里 | li | unit of measurement that has varied over time but has now been standardized to 500 meters (Wikipedia)
Maternal grandfather’s home was a two compound residence paved with blue glazed brick tiles with around ten servants. Their circumstances could be considered not bad.
The only child remaining in their residence was the eldest son of the principal husband, which was the youngest out of all of his brothers and sisters, and was the two sisters’ maternal uncle. This son had inherited his father’s career and lived his life as an official; he was currently leading soldiers in the war. The daughters in the family had long been wed out and all the concubine-born sons had settled down outside. As the remaining secondary husbands in the residence could not live the rest of their days peacefully, they had been expelled to their respective sons’ homes last year.
When their maternal grandmother found out the two sisters had come, she was so pleased she personally went to the kitchen to cook.
Their maternal grandfather selected a good tea from his collection to receive the two siblings with. The current market prices were excessively high as the tea leaves from Mount Wu Yi were currently within the area occupied by the Red Eyebrow army and simply could not be transported to the capital.
As the tea route was obstructed, the people in the capital could only drink the tea from Jiang Nan. The price of that tea was not expensive, but the old man had drank Wu Yi black tea for a lifetime and was very unaccustomed to this other tea. He knew that the members of the Ruan clan had the same tastes as him. If it was other guests, he would be very reluctant to take out this tea.
Ruan Zhu thought she should say something: “Maternal grandfather, my Ma......”
Her maternal grandfather originally was in a very cheerful mood but immediately became outraged after hearing Ruan Zhu bring up Madam Ruan: “Do not mention that shameful thing.”
“Maternal grandfather, what happened to my Ma?” Ruan Zhu saw the old man had become infuriated and felt there was a secret behind this.
“That evil creature is actually unwilling to give up on that Wei Rong in a whorehouse! The day after arriving in the capital, she wouldn’t stop going from one whorehouse to another to look for him. You don’t know how large the expenses in the capital are; just for this or that brothel, the price of a famous courtesan for one night is tens of taels a night, and several thousands of taels of silver have flowed down the drain just from these past few days. But at long last she has finally found him and it was unexpectedly in a place that was even dirtier than a low-grade brothel.” Their maternal grandfather curled his lip down, his face full of disgust. “I won’t speak anymore, else I won’t have any appetite for this evening’s meal.”
“You damned old man, you knew you’d lose your appetite but still talked rubbish and don’t even feel embarrassed to dirty these young ladies’ ears.” Maternal Grandmother carried a tray from the kitchen on which two bowls of lotus seed soup were balanced and placed a bowl in front of each of the two sisters. “It is not yet time for the meal so first have some soup that I simmered early this morning. It just so happened that there was some leftover and it is still very delicious after heating is up.”
Lotus seeds could help one’s body fight against various kinds of ailments and could also prevent cancer and high blood pressure; this food had these unique and outstanding effects. Ruan Zhu spooned out a mouthful and thought the taste was not very good. There was not enough rock sugar and she also didn’t see any white fungus.
Lotus seed soup with white fungus
(and red dates + Goji berries)
Various types of Chinese rock sugar
Maternal Grandmother said: “It’s a pity that we don’t have any rock sugar and the price of white lotus is enough to scare people. Yesterday, I went to the market with a servant for a look and I simply cannot afford to eat them. Ai, being able to eat lotus seed at this time is already considered not bad. I’ve heard that some families only eat bran. Luckily, our house still has some white rice.”
Maternal Grandfather hesitated before saying to Ruan Zhu: “Zhu’er, I know your Pa and Ma are currently in a deadlock and I really do not have the face to beseech your family. But you also know the shop your Pa had given your Ma as a betrothal gift has not earned much money as we do not comprehend how to do business. Now that we have met with both disaster and also war, the shop has long closed, and even this residence is almost lost. Last year, the Emperor had asked merchants to donate money but as our family could not afford it, we could only use our residence as collateral. If it wasn’t that your Ma had returned to the capital and paid off some of the debt, your maternal grandfather would have gone to sleep in the streets......”
Last year, Ruan Zi Xu had also donated a hundred million taels of silver. There indeed was this matter where the Emperor had asked for donations from businessmen.
Ruan Zhu understood her maternal grandfather’s meaning. In the ancient era, there seemed to be a phrase to describe this called ‘shooting the breeze.’ Of course, she couldn’t use such a term to belittle this elderly man. Relatives helping each out a little was understandable, but saying this to her was useless as she was not the Head of the Ruan clan.
