Sandy's Read Receipts
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I walked up to Wei Tan and went to untie his iron body armor.
When I was still in Chang An, I had seen my older brothers playing around in iron armors. They were not difficult to comprehend. You start by taking off the belt. Then, you proceed to remove the shoulder and breastplates, and lastly, undo the last few knots.
But despite knowing this, I still encountered a hiccup right at the beginning. Wei Tan's heavy belt was inlaid with copper and gold. It was so securely fastened that despite my tugging, it still did not come undone.
A warm and callused hand suddenly covered mine.
"I'll do it." Wei Tan said. He moved my hand away, stuck his knuckles in the brass buckle, and took off the belt in two or three quick movements.
The iron armor came loose and the scales on the body clanged with the movement. Wei Tan put the belt up on the wooden rack. Then, he turned towards me and opened his arms, almost naturally.
With this motion, he signaled that I should continue.
I stretched my hand forward again to untie his shoulder and breastplates.
Those knots were easy to untie. As I removed them piece by piece, Wei Tan put them up on the wooden rack.
He had been riding outside all day, and I could smell the heavy sweat when his shirt was revealed.
Wei Tan strode to the basin with hot water and splashed his face to wash it. His actions splattered the water everywhere. Before long, he straightened up and took a towel to wipe the water from his face and neck.
The collar of his shirt was half-open, by then, wet. I went over and extended out my hand to remove his shirt.
I glanced up at the bare, strong chest, and arms before my eyes. Turning around, I soaked the towel in the basin and wiped Wei Tan's back.
The steam had left a faint glow on his skin. Under the light of the lanterns, the complexion on his neck was particularly dark but smooth. With a firm hand, I once again wiped down his back starting from his nape. Even across the towel held in the hollow of my hand, I could feel the undulations of the muscles under his skin.
"Are you getting accustomed to the family?" Wei Tan asked abruptly.
"Mother-in-law and the rest of the family have all been kind to me," I replied, choosing the words with care.
Wei Tan nodded.
"Many things have been added to this room." Wei Tan voiced again after looking around for a while.
"You are right." I replied, "Mother-in-law ordered the steward to deliver quite a lot of the things here."
The sweat was wiped off by the towel. The water vapor left a fresh and clean scent behind, adding to the faint scent of the night grass. For a moment, I stared at the skin that had reddened a little under my care before dousing the towel in the basin and wringing it out.
I moved up to Wei Tan and began to wipe his front.
It was not the first time that I was seeing Wei Tan's body, yet, my cheeks still flushed with a little heat when I caught sight of the sharp lines of his body.
In the past, I never felt that there was anything special about a man's body. Pei Qian had once changed his clothes in front of me when he was still young. At that time, he was still thin and lanky, his skin white and exquisite, like a piece of porcelain from a renowned kiln. He saw me staring and laughed lewdly. Yet, I disapproved, because women were also created the same way; men and women were no different.
Sometimes, when driving through the market in Chang An, I had seen bare-chested laborers on the side of the road. Their bodies were very different from Pei Qian, bulging with muscles. My wet nurse revealed a contemptuous look and ordered me to look away. She said that those people were rough countrymen who were born with that appearance. At that time, I learned that to look like Pei Qian, it was necessary to be born into a house with a high threshold.
But now, after looking at Wei Tan, I became confused. He was also born into a house with a high threshold, yet, he had a broad chest and strong arms like those of the burly men in the market. Also, his abdomen was not as soft as my former husband Han Guang's, but rather flat and tight. A question sprang up in my heart, shouldn't all men have a big belly...
"What?" Wei Tan's voice rang in her ears.
I raised my eyes to find him staring at me.
"..." I was taken aback, thinking about how to answer. He whispered: "Look at where your hands are wiping."
I followed his gaze and looked down, instantly mortified.
While I was lost in thought, the towel in my hand had traveled down, drenching a large area of his pants below the waist.
"Ah..." At a loss, I promptly put down the wet towel and fetched a dry cloth. But as I about to wipe the area, Wei Tan grasped my hand firmly.
"No need," he took a deep breath, only half smiling. "Go get some dry clothes."
As I stared at him, I felt the heat deepen in my cheeks. I hastily turned my head towards the trunk of clothes in response.
By the time I found the clothes, Wei Tan had already walked behind the screen. I handed them to him across the screen. After he took them, I could only hear a rustling noise from the inside. Not long after, Wei Tan walked out, his sturdy body wrapped in the hemp clothes, which were just the right size.
"What do you think?" He asked.
