Something cropped up over the weekend so I couldn't post this earlier. Also, chapter 5 is incredibly long! But very satisfying.
*edit: I double-checked with the original text and realised I joined Chapter 5 & 6 haha into one long Chapter 5. Have separated them correctly.
Chapter 5: Our Second Master Succeeds!
Because of that incident, Second Master was angry for a whole half a month. Later, he became too busy and so he forgot to be angry. Basically, I'm not able to see Second Master now - every morning, he leaves early and comes back late. Sometimes, he only comes back to sleep after two or three days. Second Master's originally fair face darkened quite a bit. But, there was one change that I thought was good - Second Master became strong.
Actually, Second Master's body wasn't considered weak previously. But, because of his injury, his whole body seemed to have weakened quite a bit. After these few months, Second Master's back became broader and his chest became thicker. Even his two arms became tougher by quite a bit. Once, Second Master returned late and called me to eat together. I said I would quickly set up the table but Second Master said there was no need, we could directly eat in the kitchen.
Second Master sitting on the small stool, holding a bowl of rice and eating with big mouthfuls - I looked at him dazed. Second Master placed the bowl down and said casually, "Why are you looking at me?"
I quickly lowered my head. Second Master said, "Lift up your head." His voice was low, but it wasn't an angry tone.
Second Master asked, "Why do you keep looking at me?"
I felt my brain being pulled as I opened my mouth, "Your humble servant was looking... looking at Second Master's change."
"Ah?" Second Master had eaten his fill and his whole demeanour seemed lazy. He looked at me and asked, "What change?"
I said, "Changed from before."
Second Master was dazed, casually placing his hand lightly on his leg, he said in a low voice, "Indeed, it has changed."
I knew he misunderstood and forcefully shook my hand, "It's not... it's not because of that."
Second Master looked at me and didn't speak. I was only concentrating on explaining, "The change your faithful servant speaks of... are... are changes in other places."
Second Master said, "What place."
I thought for half a day and blurted out, "Second Master has turned black."
After speaking, I wanted to give myself a slap. Second Master was dazed for a moment and then he laughed. He touched his own face and nodded, "Yes, it is black." He touched his face until he felt a piece of dead skin. He peeled it off and said, "Rougher too."
I looked at Second Master's firm chin and clear distinguished brows and eyes. He was wearing robes made of rough cloth, a waist-belt, just leaning his body a little and that thick and broad body will cause the robes to tighten on him. In that moment, I realised those loose silk robes of yesteryear, the man who embraced beautiful maidens and played by the West Lake only seemed to exist in a dream now.
While I was in my thoughts, Second Master looked at me and asked, "Which master do you feel is better?"
Second Master's voice changed, was deeper than before, and more mature. Sometimes I had the strange feeling that I was serving Old Master Yang instead. Hearing Second Master's question, I didn't even think when I answered, "The present one."
Second Master seemed to be nervous, but after I spoke, his shoulders loosened. He reached out his hand to stroke my head, "Go and rest."
Blearily, I returned to the house to sleep. After a while, Second Master couldn't run out every day. Because, the plum rain season had arrived. At first, I didn't really notice it and thought Second Master lately liked to rest at home. However, once when I went to pee at night, in the midst of the pitter patter of the rain drops, I heard sounds from Second Master's room.
Thus, I quietly went to the window to listen. It was Second Master's voice. The voice was in deep pain, in such pain that I did not know what to do. I placed the umbrella aside and opened the window a small creak to look in. In the dark room, Second Master had shrunk into a ball, both of his hands holding his legs, his mouth biting the comforter, again and again he gave a low cry. The rain kept falling outside, the cold wind rushed into the room and Second Master suddenly lifted up his head. In the moon light, his face was scrunched in pain, as if his whole face had been drenched by rain. When he saw me, he did not return the gaze, his eyes were slack. My mind was a sheet of white. I turned around and rushed out. I did not carry an umbrella, I did not wear my outer robe. I ran to the medicinal shop and knocked on the doors. The shop assistant came out as if he wanted to beat someone but seeing how I looked, he took a step back.
