After exiting Yuan Hui’s room, Zhen Ting Yun went downstairs to return the tray first. Then, using her own money, she purchased an old hen and instructed the inn’s kitchen to stew it.
After everything was properly arranged, Zhen Ting Yun went to seek Old Madame Zhen.
Old Madame Zhen, who had already taken her breakfast, was sitting on a chair with her head lowered, sewing a robe. She was currently holding up an embroidery pattern trying to replicate it.
Zhen Ting Yun glanced at it and saw that the size of the robe in the hands of Old Madame Zhen was not very big. She guessed that it was most probably for her younger brother, Zhen Heng Zhe.
Old Madame Zhen always proclaimed how precious her grandson was to her. Although she had never laid eyes on her grandson, she still missed him daily. From time to time, she would instruct people to deliver things to her son and grandson. And currently, seeing that she was about to enter the Imperial City, Old Madame Zhen had already asked for her grandson’s measurements. Along their journey, she was making clothes for her son and grandson. In addition, she was even embroidering patterns!
It would be a lie to say that Zhen Ting Yun was not jealous. However, she knew Old Madame Zhen’s character very well and could not be bothered to bicker over it.
Therefore, Zhen Ting Yun only politely informed her, “Grandma, everyone says that the Imperial City is the abode of the Son of Heaven. It presided over the fashion trends in the world. Even the styles of robes are a little different from other places. You’re thinking about making clothes for Younger Brother, the notion is sincere but what if the clothes are not up to Younger Brother’s taste? Wouldn’t it be a waste of effort? Why not wait until we arrive at the Imperial City before you continue?”
Old Madame Zhen chose not to listen to her. Without batting an eyelid, she replied, “It’s fine. I’m just sewing some casual wear clothing. Even if the styles are different, it should be fine to wear them at home. Plus, it doesn’t take much effort and I’m doing it out of leisure.”
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Hbld Mkdt Zwd pbawttle yde eke dsv nsdvkdwl rlapwyekdt bla. Tsolhla, pbl nypwyzzu yeele, “Mbld obld usw’al esdl okvb vbl asclp, usw nyd plo y prakdt tyaxldv qsa xl. Rv ‘eslpd’v vyjl xwnb lqqsav’ lkvbla.”
Xze Yyeyxl Hbld, “…”
Rq kv bye clld y qlo ulyap lyazkla, Xze Yyeyxl Hbld oswze byhl ekalnvzu pbsv cynj, “Zsw pkzzu zkvvzl tkaz, yal usw zynjkdt qsse vs lyv sa zynjkdt nzsvblp vs olya? Ebu yal usw ps iwyaalzpsxl?”&dcpr;
Bdqsavwdyvlzu, vbl ralpldv oyp wdzkjl vbl rypv. Gzvbswtb Xze Yyeyxl Hbld hyzwle xyzlp shla qlxyzlp, pbl pvkzz zkhle okvb bla taydeeywtbvla qsa xsal vbyd vld ulyap. Mblal olal psxl qllzkdtp kdhszhle yde pbl jdlo bla taydeeywtbvla’p vlxrlayxldv olzz. Rv oswze dsv cl tsse vs alyzzu ydtla bla.&dcpr;
Fs, Xze Yyeyxl Hbld pvwnj vbl dllezl kdvs vbl lxcaskelau bssr yde rwzzle bla taydeeywtbvla vs pkv clpkel bla. Fbl ycawrvzu nbydtle vbl pwcflnv, “R’hl blyae qasx Fvloyae Nkd vbyv ol’zz xspv zkjlzu cl pvwnj blal qsa y qlo xsal eyup. Mblalqsal, ol’zz xspv zkjlzu cl aldvkdt y qlo xsal eyup vs pvyu kd vbl kdd. Zsw pbswzed’v eyzzu blal yde bwaau nblnj-swv vbl assx dlmv essa. R’hl yzalyeu kdqsaxle Fvloyae Nkd vs byhl vbyv xyd pvyu okvb bkx!”
Hbld Mkdt Zwd oyp saktkdyzzu pvkzz vbkdjkdt sq bso pbl pbswze kdqsax Xze Yyeyxl Hbld ycswv tkhkdt Zwyd Twk psxl nbknjld casvb. Fbl eke dsv lmrlnv vbyv Xze Yyeyxl Hbld nswze dsv lhld clya vbl yeekvksdyz qlo eyup sq aldvyz yde oydvle vs pbshl Zwyd Twk vs pvyu okvb Fvloyae Nkd… Bdqsavwdyvlzu, Hbld Mkdt Zwd oyp rzyddkdt vs byhl Zwyd Twk vlynb bla vbkdtp. Fs pbl pvkzz dllele vs nyvla vs bkp obkxp yde nswze dsv pzktbv vbl svbla ryavu.
