Book 2: The Infinite Heart
Chapter 6 – Drinking at the Qinglou
There was a type of person in this world, whose words and actions would always be different from the masses.
For example, Yuan Zhaoxu.
Meng Fuyao felt she had never met a man who could speak of going to the qinglou so directly and unashamedly, to a woman he was interested in.
Alright … Fuyao thought with a bit of shame, she was probably being a bit narcissistic. When had Yuan Zhaoxu ever clearly said that he was interested in her?
Alright … Fuyao said to herself, even though she might have a very favorable impression of Yuan Zhaoxu, in reality she didn’t hope for anyone to be interested anyone – it wasn’t like she was planning to fall in love or anything.
Then what was she being depressed about? Even after thinking a long time Meng Fuyao still couldn’t figure it out, and the more she wracked her brains the more irritable she became. Raising her hand, she gave herself a slap.
Yuan Zhaoxu held back a smile, as if he didn’t see her strange actions.
When Master Yuanbao heard the sound, it poked its head out from Yuan Zhaoxu’s bosom. Seeing Fuyao’s slap, its eyes immediately shone, and it suddenly leapt out, with a “pa” sound also giving Fuyao a slap.
Being attacked while caught unawares, Meng Fuyao instantly blazed up with fury. Master Yuanbao bared its teeth at her, making zhi zhi noises nonstop.
Yuan Zhaoxu automatically translated for her. “The gist of its words is, this kind of symmetry, is more beautiful.”
Speechless, Fuyao suddenly shot out her hand, pulling out a whisker from each side of Master Yuanbao’s mouth like flashing lightning, then smiling. “You’re right, symmetry is beautiful.”
The human and rat endlessly squabbled. Yuan Zhaoxu only raised his head, his eyes profound, looking at plaque of the elegant pavilion tower in front of them.
“Deep Spring Pavilion” ——–
“Deep Spring Pavilion” was the top money-squandering love nest in Zhongzhou – its wine was the finest, its madam the most cunning, its song and dance the most excellent, and its beauties the most numerous.
Yet, the owner of the “Deep Spring Pavilion” was not a local of Zhongzhou, but was a powerful merchant from the Gaoluo nation on the other side of the sea.
Carrying a large pile of gold he crossed the sea to get here, and used great amounts of money to open doors at all levels of the bureaucracy. Only a few months after he arrived he opened the Deep Spring Pavilion amidst fanfare. On the opening day, the pavilion used high-nosed, beguiling-eyed, snow-skinned and golden-haired dancing girls from the Western Regions to attract the gazes of the people of Zhongzhou; ever since then, the pavilion’s business boomed every day, and the pavilion was always full of deep spring.
It was rumored that even this name “Deep Spring Pavilion” was not chosen by this foreigner, but was from him successively visiting the attendant of the Crown Prince, Master White, more than ten times while gifting uncountable quantities of famous antiques and exquisite golden watches – only then did Master White finally agree to help him write out the pavilion’s name plaque.
The moment they entered the main hall the scent of meat, alcohol, and rouge mixed with body sweat odor, as well as various unknown stenches intermingled together, all rushed towards their faces; following that was wave after wave of teasing laughter that tumbled over like the tide. Scarlet ribbons and jade sleeves fluttered throughout the first floor, western region belly dancing filled the second floor, the shouts of bets sounded on the gambling house on the third floor, and as for the fourth floor … the fourth floor was quiet.
A guigong came over and politely inquired. Yuan Zhaoxu smiled, saying, “I’m looking for a fresh one, slightly tender.”
The guigong immediately loosened his brows in a smile, deeply bowing. “This way to the fourth floor!”
Yuan Zhaoxu pulled the Meng Fuyao in male dress with him as he walked. Fuyao used her fingernails to viciously pinch his palm – why do you seem like a frequent visitor here, you even know the code phrases!
After pinching him for half a day that person finally turned his head back and smiled. He lowered his head to the side of her ear and softly said, “Are you being jealous right now? Fuyao?”
The tone of the two words Fuyao was slightly upturned, sounding like it had a teasing meaning to it. Meng Fuyao’s face blushed red while she stubbornly replied, “I just wanted to ask you, what do you mean by ‘slightly tender’?”
After hearing her words Yuan Zhaoxu grinned back at her, lightly saying, “You’ll see.”
Although Meng Fuyao was reflexively upset at him inviting her to a qinglou, she knew that Yuan Zhaoxu was definitely not coming to actually be a customer. She obediently followed him into a elegant room on the fourth floor. The room was decorated opulently, not even losing out to the homes of royalty. Like a flowing stream, the servants delivered up wine and plates of food, and not long afterwards Master Yuanbao was already drunk on the alcohol. It hugged two Lifting Wind jujubes to its left and right as it slept.
Meng Fuyao was drinking together with Yuan Zhaoxu. She had always boasted that her alcohol tolerance was exaggeratedly outstanding, and today she vowed to drink Yuan Zhaoxu to the ground so that she could let this person who always had the upper-hand over her to finally lose once. Unexpectedly, even Yuan Zhaoxu’s ability to hold his liquor was unfathomably deep – cup after cup was downed, yet the more he drank the more sober he became, the more his eyes brightened, and the more he caused Fuyao to collapse.
Fuyao was never one to easily give up and not put up a fight. The more she drank the more energetic and unrestrained she became – she drank from the seat to on top of the table, drank from the table to the pile of empty wine jugs. Exquisite, flower-engraved wine cups stacked up into a small mountain at her feet as she continued to raise her cup and toast Yuan Zhaoxu. “Drink! I’d rather drink a hole … in my stomach, than cause a crack … in emotions.”
From start to end Yuan Zhaoxu reclined in his chair, leisurely sipping wine. Even the way he held his wine cup was extremely elegant; this further highlighted the huge distance between the two’s postures.
When the door drapes were lifted and several delicate and timid girls came into the room, Meng Fuyao had already started to lisp. She pulled on Yuan Zhaoxu’s sleeve and evilly demanded, “How about you go change into female dress for me to see? I bet you are an awesome cross-dresser …”
Those girls looked at each other, then bowed towards the two people. Fuyao raised her head, and with a “ha” laugh she drunkenly pointed. “… who do you … lolis … belong to … did you come to the wrong room …”
Was this a joke, the ages of those four added together Meng Fuyao thought couldn’t even add up to forty! The smallest one’s stature was still immature, her childishness still present, and actually looked like she was only around six or seven years old. Was this a nursery or a qinglou?
Fuyao gave a wine belch. She held her dense, suddenly twice as heavy head with two hands, jolting and shaking her dazzling multicolored fantastical vision. She saw the curtains were circling, saw the beauties were upside down, saw Yuan Zhaoxu step over wearing a faint smile, pull over the smallest one and ask something, then said something. Those children first shook their heads, then for some reason began to cry and kneel down begging Yuan Zhaoxu.
… Kao, child prostitutes …
That was Meng Fuyao’s last thought as she collapsed under the table.Footnotes The mistress and caretaker of the prostitutes in a qinglou, here madam is the closest term in English. Qinglou were actually decorated quite beautifully in ancient times (at least the ones in the cities): guigong, “龟公”, is a male steward or bouncer who works in qinglous.