitude the world held towards zhuixu, even if Ning Yi really had talent, the Su Family will not hope that he will go to the examination to get a rank. At the beginning, they had him marry in because he a bookworm. Old Grandfather Su was one with honor and remembered the promise with Ning Yi’s elders. Ning Yi had some education but he could not be said to be truly learned. Su Tan Er would be able to dominate him after he married in. Even looking at it from Ning Yi’s angle, that past bookworm actually had benefited. Ning Yi did not have any opinions about the Su Family so he just smiled. However, Xiao Chan heard the old man mention the Su Family flushed and crowded over.
“Old … … Old Grandfather. Miss has never neglected Guye after he came to the Su family. Miss is a very good person, and will not neglect Guye in the future.”
The little girl had a nervous expression and was extremely serious. She had grown up next to Su Tan Er and they were like sister. At this time, she did not hear the meaning behind the old man’s words but she just knew that the old man was talking negatively about the Su Family. Usually, in normal families, servant girls would not be allowed to speak. But the identity of a zhuixu was special. Some were honored and others were those that even the servant girls disdained them. Xiao Chan had been with Su Tan Er for a long time and her upbringing would not allow her to treat a zhuixu so. But she was nervous about the reputation of Miss and the Su family. She had gathered unknown courage to argue back. Her hands were balled into fists, and she was extremely nervous.
In the past, Xiao Chan had silently stood at the size, docile and perceptive. Elder Qin was used to the existence of this young servant girl. At this time, he stilled. Ning Yi glanced at Xiao Chan, but smiled, putting down a stone.
“Haha, you old man, stop worrying about matters that do not concern you. Now you’ve offended Xiao Chan. If your words return back to the Su Family, the one who will be impacted is me.”
The old person also laughed. “Haha, slip of the tongue, slip of the tongue. Miss Xiao Chan, this old man’s words is not blaming the Su Family, but it really is this old man’s slip of the tongue to discuss the matters of another family, apologies, apologies.”
He apologized to Xiao Chan sincerely. Xiao Chan did not appear angry but that serious and nervous expression did not disappear even after she and Ning Yi left. The nervousness even increased. She walked with a bowed head behind Ning Yi, and her small body seemed to become even smaller. Ning Yi twisted his mouth helplessly and then turned back to comfort her. “What is it? Still angry?”
Before he finished, he saw Xiao Chan’s shoulders drop, her mouth twist and tears fall down like peals from a broken strong.
This had become serious … … Ning Yi stilled. Then he softened his voice and asked, “What is it?”
“Xiao Chan … …” the little girl choked and raised her head to gaze at him. “Xiao Chan might be a servant girl that doesn’t understand anything but will not gossip about this kind of thing. Guye, you said that the words will spread, you are accusing Xiao Chan, Xiao Chan … … of being negligent of duty … …”
Xiao Chan’s shoulders shook and she choked up even more. Ning Yi gazed at her for a moment. He had thought that this little girl had been unhappy about the old man’s words, who knew that she felt ashamed because of his joke. He couldn’t help but laugh.
“Guye … … you … … guuu—”
Before the little girl could finish her choked up sentence, Ning Yi suddenly reached out, pinched her cheeks and pulled her face wide. This time, it was the little girl’s turn to still. Her eyes were wide like lanterns. She blinked. Ning Yi released her face and lightly patted her shoulder. “Let’s go.” He turned and left.
A moment later, the little girl followed, her face frightened. Her face was also bright red. “Guye, Guye, you … …” She wanted to discuss Ning Yi’s action just now. Actually, this matter could be either big or small. In the last months, they had been in close contact. Xiao Chan occasionally measured him for clothing, and there was bodily contact when she helped him dress, but those were accidental touches.
This world that Ning Yi had come to had diverged but the Wu Dynasty was very similar to the Song Dynasty. Even though the Cheng-Zhu school of thought had appeared without any change, at this time, there were great barriers between men and women. Xiao Chan was a servant girl and had to serve. She could not be like other females. If Su Tan Er had married Ning Yi, as one of the three servant girls, it was almost certain that she would have become one of Ning Yi’s concubines, and it wouldn’t be a problem. But Ning Yi had married into the Su Family, and everything depended on Su Tan Er’s say-so.
The status of a zhuixu was low. Among the common folk, the common thinking was that men who had resolve or determination would not marry in. This was also why in many families, the status of a zhuixu as akin to that of a slave. Many families with daughters only thought of the male zhuixu as a worker. Of course, each family was its own unique situation. If the martial feelings were good or the zhuixu was actually skilled, he would naturally have status in the family. That would not be strange.
