You are currently viewing Raising the Young Grand Secretary – 007

Raising the Young Grand Secretary – 007

Chapter 007

Author: Feast of Masks


Translated by Gumihou

Edited by Gumihou: Just some very small sentence restructuring for better understanding


“Gou’er, Gou’er…”

Xue Gouzi came back to his senses, the face that had been haunting his dreams for so many years was right in front of him.

“You are right, I won’t overthink matters from now on.” He paused for a moment before adding, “There’s just one other thing, could you not call me Gou’er any more?”

Zhao’er looked confused, “But, I’ve always called you that. What should I call you if not Gou’er?”

Xue Gouzi pondered for a moment, “Just call me Tingxiang.”

“Tingxiang? Is that a name you came up with? Why did you give yourself such a name, Gou’er?” she asked before understanding came over her. She recalled how that brat from the main branch always laughed at people with names like Gou’er and Heizi behind their backs.

Distress flashed across her eyes and she nodded repeatedly, saying, “Gou’er, no, Tingxiang, scholars are certainly different. Even your chosen name sounds especially nice. From now on, elder sis won’t call you Gou’er any more. I won’t let outsiders call you that either. We’ll call you Tingxiang.” To her heart, whatever Gou’er said is good.

Xue Gouzi, no, it should be Xue Tingxiang now, still felt a little depressed. He was only a little less than two years younger than Zhao’er, but those years felt like a chasm that he could never cross in his entire lifetime. Since they were already talking about terms of address, he continued, “Also, could you not call yourself ‘elder sis’ when speaking to me?”

This surprised Zhao’er even more, to the point that she reached out to touch his forehead. “What’s wrong with you, Ting’er? Did you encounter something dirty [1]? Haven’t you always called me elder sis?”

Xue Tingxiang breathed in deeply once before smiling, “But you are not my sister. You are my future wife. Surely it is not right for a man to call his wife ‘elder sis’?”

His complexion was already pale to begin with. While half-reclining on the kang bed and smiling, he gave off an inexplicable feeling, as though it is wrong for people to look directly at him.

Zhao’er blushed, having suddenly lost her eloquence, she stammered, “Gou’er, y-you, what are you… that is, I- I…”

“Are you unwilling to be my wife and have children with me?” he deliberately leaned closer.

She suddenly jumped up and scolded, “You little brat, what nonsense are you talking about? You haven’t even fully grown in all your hair yet!” Without even realising it, she ended up spitting out crude words that Xue Tingxiang disliked most. “What you need to do now is take care of your health. As for these other matters, we can talk about those later!”

Her eyes were fierce, her tone even fiercer. When she was done speaking, she lowered her head and scooped up a spoonful of rice, meaning to keep feeding Xue Tingxiang. As for Xue Tingxiang, after studying her expression, he suddenly became obedient and opened his mouth docilely. For some reason, his mood was very good.

That’s right, they could probably change their relationship in the future. If there’s something he does not like, he should change it. There is no need to wait for her to understand him.


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Thanks to the mess that Zhao’er had caused at the dining table… the family was left to finish their lunch in a depressive mood.

Sun’shi tried to start some small talk a few times, but no one paid attention to her.

Yang’shi had lost her appetite. If not for her parents-in-law, she would have long since thrown her chopsticks down and stormed away. However, she could only endure the stares of her in-laws and continued to chew on her meal as though she was chewing wax.

After lunch, Sun’shi grabbed Mao Dan away. She knew that her son was partly to be blamed for today’s awkwardness and was afraid that others would start blaming him. Zhou’shi and Xue Tao’er cleared the table, collecting the dishes and chopsticks to be washed. Xue Qingbai assisted her. Zhou’shi could not carry all the dishes on her own. When Xue Qingbai was not around, she and her daughter would ferry these things to the kitchen bit by bit.

Once the dishes were cleared away, there was only the main branch’s mother and sons along with Old Man Xue and Old Zhao left in the dining room.

Yang’shi stood up, meaning to return to the East Chamber but was stopped by Old Man Xue.

