Book 4 Chap 1 – Fierce Beauty
Ji Yanran’s abode is made from white stone, hidden amongst the flowers and trees and it’s style was ancient and exquisite, like a building in heaven and those staying inside were beautiful fairies.
Walking up the stone steps to the building, inside the door there was an exquisite stand for the guests to put their cloaks and weapons. 2 pretty maids were already waiting there to serve them.
Tan Bang went close to Xiang Shaolong’s ears and whispered, “Learned lady Ji does not like people to bring swords into her abode.”
Xiang Shaolong nodded his head to show his understanding and thought to himself that this Learned lady Ji is really putting on airs. She obviously knows that an esteemed guest like Prince Xinling has arrived but she was still napping and her maids dared not wake her up as well. Furthermore, she refused to let anyone enter with weapons. But he thought about it again and felt that her haughty att.i.tude is well done as well, because truthfully, he has to admit that men are cheap. The more difficult it is to get the woman, the more precious she will be. Even now he is thirsting to find out how truly beautiful she is.
The 2 pretty maids seems especially taken with Xiang Shaolong as they served him meticulously, carefully dusting off the dirt and dust on his clothes before presenting him.
After all the various work was done, the 4 entered the hall.
They had just walked past the door when a loud and crisp voice shouted next to Xiang Shaolong, “Esteemed guests have arrived! Esteemed guests have arrived!”
Xiang Shaolong was taken unawares and totally startled. He looked towards the voice and can’t help but laugh, because it’s a talking parrot perched on a stand.
The 2 pretty maids obviously doted on it and they smiled daintily as they fed this interesting animal.
Xiang Shaolong glanced around.
The large hall was elegantly decorated but the most unique part is that there are no rugs, just a few square tables and mats. The hall was filled with strange bonsai, as if they have moved part of the garden outside into here.
On one of the huge walls hung a large painting of a beautiful woman, wearing light and thin clothes, looking quietly elegant, just like the talent and elegance exuded by the mistress here.
Of the group of 4 tables in the hall, 3 groups were filled and there were 2 to 6 people in each group. All of them talked softly, as if afraid to awaken the mistress from her nap.
Prince Xinling led them and walked into the hall and immediately more than half the people stood up and pay their respects to this second in command in Wei. Obviously it was the first time the rest of the people had seen him, and only when they realized who he is, they hurriedly stood up and paid their respects as well.
With one look Xiang Shaolong took notice of a few of the people.
Especially the group of 4 near the window on the left side. 3 of them were dressed in warrior’s clothes and have an outstanding aura, but what stirred his notice was the ferocity they exuded. Especially one of the large sized men who is built like a mountain and a little taller than Xiang Shaolong. His limbs were extremely thick, his long hair touching his shoulder, wearing a silver decorative piece on his forehead. His face was wide, his back broad, his eyes large like copper bells with a look of viciousness and slyness. He looks majestic and his whole body exuded an evil and shocking charisma.
The 2 warriors beside him were both fierce and vicious looking but next to him, they immediately paled in comparison. The strangest thing is the hands of the 3 of them all bore scars of being burnt by fire.
Another who took his notice was the group of 6 men on the right dressed as scholars. One of them was tall with a refined look, the deep eyes shimmering with intellect, looking like an immortal.
There was only 2 people in the last group, the shorter one with an average look and from his clothes, one can tell that he is not a Wei. One wonders which country he could have come from, but for someone who can come here and see Ji Yanran, he is naturally a person of a certain status.
Prince Xinling first greeted the group of 6 on the right, and spoke to the refined looking man, “We were just talking about Mister Zou, and did not expect to see you so soon.” He waved at Xiang Shaolong and said, “Shaolong, come over and meet this extremely gifted man with foresight Mister Zou Yan.”
Xiang Shaolong thought to himself, so this is the philosopher who is famed because of his ‘Sayings of the 5 merits’. He was about to come forward and offer his respects when a loud and thick voice from the left rang out, “Master Wuji, may I ask if this is the Imperial Protector from the state of Zhao, Brother Xiang Shaolong?”
