The Rebirth Of An Ill-Fated Consort


Chapter 124 - : Each One's Fated Marriage

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Chapter 124 : Each One’s Fated Marriage

The undercurrents in the palace were surging, but outside, all was peaceful. Even if some earth-shaking event occurred, it would only provide the common people with another topic of conversation. At the same time that Jiang Li’s situation gave the people plenty of fodder for enthusiastic chatter, another situation was deemed insignificant.

In the Lord Mayor fu, previously a scene of happiness and harmonious living, the atmosphere was now rather sombre. The servants carried out their duties very carefully, as if extremely fearful of doing something that would call bad luck down on them. At one glance, it was clear that things were not the same as before.

Lord Mayor Dong appeared to be smooth and sophisticated but underneath the surface, he was actually very old-fashioned and inflexible. Fortunately, Dong Furen was gentle and moderate by nature, thus everyday life in the fu was generally devoid of vexing situations. However, the atmosphere had been somewhat strange over the past few days.

A maidservant offered a porcelain cup to Dong Furen, who was sitting in the courtyard, lost in contemplation. She said, “Furen, the kitchen has freshly prepared this bird’s nest soup, do try some.”

“How can I be in the mood to stomach this?” Dong Furen pushed the porcelain cup away, her face showing a trace of worry. “With such a situation occurring, the Dong family will have no face in front of the Chang family. Laoye is furious again, and I don’t know what’s gotten into that girl; Yinger is so stubborn and has done something like this, ai.”

Dong Yinger and the Third Young Master of Salt Commissioner Chang’s family, Chang An, had been promised to each other in marriage when they were young; the families were only waiting for them to come of age. Both children had been very affectionate towards one another from a young age, and the Dong and Chang families were long-time friends. While they were still young and unmarried, Dong Furen and Chang Furen had even exchanged handkerchiefs[1] to cement their friendship. With this marriage, their relationship would have become even deeper as they would be in-laws.

[1] 手帕交 (shou pa jiao) – lit. exchange handkerchiefs. There was apparently a practice of exchanging handkerchiefs as tokens of deep friendship and affection between female friends.

The initial plan had been to arrange for the marriage to take place at the end of the year, but a few days ago, out of the blue and for some unknown reason, Dong Yinger had announced that she did not want to marry into the Chang family. At first, everyone had a.s.sumed that Dong Yinger was just bashful, having reached the age of understanding. Hence, they had not paid attention to her words, believing them to be nonsense spouted due to a momentary feeling of willfulness. However, Dong Yinger had seized the opportunity to speak to Chang An herself when he visited the fu, and had told him that she had someone else in her heart therefore asking his family to cancel the marriage.

Chang An, Third Young Master of the Chang family, was an honest and sincere man. When he heard Dong Yinger’s words, he naturally refused to force her to marry him, and returned to his family to tell them that he no longer wanted to marry her. Now, the Chang family were not stupid. They found it strange that Chang An would suddenly ask to withdraw from the marriage without rhyme or reason. When finally they heard the whole story from him, they were so incensed that they immediately sent someone to the Lord Mayor fu.

When Dong daren heard what was going on he flew into a rage. Dong Furen, who loved her daughter dearly, apologised on her behalf, saying that she was a child who did not understand the situation and was speaking carelessly, whereupon she summoned Dong Yinger to apologise to the Chang family. Who could have imagined that Dong Yinger would openly declare that she already had a sweetheart in front of the Chang family. She spoke resolutely and decisively, such that there was no way to redeem the situation.

Such a move was a direct slap in the face for the Chang family. In a fit of anger, Chang Furen nullified the marriage contract, returned the geng tie, and refused to speak any further with Dong Furen. Thus, from that day onward, the Dong and Chang families were estranged.

Dong daren had become seasoned through many challenges in his lifetime spent in officialdom. He was an astute man, and handled affairs with thought and thoroughness. His reputation was that of an honest man, devoid of corruption, and his relations with both superiors and subordinates were excellent. Who could have imagined that his reputation would be ruined by his own daughter? Even though he loved Dong Yinger, this situation had truly enraged him. He had had her locked away, but she was unshakeable in her refusal to admit she had done wrong, and the relationship between father and daughter deteriorated rapidly. Dong Furen was in the middle, caught between a rock and a hard place.

