Don’t Be a Kept Man
Chapter 41: There is Karma in This World
The mistress of Guo Gong passed away early and there was only one concubine, from Xie Yan Ping’s youth, that lived in the estate.
But she was unfortunately someone who stayed on the downlow, usually keeping to herself and following the rules, rarely stepping out of her courtyard.
Third Master Xie was also a person who could not be counted on as he was not a person that could step up.
Hence, now that Xie Yu Zhi was being punished to kneel, there was no one who would come and persuade Guo Gong to reconsider.
The night was dark and the trees were rustling in the wind.
With the moon hanging high up in the sky, it looked like there was a layer of silver on the branches and even the cobblestone ground was shining with glimmers of colour.
It was no doubt beautiful scenery to look at, but it was definitely not comfortable to kneel on top of.
A young maid was nearby holding on to a soft cushion, crying and begging for Second Master Xie to lessen the discomfort on his knees, but Xie Yu Zhi’s eyes were closed and his ears immune to the noise.
Xie Yan Ping, however, shattered a tea cup onto the ground from his anger at Xie Yu Zhi’s callousness, saying loudly,
“Let him do as he wishes! Ever since he was born, he has always acted as stubborn as ever with that bad temper.
Not even a little bit likeable.
Sooner or later that temper will get him into trouble!”
There were people watching with mocking laughter in the shadows, but once they saw the person walking into the Pagoda, they all hustled back into the dark.
“The night air is covered with coldness, which is, afterall, not very good for your body.
Second Master should remember to take care of himself.”
A warm and familiar chuckling voice drifted into Xie Yu Zhi’s ears.
He opened his eyes and discovered that at some point Chen Miao Ping had knelt beside him.
He was at first shocked but then he glowered at him,
“What are you doing here? Come to see what a joke I am?”
“There are so many jokes under this sky, why would I need to come see Second Master?”
Chen Miao Ping didn’t mind his terrible attitude and took the soft cushion from the servant’s hands.
He said quietly and gently, as if coaxing a child who was throwing a tantrum,
“Let’s put this below you hmm? Otherwise my father-in-law would be hurting on the inside if he saw you like this.”
Xie Yu Zhi turned his eyes away in disinterest, facing the front doors of the Pagoda and didn’t acknowledge him.
Seeing him like this, Chen Miao Ping couldn’t help but chuckle, and he placed the cushion to the side.
He thought in his heart that he has never seen someone so stupid, who likes to make things more difficult for themselves? If he was just a little less stubborn and hard headed, he wouldn’t have needed to face this kind of punishment.
But on the surface, he only sighed and said,
“Alright, if Second Master does not desire to use it, then that’s fine.”
Xie Yu Zhi’s heart thought he must be leaving now, but a field of black covered his eyes.
Chen Miao Ping rustled his robe before kneeling beside him once again.
The pupils in his eyes dilated and he coldly asked,
“What are you doing?”
Of course it was to make his father-in-law like him more.
“In the time it takes to make tea, your punishment will be over.
The road back is quite dark this late at night, so Chen Miao Ping will wait here with Second Master.”
Chen Miao Ping smiled after he said that, with a face that was too attractive for this world, even all the maids standing close by were dazed by his handsomeness.
Xie Yu Zhi’s chest heaved a few times before he said without gratitude,
“I don’t need you.
Have you not knelt enough already today? Now leave me alone!”
“I don’t manage you and you don’t manage me.
Just pretend that I haven’t knelt enough today.”
Chen Miao Ping seemed to be angry and didn’t even use his honorifics.
He ignored him after that and only occasionally looked up at the moon, looked down at the flowers and grass as if happy just by himself.
Xie Yu Zhi didn’t know why but after seeing him like this, he didn’t care anymore.
The stones at night were seeped with the cold, and it was absolutely not comfortable to keep kneeling.
Xie Yu Zhi’s leg had an old injury and he would occasionally feel pain strike up into his bone, making it as if he was not kneeling on stone but on needles.
His body began to sway and his shoulders started to slouch.
Upon seeing this the Mo-mo, who was overseeing his punishment, whipped his back with a bamboo stick,
“Second Master has slouched, please straighten up.”
The Xie family was entrenched in the military and their family punishment was stricter than most.
Kneeling must be done in a posture as straight as a calligraphy brush: the waist cannot be bent, the shoulders cannot slouch, and the head cannot lower.
It was enough to make someone kneel to their death.
Receiving the hit silently, Xie Yu Zhi straightened and pulled back his shoulders.
But as he had been bedridden for at least the past two years, the toll from the medicine he needed to take had already wiped clean the strength from his body.
As it was in the dark of the night however, if one didn’t look closely, one would not be able to see it.
Especially given the distance, the elderly Mo-mo was not able to see his condition.
