Chapter 6: Visiting (2)
 儿 | er | (lit. child) diminutive marker used as a form of endearment
Actually, the third son of the Yun family, Wu Bin, was not surnamed ‘Yun’ as he used his father’s last name. The reason he is called the Yun family’s Third Young Master is out of convenience and to give the Masters of the Yun house some face. However, on the household register, his surname must be listed as ‘Wu’. Males have lesser statuses than females, especially since the former could become concubines of the latter, so Tian Chu permitted this type of naming to carry on each ancestral line.
Fourth Husband Wu’s heart felt stifled at seeing his son lose face and could only carefully cover for him: “Bin’er is very filial. Last night, he even brought up the idea for me to visit my maternal family while he oversees the Yun shops in my absence.”
He boasted about his own son while revealing the plan he had long been mulling over. The year he entered the Yun residence as a secondary husband, he also brought a property deed with him. Due to Tian Chu’s law, all assets and properties belonging to the husband are transferred to the wife after marriage. This meant that no matter how much property one accumulates, it is not guaranteed that one’s son will have the same assets in the future. Which son gained what property depended on who is most pleasing to the eyes of the wife. But in this case, the eldest son Yun Shi Yi was an exception as all the Yun businesses were his.
Master Yun shot a cynical glance at the Fourth Master. So he had this early on already prepared for his son’s future. But the Yun family held a multitude of properties and businesses, and the number of shops wasn’t considered to be few. Master Yun also didn’t mind letting concubine-born sons manage one or two of them. If they end up earning a great deal, it would cause him to lose a considerable stream of money. However, he would also gain a magnanimous reputation. As Madam Yun was hesitating, he said: “Bin’er wanting to achieve something is naturally a good thing. Wangyue Teahouse[a] outside of Lan Zhou’s Xicheng district is prosperous. Let’s have him manage it. Manager Li is getting old and it is time for this husband to look for a replacement. How about we let Bin’er learn the weekly affairs for a few months before having him take over?”
Madam Yun had always listened to Master Yun’s advice, thus said: “Then we’ll do it this way.”
Fourth Husband Wu was overjoyed and quickly gave his son a meaningful look. Wu Bin immediately stood up and kowtowed in thanks to the two masters of the Yun family: “Many thanks to Father, many thanks to Mother.” Once he starts managing the business, there would be various benefits. Although he was not courageous enough to embezzle funds, the social and material advantages gained from meeting those arriving, sending those departing[b] for one year would be enough to support upwards of five or six years of monthly income. If he’s mixed in enough socially, he might even be able to wed a girl of some family, and maybe even become the legitimate husband. Unless the family is very poor, all concubine-born children will think of clinging onto legitimate-born children because how many of them would want to live a hard life?
Master Yun faintly said: “Learn well from Manager Li. Doing well will be a big benefit for you. If you don’t do well, return home and just live as a parasite!”
Wu Bin saluted: “Many thanks for Father’s teachings. This son will definitely study hard.”
Madam Yun’s mood turned for the better and continued to gossip with Ruan Zhu: “This daughter-in-law of mine, you don’t have to do too much. Brewing tea, cooking...the feminine arts can be left to the servants. But having children is very important. It doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or a girl, both are good. Female children can expand the family while male children can inherit their ancestral businesses. Hurry and give Mother a grandson, oh, but of course the first child being a granddaughter would be even better.”
Madam Yun had a frank nature–whatever she thought, she would say. In front of others, she wouldn’t avoid such a taboo subject, causing Ruan Zhu’s face to turn bright red. Ruan Zhu thought to herself: This mother-in-law’s personality is just like Shi Wei’s. But of course, like mother, like son. In that case, Shi Yi should resemble his father, almost like it was planned from the start. They’re clearly twins from the same mother, but their two temperaments couldn’t be any more different.
“I understand, Mother.” With a red face, Ruan Zhu quietly responded. In her mind she started worrying about sleeping at night. Will it be 3P or one on one?
In the ancient era, meals were eaten twice a day. After everyone drank tea for a while, Madam Yun soon afterwards sent her eldest and second eldest sons to take Ruan Zhu to rest. Yun Shi Yi led Ruan Zhu towards his own residence, Wutong Building[c]. While walking, he said: “Fourth Father only has Third Brother as his child so he will inevitably indulge him. You should know that managing this store is not something that can be done by an ordinary person.” One type of knowledge was the awareness necessary to do business. Without originality and tolerance, suffering a loss was unavoidable. The amount of meticulous care he had spent to start Tianyi Pavilion and amass a profit was not little.
Ruan Zhu’s little hand was being held by him. The more they walked, the more ill at ease he felt, but he concealed his moodiness by saying: “I saw Father did not pay it any mind so you don’t have to worry either. Anyway, it has nothing to do with us. The Yun family’s properties are so large and numerous, let’s not care about the success and failure of a single shop!”