Xiang Shaolong was secretly startled and looked towards the voice. The person who spoke was the warrior who looked like the devil reincarnated.
Obviously Prince Xinling does not recognize this person and asked in surprise, “This gentleman is…”
The Wei who looks like the person who introduced these 3 warriors here to meet Ji Yanran stepped forward and said respectfully, “Feng Zhisen is a guest under Lord Longyang, pays his respect to Sir. This person whose intellect and bravery is known throughout the state of Qi is Mister Xiao Weimou, the warrior on the right is called Ning Chong, the one on the left if Zheng Lei. They are all famous warriors in Qi and Mister Wei’s personal fighters.”
Prince Xinling and Xiang Shaolong were both equally shocked, they did not expect this ferocious man would chase him so closely. Since he is now openly going after him in Daliang, he must be up to something nefarious. Obviously he is under the protection of Lord Longyang and has the backing of the King of Wei, no wonder he dares to be so rude here.
Just as Xiang Shaolong feels a huge headache coming on, Xiao Weimou took a huge step forward and after paying his respects to Prince Xinling, turned towards Xiang Shaolong, extended his hand and said, “I’ve long heard that Brother Xiang’s swordsmanship is outstanding, if there’s a chance I must exchange pointers with you.”
Xiang Shaolong knows that he wants to compete with him on strength and has no choice but to extend his own hand as well.
The corners of Xiao Weimou’s mouth curved up into a cold smile as he used his strength to shake his hand. For a moment Xiang Shaolong felt as if his hands has been clasped with an iron manacle that is still being tightened.
Xiang Shaolong was secretly startled. Although he can still manage to fend him off, he still felt the pain in his hands as if the bones are cracking and he knows that his opponent’s arm strength is definitely better than his.
Luckily he has a higher tolerance than ordinary men and did not embarra.s.s himself in public. He even managed a smile and said, “Has Mister Wei just had an accident with fire, why do your hands look as if they have been burnt?”
A mad fury flashed past Xiao Weimou’s eyes and he increased the pressure in his arms and said icily, “It’s just some silly act by some low down person. It’s nothing much, besides, such childish pranks can only last for a moment. Sooner or later I will crush him to pieces.”
Such an explosive atmosphere, even Zou Yan and the rest can clearly feel that something unpleasant had happened between the 2 of them.
Xiang Shaolong bitterly withstood his startling arm strength.
Xiao Weimou had wanted to crush his fingers to pieces immediately so that he will no longer be able to use the sword. But after testing Xiang Shaolong’s strength, he knows that he would not be able to achieve his ideal effect, so with a cold laugh, he released his hand and went back.
His 2 subordinates stared at Xiang Shaolong with deep hatred. Obviously that fire had burned them quite badly.
Prince Xinling signaled to Xiang Shaolong with a look and introduced the Weis next to Zou Yan, who are all famous men or senior officials. Obviously Zou Yan is very popular with the Weis.
After the round of introductions, Prince Xinling’s gaze rested on the last group of Weis and said with a smile, “This is the first time I’ve seen Mister Zhang Fengchang here.” He looked at the person who is of average built next to him, and besides his intelligent eyes, the rest of him looks average and asked, “This gentleman is…”
Zhang Fengchang laughed, “This is Master Han Fei from the state of Han. I’m here all thanks to him today, because Miss Ji was complimenting Master Han’s book ‘Speaking of Difficulties’ after reading it and sent word to say she would like to meet him. Therefore I have to accompany and bring Master Han here to meet Miss.”
Prince Xinling and the rest were all excited as they did not expect to see such a famed intellectual here. But at the same time they feel a little cheated, as they did not expect this person to look so ordinary.
This famous Han Fei whose name had gone down centuries is not one good at socializing. He just smiled clumsily, bowed slightly and to him it means offering a greeting.
The 2 pretty maids hurriedly invited Prince Xinling and his men to be seated at a low table opposite Han Fei and his friend.
By then only the table beneath the large painting of the beauty was empty, and this must be where Learned lady Ji will be seated.
