Read Novel A Step into the Past Chapter 262, Please
Book 23 Chapter 09 – Enemies Are Bound To Meet On A Narrow Road
Settling down on a cushion beside Xiang Shaolong’s bed, Xie Ziyuan scratched his head, wondering: “How did you end up in such a terrible state? Little Brother was thinking of asking you out for some fun.”
Xiang Shaolong was stunned: “Have you resolved your problem?”
Xie Ziyuan lamented: “Even if it cannot be solved, Little Brother is still required to compose a finale song for Lan Gongyuan. This time, I am in trouble and I am afraid the Great King would hold me responsible.”
Feeling anxious for him, Xiang Shaolong panicked: “There are only five days left. What should we do? Can’t you go on your own?”
Xie Ziyuan bitterly smiled: “Wifey only trusts you and you alone. If I do not bring you home for her approval, I would be stuck at home.”
Xiang Shaolong suggested: “Why don’t you say you are going over to Zongsun Long’s place for an important discussion?”
Xie Ziyuan sighed: “Zongsun Xuanhua is terrified of her. She will know that I am lying by just simply questioning him.”
Pushing his blanket aside and rising from his bed, Xiang Shaolong gave in: “Then Little Brother has to put my health at risk and accompany you despite my illness.”
In actual fact, other than his face turning ashen white due to substantial loss of blood, Xiang Shaolong is not as bad as he looks. After half a night and a full day of rest, he has recovered his physical strength. All that remains is an occasional pain from his wound.
Arriving at Xie residence, Shan Rou was equally shocked at his appearance. Sending Xie Ziyuan away for an errand, she privately inquired: “What happened to you?”
Xiang Shaolong bitterly laughed: “I was injured by your Master’s sword.”
Shan Rou was confounded: “What?”
In a brief manner, Xiang Shaolong highlighted the important points to her. Before Shan Rou could say anything in reply, Xie Ziyuan had returned and they are forced to change topics.
The minute they stepped outside Xie Residence, Xie Ziyuan seemed to transform into a rope-playing monkey. He enthusiastically gushed: “We are going over to Lan Gongyuan’s Jade Orchid Brothel tonight. That girl has expressed some interest in me.”
Compared to Shi Sufang and Feng Fei, Lan Gongyuan barely knows about himself so Xiang Shaolong nodded: “I shall follow Brother Xie’s arrangement.”
Xie Ziyuan joyfully chirped: “If I inform this Soft Boned Beauty we are there for the purpose of composing a new song, she would surely pay us a visit regardless of her busy schedule.”
Xiang Shaolong reminded: “Do not forget we must be home by eleven o’clock. Otherwise, even the King of Qi cannot save you.”
Xie Ziyuan solemnly promised: “Whenever Little Brother visits the brothel, it is only to soak in the ambience of the red light district, evoking inspiration for my songs. I do not bear any ulterior motives and four hours is more than sufficient for me!”
Xiang Shaolong laughed: “I see. In this case, I can put my mind at ease.”
Xie Ziyuan suddenly sighed with a breath and stared out of the carriage window at the pure white landscape formed after the snowfall.
Xiang Shaolong understandingly enquired: “Are you still bothered about work?”
Xie Ziyuan resentfully smiled: “I would be lying through my teeth if I say I am not bothered. I just met the Second Prince this morning. Aye! I should not tell you about my affairs.”
Following that, his spirits rose as he exclaimed: “We are here!”
Under a bevy of escorts at the front and back, the carriage drove into the compound of Lin Zi’s most famous Jade Orchid Brothel.
With great fanfare, both men were ushered into the brothel.
The sky is turning dark and the lamps are being lighted at this point in time. Jade Orchid Brothel is already filled with guests and the atmosphere is extremely lively.
The two men have been a.s.signed to a luxuriously furnished lounge and the maids naturally provided excellent service. Xiang Shaolong was curious: “Why does everybody in the brothel seem to be familiar with and going all out to flatter Brother Xie?” Xie Ziyuan proudly explained: “You must not forget that it is compulsory to play Little Brother’s compositions here. Moreover, I specially implored Zongsun Long to book this lounge for me last night. In Lin Zi, everyone has to give face to him.”
At this instance, the supervisor of the brothel, Madam Orchid, entered the room. Smiling widely before uttering a word, she batted her eyelashes seductively and informed: “When Yuan Yuan knows Official Xie is coming to visit her, she is so excited she forgot about everything else. Right now, she is having a shower and applying makeup and will be here shortly. Does Official Xie or Master Shen wish to ask for another two ladies to add to the festivities?”