Ruan Zhu was just about to come up with an excuse when all of a sudden, frenzied pounding on a door could be heard. It was extremely urgent and it seemed that something had happened.
Maternal Grandfather had been interrupted and was so annoyed and angered his whiskers quivered. Walking into the courtyard, he grabbed the large broom before instructing servants to open the gate and immediately swinging the broom down on the guest.
Ruan Zhu’s eyes were good and hastily shouted: “Quickly stay your hand, Maternal Grandfather; you can’t hit.”
Maternal Grandfather’s broom had already swung halfway down. Abruptly stopping his movement caused him to recoil backwards a few steps.
Outside the door, a young boy was holding onto a fainted Ruan Ju. Her skirt dripped with blood, causing a ghastly sight.
Ruan Zhu immediately understood what had happened and hastily walked over: “Hurry and carry her inside. Nuan Chun, quickly go and invite a physician, run, do not dawdle. No, this kind of blood flow will kill a person. Nuan Chun, didn’t I tell you to go invite a physician over, what are you still standing there for?”
Nuan Chun knew his Miss had faced a similar situation back in the southern border and understood that the situation was very serious. He muttered: “At that time, she almost caused Miss to become a corpse with two lives lost. This is the Heavens punishing her to make her lose her child.” Though he was unwilling in his heart, he did not dare to neglect his duty and quickly ran to the medicine hall to invite a physician.
“That’s right, Nuan Qing, did you bring over the ning xiang lu?”
Yun Shi Yi was concerned about his wife, and as a precaution against any sudden mishaps, he had handed over some ning xiang lu to her two male servants for them to carry at all times. When Lu Piao Xiang knew of this matter, he had also threw in a few more bottles. This panacea that was worth ten thousand taels of gold and usually only used by the imperial court was carelessly given away by these two husbands as if they were of little value. Really now; at that time, Ruan Zhu had even chided them for being cunning and full of tricks. Who knew there would be a use for them today?
“Maternal Grandmother, trouble you to enter her room and stop her bleeding!” Ruan Zhu handed the ning xiang lou over to her maternal grandmother. She was loath to touch someone she hated. Personally spreading the medicine? It’s still better to avoid that chore.
“She has truly sinned, oh!” Maternal Grandmother chided and walked inside the interior room.
Ning xiang lou!
Maternal Grandfather saw the three small words on the seal of the bottles and his head felt dizzy. He, who was merely a minor seventh-rank official, would have never had any opportunity in his lifetime to see the panacea of the imperial family, but it had unexpectedly been casually taken out by his granddaughter to treat a person.
Not long later, Nuan Chun came back with the invited physician and the latter went inside the room to diagnose and treat the patient.
After a very long while, the physician came back outside, saying the child could not be maintained, but it was still possible to become pregnant in the future. He wrote out a prescription and called for someone to go fill it.
But it was very obvious Maternal Grandfather was extremely unwilling to fork over this money. Everyone knew that the majority of medicine was being supplied to the imperial army and the ingredients sold by the pharmacies were limited; thus, however much they wanted to ask for was however much they sold it for. Last month, a favored concubine next door had become ill and the family had spent almost all of their savings. If the principal husband had not hurriedly concealed their wealth in the end, that family would long have nothing to eat or drink.
“Nuan Chun, go fill the prescription.” Ruan Zhu handed the prescription to Nuan Chun. Currently, all of her things were being guarded by him, and his hands were full of money.
“Miss, you are truly kind. When you were pushed down by her and your life was in critical danger, I am afraid I did not see her being as diligent.”
“You are not going; is that correct?” Ruan Zhu’s voice was chilly.
“How could I have the nerve?” Nuan Chun took the proffered prescription and trudged outside.
“Eldest Sister, I think what Nuan Chun said made some sense. Ruan Ju is pitiful and we ought to save her, but do you really not bear any grudges against her?” Ruan Yu moved closer, her eyes filled with questions and doubt: “Don’t forget she nearly killed you.”
“I am not thinking of her as Ruan Ju; I am thinking of her as a woman that has just miscarried and almost died.” Ruan Zhu rolled her eyes at her. Even if she saw an unknown woman almost dying on the streets because of a miscarriage, she would still help her.
The two sisters spoke for a little longer. At this time, Wei Jia returned. After hearing what had happened, he burst into his little sister’s room and was kicked out by his grandmother that was busy inside. With a turn of his head, he saw Ruan Zhu and glared at her with a gaze full of hatred and slowly said: “Now are you satisfied? Are you happy?”
A sneer formed at the corner of Ruan Zhu’s mouth: “I looked into my heart and saw no shame.[a] If you are referring to all of you being kicked out of the Ruan residence, I’ll send you one line–you deserved it.”
