Chapter 11: Fifth Husband’s Son
时辰 | sichen | time system comprising of 12 two-hour periods of the day; one sichen is the equivalent of two modern hours
儿 | er | (lit. child) diminutive marker used as a form of endearment
 江湖 | jianghu | community of martial artists
When Ruan Zhu woke, one sichen had already passed. Yun Shi Wei was not present. There was only Yun Shi Yi, who still held her in his arms. Seeing her awake, he exposed a knowing smile and instructed the servants to bring water for her to wash her face with while he personally attended to her.
Ruan Zhu sprayed herself with a dipterocarp[a] fragrance, used toothpaste made from frankincense[b] and salt to brush her teeth, and applied a layer of tuckahoe[c] cream to her cheeks.
Like last time, Yun Shi Yi helped comb her hair into a zhuimaji and inserted a unique gold buyao. Coupled with the exquisite face, bright eyes and white teeth, willow-like eyebrows, and a countenance like a Confederate rose, it caused even the winter jasmine in the courtyard to lose their color.
芙蓉 | Confederate rose
迎春花 | Winter Jasmine (Wikipedia)
Due to the weather in March being a little hotter, she wore a milky white chest band and matching trousers as inner clothes. Her outer clothing consisted of a pale rose-colored soft smoke gauze long skirt with conjoined sleeves embroidered with a hundred delicate butterflies.
“This piece of soft smoke gauze came from Mother’s trustor, who paid a large price to have it sent from Jiangnan Province’s weaving workshop. Reportedly, soft smoke gauze is a tribute to the imperial family so it is extremely hard to find in the market. For most families, even if they spent a great deal of money, they still might not be able to buy half a bolt of this material. Mother only obtained two bolts and made two skirts from them. This one is for you. Other people are not even qualified to touch it.”
“Mother is indeed benevolent.” Ruan Zhu felt grateful from the bottom of her heart. In her previous world, she had lost her mother early and was estranged from her father. Her relatives treated her coolly for the most part. Since childhood, she had constantly experienced the hypocrisy of the world. Every time she had witnessed other children her own age being led by their parents to go shopping or to go eat, she had felt incessantly envious.
With the help of Yun Shi Yi, she was finally ready. Looking at herself in the mirror, she slowly walked back and forth for a while and felt that she had a refined appearance with an elegant and pure air about her. She was really quite pleased with her current self.
Ruan Zhu had read 《Dream of the Red Chamber》 before so knew about the properties of soft smoke gauze. It has a vivid color and a soft, delicate texture. From afar, it looks just like smoke, which is why it is called ‘soft smoke gauze’. This sort of pale rose color is also known as ‘sunset reflection muslin’. In the fortieth chapter, when Matriarch Jia let Sister Feng take out the soft smoke gauze from the cabinet, even Aunt Xue and Sister Feng were in awe and exclaimed that they had never seen such an exquisite fabric before. However, Matriarch Jia had said it would not be suitable to be made into clothes but instead would be good for a window screen.[d]
That was because the soft smoke gauze was too transparent. A female wearing it would expose the outline of her figure, showing off unspeakable temptation. Using her previous world’s language, it would be called ‘see-through clothing’. If Little Sister Lin and Elder Sister Bao were to wear this, she estimated that they would not be able to marry in their lifetime.[e]
Tian Chu’s customs were more relaxed than China’s historical Tang dynasty. The clothing that a woman wore revealed the trends of the current time and also was a type of cultural reflection.
“My family’s wife is the best.” Yun Shi Yi was stunned by the sight before him and rained down kiss after kiss on her head. Picking up a silk circular fan embroidered with flora, he placed it in her little hand while reciting: “Golden embroidery hides its affections, yet not of the South’s skilled weave. Snow ray wisps wind across the slippery handle, silver bamboo spread to reveal gentle flowers.”