I knew I looked no different than a female ghost. The master was woken up from his dreams and wasn't in good temper. I knelt and kowtowed before him. I was rambling madly, only knowing to repeatedly beg him, beg him to save our Second Master. After half the burning of a scented incense, he finally gave a prescription and gathered a packet of herbs for me. I was afraid the herbs would get wet and kept it inside my robes. I ran madly home. After boiling the herbs, I carefully fed them to Second Master. Afterwards, the Second Master that had became strong in my eyes, just like a weak child, he fell into my arms and slept.
On the second day, Second Master was well. He looked at me, and for a very long time he did not speak. After the struggle last night, my clothes were still wet, my hair sticking to my forehead in clumps, my knees and forehead were covered in mud and blood.
Perhaps it was because of the illness, Second Master's eyes were a little red. He waved his hand at me and said in a low voice, "Come here." My whole body was so dirty that I did not dare to go over. I said, Second Master, let your humble servant change robes first. Second Master looked at me, his lips trembled a little and finally he nodded his head.
I felt like I couldn't understand Second Master more and more. Afterwards, Second Master's illness recovered and he became lively again. At this time, First Master also returned. First Master returned home in a worse state than when Second Master first returned home injured. First Master was carried by Yuan Sheng home in abject dejection. I was shocked. Yuan Sheng pulled me aside and told me in a low voice, "First Master was cheated by someone of all his monies!" After he finished, he looked left and right and asked surprised, "Ah? How come the household has so many additional things?"
I unconsciously straightened my back and said, "Second Master bought it!"
Yuan Sheng was truly shocked. I told him what had happened in the last few months and Yuan Sheng's eyeballs almost dropped out. As I wanted to continue, Second Master returned from outside. Seeing Yuan Sheng and I standing in the corner speaking, his face immediately turned green. I quickly patted Yuan Sheng's hand to indicate that the master has returned and we cannot talk. After seeing this, Second Master's face turned even more green. Thus, the consequence of speaking behind the master's back is that Yuan Sheng had no dinner to eat that night. But why did I have? I did not know. After realising that First Master had been cheated, Second Master's expression was not pleasant. He called First Master into the house and spoke for an entire afternoon. When he came out, First Master said that the way Second Master talked was like Old Master Yang.
I looked from afar. Although Second Master was shorter than other people by half, but I always felt that the person that one needs to lift up their head to look at was Second Master. Afterwards, First Master remained behind to take care of the household and it became Second Master who travelled outside. Thus, whenever he went, it was two months. Slowly, the household started to change. At the end of the year, we changed to a new house. Although it wasn't as big as the previous Yang Manor, but it was much brighter and we added quite a few servants. The only pity was that when we changed house, Second Master was not around. I did not know what Second Master told First Master when he left, but First Master did not allow me to do chores. He even gave me new sets of clothes to wear. Yuan Sheng told me, "You have made it." I did not understand what he meant.
Much later, Second Master returned once. But, he returned late in the night and left before the sun rose. When I awoke, Yuan Sheng told me that Second Master remained in my room the whole night. I did not know why Second Master did not wake me up. Another half a year passed, and Second Master returned. This time, the entire city of Hangzhou was discussing about Second Master. They gave him a nickname -- Half Fortune God. I wanted to say Fortune God is fine, why must it be half. But Second Master didn't seem to care at all.
When he returned it was deep in autumn and I was cleaning the yard. Although the housekeeper did not let me do chores, I always remembered my duties as a maid. Every day, I needed to do some chores before I was able to sleep. I was sweeping the leaves on the floor when I turned around and saw someone sitting on the stone stool.