Although she is approaching middle age, her pleasant grooming, coupled with a good sense of fashion and on top of her well-maintained figure, Madam Orchid is still rather appealing to the eyes. With her mind-blowing eloquence, she exudes a captivating and wanton bearing, arousing excitement in men and provoking dirty thoughts. Scrutinizing her, Xiang Shaolong is full of praise for the Qi Lady. Regardless of their age, they truly possess a unique character. Shan Rou and Zhao Zhi are two shining examples.
Taking in her praise, Xie Ziyuan was laughing with his mouth wide open. He swiftly decided: “No need! We came specially for Miss Yuan.”
Carrying a womanly fragrance, Madam Orchid came to Xie Ziyuan’s side, sitting between the two men. With half her body leaning onto Xie Ziyuan’s body, she placed her lips beside his ear and began whispering secretively.
Observing Xie Ziyuan’s intoxicated look, Xiang Shaolong easily deduce that Madam Orchid is sweet-talking him and is telling him things that are pleasing to the ears.
Following that, Xie Ziyuan and Madam Orchid suddenly burst out laughing simultaneously. Only then did she bother to shift her mesmerizing gaze to Xiang Shaolong. She cheerfully offered: “Tonight, Yuan Yuan shall accompany Official Xie. Does Master Shen want me to help you to select a good female companion?”
Xiang Shaolong hurriedly rejected: “I am just accompanying Official Xie.”
Madam Orchid did not press on and coquettishly sashayed away.
As foretold, Xie Ziyuan indeed became highly invigorated. Producing a roll of parchment from his bosom, he ordered the maid to deliver some ink and brushes and began composing on the spot.
Xiang Shaolong dared not disturb him and half p.r.o.ne on a soft cushion, pretending to be asleep. The two young and pretty maids are very attentive and well trained. Without any prompting, they started to ma.s.sage the back and shoulders of the two men. Xiang Shaolong, on the other hand, gained a new insight. He is beginning to comprehend the importance of one’s status.
Now that he is masquerading as Shen Liang, he is obviously at a different status level compared to Xiang Shaolong. In the past, wherever he went, he would, without a doubt, gain the attention of the crowd and end up as the centre of attraction. Presently, even Madam Orchid cannot be bothered with him.
In the midst of his thoughts, he actually fell asleep.
In a blurry state, he imagined hearing a soft, gentle as cotton singing of a lady. It was heavenly to his ears.
He could not make out the lyrics of the song but can relish the wonderful sweet sensation in between the words she spouted. He felt as if he is high up floating among the mists and clouds as the tune swayed continuously in a melancholic water ripple and yet feeling light and soothing as if it was a gentle breeze blowing across a gra.s.s field.
Xiang Shaolong thought that he was dreaming but when he opened his eyes, he discovered that Lan Gongyuan had arrived and was presently prostrated against Xie Ziyuan’s back and lightly singing the song he newly composed.
On a table opposite him sat a st.u.r.dy and tall youth. Noticing Xiang Shaolong stirring from his slumber, he gestured a greeting before refocusing his attention to Lan Gongyuan and Xie Ziyuan.
At the end of the song, the young man began clapping: “The song is exhilarating and Miss Yuan is a superb songstress. Xuanhua take my hat off the both of you!”
Xiang Shaolong was taken aback, finally realizing the man in front of him is Zongsun Long’s son, Lin Zi’s famed swordsman Zongsun Xuanhua.
Leaning back into the bosom of Lan Gongyuan, Xie Ziyuan threw a side glance at Xiang Shaolong, cheerfully exclaiming: “Brother Shen is awake. Let’s drink. No one shall go home sober tonight.”
Her lovely eyes shifting to Xiang Shaolong, Lan Gongyuan’s eyes rotated two rounds before shifting back to Xie Ziyuan. She unyielding protested: “I hereby ban Official Xie from mentioning the word: Home. Allow me do my best to serve you tonight!”
Xie Ziyuan and Zongsun Xuanhua exchanged glances and burst out laughing.
Embarra.s.sed, Xiang Shaolong sat upright and wondered: “How long did Little Brother slept?”
Zongsun Xuanhua laughed: “I have been here for two hours and Brother Shen has been asleep throughout my stay. If not for Miss Yuan’s delightful singing, Brother Shen may have continued dozing.”
