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2. This is a fan work and the interpretation represents only the translator’s personal views without any input from the author.
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While the few of them were talking, the woman who had been dragged away by the First Young Madam had had enough. She found a gap, and managed to shake the First Young Madam off before coming over. She smiled and greeted Liu Xu’er before joining their conversation.
Liu Xu’er thoughts turned to Song Yao. After Song Yao had arrived, it was clear that she was being ignored by the people here. Whether intentionally or not, the women here had given her a wide berth, and Song Yao had found herself a pavilion to sit down by herself. She sat quietly admiring the views and the flowers – she didn’t need to put up with their strange looks. The First Young Madam, on the other hand, was desperately trying to find a group to mingle with. It was a pity that most people were also ignoring her.
This was hypocrisy at its finest – families which were showing clear signs of future progression, such as Liu Xu’er’s own, would be given all of the crowd’s attention. They would fawn over her and smile at her, even if she was from a lowly merchant family. While those families on the decline, no matter that they came from prestigious backgrounds, could only deal with cold looks and sneers from others.
It was lucky that Liu Xu’er wasn’t an ordinary girl – her head wasn’t easily turned by all of this attention.
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Mbkp oyp vbl lmnwpl vblu bye wple vs kdhkvl Fsdt Zys shla. Rv oyp dsv kdvldele vs nywpl ydu ekqqknwzvklp qsa bla, ps clqsal vbkp, vblu bye xyel pwal vs kdqsax Fsdt Zys sq vbl vos kdvldele rklnlp, yzzsokdt bla vkxl vs ralryal. Mbl nasoe oyp qwzz sq raykpl qsa bla vyzldv yqvla pbl pbyale vbl dyxlp pbl bye nbspld.&dcpr;
Right at this moment, Xing Rongrong strutted over. When she saw that Liu Xu’er was at the centre of this crowd, her lips twisted into a sneer.
When they were younger, Liu Xu’er had stayed in her home for a few days. At that time, she clearly looked like a village bumpkin! Xing Rongrong would never have imagined that Liu Xu’er’s change would be so dramatic in just a few short years. She was originally a rather petty, arrogant character. She was feeling especially vexed at losing to Liu Xu’er both in terms of dressing as well as in terms of culture.
Of course, she couldn’t do anything rude in front of so many people, so she just sat at the outermost edge and watched as Liu Xu’er continued to hold sway.
Just like her, the First Young Madam was also sitting at the edges of the crowd, looking on coldly as everything happened.
Liu Xu’er had no time to manage either of them – she took this opportunity to suggest a poetry writing competition. She explained that there would be rewards and punishments. The reward would naturally be a piece of jewellery. The punishment would be to drink a cup of wine. The servant girls swiftly laid out the food and drink that Shi Cheng had specially shipped in from Songjiang province – crab, tea, all sorts of flower wine. There were many different wine options including mulled rice wine. At the side stood a delicate brazier made of white jade bone china intended to heat the wine.
Once the table had been laid, quite a few of the young ladies started to glance at each other. They thought to themselves – even though this person was from a merchant family, they were obviously able to put together a very elegant affair.
Liu Xu’er herself pretended not to see anything. She again called for someone to bring out the jewellery prizes, and generously showed then around. But she knew that she herself wasn’t capable of writing poetry, so she quickly took centre stage and functioned as the host for the event.
In short order, the rules of the competition were explained and everyone started to compose their poems.
Liu Xu’er listened from the side. Very quickly she could tell that Song Yao’s standard was head and shoulders above the rest of them. It seemed that her erge hadn’t exaggerated. If Song Yao had been a male, she would have had no issues in passing the exam. It might even be that the Hanlin family wouldn’t have declined to this extent.
Song Yao herself was naturally very self aware, and wouldn’t try to show off her strength too much in a competition like this. If she did, it would make the rest look mediocre. There was no need for that, and it was rather against the spirit of this event, so she very carefully held back.
The poetry competition was very lively, and the named losers were punished with a cup of wine. This entire event had the air of one organised by a prestigious household. No one would have thought it was Liu Xu’er’s first time organising a banquet. The servant girls would occasionally send quiet reports over to Shi Cheng’s mother. When Meng shi heard, she was full of praise. She was extremely satisfied with her performance.
After enjoying the crab and wine, a few items of jewellery were slowly given out. Even though Song Yao had held back, she had also been awarded a jade and yellow topaz hairpin decorated with a gold lotus. Liu Xu’er had quietly taken note of the type of jewellery given – she would see if it would appear again in a few days, either at the jewellery store or at a pawnshop.
The banquet lasted all the way till the afternoon before guests slowly started to leave.
After sending off the last guest, Liu Xu’er finally heaved a massive sigh of relief! Whether Shi Cheng had met his objective, she didn’t know, but she herself had achieved what she had set out to do. She had even been pleasantly surprised by what she had found.
