Yu Bohao brought Ran Yan to a tea room near the side hall. Ran Yan felt that the air outside was good, so she did not enter.
After standing quietly in the corridor for a little while, Yu Bohao suddenly asked, “You’ve previously said that Official Yang was alive for a period of time after being attacked with the needle. Is there any possibility that he could have left some evidence behind?”
Ran Yan glanced at him and said slowly, “The brain suffered a fatal injury, basically losing the ability to move. Saying that he was alive, only the body still lived. This period of time is the inevitable, gradual slipping away of life."
Ran Yan lifted her head to look at the Great Tang’s night sky, remembering her transmigration, could not help adding a sentence, “But everything has an exception, Official Yu can examine the crime scene again.”
Yu Bohao nodded, “I still have some official business. If Seventeenth Miss has any issues, you may send a runner to call for me.”
“Please feel free.” Ran Yan nodded slightly, before continuing to view the night sky.
Countless twinkling stars, she could clearly see the Milky Way cutting across overhead like a band. Ran Yan had not lifted her head to look at the starry sky in a long time. For a long time, her world was only filled with the blood and flesh of human bodies, the incandescent illumination of surgical lights, working without sleep or rest, nothing else in her life other than autopsies. She wanted to use this to wear away the fear and hate in her heart, but in every nightmare, she still saw her best friend’s struggle before she died.
She was a forensic doctor, every single wound on the corpse were all telling her about the desperate situation of that time. She could infer every single movement of resistance her best friend made, as well as the assault and violations those beasts exerted on that body. Every time these scenes played in her dreams, as if it were reality, but she could only watch helplessly.
After standing quietly for a long time, the people in the side hall started to walk out one after another. With a pale complexion, Eighteenth Miss followed behind Ran Wen. Obviously she had been deemed innocent and released.
Ran Wen saw Ran Yan’s figure, altered his course and walked towards her direction. With him were Ran Meiyu and two other men in traditional Chinese clothing.
“Ah Yan.” Ran Wen’s voice sounded a little tired.
Ran Yan walked down the corridor, and curtsied slightly to him, “A’ye.”
“You are really Seventeenth Miss?” The middle-aged man beside him looked astonished. “Two years ago you were still a little girl who was unbearably thin and weak, your features indistinguishable. You’ve actually grown up so beautifully! Everyone says a girl changes extensively from a child to adult, indeed it is true!”
Ran Yan looked at that person. Wearing an incomparably gorgeous circular patterned dark brown Chinese garment, a cap on his head, a jade pendant hanging from his waist, he was a gentle and cultured fatty. His appearance was three or four parts similar to Ran Wen, he should be an uncle of some sort. However, there was no one like that in her memory.
“Haha, Ah Yan does not recognise Third Uncle anymore? That’s right, two years ago I was still a jade tree in the wind like your father. But in recent years I’ve gained a little weight.”
The fatty said laughing.
Third Uncle? Ran Yan immediately found the corresponding person in her memories, Ran Wen’s concubine-born younger brother, Ran Pingyu.
Ran Pingyu was a person who had an extremely good head for business. He was the richest person in Suzhou, but mainly stayed in Chang’an. As he was responsible for all the Ran clan’s expenses, therefore he was able to possess a fixed status in the clan. In Ran Yan’s memory, he could be considered as the only person who truly cared for her in the Ran clan.
“Third Uncle.” Ran Yan’s voice was a little warmer.
Ran Pingyu went forward and carefully observed Ran Yan, chuckled and said, “I have been away all year round. When I just arrived I heard you were sent to the estate to recuperate from illness, I even wondered if there was some story behind it. Now that I see that you’re fine, my heart is also at ease.”
Ran Pingyu was an experienced person. If he had really felt that there wasn’t a story behind it, he definitely would not carelessly say these words and make his elder brother unhappy. His words containing special meaning, made Ran Wen’s expression sink.
Ran Yan closed her eyes. The situation evolving to this extent, she really did not know if Madam Gao’s methods were brilliant, or the original Ran Yan too weak! Looking at Ran Pingyu’s loving smile, she sighed in her heart, actually the original Ran Yan had already long perished and died.
Ran Wen did not have any good feelings towards this concubine-born brother of his. Wasn’t it just coming out with some money? The clan elders actually viewed him in a new light! Was a Chang’an merchant not still a merchant? Equally as low! Equally as materialistic! If it were not because a’ye emptied out the family wealth in order to marry in a concubine-born daughter from Xingyang’s Zheng clan, how could he have a chance to ingratiate himself!
Suppressing a chest full of anger, Ran Wen said indifferently, “Let’s go.”
The Ran clan of that year had already declined, and only had wealth and nothing more. The old family head with difficulty managed to arrange a marriage with Xingyang’s Zheng clan by relying on his connections. Money still could be earned back, but once a clan’s reputation declined, no matter how much you wish to redeem it, it would be a hundred-fold more difficult! However, this principle would never understood by the short-sighted Ran Wen.
They exited the prefectural office silently. The young man in traditional Chinese clothing who was with Ran Pingyu approached Ran Yan and said quietly, “Ah Yan, do you still recognise Tenth Older Brother?”