Like the others, Xiang Shaolong sat around the table, eating the snacks the maids brought out but his heart is in a turmoil.
With the arrival of Xiao Weimou, the situation has become even more complicated.
Besides, this person has amazing arm strength and his body is as solid as steel. Xiang Shaolong may be talented, but he may not be his match as well. If he were to join hands with Lord Longyang, and with Prince Xinling harboring hidden agendas about him, his trip here will really be filled with danger.
As he was thinking, he heard Prince Xinling asking Han Feizi, “Does Master Han have something to attend to during your trip to our state this time? Please let us know so that I can see if there’s any way I can help?”
Hai Fei replied, “This time… Hai! This time I came under the orders of my King, to come… come here and borrow rations.”
Xiang Shaolong was secretly startled, he did not expect Han Fei to have a stutter, and his words are not adequate to express his meaning. He doesn’t even know how to take the opportunity to speak up for his cause and point out why Wei should lend rations to Han.
Indeed Prince Xinling furrowed his brows and replied, “So that’s the case, how much does your country need to borrow?”
Han Fei replied, “10,000 stones!” And he stopped short at that, not elaborating further.
Naturally Prince Xinling was unperturbed but just smiled and did not converse further.
Zou Yan said loudly, “Downfall comes after the peak, and after downfall comes the peak, the exchange of the 5 merits. Actually there were signs long ago that the state of Han will suffer from drought. 5 years ago I saw a meteor fall into the boundaries of Han, and I said there will certainly be calamity, and now the prediction has come true.”
Han Feizi furrowed his brows, obviously unhappy and he did not believe Zou Yan’s words at all. But the others around Zou Yan all agreed with him.
Xiao Weimou who is from Qi like Zou Yan, laughed “Mister Zou is indeed far sighted. Now the world is ruled by 7 states, would Mister be able to explain where the future will lie and enlighten us?”
Zou Yan smiled slightly and was about to reply when they heard the sounds of adornments clinking and a beauty, with the accompaniment of 4 maids, walked into the hall from the inside.
Xiang Shaolong hurriedly looked over and he felt his brains go numb from shock.
A beauty who looks like a fairy with supple skin and luminance being escorted out by pretty maids, like the moon being supported by many stars, walking daintily forward. This scene captivated everyone, their souls seemed to have gone to heaven.
Her hair was combed into a high bun at the side, which matches her slim body and tiny waist. Her slim neck and fair skin was alluring, their brightness captivating.
Her eyes were deep and dark with reflections like the water. No wonder her beauty is known far and wide, she is absolutely enthralling.
She was wearing a long white robe with flowers, which flitted prettily as she moved, the wide sleeves fluttering, enhancing her beauty and posture.
Her alluring outer beauty as well as her captivating inner beauty came together to form a painting of a beauty. Xiang Shaolong felt as if he’s in heaven, and totally forgot about the things happening on earth.
Even with Wu Tingfang’s beauty, she pales a little even when compared to her, so apparently she is extremely enchanting.
Ji Yanran walked over prettily and leaned languidly on the tall cushion behind the long table in the middle, looking even more charismatic than ever.
The way she half sat and half leaned back is already alluring, but when she kept her legs up the rug, her skirt moved up to reveal her fair, flawless and supple dainty feet which makes Xiang Shaolong feel like crawling up the rug and pin her underneath so that he can explore her body and inhale her fragrance.
After Ji Yanran seated herself properly, she tilted her pretty head and said with a smile, “Yanran was too fond of sleeping and have made everyone wait so long!”
Xiang Shaolong regained his senses and took a look at the rest. He saw that Prince Xinling, Zou Yan, Han Fei, Xiao Weimou and everyone else looked enchanted; they have even less self-control than him.
Just as everyone hurriedly a.s.sured her that it’s all right, Ji Yanran’s shiny, lively and dark eyes flitted towards Xiang Shaolong and looked at him before flitting over to Xiao Weimou’s table, scrutinizing the rest of the people and lastly looked at Han Fei. A look of joy pa.s.sed over as she exclaimed happily, “Would this be Master Han Fei?”
