Thank you to mystichead! (You commissioned 11 chapters, XMAS bonus of 4)
Initially, Long Er had planned on letting the coachman send Ju Mu’er home first, while he went to personally receive Shopkeeper Lu upon his release from jail. He made sure to give the coachmen direct instructions, then told Ju Mu’er, making sure to remind her to take good care of her injuries, and assuring her that he would try his best to take some time out tomorrow and visit her.
Ju Mu’er was quick to show her understanding, and after agreeing to his arrangements, she docilely sat back down inside the horse-carriage. Long Er took a few steps back, then turned around, preparing to grab a hold of his horse’s reins.
As he began to walk away, he could not help but turn back to take one more look at her. She was seated calmly in the carriage, her bamboo crutch in her embrace and a somewhat flat expression—from where he was it seemed like a mixture of peaceful acceptance, and weirdly happiness too? Suddenly, Long Er was overcome with this feeling of extreme distance between them, it did not feel like he was sitting inside his carriage, instead, it felt like she was seated in a solemn vast hall—incense surrounding the air all around her as she played the qin, almost as if she were in a completely different plane of existence.
The coachman had walked back to the carriage by now, and soon closed the door behind him. Subsequently, Ju Mu’er was hidden from his sight.
Long Er turned around again, and walked briskly to his horse, then he turned to Li Ke who was standing beside him saying, “When you return to the residence, look for Steward Tie. Ask him to lead some of the other servants and take care of Shopkeeper Lu’s reception from jail. Accompany him home, and buy him some things for his household, to get rid of the bad luck. Remember to make arrangements for the new-year presents that we will be sending him.”
“Are you not going anymore, Second Master?”
“I’ve got some other things to deal with, I’ll go and see him later, do remember to pass on what I said to him.” As soon as Long Er finished speaking, he turned and headed straight for the carriage—calling out to the coachman as he moved, asking the latter to wait for him.
Poor Li Ke was left in a daze as he scratched his head, Second Master had something to do?
Then, he watched as Long Er pulled open the carriage door, saw the expression of surprise on Ju Mu’er’s face followed by Long Er’s nimble spring up into the carriage. He continued to stare as Long Er seemed to mutter something to Ju Mu’er, then the carriage door closed, and he could no longer see anything.
Clip-clop, clip-clop, the horse carriage slowly began to roll across the cobbled pathway… Suddenly, Li Ke felt like he experienced an epiphany. Ah! so, this is what Second Master meant when he said he had something to do!
He could not help but think to himself, I wonder what Shopkeeper Lu’s reaction would be if he knew that he ranked second in the heart of his lord, right behind a lady too, wouldn’t he be upset? Also, did this young lady even know that her ranking in his lord’s heart was now even greater than Shopkeeper Lu’s?
As the loyal, trustworthy bodyguard that he was, Li Ke solemnly declared he would hide this secret on his lord’s behalf.
Alas, elsewhere, Long Er did not even know he had a secret to keep. He had just been suddenly overcome by an extreme longing to escort Ju Mu’er home, so he had acted on these feelings.
On the journey back, the duo hardly spoke, but when they did sit together, there was no feeling of unpleasantness. The atmosphere was calm and comfortable, and Long Er’s mood was quite high.
Throughout the journey, Ju Mu’er had been trying to guess where they were at certain points in time, while Long Er was in charge of telling her the truth behind her guesses. And thus they began this activity of guessing and checking, the surprising thing of course was her ability to get 8 out of 10 correct guesses.
Long Er was hardly surprised by now whenever faced with the extraordinary abilities of a Ju Mu’er without vision, however he still was quite curious as to how she made her guesses. Ju Mu’er explained that it was because she had traveled too many times on this path, coupled with the distinct scents of different shops and her own guess about the distance. She mentioned that this was also only because she was in a carriage right now, if she were on foot, she would definitely not make any mistakes.
When she said this, there was a slight smile on her face, but Long Er ended up feeling more sorry for her, asking, “As they are now, do you still feel pain in your eyes?”