Old Man Xue took out his pipe and some shredded tobacco leaves that he had personally grown and processed from a dark blue pouch. He methodically rolled the pieces of tobacco into a ball and stuffed it into his pipe. Then, he lit the tobacco ball and began to puff at his pipe.

His movements were very deliberate, neither too fast nor slow. Anyone who was familiar with Old Man Xue would know that he had something on his mind. Indeed, there was something on his mind, otherwise, he would not call for his daughter-in-law to stay back.

“Jun’zi and Cai’zi can go back first. Grandpa has something to say to your mother.”

Xue Youcai glanced at his mother, wanting to say something but was dragged away by his elder brother Xue Juncai.

“Father, please speak your mind.”

Yang’shi was thirty-four this year. In the countryside, a woman in her thirties is no longer considered young. Here, with the constant sun, wind and lack of nutritious food, women tended to look older than their age.

However, Yang’shi managed to maintain her looks very well. Her disc-like face was quite fair and there were only a few laugh lines at the corners of her eyes. She was dressed in a slightly worn blue brocade dress, her shiny, jet-black hair was rolled up into a tidy bun behind her head and adorned with a gold-plated hairpin. A pair of old silver earrings hung from her ears. Though her fingers could not be described as ‘scallion-like’, they were still tender and white, there was even a gold ring on one of her fingers.

It was no exaggeration to describe her general air and dress as a ‘landlady-like’. Even Old Zhao lost to her when it came to poise and bearing.

Old Man Xue’s old eyes ran over Yang’shi’s person a few times, making her uneasy.

She was about to say something when her father-in-law said, “Eldest’s wife, how long have you been married into our family?”

Startled, Yang’shi replied, “Seventeen years, this is the seventeenth year that daughter-in-law has married into the Xue family.”

“Then how have your mother and I treated you?”

Yang’shi’s heart skipped a beat, she said, “Father and Mother treated this daughter-in-law like your own daughter.”

Old Man Xue nodded, and he took another puff of his pipe. The light blue smoke seemed to linger around his face, making it difficult to discern his expression.

“You are our Eldest daughter-in-law, your mother also favours you a lot. You and Eldest are of one heart, your mother and I also share the same heart, and that is the success of Juncai as a talent.”

Yang’shi relaxed and she could not help laughing as she said, “Juncai is very serious about his studies. Even my father says that he is a rare seedling. A Xiu Cai achievement is very possible.”

She is the proudest when it comes to Xue Juncai, even Old Man Xue could not help the smile spreading across his face at the mention of this grandson’s name.

Seeing how her father-in-law’s expression softened, Yang’shi immediately took advantage of the moment to say, “It’s just… Father should know too when it is time to take exams, it is not enough to just study at home. Back then, Juncai’s father listened to my father’s advice and spent two years studying at Qinghe Academy, that was where he met some good classmates and received a teacher’s attention.

Later, he seized the opportunity to impress the county magistrate and even passed the county examination with a fairly good ranking. From his results alone, it is clear that he has a good chance to pass the Provincial Exam. However, Imperial Examinations depended a lot on luck, Juncai’s father is just unlucky, that is why he failed the exams repeatedly.”

This was the true reason why Yang’shi was greatly valued by the old couple in the Xue family. Not only because her father was a Tong Sheng, but because her father had given Xue Qingshan some pointers back then.

Although it may sound like Yang’shi was making excuses for her husband, this was actually true. The County and Provincial Examinations were not as strictly controlled as Imperial Exams. County Exams, for example, were presided over by the county magistrate.

The County Exam consisted of five parts. The first part of the test was the most important. In this test, candidates must write two essays in the [2] Eight-legged essay format. So long as there are no major mistakes, and the writing is both clear and logical, a candidate could technically pass the County Exam. However, whether they are selected to be officials or not, depends on luck.

After all, compared to an unknown person, the County Magistrate would prefer someone he already recognises.

In short, going to a good school was an opportunity for students to stand out before the county magistrate. The Great Chang Dynasty had always attached great importance to the selection process. To the point that a person who achieved Jin Shi (the highest level of Imperial Examination) is equivalent to a political achievement. Therefore, even the most muddleheaded and incompetent official must have gone through this selection process.

