Chapter 7: The End
But I told him, “Second Master, I cannot stay.”
Second Master’s hand was always covering his eyes. After hearing my words, he did not open his mouth, he did not lower his hand.
I said, “Second Master, you should tell the housekeeper all that needs to be done. If not, I’m afraid he would not be able to take care of you properly.”
Second Master did not move. So, I acted on my own accord to call the housekeeper over. The housekeeper’s hands laid weakly by his side as he stood in one corner. I told him, “Housekeeper, you must remember what I am going to tell you.”
The housekeeper nodded his head, “What does Miss wants to say?”
I said, “Second Master’s leg is about fully healed, but his leg will hurt on cold and rainy days. You must prepare a hot towel in advance to press on the leg. There’s a medicinal shop called ‘Return to Spring Hall’ on the old street we lived, although it’s a small shop, but the pract.i.tioners there are very skilled. All these years they have been taking care of Second Master’s leg, if there are any problems, you should go there.”
“The bamboo pole for the leg has to be changed every three months. The carpenters in the city know the exact measurements. You cannot use soft silk to cover the leg because it won’t hold, you have to use rough cloth. For Second Master’s clothes, the left robe sleeve needs an additional layer, I have already left the pants’ measurements to Old Mistress.”
“Second Master isn’t picky with food but he likes strong flavours. For health reasons, he should not eat spicy food. You have to tell the kitchen to minimise putting chilli when cooking.”
“You have to be more conscious at night – when Second Master can’t fall asleep, he likes to drink alcohol in the yard. But, you can’t let him drink too much. Don’t disturb him, secretly hide behind the house to watch him, don’t let him get too sad…… housekeeper?” I just said a few words and saw that there were lines of tears on the housekeeper’s face and he was kneeling down.
“Miss –” I did not know what happened to the housekeeper. Previously when Old Master Yang was around, I never realised that he liked to cry so much. I turned my head and was thinking of getting the Second Master to say a few words to comfort the housekeeper but Second Master was still in the same position and unmoving.
I suddenly felt like I had returned to a few years ago, when Second Master just returned home after his injury, that image of him not being able to live and yet not being able to die. I shook Second Master and asked, “Second Master, what happened to you?”
Second Master did not move, his palm still covering his eyes, only exposing a pair of tightly clenched lips. Housekeeper added by the side, ‘Since Miss left, Master has not eaten for three days.” My eyes widened and I asked Second Master, “Second Master, why are you not eating?”
The housekeeper kowtowed his head towards me and then rose up, he said, “Miss, I’m old and cannot remember all these things. You should remember them yourself.” After he finished speaking, he walked away.
I was shocked dazed. You can be a housekeeper acting like this?
“Little Monkey…” Second Master opened his mouth, I hurriedly turned my attention to him. I asked, “Second Master, what do you want to eat? I will tell the kitchen to prepare.”
Second Master appeared to think for a while and then he said, “Noodles.”
“Can do! Please wait.” I flew to the kitchen to get a bowl of noodles. On my way to the kitchen, when everyone looked at me, their gazes were intensely earnest. I was infected by these bursts of warmth and my heart thought that no matter what method I used, I must get Second Master to swallow the noodles. I thought back about how when Second Master was not willing to eat previously, I had even used force.
Ah, but I can’t use that method now since with Second Master’s current strength, he could easily break me. Still, this time, Second Master was exceptionally cooperative, when I pa.s.sed him the bowl of noodles, he quickly ate it. Seeing that he had the strength to eat, my heart relaxed. Second Master stopped after a few mouthfuls, he looked at the bowl and asked in a low voice, “Do you remember how we ate noodles previously?”
I said that I remembered. When he returned late, we often sat in the kitchen eating noodles together. Although these were still noodles, now the bowls were made of jade porcelain.
Second Master said, “In the days when you were gone, I kept thinking about this bowl of noodles.”
I said, “If Second Master like to eat noodles, you can order the housekeeper.” Why would you keep yourself hungry?
Second Master laughed bitterly for a moment and replied, “Sometimes, I really don’t know if you are truly stupid or pretending to be stupid.”
