# 71. A Strange Message After paying the entry fee, they entered the courtyard, where seven to eight people were seated around a charcoal fire, drinking tea and chatting, making the room appear elegant. Six dancers wearing multicoloured clothes and cotton skirts were dancing lightly and gracefully, twisting their slender waists and plump buttocks. Xu Qi'an glanced around, but he didn't see the oiran who was like a young lady from a well-to-do house outside and so coquettish in bed. Sampling tea at a brothel wasn't just about drinking games, there were many other programs like listening to music as well as watching dances. The famous oiran also didn't accompany the guests every time. Similarly, some guests also need "Private space". Drinking games are quite interesting, but they weren't conducive to talking about private matters. Some guests came in groups to play drinking games and to connect. At that time, some freedom was needed for them to display themselves freely. The three of them sat down. Song Tingfeng shrugged, squinted his eyes, and said, "It seems that Miss Fuxiang doesn't plan to go out and accompany guests tonight." Xu Qi'an asked, "Why would you say that?" Song Tingfeng explained, “The time for drinking games is limited. Generally, a group of guests stays here for two hours at most, after which they continue to the next table or leave the premise. "Also, it takes about two hours to have an interesting drinking game." *That means, our group is unable to play a good drinking game, so Fuxiang didn't appear... Why do you know the rules of Jiaofang Si so well? Have you patronized it a little too much?...* Xu Qi'an nodded, indicating that he had learned this new information. After the dance, the dancers took a short break. A young man in a light blue Confucian shirt got up, raised his cup, and looked around, "Is Young Master Yang, Yang Ling here?" He asked this three times in a row, but as no one answered him, he sat down disappointed. At the next table, a middle-aged man dressed richly asked curiously, "Brother, who is this Yang Ling?" "*Delicate, tilting branches reflected on clear and shallow water; its subtle fragrance drifts with the rising moon at dusk*" the young man in a light blue Confucian shirt raised his chin slightly, "Have you heard of it?" "It seems vaguely familiar." The richly clad middle-aged man recalled for a moment. "Of course, As soon as this poem was released, it was touted by scholars as the best quatrain about plum throughout the ages. Even you people must have heard of it." The young man in a Confucian shirt raised his head proudly, "These lines could only have been made by us scholars." The richly clad middle-aged man wondered, "Why is the young master looking for a person here?" While the two of them were chatting, the drinkers on the side also stopped chatting and listened attentively. “It's because this poetry called the best poem throughout the ages was released in Reflecting Plum Pavilion. This poem was given by Mr. Yang, Yang Ling to Miss Fuxiang. The poem uses plums as a metaphor to express her beauty. It was a beautiful idea. "No wonder Reflecting Plum pavilion has so many patrons lately, and it's no wonder that Miss Fuxiang doesn't show up regularly." "That's right, I've heard that Miss Fuxiang doesn't accompany guests easily." "*Delicate, tilting branches reflected on clear and shallow water; its subtle fragrance drifts with the rising moon at dusk*... This poem is so beautiful! I want to meet Miss Fuxiang and that talent." Upon hearing this, the young man in the light blue Confucian shirt sighed wistfully, "That young master Yang has only appeared once in the Jiaofang Si, and hasn't been heard from ever since. The Imperial Academy had sent some people to look for him, but there was no such person there." The young man in a light blue Confucian shirt said helplessly, "I came to Reflecting Plum Pavilion daily just to wait for him. It's not just me, all the students in the capital want to make friends with him." Song Tingfeng clicked his tongue and said, "This is good. Miss Fuxiang is now a woman that can't be coveted." Zhu Guangxiao also sighed. *Did I advertently drive up the AC price?