The food delivered by the little nun was very light. One stir-fried tofu with a small vegetable and a mild portion of rice-filled wood bucket. The meal was enough for them.
Wan Lu’s face turned green at the sight of the dishes. “Miss, will you be able to bear these dishes for an entire month?”
“What’s wrong with eating vegetables and tofu?” Ran Yan sat down and took the chopsticks. “Let’s eat together. There are other matters to attend to.”
Ran Yan’s words contained an unquestionable deterrence. The trio of maids sat down and silently started eating.
On ordinary days, they had to eat separately; it was hard to find a day where they were able to share a table like this.
Wan Lu bit her lips as she lowered her head to the rice in the bowl. She was filled with grievance. This gripe was not directed towards herself but towards her mistress. She(RY) could have gone back to the capital, break the engagement with Fourth Master Qin, and settle the marriage with the Yan family. But in the end, she was reduced to eating greens with tofu.
After the meal, Ran Yan took a walk around, before feeling that it was almost time to go visit the Temple Master.
If one were to observe the night-time Yingmei1YingNunnery, one could see that hidden in the depths of the bamboo forest, were houses built of bamboo and wooden boards, resembling a paradise. However, it was only during the day that one could clearly see the shabby houses. There were also some wooden blocks decayed from the year-long rainfall. Apart from the stone-brick temple at the front, only Ran Yan’s courtyard appeared presentable and most suitable for praying.
The Temple Master resided in the east. Walking through the stone path, they passed through the plum forest. En route, they met several nuns who gave her directions to the Temple Master. The Yingmei Nunnery wasn’t that big, to begin with, and after asking several nuns along the way, they finally reached their destination.
Next to the plum forest was a bamboo house hidden in the depths of the forest. Ran Yan glanced at Wan Lu and said, “If you clench your teeth that hard, you can probably tie a cattle between them.”2Their teeth are clenched hard enough to restrain a cow’s leash.
Wan Lu tilted her head and stopped clenching her teeth. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and said stiffly, “Miss, are you okay with this?”
Given her personality, Wan Lu always voiced her thoughts without inhibitions. If she liked something, she would accept the arrangements without a word, but if she didn’t, she would outright express her concerns.
Ran Yan was well-aware of her temperament, so she faintly replied, “You better calm down, lest the Temple Master mistakes you for a monster.”
Wan Lu’s eyes widened to their limits as she looked at her mistress who was slowly walking in front with a face full of surprise. “Miss can joke and laugh too!”
“Is it that weird? If I see something funny, I would naturally joke about it.” Ran Yan replied without turning her head.
Wan Lu didn’t care about her reply and leaned over with a smile. “The current Miss is better than before. Before, Miss always gave out a distressing feeling whenever Miss read 《Grievance in Changmen Palace》3Not much information can be found on this T-T, what I found is that ‘A Grieved Life in Changmen Palace’ is a piece of poem/guqin song written by Sima Xiangru, requested by Chen Aijao (The first empress of the seventh Western Han Dynasty emperor) to express her feelings to the emperor for being abandoned in the palace.
Links for references:
A Grieved Life in Changmen Palace:
Although this servant doesn’t understand much about poetry, this servant can sense the coldness behind those poems. This servant thinks Miss should stop reading those books.”
“Don’t understand? You used to accompany me to study classics, how could you not understand those poems? From tomorrow onwards, you will accompany me in reading Buddhist scriptures and medical books.” Ran Yan looked at her with slightly upturned lips.
Wan Lu’s face turned dark as she replied, “Miss, why torture this servant today? This servant doesn’t have enough patience to read scriptures.”
Ran Yan ignored her and raised her hand to knock on the door. “Seventeenth Miss of the Ran family is here. Is the Temple Head here?”
After a momentary pause, Wan Lu sensing that nobody was inside raised her hand to knock on the door again. But before her hand could reach the door, it opened with a creak, and a forty-something-year-old woman came out and with her hands joined into a prayer loudly chanted a line of a verse of one of the many names of Buddha4This is a form of hello. Take it as an extended version of Amitabha[/mf]. “The morning lesson has just finished. Lady Ran has arrived just in time. Please enter.”
