Dear readers, I actually suddenly came across one of the short story projects I've translated a part of before in my computer archives! I had completely forgotten about it. It seemed such a waste to let it stay hidden in the archives. I've translated it as "Our Second Master" by Twentine and it's one of my absolute favourite stories. It's so perfectly written - it wrenched my heart into all kinds of pieces, but it was also truly such a classic happy ending!
It's a short but powerful seven chapters and I've decided to finish translating it as a gift for all my long-time readers. The whole story will be up hopefully by this week (if possible). And, please, for this story, NO SPOILERS in the comments! Enjoy!
P.S. Heavy Sweetness fans, please wait patiently! The last few chapters are a real burn on the heart!
What would you say is the most valuable thing in this world?
A mountain of gold and silver.
Then what is it?
The return of the prodigal son.*
*Prodigal means extravagantly wasteful. In this context, you can think of a libertine, a wanderer. There's a famous chinese saying 《浪子回头金不换》which means that you won't exchange the return of a prodigal son for gold. I chose the prodigal son because it's also usually means the second son, which fits perfectly with the title.
Chapter 1: Our Second Master is a pair of silk trousers
The whole city of Hangzhou knows that my household's Second Master is a pair of silk trousers (negative term for a rich man's son). The Yang Family operates the biggest silk business in the whole country, the richest family in town with two sons. The First Master, Yang Yi Fang, when everyone mentions him they will raise up their big thumbs in approval. He is one of Hangzhou's top scholars, well-learned and a successful candidate in the imperial examinations. In addition, Yang Yi Fang's appearance was elegant with clear handsome brows and eyes, thus Old Master Yang always liked to bring Yang Yi Fang along when he went for business gatherings. With a brush, he creates a painting, with a chant, he recites a poem. In the uncouth world of coins and commerce, his elegance stood out like a stem of plum, white snow in spring. And, the Second Master, Yang Yi Qi, well, he is also a character --- after all, there isn't many people who are able to cause people to furrow their brows after hearing his name. Second Master was younger than First Master by a year, but his emotional maturity and character was definitely different by more than a star and a half.
There's a saying that a person's personality is fixed by three years old. When Second Master was three, the Yang Manor held a huge feast that extended to the whole street. They invited the most famous opera troupe to perform. When the main star was singing halfway on stage, she suddenly let out a huge cry. Everyone looked over and realised that a person was rolling out from under her skirt --- that's right, this was our Second Master. From that day on, almost every one in the city knew, the Second Master of the Yang Family from three years old already knows how to climb into the star's skirt and touch her leg. Old Master Yang and Old Mistress Yang completely lost their face and almost lost their life's breath. Later, Old Master Yang invited five tutors, senior ones, junior ones, strict ones, benevolent ones, but all of them couldn't control Second Master. Without even mustering the effort to blow away dust, Second Master chased them all away.
Luckily, First Master was excellent, so slowly Old Master Yang and Old Mistress Yang did not bother about Second Master anymore. Every month, they will give him money and let him do whatever he likes. They spent their entire efforts into grooming First Master. Ah, I haven't said who I was. Since I call Yang Yi Qi as "Our Second Master", naturally, I am part of the Yang Household. Indeed, I am Second Master's maid. When I was eight, I was sold to the Yang Manor. At the start, I did rough chores in the kitchen, and then later I was transferred to Second Master's courtyard. I was personally transferred by Old Mistress Yang -- if you thought I was transferred because of my beauty to be a concubine maid**, then you have made a serious mistake. It was precisely the opposite, I was transferred because I was ugly.
Actually, I personally do not think I am ugly. I am only a little bit short, my face a little bit round, my eyes a little bit small, my calves a little bit thick. Besides that, I am a pretty decent girl. However, once I entered Second Master's courtyard, I immediately knew I was wrong. With my looks, I could not even be considered a person in Second Master's courtyard, perhaps more of a monkey --- and more like the wild monkeys in the mountain. Later, someone told me that I was transferred because Second Master had already slept with all the woman in his courtyard. All the maids were scheming in their hearts and fighting politically and no one was properly doing the chores. The first day I arrived, I paid my respects to Second Master. Second Master was drinking his tea. The expression after he saw me was as frightening and fierce as you can imagine. He waved his hands to let me go off to do my chores.
