Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Xiahou Lian woke up early in the morning and put on his clothes, about to go brush his teeth and wash his face. He had just walked to the door when he heard Lian Xiang talking to Xie Jinglan. He originally wanted to avoid them, but he heard his own name, so he paused and didn’t move away.
“Young Master, that brat Xiahou Lian is unreliable. Look, he doesn’t work all day long and he strolls around everywhere. Forget the strolling, he’s even sticky-fingered and often steals things. How can we allow this type of person in the manor? And what he said about taking you to see Mr. Dai is just to cause trouble! When Mr. Dai chooses his disciple, the master and madam will definitely be there. If you go, the madam definitely won’t let you off!”
Xie Jinglan was silent for a bit, not saying anything. Lian Xiang wasn’t wrong, Xiahou Lian had definitely been a thief who wandered the streets before he had come to the manor. He had despicable bad habits, and if it was anyone else, Xie Jinglan definitely would have disdained them and refused to befriend them. However, for some reason, when this was applied to Xiahou Lian, he couldn’t bring himself to hate him at all.
It’s probably because Xiahou Lian looks quite good, concluded Xie Jinglan.
This was indeed true; when other people rolled their eyes, chewed noisily, and shook their leg when they were sitting, it would be very annoying, yet Xiahou Lian was clever and energetic, didn’t care about trivial matters, and had a carefree and gallant spirit.
He said calmly, “Even if Xiao Lian doesn’t take me there, I’m still going to go.”
“Young Master! You’ll be killed because of that brat!”
“Although he has a problem of stealing things, ever since he came to the manor, all of his thefts have been for me. I’ll discipline him strictly in the future and order him not to steal anymore. Deep down, he’s not a bad person, so there’s no need to worry.” Xie Jinglan said, “Auntie, you think so too, right?”
“Yeah, Xiao Lian is still young, and he hasn’t made any major mistakes. Besides helping the young master steal books, he’s only stolen pastries and snacks from other courtyards. Every kid loves to eat. Lian Xiang, just bear with it.”
Xie Jinglan and Aunt Lan were both defending Xiahou Lian, so Lian Xiang could only give up.
After Xiahou Lian listened to this, he was speechless.
Women made too big of a deal out of things. How did he not work all day long? When he strolled around, it was to snoop around for news. If he had stayed idly in the courtyard all day long, how could he have known that Dai Shengyan was looking to accept a disciple? Besides, those desserts had been placed on a pavilion table. No one had touched them and no one was watching them, so he had offhandedly ate a few. Was this that big of a deal?
This girl Lian Xiang didn’t have an enticing face, but she had learned a handful of enticing skills to fight for attention. It was as if she was afraid that Xiahou Lian would surpass her and become Xie Jinglan’s closest confidant. Normally, when she prepared meals or washed the dishes, she would whine, and if she got the slightest cut as small as a needle tip on her hand, she would call out “I’m going to die, I’m going to die,” practically wanting everyone in the manor to know that she had been injured while working.
Although Xiahou Lian was chivalrous and cherished fair women, only beautiful women were “fair.” They had to at least look like Xie Jinglan, and in his view, Lian Xiang was an ugly woman crudely imitating a beautiful one.
Unfortunately, Aunt Lan was benign and easygoing, and Xie Jinglan was a teenager with no worldly experience. Although he was cunning, he was a boy after all, and didn’t understand the complicated workings of a woman’s mind and really believed that Lian Xiang was hard-working and contributed a lot.
Forget it, Xiahou Lian was a good man, and he wouldn’t fuss with women.
It was good that he hadn’t cared for Xie Jinglan for nothing; he knew to speak up for him. Xiahou Lian felt a lot more comforted. He purposely made a sound to let the people outside know that he was up, and then walked out the door.
After they had just finished washing up, there was a locking sound from the side door. Lian Xiang walked over to take a look and exclaimed, “Young Master, they locked our courtyard door!”
A voice came from outside the courtyard. “The madam gave orders that an esteemed guest is coming to the manor. In order to stop you clumsy people from disturbing the guest, none of you are allowed outside the courtyard.”
Xie Jinglan was impassive, and Aunt Lan’s expression was worried. “What now? Now that the door’s locked, how do we go to see Mr. Dai?”
Lian Xiang persistently suggested, “Why don’t we forget it?”
