# 120. Impromptu Poem The guards turned their heads and looked over, their gazes sharp, before continuing on. The window of the carriage that was embroidered with a “qing” character opened, and a pale jade like hand pulled aside the blinds. Xu Qi’an saw the eldest princess’s pale, graceful face, as her red lips moved: “Follow on.” He felt a wave of glee, and was just about to urge his horse forwards, when out of the corner of his eye he saw the window of the fourth carriage open, and a round, beautiful face appear within it, charming and brimming with emotion. *That is the second princess? Ss… the emperor’s daughters are all really beautiful…* Xu Qi’an drew back his gaze, and silently started comparing the two princesses. To different types of women, no matter how impossible it was to sleep them, you’d still compare which one was hotter, even if there was no real use. Because that depended on your personal tastes. Even if many men have said, that they like black silk wearing dommes, or scantily clad lolis… even the ones who would sleep with anyone and everyone, even these sex addicts have the types they like the most. Xu Qi’an did not rank which one out of the eldest or second princess was more beautiful; just from first impressions of the two princesses, the eldest princess was more cold, like a lotus flower on a snowy mountain. You knew clearly that she was noble and refined, graceful beyond others, but you still couldn’t resist thinking of teasing her, then seeing her embarrassed and shy expression. As for the second princess, Xu Qi’an hadn’t interacted with her much, but just from that first glance, in his mind had already formed a picture of a pair of hot pants stretched around large round buttocks, a sports top that just covered her round breasts, pale long legs ending in a pair of white tennis socks, soaring through the dance hall, her long hair flying like crashing waves. In his era, she would be the queen of the dance floor. It is said that the women who loved to dance never found it difficult to conceive, but the second princess after all was from this ancient era, and so Xu Qi’an could not be sure. … The princes and princesses were heading out today to go dine together and stretch their legs, and they had picked a small lake in the imperial city that had rather good scenery. Beside the lake was planted evergreen pines, juniper, as well as patches of currently withered flowerbeds. When spring comes around, the scenery would be even more beautiful. Today the sun was warm, there was no wind, and it was a good day to sunbathe. By the lake there was a square platform. The servants carried over the tables, lit some rosewood incense, and from the food boxes brought out dishes upon dishes of exquisite food. Xu Qi’an leashed his horse to a tree, and silently of followed behind the eldest princess. Two maids carried her dress hems. The eldest princess’s hair bun was very simple and clean, and a buyao hairpin, with golden tassels and round pearls, with a worth of cities was stuck through it. When she walked, the tassels swayed back and forth, adding to her beauty. The two of them did not speak, but naturally as Xu Qi’an followed her he fully took the role of her bodyguard. The other princes and princesses also got out of their resplendent carriages. Xu Qi’an scanned over them: their appearances were all not bad, the crown prince wore a white dragon robe, his hair under a golden crown, extraordinarily handsome. Of the four princesses, the eldest and the second princess were all extremely beautiful, beauties at the top of the league. As they sat, the second princess, whether deliberately or not, stole the position that was originally meant for the eldest princess. No one scolded her, as if the princes and princesses were all used to it, pretending not to see. The eldest princess however did not sit where the second princess was meant to sit, rather sitting at a different table. *The eldest princess and the second princess don’t get along?* Xu Qi’an remembered this detail. The crown prince looked around at all his brothers and sisters, and said: “We haven’t been out together in a while.” The other princes all agreed, whilst the princesses smiled. Xu Qi’an’s eyes fell on the lake. He saw that in the small lake, their were groups of black shadows darting through, not knowing what was living in it. The crown prince became the leader of the banquet, being the one to start conversation, and oversee the feast. The drinking games in the feast only came in so many types; the more refined the game the less there were of them, and all present were high of status, and so couldn’t play things like finger guessing or dice rolling. There were still several types of refined games though, and excluding composing poetry, “flying flower” word games were the hardest. The crown prince opened with the topic of “water”, with the opening character of “water”. In the second prince’s poem, the second character was “water”, and so on and so forth. There were more princes present than princesses, and when the first round finished, the seventh prince racked his brains, and was still unable to think of a poem with the character “water” in last place, and so was made to drink. The eighth prince had long since died young. The ninth prince was responsible for carrying on this flying flower game, and like the crown prince, started off with the first character as “water”. When it got to the second princess, her bright all peach-blossom eyes were open wide, her shining black pupils turning and turning, as she said crisply, “I have one, *Delicate, tilting branches reflected on clear and shallow water.