Chapter 69: Back from School
Author: White Pear Flower
Translated by Gumihou
Proofread by Pill Bug
When the teacher finally ambled in, they saw that he was an old man with white hair and a beard. He had a clear face and was dressed in plain long changpao. He has a ruddy complexion, and from the way he strode towards the chair and sat down, one could tell he was in good health. His aura, as he surveyed the children before him, was neither imposing nor impatient.
Jin Changfeng and Jin Zhuan, under the guidance of an older clan child, paid their respects to the Confucius master and teacher before returning to their desks and sitting down.
The clan children were all of different ages. The first group consisted of children from 5 – 10 years old, the second 10 – 13 years old and the final group from 13 – 16 years old. Once past the age of 16, they could no longer attend the clan school. Those with good grades would attend a famous academy while those with mediocre grades would attend a general academy. If a poor family happened to have a child with good grades, the clan would sponsor the fees for a good school.
After the Great Confucian Master introduced his name, he began teaching. Much to the student’s surprise, the Master started off talking about the  Three Character Classic. For a moment, the students looked at each other in confusion. That was because, as sons of noble families, they could already recite the Three Character Classic by heart as early as three or four years old. So, why should they repeat this again? However, none of them dared to question the teacher and merely sat in place with impatient faces.
Jin Changfeng also felt a little bored. He had also memorised the Three Character Classic and Fu Qiuning had gone over the meaning behind the idioms with the twins in detail. However, after listening to the master’s explanations, he found that although the teacher was talking about the Three Character Classic, the knowledge imparted was vast and the analysis of the idioms was very easy to understand and unusually deep.
He had always liked studying,  so upon discovering this new thing, he immediately paid attention.
The class lasted for an hour. Once the class was over, the teacher floated away and the study hall suddenly erupted into noise. They were all talking about their new teacher and many felt that he was unworthy of the title of Great Scholar. However, when Jin Changfeng recalled the way the teacher explained the Three Character Classic, he seriously wrote down certain key points.
Not far away, another person was also frowning in deep thought. It was none other than Jiang Wanying’s 5-year-old son Jin Zhenxuan.
Seeing Jin Changfeng acting so serious, he audibly jeered.
What kind of concentration skill would a 9-year-old have?
 He was at that age to be sensitive about others’ opinions, moreover, he was clearly being ridiculed by a brother who was three years younger than him. Anger brewed in Jin Changfeng’s heart.
Many times, he thought of retorting. However, each time, he thought of his mother’s words and swallowed those retorts down. He maintained a calm façade and  activated Mother’s special skill of pretending to be deaf.
It was still the first day of school  with a new famous teacher here to teach them. Therefore, no one really dared to be too openly rude. That afternoon, the teacher even let them off early.
When Jin Changfeng walked out the door, he spotted his sister waiting for him under a big locust tree not far away. Seeing him, she waved excitedly.
Brother and sister returned home hand-in-hand. They passed through Yong Cui Garden, exchanging interesting points about school. It took them nearly half an hour to reach Night Breeze Pavilion. Once they entered the courtyard, they saw Fu Qiuning, Yu Jie and Aunt Yu spreading out bright green young soybeans on the ground.
They laughed as they ran in, “Mother, are the green soybeans and peanuts ready to be eaten? Are we having boiled peanuts and soybeans today?”
Fu Qiuning was very happy to see them. She straightened up and said, “Well, you’re finally back. I’ve been in suspense the whole day. Come now… quickly change, the peanuts and soybeans are almost done boiling. You can eat them as soon as you wash your hands. After Mother sets these out to dry, I’ll come and speak with you about your day.”
The twins ran off after receiving their instructions and Yu Jie laughed. “Are Madam and Aunt Yu now more assured? My ears have grown callouses from hearing your worries all day. Despite Madam’s worries, they have both returned safely. Just look at the sky, I do believe it is not yet noon, right? Didn’t Master already say? Once they attend the Clan School, the earliest they should be back is around 1-3pm. I expect Young Master and Young Miss have been let off early as it is the first day of school.”
