Chapter 11: Elementary Schoolhouse
In the past, the servants on the estate did not see Ran Yan as anybody important. She was not only weak, but she had also fallen down to such a low state, yet she still deemed them as beneath her station. It was as if the thought of speaking to them would somehow sully her status.
Nevertheless, even if Ran Yan was not favored, she was still the daughter of the Ran family’s first wife. So to the world, she was recovering at the estate. As for the servants, even though they disliked her, they did not bother her. Thus they did not dare to make things difficult for her, and just ignored her. As a result of seeing her save Zhou San Lang from death a couple days ago, not only did the matter stir up Zhou village, but it also impressed the people on the estate—causing them to now treat her more politely.
When Ran Yan finished reading the letter, she stuffed the letter in her belongings, “Wan Lu, award the half Guan of silver to him.”
Wan Lu paused. Though she felt strongly against it, she could not express this in front of a stranger. Handing over things in her arm to Xing Niang, she took out the remaining half Guan and managed to smile to express her thanks when giving it to the servant, “If one helps our Niang Zi, they will be treated well. Thanks for helping us this time.”
This surprised the servant. When he held the half Guan in his hands, he recovered from his initial shock and said quickly, “Much thanks to Niang Zi for the award. In the future if Niang Zi needs assistance, let me know and I will try to help.”
Ran Yan nodded slightly, “Thank you (for your trouble).”
Though her polite language shocked the servant. He saw that she was tactful and quickly put away the money and left.
“Humph, what a terrible person!” Wan Lu snorted in a low voice.
Xing Niang and Ran Yan did not add more. As the unloved daughter of the wife, if she did not award the servants, who would come attend to her? To make it worse, the old Ran Yan looked down on others even though she was poor to save face. Despite being worse off than the servants in the main estate, she still felt that she was better than others, and could not see reality.
Today’s situation showed Ran Yan the importance of money. If she wanted to survive in the Tang Dynasty, she must find a way to earn money. But the appearance of the ink stone shook her resolve.
“First, let’s pay a visit to Sang Xian Sheng.” Ran Yan grabbed the ink stone and hurried outside.
Wan Lu quickly put away two Liang of silver and left everything else for Xing Niang to handle. Picking up her dress, she ran after Ran Yan.
Looking over the unopened letter, it only contained some pleasantries. Other than that, it explained that the two Liang of silver in the bag was the medical fee given to the doctor. That person did not accept it and entrusted Liu Shi to return it. However, since Zhou San Lang’s health was still poor, Liu Shi cannot leave so she passed the task on to Sang Chen to return.
Ran Yan restrained her incoming waves of emotions and tried to slow down to match her normal pace.
Since it was early morning, the back doors on the houses by the riverbank were opened. Limestone steps led directly into the river. The women from each family rinsed rice and washed vegetables on the stone steps, exchanged greetings in Wu dialect.
There was also a boat carrying cargo slowly drifting down the river asking the women whether they wanted to buy or exchange goods.
Seeing this serene and peaceful scene was calming to Ran Yan, yet her steps did not slow down. Similar to when solving murder cases, forensic doctors needed to arrive at the scene as soon as possible, Ran Yan was accustomed to these situations.
Wan Lu knew that the school house was on the east side of the village and so she guided Ran Yan in that direction.
A day’s teachings is done in the mornings so even before they could see the schoolhouse, they could hear the distinct sounds of children reciting books.
From what they can hear, Ran Yan could tell that there were not many students—perhaps fifteen or so of various ages. Voices vague, some immature and some had the characteristics of early adolescence.
The alleyway in the village provided Ran Yan with an opportunity to see some villagers as she passed by. Seeing the ink stone in Ran Yan’s hands, and her hurried steps, although they were puzzled, they still made way (for her), bowing their heads in respect.
Since the past, doctors have always been a respected profession. Who wasn’t afraid of aging, sickness, or death? People like Ran Yan who could “revive (people) from death”, would naturally be respected by others.
The village’s school was just a room approximately 20 feet in diameter. Similar to the houses, it was built along the riverside. There was no yard in the front, and the back did not have stairs leading into the water. Instead, it had an overhang about a meter over the water that was fenced off. Looking at the condition of the fence, it was only built in the past few days.
Houses in the Tang Dynasty’s were uniform and flat, but this classroom was a bit taller than the surrounding houses. The construction was also tolerable which showed the value of education to the villagers.
Wan Lu peeked into the room—behind rows of neat small tables sat kids of various ages reciting Thousand Character Classic with Sang Chen while swaying their heads.
The kid that Wan Lu made cry the other day, Ping Xiao Lang, leaned forward on the woven mat taking an early morning nap. Saliva dribbled onto his cheeks while his little mouth pattered, as if he was dreaming about eating something good.
There were also a few kids holding small branches, poking each other one after another. One girl sneaked peaks from time to time at the young man who was focused on teaching the class. Visibly upset, another boy went to pull her hair……
The inside of the small classroom was as exciting as an animal farm, boisterous and filled with life.
And it was like Sang Chen had no idea, eyes still closed, head swaying from side to side, more engrossed than any other person.
Wan Lu tried to cover her smile and said quietly, “I had no idea that the most boisterous place in the village was the classroom!”
Ran Yan waited quietly outside. Seeing Sang Chen’s thorough enjoyment, she did not have the heart to interrupt him. Although Ran Yan wanted answers, her actions were always principled so she stood outside the door and waited for the conclusion of morning lessons.
Thousand Character Classic, as the name implies, only contains one thousand characters. But these kids differed greatly in age. Some had finished learning, but some were only familiar with a couple sentences, so Sang Chen took them through two full recitations, then repeated the first half two more times, and lastly only recited the first few sentences.
Upon completing this, Sang Chen focused on the meaning of the first half.
During this time, the classroom was as lively as ever. A couple of girls in their early teens quietly snuck over to the window like seasoned pros. Though they looked like they were on good terms, they actually weren’t. Ran Yan noticed that within their group, the girls would take turns “accidentally” stepping on one another.
It was obvious that the girls often came. When they approached the window they suddenly saw Ran Yan standing in front of the door. They froze uniformly, and then their expression swiftly turned to one of contempt and animosity.
The chatter ceased in the room and Ran Yan moved her gaze to signal for Wan Lu to call Sang Chen outside.
Wan Lu wasn’t pleased that the girls were not aware of common etiquette. They were even disrespectful to her Niang Zi so she quickly went to the door and knocked, “Sang Xian Sheng, servant is Wan Lu from the Ran estate. My Niang Zi has some important matters to discuss with Sang Xian Sheng. Please come outside to talk.”
The girls’ cheeks suddenly turned red, glared at Wan Lu, and scattered away like a den of rabbits.
Ran Yan couldn’t help but laugh lightly when she saw the girls. Guess Sang Xian Sheng is very popular!
Not sure if you can tell from the picture, but Mrs. Shrimp has eggs. Hope you have a wonderful holiday season filled with lots of joy, love, and family.
Totally intended to post this chapter two weeks ago. It was almost done, then I had to work overtime multiple days in a row and a weekend… and then there was finals for my trusty editor. Hopefully the next chapter will be done soon since I have already started that one. This chapter was more of a transition chapter so I may also start listening to the audiobook again to motivate me to translate more to get to the good parts. Cheers and thanks for reading 🙂