In a moment’s time, Xie Yu Zhi’s breath had quickened and his eyes were about to darken, his body swaying without his control.
With a whipping sound, the elder maid was about to hit down with the bamboo stick again–
But this time, there was no contact.
Xie Yu Zhi waited for what seemed like a long while, but even so, he did not feel the expected pain.
He couldn’t hold in his curiosity and turned his head around.
A hand behind him had caught that bamboo stick in midair.
Chen Miao Ping…
Xie Yu Zhi looked at him, stunned out of his mind.
He then pursed his lips slightly before hoarsely saying,
“…… Let go.”
The Mo-mo also echoed his sentiments and said,
“Gu-Ye, please let go of the whip.
This is a family punishment, a rule set and passed down by the ancient ancestors.
It must not and cannot be changed.”
Her murky eyes locked onto Chen Miao Ping, as if implying that if he didn’t let go, he would have his own share of the punishment as well.
“Second Master’s bones cannot take those hits nor can he stand to kneel for so long.
If Father-In-Law saw him like this, his heart would most certainly be hurt.
Rules are not human, Mo-mo, please show some leniency.”
Chen Miao Ping said as he let go of the whip, and he turned to hold up Xie Yu Zhi.
The other struggled but was scolded quietly,
“Stop rustling around.”
Chen Miao Ping was almost half coercing, half holding him as his other hand smoothly dragged the cushion over and forcefully made Xie Yu Zhi kneel over it.
Seeing this in front of her eyes, the elder maid unconsciously looked towards Dian Yun Pagoda.
From the little she could see of Xie Yan Ping through the semi-transparent carved window, he was stroking his beard as if smiling and then nodded his head from that distance away in approval.
The elderly maid could only pretend then that she didn’t see anything and let it go.
Chen Miao Ping had one hand holding onto Xie Yu Zhi’s shoulders, and seeing his forehead full of cold sweat, he lifted his other hand to use his sleeve to wipe Xie Yu Zhi’s forehead,
“Other people spend their wedding night celebrating in a room with candlelights, but here we are, quite different from your normal celebration, gathering here to kneel in punishment instead.”
Xie Yu Zhi closed his eyes,
“If you don’t want to kneel, go back by yourself.”
Chen Miao Ping smiled and said,
“Second Master is still angry at me.”
After he said that, the hand on Xie Yu Zhi’s shoulders began to slide downwards.
Ignoring his light struggles, Chen Miao Ping held his hand and explained with a half truth and a half lie,
“I was born into a poor environment and seeing Chun Qiao reminded me of some past memories and feelings.
I let her enter into the estate as a servant as a result of my own memories, but how was I supposed to know that she had those kinds of thoughts in her mind? Today my head wasn’t thinking straight, drunk out of my mind, dazed and confused.
Somehow, in the end, I found myself with her in a room.
If I said I had another heart, that is absolutely a lie.”
Xie Yu Zhi furrowed his eyebrows slightly from his words.
Chen Miao Ping then said it more viciously,
“If I was really fooling around with that maid and betrayed Second Master, then I curse myself to be hit with lightning, to never die a good death.
Once I die, my body will be eaten and torn apart by wild dogs, never to have a burial site to rest at.”
Humans in ancient civilizations believed in all sorts of myths and legends and this kind of curse was not easily said out for fear of it becoming true.
Chen Miao Ping’s curse on himself was vicious enough that Xie Yu Zhi believed it with only the slightest of doubts left.
But if Chen Miao Ping wanted him to say anything to signal that he was backing down, then he didn’t know how to say it.
Meeting Chen Miao Ping’s eyes, Xie Yu Zhi became silent and after a while started to move.
First it was a slight lift of his knees and then it was the soft cushion beneath him being thrown over at Chen Miao Ping.
This could be considered as a positive indication.
Chen Miao Ping thought to himself that when he came here, he was already prepared.
His knees had been tied with something as a buffer underneath his robe, so he was not in one bit of pain.
And instead, he put the soft cushion back below Xie Yu Zhi’s knees.
With this gesture of care, it softened the hearts of all the maids nearby,
“Don’t worry about me.
My flesh is hard enough to take this, and it’s not that long of a time to kneel.”
He pulled his hand away from the cushion but his wrist was suddenly grasped by Xie Yu Zhi.
With a look of confusion on his face, he raised his head to look at him.
Xie Yu Zhi’s eyes were staring at the ground and his voice lowered slightly in tone,
“I am the type of person that does not care about reputation.
I will believe you this time, but in the future if you do anything like this again, even if I have to exchange my life, I will mash you into a million pieces of flesh……”
Chen Miao Ping thought in his heart that he was not going to be as stupid as the original body.
Even if I do such a thing, how could I let you find out?
But on the surface, he nodded his head solemnly and said,
“If ever such a day appears, then Miao Ping will let Second Master do with him whatever Second Master wants.”
