she would not have taken my money, I would have come long ago.
Seeing my intoxicated manner, young master Qin gave me a despising look.
That ice-cold gaze immediately snapped me out of my reverie, remembering that I was here accompanying the Prince of Qi.
I extricated my arm and respectfully said, “Thank you, Piaoxiang, for your appreciation.” 

Liu Piaoxiang looked at me angrily before standing in huff and moving to sit beside the Prince of Qi.
That kind of angry and yet still beautiful expression left the three of us dumbfounded.
Afterwards, Liu Piaoxiang did not give me a second look, proceeding to converse freely with the Prince of Qi, and occasionally with young master Qin as well.
Her methods were brilliant, seemingly cordial and familiar, and yet not excessively wanton.
Even the normally cold young master Qin had a faint smile on his face. 

Liu Piaoxiang was definitely a peerless beautiful woman.
After drinking a few cups of wine, she stood and called.
From outside, a woman in green entered carrying all kinds of musical instruments.
Amidst the music, she began to dance.
That kind of enthusiastic dance as if she was igniting her life force left me completely intoxicated.
When I carefully regarded her face, I could tell that she had completely invested everything into the dance.
My heart was moved.
When she stopped, I watched her look at me.
As our eyes met, I could see a hint of elation in her gaze.
She walked over and sat down lazily next to the Prince of Qi.
That kind of languid beauty made me want to immediately take her to bed. 

At this point, the madam entered the cabin.
With a smile on her face, she said, “It is getting late.
Would Jiang daren and Qin daren come to the neighboring cabins to rest.
If you see any female attendants you like, don’t hesitate to invite them.” 

My heart felt sour.
I hurriedly stood and bade my farewell, requesting that the Prince of Qi rest well.
Freezing momentarily, young master Qin suddenly stood and left.
I hurriedly followed him out. 

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After sending away the attendants, I laid down on a bed with my clothes on in a comfortable and yet not large cabin.
My imagination ran wild, filled with the beautiful image of Liu Piaoxiang.
Listening to the gurgling sounds of water outside my window, I slowly began to fall asleep.
Just as I was half-asleep, I suddenly felt someone’s hands removing my clothes.
My heart shivered, thinking that I was being ambushed by the Prince of Qi.
I hurriedly opened my eyes.
Just as I was about to yell out, I noticed an exquisite9 face before me.
It was Liu Piaoxiang.
My entire body softened and I could no longer yell out.
Seeing that I was awake, Liu Piaoxiang smiled sweetly.
With delicate movements, she removed her clothes, revealing her elegant and delicate jade body.
Unhurriedly, I extended my hands, holding her in my arms.
Still somewhat hesitant, I asked in a stammer, “The Prince of Qi.” 

Liu Piaoxiang giggled and replied, “You didn’t know? That young master Qin is a woman.
Before I could even undress, she couldn’t wait and rushed inside.
I quickly left the room to the two of them.
My great zhuangyuan, what are you waiting for?” 

Although I had learned sexual techniques, I had never touched a woman in my life and did not know what to do.
Understanding, Liu Piaoxiang in turn held me, helping me undress.
I felt my body intertwine with the soft and warm body of a woman.
I lost myself, reveling completely in passionate lovemaking. 

As I fell asleep tired, Liu Piaoxiang rested for a moment before sitting up.
Wrapping her clothes around her, she called for two female attendants to enter the cabin.
With delicate touch, the two attendants helped me wash and change.
I did wake up for a brief moment, I was too lazy to move even half a finger.
When I finally woke up, I was lying upon the clean bed and wearing black pajamas.
I gazed upon the deeply sleeping figure of Liu Piaoxiang beside me.
My face suddenly reddened and I couldn’t say a single word.
Opening her eyes, Liu Piaoxiang laughed lightly and asked, “Is my lord zhuangyuan unhappy to lose your virginity to this courtesan?” 

My face and ears red, I replied, “Will you marry me?” 

At first, Liu Piaoxiang seem to laugh at me in ridicule before suddenly realizing that I was being seriously, she sighed and replied, “No we can’t.” 

“What? Does it require money? How much? I will figure out a way,” I anxiously asked. 

Liu Piaoxiang’s pursed her lips and smiled, replying, “It’s not that.
I long ago earned enough money to buy my freedom.” 

Dejected, I asked, “Then, you refuse to marry me because I’m unworthy?” 

Surprised, Liu Piaoxiang replied, “You are a Hanlin Academician.
Even if I become your concubine, it will harm your career.
You really want me to marry you?” 

Indifferently, I replied, “That’s not important.
If need be, I can resign from my position.
I’m not particularly interested in being an official.
I have accrued some savings over the last several years and can purchase a few hundred mu10 of farmland.
It’s just, I’m afraid that you wouldn’t be used to that kind of poor, but upright kind of life.” 

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Revealing a smile that I could not even describe with words, she replied, “I know you are being sincere and don’t have even a hint of hesitation.
I have seen countless numbers of people.
I originally hoped to return to a normal life, but when I had earned enough money to regain my freedom, I suddenly realized that there was no one I could marry.
I loathe to even look in the face of those dissolute lechers.
If it was someone honest, I would dislike him for being dull and boring.
Although there are several who I admire wholeheartedly, but if I were to marry them, once I become old, they would abandon me.
I can’t help but be frightened.
Oh, meeting you today and seeing how you sincerely appreciated my dance, I knew that you understood that I have dedicated myself to my craft.
That is why I personally came to accompany you.
I am fortunate that you are a gentleman who treats me sincerely.
However, it won’t do.
I, Piaoxiang, am frivolous and cannot play the traditional roles of a wife.11 I am like the swallow of Jiangnan, in love with the bustle of the city, in love with my freedom, and do not wish another cage to trap myself.
Lover Jiang,12 it may be possible that I will experience countless more men, but you must remember that you are the one most beloved in my heart.
You must not avoid Piaoxiang out of dislike, and come see me from time to time.” 

