Book 25 Chapter 7 - Mysterious Expert
Since the two rooms were separated by another room in between, which was also noisy and crowded to bursting point with loose guests, seeking for Zheng Shiru's voice amidst a lot of finger-guessing games, drinking contest, warbler's singing and swallow twittering, woodwind and string instruments - was definitely not an easy matter.
But strangely enough, in this noisy world made of complex and multi-layered space filled with all kinds of sound, when Zheng Shiru spoke up, and Xu Ziling focused power was trained on searching for his voice, right away the other noise seemed to fade into the background, and this Mad Scholar's voice suddenly became distinctive. It was a very unusual feeling.
Zheng Shiru seemed to be responding to other people's inquiry; he said, "That Senior certainly came from far away. In a moment Zaixia might need to go out to relay a message; when I come back, I will accompany gentlemen drinking wine and listening to songs."
Immediately there was a woman's voice not letting him off easily, saying, "Today is the first time that Zheng Gongzi is coming to visit us; we will definitely not let you find any excuse to slip away."
There was a ruckus of other men and women's voices; extremely noisy.
Finally Zheng Shiru surrendered; he promised to listen to all the ladies, each one singing a song - before leaving, and promised to return after his job was done.
The door opened.
Xu Ziling jumped in fright, realizing that because he was focused on what has been happing in the other room, he missed what was happening in this room; unexpectedly he did not hear the sound of someone approaching the room. Looking back, turned out it was a pretty maid delivering good wine and fresh fruits. By now Xu Ziling was already an expert in giving tips. After the pretty maid left, he sat down in the chair close to the window, lifted up the cup that the pretty maid poured for him, and lightly drank a mouthful, thinking that his visit to the pleasure house this time did not go wrong; perhaps it was because there was no lady accompanying him here?
This thought was still hovering in his mind when he heard footsteps approaching. The footsteps stopped right in front of his door, and then there was a knock, followed by a dainty female voice rang out, "Qingxiu is here with specific purpose in mind to visit and wish Gong Ye good health."
Xu Ziling was shocked. He panicked; since he absolutely had no idea on how to deal with this kind of situation. Springing up, he went to open the door for her.
Outside the door a pretty and moving young woman was standing charmingly, with ample air of haughtiness, without losing her romantic elegance. From her outline to the curves of her body, nothing did not exude gracefulness and enchantment. Under her thread-thin eyebrows was a pair of bright eyes, revealing a longing expression. But naturally this longing was not evoked by Xu Ziling, this 'Daoba Ke' Gong Chenchun.
Her head was wrapped in brightly-colored cloth hat, the clothes she was wearing was even more unique; her wide gauzed sleeves, through the rolled-up cuff reaching to her elbows, revealed the gentle and soft, but abundant in elasticity, her small arms. It was a long gown but with short skirt. The upper outer garment was sleeveless, the inner garment was buttonless, exposing rich-in-texture chemise covering her breast, which was bright red. The hem of her skirt encasing her legs had multi-colored trim, the long belt on her girth was made of printed cloth, making her slender waistline appeared to be within one's hands' grasp. On top of that, she wore sleeveless waistcoat, which enhanced her charm of many postures. She must be a beauty of one of many ethnic groups in the Sichuan region.
When Xu Ziling opened the door, she revealed a slightly startled look, before carrying her fragrant wind inside the room. With at ease expression on her face, her delicate hand pulled the crook of Xu Ziling's arm. She said with a tender laugh, "Is this Gong Ye's first visit to the pleasure house?"
Being pulled by her, Xu Ziling turned around and was led over to the imperial tutor chair on the left of the window. Smiling wryly, he said, "It could be considered the first time indeed! How did Miss know?"
The delicate and pretty hands 'pressed' him down into the chair, and then tenderly poured another cup of wine for him. Smiling, she said, "Men who are accustomed to the pleasure house know that by coming here they are going to be served well by us, but Gong Ye seems to want to turn around."
Under his scar-faced mask, Xu Ziling's handsome face was burning. Half of Qingxiu's fragrant body was half-leaning, half-sitting, on the side of his thigh. She brought the good wine to the edge of his lips, and despite his refusal she fed him a sip. Laughing tenderly, she said, "Gong Ye must not blame Wen Gu; nobody dares to conceal anything concerning Xibai from nujia."
Xu Ziling felt that this flying-in-luck with women was so unbearable; smiling ruefully, he said, "When Hou Xiong arrives and see us like this, won't it look not so good?"
Letting out silver-bell-like tender laughter, Qingxiu spoke with ten thousand kinds of flirtatious expressions, "Nujia is not Xibai's first wife; how could there be any misgivings? Oh! Gong Ye's body is very young."
Stunned, Xu Ziling asked, "How could you say that?"
Qingxiu leaned over to his ear and spoke softly, "Men of different age have different scent. Gong Ye appears to be nearly forty, but your scent is like that of a youngster; healthy, sweet swelling and full of vitality, making nujia unwilling to leave you."
Xu Ziling's heart shivered slightly, thinking that if he pretended to be Yue Shan, wouldn't this flaw be more obvious?
