Chapter 15: Arrangements

It was just last mid-September, that Tao Xinhe remembered when she brought Gu Runing back to her natal home to stay for a few days. At that time, her little cousin-in-law was still naive and innocent, eating and playing with her third younger sister.

Now after only a short time passed, after meeting Cheng Jia, she’s already talking about getting married.

Ji Changbo had no offspring of his own, so he adopted three orphans of his comrades in the battlefield. Civil servants and military generals seldom socialized, so Ji Changbo and his adopted sons had not really interacted with Tao Xinhe.

She only heard about their affairs a couple of times during banquets she attended. The eldest of the adopted sons was called Cheng Jia.

Some people said that maybe the family property of the general mansion would be left to him in the future.

“My younger sister is about the same age as Cheng Jia. The Cheng family has a simple population and a solid family background. Also, the other party is sincere about marrying her. I think it sounds like a good marriage.”

Tao Xinhe concluded, with an impartial attitude, and her voice was firmer now compared to when she mistakenly thought that the man Gu Runing was set  on marrying was Ji Changbo himself. She was a lot more sincere now.

“Since He Niang put it that way, I felt even more relieved.” Second Aunt Gu trusted Tao Xinhe’s judgement a lot so she said it emotionally.

“Congratulations to my sister-in-law for meeting such a good match, second aunt can rest assured. When my husband comes back and finds out about this arrangement, he will be really happy.”

Tao Xinhe understood the woman’s attitude at this moment, and raised the teacup on her hand to congratulate the mother and daughter and express her blessings.

Gu Runing laughed a little, and answered without shyness:

“It would be great if he could be devoted like my second cousin in the future. I heard that generals are naturally romantic.”

Tao Xinhe was poked at a sore spot. She pursed her lips, suppressed the sigh that was about to come out, and didn’t want to answer. She tried to smile instead.

“This girl is too carefree.”

Aunt Gu reprimanded her, and then told Tao Xinhe the intention of her visit today:

“He Niang, I know you are busy about Brother Xi’s affairs, so we shouldn’t have come to disturb you. However, Sir Jichang has a noble family, and also a third-rank lord. Compared to out family… Your second uncle and Brother Lie are not officials in the court, so it’s really awkward to discuss matters with their family. So, second aunt is embarrassed and wants to trouble you to come forward to help. ”

Tao Xinhe pretended that she had misheard, and confirmed it again:

“Second aunt is saying that you want my husband to help cousin-in-law discuss her marriage, and support her engagement?”

Both mother and daughter shook their heads together, then Gu Runing said quickly:

“Second cousin is just a good-looking wood, how can he handle interpersonal communication.”

Second Aunt Gu had always felt empathy for her nephew Gu Ningxi. She doesn’t like hearing people talk bad about his disability and especially in front of his wife. So she hurriedly sent her daughter out for a walk.

Ever since Tao Xinhe got married, Gu Runing had hit it off with her. She would often come and go frequently to visit her. Which made her familiar with the new Gu residence.

Amidst Tao Xinhe’s instructions and arrangements, she pouted and followed Liu Guang to the guest room to play Nine Rings1.

Only then did Second Aunt Gu took Tao Xinhe’s hand, and first praised her nephew’s wife for having soft, smooth hands and having such natural beauty. She then said sincerely:

“He Niang, you know, Ji Changbo’s family has no female relatives. A few days ago, it was Ji Changbo himself who went to our door and propose a marriage for his adopted son. As for me, I don’t know how to conduct myself without having to stutter. But I wholeheartedly want to make a good marriage arrangement for Ru Ning, after all, she’s my only daughter.”

Tao Xinhe responded with a “Mmmm”, then continued to listen attentively. She then quietly suppressed her yawn, forcing a little tear out from the corner of her eye.

Second Aunt Gu sighed and said,

“None of the men in my family are useful. They don’t care about Ru Ning’s affairs at all. When they see Ji Changbo, they turn into a pug dog with a disgusting face. He Niang, you are generous, refined, and well-informed. You are both dignified and decent-minded, and is also the wife of a fifth-rank official. You’re also Ru Ning’s sister-in-law, and I know you have always loved her, so I think it is safer to entrust her marriage to He Niang.”

