Chapter 18: The Man in White
TN: The author changed the name of Lan Province starting from this chapter. Previously, 州 as in prefecture/province was used, but now it’s 洲 as in continent/island in a river. I will be renaming Lan Province to Lan Zhou to simplify things. And to clarify, yes, Lan Zhou is a city.
里 | li | unit of measurement that has varied over time but has now been standardized to 500 meters (Wikipedia)
What kind of situation was this? Ruan Zhu was in a bad mood and grumbled: “I’m afraid I don’t have the leisure to provide for such a large household.”
Yun Shi Yi smiled and gently tapped her nose: “You don’t have to worry about this matter. The men of Tian Chu are not in such dire financial straits as to need females to provide for them, so you don’t need to display such a gloomy face. If others were to know about this, they would think that this Head Yun is unable to support his wifey.”
In Tian Chu, it was regarded as exceptionally humiliating if one was unable to provide for his wife. Even if a man was to became a Buddhist monk due to a lack of talent, there were no monasteries that would be willing to accept such a disgraceful disciple.
Ruan Zhu was teased with until she smiled: “You Head Yun is so exceptional, there will be females that like you no matter where you go. We even ran into one of your admirers just after entering a teahouse. This era is where women are respected. If it was switched to how it was several hundred years ago when men were the ones with seniority and could have three wives and five concubines, you would already have a whole heap of children.”
These few days while she was at the Yun manor, Ruan Zhu had especially sought out a book detailing the history of Tian Chu. It turns out this world was not at all a continuation of the Tang dynasty timeline after the An Shi Rebellion. Rather, a provincial governor by the two-character surname of Xuanyuan from Lan Zhou had led troops to seize Chang’an[a]. Afterwards, he eliminated all opposing powers before restoring the country to one based on political and military achievements. He officially named this country ‘Tian Chu’.
It’s unknown if it was because the Tang dynasty’s fate had not yet ended or if the principal governor’s actions had angered the Heavens, but after the Xuanyuan clan successfully created the nation of Tian Chu, a period of suffering that was practically a devastating epidemic occurred in the fourth year after the founding of the country. This plague wreaked havoc on the female population, causing it to rapidly decrease.
The disease specifically targeted women. Whether it was because they were too healthy or their physique was too different, men were completely immune.
An innumerable amount of women died as a result. If one solely considered a single day in the ancient capital of Chang’an that was now famous in the modern ages, over seven thousand female corpses were cremated.
This disaster extended worldwide. It spread to Fusang and Liuqiu in the east, to Rome in the west and to Java in the south.[b] In the north, it reached to where the rakshasas reside and covered their entire territory. In short, anywhere that had people was devastated by this devil’s epidemic.
But not only that, the epidemic also changed the human genes. After the catastrophe, humans discovered that the female birth rate had decreased so much that they didn’t even amount to a quarter of the male births. Furthermore, all female children were born with a frail constitution and their chances of survival also weren’t high.
Not long after, the ‘one woman many husbands’ law was issued. In an effort to practice what one teaches, the Emperor took it upon himself to be an example and wed a joint Empress with his brothers. All the cabinet members also followed the example of their superior, one after the other sharing a wife with their brothers or taking the initiative to find other males for their wife. This caused the trend to become very popular among the people. Thus, through these various means, the population was able to increase and the nation’s power remained rich and powerful.
“What do you mean ‘a whole heap of children’? Why would Wife say it like this? In the future when we have children, you must not say such ridiculous things.” In the eyes of this Head Yun, family and children were sacred so one could not be irreverent.
“I got it. I won’t call it a heap, I’ll just call it a nest of piglets. That should be fine, right!”
Ruan Zhu’s impression of this society’s females was that they would have to give birth to and raise over ten children during their lifetime. A crowd of children surrounding their mother–wherever she went, they’d go. This scene was pretty much the same as leading a drove of piglets.
Little pigs sometimes are really annoying, but they could also be pretty cute. When she had watched Journey to the West on her TV, the one that had attracted her attention the most out of the four protagonists was precisely older brother Zhu.[c]
Yun Shi Yi helplessly forced a smile as he remembered that his little wife was only fifteen years old, a child still brimming with innocence. It wouldn’t be fair to compare her to an adult’s standard.
Ruan Zhu looked outside the window. The inspection at the city gates was nearing the end as the majority of the carriages and travelers had entered the city. Xiao Feng and Xiao Shan were idly chatting next to their carriage. Yun Shi Wei had also finished his walk and returned with Dao Qiang and Jian Ji following behind him. During this parental visit, he had organized the things in his Jian Garden into two large carriages and ordered his two personal servants to return to the city with him.
The Yun residence in the city was the Yun family’s Eldest Young Master’s property. Before getting married, the second young master of the Yun family did not consider this as his home, but after getting a taste of a relationship between a male and a female, he genuinely started thinking of the Yun residence as his and essentially established himself there.