Ju Mu’er seemed fazed, “They’re alright, there usually isn’t much dancing.”
Long Er reached over to tug at her hand before continuing, “Next time, make sure you take really really good care of yourself ok?” This was said with extreme genteelness and softness, even Long Er himself was taken aback by his tone.
Ju Mu’er too was shocked too, but nodded her head in reply. One couldn’t tell if it was due to embarrassment or happiness, but she merely lowered her head, keeping her silence.
Long Er could not help but feel a sudden wave of awkwardness, how could he have uttered that sentence in such a cringe-worthy tone?! He coughed to clear his throat, then released Ju Mu’er’s hands. His face felt quite hot, and although he felt so relieved that she could not see this, he still sneakily turned his face in one direction.
After a while, the carriage finally made it to the area outside the city, Ju Mu’er was almost entirely spread across the window, and began to stretch her head and arms through the window outside. Upon seeing this, Long Er instantly began to worry over her again. He pulled her back in saying, “Don’t stay out in the wind, you still have an injury on your head, be careful because staying out in the wind might lead to bad migraines.”
Ju Mu’er meekly acquiesced, she did not even start a single quarrel, merely said, “When the weather had been better, this entire street was filled with the scent of flower fragrance, as well as the scent of grass. Just now, when I reached my hand out, I really could feel the wind too.”
What was so great about being able to feel the wind? Long Er felt like telling her—once the weather got warmer, and when he was not so busy with work, then he would bring her on horse-riding and go on a trip together. When the time comes, flowers, grass, wind—everything would be there for her to experience.
But just as the words reached the tip of his tongue, he suddenly lost the interest to speak them. Cough-cough, he had barely gotten over having been so slimy just now, he had better not continue to say such doting words to her, why on earth should he take her on a trip? Once she was married to him, then only he would begin being nicer to her...
Now, things between them were just right...
Long Er could not suppress the satisfaction he felt at his self-discipline, he had finally remembered that one could not dote on a woman too much. All one needed to do was be a little kinder to her, for if her days became too good to be true, then where the blazes would his honour and self-worth go?
Thus, Long Er’s thoughts continued in such a fashion, and in no time, they had already arrived at the Ju Family’s Winery. Hearing the commotion outside, Old Father Ju hurried out and helped his daughter down from the carriage.
Long Er intended to put on some airs today, so he made no move to get down from the carriage. All he did was to tell Ju Mu’er that he would come and see her again soon, and to Old Father Ju he mentioned that his household’s steward would be paying him a visit soon to discuss marriage matters and the date as well. Ju Mu’er and her father both acknowledged his words, then the father-daughter duo swiftly bid Long Er farewell and with linked arms, went off on their way home—with naught a backward glance at him as they discussed the capture of the murderer.
In the carriage, Long Er watched with slight discomfort as they unabashedly walked away, who was the one putting on airs now ah?
Poor Long Er, this was too bitter a pill for him to swallow! Oh how he wanted to jump down from the carriage, drag Ju Mu’er back here and enact a scene of unreserved longing as they parted! He would definitely make sure she put on an attitude of being unwilling to part from him, even better yet, she could beg him to come and see her the very next day, then she might threaten him if he did not, and only upon receiving his promise would she let him go.
Alas, he could do no such thing! Right now, he could not lose so much face!
So he brooded in the carriage for nigh half a day, until the coachman could not help but ask, “Second Master, shall we return?”
“Immediately!” He uttered while gritting his teeth.
The shoulders of the coachman visibly shrunk inwards, and he quickly waved his whip, signalling for the horse to speed up. At the back of the carriage, with quite some force, Long Er slammed the door shut, and this was accompanied by a ‘harrumph’ filled with consternation. The sound filtered out from the gap between the door, and dissipated into the air.
The next day, having gone out for some socialisation around noon, after it was over, Long Er did not return home, but instead made his way to where Ju Mu’er was.
