As Chengfeng stormed towards the Falling Blossoms Residence, Xiaobao could only trail quietly by his side. He wanted to advise his master, but he decided it’s better if he kept his mouth shut. He didn’t want to enrage his master any further.
However Chengfeng had underestimated the gravity of his burial of Zhixin, because as he marched onto Xilian Bridge, the entire crowd at the lake and alley were suddenly bustling with excited murmurs.
“Isn’t this Master Li? Come in, come in! You know what they say, true love is harder to find than a rare treasure! I’ve missed you so much since Zhixin’s burial!”
“Leave him be! You can’t play the instruments as well as I do! Master Li, why don’t you come to my quarters? I’ll play the flute for you.”
“You boring simpleton! What’s so good about your flute? Go blow it somewhere else! Master Li, come let me sing a song for you!”
“Pfft, what’s so great about singing? Master Li, why don’t I play a song for you?”
Everyday Chengfeng would stroll on these streets, and the people would pay attention to him thanks to his good looks. But today there was a special kind of attention in the air.
As word of Zhixin’s funeral spread across the city, it wasn’t just Cheng'an City’s girls who went wild for him, the girls in the neighboring prefectures were also beginning to notice Chengfeng. They went to Cheng'an City in droves, all lusting for and fighting over Chengfeng, hoping to catch his attention.
It wasn’t too long ago that the streets were filled with beautiful courtesans and men would fight over the courtesans’ attention and love, but now the situation is reversed. The streets were filled with ladies who clamored after Chengfeng.
Most importantly, there was an unspoken understanding among the many courtesans that since Zhixin’s passing, the lady who can steal Chengfeng’s heart will be the newest and hottest commodity in the city and neighboring prefectures. To be sought after and lusted by Li Chengfeng himself, was the ultimate bragging right a lady could have!
Thus, before Chengfeng could even step into the alley, the thrilled screams of ladies could be heard. The atmosphere was wild.
Even Liangsheng, who was usually indifferent, stroked his beard and exclaimed, “Holy crap, who knew a little boy like him would be so sought after?”
But Chengfeng was not in the mood. He was covered in sweat and his fists were balled. He shoved his way through the pulsating crowd, but Xiaobao was pulled away from his master while yelling, “Master! Master!”
Chengfeng turned to Xiaobao, and saw a group of ladies swarm Xiaobao. They pulled his shirt open, hoping to have a piece of his now revealed torso. Although Chengfeng was agitated, he managed to joke, “Hey ladies, he’s still a kid, go easy on his body!”
Chengfeng’s joke seemed to further excite the swarming crowd, among them are ladies who secretly thirsted for Xiaobao. Fuelled by lust and curiosity, the crowd swarmed closer towards Xiaobao. Chengfeng yelled in panic and rushed to rescue Xiaobao. His joke had backfired and Xiaobao suddenly became the centre of attention.
Liangsheng squeezed into the crowds, hoping to score a quick fondle or smooch. But like Moses who parted the waves, wherever he walked into the crowd, the ladies avoided him. He could only glower in silence, frustrated from the lack of sexual attention.
Liangsheng awkwardly shuffled away from the crowd and into a quiet corner. He eyeballed Chengfeng and cussed, “Bloody hell, I knew the ladies would only like young guys like you! And that’s not even an insult!”
Chengfeng laughed awkwardly.
“Had I been gifted with a handsome face, I could score every single one of these ladies! But I have such an ugly face! Don’t get me wrong brother, I’m not mad at you or anything!”
“All these girls care about are looks, you know pretty boys like you make things difficult for us! But hey brother, don’t take it the wrong way!”
Chengfeng kicked Liansheng in the hind, annoyed with his incessant complaints. Liansheng laughed and rubbed his hind, “Oh brother, you’ve benefited so much from me, just let me nag a little, eh?”
“Enough of the nonsense! What do we do now?”
“We’re gonna have to use the backdoor, since the main entrance is crowded.”
The both of them walked around the block, cut across a small road, and arrived at the backdoor to Sumei’s House.
At the entrance, Chengfeng saw a carriage he had never seen before. The carriage was massive and wide, and it stopped in front of the entrance. It was so wide, it occupied almost half of the street’s width. Upon further inspection, Chengfeng noticed that the material of the carriage was made with expensive pine wood. Even the wheels are decorated with intricate, beautiful wood carvings. Looking into the carriage’s window, Chengfeng saw the interior of the carriage was covered in thick white tiger fur. Furthermore, the carriage also contained various essential oils, rare paintings, and fine jewelry.