Examples of circular fans | 丝质团扇
Ruan Zhu fanned the circular fan in her hand twice and smiled sweetly: “Cool breeze raised towards morning’s garment, see the bright moon through jade hands. Still early and not yet abandoned, each wave is bittersweet reminiscence of the first meeting.”[f]
“Wife, the two of us truly are in harmony, a match made in heaven.” Yun Shi Yi smiled. Placing his arm around her waist, he supported her outside.
“Eldest Cousin is well-versed in literature and the military with a handsome appearance. It’s Younger Sister that admires you!”
Ruan Zhu chose words to make him happy. Inside, she was thinking: This poem was written in the Tang dynasty so for it to appear in this world, it can’t be considered a coincidence. There must be some kind of connection and perhaps the country of Tian Chu was created as a result of a space-time distortion in some dynasty after the Tang dynasty. She really needed to find a book detailing this world’s history otherwise one day she might accidentally “create” a poem that already existed in this world. If that occurred, she would be mocked by others for plagiarism and her reputation would be ruined.
“Wife is not inferior!” Yun Shi Yi smiled again, his eyes filled with doting. The two of them walked side by side out of Wutong Building.
They had only recently married and according to the regulations, should eat with the parents. Although it was past the time for the morning meal, it was also good to make an appearance.
Arriving at the Ruyi Pavilion where Master Yun and Madam Yun resided in, they saw Fifth Husband Zhao kneeling in the courtyard. As they were about to stop and inquire about the situation, bed warmers Lou Yun and Cai Yue just so happened to come out and see them. They welcomed the two young masters into the main hall and served them the already prepared dishes.
“Where is the Master and Madam? What is the situation with Fifth Father in the courtyard?” Yun Shi Yi pushed a few delicious dishes towards his wife and shot a glance at Lou Yun. Lou Yun and Cai Yue were part of Madam Yun’s dowry. Because she was concerned about Master Yun’s feelings, she neither gave them a title nor birthed them children even though they were bed warmers. They were already old males of thirty five or thirty six years old but calling them ‘bachelors’ was not quite correct either. Madam Yun had thought about finding them another household for their sake, but the two of them had proclaimed that Yun family was their home, saying they were willing to attend to their madam for a lifetime. Fortunately, Madam Yun did not slight them and every month, would call them over a few times to spend the night.
Ruan Zhu ate the food that Lou Yun served. There was a delicious tasting rice porridge with bamboo shoots, chicken feet, mushrooms, and gingko nuts as ingredients. Not only was the meal nutritious, the ingredients also had medicinal properties. The wealthy families of the ancient era really attached importance to knowing what foods were good to maintain good health.
While she ate, she kept her elegant bearing lest Yun Shi Yi became humiliated as a result of her actions.
Lou Yun hesitated for a bit before opening his mouth: “Master and Madam wanted to go oversee the field plowing but the servants passed a message saying Fifth Husband Zhao’s son......” When he speaks, Lou Yun often trails off halfway, in fear that voicing out others’ offenses would provoke them to quarrel with him.
“That’s right, why is Fifth Father kneeling in the courtyard? And which little brother is it that’s involved?”
Fifth Father’s surname is Zhao. He is Madam Yun’s fifth secondary husband and has three sons that are triplets. His children are all over ten years old now, but after Madam
Yun gave birth to Fifth Husband Zhao’s children, she never stepped foot in his courtyard again. The attitude with which she uses when they normally meet is also not that good.
The wives of Tian Chu do not take care of lazy men. Other than the legitimate husband, all secondary husbands have jobs that can support themselves. For example, the Yun family’s Second Husband manages several large stores within Lan Zhou’s city walls. Third Husband opened up over ten shops that sold only rice and other beans. Fourth Husband does not have considerable talents so Madam Yun passed the management duties of Yun manor to him to manage. Fifth Husband had the least favor and Madam Yun pushed aside ten or so fields for him to plant.
