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Chapter 1: First encounter with the arrogant Er Ye
The Long (Dragon) family’s Second Master’s name is Long Yue; he’s twenty-six years old this year. Rarely anyone calls him by his name; everybody just calls him Long Er Ye (Dragon Second Master).
Long Er is a prominent person in the capital. Not only he, actually, the three sons of the Long family are all considered as heroes. The eldest son is a general who protects and defends the country; the third is a famous pugilist in the martial arts world, and the second master is an influential businessman in the kingdom.
That Long Er is well-known can be attributed not only to being a son of the Long family and that he manages the prosperous family business, but also because he is a bosom friend of the new emperor. The new emperor at that time was able to distinguish himself from the other aspiring princes, ascended to the throne with the support of the Long family, particularly the assistance of the Long Er Ye.
It follows then that Long Er’s support in the background is strong; nobody talks about it upfront, but in fact, everyone is aware of it in his heart. Normally, money and power will help anyone in any occupation, but Long Er being smooth and slick in establishing social contacts, his method of handling business by currying favors is well known to everyone, consequently because of this, as for official business dealings of the kingdom, everyone in the city gives him a piece of this and that business deal to save their faces.
Now, the new emperor is reigning quietly on his second year; there has been peace and prosperity in the country, favorable weather ensuring good harvest, and Long Er’s business is continuously thriving well.
Under these circumstances, ordinarily Long Er should be feeling comfortable and relaxed, but even he, also has his own worries.
That worry is: marriage.
One should know that in the Xiao kingdom men may get married at age fifteen. Long Er, at his age at this time could be regarded pretty much an “old man”. Long Third Master had long been married, but Long Er continued to show a lack of interest in starting a family. He was not in a hurry, but the elders at home are getting anxious.
Although the Long family’s three brothers lost both of their parents early in life, there had been a Yu Mama and a strict steward who looked after, reared and watched them grow up. Long Er, due to being still single, is sought by the two elders every now and then; the opportunity to nag him became more and more frequent as he gets older. Now when it concerns outsiders Long Er is very strict, but towards his family, he’s very protective and considerate. The two elders are actually servants of the family, but they are treated instead more like family; they had been helping him all throughout these years. As he is not fond of seeing them with long, sad faces, so often, encounters with them and discussions on this matter always left him with headaches.
Today, Long Er is visiting his family’s “Sheng Long Tea House”, and just as he enters the shop, he bumps into a young lady. The young lady in question is none other than the Ministry of Justice, Minister Ding Sheng’s second daughter, Ding Yan Shan.
Due to her father’s high position and reputation, Long Er could not risk being rude to Ding Yan Shan. Out of courtesy he accepted her invitation and had tea in the tea room with her.
Small talks are boring to Long Er; his mind wandered off as he was distractedly thinking of jade business matters, but then out of nowhere he heard a question popped up.
“Shan Er dares to ask, Long Er Ye, why have you not married until now?”
Coming from a young lady, this question is way too brazen. Long Er, surprised for a moment, thought “You are indeed different from the others Shan Er”. While still wearing a smile on his face, he poured himself a cup of tea, slowly replied: “Because I do not want to pay reward money to the matchmaker.”
Practically embarrassed, Ding Yan Shan has a stiff smile on her face. He does not want to pay matchmaker’s reward money, this is his reason?
“If I, Long Er, want to get married, it will be on my own ability; not requiring the help of some matchmaker’s glib tongue to accomplish the matter. But, if it is otherwise, taking into account the money that I must fork out for the matchmaker, you tell me, isn’t this a losing business deal?”
Ding Yan Shan is not in any way amused now, even taking a wife is considered a business transaction to haggle about; true to form, indeed he’s Long Er Ye. She tried to curb her temper, covered her mouth, pretended to laugh and said: “to put it that way Er Ye is really being funny.”
Long Er pursed his mouth, politely answered, “not funny actually, but stingy.” Saying these words, isn’t it logical to leave now?
However, Ding Yan Shan did not leave. She looked down to drink her tea, controlled her emotions, and did not intend to fold up.
Taking advantage of Ding Yan Shan’s silence, Long Er, his head bent low, sneakily glanced at the sides observing the tea house servants. This tea house is one of the Long family’s businesses. He was here to inspect the shop when he was caught by Ding Yan Shan. That this is a purely coincidental encounter, he did not quite believe. This tea house has people who could be bribed to disclose his whereabouts.
