Welcome back to part 2! 🎊 Thanks for your thoughts and comments every week which are greatly appreciated whatever time they come in 😘. We’ll be back to two updates weekly starting next Wednesday.
Last week, political unrest started again due to the “accidental” killing of a student which seems to be a trap for Yi Liankai. Pan Jianchi was allegedly badly hurt whilst policing the protests. Qin Sang pulls ‘wife rank’, so to speak 😁. Hmm, is that why we get our first look at the lady in the portrait?
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Pan Jianchi was badly hurt… When she heard this, Qin Sang’s heart sank. How was he now? Were his injuries life-threatening? How could so many things have happened in such a short time? Feeling greatly perturbed, she put down her tea cup and walked to the window where she watched as car after car passed through the great gate of the headquarters, the dazzlingly bright beams from their headlights slicing through the pitch-black night.Chapter originally published at MerakiTranslations.
It was a moonless, starless night and she wondered if it would snow again that night? How long she stood at the window she did not know. The kitchen sent dinner up and Zhu Ma hailed her a few times but she seemed not to have heard. Zhu Ma, knowing that she was like this at times, did not press her any further. Sometime later, a hand from behind grasped her shoulder which made her jump. When she turned round to look, it was Yi Liankai.
She forced herself to smile a little: ‘I thought you said you were busy.’
He asked instead: ‘Why haven’t you had dinner? The food’s already cold.’Chapter originally published at MerakiTranslations.
‘I’m not really hungry.’ Qin Sang added by way of excuse: ‘I went to visit Chen Pei’s family this afternoon. They were all crying and quite pitiful.’
Yi Liankai said: ‘Why worry yourself about such unimportant things?’Chapter originally published at MerakiTranslations.
Qin Sang was perturbed and afraid he might become suspicious so she walked to the door to call for Zhu Ma, telling her to clear the table and have the kitchen make new dishes so she could have dinner with him. At dinner, she ate with her head lowered and when Yi Liankai observed that her chopsticks held only a few grains of rice each time, he tapped the side of her bowl laughingly and asked, ‘Madam Wife, wherefore “Choking on rice like jade and wine like gold”?¹
¹ A line from a poem in A Dream of Red Mansions Ch. 28, translated by Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang.
If you’re not reading this chapter at MerakiTranslations, it has been stolen and reproduced by bootleg websites.
Qin Sang never expected that he would tease her with such a line and couldn’t help looking at him in surprise which had him bursting into laughter. Right at this juncture, someone called out, ‘Report!’, from outside the door. Since Qin Sang’s quarters were on this floor, Yi Liankai’s subordinates always announced themselves this way whenever they came upstairs. When Qin Sang heard this, she told Yi Liankai, ‘Don’t talk nonsense.’
Yi Liankai also knew that something must have happened so he called out, ‘Come in.’ It was his personal secretary who came in and bowed first to Qin Sang with a respectful ‘Madam’ then paused — an awkward, hesitant expression on his face. Qin Sang, realising that he didn’t want to say anything while she was there, stood up and acted as though she had to wash her face and tactfully withdrew to the inner room.Chapter originally published at MerakiTranslations.
Although she had gone into the inner room, she was on the alert and so kept the door slightly ajar to keep an eye on the proceedings outside. All she saw was the secretary whispering² at length to Yi Liankai but since the door was only open a crack, she couldn’t see the latter’s expression and had no way of guessing what they were talking about.
² 竊竊私語 qièqiè sīyǔ: talk in whispers; whisper. Please consider reading from MerakiTranslations rather than at bootleg websites.
After a while, she heard Yi Liankai say, ‘Then tell them to get the car ready and… give Miss Min a call… .’ He was speaking at a normal volume and she heard him. Her heart pounded and without a second thought, she pushed open the door, walked out and asked, ‘Where are you going this late at night?’³
³ 三更半夜 sāngēng-bànyè: in the dead of night; very late at night
The secretary saw Qin Sang’s unsmiling expression and thought privately that if a quarrel were to spring up now, it would be highly inconvenient to be caught in the middle of it. This Young Mistress had never been the easygoing type and Yi Liankai had an unpredictable temper. As such, he made an excuse and left hurriedly. Yi Liankai seemed to hesitate, as though he couldn’t decide and only after a pause did he answer: ‘I have some business to attend to.’