My heart throbbed with pain.
I could hear from her words that she was speaking sincerely without any intention to fool me.
There was no man capable of keeping this kind of unusual woman forever.
Holding her delicate hands, I replied, “Piaoxiang is famous in the capital.
Though Jiang Zhe is but a lowly official, if I were to come frequently, it would cause an uproar.
When we part today, though it may not be an eternal parting, it will be difficult for us to meet again.
Piaoxiang, Piaoxiang, the way we have forgotten ourselves in these rivers and lakes, far surpasses anything else.
If we are to meet again in the future, I only hope that you won’t treat me like a stranger.” 

Liu Piaoxiang’s delicate body shook.
She understood the meaning behind the young man’s words.
He would not secretly meet with her.
If they were not to be man and wife, then he would not come back to find her.
But she was satisfied.
In this world of hypocritical shows of affection, she had found genuine love.” 

When I walked out of the cabin and saw the satisfied Prince of Qi and the blushing young master Qin, I respectfully said, “Your Highness, we should return to the posthouse to rest.” 

Smiling, the Prince of Qi looked upon me and replied, “How about it? Were you successful last night?” 

I felt apprehensive.
Did he know that I was with Piaoxiang? I smiled indifferently, deliberately acting mysteriously.
The Prince of Qi looked at me suspiciously.
It looked like I had enjoyed myself last night.
The same probably was true for his personal guards.
After we stepped on dry land, I could not help but turn my head and look back.
The Floating Fragrance Pleasure Boat was extremely peaceful.
Buried there was my first love. 

After escorting the Prince of Qi back, I hurriedly returned home.
On the table, I saw a note.
On it was written, ‘You let loose last night, but were unaware that others were watching you like a tiger with its prey.
One cannot fully comprehend the intentions of the Prince of Qi.
I took care of the one he had sent to watch you.” My hand trembled.
Xiaoshunzi was truly loyal.
But I did not know how I acquired sufficient virtue for him to treat me so well. 

At the same time, within the posthouse, the Prince of Qi had a heavy look on his face.
Below the dais stood an embarrassed guard.
The Prince of Qi coldly asked, “You said you were not watching Jiang Zhe? Why is this?” 

His entire face panic-stricken, the guard replied, “Your Highness, I beg your forgiveness.
This vassal was originally following orders and was keeping an eye on Jiang Zhe from the cabin across the hall.
I don’t know why, but I suddenly fell asleep.” 

The Prince of Qi’s expression became even more grim, but he did not blame the guard, allowing him to depart. 

Sitting beside him, young master Qin faintly said, “I’ve already investigated.
He was hit in his pressure points.
To be able to hit his pressure points in such a small enclosed space without being detected, this person’s martial arts are above mine.” 

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Unconvinced, the Prince of Qi said, “But I can see that Jiang Zhe does not know any martial arts.
Has he attained the realm of Returning to the Natural State?”13 

Her brow furrowing, young master Qin thought for some time before replying, “In the world today, there are only three people who have attained such a realm of cultivation – my master, the True Compassion Elder of the Shaolin Temple, and the Devil Sect’s sovereign, Jing Wuji.
This Jiang Zhe is so young.
I do not believe that he has reached such a stage.” 

Looking pensive, the Prince of Qi said, “Second elder brother and Liang Wan both told me to keep an eye on this Jiang Zhe.
I originally disapproved.14 But from what we’ve witnessed, I feel that this person is unfathomable.15 What happened last night made it even more difficult to come to any conclusions.
The elites of Southern Chu definitely cannot be underestimated.
It is fortunate that he is biding his time16 and seemingly will not become one of our obstacles.” 

Lowering her head, young master Qin replied, “If you feel that he is trouble, I can help you.” 

Shaking his head, Li Xian replied, “How can we lightly kill this kind of person? In addition, we may not necessarily succeed.” As he spoke, in his eyes flashed a dazzling light. 


哎呀, aiya – interjection of wonder, shock or admiration 眉开眼笑, meikaiyanxiao – idiom, lit.
brows raised in delight eyes laughing; beaming with joy, all smiles 曲意逢迎, quyifengying – acting submissively in order to ingratiate oneself 娈童, luantong – catamite (boy used as a homosexual partner) 手足无措, shouzuwucuo – idiom, lit.
at a loss to know what to do; bewildered 怜香惜玉, lianxiangxiyu – idiom, to have tender, protective feelings for the fairer sex; to be appreciate of beauty 韩, Han – note, different character from Northern Han (北汉) 恩将仇报, enjiangchoubao – idiom, lit.
to bite the hand that feeds one; to repay kindness with malice 如花似玉, ruhuasiyu – idiom, lit.
delicate as flower, refined as precious jade; exquisite 亩, mu – Chinese land measurement equal to one fifteenth of a hectacre 相夫教子, xiangfujiaozi – idiom, lit.
to assist one’s husband and educate the children; basically the traditional roles of the wife 郎, lang – gentleman, young man, husband; Liu Piaoxiang is basically addressing Jiang Zhe as her lover 反璞归真, fanpuguizhen – to return to one’s true self; to regain the natural state 不以为然, buyiweiran – idiom, lit.
not to accept as correct; to object, disapprove, take exception to 深不可测, shenbukece – idiom, lit.
deep and immeasurable; unfathomable depths, incomprehensible, enigmatic and impossible to predict 韬光养晦, taoguangyanghui – idiom, lit.
to conceal one’s strengths and bide one’s time; to hide one’s light under a bushel

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