Moreover, entering a good school not only increases your contacts but also broadens your vision. [3] How does this help an exam candidate? Well, no matter how excellent one’s writing is, or how well-versed they are with the [4] Four Books and Five Classics, or other Confucian studies, candidates still needed guidance on how to write and what taboos to avoid. Regardless of how excellent a candidate’s writing is, the essay would not be accepted if it violated taboos related to temples, emperors, religion or holy individuals.

Rural schools are often private schools opened by former child prodigies out to make a living for themselves. Many still harbour hopes of becoming proper scholars and changing their fortune. Therefore, they would not put too much effort into coaching their students to become scholars and future rivals.

Xue Qingshan himself was in such a situation, which was why he put in so much effort into sending Xue Juncai to Qinghe Academy.

Yang’shi thought that her father-in-law held her back from talking about sending Xue Juncai to school and specifically mentioned this. Little did she know that she had touched upon Old Man Xue’s mind, but Old Man Xue actually wanted to speak to her about a different matter.

Old Man Xue sucked in a lungful of tobacco smoke, before exhaling and saying, “The things you said have all been said by Eldest. You are Juncai’s mother, it is right for you to strive for your son. However, you should also understand that our family consists of more than just the main branch.”

Yang’shi was startled to hear the meaningful tone behind her father-in-law’s words. She forced a smile and said, “Father, this daughter-in-law understands that there is more to the Xue family than the main branch. Please don’t worry, [3] when Juncai’s father and Juncai fulfil their promising futures, they will never forget to show filial piety to yourself and Mother.” Seeing the still gloomy expression on her father-in-law’s face, she hastily added, “As for the others in the family, Juncai will always remember that it is thanks to his uncles and aunts that he could study.”

Old Man Xue nodded, “It is good that you understand, you should also understand that the other three branch families have been sacrificing for the main house all this while. I won’t mention the ones from long ago. Let us only mention Old Third and Old Fourth, ba. The fields are all taken care of by Third and Fourth child, your father is getting old, and my hands and feet are not as they used to be. Old Fourth has taken to doing small business in collecting goods and selling them on top of working at the farm. Who knows how many pairs of shoes he wore out in a year, but all the money he earned was handed over to the public fund, leaving not a single coin for himself. As to why everyone works so hard, it is not for the clan, but for the main branch.”

Yang’shi’s expression became stiff, “Father, why do you say it is for the main branch? When Juncai’s father shows promise, doesn’t the rest of the Xue family gain face? When Juncai’s father achieved Tong Sheng, who in the village did not look up to the entire family? Even the Zheng family had to give three points of courtesy to those who share the surname Xue. It is for the sake of the whole family and the future generations of our Xue clan…”

Old Man Xue sighed and interrupted, “Father understands what you are saying. Your mother understands too. However, as the saying goes ‘If the board did not strike your body, you will feel no pain’. What if you were in Old Third or Old Fourth’s shoes? If you were the one who had to do most of the work, but all the good things you worked for ended up in other people’s bellies instead of yours, how would you feel?”

This was in line with what Zhao’er had said earlier. Yang’shi’s face reddened, turning her face into a reddish disc.

“Father, what’s this about things ending up in my belly, I…”

Old Man Xue ignored her and turned to reprimand Old Zhao this time, “As for you, you displayed your partiality so obviously that it is no wonder Old Third and Old Fourth are disheartened and fussed about separating from the family. You should also go and plant the field to support Eldest and Juncai’s Imperial Examination!”

In the end, he was basically [5] hating iron for not being steel.

Old Zhao could not bear it any more and muttered, “What do you mean I am partial? How am I partial? Don’t I just wish for Eldest and Juncai to study? Studying uses up a lot of brain energy and needs a lot of supplements. Are you saying that those good things enter my mouth?”

The more she spoke, the angrier she became, and she could not help but start to curse, “What separates the family? Don’t they just want to overturn the heavens and earth? So long as the parents are around, one should never separate. Were I to spare them, the family law would never forgive them.”

