Xianggong, Please Divorce Me!

Ch. 3: Old Water Finally Spills Out

TL’ed by snowflake_obsidian


Notes:

[1] Formerly a woman showing her face in public was considered to be flaunting themselves and therefore seen as unbecoming. This was how prostitutes and entertainers were viewed.

[2] Yatou is a maid or servant girl. It can be a term of endearment as it is in this context though is generally used deprecatingly.

[3] Ai ya is a Chinese interjection of wonder, shock or amazement. It can also be used to express a complaint or impatience which is not the case in this context.

[4] Literally borrow an east wind.

[5] 10 catties is about 10 to 13 pounds (4.5 to almost 6 KG).

[6] This is a photo, found on the internet, of a larger version of the box though without any carvings.

[7] “Hua Kai Fu Gui” are opulent flowers which are open, versus say in bud. Here are some examples of carved flowers.  These are also photos found on the internet:

 

[8] According to physiognomy, a full forehead is considered auspicious.

[9] Gossip item

[10] Another gossip item


Chapter 3: Old Water Finally Spills Out

The third miss Su is about to get married! This news was passed around. The entire city was startled, the great streets, small alleys, tea rooms, pubs, lady’s chambers, and deep inside courtyards, all were talking about this topic with high spirits, humor, and playful chats. The unhappy love history of Su Tang’s was again unearthed and then afterwards repeatedly stir-fried.  Her joys and sorrows of life were sautéed and speculated about until these smelt, looked, and tasted great, which provided that crowd of bored people something to chew over and sample—excessively thinking about this, Su Tang felt that she in this way was worthy of great admiration, one person painfully giving merriment to countless families. Alas all was lost.

But Xi Que wasn’t that magnanimous.  Looking at her own young miss still unoccupied (with the wedding) working the abacus for this month’s cash flow, she couldn’t help but pout with that fat mouth. “Miss, why aren’t you speaking. Those people just now are really unreasonable.”

Su Tang temporarily raised her eyebrows, her fingers still flying as before, “A few dissolute slackers, that’s all, why bother.”

Su Tang in operating the Su Ji pastry shop has been appearing in public for 3-4 years [1]. Not at the outset though already at an earlier time, the yatou [2] flushed with anger due to a few backbiting phrases.  Don’t take to heart what you’ve heard as there is not enough time to disperse these few frivolous phrases like the wind. Now, still the most important thing is to make money.

A thread of cunning appeared in the corners of Su Tang’s smile as she thought about striving to earn money.  These (past) few days she again put aside the negative public opinion about herself which flowed like billowous waves, though with a biting point. That gang by human effort stifled the character in this folktale. Each one would run over to the Su Ji shop and stealthily snoop about. Yet Su Tang was not annoyed and generously greeted (them). The result was that when these people left, each and every one was hand carrying a small something. Ai ya [3], (she’s) not unable to see clearly. Even more she used the situation and created a few types of new pastries, urgently needed to popularize (those)!

“Miss, you’re going to the capital to get married to become the general’s wife. Why are you daily still going to the pastry shop.” Here Xi Que again switched out a tangled question. And indeed, the wedding day was already set, the beginning of next month on the 6th, and only one month left to attend to matters. But the party still had inclinations to not get married. She still was whole hearted devoting herself to the store.  Xi Que truly felt this was incomprehensible.

But Su Tang smiled more craftily, “What do you know.  It’s precisely because we’re pressed for time that I must make the most of it. As soon as I leave, eldest sister’s husband will take over. At that time, I’m just afraid Su Ji’s (situation) will worsen. I’ve worked laboriously for three years putting things in order. Why should I willingly part with it?”

Xi Que seemed to hear something, doubtingly said, “Miss, then what do you want to do?”  The young miss is going to the capital to be married.  No matter how amazing she is, she won’t be able to take care of (the shop) here.

Su Tang put down the writing brush. Eager to get into action her eyes twinkled, “I have a lot that I want to do! Aunt won’t let me be involved in Su Ji, that I (will do) as she desires.  In any case this place is big, on par with a city.  Su Ji has expanded to its’ utmost limits.  This is exactly what I Su Tang want. Now since that pan of cold noodles wants to marry me, it just so happens that I can take advantage of this favorable circumstance [4]! Ha ha, the capital, such a good place.  I Su Tang do not believe with my abilities that I can’t make it big there!”