Xiang Shaolong and Xiao Weimou were both greatly disappointed, obviously Ji Yanran is more interested in Han Fei than in them.
Han Fei’s face blushed red and replied nervously, “I am indeed Han Fei.”
Ji Yanran’s pretty eyes lighted up as she gushed happily, “After reading Master’s grand works, it indeed has views that no one else has thought of before, I am extremely awed.”
Xiang Shaolong felt extremely disappointed, this Han Fei’s appearance has no attraction at all yet Ji Yanran is looking at him differently. Obviously this woman is more concerned about a person’s intellect. When it comes to compositions or debates, if he compares himself to Han Fei, it would be like the comparison between a kindergarten student and a n.o.bel Prize winner. But he feels a little relieved as well, because he has problems preserving his own life now, so no matter how alluring Ji Yanran is, he will have to curb his desire to court her or he may not be able to handle it all.
With a beauty praising him, Han Fei is at a loss as to what to do, and doesn’t even know where to put his hands.
Ji Yanran seems to have eyes only for Han Fei, and she said gently, “Mister’s philosophy about governing a country with ‘law’, ‘techniques’ and ‘power’, suggesting that people acts with one thing in mind which is to achieve gains while avoiding punishment, so the law must come into play if anyone commits any unwanted actions. It indeed looks right into the problem and is food for thought.”
Han Fei was at a greater loss for words and can only keep nodded his head, which makes others feel bad for him.
Xiang Shaolong thought to himself that if he can transplant his knowledge into his own brain, he might be able to enjoy the company of a beauty tonight.
Zou Yan laughed loudly, and after Ji Yaran and everyone else’s attention was diverted to him, said confidently, “With Master Han’s knowledge, your King will certainly appreciate it greatly, but why is it that there seems to be no improvement in your country’s cause to take over the world?”
Xiang Shaolong secretly cursed, Zou Yan was too much to rub salt on Han Fei’s wounds like that.
A look of anger and embarra.s.sment flashed through Han Fei’s face but he was unable to speak further.
Obviously Ji Yanran admires Han Fei for his talent so she helped him out by saying, “An intelligent man needs a good master as well. Shang Yang, who is a Wei, did not accomplish anything in Wei as well. But when he went to Qin, his reforms improved the state greatly, does Mister Zou think that I have spoken rightly?”
Xiang Shaolong secretly complimented her retort, this lady is indeed remarkable. Just as he though Zou Yan would be speechless, Zou Yan smiled slightly and said, “Of course Miss’s words are very reasonable, but the point is not about the intellect of an individual. Besides an individual, there is still fate at work. Shang Yang was successful because of the situation, and he could not escape from the control of the 5 virtues. Only one who truly understands the 5 elements: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth and how they interact with each other will be able to grasp the changes of luck determined by Heaven.”
Han Fei gave a cold snort, and his words came out a little smoother as he said, “What Mister Zou said… said… is unconvincing, then…. then are we supposed to… sit and wait for fate, and don’t have to do anything else?”
His words sound reasonable as well, but the way he stuttered them out, it just doesn’t sound as convincing.
Zou Yan is a good debater and he chortled, “Of course that’s not the case. Once we can grasp Heaven’s plans, we will be able to foretell the future and know the aim and direction where we should work on. Let’s say digging a well for example, only when we know where the source of water is will we not waste our efforts in vain.”
Han Fei was so furious his face turned red but he could not find a retort, or maybe he doesn’t know how to express it. Xiang Shaolong felt great pity for him and wished that he can find some paper and brush so that he can write down his opinions.
Applause was heard, it turned out to be Xiao Weimou clapping in agreement.
Ji Yanran looked towards Xiao Weimou and raised her brow, asking, “This gentleman is…”
Xiao Weimou puffed out his chest, like an animal looking for a mate and said loudly, “I am Xiao Weimou from the state of Qi, I wonder if Miss have heard of me?”
Ji Yanran was enlightened, “So it’s Mister Wei who advocates learning from beasts. May I ask, if men and beasts are the same, won’t the world be thrown immediately into chaos?”