The more he cursed himself, the easier it was, almost as if it was just as easy and common as eating a meal.
The heavens won’t believe it and Chen Miao Ping himself did not believe it.
But Xie Yu Zhi believed it.
Although the other said nothing, Chen Miao Ping could feel the pressure on his wrist lighten up and he couldn’t help but chuckle quietly.
He thought Xie Yu Zhi was too easily deceived.
With just a few sweet words, he was already coaxed into confusion.
Hearing the wood chime at night, one of the elder maids came forward and reminded them,
“Second Master, Gu-Ye, time is up.”
Hearing this, Chen Miao Ping relaxed on the inside.
If they were to keep kneeling, even with the padding, his legs would become numb.
He placed his hand on Xie Yu Zhi’s waist and used a little force to pull him up.
He said with a low voice,
“Let’s go, let us go back now.”
Xie Yu Zhi had never let anyone support him.
The last servant that dared to do this was immediately sold out of the estate.
But this time with Chen Miao Ping supporting him, one could not find a single disapproving expression on his face.
The head maids of Qu Feng Courtyard, Ren Dong and Fu Ling, were waiting for them just outside with lanterns in their hands.
Seeing them hold each other while coming back, they were first stunned and then happy as it must mean that they made up and were back together again.
They quickly went forward to walk on either side of the pair and lit the road back for them.
“Second Master, Gu-Ye, hot water has been prepared for bathing.
These maids will wait outside for your call to service your hair.”
Chen Miao Ping ordered them,
“Remember to find some medicine to revive the blood circulation of Second Master’s legs.”
Fu Ling couldn’t help but smile.
Qu Feng Courtyard didn’t have much, but medicine for such a thing, they have the most, perhaps even more than the doctors at the Imperial Palace.
She bowed and said,
“Yes Gu-Ye, this maid does not dare to forget about it and has already prepared some.”
Chen Miao Ping then retrieved his gaze and said to Xie Yu Zhi quietly,
“Second Master does not like having others nearby while bathing, but one person is afterall not very convenient.
I will wait outside by the door.
If there’s anything you need, remember to call for me, hmm?”
His eyes were as clear as a beautifully crafted jade piece and the last word was spoken with such indulgence and gentleness that it made him look so alluring, so handsome and so attractive, as if all his love was pouring out at this very moment.
Ren Dong and Fu Ling were dripping with honey on the inside, thinking, how could there be such a charming and perfect man in this world?
He paused and blinked at Chen Miao Ping’s words but didn’t turn to look at him.
He didn’t even move his head to reply,
“If you are worried, then come along inside.”
This then immediately made Chen Miao Ping pause, and in response he turned around to close the doors behind them.
When they stepped into the inner section at the back of the room, he could see a bathtub carved out of white jade stationed in the middle with beautifully drawn artwork partitions on the side.
Faint steam was emitting upwards, making it hard to see through the room.
The entire atmosphere was as if they stepped into a fantasy world, into a paradise.
Xie Yu Zhi undid his waist belt and dropped it on one of the partitions.
He then took off his red outer robe, leaving only the black under robe on when he felt a cold breeze slide through his back.
His eyebrows immediately stiffened at the touch of a hand on his shoulder.
Reflexively grabbing onto the wrist of that hand, he flipped around and twisted his other hand to slide along to the body of the hand.
Chen Miao Ping subconsciously struggled and as Xie Yu Zhi was not in a stable position, they both fell into the water.
“Second Master, it is me.”
Chen Miao Ping popped out his head from the water noisily, making lots of splashes.
He could not swim, so he choked a few times and kept struggling until Xie Yu Zhi used with some force to grab his shoulder and pull him up.
Chen Miao Ping leaned on him to steady himself and patted his chest frantically from fear.
As if he had a smile in his voice, Chen Miao Ping said,
“Second Master has good skills.”
Xie Yu Zhi’s clothes were soaked to the core and his inky black under robe was clinging onto his skin, contrasting sharply with his pale white skin.
With his lips as red as blood, he was beautiful in a weirdly terrifying way.
Hearing Chen Miao Ping say that, the corners of his eyes squinted upwards and he asked him back,
“Do I not have a name?”
Chen Miao Ping said,
“I have called Second Master too many times that I am too used to that title.
It will be hard to change it so fast.”
Xie Yu Zhi nodded but didn’t speak, which could be considered as acceptance.
Upon this approval, Chen Miao Ping said,
“Then Second Master please take the time to wash up.
Miao Ping will wait behind the partitions.”
He then turned around and was about to step out of the pool when he was suddenly pulled back by Xie Yu Zhi by his robe collar.
Another round of splashes and he could hear the other’s displeased voice saying,
“You fell into the pool with the clothes you are wearing now and your shoes aren’t even off.
