Surprise! This is a special update in celebration of Fourth of July. I hope y’all had a fun day. Now kick back and relax with another chapter of TBL. This one is longer than usual. =^-^=
Chapter 30 – Abnormal
By the time they returned to the courtyard it was almost approaching noon.
An Zi Ran called Qiu Lan over to inquire after An Yu Zhi’s health.
“Young Master, the lady had an excellent appetite this morning and ate two bowls of congee,” this was how Qiu Lan replied. Ever since returning from shopping two days ago, the young miss’s complexion did not look good. Her appetite was smaller than usual. Yesterday night she only had one bowl of congee for dinner.
An Zi Ran was simply asking, but received such an unexpected answer. His steps into the courtyard faltered. With an unclear expression he asked, “This morning when you went to attend to the young miss, how was her complexion looking?”
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Qiu Lan thought for a bit. “She looked well. There was a bit of red in her cheeks. She wasn’t pasty like she was two days ago. So this servant had the kitchen make more congee for the lady. Young Miss did not say anything. And unlike two days ago, she did not resist and ate two bowls of congee.”
An Zi Ran nodded. “That is all. You are dismissed.”
Qiu Lan turned and left.
After lunch, An Zi Ran returned to the study. Steward Su was quietly waiting for him inside. Without realizing his state of mood, he said, “Young Master, the ink is almost ready*. Would you like to make the gift list today?”
[*T/N: Back then, ink was prepared by grinding an ink stone with a bit of water.]
The date of the marriage was not set in stone yet, because they needed to find a knowledgeable person to choose a good day. Taking advantage of this time, An Zi Ran wants to get the list of dowry ready. An Yu Zhi was the daughter* of the first wife, and she was about to marry into a prince’s palace, so the dowry must not be small. Losing face was a trifle, but if she was looked down upon after marriage, it would implicate the An family too.
[*T/N: 嫡女 di nv: “daughter of first wife.” I saw the word “prostitute” in MTL and I thought I was tripping, but no they really translated it as prostitute.]
Yesterday, before the ledgers were sent over, An Zi Ran had already finished half of the list.
The An family was a big landlord. What they had a lot of was land. There were also quite a few shops under their name. Most of them were rice shops. Only a small fraction was jewelry and fabrics and such. The scope involved was not particularly wide. Based on the An family’s situation, their status was indeed too low to be rubbing elbows with the Fu family, this point could not be refuted.
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What An Zi Ran could take out for the dowry was not a lot. Ever since he made those two decisions*, the An family’s assets have shrunk. The total number of monthly accounts earned was less than half that of An Chang Fu when he was alive. An Chang Fu’s three concubines already gave An Zi Ran a piece of their minds early on, especially the second and third concubine, because they had unmarried daughters. In the future, if they wanted to get married, they will be dependant on the dowry from the An family. Since the An families assets have shrunk, then those dowries were bound to shrink.
[*T/N: I believe he’s referring to the two decisions he made concerning the situation with the farmers]
But they did not know that when An Chang Fu was alive he had already prepared a dowry for his eldest daughter and second daughter. Both of them have reached the age of marriage. Just because Liu Mei Xiang was pregnant with An Zi Ming, so their matters were delayed. An Zi Ran also heard about this later on from Steward Su. Both the second and third concubine did not know about this.
There was red paper on the desk, and the brush was prepared by Steward Su.
An Zi Ran sat down and took up the brush. He dipped the fine hairs of the brush nib into the ink and started to write out the list.
After several months of practice, his writing was starting to look better. Although it was not to the level of a scholar, his words were already very angular, vigorous and slender, just like his person.
Every time Steward Su saw the words written by the young master, his face would reveal a happy expression. He was the one who had the greatest understanding of the young master’s handwriting from before, it was so shameful that it could no longer be expressed with words. Now it was finally written with a good hand. If the late lord and lady saw this from the heavens above, they would be very happy.
An Zi Ran suddenly put down the brush and stood up.
Steward Su was slightly surprised and asked, “Young Master, what is it?”
“A break first. It won’t be too late even if I write it a little later,” An Zi Ran said, and then thinking of a new thought he said, “Have Qiu Lan bring the young miss here to the study.”
Steward Su did not question further. He nodded and went to do as bid.
Qiu Lan was quick. An Zi Ran had just finished the tea that Chun Lan poured for him when he heard several pairs of footsteps approaching. Soon, An Yu Zhi’s figure appeared beside the doorway.
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An Zi Ran looked at her. As Qiu Lan had said, An Yu Zhi’s face was a healthy shade, not at all like an infirmed person. He couldn’t help but wonder if there was no illness at all. Why did she lie to him about feeling unwell and refused to accompany him to the Fu palace? He could still recall how she had said she wanted to marry Fu Wu Tian. That shy demeanor, she was not one who could deceive people.
“Brother, what did you call me for?” An Yu Zhi approached him and asked. After spending some time together, she no longer spoke to her brother like before, with a bit of estranged distance between them.
An Zi Ran put down the cup in his hand, and said, “This morning I already spoke with Fu wang ye. He already agreed to take you as his princess, so you don’t have to marry him as a concubine. The marriage will be within a month. I will handle this matter well. You do not have to worry. Come over tomorrow. Brother will give you some money to buy some beautiful jewelry. Deck yourself up well. The Fu family is part of the imperial family after all, and we cannot allow others to look down on our family.”
As An Zi Ran talked, An Yu Zhi’s face became whiter and whiter, expression no longer happy. Her hands were twisted under the table. Don’t know what she was disturbed by.
An Zi Ran looked at her quietly. “Yu Zhi, are you not happy?”
An Yu Zhi became alert again. Seeing her brother looking at her with a concerned gaze, she pretended to hold her forehead. “No, I’m very happy. It could be that I’m not completely well yet, my head feels a little dizzy.”
“If you feel unwell, go back to your room and rest. We can talk about the other things two days from now.” An Zi Ran said peacefully.
An Yu Zhi immediately replied, “Then little sister will retire (to rest) now.”
After she finished speaking, she left in a hurry*.
[*T/N: 迫不及待 po bu ji dai: impatient (idiom); in a hurry / itching to get on with it]
An Zi Ran watched her go. He could tell that she was lying. She covered up in time, but in front of him, her acting had no effect at all. Her wandering eyes have already betrayed her. In order to clarify the problem, he called for An Yu Zhi’s two personal maidservants, Qiao Er and Xing Er.
“Two days ago, when you accompanied the young miss out, did anything happen?”
Qiao Er and Xing Er looked at each other in dismay. Qiao Er said, “Replying to Young Master, on the day we accompanied the lady to the jewelers to buy jewelry. Nothing out of the ordinary happened.”
An Zi Ran asked again, “Then let me ask you, when the young miss is calm is there anything that’s out of place?”
Xing Er said, “There was a little thing. When the young miss came out from the jewelers, she slipped on the steps and fell, but there was nothing serious about it. This kind of thing happens quite frequently at other times too.”
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An Zi Ran saw that he would not be getting any useful information from these two, so he dismissed them. According to the two of them, there seemed to have been no problem on the street that day. It couldn’t have happened at any other time, because An Yu Zhi barely left the house since that incident. Perhaps she was experiencing premarital phobia?
Unexpectedly, he thought of the premarital phenomenon. It was more common in the twenty-first century.
If that was the reason, then An Yu Zhi’s abnormal behavior could be explained. Perhaps that was it. The female mind was always particularly difficult to guess. He could only think so.