Sandy's Read Receipts
Translations, Reviews and Other Written Worlds
I hid behind the wall and listened to Wei Tan's low voice, full of consoling words. Concubine Xu continued sobbing, and before long, Wei Tan's figure headed out of the garden, while she still kneeled on the ground, wiping her tears.
I stood there, frozen, before realizing it was inappropriate to linger, and I ambled away.
My heart wasn't without sympathy. I had discovered from the old Residence's Steward that after Wei Jue traveled to Yong Capital, he never returned. Before winter, the rest of the family had followed him, except a few guards and Concubine Xu. I understood her desperation—after Wei Tan leaves tomorrow; it was unknown when this mansion would welcome its owner again. If I were her, I might have begged for help too, regardless of the slight chance.
I thought of Wei Zhao, the primary instigator of this matter. He had only one concubine, yet neglected her. So much that she resorted to begging another master. He appeared so elegant usually, but it turned out he was also fickle.
"That's how men are......," I suddenly recalled Ruo Chan's words, when she helplessly told me, "...... They are hot and bothered when they want to find you. When you wish to keep them, they don't know what to do anymore......"
I returned to the courtyard with my mind caught in this mess, meeting Wei Tan just as I entered the door.
"Where did you go?" He frowned, "I couldn't find you anywhere."
"I strolled around the mansion to check if the trip's supplies were ready."
"Oh?" He peered at me, his eyes flashing, "Where did you check, Furen? Did you check the West?"
I froze, realizing that he was referring to where those beauties lived.
"I did," I followed his words and frowned, "You want to share those beauties with your Generals, Fujun?"
"Yes." He smiled, "I have a few officers with high morals. But since they followed me to the battlegrounds for many years, they couldn't marry. These women come from good families, so they are a perfect match." He looked at me and raised his eyebrows, "Are you unwilling, Furen?"
I was extremely willing. But I still had to show a virtuous and regretful expression: "I wouldn't dare, Fujun. But since you wanted to keep them earlier, I thought I could take a few as my maidservants, so that they could also serve you in the future."
"Is that so?" He stroked his chin, looking thoughtful, "You have a point—I take it back. The five beauties are okay; when they are free, one brews tea, one recites books, one wipes the body, one combs the hair, and one puts out the lamp......"
I assumed that since we start our journey tomorrow, Wei Tan wouldn't mess around tonight save energy.
But I guessed wrong. Like an insatiable Taotie, he kept telling me "Again". When I woke up at dawn, the gap between my legs was sore. I balled up on the bed, unwilling to move. He, who had worked much harder than I did, seemed normal, dressed and staring at my still reclining form. The corner of his lips curved, "This husband will help you dress, Furen."
How would I agree to that? I shrank under the quilt to dodge his hands. We entangled for a while, and more red spots appeared on my neck. After putting on my clothes with great strain, he offered to carry me to the carriage. Angry, I grabbed the pillow and threw it at him just as he sauntered away.
After breakfast, a long queue of carriages and horses exited the old Residence, heading towards the city gates.
The seat cushion in my carriage was thicker than when I broke my foot—the work of someone with a guilty conscience.
"Furen, it's not chilly yet. Why have you wrapped your collar so tightly?" A'Yuan blushed and snickered.
Wei Tan wasn't discreet, and even my maid dared to tease her master. I was so annoyed that I reached out to tickle her, something she feared since childhood. She kept begging for mercy in between bursts of laughter for a long time before I stopped.
After fooling around, we got down to business: Li Shang's reply had finally arrived two days ago. He, Gongyang Gui, and Li Huan had returned to Yong Capital safe and sound. He had found the Southern medicine dealers he used to trade with earlier. Fortunately, the war hadn't affected them too much.
The letter was brief, but just knowing that they had returned safely satisfied me. Determined to resume his old trade, Li Shang had the drive, and I naturally supported him. But his idea of opening a pharmacy in Yong Capital concerned me.
My relationship with Li Shang wasn't secret, at least not in Wei Mansion—anyone curious just had to dig around to find out. Li Shang's pharmacy aim was to attract the high-ranking officials and nobles of Yong Capital. It will inevitably lead to many exchanges. Not that I wanted to save my name or hide that the Fu Clan's former Steward had picked up trading. But as his backer, his opening the store exposes my business relationship with him to the public, something more harmful than helpful.
I pondered, "A'Yuan, can we find another person to open the store? Keep Steward Li as a hidden owner."
She understood my thinking, "I agree. Let's discuss it with my Father after we return to Yong Capital."
I wasn't great with directions. After we left Luoyang, whether Wei Tan headed East, West, North, or South, all were the same for me. Yet, five days later, I froze in surprise when I recognized the crisscrossing mountains and countryside fields in front of me.
Wei Tan instructed his servant, "We'll rest in Shangzhou tonight. Tomorrow, we pack lightly and head to Shangnan County."
The servant withdrew after responding.
"Shangnan County?" Puzzled, I asked Wei Tan, "Why are we going to Shangnan County?"
He smiled, "I want to follow Emperor Hui's example and visit a sage in the mountains. Will you join me, Furen?"
I didn't know which sage he meant, but this rare trip was better than staying in the lodging house. So, after a night's rest, I boarded the carriage and followed Wei Tan's group to Shangnan County.
The mountain roads were hard to travel. Although we managed to drive the carriages up, the bumpy roads slowed us a lot.
