As for Long Er, he had no idea that Ju Mu’er had such long-winded thoughts. On his part, as he waited for the wedding date to draw closer, he continued to keep himself busy with work.
Before they could get married, there were still a lot of things that had to be settled. Those pieces of ceremonial embroidery, the bridal sedan chair and the wedding outfits, the dishes and menu for the wedding banquet, not to mention the interior decoration of the main hall, as well as the various purchases that had yet to be made etc...
Just the pieces of auspicious embroidery and wedding outfits that were needed filled up almost three pages of paper, added together with the hotchpotch of other items, for everything that needed to be prepared for this marriage ceremony, all in all it was more than enough to fill an entire volume.
Long Er was absolutely set on having the wedding ceremony as grand as possible, he wanted everything they used to be the best of the best and even the guest list was a full ten pages. To say nothing of how all of this positively wore out mómo Yu, and how it also successfully turned the entire Long Residence upside down.
Why did the marriage have to be grand? Because even though Long Er was getting married, he still did not mean to forget to earn some money from it.
The general understanding was that the more guests were invited, then the amount of wedding gifts and money that would be received would also be greater. The grander the scale of the wedding, then etiquette would force the guests to give even more dignified gifts. Just calculating all of it mentally, he knew that it would be a definite profit.
All of this had been calculated by Long Er from way before, the tips for the matchmakers, the various expenditures needed for the wedding ceremony, he wanted to earn it all back, that was the only way his heart and mind would be at ease.
Long Er had not seen Ju Mu’er for a number of days, however he felt that he had an open and fair chance this time, he planned on using the reason of how before marriage, there was a practice where the soon-to-be-married couple would go to the temple to seek blessings. He would accompany Ju Mu’er to offer incense together, and not a single person could find fault with this reason.
The seeking of blessings by prospective brides and bridegrooms were a very important part of pre-wedding customs, and because it coincidentally was around the transition into the new year, so mómo Yu set the date for it, and the custom of burning incense and seeking blessings was set to be completed two days before the wedding date.
Long Er took note of the date and had all other work affairs cleared, but suddenly mómo Yu came to tell him that one of the rules for this custom of seeking blessings, was that the bride and groom had to do it on separate days, Ju Mu’er had to go to the Fu Ling Temple a day before he did.
This left poor Long Er quite dispirited, both mómo Yu and Old Father Ju were preventing them from seeing each other, keeping an ever tighter watch over him and Mu’er.
During one of the lonely nights, poor Long Er was feeling very out of spirits, he could not help but think that if Mu’er was here, she would definitely be able to say something to get him out of the dumps. However, upon thinking about the numerous reminders and limits the two oldies had set for them, the suffocating melancholy in his heart grew even stronger. Rebelliously he thought to himself, if they really did push his buttons, then he dared to climb over the wall, and then he’d like to see who would dare to control him.
That day, Long Er had retained control of himself and did not go, but very quickly, he actually did clamber over a wall to go and see his Mu’er.
The incident was caused by Ding Yanshan’s bullying of Ju Mu’er.
Before this, if Ding Yanshan bullied Ju Mu’er then he—Master Long Er, would have been sure to witness her being made a fool of, but times were different now, and at present, if anyone dared to bully Ju Mu’er again, then Master Long Er was sure to be extremely angry.
During that period of time, Ju Mu’er had been extremely obedient and stayed at home. However, one day, Qian Jiangyi showed up, he was there to return the borrowed qin-music scores. Upon noticing that there was no one around, he began to pester Ju Mu’er about whether or not she could remember the songs that the Qin-sage Shi Boyin had played before his death.
Ju Mu’er shook her head, explaining that the song had been extraordinary, lengthy, complicated and truly a challenge to remember. Not to mention that two years had already passed, it made it even harder to remember things clearly.
Qian Jiangyi let out a sigh, “Back then, Elder Brother Yibai led a few of us, with the intention of recording the music score, but unfortunately he left us early, and the music score was never successfully recorded, so it really will become something of a rarity in the world of music.”
