Noble Daughter | Chapter 22: Nouveau Riche

Chapter 22: Nouveau Riche

Five hundred taels of incense money is by no means a small sum; it’s simply the behavior of a nouveau riche. However, the people in the capital city look down upon merchants the most; in the capital, people compete based on their nobility and reputation. While in Hangzhou, wealth is admired, and salt merchants particularly enjoy showcasing their wealth, but in the capital, they are scorned as uncultured newcomers.

Are there not wealthy people in the capital? Of course, there are plenty, but they keep their wealth hidden. Haven’t you seen the amount of money confiscated from corrupt officials, sometimes exceeding the annual taxes of the Great Xia Dynasty? Therefore, hiding wealth is considered a virtue.

Families with a background showcase old furniture and decorations, each with a story, received from the previous emperor or some notable figure. This is called maintaining one’s dignity. Only the nouveau riche flaunts their wealth.

However, it’s not that Wei Heng has the mentality of the nouveau riche; she simply believes in being sincere before the Buddha. While others might donate five taels of silver as a sincere offering, considering Wei Heng’s background, another five taels would be disrespectful to the Buddha. Hence, Wei Heng had to find a secluded small hall and donated five hundred taels of silver incense money, only to be seen by Lu Zhan.

Lu Zhan looked at the young girl in front of him, her face alternating between red and blue, finding it amusing. However, he also couldn’t help but think that her casual donation of five hundred taels of silver incense money seemed like bribery to the living Buddha.

Wei Heng wasn’t sure what to do. If she ignored Lu Zhan and left directly, she feared he might gossip about her, making it seem like she was bribing the Buddha. But if she bowed her head to a man who had insulted her “lack of modesty,” she would feel humiliated.

After some consideration, Wei Heng reluctantly bent her knees to Lu Zhan and called him “Brother Zhan.” After all, they were relatives, and Lu Zhan wouldn’t speak ill of his cousin everywhere.

Lu Zhan raised an eyebrow. Just a moment ago, this little cousin of his wore an expression clearly indicating she didn’t want to acknowledge him, but now she was being courteous. However, Lu Zhan couldn’t help but find her change in behavior a bit fake.

Wei Heng had no words to say to Lu Zhan. Her eyes darted from the merit book to Lu Zhan’s face, subtly hinting that he shouldn’t make a fuss.

Lu Zhan understood Wei Heng’s thoughts with just a glance. He couldn’t help but chuckle and said, “Don’t think too much, little girl.”

This comment made Wei Heng feel both embarrassed and irritated. She considered herself an adult, even a grown woman. Yet, in Lu Zhan’s eyes, she was just a little girl. But then again, she was only twelve years old, while Lu Zhan was nineteen. Compared to Lu Zhan, she was indeed just a little girl.

Meanwhile, Liu Hua shi saw Wei Heng and Lu Zhan walking together and hurried over. As the stewardess beside He Shi, she naturally recognized Lu Zhan, the third young master of the Duke Qi Mansion, and quickly greeted him, “Greetings, Master Zhan.”

Wei Heng lowered her head and avoided talking to Lu Zhan, afraid he would accuse her of being immodest again. They arrived at the guest room in the backyard of the Fahui Temple, where He Shi and Mu Shi were sitting together, chatting happily. When they saw Lu Zhan and Wei Heng coming in together, they smiled and said, “Just mentioned letting the two children meet, and they’ve already bumped into each other.”

Wei Heng smiled and greeted Mu Shi, then went to stand next to Lu Yizhen. She and Lu Yizhen were of the same age and were both going to take the entrance exam for the girls’ school this spring, so she guessed that Lu Yizhen had also come to pay respects to the Bodhisattva Manjusri.

The two girls chattered away, and after a while, the temple’s guest monk came to invite He Shi and Mu Shi to have lunch.

Lu Zhan took care of the female relatives along the way, wearing a warm smile on his face. Compared to his gloomy demeanor after gaining high position and great wealth, he was much more approachable now.

But if you think Lu Zhan is easy to approach, you’re very wrong. Didn’t Wei Heng suffer from these seemingly friendly smiles in her past life?

In the blink of an eye, it was the day of the entrance exam for the girls’ school. The various guesthouses in the capital were already fully booked, and this scene was no less grand than the imperial examinations.

Daughters from all corners of the country gathered in the capital. Naturally, only young ladies from well-off families could afford the expenses of the journey and accommodation in the capital, so they were certainly not ordinary people. Just the journey’s expenses and accommodation in the capital would cost no less than a hundred taels of silver.

The entrance exam for the girls’ school consists of ten subjects, and to qualify for admission, one must score at least nine plum blossom knots. However, among these ten subjects, classical texts and essay writing, if passed, can each earn two knots, so as long as one excels in classical texts and essays, one can enter the girls’ school by mastering only seven of the ten subjects.

This shows that the girls’ school places the most emphasis on classical texts and advocates the virtues of chastity, tranquility, and elegance in women.