In my heart, I said, can you be less extreme? But, that was the first time I saw Second Master. I thought that I could not blame all the young maids for rushing to find Second Master. Second Master was indeed good looking. I had seen First Master before, although First Master was not bad, but compared to Second Master, he lacked that extra something. Although First Master read many books and was extremely likable, but he gave me a wooden feeling. Second Master was completely different, in the whole of Hangzhou, everyone knew that Second Master knew how to play the best. A pair of eyes that were always gleaming from day to night, wearing loose robes, whenever his robes opened, as he walked by the West Lake waving his fan, the entire street of maidens will look over. The Yang Manor was very big, the courtyards of the First Master and Second Master were situated far apart, but everyone in the manor knew that the people in the two courtyards did not look eye to eye.
Second Master's servants disdained the looks of the First Master's servants, while the First Master's servants disdained the Second Master's servants for their lack of breeding. And, as someone who has dragged down the standards of Second Master's courtyard, I did not live comfortably in the courtyard. All the dirty and tiring works were done by me. This was fine by me. The problem was that all kinds of ridiculous faults were also blamed on me. For example, Second Master's latest maid Chun Xue, when she was admiring the flowers in the garden, she accidentally stepped on the feet of the previous favourite, Lu Liu. Because of this, the two girls started to fight in the garden. I was only at the side sweeping the floor. Since I was bored, I watched them fight. Later, when Second Master arrived and the two ferocious fighting lionesses immediately became gentle sheep, leaning onto Second Master on his left and right, taking turns to cry and complain.
Second Master hugged them both, coaxing here, and coaxing there. Since the two maidens definitely wanted to win, they both said they suffered more and asked him to make a decision. Second Master couldn't bear to hit either of them, looking left and right, he happened to glance at me. When his spring watery eyes glanced at me, my heart immediately jumped and I had an immediate bad feeling. It turns out that my gut feeling was right, with quick steps, Second Master walked towards me and gave me a slap. The slap wasn't light, wasn't heavy, if you really wanted to describe it, it was the greatest energy that Second Master was willing to put on his monkey maid. I was a wise monkey, thus after this slap, I immediately knelt down and admitted my wrongs. Thereafter, Second Master used his special lazy voice and told the two maidens, "This should be enough." And that was it.
Until today, I still did not understand why did Second Master give me that slap. Maybe it was to show his might, or it was to comfort. Or maybe he found me an eyesore. But, that was the first time Second Master touched me. I often heard the concubine maids gossip about how powerful Second Master was, and how in that moment, it was truly awesome until you rose to the heavens. The night after I was slapped, I unconsciously thought, indeed I ascended to heaven.
Later, there was a day when Old Mistress Yang arrived at the courtyard and spoke to Second Master for a night. All the maids gathered together in sorrow and worry. I was curious so I asked what happened. Normally, they would not speak much to me, but they were truly upset this time and couldn't even get the energy to despise me, so they told me what happened.
I immediately understood. It turned out that Old Mistress Yang wanted to find a wife for Second Master. First Master had already married for more than three years and already had one son. Second Master was always playful and didn't take care of his own matters. Old Master Yang had slowly over the years passed his business to First Master, and after passing on most of the matters, suddenly remembered about Second Master's marriage. Second Master was a spoilt silk trousers, playful and philandering, his reputation was truly bad. But, the Yang Manor had huge power and money that could not be spent finished, so the people who came asking for marriage was plentiful. Old Mistress Yang asked for Second Master's opinion and he did not say much, only told her to find a beautiful one. Old Mistress Yang gave a sigh and left. Later, Old Master Yang and Old Mistress Yang found a daughter of a tea businessman for him.