Chengfeng was in awe of the carriage’s beauty, “Where’s this from?”
Liansheng was equally stunned. “Such beauty! Damn, if I had such a carriage, I could die happy!”
Chengfeng turned to look at Liansheng, “You’re certain Zhou Qingyang is in there?”
Before Liangsheng could answer, Chengfeng turned to look at the entrance once more. A pimp was scolding and beating a young girl, who looked to be about thirteen years of age. She was skinny and small, clad only in two thin pieces of clothing. It was insufficient to bear the cold winter day. She was quivering from the cold, and her lips were a dark shade of purple.
The pimp was grabbing onto her hair while berating her, “How dare you steal Master Liu’s silvers? Had I not noticed, you would’ve even stolen the chickens!”
The girl didn’t yell or scream, instead she held onto the pimp’s hand and pleaded, “I didn’t steal it, it was Master Liu who gifted the silvers to me!”
“So you’re saying I’m blind?”
The girl didn’t say anything in response. She continued to weep and shook her head ever so slightly. Even the motion of shaking her head caused her pain, as the pimp strengthened his grip on her hair.
The pimp continued, “Just look at yourself, you look like a bean sprout. Why would Master Liu ever give a girl like you any silvers? You’re not Lady Sumei!”
“It’s true, Master Liu said he’d give me silvers if I recited some poems for him…” wept the girl.
“You stole from him!”
Chengfeng understood the situation. This pimped had eyed the girl’s silvers, and is now trying to extort her for it. There’s a reason why Chengfeng is known all over the city, it’s because he stuck his nose into everyone’s business. He chuckled and stepped towards the pimp and the girl.
The pimp stuck his hand out towards the girl, “Hand me the silver!”
The girl didn’t budge. The silver meant a lot to her. It could feed her family for a month and even get them new clothes. But it seemed that she had no choice. She wept as she reached into her pocket for the silver. It felt warm despite the cold weather.
As the pimp was about to reach for the silver, he felt a sharp pain in his ear. Someone was pulling onto his ear, as if trying to rip it off from his head. In shock and pain, the pimp let go of the girl and reached for his ear.
“Ah ah ah, who’s the idiot trying to…” the pimp yelled as his ear began to show signs of tear and blood. As he stumbled backwards and saw who was pulling his ear, he stopped and swallowed his words.
Chengfeng laughed, “Go on, weren’t you gonna say something?”
The pimp managed an embarrassed smile, “Oh it’s you Master Li! I wasn’t gonna say anything.”
Chengfeng tugged onto the ear once more, causing the pimp to yell in pain. “So you’re saying I’m deaf?”
The pimp managed a response, with tears of pain, “No, that’s not what I meant,”
Chengfeng chuckled. He tossed a silver piece towards the girl, who was watching the scene unfold. “This one’s for you girl.”
Chengfeng turned towards the pimp, “You saw that? Did she steal from me?”
The pimp could only smile dumbly in response. It was hard to say anything when you’re in pain.
“If I can give her silvers, why can’t Master Liu do the same?”
The pimp silently cursed Master Li. Why is he such a busybody? And of everything happening in the city, why is he here?
The pimp meekly smiled, “Yes Master Li, I suppose you’re correct,”
Chengfeng looked at the girl, “Why are you still here? You want more? There’s no need to be greedy,”
The girl immediately bowed, grateful for Chengfeng. “Thank you for the silvers, kind sir!” But she didn’t budge, instead she gave the pimp a worried look.
The pimp understood the look and immediately quipped, “I’m sorry I accused you of theft! The silvers are yours, I won’t trouble you anymore, lest I be struck by lightning!”
But Chengfeng pulled his ear even harder and warned, “Enough with the crap! If I see even a hair missing from the girl, you’re dead!”
The pimp wasn’t dumb. Of course he wouldn’t look for the girl himself, he planned to send someone on his behalf. But who knew Master Li was one step ahead? Chengfeng clearly saw through the pimp.
The girl was grateful, who exclaimed, “Thank you so much, Master Li! Good karma will come your way!”
Chengfeng waved her away, and she took off in the opposite direction, running home while clutching onto the silver for dear life.
Chengfeng released the pimp and asked, “Is Zhou Qingyang in there?”
The pimp breathed a sigh of relief, but he didn’t rub his ear immediately. He responded meekly, “Yes, yes he’s in there,”
“Great!” Chengfeng clapped his hands together and marched into the House.