The reader is presented by a question which may arise during the book’s beginnings, it possibly seeming to cross the line of odd, but more happening under the surface. Years previously, Nü-wa, a goddess, fixes the sky, she using a mountain to make “building blocks” and using all, but one which is left near Green-sickness Peak in the Great Fable Mountains. The block, or Stone contains powers, due to having been constructed by the goddess, it able to move and change its size. The Stone is also self-aware, knowing it hadn’t been wanted in the reparations of the sky and feeling left out. During this bad mood, it notices a monk and Taoist walking quite a ways away, but are approaching the peak the Stone is on, the two chatting whilst resting. The monk sees and picks up the Stone, it having made itself smaller, and speaks to it of knowing it was special and planned on etching on it to show others the same who wouldn’t be able to travel there; the Stone was quite pleased. The monk stows the Stone away, and wouldn’t reveal the destination he planned for it, the Narrator not knowing, either.
An unknown amount of time later, another monk passes the same area and sees a rock with a length of text written on it. Vanitas the monk reads about the rock’s origins and how after he’d been brought to society, he’d lived as a human and achieved nirvana, then came back. The history of his life follows, the one piece of information not shared is the era this occurred, a little poem following, which wonders whom would go about sharing its story. Vanitas replies to the rock directly of his feelings on how the story would be perceived without certain details and not making much of a hit, the Stone stating how its story put many perspectives uniquely which would separate its story from those already out. Vanitas breaks it down for it, the risque escapades and depravity of females only supplying interest to a certain sort. Most of its stories involved an assortment of differently themed “romances”, Vanitas continuing to explain why the genre wasn’t a strong one, the Stone defending the possibility it had some redeeming qualities, also speaking of how no part was exaggerated. Vanitas gives in upon a second reading when seeing the Stone’s words were true. Upon returning, Vanitas had begun “in the Void (which is Truth)”, and returns there, deciding to be called “Brother Amor, or the Passionate Monk”, since he’d regained the Truth through Passion, as well as giving the book the new title of “The Tale of Brother Amor”. The book from there receives four more titles through the years, Cao also being mentioned titling it, “The Twelve Beauties of Jinling“, and the title eventually being given its original one back. Regardless of this, the details within, all being based in reality (which is apparently true after having skimmed the introduction), but the characters and occurrences not being vouched for, at the same time.
Many years before, the world angled differently, the city of Soochow had a certain section which was among the richest. Near this area lived a man, Zhen Shi-Yen with his wife, Feng-Shi, the two not high in financial standing, but had respect from those living in the area. Shi-Yen was an unassuming personality with only a daughter, Ying-lian. One day, Shi-Yen falls asleep whilst reading and views a Taoist and monk strolling and chatting. They discuss where the monk planned on placing the Stone to experience life alongside everyone else. The monk explains how the Stone had gotten as far as it had by chance, and had located a fairy. This fairy housed the Stone temporarily and bequeathed it “the honorary title of Divine Luminescent Stone-in-Waiting in the Court of Sunset Glow” (a mouthful, which is why I’m being picky about what to share). The Stone spent its time near Magic River where he began giving water to Crimson Pearl Flower, she partially heavenly, so with this additive, transforms into a girl (the more I read makes me see how Madeline Bassett would adore this story). Crimson Pearl is soon plagued by how she’d return the favor to the Stone, believing the only way would be to live a life together as humans. So, for this reason, the monk was bringing the Stone to where the fairy planned to send the assortment of entities to experience human living.
Shi-Yen believes he is overhearing a crazy rant, then hears the monk say some words which worry him, Ying-lian being grasped more tightly by him, the Taoist and monk then decide to meet up again later, Shi-Yen wishing he’d spoken up to inquire about the monk’s words, but is interrupted by a student – Jia Yu-cun, as Shi-Yen was now near his own door, some background then given on the young man’s hard times. Yu-cun greets him warmly, Shi-Yen explaining his being outside was to calm Ying-lian from being upset, he then offers Yu-cun to sit inside and chat with him, due to the slowness of the day. A servant leads the girl inside as Shi-Yen heads for his office with Yu-cun for tea, soon after, having to rush out for a Mr. Yan having dropped in, Yu-cun entertains himself with looking through some of Shi-Yen’s books, until seeing a girl outside picking flowers, she fetching somehow, then by chance, catching sight of him, she also pleased with his looks. When she turns to leave, then glances back twice at him, Yu-cun takes this as a sign of interest, he waiting only a little longer after learning from a servant boy this guest may be staying for supper, he deciding to go, and when Shi-Yen eventually gets his guest out, decides he wouldn’t be asking him to return when noticing Yu-cun had left.
Later, Shi-Yen goes to offer dinner to the young man after the Mid Autumn festival and supper with his family had been finished. Yu-cun was still thinking of Shi-Yen’s servant girl, Shi-Yen walking in on Yu-cun spouting poetry in relation to her, the two reconvening in his office for wine and food. As they drank and ate, the two become more comfortable with each other until Yu-cun bursts out with more poetry, Shi-Yen congratulating his talent with more wine. Yu-cun then gets serious about his means of acquiring a lucrative career due to travel costs (I feels ya, buddy). Shi-Yen had been hoping this subject would be broached, since he hadn’t wanted to insult him by offering, but now he’s confided in him, he insisted on fronting all cost for his journey and immediately takes care of everything. Yu-cun didn’t make a big deal out of Shi-Yen’s charity, the two having fun until after twelve at night. When they parted, Shi-Yen sleeps in until noon, and upon waking, plans to set up a place for Yu-cun to stay, but learns he’d decided to leave before dawn, so the issue was let go.
Fifteenth Night brought bad tidings when Shi-Yen has a servant take out Ying-lian to look at the lights, and when the man leaves her on a step whilst relieving himself, the child goes missing, the servant searching until dawn and when not recovering her, leaves town in shame without informing Shi-Yen. He and his wife send out a search party, but Ying-lian isn’t found, the two becoming sick after a month or so, doctors looking after them until a monk living in the Temple next door, has an accident with oil and many houses are destroyed, including of course, the Zhens. Shi-Yen is distraught over this misfortune, and had planned for them to move to their farm in the country, but the area had become dangerous, so Shi-Yen sells his land and they hole up with his wife’s father-in-law, Feng Su, whom whilst not happy with how they’d turned up, was comforted by his finances from his farm, he supposed to locate them a comfortable new place, but taking half and setting them up with a crap hut and unhealthy land. Not knowing how to recover his bad luck, Feng Su didn’t make his life easier by offering crap advice and then talking shit about Shi-Yen behind his back, he hearing of it later, and this helping his health get worse, his older age not aiding his recovery.
At some point in the future, Shi-Yen is taking a walk and hears a Taoist repeating some words, as he approaches closer, he asks for the man to clarify, since only hearing two words repeated, the monk declaring the words to be important ones and so had understood enough, Shi-Yen then offers more verses, the Taoist pleased, and Shi-Yen deciding then to accompany the mad man and informing no one. Well after this, his wife hears by rumor and is broken by the information, Shi-Yen not found when she’d sent for updates of him. She moves in with her parents and contributes by quilting, and one of her two maids was shopping when a bureaucrat is brought past, she recognizing him, but not recalling where. In the night, Feng Su is dumbfounded when learning someone from his house was wanted at the bureaucrat’s headquarters.
Yamen runners outside inform a smiling Feng Su, Shi-Yen was being summoned and when Feng Su shares how Shi-Yen had left a year previously to become a Taoist, the runners take him instead, his family and servants in fear of what could be happening. It was well into the night before Feng Su had gotten back home, everyone having questions, so Feng Su describes how this new mandarin, a Hu-zhou named Jia used to know Shi-Yen way back when, and had deduced he’d moved and was tipped off they would know where he was because of the woman, Lucky selling quilts in the doorway, and when Feng Su explains where Shi-Yen had gone, was unhappy to learn of this, then upon discovering what had occurred to Ying-lian, decides to send his own search party, expecting better results, and after speaking with each other a little more, Feng Su readies to leave, and Jia gives him silver pieces, his wife stunned by his story and the night passing calmly. Early in the day a package from Yu-cun is delivered to Feng-shi, as well as a letter to Feng Su to inquire if Feng-shi would allow him to take Lucky as his second wife (how sweet…), Feng Su pressing how significant it was she should comply, so they immediately ship Lucky off, and Yu-cun is so happy, he showers them with gifts, especially Feng-shi, to keep her occupied until Ying-lian was found.
Lucky apparently caught a good turn, since she bore Yu-cun a son fairly quickly, and was upgraded when Yu-cun’s first wife dies. Yu-cun’s progress after finishing school is followed, he getting the position of magistrate of the district fairly fast, but unfortunately, had a bad habit of out-thinking the higher-ups and making them seem foolish, so he was soon given a bad report of conduct, getting fired, but takes the news well, settling his family in his hometown with the riches he’d accrued and beginning to travel. Yu-cun was in Yangchow when learning a Lin Ru-hai was also staying in the area, the man’s background being related to royalty, but his family line dying off and his only son having been lost the previous year. He had a daughter though, Dai-yu, she showing promise and so was educated a bit to take their minds off their son dying. Yu-cun had been ill recently and upon recovering for the most part, realized he needed to replenish his funds, so upon running into some buddies who knew the Salt Commissioner, Lin Ru-hai he was able to secure the position as tutor. Due to it seeming the little girl dictated when she’d be taught, Yu-cun had plenty more time to recuperate, then Dai-yu’s mother falls ill and dies, the young girl’s lessons falling to the wayside in her grief, she also now becoming periodically sick, Yu-cun beginning to take strolls more often to ease his idleness. One day he walks out of town and sees a temple going to ruin, he reading the name of the place and the gate which had a poem written upon it, curious to learn the history of the place, but upon entering, only finding a deaf and half blind monk, whom wasn’t able to answer his inquiries.
So, Yu-cun leaves and heads for a neighboring village inn for some wine, there meeting an acquaintance, Leng Zi-xing, he having a good sense of business and the two admiring the other. Yu-cun asks how he’d come to be there, Zi-xing having been visiting a buddy by chance, the two then sitting and catching up on their lives since they’d last spoken, Yu-cun asking about anything notable happening in the area, Zi-xing recalling a small event in regard to a distant relative of Yu-cun, his family not normally considering themselves a part of the others family, due to their high class. Zi-xing describes how apparently their houses had fallen a bit, the time in which it occurred surprising Yu-cun. Zi-xing states how the relation of how it happened would take some time, he clarifying how they hadn’t lost everything, but there having been the cinching of the belt, inwardly, the main problem stemming from the male progeny not living up to standards. Yu-cun is shocked to learn the families wouldn’t have continued the degree of education they’d been known for, Zi-xing giving background of the two heads of households, the men being brothers, one, Ning’s grandson becoming a Taoist and uninterested in any other matters, he having a son, whom in turn had a son, whom was currently a teenager, his father not taking responsibility and living a life of debauchery and no one willing to snap the man into shape.
The other side, Rong’s eldest, marrying into a well known family and having two sons, after he passed away, his wife surviving him, and his eldest taking over responsibility in title but not doing what was necessary for the household, his younger brother being urged to continue his education and going up the ranks in his field, he marrying and having a son, this son dying young, but also having a son, his wife then having a daughter after, and another son born with a piece of jade in his mouth twelve years later, this being the odd part Zi-xing was referring, Yu-cun unable to argue. This youngest son, Bao-yu had been tested with objects of the family mixed in with different sorts of trinkets, he drawn to the items which were female in nature, his father displeased, but his grandmother doting on the boy. It didn’t end there though, Bao-yu now ten and naughtily clever, the boy precocious, Yu-cun saw this boy’s heritage in a certain light, Zi-xing wishing for him to clarify, so Yu-cun lists good men verses the bad ones, and stating their circumstances, as well as how it related to their current state of living in the world, the state of the world currently on the upswing of good tidings, and how pure humor over “perverse humours” tended to dissipate in certain environments, and on the off-chance the two should meet, being in constant opposition, they sometimes made their way into a human host, then upon this person’s upbringing, excelled in certain areas, which regardless of status, showed itself in some way, he again listing good and bad men.
Yu-cun then relates an experience with a small boy he’d been tutoring whom would also be among the bad, and Zi-xing mentions how like the little boy’s female counterparts, the girls in the Jia family were also good and clever. They then discussed how this family named their girls like the boys, which was unusual, Yu-cun learning his current employer’s late wife was named similarly, Zi-xing offering he research his words, but Yu-cun realizing it must be true with how her daughter, Dai-yu wrote and spoke, she also a part of the Jia family on the Rong’s side. They then wonder who the younger generation would be married off to, Sir Zheng having another son after Bao-yu, from one of his concubines. After which they discuss Sir She’s having a son, as well, and also how this son had already gotten married within the family, to a cousin through marriage, and whilst he helped manage the family estate, his wife overshadowed him in more ways than one. Zi-xing then decides they should continue to drink after their hearty chat, Yu-cun noticing how the hour was getting on and they should walk and talk, so they made it to the city gates before they shut for the night, and right when they’re readying to leave, Yu-cun is recognized and given commendation, as well as being told of this person having fortuitous information for him.
Yu-cun recognizes an associate of his, Zhang Ru-gui, he also having been let go, and this area being his hometown, he sharing how he learned of ex-officials getting rehired, so there being a possibility for himself to get set up with a new position, he sharing this information with Yu-cun and then hastening onward, Zi-xing believing Yu-cun should use his connection to Ru-hai so he could do the same, Yu-cun agreeing, and the two going their separate ways. When Yu-cun returns he makes certain the news was authentic before asking Ru-hai, but when he does inquire, the man was eager to do him this favor, then sharing with Yu-cun of having written a letter to his brothers-in law, Yu-cun’s distant relatives, Jia She and having addressed it to the younger brother, Jia Zheng. Ru-hai then states how much easier it’d be if Yu-cun accompanied Dai-yu to the capital, she not wanting to leave, but her grandmother and father convincing her what with having more female role-models by moving, she reluctantly going, and when Yu-cun arrives, he gets seen by Jia Zheng in good time, Ru-hai’s recommendation on top of his being impressed by Yu-cun’s scholarly nature, helping him get his job back as magistrate in another city.
Dai-yu, along with her maids are greeted by covered chairs from the mansion when stepping on land, they having traveled by barge. She notices the odd quality of servants and watched herself in case she made a wrong move. They were brought to the Rong Guo House, her maids helping her out of the curtained chair and walk through the grounds until meeting some loitering ladies who mention of Lady Jia having recently inquired about her, the attendant announcing she’d arrived and her grandmother greeting her with emotion, Dai-yu kotowing after they’d calmed. Her grandmother then introduced their female members of the family and sending for the children, two out of three of the girls each having a distinct virtue, the youngest only seeming still a child. When tea was readied, the subject of choice turned to the events surrounding Dai-yu’s mother’s illness and death, refreshing her grandmother’s upset, she declaring how Dai-yu’s mother had been her favorite, so was understandably broken up. They then ask about Dai-yu’s obvious health issue, she stating no doctor had been able to cure her, so she only taking ginseng, they then hearing someone loudly pleasant approaching and announcing of being late, a lady entering whom was breathtaking and dressed like royalty, Lady Jia introducing her by a nickname of Peppercorn Feng, but a cousin revealing this was Jia Lian’s wife, Wang Xi-feng, Dai-yu using her given name when greeting her, and after Xi-feng gives her a once over, is quite candid about her beauty and she taking after the Jias, she then offering Dai-yu any comfort she desired and to let her know if someone was mean to her, she also commanding servants to be sure rooms were readied for her servants, she also making certain where the platters of food coming in were set.