This tea businessman was not ordinary, one of the top tier businessmen in Hangzhou. His youngest daughter just passed her sixteenth birthday and was at the age of blossom. The two families arranged for a meeting. That day, Second Master rose late and did not really groom himself - he messily went to the meeting. However, it turned out that the little maiden was immediately attracted by Second Master's unconventional and unrestrained air. Although her parents were still a little doubtful, but thinking about how big the family's business was, they weren't worried that the Yang Family would not be able to take care of a second son, and thus they agreed. And, thus Old Mistress Yang started clearing out the maids in Second Master's courtyard. In that half month, there was crying and howling all over the courtyard from day to night. I could not sleep well for many days. My face became so skinny that I resembled a monkey even more. But, it was also thanks to my monkey face, that when Old Mistress Yang cleared the courtyard, she didn't even spare a glance at me. I safely and securely remained in Second Master's courtyard.
Besides me, there was also a fifty plus year old female servant. But besides the two of us, the courtyard didn't even have a female mouse. The pageboy, the guard, the housekeeper, all of them were male. Second Master was extremely displeased by this. You must know that our Second Master's temper is extremely big, when there are women to coax him, it is still ok, but when there are no women, it is like a wild dog being unleashed --- no, a wild horse. The old female servant Granny Feng was deaf, so I was the only one left for Second Master to torture. In the two years I was serving in Second Master's courtyard, I didn't interact with Second Master as much as I did in that two months. Even if he was playing with birds in his courtyard, when he got bored, he will come and kick me. Did I dare to rebel? Of course, I did not.
So, I was used to vent his anger from day to night. In my heart, I was hoping for the year to pass. Why? Second Master's wedding was after the new year. After the new year, there will be a female mistress in the courtyard and Second Master will have no time to kick me. Just as I was counting for the days to pass, something happened to Second Master.
Strictly speaking, it was not that something happened to Second Master, but something happened to the Yang Household. Old Master Yang travelled to Jiang Su for business and coincidentally Second Master had escaped from the house in boredom. He got caught by Old Master Yang and Old Master Yang had pulled him along in anger. And so thus they went, and something happened. The exact details of what happened, a small maid like me cannot fully know. I was washing the clothes when I heard the shouts from outside the courtyard.
I thought it was strange when a troop of guards rushed in and started to ransack the house. Their movements were rough and smashed all of Second Master's treasures. That night, after the guards left, I heard all the female Yang family members gather together and cry. The cries were unbearably sad - it lasted one whole night. I did not know what happened, but I knew from that day on that the Yang Manor was no more. The big house was sealed and all of us went to the small courtyard arranged previously by Old Master Yang outside the city. Old Mistress Yang gathered all the family servants, gave each of them a little money and asked us to leave. It was the first time I saw Old Mistress Yang wore shabby civilian clothes like ours. But Old Mistress Yang was still the Old Mistress, whatever she wore was still pretty.
After receiving the money, I only asked one thing -- "Old Mistress, Our Second Master?"
Old Mistress Yang heard me and both her eyes turned red, she covered her mouth and cried.
**A maid in name but concubine in reality.
Chapter 2: Our Second Master is injured
I did not leave. I also did not know why I did not leave. Maybe it was the tears shed by Old Mistress Yang when I asked about Second Master. Later, all the people left - not only the servants, the female family members returned to their maternal homes, Old Mistress Yang took a few maidens and left. Before she left she told me, please take care of this place. In a while, Second Master will return.
But, First Master did not leave. He said that the Yang Family that Old Master Yang left behind cannot collapse like this. He told his wife to return to her family and he will return for her. I personally thought that he said it just to comfort his wife. The servants left were only three - me, Granny Feng and a servant of First Master. Even First Master's wife had left.
First Master's servant was called Yuan Sheng. One day while we were doing chores, he asked me why I stayed and I did not answer. I asked him back why did he stay. He said that he owed a debt of gratitude to First Master and he cannot be ungrateful. Then he asked me, if I stayed because I owed a debt of gratitude to Second Master. I only laughed then. Not to speak of gratitude, but Second Master to me, it was already very good if there is no vengeance. But, I didn't say this because I would have to spend energy explaining if I did. So, I said yes, Second Master did a great act of kindness to me and I cannot forget this debt of gratitude. After hearing this, Yuan Sheng pulled me aside and said in a small voice, "You are also a loyal servant. Second Master shall be taken care of by you." I paused, these words were not spoken lightly, so I asked him, "Why?" Yuan Sheng's expression was not good but he told me, "Something went wrong with the business group right? They didn't only delay the emperor's shipment, they met enemies."