Ruan Zhu thought about what the two brothers had told her these past few days regarding family affairs and and also considered what little information remained in her head. This world’s secondary husbands all worked as if their life depended on it yet outside of their wages, everything else they earn is considered as belonging to the wife. The life of a concubine was really shitty. Luckily, she didn’t cross over into a male.
Yun Shi Yi saw that Lou Yun didn’t dare continue speaking and pointed a finger at Cai Yue: “You say it.”
Cai Yue bowed: “Before Fifth Husband Zhao entered our residence, he reportedly fooled around with a wealthy woman surnamed Zheng and had a child named Hai’er. However, Lady Zheng disdained him for not having any property so after she got tired of him, she paid no more attention to him. Fifth Husband Zhao painstakingly raised Hai’er until he was seven or eight before sending him to Lady Zheng’s residence. She had no choice but to let the child stay. But surnamed Zheng had numerous children and all of her husbands and children looked down on Hai’er. Lady Zheng is also very hateful, telling Hai’er to work in the residence. Even the servants lived with more dignity than him. Hai’er suffered greatly. With great difficulty, he grew up and was not willing to be abused any longer so one night, he ran away. He begged for food as he traveled several thousand li from the southern regions to come to Lan Zhou in search of his biological father. I heard that last night he finally arrived at Yun manor. Fifth Husband Zhao ran over to Ruyi Pavilion at the wee hours of morning to kneel here, just to plead Master and Madam to shelter Hai’er.”
“What did Master and Madam say?”
“Master said it was up to the Madam. Madam did not say anything. After eating, she left with Master to oversee the tenant farmers sowing seeds.”
Yun Shi Yi did not express his opinion on the matter. All of Yun family’s secondary husbands had some talent but competed fiercely with each other behind each other’s backs. I follow, you make a ruckus; you follow, I make a ruckus. No one gave in to each other as they all wanted to receive their wife’s favor. Only Fifth Husband Zhao was wordless and silent[g]. After finishing his duties, he would hide in his courtyard to supervise his sons’ literary and martial arts schooling.
Thus, Yun Shi Yi’s impression of Fifth Husband Zhao was not bad.
“How big is Hai’er this year?” Ruan Zhu was baffled. Didn’t people from the ancient periods mature early? After growing into an adult, he didn’t rely on himself to survive but instead ran to complain to his father. This really made it hard for others to sympathize.
“Should be twenty-four or twenty-five!” Cai Yue understand the meaning of the eldest lady’s words. He sighed: “When Hai’er passed through Liu Province, he was grabbed by the authorities who wanted able-bodied men to fix the river dike. Unexpectedly, while pulling a stone cart, he injured his leg and the one in charge threw him only half a tael as compensation. Hai’er is really pitiful, having to drag a wounded leg from a distant land to come to Lan Zhou. Last night he entered the residence after delivering a notice. Everyone saw a man with messy hair and a dirty face, wearing rags while walking with a limp. Even the roadside beggars looked to be a little better than him.”
This was the ancient era with no trains or cars so transportation was truly inconvenient. She didn’t know how much suffering a crippled person had to go through to travel several thousand li. Ruan Zhu understood Madam Yun’s feelings. Her husband’s bastard child ran over to seek shelter, causing everyone to feel uncomfortable. Her previous world’s society would comply with this situation, let alone Tian Chu’s custom of highly regarding a man’s chastity.
“Where is Hai’er currently?” Yun Shi Yi pondered, rather than letting Mother be in a difficult place, it would be better if he stepped in and resolved the situation.
“He is resting in Fifth Husband Zhao’s courtyard. This morning, I heard from Steward Zhang of the kitchen that Hai’er had a high fever. But because Madam has yet to declare his position, Fifth Husband Zhao doesn’t dare invite a physician to the residence.”
After the young couple finished eating, Lou Yun and Cai Yue tidied up the table and carried the empty dishes out.
“You want to help Hai’er, right?” Taking advantage of the fact that there was no one else in the room with them, Ruan Zhu looked at Yun Shi Yi’s expression and guessed his intention: “Actually, wanting to help is understandable, but we need to first consider Mother’s feelings. Assisting is fine, but it should not be too excessive.”