Her actions yesterday had upset him, and he had spent the entire night thinking about her, so the minute he had some free time to himself today he decided to come and see her. Once they met, he would definitely make sure to get what she owed him.
But as to just what he meant by ‘what she owed him’, Long Er had yet to make his mind up on. As he continued to travel, his thoughts did not pause, and when he finally arrived outside the Ju Family Winery, he decided that he would get her to pour him a cup of tea, and then ask her to massage his back.
Alas, when he stepped through the doorway and told Old Father Ju that he wanted to see Ju Mu’er, he was greeted by Old Father Ju’s conflicted expression.
That lazy lady could not still be in bed now right? It was almost past noon already!
Long Er did not hold back and immediately asked this, and Old Father Ju instantly reacted saying, “No, no, Ju Mu’er got up early today, she even got up before lunch, the problem is, she told us that in the coming days, she would not be seeing anyone.”
Long Er instinctively ignored the odd way of thinking that getting up before lunch was equivalent to getting up early, and merely arched an eyebrow at this statement, before asking, “For how many days?”
Old Father Ju began to count with his fingers, answering, “It will only be around five or six days.”
Five or six days, only?
Long Er’s eyebrow rose even higher, and he forcefully added, “I can’t possibly be one of those on that list of people she won’t see. I’m her future husband ah!”
The phrase ‘future husband’, really was uttered with the utmost passion and conviction!
Yet, as soon as Long Er uttered these words, he felt a bit uneasy, the word ‘future’ really did leave one’s nerves in a wreck, he felt oddly unconfident saying it. However, who cares?! As long as he had the word ‘husband’, that was all he needed!
Old Father Ju was slightly caught off guard by this exclamation, still, he could not help but agree with Long Er. However, his daughter had specifically mentioned that Master Long Er was definitely one of the people she would not see during these few days.... And he was one who often listened to what his daughter said, but at the same time, Master Long Er was not someone he dared to offend, he definitely was not as daring as his daughter.
And so Master Long Er set off in the direction of the residence’s rear court, walking with a spring in his step as he went to meet that future wife of his—the one who had stated she would not be seeing anyone. Trailing behind him was Old Father Ju, pottering along as he thought to himself, if his daughter were to find fault with him for letting this rascal in, he would just point the blame at Second Master, and tell her that he forcefully barged his way in, he did not even have a chance at trying to stop him...
Long Er soon reached Ju Mu’er’s small courtyard, and quickly noticed the tightly shut door. He stepped forward and lightly rapped on it, Ju Mu’er’s reply was quick as she said, “Please return Second Master, I will be sure to visit Second Master at your residence after a few days.”
Harrumph, listen to this, is this the way a wife ought to speak to her husband?
Visit him? He didn’t want her silly-old-formal-visit, what he wanted was for her to start serving him some tea right now, and also for her to ease his tension by massaging his back.
Long Er continued to knock on the door, and Ju Mu’er replied, “Second Master, don’t get mad, just give me a few days, and I will surely pay you my apologies in person.”
Alas, Long Er was indeed quite miffed, and he instantly decided to rip through this facade of hers, saying, “I don’t care if you smell, just open the door!”
The minute the word ‘smell’ was uttered, a blanket of silence fell over Ju Mu’er’s room.
Still standing by the side, Old Father Ju was a picture of anxiety, as he kneaded his hands together, feebly chiming in, “Second Master, don’t be angry Second Master… Mu’er does not have a good temper, I humbly ask Second Master not to act like her…”
Doesn’t have a good temper?! Long Er got even more miffed, and yet she wanted to compete with him to see whose temper was worse?! “Dong, dong, dong”, his knuckles forcefully rapped the door.
This time, some rustling could be heard from within the house, but the sounds that came out were the “Ting ting dang dang” sounds of the qin strings being plucked. Long Er was a bit dazed by this sudden turn of events, as the sounds of the qin began to flow out, rising and falling like waves of music against their ears.