Even though it was around March or April, these few days have been abnormally sweltering. As a result, Ruan Zhu drank a few more cups of tea and now felt the need to empty her bladder. Yun Shi Yi saw that her expression was not good and asked: “What’s wrong?”
Embarrassed, Ruan Zhu responded: “I accidentally drank too much tea and would like to relieve myself.” If it was at the Yun residence, it would be fine and easily done. But since this was outside, it was probably really inconvenient to relieve herself. Thinking of this, it made her reminisce even more fondly of the flush toilets in her previous life.
“The lavatory is in the back garden. After exiting through the back door, take a left at the corner and you’ll see it. I’ll take you there.”
“No need. I’m just using the toilet so why would you, a grown man, follow me? Could it be that we’re going to do something explicit there?”
Alone, Ruan Zhu walked out of the private room. Across from them was where Ma Cui Yun was seated and the entrance to her room was wide open. Hearing the sound of a door, Ma Cui Yun instinctively turned her head just to see her love rival. She became exceptionally envious and her eyes filled with hatred.
As if nothing had happened, Ruan Zhu calmly left the view of the pair of eyes that wanted to drill holes into her. She didn’t steal the other’s man so there was no need for her to have a guilty conscience. Her two hubbies were talented enough to also be able to protect her. It was hard enough having to conduct herself with her tail between her legs in her past world, so in this life, she would do her utmost to live her days with her head held high and her chest out.
Reaching the back garden, she found the toilet and at long last resolved the issue with her physiology. On her way back, she came across a male dressed in white. He didn’t have the same sort of imposing and impressive manliness that captured people like her two hubbies had. Nevertheless, he was simple and elegant, as if he was an immortal. With a silver cap on top of his thick jet-black hair, a pair of slender peach blossom eyes glanced at Ruan Zhu and immediately exposed a dazzling smile.
“I was just wondering why the Eurasian magpies were singing so joyfully in the trees. What a splendid beauty with a lotus face, floating by like a cloud, giving off such a quiet and exquisite charm with a waist as slim and graceful as a young willow. But I do not know which family this Miss is from? Is it possible for this humble one, Liu Fei Xu, to ask for Miss’s esteemed name?”
Was he referring to her? Ruan Zhu blinked her eyes. In her past life, she had an ordinary appearance and even by her death at eighteen, had never been addressed by a male. In this life, she had been entrusted with this body’s good appearance and unexpectedly could enter the eyes of beautiful men. Other than secretly being somewhat delighted at this realization, she didn’t have any devious thoughts.
From time immemorial, no matter if one was male or female, all humans had a kind of vanity in their hearts. They would be strongly attached to beautiful appearances and yearn for the perfect person of the opposite sex. It didn’t matter whether or not you liked the other party. If they complimented you, there would be no sense in taking offense. Thus, Ruan Zhu also couldn’t avoid this convention. It was unrelated with feelings of like or admiration. It was a gaze that was purely appreciative just as one would admire a painting, a poem, or a handicraft.
“This one is called Qin Zhu and lives in the Qin family village that is twenty li south of this city. This one came to the city a few days ago to visit the Xi Bao Hua Buddhist temple to pray for blessing by burning incense sticks, so is currently staying in the Yuelai inn that isn’t far from here. Mister Liu is just like his name, outstanding talents faintly discernible with a flying appearance. It really makes one feel admiration.” She was called Qin Zhu in her previous world, so this didn’t count as speaking falsely. From her mouth spilled out words flaunting the other side, yet in her mind she muttered: Naming him anything was fine but he had to be called ‘ruins’. Liu Ruins. This person’s parents truly had ability. Not only was the name easy to remember, but the message was also rather profound.[d]
“The beadwork produced by the land of Qin has such a gentle color and is so exquisitely made. Altogether, it really compliments Miss. This is truly what you call a person taking after their name, such wonderful and satisfactory skill!”[e]
“Mister is too flattering.” Ruan Zhu faintly smiled. This man was beautiful without compare, a pair of long and narrow peach blossom eyes faintly sparkling with affection. She feared that if women weren’t careful, they would all sink into those eyes.
She had just newly married and in her heart, regarded Yun Shi Yi as the most outstanding man in the whole world. Liu Ruins, this chap, may be good looking, but his personality dropped him a level.
Furthermore, this sort of good-looking guy in her eyes was the same as the cross-dressing men[f] in her past life. Those ‘fake females’ caused the society based on males and females to be thrown in disarray. The male wasn’t male, the female wasn’t female. By themselves, these fake females weren’t really an issue, but they received widespread coverage through television and other social media. All of this recognition most definitely spurred homosexuality and polysexuality. If this continues, the number of patients suffering from AIDS will also increase.[g]
Ah, I’ve thought too far.
