Since the Emperor lost the Xuan Zun Seal, Qiyun, the region under his direct rule had lost its former glory. Not only were its borders encroached by the other kingdoms, but even its towns and cities were gradually being swallowed up. If not for general Dong Shu Fang who remained loyal to the royal family and led his troops of 100,000 men to defend Qiyun, it would’ve already fallen, its lands divided amongst the six kingdoms.
Over the years, the population of Qiyun was slowly dwindling and as a result, so was its economy. In terms of military strength, it could not compare with Feng(1) and Huang Kingdom. In terms of wealth in resources and literary arts, it could not compare with Feng(2) and Hua Kingdom. Even the weaker kingdoms, Nan and Bai Kingdom had surpassed Qiyun as a consequence of the endless plunder and conquests of land.
From Bai Kingdom to Qiyun, the Wuyun River runs through many country towns and cities. Among them, Yucheng was considered the largest city situated by the riverbank of Wuyun. Located directly south of Yucheng was the city of Lincheng, west was Taulou, north was Jiancheng and east was the Wuyun River. Unlike the other cities at the border that were constantly engaged in scuffles, Yucheng was the most prosperous and peaceful city in the Imperial Capital. With its city gates open in all directions, plus its flat, fertile land, Yucheng was a hotspot for all kinds of businesses. The people there lived and worked in peace. It’s prosperity was a tiny shadow of Qiyun’s past glorious days.
In Yucheng City, there was a five-stories high towering building that faced the river on three fronts and the street on one. This place was precisely where the most famous restaurant in Yucheng was located, Sunset Tower. It was most famous for its signature wine, Duan Hong Ye, as well as the spectacular view of the sunset along the Wuyun River. Each day, guests would come in an endless current, especially at sunset where numerous carriages would line up in front of the building like a stream of flowing water.
Sunset Tower’s owner was most likely not an ordinary person. Looking at Sunset Tower’s flourishing business and reputation, people who didn’t know would assume that the building’s floors were inlaid with emerald glazed tiles, its rooftops specially engraved, its design imposing and magnificent in style. Only in this way would it be worthy of carrying the title of the best restaurant in Qiyun!
But in truth, there was nothing extravagant nor grandiose about Sunset Tower. Though it was built with high quality wood, its interior design was very plain and simple. There were no brocade cloths covering the tables, no embroidered carpets lining the floor, no exquisite lanterns hanging from the ceiling, no dazzling pearl curtains screening the doorways. There were only ordinary tables, chairs and clean tablewares for the guests that came. Though the place was simply adorned, it was arranged uniquely and appropriately in a way that gave off a comfortable and refreshing impression the moment one set foot in the door.
Into the west, I can no longer see you
The setting sun has made its appearance
The dreams of Wan Li mountains and rivers are gone
Up at the sky I look and sigh
With the thought of parting
Into chaos my heart descends
With no more tears left to cry
The shadow of the sail glides as light as an arrow
Passing through the mountains of thousands of miles
(t/n apologies for butchering poems, they are too poetic for me to understand/translate >_<)
Sunset Tower had a distinct elegance and ambience like the cool evening breeze. From within its quarters, the sad, wistful verse of ‘Farewell’ drifts out and flutters along with the wind, scattering across the golden-red skies of the setting sun on the horizon. Against this backdrop, a white sail approached, gliding across the sparkling river, piercing through the golden rays of the sun like an arrow.
In the twinkling of an eye, the ship had stopped before Sunset Tower. The attendant on shore looked around before quickly making his way up the wooden bridge. He lowered himself to a bow and welcomed the guests as they slowly alighted the ship.
When the black-robed man(gongzi) stepped out from the cabin and onto the wooden bridge, the attendant was momentarily stunned. He felt as though the person in front of him was beaming in the golden rays of the setting sun which was more brilliant than the morning sunlight. It was as if he was walking out from the golden lights of Western Paradise(from Buddhism). There was a glowing aura surrounding him that could not be concealed.
The attendant stared at him dumbstruck, having long since forgotten why he came in the first place. He didn’t come to his senses until someone had tugged at his sleeve repeatedly. The young man was standing in front of him, less than three feet away with an air of leisure and a gentle smile on his peerlessly handsome face, even his dark jade eyes held a light of mildness.
“Attendant1, you are in my young master’s way.” His sleeve was pulled once again, this time along with the sound of a crisp, childish voice.
(t/n 1.The specific term used here was ‘Xiao er ge’. ‘Xiao er’ literally means ‘little second’ but in this context it means ‘waiter/attendant’ and ‘ge’ means older brother/male. So he’s addressing the attendant politely but I just said ‘attendant’ because ‘older brother attendant’ is a mouthful.)
The attendant looked down and found that a handsome servant boy dressed in green robes was pulling at him. Coming to his senses, he frantically gave way and said “My apologies, young master(gongzi).”