We set off early morning and finally, by late afternoon, I heard the guide say, "Eldest Young Master, we're here!" I looked out and saw green hills and trees, surrounded by streams. A bridge, barely wide enough for a man and cattle, spanned the stream, leading into a verdant bamboo forest.
I took in my surroundings; the quiet and scenic place was perfect for living in seclusion.
Since we couldn't cross the bridge by carriage, Wei Tan simply abandoned the carriage and horses, leaving his men behind to guard them.
Intrigued by the bridge, Wei An stared at it and asked Wei Tan, "Brother, didn't you say hermits live in seclusion because they hope people will visit them?"
Hearing this, I couldn't help but cough out the water I had just drunk from the water bladder.
Wei Tan, this military man, behaved like a rogue and spoke so crudely. How many scholars dreamed of living in the mountains, indifferent to worldly affairs? Only he could twist such a refined lifestyle's meaning.
"Hmm?" He shot me a half-smile and asked Wei An, "Did I say that?"
"Yes," Wei An replied with certainty, and continued, "But why don't they build a wider bridge since they are always waiting for people? More people can visit if they can travel by carriages and horses."
Wei Tan smiled but said nothing. He patted Wei An's shoulder, but turned to look at me: "Does it matter to you, Furen?"
I shook my head, "No."
Wei Tan briefed the men who would stay behind and led us to the bamboo forest.
Wei An was right. If this hermit was waiting for someone to visit, he lacked sincerity. Unused for a long time, the wooden bridge wobbled. Visible through the cracks in the bridge's deck, the turbulent stream surged.
When I swayed in an unstable section, Wei Tan turned around, tugged my hand, and continued to walk forward.
His warm and strong hand didn't release mine even after we crossed the bridge. Seeing only two or three attendants around us, I let him have his way.
"Who is this sage that you want to visit, Fujun?" I couldn't help but ask as I stared at the dense bamboo forest ahead of us, feeling the fresh breeze brush my face.
"Have you heard of Master Yun Shi, Furen?"
I froze: "Lord Sun Ren?"
Wei Tan nodded: "You are right."
I was a little surprised. Of course, I knew of Lord Sun Ren. Born in Shanyang, he had become famous for his writing and speeches at a young age. He studied as an apprentice under a master and gained extensive knowledge. He served as an academician in the Imperial Court for over 20 years. After he turned 60, he left Chang'An, called himself Master Yun Shi, and traveled around the world as a famous scholar. My father held him in high esteem, and my family collected the scriptures and histories written by his hand.
"I heard his whereabouts were unknown. I didn't expect him to seclude himself here."
He smiled faintly, "Everyone's whereabouts are erratic these days. A hermit living in a stable place is rare."
Barbarian! I asked out loud, "Are you paying Master Yun Shi a visit to invite him to come out of seclusion, Fujun?"
"He is over 70 years old. I'm afraid he can't walk these mountain roads even if he comes out of seclusion. I'm visiting him to ask for advice."
"Right," I laughed, thinking he was joking.
We came upon a house a hundred steps into the bamboo forest. Its thatched roof rested on mud walls, and a bamboo fence surrounded its four sides.
I heard someone playing the zither. The smooth and relaxing music completed this secluded place's charm.
When one of our attendants knocked on the wood door a few times, the zither's sound halted. Before long, a boy came out.
"Who is it?" He asked, standing guard at the door and surveying us.
Wei Tan told his attendant to retreat, stepped forward to the boy, and cupped his hands in greeting: "Wei Tan of Hexi, here to pay my respects to Master Yun Shi."
The boy gazed at him, before staring at us behind him, "And they?"
"They are my wife, my brother, and our attendants."
The boy frowned, "Master doesn't have enough teacups for so many, wait......"
"Who is it, Qingming?" An unhurried voice emerged from inside the main hall.
The boy turned around and replied, "Wei Tan of Hexi, and his wife, and brother, and......"
"So they are noble guests," the voice contained a smile, "Quick, Qingming, open the door."
The boy agreed, opened the wood door, and bowed to us, "Come in, please."
Wei Tan smiled, instructed the attendants to wait outside, and led Wei An and me inside the house.
Green grass, lush flowers, and trees, bounding a neat white sand path greeted us when we entered the courtyard. Tea steam curled up towards the thatched roof, and two people were playing a game of chess.
Without a doubt, the man with the white hair and emaciated body was the Whitehead, Master Yun Shi. Opposite him sat a youth with a fair face and a focused expression, his side profile showing a composed aura.
The boy brought us to the front of the hall, but without announcing our presence or speaking, he took off his shoes and walked into the hall. He took the zither beside the two men, placed it on his lap, and continued to play.
As the zither's sound drew out, the two concentrated on their game, and we waited in silence.
My father once said that most famous hermits were aloof and that visitors, regardless of their status, always encountered a few intimidation tactics. At last, I experienced it firsthand. When I glanced at Wei Tan, he looked calm, staring at the thatched hall, seeming to enjoy the music and their game.
An hour later, the Master sighed aloud, clapped his palms, and laughed: "This old man has lost again. In the end, I'm inferior to the youngster."
The man opposite him bowed to him, his voice limpid: "I, Ting, admire the depth of your chess skills, Master."
The Master stroked his beard and shook his head. Suddenly, he twisted his head and rose with a smile, as if he had just spotted us.
"This old man was so greedy for chess that I forgot I had visitors..... I was rude, I was rude." He stepped out to the hall's front and greeted Wei Tan.
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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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