Meanwhile, Dai-yu overhears her Aunt Wang discuss with Xi-feng there being silks brought so they could make some clothes for her, Xi-feng having taken care of it, and when her grandmother was ordering servants to take Dai-yu to her uncles, Xi-feng offers to accompany her, she taking Dai-yu by the hand and leading her out, they being driven to Xi-feng and She’s residence. Xi-feng has him called when they enter, but he wasn’t feeling well at the moment, but wanting Dai-yu to feel comfortable enough to tell her family if she needed anything to feel even more at ease and at home, Xi-feng then invites her to dine with her, but Dai-yu knew she was still expected by her other uncle, Zheng, she being escorted by the servants, back to the Rong mansion, Dai-yu seeing an ornate side of the home she had yet experienced, the hall within resplendent with beautiful furniture and scripts on the walls.
Dai-yu is brought to her Aunt Wang, in a side room, she sitting in a chair and brought tea, but is requested to move to where Wang was in another part of the room on some cushions, Dai-yu again refused to sit in her uncle’s place of honor, opposite Wang, but she coaxing Dai-yu to sit near her, explaining her uncle wouldn’t be able to see her today, but having to speak with her of the three girls they for the most part being well-behaved, but her son a major nuisance and of whom should be ignored. Dai-yu then realizes this must be Bai-yu she referred, Wang explaining how due to his grandmother spoiling him, he continued to stay with the girls, so she shouldn’t trust what he says due to his chaotic nature. Wang then receives word it was time for supper, so leads Dai-yu across the grounds, also showing her where Xi-feng lived in case she had any requests, they then going to her grandmother’s quarters, where she resisted the place of honor, but learned it was her because her elder cousins wives wouldn’t be joining them, so Dai-yu goes through the proper etiquette before sitting.
The custom between dishes was certainly new to Dai-yu, they having tea for rinsing their mouths and different tea for drinking. Grandmother Jia then requests to speak to the children alone, everyone leaving, Grandmother Jia inquiring what books Dai-yu was studying (the four books, I presume), the girl asking about what her cousins were reading in return, and Grandmother Jia stating they could barely read and write, Bai-yu then being heard, and when entering, his appearance given (the poetic parts of this story isn’t cumbersome or hard to understand like some, and brings a nice airy description which is pleasant), Dai-yu somehow recognizing him and wondering why, he greeting Grandmother Jia, and she instructing him to visit his mother and return, he off to do as she bid and coming back quickly in different clothes, the boy even getting a song to go with his appearance (Moon on West River as background) and personality, it made quite clear he was a brat. When his grandmother instructs he say hello to his cousin, he assesses her for some time before voicing her thought of having met her before, he then asking her questions about study and giving her a school name, he then asking if she had a jade, she stating it wasn’t common, which Bai-yu has a fit over, his grandmother attempting to calm him as he explains how his cousin, whom was so angelic didn’t have one and questioned it being of good value, quite upset.
Grandmother Jia comes up with the story of Dai-yu having used to have one, but buried it with her mother, this calming the boy, two servants then asking Grandmother Jia where she wanted Dai-yu to sleep, she deciding Bai-yu would bunk with her and Dai-yu would have his place, but Bai-yu convinces she let him stay with the girls. One of Bai-yu’s nurses hears Dai-yu still up after they’d all settled in the tent and asks what was wrong, her nurse explaining how terribly she felt for setting Bai-yu off and would’ve been responsible if he’d broken the jade. Aroma, as Bai-yu named her, or Pearl, makes Dai-yu aware of how this was pittance to what Bai-yu could be like, so she should calm herself and sleep, Dai-yu grateful to hear this and doing so. Early next morning, after greeting Grandmother Jia, Dai-yu goes to her Aunt Wang’s and learns from another family member, Xue Pan had killed someone and need the help of the family, it already under investigation and they discussing whether to have him stay with them.
So, Dai-yu walked in to hear Aunt Wang speak with the messengers of her eldest brother and wife about their Aunt’s family in Nanking being a part of this manslaughter case, and due to Wang being busy with this, Dai-yu and the other girls go see Li Wan, her husband, Jia Zhu having died at a young age, but giving her a son, Jia Lan, now five and already starting his education. Li Wan was the daughter of Li Shou-zhong, whom when becoming head of the family, decided the females wouldn’t continue to receive a higher level of education and focus on needlework, what with a big believer of a dumb woman being virtuous or some shit. Dai-yu is able to easily adjust to life among these ladies, though due to their mild natures. Now, Jia Yu-cun had begun his position as yamen in Ying-tian-fu, the manslaughter case soon becoming a part of his workload, it involving two sides fighter over the payment of a slave, one side getting fatally injured, and so Yu-cun hears first from the murdered man’s side, a worker of this man, whom relays how his “master” hadn’t known the slave he’d bought had been stolen goods, and the seller was supposed to deposit the slave to him three days later, but the seller instead turns around and sells her to Xue Pan, so this man and his master go off to retrieve the slave, and Xue Pan sicks his bodyguards on them, beating his master to death, and Xue Pan along with the other guilty parties have gone to ground and this man has been waiting a year for justice, pleading with Yu-cun to locate the guilty parties.
Yu-cun is outraged by nothing being done, but catches the eye of a door-keeper before issuing a summons, he instead clearing the room, save this man, whom speaks of having known Yu-cun for over ten years, and after a hint of having met at the Temple, remembered him as a young monk, this man deciding to change his career after the fire. Yu-cun then asks why he’d halted his duties, the man informing Yu-cun how officials usually had a manual which listed the most powerful people of their district one would be better off not touching toes with, Yu-cun not having heard of this, and so the man continues why Xue Pan hadn’t been brought in being because of this, the man then showing the pamphlet, after which they hear a ring indicating Mr. Wang had come, Yu-cun dealing with the man, then returning, the door-keeper finishing his chat by stating how many influential people Xue Pan had to help him, Yu-cun confessing how he obviously had to deal with the case somehow, he then presuming this man must know more, which he doesn’t deny and even offers to detail. The murdered man was called Feng Yuan, and he had no relatives when his parents died, he having been surviving off his minuscule inheritance, only eighteen or nineteen years old and gay, but apparently saw this slave and was ready to make an honest woman of her, which is why he’d decided to wait three days to give the impression it was similar to a wedding, so when both sides discovered what had happened, they caught him before he could get away and beat the crap out of him, but the issue stemming from both sides wanting the slave and not wanting what they’d paid returned to them, so Xue Pan had Feng Yuan assaulted and brought home, he expiring three days later.
Before all of this had occurred, Xue Pan was already planning to go to the capital, so he still left with the slave and his family, acting like a pampered rich man would, and leaving the clean up to his help. The clincher, though is whom the slave was, Yu-cun learning it was Ying-lian, which this door-keeper knew, since he’d been a playmate of hers way back, and also knew the kidnapper had a system of raising girls until old enough to sell them, he also recognizing her birthmark. The door-keeper had gotten wind of her presence because the kidnapper rented one of his rooms, Ying-lian staying quiet when he confronted her out of fear of repercussions, then breaking down and admitting she recalled nothing, but this young man certain of her origins. The night the kidnapper had been paid, Ying-lian started talking with him and felt like she would finally have some peace, until she learned of the three day wait, this young man’s wife seeing her to instill optimism, she stating how the future date meant she’d be living like a woman rather than a worker, and how much he paid showing the amount he cared, and not to worry about the time-frame, and her words seeming to have worked, but then Xue Pan became involved, and he not having considerate intentions for her, beating her until she willingly came with him, this young man not knowing whether she still lived, so the fact Feng Yuan had gone through all of this with plans to settle only to be killed was a terrible fate. Yu-cun thought Feng Yuan’s sudden change of sexual interest must mean it was kismet, and poor Ying-lian, so close to being pardoned by her lot in life, only to have her suffering prolonged intimated the same.
On top of this, Xue Pan a man to divide his time with other women, and it being a terrible situation which Yu-cun now had to decide how he’d handle the next move, legally, the young man reminds him how Xue Pan may be related to the Jias through marriage, but Yu-cun already on good terms with one of the family, so perhaps he should make himself even more esteemed to them, Yu-cun noting his newly appointed position being in a delicate area, since it was still so new, but the young man making the point of it he didn’t do his job properly, how would he show he’s truly grateful for it, and no matter what he decided, it dictating careful consideration. Yu-cun takes a moment before inquiring the young man’s opinion, he having thought the next day, Yu-cun should go about business as usual, but with a firm hand, bringing in Xue Pan’s family and workers to be questioned, and the young man would be getting Xue Pan’s people to claim he’d died of a sickness which would then be corroborated by their neighbors, Yu-cun would then get a special table to speak with the afterlife and offer anyone being allowed to come, and proceed by stating Feng Yuan had unfinished business with Xue Pan from a previous life, which he dealt with after death by making Xue Pan ill, and due to this whole debacle being started by the kidnapper, he alone would from there on be held accountable and all others free of guilt.
The young man would then get the kidnapper to agree to confession, and then the people would have no reason to question Yu-cun’s claims. He then would give the Fengs reparations for cost of the funeral, and Xue Pan already being rich, wouldn’t bat an eye about the cost. Yu-cun was entertained by the young man’s idea, but would give it a bit more of a ponder to ensure the public wouldn’t gossip. Yu-cun speaks with the Fengs the following day, the young man correct about they only wanting money and bringing the case to court because Xue Pan had denied them, so he had the Fengs agree to an amount and then wrote a couple letters detailing the issue had been handled. Yu-cun then became paranoid by how much the young man knew, and so waited until he caught him in a minor crime and had him sent to the military, this easing his mind. Next, Xue Pan is followed, his father dying whilst Xue Pan was a boy and his mother spoiling him to the point of damaging his character. Due to his family’s wealth, he loved expensive things and spoke in a snotty manner, and regardless of education, was practically illiterate. He loved gambling and the sights, he also technically employed by way of his father and grandfather, but only collected a paycheck without doing any work. Xue Pan’s mother was the younger half sister of Wang Zi-teng and younger sister of Lady Wang, she over fifty years old now, and as for Xue Pan’s sibling, she called Bao-chai, younger and beautiful, was favored by their father, so was educated and smarter than Xue Pan, but upon their father’s death, she gave up continuing her education in order to help her mother (Is this a sign or something? I feel I’ve read this outcome so often, it’s prepared me for what I have done and must do, again. Ew.)
The “upside” to this was the females of important officials get the chance to be chosen as educational partners for the younger female royals. Due to this, and Xue Pan wanting to experience the grander life in the capital, he had a few reasons to go, which included having his sister available to be chosen and replenish his allowance. So, all of this had been in motion well before meeting Ying-lian and second-hand murdering her seller. Hence, he going on his merry way, expecting to only need to pay a fine which his servants would handle in his absence. Whilst they were traveling, they learn his Uncle Wang wouldn’t be present due to a promotion, which Xue Pan didn’t share he was happy about, since he felt he could now truly let his freak flag fly. Xue Pan then proceeds in convincing his mother they should have somebody make certain the servants of the houses hadn’t let their friends stay, due to how long they’d been unoccupied, his mother not seeing the point of rushing, since they had plenty of time and room. Xue Pan considers how busy everyone will be in helping his uncle get ready to go as they turn up, but his mother reminds him, this was what the Jias were for, but she sensing what his problem was, and even suggesting he go off to pick a place for himself, whilst she and Bao-chai continued to his Aunt Jia’s, Xue Pan acquiescing to her wishes, since he knew he’d be required to stay regardless of her words.
Meanwhile, Lady Wang was calmed upon learning Xue Pan’s case was being handled by Yu-cun, but was apprehensive by her older brother, Wang Zi-teng leaving. So, the news of her sister having arrived with her kids and servants put her back in high spirits, they reuniting with emotion, visiting Grandmother Jia, giving their presents, and then having a grand family get-together during which Jia Zheng sends a note to Lady Wang offerring to have her sister stay in the secluded house with her kids, Wang having wanted to invite them to stay with her, Grandmother Jia wanting the same, as well as her sister wanting this so Xue Pan could have an eye kept on him, believing if he had complete freedom, he’d get into more trouble, Xue accepting the offer and beginning to move them all in. The home was located next to Lady Wang’s, the two sisters chatting daily along with Grandmother Jia, Bao-chai happy to mingle with Dai-yu and the other girls, Xue Pan the only one dissatisfied, to start with at any rate. He still planned on moving elsewhere, but had to agree to stay temporarily whilst his servants prepared another home. Xue Pan’s opinion soon changed upon hanging out with his male family members, they sinking him into worse depths, the patriarch of the family, Zheng too busy to keep everyone in check, he having become the go-to for Zhen, whom was supposed to be the one in charge. So, upon Xue Pan realizing he was in no danger of being reeled in, he and his newfound best buddies came and left when they pleased, their adventures to follow.
Dai-yu had become another favorite of Grandmother Jia, she receiving the same attentiveness as Bao-yu, the other girls holding each other in high esteem and much closer, since they were treated differently. Now Bao-chai had joined them, Dai-yu felt put off by her beauty and how well-liked she’d become with everyone, due to being unaware how personable she was, and Dai-yu setting herself apart because of how serious she acted about being proper. Bao-yu, on the other hand still maintained the attitudes of a child, so had no differentiation between family members unless living more closely to them, like with Dai-yu, he speaking too roughly with her and attempting to make up for it, which she was big enough, or gullible enough to accept.
