Xia Xun listened to the end of the story, showing little reaction, put down the chopsticks, wiped his mouth and said:
“The ribs are really well done, there is no such good pork in Lingnan.”
He got up to leave. Qi Yan did not force him to stay and only said leisurely to his back:
“Your sister-in-law is getting married.”
Xia Xun immediately turned back.
“My sister-in-law is getting married? Isn’t that nonsense? If my sister-in-law isn’t married, how can she become my sister-in-law?”
Qi Yan deliberately did not look at him, casually picking the food on his plate. He did not seem to mind those being leftovers from Xia Xun, chucking them all into his own bowl:
“I’m not talking about her marrying your big brother, I’m saying she is marrying her new husband.”
With one sentence, Xia Xun was bound to stay.
He walked back to the table and asked with suppressed delight.
“Really? Someone is really going to marry her? I mean… someone is willing to marry the wife of a criminal?”
Qi Yan pulled out an invitation from his sleeve.
“This is from her future husband sent to the mansion, take a look.”
Xia Xun opened the invitation, skipped the polite words, and quickly glanced at the signature: — sent by Xiong Qian.
Xia Xun asked, “Who is Xiong Qian? No official position is written? He is not an official?”
Qi Yan said no.
Xia Xun said quietly: “Yes, after all, sister-in-law was once the daughter-in-law of the Xia family, those official lords would not risk damaging their careers by marrying her.”
Qi Yan cleared his throat, “Ahem! I am also an official lord.”
Xia Xun asked rhetorically, “So what? You didn’t marry her either, huh?”
Qi Yan couldn’t argue with him and changed the topic:
“Aren’t you curious about what this Xiong Qian’s status is?”
He waited for Xia Xun to ask.
Xia Xun looked straight at him, but did not say anything.
Qi Yan quickly conceded defeat: “You’re more stubborn than me, I’ll tell you. This Xiong Qian is from Bianzhou, a businessman who started from zero. The biggest restaurant in the capital, Guangning House, is his property. He is twelve years older than your sister-in-law, he was married and has two sons and a daughter. His wife died five years ago and he did not remarry after a year of mourning. Xiong Qian is a decent man and does not even have a concubine by now.”
Xia Xun was puzzled and said:
“How come you know him so well?”
Qi Yan said: “If I didn’t investigate thoroughly, how would I dare to marry your sister-in-law to him?”
Xia Xun was stunned: “They were set up by you? Why?”
Qi Yan paused and also put down his chopsticks.
“I didn’t want to talk about such a heavy matter, but look at you, you have to ask. After the news of your death and the death of your eldest brother, your sister-in-law fell ill, lingering on the sickbed for more than a year. Her family spent a lot of money to pour medicinal materials into her like water every day, and finally cured her. You know, her family is powerful, and there were people who proposed, but she refused and stopped going out after she recovered from her illness. I understand that she must have loved Xia Wen very much and must have been very sad. ”
Qi Yan took a breath and sighed.
“When I looked at her, I always felt I was looking at myself. After a while, I leisurely started to look for a good marriage partner for her in the capital, and then I heard about Xiong Qian. I asked someone to talk to the matchmaker. At first, both parties didn’t agree. Your sister-in-law didn’t want to remarry, and Xiong Qian missed his dead wife and didn’t want to marry again. I was about to give up, but the matchmaker I found didn’t give up. She said that she had received a lot of money from me and she was determined to get the matter done. The matchmaker didn’t know how to move the two of them, so she asked them to meet each other through the gauze curtain. Since then, the attitude of the two has gradually warmed up, and today is a formal ceremony.”
Xia Xun said: “Today?”
Qi Yan nodded.
“Didn’t you see the date on the invitation? If you are willing, why don’t you come with me to the banquet?”
On the second floor of the restaurant across from Xiong Qian’s house, Xia Xun and Qi Yan sat by the rails, watching downstairs.
Xia Xun wondered: “You obviously have an invitation, why don’t you go in and ask for a cup of wedding wine?”
Qi Yan said indifferently: “I’m afraid your sister-in-law won’t want to see me— no, you can’t call her that nowadays, it’s time to change her name to Madam Xiong.”
Xiong Qian welcomed the bride, and the dowry occupied a whole street. Madam Xiong’s second wedding was even more grand than the one she had when she married Xia Wen.
Xia Wen wistfully said:
“My brother would be especially happy if he saw it.”
Qi Yan asked him:
“You’re not going to tell her that Xia Wen is still alive?”
Xia Xun said, “No, she has a new life in front of her, so why should she worry about the deceased?”
Qi Yan thought for a moment and asked:
“I did not go, but I sent in a gift. Where is your congratulatory gift?”
Xia Xun was righteously indignant.
“I have no money, so I can’t afford to buy anything expensive and I won’t embarrass them with cheap things. I think the rich boss Xiong Qian will give his wife enough gifts.”
Qi Yan questioned:
“I have given you a whole bag of money, what exactly do you want to buy that you can’t afford?”
Xia Xun took out the brocade bag given by Qi Yan from his sleeve and threw it to him: “The medicine has been prescribed, and the rest of the money is returned to you.”
Qi Yan turned it in his hands and handed the money bag back to Xia Xun: “I’ll give you a task. You go to buy a congratulatory gift now. No matter what you buy, until you spend all the money in the bag, you are not allowed to go home.”
After that, without giving Xia Xun a chance to say no, he got up and hurriedly walked downstairs. He got in the carriage with Qi Hui, and the master and servant duo left without looking back as if they were thieves.
