Volume 4, Chapter 13: Betraying Beloved Son

At this moment, the sound of light footsteps came tramping from outside. From the sound of the footsteps, everyone could tell that they were not trained in martial arts. Two maids then pushed open the door. Escorted by a number of maids, Princess Changle walked in carrying an infant in her arms. Behind her were Roulan and Li Lin. Just now, when Roulan had accompanied the princess to bring over the infant, she did not forget to drag Li Lin along.

Li Xian was the first to jump to his feet. Smiling, he stated, “I want to see if this child resembles Changle or Suiyun.” Of course, aside from the joy of meeting this little nephew of his, he also wanted to briefly avoid the awkward atmosphere. There would be ample time for everything to be decided. At worst, I can kidnap Jiang Zhe, thought Li Xian, vexed. However, he quickly focused all of his attention upon the infant.

Although the infant wasn’t even a year old, he was very vigorous. His large, inquisitive eyes whirled around wildly. He inherited the strong points of his parents’ appearances. Although still young, one could tell that once he had grown up, he would definitely be a handsome and elegant young man.

The more he looked, the more Li Xian felt that this child’s eyes were extremely like his own. He could not help but pick the child up. Although he already had several children, he never paid any particular attention to them. It could be said that Li Xian wasn’t a real father. As a result, to him, it was more difficult holding this child than picking up a weapon. Moreover, that soft and delicate body of the infant caused Li Xian to be flustered, fearing that if he used too much strength, he would hurt the infant. However, this child seemed to be quite vigorous. As if he noticed Li Xian’s predicament, he giggled incessantly. Li Xian was increasingly delighted and could not help but raise the child up high.

Frightened, Princess Changle called out, “Sixth brother! Don’t frighten Shen’er!” Interestingly, the infant was actually unafraid, instead laughing joyfully. His glittering eyes were sparkling with excitement and curiosity. A warm feeling welled up from the depths of Li Xian’s heart. For Li Xian, this tiny infant brought him the never before felt emotion of parent and child.

Familial love within a ruling family was already aloof and distant. Furthermore, with his incongruous relationship with Qin Zheng, Li Xian had never paid much attention to his son, Li Lin. It was only after Qin Zheng died that Li Xian began to attach importance to Li Lin out of guilt and shame. However, because of their former estrangement and the suffering in Li Xian’s heart, Li Xian seemed more like a commander and teacher rather than a father towards Li Lin. He had diligently instructed Li Lin, hoping that, even if his son did not have the ability of inheriting his principality, his son would be able to inherit his mantle and become an excellent military commander.

However, towards this little nephew, Li Xian was fond of him from the depths of his heart. For a moment, he hated that this child wasn’t his own. These years, aside from war, Li Xian had no other interests. This was actually the first time that his thirst for life had been reignited.

In a daze, Li Lin gazed at his father. He had never seen his father so happy. At this moment, he wished more than anything to supplant this little infant to have a taste of the warmth of his father’s embrace. At this moment, a hand suddenly began to gently pat his head. Looking up, Li Lin caught sight of a scholar in azure robes smiling at him. The scholar gazed with a quiet warmth. Li Lin felt tears fill his eyes. He promptly turned his head away, not wanting anyone to see his moment of weakness. A look of pity flashed across the scholar’s eyes before turning away.

Smiling, I stated, “All right … Your Imperial Highness, don’t tease Shen’er. If he is frightened, Zhen’er will ache with sorrow.”

Reluctant to part with the infant, Li Xian handed him over to Princess Changle. He mocked, “Don’t pretend. I have heard from Imperial Sister-in-law and the Crown Prince that you were the one who loved most to bully Roulan. I have never seen a father like you, only knowing to tease your son and daughter. How about you hand over Shen’er to me, so that he isn’t tormented by a poor father like you?”

Listening to him speak, I was furious. This Prince of Qi had always been fond of searching for my shortcomings. Every single time we met, he would always cause a mess to the point of making things uncomfortable. Crossing my arms, I mischievously replied, “I naturally can’t give this child to you. However, you are still his uncle. How about this? If you take a new wife who gives birth to a daughter, how about I let Shen’er call you father-in-law?”