I asked him, "What enemy?"
"Who knows," Yuan Sheng said, "When a business prospers, there will be many enemies. Seeing the Yang Family lose power, someone robbed them on their way back. Old Master Yang didn't even have a chance and went... ah..."
Don't only sigh, I asked again, "Then our Second Master?"
Yuan Sheng replied, "Our Second Master managed to escape with his life, but..."
I really wanted to slap him, "What happened?"
Yuan Sheng stated, "I heard that he is crippled."
That day, I was in a daze. Yuan Sheng said that Second Master's legs were seriously injured. He had slightly recovered and was on his way back to Hangzhou. I started to calculate, how serious was seriously injured? Broken? Lame? At that time, I did not think about it too deeply. I only thought that if his legs were injured, he would recover after lying in bed. Knowing Second Master's temper, I wonder how many kicks I must suffer.
So, I still earnestly hoped that Second Master will quickly recover. It turned out that I was simply too naive. The day that Second Master returned, I opened the door. Truthfully, I could not recognise him at all. There was a cart pulled by a cow. A fifty-year old plus rider with shabby clothes. I thought it was a beggar and said, "Master, you should go somewhere else, we almost cannot cook already." The old man waved his hand and pointed to the back. With a thick foreign accent, he said, "I sent this here. You have to give me two taels." I turned to the back and saw the cart was covered with rice straw, I thought I saw the glimpse of clothes. I walked over and said, "What is this, who called you?"
I thought he was selling goods and was going to chase him away when I saw the person lying behind. I stared for at least half the burning of an incense before I stuttered, "... Se...Second...Second.... Second... Ma... Master?" I did not know if Second Master was awake but his eyes were wide open. But he did not move at all, he did not blink. It was truly chilling. His hair was completely messy and his face was so scrawny that he had lost his looks. There was a thick layer of grass covering his body. Seeing him ignore me, I hesitated if I should help carry him. But the old man cried, "Miss, you have to slow down! Don't kill him." I was immediately unhappy - a perfectly fine person, how would I kill him. But when I removed the layer of grass, I immediately understood the old man's words.
I calmed down my heart and went to the yard to call Yuan Sheng for help. When we carried Second Master back to the house, he was completely expressionless all the way. It wasn't clear if he was a fake person. After we brought Second Master in, Yuan Sheng gave the money to the old man. In the evening, First Master returned and when he saw Second Master, his tears immediately fell down. He fell towards Second Master's bedside and cried, "My younger brother, my younger brother..." Actually, I really wanted to remind him if we should first hire a doctor. But seeing him cry so despondently, I didn't open my mouth. Compared to First Master, Second Master was much calmer. He stared at the ceiling, don't mention cry, he did not even have a single expression.
I waited at the door and looked at Second Master through the door crack. Is this still our Second Master? I finally understood what Yuan Sheng's serious expression had meant. Previously, I still thought that Second Master could recover. Seeing Second Master's body now, I can only think that I was too naive. Second Master was crippled, extremely crippled. How should I say this - Second Master was only left in half. His two legs were gone. The left side was slightly stronger than the right, there was half a leg left, but the right leg was completely gone. I used to have to raise my head to look at Second Master, but now he was about my chest. Later, First Master finally remembered to hire a doctor for Second Master. Now that the Yang Family was in shambles, we could not hire a good doctor. A man from the pugilist world came to give a look.
To look after the injuries, Second Master did not wear any clothes for his bottom half. The man told First Master that his life was gotten back and to take special care of him. After sending the man off, First Master returned to the house to tell this to Second Master, but Second Master completely ignored it. After a few days, before First Master could get Second Master to speak, he had to run outside to do some business. Before he left, he told me to take care of Second Master, he would return in two months. First Master brought Yuan Sheng away, and there was only Second Master and me left. Oh, and Granny Feng. But Granny Feng did not speak all day so I almost forgot about her. Accepting First Master's command -- actually even if he did not command me, I will also take care of Second Master. Who asked me to be a maid? The previous days, Yuan Sheng had taken care of Second Master. The first day when I entered the room, the entire room smelt of decay.