Lan Gongyuan personally poured wine for all three men. With the presence of the Soft Boned Beauty, the ambience of the room is much more lively as if Spring had arrived.
After three rounds of toasting, Lan Gongyuan leaned back into Xie Ziyuan’s bosom. Witnessing their intimacy and Lan Gongyuan’s clinging, any man would definitely feel jealous.
To Xie Ziyuan, Zongsun Xuanhua sighed: “A beauty paired with a talented gentleman. This is the first time Little Brother has seen Miss Yuan behaving so submissively! Little Brother has yet to experience Miss Yuan’s tender loving care.”
Xie Ziyuan is fully intoxicated like a flying immortal and his soul seemed to have left his body.
Inheriting his father’s long and narrow face, Zongsun Xuanhua turned to Xiang Shaolong. His chilling eyes flashing, Zongsun Xuanhua insinuated: “Brother Shen’s flying dagger skill has left a lasting impression on my father. Little Brother wonders if he has the good fortune to witness it with his own eyes.”
Groaning to himself, Xiang Shaolong smiled: “You would have to wait till Little Brother recover from my sickness.” He then secretly laughed for he would have slipped away by then.
Zongsun Xuanhua nodded his head and replied with sarcasm: “Of course. Ha! Brother Shen is truly lucky to have befriended Official Xie.”
Lan Gongyuan was stunned: “Flying Dagger Skill? Young Master Zongsun, can you stop beating around the bush?”
Xie Ziyuan laughed: “It is only a misunderstanding! Miss Yuan, this Brother Shen here is currently the Troupe Manager for Mistress Feng.”
Taken aback, Lan Gongyuan glanced towards Xiang Shaolong. Her eyes glowing with additional signs of contempt and arrogance, she acknowledged with a ‘Mm’ sound but did not pa.s.s any comment.
Just as Xiang Shaolong was feeling extremely uncomfortable and was planning to use his illness as an excuse to leave early, Madam Orchid came into the lounge. Pa.s.sionately sitting down beside Zongsun Xuanhua, she cajoled: “Your servant wishes to borrow Yuan Yuan for thirty minutes. I hope three masters can give me some leeway and don’t take it to heart.”
Lan Gongyuan wailed: “They may not mind but I do mind! But since Aunty Orchid takes such good care of Yuan Yuan, Yuan Yuan cannot bear to object so I will definitely oblige!”
In his heart, Xiang Shaolong was full of praise. Every single one of these famous courtesans is an expert when it comes to eloquence and mind games. With the flawless coordination between the two of them, how can they voice any objections?
Zongsun Xuanhua is no pushover too. He plainly inquired: “Is it because of Brother Qi Yu?”
Madam Orchid giggled: “Young Master Zongsun has. .h.i.t the jackpot. He is accompanied by the Qin heavyweight, Great Chancellor Lu.”
His eyes flashing with electricity and ice, Zongsun Xuanhua coldly snorted: “If we are talking about Qin heavyweight, the most befitting is Xiang Shaolong. Lu Buwei? Humph!”
Reacting emotionally, Lan Gongyuan sighed with a breath and stood up from Xie Ziyuan’s bosom. She gently swore: “I will just pay my respects and be back before you know it.”
Xie Ziyuan hurriedly stood up to send her off and winked at Xiang Shaolong, rea.s.suring: “Miss Yuan need not hold it to heart. It is also time for me to go home.”
It is unclear if she is being genuine or just putting on a show when Lan Gongyuan stubbornly remonstrated: “No matter what, I will not let Young Master (XZY) leave. If this is the case, I will remain here.”
Turning to Madam Orchid, she questioned: “Who else is accompanying Imperial Uncle (Lu Buwei)?”
This time round, it is Xiang Shaolong who had a big shock. He quickly suggested: “It would not be nice if Miss Yuan refuses to pay your respects!”
Madam Orchid smiled: “After learning that Official Xie and Young Master Zongsun are here, Imperial Uncle is coming over to exchange greetings!” She left after finishing her sentence.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Xiang Shaolong apologized: “Little Brother is feeling dizzy and my legs are giving way. Please excuse my early departure. My heartfelt thanks to all three of you for tonight’s session.”
Ignoring the strange looks from the three of them, Xiang Shaolong strode towards the door in huge steps. The instance he opened the door, he came face to face with Madam Orchid who is escorting a high-spirited Lu Buwei. Behind him are three men, namely Qi Yu, Dan Chu and Han Jie.