Hearing this, the expression on Li Xian’s face was fleetingly gloomy. He was filled with guilt and shame towards Qin Zheng. As a result, he had not only dismissed all of his concubines, he had also rejected all attempts by others to have him remarry. This was something that many people knew. Li Xian did not believe that Jiang Zhe did not know this. As a result, he naturally became somewhat angry and resentful.

However, he did not know why, but after a few moments, Li Xian gradually felt that this idea was actually not bad. If this Jiang Shen was to become his son-in-law, with a son-in-law being considered as half a son, he would be left perfectly satisfied. However, although he had two daughters at present, they were born of concubines and were much older than Jiang Shen. If he wanted Jiang Shen to be his son-in-law, he needed to have another daughter. It was not unreasonable for Jiang Zhe to have him take another wife and have a daughter. After all, Jiang Shen was Princess Changle’s eldest son. In addition, Jiang Shen’s father was such an individual. This kind of marriage would probably cause many people to covet it.

Thinking of this, Li Xian came to the resolution that in order to acquire this son-in-law, he needed to marry a new consort. Moreover, he recalled that there was no one managing his household. There was no one to discipline his daughters born of concubines, and he was basically allowing them to grow and die without outside interference. If he were to take a virtuous consort, she would be able to take care of them for him, saving him a lot of trouble and preventing those children’s future from being delayed. Moreover, seeing the harmony in Jiang Zhe’s family, Li Xian could not help but feel guilt and shame. It was said that one must regulate the family and rule the state, and with his household in such disarray, it was no wonder he was defeated by the current emperor. Unexpectedly, the pent-up fixation upon the defeat suffered in the battle to succeed their father was somehow loosened.

The obsession in his heart eliminated, Li Xian’s mind immediately became far sharper. Instantly, he realized that this was an exceptionally good opportunity. He promptly declared, “Then it’s settled. If I am to take a consort and have a daughter, in the future, Shen’er is to be my son-in-law!”

Looking at my beloved son, I thought, Son, don’t blame me for casually arranging a marriage for you. Being my son, I’m afraid that it will be impossible for your happiness to be decided by you. Even if I am unconcerned, there will be others who will be concerned. Although the Prince of Qi is pigheaded, he is a straightforward individual. His daughter should be quite outstanding. However, for your happiness, I’m going to give you a few more choices. Thinking of this, I continued, “That’s good. While it’s not rare that an engagement is formed before the children are born,1 I don’t want to harm Shen’er. How about this? In the future, give birth to a few extra daughters and allow Shen’er to choose for himself.”

Not caring that his future daughters were going to undergo a selection, Li Xian replied, “Then let’s clap our hands together to signify this promise.2 There are so many guests here to serve as witnesses, and Changle is also here. You won’t be able to renege on this engagement!”

I smiled slightly, thinking, If in the future, if Shen’er has another sweetheart, if worst comes to worst, I’ll expel him from the family, allowing him to live leisurely. If he is not fond of fame and profit, riches and honor, I can only be happy. Don’t tell me that I will be blamed? Moreover, it is said that a couple who grow up together as childhood friends become familiar and affectionate. In the future, if the Prince of Qi’s daughter does not have the ability to cause Shen’er to be tempted after the opportunity of meeting every day, then I will not be blamed. Thinking this way, I stretched out my hand and stated, “Of course I won’t renege. If Your Imperial Highness takes a consort and has a daughter who is well-matched to Shen’er, even if Your Imperial Highness is disinterested in their marriage, Zhe will pay a visit to seek the completion of the engagement. The only way that doesn’t happen is if he is not my son, otherwise this engagement is set.”

Although Li Xian was exceptionally skilled at military strategy, he naturally would not pay attention to such trifling wordplay. He also stuck out his hand. Our hands clapped together to seal the promised engagement.