* Xu Qi'an lowered his head and continued drinking with a guilty conscience. Song Tingfeng looked at his new colleague, and said, "It's a pity you are good at solving crimes but can't write poems. If you could write a quatrain similar in quality to Yang Ling, Miss Fuxiang will pursue you by herself." "Pursue me?" Xu Qi'an discovered a neglected point. “Why? Do you think love stories of poor scholars and prostitutes are spread for no reason? Poor scholars could occasionally write some good sentences and give them to the prostitute, and her worth would rise sharply due to it. This is a matter of mutual benefit, so many young and famous scholars are the objects of flattery among prostitutes. "Let alone wanting silver, they are even willing to pay silver. Ziyang Jushi from the Cloud Deer Academy was quite talented in poetry back then. After becoming the zhuangyuan, he stayed in Jiaofang Si for three months without paying any money." Song Tingfeng said. Zhu Guangxiao nodded in affirmation. Song Tingfeng found that his newest colleague was dumbfounded, as if he had been greatly shocked, also as if he had heard something exciting. His breaths had become heavy. A serving maid laying out the wine, stared at Xu Qi’an for a few seconds, and with a face full of glee, immediately dropped what she was doing, and ran out of the room. Not long after, the well-dressed oiran appeared on the stage. Her long skirt was dragging to the ground, and the gorgeous jewellery in her black hair and her beautiful face complemented each other. The thickness of the dress was just right, It didn't look bloated and it highlighted her exquisite and plump figure but also didn't make her seem flirtatious. Miss Fuxiang's eyes swept across the guests, pausing when they met Xu Qi'an. "Hey, Fuxiang just looked at me." Song Tingfeng was slightly shocked. Zhu Guangxiao glanced at him, straightened his waist, and said, "It's surely me." After greeting the guests, Fuxiang said softly, "Let me dance to help the guests enjoy themselves." The guests were pleasantly surprised; they didn't expect that the most popular oiran of this brothel would show up. The guests with keener minds thought, *the famous Oiran Fuxiang is known as a master in both Qin and poetry, but isn't known for dancing. Why would she dance today?* *With her figure, It would be awesome if she danced the Gokuraku Jodo...* Xu Qi'an imagined while admiring her graceful dance. After the song ended, Fuxiang drank a cup of alcohol, and with her cheeks flushed, bade goodbye. Song Tingfeng smiled and said, "It was worth it." Zhu Guangxiao nodded. Song Tingfeng picked up the wine glass and signalled Xu Qi'an, "Miss Fuxiang seldom dances, but she often plays the qin. Being able to see her dancing your first visit, money well spent." Xu Qi'an raised his glass in return, "I wish I could stay in her room tonight." Song Tingfeng heartily laughed. Zhu Guangxiao lightly shook his head. Song Tingfeng had just finished laughing when he saw a maid walking over "Young Mater Yang, my lady invites you in for tea." ...Song Tingfeng and Zhu Guangxiao looked at Xu Qi'an blankly, their faces showing little expression. Xu Qi'an patted them on the shoulders, "Let's meet at the gate of the courtyard tomorrow at 6." *Bang*... The scholar in the light blue Confucian Shirt suddenly stood up from the desk, showing shock and glee, and shouted, "Young Master Yang, Are you Yang Ling? You are Yang Ling, aren't you? Brother Yang, Brother Yang. ...This one is Du Ying..." Xu Qi'an stopped, cupped his hands towards him, and left with the maid. *Yang Ling...* The drinkers in eh room stared wide-eyed, and a few scholars in Confucian shirts were ecstatic. Song Tingfeng and Zhu Guangxiao looked at each other silently, "???" ... Inside a bedroom as warm as spring, lay a bathtub behind a screen. Soaking in hot water with petals floating in it, Xu Qi'an exhaled comfortably. Fair-skinned and beautiful Fuxiang was wearing fine gauze clothes while she knelt and sat by the tub to serve him, rubbing his body with her soft hands. "After not seeing you for a few days, Young Master has become more handsome." The oiran admired Xu Qi'an's strong body, her eyes being mesmerized by it. Previously, Xu Qi'an had some handsome features, which were not bad, but today, his appearance hadn't changed but he gave off an indescribable temperament. "As long as you like it, this change is worth it." Xu Qi'an raised his eyebrows. Fuxiang's face flushed, as she became shy with joy. She said resentfully," Young master is just saying some flattering words to deceive me. Young Master looks down on me." When has a man held her all night without doing anything to her? "I was tired that day..." Xu Qi'an said confidently. His heart said, *This sounds like an excuse made by an old man in his 40s or 50s.