Ruan Yu cursed: “A person without a conscience. Fancy that all of you freeloaded in my Ruan family for all of those years and were raised up by my Pa’s money, yet as a result, not only do you wrongly accuse my Pa of poison, you also nearly killed my elder sister. Now, my eldest sister has saved your little sister’s life and didn’t even ask you to give thanks, but in spite of all of that, you can still twist words and force logic[b] and say these shameless things. Where has all the studying you’ve done on the teachings of the saints at the academy gone to?”
Maternal Grandfather had long thought this pair of brother and sister were extremely displeasing to his eyes and coldly sneered: “What sort of good people could possibly come from being raised by such a contemptible man? Perhaps he will be the same as his Pa and become a brother in a brothel.”
Wei Jia was infuriated and flames burst from his eyes.
“Master, Eldest Miss has returned and is just outside the door. Should we open the gates?” A servant came in to report.
“Shameful thing, you even let her son inside so how could you keep the Eldest Miss outside when she returns?” Maternal Grandfather scolded.
“That is not it, Master. Eldest Miss......Eldest Miss has brought that person back. You have said before that if she dares to bring that person back, she is forbidden from entering the residence.”
“Papa has returned.” Wei Jia shouted and ran outside.
“Little bastard, if you dare to defile my door with that disgusting slut, you can immediately get out.”
Maternal Grandfather chased him to the courtyard, but Wei Jia had already opened the main gates and a Wei Rong supported by Madam Ruan appeared in front of their eyes. The seductive man from two months earlier had withered, and those two large eyes that could hook onto one’s mortal and immortal souls had also lost their light.
Madam Ruan saw her father blocking the doorway and with her son, supported Wei Rong, one right, one left, to sitting down on the steps. Who could have imagined Wei Rong would immediately let out an anguished wail as soon as his buttocks hit the ground. His body askew, he sat on only half of his butt.
“Rong, is it very painful?” Madam Ruan’s eyes were full of concern: “Later when I invite a physician to look you over, it will no longer hurt.”
“Pah! Which family’s physician would blind their eyes to see this slut?” Revulsion spread across Maternal Grandfather’s face. He felt disinclined to look at Wei Rong again and bellowed with rage at his daughter with a cold and overcast face: “You bring home any and all filthy scumbags that reek of sex; where do you place this old one’s face? If you are lacking men, I will buy several clean bedwarmers for you. Forget about how leading this slut into my home will cause the neighbors to mock me, but if Ruan Zi Xu comes, what will you have me do?”
Madam Ruan also became angry: “What’s wrong with me spending my own money to bring a man back home? I just like him and am very happy when I am with him. Only he knows to be tactful and knows how to do things to make me happy. I want to be happy; what’s wrong with that?”
Maternal Grandfather rained curses down: “You immature thing, to bring back something (a boytoy) that has been played with by who knows how many men and covered head to toe with shameful and disgusting illnesses. If you dare bring this slut into my home, I will no longer recognize you as my daughter!”
“Not recognizing is not recognizing; who values that?! I’ll take Wei Rong and leave.”
“Ma, Ruan Ju has miscarried and is currently lying down in a room. Right now, it is unclear whether she is alive or not. If you do not care about her, then you should leave Maternal Grandfather’s home right now!” Ruan Zhu pulled Ruan Yu outside. Bowing before their maternal grandfather, she turned and headed towards their carriages.
Nuan Chun had not yet returned from filling the prescription, but she did not intend to stay and wait any longer.
Nuan Qing came over and opened the carriage door before helping the two Masters inside. Inside the carriage, Ruan Yu’s eyes were filled with reluctance and she made to push her head outside for a look, but was stopped by Ruan Zhu, who reached over and pulled the window closed before lowering the curtains.
By no means did she cherish this sort of mother with no sense of responsibility. There was no affection at all for the other inside her.
The coachmen had received their instructions. Calling out to the animals with a swing of the whip, they headed out of the alley.
When they returned home, Little Zhi Xi had just woken up. The little guy was only two months old but could already recognize people. Seeing her walk in, his big eyes spun.
Ruan Zhu picked up her son and undid her lapel to let him nurse. As she watched his small mouth suck out one mouthful at a time, happiness filled her entire heart.
Unfortunately, she ran out of milk when her son was only half-full and had to hand him over to the wet nurse to continue feeding. Seeing her own son drinking others’ milk, she felt jealous. If it wasn’t a difficult birth and she hadn’t lost that much blood, then this scenario where she lacked milk wouldn’t occur.