Watching Jiang Zhe and Li Xian seal the agreement by clapping hands, the distinguished guests within the pavilion all had different thoughts. Lin Bi was shouting “not good” mentally. If the Prince of Qi and the Great Yong upper stratum were to be reconciled, it would be detrimental to Northern Han. However, Lin Bi did not reveal any of this concern, simply smiling and offering her congratulations.

Li Kang felt a raging fury deep inside. He did not want the Prince of Qi to once again suppress him, feeling a boundless resentment even towards Jiang Zhe. But after thinking it over, how could a child be had so easily? He still had the opportunity to pull apart this happy union. As a result, he did not reveal any hint of displeasure.

In comparison, Gou Lian was truly delighted. Although the Prince of Qi had a stubborn character, the emperor treated him as a beloved subject. Since the Prince of Qi had agreed to take a new consort, then it would be a great opportunity to make up for the shortcomings in the relationship between the emperor and the Prince of Qi. As expected, Jiang Zhe was truly formidable. Using only a few words, he had resolved such a difficult problem. When the Emperor learns of this, I wonder how happy he will be?

Regardless of what everyone thought, everyone displayed looks of jubilation. Only little Jiang Shen, who did not know that he had been sold by his father, gazed with curiosity upon the different kinds of objects placed upon the large table in the middle of the room, frequently wanting to reach out with his hands to touch them. However, he was too far away and was unable to touch them. Unable to help himself, Jiang Shen’s face began to distort. Just as it seemed as his face was about to be a downpour of tears, the door to the pavilion was smashed open. In a loud voice, the hurriedly arriving Lin Tong asked, “Has the grabbing test begun? What has he picked?”

The small infant was also frightened by Lin Tong’s actions. Before he could start crying, his tears were scared away. Forgetting to wail and cry, Jiang Shen watched Lin Tong with curiosity.

Princess Changle smiled slightly. Just now she was a bit unhappy, criticizing Jiang Zhe for making the decision and arranging a betrothal for Jiang Shen without discussing with her. However, she was after all born of the imperial family, naturally understanding that with the rise of one’s status, the greater the impossibility of arranging one’s own wedding. Ignoring the fact that Shen’er was her own son, based upon Jiang Zhe’s position within imperial brother’s heart, she and Jiang Zhe likely did not have the power to select a wife for their son. Now that Jiang Zhe had arranged such a future marriage for their son, it was actually a good way of planning ahead. If sixth brother was able to change his mind, ceasing his confrontational stance against imperial brother, this would be a cause for celebration. Seeing the happy atmosphere within the room, Prince Li Kang of Qing and Princess Lin Bi of Jiaping both had different thoughts. Just as they were trying to figure out how to resolve this vexing situation, seeing Lin Tong impulsively barge in, Li Kang smiled and spoke up, “There is no need to be worried, Princess. It’ll still be a little while. Just now, the maids went to invite the Princess over to ensure that Princess does not miss this event.”

Having slept for more than an hour, Lin Tong was now thoroughly awake. Embarrassed, she expressed her apologies, retreating to Lin Bi’s side. Seeing that the set time was approaching, Princess Changle smiled. “Suiyun, I think we should start. Otherwise, Shen’er will get anxious.”

Glancing at Shen’er’s curious gaze, I replied, “Then let him go grab. I really want to see what Shen’er will grab.”

The grabbing test was a popular custom that had been handed down through the generations. As long as one’s household was well off, families would invite their relatives and friends to hold a celebration at their children’s first birthday. The large wooden table at the center of the Hearing Surf Pavilion was already covered with a multitude of objects. As neither Jiang Zhe nor Princess Changle were ordinary individuals, the objects used for this grabbing test were all extremely exquisite and precious.