Now that Xiao Weimou has a chance to show off his knowledge in front of this beauty, how can he give up this chance so easily, so he smiled and said “Miss has lived mostly in the city, naturally you would not understand the world of animals. The wilderness has been my teacher for many years and I have observed the lives of beasts and birds and have concluded that only if we go with nature’s flow will we not betray Heaven’s decree. We can enjoy the life given to us under the greater law of nature. If we were to try and suppress our nature, it will only cause more harm than good and will make one become a hypocrite whose thoughts are not in conjunction with one’s actions.”
Ji Yanran looked at him with concentration, her expression showing that she’s thinking about his words. Xiang Shaolong secretly thought oh no, this beauty is obviously very curious about things and very easily attracted by new and unique theories. If Xiao Weimou was to possess her, he would feel the pain and unfairness of it, so he can’t help but blurt out, “How can man and beasts be the same? Even different animals have different ways of living.”
Xiao Weimou laughed coldly, “They can live differently, but their nature remains the same.”
Naturally Xiang Shaolong will not show any courtesy towards him so he stared at him and said smilingly, “The difference between man and animals, is that we are not restricted by our innate abilities and desires; we can even sacrifice our own precious lives for the greater good. Animals walk on all fours, but we can stand up and because we need not use our hands to walk, they’ve become nimble and can make things like this house and all other necessities. Do animals have that ability?”
Obviously Xiao Weimou has done some research on this question so he mocked in reply, “You’re talking about abilities, not innate nature. Birds can fly but can humans fly? Fishes can live underwater but can humans live underwater?”
Xiang Shaolong is definitely not a philosopher, but now that he’s spoken, he cannot back down and have to forge his way through, “I am talking about innate ability. Because human brains are different from animals, we can think and reflect. Besides food, clothing and lodging, we also need mental stimulation; but for animals everything is about survival, they sleep after eating and mate when the time is right. Animals in nature are at a loss and can only react but man can fight against nature and defeat nature. That’s because man has a different innate nature, we know how to improve and expand, that’s how we are now above animals.”
Xiang Shaolong’s not very excellent argument is widely known in the 21st century, but for the people in this era, it’s a new idea and this made Ji Yanran immediately change her opinion of him.
Obviously Xiao Weimou has never thought of this question and he replied angrily, “What’s the difference, I’ve seen both animal and human brains, they’re all just made of tissues and flesh!”
Xiang Shaolong chortled, “You have just spoken about the greatest difference between humans and animals. Would animals a.n.a.lyze the difference between their brains and human brains?”
For a moment Xiao Weimou was dumbstruck, fury flared in his eyes and he wished he could tear Xiang Shaolong alive.
Although Zou Yan does not agree with Xiao Weimou’s wild theory that humans should emulate aimals, but they’re both from the State of Qi and he does want to put Xiang Shaolong down in front of Ji Yanran. Therefore, he tried to pick a bone from an egg and retorted, “Brother Xiang earlier said that the difference between humans and animals is that we can stand up, then gorillas and monkeys all can stand and walk, how do you explain that?”
Xiang Shaolong was stunned, and thought to himself that he can’t possibly explain to them about evolution. Luckily his mind worked quickly and he had an idea, “The difference is in the construction of the brain.” He touched his forehead and said, “Primates do not have forehead like us, so they can only concentrate on immediate matters and won’t think about tomorrow. But we can arrange and plan for tomorrow’s matters, or even plan for matters a year or ten years from now.”
In truth Xiang Shaolong’s thoughts and arguments are already in a mess, but everyone knows that gorillas really do not have foreheads, so they all thought his reasoning logical.
Ji Yanran clapped and chuckled daintily, “How exciting, I’ve not heard such an interesting debate like this for a long time.”
Her pretty eyes flitted towards Xiang Shaolong and she asked with a sweet smile, “This gentleman here, please forgive Yanran for not knowing who you are yet!”
Xiang Shaolong was stunned and secretly lamented. He could not tolerate it further earlier and thus came up with a nonsensical debate, and he hopes that she has not really taken a liking for him.