I did not speak. Second Master leaned on the bedside and said lightly, “Last year, I was on a trip to Jiangsu when I encountered a huge rainstorm. The merchant group was trapped in the mountains and not able to leave.” I did not know why Second Master suddenly spoke of this to me but I quietly listened.
Second Master slapped his leg and looked at me, he said, “At that time, my bamboo pole was gone and I had to walk bare. At night, when we hid in the caves, it was so cold that it could take our lives. The group was worried that we would just die like this so we conversed with each other to bolster our morale. At that time, the person next to me asked, ‘You are already like this, why did you come out?’ I told him that I came out to earn money. That person laughed and said, ‘That’s true. If it was not for money, who would be willing to suffer the difficulties of traveling far.’ I then told him that I came out to earn money, but it was not for money. He asked me what I meant…”
As Second Master recalled the incident, he lightly stroke his leg and his voice was very calm. “I told him, after I lost my leg, I reflected on my life and felt that there was no more meaning and had intended not to live anymore. But one day, I suddenly realised that there was still one person in this world who was willing to risk her life for a disabled man like me. But that person was stupid to death, so I thought again, if I just died like this, what would happen to her?”
“To be treated like a treasure by a useless man, was still useless. So I told myself, I must rise up, become a man standing above men. Even thought I was only half a man now, I had to raise her up.”
“I was willing to bear any difficulties, I stayed outside under the stars and moon, ate in the wilderness, drank the cold wind and swallowed the sand, but just as long as I thought of her enjoying life in Hangzhou, my heart was comfortable and I could continue on my journey.”
I did not know when but Second Master’s eyes had reddened, so red that I did not dare to give him another look. “Little Monkey……” He pulled my hand, bent his waist and asked beside my lowered face, “Do you know what I regret most in this life?”
I forcefully shook my head, I did not know, I did not know anything. Second Master answered in a trembling voice, “That I didn’t remember you.”
Second Master pulled my hand and placed it on his chest. His hot tears rolled onto my wrist and I felt like my heart was being pressed so unbearably that I wanted to die. “Master is most regretful that I did not remember you.”
He took my hand to beat his chest again and again. “You stayed in my courtyard for two years, and yet I actually cannot remember you. I can even remember how many fake hills and ponds I had in my courtyard, but I cannot remember you. The only person in my life that did not forsake me, and yet I could not remember her. Tell me, are you lying to me, did you really stay in my courtyard?”
I suddenly felt so indignant that I wanted to die. I burst into tears, “I did not lie to you. I stayed! I stayed –!” Second Master hugged me in one go and said in a low voice, “You didn’t lie to me, I know you didn’t lie to me. Now, my comeuppance has arrived. Previously when I had you, I did not see you. Now that I wanted to see you, you want to leave. Little Monkey, do you want Master to go on living?”
I continued to wail. Second Master smelled very good – clean and a little warm. I cried for half a day and fell asleep in Second Master’s embrace. When I woke up, I realised that Second Master had also fallen asleep. His body leaned sideways with his arms around me.
When I moved just a little, Second Master’s grip tightened and his eyes opened. I was only a little inexperienced monkey, this was the first time I had woken up in a man’s embrace. I struggled to try and preserve my modesty. Second Master’s arms were like metal hoops and I could not break free. I told Second Master to let go.
Second Master looked at me, his face expressionless as he asked, “If I let you go and you leave, is Second Master to crawl and chase after you?”
I stopped moving. After all, Second Master’s embrace was very wide and warm.
After laying for a while, I spoke in a small voice, “I don’t want to be a concubine maid.”
Second Master gave a soft laugh on top of my head, “Why?”
I said, “A concubine maid will be kicked……” That was what I saw last time.
Second Master didn’t seem to understand the deep meaning of my words, he thought for a while and asked, “Are you saying I will hit you?”
After he finished, he quickly added, “Previously, I did not hit any concubine maids.”
I nodded, “Yes, Second Master only hit me.”
Second Master’s arms stiffened, “What?”
