I had long become discouraged.
It looked like the King was going to attack the Kingdom of Shu.
I decided to carefully observe this bossy and domineering Prince of Qi, to see what kind of person had forced Southern Chu to join Great Yong.
Li Xian followed the King out.
The twenty-six-year-old Li Xian possessed a handsome and heroic appearance.
As he had spent extended periods in the military, his posture was erect like a mountain or a tree.
He emitted a murderous aura of someone who had experienced the ups and downs of life13.
As this was a formal audience, he was wearing the formal wear of a prince of Great Yong – golden colored silk robes embroidered with a coiled dragon.
In these clothes, he seemed especially impressive and domineering.
This Prince of Qi must surely be vicious and merciless.
As the Prince of Qi walked past me, he suddenly turned to look at me.
I saw an icy cold light in his eyes.
I hurriedly lowered my head and avoided his gaze.
Although I had seen this kind of murderous look before, there was no reason to let him believe that I was unafraid.
He seemed to pay attention to what I was doing.
Has he received a report from Liang Wan? Great Yong was definitely powerful.
A single Prince of Qi was so impressive.
I wondered what kind bearing did the Emperor possess.
That Li Xian noticed this young man was for one particular reason.
He possessed a bestial instinct.
While he was secretly conversing with Zhao Jia in the Imperial Study, he did not know why, but he felt apprehensive, as if someone was eavesdropping.
But he also knew that there was no one within twenty zhang14.
For someone to be able to eavesdrop from beyond twenty zhang, then he must possess superlative martial arts.
He knew that this kind of person did not exist in Southern Chu.
Walking out the door, he paid particular attention to the officials and eunuchs waiting outside.
He noticed that although there were a number of skilled martial artists, they were definitely Southern Chu’s top fighters.
Their positions would have prevented them from being able to hear anything.
Although the several officials accompanying the King were far closer, clearly none of them knew martial arts.
When Li Xian’s eyes fell upon Jiang Zhe and knew he wasn’t the eavesdropper, he was still startled.
Although this young official was not too old, he possessed a poised bearing and had a calm expression.
Li Xian knew the power of his martial bearing.
Once in Great Yong, an official had caused offense.
Just as his temper erupted, that official fainted from fright.
All the other officials, civil or military, were all uneasy when greeting him.
Even the Crown Prince was careful in his presence.
Other than that person, Li Xian thought, since reached adulthood, this was the first time that he saw someone so calm in his presence.
Thinking of this, his gaze couldn’t help but become more threatening.
Although that young official seemed to admit defeat by lowering his head and avoiding his gaze, Li Xian did not know why, but knew that the young official did not fear him.
Coming to this conclusion, Li Xian stopped and asked, “What is your name?”
I observed Li Xian using my peripheral vision.
Hearing his words and seeing his shoes stop right in front of me, I could only raise my head.
I shot a glance at the King, using my eyes to ask for instructions.
Smiling, the King said, “This is our Southern Chu’s number one gifted scholar, the zhuangyuan of the imperial examination of the sixteenth year of Xiande, Jiang Zhe.
The Queen likes his poetry the most.”
Suddenly understanding, Li Xin said, “So you are Jiang Zhe.
Your poems are wonderful.
‘The southeast is topographically favored,
With transport easy and unhampered,
Qiantang15 has flourished in the three Wu16 area since antiquity.
Over the exquisitely adorned bridges the mist enshrouded willows flutter,
Flapping in the wind are numerous verdant portieres
Undulant are the tens of thousands of household residences.
Cloudscape treetops line the banks and shores.
Winds hurling up heaps of snowdrifts in the air,
The natural river gully extends endlessly.
Making a parade of their silk and brocade every household vie to show off their luxurious splendor.
The three folded West Lake with her numerous enchanting mountain ranges and sierras.
Teeming with fascinating scented autumn osmanthus flowers,
And whiffs of lotus spreading miles afar.
