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Title: The Dreamer in the Spring Boudoir
Chapter: 065 out of 513 – Half of five gold taels (2)
Ji Man’s recitation of the poem had been majestic and Ning Mingjie’s calligraphy was even better. His brush strokes were vigorous and penetrated the paper completely. It resembled Yan Zhenqing and Liu Gongquan’s style of writing, but it also contained a degree of unrestrained elegance. It could be assumed that Ning Mingjie’s calligraphy skills weren’t poor.
(T/N: Yan Zhenqing and Liu Gongquan were the two great masters of late Tang calligraphy. Below are pictures of their calligraphy.)
The onlookers were dumbstruck by what they had witnessed. First, they were astonished to see a married woman walk up the platform to write a poem. Then, they were further shocked to see a peerlessly talented man go to the platform to write out the poem for her. And, what left them dumbstruck was, was that really a poem?
No matter how they looked at it, it didn’t seem like a poem. Moreover, it didn’t seem complete. However, the magnificence of those words was incomparable. When they listened to that madam say that poem, it made the audience feel as if they were being guided to the verge of a breakthrough that would free them from the restraints in their hearts.
Ning Mingjie was also somewhat stunned. Was this a poem that a woman could compose?
“And then?” He asked.
Ji Man curved her eyes and smiled, “The official shouted to write one stanza. The section that I’ve already said is enough. Leave it here. If a person of outstanding ability comes, he or she might be able to write out the rest of the poem for me.”
One after another the audience started discussing amongst themselves. Fortunately, Ji Man was wearing a veil and the average person wouldn’t be able to recognize her. It was fine for her to be in the spotlight. It’s not like anything serious would happen because of this.
The official stroke his beard and looked at the writing for a long time before he finally sighed and said, “I’m embarrassed that we, the scholars, aren’t as talented as a lowly woman. Madam, your poem is much more remarkable than the other poems. Unfortunately, there’s only half.”
Ji Man said with a smiling expression, “That’s fine. I’ll just take half of the five gold taels. When someone else can write out the second half of the poem, give the remaining gold taels to that person.”
Ning Mingjie raised his eyebrows. He seemed to have suddenly understood something. Nie Sangyu had suddenly rushed up the platform after she heard about the five gold taels.
She was truly a greedy woman. With her family status, she already had plenty of money, but she actually cared about this pittance of gold. If she were willing to compose more poems like this one, he wouldn’t mind giving her gold taels too.
As he thought of this, he actually found it very interesting. Ning Mingjie saw Nie Sangyu receiving her prize and scampering back to her seat like a rabbit. After the official discussed with Luoyan Pagoda's servants for a bit, they earnestly hung up that half finished poem on the most eye-catching position on the fifth floor.
“Starting from today, except for the madam over there, Luoyan Pagoda will pay fifty gold taels to the person that can complete the second half of that poem.”
Ji Man’s chin fell the ground. Fifty gold taels? Such spendthrifts! Since they had this money, why wouldn’t they pay it to her?! She had only received two and half gold taels for her writing!
Feeling indignant, she wanted to go up there and argue, but Ning Mingjie stretched his hand out and stopped her.
“You gave Luoyan Pagoda a new gimmick.” Ning Mingjie curved his lips into a smile and said, “After today, Luoyan Pagoda will definitely be crowded with people for a long time.”
Ji Man quieted down. She understood their reasoning after Ning Mingjie’s explanation. All businesses paid attention to gimmicks. Luoyan Pagoda seemed like it was a high-end teahouse. They were offering fifty gold taels as a tactic to attract more guests to come here and spend money. If she easily wrote out the second half of the poem, it would make the poem worthless.
While the people around them were eager to try writing out the second half of the poem, the official came over to them and gave Nie Sangyu a cedar token.
“Madam, when you come to Luoyan Pagoda in the future, as long as that poem is still here, then you and your friends won’t have to pay when you come here.” The official shrewdly smiled and said.
Ji Man behaved judiciously. It would be a waste to not accept this benefit, so she straightforwardly accepted the token.
Ning Mingjie explained, “It’s a great honor for you to receive Luoyan Pagoda’s token.”
It was just a token. Wasn’t it the same as a membership card? What was there to feel honored about? Ji Man snorted twice, then she had the waiter bring some more snacks in the passing. Since this wouldn’t cost her any money, could she get those snacks wrapped up to go?
Sitting near her, Ning Mingjie carefully looked over Nie Sangyu for a long time.
Ji Man outwardly pretended that she didn’t notice, but she inwardly scolded him. No matter how much you look at me, I still can’t make flowers blossom out of nowhere. You’ll have a better chance if you go back and look at your female lead.
(T/N: Just in case that sounds too nonsensical, Ji Man is probably saying this because it’s very common for artists to draw blooming flowers around the female lead in manga/manhua.)
A while later, Errong and Nie Qingyun also came up to the fifth floor. The two of them seemed to be getting along well. Errong’s eyes were full of stars. She approached them, tugged Nie Sangyu’s sleeve, and whispered, “Will you find it awkward to call me older sister-in-law in the future?”
Their birthdays hadn't even been looked at* and she was already thinking about this. Ji Man stroked Errong’s head. This little girl was three years younger than Nie Sangyu and she would actually have to call her older sister-in-law. But, this would be pretty good. When Errong and Nie Qingyun stood next to each other, they looked very well matched. Nie Qingyun also wasn’t half-hearted person. The other women at home were all easy to get along with. Errong wouldn’t suffer any grievances.
* (T/N: In historical times, before a couple could be married, a matchmaker would have to check if two people were compatible by looking at their birthdays and birth hours.)
“When you get engaged to my older brother, I’ll embroider your wedding dress for you.” Ji Man said.
Ning Errong felt even happier. She skipped over to Ning Mingjie’s side and circled around him once before she suddenly stopped, “Eh?!”
“What’s wrong?” Ning Mingjie lowered his head to look at her.
“Older brother, you seem to be in a very good mood. What happened recently?” Ning Errong asked in surprise. “I haven’t seen you with that expression in a long time.”
Ji Man thought, the mask hid half of Ning Mingjie’s face. How could Errong see his expression?
“I was thinking that scenery here is pretty good. Let’s continue going up.” Ning Mingjie didn’t mention what had recently happened or even look at Nie Sangyu again before he went towards the stairs.
Ning Errong thoughtfully looked at Nie Sangyu. Her sensitive teenage heart felt there was something wrong.
Her older brother acted courteous towards everyone, but she could tell that he distanced himself from everyone. He originally didn’t have any good impression towards Sangyu, ah. Why did it seem like they had become good friends during today?
Anyways, her older brother was always sensible. She didn’t have to worry about him. Instead, she should be focusing on figuring out how to get Nie Qingyun to think highly of her.
During the rest of the day, Ji Man created countless opportunities for Nie Qingyun and Errong. The two of them seem liked they were getting along well. But, when Nie Qingyun was bringing them back home, the courteous words that he said made people feel alienated, “Junzhu, you should go to rest early. Sangyu, behave in the marquis’s residence and don’t cause trouble.”
Ji Man looked at the disappointment in Errong’s eyes and followed his words with a sigh.
Reading the half written poem that was hanging on Louyan Pagoda’s fifth floor, the onlookers clicked their tongues in admiration and spread the news. Ji Man wouldn’t have anticipated that this simple poem would later end up attracting a huge commotion.
Translator Ramblings: I really like the little snippet from Errong's POV where she's the only one that notices something different about her older brother and how close these siblings are. I almost wish the rest of the story is just Errong, Ji Man, Mingjie, and Qingyun going out on double dates.