Xiahou Lian glanced at Xie Jinglan, and they both understood what the other was thinking——if the door was locked, they would have to climb over the wall.
The four people moved some desks and chairs from inside the room to beside the wall and stacked them up. Xiahou Lian climbed up first, and Xie Jinglan followed closely.
Aunt Lan and Lian Xiang stayed at the bottom, watching the two of them worriedly. Lian Xiang exhorted, “Young Master, you have to be careful! Xiao Lian, if the madam gets angry, you have to protect the young master. If something happens to the young master, I won’t forgive you!”
“I know, I’ll definitely protect him, and I won’t let a single hair fall off his head,” Xiahou Lian said indifferently.
When Xie Jinglan was also on top of the wall, Xiahou Lian leapt down. Xie Jinglan was a little hesitant; the wall was very tall, and he felt a little scared, but he also didn’t want Xiahou Lian to tell, so he closed his eyes and jumped down. He didn’t land on the ground, but instead landed into a warm embrace. Xie Jinglan opened his eyes and saw Xiahou Lian’s face right in front of his eyes. He was greatly startled and rolled out of his arms.
“If you jump like that, you’ll definitely break your legs. When you jump off a wall, you have to spread your legs and land with your knees bent, like you’re shitting. If I didn’t catch you, you would have been disabled before you even achieved anything.” Xiahou Lian instructed seriously.
Xie Jinglan: “…”
“Lian-gege 1!” Just when the two of them steadied themselves, a little girl ran up to them, panting. “The place where Teacher Dai is teaching got changed to the Wangqing 2 Pavilion on Yanbo 3 Pond. It’s two hours later, and everyone is ready now.”
“Lian-gege?” Xie Jinglan eyed the girl suspiciously.
Xiahou Lian smiled and said sheepishly, “This is Miss Lan Xiang, who looks after the study. I met her a few days ago. Lan Xiang-meimei 4, thank you, I’ll take you to eat osmanthus cake another day.”
Lan Xiang stuck out her tongue and said, “You better remember to. I snuck out to tell you this, so I’ll have to hurry back now.”
After saying this, she bowed to the two of them and bounded away.
“You really are something, you’ve only been at the manor for a few days, and you’ve already brought back Lan Xiang-meimei. It’s a serious crime for a male and female to have a private relationship. I can barely protect myself, so when the time comes, I won’t be able to save you,” humphed Xie Jinglan.
Xiahou Lian’s ability to attract girls was indeed astonishing. Just then, that girl hadn’t looked straight at Xie Jinglan even once, yet she had been very intimate and enthusiastic toward Xiahou Lian. Xie Jinglan narrowed his eyes at Xiahou Lian and humphed again.
Xiahou Lian protested, “Secret relationship? I’ve only ever had a secret relationship with you, and the things I’ve given you are still under your cabinet, collecting dust.”
Xie Jinglan said angrily, “What are you talking about? We’re both male, so how can it be called a secret relationship?”
Xiahou Lian made a face.
Before they came out, Xiahou Lian had put his own coat on Xie Jinglan, as well as given him his coarse headscarf. If one simply glanced at them and didn’t look closely, they would think that Xie Jinglan was a lowly servant. Xiahou Lian picked up two trays he had hidden in a bush earlier, and both of them carried one as they walked with their heads down, arriving at the edge of Yanbo Pond unimpeded.
The Wangqing Pavilion was constructed on the Yanbo Pond, and there were glistening waves and sparkling pond water right under the observation deck, which had no railings. On the second floor, one could see far into the distance, and it was a very elegant place. After all, the Xie clan was studious, and the pavilions were all permeated with a refined and scholarly aura.
It was still early, so the two of them hid inside a rockery and waited for the clan’s children to take a seat. Xie Jinglan took off Xiahou Lian’s coat and headscarf, and Xiahou Lian helped him tie his hair again and put on a hairnet 5 and crown. After reorganizing his clothes, he was a beautiful young man.
It was no wonder Xiahou Lian used “beautiful” to describe Xie Jinglan. He looked almost feminine, yet also stubborn. Between his brows, there was an arrogance that made it seem like he viewed everyone else as mere dust.
This arrogance, when put nicely, was called “nobleness,” and when not put nicely, it was called “pretentiousness.” Xiahou Lian reluctantly interpreted it as the former.