Upon a silver tray was placed a golden seal. Upon the two sandalwood trays, one had three elaborately packaged books—The Analects of Confucius, the Dao De Jing by Laozi, and the Diamond Sutra of Buddhism—, while upon the other tray were the four treasures of the study—an ink brush from Huzhou,3 ink from Anhui,4 fine Xuan writing paper,5 and high-quality Duan ink stone.6 On a tray made from Chinese boxwood were an abacus, a silver ingot, and an accountant book. On a piece of red silk were an exquisitely manufactured white jade zither that was only half a chi7 in length and a priceless weiqi set made from black jade and crystal. On a jet-black metal tray were a sword and a scimitar in extremely luxurious scabbards, made from shark skin with gold encrusted mouths and yellow velvet handles. However, at the center of the table was a box of fragrant snacks that Princess Changle had personally made, capable of causing all to drool.

All of these objects were extremely extravagant. Even the Prince of Qi and company, who all held power, riches, and influence, felt they were a bit excessive in their extravagance. Seeing them, the Prince of Qi smiled and stated, “Since it’s my son-in-law, then he should have to put up with anything.” Finished speaking, he took out a lavender jade military tally and put it on the table.

Shocked, Princess Changle cried out, “Sixth brother! Isn’t this your military tally that allows you to command your army? How can you bring this out for Shen’er’s grabbing test?”

“It’s only to fill out the scene,” replied Li Xian with a smile. “Even if Shen’er grabs it, I will take it back. I just want to see if this child has the destiny to become a military commander.”

Smiling faintly, I said, “Your Imperial Highness will likely be disappointed … Military commanders require a fierce and savage heart. I can see that my Shen’er is a tenderhearted soul. He is unlikely to lead troops.”

Waving his hand, Li Xian uttered, “This may not necessarily be the case. Who when born is fierce and savage? In this Prince’s army, the majority of the warriors are too afraid to even kill during their first battle. But now, they view human life as grass, shedding blood at will and possessing hearts as savage as wolves.”

Disdain flashed in the Prince of Qing’s eyes. Smiling, he stated, “Since sixth brother is so enthusiastic, as a third uncle, I must also express my affection.” From his waist, he removed an old and faded, embroidered pouch that was yellow in color. Upon it was a dragon with four claws. The pouch was bulging. However, no one could tell what was inside.

Bafflement flashed across Li Xian’s eyes. Others probably didn’t know, but he knew what was inside. That year, when the Prince of Qing’s birth mother died tragically, Li Xian had still gone to console him although he viewed this somewhat cowardly elder brother with some contempt. Li Xian had seen Li Kang holding his mother’s makeup kit, shedding tears. Although Li Xian was blunt, he understood that it wasn’t the right time to go disturb his elder brother. Observing Li Kang in secret, Li Xian saw Li Kang take out a jade bracelet from his mother’s makeup kit and place it within the yellow embroidered pouch. The next day, Li Kang disappeared from the palace. Many years later, when Li Kang reappeared in the Yong court, he would always carry this embroidered pouch by his side. Although no one else paid it much attention, Li Xian stored this away in his mind. He was rather moved by the Prince of Qing’s filial piety. It was only that their temperaments did not match and Li Xian was a part of the crown prince’s faction, so he had not gotten close to the Prince of Qing. To this day, the affection between the two of them was extremely thin, difficult to repair. Naturally, Li Xian would not bring up his desire to comfort his elder brother. As such, Li Kang did not know that Li Xian knew what was within the embroidered pouch.

I looked at this embroidered pouch, feeling a bit baffled. I did not want something so shady. As such, I inquired, “I wonder what Your Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qing, has generously bestowed? If too precious, it would be too much for my young child to accept.”

Smiling, Li Kang answered, “This object isn’t precious and is only a leftover object of my deceased mother. If your esteemed son is fond of it, it could be that our two families are also fated to be tied by marriage.”

I was startled. Just now, I had arranged for Shen’er to be the Prince of Qi’s son-in-law. Why was the Prince of Qing proposing marriage now? At this moment, I could see that Li Kang’s eyes had fallen upon Roulan. I immediately understood. An object passed down from a mother was naturally the best gift to one’s wife or daughter-in-law. The Prince of Qing wanted Roulan to be his daughter-in-law.