As this occurs, Zhen’s wife, You-shi invites Grandmother Jia, Lady Xing and Wang to a party, her son, Jia Rong accompanying her, they having an uneventful time, up until Bao-yu decides he’d like a nap, Grandmother Jia preparing the servants to attend to him when Qin-shi, Jia Rong’s wife volunteers to take care of him, Grandmother Jia acquiescing, but Bao-yu immediately offended by the art on the walls of the room she’d led him to, and the phrases on the wall clinching his desire to leave, Qin-shi then offerring her own bedroom, which he agrees to, but the servants shocked by the idea of an uncle sleeping in a nephew’s wife’s bed, but she believing he was too young for the sort of thoughts the servants had in mind, speaking of her brother being around the same age as Bao-yu, he then wishing to meet him, but the boy currently away, and upon getting to her room, is overcome with sleepiness as a pleasant smell assaults his nose, and this room’s art and scripts more to his acceptance, Qin-shi then having some noisy cats on the roof outside attended to as Bao-yu sinks into unconsciousness and feels like Qin-shi is still with him, leading him to a stream near some trees, it looking as if humans had yet set foot there, and Bao-yu completely taken with the place. Then he hears a lady singing out of view, she heading in his direction, the poem which follows showing she was otherworldly, it being the description of the appearance of a lady like herself. Bao-yu knew she was a fairy and smiles warmly at her, requesting she show him around for not knowing where he was, she introducing herself as Disenchantment and she living in the Sea of Sadness, her home being in the Land of Illusion. She also describes her relation to the human world by connection of varying romantic dealings and had gone to this spot for sensing karmic love in the area and was gauging if her services could be given, Bao-yu a candidate. She then invites him to tea at her home, nearby and how she’d written a musical composition called “A Dream of Golden Days”, Bao-yu so overcome by the offer, he’d forgotten to wonder where Qin-shi had gone, he following Disenchantment to her home, Bao-yu curious about the details of her job, which unbeknownst to him, had given access to his body to a demon of Lust, his becoming tainted.
They walk through an area with buildings designated by certain themes, Bao-yu wishing to see inside them, but Disenchantment relaying it wouldn’t be right to have him see the females files regarding their future, but Bao-yu nags her until she allows him a moment to view inside the Department of the Ill-Fated Fair, it lined with cabinets labeled by city, Bao-yu seeing his and inquiring what else the label meant, he learning it contained the twelve best ladies in his area, two more cabinets detailing two dozen more, and all other females remaining unlisted. Bao-yu takes a look at one of the other two, and opens a hard-case folder with a picture and verse on the two pages he viewed before looking at a different cabinet, still confused by the album he chose, and looking at the main cabinet, and unable to understand the words, and knowing Disenchantment wouldn’t explain it, but he continuing looking through the book, filled with pictures on one side and an accompanying poem, which warned and spoke of love, loss, and possibly even danger. As it goes on, the fate of women Bao-yu may know is spoken of in riddles. When Disenchantment believes he was becoming too wise on the information he was reading, she takes the book and decides they should move along, Bao-yu next within the back part of the mansion, he hearing Disenchantment hurriedly coax other fairies out to meet him, but they being unimpressed, having been expecting a reunion with Crimson Pearl, Bao-yu now uncomfortable, and Disenchantment explaining how she’d been going to retrieve Crimson Pearl, but was waylaid by two Dukes asking for her services of which she couldn’t pass, involving Bao-yu and their request to have his virginity taken on the chance it would sober his nature and aid him to navigate life with a clear mind. Disenchantment decided to fulfill their wish, his look at the records not doing the trick, so leading him there so he could experience a good party, she bringing him inside. Bao-yu then inquires the scent he smelled, she sharing it was nothing he’d be able to detect on his world, and giving the name.
After they sit, Bao-yu tastes the tea given him and is again desirous to know what it was called, Disenchantment telling where it came from, as well as what it was called, Maiden’s Tears. He surveys the room they were in before asking the names of the other fairies, they all having odd monikers like Disenchantment. When they sit at the table for wine and food, Bao-yu asks about the wine, it coming from flowers and tree extracts, twelve dancers then entering, Disenchantment requesting they perform her musical. She then informs Bao-yu may want to read about the piece so he could better understand it, the poems of the performance, following. The description has each songs lyrics, telling of past lovers, in twelve songs not including the prelude and epilogue, and by the conclusion, Disenchantment could see Bao-yu had lost interest, he requesting to be allowed to nap, she leading him to a little bedroom where a fairy girl sat, she exuding similarities to both Bao-chai and Dai-yu, Disenchantment stating how lust played into all attraction, regardless of men saying it was beauty they were attracted by, she confessing his lust was the strongest she’d seen which her affection for him stemmed, Bao-yu intimidated. He confides how he didn’t truly understand the meaning and believed he was still too young to be listed as such. Disenchantment clarifies her meaning by defining how many sorts of lust there were, his type being listed as “lust of the mind”, which couldn’t be described. She goes on to confide this is why she’d shared tea and wine with him, as well as the musical, and would also be paired with her sister, Two-in-one or Ke-qing to marry, they being bid to hook up this evening, so he could learn the construct of love and obtain an understanding and following of philosophy for everyone’s benefit.
Before Disenchantment leaves them to it, she advises Bao-yu on some techniques, he implementing them stupefied and baffled, but getting the deed done, Bao-yu by morning, in pure contentment, and the two walking out holding hands and somehow discover themselves surrounded by perils, Disenchantment yelling after them to return the way they’d come, Bao-yu inquiring where they were, and she explaining it was a place which could only be crossed by way of two ferrymen, demons then reaching for him to pull him into the water, he crying for Ke-qing’s help, his servants returning to him in fear, and consoling him, Qin-shi outside and taking care of the noisy cats and dogs, surprised to hear him call out her childhood name, and curious how he could know.
Qin-shi doesn’t look into it, though and Bao-yu is getting helped by Aroma to straighten his pants, she feeling something like jizz, Bao-yu looking embarrassed, and after being returned to looking properly, finishes his meal with Grandmother Jia and then has a moment with Aroma when she supplies him with clean undies, he pleading she not say anything and then coaxed into sharing how it had happened, but she laughing at him when he was about to share the sex part of his dream, Bao-yu then makes advances on Aroma, she allowing this after some playful denial, this being part of the reason she had been given to him, and from then on Bao-yu gives her extra regard, she more loyal to him, as well, and his story now being left.
The next area to be covered is decided on with the arrival of this person happening on the day this was being recorded. The Rong mansion is visited by a local called Wang, this person unknown by most of the family, other than Lady Wang and her brother, Wang Xi-feng’s father. The grandfather, whom had known Xi-feng’s grandfather, the father of Lady Wang, dies and has his son carry on, Wang Chang, he leading a farmer’s life, and when he died, his son, Gou-er continuing this work with his wife and their two kids, Ban-er and Qing-er, Gou-er inviting his wife’s mother, Grannie Liu to live with them and help with the kids. She readily accepts his invitation, but soon has to put her food down when Gou-er is seen to be drunkenly making trouble for her daughter, due to his own stresses of the farm and winter closing in.
Grannie Liu reasons with him to take his stupidity to the city, since he couldn’t stop spending the little money he made, she believing they could still think of a remedy, and leave the details to God, she then remembering his relation to Lady Wang, Gou-er’s wife worried they’d get turned away and look ridiculous for the trip, Gou-er buoyed by the possibility, suggesting Grannie Liu go first to survey for them, but she stating how they wouldn’t know her, until Gou-er suggests she take Ban-er with her and call on Zhou, whom knew his father, Grannie Liu seeing the logic behind his idea and having herself and Ban-er ready in the morning, the four to five year old boy gladly learning some phrases Grannie Liu taught him for the ladies at the mansion. They soon arrive and she leads them through a side entrance and speaks with some men loitering on the grounds, eventually being told to hang about at a certain gate where she’d be met by someone from the house, but an older man advising she see Zhou’s wife, since he was currently away on business, then directing her to where she could be located.
Grannie Liu asks a young boy where Mrs. Zhou lived upon following the directions, he showing them and calling out to her, Zhou Rui coming out and soon recognizing Grannie Liu and inviting her inside. Grannie Liu doesn’t share the true reason she’d come, instead stating how they’d come to see her and see “Her Ladyship”, Zhou Rui’s wife fairly able to deduce Grannie Liu’s real reasons for visiting, but knowing her son-in-law’s father had helped her husband when he’d required and was wanting an excuse to show off her own power, so responds with great charity, explaining her usual job and willing to go against protocol to relay a message to Her Ladyship, she sharing how her niece, Wang Xi-feng managed the place now, Grannie Liu thanking her for her kindness and she dismissing it for it not being an issue. She sends a maid to see how far along Lady Jia’s lunch was, and upon hearing what part they were in, gets Grannie Liu to join her before Mrs. Lian became to busy, she having the two wait whilst she spoke with Xi-feng’s closest servant, Patience whom decided the two could wait inside with her.
Grannie Liu first is overcome by the perfumed room and then its grandeur, Patience deciding to be polite once viewing the old woman and invites her to sit, everyone getting comfortable before proceeding with tea, Grannie Liu noticing a loud ticking and then being surprised by a loud bell sounding, all servants and Mrs. Zhou readying for Xi-feng to appear, the two going to the next room whilst Grannie Liu waited to be called, Zhou Rui’s wife coming in for her and Xi-feng not realizing she’d brought her in already, Grannie Liu showing her respect and Xi-feng requesting she stop for not knowing how they were related, yet and after, Ban-er too intimidated to give respect to his “Auntie”. Xi-feng then has Zhou Rui’s wife see if Her Ladyship, presumably Grandmother Jia, was busy, Zhou Rui’s wife returning to relay Grandmother Jia wouldn’t be seeing them, but to share any message with Xi-feng.
Grannie Liu declines and Zhou Rui’s wife giving a look which spoke of she getting a final chance to confess her thoughts, and so was about to do so when interrupted by the arrival of Xi-feng’s nephew, Jia Rong, whom had come to inquire on the behalf of his father to borrow a little glass screen which she at first pretended had already been borrowed, but soon has Patience get the key, Jia Rong so happy he goes off to gather his own servants to carry the load rather than have hers be put out, but Xi-feng asks he return, so later she could share something with him, and when he leaves once more, Grannie Liu gets into how destitute they were and food being scarce, then attempting to get Ban-er to say his little phrases, but he being too busy eating sweets, Xi-feng mercifully allowing this to pass and states she didn’t have to continue, ordering a guest-sized meal to be brought to them, Zhou Riu’s wife doing so, and the speaking with Xi-feng in private of what Grandmother Jia had said in more detail, it about how Grannie Liu wasn’t a blood relative, but was quite close to the family, so would leave it up to Xi-feng as to how much she chose to help them, Xi-feng then returning to relay how she knew they must be living in hard times and would give them some silver to return home with, Grannie Liu relaying how grateful she was before following Zhou Riu’s wife out, she speaking with her for some time after, before leaving the home.
Zhou Riu’s wife goes to Lady Wang, but discovers she’d gone to see Aunt Xue, so she goes after her, she waiting with Bao-chai, since she’d found her speaking with her sister, Zhou Riu’s wife asking if she’d been well the last few days, since she hadn’t come by, she admitting she’d been ill and explains how it wasn’t dangerous, but also had no cure, a monk relaying it was only an overheating problem and supplied a home remedy which surprisingly worked. Bao-chai then explains why she couldn’t describe the powders used, due to when it’s administered affecting how it worked, and as they speak, Lady Wang calls out to them and Zhou Riu’s wife goes in to share the happenings with Grannie Liu, after which Aunt Xue invites her to stick around and hands off a box of fake flowers for the Jia girls to wear. When Lady Wang suggests she keep them for Bao-chai, Aunt Xue shares how the girl was picky about accouterments to her attire, Zhou Riu’s wife then going back out and speaks with Golden about the young lady Caltrop, learning she was the one involved with the murder trial, and when seeing her up close, notes how her features reminded her of Master Rong’s wife, Golden thinking the same, and upon questioning Caltrop, learns nothing due to the girl’s blocked memories.
Zhou Riu’s wife continues to the girls quarters and delivers the flowers, she staying and speaks with a nun about whether the Mother Superior had gotten the monthly donation and where she was, currently. The nun didn’t know, but relays the woman’s whereabouts, and after a little more conversation, moves along to Xi-feng’s, Patience helping her complete her task and then plans on going to Grandmother Jia’s when she runs into her daughter, whom is full of questions, which Zhou Riu’s wife takes lightly, instead inquiring if she also had any issues, since she sensed it was one of those days, her daughter admitting to this and had hoped she’d be able to help her husband. Zhou Riu’s wife agrees to see to it after delivering the remainder of the flowers, going to Dai-yu’s, whom was with Bao-yu, the girl not pleased with the idea of receiving the leftovers of the flowers, and as Bao-yu sends a maid to deliver a message to Bao-chai, Zhou Riu’s wife exits, it being told her daughter’s husband was Yu-cun’s old friend, Zi-xing, he in trouble over some issues with some ancient items bought, Zhou Riu’s wife certain when she brought it to Xi-feng’s attention the issue would be handled.
As evening came, Xi-feng updates Lady Wang on the day’s events, beginning with gifts sent by the Zhen family and having shipped them gifts in return, also informing of gifts also being ready for the Earl of Lian’s mother, and continuing about how she had been invited by Cousin Zhen’s wife to come over the next day, making sure she was allowed to attend, the night then ending. Bao-yu decides he wants to accompany Xi-feng to visit Cousin Zhen’s wife, You-shi, her son and daughter also present. They sit down for tea, Qin-shi then informing Bao-yu to go see her brother, he quickly doing so, but Xi-feng deciding she also wanted to meet Qin Zhong, the boy arriving and awkwardly greeting her, then having the usual inquiries answered of his studies, etc.
When the ladies move on to a card game, the boys leave to chat, the two each having similar thoughts of envy of the other and how they hated they weren’t the other’s equal, so they could be close buddies, and once initializing conversation, become familiar with each other, Bao-yu learning Qin Zhong was currently tutor-less and waiting to get a new one, Bao-yu offerring a school situation his family had set up and suggesting Qin Zhong ask permission to go with him, the two boys agreeing the idea was a good one, they returning to discover Xi-feng had won the card game and a show would be set up as her winnings in a couple days time, Xi-feng then giving her opinion about an old belligerent worker, Big Jao, whom had been asked to accompany Jia Rong home, but was insulting everyone, the man needing to be sent away, she then leaves with Bao-yu, Jia Rong commanding the servants to restrain Big Jao, since he continued prattling on with his threats, Bao-yu making the mistake of inquiring about one he’d heard and Xi-feng threatening to inform his mother, he pleading for her not to and apologizing. Xi-feng changes her anger to comfort and shares how she’ll be speaking with Grandmother Jia about Qin Zhong joining his school.
When they get back, Bao-yu shares with Grandmother Jia his wishes and why it was a positive choice to allow Qin Zhong to join him in class, Xi-feng also supplying her agreement which Grandmother Jia is affected in a good way, Xi-feng then inviting her to the play which was being set up for her, and Grandmother Jia tagging along on the day with Lady Wang, Dai-yu, and Bao-yu, but Lady Wang and Grandmother Jia leave early, Xi-feng having so much fun, she stays much later. Meanwhile, Bao-yu had wanted to watch more of the plays, but had left with Grandmother Jia and then decided to call on Bao-chai, but is held up by some men his father had belittled, and when they release him, a nurse learns they’d left Sir Zheng before he’d taken his afternoon snooze, Bao-yu glad he didn’t have to avoid his father, now and goes straight to Bao-chai’s, but not before being stopped once more by some men who ask about getting some calligraphy by him due to having seen some of his about town, then finally being greeted with familiarity by Aunt Xue, she sending him in to see Bao-chai, he finding her sewing and when Bao-yu speaks, greets him respectfully, the two sitting over tea and speaking of their other cousins.