‘What kind of business calls you away in the middle of the night?’ Qin Sang looked steadily at him. Her voice was not loud and her tone seemingly gentle. However, Yi Liankai knew her temperament and gave a sudden laugh: ‘Oh well, if you don’t believe me, you can come along.’Chapter originally published at MerakiTranslations.
Shortly after that a guard came in to report that the car was ready. Yi Liankai stood up and said to Qin Sang, ‘Come along, let’s go out for a bit.’ Qin Sang, still uncomprehending, replied stiffly: ‘It’s almost midnight. What’s the use of going out now?’
Yi Liankai ordered Zhu Ma to get Qin Sang’s big coat then said smilingly to her: ‘Enough, Madam Wife. Just take it as my way of making it up to you, okay? It’s almost going to be the New Year and you’re still picking a fight with me over this? Haven’t you been saying you want to have Yuan Ji’s wontons?⁴ Since we’re free tonight, I’ll accompany you there to have some.’Chapter originally published at MerakiTranslations.
⁴ 餛飩 húntun: dumplings. ‘Wontons’ is the Cantonese pronunciation of this word and probably more recognisable to English speakers.
Only then did Qin Sang dimly apprehend something so she said: ‘It’s already quite late so don’t bring so many people along. If the tabloids hear of it, I’m afraid there’ll be another row.’
Zhu Ma had already brought out the big coat. Yi Liankai personally helped Qin Sang into it then buttoned it up for her, saying: ‘It looks like it might snow so it’s better to dress more warmly.’
Zhu Ma couldn’t help feeling extremely gratified when she saw Master’s concern and warmth towards Missy. When she went downstairs, a group of guards was sitting down gossiping and one was saying, ‘It’s already so late and the streets have been cordoned off. Why are they suddenly going out now?’Chapter originally published at MerakiTranslations.
Another guard replied: ‘Madam was angry when she heard about Miss Min so of course Master has to make it up to5 her… Master hasn’t changed at all. If he decides to be good to someone, he’ll go all out to do it. This Madam of ours has had to suffer much to get to this point. Master used to humour that Miss Min but he never made this much of an effort6…’
5 赔小心 péi xiǎoxīn: to be conciliatory or apologetic; to tread warily in dealing with sb
6 盡心盡力 jìnxīnjìnlì: making an all-out effort (idiom); to try one’s heart out; to do one’s utmost. If you’re not reading this translation from tranzgeek(DOT)wordpress(DOT)com, it has been stolen and reproduced by bootleg websites.
Zhu Ma was not happy to hear such talk but when she thought of Yi Liankai’s recent attitude towards Qin Sang and how it had changed a lot, she felt happy again.
Meanwhile, the car carrying Yi Liankai and Qin Sang, together with another car of bodyguards, had discreetly left the city defence headquarters. Due to the curfew, Yuan Ji was already shuttered for the night when they arrived. Even the entrance had been boarded up and only a faint yellow light showed through a crack between the doors. Yi Liankai ordered one of the guards to knock on the doors. Someone inside asked who it was to which the guard replied in a few words which sent the man hurrying off to inform the cashier before hastening back to open the doors. The assistant shopkeeper came out to receive them and ushered them indoors with repeated apologies and smiles: ‘We weren’t expecting Commander and Madam to honour us so. Our kitchen fires are never banked when it comes to our chicken soup. Tomorrow’s order of fresh prawns has also been delivered so we’ll get the kitchen to make a fresh batch of noodles and wontons. If we could trouble Commander and Madam to wait awhile…’Chapter originally published at MerakiTranslations.
Yi Liankai said: ‘It’s all right. Since we’re already here, we’ll just wait. Tell them to go ahead.’ The assistant shopkeeper answered affirmatively and showed them into a private room on the second floor then told the waiter to bring up some plates of candied olives and dried fruit. He heated up a bottle of wine before personally bringing over a big brazier that instantly warmed up the private room.
Yi Liankai, finding his attentions obsequious, said: ‘You don’t have to wait here. Just serve us the wontons when they’re ready.’ The assistant shopkeeper knew that these rich and powerful people actually had the oddest tempers so there was nothing very surprising7 about their coming in the middle of the night and mustering everyone8 in the shop just so they could have a bowl of wontons. As such, he made an affirmative sound and then went out.