Xia Xun was left sitting alone on the second floor, staring in disbelief.
“What… what was that about?”
Xia Xun had never bought anything for a woman in his life and could not think of anything else except rouge and powder.
After two rounds of walking through the busiest street in the capital, he still couldn’t figure it out.
When he passed by a jewellery store, he suddenly remembered someone Qi Yan had mentioned. That person’s name was Raobi, a famous embroideress in the capital.
He went into the jewellery store and asked the owner how he could find her.
When the owner heard that he was looking for Raobi, he waved his hand at him.
“It’s not that I don’t want to tell you! This woman is a good embroideress, but she is very eccentric! She opened an embroidery workshop, and almost all the embroidery products sold there are made by the embroidery girls she taught. She herself doesn’t take up a job easily! Moreover, she has a pungent and tricky personality. Even if a customer brings a thousand taels of gold, if she thinks that person as unsatisfactory, she will not only drive them out, but sometimes scold people like a demon! Even if the young master doesn’t buy our jewellery, don’t go to her and get scolded!”
Xia Xun smiled good-naturedly.
“I don’t have a thousand taels of gold, but I’m not afraid of being scolded, so could you please tell me where to find her embroidery workshop?”
Raobi’s embroidery workshop was called Raobi’s Garden, a building of several stories high with elaborate decorations and carved beams, looking more extravagant than Xiong Qian’s mansion.
Xia Xun walked through the door, stopped the first embroideress he saw and asked her where Raobi was.
The embroideress looked at him worriedly, then raised her eyes to look upstairs where a clear female voice was saying something in rapid succession, and from the tone one could hear that she was probably scolding someone.
The embroideress said to Xia Xun:
“Is the young master here to ask Madam Raobi for an embroidery? I advise you to forget about it. Today, a rich merchant is getting married and his family member brought a box of gold ingots and sent them directly to Madam’s embroidery room, asking her to make a beaded flower. Madam refused. The family member threw down the gold and ran away, making Madam angry. Now she is cursing. Don’t touch the bad luck! Come back another day and try again!”
As soon as Xia Xun heard it, he knew it was someone sent by Xiong Qian. For the sake of his sister-in-law being able to wear a beaded flower made by Raobi, he decided to give it a try.
“It doesn’t matter. Even if I can’t get the embroidery, I’ll be satisfied if I can meet the famous Madame Raobi once.”
He bypassed the embroideress and slowly walked up the stairs.
On the way, the embroidery girls he passed by were all silent.
It seemed Raobi’s prestige was very high. When she lost her temper, everyone in the house had to hold their breath, Xia Xun thought.
As he went up the stairs, the sound of Raobi’s voice became clearer. She was so eloquent, cursing without a single dirty word, but so scathingly that made people feel like running away in shame.
Xia Xun didn’t even dare to think what kind of words Raobi would say to scold him when he got up the stairs.
On the upper floor, the door to Raobi’s room was at the end of the corridor, and Xia Xun suddenly felt a little nervous. He took a deep breath, slowly coming closer.
Raobi was speaking standard official language, and Xia Xun guessed that she might be a native of the capital.
In fact, if he had inquired more, he would have known that she was not from the capital, she was not even from the Central Plains; she had a high nose and deep set eyes, a standard Hu appearance.
A customer once joked that she was more beautiful than dancing girls in the restaurant, and she picked up the scissors and chased him downstairs.
The customer fled, but the next time, he came to her with a gift.
The customer’s meaning was clear: he wanted to take her as his wife.
It was not that Raobi didn’t understand. But the thing she hated most was concealment. She simply said that she would not marry anyone and would keep this embroidery workshop for the rest of her life, and that if anyone else pursued her, she would leave her home to become a Buddhist nun.
Raobi was twenty-three years old this year, which was a good age. Her eyes were shining brown with the blue light in their depths. Everyone said that the name Raobi was a perfect match for her.
These things were well known to the world.
What the world didn’t know was that many years ago, she didn’t have the boldness she had now.
At that time she worked as a maid in a big mansion and her courage was pitifully small. When she encountered a tiny problem, she would hide behind her master and cry.
Later, when her master suffered a disaster and died in a distant land, she ran away and became an embroideress.
In those years, she had not been called Raobi, she had another name then.
She was called—
Xia Xun stood outside the door, unable to believe his eyes.
In the room, Shaobo, named Raobi, was wearing a gorgeous brocade dress. There were several beaded hairpins on her head and ruby earrings swirling with crystal light in her ears. A little flower inlay glimmered between her eyebrows and her lips were pomegranate red.
She had long since lost the humbleness of being a maid, she was self-reliant and awe-inspiring, with the aura of a mature and beautiful woman.
There were several little maidservants in her room and several embroidery girls waited in the corridor behind Xia Xun. They were worried that Xia Xun’s appearance would anger her even more and were waiting outside the door, ready for Shaobo to give the order so that they would rush to drive Xia Xun out.
In Raobi’s Garden, Shaobo was the absolute centre of power, everyone’s likes and dislikes subject to her influence.
No one had ever seen her weak, she was always unruly and flamboyant, always in the forefront, disregarding the sky and the earth.
At this moment, the girls in and out of the room were all wide-eyed with surprise, staring at her in amazement.
This woman, so accustomed to being strong, softly knelt on the ground, clutching the floor cushion, looking at Xia Xun and weeping like a child.