Su Tang spoke passionately, but it truly frightened Xi Que, “M, m, miss, you’re going to be the general’s wife so how can you go out and show your face in public!”

Su Tang smiled oddly, “Don’t worry. I won’t be the general’s wife for long.

“Uh?” Xi Que had misgivings. This young miss’s thoughts were harder and harder to guess.

……

The beginning of September on the 6th, great clear weather, very auspicious.

Su Tang was woken up early in the morning, bathed, washed her face, rinsed her mouth, and sparingly applied makeup. She saw everyone coming and going in great numbers, everything was in great disorder. Again, looking at herself draped in a layer of honorable red silk for the happy occasion, she couldn’t help being somewhat distracted.

—This she, really is about to get married?

Why didn’t Song Shi An retract the marriage? Why hasn’t a mishap occurred? There was no sense as to why this road was smooth sailing. Su Tang felt unimaginably strange. After that she thought again about this laborer who without end didn’t help (her situation), which was on par with the city, that worker whose face was about to wail at a funeral. Allegedly for the sake of her getting married again, that laborer unexpectedly opened a gambling joint, betting whether this time she would be able to successfully marry out or not.  As well the betting odds were already at 100 to 1! That is among 100 people there was only one who believed Su Tang this time would successfully marry out!

Su Tang’s face darkened, because she herself is also one person out of a hundred….

Between gritted teeth, Su Tang was somewhat fuming with rage but very quickly again felt relieved. The betrothal gift from that pan of cold noodles was truly substantial. When the significant (gift) arrived both she and her elderly father were stunned to a degree…. but, groan, the next betrothal gift made one’s own deputy general come over to figure out what was going on! With what is called being busy with affairs of state there was no free time. Since being occupied was rendered into this, then how can one still want to be close!

Sprouts of small flames once again ignited in Su Tang’s heart, however in a flash they again were extinguished.  (I) reckon (he) also is unwilling and cannot help himself as he is being forced.  This being the case, what follows will be easy to handle!

Ah, ha ha ha…. cough—swallow choke.

……

Things were still extremely busy inside the lady’s chamber. Su Tang was being waited upon while wearing those layers of auspicious clothes.  Taking into consideration that she needed to wait a while, wear a phoenix coronet on top of her head weighing 10+ catties [5], felt dizzy, and had pressure in her chest, couldn’t help (it) that her legs felt weak.

The gossipy women who liked to sow discord were still spreading their long-winded net.  In one way or another, they exhorted how to get someone to marry one’s daughter or niece. Su Tang listened a while and throughout heard something that made her sad. These conversations fundamentally were what one should have with their mother but unfortunately hers had already passed on. Su Tang wanted to recall mother’s appearance but that time was already far away.  She thought for a good amount of time and was only able to recall rough memories of a silhouette.

Aunt Zhou by contrast was in high spirits. Compared to the marriage of her own child, she was even more happy seeing Su Tang’s journey to prepare for marriage, completed.  Smiling, from inside her sleeve she fished out a bracelet and put it on Su Tang’s wrist, “This is aunt’s (present) to you.”

Su Tang recovered her senses, shot a glance at the gold bracelet on her wrist. Grinning she said, “Thank you aunt. Su Tang’s wrist is slender, this size is exactly right.”  Don’t mistakenly think that I don’t know ole’ dad gave you the money to buy this bracelet!

Aunt Zhou’s mouth was thoroughly stiff, realizing that Su Tang knew she had skimped.  Bare in mind a few fine words to explain but who would have thought that Su Tang would cut her short.

“This time around I’m afraid that I’m really marrying out.  Daddy is old and weak, the sisters all are already married, younger brother is under aged, and after elder second sister and mister Jiang leave, Aunt Sun usually being a reverent practicing Buddhist won’t take care of matters.  Once I leave, am afraid this household will inconvenience you aunt.”

Aunt Zhou didn’t understand why Su Tang said this, didn’t dare reply and just said, “What third miss said, isn’t this what aunt should do.”

Su Tang’s eyes easily smiled, laughing, “This is convenient. Our Su family appears well-off. As a matter of fact, it’s not as good as it was in the past. Now-a-days we completely depend on Su Ji’s support. Supposing that Su Ji again has a small issue, I’m just afraid the days afterwards will also not be easy. Even more aunt needs to succeed.”