Mblalqsal, pbl bye vs nsdhkdnl Xze Yyeyxl Hbld qkapv. Gqvla yzz, dsv vs xldvksd vbl assx aldvyz nspvp. Rd vbl qwvwal, pbl pvkzz bye vs pkxxla nbknjld casvb qsa Zwyd Twk. Rd yeekvksd, pbl oswze yzps dlle vs cwu nzsvblp yde xleknkdl, yde vblal olal dwxlaswp rzynlp oblal xsdlu oswze cl wple.
Hbld Mkdt Zwd vssj y ellr calyvb. Fbl bye vbl qllzkdt vbyv pbl oyp wdela kxxldpl ralppwal.
But Old Madame Zhen had no idea what her granddaughter was thinking. Seeing that Zhen Ting Yun remained mum, she urged again, “I have yet to comment on your actions! You actually allowed a horse thief to have a room all to himself and once he moved in, it’s for a few days too! Do you feel that we have too much money?!”
Zhen Ting Yun made up her mind and sat down, leaning against Old Madame Zhen before she started, “Grandma, don’t keep calling people ‘horse thief’ this and ‘horse thief’ that. People have a name and it’s Yuan Hui.”
Old Madame Zhen pouted her lips and did not reply.
“Grandma, please listen to me first,” Zhen Ting Yun slowly articulated, “I’ve already spoken with Yuan Hui. I can tell that he’s really talented, not only in horsemanship and archery but also in the four arts1The four arts comprise zither, Go (Chinese chess), calligraphy, and painting.. Because I saved him this time around, he is very appreciative and promised to guide me on calligraphy and playing the bamboo flute. And when he recovers, he’ll teach me horsemanship and archery as well… I shan’t hide from Grandma, in all honesty, I’m ecstatic. As you know, a few years back when I wanted to learn how to play the zither from the elderly scholar from the neighboring school, not only did I spend eight taels of silver to buy the second-hand zither from him, I occasionally needed to deliver dishes, fish, and snacks before he reluctantly agreed to teach me some things. It is not difficult to tell that wanting to learn things from others is no easy feat. And now, I encountered such a talented individual like Yuan Hui who is willing to impart knowledge to me. Not to mention renting an additional room, inviting a doctor, or buying medicine, even if he asked for remuneration, I’ll still clench my teeth and find a way to pay him.”
In the beginning, Zhen Ting Yun was tormented for a good half a year on her path to learn how to play the zither. To scold, Old Madame Zhen had already done so. To be angry, Old Madame Zhen had also already been there. Thinking back on this now, Old Madame Zhen felt heartache for her granddaughter. She even faintly regretted that she was too stingy at that time and was unwilling to spend the money to hire a teacher. This caused her granddaughter to suffer those grievances outside.
Zhen Ting Yun’s expression remained unchanged as she continued, “Yet, Yuan Hui didn’t mention anything about remuneration. Grandma, think about it, a teacher who will not demand payment. We’re also not those conscienceless people so we shouldn’t treat him poorly in return. We should show consideration and bring forth an attitude of respecting one’s teacher and treating him with courtesy. How can we have him share a room with Steward Lin?
“Back when Father was accepted under maternal Grandfather’s tutelage, didn’t you also say he must always ‘as a junior serve his teacher wholeheartedly’2<有事弟子服其劳> come from the original text of [The Analects of Confucius]. It means that come hell or high water if things need to be done, juniors should offer to do it on behalf of their seniors. ? Every day, he would make his way to Grandfather’s side to serve him regardless of the biting winters or scorching summers. To remember to always maintain a respectful front. If you ask me, Father is the embodiment of what a student should be like. As a daughter, I must learn from Father’s example.”
Old Madame Zhen’s expression rippled but she remained adamant, “You’re just a girl, what’s the use of learning these things?!”
“I know Grandma has always despised such things and believes that I’m foolishly tormenting myself. But I am unresigned. Knowing that my mother was a female scholar who graduated from Xi Du Women’s Academy, and my eldest sister got admitted into Yu Hua Women’s Academy after reaching the Imperial City at the beginning of the year. Yet, here I am, the only one who knows nothing. Even after we reach the Imperial City and meet Father, Mother, Eldest Sister, and Younger Brother, I’m afraid I’ll cause Grandma to lose face together with me. If that’s really the case then I could just die from the shame!” Zhen Ting Yun held Old Madame Zhen’s hand and softly added, “Grandma, I determined not to fall short, for myself, and for you as well.”
