Zhen Ting Yun did not share Yuan Hui’s complicated thoughts.
After she finished practicing her calligraphy, she put down the brush. Remembering that she wanted to discuss with Yuan Hui about their departure tomorrow, she started, “Prince She Zheng’s entourage is said to be departing tomorrow. We’ll most likely be leaving the day after that. It’s just that my family only has two horse-drawn carriages. It wouldn’t be very convenient to bring you along.”
After listening to Zhen Ting Yun’s predicament, Yuan Hui stated as a matter of fact, “that’s simple. Have the two maidservants ride in the front carriage with your grandmother while you ride in the second carriage with me.”
Zhen Ting Yun felt slightly awkward, “I’m afraid Grandma wouldn’t feel at ease without me by her side. Besides, after age seven, males and females should be prudent and maintain a distance. Although the etiquette is not as strict nowadays, it’s still not a good idea for us to share a carriage.”
Yuan Hui casually replied, “You’re already addressing me as your mentor. Currently, your teacher is unwell and as a tutee, you should be serving by my side. So, what’s wrong with that?”
After a slight pause, Yuan Hui added another bargaining chip, “Although the journey would be arduous, time spent on the road shouldn’t be wasted. If we share the same carriage, I can impart more knowledge to you.”
That was also true.
Zhen Ting Yun was finally convinced, but she was still a little hesitant.
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Gv vbyv xsxldv, y ellr, xswadqwz xlzseu alpswdele.
At the start of the tune, perhaps due to his lack of energy resulting from his poor health or perhaps due to the mediocre quality of the bamboo flute, the music sounded a little stiff. However, it soon became smoother, like a stream passing through a snow-white landscape. Following the surge of the stream, the flow became more crisp, pleasant, and melodious. Even the agitated birds on the tree near the window quieted as though they were silently listening to this wonderful sound of nature; a tune that was rarely heard in this world.
It was at this point, Zhen Ting Yun finally understood why Yuan Hui despised her zither skills.
Because Yuan Hui’s tune was so melodious, it brought true meaning to the phrase, ‘losing the taste for meat for three months’.
Upon hearing the tune, Zhen Ting Yun realized what the saying truly meant.
Back then, Bo Ya played the zither envisioning the mountains and Zhong Zi Qi complimented, “Excellent! Lofty like Mount Tai.” When Bo Ya played the zither thinking of running waters, Zhong Zi Qi complimented, “Excellent! Vast like a flowing river.”2Yu Bo Ya and Zhong Zi Qi were close confidantes. Whenever Yu Bo Ya played the zither, Zhong Zi Qi fully understood what his tune was trying to convey. Hence, when Zhong Zi Qi passed away, Yu Bo Ya broke the strings of his zither as he believed that no one else would fully understand his songs.
It turned out that this was not an exaggeration or historical fiction. One could truly picture towering mountains and flowing rivers from tunes played in this secular world.
After the song was over, Zhen Ting Yun took a while to return to her senses. After which, the first sentence out of her mouth was, “You played beautifully.”
The second sentence was, “When will I be able to play as well as you?”
Yuan Hui thought to himself, ‘Although the saying – introspection upon meeting a virtuous and learned individual3Originating from the Analects, the saying <见贤者思齐焉> points to doing self-reflection and learning from people that are virtuous and talented, hoping to one day be on par with them. , is a good trait to have. Isn’t Zhen Ting Yun being too hasty? Don’t she have a grasp of her current foundation?’
However, he did not deliver a blow to his student’s self-esteem. After a moment of contemplation, he reassured, “Take your time and learn, you’ll get there eventually.”
Yuan Hui was aware that if Zhen Ting Yun wanted to reach his caliber, other than putting in tremendous effort to learn, she needed to also pose a certain level of innate talent.
Having said that, Yuan Hui went through some music theories with Zhen Ting Yun before handing the bamboo flute to her as he advised, “Give it a try. Remember to focus on your breathing and keep it steady.”
Zhen Ting Yun received the bamboo flute and was about to give it a go when she belated realized something.