On thinking about this state of affairs, Dong Furen felt a headache coming on. She looked at the little porcelain cup and remembered that Dong Yinger had eaten very little in recent days. Thus, she said, “Bring it to Yinger’s room, I’m going to visit her.”

The maidservant hurried to comply. When they reached Dong Yinger’s room, they found her seated at her table and staring at the sheet of fine writing paper before her. She was so lost in thought that she did not even notice Dong Furen entering the room. Dong Furen walked over to take a look, and saw two lines of poetry written on the paper: “Red beans embedded in the linglong dice; do you not know my longing for you is bone-deep?”[2]

[2] 玲珑骰子安红豆,入骨相思知不知 (ling long tou zi an hong dou, ru gu xiang si zhi bu zhi) – These lines are taken from a Tang dynasty poem by 温庭筠 (Wen Tingyun) about parted lovers, from the wife’s perspective. As red beans (红豆) are hard, sometimes heart-shaped, and red, they are used to symbolise love and faithfulness in Chinese culture. Dice (骰子) are six-sided dice, usually made of jade or bone (骨). The dots representing the numbers on four sides of the dice are painted red, while those on the other two sides are black. The persona is saying that the red dots on the dice, which are sunken into the surface of the dice (made of bone), are like red beans. In the same way, her love for her husband is bone-deep – her love for him has ‘entered’ her bones like the red beans/ dots have been engraved into the bone dice – and therefore she longs (相思) for him. As a result of this poem, one can nowadays find dice with red beans in the middle, which are taken as a token of love. Couple items!

Modern linglong dice

Dong Furen was both distressed and indignant. Which young girl did not yearn for love? Dong Yinger was at the age when she was easily moved. If it were someone else it would be fine, but she had a marriage contract to uphold. This was really too much!

But, after all was said and done, Dong Furen still loved her daughter, so she ordered the maidservant to offer Dong Yinger the porcelain cup, and said, “Yinger.”

At her voice, Dong Yinger came out of her reverie, noticed that Dong Furen had arrived, and hurried to say, with a smile, “Mother.”

Dong Furen looked at her carefully. Her eyes were red and full of unshed tears. In the s.p.a.ce of a few days, she had lost a considerable amount of weight; gone was her usual lovable and charming appearance. She was so terribly thin and pallid.

“Eat a little bit,” she said as she brought the birds’ nest closer to Dong Yinger. “Look at you, you’ve gotten so thin. Later, go and apologise to your father, he won’t blame you.”

Dong Yinger turned her head away, and her tone was more resolute than it had ever been before when she said, “I won’t apologise, Mother, I haven’t done anything wrong. How can you marry someone you don’t love? What’s the point of a life lived that way? Chang An is a good man, and I already have someone I love. How can I wrong him?”

Dong Furen glared at her, but had to admit defeat on meeting Dong Yinger’s stubborn expression. She said, “You, this child . . . who on earth is that man who has caused you to possess such ardent hopes? When everything is proceeding smoothly, how could he s.n.a.t.c.h a relationship with a young lady who already has an arranged marriage? If he were a good person, he would certainly not do something so ill-mannered.”

“He is a great hero!” Dong Yinger rushed to refute what Dong Furen said about her beloved. “He is Great Jin’s youngest hero, and he is not a bad person. Mother, you must not be prejudiced against him.”

“What do you mean by ‘Great Jin’s youngest hero’? Have you taken a fancy to a military leader?”

Dong Yinger turned her head away again and chewed on her lower lip, resolutely refusing to speak. Seeing her behave in this manner, Dong Furen suddenly felt a sense of powerlessness. She placed the porcelain cup she was holding on the table and said, somewhat harshly, “This being the case, you have already made up your mind, and anything I say is simply going to sail past you. So be it.” Saying this, she stood up to leave.

Dong Yinger’s personal maidservant rose to see her out. When they had walked to the courtyard entrance, Dong Furen ensured that Dong Yinger was out of sight before eyeing the maidservant and saying, in a severe tone of voice, “You are Yinger’s personal maidservant, you must know wherever she goes. You cannot escape censure that such a thing has happened to Yinger.”