Just now when he was talking to Zheng Shiru in that small alley, he continuously circulated his power to control his pores, otherwise Zheng Shiru, a Jianghu veteran, might see through his disguise.
He replied randomly, "Maybe it's due to Ol' Gong training martial art every day!"
Qingxiu looked at his countenance up and down, and then shook her head and said, "It definitely has nothing to do with martial arts. Nujia is in contact with Jianghu people every day; among those people, not a few are Wulin masters, either from Bashu or other parts of the country. But there has never been one with body scent like Gong Ye. It's only natural that Gong Ye yourself did not perceive it, but nujia is able to smell it very clear. At first I thought Gong Ye was wearing some kind of sweet-smelling grass or perfume. Ah! Nujia knows! It's the scent of an infant!"
Although Xu Ziling did not know whether to laugh or to cry, he thought that most probably his body scent had something to do with the 'Secret to Long Life'; both the Tao and Buddhist, two houses' internal cultivation method, which could make people recover their youthful vigor, Liao Kong being the most readily available example.
Suddenly remembering Zheng Shiru, he hastily bent his ear to listen attentively.
Qingxiu stood up slowly and walked over to the long table facing the window where the guzheng was lying, and sat down; raising up her delicate hands, she plucked the peach guzheng string, creating a series of crisp notes like the gentle gurgle of running water. Hanging her head down, she softly said, "Is Xibai coming tonight?"
Rushing to the mouth of the village, immediately Kou Zhong's scalp went numb.
The first thing catching his eyes was a pair of feet hanging out of the window of one of the houses, while the other part of the body was hanging inside the house. Another person was lying on his back on the street; he died without closing his eyes, and his face revealed the panic he must have felt before his death.
The strangest thing was that there were no visible bruises on his body, yet his mouth and nose oozed a little wisp of blood. A saber was still held firmly in his hand. From the tight black warrior outfit that the two were wearing, it was obvious that they were Cui Jixiu's men.
In front of the dead body, there was a set of footprints extending to the west, while on the side there was another set of scattered, chaotic footprints.
Kou Zhong tried to reconstruct what had just happened in his mind. It must be that Cui Jixiu and his men, seven or eight of them, were overtaken by the enemy as they were entering the village. Although Cui Jixiu and his men met the attack and fought, the incoming enemy must have killed two men in one move. But then the enemy must have deliberately given Cui Jixiu and the rest of his men the opportunity to flee. The course of events was extremely strange.
Kou Zhong rapidly moved forward; more than a dozen steps later he found another dead body, unexpectedly lying on his back on top of a thatch roof, with the upper part of his body nearly collapsing inside the thatched house. The scene was weird and terrifying.
Even such an extremely daring person like Kou Zhong felt the chill. He followed one set of footprints toward an abandoned wasteland next to the village. He saw two more dead bodies lying face down on the ground; on the surface, neither had any bruises. But when Kou Zhong wanted to make a more detailed examination, from about half a li to the southeast, there was an intense buzzing of metals clashing against each other.
Kou Zhong no longer had time to examine how these people lose their lives; he rushed at full speed toward the sound.
Temporarily Xu Ziling withdrew his attention from Zheng Shiru on the other side; he did not have the heart to deceive this bold, passionate beauty. To him, whether it was a lady from a wealthy family or from a pleasure house, she deserved his respect. Thereupon he calmly said, "In my opinion, Hou Xiong is not coming tonight."
Just by obtaining a half - whether it was the top or the bottom part - of the 'Immortal Image Scroll' was enough to give Hou Xibai a headache; how could he have spare time to come here, looking for the wind and playing with the moon?
'Ding! Ding! Dong! Dong!'
Qingxiu plucked a series of guzheng notes in staccato, each one was jumping fast, just like torches being lit up one by one in the deepest, darkest wasteland. In the strange, difficult-to-understand loneliness, there was a hint of gurgling, flowing vitality and hope.
The guzheng stopped abruptly. Letting out a faint sigh, Qingxiu said, "This was a guzheng piece that Xibai composed; he has left Chengdu for so long! When he came back, he did not even see me. Tell him, Qingxiu has been waiting for him in pain!"
Finished speaking, she left sadly.
Even after she closed the door, Xu Ziling still felt as if his heart was crushed by a heavy stone.
Qingxiu's longing toward Hou Xibai would only turn into disappointment, but having dreams and pursuits was better than having none. Back in Yangzhou, everything was much simpler; it only involved how to break away from Yan Laoda's evil clutches to pursue some kind of lifestyle where they could be their own master. Now, although on the surface they seemed to have obtained it, yet the burden on their shoulders has only increased and not diminished at all. 'The past' itself has become the heaviest burden.
Thinking about Shi Feixuan, and then thinking about Shi Qingxuan, both women had made him feel at a loss.
He could not help raising his cup and draining it in one gulp.
There was the sound of footsteps again. 'Bang!' The door was pushed open, a clump of rosy clouds, carrying a whiff of fragrant wind, rolled into the room. A thousand-tender, a hundred-charm beauty appeared.
As soon as Xu Ziling saw her, he immediately felt something has turned really bad.