Bao-chai then states of how she’d been wanting to see his jade more closely for quite some time, he handing it to her, the Narrator reminding this was the same as the stone mentioned at the start of the tale at the Greensickness Peak, listing a poem about it along with the words the monk scraped onto it. When Bao-chai’s maid notes how she had a similarly written message on her necklace, Bao-yu is intrigued to see it, she agreeing and Bao-yu gleefully agreeing the two sounded like two parts of the same script. Bao-yu then smells something on her clothes, she believing it was the pill she’d taken, Dai-yu then entering and making a joke of having come at the wrong time, since Bao-yu was there, talk then turning to retrieving his cape due to it having begun to snow, after which a Nannie Li tells of how she’d gotten flack for Bao-yu drinking wine a time before, since he’d requested a cup this time to go with some goose-foot preserve.
Aunt Xue eases the woman’s mind by assuring she’d take the blame if it came to it, so Bao-yu gets his wine as Dai-yu gives her maid a hard time when she brings her a hand-warmer, Bao-yu having to plead for more wine and Nannie Li warning him to watch himself, since his father may call him later, this sobering Bao-yu’s good mood, but Dai-yu speaking up for him which in turn amuses Bao-chai, Aunt Xue then supporting Bao-yu’s drinking, he feeling better upon her invitation to dinner. When his Nannie goes off to change with instructions to watch Bao-yu closely, the other maids ignore this and go about their business, Aunt Xue discreetly removing the wine when necessary, and replacing it with tasty soups, along with strong tea, believing this would recover him, Dai-yu then mentioning it was time to go, so Bao-yu tags along, the two greeting Grandmother Jia, whom hadn’t dined, yet, she instructing Bao-yu go sleep it off, but when he returns, he’s told by Skybright to use up the ink she’d mixed for him, he inspecting her job of pasting his characters outside, Dai-yu joining them and praising Bao-yu’s work, he then inquiring whether Skybright had received the dumplings he’d sent her, she agreeing and had planned to save them when Nannie Li had taken them for her grandchildren, and also had drank all of the tea being saved for him, this pissing him off, but Aroma stating how if he got rid of her, all the other maids would go, so he stops complaining as they undress him, he falling to sleep almost immediately.
In the morning, Bao-yu overhears Jia Rong come with Qin Zhong to speak with Grandmother Jia, whom was impressed with him and has the other ladies in the family meet him, the visit keeping them into the evening, she also offerring he stay with them if ever his studies kept him too late. When Qin Zhong returns home, he informs his father, Qin Bang-ye of the day he had, it being told of the position he held and his adoption of two children, the boy dying, and Qin Zhong being his progeny late in his life, he happy to know he now needn’t worry about a tutor. The only issue was in thinking of what he’d have to spend to keep Qin Zhong properly started and supplied, but knew it was for the best, so he gives the teacher his raised tuition, whilst paying respect with his son, they then only waiting for Bao-yu to decide when they’d start, the day they go being an eventful one.
Bao-yu wishes to begin their schooling immediately, so sends word they would go in two days. Bao-yu then gets some advice from Aroma about what she’d packed for him on the morning he’d be going, and for him to stay on top of designating someone keeping the place warm, Bao-yu assuring her he’d be all right, and for the maids to keep themselves busy by staying with his cousin Lin, he then going to see Grandmother Jia, Lady Wang, and his father, Jia Zheng, the last being candid about what he believed his son capable of, and wishing he’d go away, his literary guests attempting to keep the mood light and hurry him on to breakfast, but Jia Zheng calls in Bao-yu’s pages as he waits outside, he asking them to inform him of what Bao-yu was actually doing in class, he choosing Nannie Lin’s son to speak, whom honestly informs how far into a book of poetry he was reading, in fear of repercussion. Jia Zheng instructs they tell the teacher to begin him on the Four Books, his attendants agreeing and walking out, they making certain Bao-yu had heard and instead of making it up to them if he disappointed his father and one of them received a beating, they implored him to obey the rules from time to time. By the time he gets back to Grandmother Jia’s quarters, Qin Zhong was waiting with her, the two then walking out, Bao-yu saying goodbye to Dai-yu and then going off to school.
Description of how the Jia school stayed funded and its location are given, then Bao-yu and Qin Zhong are introduced to their fellows upon arrival and get straight to their assignments. The two boys were joined together from then on, Grandmother Jia even looking after Qin Zhong for her gathered affections bringing about getting him clothes and having him stay for multiple nights. Bao-yu soon decides their formalities of being nephew and uncle would be forgotten and they’d from then on treat each other like buddies and siblings, which at first Qin Zhong hesitated to agree to, until Bao-yu kept insisting and led by example, Qin Zhong eventually complying. Like in any school, there was a variety of personalities and classes within the school, their commonality coming from the relations to the Jias, and due to the two boys being close friends, it gave the other students room to start rumors. Xue Pan took advantage of the school by seemingly using it as a sex service. Xue Pan soon had two ‘regulars’ and Bao-yu and Qin Zhong also were taken in by the pairs charm, which Bao-yu and Qin Zhong were unaware was so obvious. Then, Qin Zhong gets a moment with one of the boys and is rudely interrupted by another student, whom threatens to spread lies and speak with the Jia Rui about this boy harassing then, but due to Xue Pan paying him off, he was biased, and since Xue Pan was currently off of Jia Rui and Darling, the boy Qin Zhong was speaking with, he decides to put Darling down which also shames Qin Zhong by association. Jokey Jin, the bully takes advantage of this by furthering the rumors of the two boys taking the time alone to make out etc.
Jia Qiang, related to Jia Rong was being raised by Cousin Zhen, and the sixteen-year-old stood up for the under-dogs. Jia Qiang, thinks strategically the best way to handle the situation since both sides had an in with his relative, so gets the help of Tealeaf, the youngest and most impressionable of Ba0-yu’s pages, Jia Qiang describing the terror Jokey Jin would be if not taught a lesson, so Tealeaf confronts him, Jokey Jin gets permission to ditch class, since Jia Rui is a pussy, Tealeaf gives him crap and Jia Rui notes Tealeaf’s foul language. Jokey Jin is about to have Bao-yu deal with his servant, when Qin Zhong notes something flying by him from the table of Jia Lan and Jun, related to a second Lan, whom was the son of Li Wan and was Bao-yu’s nephew, and whilst Jia Jun was at first indifferent, he gets hooked in by a water bottle hitting his desk, his buddy, Jia Lan keeping his rage from manifesting to more damage. Jokey Jin though, is furious by this, Jia Lan holding him back from returning fire, but Jokey Jin too incensed, throwing a bag of books instead of the inkwell, but his aim not catching the culprit and instead hits Bao-yu and Qin Zhong’s table, Jokey Jin then launching himself at the original thrower. Jokey Jin, meanwhile had picked up a bamboo pole and was whipping it around, hitting Tealeaf, whom then calls in three more pages to assist.
Some students took cover whilst others joined the fight or hooted and urged others on as they stood on desks, Li Gui entering the hubbub and giving the pages the most crap for not keeping their cool, but Bao-yu having final word as he aids Qin Zhong after sustaining a head wound, he declaring they were leaving and would be informing his great-uncle Dai-ru of the unprofessional behavior they’d suffered. Li Gui suggests he leave Dai-ru out of it and blames Jia Rui for not stepping in, he defending himself, but Li Gui stating plainly why the boys had stopped respecting him, and if he didn’t stop Bao-yu from outing them, he’d go down with the rest. Bao-yu declares nothing would sway his decision to speak with his great-uncle, Qin Zhong speaking for justice in the expelling of Jokey Jin, Bao-yu reasoning it would be in Jokey Jin’s future once he told their story and when Jia Rui asks whom Jokey Jin was, Li Gui decides to refrain sharing so as to spare Jia Rui of the pain. As they hear Tealeaf through the window bad mouthing Jokey Jin’s aunt and her bad conduct, which has Li Gui yelling at him to be quiet and Bao-yu deciding now he knew whom Jokey Jin’s aunt was, he’d instead speak with her, Tealeaf then stating proudly, how he’d bring Lady Jia to him, Li Gui pissed off by this and threatening Tealeaf, finally getting the young man to shut up, and hoping his discretions wouldn’t be brought to light and had fixed the problem by pleading with Bao-yu and Qin Zhong separately, Bao-yu eventually deciding the matter would rest pending Jokey Jin admitting he was sorry, he refusing until Jia Rui and Li Gui convince him to relent, he doing so, and Bao-yu changing the condition to have Jokey Jin kotow to them, which would be shared in the next chapter.
Jokey Jin kotows to Qin Zhong, Bao-yu then agreeing the issue was resolved, but Jokey Jin grudging Qin Zhong his closeness to Bao-yu, but his mother hearing him as he spoke to himself, reminding him how lucky he was to be in this school. So, he does as he’s told and continues with his classes next day. Jokey Jin’s aunt was wife to Jia Huang, they living a humble lifestyle, receiving help from Xi-feng and You-shi when close to inability to pay their bills, His aunt decides to visit her sister-in-law about Jokey Jin’s run-in with Qin Zhong, thinking he was responsible for the negative outcome and see if she could get permission to speak with Qin Zhong’s sister. Her fire subsides though, as she sits with You-shi, the lady explaining how Qin-shi was feeling ill and her little brother, Qin Zhong had informed her of the school fight, You-shi then sending him to Bao-yu’s whilst she calmed Qin-shi and had her eat breakfast. She then inquires of Mrs. Huang if she knew a decent doctor, of which she had no information and decided against mentioning her true reasons for coming by, agreeing she should make certain Qin-shi wasn’t pregnant before giving her any definitive remedies.
After a pleasant visit, she leaves, You-shi then describing to Cousin Zhen of the uneventful visit, and then moving on to what they needed to do for Qin-shi. Fortunately, Zhen knows someone they can contact, believing Zhang will definitely visit them the next day, You-shi pacified, and then inquiring what they should do for their father’s birthday the day after, he revealing how their father wanted no part in any family parties for himself, so You-shi plans a two-day party for the family on his behalf. They receive a message from the doctor, promising to drop by next day and put down his own abilities as a practitioner before agreeing, due to respect, to visit Qin-shi. As promised, Dr. Zhang comes by, Zhen greeting him, the doc again explaining his lack of practice as a medical doctor, Zhen believing him humble, and then sends him to Qin-shi where he takes her pulse for some time before going outside with her husband, Jia Rong. The doctor explains his theory not being the conclusion of pregnancy, and he would prescribe her a treatment which if was responded to positively would give her a better chance of living. The list of herbs are given with how much to include and the doctor states she could make it if surviving the Spring, then leaves, Jia Rong relaying to his parents what he’d been told. The chapter after this supplying Qin-shi’s reaction to the medicine.
On the day of Jia Jing’s birthday, Zhen sent some gifts and instructions for the deliverer to note the man’s pleasure, and received the message of Grandfather would lead the prostration of the family from his home. Then, they learn Grandmother Jia wouldn’t be attending due to some dietary issue, they then touching on Qin-shi’s illness before Zhen goes to greet the recently arrived men-folk. You-shi continues to explain how they’d begun the doctor’s prescription, but nothing much had changed. Xi-feng is touched with emotion when learning Qin-shi had forced herself to get up the last time they’d met because of how much they’d bonded. Jia Rong then comes back with the news of their grandfather being happy with how they were conducting the celebration and would now continue looking after the men, but stating Xi-feng would be able to deduce how unwell Qin-shi was upon seeing her soon. You-shi then states how they should decide whether they’d dine inside or out, what with the show being prepared in the yard.
The decision was made to remain indoors and the table was set quickly. After they’d finished, Jia Rong gives a message to his mother of the men who had left and those who they would see at the show, as well as where all the presents were being stowed and the thank you notes and how the guests were treated before being sent off. Xi-feng then decides to visit Qin-shi before joining the rest, Bao-yu becoming affected by her words and Xi-feng turning it around light-heartedly, the reason they’d come, she then deciding to send Bao-yu back with Jia Rong, whilst she spoke a bit longer to Qin-shi. Xi-feng stayed as long as she could ignore messages from You-shi to come out, but finally readying to go, and still attempting to maintain Qin-shi’s positivity level, she then getting emotional as she agreed to visit as frequently as possible, and as she walked, is startled by Cousin Jia Rui, he obviously eye-balling her, she aware and pretending to enjoy his “charm”, they tentatively setting up some time to chat, she allowing him ample distance to move back toward the family, and thinking how she’d set him straight when the timing was right.
Xi-feng is then approached by one of You-shi’s servants, she informing Xi-feng she was now being sent for, You-shi makes clear how dedicated she was to Qin-shi, she then having her sit and drink with the other ladies, Xi-feng then instructed to choose a couple plays from the bill, since the two aunts had already done so, after which Xi-feng states how those two choices would be the final bit of the program for the players, but You-shi insisting she’d like the company, Xi-feng then seeing the men had left, a servant supplying they’d gone off to drink, and when the play was done, the party ended after the ladies had another course and tea, everyone beginning to leave. Cousin Zhen offers the ladies return the next day, but they choose to decline in favor of a day of rest. The day after brought another celebration, and this point onward, Qin-shi got steady visits from Xi-feng, her state of health fluctuating, Cousin Zhen, You-shi, and Jia Rong stressing more with her instability.
Whenever Xi-feng came over for Qin-shi, Jia Rui inexplicably turns up, and at the start of the final month to mark Qin-shi’s having begun the doctor’s treatment for almost a year, Grandmother Jia and ladies were consistently wanting updates of her health, it still not having normalized. Grandmother Jia decides Xi-feng should see how she was the next day, and to make certain her favorite food was in constant replenishment. Xi-feng saw Qin-shi’s lack of appetite having affected the skin on her face, but she still tried to keep her spirits up, and when she spoke with You-shi after, they wonder about Qin-shi’s surviving, You-shi tentatively having planned for the worst, she then reports to Grandmother Jia, being dismissed, and going home. She is then updated on her home’s calls, Jia Rui one of them, and after informing her servant why she was ready to take him on, the woman agrees with her, Jia Rui’s visit spoken of in the next chapter.
Whilst the two were still discussing Jia Rui, they were told he was now about to enter, and when he arrived, Xi-feng could see the pleasure in his face by her non-formal attire, he wondering why Cousin Lian wasn’t in attendance, hinting it could be due to a lady, he then declaring he wasn’t the sort whom flitted from one love to the next when Xi-feng comments all males were like this. He felt even more special when she’d commented how rare an attribute it was, the conversation progressing until Jia Rui states how he’d wile away the hours with her daily, if allowed. Xi-feng then shows how she believed him by comparing how two other men had proven themselves barbaric. Jia Rui became even more smitten, Xi-feng politely warning his movements were being surveyed by the help, he adjusting his body language accordingly. Xi-feng then decides he should ready to leave, but says he can meet her later in the evening when he protests, she quelling his worry of being noticed by anyone near their appointed meeting place.