The black-robed man gave a slight shook with his head, indicating that there was no trouble. With a faint smile, he said, “I’ll have to trouble you to lead the way.”
His voice resonated like jade in the wind and his faint smile gave the impression of lotuses in bloom.
“Of course! Of course!” The attendant nodded quickly and said, “Please come this way, young master.”
At the same time the black-robed man stepped out of the cabin, a carriage had come to a stop in front of the door of Sunset Tower. The carriage was simple and ordinary, and so was the horse pulling it. However, the attendant standing at the front door did not judge a person by his appearance and still ran over to the carriage enthusiastically. He attentively raised the curtain of the carriage and cordially said, “Welcome to Sunset Tower!”
When the curtain was lifted and the person inside alighted, guests that were about to enter as well as those about to leave the building, even the servants leading the horses and carrying the palanquin had all stopped, their eyes unable to leave the man that had stepped out of the carriage.
He was a young man dressed in plain, white robes. Like white jade that had yet to be sculpted, he exuded a pristine flawlessness that was inherent in nature. His eyes were clear and deep as the waters of the lake without the slightest ripple as if he was free of desire, void of greed. Though he only stood in front of the carriage casually, he was like an immortal standing above in the Ninth Heavens that occasionally gazed down at the world of mortals, detached and calm but with a heart of pity and forgiveness for all living things. The humble carriage was also enveloped in a brilliant light, as if it would ride off into the clouds at any moment and carry away this exceptional young man dressed in white robes.
The young man in white raised his head and looked up at the restaurant’s plaque. He lightly read, “Sunset Tower.”
“Yes! Yes! This is Sunset Tower!” The attendant who had come to his senses nodded his head as he invited and directed the man in white. “Please come this way young master(gongzi).”
“Many thanks,” the white-robed man mildly expressed his gratitude towards the attendant.
“No need! No need!” the attendant said as he grinned from ear to ear.
The man in black entered through the back while the man in white entered through the front. Sitting on the first floor of the building, all the guests couldn’t help but cast glances their way and as a result the clamoring chatter inside gradually grew quiet.
The aura of these two young gentlemen seemingly swept through the hall as they entered. It was truly hard to decide who was more outstanding. A person could live a whole lifetime but it was uncertain if one could come across such an outstanding individual yet presently there were two here at the same time, making one doubt whether one was dreaming!
All the guests were currently preoccupied, casting glances at the two young gentlemen as they couldn’t bear to look at one less than the other.
When the black-robed man entered the door his eyes instantly fixed on the white-robed man.
Though there were many people in the middle of the hall, the first person that entered the eyes of these two men were each other! Even if they were among tens of thousands of people, they would still be able to spot the other party.
They were both stunned at the same time but very quickly they regained their composure and greeted each other with a smile as if they were old friends that happened to meet.
“Young Master(gongzi) Yu?” The black-robed man looked at the refined man in white and voiced his speculation.
“Young Master Feng?” The white-robed man looked at the noble young man in black and also voiced his speculation.
With a smile, they greeted each other with clasped hands. One had the dignified bearing of a noble while the other had the graceful bearing of an immortal.
“Feng Xi is truly lucky to meet the world’s acclaimed Young Master Yu, Yu Wu Yuan.” The black-robed man’s smile was courteous and reserved.
“To meet the famous Hei(Black) Feng Xi that’s known around the world, it’s Wu Yuan that has fate1 today!” The young man in white replied with a gentle smile, a smile that made one dare not get too close for fear of stepping out of line.
(t/n 1. Wu Yuan’s name means ‘no fate’)
The young man in black was Feng Xi while the young man in white was Yu Wu Yuan, the titled number one Young Master of Eastern Realm.
Upon hearing the conversation between the two men, all the guests in the hall were in a state of uproar. Unexpectedly, it was actually Feng Xi and Yu Wu Yuan. These two people were among those titled as the Great Four Young Masters!
“Since it’s a chance meeting, I don’t know if I’ll have the honor of inviting Young Master Yu to a drink of Duan Hong Ye?” Feng Xi asked politely.
“To be able to enjoy the sunset with Young Master Feng at Sunset Tower is truly a blessing of 3 lifetimes,” Yu Wu Yuan replied courteously to the invitation.
With a smile, Feng Xi turned towards the attendant who was leading the way for him and asked, “Is there any space left on the fifth floor?”
“Of course! Of course!” The attendant nodded his head repeatedly as he thought, even if there wasn’t, he had to make free space for these two young masters.
“Young Master Yu, please!” Feng Xi said courteously and stepped aside to give way.
“Young Master Feng, please!” Yu Wu Yuan raised his hand and did the same.
The two men ascended the stairs under countless admiring gazes.