Ju Mu’er lowered her head, echoing his sigh, before lightly replying, “This truly is a pity.”
The Elder Brother Yibai that Qian Jiangyi was talking about was called Hua Yibai, the most outstanding amongst their group of qin-masters. On the day of Shi Boyin’s Execution Qin Recital, after it was over, a number of the qin-masters seemed to have heard the mysteriousness of the qin music, and had gathered together to discuss this.
The song that Shi Boyin had played was lengthy, and consisted of the interweaving of numerous songs together, everyone assumed that the underlying meaning was one of having an injustice set upon oneself. And hiding behind the message of facing an injustice, was something no one had ever heard before—an ingenious song, something out of the ordinary.
At the time, Shi Boyin was revered like an immortal amongst the crowd of qin-masters, with multitudes who respected and admired him. Everyone wanted to be able to make his acquaintance, and if they were so lucky as to get a few tips or pieces of advice from him, then they would gladly have their life end then and there. Such a character he was, to eventually be faced with an unjust death, all the qin-masters could not help but feel a common sense of outrage.
However, this case had been strictly investigated by the Ministry of Justice, with the Emperor personally overseeing the investigation. Either way the retrial of such a case could never be achieved by their commoner-qin-master-selves, of mere speculations that arose from listening to one song. Thus, Hua Baiyi had suggested that they ought to record the entirety of the songs that Master Shi had played during his Execution Qin Recital, including the one claiming an injustice was being wrought upon him as well as the ending song of unparalleled uniqueness.
Due to the fact that Ju Mu’er was a young girl, and her character was low-profile, she had never attended any of these gatherings of male qin-masters. Furthermore, at the time she was preparing to be married to Chen Liangze, and would have had to avoid arousing any suspicion about her character and morals, so she rarely went outside.
Still, as for the intention of claiming an injustice during the Execution Qin Recital, Ju Mu’er too had been able to understand it. Even though she was a woman, but she also possessed a heart of chivalry, if the Qin-sage truly were to have died in vain, then her heart would not be calm in the face of this. That day, she had been pondering about what she could do, when Hua Yibai surreptitiously came to see her.
Overturning an injustice was no small task, and it usually involved various sensitive relationships and people. Thus, Hua Yibai had limited this task to a few qin-masters—to ruminate over, and had kept this a secret from the rest. Hua Yibai and Ju Mu’er had had some dealings with each other before this, and ordinarily the two of them would learn from each other, and discuss the art of qin. He was well aware of Ju Mu’er’s capabilities, so he had come specifically because he hoped that Ju Mu’er might be able to lend him a hand this time. After their discussion, it seemed apparent that their perspective on the entire song of claiming an injustice was quite similar.
Thus, the matter seemed settled. However, the instance of ladies discussing things was not considered decent behaviour of a lady, much less the discussion of such an extraordinary matter. Not to mention, the fact that male qin-masters usually do not think highly of female qin-masters, seeing ladies who play the qin, merely as sellers of the art, while men who scrutinize the qin are considered true scholars. Hua Yibai himself was quite laid back, but he was also mindful of the negative tendencies of those qin-masters. Thus, in order to prevent bringing Ju Mu’er any trouble, he promised Ju Mu’er that he would never inform outsiders that she had been a part of this.
At the time, Ju Mu’er had been filled with passionate drive, and piece by piece, she tried to recall everything, spending days and nights noting down this qin-music score. She secretly passed everything she had recorded down to Hua Yibai, and he cross-checked it with the things that he and the others had taken down, and they eventually managed to successfully compile the first half of the qin-music score.
Although the first half of the claiming-of-an-injustice was composed of numerous portions of qin-songs twisted together, these portions were all songs that everyone had heard of before, so they were quite clear in their memory. But, as for the peerless qin song that appeared much later, because it was everyone’s first time listening to it, not much was taken down.