Yun Shi Yi nodded his head: “After all is said and done, Mother stepping in personally in this matter would not look good. If she lets him stay in Yun manor, after a while, the child will inevitably receive contempt and be crowded out. At that time, his feelings of gratitude will evolve into ones of hatred. Placing him in our residence in the city is also not appropriate. How about we just send him to Tianyi Pavilion then.”
“Let’s still go to the courtyard for a look and arrange for this matter to be settled while doing so. Hai’er is sick. Delaying an answer for a long time is harmful to his condition.” Compared to Hai’er‘s situation, Ruan Zhu on the contrary sympathized with his father. It’s said that a father’s love is great, so why is it that she could never obtain it?
Yun Shi Yi led Ruan Zhu into the courtyard.
Fifth Father Zhao was still kneeling. He was close to forty years old but he had a very healthy body on account of working the land year round. But even so, it would still be difficult to tolerate kneeling under the sun for such a long period of time.
The intriguing thing is that who knows when, but Fifth Father Zhao’s three sons had also come over to join their father. They sat in a horizontal line along with Fifth Father Zhao to kneel together, creating a touching scene of a natural love between father and children.
Yun Shi Yi not only felt that this was ridiculous, but if this matter was to be known by Mother, she may be infuriated to death. The three children that she had painstakingly gave birth to would oppose her because of a single stranger of dubious origin. In his heart, he thought that Fifth Father Zhao really had no intelligence.
Towards his three younger brothers, though they shared the same mother, they had different fathers, so it was out of the question for them to have deep feelings towards each other. However, their relationship was not as far removed as estrangement. Fortunately, Lou Yun and Cai Yue[h] were here. Gesturing with their hands, they permitted two servants to escort the three brothers to return.
Fifth Father Zhao raised his head hopefully to look at the Eldest Young Master. His two eyes were bloodshot and hazy, motionlessly looking at him as if there was no more life left in him.
“Go find a carriage to take Hai’er to Tianyi Pavilion inside the city and look for Manager Li. Just tell him this order is from me. Tell him to invite a physician to treat Hai’er. Once he’s recovered, let him become a helper there!”
“Eldest Master, Zhao the Fifth thanks you.” Fifth Father Zhao suddenly cried, hoarsely calling out that one sentence, and prostrated himself.
Yun Shi Yi pulled Ruan Zhu out of Ruyi Pavilion. He could only do this one thing. Fifth Father Zhao’s previous mistake was still a mistake. In everyone’s head there ought to be a moral scale. One must be responsible for one’s actions.
The two of them slowly walked along the cloister. Yun Shi Yi spoke of Fifth Father Zhao’s situation to Ruan Zhu: “Fifth Father is very law-abiding. He is neither ambitious nor aggressive; his conduct is also considered polite and amiable. His three sons are also my brothers. This messy situation is one that I should help with.”
“I remember. Based on the ranking among brothers, they should be called Yun Eleven, Yun Twelve, Yun Thirteen.” Ruan Zhu still remembered yesterday’s introduction but she had forgotten their actual names. Her memory has always been poor. It was like that in her previous world and after crossing over to this world it was also like this.
Suddenly there was a sound of a person running, their steps echoing throughout the cloister, causing Ruan Zhu to turn her head to see who it was.
It turned out to be Yun Shi Wei, one hand skillfully holding onto a copper staff. He hurried over with his body covered with perspiration. Finally coming near them, he tossed the staff aside. Holding Ruan Zhu up, he twirled her around in a circle a few times, his nose close enough to sniff at her bright and clean neck: “Zhu Zhu, your body’s scent is so nice, even more fragrant than the peach blossoms by the road.”
Ruan Zhu pushed him with her hand and frowned: “You’re so stinky! Hurry, put me down and go bathe!”
“Another bath? I already washed last night and I’ve never heard of anyone washing daily.”