There was some resentment towards how vicious and impudent Ruan Ju was, but she also couldn’t not save the other after seeing her all covered in blood.
Ruan Zhu forced a bitter smile. Even if I saved her, she may not necessarily thank me. But why should I need her thanks, hmm? I did it for peace of mind and in a few years when these memories are recalled, at least there will be no regret.
During the meal in the afternoon, Nuan Chun returned and stood by Ruan Zhu’s side, reporting all the details.
“I returned with the filled prescription not long after Miss had left. The elderly Master had some servants escort and guard our family’s Madam inside. But our Madam continued to make a fuss, causing all of the neighbors to hear the noise and come outside to see all the bustle. Humiliated, the elderly Master drove our Madam out of his house in an angry breath. Third Miss was also lifted outside by some servants and Young Master Wei Jia was also kicked out on the spot by the elderly Master. Afterwards, our family’s Madam hired a carriage and left with them all onboard.”
Should she disclose this matter to Father? Ruan Zhu deliberated for a while and decided to forget it. Madam Ruan’s husband had been given a green hat to wear, and that was that, but this hat was too large and full of vitality and had stolen all of the safflower’s nutrients, making everyone uncomfortable. Ruan Zi Xu enduring for all of those years was already pathetic enough.
Some people just lived life too comfortably. When clothes come, stretch out one’s hand; when food comes, open one’s mouth. They gorged themselves on lust and staying warm, and on the contrary, became less understanding of the true meaning of life. Now that Madam Ruan has left Maternal Grandfather’s residence, Ruan Zhu would wait and see how she continued to live.
Without going through the wind and rain, how could one greet a rainbow? Only after experiencing the other not caring whether you lived or died would the proud and frosty arrogance become disillusioned.
“You can withdraw and rest. Instruct everyone below to not transmit what happened today to Master’s ears.” When she returned, she had already instructed the servants that had accompanied them and she now said it all again to Nuan Chun.
At night, Ruan Zi Xu led his two son-in-laws home, but Lu Piao Xiang did not return. It was assumed he was putting in extra effort in researching the idea that Ruan Zhu had given him and was unwilling to set time aside to rest.
Inside the bathroom in Yi Xin Residence, a large bathtub was placed. The water was exactly thirty seven degrees, and the three people sat inside it with room to spare.
Sandwiched between the two men, Ruan Zhu straddled Yun Shi Yi’s legs, allowing that solid member inside her to twitch arbitrarily and causing her to moan tenderly without pause. Behind her, Yun Shi Wei gently stroked all over her body. Turning her head around, he obsessively kissed those captivating red lips, forcefully sucking on her tongue and her flavor.
When it was Yun Shi Wei’s turn, she kneeled down between Yun Shi Yi’s legs so that she was face-to-face with him, allowing Yun Shi Wei to enter from behind.
“Oh!” She screamed. That hard staff entered her body from the back and relentlessly thrust inside her. Her chest also felt sore as Yun Shi Yi had attached himself at her breast and was sucking down mouthful after mouthful of her milk.
Tightly squeezed between the two men, experiencing this 3P brought about extreme pleasure as well as extreme happiness.
Early the next morning, Ruan Zi Xu led the two Yun brothers in packing everything in the storeroom into chests before leaving. Ruan Zhu shed tears as she bid them farewell.
Lan Zhou was so far away. Separating like this, perhaps it would be much later before they could meet again, right? At that time, who knew what the war would be like and whether the capital would be lost or moved?
The words Yun Shi Yi spoke last night sounded in her ear: Wife, the child is still small so we cannot return home together. You should stay in the capital and look after the child. With Lu Piao Xiang protecting you, I am very reassured.
Of course he would be reassured; Lu Piao Xiang was now a generalissimo, and the Ruan family was very curious about how he had assumed such an important position. Though asking was useless, all were sincerely delighted.
When Ruan Zi Xu found out Lu Piao Xiang had allocated two thousand elites to escort him to Lan Zhou, he felt even more strongly that the other’s strength was not ordinary.
Ruan Zhu returned to her room and looked at Zi Xi. Last night, the wet nurse had not paid attention, and he had climbed out of his swaddling clothes, resulting in him actually having a bit of a cold. He was still that small, that weak; so how could he possibly be able to endure the several thousand li journey? If only it were possible for the current political situation to change for the better.
[a] 问心无愧, idiom meaning a clear conscience
[b] 强词夺理, idiom translated literally above that could also mean shoving false arguments down somebody’s throat
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