Hua Yibai had most of his hopes pinned on Ju Mu’er, but at the time, Ju Mu’er was pretty much incapable of continuing any writing of qin-music scores. This was because her eyes were worsening day by day, still, she had promised Hua Yibai that once her eyes got better, then she would try to take down the back-half of the qin-music score.
Alas, unexpectedly, her eyes did not get any better, and as for Hua Yibai, he ended up drunkenly falling into a river and drowning. After Hua Yibai’s death, the other qin-masters seemed directionless, as though the backbone of the group had disappeared. Thus, their task did not see any progress, and slowly some of them began to fear their actions might somehow offend the Imperial Family. Some also suggested that perhaps things were not as they thought, so with all this added together to the innate human nature of being unable to withstand too much pressure, in the end, everyone went their separate ways, and gradually, no one else brought this up again.
And Ju Mu’er’s eyes were also unable to be treated, and she ended up blind.
“Young Lady Ju.” Qian Jiangyi’s voice instantly pulled Ju Mu’er back from her trip down memory lane, “That day, Elder Brother Yibai led us as we slaved over taking down the qin-song that Master Shi played before he passed, and we only had one song that we had not finished recording, the peerless unmatched qin-song. This music score is essential to helping Master Shi regain his innocence, and if you have made any notes, Young Lady Ju, you must tell us. Elder Brother Yibai left us early, but we should still continue, so we won’t let his wishes be in vain.”
Ju Mu’er lightly shook her head, “I truly regret that I cannot help.”
Qian Jiangyi sighed but continued, “Truthfully, the reason why I’m bringing this up now, is because I recently heard something. And I think that this something is somehow related to the unjust case of Master Shi.”
Ju Mu’er did not say anything, Qian Jiangyi lowered his voice and continued to say, “Word has it that inside the qin-music score of the song that no one can remember or play, there is a Secret Martial Arts Techniques Record hidden inside it. And the content of this Record is inside the qin-music score.”
Ju Mu’er felt her heart skip a beat, with this kind of rumour spreading, it was highly likely that those insatiable members of the martial forest would go crazy over this ba. And as a result, whoever held the qin-music score would also be holding a ticking time bomb.
Ju Mu’er could not really immediately make out the inner workings behind these bits of information, but she faintly smiled and answered, “A Secret Martial Arts Techniques Record? This seems quite intriguing, I wonder what kind of an unique individual would have been able to mask martial arts techniques inside a music score.”
Qian Jiangyi replied, “I suppose we’ll never know, either way, word of this has been exchanged in secret recently, they said that it is the godly work of an unparalleled martial arts practitioner.”
Ju Mu’er let out a few chuckles, “Then it looks like the art will gradually die out, what a pity.”
Qian Jiangyi commented the same, he mentioned how pitiful it was, then casually conversed a few more lines with her before taking his leave and exited.
The second day, Lin Yueyao entrusted someone with a message for Ju Mu’er, asking her to come out to see her, claiming that she had something to discuss with her.
Lin Yueyao was Hua Yibai’s rosy-cheeked-kindred-spirit. Hua Yibai was filled with talent, but he loved to spend his days amidst the places of smoke and flowers, showing off his qin-playing skills and bathing in liquor. It was only after he met Lin Yueyao that his behaviour became more disciplined and controlled. Oftentimes, he would visit Xi Chun Hall and ask for Lin Yueyao to accompany him, and these visits could even extend to quite a number of days back-to-back. All of this information was what Ju Mu’er had learnt from the mouths of the other courtesans during the later days when she began teaching them.
T/N: "rosy-cheeked-kindred-spirit"This phrase is often used to refer to kindred spirits of the female gender. This transcends soul mates in my opinion, (and should not be mistaken for soul mates) because in Chinese understanding, such a person knows you as though they are you and vice versa. The rosy-cheeked can mean beauty (I believe possibly attributed to the rosy-cheeks women have). (红颜知己 - Hóngyán Zhījǐ)
And as for how Ju Mu’er had come to know Lin Yueyao, this only happened after Hua Yibai’s death.
