Sandy's Read Receipts
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I slept deeply through the night, and when I woke up the next day, I was alone in the room.
I was laying down on the bed, still wearing the clothes from last night’s banquet. It took me a good while before I remembered what happened yesterday. The bedding covers on my side were fully draped over my body, while on the other half next to me, it was flat and neat, with no traces of being slept on.
As I sat there stunned, there was a soft knock on the door, and Ah Yuan entered.
"Where is the Eldest Young Master?" I asked.
Ah Yuan looked at me and bent over with a giggling sound.
"The Eldest Young Master went out with the Prime Minister earlier this morning." Ah Yuan winked at me suggestively, "Furen, did you want to see the Eldest Young Master when you woke up? Furen was quite drunk last night. The Eldest Young Master said that he was afraid of accidentally disturbing Furen when sleeping, so he slept in the side room."
I was astounded and stared blankly for a moment before I could clear out my head and make sense of her words.
"The Eldest Young Master slept in the side room?"
"Yes." Ah Yuan pursed her lips and smiled, "Furen, the Eldest Young Master treats you very well."
I didn't speak and instead sat on the bed distractedly for a while, before asking, "Did anyone from Mother-in-law’s side come here?"
"No, only I came by some time ago," Ah Yuan said. "But I left when I saw that Furen hadn't woken up. I decided to come back again later." I nodded, got up from the bed, and began to get dressed.
After cleaning up, I walked over to Madam Guo’s courtyard to greet her and pay my respects. When I bowed, she gazed at me with her usual expression, and said, "You can rise, Young Furen. Have you had your breakfast?"
I nodded, "I have already eaten."
Madam Guo smiled, "I heard that Young Furen got quite drunk last night. Are you okay?"
I hurried to answer her, "I drank some sobering soup last night, and I don't have a major hangover.”
Madam Guo nodded.
"Young Furen," she paused and began to speak slowly. "The Eldest Young Master and the Prime Minister were both gone on an expedition till recently, and it was not easy for them to return safely. As women, we should be more compassionate, get up earlier, and take care of all their needs. In this way, we can ensure that the Lords will have lesser worries."
She said this very kindly, but I understood the meaning behind her words. She meant that by letting Wei Tan sleep in the side room last night and by waking up so late this morning, I was negligent in serving my husband.
My brows furrowed slightly in annoyance, but I did not defend myself. Instead, I replied to Madam Guo, "This Daughter-in-law will keep Mother-in-law’s teachings in mind."
Madam Guo seemed to be quite satisfied with my attitude and smiled in response.
We were exchanging some pleasantries, when Wei Xian’s wife, along with the other nephews' wives, all brought their children to see Madam Guo. Before long, the whole courtyard became lively.
Among Wei Jue's sons, Wei Tan was the only one married. Wei Zhao had a concubine, but she was not in Yong capital. So, other than me, these nephews’ wives were the only people who could keep company with Madam Guo regularly.
Madam Guo was ecstatic to see them visit. She ordered the maids to bring in the fruits and the sweet cakes and she directed them to distribute it to everyone.
Wei Ping’s wife Zhou-shi said, “I was walking by the market today when I saw that the Lu Mansion in the north of the city was in the middle of being decorated. I heard that Duke Lu’s birthday is in two days and that he was hosting a banquet to entertain hundreds of officials.”
Madam Guo said, "Exactly. Duke Lu’s steward came this morning to invite our whole house. But the Prime Minister's affairs are very diverse. Apart from Duke Lu, several other families in the city have similarly invited us. So, we might not necessarily be attending the banquet."
Zhou-shi listened and said, "Yes, it's only a merchant's family after all. I am afraid that it is inappropriate for the Prime Minister to go."
Wei Xian’s wife, Zhu-shi, was feeding rice cakes to the children at the side. Upon hearing these words, she smiled and said, "It is said that Duke Lu is not an ordinary person. He is a well-known and rich landlord from the Huai region. He has donated huge sums of money to help renovate the temporary Imperial residence of His Majesty. But, the Huai region was invaded and plundered by rebelling bandits last month. So, he moved into Yong capital with his whole family recently.”
Madam Guo smiled. "Duke Lu is different from ordinary merchants. The Imperial court is short of money and must still rely on merchants to an extent. Do you remember the silk and muslin circulated from the Huai region a few days ago? It was supplied by Duke Lu."
When the topic shifted to silk and muslin, all the women became excited. One after another, they conversed about how exquisite the silk was and about what kind of gorgeous clothes could be made with the materials.
I sat at the side and listened with a smile. Sometimes I interjected with a sentence or two, but I was thinking of other matters.
While the rest of the world happened to be in chaos, Yong Province could be considered a relatively stable haven. This was especially due to the presence of the “Son of Heaven” and the hundreds of court officials. Every day, wealthy households from around the country moved into the city to take refuge. The only thing these people from rich families sought was stability. Duke Lu displayed his residence and arranged banquets simply as a strategy to connect with the influential officials of Yong capital. The number of people like him, with these kinds of strategies, was not small.
After returning to our courtyard, Ah Yuan closed the door and said to me with a frown, "Furen, why did Madam Guo say that to you? You visit her courtyard every morning and evening to pay your respects. You never procrastinate in any housework, and you treat everyone politely. Last night, you got drunk only because of all those toasts at the banquet, and thus, you were a little late to rise. Without any leeway, Madam Guo is intentionally making things difficult for you."
I sat on the bed and stretched out my stiff body: "What intentionally making things difficult? It's natural for her to say that."
"How is it natural?" Ah Yuan said, puzzled.
I eyed her and replied, "The first elder I met when I entered the Wei family's mansion was Madam Guo. As my Mother-in-law, she has the duty of instructing me. If there's any mistake in my behavior, my Mother-in-law would be the first person to be criticized. Others will blame her for not teaching me the correct ways."
Ah Yuan was still puzzled, "But she has never said anything to you before."
I said: "That was before, a time when the Prime Minister and the Eldest Young Master were both not at home."
Ah Yuan considered my words for a while, and then showed an expression of enlightenment.
"Madam Guo is indeed the master, to be so careful like this......", she muttered.
I smiled. It was only natural that Madam Guo would be so careful. Despite hailing from a humble background, she slowly changed her position as someone who obeyed others to become someone who gave the orders. It was only by being careful and measuring her every two words that she was able to impress a man as mighty as Wei Jue. She moved step by step, started as a concubine, and eventually became his second wife.
"It's good for you to learn this as early as possible. In the future, you must be cautious in everything, and ensure that you don’t anger the superiors." I urged.
Ah Yuan nodded in understanding. "Yes, Furen."
She was about to open the door and exit when she suddenly turned around to come back. She took out a piece of paper from her sleeve and passed it to me, "I saw this when I went to the kitchens this morning."
I took the paper and unfolded it. I immediately recognized the dense handwriting as Li Shang’s. In our discussion yesterday, we had reached an agreement about selling meat products as one of our businesses. At that time, he immediately asked Ah Huan to go to the nearby village to make discreet inquiries about all the families raising livestock. Further, Ah Huan had inquired about the initial steps of all the transactions. In his letter, Li Shang mentioned that he had already taken a fancy to a few good families. He had understood the market price of meat and was planning to begin by making a trial sale at first.
I recalled Duke Lu. There were many people like him who were anxious to make friends in the capital. I could not help but feel excited at the thought of all the potential banquets that they would arrange. I immediately fetched some paper and a writing brush to reply to the letter. I signaled Li Shang to proceed as he planned and without any misgivings.
T/N: The next part gets quite interesting lol...
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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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