I was unable to contain my fury. Although I had sold Shen’er, arranging a marriage for him even though he was so young, this did not mean that I would hastily arrange a marriage for Roulan. I knew that my son could naturally be more casual. At worst, he could leave my family. A daughter, however, was to be spoiled and pampered. Let alone the Prince of Qing’s good-for-nothing son, I had no intention of allowing my daughter to marry any son of the imperial clan. My Roulan could only be married to a man who would treasure her. How could those sons of the imperial clan with multiple wives and concubines be fit husbands for Roulan?

The expression on my face became stony, as I unenthusiastically stated, “Zhe is grateful for Your Imperial Highness’s kind intentions. However, Zhe has also doted upon this daughter. Her marriage requires her own willingness. Right now, Lan’er is still young, making it inconvenient to talk about matrimony.”

My words did not give the Prince of Qing any face. Even I was a bit worried that he would immediately turn hostile. However, beyond my expectations, the expression on Li Kang’s face did not change in the slightest. Instead, he smiled and responded, “It seems like my son does not have the good fortune. Sir Jiang’s daughter is naturally noble and precious. Reasonably speaking, she has better options.”

His tone stung with jealousy and ridicule, although Li Kang’s words were uttered placidly. Seeing that his anger did not flare up, I inwardly relaxed, a bit regretful that I had also invited him. Originally, he had been invited because of his status. After all, he was a prince of the first rank and Changle’s elder brother. However, his arrival had not only created a new enemy for me, he had completely exposed Great Yong’s internal divisions to outsiders. Unfortunately, I could not give him face and a harmonious façade to harm the latter half of Roulan’s life. Seeing the pensive look flashing across Lin Bi’s eyes, I knew that the gains from inviting her would not make up for the losses. Alas, it was too late for regrets. Fine … in the future, there will be ways to make up for today’s losses. I forced a smile onto my face, stating, “All right … Zhen’er, quickly have Shen’er to make his move. I can tell that he can’t restrain his patience any further.”

Princess Changle smiled tenderly, personally placing her beloved son on the table, allowing him to act as he pleased. Jiang Shen’s eyes were opened wide, revealing a happy and inquisitive expression. A moment earlier, he had been completely focused on these fascinating objects. But right now, he seemed to be unwilling to reach out with his hands, only carefully measuring them up.

After a short while, the little infant began to move. He rapidly crawled to the center of the table, picking up a fragrant pastry.

I could not help but let out a groan. It was said that if a child were to first grab pastries, it represented that he would be a lazy and gluttonous individual. However, the guests were mostly polite in their words, stating that this child would never have want for food and clothing in the future. I had originally wanted to remove the pastries, because I was also fond8 of Princess Changle’s pastries. It was likely that Shen’er would be unable to resist such a lure. However, Zhen’er had disagreed, stating that it was customary. Now, as expected, Shen’er had picked up pastries first.

At this moment, Xiaoshunzi, who had been standing at the corner of the room silently, suddenly began to laugh. I shot him a glare, asking, “What are you laughing about?”

Li Shun laughingly replied, “The little master is truly young master’s son. Didn’t young master tell this servant that on your first birthday, you also grabbed pastries first?”

Hearing his words, the entire room fell silent. Then Li Xian began to laugh heartily. Although everyone else gave me a bit of face, they were all full of smiles. Though somewhat embarrassed, I understood that no one would laugh at Shen’er. Although Xiaoshunzi had caused me to lose face, he had preserved Shen’er’s face. This could be considered as meritorious service.

Just then, Shen’er set down the pastry, his large eyes gazing at the objects surrounding him. He then picked up an abacus. My heart shook. Afterwards, I laughingly stated, “That’s good, that’s good … I always have a headache when I go over accounts. If I did not have the help of trusted subordinates to supervise my assets, I would likely be impoverished.9 If Shen’er is adept at these matters, then there will be no need to fear that he will lose all of his inheritance.” These words were not only an effort to console myself, but the truth. Although I had the ability to create new enterprises, I had great difficulty managing all of my assets. Fortunately, I always played to my strengths10 and never interfered. If Shen’er was adept in such fields, I would have no worries that he would be a spendthrift wastrel in the years to come.