As the two men exchanged looks, Lu Buwei’s giant frame shook excessively and he halted his footsteps in astonishment, unable to believe that he is staring at his old nemesis Xiang Shaolong.
Han Jie, Qi Yu and Dan Chu have yet to identify Xiang Shaolong. They stared at the two men with surprise.
An ignorant Madam Orchid giggled: “What a coincidence! I happened to run into Imperial Uncle and these fellow masters making their way over here.”
Stuck in a dilemma, Xiang Shaolong groaned to himself. Forcing himself to face the music head on, he smiled and greeted: “Shen Liang pays his respects to Imperial Uncle.”
With a complicated look flashing across his eyes, Lu Buwei swiftly resumed his demeanor and loudly chuckled: “Mister Shen resembles an old friend of Lu Buwei, giving me a fright.”
Hearing the name Shen Liang, Han Jie’s eyes blazed with a murderous aura.
Xiang Shaolong is aware that Lu Buwei has identified himself but has decided not to expose him. He retreated back into the lounge to avoid blocking the entrance. Out of the blue, he can feel his fighting spirits surging to new heights and casting aside all his reservations.
Frankly speaking, he is sick of always pretending to be someone else.
Lu Buwei took the lead to enter the room and everyone including Zongsun Xuanhua hastily stood up to pay their respects. A minute ago, Zongsun Xuanhua had indicated his disrespect for Lu Buwei but right now, he is behaving in an uptight manner. Thus, he was likely stifled by Lu Buwei’s reputation and bearing.
Giving up the best seat in the lounge, Xie Ziyuan shifted to Xiang Shaolong’s table. As there are only four tables in this room, Xiang Shaolong and Xie Ziyuan had to share a table. Observing Lan Gongyuan clinging onto Xie Ziyuan, Madam Orchid personally served Lu Buwei.
Squeezing between Xiang Shaolong and Xie Ziyuan, Lan Gongyuan suddenly leaned towards Xiang Shaolong and queried in a low voice: “Why is Master Shen still here?”
Xiang Shaolong bitterly smiled: “It would be considered rude if I were to leave now.”
Lu Buwei firstly raised his cup to toast everyone and with his second cup, he faced Xiang Shaolong and professed: “Miss Feng is indeed lucky to have Brother Shen Liang managing the Troupe for her!”
Xiang Shaolong is conscious that Lu Buwei has seen through his ruse: Sabotaging his efforts to obtain Feng Fei from within the Song & Dance Troupe. Raising his cup in a return toast, he smiled: “It is nothing. Little Brother is just doing my best!”
Besides the two of them, everybody else was astounded. In terms of status, these two men are worlds apart but ever since Lu Buwei entered the room, all his attention seemed to be centered around Xiang Shaolong.
Qi Yu, Han Jie and Dan Chu’s interaction with Xiang Shaolong is minimal and therefore, they are unable to pinpoint Xiang Shaolong as quickly and as efficiently compared to Lu Buwei. All three men are awfully confused; why is Lu Buwei behaving as if he knows this insignificant character and is placing so much emphasis on him?
Pouring wine for Lu Buwei, Madam Orchid enquired from the side: “Have Imperial Uncle and Mister Shen met before?”
His eyes shining with a deathly killing aura, Lu Buwei plainly state: “We know each other previously and it was truly unexpected to meet under such different circ.u.mstances.”
Listening to the intense emotion in Lu Buwei’s tone, the crowd can sense his ‘high valuation’ of this Shen Liang and began to rea.s.sess their previous judgment of him.
Fully aware that Lu Buwei’s brain is filled with thoughts of how to get rid of himself, Xiang Shaolong’s mind speedily churned a reply: “I did not expect to meet so many old friends during my Lin Zi trip.”
Taking in his words, Lu Buwei was flabbergasted and sank into silence.
Xiang Shaolong obviously understood his predicament. Even if he is ten times braver, he would not dare to plot against him, a Great General of Qin. If Xiao Pan eventually learns that Lu Buwei did meet him here and subsequently, he, Xiang Shaolong was murdered, Lu Buwei can forget about disa.s.sociating himself with the crime.
The only way that Lu Buwei can carry out his nefarious plot is when n.o.body knows Shen Liang is actually Xiang Shaolong.