Later, he arrives to the total darkness behind the side gate, but as he waits he hears the gate he came through being shut, the realization he was stuck there for the night his only company. He was properly chilled by morning and got lucky when an old woman came to be let in, he sneaking out without any trouble and making it home. His grandfather, Jia Dai-ru, whom had raised him, was certain Jia Rui had gone out carousing, since he’d kept him on a tight leash from the start, so Jia Rui decided to say he’d spent the night at his uncle’s house. His grandfather not buying this, whipping him good, then making him do extra homework all night, and not being allowed to have food, but this foo doesn’t learn.
A couple days go by, and he again goes to Xi-feng, she realizing his stubborn efforts hadn’t diminished, so she offers another task for him. Jia Rui falls for it, hard, he leaving her, as requested, and she informing those necessary to expect the berk later in the evening. Jia Rui had the misfortune of being waylaid by relatives joining his grandfather and he for dinner, then must wait for his grandfather to retire for the night, so when Jia Rui makes it to the agreed spot and sees no one, he wonders if he’d been stood up again. Someone does arrive though, and Jia Rui is so filled with lust he immediately goes after the figure and readies to do some poking, when Jia Qiang walks in with light. Jia Rui gets a glimpse of whom he was about to nail, it Jia Rong, Jia Qiang informing him of being expected by Lady Wang, whom was furious to learn Jia Rui’s obsession. He then decides a bribe was in order, Jia Qiang not needing much convincing, and when Jia Rong feigns a more difficult customer, Jia Rui ups his price and writes them an IOU, Jia Qiang then deducing Jia Rui must wait elsewhere until he located the route which would which would keep him “unnoticed”. Jia Qiang deposits him underneath a stair, the two leaving him, and during his short wait, is drenched in human feces,
Jia Qiang then returning to let Jia Rui know he could go through the gate now, he not wasting anymore time, getting a servant to let him in and wash. He thought how whilst Xi-feng had betrayed him, he was still overcome by her beauty, these thoughts not allowing him to drift to sleepy-land.
From then on, Jia Rui stayed away from her home, but Jia Qiang and Jia Rong dropped by often for their agreed upon moolah. Due to this stress, his grandfather’s strict homework assignments, and only the company of his hand, since Xi-feng was out of reach, he was stricken ill before the year was done, no remedies showing relief. By Spring, he’d gotten no better, his grandfather Dai-ru in a state, since no one could cure him. Dai-ru, in the end goes to Lady Wang, whom speaks with Xi-feng about acquiring pure ginseng for him, Xi-feng not going out of her way to comply though, she instead sending a crappy package-worth to Dai-ru, Jia Rui desperate to get better, so takes everything, and one day overhears a Taoist saying he could cure certain illnesses from the door, and when the Taoist states he wouldn’t be able to, but had a trinket which would keep him alive, he handing him an inscribed mirror. The Taoist shares how the fairy Disenchantment made it, and as long as Jia Rui resisted looking at the front, he’d be cure in a few days, the Taoist states he’d return for it then.
The Taoist then quickly exits despite those who’d heard, asked him to tarry. Jia Rui then looks at the mirror, seeing a skull, he covering it, and deciding to look at the front to spite the Taoist giving him a fright, he seeing Xi-feng enticing him to come, and boy does he, going through the mirror a few times before the last one, he getting pulled away before being allowed to reenter the real world once more, and everyone who watched this, seeing Jia Rui picking up and putting down the mirror until he stopped breathing, and as Jia Rui’s grandparents mourned, are ready to chuck the mirror in a bonfire and blamed the Taoist, they hearing a disembodied voice remind of Jia Rui having had a choice to obey the instructions. The mirror biffs off without help from anyone, and Dai-ru sees the Taoist outside catch it, and vanishes. Dai-ru is given contributions so Jia Rui’s funeral would be of good quality. Whilst Jia Rui had been dealing with his issues at the end of the year, Lin Ru-hai was also severely sick and requests a visit from Dai-yu. Grandmother Jia didn’t want to allow the girl to go, but makes the proper reservations for her to go to her father’s bedside. Bao-yu also was stricken, but accepted the girl’s departure, Grandmother Jia also had Jia Lian join her on the journey to Yangchow.
Xi-feng was affected with restlessness when Jia Lian had left with only Patience to converse with, the two considering how far into the trip he could be, Win-shi coming in as Xi-feng was close to sleep and Patience already asleep, she wishing to confide in her, since she also would be leaving soon. Qin-shi begins by speaking of some foretelling sayings about how whilst their family was currently respected, how it could fall from its perch easily. She continues about how Xi-feng could stave off too far a fall for them by preparing whilst they were still stable enough, and how there were a couple areas which Xi-feng could focus to make life easier if trouble should strike. Qin-shi explains the family cemetery and school both needed tending, which could be funded with the purchasing of property around the cemetery and the school moved on to said property to be paid for with the new purchases. The family would then share responsibility of tending to the school, which would keep everyone from complaining of having sole charge of the duties. So, in this way, the property would be safe from being taken to its charitable status, and would allow the young people to continue their education and be useful agriculturally.
Qin-shi then professes of a positive occurrence in the near future which could make them all spend in celebration and to be way of the excess extravagance. Qin-shi reveals a riddle before the hour of death is heard by chiming. When Xi-feng awakes, a servant announces Qin-shi had died, Xi-feng then getting ready to go to Lady Wang’s, and family and servants alike mourning her. Meanwhile, during Dai-yu’s absence, Bao-yu kept to himself and began retiring early in the evening, his reaction to Qin-shi’s death worrying his servants, since he’d thrown up blood, but he refused having a doctor called, believing it had been caused by the surprising news. He prepares to see Grandmother Jia and insists being allowed to go to Qin-shi, she setting up transport and entourage for him, and after seeing her body and grieving, looks in on You-shi, whom was ill with a stomach issue, then goes in search of Cousin Zhen, whom was speaking to other family members who had arrived and were mourning. He lost hope for the family name ending because of Qin-shi’s death, then speaks of plans for the funeral. Arrangements are made for her body before the ceremony and moved to a shrine.
Meanwhile, Cousin Zhen gets a deal for the making of the coffin from Xue Pan, they soon hearing of Qin-shi’s young servant committing suicide upon hearing of her passing, they burying the girl next to her. Cousin Zhen then has the good luck of speaking with a well-respected servant whom would be able to help him get his son, Jia Rong considered for a better position so he’d be able to add it to the needed banner for for Qin-shi’s funeral. The servant makes the arrangements with his secretary, and after he’d left, Cousin Zhen plays host to new arrivals to mourn Qin-shi. The next day, Jia Rong’s rank was promoted and the coffin stated as such. So, whilst most everything was progressing easily, Cousin Zhen still stressed over You-shi still being ill and this reflecting the family badly if it damaged some sort of rule regarding the “female head of household”, his answer coming from Bao-yu, Cousin Zhen completely agreeing with him and setting about the temporary head being Cousin Feng (Xi-feng), so brings Bao-yu to his room where only Xi-feng remained, since the other ladies disappeared for embarrassment, and Xi-feng notes how Cousin Zhen had been over-extending himself, he ignoring this and asking for her assistance on receiving her aid, she instructing him to ask Lady Wang, whom enters, but also puts her opinion of herself being too young, Cousin Zhen maintaining she was the only option and becoming upset, Lady Wang and she eventually consenting, so she accepts (I’m getting annoyed by the formalities basically referring to the same person to different ways, it’s confusing). After Cousin Zhen leaves, Xi-feng puts in order the tasks which she need focus on most once Lady Wang also leaves, she narrowing down how best to deal with the servants, especially.
Chief Steward of the Ning-guo mansions, Lai Sheng gives directions to his men to do as Xi-feng asks, their work hours guaranteed to be a bit longer now. So, as long as they put up with her bitchy, stubborn ways for the month, they could kick back after, she being known to go after anyone who disobeyed. Sunshine, Xi-feng’s servant then turns up for the household list of names, everyone snapping to work accordingly. After recieving said list, Xi-feng goes home. Xi-feng arrives back at Cousin Zhen’s early next morning to discuss Lai Sheng’s wife of almost the same topic of discussion Lai Sheng was going over, and then saw all servants before giving out their duties, she then making plain how everything would now be run. Her hold was immediately felt and order returned after many years of nonsense. After seven times seven days before the funeral, the monks had made it to a serious part of their prayers, as were the Taoists and other holy people all doing their parts to prepare Qin-shi’s journey through the afterlife.
Xi-feng had a late start next morning, and upon arriving, has the servants begin the procedures for their mourning. Xi-feng leads by example, Cousin Zhen and You-shi ending the display and Xi-feng starting the task of meeting with the servants, one woman later today, found and begging forgiveness whilst Xi-feng handled an order for silk-cord, which soon turned into other diverted attention for servants and wives of “important” men. Xi-feng continued her tracking of funds and deciding what would be handled according to her logic. Then, she returns her attention to the lady, informing her how she would normally have her conduct qualify dismissal, but instead would make an example of her, and ordered her whipped by bamboo, the servants taking her look of anger seriously and following orders. Xi-feng afterward, notes the new rules for how tardiness would be handled would be double the whipping number the woman endured, along with some other dissuasive fines, she then allows all to get to work. Xi-feng makes her leadership clear, and no one dared slack off. Bao-yu is then followed, using Xi-feng’s office to speak with Qin Zhong, she greeting them and finishing lunch as she took care of restocking orders and chatting to the boys about their school work, Bao-yu realizing Xi-feng hadn’t put through the request for materials necessary to finish his homework space, she revealing the materials had already been supplied and was only teasing him.
A servant traveling with Dai-yu then comes in to report the news of her father’s death and how long they’d be away for the burial. Later in the evening, she gathers requested coats and gives the servant more tasks whilst he looked after Jia Lian. As the funeral day drew nearer, Cousin Zhen picked out Qin-shi’s plot and the number of monks wanted for the ceremony. Cousin Zhen also stayed over at the head monk’s room overnight so he could finish the readying of the plot and whatnot before the funeral, Xi-feng also finalizing her reservations before and after the funeral, she also dealing with other family-related matters throughout, everyone becoming impressed with her multi-tasking and superb handling of all situations. Then, the night no one was to sleep was upon them, Xi-feng surrounded by shy family members, but she not perturbed and giving assignments to all as people came and left throughout the night, morning bringing the funeral. It beginning with the tradition breaking of the bowl by honorary daughter/servant, Jewel, showing her sadness appropriately. One official, the Prince of Beijing had also attended, asking about wanting to meet Bao-yu to Jia Zheng, his father. He retrieves the boy, Bao-y excited to have been asked for, he admiring the Prince, and their conversation forthcoming.
Bao-yu admired Shui Rong, the Prince of Beijing’s mourning accessories and outfit before attempting to greet him formally, but was prevented by the man, he instead asking about Bao-yu’s jade, and being handed the corded stone immediately for inspection. After, the Prince inquires about Bao-yu’s studies, etc and then states how Bao-yu was sure to surpass his elders, Jia Zheng replying how lucky they’d be if Bao-yu lived up to the affirmation. The Prince then offers Bao-yu an invitation to his home to speak with the cultured writers the Prince had been known to host, this allowing Bao-yu another way to be taught different sorts of intellect. He then gives Bao-yu a bracelet he wore, Bao-yu and his father both thanking him traditionally before Jia She and Cousin Zhen offer he go before the coffin’s procession, but the Prince decides the hearse’s presence to importance, so the funeral party was temporarily separated whilst the Prince left. Bao-yu was preparing to join the other men to go by horseback, when Xi-feng invites him to accompany her by carriage, he accepting and then taking a moment to stop at the midway of their travels.
They get out at a farm, one of Bao-yu’s pages describing the farm tools whilst Xi-feng changed her outfit, they eating and taking tea before continuing their ride and catching up at the Temple, and after staying the day, is offered to return home in the evening, but decides to stay, Xi-feng taking responsibility for him. The two, along with Qin Zhong, since his father was unable to remain, retire at her arranged rooms, she speaking with the lady of the house, Euergesia, whilst Bao-yu and Qin Zhong are met by one of Euergesia’s “disciples”, Sapientia, Bao-yu giving Qin Zhong a hard time for supposedly hugging her privately, he denying knowing anything about it. Sapientia couldn’t deny Bao-yu’s claims though, the two having fallen for each other, but their affections innocent, so far. They had tea, then leave Sapientia for other pastimes.
Meanwhile, back with Xi-feng, Euergesia relates a story where a family wished for her assistance, but she not interested in getting involved, Euergesia warning it would give the wrong impression, so Xi-feng decides to quote a price she’d agree to help, if paid, Euergesia immediately assuming they would and whether she’d be prepared to begin the next day, she not saying yet, but the two chatting on. Qin Zhong soon locates Sapientia, he vowing his love, she wanting him to prove it through getting her out of her servant status, and his agreement, but forcing his unbridled passion upon her, Bao-yu cock-blocking him in a odd way, and he deciding what Qin Zhong would do to keep his secret for him, but the details unknown. Now, Qin Zhong is attempting to figure a reason for them to remain longer, Xi-feng weighing the reasonability, deciding it’d suit her for the task she agreed to do. Xi-feng has a servant send a message to a general Yun Guang, and when they were set to leave the next day, Xi-feng makes sure Euergesia will contact her with Yun Guang’s answer. Qin Zhong and Sapientia’s parting was full of sadness and the details of the departure are to follow.
Everyone’s return home is uneventful, Bao-yu had every intention of using his finished work space, but Qin Zhong became sick, and woe he is made to wait longer before he could study with him. Xi-feng received Guang’s response in affirming his readiness to help her which had him receiving his gifts back and a young lady and man committing suicide in the process, Xi-feng looking like she was content with money made and Lady Wang remaining in the dark, this seemingly the start to her new hobby. Soon, Jia Zheng’s birthday has come, a message from the Emperor coming by Head Eunuch of the Bedchamber, they learning Jia Zheng had been summoned to see the Emperor right then, this having the rest of the family wondering what reason there could be as Zheng readies to leave. A few hours later, Grandmother Jia receives message of she and her female family members were now also being asked to go meet Zheng so they could show gratitude, Grandmother Jia learning privately one of the ladies had been chosen as Imperial Concubine.
When the women found out, they were quite pleased and dressed according to title of power. Bao-yu was the only one whom wasn’t bothered by this good news, Sapientia having followed Qin Zhong and he getting punished when Qin Bang-ye found her, he getting so incensed, an illness which he periodically fought, finally claimed him a few days later, so due to the physical stresses and mental anguish from losing his father, he struggled to get better. This is why Bao-yu’s sister, Yuan chun’s “promotion” didn’t brighten his mood, the family putting it off to being one of his crazy ways. Although, the knowledge of Dai-yu finally returning helped him defrost a bit, and when she arrived, she became swept up with locating space for the new books she’d brought back (I feel that). Meanwhile, Xi-feng and Jia Lian were jokingly speaking formally with each other, and as they had tea, spoke of Xi-feng’s duties and she down-playing her competence at managing households. As she’s inquiring Jia Lian to have Cousin Zhen forgive her terrible management of his home, Jia Lian is reminded of hearing news about Xue getting Caltrop as he’d been wanting. Jia Lian notes how Xue wasn’t suitable for her, so Xi-feng offers to exchange her maid for Caltrop.