“Oh, that’s true!”
Yun Shi Wei pouted: “Based on Third Brother’s virtue, I don’t believe he’ll be able to manage the shop. But it would be good if he failed as then he would never be able to raise his head again in Mother’s presence.” He understood Wu Bin held wide ambitions but lacked talent.
Yun Shi Yi called him over: “Why are you here? Why haven’t you returned to your Jian Garden[d]?”
Yun Shi Wei loved martial arts and gave his residence a gorgeously unruly name. Although it’s called ‘Jian Garden’, the weapon he wields is actually a staff. The way he uses his wrought iron staff is in such a strong yet new style, that even the Master of the institution that taught him praised him endlessly. He was stunned silly at hearing his eldest brother having the intention to drive him away: “Zhu Zhu is also my wife. For what reason are you monopolizing her?”
These two brothers are always fighting each other for my affection, but whatever, it has nothing to do with me! Ruan Zhu’s white neck drooped as she worried over this evening’s 3P. Shi Wei not being here was for the best as she really didn’t have the courage to be intimate with one man while another sat on the sidelines as if watching a play.
“Don’t forget I am the legitimate husband. Hurry and obediently return. Tomorrow, it’ll be your turn.” Yun Shi Yi had sensed that if Second Brother was present during times of intimacy, his wife’s face would become unusually colored.
It feels like I’m merchandise! Ruan Zhu miserably thought. The ‘one woman, multiple husbands’ system was so troubling. How did ancient Chinese men with three wives and four concubines do it? She should learn from them, ah.
“No. I want today. You can have tomorrow.” Yun Shi Wei insisted.
Yun Shi Yi coldly glanced at him before grabbing Ruan Zhu’s waist with both arms. Using a little strength, he lifted her up into his embrace before walking towards his Wutong Building.
“Aren’t you just relying on the fact that you’re the eldest?” From his back came Yun Shi Wei’s exasperated voice.
Ruan Zhu was carried by Yun Shi Yi into Wutong Building. She saw that on both sides were planted masses of large Chinese parasol trees. Not only was it beautiful, it would also be a great place to cool off on hot days. The courtyard had four main rooms that didn’t feature elaborate engravings but still gave off a simple and imposing air. On either side of the building were side wings that most likely were meant for the servants.
梧桐 | Wutong | Chinese parasol tree (Wikipedia)
All the courtyard’s servants had received word that their master had returned, thus went to pay respects. There were about five or six of them and they were all male. Because Tian Chu’s female population was so small, very few women would choose to sell themselves as servants unless they really had no choice. As a result, female servants were rare and also incredibly expensive. On the other hand, male servants were very cheap and were also the preferred gender of choice for wealthy families.
“Prepare a bath.”
While ordering the servants, Yun Shi Yi brought his wife into the main room.
Ruan Zhu was placed on top of a frame bed covered with a snowy white brocade mattress. Carefully scrutinizing it, she found the bed was simpler than the one in the Yun residence in Lan Zhou and also lacked the exquisite aesthetic the latter had. But she could see that both of them were made out of very costly red sandalwood that ordinary families would not be able to use. This value could be compared to her previous world’s BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Looking around the bedroom, she could see calligraphy hanging on the walls and all sorts of rare curios, such as the famed guqin and swords, on the tables....
One style of frame bed | 架子床
Another style of frame bed | 架子床
(古)琴 | (Gu)qin | Classical Chinese instrument with seven strings (Wikipedia)
The Yun residence in Lan Zhou was also arranged like this, but she had been too overwhelmed from crossing over last night to appreciate the aesthetics of her surroundings.
While she was looking around, she noticed Yun Shi Yi had been staring at her without blinking and couldn’t help but become shy: “What are you watching me for?”
“Wife is very beautiful.”
This transition from calling her ‘Zhu Zhu’ to ‘wife’ was really too fast! She felt a little apprehensive but then saw him leaning down to kiss her.....Nervousness set in but she soon became intoxicated. Hooking her arms behind his neck, she started to reciprocate.
After a long while, his lips finally left hers, both of them breathing hard. She had thought that he would stop but he then kissed her neck and started slowly trailing downwards.
“Haven’t....I haven’t bathed yet.”
Yun Shi Yi stopped his kisses, his eyes filled with a smile: “All right. This husband will serve wife to bathe before giving wife a massage. It seems wife is also looking forward to....”
[a] 望月茶楼 Full Moon Teahouse
[b] 迎来送往; idiom, all time taken over with social events
[c] 梧桐馆 | Wutong Building | Chinese Parasol Tree Building
[d] 剑园 | Jian Garden | (Double-Edged) Sword Garden
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