Afterwards, Shen’er set down the abacus, reaching out to grasp that scimitar. I was regretful that he had not picked up the sword. Everyone knew that the sword signaled that an individual would be a master of brush and sword. Those who picked up the saber-like scimitar were mostly hotheaded military men.

A bit anxious, I walked several circles around the table, hatefully stating, “Shen’er, what’s going on with you little brat? In the past, your father picked up the four treasures of the study second. Do you not like books, brush, and ink?” Everyone in the pavilion burst out laughing. It was enough that those familiar with me laughed. However, Li Kang, Lin Bi, and Lin Tong all found this ridiculous. Who could have thought that this outstandingly brilliant Jiang Suiyun would actually have such a childish nature? However, I paid no attention to their expressions, completely focused on Shen’er, hoping that he would give me some face.

At this moment, Shen’er set down the scimitar, reaching his hand towards one of the sandalwood trays. I was overjoyed, waiting with bated breath, afraid to disturb my son. Shen’er’s hands swept over the objects. The four treasures of the study were immediately made a mess. He then reached out his hand towards the other sandalwood tray. I rejoiced silently, hoping that he would pick up one of the books. As expected, Shen’er reached out and picked up a book. Then he ripped it apart with curiosity.

I could feel a buzzing sound in my head. Walking over, I pulled Shen’er up by the collar of his clothes, scolding in a loud voice, “Stinky brat, what’s going on? At the time, although your father picked up a copy of the Dao De Jing, I first picked up The Analects. As for you, you are actually holding onto the Diamond Sutra without letting it go. You can be anything you want.… Why would you want to become a Buddhist monk? Preposterous! Quickly toss aside this book. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t literate, but you cannot be a monk!”

Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, Princess Changle came over and replied, “Suiyun, don’t be impetuous. Picking up a Buddhist scripture means that he will have ties with Buddhism. What does it have to do with becoming a monk? The grabbing test is no more than a ceremony. Who takes it as seriously as you do? Quickly let go! Don’t injure Shen’er!”

Blushing with shame, I apologized, “That’s right … that’s right … I am being too impetuous. Who can blame me for this child not giving me any face?” Finished speaking, I glanced at Shen’er, worried that he would be startled by my actions. However, seeing that he was fine, I did not know whether to cry or laugh. Although he tightly held onto the Diamond Sutra, his legs were swinging back and forth, as if he were on a swing.

Resentfully I stated, “My household’s misfortune … How could I have produced such a cheeky brat?”

Li Xian could not help but laugh, replying, “Suiyun, there is no need to be worried. I can see that although this child is naughty and vivacious, he will surely be an excellent candidate to practice martial arts.”

Suddenly, Xiaoshunzi’s eyes shone as he gazed out the window. He ruthlessly questioned, “Which master has come to the Tranquil Sea Manor? Demonic Shadow Li Shun pays his respects. Please show yourself.”

I was greatly startled. Although a surface glance wouldn’t show, the manor was completely covered with countless hidden mechanisms and traps and covert sentries. How could someone arrive here without anyone noticing?

At this moment, a gentle voice drifted over, reciting one of the many names of the Buddha. Then he stated, “Benefactor Li’s martial arts progression truly leaves this old cassock filled with admiration. Just now, this old cassock saw that Benefactor Jiang was disciplining his son, so it was inconvenient for me to disturb. Please forgive me.”

After this, the door to the pavilion was slowly pushed open. A middle-aged monk in a gray cassock stood there, smiling. I felt my scalp stiffen. Blushing with shame, I expressed, “Great Master True Compassion, I’m not saying it’s not good to be a monk. Great Master, please forgive me.” In my mind, I cursed my bad luck. How could my words be allowed to be heard by this grandmaster? What was to be done if he felt I was prejudiced against Buddhism?