These words were understood, but she felt there surely was a hidden meaning.  Aunt Zhou looked at Su Tang’s eyes which were so clear that you could see to the bottom.  Aunt Zhou grew somewhat apprehensive.

Su Tang’s smile became more bright and beautiful.  “Although I am being wed, I also don’t know what the result will be of getting married. But at any rate being a general’s wife will make handling matters somewhat easier.  Supposing that there are problems here, Su Tang cannot look on and be unconcerned.”

Aunt Zhou in the end understood what she heard. This little girl was giving her a warning!

Su Tang saw that what was said was good enough and didn’t say more. She leisurely flung out the final words then delicately and gracefully departed.

“Aunt, our Su family other than father, there’s little fifth that baby boy, can’t we leave a little something for him….”

Aunt Zhou looked at the person standing by the side of the screen door, with the servant girl Xi Que, whose head was down smiling.  Aunt Zhou couldn’t smile anymore—you young woman who can’t (even) get married! Still threatening to teach a lesson to this old mother!  Infuriating me!  Look at yourself strutting about and giving airs. Let’s see if you can stay married, humph!

Very likely Su Tang would be besides herself with delight if she heard these sentences expressing Aunt Zhou’s true feelings. Say “your blessing” again, but now she looked at Aunt Zhou who was walking away panting with rage. Su Tang was sufficiently happy for a while— harrumph, disgusts me that you gave a bracelet from the family holdings. Then courtesy demands that I should properly reciprocate. To embarrass and nauseate or not?  Shriek!

Xi Que watched one’s own family young miss laughing but was utterly baffled and suddenly felt a small feeling of fear. “That, miss, Xi Que put that thing away according to your instructions, put (it) in that red wood box [6] with the carved “Hua Kai Fu Gui” [7] pattern.  That was put inside the piece of clothing with the pale grey-pink embroidered plum blossom. The garment has dense stitching so it won’t get lost nor be discovered.”

Su Tang’s smile become more joyous, reached out her hand, pinched Xi Que’s plump small white face, and teasingly said, “Little fatty, you’re extremely well-behaved.”

Xi Que’s mouth suddenly pursed. With glaring eyes, she said, “Miss, I am not fat!”

“Hee, hee.”

Su Tang was vexed at everyone’s’ giggling and chattering. Pian Wo was behind the screen teasing Xi Que. These gossipy divisive women ordinarily were a little afraid of this person. They saw her taking pains to keep away and were tactful to stop making so much noise.

While Xi Que counted the pearls in the phoenix coronet, abruptly the deafening noise of gongs, drums, and firecrackers altogether sounded off. Su Tang instinctively asked, “Why is it so lively?”

Hardly had one’s speaking voice faded away when a lone persons’ shadow whooshed and slipped in. The fact is that it was Su Tang’s younger brother, Su Ming.

Su Ming looked rather like Su Tang, both their statures were tall and thin, with a full forehead [8], and most of all a pair of sharply contrasting black and white phoenix eyes. At this moment, he wore a brand-new rust red colored cheongsam and a continual look of delight on his face.  “Third sister, the bridegroom has arrived!”

The bridegroom? Half a wink later Su Tang was uncertain. After that, just this heart’s indescribable “thump thump” sound palpitating, she realized—she really wanted to get married.

One moment Su Ming arrived, the next moment some people came in, but to pass on that the feast was starting.  A whole group of family womenfolk heard what was said, announced their congratulations and goodbyes to Su Tang, then soon afterwards left. Su Ming also wanted to go but was prevented by Xi Que who grabbed hold of her.

“Fifth young master, what does General Song look like?”

The corners of Su Tang’s mouth drew out, she just knew Xi Que would ask that. In this manner when Su Ming opened his mouth to speak, her ears also slightly perked up—when all was said and done, there were 10 years where she also didn’t see this pan of cold noodles. She heard it said that year in and year out he was waging war with Yan country. She also didn’t know if he was short an arm, had a broken leg, had a scarred face, and so on.