I didn't even know when Second Master had sat there. He even had a pot of tea by his hand. He was in a body of white silk with a black outer robe. His hair was tied up high, there was a jade green ring on his thumb. Although it was simple, his entire bearing had an inexpressible elegance. I said, "Second Master, you have returned." He gave a light sound of assent and continued to look at me. I looked right and left then said, "Your humble servant will find the housekeeper." He did not allow me to and said, "Come here."
I walked over, Second Master looked at the broom in my hand and asked, "What is this?"
Turns out Second Master still liked to ask this question. I said, "A broom."
Second Master said lightly, "Throw it away."
I would not throw away things in front of the master so I placed it aside. Then, I respectfully stood by Second Master. Second Master observed me from the head to toe and said, "Tonight, change your clothes and follow me out."
I said yes. When it was night and I stood by Second Master, his expression was stiff when he said, "I didn't ask you to change from one set of tattered clothes to another." I gave an "ah" sound and hesitated if I should return to change, but Second Master waved his hand and said, "Nevermind, let's go."
The West Lake was truly crowded. I saw rows of beautiful boats in the lake and was dazed as Second Master led me to the biggest one. Before we got on the boat, many people came outside and smiled until they had no eyes. "Ahhh... Second Master, we manage to receive your arrival here." A few people welcomed Second Master onboard and I followed behind.
It was the first time I came on board these beautiful painted pleasure boats. Inside was broad and well-lit and had many glittering decorations. There were two tables and quite a few exotic seductive dancing performers playing the instrument and singing. I turned and saw the maids standing respectfully in a row by the side. Their clothes were not shabby at all. I finally understood why Second Master wanted me to change my clothes. I lost face for him again. Although I lost face for him, I must still do my duty as a maid. I went to stand by the row of maids and humbly lowered my head. When I went over, a few of the maids looked strangely at me. Ah truly, I was not suitable to be here. I looked with some guilt over at Second Master. Coincidentally, he turned to me and his gaze was very strange, as if saying, why did you run over there.
He lifted his hand, "Come here." I couldn't help it and stood by his side. But Second Master was not finished, he patted the seat next to him. I did not understand. Second Master couldn't even be bothered to let out a sigh. A gentleman who was observing by the side quickly smiled at me, "Lady Hou (the sound of the first chinese word for Monkey), quickly sit down."
Lady Hou? Woodenly, I sat down.
Lady Hou? Woodenly, I sat down.
Chapter 6: Our Second Master Falls Ill
That night passed rather ridiculously. Many people gave me a respectful smile, and even a few maids came to add food for me. I wanted to tell them I was also a maid like them, please don't add food for me. But, I did not dare to speak. At this setting, I didn't even dare to eat, much less speak. Second Master sat by my side from start to end as people entertained him. Although Second Master was smiling, but it was not frivolous at all, in fact, he felt very matured. Everyone was speaking very humbly to him, but he did not have any arrogance at all. As to what they were saying, I could not understand at all. Later, after three rounds of wine, someone suddenly arrived from the other table. He stood in front of Second Master and immediately knelt down. I looked at him and realised, aiyah, this was the head who surrounded Second Master and even beat me up.
He knelt down on the ground but his waist did not bend. He looked like he had drank quite a bit and his face was flushed red. He looked at Second Master and breathing heavily he said, "Second Yang Master, I do not know why you invited me here today. But, there is something I need to say!" You can speak, why must you shout.
Second Master looked quietly at him and said, "Speak."
The person was so agitated that his nostrils seemed to widen. He spoke loudly, "When Second Master met misfortune, not only did my Wang family not send coal during the snow, I, Wang Zhi, even threw stones down the well. Now that Second Master has flourished, covering half the trade lines of Jiangnan, it is well within reason not to look after my Wang family! But ---!!" Wang Zhi truly had drank too much. Everyone on the boat was looking at him as he stared daggers at Second Master, "But! I have no regrets!"
His voice had a trace of tears, "I do not regret! That year, you made trouble at the Osmanthus Pavilion and cut my wife's long hair. For half a year, my wife did not dare to go out of the house and did not even smile. You, do you even remember this?!" I was silent as I stole a look at Second Master. Second Master was expressionless.