In the Su Family, Old Grandfather Su remembered the friendship between him and Ning Yi’s elders and actually took good care of Ning Yi. The members of the family would not openly scorn him. Su Tan Er had shown objections to this marriage but at this time, she treated Ning Yi with a harmonious attitude. Even so, if their relationship developed and became really husband and wife, it was not very likely that she would allow Ning Yi to have an intimate relationship with Xiao Chan. The three servant girls had followed Su Tan Er from childhood and in the future, Su Tan Er most likely would not be able to conduct her affairs without their help. What was more likely to happen was that she would marry them off to servants that were loyal and had a bright future in order to keep them at the Su Family for their lifetime.
Of course, this was just teasing. Ning Yi might not think of it, and the little girl naturally would not think of such complexity. Even though she was not angry, she was slightly embarrassed. At this time, she charged over with a red face and tried to find words to describe Ning Yi’s skirt-chasing conduct. At the end, she could only say, “Guye, you are a bully!”
“En.” Ning Yi nodded and shrugged. “I’m bullying you, what can you do-diba?”
“Diba … …” Chan’er blinked her eyes and then became angry. “More words that Chan’er doesn’t understand… …”
“Haha.” Along the street, Ning Yi laughed with some happiness.
When he had first come here, his mood had been pretty depressed. But after being bored for so long, his depression had gradually dissipated. He felt coming to this medieval era was to bully people. Using weiqi to bully that old scholar, now he was bullying this little it, it really was pretty interesting.
They walked like this back home. Xiao Chan jumped and skipped as she talked to him. At the beginning, she was slightly bashful and then she moved onto daily matters of life. When they reached a relatively prosperous street near the Su Family, a person suddenly came and gave a greeting, stopping the two of them in their path.
There were many people in the Su Family and they would frequently encounter people from the Su Family on this path. There were those that were willing to exchange greetings with Ning Yi and those that disdained him and did not speak. There were rare times where they would encounter Su Tan Er returning because there was a Su Clan cloth shop on this street. At this time, the male had come out of the Su Family’s cloth shop. He was just slightly more than twenty-years old, held a folded fan and looked like a romantic young master. From far away, he laughed and raised his folded hands. “Brother Ning, such a coincidence.” Then he walked over with two manservants.
It probably was someone that the past owner of this body knew. Ning Yi did not recognize him and he swept a puzzled glance. He saw Su Tan Er’s carriage was stopped on a nearby street and there was a little head that was shaking in the cloth shop. The head glanced over towards him and then the person ran inside. That was Xing’er. She saw Ning Yi and Su Tan Er and ran inside to call Su Tan Er.
The male walked near with a smile. Ning Yi did not know his name but it was easy to deal with him. He prepared to smile and give a greeting when Chan’er behind him pulled the corner of his clothing. “Guye, that is Master Xue from the Great River Clothing House.” She was slightly absentminded in her tone.
Ning Yi reacted. He had not seen this person but he had heard of this person.
He had pretended to have amnesia after coming to this era and asked about his past identity. What he had found out was a very simple life. But when the Su Family members such as Chan’er and Xing’er spoke of it, there were places that they avoided. For example, the matter of how Su Tan Er had ran away on the marriage night, and he had been hit over the head with a brick.
But even if they avoided it, after these few months, Ning Yi knew what he should know. The one that had hit him over the head with the brick was probably this Xue Jin from the Great River Clothing House. Xiao Chan’s mind was unsettled. She was probably afraid that Ning Yi was angry, do something and lose.
However, Ning Yi would not put such a complex expression on his face. At this time, he nodded and smile. “Oh, Master Xue, good day.”
His smile was natural and his attitude harmonious. Xue Jin stilled and looked at the two people following him. He then laughed. “I heard that Brother Ning had an accident on the marriage day and has some amnesia. This little brother had been there that day but had left early due to other matters. Later, this one did not have the time to visit. Really … … amnesia? Brother Ning, do you really not remember this little brother?”
Facing him, Ning Yi seemed slightly embarrassed. He gave a smile that was filled with sincere apology. “The events of before … … Brother Xue, forgive me, forgive me … … ha.”
Xue Jin looked at him with a complex and suspicious gaze. At this time, Su Tan Er had hurried out of the shop front with a furrowed brow.
 The Cheng-Zhu school is a neo-Confucian school of thought. Neo-Confucianism started in the Tang Dynasty, when women had relatively more freedom, and then prospered in the Song Dynasty.
Translator Ramblings: So loooooooooooong. At this point, Ning Yi == slacker.