“Thank you very much.” Ran Yan returned the bow in a ceremonial manner and followed her inside the temple.
They took off their shoes on the porch. Just as they stood there, an old voice sounded from inside.
“Jing Yuan, is it Seventeenth Miss Ran here?”
The middle-aged woman leaned over slightly and answered, “It’s Seventeenth Miss Ran.”
There was no reply. Jing Yuan simply turned around and said, “Please enter.”
The door opened and a thick smell of sandalwood wafted from within. It was a dimly lit room. Only under the morning light that shone through the door could they see a two-foot statue of the Bodhisattva. Both sides of the statue were painted with white-gold porcelain. In front of the statue was a bronze flower-shaped incense burner with three futons underneath. A nun was sitting on one of the futons. She was still like a withered tree, her hands gently moving the prayer beads.
“I am Seventeenth Miss Ran, I am here to see Temple Master.” Ran Yan slightly leaned her body.
“This old master has long heard of Seventeenth Miss’s reputation. There is no need to stand in ceremony. Please have a seat.” The Temple Master slightly extended her hands to signal to her to sit on the futon beside her.
Ran Yan sighed in her heart. Even in ancient times, the speed at which rumors spread was no worse than the era of flourishing technology. In a span of less than a month, even the Temple Master had heard of her.
After sitting down, she finally had a close look at the nun in front of her. The nun’s skin was as loose as the skin of a pine tree. Her cheeks showed signs of aging, and she was as thin as wood. Ran Yan could clearly see the underlying state of the person in front of her. Lips and eyes that were showing the signs of atrophy. Her eyes had never once opened from the beginning to the end.
“Twilight of one’s life”, the present appearance of the Temple Master could be explained by these four words.
“This old nun learned to decipher bones in her early days. If Seventeenth Miss won’t mind, can this nun check your bones4Mogu fortune-telling: is a practice of reading a person’s bones – Hands, skull, etc – to infer their fate
Similar to palm reading, this one focuses on examining the bone structure. MamaGoose found a snippet on it, but it’s Chinese and the best on the WWW we could land. LINK once?” The Temple Master’s old and hoarse voice carried the wisdom of the experienced, and the calm voice turned this into a request making the matter less abrupt.
“All right.” Ran Yan had never deciphered the bones before, but she had been very intrigued by this kind of divination based on a person’s bones. In the end, she could not detect a correlation between a person’s fate and their bones.
The Temple Master gently placed down the beads and extended her hands. “Seventeenth Miss, your hand please.”
Ran Yan then placed her hand in the other’s. The Temple Master’s dry and rough hand gently held her finger. Then, she followed up to her palm and reached the bones in her arms. Finally, she switched her hands and touched Ran Yan’s skull.
The room was silent. Only the sound of sandalwood creaking and the rustling clothes were present.
“Temple Master.” Jing Yuan stood outside the door and said, “Someone from the prefecture office has arrived. He said that Miss Wan Lu is an important witness in a recent homicide case. They have a public trial today and would like to ask Miss Wan Lu to go testify.”
Ran Yan didn’t dare make a sound while the Temple Master was deciphering her bones. It wasn’t until after the person had deciphered her bone did she speak. “Wan Lu, you can go, take money from Xing Niang to hire a carriage back when you’re done. If the prefecture office offers a carriage back, don’t refuse them.”
“Yes, Miss.” Wan Lu bowed and followed Jing Yuan out of the courtyard.
“Seventeenth Miss Ran had been unhappy during half of Miss Ran’s life.”
After a moment of silence, the Temple Master broke the ice. “However, it seems that these troubles are not necessarily bad. Whether Miss Ran will succeed or fail depends on choosing your husband.”
