Cheng’an City, Cailian Alley, Falling Blossom House.
Laughter rang from the intricately Jiang Nan styled garden. The Falling Blossom House’s pimp, young male servants, and handmaidens were gathered, watching the two girls in the garden laughing and enjoying themselves on the swing. One girl pushed the other on the swing.
“Higher! Higher!” Liu Sumei cried while laughing gleefully. The wind from being pushed on the swing fluttered her skirt. Although it was winter, there was no cold wind. A pair of butterfly and flower embroidered shoes covered her feet. When she swung to the highest point, one could see a snowy, white ankle revealed from under the skirt.
The servants and workers of the House watched as their prime stars turned away customers at this time of the night, and instead played in the garden. It was irresponsible, and they were not happy about it.
After all, if the ladies do not spend their time with the clients, where else can they get their money?
Fortunately, Liu Sumei treats the workers with warmth, and she always made sure their salaries were sufficiently paid for. Or else, the pimp and handmaidens would’ve conspired to tarnish the girls’ image.
Little Bell pushed Liu Sumei on the swing, but she pushed a little too hard, and Liu Sumei’s body was almost parallel to the swing’s pole. She looked as if she would fly off the swing. Little Bell said, “I can’t push any harder, miss. If not you’ll fall off the swing!”
Liu Sumei chuckled, her face filled with joy and glee. Contrary to her usual silence and poker face, it was like watching two distinctly different people. She laughed, “Even if I fly off, that’s alright! Better to live like a goddess for a night than to spend the rest of my life as a human!”
Little Bell watched her with a smile, and replied, “Miss, if people see you like this, they’ll laugh at you! Your reputation will be at stake!”
To anybody, they might think that she was referring to Liu Sumei’s identity as an oiran, but between the both of them, they knew she was actually referring to Liu Sumei’s identity as a cultivator.
As a cultivator of the Phoenix Hibiscus Court, who had seen beyond the human realm, witnessed the life and death of many important cultivators, how could she actually enjoy such a childish activity? Playing on swings!
If word gets out, other cultivators would be in stitches!
Liu Sumei may not have noticed that Little Bell was no longer pushing the swing, but the swing was still swinging. She kicked her feet and brushed it against the grass like it was the surface of a pool. She smiled and looked ahead, as if she’s recalling something.
Little Bell saw Liu Sumei’s serene expression and her smile, as if recalling a fond memory. This intrigued Little Bell, for she knew that Liu Sumei loved only one person. Every time she thinks of that someone, she would smile like that.
Little Bell secretly nudged Liu Sumei with her elbow and whispered, “Hey, sister, sister?”
Liu Sumei came back to her senses, and smiled. “Mm?”
Little Bell furrowed her brows. “Are you… thinking about someone?”
“What are you talking about?”
Little Bell pointed at Liu Sumei’s face and laughed, “Look at your face, your smile, and the corners of your eyes. They show that you’re thinking about someone. You think I’m stupid?”
Liu Sumei smiled and turned her face away, as if she didn’t say anything.
Little Bell continued, “Every time you’re on the swing, you have this serene expression, and I don’t know why? Come on, say it, who is it? Which major cultivator is the lucky guy? We can get the Court Master to propose on your behalf!”
Liu Sumei chuckled, “We shouldn’t bother her. I’ll sort my own personal matters. No need for others to worry.”
“Hey hey hey, such cocky words. Do you underestimate the Court Master? Say it, just who is it? I’ve wanted to ask this for a long time.”
A sly expression flashed across Liu Sumei’s face. “Guess,”
“This again?” Little Bell rolled her eyes and asked, “Do I know him?”
Liu Sumei chuckled. “Guess?”
Little Bell was annoyed. “Sister, if you’re gonna go on like this, I’m not gonna push you on the swing anymore. You can play on your own!”
Liu Sumei immediately coaxed Little Bell. “Don’t be like this, it’s no fun playing alone. You… have seen him before.”
Little Bell thought for a while, and suddenly an expression of horror flashed across her face. She whispered, “Sister… is it… Li Chengfeng?”
Liu Sumei looked away at a distance and didn’t say a word. But her reddish cheeks had betrayed her.
Little Bell stammered, “Are you crazy? Why? You can’t be serious? He’s… not your type!”
Liu Sumei turned to face Little Bell and smiled. “You don’t understand.”
“Then I don’t really understand! You’re an important cultivator, and you fell for a nobody, it doesn’t make sense. Don’t tell me you really fell for him after he recited some poems for you? Sister, I’m telling you, you mustn't fall for their words! All they have are just their mouths, nothing else!”
“You sound like you have experience.”
“One may have never eaten pork, but surely they’ve seen a pig before?”
As the both of them spoke, suddenly a figure leaped from a wall, rushing towards them. The pimp at the steps yelled out, “Get that thief!”
“Report it to the officials!”
Liu Sumei and Little Bell are both skilled cultivators, so they weren’t worried. They saw who the intruder was, it was someone familiar: Zhao Xiaobao!
Xiaobao rushed towards Liu Sumei and Little Bell. He knelt and kowtowed. “Lady Sumei, please help me!”
Liu Sumei and Little Bell looked at one another. Little Bell turned to the workers on the steps and yelled, “Silence! Enough with the shouting!” She turned to Xiaobao and rolled her eyes. “Don’t you know we have doors here? Why leap over walls and make yourself look suspicious? What’s up with you?”
Xiaobao’s face was etched with worry and panic. He said, “Ladies, now’s not the time for squabbles. The Li family’s matriarch and members are held captive, I beg for Lady Sumei’s kindness, to lend a helping hand!”
Liu Sumei was taken aback. She frowned and asked, “Who is the captor?”
Xiaobao hesitated and mumbled, “I didn’t see clearly.”
Little Bell chuckled, “You didn’t see clearly, or are you holding back?”
Xiaobao drooped his head and hesitated.
“If you’re not gonna say who, how are we gonna help?”
Xiaobao pursed his lips, then whispered, “It’s the Zhan family’s servant…”
Little Bell was incensed. “Zhan family? This is some trouble you’re involving us in, to go against the Zhan family. You…”
Before she could finish, Liu Sumei rose from the swing and said, “Little Bell, fetch me my instrument. We’ll meet the Zhan family’s warrior.”
Little Bell’s jaw dropped. “Sister… are you crazy?”
Liu Sumei glanced at her and said, “Are you going to fetch it? If not, I’ll do it myself.”
Little Bell’s face grew red, either from anger or confusion. She hesitated, and then glared at Xiaobao, and then rushed into the House. A pimp who didn’t manage to duck in time suffered a kick by Little Bell, who then spat, “Move aside, don’t you have eyes?”
A moment later, Little Bell rushed out with guqin in one hand. She glared at Xiaobao and yelled, “What are you doing, just gawking there? Show us the way!”