*”[^1] The bright sunlight shone down on her body. She wore a crimson palace dress, wearing resplendent and ornate jewellery. Not any woman could rein in such a luxurious to the point of tacky dress. But when it came to her, it made her look ever more beautiful. The eldest princess’s noble aura was in her bones, whilst the second princess was more like a beautiful and noble canary; no matter how luxurious she dressed, it would only add to her beauty. But if she were to wear more ascetic dress, she would probably not be able to match the eldest princess. The crown prince laughed, “I’ve heard this poem before, it came out from the Jiaofangsi, seeming to be composed by some scholar from Changle County. It was praised for being one of the best praising plum poems, the best in recorded history.” The elegant second prince, with an aura like a scholar, commented “A shame, such an unparalleled work, was given to a prostitute. What a waste of talent.” Stories of love between talents and prostitutes, were very widespread and common, and were very popular. But this was indeed not something that ought to be announced publicly, especially in the eyes of the royal family. The third prince was a scholar, and was extremely pained by it. *How is this a waste of talent? After oiran Fuxiang got this poem, her value skyrocketed, and in one day became a star of the Great Feng, and I also formed a good relationship with her exchanging seafood, clearly this is a win-win!* Xu Qi’an wasn’t bowed. The drinking games continued, and when it got to the eldest princess, she faced the same difficult problem as the seventh prince. Poems that had “water” in them as the last character were as rare as phoenix feathers, and even though the eldest princess was an accomplished student, she didn’t have much experience in the area of poetry. Her graceful brows were slightly furrowed, and she hesitated for a long time. Seeing this, the second princess laughed “Huaiqing is our Capital’s number one most skilled woman, surely she could match a small poem.” *The second princess is indeed a little “biao”[^2]… from now I’ll call her Biaobiao!* Xu Qi’an thought. In reality to many men, a proper “biao” actually was more attractive. Of course, Xu Qi’an was not that type of man. The many princes and princesses looked over with smiles. The eldest princess’s abilities were outstanding, far above her brothers and sisters. Even though she was a woman, she still made people jealous. For her to be put down a notch in her most proficient field, everyone was very happy to watch. The eldest princess didn’t look at her brothers and sisters’ mocking gazes, rather turning her head slightly, and very lightly looked at Xu Qi’an, who was standing by her side. *…what are you looking at?* Xu Qi’an sighed internally, *the eldest princess ain’t bad, she knew that I have a matter I need to see her about, and so she’s first getting a pre-payment.* *What’s Huaiqing looking at him for?* The second princess hadn’t stopped looking at the eldest princess, waiting for her to lose, before jumping out herself and pointing at her, “Ha, you finally admit that you’re a purely ornamental spear!” Who could have predicted that Huaiqing wasn’t in the least bit panicked, and even exchanging looks with that small Bronze Gong. The other princes and princesses pretty much all noticed this, but their internal monologue wasn’t as colourful as the second princess’s. “*Drunk, he knows not if the sky floats in the water,*” Xu Qi’an hesitated for a moment, before saying a line as quiet as a fly. He had quickly worked his brain, yet of all the poems that ended with water, he could only think of this one. The eldest princess nodded her head slightly, before saying loudly, “Drunk, he knows not if the sky floats in the water.” The second princess was dazed for a moment, before a feeling of disappointment welled up inside her. This damned sister Huaiqing still had a few tricks up her sleeve. The other princes and princesses all frowned, thinking deeply, and then all looking over at the third prince. The third prince shook his head, “Huaiqing, why has third brother not heard of this poem before?” The eldest princess smiled lightly, “This is a new poem.” The second princess immediately got energy, and said with a pampered voice, “Oh, you’re being lazy, and blindly composed a sentence to deceive us. Drink three times!” “To compose a poem impromptu is also acceptable,” the crown prince laughed, “but Huaiqing, you must make a full poem for us.” The third prince nodded, “Big brother is right.” The second princess turned her head, and looked at Xu Qi’an, as if saying: It’s over to you. --- [^1]: Note: water is the fifth character in Chinese. [^2]: 裱, literally means a painting hung up. Internet slang, someone who puts all their arguments and opinions up publicly for all to comment.