Jin Yu Wang Chao Volume 1 Chapter 4
Nian Liangfu’s heart nearly leapt out. He quickly and firmly shook his head. “I hate mahjong the most. It’s too rowdy. There are so many Chinese people and if everyone had committed their time to doing meaningful deeds instead of playing nonsense like mahjong, China would’ve already been powerful.”
Chief Bai was someone who should not be belittled. He was one of great reverence. Just last month when he took over as chief of customs and border protection, he wrote a couple of essays, all of which had been dutifully read by Nian Liangfu.
He had cunningly referenced one of Chief Bai’s essays and to justify why he had the mahjong tables, he cleared his throat, put on a stern face, pointed at his wife, and explained, “I’m ashamed to say this. My wife loves mahjong. We’ve argued over this a few times already. When I came home today and saw the living room packed with tables, I was so angry that I was speechless. Without hesitating, I told the servants to get rid of everything.”
Mahjong was actually Nian Liangfu’s idea. How many bureaucrats had never gambled, never played with women, and never played mahjong? Chief Liao and his officers not only loved mahjong, they loved gambling more. To prep for this party, extra tables had been set up. Nian Liangfu never thought that he would end up shooting himself in the foot.
Xuan Daiyun took the brunt of the blame but because this concerned their future, she didn’t refute it. Forcing a half smile, she added, “I know I shouldn’t have but a few of my close friends wanted to play. As the host, I couldn’t say no. Liangfu, on the other hand, is better. He never plays mahjong.”
Bai Xuelan understood right away and grinned. “Section Chief Nian, you read my work?”
Nian Liangfu turned red. He waved his hands and denied, “No, no, no…”
“Those are only ostensible remarks. Nothing more. You thought that I was being literal?” Bai Xuelan slightly smirked and poetically spoke, “Mahjong is one of the quintessences of Chinese culture. In fact, I play it often. Since Mrs. Nian is a mahjong expert, perhaps I should reserve a slot of my time and challenge her to a round in the future?
He lightheartedly chatted, immediately energizing the atmosphere. Nobody imagined that this new chief with such a lordly profile could be so friendly and understanding. The fear and caution around him dissipated.
“So Chief Bai also likes this. I knew it! We’re all Chinese. How can we not play mahjong? Quintessence, hah! Beautiful description!” Chief Liao laughed, readied himself into playing position, and glanced at Bai Xuelan. “Chief Bai, listen. No need to anticipate. Why wait for tomorrow when there’s today? You can start now. What do you say?”
Nian Liangfu’s heart started to beat normally again. With a look of excitement on his face, he hastily told Nian Gui to put retrieve the “thrown away” mahjong table and tiles and directed him to place it in the center of the room.
Nian Gui then asked, “Mister, do you want the other tables back too?”
Before Nian Liangfu could speak, Commissioner Zhang already shook his head. “No need. It’ll be too much of a ruckus. We don’t want to ruin the chiefs’ mood.”
Xuan Daiyun all of a sudden found herself in a predicament. “Won’t you and the other ladies feel bored then?”
A few of them replied, “Bored how? It’s not often that we get to see the chiefs play. We can take this chance to observe and learn some new skills.”
As decided, the room only had one mahjong table with spectators overlooking it. However, mahjong was not bridge*. Only 4 people were allowed.
With a house full of guests, it was obvious that Chiefs Bai and Liao would play. The remaining two were difficult to choose. Not wanting to offend his direct superior, Nian Liangfu repeatedly invited Commissioner Zhang to join. Racking brains on who the last person would be, the impatient Chief Liao motioned to Xuan Daiyun. “Mrs. Nian, please take your seat.”
“How could I possibly…?”
“Mrs. Nian, you’re the host and the designated challenger requested by Chief Bai. If you don’t play, then you’re not being very courteous to him.”
Bai Xuelan gleamed at Xuan Daiyun.
Xuan Daiyun was a little overwhelmed with the flattery. Nevertheless, she was still was the daughter of a prominent commander and therefore, was used to handling situations like these. Despite being happy on the inside, she remained outwardly composed and ladylike. Her eyes swept across the room and suddenly, her brother was nowhere to be found. Xuan Huaifeng had escaped under her radar when she got distracted.
This party was originally organized for Nian Liangfu to please his superiors. A large sum of money had been spent on it. Xuan Daiyun purposefully called Xuan Huaifeng over in hopes that he could secure his future as well. Introducing him to these prominent people was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and Xuan Daiyun was not about to let this chance escape. She turned to a maid serving drinks by her side and ordered, “Hurry and get Young Master Huaifeng over here. Tell him that I have an urgent matter to discuss. He must quickly come.”
After that, she smiled at the two chiefs and the commissioner, nodded, and settled in.
Xuan Huaifeng had sneaked out when the living room was getting busy. His plan was to see Nanny Zhang before going back to the House. As he was chatting with her, the maid had come over and relayed his sister’s message. “Young Master Huaifeng, Mistress called you to go over. Said it was an urgent matter.”
“Only that it was an urgent one.”
Not know what it was about but unable to ignore his sister, he headed back.
He had arrived at the room entrance, stood on top of the steps, and peered inside. Again, they were playing mahjong. He then silently turned around, ready to leave. Even though Xuan Daiyun was already seated and playing, her focus was not on the game. She was anxiously waiting for Huaifeng and busily scanned the room for him.
Despite being surrounded by rows of spectators, Huaifeng was a tall figure. He also stood on higher ground. With one sweep, she spotted him right away. Seeing him about to sneak away again, she immediately shouted, “Huaifeng! Stay right there!”