Tenth Master Ran was Ran Pingyu’s legitimate son, his name was Yunsheng. He was about seventeen or eighteen years old, his lips red and teeth white, his lotus face like spring flowers and the dawn moon, his expression cheerful and relaxed, as bright and fresh as the early oriole bird on the spring willow, his handsome looks intimidating.
Ran Yan was slightly startled. Just now he did not speak a word, his head bent down slightly, she did not realise that there was such a stunning man next to her.
“Of course I remember. When we were young, Tenth Brother often brought fun things for me to play.” Ran Yan lowered her head and said softly.
Ran Yunsheng burst into a smile, exposing his pearly white teeth, bright and beautiful without compare, attracting the covert gazes of the surrounding young men from the Yin clan.
Ran Yunsheng sped up a little,
little, and said to Ran Wen, “Eldest Uncle, I have not seen Ah Yan for two years and missed her dearly. Why don’t you allow me to send her back to the estate.”
People always have a kind of tolerance to beautiful things, even though Ran Wen did not like his concubine-born younger brother, and extremely disliked Ran Yunsheng excessively gorgeous appearance that leant of the side on feminine, but he still could not resist a single smile from him.
Ran Wen was dazzled by Ran Yunsheng’s smile. He lowered his gaze slightly and said, “Go, be careful on the road.”
Ran Meiyu glared fiercely at Ran Yan, hating that she could not tear open her bones and flay her skin. Females like good looking men, even though Ran Yunsheng was their elder brother, but it did not block that kind of desire to monopolise. However, Ran Wen’s mood was unhappy right now, so she did not dare to act impudently.
Ran Yunsheng spoke briefly with Ran Pingyu before bringing Ran Yan to another carriage. After waiting for the runner to call Shao Ming over, the carriage slowly started moving.
“Ah Yan should be tired now.” Ran Yunsheng looked at the faint exhaustion in Ran Yan’s countenance, and felt his heart ache a little for her. He had been staying in Chang’an all along, only returning every 2-3 years. When he was in Chang’an, he was completely unaware that Ran Yan had any illness, and only found out when he returned that she was actually sent to the estate to recuperate. The shenanigans behind this, a’ye knew, he also could guess.
Ran Yan’s impression of this gentle and good looking elder brother was not bad, moreover in her memories he treated her very well, thus smiled and said, “I’m alright.”
Ran Yunsheng saw that she smiled, only did his heart become somewhat at ease, “Your return letters were always just a few sentences, and did not speak of your own situation. I even thought that you resented that I did not come back to visit you at the end of last year.”
“Letters?” Ran Yan was startled for a moment, “I did not receive a single letter these two years.”
“What?” Ran Yunsheng’s beautiful face was stunned, before swiftly turning into anger, “Madam Gao really goes too far in bullying!”
Looking at his cheeks flushed in anger, bright like rosy clouds, beautiful beyond compare. Ran Yan finally knew what was called a beautiful person. Every frown and every smile, every expression of joy and anger were all different beautiful sceneries, and each one making one unable to look away, this is what true beauty really was.
“Tenth Brother, has anyone ever told you, you’s so beautiful you make people want to commit a crime?” Ran Yan said. If she did not add the words “Tenth Brother”, this would be blatant flirting.
Ran Yunsheng was at the peak of his anger, suddenly hearing her teasing him, he could not help laughing heartily. These were jesting words, yet Ran Yan asked them so seriously and solemnly, the comedic effect rose by another level. However, honest to god, Ran Yan really did not mean to joke at all. She sincerely felt that regardless of whether male or female, if one looked like this, it was a dangerous matter.
After laughing, Ran Yunsheng looked a little helpless, “I know that this appearance is not good. Many people say unpleasant things behind my back, but I don’t care. Ah Yan, you won’t disdain me because of this appearance of mine right?”
Who would really disdain
really disdain him? Even though Ran Yan was not partial to this kind of looks, but she still had to admit that all the coquettish pretty flower boys were all muck in front of him. However Ran Yunsheng clearly did not realise his own handsomeness, on the contrary he felt inferior because of it.
“I heard others say, a man looking like a woman, has extremely good fortune. Wasn’t Guanyin also a man who looked like a woman?” Ran Yan had never imagine that she would use Gods and Buddhas to comfort someone.
Ran Yunsheng smiled beautifully, like the moon piercing through the dark night, pure and bright light dispersing out, it was very infectious, even the ice around Ran Yan’s dead face could not help breaking and appeared a little more lively.
Throughout the journey, Ran Yunsheng told Ran Yan many interesting stories about Chang’an, only then did Ran Yan lift open and touch the tip of the iceberg of the all-embracing grandeur of the Tang Dynasty. This was also the first time she fully realised that this was the start of a flourishing, golden age in the history of China, the flourishing Tang Dynasty which produced countless outstanding talents.
Hu ladies like flowers, beautiful clothes and strong horses, Ran Yan really wanted to see and experience it for herself.
Ran Yunsheng sent Ran Yan to the estate, and said he would look for her tomorrow to go out to play, thus left the carriage behind and went back to the city with a few prefectural soldiers, riding on horses.
