You are currently viewing Raising the Young Grand Secretary – 009

Raising the Young Grand Secretary – 009

Chapter 009

Author: Feast of Masks


Translated by Gumihou

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


After fetching the towel, Zhao’er returned to sit on the edge of the kang bed, took off the towel on her head and began patting her hair dry with the warm towel.

Her long, waist-length hair was black and thick. She sat on the edge of the bed with her head tilted to one side, allowing her long hair to hand down as she slowly ran a comb through her hair.

The girl had to keep her back very straight and her neck tilted just so to keep the water away from her lilac floral jacket and maroon wide-legged trousers. It was all done in the name of practical efficiency, but for some reason, in Xue Tingxiang’s eyes. These subconscious gestures caused his heartbeat to accelerate and his blood to rush through his veins.

The reasoning was simple. By tilting her body like so, a young girl’s body is vividly revealed in all her youthful glory. Chest and chin tilted up, back arched and neck exposed, showing off her slender waist. Xue Tingxiang had never seen such a scene before, and a strange heat began to climb up his body.

But, it was also strangely not unfamiliar.

Another scene appeared in his mind. It was the image of two people in their bridal chamber. In that dream scene, he did not like her. That marrying her was a matter of course.

There was a deep-rooted belief that, of course, she was meant to be his wife.

It’s just, that whatever affection he felt for this person was hidden deep beneath awkwardness, ignorance and foolish immaturity. These feelings were further exacerbated when he went to the town school and his classmates found out about his child bride from the countryside, thus attracting even more ridicule from them.

However, he truly liked her. This deeply buried love burst out at night, resulting in her being badly tortured in the bridal chamber.

He was ignorant and she was a new bride. He was hurt in the act, and she was injured in the process. However, though he was hurt, he still wanted it. She cried until snot and tears poured down her face. It was the first time she had shown such a vulnerable side to him, and he found himself enjoying this form of bullying ever since.

Back then, he was still studying at the private school and would only come back once every ten days. She grew so nervous about seeing him that she would actually try to hide away from him. Even so, she could never truly deny him and would eventually let him do as he liked. He obviously liked the act but continued to pretend not to like it.

Now that he thought about it, he was truly an awful scum back then.

While his heart was filled with such messy thoughts, he suddenly blurted out, “I’ll wipe it for you.”

Zhao’er cast a sideway glance at him in surprise, but automatically refused, “No need, I can do it myself.” Lately, she had been doing her very best to refer to herself as ‘I’ instead of ‘elder sis’.

She had barely spoken when Xue Tingxiang had scooted over to snatch the towel and make her turn her back to him. Zhao’er froze in place, but in the end, could do nothing but let him help dry her hair.

In fact, Xue Tingxiang was still half a head shorter than Zhao’er. He could only reach the top of her head by half kneeling and half sitting up on his ankles. The two were seated very close, Zhao’er may not be aware of their closeness, but Xue Tingxiang’s blood was already surging rapidly in his veins.

Zhao’er’s hair was very black, dense and smooth, like fine satin. His hands were so clumsy that he inadvertently tugged her hair too hard and hurt her a few times. It was only after he heard her hiss in pain that he finally slowed down and his movements became gentler.

Sensing that he was struggling, Zhao’er grew a little distressed thinking how he had to keep stretching his arms up. She said, “Shall I lie down?”

Without waiting for an answer, she laid down with her head facing away from him, her hair spread out in the back for him to dry. Good, this way, neither of them would be tired. What she did not know was how provocative she looked, especially to a hot-blooded youth.

Xue Tingxiang instantly regretted his offer to dry her hair. With her lying down like this, it felt like some kind of torture. He had to work hard to steady himself and not cast his eyes about too carelessly.

“How about… you sit up instead?” he ventured.

There was no answer from her.

When he looked, he found that she had fallen asleep.

This young girl must have been very tired from running around all day in town and was sleeping very sweetly. She had her head upon the quilt, which was folded longwise as a makeshift pillow, her long waist-length hair scattered behind her. Her face looked a little distorted from squishing against the quilt, but her pouting lips looked especially pouty like this.

The freshly bathed Zhao’er still has some water vapour steaming about her. Her cheeks were full and delicate, emphasising her youth and freshness in a glance. Her lips carried a fresh pink glow that seemed to beg someone’s touch.