Reacting to Xuan Daiyun, everybody then anchored their attention onto Xuan Huaifeng. Nian Liangfu’s mood quickly soured, but because there were guests present, he kept quiet. Xuan Huaifeng, caught by his sister, had no choice. He walked to her side and whispered, “Sis, you were looking for me?”
In front of so many people, Xuan Daiyun felt a little embarrassed. There was no way that she could say that she wanted Xuan Huaifeng to meet the two chiefs and network his way to a position. Thankfully, she was quick on her feet. She charmingly grinned at the men and casually introduced, “This is my younger brother, Huaifeng. He’s still young and just completed his studies in England.”
Having said that, she looked up and gave him a sideways glance. “Of course I have something important to talk to you about. Can’t you see that I’m playing right now? I already lost two rounds. I want you to help me.”
Xuan Huaifeng lightly grimaced. “But I don’t even know how to play.”
“Doesn’t matter.” It was Xuan Daiyun’s turn to pick a tile. Holding one in her hand but not flipping it over just yet, she brought it before his lips. “I want to borrow some of your luck. Help me and blow on it.”
All eyes were on Xuan Huaifeng once again. Embarrassed, he pleaded with her. “You don’t really believe in something like this, do you?”
“Are you going to do it or not?” Xuan Daiyun glared at him, partially threatening him and partially jesting. “If you don’t blow, don’t ever call me sister again.”
Submitting to her, he lowered his head and blew on the tile. Xuan Daiyun then flipped the tile, looked at it, and began to laugh. Looking at the 3 other players, she announced, “Sorry. I really won.” She revealed all her tiles. It was a flush* with a pair of plums.
The bet was bigger this time. It was 10 yuan per tile so accordingly, each person had to give her 120. Naturally, none of them cared for this little bit of money. They all chuckled, counted the amount, and handed it over to Xuan Daiyun. The game was then reset.
As they shuffled the tiles, Chief Liao commented, “Mrs. Nian, your brother seems to be quite the man.”
“You flatter him. Young people shouldn’t care too much about appearances. It’s better if they were more practical.”
“He must be talented as well. Where is he positioned?”
“I’m fretting over this actually. His major is maths but it’s not so advantageous anymore.”
Xuan Huaifeng wanted to leave from this never ending game but Xuan Huaiyun discreetly tugged his pants, holding him there. With the other hand on the tiles, she smiled again and continued, “Back when my brother was still in England, his professors all praised him for being a hard worker and good listener. But when he returned back to the country, there were few who appreciated him, let alone those who could draw out his potential…”
“Great! I wanted to borrow it as well but didn’t know how to ask for it.” Bai Xuelan, who sat directly in front of Xuan Daiyun, abruptly interrupted her.
Everybody looked at him, not understanding what he had meant.
Bai Xuelan pointed at the row of tiles in front of him and clarified, “Mrs. Nian, my play has been quite awful. I hope to borrow your brother’s luck, let him blow for me, and get a winning set. If I do win, I’ll treat you all to a meal. How about it?”
The other two players then understood, loudly laughed, and chirped, “That’s right. That’s right. We can’t let Mrs. Nian take all luck.” “Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair. Chief Bai should be able to borrow some as well.”
“Chief Liao and Commissioner Zhang, what about you? Let’s make it all equal then.”
Chief Liao was someone who knew how to go with the flow. With a wave of his hand, he proudly said, “No need. Just give it to Chief Bai. Besides, if he wins, he’ll treat us. There’s no loss.”
Commission Zhang chimed, “I have a huge appetite so I wholeheartedly agree with Chief Liao!”
They broke into laughter once again. The mood was very merry.
Bai Xueluan didn’t care how they joked. From the very beginning, the corner of his mouth was curved up and his slightly upward gaze was locked onto Xuan Huaifeng’s face. Even though it was subtle, his eyes revealed a different story. Within the calm lied a powerful, oppressive storm.
It was his turn to take a tile but he held it in his hands and didn’t flip. His eyes continued to take in the sight of Xuan Huaifeng who stood behind his sister. He seemed to imply, “If he doesn’t come over to blow it, I’m not going to play on.”
With this, the whole game to a halt. The players and spectators all widened their eyes in expectation and waited. The air became somber.
Nian Liangfu couldn’t let anything go wrong with this party. Seeing Xuan Huaifeng stand there frozen like a statue, he had a strong urge to kick his foolish brother-in-law. He hurried over to tap him on the shoulder. Twisting into a smile, he persuaded, “Come, come. Give Chief Bai a blow.” He then pushed him with some force.
Xuan Huaifeng slightly lost his balance but then found it again and stood up. He glanced up and around the room.
His looks were inherited from his deceased mother. His eyes were big and bright, full of life. Light seemed to follow wherever his eyes moved. Those who were swept by his gaze unconsciously and momentarily lost their focus, wanting to instead look deeper into that pair of eyes. Xuan Huaifeng instantly turned around and headed for the door.
Stunned, they could only continue to stare at his upright, unrelenting back figure.
Nian Liangfu inwardly cursed. Xuan Daiyun, fearing that her brother was too spoiled and could not bear such a humiliation, was about to comfort him, but then someone jumped the gun.
“Huaifeng!” To everyone’s surprise, the one who first reacted was Chief Bai. He called for him and saw that when Xuan Huaifeng had no intention of stopping and even quickening his pace, Bai Xuelan leapt from his chair and chased after him. “Not having seen you in a few years, why do you have to get angry? It was only a joke…”
*bridge: the card game
T/N: But my entire family doesn’t play mahjong? Guess we’re not Chinese then.