That personal maidservant was taken aback. She hurriedly knelt down and said, “This servant did not watch over Miss well. Furen, please punish me.”

“You’re asking me to punish you?” Dong Furen was ordinarily gentle and amiable, but this matter concerned Dong Yinger, so a degree of anger was evident as she said, “I’m going to look for someone to sell you to- the lower the price, the better. What do you think?”

“No.” To be sold for the lowest price was basically to be sold to the worst of the low-cla.s.s brothels, where she would have to receive customers day and night without rest. With that kind of life, it would be better to die than to live. The maidservant was trembling all over as she said, “Furen, please have mercy on this servant this once, this servant does not dare to do it again.”

Dong Furen glared at her coldly and said, “Since you don’t want to be sold off, you will honestly tell me everything you know. Who on earth is this person whom Yinger speaks of? And what method did he use to confuse her?”

As Dong Furen had seized hold of this maidservant’s crucial point, she did not dare to conceal anything. Systematically and in great detail, she immediately narrated the whole sequence of events to Dong Furen . After she heard the account, Dong Furen trembled in fury. “How could I give birth to such a daughter! So muddle-headed! So silly!”

Dong Furen never expected that the person in Dong Yinger’s heart could actually be Great Jin’s youngest ‘G.o.d of war’, Jiang Xin Zhi. The maidservant would not dare to lie, and if that was the case, then Jiang Xin Zhi had not done anything at all, and the entire affair was simply Dong Yinger’s wishful thinking. Every woman needs to maintain her reputation, but Dong Yinger’s heedless fixation on him caused Dong Furen, herself coming from a long-established n.o.ble family who always scrupulously abided by the rules of etiquette, to feel utterly humiliated. Dong Yinger was now in so deep, but she did not understand that there was no possibility of such a marriage. Leaving aside the fact that Jiang Xin Zhi at present had absolutely no intention towards Dong Yinger, even in terms of status, it would be very difficult for Dong Yinger to be married to Jiang Xin Zhi.

Who was Jiang Xin Zhi? In recent years he had repeatedly defeated enemy troops, such that the defeat of the Tian Jin kingdom was a matter of time. When the time came for the troops to return in triumph, it was Jiang Xin Zhi who was judged to have rendered the most outstanding service. The Emperor never hesitated to promote capable people and exceptional soldiers, so Jiang Xin Zhi was rising steadily in status and position. Countless families sought to establish some kind of relationship with him, so what hope did an insignificant Lord Mayor’s family have? Dong Yinger was too stubborn, so maybe, just maybe, she might possibly be one of his concubines. But, for a di daughter, a status with dignity, to be someone’s concubine – when the word got around, wouldn’t it cause everyone to laugh until their teeth dropped out? Moreover, Dong Yinger had been willful from a young age, and underneath the surface she was still somewhat haughty. If she knew that this was her probable ending, she would most likely be unable to bear it.

Dong Furen’s mind was in chaos. She cursed silently, but could only think about looking for Dong daren to discuss what to do in future. This matter was highly important, so they could not leave it up to Dong Yinger.

* * *

*** You are reading on ***

Amongst her unmarried close friends, everyone else’s situation was completely different from Dong Yinger’s; of late, Chief Historian Lin’s fu was full of joy. Chief Historian Lin had been treating Lin Zi Xiang excessively well the past few days, such that Lin Zi Xiang felt it was rather peculiar. Her father had always been old-fashioned, so even though he loved her dearly, he was also strict, and never pampered her. However, recently, he had bought her clothes and jewellery several times, which was definitely not frugal behaviour.

Xiao Shao did not look up. “What has happened?”

“Grand Tutor Liu sought her out again.” Jin San stifled her laughter while appearing completely proper outwardly.

Xiao Shao’s hands paused in their movement as he finally looked up. There was a strange brilliance in his pitch-black eyes, as if he was taken by surprise by this turn of events. “What for?”