Wang Zhi finally yelled, "So I have no regrets! Yang Yi Qi, my Wang family even without your help can still survive!"
Second Master finally opened his mouth, "Then, why are you kneeling down towards me."
Everyone was silent, even Wang Zhi. If you really did not need help, why would you kneel? Wang Zhi bent down and cried. Everyone was watching. Second Master pushed away the stool and stood on the ground. He did not hold his crutch. His hand leaned on the table and the other on Wang Zhi's shoulder. "Rise." Wang Zhi did not move. Second Master increased pressure, "Gentleman Wang, rise."
Wang Zhi lifted his head to look at Second Master and finally stood up. After he stood up, Second Master became the shortest in the entire boat. A person came up to carry him to the seat but he shook his head. He poured a cup of wine for himself and turned around. He spoke to everyone in a low voice, "Everyone, those that I invited today - some knew me before and some did not. Some with debts of gratitude, some with debts of grudge. This cup of wine, I give to all those debts of gratitude." After he finished, he threw away the cup. He moved forward by a step and lifted up his head and said, "This head, I kowtow to those with debts of grudge." After he finished, before anyone could react, Second Master bowed forward and his forehead knocked into the wooden flooring of the boat with a "thud" sound. He only had half a leg, this kowtow was not easy.
Everyone was stunned, including me. Who dared to accept Second Master's head? Not even speaking of myself as a maid, everyone here had something to ask from Second Master, even more they did not dare to receive this and quickly got up. But no one was able to predict this scenario, so no one dared to open their mouths. Second Master rose up, his expression did not change as he poured another cup of wine. He announced, "I, Yang Yi Qi, only rely on three things when I do business --- courage, brains and trust."
Second Master's voice was deep and his gaze was bright, "The mistakes I had committed in the past, Heavens have punished me. If everyone is willing to give me this chance, to trust in me again, from now on, we will share in the prosperity and earn money together. Yang Yi Qi will not treat all of you badly." Second Master is truly Second Master. He knows how to speak, just a few lines and quite a few people here were crying.
"As for you," Second Master looked at Wang Zhi, he pointed his thumb with the jade green ring at me and said in a low voice, "Do you remember her?"
Wang Zhi looked at me and nodded. Second Master lightly said, "Kowtow to her three times and pray she will always be alright. Then, we will forget about that day."
Wang Zhi walked in front of me and dropped down on his knees. He kowtowed three times. I anxiously looked at Second Master but he did not have any expression.
I tried to say, "It's fi...fine"
Wang Zhi rose and Second Master nodded at him.
On the way home, Second Master called me into the carriage and said, "You have suffered." I was shocked. I said it was the first time I was kowtowed to by a gentleman, I did not suffer. Second Master laughed and said, "Sit closer." I leaned closer and did not dare to look at Second Master. My head remained lowered.
Second Master said, "Your head is always lowered, what are you looking at?"
I quickly made up something, "Looking at the ring."
Second Master took down his thumb ring and placed it in my palm, "Do you like this? You can have it."
How can I dare accept this? I shook my head, "I was only.. only looking at it." Second Master took my hand and placed the thumb ring in my palm. Dark green, still carrying the heat from Second Master's body.
I carried it in my palm and did not dare to speak. This time Second Master returned and stayed. Second Master bought another big house, about the same as the previous Yang Manor. Old Mistress Yang and the misses were brought back. The manor became crowded again. The previously unfavoured Second Master has now become the Manor's owner. Besides Old Mistress Yang, everyone called him respectfully Master. Since there were more people, the housekeeper hired more maids. I saw at one glance that they were to be sent to Second Master's courtyard. I sat at the courtyard that day for very long and stared dazedly at the moon.
I've calculated in my heart how much money I had presently. After counting for half a day, I calculated a pleasant outcome. It turns out that after all these years, I could be considered a rich person. No, a rich monkey.