The pleasant surprise was related to how well these young women had treated her today. Before this, even Liu Xu’er herself had never anticipated that these people would treat a businessperson like her this well. They hadn’t just treated her politely, they had actively sought to make her acquaintance.
Liu Xu’er had also gotten an assurance of her erge’s likely success in proposing marriage to the Hanlin family. When she went back, she was very clear – she would definitely support her erge!
She continued to stay back and instruct the servant girls in her tasks, while Shi Cheng himself had kept away the jewellery he had set out. Then Liu Xu’er took her leave from Shi Cheng and his mother.
Shi Cheng’s mother was extremely pleased by the day’s events. She treated Liu Xu’er very warmly, inviting her over to play in the next few days. Meng shi explained she would be leaving soon thereafter.
Liu Xu’er agreed, and brought Xiuxiu back in the carriage.
Xiuxiu had had her horizons expanded over the course of the day. She herself wasn’t gifted with words, so she had just followed closely at Liu Xu’er’s side, watching. The admiration she had had increased exponentially after watching Liu Xu’er deftly dealing with the situation. She found it strange – where had biaojie learnt to do all this?
When they got back, everyone had gathered together for the evening meal. Most of the family members were curious about what had happened, so Liu Xu’er sketched out some basics for them. Liu Lin was especially attentive when she was talking.
Liu Xu’er had deliberately withheld the fact that Shi Cheng had specially invited Song Yao to the banquet from Liu Lin, but it seemed that Liu Lin had still found out. Liu Xu’er understood – there must be some way for her erge and Miss Song to meet privately.
Since Song Yao’s character seemed to be quite good, and because she was fairly certain that her erge’s proposal wasn’t going to be rejected at the door, Liu Xu’er looked for an opportunity to discuss the situation with He shi. She needed to talk her mother round to the idea.
As it happened, He shi had been anxiously wanting to discuss the situation with her after Liu Changgeng’s reminders. She now felt that she had handled the situation rather impulsively and was hoping for support from her daughter.
When Liu Xu’er went looking for He shi, wanting to discuss her erge’s marriage, He shi immediately agreed. She told her servant girl to guard the door, and not let anyone in. Then she started to speak with Liu Xu’er,
“Your erge’s matter – I’ve been thinking about it these past few days. Before, I admit that I was in a bad temper and didn’t explain myself well.” He shi started, “Xiuxiu is younger than your erge by quite a few years, but this really isn’t an issue. Your erge just has to wait another two years, and Xiuxiu will be 15, 16. That would be a suitable time to get married. Also, Xiuxiu is my niece, isn’t it good to marry close relations?! Everyone in the family knows Xiuxiu’s character. When she gets married, she definitely won’t stir up trouble in the family!”
Liu Xu’er sighed. Then she smiled and said, “Mum, I agree with that last sentence. Xiuxiu definitely won’t stir any trouble up for the family… But, that doesn’t mean that other women would stir trouble for our family, right? Or do you think that only Xiuxiu is a good choice in this world?”
“How do you know if someone else is good or not? I know Xiuxiu!” He shi’s tone started to get more strident
Liu Xu’er sighed, “Mum, Xiuxiu is not suitable for my erge. It’s not just about the age gap.” When she saw that He shi was about to get frustrated, she smiled and quickly said, “Didn’t you want to talk with me? If you don’t want to allow me the chance to speak then I won’t stay. How can we talk about the situation that way? If you really want to discuss it with me, you must allow me to speak!”
He shi huffed. She thought it over before finally saying, “Say it then!”
Liu Xu’er smiled and continued, “I really do understand mum’s way of thinking. Xiuxiu is a good girl, with a very good temper. She’s very warm hearted and I’ve always gotten along with her. You are her aunt, so of course you want your son to marry her. And since Xiuxiu is a relative, then she would definitely be filial to the both of you and get along well with her sisters-in-law. She won’t make trouble, and she won’t be disobedient. Which mother-in-law doesn’t hope for a daughter-in-law like that! Especially since I am going to be married, you naturally hope for someone who can be more like a daughter to you, someone who can chat to you like I do…. If Xiuxiu were to marry in, she would definitely be able to know your heart!”
He shi nodded when she heard. She thought over her original reasoning when she had made plans to match her son to Xiuxiu. Most of the reasons were along this vein; in fact, she might not have been able to articulate them as well. But when her daughter started to speak about it, she started to feel a bit sad. She sighed and said, “Yes, when you get married…. Mum hopes for someone who can continue to be her companion.”
Liu Xu’er smiled and grabbed hold of her hand, “Mum, your plan was a bit too… Don’t blame your daughter for being too blunt, but it was a bit too… You should broaden your horizons.” Even after saying all that, she couldn’t force herself to actually be that blunt, phrasing it more tactfully instead.