One of them was sitting and the other was standing, and Xiahou Lian fished out a dessert to eat while Xie Jinglan took out a scroll to review. There was a winterly plum blossom tree on top of the rockery, and the branches curved narrowly past their heads, a flower petal slowly floating down.
Xiahou Lian crossed his arms as he thought dazedly, These days are very leisurely, though it’s just a little cold.
There was a commotion outside, and Xiahou Lian estimated that it was almost time, so he gazed out from a gap in the mountain. The children of the Xie clan all had bookboys 6, and they went in small groups into the Wangqing Pavilion. They were all wearing beautiful clothes and had radiant faces, and a pouch of fragrances hung on the left sides of their belts, a jade pendant on the right. Some even had jade flutes inserted into their belts.
This scene didn’t look like they were going to seek out a teacher. Instead, it looked like they were trying to be selected as the emperor’s wife.
In comparison, Xie Jinglan’s clothes looked shabby and dingy. If he were to stand among them, no one would guess that he was a child of the Xie clan, and would only think that he was a lowly and unworthy servant that couldn’t even serve during meals.
It was just that Xie Jinglan had an extremely enviable face. Xiahou Lian thought that if he were to choose a disciple, he would definitely choose Xie Jinglan. No matter how good-looking someone’s clothes were, what good would that do? It was only comfortable to look at a good-looking face. Seeing those ugly things, Xiahou Lian felt even more confident in Xie Jinglan.
Xie Jinglan was unaffected. In his eyes, the children in the Xie clan were either stumbling blocks he would inevitably kick to the side of the road or stepping stones to help him get to the next level. And, the more these people dressed up, the more they could set off his uniqueness. Although he might not be the most elegant, he would definitely be the most special.
Besides, Dai Shengyan was the same as him; he was an illegitimate child with a poor family and had been impoverished in his childhood. The right medicine must be prescribed to a specific illness, and being his disciple naturally meant that he had to be to his liking. When Dai Shengyan saw him like this, he would definitely think of his past years of grueling studies and sympathize with him.
Xie Jinglan swept his eyes over the Wangqing Pavilion and said, “We can’t go in through the main entrance.”
Indeed, there were a few servants guarding the main entrance, so if they walked up to it, they would definitely be stopped. Xiahou Lian gazed toward the surface of the pond and saw a small boat next to the opposite shore. He said happily, “Let’s row that boat over. They’re on the second floor, so it’ll be easy for Mr. Dai to see us if we row the boat over. As long as he sees us, the madam won’t be able to stop us, even if she wanted to.”
Just as he said this, Xie Jingtao appeared. After being whipped, it was hard for that fatty to even walk, and he had to lean against his bookboy as he limped. All of the fat on his body bounced up and down like a tidal wave with his every arduous step, and Xiahou Lian instantly understood why his name was “Xie Jingtao 7.” When he arrived at the second floor and sat down in the first seat at the front, it was as if this motion would cause the entire Wangqing Pavilion to collapse, and even in the distant mountain, Xiahou Lian could feel the ground shaking.
The elder arrived last.
Lan Xiang had said that Dai Shengyan looked like a fire poker and was so skinny that all that was left of him was a toothpick and hard old bones. He was definitely an upright and uncorrupted official, otherwise he wouldn’t have starved himself like this. With one glance, Xiahou Lian had spotted that that skinny old man in the crowd was Dai Shengyan. He was indeed like what Lan Xiang had said, his emaciated frame supporting a neck as skinny as a plant stalk. His beard had been taken good care of and was long and white, the same as in paintings of immortals.
Before he could examine Xie Jinglan’s hypocritical father, Xiahou Lian gave a command, and the two of them sprinted along the edge of the pond toward the opposite shore.
Soon, people noticed the two of them. At first, they were stunned, and when they rubbed their eyes and looked again, they saw that it was the third young master of Qiuwu Courtyard and hastily chased after them.
“Everyone, hurry up and stop the third young master!”
“Stop them, quick!”
As Xiahou Lian ran, he fished out a slingshot and shot stones behind him, each of them hitting their mark with dull thuds, and some people even accidentally falling into the pond. He quickly used up all of the stones, so Xiahou Lian casually motioned as if he was shooting the slingshot. Some people fell for it, quickly stopping and covering their heads.