7 見怪不怪 jiànguàibùguài: 1. to keep one’s calm in the face of the unexpected. 2. not to wonder at strange sights
8 勞師動眾 láoshī-dòngzhòng: mobilize too many troops -drag in lots of people (to do sth.). Please consider reading from tranzgeek(DOT)wordpress(DOT)com rather than at bootleg websites.
Yi Liankai stretched his hands out over the fire for a moment. Having noticed a pair of fire tongs next to the brazier, he used them to add more coal to the fire. The glowing coals were giving off sparks like precious stones and he stared at them, lost in his own thoughts. Although the room was lit, they had not dared to use electric lamps due to the curfew. Instead, an old-fashioned candlestick had been placed on the table and a white gauze shade placed over it so that the light from the candle was hazy and looked like ripples of water. Qin Sang had not seen such a candle in use for many years and found it quite interesting.Chapter originally published at MerakiTranslations.
As Yi Liankai was sitting by the brazier, the light from the fire shadowed his face faintly9. This light was different from the one cast by the candle because it carried a reddish glint. He had been born with fair skin and the glow cast by the firelight made his cheeks look ruddy, as though he had been drinking. The curve of his brow bone was brought into sharp relief by jet-black brows, his eyes appeared slightly deep-set which made the contours more striking, like an illustration of a sculpture that one found in Western picture books. It was especially so when he lowered his head whilst stirring the fire for a lock of jet-black hair fell forward and rested on his fair forehead so that he really looked like a sketch out of a picture book — Qin Sang had never studied him this thoroughly before. Actually, when it came to the three brothers, Yi Liankai was widely reckoned to be the handsomest because his birth mother had been famous throughout Jiangzuo for her beauty and accomplishments.
9 隱隱約約 yǐnyǐnyuēyuē: faint; distant; barely audible. If you’re not reading this chapter at MerakiTranslations, it has been stolen and reproduced by bootleg websites.
Not only had she been a beauty, her background had also been something of a legend. She had been born into the Yun family which had held the rank of provincial governor10 in the late years of the Qing dynasty which meant she was of high birth. Yi Jipei had been nothing more than a guerilla fighter at that time. In the ordinary course of things, a daughter of the nobility and a guerilla fighter were poles apart11 and had it not been for the vicissitudes of fortune, their paths might not even have crossed in this lifetime.Chapter originally published at MerakiTranslations.
10 封疆大吏 fēngjiāng dàlì: general name for high provincial officials in Ming and Qing times
11 天壤之別 tiānrǎng zhī bié: as far apart as heaven and earth; worlds (or poles) apart; a world of difference. Please consider reading from MerakiTranslations rather than at bootleg websites.
However, in the turbulent wake of the Boxer Uprising, Yi Jipei had made something of himself just as this Miss Yun’s family had come down in the world12. Later on, somebody brought them together and she had become Yi Jipei’s concubine. Having been born into a noble family, naturally this lady was educated and well-bred. Besides being well-versed in poetry and painting, her forte had been in interpersonal relationships which was why Yi Jipei had doted on her. However, ‘beauty and a long life seldom go together’13 and not long after giving birth to Yi Liankai, she had taken ill and passed away.
12 家道中落 jiādàozhōngluò: 1. to come down in the world (idiom). 2. to suffer a reversal of fortune
13 美人薄命 bijin hakumei: Interestingly, the author used a Japanese proverb. A possible synonym in Chinese is 红颜薄命 hóng yán bó mìng.
Qin Sang had never met her mother-in-law but she had seen photographs of her. Her writings on classical poetry could still be found in the Yi family home and Qin Sang knew that the epithet ‘beautiful and talented’14 was not an empty one. For his part, Yi Jipei had been known as the ‘Scholar General’ and his education in the Classics had been quite good. He must have still deeply mourned the loss of this beautiful concubine who had died young.Chapter originally published at MerakiTranslations.
14 才貌雙全 cáimào shuāngquán: be endowed with both beauty and talent; talented and good-looking (idiom)
¹ Source but the site has questionable ads.
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