And you want me to keep using the water in this bath?”
Chen Miao Ping replied,
“Then Miao Ping will ask Second Master to please wait for a little bit while Miao Ping calls for the maids to change the water.”
Xie Yu Zhi lightly laughed,
“I’m not in that much of a rush, what are you rushing for?”
And then dragging Chen Miao Ping by the collar, pulled him to stand in front of him.
His dark eyes stared at him before saying,
“Today should have been a good day, but that worthless servant has displeased me, ruined what was supposed to be a good day.
You and I have bowed towards the sky and ground, drank the He Jin Wine1, but the one thing we have not gone through is the bridal chambers ceremony to complete our wedding night.”
And who said they were not rushing?
Chen Miao Ping slowly smiled and reached out to wrap his arms around Xie Yu Zhi’s waist.
He pushed the other towards the edge of the bathtub saying,
“It is my fault that I made Second Master unhappy……”
His eyes were like the numerous cherry blossoms blooming in March, looking like his outpouring love radiated from his whole being.
His warm fingers stroked gently across Xie Yu Zhi’s eyebrows and then stopped by his lips, asking,
“Then what if we complete our wedding rituals now?”
Xie Yu Zhi said,
“That is natural of course.
If we don’t, how are we to be considered husband and wife?”
In the olden days, the people held rituals in higher regard, believing in myths, of specific days of luck.
All wedding rituals must be completed on the same day, and not even one step can be missed.
Chen Miao Ping has seen too many films and shows, almost as if they were etched into his mind, and he knew what he should do.
He smiled as he heard this and clutched Xie Yu Zhi’s chin.
Slowly moving down, he lightly kissed him, so gentle that it made their hairs curl as if they were just shocked.
Xie Yu Zhi normally was a headstrong individual, but at this time, he had no other thoughts clouding his mind.
At this moment, he could only hear the water splashing furiously as he tightened his arms around Chen Miao Ping’s neck in a deathly squeeze.
His eyes were lost in a daze and reddened, body shaking and shivering, clawing down his hands on Chen Miao Ping’s back, leaving a trail of marks behind.
Chen Miao Ping couldn’t help but take in a cold breath and bite hard on his lips in revenge, making those already blood red lips even redder.
The splashing and whooshing sounds of the water turned the temperature from steaming hot to just above cold.
Time passed slowly before the sounds inside finally slowed to a halt.
They were in there for so long that Ren Dong and Fu Lin’s legs had become so numb from standing outside in that period of time.
Chen Miao Ping held onto Xie Yu Zhi’s weakened body and made small hickeys one at a time on his pale white neck,
“Is Second Master satisfied with the completion of this marriage ritual?”
Xie Yu Zhi did not respond and only grasped tightly on his shoulders, hoarsely saying,
“Tonight we cannot fool around too long.
We have to pay our respects to my older sister at the imperial palace tomorrow.”
Older sister? Chen Miao Ping contemplated this for a while and then realized it should be that Imperial Noble Consort of Brightness.
He smiled and nodded his head,
“Alright, then let me hold Second Master up.”
Xie Yu Zhi smiled with satisfaction from his response.
He was liking Chen Miao Ping the more he looked at him and thought that he did not pick his husband in error.
He pinched Chen Miao Ping’s chin and said,
“You will soon be heading into Han Lin Academy2, which is all just chores for the administrative officials and scholars.
There’s no meaning to the work.
I’ll let my elder sister find you a better position tomorrow.”
Chen Miao Ping thought that his partner was most definitely the perfect match for him and was about to answer.
But before he could even say “alright”, his brain suddenly rang a warning and a mechanical voice spoke up,
[ Ding! ]
[ My dear host, oh I hope you are doing well.
You must know that troubles will come out of mouths and your action is about to go against the system’s rules.
The first time you will receive a warning, the second time will be a serious warning and the third time we will start to take away life points.
Please treasure this second chance at life.
[ The galaxy’s strongest self reliant system has been activated, and our ultimate mission is to be self sufficient, to be self reliant, and to always reject being a kept man.
My dear host, please use your own hard work and your own hands to create your own results, as that is the sweetest and most beautiful thing one could achieve! Let us become strong!!! ]
Chen Miao Ping: ……
*1 He Jin Wine (a wine that can be taken as “unite together”): There’s different variations in how the ritual is done, as is always with tradition, but it’s basically a marriage couple consuming a wine that’s bitter (made from a fruit called Calabash) on their wedding night (sometimes with special wine cups that are shaped like the fruit), to signal that they will share the happy and the bad, come together as one to go through any suffering.
*2 Han Lin Academy: can be considered as Imperial Academy, in which it holds together a group of literary scholars/officials that compile literary works together, historical scrolls and so forth, or things relating to documentations and writing of the literary arts, sanctioned by the imperial palace
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