The other two ladies nodded and laughed “We were merely voicing our worries, you were the one who insisted on listening. Whose fault was it when callouses grew in your ears?”
Yu Jie pressed her teeth together, pretending to grimace as she said, “You two say this, but how can I control whether to listen to you or not?
The three continued to chat and laugh as they spread out the last few catties of green soybeans on the courtyard and the sunning deck.
After spreading out the green soybeans, the three women returned to the house to wash their hands and change their clothes. Once done, they found Jin Changfeng and Jin Changjiao already in the living room, nibbling on green soybeans and peanuts. There were small piles of green and brown shells next to them.
When the children saw them, they giggled and said, “We noticed there aren’t many green soybeans in the baskets left and were feeling a little hungry and decided to help fetch the boiled beans and peanuts to be cooled. Looks like we’re caught red-handed by mother.”
The twins each carry a small plate of peeled green soybeans and peanuts and respectfully held them out to Fu Qiuning, “Mother has worked hard, please have a bit of snack.”
Fu Qiuning turned to Aunt Yu and Yu Jie, “It’s not time to make dinner yet, you two have a seat and eat some too, ba.”
Aunt Yu and Yu Jie sat took a small basin of peanuts and young soybeans and sat down on a stool, peeling and snacking on the beans as the twins told the ladies about their first day of school.
“We’re part of the Initiation Class for boys about 5 to 10 years old. Teacher Lin is truly worthy of his title as a Great Confucian Scholar. This morning, we learned about Three Character Classics, two pieces from work from the  Book of Songs and wrote two sheets of large letters. Later, we studied half a set of an essay from  The Analects of Confucius. There’s also a Teacher Qi, who taught us about verses and poetry as well as chess strategies…”
Jin Changfeng happily told them about his day. Aunt Yu said with some misgivings, “Haven’t you learned most of these from Madam? Why are they teaching you these basic things at the Clan School?”
“Teacher’s explanations are very different from mother’s. Also, there are lots of younger brothers and sisters in the hall, and some of them haven’t studied as far as I did. So, it’s natural for the teacher to start from the very basic.” As he spoke, Jin Changfeng took out a note-filled paper and handed it to Fu Qiuning, “Mother, look, these are some of Teacher’s explanations… I’ve written down all the important parts.”
Fu Qiuning accepted the piece of paper. After looking it over, she smiled and said, “As expected of a Great Scholar. No wonder your father never ceased praising him. To extrapolate so much from a single sheet of the Three Character Classics, hmm, from what I can see, he had only given a rough outline. Otherwise, at your age, it would have been too deep for you.” She smiled as she returned the paper, “Feng’er, keep taking notes. Once you’ve collected up to a hundred pieces of paper, Mother will thread your notes together and you can use it as a reference book in the future.”
Jin Changfeng nodded.
Fu Qiuning turned to Jin Changjiao, “And what has Jiao’er learned today?”
Jin Changjiao laughed, “We also learned the Three Character Classics. After that, we studied various embroidery stitches. Teacher Bi is very good. She looks gentle and soft, doesn’t speak much and is nothing like Brother’s dignified old teacher, but her skill with craft is very excellent. If I can learn from Teacher properly, I could one day be as good as Mother. That’s right, according to Teacher, Sister Xiuzhen and I are very good with our qin. She told us to practice well.”
Fu Qiuning smiled, “Compared to other children, your skill with qin is considered not bad. Your father also praised your skills. However, you should not be too arrogant. In the eyes of adults, your mastery is still mediocre.”
Jin Changjiao giggled, “This daughter knows. To be considered somewhat accomplished, I must at least be like Mother, and be able to sing and play the qin at the same time, right? I hope to one day be as accomplished as Mother.”
The little family was chatting happily together when they heard an exclamation from the courtyard, “Wh-what’s all this? Just what are these things?”
It was Jin Fengju’s voice.
Fu Qiuning quickly stood up. She clapped her hands once and said, “Oh dear, don’t tell me Lord Husband came into the yard in a rush and stepped on some of our green soybeans?”
She quickly hurried outside and saw Jin Fengju along with Jin Ming carefully creeping cautiously along the small gaps left by the brilliant turquoise green soybeans.
