“Your Highness, what’s with all the mystery? Where are we going?” Sitting in the horse carriage, Hua Zhu Yu asked in a low voice.
Reclining on the couch, Huangfu Wu Shuang turned his body around. With his brows raised, he smiled as he proudly said, “Heard that Mian(sleeping) flower hall(brothel) is very lively; this prince wants to go broaden this prince’s horizon. Imperial Father must not know of this, if not, this prince will definitely be scolded to death by Imperial Father. This prince trusts you two and have thus brought you along. No one is allowed to speak of this, understood?”
Hua Zhu Yu and Jixiang quickly nodded.
Very quickly they arrived at the brothel.
Did he really want to just visit a brothel?
Though the carriage was enveloped in darkness, Hua Zhu Yu’s eyes were even darker than the night.
She didn’t think that Huangfu Wu Shuang would visit such a place. Could this be regarded as beneficial?
Immersed in darkness, with the moonlight seeping through the window, Hua Zhu Yu silently assessed Huangfu Wu Shuang. He had youthful features that were beautiful as though they was carved from the highest quality jade, beautiful without a trace of flaw. His pair of dark eyes were sparkling with excitement like a bird that’s just been set free from its cage, spreading its wings, soaring high.
“Your Highness, have you been to a brothel before?” Hua Zhu Yu lightly asked.
Huangfu Wu Shuang’s complexion stiffened, seemingly afraid Hua Zhu Yu would mock him. “Of course I’ve been, didn’t I go with you last time to the capital’s Ming Yue Lou(Bright Moon Hall). However because of that darn Rong Luo this prince didn’t have the care to play there. I head here at Mian Yue Luo(Sleeping Moon Hall) there is a young lady that sings exceptionally well. This prince wants to go have a listen.”
Hua Zhu Yu saw Huangfu Wu Shuang’s excited face slightly flushed. Though Huangfu Wu Shuang committed lots of misdeeds, in regards to this matter he was quite pure. At the tender age of five he was bestowed the crown prince title and has since been strictly regulated, how could he casually go visit a brothel.
Within Qing Cheng city, when the curtains of night descended, dazzling, bright lanterns were lit everywhere. After a long, tiring day of work, many people have closed their doors early, in preparation for a night’s rest. However, there is a road that is unusually lively and boisterous. The melodies of the qin and resonating voices of singers continued to drift from that alley, enticing numerous people to draw closer in a trance.
Red light district, tender establishment.1 In flourishing cities there has always been such a place and Qing Cheng naturally was no exception.
The horse carriage proceeded straight down the street towards the alley. Hua Zhu Yu, unable to endure the quietness, lifted the screen, assessing the bustling, lively streets. On both sides of the road was a three story tall building whose windows were wide open as music constantly drifted out.
The horse carriage halted in front of Mian Yue Lou which could be considered the largest brothel in Qing Cheng City. On the door hung several red lanterns, but unlike other brothels, there wasn’t any powdered ladies at the door to attract guests, only a servant was there to welcome. However, there were still countless carriages flooding the entranceway like an undulating dragon.
When the horse carriage stopped, Hua Zhu Yu and Jixiang both jumped down before supporting Huangfu Wu Shuang down from the carriage. The two people steering the horse carriage were two bodyguards in disguise who also followed them into Mian Yue Luo.
The main hall of Mian Yue Luo was jam-packed with guests. Under the guidance of a servant, Huangfu Wu Shuang was led to a seat after which the servant began promoting the place, saying that many beauties from Western Jiang have arrived this evening.
One of the reasons why Mian Yue Lou was so well-known was because every year they would travel west to acquire unique, beautiful ladies. These beauties were completely different from the elegant southern beauties, they had a distinct, enchanting unruliness which was well received at Mian Yue Lou.
When Hua Zhu Yu and her group entered, though the hall was packed with people, the maidservants were shuttling back and forth like butterflies to the guests’ table to bring drinks and pour tea. On the stage there was no one performing, perhaps the time had not yet arrived. After an incense worth of time, the Madam of Mian Yue Luo charmingly strode up the stage.
The clamors amidst the hall gradually fell as the Madam laughingly said, “Thank you honored guests for giving us face and visiting our Mian Yue Luo. Tonight, a few ladies from Western Jiang have just arrived at our Mian Yue Luo, all are outstanding beauties and highly talented. In accordance with the former guidelines, later on the ladies will come on stage to perform and if anyone catches your eye you may bid, the highest bidder will have the opportunity to spend the night with the lady of their choice.”