I was surprised: "Huh?"
Wei Tan said suggestively: "You were staring at my body."
As my face reddened, I defended: "I was not staring at your body."
Raising his eyebrows narrowly, Wei Tan asked, "Then, what were you staring at?"
I opened my mouth but was without words.
Wei Tan remained calm, looked out the window, and looked at me again: "The family banquet has not started yet. I brought back some tea from Sichuan province. What does Furen think about sharing some with me?"
Through the window, we could hear the loud chirps of the crickets outside. Indoors, the copper kettle on top of the coal stove was bubbling fiercely, letting out a cloud of white smoke.
Wei Tan and I sat opposite each other on the couch. I swept the mashed tea leaves into the copper kettle. White, greasy steam rose up and gradually diffused everywhere.
My father was obsessed with tea and would compulsively drink tea every day whenever he was free. He must make it himself, he refused to take the help of others. When I was young, my father taught me to recognize the quality of water and distinguish the colors of the tea. Further, I could tell the origin of the tea with one sip.
Yet, because I was lazy, the art of making tea was only poorly learned, so much so that my father never drank my tea. My second elder brother sarcastically claimed that if I could ever meet a man who drank my tea without protest, I should marry him decisively. I did not angry, and instead said proudly, "I don't need to meet anyone, Ah Qian is there."
"Shangyu porcelain?" Wei Tan picked up a teacup from the top of the table and suddenly said.
"Exactly so." I said, "Fujun understands porcelain?"
"I don't understand them." Wei Tan turned over to look at the bottom of the teacup: "It's written on it."
Wei Tan put down the teacup calmly: "I am a rough breed. Appreciating porcelain and chatting about all these refined intellectual activities is beyond me.
The self-proclaimed rough breed was the one who had invited me to have tea. I smiled faintly and scooped up the tea foam with a silver spoon: "A person who can appreciate porcelain and talk elegantly may not able to be a military general."
Wei Tan looked at me, his lips curling a little.
"When I was out on the expedition, the family sent me a lot of letters, letting me know of Furen's wisdom." He said, "My courtyard has been abandoned for a long time, and yet, with my return today, I can see that there is a huge difference already."
"Fujun is over-praising," I said modestly.
The tea in the kettle boiled once again. I added in the froth that I had scooped out and asked the maid to remove the coal stove. I poured the tea into two cups.
"Fujun, please try it." I put the teacup on top of the table and handed it to Wei Tan.
Wei Tan blew over the rim of the cup and took a smooth sip after a moment.
"Does it taste good?" I asked.
"Very good." Wei Tan nodded.
I smiled. My half-baked skills in tea brewing were at least enough to please my husband. Father and elder brother could rest assured.
"Did everything go well during Fujun's expedition?" I asked, taking a sip of the tea.
Wei Tan said: "It was not bad. We pacified and annexed Shandong province and Pingding county in the Central Plains." After that, he looked at me, "When I returned, the Duke of Han was still the Governor of Lai County. Also, Han Guang had taken a new bride last month."
His words stunned me.
As Wei Tan sipped tea, his nonchalant expression seemed as if he was merely speaking of what he had seen en-route.
"Is it so." After a moment, I nodded.
"I remember that Furen was married off to Laiyang when you were fifteen," he said.
"Exactly so," I replied.
Wei Tan's eyes half-closed as if he was savoring the sweet aroma of the tea. "I remember that up until the Dragon Boat Festival, Chang An was still peaceful."
I was a little surprised: "Fujun still remembers that?"
Wei Tan gave a shallow smile: "I was also in Chang An at that time. Who doesn't know about Furen's marriage from the palace?"
I thought about it and nodded.
"It seems that a long time has passed." Wei Tan said.
"Well, it's been five years." I scooped up the tea foam from the kettle and added it to each cup.
I was a little annoyed. Not that it was taboo to mention the past, they were no secrets anyway. But I did not like Wei Tan's blunt way of mentioning it.
"Now that Furen has entered the doorway of the Wei family, you don't need to worry about the past." Wei Tan did not seem to have any intention to go on and put down the teacup.
I smiled faintly: "I respectfully assent."
SRR: I will try to mostly stick to ChubbyCheeksThoughts' terminology. This is to ensure a smooth transition. But I've decided to change Fu Jin's way of calling Wei Tan "Husband" to "Fujun" because we are using "Furen" for her. Other than that, for the rest of the family members, I'm using the translated terms instead of the original Chinese terms.
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Beginning as an avid reader, I am translating novels with the help of machine translation and online dictionaries.
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