At the time, Lin Yueyao had covertly come to the winery to see Ju Mu’er. She had told Ju Mu’er certain things, and it turned out that contrary to what Hua Yibai had promised—that he would not tell anyone about Ju Mu’er being involved in the writing of the music score, he had actually told Lin Yueyao about it.
Back then, Lin Yueyao had come looking for Ju Mu’er to tell her that she felt that Hua Yibai’s death was no accident. She mentioned how set she was on finding out the truth, and that she was here to ask if Ju Mu’er could help her.
Ju Mu’er agreed to help her.
And this time, Lin Yueyao had arranged to meet Ju Mu’er and the information she wanted to share was exactly the same as what Qian Jiangyi had mentioned earlier. Apparently, she had heard that the peerless qin-music score was essentially the secret records of an unparalleled martial arts practitioner’s godly work, and that was why when the Minister of Personnel had gotten hold of the music score, he had inadvertently brought upon himself his own death. Although eventually the music score had been burned to ashes during the familicide case of the Minister of Personnel, but recent rumours claimed that certain individuals were confident that before Shi Boyin’s death, he had successfully performed the qin-song, so the general consensus was that the music score was still in existence, but merely hidden in someone’s hands.
The moment Ju Mu’er finished listening to this news, she did not give any reaction. With a heavy heart, she returned home, but ran into Ding Yanshan on her way back.
As soon as she laid eyes on Ju Mu’er, Ding Yanshan felt rage descend upon her. Not only had this blind wretch bewitched Master Long Er, stealing away the ideal husband that she—Ding Yanshan had chosen, but this witch had also forced her elder sister to hang her head in shame in front of her husband. In the entirety of their marriage, this was the first time the couple had ever experienced such a cold stand-off. Who knew how many times Ding Yanxiang had cried her eyes out behind everyone’s backs. Furthermore, father had even harshly reprimanded her elder sister because of this.
For Ding Yanshan, all the resentment she felt, she attributed to Ju Mu’er’s actions.
Thus, when she saw Ju Mu’er here, it truly was as though enemies had crossed paths, and it was exceptionally enraging for her. Ding Yanshan’s explosive temper would not allow Ju Mu’er to live in peace, and she shot forward, stood right in front of Ju Mu’er and gave her a big slap. Then, she snatched away Ju Mu’er’s bamboo staff, throwing it far away from the two of them. She pointed directly towards Ju Mu’er’s nose and began to loudly curse and swear at her, calling her things like a conniving fox spirit, even saying that her shameless wish of entering the Long Family was nothing more than a daydream, and that she should wait and see what fate would befall her. After Ding Yanshan finished scolding her, she left without a second glance.
Ju Mu’er had fallen to the ground and when she finally managed to get back onto her feet she had already lost her bearings. Plus, she had no idea where her bamboo staff was, and had just been publicly shamed, so she was in a state of distress and disarray. Eventually, one of the passers-by noticed that she was blind, and kindly retrieved her bamboo staff for her, as well as pointed her in the right direction. Then only was she able to return home.
On the night of the incident itself, news of what happened soon reached Long Er’s ears, and it frustrated him to the extent that his seven holes began to emit smoke. He was so worried about Ju Mu’er so much that his worry made his liver ache, and because of this, he completely disregarded the fact that it might already be too late, and that it probably went against basic etiquette to do this, but he personally rode his horse, in secret, until he arrived at the forest behind the Ju Family’s Winery. Then, he leapt over the outer wall of the rear courtyard, and instantly made a beeline straight for Ju Mu’er’s private chambers.
T/N: "seven holes began to emit smoke"This phrase is often used to refer to a state of great fury. The seven holes refer to two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and one mouth. (七窍生烟 - Qī Qiào Shēng Yān)
A/N: This chapter has already been edited, some of the later parts of the chapter have been moved ahead, and the dialogue of Qian Jiangyi has also been modified.
End of Chapter