She was so ashamed by the praise, that her drowsiness disappeared, Tao Xinhe withdrew her hand and touched her face. She felt a little hot. She must have turned red.

She hesitated whether to be self-effacing and shirk away from this responsibility, but Second Aunt Gu’s sincere love for her daughter was so touching.

Finally, Tao Xinhe agreed, to become the woman’s representative, to communicate with the  Cheng family regarding the marriage arrangements.

Although the other party did not have a corresponding female relative, but Tao Xinhe was informed that Ji Changbo himself will personally preside over the marriage proposal for his adopted son.

Besides, even if she doesn’t have the same standing as Ji Changbo, it will be reasonable to use her husband as the background board and complete the etiquette during the marriage discussions.

Tao Xinhe sighed softly then remembered that when she was not married, she single-handedly met with several young men to choose a suitable husband for her second sister, and even discussed the details of the marriage with the male and female parents of the man as the head of the Tao family.

On the contrary, after getting married, she had more scruples. From this, she thought of Gu Ningxi, if he was not face blind and could preside over this, how great it would be!

Tao Xinhe shook her head, while throwing away the thoughts that she shouldn’t have. She was surprised at how she complained about this, because she had always felt heartache towards her husband’s disability.

After discussing her business, Second Aunt Gu smiled and relaxed a lot.

She believes that this capable niece-in-law can help her daughter arrange the three books2 and six rituals3 properly, and she will just follow her arrangements.

However, looking at Tao Xinhe’s brows and eyes with sadness, Second Aunt Gu thought of the gossip she had heard, and asked tentatively:

“He Niang, don’t blame Second Aunt for speaking directly, you don’t seem to look so good. I heard that you took good care of Brother Xi For more than ten days after he’s fallen sick. You have been devoted to him, are you tired?”

Tao Xinhe had already made plans in her mind on how the two parties would go through the procedures when preparing for marriage. She even thought about what details she would discuss with Gu Runing, and which officials and wives she would find to inquire about Ji Changbo’s house affair later. When she heard the question from her second aunt, she instinctively denied it:

“No. Not tired.”

Thinking of yesterday’s affairs, Tao Xinhe touched her face and fell into depression again. Even though she was really angry and gloomy, her husband still couldn’t see it.

Second Aunt Gu observed her words, gritted her teeth, and said,

“I shouldn’t say this but men are all greedy and lustful in nature. Brother Xi had always been a decent person, but He Niang can’t be careless. After all, he can’t see faces clearly, but he can still recognize a woman’s figure. So you still need to maintain yourself. If you can’t take care of your health, won’t it hurt the harmony of your husband and wife? It’s always right for He Niang to also focus on herself.”

Tao Xinhe immediately heard that there was some hidden meanings on her aunt’s words so she asked her about it.

Second Aunt Gu was waiting for it, and finally said that she had heard from a sister who recently visited. That she often saw Gu Ningxi go to a small courtyard where a brother and sister lived.

At that time, the second aunt refuted her older sister, saying that her nephew is definitely not the type of person who would take care of an outer room, and besides, he wasn’t visiting a house of a lonesome woman. Maybe he just came to visit that woman’s brother.

But she didn’t know what to do, knowing that Gu Ningxi’s life was mostly focused on the yamen and the mansion, but he suddenly changed his habits, so she hesitated for a while whether to remind Tao Xinhe.

“Second Aunt is right. My husband told me about this family. He admired that brother’s knowledge a lot. It was a pity that he failed to take the Jinshi examination this autumn, so he went to help.” Tao Xinhe responded with a forced smile, while slowly parting her lips. She quietly then clenched her fists. Her nails dug into her palm, causing her to feel a burst of pain.

I don’t know how many people have known about it. Did Gu Ningxi and Mo Qiqi have such a close relationship?

Up till now, the only one who reminded her about it was her second aunt. Will the other people who knew about it secretly wait for the disillusioned joke of “a couple for a lifetime”?

Tao Xinhe picked up a teacup and then took a sip again as if hiding her emotions. The originally refreshing taste became sticky, no matter how sweet the nectar was, she couldn’t taste it anymore.

Maybe I also need Kuding Tea to calm my mind.

She couldn’t help asking about the details that the second aunt had heard, and secretly compared it with Gu Ningxi’s words. After finding out that her husband had indeed told her the truth in the morning, she was inexplicably relieved.


