The rich gentleman stepped forward but the middle-aged servant extended an arm to stop him. “Fourth Young Master, don’t.”
The rich man roared, “That is my friend! Making him lose face is the same as making me lose face! And making me lose face means making the Zhan family lose face!”
The middle-aged servant’s expression did not change. “This man’s behaviour was inappropriate, do you really need to stand up for him, Young Master? If Eldest Master heard of your friendships with people like this, he will punish you.”
The rich man laughed. “Great, now you’re using his name to scare me again.”
A handmaiden came forward to feed Zhou Qingyang a Blossom Pill. Li Chengfeng saw it and slightly furrowed his brows. He turned to look up to the next floor but saw Sumei’s face flash past a window. Little Bell, who had both hands under her chin supported by her elbows on the windowsill, grinned at Li Chengfeng. “Master Li lives up to his reputation as a man who prioritizes justice and love! News of you scolding Zhou Qingyang with such vigour will definitely spread!” As she spoke, she suddenly straightened up and pointed at Zhou Qingyang below, yelling, “Hey, what are you all standing there for? Carry him away quickly, I don’t want him dirtying my Misses’ floors!”
The workers standing around finally snapped back and scrambled to carry Zhou Qingyang away.
Qiu Liansheng nudged Li Chengfeng with his shoulder and muttered softly, “Sigh, I think you offended someone yet again!”
Li Chengfeng’s eyes darted around to see the rich gentleman glaring furiously at him. It was only when he noticed Li Chengfeng’s gaze when he looked away.
Li Chengfeng said helplessly, “Why must you say ‘yet again’?”
Qiu Liansheng laughed heartily, “Yeah, why must I say ‘yet again’?”
Upstairs, Little Bell said, “Sigh, what an awful day! Miss is tired and needs some rest. Everyone, go home.”
Everyone complained of the anti-climatic series of events.
The rich gentleman looked away from Li Chengfeng and looked up at the window upstairs. “Wait!”
Little Bell turned to look at him. “What do you want?”
“I insulted Lady Sumei with my gold and silver, and I apologise for that. But I have some treasures with me. If Lady Sumei is willing to meet me, I’d gladly give them to her!”
Little Bell snickered. “As if!”
The man shook his folded fan and grinned confidently, “Let’s not speak too soon. You’ll know its worth when you see it!” With the flick of a wrist, a small incense pot appeared in his palm.
This incense pot was small enough to fit in one’s sleeve, the size of a baby’s fist. However, it was dotted neatly with colourful gemstones, as well as etched with delicate, complicated images all around.
She snickered again. “It’s just an incense pot, no? Who hasn’t seen one? You think it can’t be called an incense pot just because it has a few rocks on it?”
The man smirked. “Oh?” When he spoke, the incense pot floated midair, each gemstone glowing softly. The glows merged into colourful rays of light extending in all directions.
Everyone in the hall who came into contact with the rays felt instantly refreshed and slightly intoxicated. They couldn’t help but cry, “It smells so good, so good!”
Li Chengfeng mused, “What is that? It’s magical!”
When he saw that everyone was impressed by his treasure, the man with the fan said, “What do you think? This is the extremely rare Heaven Immortal Five Colours Incense. Even the ugliest person will slowly turn beautiful when bathed in the fragrance of this incense. If a beautiful girl uses this incense, she will retain her youth and beauty for a long time!”
The hall erupted in discussion. The men all straightened themselves, eyes wide and mouths agape. They were all familiar with courting girls, they naturally knew that if they could give this to any girl, chances were that she would likely accept it!
If this were auctioned off, the aristocratic ladies of the nor would definitely fight for this like their lives depended on it! Which lady was out of their reach if these men had a gift as precious as this?
Even the witty Little Bell stared at the incense with widened eyes, her breathing getting slightly heavier.
Which girl did not want a gift like that?
Delighted, the rich gentleman said with his nose in the air, “Let me ask one more time. If I give this to Lady Sumei, will she meet me?”
Little Bell opened her mouth to speak but did not get any words out. She turned to take a look, struggling.
Everyone was looking upstairs. When the rich gentleman gloated, they heard guqin music from the inside. Then, a bright voice singing.
<i> The heavens, the earth and the moon are cold. The sun sets behind the mountains.
Ancient promises made before flowers, ever-lasting love felt beneath the moon.
Who doesn’t remember their youth? They were all young men once.
Emotions ran high, hasty promises made at a whim.
They rise the next day, only to find an empty bed.
To be tossed away like tattered shoes, their hearts turned colder upon death.
These folktales passed down generations, to warn ye,
True love is rarer than gems and gold. </i>
[T/L Note: this is my translation of the song, any readers who can write it in a pretty, poetic manner is welcome to contribute in the comments! I’ll definitely consider taking yours!]
Cheng’an City used to only have three legendary performers, all talented oirans who were beautiful and skilled. Liu Zhixi then arrived and conquered the hearts of all the northerners with her exemplary guqin skills, causing all the rich aristocrats of the city to fall for her. She then became the queen of the oirans but her reign only lasted for a year until Liu Sumei arrived in Cheng’an. Then Liu Zhixi was no longer the sole queen.
While Liu Sumei’s guqin skills were not as good as Liu Zhixi's, her singing was the best. One song was enough to intoxicate her entire audience.
As she sang, the entire audience sank into melancholy and yearning. It was only when someone yelled, “AWESOME!” that everyone woke from their dreams and cheered thunderously.
The rich gentleman was furious. “Please excuse me, Lady Sumei, but is there any love better than this precious treasure I hold?”
They heard a chord strummed upstairs, then Liu Sumei speaking wistfully, “Isn’t there already a man with true love more precious than gold downstairs?”
Everyone’s gazes fell on Li Chengfeng. Liu Sumei did not name anyone but they knew who she was referring to.
News of Li Chengfeng’s funeral for Liu Zhixi had spread across Cheng’an and was the gossip within every alley and teahouse. Other than the embarrassed prefecture chief, everyone else approved his actions tremendously.
As attention focused on Li Chengfeng, Qiu Liansheng stood akimbo, looking proud.
The rich gentleman’s eyes darted at Li Chengfeng, his face contorted with disgust. He took a deep breath and walked up to Li Chengfeng. “This Heaven Immortal Five Colours Incense is for you! ...You! Go! Now!”
Such demanding words! What did he take Li Chengfeng for? A donkey?
Li Chengfeng stared at him long and hard, then laughed. “Alright!” Then, he extended his hand and took the floating incense pot.
Everyone instantly looked disgusted. True love? A love-struck man? He’s just trash!
Little Bell’s eyes widened as her impression of him was utterly destroyed. Both her eyebrows slowly raised as she watched him hold the incense pot as if she was about to burst in curses any moment soon.
After Li Chengfeng took the pot, he turned to give it to Qiu Liansheng and sincerely said, “Old Qiu, I think you really need this!”
Everyone looked towards Qiu Liansheng, whose ugly face was as pockmarked as a sesame bun. The entire hall erupted in laughter.