When Jia Lian goes to see Zhen, whom had dropped by, Patience admits the reason Caltrop was mentioned was because Brightie’s wife had come to deliver money. Later on, as Xi-feng and Jia Lian have wine, his old nurse comes by to ask about possible work for her sons, Xi-feng willing to take the matter into her own hands. The conversation then moves on to the Emperor’s project of having a place for the concubines to visit with their parents, Jia Lian helping with this. Nannie Zhao speaks of the old Emperor’s ways and is soon interrupted by Jia Rong and Jia Qiang who were delivering the message of where the Visitation spot would be placed and to give comment the next day. Jia Qiang then relays a message about his own task of hiring entertainers and was to accept advice, Jia Lian wonders whether he was experienced enough to choose appropriately, Xi-feng defending Zhen’s choice to have Jia Qiang handle it.
After Jia Lian learns how the money for this task would be handled, he approves of Jia Qiang’s plan so far, and Xi-feng offers a couple helpers to aid him, which he’d been hoping to request. Jia Qiang offers to pick up anything Jia Lian needed in appreciation for his help, and after this, heard a few general household matters before retiring for the night, Xi-feng joining him by midnight. Jia Lian plays a large role in choosing the builders to undertake the project which began the next day, after which they started purchasing supplies and moving a garden to attend to the landscape before building. Due to the family focused on this, Bao-yu wasn’t hassled about his school work, but soon discovers Tealeaf, Qin Zhong’s state turning into a deathly illness. Bao-yu relays this to Grandmother Jia, whom allows he go to him until he passed, but must return directly after. Bao-yu leaves and quickly takes a carriage to Qin Zhong’s where he was being looked after by female relatives.
When Bao-yu sees his friend lying on a bed instead of his kang, he becomes upset, Li Gui reminding Bao-yu the reason behind this could be due to Qin Zhong’s sensitivity to certain levels of hardness of cushion rather than it being about the custom of not being allowed to expire on a kang, hoping this possibility would calm Bao-yu so as not to upset Qin Zhong, but he needn’t have worried, since Qin Zhong was currently dealing with beings ready to drag him into the afterlife, but upon hearing Bao-yu calling, the “demon” leader and bunch put them atwitter as to how to proceed. The lead demon decides to relent in letting Qin Zhong a few more moments to say goodbye to Bao-yu, since he wore his demon repelling jade. Unfortunately, Qin Zhong was unable to speak and could only awake to look at Bao-yu before descending into blackness.
Bao-yu was terribly distraught from this day until quite some time after the funeral. Later still, Cousin Zhen informed Jia Zheng of the garden being done and he would be last to decide if they needed to add anything else, as well as the opinion for certain points of the space to be named, the two agreeing with an idea from a man of words about putting their ideas on lanterns and have Grandmother Jia decide later which would be best. Bao-yu had been prompted by her Ladyship only moments before to go in the garden, so hadn’t been quick enough to retreat before his father approached, Jia Zheng then deciding he’d see how gifted Bao-yu’s couplet skills truly were, since receiving good notes regarding this from his instructor.
Jia Zheng leads them all to the first spot needing to be named, everyone suggesting something, Jia Zheng not disappointed after Bao-yu makes his suggestion, but the area ultimately going to receive a different name. They move to another area and the group again gives opinions, Bao-yu doing well and this time his father acknowledging this in the usual minimalist way, they moving on. this time, the little enclosed area bringing to mind the idea of studying within to Jia Zheng’s attention and Bao-yu showing a look of guilt. After hearing the other men first, Jia Zheng speaks deprecatingly about Bao-yu to Cousin Zhen, since he’d suggested hearing from Bao-yu once more, he again giving a more suitable idea and stating why the others didn’t seem fitting. Jia Zheng hadn’t been impressed with the couplet Bao-yu offered thought, getting the report of what deliveries had been made for the structure thus far. They move on to the next area as they listened, Jia Zheng happy to have reached this particular rest-spot.
Bao-yu doesn’t wait to be asked this time and his father responds heatedly about they only having been inquiring to test him, so when they moved to another building he had Bao-yu attempt a name, Jia Zheng not pleased and putting down both name and couplet before moving on, this time traveling to another area with a stream, Bao-yu still unable to impress his father, the group then climbing to another area over a hill. Jia Zheng’s first impression of another building turned from negative to calm due to the view from the door, plants all about within, Bao-yu mistakenly offering his opinion on the smell form the plants coming from a particularly named rare plant.
When Bao-yu stays silent at the next building as the literary men suggested couplets, Jia Zheng calls on his son again, goading him for his opinion, and again acting surprised when the other men praise Bao-yu, but inwardly agreeable, at the least to the positive feedback. The next place they went was the entrance hall, this place giving Bao-yu deja-vu, the other men having Jia Zheng allow Bao-yu to give his opinion in a day’s time, since he looked so preoccupied with attempting to remember. Jia Zheng does only allow these terms if Bao-yu gives him a perfect suggestion, they then being interrupted by a servant with information Yu-cun having sent a message. They leave with Jia Zheng leading, he again shooting down a suggestion from Bao-yu when they crossed a dam, after which they walk past many other quaint rest areas, Jia Zheng only stopping when he became tired.
Bao-yu still attempts naming the place they were in after his father had the others speak. The idea wasn’t accepted, though and they continued on until reaching where they’d begun, Jia Zheng allows Bao-yu to depart, the boy being stopped by his father’s pages, who took all of his valuables they could see as payment for supplying him with his poems, they then take him to Grandmother Jia, after which he goes back to his quarters, Aroma and then Dai-yu seeing his missing articles, the latter annoyed he’d given away a gift of hers, she collecting and cutting up a bag Bao-yu had requested she make, he showing her how the gift she’d thought had been re-gifted was actually saved, she upset by his reaction of returning it to her and then calming her down when he saw she was going to destroy this purse, as well. When he didn’t let her alone, though, she attempts arguing why he’d insist keeping the little purse when he’d tried to reattach it, the two eventually making peace enough to go to Jia Qiang’s where they learned of a twelve girl act he’d acquired, also 24 nuns also being employed by Lin Zhi-xiao’s wife, the lady informing how they may get an extra nun, Adamantina, whom would fit well and came from a good family, but the young lady having not been convinced, yet. Lady Wang suggests a formal invite of which the results continue presently.
As Xi-feng became busier, Bao-yu decides to move their group to Ying-chun’s quarters. Meanwhile, Lady Wang would be occupied with work for the garden for the next ten months straight. Finally, after Grandmother Jia had given her okay, Jia Zheng puts in request and receives answer for a “Visitation”, in a month’s time. A eunuch made last minute rules and requests on behalf of the concubine and the night before the visit brought rest to no one. The important members of the family were all ready by five next morning and waiting at the entrance until hearing how the concubine wouldn’t be arriving until early evening. Xi-feng prepares small assignments in the meantime, and when night finally falls, the eunuchs soon get wind of the concubine’s approach, the Jia family also reclaim their spots of welcome, and then two sets of ten eunuchs stand in a line before they hear the concubine reaching their estate. First her servants carry her belongings, she bringing up the rear. Yuan-chun descends only for a moment to “‘changing her clothes'” before being brought to the freshly pimped garden, she overwhelmed by the lengths obviously gone to in order to show the excessive make-over. As Yuan-chun was brought further into the garden, it’s explained why Jia Zheng had chosen to use his son’s suggestions being to do with Yuan-chun having been so close with him when he was a small boy. Yuan-chun, not knowing this it seems, spoke her mind, and one title for the entrance to an area was shortened whilst another changed completely. Yuan-chun then sat to be greeted by the family, her lady-in-waiting dismissing each group as they paid respects.
Yuan-chun’s lady-in-waiting went about excusing each group as they paid respects. After this, she again, “changes her clothes” and is carried to her family’s home. Grandmother Jia and Lady Wang both waiting, and Yuan-chun becoming emotional from seeing them after so long. Six other ladies were standing around and watching the scene with tears in their eyes. After everyone calmed, others were brought forward to greet her, and after learning Aunt Xue, Bao-chai, and Dai-yu weren’t present, she had them called on to attend the reunion. Then, when most of the high-positioned servants were led out, Yuan-chun was comfortable enough to lose diplomatic formality, unfortunately, it making certain trouble when wanting to chat with her father, Jia Zheng, they having to speak with a curtain hiding one from the other. He spoke of advising her, and also stating of his wife and he were honored by her royal position and she shouldn’t feel upset for her good fortune including this stipulation of her visit.
Yuan-chun then wonders aloud where Bao-yu was, after which Jia Zheng shared his son’s contribution for the titles in the garden. She calls for him and is overcome with joy once more, until being led to a feast elsewhere, getting the chance to explore the grounds further, and afterward, she and the family sitting down for their meals and she writing down her choice for titles of the lovely garden and changes to the names of some, but not Bao-yu’s inscriptions. After doing a bit more writing, Yuan-chun requests the ladies of the family to attempt writing some poetry, as well as Bao-yu expanding on his inscriptions of her four top favorites. Everyone immediately begins, the ladies poems being read first. Yuan-chun praises two out of the four young ladies, and then Bao-chai helps Bao-yu with his last requested poem. After this, the twelves little girl performers got their chances to show their talents, one girl, Charmante being noticed considerably more. Then, Yuan-chun makes an inspection of the list of gifts which would be given to the family and servants, she agreeing, the time for her visit ending. Grandmother Jia with Lady Wang were both visibly upset, Yuan-chun attempting to reassure them everything would be fine before steeping back into her carriage.
The emperor hears of Yuan-chun’s visit a day later, and Xue-feng along with the rest of the family, were taxed physically and mentally by all the planning they’d done, she continuing to oversee the cleanup of the garden which lasted for the next few days. Bao-yu though, was among those being completely sedentary with his time, he accepting an invitation to attend some plays at the other house. The productions were so loud, people on the streets could hear the cacophony. Bao-yu becomes tired of it fairly quickly and decides to move along, chatting with You-shi first, but leaves her and the maids and concubines shortly after, his attendants all having let him be for believing he’d only mill about until evening. Bao-yu was on his way to see a portrait of a lady hanging in one of Cousin Zhen’s studies, and upon approaching closer, hears questionable sounds from within. He makes a tear in the paper window and witnesses Tealeaf getting off with another girl. Bao-yu was shocked into a yelp and busted in on the two, allowing the one girl to leave and inquiring of Tealeaf to share the girl’s name, which was Swastika (the story behind this, shared), the two then decide to visit Aroma where they are also greeted by her family and before being escorted back home, sits a little while.
Meanwhile, his maids were also taking advantage of Bao-yu being out, Nannie Li dropping in and not being impressed with their behavior. She helps herself to Bao-yu’s gift to Aroma, though and becomes peeved and feels guilty when hearing why the koumiss had been saved. Another maid attempts to make light of Nannie Li’s egotistic perspective by agreeing with her, but she didn’t believe the maid’s genuineness, and after leaving, Bao-yu returns to notice the maid, Skybright lying down, Ripple relating the events with Nannie Li and how Skybright started losing when the old woman arrived. Aroma then comes in, Bao-yu asking for the koumiss and the maids naming the drinker, Aroma stating how Nannie Li would’ve been welcome to it anyways, since she’d made herself sick of the drink before Bao-yu could react.
When Aroma requests Bao-yu peel some chestnuts for her, this distracts him from thinking anymore of Nannie Li and he drifted to the topic of one of Aroma’s younger relatives, the girl catching his interest and confiding his opinion of liking the girl to reside with them, Aroma taking offense over how her family shouldn’t all have to work for his, Bao-yu claiming the possibility he could’ve meant as a bride rather than a maid, Aroma not buying this due to her family’s lower status. She then shares how the girl was already betrothed, Bao-yu showing disappointment, and then shocked and surprised when hearing her family’s plans of buying her freedom to move back home. Bao-yu’s reaction to state how he could keep her there when she’d confessed her wish to return to them, and explaining how his family couldn’t deny her freedom if purchased, Bao-yu distressed over this, but seeing how possible it was, regardless of his hypothetical scenarios to make her stay, he then sharing how he’d rather have not had her employed for him if she’d told him sooner she’d eventually leave, readying for bed.
Then the conversation between Aroma’s mother, brother, and herself is related, she not wanting them to buy her out, due to how well she was treated and they not having need of the money to sell her off again, they also agreeing with her after seeing Bao-yu. So, Aroma confessing the opposite to him was part one in a complicated plan (maybe?), she’d successfully gotten Bao-yu off his high horse and discovered his true feelings. She then goes to Bao-yu to see he’d been crying, she confiding her change of heart to stay and Bao-yu asking her to think of a way to prove to her how much he truly wanted her to remain with him. Aroma wants him to perform three tasks for her, one being to not go on and on with long drawn out responses, the second to at least pretend to enjoy studying, especially around his father and associates, Bao-yu claiming to already having stopped doing this, the third was to resist taking lipstick and eating it, he agreeing fully, and Aroma stating if he could keep it up and only be careful how reckless he was, she wouldn’t ever leave. Another maid then walks in to share the hour being late, so Bao-yu again goes through his bedtime rituals.
Next morning, Aroma becomes ill, so had to take most of the day off, Bao-yu going to see Dai-yu, whom was attempting to nap, but he insisting her napping after a meal was unhealthy, so she relented staying up and chatting with him. Bao-yu becomes distracted by Dai-yu’s perfume scent as she advised him to be careful being seen helping to make rouge, since the news could read his father. Dai-yu confesses it wasn’t perfume, but perhaps came from her closet, Bao-yu denying this for the smell being different. After some time sniffer her cuff, he attempts to make idle conversation, Dai-yu not participating until Bao-yu pretends hearing of a story about Yangchow and some magic mice, she then relenting to listen. When Dai-yu finally realizes this story involved a character with connotations to herself entering the story, she punishes Bao-yu with a lip-pinch, Bao-chai coming in and asking what had happened, Dai-yu explaining and happy to know Bao-chai could now whip Bao-yu at his own game, they then hearing an angry outburst from the vicinity of Bao-yu’s room.
So, as they’d been having a grand ole time, Bao-yu feels better now Dai-yu wouldn’t get indigestion, she identifying the yelling coming from Nannie Li arguing at Aroma, Bao-chai keeping Bao-yu from breaking it up for Nannie Li’s outburst being small potatoes. Bao-yu agrees with her words before going off and hearing Nannie Li’s insults to Aroma having to do with her not having at least acknowledged her presence when she’d arrived. Aroma kept her cool, but became upset when Nannie Li began suggesting how better off they’d all be with her getting married and leaving, Bao-yu attempts to support Aroma with the allowance of she having been sick, but Nannie Li continues her rampage by believing Aroma had turned all of them against her, she then becoming upset, Bao-chai and Dai-yu attempting to ease her emotion.