At this time, Mo Qiqi, of course, did not know that at the Gu Mansion that she was longing to visit, the hostess was not very happy thinking about her existence.

Mo Qi took medicine at noon and then fell asleep. Mo Qiqi sent the doctor to the alley, and thanked him a thousand times, but the other party said that Gu Sicheng invited him to see the patient, so it was natural to give him this face, and he still had a landscape banner painted by him hanging in his house.

Mo Qiqi didn’t understand the doctor’s implication on why he didn’t accept the Mo family’s thanks, so she stopped by the neighbor’s house and talk about “Brother Xi” sweetly.

After hearing all the congratulations on accepting her righteous brother, she felt satisfied, then she went back to her small courtyard. Then she began to worry about whether to make soup and cakes or needlework, as a souvenir for her first visit to her Brother Xi’s house.


A day before the new year, Tao Cheng, a member of the Ministry of Industry, sneaked away at home. When he was dismantling a newly-acquired gadget, his son-in-law Gu Ningxi respectfully opened the door to see him.

When he was at the critical moment of deliberation he was suddenly interrupted, so Tao Cheng naturally turned cold.

Tao Cheng and his son-in-law Gu Ningxi, are quite well-known in the court and are acclaimed  as people who stand by their own abilities.

Gu Ningxi’s special feature is that he is very knowledgeable and has written a lot of books. However he was known as cold and arrogant, with a refined appearance, which makes people spit on behind his back.

While Tao Cheng is obsessed with handcrafting and dismantling mechanisms, and he does not let the living or the dead bother him when he’s in the process of his ‘research’. He can often develop things that are known for being “Uncanny and Obscene”, which would often win him the favor of the Holy One.

In the eyes of everyone, he was regarded as an irresponsible head of the family for having his 14-year-old eldest daughter not marry after her mother’s death. He would even let the 14-year-old eldest daughter take care of the housework for more than six years.

This is what a father like Tao Cheng who is too lazy to take care of mundane affairs can do.

Tao Xinhe used to manage the Tao Manor’s household budget, accounts, people and things internally. She would often receive and send off guests as well, and attend banquets to represent the family.

She took care of her father and younger siblings so that they don’t have to worry about food and clothing, she kept the house spotless, and the reputation of her being a capable and virtuous young lady was spread.

Tao Cheng remembered that back then, the young official Gu Ningxi, who usually didn’t say a few words, suddenly took the initiative to come up to him, then he followed him back to his house as a guest, and within a few days, he came to propose marriage to Tao Xinhe. He was the thief who robbed the treasure of the Tao Manor, He Niang.

After marrying off his eldest daughter for more than three years, Tao Cheng had to reluctantly take care of himself and his two children. It was really tiresome and time-consuming, that he even occasionally thought about marrying someone to become a housekeeper.

Fortunately, before she got married, He Niang had a discerning eye and had already arranged the Hong family Girl for Tao Muxian.

This year, when his daughter-in-law came in, Tao Cheng, felt as if he had been freed of all his burdens. He quickly entrusted her with all the housework. That way he could slow down and focus on his research.

Ever since Gu Ningxi proposed marriage, he has never given this eldest son-in-law a good face, let alone today that his eldest daughter is not present. Now no one is around to dissuade him.

It’s a pity that he stared at his son-in-law for a while, only to realize that Gu Ningxi couldn’t even recognize other people’s faces, and his reputation as an “elm bump” was definitely befitting of its name.

So Tao Cheng had to put aside the small nails and hammers in his hand, and asked him angrily about his daughter’s whereabouts.



We finally caught a glimpse of Mo Qiqi again. I don’t know what to think about her. She seemed to be the typical innocent white lotus.

The nine linked rings puzzle (jiulianhuan 九连环)—also called the Chinese rings puzzle—is perhaps China’s greatest mechanical puzzle. The puzzle consists of a long loop with a handle on one end that is interlocked with nine rings.

The three books are documents used in the marriage process, which can be said to be effective written records for guaranteeing marriage in ancient times.

The six rituals are the six rituals of the marriage process, which are Nacai(Matchmaking), Inquiring Name, Naji(Auspicious Signs), Na sign(Betrothal Gifts), Request, Appointment, and Greeting.