I opened the windows and explained to Second Master who was lying on the bed, "To allow the wind to come in." But Second Master of course ignored me. Then, I fed Second Master food. He was like a fake person, opening and closing his mouth, not knowing where his eyes should look. Until at night, when I brought the medicine in the room, I told Second Master, "Second Master, maid will help you change your medicine." He finally had a reaction.
Second Master's eyes started to move and turn towards me. I walked over and was about to move his blanket. Before I could make another move, he spoke in a low voice, "Leave." Actually, I already guessed he would say this. But to be what Yuan Sheng calls a loyal servant, of course I could not leave. I lowered my brows and gently said, "Second Master, the injuries need to change medicine. It may hurt, please tolerate it."
Then, I removed the blanket and smelt a strong stench of rotting flesh. Yuang Sheng did not know how to take care of people at all. I held the medicine and used my greatest effort to lightly rub the medicine on Second Master's injuries. Before the medicine touched him, I saw Second Master's leg shook. And then, I was pushed back by a great force. I fell, the medicine splattered. Second Master's arms were quite long. I lifted my head, and saw that Second Master's hair was in a mess, his pair of eyes like a wild beast staring at me deathly, "I told you to leave." Did I leave -- of course I didn't. I was very clear of how ferocious Second Master's temper was, after all I was his venting bag for so many years. I really wanted to tell him that this push was not even painful, the kicks you gave me before was much more forceful.
And then I suddenly realised, was I no longer afraid of Second Master because he could no longer kick me? As I was ruminating on this, I prepared the medicine again and returned to Second Master's bedside. Once bitten, twice shy - I was smarter and applied the medicine at the end of the bed. Even if Second Master tried to use his arms, he would not be able to reach. I was truly clever. I almost wanted to cheer but Second Master was truly angry. His two arms were placed at his side, and his whole bearing was as if he wanted to sit up and resolve me. But, I was completely unafraid. Because he was truly too weak now. What's more his leg injuries had not yet recovered, they were reddish black, looking at it, I felt pain all over. If he sat up and pressed on his injuries, it was as good as death.
So, I calmly applied the medicine. Actually, I was a little embarrassed while applying the medicine. After all, Second Master was not wearing anything. Even though I was always called a monkey in the courtyard, but I was still an unmarried monkey. Seeing Second Master's naked body, even thinking about it now, I would be a little nervous. That part of Second Master... I can only describe it as magnificent. But comparing it now, Second Master's legs were a grander sight. I concentrated on applying the medicine. Every time I touched one part, Second Master will moan a bit. After I applied even more, Second Master's entire buttock shook, it shook with a cry. I dared to lift up my head to catch a glance and saw that Second Master's face was ghastly white with his veins throbbing, his face full of cold sweat.
I guessed that he was so in pain that he did not even have the strength to scold me. After applying finish the medicine, I went to the kitchen to prepare food. When I returned to the room, Second Master was still like a dead fish, eyes opened, lying down on the bed. I lifted up a spoon of porridge to Second Master's lips. Second Master flipped it away. Luckily, I protected the bowl carefully. Although it was hot, the porridge did not spill out. "Second Master, eat a little."
Second Master said, "Leave."
I did not know what to do. If it was before, if Second Master asked me to leave, I will quickly leave as far as possible. But now... what will happen to Second Master if I leave? But, I did not have any other method, I could forcefully apply medicine, but what will I do with food. Wait... forcefully? Indeed, forcefully.
I placed the porridge aside and stared at it till it turned cold. So, when it's forcefully pushed down, it will not scald. After a while, I tried it and felt it was ok. So, I brought the bowl over. Second Master possibly never had the experience of being looked down by a monkey before, his eyes were very unfriendly and I said - Second Master, sorry to offend you. And then, I really offended him.
Comments: Absolutely love this story. Absolutely love the leads. The female lead is so special - she's funny, self-deprecating and so strong when it really counts.