He would certainly not reveal this secret to anyone to prevent the news from leaking out, especially to Qi. It would be a disaster for Qi if they are found ‘guilty’ of harming Xiang Shaolong.
Zongsun Xuanhua is now treating Xiang Shaolong very differently from before. He tested: “I did not realize Brother Shen has such a wide network of friends all over the land. No wonder even Marquis Han and Lord Longyang are considered your acquaintances.”
From his comment, Xiang Shaolong instantly concluded that Zongsun Long has planted a spy within the Troupe. For all you know, it could be Sa Li’s gang.
Lu Buwei’s huge body frame shuddered lightly, appearing to realize that he has lost the opportunity to a.s.sa.s.sinate Xiang Shaolong. In fact, he even had to resort to protecting him from harm. Otherwise, in the future, he could end up as a target of suspicion or be found guilty of Xiang Shaolong’s death. He is at a great disadvantage.
Everybody was staring at Xiang Shaolong, unable to comprehend how did this newly appointed manager of Feng Fei’s Song & Dance Troupe managed to gain the friendship and high regards from the heavyweights of various States.
Xiang Shaolong raised his cup and toasted: “It is all due to their kindness. Little Brother toasts every one of you.”
n.o.body could understand the meaning of his words and returned the toast with a puzzled expression
Only Lu Buwei realize that Xiang Shaolong is warning him not to act rashly. Finishing his drink, he officially proposed: “Is Brother Shen available over the next two days? Can we schedule a time to meet or I can personally pay you a visit?”
When the words left his mouth, everyone present was left with their mouths wide open with astonishment. What is going on? Based on Lu Buwei’s status and his usual condescending att.i.tude towards the world as well as his arrogant and self-serving behavior, why would he lower himself to pay a visit to this Shen Liang?
Xiang Shaolong smiled: “Not meeting is better than meeting. Imperial Uncle, please reconsider.”
Everyone’s expression went from shock to speechless, guessing that the relationship between the two of them is not as simple as it meets the eye.
Even Madam Orchid who was pressing her bountiful b.r.e.a.s.t.s against Lu Buwei’s arm forgot about everything and was sitting with her back straight.
From the side, Lan Gongyuan’s captivating eyes stared unblinkingly at Xiang Shaolong, scanning him at a speed that is neither fast nor slow.
His eyes glowing with anger, Lu Buwei lowered his head and glared at the empty cup in his hand. He replied in a deep voice: “Shen Liang is truly Shen Liang. When I heard Mister Shen barging into Zongsun Residence all by himself, I should have guessed that it was this old acquaintance.”
Zongsun Xuanhua immediately became uneasy and dryly coughed once.
Cursing inside, Xiang Shaolong knows that Lu Buwei is purposely revisiting the old enmity between himself and the Zongsun Family, even covertly hinting his fake ident.i.ty to the others. The best outcome would logically be a famed swordsman like Zongsun Xuanhua issuing a challenge to Xiang Shaolong. If Xiang Shaolong perished in an open and fair duel, even Xiao Pan cannot hold Qi responsible. However, Lu Buwei cannot directly expose his true ident.i.ty and intentionally constructed this confusing statement.
Right now, the lounge is so quiet you can hear a pin drop. From far, the sound of a flute and zither playing can be heard, adding to the awkward atmosphere.
Xiang Shaolong simply articulated: “Regarding that incident, it was all due to Brother Zongsun’s esteemed father who showed great mercy, coupled with Chancellor Li putting in a good word for me. Otherwise, it would be impossible for Little Brother to be here drinking wine and listening to Miss Yuan’s heavenly singing.”
Hearing Xiang Shaolong’s modest words and giving praise to Zongsun Long, Zongsun Xuanhua’s stiff face became relaxed. Raising his cup, he respectfully clarified: “That… That was only a small misunderstanding!”
Xie Ziyuan finally had the chance to speak up. He laughed: “It is genuinely a small misunderstanding. Let’s drink up.”
Dan Chu and the others were all feeling doubtful and reluctantly raised their cups and drink the wine while remaining deep in thought. Lan Gongyuan poured wine for Xiang Shaolong first before pouring for the others. With Lan Gongyuan away from her seat and no more obstruction between the two of them, Xiang Shaolong moved to Xie Ziyuan’s side and whispered: “Do not forget about Sister in Law’s instructions.”
Stupefied, Xie Ziyuan exclaimed: “I beg everybody’s pardon. Little Brother needs to rush home now!”