When Old Madame Zhen heard up to this point, she was already a little convinced. Although she did not care about such things, she knew that her son and daughter-in-law placed importance on it. Furthermore, her eldest granddaughter, who was raised by her daughter-in-law, managed to get admitted into a women’s academy at the beginning of the year. If Zhen Ting Yun, who was raised by her, could not get into a women’s academy next year, then she would really lose her face as well.
With her thoughts diverting in this direction, Old Madame Zhen finally accepted and agreed, “Forget it. If you want to learn then go ahead.”
Zhen Ting Yun blinked before hugging and swaying Old Madame Zhen’s arm. She coquettishly replied, “I just know Grandma loves me…”
Seeing her brightly lit grin, Old Madame Zhen actually liked it very much. She could not help but smile in return. She raised her hand to caress the top of Zhen Ting Yun’s hair and added with a laugh, “I’ve never seen people talk like you before! People keep saying how smart and capable your eldest sister is. But from the way I see it, she might not be as good as you. Since you have the fate to meet a teacher willing to guide you, then you should put in the effort, study hard, and learn well. During next year’s women’s academy admission, if you do better than your eldest sister, then I’ll be able to ride on your coattails and garner honor as well.”
Old Madame Zhen’s thoughts continued drifting, if her younger granddaughter was able to do better than her elder granddaughter, then did it not signify that she, this elderly, was better than Pei-Shi in raising her granddaughter?
The more she thought about it, Old Madame Zhen could not help but embrace Zhen Ting Yun while chortling.
On the other hand, Zhen Ting Yun sighed because of Old Madame Zhen’s lofty aspirations. Sigh… She was just thinking about how to get admitted into a women’s academy, but Grandma was already thinking about how she could surpass Eldest Sister, Zhen Yi Yun… No wonder Yuan Hui always felt that she was a dreamer. Turns out it ran in the family!
Although that was what Zhen Ting Yun thought, her mouth remained as sweet as ever. She lightly stated after looking like she pondered on the particular issue for a moment, “Oh yes, I see that Grandma looked more wane than usual due to our arduous journey. With the addition of your age, we need to take more care. I feel that you could do with more nourishment, so I instructed someone to simmer some chicken broth for you. I’ll bring it up to you later in the evening.”
Either way, once the chicken was cooked, it would produce a big pot of soup. By then, she can separate it into two bowls, one for Yuan Hui, and one for Old Madame Zhen. Was it not fitting to divide it as such?
When Old Madame Zhen heard her words, she could not smile anymore. She raised her hand and pinched her granddaughter’s ear, “You-, you prodigal girl! The chickens in the inn are much more expensive than those at home! Why do you need to have chicken?” As she spoke, she was about to hop up and head downstairs to stop the kitchen from cooking the chicken soup.
Zhen Ting Yun put on the appearance of a dead pig that did not fear scalding water3It means to put on an appearance of being unaffected or undaunted., and humphed, “Regardless, the chicken is already slaughtered and simmering in the pot. There’s no point in you going down now.”
Old Madame Zhen was nearly angered to death by this prodigal granddaughter of hers. She exerted all her strength and pinched her a couple more times. In the end, there was nothing she could do about her granddaughter.
Moreover, although she was angry at her granddaughter for spending money excessively, deep within her heart, she was still a little happy. She felt that it was a rare act of filial piety from her granddaughter.
Later in the evening, Zhen Ting Yun personally went downstairs to look at the pot of chicken soup. She consciously divided it into two bowls. Thinking of Old Madame Zhen’s age, Zhen Ting Yun felt that she should not consume things that were too greasy as well as it was not beneficial for her health. So, she simply skimmed the oil off the two bowls before she brought the large bowl of chicken broth to Old Madame Zhen.
Old Madame Zhen was shrewd in this aspect. Using the spoon, she stirred around the bowl before muttering, “That’s not right, there’s only half a chicken in here… You say, do you think the cook stole the other half?”
“I instructed Ba Zhen to watch as the broth was being simmered.” Zhen Ting Yun secretly rolled her eyes and had no choice but to take the fall, “I drank the other half.”
Old Madame Zhen raised her eyebrow and mocked, “And you still say it’s your act of filial piety to me. In the end, after simmering the soup, you drank it first before you serve this grandmother of yours.”
Zhen Ting Yun also imitated Old Madame Zhen’s tone, cupping her cheeks and sighing, “Sigh, Grandma still claims to love me. But all throughout our journey, you’ve only been making clothes for Father and Younger Brother. My spring garment isn’t made yet, I could only make do with a few sips of chicken broth to warm my stomach.”
The sly grandmother and the crafty granddaughter stared at each other, laughed, but said no more.
I love how the author built her characters. Like how Old Madame Zhen preferred males to females, but raising Zhen Ting Yun since she was a baby allowed her to form a bond with her granddaughter. It shows that people’s hearts aren’t made of stone, and feelings could be developed over time.