“Sir, corporal punishment is wrong. It will only lead to an aversion to learning among your disciples!” Su Tang rubbed the reddened back of her beaten hand and put on a pitiful look to show her ‘growing aversion to learning’.
Song Yi snorted, “In the future, speak more directly. If you act smart again, I will have Pengmo take your brother outside to play.”
Song Yi could see that Su Tang did not want to study. Initially, he had just thought that it was natural for a peasant girl to have a narrow view of the world and not think of learning as a precious thing, because, after all, girls from peasant families weren’t like those girls from those big families in the capital, who had to learn to read and write from a young age to ensure that they grew up to be knowledgeable and reasonable women.
In fact, in most small villages, female children would never even be allowed to learn to read. After all, there were many male children from those kinds of small villages that would never get an opportunity to learn, so when would anyone ever think to give the female children a turn? The idea of educating a girl from a peasant family wouldn’t even occur to most people, not even their close family members.
However, when Song Yi carefully recalled what had Su Tang said the last time they met, and what she had done since then, as well as what she said today, he had some doubts about his initial assumption. She was obviously an extremely smart little girl who operated using strict logic but who, at the same time, seemed rather playful and leisurely, as if she didn’t care about anything except making money. But it was also obvious that she had a clear view of the world and her own opinions on it, despite her young age.
There was actually a kind of strange, nearly otherworldly, feeling when faced with a small girl who had such clear thinkings. Song Yi didn’t know exactly where that feeling came from, but if he really believed that this little girl didn’t know how to write a single word, then wouldn’t all the knowledge he had accumulated over his long life been accumulated completely in vain?
Song Yi knew that Su Tang wanted her brother to be the one to study and learn so that he could take the imperial examination, and that idea of hers was actually very normal. For ordinary peasant children like them, the imperial examination was the best and perhaps only way to change their fate. However, in reality, that goal was something that thousands dreamed of achieving but that few ever did. It was not something so simple and easy as ‘you can accomplish it if you try’.
So when Su Tang pretended to be stupid in front of him, he just directly told her that if she didn’t take his lessons more seriously he would have Pengmo take Su Nuo somewhere else where he wouldn’t be able to listen in anymore. He had decided to allow Su Nuo to listen in because he valued the little disciple that he had accepted, and that was what she wanted. In most things he was at least somewhat willing to go along with her mischief, but not when it came to her studies.
He also saw that the little girl had deliberately made a joke to diffuse the situation and raise his mood, and he knew that considering the little girl’s past experiences it was natural for her to be distrustful of people. However, he was her master, so he couldn’t let her hide things from him forever because there needed to be trust between them.
“Don’t, ah, I really only understand these things very slightly. Master, I didn’t lie to you.” When Su Tang heard the old fox threatening her with her little brother she hurriedly objected.
“Then write properly this time.” Song Yi glared at her.
Su Tang sighed, picked up her pen and wrote, “People at birth, are naturally good…”*
From the side, Song Yi watched as she wrote and he could immediately see that Su Tang’s handwriting was subpar at best, and it seemed that there were some characters she was not familiar with writing.
Then, half an hour later, Su Tang finished writing out the whole Three Character Classic, but somehow it became strangely twisted into something like ‘Hard work is useless, it’s better to give up and play’.
After finishing her transcription, Su Tang smiled awkwardly at Song Yi, “How much silver is this worth?”
Song Yi’s beard shook as he raged. “What are you writing about, you stubborn girl?”
After saying that, he took away the Three Character Classic Su Tang had just written and replaced it with a copy of the Thousand Character Classic** while muttering: “What a waste of ink… you read this first.”
Su Tang looked down at the lengthy essay in front of her, then she glanced up at Song Yi and said, “Can I read it tomorrow?”
The ruler in Song Yi’s hand trembled, but he controlled himself and said, “After you finish reading this, I’ll give you five taels of silver.”
Su Tang’s eyes lit up, her master was so rich, ah. At five taels of silver, if she just read one or two of things like this she would be able to buy an acre of fertile land. However, Su Tang then looked back at the essay in her hand with a frown.
“I’ll also give you time to go out to do your business to make money every day.” Song Yi saw her frown, so his tone became a little anxious and he added more conditions.
Su Tang looked at him and complained. “Master, this is too much, but I’ll try to read it.”
“Heaven is dark, earth golden; the cosmos is vast and diffuse…” She began.
*first line from the real life three character classic
**again, real book (千字文) that is again directly quoted later in the chapter. Since they are both well-known books I just used the existing official translations for those parts.