Our Second Master
Chapter 1: Our Second Master is a pair of silk trousers
The whole city of Hangzhou knows that my household’s Second Master is a pair of silk trousers (negative term for a rich man’s son). The Yang Family operates the biggest silk business in the whole country, the richest family in town with two sons. The First Master, Yang Yi Fang, when everyone mentions him they will raise up their big thumbs in approval. He is one of Hangzhou’s top scholars, well-learned and a successful candidate in the imperial examinations. In addition, Yang Yi Fang’s appearance was elegant with clear handsome brows and eyes, thus Old Master Yang always liked to bring Yang Yi Fang along when he went for business gatherings. With a brush, he creates a painting, with a chant, he recites a poem. In the uncouth world of coins and commerce, his elegance stood out like a stem of plum, white snow in spring. And, the Second Master, Yang Yi Qi, well, he is also a character — after all, there isn’t many people who are able to cause people to furrow their brows after hearing his name. Second Master was younger than First Master by a year, but his emotional maturity and character was definitely different by more than a star and a half.
There’s a saying that a person’s personality is fixed by three years old. When Second Master was three, the Yang Manor held a huge feast that extended to the whole street. They invited the most famous opera troupe to perform. When the main star was singing halfway on stage, she suddenly let out a huge cry. Everyone looked over and realised that a person was rolling out from under her skirt — that’s right, this was our Second Master. From that day on, almost every one in the city knew, the Second Master of the Yang Family from three years old already knows how to climb into the star’s skirt and touch her leg. Old Master Yang and Old Mistress Yang completely lost their face and almost lost their life’s breath. Later, Old Master Yang invited five tutors, senior ones, junior ones, strict ones, benevolent ones, but all of them couldn’t control Second Master. Without even mustering the effort to blow away dust, Second Master chased them all away.
Luckily, First Master was excellent, so slowly Old Master Yang and Old Mistress Yang did not bother about Second Master anymore. Every month, they will give him money and let him do whatever he likes. They spent their entire efforts into grooming First Master. Ah, I haven’t said who I was. Since I call Yang Yi Qi as “Our Second Master”, naturally, I am part of the Yang Household. Indeed, I am Second Master’s maid. When I was eight, I was sold to the Yang Manor. At the start, I did rough chores in the kitchen, and then later I was transferred to Second Master’s courtyard. I was personally transferred by Old Mistress Yang — if you thought I was transferred because of my beauty to be a concubine maid**, then you have made a serious mistake. It was precisely the opposite, I was transferred because I was ugly.
Actually, I personally do not think I am ugly. I am only a little bit short, my face a little bit round, my eyes a little bit small, my calves a little bit thick. Besides that, I am a pretty decent girl. However, once I entered Second Master’s courtyard, I immediately knew I was wrong. With my looks, I could not even be considered a person in Second Master’s courtyard, perhaps more of a monkey — and more like the wild monkeys in the mountain. Later, someone told me that I was transferred because Second Master had already slept with all the woman in his courtyard. All the maids were scheming in their hearts and fighting politically and no one was properly doing the chores. The first day I arrived, I paid my respects to Second Master. Second Master was drinking his tea. The expression after he saw me was as frightening and fierce as you can imagine. He waved his hands to let me go off to do my chores.
In my heart, I said, can you be less extreme? But, that was the first time I saw Second Master. I thought that I could not blame all the young maids for rushing to find Second Master. Second Master was indeed good looking. I had seen First Master before, although First Master was not bad, but compared to Second Master, he lacked that extra something. Although First Master read many books and was extremely likable, but he gave me a wooden feeling. Second Master was completely different, in the whole of Hangzhou, everyone knew that Second Master knew how to play the best. A pair of eyes that were always gleaming from day to night, wearing loose robes, whenever his robes opened, as he walked by the West Lake waving his fan, the entire street of maidens will look over. The Yang Manor was very big, the courtyards of the First Master and Second Master were situated far apart, but everyone in the manor knew that the people in the two courtyards did not look eye to eye.
Second Master’s servants disdained the looks of the First Master’s servants, while the First Master’s servants disdained the Second Master’s servants for their lack of breeding. And, as someone who has dragged down the standards of Second Master’s courtyard, I did not live comfortably in the courtyard. All the dirty and tiring works were done by me. This was fine by me. The problem was that all kinds of ridiculous faults were also blamed on me. For example, Second Master’s latest maid Chun Xue, when she was admiring the flowers in the garden, she accidentally stepped on the feet of the previous favourite, Lu Liu. Because of this, the two girls started to fight in the garden. I was only at the side sweeping the floor. Since I was bored, I watched them fight. Later, when Second Master arrived and the two ferocious fighting lionesses immediately became gentle sheep, leaning onto Second Master on his left and right, taking turns to cry and complain.