Xi-feng’s attention is caught in the front room, she entering and stating to Nannie Li of needing to be quiet, Grandmother Jia was in good spirits and didn’t need to hear her petty b.s. (seriously; It was said in kinder terminology, though). Xi-feng also states how if Nannie Li was being upset by anyone she should report them to her for punishment, she then insisting the old bag come have some stew and drink in her quarters, Nannie Li begrudgingly following, but quietly bitching about how she didn’t regret her actions. Bao-chai and Dai-yu were properly amused by this, Bao-yu wondering why Nannie Li had truly gone off on everyone, Skybright defending the girls due to the culprit should’ve willingly come forward if circumstances warranted, Aroma then stating how Bao-yu shouldn’t have turned the quarrel into a group affair, since she always received the backlash, stopping herself from becoming further distressed for Bao-yu’s sake, he also staying reserved, since he could see she was truly ill.
As a proper lie-down is set up for her, she suggests he sit with Xi-feng and Grandmother Jia for awhile, she assuring him she’d be alright, Bao-yu agreeing with her idea and so joins his grandmother once Aroma was settled, he returning afterward to find all his maids gone except Musk, whom had decided to keep an eye on Aroma and Bao-yu’s quarters. So, before retiring himself, he brushes her hair when he remembers she’d been talking about it earlier, another maid coming in, teasing Bao-yu, he making light of it, fortunately, and then returning to her game. By the following morning Aroma had recovered, so Bao-yu goes to Aunt Xue’s home. Some of his other closely-aged relatives were also there playing games, Bao-yu’s half-brother, Jia Huan playing against Bao-chai, she treating the two brothers equally, so when Jia Huan starts losing the game and attempts to cheat, Bao-chai has the other girl give up her winnings, she annoyed, but Jia Huan breaking down, which Bao-yu then comes in to inquire the reason, but the other too ashamed to confess.
Besides this, there was an odd relationship between the two due to Jia Huan being a concubine’s son and the younger. Bao-yu didn’t bully him, since people were already speaking about him enough as it was, and he also was ruled by his religion teaching respect of blood being of utmost importance, so Bao-yu dealt with Jia Huan as this and the fact he’d grown up with females coloring his reasoning. He made it clear if the game was upsetting him, he should go find something else he’d enjoy. Jia Huan ends up back in his own quarters where his actual mother, “‘Aunt Zhou'” wondered aloud what had happened (Lady Wang was known as his mother only by title). When Jia Huan shares his story of what had occurred, Aunt Zhou bursts with how he shouldn’t have been mixing with them anyways. Xi-feng hears her as she passes by, telling her off through the window and having the boy come with her. She proceeds to berate him about his choice of bad company and being too weak-minded, she then sending him off with more cash for betting with and would make him regret any similar behavior in the future if she heard about it again. Meanwhile Bao-yu and Bao-chai go to visit with Miss Shi when she comes to call.
When arriving at Grandmother Jia’s room, Dai-yu was there giving Bao-yu a hard time about spending time with Bao-chai. She exits, and Bao-yu goes after her wondering why she was mad, she stubborn and Bao-yu getting pulled away by Bao-chai on behalf of Cousin Shi, the two leaving Dai-yu upset, and when Bao-yu returns later, she is more distressed and so he attempts calming her with how close they were compared to Bao-chai, whom was too new to be considered more of a closer cousin. Cousin Shi then comes to say how perfect it was they deserting her the one time she’s actually available to them, the two laughing at her lisp and she quickly exiting after a joke about Dai-yu marrying a lisper. Bao-yu blocks Dai-yu’s attempts at chasing her and Bao-chai tries to diffuse the situation by waving the white flag, Dai-yu having a Nannie Li moment when she sticks to her pursuit and belief there was collusion against her. Bao-yu makes her realize how this nonsense began due to her own tom-foolery, a servant interrupting with news of Grandmother Jia starting supper, after which Bao-yu hangs around with Dai-yu and Xiang-yun until quite late, Aroma asking for him periodically.
The next morning, Bao-yu is up with the light and fussing at Xiang-yun’s blankie, Dai-yu having him leave temporarily whilst they dressed, and after finishing cleaning their faces, Bao-yu requests Xiang-yun style his hair, Aroma sees this and returns to Bao-yu’s room where Bao-chai comes looking for him, she taking a moment to speak with Aroma about herself, liking the girl. When Bao-yu returns, he notes how quickly Bao-chai leaves, Aroma not in a good humor and Bao-yu stating as much, she confessing she’d like to work for Grandmother Jia once more. This worries Bao-yu, but he doesn’t get anything more from her, and when he receives similar attitude from Musk, he lets it go and lays down for a nap. When Aroma covers him and he takes the blanket off, they begin speaking, he stating how she wouldn’t even let him in on why she was mad, and she maintaining he should know already and when he finishes lunch and returns, she has fallen asleep. He goes to his room and reads for awhile until seeing one of his maids, Citronella, standing in the room awaiting instruction, he changing her nickname given to her by Aroma to Number Four due to the number of girls in her family and she being the baby, he growing tired of the flower and fragrance theme.
Aroma and Musk quietly find this amusing, Bao-yu now bored with his uneventful day, Number Four wanting to make a favorable impression on him, and after dinner, Bao-yu now a bit inebriated, he considered how best to bide his time from Aroma, reading and becoming inspired by a passage and adding his own thoughts in the book regarding Aroma, Musk, Dai-yu, and Bao-chai, then retiring. Aroma is asleep next to him when he wakes in the morning, he rousing her so she could go sleep comfortably on her own kang (which everyone seems to lounge and sleep on, so I presumed). When Bao-yu attempts to get her more comfortable, she resists, still playing her game of having him see his wrongful ways. Instead, it seems to be left alone once Bao-yu breaks a hair-pin, they both washing up. Bao-yu leaves and Dai-yu comes looking for him, seeing his open book, and ads her own lines to his. She then goes to Grandmother Jia’s, and after to Lady Wang’s, the doctor having seen her daughter, she being sick with smallpox. The doctor advises the potential for recovery and how to treat it for the little girl’s comfort. A room was then prepared for the girl, doctors, and parents, since it would be a 12 day process.
Jia Lian was affected by this set up because of the forced abstinence it entailed, which would be satiated by a lady known as “the mattress”, the wife of a cook called “Droopy Duo”. Jia Lian soon had her brought to him, she delighted, they meeting in the evening, and upon getting down, her nickname explained as coming from an affectation her body took, and once finished, the two ‘come’ (wink) to an agreement. When the baby’s illness had passed and everything was normal, Patience discovers a lock of hair under Jia Lian’s pillow, she confronting him about what it could be, and when he makes a lunge for it and fails to retrieve it before Xi-feng was heard heading towards them and requesting an item for Grandmother Jia, asks whether anything was found or missing from Jia Lian’s temporary quarters, she knowing the possibility of her hubby’s naughtiness.
Patience keeps his secret and when they’re alone again, was about to negotiate terms when he tricks her into releasing the hair, and her frustration making him ask for her to let him lay her, she leaving whilst the getting was good. He then vows to make Xi-feng realize whom was actually in power in their relationship, it sounding murderous, he claiming she was using the double-standard on him (rightly), Patience defending Xi-feng for not being a cheat. When she mentions how trustworthy she thought of him, he widens his threat to include anyone who thought his conduct unsavory, Xi-feng then happening to return to see Patience conversing through an open window, she giving Xi-feng some attitude when she mentions why she was outside to speak with Jia Lian inside, then exiting, Jia Lian also trying to excuse himself, but Xi-feng having a topic to discuss.
Xi-feng inquires about their plans for Bao-chai’s birthday, since she’d be turning fifteen and Grandmother Jia wanted a nice party for her, so Jia Lian comes up with a simple solution, Xi-feng only making certain he had final say, he not caring as long as she eased up her surveillance of him. Shi Xiang Yun is then followed, she preparing to end her stay, but Grandmother Jia insisting she wait til after the party, she agreeing and sending word back home. Meanwhile, Xi-feng speaks with Grandmother Jia about what her thoughts were for entertainment, she going off on her in a burst when she was offered a meager sum to obtain said festivities, fortunately everyone taking it lightly. Grandmother Jia had caught on to the situation being for her benefit, she enjoying these set up digs on her.
On the day of the party, a different child acting troupe is scheduled. The party stayed a private affair, and Dai-yu was still acting aloof toward Bao-yu, as he’d come to her room to offer choosing her favorite plays for her, she not impressed, but still allowing him to lead her out. After the family had eaten, Bao-chai chooses the first play to be from a piece of Journey to the West, Grandmother Jia happy with her decision. The others also get a choice and everyone sits to watch the set, Bao-yu asking Bao-chai why she kept requesting similarly themed plays, her answer having to do with the music and lyrics, Bao-yu having her share which part she particularly liked, she obliging by quietly singing the section.
Bao-yu agrees with her assessment, Dai-yu voicing her annoyance at his talking, and after everyone had watched the plays into the evening, Grandmother Jia gave extra gifts to two of the girls who stood out, afterward. As the troupe was packing it in, some noted how one of them looking like one of their party, Xiang-yu naming the person, then becoming angry when receiving a look from Bao-yu, which she mistakenly perceived to be a look of insult, and she not caring for his explanation, he then getting pushed out of a room by Dai-yu when he was looking for her. He waits her out and when she opens the door once more to find him still waiting, she allows him entry, alluding to how he seemed to support her being teased, he declaring the statement hadn’t been made by him, and she concluding with a baffling answer, since she supported everyone’s reaction, whilst wasn’t ideal, she thought his staying straight-faced made it worse, like she couldn’t take the joke. Besides this, how he’d reacted to Xiang-yu confused her into thinking it was due to she being on a lower rung-of-importance to Xiang-yu and shouldn’t have been joining with her, for risking a comeback, and so believed his excuse of she being sensitive was to distract from this, Dai-yu not liking he’d stuck in nose in. Bao-yu realizes how his actions had received negative results from both ends and his book reading reminded him of the philosophies saying how unfulfilling the task he’d put on himself was, making him feel worse, so he ditches her in favor of his quarters.
Dai-yu took this even more insulting and declared he stay away from her and not speak with her again. Bao-yu doesn’t respond, and when Aroma sees him, lets it be and talks of different subjects, her attempts being met with indifference. Bao-yu was determined to keep out of any suggestion referring to the ladies and so stayed aloof with all of Aroma’s ideas regarding good spirits toward the women. After quoting a line describing how he felt, he became upset and began writing some verses. When he was satisfied, he goes to bed, Dai-yu wandering in later and Aroma detaining her before she withdrew, after learning Bao-yu had retired, but was amused by Bao-yu’s writing which Aroma gives her, she showing Xiang-yu and Bao-chai, the latter disposing of it, since believing Bao-yu had written it because of what she’d told him of the play, Dai-yu finding her reaction amusing. She states how destroying the paper was unnecessary and could reverse Bao-yu’s reaction by posing a specific question to him, which when he heard, could not find a reply, all who watched on amused and suggesting alternatives to his torn up thoughts, he then realizing his Enlightened moment was false, taking the three’s ribbing lightly, since they also hadn’t obtained Enlightenment, regardless of knowing more than he.
Meanwhile, Yuan-chun had sent a riddle for the family to decipher and return a riddle of their own to her. Everyone took part in answering the riddle and supplying one of their own and the answers along with the riddles were delivered and returned in kind. So, whilst some of Yuan-chun’s guesses were incorrect, those who’d stumped her pretended she’d succeeded in solving them. Jia Huan was the only one whom had given a riddle Yuan-chun admitted she couldn’t solve, the answer being sent to her, Grandmother Jia so taken with the game, she sets up one of her own for everyone, Jia Zheng also taking part, and after Grandmother Jia had Li Wan join them, also noting Bao-yu staying monosyllabic due to his father’s presence, the other ladies were also lacking in conversation, Bao-chai the least affected by whatever was putting the others off, Grandmother Jia considering the cause to be Jia Zheng, she attempting to convince him to turn in, but he wanting to be a part of the fun, Grandmother Jia relenting by offerring him a riddle, the two soon trading riddles, Jia Zheng giving presents when Grandmother Jia’s answers were correct.
After, she suggest he has a go at the kids riddles, getting them with one guess, but becoming depressed by how dark they were. Grandmother Jia could tell something had darkened his mood and didn’t want him bringing down the party anymore and again brings up of he readying to retire for the night, he agreeing this time and doing so after a couple more drinks and conversation with her before making his exit, his mood not improving. At the table, upon Grandmother Jia stating they loosen up, Bao-yu immediately begins critiquing the riddles, Dai-yu and Xi-feng making fun of how animated he’d become and realizing Jia Zheng should stick close to him more often if they wanted peace, he retaliating against Xi-feng’s comment by play-wrestling with her. After some little time, Grandmother Jia becomes tired and breaks up the party so all could settle for bed.
A bit after Yuan-chun’s visit, she has a copy of the poems made about the garden and has the best ones engraved in the family’s honor. Jia Zheng goes about passing the responsibility to have her wishes met and was considering how to proceed with transplanting the nuns and monks elsewhere (this being mentioned way back…), Zhou-shi turning up thinking a job for her son, Jia Qin could be acquired, since the family needed the money, she getting the opportunity to chat with Xi-feng, whom liked her, and after hearing her idea of how to keep the nuns and monks with no problems of separating them, Xi-feng has Jia Zheng informed because it was so clever, she being reminded by her hubby Jia Lian they had to think of Jia Yun first, she already having plans for him, Jia Lian agreeing and asking about a little romp they had the night before, she giving a small laugh and not answering. Later, when Jia Lian relays all of their plans for the boys to Jia Zheng, he allows this quickly for indifference in these matters, Jia Qin being hired and he stating his gratitude to them, Xi-feng also having Jia Lian supply him with an advance, he immediately starting his work after speaking with his mother.
Meanwhile, Yuan-chun was reminiscing about the beauty of the garden as she worked on the poems it had inspired and thinking how terrible it was knowing they wouldn’t be using it in her absence, so she decides to have the girls and Bao-yu move in there. She writes her wish of this and has it sent to Jia Zheng and Xi-feng, and when Grandmother Jia is informed, they begin setting up for this to happen, Bao-yu quite ready to move in and chatting to Grandmother Jia of his plans of what he wished put there, he then being called by Jia Zheng, his attitude changing obviously, Grandmother Jia comforting him and telling him how to respond to his father during this visit, and when she sends him off with some nannies as “protection”, he makes his way to his father slowly, the nannies awaiting outside the area his father was enjoying seeing him take his time, one making light of his apprehension and letting him know his father was in a decent mood, so he should take advantage whilst he could.