This… there was only one bamboo flute. After he blew in it, if she were to blow into it as well, wasn’t it slightly…
Yet, when she thought about having to spend more money to get another one, Zhen Ting Yun decided to keep her mouth shut. Forget it, since Yuan Hui did not bring it up, she shall not either. Saving every little bit counted.
Therefore, Zhen Ting Yun wordlessly used a handkerchief to carefully wipe the lip plate of the bamboo flute before she began blowing into it.
Yuan Hui subsequently realized something was wrong after observing Zhen Ting Yun’s actions. If he was being honest, he never thought about how he would be teaching another person the art of playing the flute. In addition, it never crossed his mind that both, teacher and student, would have to share the same flute. Hence, it never occurred to him what issues would arise from only having one flute.
Since Zhen Ting Yun did not say anything, Yuan Hui also chose not to comment and pretended that it never crossed his mind. After all, if he were to bring this up now, the little girl would be more embarrassed.
Thus, the flute learning session went as such. After you blow, I would wipe it, and after I blow, you would wipe it. And the recently bought bamboo flute was polished by both of them and it looked smooth and shiny.
Reaching the end of their first lesson, Zhen Ting Yun’s cheeks were colored red and after lunch, she sent Liu Shun out to buy another bamboo flute.
Alas, there was no shortage of places where money was needed when it came to learning.
In the evening, Zhen Ting Yun discussed with Old Madame Zhen about their departure the day after.
Hence, it was unavoidable that she would need to inform Old Madame Zhen about the carriage seating arrangement.
However, when Zhen Ting Yun brought it up with Old Madame Zhen, the story she weaved was that – Teacher Yuan was already in his twenties and most likely had a wife and children waiting at home for him. Since she was addressing him as her teacher, she would respect him as her elder and attend to him as such. Hence, those social etiquettes and taboos did not apply to their situation.
Old Madame Zhen was already convinced, but she still added, “You haven’t gone through with the apprenticeship acceptance ceremony, and neither did you prepare any remuneration for hiring a teacher. I don’t think he can be rightfully considered as your mentor.”
Zhen Ting Yun softly muttered, “I also want to learn more from him. If I share a carriage with him, I’ll be able to ask questions whenever I need help. He wouldn’t be able to hide anything so I’ll be able to learn more. In addition, the time spent on this journey wouldn’t be wasted.”
As Old Madame Zhen was also a miser, she felt that what her granddaughter said was right, “that’s true. As the old saying goes, ‘teach the disciples, starve the master’4The student surpasses the master.. In normal circumstances, apprentices have to serve at their masters’ sides for many years to learn the trade. You didn’t need to pay any money for the things you’re learning so you should be more meticulous in serving…”
“And you remember to speak more sweetly and say nicer hearing words. After all, nice words don’t need money. Since you’re asking others to teach you, you must listen carefully and ask questions appropriately, this way you’ll be able to learn more from him.” Old Madame Zhen imparted ways to gain favor with one’s mentor to her granddaughter. Then she softly asked her granddaughter, “this morning, was it him playing the flute? It’s actually surprisingly good. Even Mrs. Li staying next door came to enquire about it… You must do your best and learn properly. Only after you know how to play the flute, then it wouldn’t be considered a loss.”
Zhen Ting Yun nodded in agreement. With an ambitious heart, she patted her chest and vowed, “Grandma, please be rest assured, I’ll definitely play better than him in the future!”
Looking at how confident her granddaughter was, Old Madame Zhen did not have the heart to tear down her pride. In fact, she had heard when Yuan Hui played his tune. However, when it was Zhen Ting Yun’s turn, the tune became discordant. To say that it sounded horrible was being nice… Therefore, Old Madame Zhen promptly decided to stuff some cotton into her ears. It was only this way that she managed to catch some shut-eye in the room.
Speaking of which, the knowledge of stuffing cotton into her ears was also gained from her experience back when Zhen Ting Yun was learning the zither.
Thinking that she would most likely have to relive the days of using cotton to block her ears again, Old Madame Zhen felt like she aged five years and was feeling mentally exhausted.
The author has something to say:
Zhen Ting Yun: I thought of you as a teacher, but you actually…!!!
Yuan Hui: Actually… is somebody with more money than sense?