Great Master True Compassion smiled slightly, replying, “This old cassock understands Benefactor’s thoughts. Benefactor is thirty years old and only has this lone son. It is difficult to not hold high hopes for him. However, this old cassock sees that this child’s aptitude is exceptionally good. If Benefactor is willing, this old cassock wishes to take him as my disciple. What does Benefactor think?”

When I was about to blurt out my refusal, I saw Xiaoshunzi lightly shaking his head. I suddenly realized that Great Master True Compassion would not have my son take vows and become a monk. Shen’er was the son of a princess and my only son. No matter how fond Great Master True Compassion was of this child, he would not have Shen’er become a monk.

Just then, Great Master True Compassion continued, “Although Pei Yun is my Shaolin Temple’s protector disciple, he holds a mighty military command at present. As such, it is inconvenient for him to handle many jianghu matters. This old cassock can see that your esteemed son’s aptitudes are outstanding, thus I am filled with fondness. If Benefactor gives the nod of approval, this old cassock is willing to take your esteemed son as my last disciple. Benefactor and Princess, do not worry. From your esteemed son’s physiognomy, this old cassock can see that he will definitely have happiness and longevity, having many descendants and will definitely not become a monk.”

I understood this senior monk’s intentions. It was possible that Shen’er truly had unusually good aptitude, however, I believed that this old monk most likely wanted a hostage. If Shen’er were to enter the Shaolin Temple, Xiaoshunzi and I would naturally be unable to cause trouble for the Shaolin Temple. This old cassock was still afraid and suspicious of me.… However, thinking it over, Shen’er was never still and peaceful. It seemed he would not have the abilities to become a scholar. If he were to train martial arts, there was no better master than Great Master True Compassion. It was said that the Shaolin Temple’s martial arts were the most orthodox in jianghu. Even if Shen’er trained greatly, he would not be spoiled. With this kind of master, who would make trouble for Shen’er in the future?

These thousands of thoughts galloped through my mind swiftly. With a smile on my face, I returned, “For Shen’er to be able to become a disciple of the Great Master is naturally his blessing. However, we, husband and wife, only have this one son. We only hope that he will grow up safe and sound, happily spending his time with us. If Great Master were to take him away, wouldn’t it harm our hearts as parents?”

Great Master True Compassion smiled slightly, replying, “This old cassock has already decided to temporarily take up residence and cultivate at Chang’an’s Floating Clouds Temple. At present, your esteemed son is still young. This old cassock can temporarily teach him at Sir Jiang’s home.”

I was exultant, exclaiming, “It’s a deal!” When I blurted these words out, I realized that I had made a slip of the tongue. Promptly, I added, “Since that is the case, Zhe humbly thanks Great Master’s kind intentions. However, why has Great Master come here from afar?”

Footnotes:

指腹为婚, zhifuweihun – idiom, lit. propose a marriage by pointing to the stomach; fig. boy and girl have been engaged before they were born
In ancient China, promises were sealed by the two parties slapping their hands together.
湖笔, hubi – lit. Hu brush; Huzhou (湖州), modern-day Zhejiang Province, was known for its long history of manufacturing ink brushes that traces its way back to the Qin Dynasty
徽墨, huimo – lit. Hui ink; was an ink manufactured in Huizhou (徽州), located in modern-day Anhui Province, known for manufacturing high quality ink
宣纸, xuanzhi – lit. Xuan paper; also known as rice paper, produced at Jing County (泾县), Xuanzhou (宣州), modern-day Anhui Province, renowned for its softness and fine textures suited for calligraphy and painting
端砚, duanyan – lit. Duan ink stone; a high quality ink stone that was historically manufactured in Duanzhou (端州), now modern-day Zhaoqing (肇庆), Guangdong Province
Over nine inches
爱不释手, aibushishou – idiom, lit. to love something too much to part with; fig.to hold admiring, to be fond of
一穷二白, yiqiong’erbai – idiom, lit. be poor and blank; fig. impoverished, poor and uncultured
扬长避短, yangchangbiduan – idiom, lit. to foster strength and avoid weaknesses; fig. to play to one’s strengths

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