“Since everyone has understood the rules of our Mian Yue Luo, I will no longer linger. Please welcome the lady with the most slender waist on stage.”
As soon as the Madam was done talking, a voice rang out beneath the stage, “Darn it, hurry up and start already, we prepared so much silver, are those girls good enough to take our breath away?”
The Madam left amidst the noisy clamors after which the melodious tune of the hu qin sounded out. The piece wasn’t lingering like those of the southern kingdoms’ but rather quite charming and valiant, carrying a bold, exotic bearing.
These type of pieces were novel to the people of Southern Kingdom but to Hua Zhu Yu they were very familiar. This song made her recall the vast skies, the resounding dance steps, the pounding horse hoofs, the coarse singing voices….and also the happiness as well as sorrow that’s been lost with the passing of time.
Following the rise of the music, a girl wearing a yellow muslin attire walked out. Her clothes weren’t of Southern Kingdom’s style, they were tight and fit snugly on her all the while outlining her figure, her endowed bosom, and her slender waist, an alluring sight to behold. The girl with the slender waist danced along with the bold music, her movements beautiful and enticing.
Covering her face was a thin veil which revealed only a pair of limpid, autumn water-like bright eyes, undulating with the music, glistening with passion.
Once the dance came to an end, the girl with the slender waist removed her veil, exposing her beautiful features. Not only did the dance entice the audience but even her face prompted guests to begin bidding like crazy. In the end, the highest bidder was able to spend the night with her in exchange for 300 taels of silver.
For one night to cost 300 taels of silver, this place was worthy of being called a money squandering establishment. These people were willing to throw away money without reserve.
After the first girl was taken away, the music once again began. Hearing it this time, it sounded lingering and soft, not like the songs of Western Jiang.
The screen on stage slowly opened and everyone stretched their neck for a glimpse but not a single shadow was seen, puzzling everyone. Suddenly, an ivory platform rose from the middle of the stage, pure white as jade and finely crafted.
On that inch high platform sat an upright girl clad in white. Around her were red muslin curtains, gently swaying. Though the curtains were quite thick, one could still recognize the graceful bearing of the figure in white.
She knelt upon the stage with a yao qin in front of her. Her slender fingers stretched out and slowly began to play the piece ‘You Mei’. Though it was not a Western Jiang song it was still distinct and very pleasing to hear.
As everyone was intoxicated by the music, the song suddenly changed, the tender melody was swiftly laced with a murderous spirit, so well hidden that ordinary people would find it hard to recognize. Only those in the same profession could tell that the music has took a peculiar turn. Afterwards, the song proceeded to change again, still containing an ambiguous element that was shrewdly masked by the player, making those attentive such as Hua Zhu Yu to ponder.
Once the song came to an end, the girl walked down from the platform and took off her veil.
The girl’s beautiful face appeared in front of everyone. She had skin the shade of wheat, a pair of deep dark beautiful eyes and a delicate frame comparable to those of Southern beauties.
Hua Zhu Yu did not expect An Xiao Er to find such a stunning beauty.
When Dan Hong played the qin on the battlefield of Western Jiang, she always wore a veil upon her face. As a result, her appearance and that of Ying Shu Xie was both a mystery. And because of this mystery, people speculated tirelessly. For example, in regards to Ying Shu Xie’s appearance there were two extremely contradicting opinions, one was that he was awfully hideous while the other was that he was outstandingly gorgeous.
As for Dan Hong there were also many speculations. One was that Dan Hong was the daughter of a Western Jiang woman and an officer of the Southern Kingdom. After she was born she was brought to Southern Kingdom to be raised. Therefore, it was said that Dan Hong had the mix of features of Western Jiang and the temperament of those from Southern Kingdom.
Unexpectedly, An Xiao Er had found someone that fitted this standard. Furthermore, he dressed her in white which was truly great. Usually, Dan Hong would wear red on the battlefield but to deliberately wear white today, there was truth within the deception and deception within the truth, making it more believable. If she wore red perhaps people would’ve seen through her.
Though the previous song wasn’t exceptional since her qin skills were a level below those of Dan Hong, it didn’t prevent the guests from bidding.
First, someone bid 50 taels then another shouted out 100 taels. After just a moment the bid had increased to 300 taels, equivalent to the bid of the previous girl with the slender waist. The hall became silent and the Madam was just about to accept the bid thinking no one else was going to bid when a voice rang out from a room on the second floor. “My family’s gongzi bids 500 taels!”
- this phrase is usually used to describe areas with brothels