Something inside his chest thundered and he leaned forward almost unconsciously. Their faces came closer and closer… he was so close that he could smell the sweet scent of her skin…

Suddenly, she stirred, and he quickly backed away. Feigning nonchalant as he muttered random things to himself about how quickly Zhao’er fell asleep. All the while, his entire attention was nervously waiting for her reaction.

Fortunately, when she showed no sign of waking up aside from the small shifting movements, he breathed a sigh of relief.

The sudden panic had banished the urges in his heart. Xue Tingxiang looked at her several times over before reaching out for the thinner quilt to cover her. Then, he continued to pat her hair dry.


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Yuqing Village was originally founded by a group of refugees who had fled the wars of the previous dynasty and set down roots here.

Its original name was not Yuqing Village, but Zheng Clan Village. The original inhabitants of Zheng Clan Village consisted mainly of people with the surname Zheng. Many years later, due to an unusually harsh famine and government arrangement, a group of people fleeing natural disasters ended up settling here. These were the ancestors of the Xue Clan.

There were not that many people with the surname Zheng, but those with the surname Xue were not few either. At first, people with the surname Zheng were more numerous, making them the main elders and decision-makers. As time went on, the two clans began to struggle against each other.

Eventually, under the Great Chang Dynasty, the [1] lijia system was established. 100 households were grouped into one li (500m) under the jurisdiction of a ‘Village Head’, also known as ‘Lizheng’, supported by various older men above the age of 80 known as the Village Elders.

The local Lizheng and Village Elders were responsible for everything within their village, including resolving civil lawsuits, arbitrating right and wrong, leading village customs, advising on mulberry farming, and disseminating information that came from above. The Lizheng and the Elders even have power over tax collection and military conscriptions.

In short, the power of a Village Head was quite formidable. Someone who could rise to the seat of Village Head was considered someone of high moral values and demanded great respect from the local people.

In fact, this system of governance was basically having the local people governing themselves.

At this time, there was a saying: [2]

Imperial power reaches not the county,

The county bows solely to the clan,

All clans thrive on autonomy,

Autonomy is governed by ethics,

Ethics gives birth to the gentry of the land.


Over the years, the Xue and Zheng appeared to work harmoniously on the surface when in fact, they had been covertly struggling against each other for the right to speak for the village. In fact, the Xue Clan had been on the decline when it suddenly produced a Xiucai in its previous generation. Since then, several of the village elders had been appointed from the Xue clan. Even so, the position of Lizheng had remained in the hands of the Zheng Clan.

Right now, Yuqing Village has one Lizheng and four village elders. Three of the four elders were surnamed Xue. Even so, it was not a simple 2 vs 3 simple majority win for the Xue Clan since the coveted title of Lizheng was still in the hands of the Zheng Clan.

However, Patriarch Xue was confident that so long as their clan produced another Xiucai, his clan would completely overwhelm the Zheng Clan. Therefore, when rumours that had been making their rounds in the village reached him two days later, he exploded with rage.

Old Man Xue was still in the field when he was called to Patriarch Xue’s house.

When Old Man Xue noticed that Patriarch Xue’s expression was as black as the bottom of a pot, he acted like a dumb monk and scratched his head, asking, “Brother Haizi, what’s the matter?” When it comes to seniority, Patriarch Xue could still be considered Old Man Xue’s cousin.

“Still ask me what’s the matter? Don’t tell me you have no knowledge of what’s happening outside!?”

Old Man Xue really did not know.

Seeing the dumb look on this cousin’s face, Patriarch Xue gave a rough account of what had been happening lately.

Who knows when or why, but gossip about the Xue family matters has been circulating outside.

The crux of the matter was:

Someone saw Xue Gouzi, the only son of the second Xue branch family crying at his parents’ grave. It was unclear what was said or heard, but for a half-grown boy to cry so desperately in front of his parents’ grave like this was enough to convince the villagers that the child must have been greatly wronged at home

Later, others who were more familiar with the situation revealed the truth, and in a short time, everyone knew that the eldest son of the Xue Family was planning to send his own son to study in town, leaving this nephew at home.

There were few people in the village who did not know about the special circumstances behind the death of the Xue Family’s second son. While Xue Qingsong was dying, there were many witnesses around who saw him grasping Xue Qingshan’s hand, making him swear to treat his son well.