Old Man Xue smiled bitterly. If not for the old couple and the ancestral law blocking them, he feared that the family would have long separated. After all, who in the world would be willing to be the family horse and cow, working and exhausting their lives for others?

He shifted his gaze to Yang’shi. “You should also understand the situation at home. Your mother and I can still manage things for a while, but do you think we could manage them forever? If you wish to send Juncai to study in town, you should properly win over the third and fourth branch family.”

“Father, I…”

“In the past, your mother doted on you and I never said anything. Who is in the right and who is in the wrong, you may decide. However, from tomorrow onwards, you must share the household chores with the third and fourth branches.”

After he was done speaking, Old Man Xue just stopped talking and proceeded to smoke until his entire head was wreathed in blue fumes. Yang’shi could not stand it any more and hurried out of the room with her head down.


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When Zhou’shi was done cleaning up the kitchen, she happened to see her eldest aunt-in-law scuttling towards the East Chamber with her head down. Her expression is not very good. Her gaze flickered and she glanced towards the south end of the West Wing where a four-bedroom house was situated.

She could see the faint outline of a person behind the window of the fourth branch’s room and knew that Sun’shi must have been peeking through and watching everything that was happening in the hall. She pretended not to notice anything, wiped her hands on her apron and returned to her room.

That evening, when it was time to cook the evening meal, Yang’shi appeared wearing coarse clothing, a rare occasion indeed and entered the kitchen to snatch work from Zhou’shi.

Zhou’shi was not given an opportunity to refuse as Yang’shi smiled, saying that Zhou’shi had worked hard and should go and rest.

Zhou’shi was pushed out of the kitchen where she encountered Sun’shi, who was just standing at the door of the West chamber. The two of them met each other’s eyes, both were equally surprised by this unexpected event.

However, they continued to be shocked as, from that day onwards, Yang’shi experienced a great change of attitude and began to do all kinds of chores at home. Though it had been years since she had last touched this work and was a little clumsy in the beginning, she still did it.

She not only did chores but also displayed great generosity as she actively persuaded Old Zhao to give out a little more allowance or buy meat or take out eggs for the family meals.

The sparks that had been stirred up by Zhao’er’s words were eventually suppressed just like that. During this period of generosity, Xue Tingxiang finally recovered enough strength to walk around.

On this day, after getting up early and breakfasted, Zhao’er decided to visit the town.

The leftover fabrics she brought back from the embroidery workshop had all been made into things like purses and embroidered shoes. After collecting them for many days, it was about time to bring them to be sold at the workshop.

She put everything into her shoulder basket and, after reminding Xue Tingxiang to bask in the sun, she set out in a good mood after securing his honest agreement.

Not long after she left, Xue Tingxiang walked out of the house.

The yard was very quiet, the curtains and doors of each room were lowered and it was difficult to see if anyone was at home. He stood before the door of the second branch room for a while before making his way to the gate. Heizi, who was already sunning himself in the yard, immediately got to its feet and accompanied him.


[Gumihou: Woah, lots of happenings. Also, that Old Man Xue is really sharp]


The Author has something to say: 

In ancient times if a poor student wanted to succeed in their studies, they would need the support of their entire family, or even a whole clan to fund them.

This is why ancient people place such great importance on family and relatives. After becoming successful, most people often break off ties with poorer relatives. However, if they happened to encounter some distant relatives who were down on their luck, they would still provide them with food, drinks and even a little money before parting ways.

There are many reasons for this: First, reputation. Second, it is possible that this person or their ancestors had received help from their relatives in the past. Third, it is a way to leave a path open for themselves or their descendants who may fall on hard times one day.

After all, no one can guarantee that they will remain wealthy and self-sufficient forever and may have to rely on others in the future. It is very different from our modern lifestyle where we can live independently without relying on others.

Haha, sorry for getting sidetracked~~


[1] ‘Dirty’ being ghosts or evil spirits

[2] Eight-legged Essay – style of essay in for imperial examinations

[3] Smooth out long-winded explanations for ease of understanding

[4] Four Books & Five Classics – are the most important classics of Chinese Confucianism

[5] Hating iron for not being steel

Frustrated by people who failed to meet one’s expectations


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