* He immediately changed the subject and asked, "Do you feel cold?" The oiran nodded immediately, and said aggrievedly, "Cold\~\~\~" "Let's wash together if you feel cold." Xu Qi'an pulled her into the bathtub. plop... After being caught off guard, Fuxiang screamed. Fu Xiang lay in Xu Qi'an's arms, and said coquettishly, "Naughty." She sat on Xu Qi'an's stomach, wrapped her hands around his neck, and talked incongruously, asking for advice on poetry. Although Xu Qi'an was a smuggled talent, he had memorized a lot of poems, and some of his occasional words would make the oiran blush with excitement. "By the way, has Young Master Yang heard about Deputy Minister Zhou's dismissal from office and subsequent exile?" Her seemingly casual question made Xu Qi'an vigilant. "I heard that he was impeached by Marquis Wei." Xu Qi'an said. The famous oiran raised her charming and affectionate face to stare at him, and said lightly, "It seems that it's because Young Master Zhou was so wicked that he kidnapped the Shu daughter of Marquis Wei." "So, beauty is a bone-cutting knife." Xu Qi'an said, half surprised and half emotional. As a veteran criminal investigator, no one could easily get information from him. However, Fuxiang may have some doubts in her heart. *How could such a coincidence appear? Just the day after talking about the past, Zhou Li really shot at the Shu daughter of Marquis Wei... Well, It may not be a suspicion, but some curiosity was there.* I have to strengthen this woman's affection for me and let her heart firmly be on my side, lest one thay she tells an official about me... "Upon watching Miss dance just now, I suddenly felt something in my heart, and I got a few words..." Xu Qi'an put his arms around the beautiful woman's fragrant shoulders, and recited, “*Dancing, until her headdress fell to the floor,
Wine spilled, skirts stained,
Delicacies rivalled gaieties,
Day after day, joy after joy.*”[^1] *Delicacies rivalled gaieties, day after day, joy after joy…* The famous oiran had tears in her eyes, and wept in a low voice, "Young master, Are you poking this servant's heart, So cruel." After taking a bath, the two of them lay on the gorgeous brocade bed, and Xu Qi'an flipped through the picture book beside the pillow. The famous oiran's brown eyes were as dark and moist as a deer in a forest, and her face was flushed bright pink. She looked shy, but her posture was like a monarch choosing his subjects. She had an exquisite appearance, a plump figure, and smooth skin like a jade beauty. "What do you mean?" Xu Qi'an glanced at her, raising the picture book in his hand. Fuxiang pursed her lips and didn't dare to answer. *Do you think that I'm a virgin and need to be educated about this?* Xu Qi'an sneered and threw away the picture book. That night, the oiran's bed was shaken until midnight. ... At 6 the next day, Xu Qi'an dressed up in the service of a slightly haggard beauty, had breakfast, and bid farewell to the affectionate Fuxiang. Xu Qi'an was proud of the look of worship shown by the head maid in the morning. Upon leaving the Reflecting Plum Pavilion, he saw his two colleagues in high spirits at the door. *Sure enough, I wasn't asked for money... Hey, I didn't want to prostitute for free, but the beauty was too kind...