For ancient people, washing was a big deal and they relied on a calendar that ordained when they should bathe. The calendar recorded several auspicious days: when to set off on a long journey; when to marry; when to hold a funeral; when to have sexual intercourse; when to bathe......
“Yet you still eat every day.” Ruan Zhu wiped the areas that had come in contact with his sweat. She couldn’t stand it anymore and used the circular fan in her hand to smack him a few times in the face: “If you don’t clean yourself up, then you are forbidden from touching me or entering my room. Hurry and let me down.”
“That can’t do. If I leave Zhu Zhu, I’ll suffocate to death.” Yun Shi Wei hugged the fragrant body. Remembering this morning’s emotional situation, he couldn’t help but become adventurous and uncontrollable. A big hand reached into her lapel, cupping and caressing a soft breast. He was very strong and was not aware of the strength he used when playing with her causing Ruan Zhu to inhale sharply in pain. Holding onto his thick and solid arm, she ruthlessly bit down on his arm in resentment. After she let go with her teeth, a ring of tiny teeth marks could be seen imprinted on his arm.
“Aiya, Zhu Zhu, you’re so fierce.” Yun Shi Wei extracted his arm from her grasp, his jet-black eyes looking at her full of grievances: “Father and Mother have never touched a hair of mine yet you’ve gone and bit me.”
“You don’t accept it?” Ruan Zhu raised an elegant eyebrow, her attractive big eyes glittering for a moment: “If you don’t accept it, then in the future I won’t ever want you and will no longer pay attention to you.”
“No, no, you can keep biting!” Yun Shi Wei immediately responded: “I suddenly feel that after your one bite, my entire mind and body is now clear and refreshed.”
It turns out that Yun Shi Wei also had moments when he wasn’t rash! Suddenly, dimples appeared on Ruan Zhu’s cheeks, her whole face appearing youthful and charming.
Yun Shi Yi walked over and took her into his own arms. From his sleeve, he took out a handkerchief and attentively wiped at the areas where she had become wet from sweat. Ruan Zhu worriedly glanced at their surroundings. Yun Shi Wei had been indecent just then, and she was afraid there were others around that would wag their tongues around everywhere.
“Shi Wei, where did you go to? How is it that you came back all smelly and sweaty?” Yun Shi Yi unnecessarily asked. Second Brother was naturally restless. That day, didn’t he manage to return home stinking from sweat?
“Just now, I went horse riding and then practiced a bit with my staff. Master Xu[i] said my current skill is considered peak expert level in the jianghu. The city’s armed escorts of the Dafeng Escort Bureau may not be as strong as me. I’m searching for a job as I should be earning money to provide for my spouse. I can’t always be spending time at home. Furthermore, there will be children in the future. Once the children grow up and realize I, this father, have no ability, how much face would I lose.”
[a] 龙脑香 | Dipterocarpaceae | family of mainly rainforest plants that provide aromatic essential oils (Wikipedia)
[b] 乳香 | Frankincense | aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes (Wikipedia)
[c] 茯苓 | Tuckahoe / Fuling (has lots of other names) | wood-decay fungus commonly used in Chinese medicine (Wikipedia)
[d] I’ve never read Dream of the Red Chamber so all names are referenced from Wikipedia.
[e] She’s referring to Lin Daiyu and Xue Baochai, the two female leads in DRC.
[f] If it’s not obvious, YSY recited two lines of a poem and RZ responded with the remaining two lines. I butchered this translation so if anyone has anything better, please let me know. Title is 赋得福州白竹扇子（探得轻字） The fan in this poem is actually a traditional fold-up fan so author, this poem doesn’t even fit here
[g] 不声不响, idiom meaning taciturn, not involved
[h] The author keeps mixing their names up but this should be correct.
[i] The ‘Master’ here is 师傅 which is like teacher/sensei. Think master-disciple relationship. Not the same as the ‘Master’ in ‘Master Yun’.
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