When Xue Qingshan returned to the Xue Family, many people discussed this scene, as they shook their heads over the poor second Xue son’s miserable condition, and speculated over the fate of the poor sickly wife and young son.

[3] Now, with fresh rumours about this poor sickly son’s fate rampaging around the village, people dug up old gossip and chewed over it along with the new ones, shaking their heads and sighing over how ‘people’s hearts are unpredictable’ and that ‘it is impossible to entrust one’s wife and children to another’ and that ‘though you treat him like a brother, and threw your life away, they never consider your son as one of his own’.

More recent rumours about Xue Tingxiang’s situation within the Xue family had caught the attention of some gossipy women eager to contribute to the main body of the rumours.

For example, everyone knows that the second branch’s Xue Gouzi rarely show up in public, but did you notice that whenever he appears, he is always dressed in old clothes? As for the main branch’s Juncai, no one had ever seen him in old clothes. The ignorant children also participated in the excitement by telling everyone about how Xue Juncai has a complete set of stationary, brushes, ink, paper and inkstones, not to mention the largest number of books. As for Xue Gouzi, they saw him practising calligraphy on his desk with water in place of ink.

Favouritism, naturally, everyone will practice some form of favouritism. What’s more, it’s only natural to favour one’s own son. However, Eldest Xue dares to spend the life of one brother and is still biased against that dead brother’s son. Just the thought alone chilled people’s hearts.

“You are already this old, but still can’t properly educate those juniors at home? It’s not wrong for you to favour your eldest, but why do you have to cause such great fuss? You tell me, how do you intend to fix this matter now!”

It was the first time Old Man Xue suffered such great embarrassment in his life. Even as his face burned, he knew that this matter was very serious. His entire family name could be ruined if he was not careful.

It was fine if his own reputation was ruined, but he definitely could not allow anything to spoil Eldest’s reputation. If he was accused of oppressing his dead brother’s son, Eldest’s life would be ruined. Don’t talk about becoming a Xiucai, he would not even be able to keep his private school open.

“Brother Haizi…” he looked pleadingly at Patriarch Xue. Unable to think of anything to say at the moment.

“The only thing you can do now is to send both children to school, to prevent any wagging tongues from the people.”

Old Man Xue’s old face flushed even more and he rubbed his large coarse hands together, “Brother Haizi. You know our family. To support Eldest’s education all these years, our savings have been wiped out. It is not that I do not want to send both children. We just can’t.”

Patriarch Xue also frowned at this.

Back when Xue Qingshan went to study at the Qinghe Academy, he also had some idea of how that place operated. In short, it was a place that basically eats money. What’s more, there was no point objecting because there were many who were more than willing to pay to get in. It cost at least 20 silver taels per year in expenses alone and Xue Qingshan had been there for five years.

Patriarch Xue originally thought he could give a little money to support, but now he dared not open his mouth. Xue Qingshan aside, Xue Juncai was still young. It was still unclear whether he would really succeed at school. Not to mention, he also had two young grandchildren studying and neither family were rich.

“Since even you cannot see a way out, why not just continue as it is?” Old Man Xue muttered.

Patriarch Xue sneered, “Wouldn’t that just confirm outsiders’ gossip? That your family is ungrateful and dare to short-change a fatherless son. If you do not wish to see your Eldest’s name ruined and implicating Juncai in the future, you should send both to school. Otherwise, if you can only send one, just send the second branch brat.”


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By the time Old Man Xue left Patriarch Xue’s house, his entire person was in a daze.

His hands trembled as he touched his waist. It took him a few tries to remove the tobacco pouch. With the tobacco in hand, he did not walk further. Instead, he squatted under a tree and lit up his pipe. He smoked the entire pouch of tobacco without stopping before standing up.

As he made his slow way home, people greeted him from time to time.

Normally, Old Man Xue enjoyed being greeted like this, seeing it as a reflection of his son’s glory on his face. Otherwise, if not for the scholar in his house, would anyone greet him so warmly? Today, however, he had the feeling that behind the smiling faces, people were actually laughing at him.

