Jiang Huaizhou had of course heard of the legends, but he had never thought of his little cousin’s question.
“I’ve never tried it, how would I know if they’re connected?” Jiang Huaizhou said as he pulled up a bucket of water, and invited his two cousins to drink the water he had personally got for them.
Xie Lanyin was dissatisfied with this answer, so she was going to go ask a nearby daoist priest. But then, another idea tugged at her heart. She secretly removed her red agate earring and then, with a glance around, she pretended to thoughtlessly drop it in the well.
She did it sneakily enough that even the sound of it hitting the water was concealed by the sound of the droplets falling from the bucket, but Xie Lanqiao and Jiang Huaizhou had both seen it. Jiang Huaizhou didn’t care, but Xie Langqiao was so angry that she pinched her little sister’s arm. “You wastrel… You’re so rich now that you can throw away money?”
She clenched her teeth and hissed in a quiet voice, not wanting others to know what her little sister had done, otherwise, it could become troublesome.
Her pinch wasn’t light. It made Xie Lanyin shouted out in pain. Afraid that her sister hadn’t had enough, she quickly ran away up the stairs.
Xie Lanqiao hurried after her.
If it was someone else’s earring, she wouldn’t have become so angry, but that was the earring her little sister had begged her to buy last year. Because there was someone fighting over it with her, she had ended up paying tens of silver more than the original price. Just now, her little sister actually casually threw it away as if it was just blown off by the wind. If she didn’t discipline her today, wouldn’t she ruin a family in the future?
As long as these two sisters were together, it would never be peaceful. Jiang Huaizhou remained calm. He quietly told his servant, Changan, to go to the Jade Spring at the bottom of the mountain and look for it.
Meanwhile, Xia Lanyin was gasping for breath after reaching the 2nd floor. She noticed that there was already some customers sitting around a table. She celebrated inwardly and a smile crept on her face. She quickly walked towards them and sat nearby. She looked confidently towards her sister who was chasing up to her, not believing she would be attacked while other people were present.
Xie Lanqiao could tell what her little sister was scheming at a glance, but she was indeed unwilling to act too shamefully and could only sigh. She calmly walked up and sat across from her sister, giving her a sharp glare.
Xie Lanyin laughed silently. She was safe for now. She then sneakily looked towards the people at the table beside her’s.
Lu Jun was sitting upright, expressionless. His chiseled face looked grave and respectful. Across from him sat Ge Jin who was peeping at the new customers. Because Xie Lanyin was wearing a veil, he couldn’t tell that she was also looking over, so he continued to peep. He looked over Xie Lanqiao twice before withdrawing his gaze. He reached to his tea and took the chance to signal to his master.
The two were both woman.
Xiao Yuan shot him a dull glance.
Ge Jin resentfully withdrew his hand, feeling annoyed. How could he have forgotten? Although his master had his back to the table, when the sisters rushed in, he must have taken the chance to observe them. Why would he need his meddling?
Xie Lanyin had also seen enough and withdrew her gaze. There were 3 people. The most luxuriously dressed one had his back to her, but the other two were not ordinary. One had a cold attitude and was similar to her father. He probably knew some martial arts. The other looked crafty and dishonest. He had been staring at her sister for a long time. Could it be he had seen through her sister’s identity?
Well, her sister only wore male clothes for convenience. It didn’t really matter if someone noticed she was a woman.
“3rd cousin, I want to drink osmanthus tea. Do they have it?” When Jiang Huaizhou arrived, Xie Lanyin raised her voice and asked.
When her sweet and tender voice spread through the room, Ge Jin once again looked towards his master. Before, when this young lady had spoken from downstairs, it had already made his master frezze up. His master obviously liked that voice, so he wanted to help find the owner.
At this time, Xiao Yuan’s expression didn’t change at all. He quietly sipped his tea and looked at the scenery outside the window.
“There is, I’ve already made sure of it yesterday.” Jiang Huaizhou walked over and gave a nod to Ge Jin who was the closest. His sloppy but gentle appearance that he only showed with his family had been replaced by his business appearance.
Ge Jin returned his nod with a friendly smile.
Having finished the simple greeting, Jian Huaizhou returned his attention to his two cousins.
Gejin looked back and saw his master drinking cup after cup of tea, obviously not intending to leave. He didn’t know if he was really here to drink tea or if he just couldn’t bear to leave that voice which was even better than his black orioles. Whatever the case, he smartly asked the daoist priest for another kettle.
Although the three men didn’t leave, Xie Lanyin had rested enough and suggested they continue their walk.
Jiang Huaizhou and Xie Lanqiao both stood up.