That he was tricked by a young lady is one trivial matter, but betrayal of the master is quite another. Long Er has pondered it over; this matter has to be investigated, the perpetrator shall be identified and severely punished. Ding Yan Shan had been quick to pull herself together, continued to sip her tea and to chat with Long Er, but he was increasingly getting very impatient. Ordinarily this girl is a good catch. She belongs to an influential and powerful family. Needless to say, she is as well a beauty. In fact, she is a fine candidate for a wife. Long Er simply doesn’t want to marry.
In his opinion, the more outstanding the woman is, the more trouble she brings because her needs and demands are more than that of the ordinary, average woman. More needs and demands means more trouble to deal with.
And, of all things the most that Long Er doesn’t love, is trouble.
That Long Er’s heart is not with her, Ding Yan Shan naturally knows, but at least, he is willing to stay and chat with her patiently, which makes her a little bit proud of herself. Come to think of it, the previous time when both daughters of the Liu family met Long Er in the park, he did not even utter more than a couple of sentences to them before sending them off away.
When Ding Yan Shan thought of this incident, she couldn’t help but smile, as she poured Long Er a cup of tea.
Actually, the two couldn’t have known that Long Er was entertaining business guests in the park, how could he accompany young ladies to view flowers. She, Ding Yan Shan, however, is a lot smarter; she secretly inquired about Long Er’s schedule of the day, knew that today he has no other encumbrances, and on top of that talking of how she wanted to select good tea for her father, Long Er naturally had to patiently keep her company.
When Ding Yan Shan raised her cup of tea to drink, she covertly looked at Long Er. His eyes are clear and bright, straight nose, thin lips lightly pursed; slightly tough appearance, but this actually imparts him an imposing, distinctive aura of authority. She is aware that he has a temperament that is hard to deal with. As a matter of fact, he is notorious for having a nasty temper, nevertheless she still wants to marry him. It is not just her father’s wish, but also hers.
Ding Yan Shan was just about to start another topic of conversation, when Long Er’s bodyguard, Li Ke, entered the room with a message; he said that outside there’s a young lady seeking an audience with Long Er. She already has waited for a long time.
A while ago Long Er winked to Li Ke to signal him to come in to report a matter as a pretext to allow him to escape out of the room. Li Ke has been with him for years now, so naturally he understood its meaning. But, at the moment Long Er saw Li Ke’s eyes; he understood that the visiting young lady is a real person.
Long Er’s face darkened; this young lady in front of him is already running out his patience, and what’s next, another young lady?
Inwardly Ding Yan Shan is also very upset. To be alone with Long Er is really an opportunity that is hard to come by. And now someone is bothering them, of course she’s unhappy, let alone that someone is also a young lady! Of course she understands that Long Er is much sought-after in this city; but still she hated it when a stumbling block annoyingly popped up halfway.
Ding Yan Shan looked to Long Er; she was eager to hear him say “I’ll not see her.”
But, Long Er actually nodded to Li Ke, and after receiving his order, he went away. Ding Yan Shan felt disappointed deep inside, but still she smiled faintly, and said first: “Er Ye feel free to receive the guest, Shan Er will quietly wait here.”
She is planning not to leave at all. The corner of Long Er’s eyes squinted, but still he maintained his cool demeanor which demanded a lot of skill and control. This Ding Yan Shan is really very boring; there’s just no other way, he had to go and meet this guest. Long Er smiled to Ding Yan Shan and simply said: “I’m sorry, excuse me for a moment.” Then he stood up and crossed diagonally to another corner of the elegant tea room.
The tea house servant quickly led a young lady to come over. Long Er gawked and was dumbfounded for a moment. The young lady dressed in a light green dress, appears to be less than twenty years of age, of medium height, slender, and has soft, delicate and beautiful facial features. She was encased in an air of elegance.
Long Er, before having seen her, did not know the word elegance can also be used to describe a woman. Her bearing caught him by surprise; she was holding a bamboo staff, the kind that blind people use.
The young lady went along with the tea house servant to the tea room. The tea house servant opened out the curtain for her, softly reminding her to be careful of the steps. Using her bamboo staff to guide her way, she then slowly walked up. Carefully taking two steps, the bamboo staff hit a chair; she stretched out her hand and groped the back of the chair.
Long Er watched her two sluggish steps, his simmering impatience due to Ding Yan Shan swirled and bubbled up again. He pursed his lips tight, while thinking about how to chat with this young lady in front with a few words, and then go back to Ding Yan Shan to send her away.