“Grand Tutor Liu is very concerned about Junzhu. After asking about her current situation, he also asked about the relationship between her and Master.” In deadly earnest, Jin San continued, “Grand Tutor Liu wants Junzhu to stay far away from Master.”

Xiao Shao put down the scroll in his hand, and a sheen of frost seemed to come over his elegant features. Without emotion, he said, “His concern is too great.”

A lightly uttered phrase, but it made clear that Master was truly unhappy at this point in time. Jin San’s eyebrows twitched, and she hurriedly said, “Exactly, that’s what Junzhu told him as well. But that Grand Tutor Liu is not one who listens to reason, once he’d gotten his teeth into you he refused to let go. So, he and Junzhu had a big argument, and he was so angry that he left in a huff.”

As Jin San was talking, she was also observing Xiao Shao’s expression. Sure enough, after Jin San had finished speaking, the tension in Xiao Shao’s expression eased a little, and the previous frosty air dissipated somewhat. As a subordinate who had a close relationship with Xiao Shao, she naturally understood Xiao Shao’s moods. She said, “It can be seen that Junzhu views Master as someone who is exceedingly important, and the relationship between her and Master is not something easily shaken.”

In her heart, she said: apologies, Grand Tutor – although you have a considerably good reputation within Great Jin, Young Furen belongs to Master. Our Master knows nothing at all about feelings; if I don’t use you to provoke him, I’m afraid that it will take him eons to be enlightened.

Jin San’s words were to Xiao Shao’s liking. His icy, rigid demeanour softened and a hint of a smile flashed in his eyes, as if he had thought of something. It heightened his naturally, incomparably elegant countenance, causing it to be even more beautiful.

Jin San silently shifted her gaze away from him. She had long known that her Master was of good birth, but now that there was Young Furen to attend to and cherish him, his features had become even more picturesque; he was truly stunning.

Xiao Shao said coolly, “I see.”

“Master, why don’t you visit the palace yourself?” As Xiao Shao was in a good mood, Jin San’s boldness also grew. Thus, she daringly suggested, “Junzhu and you have not seen each other for a few days. They say that a day of separation is like being apart for three autumns (i.e. a long time), and relationships must be constantly nurtured. What’s more, women’s hearts are always softer. Supposing Grand Tutor Liu were to look for Junzhu in a few days’ time to apologise, Junzhu might soften at that moment, and if the relationship between the two of them were to improve, then what will Master do?”

All of the Jinyi Guard secretly considered the marriage of their Master, this life-changing event, as of utmost importance. In previous years, Xiao Shao had grown accustomed to living an austere life. It had been so difficult to find a young lady who wasn’t half bad whom he had some feelings for. The Jinyi Guard naturally wanted to help their Master seize the key opportunity and see the circ.u.mstances clearly.

Xiao Shao frowned, recalling the previous occasion, when Liu Min had held on to Jiang Ruan, and he felt a slight annoyance. Although he knew that Jiang Ruan was not in the least the kind of ‘soft-hearted’ person that Jin San made her out to be, she had helped Liu Min earlier, so it was inevitable that there was some degree of friendship. Thinking of how some unfamiliar person might be taking his place, the melancholy in Xiao Shao’s heart intensified.

Jin San saw that she had achieved her goal and whispered, “Master, this subordinate will take my leave first. This subordinate has a final word for you: if you allow the relationship between Grand Tutor Liu and Junzhu to progress, then what Master and Junzhu can do, Grand Tutor Liu and Junzhu can do as well.” Having spoken thus, she slipped away, uncaring of Xiao Shao’s reaction.

Xiao Shao was left staring blankly, rooted to the spot. What he could do with Jiang Ruan, Liu Min could also do?

Unexpectedly, a scene floated before his eyes: that day, when someone affected by chunfengdu had aggressively pulled him on top of herself; he remembered a soft and fragrant touch upon his lips, a split second of arousal, and the strong scent of summer. Snuggling fiercely into his embrace while tugging at his belt, rubbing against him slowly, so slowly, while he was at a loss what to do, unbearably helpless.

The young man’s fair face took on a faint blush. After a while, he seemed to think of something. His face turned ashen and he stood up abruptly. Liu Min would dare to do such a thing?

*** You are reading on ***

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