On fine days, flute music everywhere makes the day seem much brighter,
Songs from water caltrop pickers through the night make a delight of the vesper,
The fishermen with hoar hair and the teenage lotus seed girl pickers all chime in to paint this picture with virility and glamor.
Here comes the intoxicated magistrate,
Flaunting his official standard by a thousand escorting riders,
Joining everybody with the fantastic music and scenery to savor.
Hoping to bring back to the court how ravishing Hangzhou is one day he has an audience with the Emperor.’
This poem, Gazing Out Upon the Tide17, that you have written makes one yearn for the beautiful scenery of Jiangnan17.
This Prince has come as an envoy and hopes to bear witness to the scenery of Southern Chu.”
I stole a glance at the King’s gratified expression before modestly replying, “This humble work is fortunate to acquire the Prince’s appreciation.” Li Xian looked at me deeply before departing with the King.
My back was soaked with cold sweat, because that look was filled with baffling madness that seemed to be filled with fiery enthusiasm.
I suddenly wondered whether aside from loving beautiful woman, if the Prince of Qi also liked men.
I shivered and determined to stay as far away as possible.
Who could know that the heavens cared little about a person’s desires.
The next day, I received a royal edict commanding me to accompany the Prince of Qi during the time that he was in Southern Chu.
Oh my god, the heavens are heartless, I hissed, gazing upward toward the heavens.
I decided to ask Xiaoshunzi if he had the time to protect me.
Hatefully, Xiaoshunzi coldly replied, “I’m very busy.
In any case, the Prince of Qi is handsome, you should just accompany him.
Maybe, the Prince of Qi may bring you back to Great Yong to live comfortably.” I nearly fainted from anger and made a firm resolution to protect myself to prevent the Prince of Qi from making such a malicious thought a reality.
When I arrived at the official posthouse19, I saw the Prince of Qi wearing light colored robes.
Under the somewhat cold spring wind, the Prince of Qi was sitting in the courtyard laughing uproariously.
At his side sat a beautiful young man in a dress that was as white as snow, gazing upon him affectionately.
I almost turned and ran away.
Thinking it over, I realized that this young man was more beautiful than even some of the greatest beauties.
With a relatively average appearance, I, a mere Hanlin Academician should not have any problems.
Therefore, I respectfully walked forward in greeting, informing the Prince that I had been dispatched by the King to lead him around the city.
The Prince of Qi’s bright eyes considered me for some time, speaking, “Excellent! I have long heard that Jianye possesses many beauties.
Who is the most famous courtesan along the Qinhuai River20?”
My brow furrowed and I thought for some time before replying, “This vassal does not know.
Your Highness, please allow this vassal to go and find out.
I will definitely find out.”
If you were to go to find out, pretty soon all of Jianye will know.
Everyone will say that I only know to frequent brothels21.
If my Imperial Father were to find out, I will probably be reprimanded.
Let’s go, accompany me tonight to take a look.
We must definitely find the best courtesan.”
I was overjoyed, thinking that everything will be alright as long as you go find women.
Being engrossed in such base desires will only serve to bury you, I could care less if you decided to amuse yourself to an untimely death.
I will definitely find the best brothel.
Thinking, I decided to ask the official supervising the posthouse.
He will definitely know.
As dusk approached, I had already found the opportunity to learn everything there was to know about the Qinhuai River.
If the Prince of Qi hadn’t wanted to travel incognito and prohibited attendants, I would have asked the official supervising the posthouse to bring us there.
However, the Prince did not introduce the white-robed young man, only saying that he was surnamed Qin and telling me to call him Qin gongzi.
But, no matter how I looked at the white-robed young man, he seemed to like a sheathed treasure sword, and could not be completely concealed.
This was completely different from Xiaoshunzi who seemed dispirited and downcast almost like a withered radish.
I almost believed that his martial art ability was declining, but I did not think that this was possible.
He seemed to become increasingly unpredictable.
When I returned home the day before yesterday, I found him waiting in my home, saying that he was not on duty that morning and had gone to Wuxi, almost eighty li, to amuse himself.