As he intended, his voice was cold: “Sit down.”
The busy tea house servant nearby whispered to her: “Miss, the person in front of you, is Long Er Ye.”
The young lady nodded her head and thanked the servant, and then towards the direction of Long Er she greeted: “Long Er Ye, this humble young lady is Ju Mu Er …”
Before she’s done talking, Long Er interrupted her and said: “No need for polite talk, Miss came looking for Long Er, why?”
Ju Mu Er slightly leaned her head, didn’t get scared of Long Er’s bluntness, she quickly went on to say: “I have one thing to ask of Long Er Ye.”
Long Er looked into her eyes and then at her bamboo staff, lowered the tone of his voice, and said: “Sit down and talk.”
Ju Mu Er said thanks, groped the back of the chair with her hand, held the chair handle, then she slowly moved in front of the chair; with her hand probing the seat behind her she slowly sat down.
The tea house servant came quickly to bring a pot of tea, and Long Er and Ju Mu Er’s cups were filled in a second. He placed the cup on Ju Mu Er’s hand, muttered something and then he withdrew.
Ju Mu Er slowly touched the cup, held it, but did not drink.
Long Er impatiently asked: “Miss, didn’t you say you have something ask?” He could not figure out, why a blind person would seek him out.
Ju Mu Er said softly: “The shops in the East Avenue all belong to Long Er Ye. The lowly miss dares to appeal to Long Er Ye to build awnings in front of the shops.” This request surprised Long Er very much. He raised an eyebrow and repeated, “To build awnings in front of the shops of the entire street?”
“Yes,” Ju Mu Er bluntly replied.
Long Er laughed. “This is quite interesting.” He asked in a gentle voice: “Miss Ju, you and I are complete strangers. I have not met you before today. What makes you think that I will listen to your appeal to build awnings in front of the shops of the whole street?”
“This building-of-awnings issue, if Long Er Ye decides, he will not suffer any loss.”
“Really?” Long Er laughed: “Miss may well have more unexpected, more unreasonable and no less ridiculous requests?”
Ju Mu Er closed her mouth tight, her face blushed. Indeed, to look for a stranger randomly and for no reason ask him for his money, how can one justify this matter. Ju Mu Er stiffened. She didn’t know what to do. Talking to Long Er Ye is more difficult than she imagined. She thought of the many things she planned to say before coming here, now she didn’t know how and where to start.
Long Er’s face was wearing a smile, but inside his heart he was seething with anger. He hated people who are after his money. So he spared no mercy towards Ju Mu Er. He asked with a sneer: “Miss, do you know how many shops are there on East Avenue?” She must not have known, then he can continue to mock her naiveté and wishful thinking.
“From east to west is thirty-seven, from west to east is thirty-three.”
Long Er was immediately taken aback. He didn’t expect Ju Mu Er to calmly answer and actually give him the right figures.
Ju Mu Er sensed his doubts, explained: “I am blind, in order not to get lost, I like to count as I walk.”
Long Er was silent. He was carefully watching Ju Mu Er’s face. When talking to people, he has always been able to know if they are telling the truth or lying by looking through their eyes and facial expressions. Ju Mu Er’s facial features, in fact, she has the most beautiful eyes, unfortunately beneath the long eyelashes, her jet black pupils do not reflect the stirrings of her soul, rendering her face almost devoid of expression. She seems very calm and relaxed.
Long Er unexpectedly cannot read anything from her face at this moment.
Long Er asked: “Do you know how much money it will cost me to build awnings for the whole seventy shops?”
Ju Mu Er shook her head: “I have no idea, but regardless of how much, I can make Long Er Ye recoup his money.”
Long Er looked at her homespun clothes and blind eyes, smiled and said: “I believe Long Er’s ability to make money is not worse than that of Miss.” As he said these words, he looked on to the opposite corner of the tea room. Ding Yan Shan frequently looked towards him. Long Er kept thinking there’s this young lady who annoys him, but out of courtesy he has to go back to socialize with this boring girl. His heart felt heavy.
Long Er’s successive questions allowed Ju Mu Er to recover her composure; she quickly seized the opportunity to deliver her prepared speech: “Er Ye, your business is expensive and rich. Of course, I don’t regard myself above you. My abilities are really few. But, if Er Ye has requests, if I can do it, I am willing for Er Ye to build the awnings in the East Avenue.”
“Tell me, why do you want to build the awnings in the East Avenue?”