Jia Zheng states what he expected from Boa-yu once he’d moved and the consequences if he got out of line, his mother then reminding him to have Aroma give him his pill each night, Jia Zheng becoming irritated upon hearing the maids nicknames, the two then dismissing him. When he returns to Grandmother Jia’s and sees Dai-yu, they decide which part of the garden they wanted, the two being neighbors and a date set for them all to move in, Bao-yu’s life becoming a thing of idyllic freedom. He’d composed for poems indicated by season of how he fest and had become popular as a source for knocking them out, pleased with the attention: what with being thirteen and liking having people refer to him for his work. One day, though he’d grown unfulfilled and couldn’t get comfortable. Tealeaf realizes Bao-yu had yet to try one thing, he gifting some books the boy hadn’t seen before, and Tealeaf asking he keep them secret.
Bao-yu attempts to, but one day as he’s reading under a tree, Dai-yu walks in on him, explaining what she’d been doing with the fallen tree blossoms, as Bao-yu had been dumping them in the water, she then mentioning the book he’d been reading and disbelieving his reply, so he promises her to secrecy and praises its absorption capacity. Dai-yu soon realizes the truth in his claim she agreeing after reading a bit. When Bao-yu quotes a couplet which Dai-yu takes personally, he quickly apologizes, she brightening and the two burying petals when Aroma announces Uncle She was sick and the two were summoned by Grandmother Jia to attend. After, Dai-yu was walking by herself and heard the girl troupe practicing a song, she concluding how a song could have wonderful pietry and is soon brought to her knees and tears as she listened, someone interrupting.
Caltrop explains why she’d been wandering and then walks Dai-yu back to Naiad’s House. They see a gift sent to Dai-yu, hang out, and after, Caltrop leaves her. Meanwhile, Bao-yu was expected by Grandmother Jia to check on his Uncle She, and as he wait for his change of clothes, essentially wraps himself around Faithful, Grandmother Jia’s servant and wanting to eat her lipstick, Aroma walks in and states how he was becoming a lost cause. Then, before he away’s to She’s, he’s greeted by Jia Lian, the two interrupted by Jia Yun, Bao-yu and Jia Lian’s nephew, a joke being made about Jia Yun not minding if Bao-yu wished to be his father, even though Jia Yun was years older. As they all part ways, Bao-yu invites Jia Yun to visit him the next day, he then riding (by horse) to She’s. After seeing him, and noting he only had a chill, he relates Grandmother Jia’s message, he’s then brought to Lady Xing’s room where they chat, being briefly interrupted by Jia Cong, Jia Huan, and Jia Lan, Lady Xing making an excuse to have them leave, Bao-yu then being invited for dinner with she, Ying-chun, and her nieces before returning to Grandmother Jia, then his quarters.
As this is going on, Jia Yun was after a job from Jia Lian, he conveying an opening when the planting was to be started, then going to his uncle, Bu Shi-ren for a loan of goods, but he hard up not only for the products, but the money from someone else already being owed. Jia Yun puts perspective to his Uncle’s words, noting he could be more trouble, his Uncle mentioning Jia Yun’s other cousin whom had gotten the priests and nuns position (to transport them to different temples), Jia Yun having enough of hearing about why he couldn’t acquire a job like him was ready to leave when his Uncle offered he stay for dinner, but declines. As he’s walking away moodily,he walks into a drunk man, whom turns out being his neighbor, Ni Er, a dirty businessman, he about to knock his clock off until realizing who him was, then telling he’d help him out if need be, Jia Yun accepting if only to keep the man friendly. They part ways after he’s given a message to pass to his wife.
Jia Yun begins his plan the next morning, back to the Rong-guo House and sees Xi-feng, he giving her his purchase of oil scents, pleasing her with his surprise, but not getting anymore information about a job, he remembering his invitation from Bao-yu, and the boy’s pages leaving him to wait, Jia Yun hearing a girl from outside, and Tealeaf returning by then and having her take a message to Bao-yu, Jia Yun fascinated by the maid and taking her advice to return next day. He again speaks with Xi-feng, she having learned his reasoning for his gift, she playing hard to get, but he making clear he’d take whatever she could give, they scheduling a meeting so he could start. After recieving payment, he gives Ni Er his money back, then goes to buy the trees after sharing the news with his mother.
As for Bao-yu, it’s clarified he’d invited Jia Yun flippantly, and so had been away a couple days with the Prince of Beijing, and then returning to note his maids were detained someway or another and when he called, turned away the older maids who answered. A young lady, then comes in to pour his for him, she able to relay Jia Yun having come by, Ripple and Emerald then return and confront Crimson outside, she explaining her presence and Ripple insulting her, they interrupted by an old lady delivering the information about how they conducted themselves when the trees were planted the next day. Crimson soon realizes she had more information then the two bitches. She had been resident in the House of Green Delights before Bao-yu and girls had moved, she retreats to her room, then hears her name being called, discovering it was Jia Yun, and when he attempts to pull her closer, she falls in her attempt to run off. She awakes realizing she’d dreamt it, beginning her chores when dawn comes.
Bao-yu had been thinking of Crimson and wanted to invite her to become a closer attendant, but doesn’t get a chance before his washing. Then, Aroma speaks with Crimson to have her borrow a spittoon from the Naiad’s House, Crimson seeing the tree workers with Jia Yun, but not up to speaking with him, feeling sorry for herself, and instead lies down after she completes her mission. The following day brought Wang Zi-teng’s “lady”‘s birthday, Lady Wang wishing to go, but not since Grandmother Jia wasn’t up for it, but Aunt Xue, Xi-feng, Bao-chai, Bao-yu, and a few other girls accepted the invitation. Jia Huan had returned from school recently and was getting to work on some copying, delegating tasks as he did, Sunset decided to advise him to speak more kindly, since the other maids thought he was a schmuck, he not taking her helpful criticism well, but being interrupted by Bao-yu’s return, his mother suggesting he rest for awhile, since he’d been drinking. So, whilst he lay, Sunset massaged his legs, but not giving her undivided attention, she warning he’d tell on him, since he’d captured her hand, Jia Huan, Sunset’s master, deciding to punish him anyways, dropping a candle brimming with melted wax on his face, Lady Wang and Xi-feng both talking harshly about Jia Huan’s thick-motioned ways, then Lady Wang turning to Jia Huan’s mother, Aunt Zhao (Why must there be a Zhou and Zhao?!), she taking the put-downs and making certain she was seen helping Bao-yu.
Lady Wang knew she’d be hearing about this from Grandmother Jia, and begins applying lotion on her son, Bao-yu. He was prepared to take the blame, but Xi-feng knew there’d be hell, regardless. Bao-yu was returned to his room, Dai-yu visiting once learning of what happened, and he expected to see Grandmother Jia the next day, she blaming his care-takers. Bao-yu’s “Wise Woman”, Mother Ma also visited and did her magic lady words to make certain he healed properly, Grandmother Jia also learning of an incense-related ritual to keep him safe. Mother Ma explains how her other customers would purchase various amounts of oil to keep a light burning of which she herself would upkeep at her home (Bloo), Grandmother Jia considering carefully, so Mother Ma presents a suitable possibility for her in the case of Bao-yu, which she agrees, also making certain his attendants had extra cash for giving to good karmic charitable cases, like monks or various poor they meet on their way with Bao-yu.
After, Mother Ma visits Aunt Zhao for some silk and discusses Jia Huan and her contribution for him, she sharing her frustration about how Bao-yu would always overshadow him, even whilst understanding the reason. Mother Ma then deduces Aunt Zhao’s true problem being with Mrs. Lian, Aunt Zhao checking to be certain there weren’t any prying ears before agreeing and feeling she had to put up with the woman’s will. Mother Ma sees the potential for more money and plays hard-to-get when Aunt Zhao shows interest in the idea of investing in an underhanded way of dealing with the woman whom seemed to be in line to claiming all property and goods leftover in the Jia name, Mother Ma taking her more seriously when Aunt Zhao brings her attention to how she’d be able to name her price if her idea worked.
So, Aunt Zhao bargains with her by giving her a bundle of goods and a little extra cash, as well as an IOU, Mother Ma giving her paper cut-outs of people and demons, she explaining how to use them and placement of them under the targets beds, she then leaving after being summoned by Lady Wang. Meanwhile, Bao-yu had become a homebody since his burn, so Dai-yu would chat with him most of the time in his room, and one day, after getting bored of reading and sewing, walked to Bao-yu’s and found Li Wan, Xi-feng, and Bao-chai having a blast, Xi-feng inquiring about the tea she’d sent her, Bao-yu piping in with his opinion of them being nasty flavored. When Dai-yu states the opposite, Xi-feng gifts her the rest of her supply and would have someone speak of a favor she had in mind for her upon its delivery.
Dai-yu remarks how the gift seemed to be attached to strings and Xi-feng retorts with a phrase which alluded to she being a bride which would attach her to the family, this embarrassing her and she stating how it wasn’t funny, Xi-feng not resisting her jabs and speaks of Bao-yu and she, which had her running out, Bao-chai going after her as Aunts Zhou and Zhao enter, Xi-feng and Dai-yu actively not conversing with them. Then a summons is given for the younger ladies to visit Wang Zi-teng’s wife, so Li Wan and Xi-feng leave, as well as the Z’s, Bao-yu calling for Dai-yu, whom hadn’t gotten very far outside. When she returns, he holds her hand and only smiles at her, making her self-conscious, then he complains of his head before having a fit and scaring the maids and herself, he attempting suicide multiple times before Lady Wang and Grandmother Jia arrive, they soon distraught, many other family members hearing and milling about in bewilderment outside. Xi-feng’s reaction was to start gutting dogs and chickens with a knife and was looking at the crowd with blood-lust until some servants overpowered her and put her in her quarters. Many began suggesting what should be done metaphysically and otherwise, and by sunset Zi-teng’s lady leaves for home and visits again to ask after everyone the following day. Others visited with well-wishing and help from doctors, and the family had resorted to moving “the cousins” into Lady Wang’s room, Jia Yun and pages tasked with watching them at night due to their conditions still on the raving side.
The search for a cure continues and the fourth day Bao-yu requests Grandmother Jia to prepare his belongings and himself to be expelled from the family, Aunt Zhao gleeful, but acting sad, she attempting to convince Grandmother Jia to bide his words so he could die peacefully, her response being to hock a loogie in her face. She berates her and declares she wouldn’t gain anything from his death, along with anyone else, a servant then informing of the coffins having been finished, this putting Grandmother Jia over the edge and ordering the wood-smith to be whipped to death, and then hearing a chanting monk outside. Upon seeing him and his companion, they being a scraggly sight, they are invited in, the monk requesting to pray over Bao-yu’s jade to aid its ability to ward off the evil. When the monk holds it, he speaks familiarly to it of the time they’d met 13 years before on Green-sickness Peak, and once finishing his prayers, instructs Jia Zheng where to place it and the cousins recovery to be expected in 33 days. The two then leave before he could offer sustenance, and his instructions are followed diligently, Bao-yu and cousin regaining sanity and appetite by evening, Dai-yu relieved along with the others.
When Bao-yu’s month of rest is up, his face has healed, as well. This time also allows Jia Yun and Crimson to be around each other more, she noticing, but not remarking on the handkerchief he carried looking like her missing one. Later, a young maid, Melilot comes to her for the favor of looking after some money for her, she advising Crimson to go home and see a doctor, Crimson acting emo and declaring she would be better to die, Melilot warning her to not speak in such a way. They are interrupted by a quite young maid giving Crimson the task of copying patters for Mackerel, but she needing to retrieve a tool from Oriole and meeting Grannie Li, whom had told Jia Yun Bao-yu wished to see him.
Crimson loiters and soon the two eye each other as she speaks with his guide, Trinket. Jia Yun and she continue to Bao-yu’s, he impressed with his uncle’s home. Bao-yu asks after him when he invites him in his bedroom to sit, Bao-yu remarking how long it’d taken for him to remember his long ago invitation, but Jia Yun only glad he’d recovered. Bao-yu makes idle chat and when Jia Yun notes he was growing tired, decides to take his leave, Bao-yu wishing he return sometime. On his way back, Jia Yun asks Trinket a variety of questions about herself and the other maids, soon landing on the handkerchief, she mentioning how Crimson had even offered her a reward if found. Jia Yun had a plan for the item and gives Trinket a different hankie, he having her promise to let him know what she did.
Meanwhile, Bao-yu was being awoken by Aroma to go have a walk, he reluctantly relenting, soon running into Jia Lan, whom was after some deer to shoot with bow, and after allowing the young boy to continue, headed unconsciously to Naiad’s House. As he approaches closer to the window, he hears a quote from a book he knew, Dai-yu speaking, and when he enters and startles her, she denies having said anything, she dismissing her “guardians of morality”, Bao-yu quoting a line, himself and upsetting her, she walking out and he following in distress, but they being interrupted by Tealeaf with a summons from his father, and so Bao-yu rushes off and is led outside the gate, where he’s met by Xue Pan, he laughing and apologizing, and Bao-yu taking his jest lightly, but readying to return the favor.
Xue Pan then gets to his point, which was in celebration of his birthday next month, some buddies had put together a feast and he wished Bao-yu to join them, the with a singer already in attendance. When they sit, Xue Pan brings up how Bao-yu could draw him something for his birthday present, he seeing some good erotic ones recently. Then another buddy comes in, Feng Zi-ying, Xue Pan asking after his family and how his black eye had come from a hawk’s wing during a hunting trip with his pops. As he finishes with it being good fortune he’d gone rather than stayed home in comfort, he attempts to bow out, but the group refuses him, wanting more deets, he playing at being annoyed, but after agreeing as long as they supplied him with a couple decent-sized drinks, he still keeps his news to himself, but hits it would be shared at a get-together of his own in under two weeks, he then driving his horse away (yes, drive).
The group sticks around for awhile longer and when Bao-yu returns to a worried Aroma and clarifies what had become of him, due to his toasty state, she was a bit perplexed he hadn’t at lease sent word, but Feng Zi-ying was a distracting fellow. Bao-chai joins them, she relating how she’d refused the invitation, taking her tea and speaking of unimportant topics. Before Bao-chai had dropped by, Dai-yu had also planned to visit Bao-yu once learning he’d returned, she even seeing Bao-chai ahead of her, but distracted herself with some beautiful fish, so when she did finally get to his home, she had to knock to be let in the gate. Unfortunately for her, Skybright was in a bad mood and not recognizing her voice, turns her away, Dai-yu debating what to do and feeling bad for herself, she then hearing Bao-yu and Bao-chai inside, her mind going to even further paranoia of what reason could make Bao-yu turn her away, she becoming distraught and sits under a tree, someone eventually exiting from the house, but only to be known upon continuation of the second volume.
I’m hooked, I’ll be quite happy to continue. In the Appendix we learn who Bao-yu had seen the fates for in the fairy’s library, beginning with Skybright’s terrible fate by slanderers. Aroma does marry, Caltrop/Ying-lian is murdered by Xue Pan’s horrible wife, Xin Jin-gui. As for Bao-chai and Dai-yu, they are represented as two halves of a perfect woman and the meaning behind their songs are up for debate as to whether the first or second refer to one or the other, or the first two both, or the first and second about Bao-yu. There are other characters explained, but I’ll only list those I remember, the last being Xi-feng, whom will have an unfulfilled life which may end in divorce.