Second Master hugged them both, coaxing here, and coaxing there. Since the two maidens definitely wanted to win, they both said they suffered more and asked him to make a decision. Second Master couldn’t bear to hit either of them, looking left and right, he happened to glance at me. When his spring watery eyes glanced at me, my heart immediately jumped and I had an immediate bad feeling. It turns out that my gut feeling was right, with quick steps, Second Master walked towards me and gave me a slap. The slap wasn’t light, wasn’t heavy, if you really wanted to describe it, it was the greatest energy that Second Master was willing to put on his monkey maid. I was a wise monkey, thus after this slap, I immediately knelt down and admitted my wrongs. Thereafter, Second Master used his special lazy voice and told the two maidens, “This should be enough.” And that was it.
Until today, I still did not understand why did Second Master give me that slap. Maybe it was to show his might, or it was to comfort. Or maybe he found me an eyesore. But, that was the first time Second Master touched me. I often heard the concubine maids gossip about how powerful Second Master was, and how in that moment, it was truly awesome until you rose to the heavens. The night after I was slapped, I unconsciously thought, indeed I ascended to heaven.
Later, there was a day when Old Mistress Yang arrived at the courtyard and spoke to Second Master for a night. All the maids gathered together in sorrow and worry. I was curious so I asked what happened. Normally, they would not speak much to me, but they were truly upset this time and couldn’t even get the energy to despise me, so they told me what happened.
I immediately understood. It turned out that Old Mistress Yang wanted to find a wife for Second Master. First Master had already married for more than three years and already had one son. Second Master was always playful and didn’t take care of his own matters. Old Master Yang had slowly over the years passed his business to First Master, and after passing on most of the matters, suddenly remembered about Second Master’s marriage. Second Master was a spoilt silk trousers, playful and philandering, his reputation was truly bad. But, the Yang Manor had huge power and money that could not be spent finished, so the people who came asking for marriage was plentiful. Old Mistress Yang asked for Second Master’s opinion and he did not say much, only told her to find a beautiful one. Old Mistress Yang gave a sigh and left. Later, Old Master Yang and Old Mistress Yang found a daughter of a tea businessman for him.
This tea businessman was not ordinary, one of the top tier businessmen in Hangzhou. His youngest daughter just passed her sixteenth birthday and was at the age of blossom. The two families arranged for a meeting. That day, Second Master rose late and did not really groom himself – he messily went to the meeting. However, it turned out that the little maiden was immediately attracted by Second Master’s unconventional and unrestrained air. Although her parents were still a little doubtful, but thinking about how big the family’s business was, they weren’t worried that the Yang Family would not be able to take care of a second son, and thus they agreed. And, thus Old Mistress Yang started clearing out the maids in Second Master’s courtyard. In that half month, there was crying and howling all over the courtyard from day to night. I could not sleep well for many days. My face became so skinny that I resembled a monkey even more. But, it was also thanks to my monkey face, that when Old Mistress Yang cleared the courtyard, she didn’t even spare a glance at me. I safely and securely remained in Second Master’s courtyard.
Besides me, there was also a fifty plus year old female servant. But besides the two of us, the courtyard didn’t even have a female mouse. The pageboy, the guard, the housekeeper, all of them were male. Second Master was extremely displeased by this. You must know that our Second Master’s temper is extremely big, when there are women to coax him, it is still ok, but when there are no women, it is like a wild dog being unleashed — no, a wild horse. The old female servant Granny Feng was deaf, so I was the only one left for Second Master to torture. In the two years I was serving in Second Master’s courtyard, I didn’t interact with Second Master as much as I did in that two months. Even if he was playing with birds in his courtyard, when he got bored, he will come and kick me. Did I dare to rebel? Of course, I did not.
So, I was used to vent his anger from day to night. In my heart, I was hoping for the year to pass. Why? Second Master’s wedding was after the new year. After the new year, there will be a female mistress in the courtyard and Second Master will have no time to kick me. Just as I was counting for the days to pass, something happened to Second Master.
Strictly speaking, it was not that something happened to Second Master, but something happened to the Yang Household. Old Master Yang travelled to Jiang Su for business and coincidentally Second Master had escaped from the house in boredom. He got caught by Old Master Yang and Old Master Yang had pulled him along in anger. And so thus they went, and something happened. The exact details of what happened, a small maid like me cannot fully know. I was washing the clothes when I heard the shouts from outside the courtyard.
I thought it was strange when a troop of guards rushed in and started to ransack the house. Their movements were rough and smashed all of Second Master’s treasures. That night, after the guards left, I heard all the female Yang family members gather together and cry. The cries were unbearably sad – it lasted one whole night. I did not know what happened, but I knew from that day on that the Yang Manor was no more. The big house was sealed and all of us went to the small courtyard arranged previously by Old Master Yang outside the city. Old Mistress Yang gathered all the family servants, gave each of them a little money and asked us to leave. It was the first time I saw Old Mistress Yang wore shabby civilian clothes like ours. But Old Mistress Yang was still the Old Mistress, whatever she wore was still pretty.
After receiving the money, I only asked one thing — “Old Mistress, Our Second Master?”
Old Mistress Yang heard me and both her eyes turned red, she covered her mouth and cried.
**A maid in name but concubine in reality.
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