* Xu Qi'an said lightly, "Morning, both of you." The three of them left Jiaofang Si's alley side by side. When parting, Song Tingfeng squinted his eyes and couldn't help asking, "Miss Fuxiang... how does she taste?" The taciturn Zhu Guangxiao also looked over at them. Xu Qi'an looked forward, and said with three tenths unruliness and three tenths ruffian temperament, raising the corners of his mouth, "That girl... is very moist!" ... He bought some silk and satin in the inner city, rented a carriage, and drove back to the Xu mansion. Uncle Xu had asked for leave that day and stayed at home to wait for his news. Xu Xinnian didn't study as he wasn't in the mood to do so. It wasn't until Xu Qi'an asked his servants to bring the silk and satin that his family was relieved. Xu Qi'an didn't explain much, pointed at the silk and satin, and said with a smile, "Use them to make clothes for my aunt and younger sisters." Auntie, who was holding her breath, raised her snow-white and sharp chin and snorted. Little Pea pulled his trousers to climb up his legs, and shouted, "Big brother, big brother, I saw that Elder sister was crying yesterday." A blush appeared on Xu Lingyue's melon-seeded face. Showing too much affection to family members wasn't a good thing. Xu Qi'an smiled at the beautiful young girl, then kicked Little Pea into the air like a shuttlecock before reaching out to catch her. Auntie was taken aback, while Little Pea giggled mindlessly as a child would. Second Uncle was taken aback, "You have stepped into the Refining Qi realm." After receiving Xu Qi'an's affirmation, Second uncle revealed the smile of a satisfied father. In the study, Xu Qi'an told what happened to Uncle and Erlang. Both father and son were anxious for a while. Xu Xinnian looked at his cousin, "Why did the eldest princess send someone to follow you?" *I also want to know that...* Xu Qi'an gave a guess, "Maybe, Is it because I was the only outsider in the Academy that day?" On the day the vision occurred in the Lesser Sage Academy, the Eldest Princess was also in the Academy. So, it's impossible for her to not pay attention to it. In this matter, it was reasonable for her to monitor the only outsider that day. Xu Xinnian said deeply, “The eldest princess is very smart. Not only has she studied at Cloud Deer Academy for many years, but she also has half a master-disciple relationship with Wei Yuan. Her go skills are also superb, so recommending you to the Nightwatchers was definitely not some idle move. "Big brother, Don't be surprised if she summons you in the future. Remember to be careful and treat her with caution." Xu Qi'an let out a "hmmm". An arrogant person like Xu Cijiu valuing and fearing her so much meant that this eldest princess wasn't a simple person. After speaking, Xu Xinnian suddenly raised his chin and said, "I have stepped into the realm of Self-cultivation." *I have also become an eight rank Confucian master scholar!* Xu Qi'an was pleasantly surprised, "What's so special about Self-Cultivation realm Confucian Scholars?" The corners of Xu Xinnian's mouth twitched, "Towards Righteousness, I'll go even if myriad people block my way." At that moment, Xu Qi'an's heart was full of pride, and he burst out with the courage to face tens of thousands of troops alone. This inexplicable courage lasted for a quarter of an hour before slowly dissipating. "Self-cultivation is the process of sharpening one's courage. Confucian Scholars in this realm can convince people with every word and deed. For example, Elder Brother felt what I said made sense just now, so he unconsciously followed suit. So, I'm not worse than you in settling cases now." *No! I'm relying on my actual skills while you are cheating.* Xu Qi'an thought. This is equivalent to a courage buff, a rudimentary version of nature following one's speech... Xu Qi'an's eyes lit up, and he looked at his second uncle. The former then said, "Cijiu, Hasn't big brother treated you well..." "Get lost!" Xu Xinnian walked away without waiting for him to finish speaking. Vulgar Martial Artist! ... Xu Qi'an went back to his small courtyard to catch up on sleep. Suddenly, he woke up inexplicably. The source of his alarm was the small jade mirror hidden under the pillow. On the surface of the jade mirror, a line of small characters appeared: 【NINE: Where are you?】 --- Author's Note: Seeing the word count of this chapter, you should be able to understand why this update was late. Due to combining two chapters into one, I not only completed the update but also returned a *Mengzhu*'s additional chapter, which is very gratifying. Infernal: Two chapters. I knew something was up with this. [^1]: 《琵琶行》白居易作。Extract from *Pipa Xing*, by Bai Juyi.