Mu Er bit her lips, her request already seemed absurd to Long Er, but as for her reason, she dreads he will find it even more ridiculous, right?
“Do you really want to know it?” Long Er stared at Mu Er’s face, and eventually noticed that she seemed embarrassed and awkward. Long Er is thinking, he wonders what could be behind this, whether there are any matters that are difficult to bring up to him.
Ju Mu Er bit her lips pondering over the situation before her. Even if she makes up a reason, she fears it is still difficult to convince him, she might as well tell him the truth.
“My neighbor younger sister earns a living selling flowers in the East Avenue. This street has no awnings where one can take shelter from the rain. Exposed to sun and rain every day, it is very hard for her. Because she’s dressed in thick plain cotton clothes, wearing no gold and silver ornaments, in case it rains, she cannot even run to the storefront to evade the rain. She got ill because of this. Two days ago, there was a heavy rainstorm. She went home very wet, laid sick in bed, and almost lost her life. At home, she also has an old mother to take care of. I couldn’t help, then I thought of asking Er Ye to build awnings in the street; to let her work but, no longer suffering from the sun and rain on the weekdays.”
Long Er listened to her somewhat flabbergasted, showed no reaction for a long time and asked: “Is that all?”
Ju Mu Er nodded, Long Er wanted to laugh, he said: “Miss Ju, your neighbor younger sister was exposed to the sun and rain, fell ill, but, what has that to do with me? To say your sister who is doing business in the East Avenue has fallen sick, do you actually blame me for that?”
Mu Er’s face stiffened: “I didn’t mean it that way …” Long Er didn’t allow her to finish: “Miss, you thought I’m a big Samaritan, I’m not willing to be this fool actually. This matter need not be further discussed, I’m telling you now, no way!” Just for the sake of a florist girl to have a place under the sun and rain, Long Er should construct awnings for this entire street? And, just who is she?
This Ju Mu Er has the cheek to dare to bring this up, but he is not willing to listen to her.
“Er Ye, building the awnings for Er Ye is also a good investment.” Ju Mu Er sensed Long Er is preparing to leave, she got a bit anxious.
“The Long family’s ways of making money are countless, but, definitely count this one out.” Long Er said very rudely: “Miss Ju, please do as you wish,” he wanted to catch up with people.
“Er Ye.” Ju Mu Er anxiously called out. She pursed her mouth tightly, somewhat angry and anxious, with hushed voice said: “Er Ye, if I have a way to let Er Ye get out of here with a justifiable reason, you don’t need to go back and deal with the annoying guest, Er Ye promised to build the awnings, how about it?”
Long Er raised an eyebrow; in his heart he was very surprised. This blind woman is rather amusing. She could not convince him by appealing to his human emotions, to tempt him with the promise of profit unable to accomplish as well, will this change the method of goading somebody into action?
Ju Mu Er did not wait for Long Er’s reply, hurriedly talked ahead: “When I was waiting outside, the tea house elder brother-servant told me that Er Ye has an honored guest. I could hear voices, the other one that of a woman. While Er Ye is taking time to see me, I sensed that Er Ye while talking didn’t have pleasure in his voice, so I boldly infer that Er Ye chatting together with this person is not at all happy. How about I use this matter to strike a deal with Er Ye? If I can let Er Ye not only not provoke that honored guest, but have the suitable reason to leave her, Er Ye promises to build the awnings on this East Avenue, how about it?” Long Er looked at Ju Mu Er’s appearance closely, thought suddenly how this matter became really interesting, he said: “I have my own way to extricate myself, who needs you to meddle?” “The way of Er Ye is to let a servant come in, bring an urgent message saying that there’s an official matter to be dealt with by Er Ye and that he needs to leave right away. Although this is quite effective, Er Ye knows this trick makes many people suspicious as presumably Er Ye has tried this multiple times already. The honored guest might think that Er Ye is just finding excuses. But, my method is simple, logical, certainly not superficial. Er Ye can walk out honestly and with clear conscience; the honored guest will even rush to send you out.”
Long Er, in this case, thought that this got more interesting; he does not really care if Ding Yan Shan might think that he is perfunctorily looking for excuses, because he is indeed perfunctorily looking for excuses, but what could she do?
Everyone has his own pretext, but, the rest knows the real score. But, Ju Mu Er piqued his curiosity, she talked big and with such confidence that he’d really like to know what she is about to do.
“Fine, tell me then, what is your clever plan?”