When Jin Fengju spotted Fu Qiuning, he pointed at the beans, “Qiuning, what are you doing with these? Why on earth is the courtyard covered by them?”
“These are soybeans. Since the weather is so fine, we plan to dry the beans and collect them to be put away. We should get at least a few dozen catties of beans which can be eaten as soybean sprouts or cooked like any other beans,” said Fu Qiuning as she looked anxiously at their feet.
Jin Fengju stepped forward lightly with a smile, “A very good thing indeed. Even the sunning deck is filled with them. This feels a little like the plum flower stakes I used to practice martial arts on. Luckily, my skills are still intact, otherwise, I’d have stepped on some of your beans. There are so many of them, how do you plan to peel them all? How about I call in a few old maids to come and assist. No need to thank me, when you make your soybean sprouts or other soybean dishes, just send some to Old Madam, Elder Madam and myself.”
“In that case, there’s no need for Lord Husband to send anyone to help. This many beans would only take a few days’ worth of work. If we were a real farming family, we could have used a special stone grinder and been done with the work in a day. Humph, if I dare to use your people, a good half of my beans would be taken away, isn’t that a great loss to me?” Fu Qiuning frankly refused his offer of assistance.
“You certainly is a stingy one, to calculate so strictly over a few catties of beans,” Jin Fengju laughed. Seeing Jin Changfeng and Jin Changjiao, he stepped forward to stroke their heads. “Well? How is your first day of school? Did you properly listen to your teachers? Did anyone dare bully you? Come, tell father everything that you have learned today.”
Fu Qiuning laughed, “The children had just finished telling us about their day when you arrived. If I had known, I’d have asked them to save their story for a little later and hear it with you and save them having to tell their story twice.” She turned to Yu Jie to say, “Go and bring some tea for your Master. Are you so drunk on stories that even your eyes are blinded to your usual duties?”
Yu Jie smiled, “Young Master and Young Miss’s stories are so interesting. Madam must know that this maid has never been to school before, therefore it’s inevitable that I’d be fascinated, right?”
 After that sassy little remark, Yu Jie bustled off, presumably to bring the tea.
Jin Fengju’s attention had long been taken in by the plates of green soybeans and peanuts on the table. He smiled, “Looks like god favours me. You thought to sneakily eat some good things in the house and never thought I’d turn up, did you?” He nodded and grabbed a handful of beans to nibble on, “Good, good, it’s very delicious.”
Fu Qiuning and Aunt Yu could not help laughing. They thought: If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed this man with his little-boy-like behaviour is the heir of a marquisate, ah. He acted like he had been starved for a few days.
Meanwhile, Jin Changfeng happily repeated his story to his father. Jin Fengju nodded and said, “I can see that you’re not arrogant and have properly paid attention to your lessons. Speaking of which, this time Xuan’er’s performance was not bad. I visited the inner court just now to find out how those children did in school.  Yi’er is still as disappointing as before, only knowing how to show off with his fancy poems. Xuan’er is the one who showed great improvement. What he told me was similar to what Feng’er had said.
I believe that this must be Wanying’s doing after having seen how much I favour Feng’er and Jiao’er. She now finally decided to put some effort into properly educating the children and have Xuan’er pay more attention to his studies. Otherwise, he would still be as ignorant as before.”
Fu Qiuning smiled, “This is very good. I must congratulate Lord Husband.”
When Yu Jie brought in the tea, she took over and personally laid the teacup before Jin Fengju.
[Gumihou: Just so everyone knows, the so-called young soybean is actually edamame, hehe.]
 Small fixes so that the text is aligned.
 Three Character Classic – idioms or sayings in 3 characters
 The Book of Songs – Early collection of Chinese Poems and one of the Five Classics of Confucianism
 The Analects of Confucius:
 Yi’er – Jin Zhenyi, Concubine Xu’s son, the one she’s very proud of and planned to ‘pit him in a battle against’ Feng’er with his ‘skills with poetry’ which Lord Husband had ‘also personally acknowledge’.
Er, well, good luck with that.
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