I rose my head to look at him and told him about how he used to vent his anger on monkey me. Second Master’s face completely blackened and he bit his teeth as he said, “Impossible! Impossible for me to hit you!”
I felt that Second Master did not believe me so again I carefully repeated all the incidents. How he kicked, how he pushed, even slapped. Second Master’s face turned even blacker as he listened, his whole body shuddered as he sat up, I saw that his gaze actually carried traces of fear. “So… so you actually hate me right? Because I hit you before, you hate me right……” This was the first time I saw Second Master being so frantic, he turned around and I thought he wanted to take his crutch, but he actually fell forward in one go.
I hurriedly cried out “Second Master” but he had already fell to the floor. I rushed down the bed and saw that his leg was already hurt by the fall. I wanted to go out and find medicine but Second Master pulled my hand, “Don’t go, Little Monkey, don’t go.”
Second Master crouched on the ground, not caring how he looked as he held onto my hand in a death grip. “You can hit me back, hit me, hit me back.”
I finally realised what he was doing. I bent down and supported Second Master’s shoulders and carried him back to the bed. I told him, “Second Master, the previous matters have already pa.s.sed, you should forget them.”
Second Master lowered his head, his expression one of deep pain. My silly monkey brain suddenly had a flash of inspiration, I felt that this was a good opportunity and quickly added, “Second Master, I don’t want to be a maid used for bedroom matters.”
Second Master’s head was still lowered and he answered in a low voice, “Then how about a mistress used for bedroom matters.”
I was dazed, what is a mistress used for bedroom matters? I carefully asked, “Second Master, this mistress used for bedroom matters… how many are there?”
Second Master forcefully lifted his head and glared at me cruelly, “How many mistresses did the Yang Manor have previously?!”
I thought about it and answered, “Only one mistress, only one mistress.” I thought I was making myself more confused when I suddenly realised what Second Master meant.
Second Master saw that my monkey gaze brightened and knew that I had finally understood. He let out a dismissive breath of air and turned his head away. I looked at him and said, “Second Master, your face is so red.”
Second Master turned back and gave me a cold smile. I immediately knew that troubles were going to arise from my happiness.
Indeed. In the next moment, Second Master lightly pushed me down and I laid on the bed like a dead monkey. Second Master came onto me and lightly leaned on my body. I nervously asked him, “Second Master, your… what’s the scent from your body?” Why did it smelt so nice?
Second Master looked at me and said lightly, “The scent of a man.” I did not dare to speak anymore.
That day, I personally experienced what the previous concubine maids had spoke of being “so good one ascended to heaven”. It was really ascending to heaven. But what deserved to be pitied was that I was no longer an innocent monkey. I watched Second Master peacefully sleep next to me, he had kept asking me, when was the first time I saw him but I said I had forgotten.
Actually, I lied. How could I forget that day? He wore a robe of white, sitting in the middle of the hall. His long graceful hands held a cup of tea and he told me, “Lift your head.” I lifted my head and saw he first furrowed his brows then broke out into peals of laughter when he said, “Completely looking like a monkey.”
At that time, the surrounding maids all laughed, but I did not notice it. I was always watching him, watching him all the way up there, as if seeing a G.o.d of one’s heart. Previously, I thought that for a person like Second Master, even after spending my entire poor life, I would not be able to touch even his fingertip. However, later, Second Master became injured and I was able to remain to take care of him. Although it was tiring, at least he had fallen down a bit from his G.o.dly pedestal and I could now touch him.
But who knew that Second Master was so powerful? Ever since he climbed out of his h.e.l.l himself, I thought he would be returning to his original place. Who knew that he really returned — but pulling my hand along with him.
Later, Second Master often asked me to tell him the stories of the past. If I did not tell him, he would be unhappy. But after I finished, he would go to his own corner and be miserable. At first, my heart could not bear this but later I felt that it was very fun.
But, I only dared to tell him about the incidents where he lost his temper. When he didn’t throw his temper, when he quietly glided pa.s.sed my face, I never dared to tell him about these.
Because I was afraid once I said these, some things could no longer be hidden.