He did his best to walk back quickly when someone else walked up beside him. It was an acquaintance, one that he saw quite often in fact. The other person smiled at him, saying something like ‘why did he leave the field so early today’. Unable to bear it any more, he grabbed the man and pulled him from the pathway to a spot under a tree.

“Old Zhou, you tell me now. What have the villagers been talking about my family behind our backs?”

Old Zhou was also an old farmer with dark, suntanned skin. He was also a whole head shorter than Old Man Xue with a slightly stooped back. Hearing this, he glanced at Old Man Xue for a moment before sighing, “I thought you know, ah. It turns out you didn’t know?”

“What could I know? How could I know!” the first line was ground through his teeth, but the second line was said through a bitter smile.

Having lived this long, Old Zhou naturally understood what this old man was feeling, but he had no idea how to respond. He could only sincerely say, “Don’t worry too much. You know how the villagers like to chatter and talk about who’s in the right and so forth. Still, don’t blame me for saying this, but, what your family did was… well…” he sucked it air through his teeth before smacking his lips and said, “It was a little inappropriate.”


Old Zhou was a close acquaintance and took care to choose his words. Who knows how others were scolding his family behind his back? Just now, the Patriarch only said that the ‘rumours were bad’, but never told him just how bad things were.

Old Man Xue quickly said, “Just what have the people been saying? Tell me.” 

Old Zhou sighed before relenting and told him all that he knew. Now that he was given permission to speak, he did not feel that it was wrong to say, “I am not saying this to criticize you, but as a father, how could you not watch what your eldest son had been doing? Don’t forget how your second son died. Doing this kind of thing will only invite criticism from others.”

Old Master Xue’s complexion turned pale and he said, “It had nothing to do with Eldest. The decision is made after discussing matters with my wife.”

Old Zhou’s eyebrows popped up, and he glanced at this old fellow with incredulous eyes. Even so, he did not say anything that would hurt this person. Otherwise, it would be impossible to maintain a friendly relationship in the future. 

“Anyway, nothing has happened yet. So, you have a good think. I should be heading home now. If you’re not in a hurry, how about you come over to my place tonight and have a drink or two?”

“No need, I have some matters to take care of at home.”

After Old Zhou left, Old Man Xue stood in place for a while before heading home.

As soon as he entered the house, Xue Qingshan, who had been standing in the yard asked, “Father, why did uncle call you over?”

Old Man Xue looked over his son once, said nothing, and entered straight into the main family room. Xue Qingshan was left standing alone in the yard. He scratched his head, wondering what could be wrong with his father. He was about to hunt down his third brother to find out what happened when Old Zhao yelled for everyone to come eat. Naturally, everyone came out of their rooms for dinner and the matter was dropped.

Even during dinner, Old Man Xue’s expression was very bad.

As for Xue Tingxiang, ever since he could get out of bed, he had been eating at the table with everyone. The atmosphere at the table was very unpleasant. Even Mao Dan, who always likes to make a fuss during mealtimes was very quiet today.

After dinner, Zhou’shi and Xue Tao’er cleared the table and went to wash the dishes.

The others were about to leave, but they were stopped by Old Man Xue

“Eldest and Eldest Daughter-in-law stay back, I have something to tell you. Gouzi stay too. The rest of you return to your rooms.”

[Gumihou: Oho~ what are you planning to say, you old fart?]


[1] Li-jia (甲)system, was actually set up during the Ming Dynasty.

A land tax that constituted the major income source for the Ming government. Based on the Double Tax system, this tax was collected in summer and autumn. 110 households were grouped into a li (500m), which was further divided into 10+1 households with the richest family being the ‘village head’ and each of the 10 households nominating a ‘family head’.

The ‘Village head’ was responsible for proper tax collection and maintaining peace and order.

[2] Since this is a scholarly novel, I did my best to translate the wording below a little more poetically






Pill Bug’s version:

From the countryside, the emperor retracts his weary hand 

Leaving the villagers under the mercies of local clans 

Alone unchallenged, the clans’ power commands 

Upon ethics does their governance depend 

Giving birth to the local gentry of the land


Gumihou: Pill Bug’s translation is very posh~ He’s really good at translating poems, actually

Gumi went with a simpler version to reflect a more ‘village gentry’ ambience

[3] Give a slightly more poetic turn of phrase, since this is a scholar’s journey type of novel after all. has a Membership System!!

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