In the next few days, I changed my money into paper currency. I pawned the accessories Second Master previously gave me and converted them to loose silver. Only that jade green ring, it was so beautiful, I couldn't bear to pawn it and kept it in my bag. My contract was still with Old Mistress Yang so I went to find her and told her my reason. I gave her the money so that she could set me free. Old Mistress Yang looked at me and said in a light voice, "There is no more contract. After the incident, everything was destroyed."
I was dazed, then said, "The humble servant will leave now. Old Mistress Yang, please take care of yourself." Old Mistress Yang did not say anything. She sat in the pavilion, lowered her head and wiped her eyes. How could I leave? I went over to comfort her, "Mistress, please don't cry."
Mistress weeped, "My pitiful Qi Er..." Second Master? I said, "What about Second Master?"
Mistress shook her head and spoke aimlessly to herself, "My pitiful Qi Er, my pitiful Qi Er..." I did not know what she was crying about and said, "Mistress, don't cry. Our Second Master is presently incredible." Mistress ignored me and continued crying. Seeing that I could not comfort her, I gave a sigh and turned to leave.
When I turned, I saw Second Master leaning on his crutch, standing not far away. He kept staring at my bag. Old Housekeeper nervously stood by his side. I walked over and gave my respects. I said, "Second Master, I am leaving."
Second Master smiled at me and said, "Ok."
I was dazed, and was a bit unhappy. After all, I had suffered with you for so many years, although I was only a little maid, but you don't have to speak that way right? Of course, I did not dare to show my displeasure. I told Second Master, "Second Master, take care."
After I spoke finished, I turned from his side to walk away. After walking very far away, I secretly turned around and saw that Second Master was still standing there. The housekeeper was already kneeling by his side. I did not know what he was saying. I felt that Second Master's back was a little crooked. Then, I immediately turned back my head. How could that be possible? I hired a cow cart and prepared to return to my hometown.
But, I hardly left for three days when I was stopped by the housekeeper. When he saw me, it was as if he saw his own mother and he knelt down. Everyone in the inn turned to look around.
He said, "Miss, please come back! I beg of you to come back!"
I asked, "What are you doing?"
The housekeeper rambled on for half a day and I finally understood - Second Master had fallen sick. I came out by cow cart and returned by horse carriage. On the route home, I asked the housekeeper, "Only three days, how did he fall ill?"
The housekeeper had a face of woe, "Ah, I was a busybody, a busybody." He did not answer my question properly. I added, "What illness?"
The housekeeper gave a long sigh and spoke with deep meaning towards me, "Miss, Second Master's heart is bitter."
I stopped asking. When we returned to the manor, everyone stared at me. I shrunk my neck and entered Second Master's courtyard. The housekeeper sent me here and then disappeared.
The courtyard was very big but there was not a single person here. I scolded the houseekeeper in my heart, you hired so many maids but not a single one is serving here. I knocked on Second Master's door and asked, "Second Master, are you there?"
There was no sound. I was worried that something had happened so I immediately pushed the door. Inside, Second Master was wearing his sleeping robes and lying on the bed with his eyes closed. The first sight I had of him and my heart soured. It was no pretence, he was really ill. I walked over and said in a light voice, "Second Master, how are you feeling. Your humble servant will get a physician for you."
Second Master slowly opened his eyes and looked at me. He spoke in a hoarse voice, "You still care about my life or death."
I opened my mouth but did not speak. I did not know what to say. Second Master reached out his hand and I unconsciously held it.
Second Master's hand was very broad, there were calluses all over it. I did not know how Old Master Yang's hand was like, was it like Second Master? Bearing the wind and snow? His other hand covered my eyes and he spoke hoarsely, "Little Monkey, can you not go? After you left, Master cannot hold on......"
In his whole life, the words Second Master said that were the most unbearable, were these. Compared to the kicks he gave me before - this was much much more painful.
Comment: Too in love with these two!
Our Second Master (我们家二爷) by Twentine (5 stars) (HE)