Xie Lanyin walked on her sister’s right, and as they were about to descend the stairs, a mountain breeze blew in from a window, lifting her veil and exposing her fair white chin, her full rosy lips, as well as the red agate earring which swayed from side to side.
The wind had been too strong, and had messed up her veil. Xie Lanyin reached out her hand to fix it. Then complained as she followed her sister down the stairs.
After they left, Xiao Yuan calmly withdrew his gaze. Then a while later, he also got up to leave.
Lu Jun, as a man of few words, silently got up to follow him. Ge Jin thought back to those extra cups of tea his master had drank and made a proposal once they got downstairs: “Young master, since this is our first time coming to Huashan, why don’t we stay another 2 days?” Their master had no interest in beauties, he only loved beautiful sounds. If they stayed a few more days, perhaps he could meet that young lady again.
Xiao Yuan acted as if he hadn’t heard and concentrated on walking.
Ge Jin understood immediately. He had once again overthought things.
The next day, early in the morning, the master and his two servants were on their way down the mountain and passed by the Jade Spring.
Ge Jin enjoyed looking around at everything as he walked. His eye’s happened to discover that on the edge of the Jade Spring, there was a red shiny rock. It was just floating there, probably washed over by the waves. It would flash, reflecting the sun’s light as it bobbed in the water. Ge Jin became curious, so had ran over to pick it up. Only after he was up close did he notice that it was an earring, and became disappointed. He walked back and gave it to Lu Jun. “You can have it, you can give it to your future wife.”
The earring was of pretty high quality, but they were unaware that it belonged to the rich young lady.
Lu Jun looked at the item in Ge Jin hand but didn’t take it.
Neither Lu Jun or Ge Jin could make use of it. He was just about to raise his hand to throw it back when it was suddenly snatched away from him.
“Young master?” Ge Jin’s expression was full of astonishment as he looked at his master.
Xiao Yuan played around with the red agate in his hand, then tucked it into his sleeve and continued walking without a single explanation.
Lu Jun quickly caught up.
Ge Jin was still standing there staring blankly. He couldn’t believe what just happened. His master was a prince… a king1! Why would he bother with something they picked off the ground?
As the morning became brighter, the master and his two servants had long left. Changan was panting as he ran all over looking for something, but with no results. He had to now go back and report.
The Jiang family was wealthy. Madam Jiang was also wealthy. Even if they scraped together all the wealth in the Xie family, it would probably still be worth less than her dowry. Because of this, when she learned that her daughter had thrown away an earring, she didn’t really care. She simply warned her daughter to not fool around so much in the future. Jewelry was a fairly personal item for women, it wouldn’t be good if someone else picked it up.
“Mother, I know. If there was a stranger around, I wouldn’t have thrown it.” Xie Lanyin obediently leaned against her mother like a tired little bird. She was in the middle of telling her mother about her day. “I was just curious whether the Jade Well and the Jade Spring were really connected. It was third cousins fault for not telling me.”
Jiang Huaizhou was in the middle of drinking tea. Hearing her words, it all sprayed out of his mouth. “Really, you even blame that on me? Alright, when we get to Xi’an, you can find someone else to take you to play. I can’t take it anymore. Everything becomes my fault.”
He quickly wiped the tea off his clothes. Xie Lanyin cocked her head and smiled towards him. “But Eldest cousin is busy getting a wife. 2nd cousin is quiet and doesn’t like going out. If not you, then who should I find? Moreover, 3rd cousin, you’re knowledgeable and experienced, as well as good at talking. I like going around with 3rd cousin the most.”
Jiang Huaizhou snorted. “Looks like you’re not irredeemable.”
Xie Lanyin was going to praise him a few more times, but her mother knocked on her head. “Just going out and playing for a day or two is enough, you don’t need to go out everyday.”
Shanxi’s customs were fairly open, allowing Madam Jiang to be free and unrestrained during her childhood. Her parents and brother would allow her to do anything she wanted. However, her daughters grew up in the conservative Hangzhou. They had to be prim and proper, as befitting a lady. Madam Jiang hadn’t been very harsh in raising her daughters. She would reprimand them but would more or less let them do as they please.
At her mother’s words, Xie Lanyin cleverly promised not to run away, but she had a crafy glint in her eyes.
After leaving Huashan, the group returned to Huayin2 county.
Madam Jiang rarely returned to her family home, so she brought many souvenirs from Jiangnan3 with her. She got so much that it filled up the 8 carriages. Behind them, Lu Chi lead over 20 guards. He was the son of Lu Yao who was the keeper of her dowry, and was the same age as Jiang Huaizhou. His face was as smooth as jade, his eyebrows were long, and his eyes were thin. He was someone who looked like he was smiling even when he was not, which gave him a youthful feeling.