Su Ming grinned saying, “Third sister’s husband is good-looking, a bit unlike a general.” In Su Ming’s 13-year-old mind, generals ought to be heavy with a muscular body and a full-face beard. Uh, in any case he ought to be a very capable person with a lot of power and authority.

“He has all four limbs, nose, eyes, lips, tongue and his ears?” Su Tang nevertheless was still somewhat uneasy.

“Without a doubt, completely fine.” Previously Su Ming also had this concern.

But Su Tang was out of sorts, “Without a doubt Song Shi An’s fighting is no longer energetic.  These many years of living his life on an army horse and then unexpectedly completely leaving it all, too shocking!”

Bang.  Not knowing what on earth the family aunties heard and said, the last person left to go attend the banquet. Hua Li Li slipped and fell —these three ladies’ brains sure enough had a problem!

Other people went to the feast to eat. Su Tang naturally had no choice but be involved. Although she was eager, with regards to this she was somewhat feeling indignant. Obviously, this is her big wedding event. Obviously, she is an extremely important figure (here).  But why does she have to be cooped up in this room with an uninvolved person?

—Loud clamor.  She also really wants to join in the fun!

Unwavering Xi Que pulled— wanted to whole heartedly pounce on Su Tang who desired to “Expand one’s horizons”.  “Miss—I implore you. Don’t again today do something untoward that will astonish people!”

Sue Tang’s abruptly paused her footsteps. Her entire face happy, “Hey, little Xi Que has learned idioms well.”

Xi Que’s face was full of gloom.

Su Tang thought for a bit and decided to no longer make things difficult for Xi Que. Right, be a little more well behaved today. In the future, there will be time to do things to universally shock people …hee hee.

The grooms bridal escort party came late, therefore the banquet started late, and concluded quickly. Anyways the propitious time to return to the husband’s household had to be seized.  Su Tang was in the midst of nibbling a chicken wing, an unbearable sight, when the door was pushed open and a crowd of family womenfolk again swarmed, squeezing themselves in.

Drums and gongs again sounded from outside. Su Tang was supported by her arms going out the door with Xi Que on the left side and Su Ming on the right. The heavy phoenix coronet pressed down making her neck ache.  Her head hanging down, Su Tang saw a pair of feet on the ground and couldn’t make out who was who—getting married must face doing these things. Going by foot was sluggardly—Su Tang again started to silently curse this 1000+ year matrimonial tradition.

By the time she caught sight of a pair of dark red shoes, Su Tang was able to stop. She looked at these bright red embroidered auspicious cloud patterned sleeves and reckoned this probably was that pan of cold noodles. Thereupon, Su Tang in order to appear to not be deliberate, extremely cautious, carried out in stages, softly (proceeded forward) and resolutely stomped on that pair of feet….

A loud clamor—in an instant cold noodle’s face changed.

The beating of gongs and drums, firecrackers being set off, according to customs the senior member of the family was given seeds to crack.  The third miss Su once again was taken out the door and entered a palanquin.

The moment stepping out the doorsill, Su Tang unexpectedly remembered that one’s self ought to do a little thing. Like when eldest sister and fourth sister got married, they wept like raindrops on a pear blossom.  Must be exceedingly sentimental so also oneself accordingly should or shouldn’t convey some reluctance? In any case afterwards oneself will be spilt water which cannot be retrieved….

Considering this, Su Tang mentally prepared some sentiments trying to squeeze out a few tears, but to no avail as her eyes truly would not cooperate. Thereupon she had no alternative but to pretend to have fits of sobbing. By the time she turned around to make known her unwillingness, a phrase in the crowd had already been circulated—

“Hey, (she’s) finally married out!”

Su Tang almost sprayed out a mouthful of old blood.  Stiff necked, she hatefully turned around to kill the (persons) expressing that idea!


Translator’s Comments:

  1. The text occasionally has mismatched quotes; Sometimes quotes seem to be entirely left out.
  2. In working this chapter realized that I earlier incorrectly translated the name of the younger brother.  That has been modified.

 

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9 thoughts on “Ch. 3: Old Water Finally Spills Out

    1. I haven’t read the entire novel though get the impression that the male MC didn’t meddle with her other than the incident 10 or so years ago that she’s so angry about.

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    1. Yes, I’ve started working on chapter 4. This book is different than the other Chinese novels I’ve read, like the humor, like the strength of the female MC, etc.

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