The cobblestone path next to the pond was very narrow, and when the people at the front stopped, the people behind them couldn’t stop in time and surged up like tidewater. They immediately collided into each other like dominos and ended up sprawled on the ground.
Xie Jinglan felt both scared and excited, as he had never run like this before, nor had he ever been this unscrupulous. He should have refused Xiahou Lian’s command in the first place, yet when Xiahou Lian had shouted “run,” he didn’t know how, but his body had reacted faster than his mind. Like a sharp arrow released from a bowstring, he had recklessly plunged into the biting wind.
The two youths were vigorous and agile, and when they passed through the small forest next to the pond, they were like two graceful birds, gradually widening the distance from the people behind them.
When he saw that they were almost there, Xiahou Lian raised his right hand and used his left hand to lightly press a mechanism that was on his right wrist. A beam of cold light shot out from his sleeve and sliced through the towrope in the water.
Xie Jinglan was just about to be surprised when he heard Xiahou Lian shout, “Jump!”
The two of them jumped into the small boat together. The small boat rocked violently, and Xie Jinglan lost his balance, almost falling out, but Xiahou Lian grabbed his collar and pulled him back.
Xiahou Lian swiftly picked up the bamboo pole and pushed off in the water. The small boat was like a leaf floating across the water surface, pushing out ripples as it swayed and drifted toward the pavilion. The servants chasing them could only stop at the shore, helplessly watching as Xiahou Lian and Xie Jinglan got further and further, gradually disappearing in the mist.
Xie Jinglan resisted the urge to roll up Xiahou Lian’s sleeve to take a look and instead faced the shadows cast by the sun, straightening his clothes and standing on the side of the boat with his hands clasped behind his back. With this big commotion they had caused, Mr. Dai must have noticed them, so he had to maintain his proper manners.
The people in the Wangqing Pavilion still didn’t understand what was happening, and they couldn’t see their faces clearly from the distance. They only saw two teenagers being chased by a crowd, finally jumping onto a small boat and heading toward the pavilion.
Standing on the side of the boat in the cold wind, gazing at the distant waves had a touch of grace to it.
Dai Shengyan laughed and clapped. “Is this also one of the Xie children? Interesting, interesting. Quick, welcome them in.”
Xie Bingfeng said in shame, “The children in the clan are young, naive, and act disobediently. I hope you will not take offense that I have not educated them well.”
“That is not so, youths should be like this. Constantly sitting and studying behind closed doors wastes their precious time and beautiful sceneries, and not going on walks outside is putting the cart before the horse.” Dai Shengyan smiled so that even his wrinkles bloomed, revealing a mouth of yellow teeth that were on the brink of falling out.
Xie Jingtao’s eyesight was keen, and he immediately recognized that it was Xie Jinglan. Seeing Dai Shengyan defending him, he felt unhappy and saluted with clasped hands 8 to Dai Shengyan, saying, “Sir, you have misunderstood. I recognize them, those two are ignorant and incompetent, and they are always causing trouble, notorious in the clan for being unfilial, especially that Xie Jinglan. A few days ago, he even stole my belongings, which was very detestable, but because of our brotherhood, I’ve never confronted him.”
Dai Shengyan stopped stroking his beard and said, “Oh? Did this really happen?”
- Lit. older brother. It’s an affectionate form of address and does not mean that they are siblings.
- Lit. Gazing at Greenery.
- Lit. Misty Water.
- Lit. younger sister.
- Specifically wangjin, a traditional hairnet worn by adult men in the Chinese Ming Dynasty.
- More of a servant than a bookboy, but I used bookboy to differentiate between the two. In this case, it refers to a young, more personal servant who serves their master primarily in work related to their studies such as tidying the study or grinding ink, though they can also do other things. They’re typically more of a companion to their master than other servants are.
- Jingtao literally means large and frightening waves.
- A common respectful greeting in ancient China. May or may not include bowing.
Don’t believe him, he’s slippier than the lump of lard he takes after!
I bet Xue Jinglan’s lived more since Xiahou Lian arrived, than in all the time before.
So hoping he’s successful.
Thank you for translating and editing.
Thanks for the chapter!!
Thank You for the new chapter（*’∀’人）♥
I like this Dai Shengyan’s attitude about children being allowed to be children! I hope that he also lectures Xie Bingfeng about ignoring and neglecting his own son!