The bookkeeper had called out a man dressed in grey. He opened the silk purse, peered at the fragrance pieces, and immediately frowned. Pausing a while, he then looked up at Chu Yu. “My guest…”
He had barely spoken when Chu Yu cut in. “May we find a quiet place to talk?”
After some thought, he nodded, and proceeded to lead Chu Yu and Yue Jiefei out a side door. The trio passed a greenhouse before arriving at an empty house. He unhurriedly continued from there. “My guest, your fragrance pieces are too fine, and have been mixed together too well. I’m afraid it may be difficult to make a complete conclusion.”
Chu Yu smiled. “If it were whole, I would have no need to seek your help.” The task was difficult, which was precisely why it required a talented specialist.
The grey robed youth choked at a loss for words. Acquiescing to her response, he walked over to a wall and propped up a smooth surfaced stone board using a wooden plank nearby. Sunlight filtered through the window lattice and onto the stone board, lighting its edge.
He had nimble hands as he worked, pouring the fragrances from the silk purse onto the stone board. He retrieved a cloth the same grey shade as his shirt. Within it was a hidden pocket, from which he took out numerous tools of varying shapes. Selecting a small dagger – inch-wide with a squared edge, he slowly began picking apart the mixed fragrance pieces. His hands were steady and his bearing meticulous as he lifted the pieces with his dagger and brought it to his nose for a sniff.
Although the youth’s actions seemed experienced, Chu Yu had to ask after some time had passed. “Dear brother, will it be long?”
The youth deliberated his reply. “My guest, this silk purse contains over twenty fragrance types. My skilled are not up to par; I fear I won’t be accurate in judging every one of them.” His manner was open and conceding, neither modest nor arrogant, leaving one with a feeling of goodwill.
Chu Yu carefully considered his answer. “Is there anyone in Jiankang who’s more specialized in this trade?”
The corners of the youth’s lips perked up slightly with an air of pride. “Young master, I can say that in Jiankang’s every street and hall, there is none more experienced in fragrances than I. Though, if you’re asking about someone better, there is but one. Only, that person is a man of high rank. It won’t be easy inviting him here. If the young master is willing to wait for about a day, I can seek his help and report back to you.”
From how he spoke of him, he seemed to place much confidence in this ‘high ranking person’.
Chu Yu could not help laughing. ‘High ranking person’? With her current status, apart from the emperor, was there any influential person she could not call for? She was only doing this because she did not want to loudly draw attention to herself.
Thinking she could not make too much of a demand, Chu Yu accepted. “That sounds fine, I’ll come asking tomorrow around the same time. As for the silk purse, I’ll leave it with you and retrieve it tomorrow as well.”
Following the path they came from, they arrived back in Xin Lan Lane’s main hall. Seeing that Pei Shu was still inside the shop, Chu Yu faltered a second but walked up ahead, a smile on her face. “Brother Pei, I hope you’ve been well in my absence.” She was sure now, that Xiao Bie had not revealed the hateful things related to her and her true identity, else Pei Shu would not be welcoming her so cordially.
Pei Shu exchanged greetings with her and asked about visiting Huan Yuan. Hearing this, Chu Yu gave him a genuinely apologetic look. “My brother has closed himself off in his room to read, and will not be accepting guests for some time.” She had assumed Xiao Bie had revealed her identity and whatever ties she had made with Pei Shu to be broken. Realizing she could still salvage the situation, Chu Yu’s heart wavered and she recalled the idea she had dismissed days before.
Her expression grew ever more sincere at the thought.
For the time being, there was no way she could let Pei Shu meet Huan Yuan. This was a card she had to keep by her side, and use it only at the right time.
Pei Shu was a little disappointed upon hearing Huan Yuan was busy writing poetry, but continued engaging in small talk with Chu Yu when he remembered her as the person who came with said poet.
Halfway through their conversation, Pei Shu brought up his invitation from Wang Yizhi. Hearing he was invited to Wang Yizhi’s house for a private gathering, Chu Yu asked him to bring her along.
Pei Shu hesitated. “This…” He had not finished his sentence, yet a doubtful expression appeared on his face, as if prepared to reject her.
Unflustered, Chu Yu dealt her finishing blow. “My brother doesn’t like to socialize, but I’d very much like him to meet more distinguished people.” She refused to believe this bunch of literati would not be lured by Huan Yuan the poet.
Pei Shu was instantly hooked in. “It may be a bit presumptuous of me, but I doubt Brother Yizhi will mind. Although, Xiao Bie would be also be there. If you have any past grievances with him, I’d suggest the earlier you talk it over, the better.”
Jiankang City of the Six Dynasties was also known as Nanjing a thousand years later. At this point in time, it had not yet fulfilled its historical timeline of being linked with the Six Dynasties. Built on a vast river as its foundation, Jiankang City had neither sturdy city walls nor doors. The main city was not particularly large, but had many smaller towns surrounding it. This kind of unrestricted construction method, free of the boundaries of city walls, was rare throughout the entire history of China.
Wang Yizhi’s residence was in Chang Gan Li, south of the main city. It was also home to many powerful and influential families.
Hailing a small boat at Qinhuai River, the three people settled in and proceeded on a scenic journey till they reached the shores of Chang Gan Li. From there, they followed Pei Shu through a series of winding streets, before finally reaching a mansion with blue tiles and white walls.
Compared to wealthy families who preferred their walls high, the house in front of them had walls that were far shorter. It was as if the usual flowering trees, with their layer of frost like opulent white jade, had a humble scattering of commonplace plants in their midst. It made for an unexpected scene, but one that Chu Yu felt was remarkably pleasing to the eye.
Its vermillion doors were half-open, a sharp contrast from the sternly shut doors they had seen on their way here. Pei Shu walked up a few steps and knocked on the door lightly to let himself in. “Brother Yizhi, please pardon my lateness!”
Chu Yu followed him in.
Behind the door was a courtyard blooming with flowers and trees. At first glance, the arrangement of fauna appeared spontaneous, but a closer look revealed a natural yet artful flair. Chu Yu was observing her surroundings, when she heard Yue Jiefei’s stunned exclamation. He pointed to a nearby tree, which was about a man’s height. “This type of tree is extremely invaluable. It grows in the south and only one inch in ten years. Its price can fetch up to ten thousand.”
Hearing him say this, Chu Yu understood. So this small sapling, which looked completely nondescript, was actually worth that much money. In front of them, Pei Shu turned back with a smile. “Brother Yue has keen eyes. Brother Zichu, what you see adorned here may not look like much, but in reality, everything in Brother Yizhi’s house, even the soil beneath our feet, is worth far more than what other households have elsewhere.”
A wealthy person.
An extremely wealthy person.
An extremely low-profile, wealthy person.
As she listened to Pei Shu talk about the value of each and every plant in the courtyard, Chu Yu began to view it in a very different light.
And in Chu Yu’s mind, her mental image of Wang Yizhi was currently elevated to diamond encrusted status.
 Jiankang City is famed for being the capital of six dynasties in Chinese history.
Yesssss!!!! My favourite man Wang Yizhi is here!!! I’m done for this week, 🙂 will be back on schedule next with 1-2 chapters a week! I haven’t properly proofread everything so uh…please hold on for a bit. ^^”
Also, I’ve changed Zi Chu to Zichu ,etc. I’d actually prefer to have it all separate as per Chinese pin yin, but I’m following the previous translation’s format so there’s less hiccups when it comes to names. Neither are wrong, just a matter of style.