Liu Fei Xu looked the maiden before him up and down. She wasn’t the kind of female that was breathtaking at first sight and fell far short of the prefectural magistrate’s Madam. But her skin was as white as snow, sparkling and pure, which made her seem as adorable as a porcelain doll. And her large eyes that were like bright and clear black pearls were especially mesmerizing.
“Does Miss already have a husband?”
Whether or not she had a husband didn’t have much of an influence on him. In any case, he was confident he would ultimately be able to have her. After all, don’t all women love beautiful men? He would simply gift her some expensive jewels and ornaments and whisper sweet nothings and honeyed words at the appropriate times. Once the time was ripe, even if she pretended to keep up appearances by not obediently begging him for more, just like how the prefectural magistrate’s wife was, wouldn’t she be the same as a slut with an insatiable appetite once they start?
“Mister is making a joke. This one is only fifteen years old, how could one have a husband?” Ruan Zhu told her lie with a gentle voice and she deliberately revealed a bashful expression.
Liu Fei Xu has eaten his fill of exotic delicacies but felt that the beauty in front of his eyes was particularly fresh and clean. So tender and delicate, like a ripe fruit that enticed people.
He smiled slightly. Exposing what he thought was his most charming expression, he walked forward a step.
Ruan Zhu was originally playing along but unexpectedly, the pretense turned into reality. With every step he took forward, she would withdraw a step, until her back was against the wall and she could retreat no further. All of a sudden, she heard Yun Shi Yi in the building shouting her name Zhu Zhu and hurriedly pushed aside Liu Fei Xu.
“Aiya, my eldest cousin is calling me. I won’t continue chatting with you and will leave now.”
Ruan Zhu ran out from his side and in an instant, entered the building.
Liu Fei Xu was caught by surprise by the beautiful maiden’s escape. He was completely unfamiliar with this situation. Previously, it had always been him that first left. When had there ever been a time when a beauty had left him behind? His heart immediately felt a bit ticklish and vowed to see her again.
“Where did you go that took you this long?” Yun Shi Yi couldn’t just sit and wait. Feeling worried, he had been afraid that she had met with some mishap thus had left the private room to look for her.
“I met an idiot.” He was a chap that thought too highly of himself, a classic case of a rich playboy. But if she hadn’t stayed and played with him, wouldn’t that have let down the other party, who had put so much effort into his act?
“It’s already noon. Let’s hurry and enter the city!”
Yun Shi Yi didn’t ask who Ruan Zhu had met. Per his thinking, if the other party was deemed an ‘idiot’, that meant they were abnormal and there was no value in asking.
He held onto her small hand as they walked out of Wanyue Teahouse and happened to meet Yun Shi Wei, who was walking over. Together they ascended their carriage and passed through the city gate after being inspected by the city guards for a while. Finally, they entered Lan Zhou.
In the carriage, Yun Shi Yi once again had Ruan Zhu sit in his lap: “When we arrive home, I will bring the household ledger for you to look at. From now on, the Yun residence and any businesses in Lan Zhou are under your control–whatever you say goes. All of the expenses will be yours to oversee and allocate.”
“Stop.” Ruan Zhu hurriedly said: “Tianyi Pavilion will still be yours to personally manage. Household matters, I can handle, but for major situations, you make the decision.” She didn’t want to cause other transmigrators to lose face with her poor skills. She was impoverished in her past life, so apart from buying food and paying her tuition, only several thousand yuan at the most had passed through her hands. It’s only been a few days since she had crossed over into a wealthy lady of the second generation so she hadn’t had the chance to see how much money she possessed.
The most pathetic thing in the world that nothing could surpass was not being able to confidently live through each day because one did not have money. But right now, she wanted to tell everyone that in reality, even if you had money, if you didn’t dare or know how to spend it, that is what ‘tragic’ truly meant.
[a] 长安, the capital of China during the Tang dynasty
[b] 扶桑 (Fusang), mythical island of ancient literature often interpreted as Japan (Wikipedia); 琉球 (Liuqiu), could either mean Taiwan, Ryukyu Islands or Penghu Islands (Wikipedia)
[c] 西取经, Journey to the West, super famous novel with tons of adaptations. Four main characters: Tang Sanzang, Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie, Sha Wujing. (Wikipedia) Zhu Bajie is part-human and part-pig with the face of a pig. (Image from the 1986 TV adaptation)
[d] His name (飞絮, fēi xù) sounds similar to ‘ruins’ (废墟, fèi xū).
[e] He’s making a pun. The 珠 (zhu) in her name means bead or pearl.
[f] Term used here is 伪娘, lit. false woman. A reference to otokonoko, contemporary Japanese term of males cross-dressing as females (Wikipedia, TV Tropes)
[g] I just wanted to put it out there that while, yes, you can get HIV through anal sex, you can also get HIV from all other kinds of sex AND from other methods. It only requires contaminated fluids to enter your body. Read more about what truly causes HIV & AIDS (here).
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