He had brought some local cuisine such as soup dumplings and duck blood soup to serve as a midnight snack.
I froze when I found that both were still warm.
Although there was a container keeping the food warm, they could only have brought not more than two hours.
Thinking of this, I got angry again.
This little bastard knew that the danger I was in and refused to protect me.
The next time I cook, I definitely won’t leave a share for him.
I already had learned that Jianye’s best brothels were the Beautiful Scenery Pavilion, the Xiaoxiang Courtyard22, the Red Harmony Pavilion, and the Floating Fragrance Pleasure Boat.
The Beautiful Scenery Pavilion was known for its sexual prowess; Xiaoxiang Courtyard was known for its song and dance; the Red Harmony Pavilion was a combination casino, restaurant, and brothel; and lastly the Floating Fragrance Pleasure Boat was led by Qinhuai River’s number one courtesan, Liu Piaoxiang23.
As the Prince of Qi often frequented brothels and as an imperial clansman would not visit someplace too vulgar, he would definitely want to meet Liu Piaoxiang.
Full of joy and expectation, the Prince of Qi said, “Excellent! This Prince most definitely wishes to bear witness to Jianye’s number one courtesan’s elegance.” I was pissed off beyond belief.
He was definitely messing with me.
Otherwise, he would not have had me ask around.
Although the official charged with supervising the posthouse knew that it was the Prince of Qi who wished to go to the pleasure boat, he still looked at me with a dubious expression.
Hell, I was still a virgin!
武威, wuwei – martial prestige 殿下, dianxia – Your Majesty; used to refer to princes 吾家千里驹, wujiaqianliju – horses were beloved for their ability to travel great distances without rest; the Yong Emperor is using this term to praise his son’s abilities 长安, Chang’an – lit.
everlasting peace; was the capital of China for hundreds of years; modern-day Xi’an 走马章台, zoumazhangtai – idiom, lit.
to go to the brothel on horseback; to visit prostitutes 鸡犬不宁, jiquanbuning – idiom, lit.
not even the chickens and dogs are left undisturbed; causing a great commotion or causing pandemonium 贵国, guiguo – your esteemed state 休戚相关, xiuqixiangguan – idiom, lit.
to share the same interests; to be closely related; to be in the same boat 本王, benwang – this prince, referring to oneself in the third person 日暮西山, rimuxishan – idiom, lit.
the sun sets over western hills; fig.
time of decline; the end of an era 苟延残喘, gouyancanchuan – idiom, lit.
to struggle while at death’s door 孤, gu – royal we used by kings and princes 千锤百炼, qianchubailian – idiom, lit.
after hard work and numerous revisions; having experienced the vicissitudes (ups and downs) of life 丈, zhang – measure of length, ten Chinese feet (3.3 meters) 钱塘, Qiantang – refers to Hangzhou 三吴, sanwu – lit.
three Wu; was used by the Eastern Jin Dynasty to refer to its most important territory around the area that is the southern bank of the Yangtze River Delta This is a poem by Song Dynasty poet, Liu Yong.
Entitled Gazing Out Upon the Tide, Southeast Advantageous Position (望海潮·东南形胜, wanghaichao dongnanxingsheng) 江南, Jiangnan – lit.
south of the river; refers to the geographic area south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River (southeastern China) 驿馆, yiguan – in the capital, the posthouse served to house visiting dignitaries; outside the capital, the posthouse served as a relay station akin to the Pony Express and as an officially run inn used by those traveling on government business 秦淮河, Qinhuai River – a river that runs through Jianye (modern-day Nanjing) and is famous for its many brothels and its courtesans/prostitutes 寻花问柳, xunhuawenliu – idiom, lit.
to enjoy the beautiful spring scenery; fig.
to frequent brothels; to sow one’s wild oats 潇湘, xiaoxiang – another name for the Xiaojiang River in Hunan Province 飘香, piaoxiang – floating fragrance; Liu Piaoxiang shares her given name with her pleasure boat
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