Ran Yan did not comment. The Temple Master’s words sounded very unprofessional and provided no basis for the judgement. It sounded even more ridiculous than the words of a scammer on the streets.
“Haha, I’m not good at reading, I can’t see Miss’s destiny further.” The Temple Master’s hoarse voice continued. “It’s just that I heard Miss Ran has good skills and can perform autopsy. Therefore I was curious. Please don’t blame me for being rude.”
Ran Yan looked at the Temple Master who was slowly twirling her praying beads. She did not know if the other was being serious or not, as such, she could only reply, “Temple Master is truly serious.”
The Temple Master took a piece of paper from her sleeve and said, “Starting today, you will be meditating inside the temple. You can be considered the nunnery’s resident. I have prepared a name for you, in the future, you will be addressed with the given name in temple premises.”
“Thanks for Temple Master’s concern.” Ran Yan reached out her hands to take the paper. As she sat back, she saw the Temple Master continue swirling the praying beads. She had nothing to say, so she stood up, bowed, and left.
Xiao Man had been waiting outside the door. She slightly bowed upon seeing her mistress walk out the door. “Miss, Sister Wan asked this servant to serve you.”
Ran Yan nodded and put on her shoes with Xiao Mao’s help.
“Just now, the nun who was guarding the door reported that the Tenth Master had come and it was inconvenient for him to enter the temple. He is waiting in the bamboo forest outside.” Xiao Man squatted down to help Ran Yan straighten her skirt. She raised her head and asked, “Does Miss want to return and change clothes first?”
“That’s enough.” Ran Yan did not have any friends here. Although Xing Niang and Wan Lu were close to her, they were separated by a barrier called the master and servant. They always felt unequal to her. Now that Ran Yusheng had come over, he could sweep away some of her loneliness.
Ran Yan quickly exited the temple along with a Xiao Man who was trying to catch up with her.
Jing Yuan glanced at their departing backs and silently went inside the temple. He sat down on the same futon Ran Yan sat on, and called softly, “Temple Master?”
“Mm.” The Temple Master answered and slowly opened her pair of clear eyes.
People usually saw the Temple Master with her eyes closed, so they presumed she was inflicted by an eye disease. Nobody knew that under the stature of an old woman was a pair of clear eyes. The problem was that although the eyes were clear, they were dim due to the lack of vitality within.
“I don’t know why, but I found out that there are several predestined lovers in her life.” There was doubt in her eyes.
“Several?” Jing Yuan’s ordinary face also revealed a bit of surprise. “Could it be that her husband will die?”
What Jing Yuan meant was that after her (RY) husband died, she would remarry and her new husband would die once again. Wouldn’t this be the fate of her future husbands?
The Temple Master shook her head and sighed. “Nobody knows if this is a blessing or a curse!”
Jing Yuan’s calm eyes once again revealed a shred of doubt, but he only let out a sigh. Matters regarding one’s life were always mysterious, would anyone know what will result in the end? For him, no matter what he would become, it would be fine with him. His fate had already been decided.
The wind breezed through the bamboo forest outside the temple, the rustling sound melodious. Ran Yunsheng stood amidst green bamboo with a round, white, crescent moon collar5His robe collar was white, with a crescent cut. V cut, U cut, boat cut, and these people have crescent moon cuts for collars., his impeccable face wore a warm smile. A wisp of morning light fell on his fair jade-like face, making it even more dazzling.
“Tenth Brother!” Ran Yan was put in a great mood at the beautiful sight.
Ran Yunsheng came up and asked, “Did you suffer yesterday?”
“No, Yingmei Nunnery is very tranquil. This place is suitable for cultivating one’s mind. If Tenth Brother can regularly visit me, everything will be perfect.” She sat down on a flat stone nearby.
“I will come to see you often.” There was a gentle and doting smile within his eyes, making Xiao Man’s gaze unconsciously drift towards him.
He flicked her bright forehead and said with a straight face, “I’m afraid you’ll go wild in this place. You used to be honest, but now you’re way different than before.”