Noble Daughter | Chapter 20: Zhenzhi Tower

Chapter 20: Zhenzhi Tower

TL: Yes Heng!Heng! Zhuzhu’er ! Zhuzhu’er!!!

The first couplet is the simplest, with the upper line “Phoenix falls on wutong, wutong falls on phoenix.” Wei Heng thought for a moment and wrote, “Pearls connect and jade matches.”

Someone in the crowd exclaimed, “Good couplet!”

Others discussed, “It’s even more fitting than Miss Wei’s ‘Boat follows the waves, waves follow the boat.'”

Having successfully matched the first couplet, Wei Heng moved on to the second one. The upper line was: “Universal celebration, naturally joyous, joy joy joy, when joyous joy, when joy when joy when joy.”

This repetition of “joy” not only cleverly matched the meaning but also had a phonetic aspect. Wei Heng pondered and, inspired by the sound of wooden signs from a nearby herbal shop in the wind, confidently wrote, “The whole country is ecstatic, ecstatic to the extreme, ecstatic ecstatic ecstatic, understand ecstasy, understand ecstasy understand understand ecstasy.”

The crowd praised her again.

As Wei Heng continued, she reached a couplet that listed various famous sceneries. The challenge was not in the difficulty of the matching words but in recalling enough items related to those sceneries within the short time frame. Fortunately, her diverse reading during her two years in Hangzhou helped her. She wrote, “Shao Ling’s poetry, Mo Ji’s painting, Left Records literature, Sima’s history, Xue Tao’s annotations, Right Army calligraphy, Southern China classics, Xiang Ru’s prose, Qu Zi’s Li Sao, gathering outstanding arts from ancient and modern times, placed in my mountain window.”

“Excellent, marvelous! Simply outstanding,” exclaimed the onlookers.

As the challenges progressed, Wei Heng encountered a couplet with a word puzzle: “The sun sets, fragrance lingers, except for the ordinary mind.”

Someone in the crowd complained, “This couplet is too simple. How can you even call it absolute?”

A connoisseur shook his head disdainfully, casting a scornful glance at the complainer. Indeed, this couplet had some subtlety. If one didn’t think carefully, it seemed easy, but upon closer inspection, the phrase “The sun sets, fragrance lingers” represented the character “he,” and “except for the ordinary mind” symbolized the character “ji.” Together, they formed the character “hu,” meaning “bald.”

It required both riddle-solving and matching skills, all within a limited time. Despite the difficulty, Wei Heng, who enjoyed solving riddles, immediately understood the nature of this couplet. She wrote, “The stove extinguishes, the fire is exhausted, must tie the intention securely.”

The crowd erupted in applause. However, realizing the pun in her last response, Wei Heng might have offended the monks across the country.

As the incense was about to burn out, Wei Heng had successfully matched eleven couplets. She only had one more to go, and the last couplet seemed deceptively simple: “One lantern, four characters, wine wine wine wine.”

People sighed in relief, thinking this one would be easy for Wei Heng.

Yet, Wei Heng’s pen remained untouched for a long time. The crowd urged her to think faster.

“Quick, think about it! Hurry up!”

“Easy to say. Why don’t you come up with one?” someone retorted angrily. Another person scolded, “Don’t disturb this young lady.”

The crowd fell silent, and upon closer examination of the couplet, they noticed a square lantern with the character “wine” written on each side. It was hanging just above the sign.

What does Zhenzhi Building do? It’s just a restaurant that sells wine. It may not be difficult for this pair to match up, but it is very difficult to match them well and wonderfully.

Just when the incense was about to go out, Wei Heng still couldn’t think of a good second line. She raised her head and wanted to admit defeat, but she saw a man holding a clapper standing in the crowd, and the watchers also came to watch the fun.

Wei Heng’s heart suddenly moved, and she picked up her pen and wrote: drums on the third watch, gongs on both sides, soup, soup, soup.

Warm cheers suddenly sounded in the building. 

One of the renowned dishes in Zhenzhi Building is the “Bazhen Soup,” and besides selling alcohol, they also offer this soup. At this moment, it’s already past the Hai hour, and approaching the third watch of the night, making it quite appropriate.

The applause fills the hall.