Old Father Ju too seemed quite stunned, but he recovered quickly and hastily began to explain to Long Er, “Second Master, Mu’er must be playing the qin to ease the feelings of frustration she has! She doesn’t dare to answer back to you, so don’t get angry Second Master, later I’ll be sure to scold her properly.”
Long Er had no illusion whatsoever that Old Father Ju would actually scold Ju Mu’er, nor did he believe that she was playing the qin to ease her frustration. And touching upon the issue of her not daring to do anything, he honestly felt there was hardly a thing in the world that she might not dare to do.
And this was because he understood what she was trying to say now, he had always been able to understand her, and right now, she was scolding him! She was calling him a cow!
Pray tell, who did not know that Master Long Er was musically illiterate?! He had just called her smelly, and now she was playing the qin for him, he was fully aware that what she really meant to say was ‘playing the qin to a cow’ ma...
Long Er gave a loud harrumph and with a swish of both his sleeves, departed from there.
Upon returning to his residence, Long Er’s mind was still in turmoil, he could not quietly swallow this bitter pill! This devious minx really was too much! She wouldn’t see him, and even dared to use her qin-playing to poke fun at him! All he said was that she was ‘smelly’ ma… Who would have known she’d be so spiteful about it?
And thus Long Er continued to grow even more frustrated at himself, until mómo Yu came looking for him.
These past two days, mómo Yu had been busy preparing all that was necessary for Second Master’s marriage. She had even approached the matchmaker to discuss the ‘Three Letters and Six Rites’, she had been planning on having the matchmaker visit Ju Mu’er at her home to conduct the formal proposal (nà cǎi), and exchange the eight characters of the prospective bride (wèn míng).
However, the instant the matchmaker heard that this was concerning the Young Lady Ju from the Ju Family Winery situated on the Southern outskirts of the city, she instantly paled. Initially she had been reluctant to speak out about just why her expression had changed, but after the constant badgering from mómo Yu, the matchmaker gave in and told her all about the rumours she knew of.
Upon hearing this mómo Yu began to feel more worried, because usually, whenever matchmakers attempted to make a match, they would rarely talk about the negative aspects of the prospective brides, only the good things. So for this matchmaker to say such things about her, could it be that this young lady truly was a bit of a problem?
Alas, mómo Yu’s heart began to fill with anxiety, and she continued to keep an ear out for matters about Ju Mu’er, and to her dismay, all the information she received was almost identical to what the matchmaker had told her! About how there was a reason as to why Ju Mu’er was over 20 yet still unmarried. She had been part of a betrothal contract from young, but had been too engrossed in the qin and grew reluctant of marriage. Her temper became wilful and stubborn, then she had grown somewhat manic, and eventually lost her sight. This was followed by her refusal to fulfill the betrothal contract, all the chaos she caused. Not to mention that she had actually attempted to seduce the married Yun Qingxian, but his legal wife had prevented her from entering his household, so she had turned to seducing Master Long Er.
Numerous people were telling her to be wary of this person—saying that she had unmatched feminine wiles—and the news of this did make mómo Yu’s heart tremble.
Thus, mómo Yu made up her mind, she would have to meet the Second Master, and have a proper talk about this.
End of Chapter
Chinese pre-wedding customs are traditional Chinese rituals prescribed by the Book of Rites, the Book of Etiquette and Ceremonial and the Bai Hu Tong condensed into a series of rituals now known as the Three Letters and Six Rites. Traditionally speaking, a wedding that incorporates all 6 rites is considered a complete wedding.
The six traditional rites involved in a Chinese wedding are as follows:
- formal proposal 纳采 (nà cǎi)
- giving of the eight characters of prospective bride to the groom’s side 问名(wèn míng)
- placement of the eight characters at the ancestral altar to confirm compatibility 纳吉 (nà jí)
- sending of betrothal gifts to the bride and return gifts to the prospective groom 纳征 (nà zhēng)
- selection of an auspicious wedding date 请期 (qǐng qī)
- wedding ceremony 亲迎 (qīn yíng)