“Madam has returned.” Hearing that his masters and mistresses had returned, Lu Chi immediately went to welcome them. His dull gray robes couldn’t conceal his graceful bearings.
Madam Jiang treated him like a nephew so she helplessly explained to him: “We said we’d be back tomorrow, but our 5th little lady is tired so we came back early. Have everyone get ready, we’ll set out after lunch.”
Lu Chi smiled and nodded. He turned and looked towards Xie Lanyin.
He worked in the store that was given to Madam Jiang as a dowry, but he was also Xie Lanyin’s guard. Everytime Xie Lanyin went out, Madam Jiang would have Lu Chi accompany her. Even the eldest daughter that practiced martial arts had a guard by her side. The 2nd daughter was even more like a Jiang family member. No matter how relaxed she was at home, when she went out, she was always prepared for the worst. Only the youngest daughter, and the most delicate one, thought solely about having fun which worried Madam Jiang.
Xie Lanyin was very familiar with Lu Chi. Seeing the smile in his eyes, she parted her veil and glared at him.
Lu Chi acted as if he didn’t see it and smiled even more. The he left to make preparations.
That afternoon, after lunch, everyone rested for a while before they set out.
After travelling for three days, they arrived at a small county near Xi’an as the sun was about to set. The Jiang family owned a courtyard here, so Madam Jiang brought the group to rest there. They could continue the journey in the morning.
Since Madam Jiang had previously sent someone saying that they wouldn’t arrive till the day after tomorrow, she decided not to bother telling them about their change of plans. She wanted to give her family a pleasant surprise. Out of the other two young masters of the Jiang family, only the 2nd young master, Jiang Xingzhou, was here. He had planned to come first in order to arrange a welcome for them, but he didn’t expect his aunt and cousins to arrive early.
“Why didn’t aunt tell us earlier. Big brother is busy, he was planning to come tomorrow night. If we knew you would be here today, big brother would definitely come with me.” Zhang Xingzhou said as he quickly, but calmly, came out. He wore a jade colored robe and had a handsome intellectual style. He loved antique porcelain, so his character also took on some of the traits of the aged pottery, making him quiet and elegant.
“We’re all one family, you don’t have to be so polite. You could have just waited for us at the city gate, you didn’t have to come all the way here.” Madam Jiang smiled at her 2nd nephew. She pulled him to the side, and checked him out from top to bottom. “You should almost be as tall as your big brother now? So how is it? Do you have a girl you fancy? You’re already 20, don’t be like your big brother who waited so long to get a wife.”
His aunt urging him was because she cared. Jiang Xingzhou replied confidently: “There isn’t one for now, wait till Xingzhou meets the right young lady. Aunt will be the first one that to know. Xingzhou will be requesting aunt to check her out.”
Xie Lanyin snickered. She blinked her bright, peach-blossom eyes at him. “When did 2nd cousin learn to speak such sweet words?”
After the three Jiang family brothers took over their respective businesses, every year at least one of them would visit their aunt in Hangzhou, so Xie Lanyin was fairly familiar with them. Even after not meeting for a year or so, they wouldn’t feel distant.
Jiang Xingzhou pet his little cousin’s head and praised: “Linyin got taller and even prettier.” After praising her, he also praised Xie Lanqiao. Xie Lanyin guessed that he would ask about their elder sister, so she explained: “Big sister is helping father. She’s stuck to him so tight, we couldn’t get her to come. 2nd cousin will have to wait until you visit to see her.”
Hearing the young lady’s glib words, Jiang Xingzhou shook his head and laughed.
Jiang Huaizhou saw one of their neighbors come out to see what was going on. “2nd brother, let’s first let aunt go inside.”
Jiang Xingzhou nodded. As he walked, he told everyone some big news. “The emperor has conferred the title of King Qin to the first prince. Tomorrow, his highness King Qin will arrive in Xi’an. There will be a procession, so for half the day, no one will be able to use the gate. Aunt and the others should wait here till after lunch, otherwise you won’t have a good time waiting outside the gate.”
Xie Lanyin who didn’t find the Earring: So the rumors were all fake!
King Qin who got up earlier and got the Earring: I’ll use it to coax my future wife.
Lujun and Gejin: … ⊙﹏⊙ (Breaking out in cold sweat).
TN: As always, if anyone wishes to take over translation for this story, just shoot me an email. I won’t be able to put too much time into it, so it will release pretty slowly.
1: Kings ruled territories and served under the emperor.
2: An area in Shangxi province.
3: Jiangnan is an area which encompasses Huangzhou city as well as some other provinces.