Unfortunately, Wei Heng is most troubled by these two subjects. Her mind is extremely sensitive to numbers, but she finds memorizing texts somewhat difficult. After memorizing and reciting day and night, she finally managed to memorize and understand the thirteen classics, and now she’s not afraid of interpreting them. But it’s the essay writing that she fears. It’s not like the essay writing in the imperial examinations, where there’s a set format; the girls’ school’s essay writing is freestyle.

Not having rules is actually the most terrifying thing because no one knows what kind of essay the Master will like.

Before the next round began, Wei Heng had already given up on policy discussions. However, for the purpose of assessment, the girls’ school must test both classical texts and policy discussions.

In addition to these eight subjects, which include music, chess, calligraphy, painting, etiquette, driving, archery, and arithmetic, the “etiquette” class is also a mandatory subject. There is no separate examination for “etiquette,” but from the moment these young ladies enter the girls’ school, they are already being assessed on their understanding of “etiquette.”

So, the mamas released from the palace are particularly popular, and they are eagerly hired by wealthy families to teach their daughters.

Wei Heng took the clean dark blue girls’ school uniform from the school’s teacher, went to the compartment to change, wearing only white socks on her feet, and slipped into the wooden clogs provided by the girls’ school. She followed a group of candidates to the Jixian Hall.

Jixian Hall is where the principal of the girls’ school holds a meeting on the first day of every month. The hall is spacious, and now it is neatly arranged with hundreds of desks and cushions for the candidates to use during the exam.

Looking around, Wei Heng saw that all the candidates were dressed in dark blue clothes, their hair combed back and tied with dark blue hair ribbons, which looked extremely unattractive. This outfit was meant to show that the girls’ school valued talent over appearance.

A hot gaze shot at Wei Heng’s face from the side. She wanted to ignore it, but she couldn’t. When she turned her head to look, she saw a familiar acquaintance from Hangzhou, Wei Yaxin.

Wei Yaxin’s father was a poor scholar who remained poor until he died. However, Wei Yaxin herself was like a phoenix in a chicken coop, beautiful and talented. She was one of the few people Wei Heng had ever seen whose poetic talent could rival Wei Xuan’s.

Wei Heng’s grandmother liked Wei Yaxin very much. Her living expenses at the White Crane Academy were supported by the He family, and when they were at the academy together, whatever Wei Heng had, Wei Yaxin had too.

Of course, this wasn’t all due to Mrs. Mu’s kindness. The He family was gradually moving away from the court, but in this world, those who do big business are inevitably involved with the government. Although the He family had married into the Jingning Marquis Mansion, not all places were under their control.

Therefore, the He family adopted a strategy of casting a wide net and focusing on catching big fish. Wei Yaxin was one of the most eye-catching fish, waiting to leap over the Dragon Gate. In fact, the He family didn’t really need anything from Wei Yaxin in the future. They had plenty of money and didn’t mind spending some on her. However, if Wei Yaxin turned out to be a person of integrity, she would naturally help the He family if they ever needed it.

This time, if Wei Yaxin entered the girls’ school, her marriage prospects could be expected. If she caught the eye of a nobleman in the capital, that would be her leap over the Dragon Gate.

Wei Yaxin made a gesture toward Wei Heng, “Miss Heng.”

Wei Heng smiled at her. Because talking was not allowed in Jixian Hall, the two could only communicate silently.

Apart from Wei Yaxin, Wei Heng also saw another acquaintance from the White Crane Academy in Hangzhou, Guo Leyi. She was the golden phoenix of a salt merchant family, lively and cheerful, and Wei Heng got along best with her during their time in Hangzhou.

They smiled at each other, and when they heard the teacher instructing everyone to take their seats, Wei Heng withdrew her gaze.

The test for interpreting classical texts and policy discussions, the two main events, was extremely obscure and difficult, but fortunately, Wei Heng had dedicated her whole life to it and managed to get through it.

The policy discussion was about “The husband is like the sky. The sky is unchanging, so the husband cannot be left.” Wei Heng couldn’t help but curl her lips. Although the sky is unchanging, the husband is a human being. How can he be compared to the sky? Does it mean that if a husband behaves immorally, brings disaster to the country and the people, the wife cannot leave him? Does it mean that if a husband favors concubines and mistreats his wife, the wife cannot leave him? Does it mean that if a husband dies young, the wife can only remain widowed and alone for the rest of her life?

Since becoming a wife and then a mother, Wei Heng no longer believed in these teachings for young girls as she did when she was a child.

After struggling for a while, Wei Heng still couldn’t go against her own conscience and praise “The husband cannot be left.” After completing this policy discussion, Wei Heng felt uneasy and anxious, knowing that she could forget about the two plum blossom knots for policy discussion. She had to pull herself together and prepare for the other subjects in the afternoon.

After completing the tests for interpreting classical texts and policy discussions, the candidates, under the guidance of the teacher, queued up and went to the girls’ school cafeteria for lunch.

Except for the slight sound of chewing, there were no other sounds in the entire dining hall. The ladies who chewed slowly did not even dare to turn their eyes casually, for fear of losing their qualifications in the art of “etiquette”.

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5 thoughts on “Noble Daughter | Chapter 22: Nouveau Riche”

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