Walking to the courtyard entrance, Ran Yan caught sight of the people filling the courtyard. Wu Xinghe was half lying down on the veranda, his eyes squinting, whereas Sang Chen was pacing back and forth at the courtyard entrance. Miss Xing was sat in front of Wan Lu’s house and sewing clothes under the lantern light. A maidservant was boiling medicine, the rest were all squatting/grinding something with a pestle in the courtyard.
Ran Yan suddenly remembered, Madam Gao had sent over 7 maidservants today.
“Miss!” Sang Chen was the first to catch sight of Ran Yan. He immediately rushed over, “Nothing happened to Miss, right?”
Even though his question was a little extra, but his concern was not faked, thus she did not pick at him, “I’m fine, how is your injury?”
“All thanks to Great Doctor Wu, I’m a lot better now.” Sang Chen's outstandingly handsome face carried a shy and bashful smile. Out of the corner of his eye, he glimpsed Miss Xing walk over with an unhappy face and immediately changed the topic, “I am here to send over the ceramics to Miss. I heard that Miss went to the prefectural office and felt a little worried, so I waited for Miss to return.”
“Many thanks for your concern. How much did the ceramics cost? Later I’ll get Miss Xing to settle the cost with you.” Ran Yan pondered that such fine ceramics would certainly have a considerable value, she occupied Sang Chen’s labour was considered an exchange, but she could not let him pay the expense included.
Sang Chen blinked his eyes, his face filled with bewilderment, “I know an owner of a private kiln, he did not receive money.” After pausing for a while, he humbly sought knowledge, “Does Miss know how much money would it cost to borrow a high quality kiln furnace?”
Miss Xing looked askance at him and replied, “A 10-feet wide high quality kiln furnace would need about 20 silver taels for a day.”
Sang Chen’s complexion turned Chen’s complexion turned sluggish, mumbling, “I will write a few more plaints...”
A plaint was 10 coins, one silver tael equalled to 1000 coins, how many did he need to write in order to afford this 20 silver taels? He still had to exclude those that he did as a favour, for example he had only accepted half a bucket of radishes for Madam Wang’s plaint.
“Since Miss is fine, I will go back first.” Sang Chen calculated silently in his heart, and slowly spoke a sentence to Ran Yan before walking like a ghost towards the courtyard entrance.
Wu Xiuhe also said a few words before folding his arms and strolling back to his courtyard.
In this Tang Dynasty where she had no relationships, there still were so many people concerned for her. A trace of warmth surfaced from the bottom of Ran Yan’s heart. She looked at the servants in the courtyard once again, and felt more at ease. “Miss Xing, arrange things for them to do. Observe them for a period of time, before picking a few more reliable ones to serve by my side.”
Ran Yan’s voice was not quiet nor deliberately concealed from these new servants. After dealing with so many things, Ran Yan was a little tired. After hastily washing her face and rinsing her mouth, she went to bed to rest.
Perhaps she had seen too many old friends today, in her dreams she evoked many things deeply buried in the original owner’s memories.
Every person’s appearance in the dream was incomparably clear, but from the start to end, only the appearance of a girl called “Ah Wan” was blurry. She was still a child who was over 10 years old, her voice clear and melodious, with a trembling voice she said to her, “Ah Yan, I hurt so much… Ah Yan, really hurts so much…”
Ran Yan grabbed her hand, and comforted, “Ah Wan don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid!”
As she was saying that, her hands became empty and she was all surrounded by water. A woman with a seductive body, her face covered with a white cloth, her fine black hair drifting in the water, resembling seaweed, her vibrant cherry red gauze skirt bloomed open in the water like a semi-transparent flower. From all four corners travelled her heart-tearing, lung-splitting wailing filled with resentment, despair, mourning…
 皮囊: literally means leather bag. In Buddhism used as a metaphor for the human body aka one’s outer shell.
 幞头: cap (originally translated as headscarf) see picture
 三叔: Third Uncle (father’s younger brother)
 玉树临风: lit. jade tree facing the wind, meaning a person who is young and has outstanding appearance and talent.
 香消玉殒: fragranced vanished and jade perished.
 春花晓月芙蓉面: lit. 春花: spring flowers; 晓月: waning moon at daybreak; 芙蓉面: lotus face (usually used to describe a beautiful woman’s face).
 濯濯: can mean fat/bright/fresh/clear
 明若云霞: the red clouds during sunset/sunrise
 观世音菩萨: Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion or Goddess of Mercy (Sanskrit Avalokiteśvara). Commonly depicted as female in modern times, but supposed to be genderless.
 胡姬如花: often refers to young women who sold alcohol in wine houses. In Chang’an there were many beautiful Hu women (foreigners from the north or west) who sold alcohol, this phrase was used in a poem by a famous poet.
 鲜衣怒马: meaning extravagant/luxurious clothing
 多余: extra/superfluous. Meaning that he asked an unnecessary question.
 负手: no idea what this means…
 无亲无故: lit. no relatives/friends and no enemies.
 故人: old friends, but can also mean the deceased or one's former wife.