The first three individuals to pass the initial stage are Wei Heng, Wei Xuan, and Qu Yawang. Qu Yawang, known as a talented scholar, is also a student of Dongshan Academy. However, both Wei Xuan and he only managed to pair eight items, while Wei Heng successfully matched all of them.

Now, the reputation of the Wei sisters from the Wei family is firmly established. With Wei Xuan making an impact, and considering Wei Heng’s outstanding performance, the prestige of the Jingning Marquis’s mansion is rising. Moreover, Wei Heng’s beauty and grace are exceptional, making her the epitome of both talent and beauty. Most notably, at this moment, there is no hint of arrogance on her face, earning praise for the Wei family’s upbringing.

As they ascend to the second floor, they encounter a jar of wine and two specially crafted wine spoons—one weighing eleven taels, the other seven taels. The task is to use these spoons to measure out two tales of wine.

Chang Shengshan breaks half an incense stick, then breaks it again, placing it in an incense burner before revealing the task: to measure the wine within the duration of the incense stick burning.

This challenge focuses on arithmetic. While it might not be difficult with ample time, the brief duration of the incense stick adds a layer of complexity.

Wei Heng pauses in front of the wine jar, contemplating for a moment. She then rolls up her sleeves, revealing delicate hands, and swiftly manipulates the spoons, completing the task in a matter of moments.

“I’ve measured it; please check, Senior Chang,” Wei Heng hands the spoons to Chang Shengshan, stepping aside. She is the first to complete the task.

Before half an incense stick burns out, Wei Xuan also measures the wine successfully. Unfortunately, Qu Yawang falls short in mathematical precision.

Chang Shengshan, with due respect, invites Wei Heng and Wei Xuan, the remaining challengers, to the third floor.

The third challenge takes place at the entrance of the third floor, separated from the lively second floor by two black lacquered doors.

This time, the duration is even shorter—one drumbeat. Chang Shengshan announces the task: tying a single-eared wine cup to the door latch using a rope. The participants must then cut the rope in two places, ensuring the cup doesn’t fall. Skepticism arises among onlookers.

Chang Shengshan, smiling but silent, signals the start with a drumbeat.

The drumbeat, initially slow, accelerates, becoming faster and faster, then gradually slows down. In just thirty beats, the challenge is approaching its conclusion.

Wei Xuan remains motionless, while Wei Heng takes a step forward, tying the wine cup to the latch. However, at the moment the drumbeat stops, a sound of the cup shattering is heard. Wei Heng has failed, and Wei Xuan, who never attempted, also doesn’t succeed.

Chang Shengshan glances at Wei Heng with a sigh, “What a pity.”

Regret fills the room. Despite reaching the third floor, the Wei sisters are stopped at the door. Especially after Wei Heng’s brilliant performance in the first challenge, many expected her to ascend to the third floor.

A collective sigh echoes through Zhenzhi Building.

Mu Jin consoles Wei Xuan, “These challenges are unpredictable; failing one doesn’t diminish your worth.”

However, Wei Xuan’s steady gaze at Wei Heng contains a profound meaning, enough to keep Wei Heng excited throughout the night. Wei Heng, as Wei Xuan’s worthy rival, has finally emerged, no longer just a negligible opponent.

Though they didn’t make it to the third floor, Wei Heng is overjoyed. She reminds herself not to be complacent. Nevertheless, her petty nature almost betrays her, revealing a nearly uncontrollable smile.

As for why Wei Heng chose to give up, it involves considering various factors. She is not a true twelve-year-old girl; Wei Heng is aware of her shortcomings compared to Wei Xuan. If she had outshone Wei Xuan today, others would only see her as surpassing Wei Xuan. In future competitions, she might lose face.

Furthermore, Wei Xuan is like a banner of the Jingning Marquis’s mansion, not allowed to fall. Otherwise, the envious onlookers outside might gossip. They are sisters, and there’s no reason to let outsiders enjoy their spectacle.

Even if she were to win, Wei Heng would gracefully yield. She finds immense satisfaction in emulating Wei Xuan’s graciousness.

Standing beside Lu Zhan, Lu Yizhen expresses her regret, “Brother, it’s a pity for the Wei sisters. They stumbled on the last step. But I can’t figure out the answer. Brother, you surely know, right?”

Lu Yizhen holds her older brother in high esteem.

Lu Zhan smiles faintly, “Your cousin Wei Heng actually figured out the answer.”

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