The table was filled with a spread of dishes, among them was Lei Lei’s favourite “Su Su Brand” roast duck. According to the kitchen’s Aunty Hong, this meal cost a total of twenty liang and twelve liang was spent on that roast duck alone.
Lei Lei was reluctant to leave: “Enjoy your meal, I’ll take my leave.”
The gongzi suddenly said: “Let’s eat together.”
Qin Liu Feng frowned: “Brother Xiao, the matter regarding the Longevity Fruit……”
The gongzi shook his head: “It’s alright.”
He Tai Ping and Qin Liu Feng looked at each other, both revealing worried expressions. The current situation in Jianghu was critical and nothing must happen to the sole successor of Xiao family’s Feng Ming Sword. Although Xiao Bai was rather careful with how he handled matters, in regards to scheming, he was still lacking and could easily be made use of by people. Now that he was giving special treatment to a woman of unknown origins, knowing that they were going to discuss important matters but asking her to stay, trusting her a bit too readily, this wasn’t a good thing.
Lei Lei was ecstatic but confused, “Xiao Bai” had always been mature and didn’t act recklessly. Why would he trust her so easily?
Whatever the case, Lei Lei was very grateful for this trust. She had planned to leave in order not to trouble everyone but decided against that because she was displeased by the look she had spotted in Qin Liu Feng’s eyes. In a showy manner, she sat down beside the gongzi.
It was only at this moment that the iceberg handsome man Leng Sheng Yin looked at her, his surprise obvious. Scholar Leng Zui remained calm as she followed her brother, taking her seat. It was fortunate that these people were close and paid no heed to formalities as they ate casually, each with their own thoughts.
Lei Lei felt thankful towards the gongzi and like usual mealtimes, she peeled a large prawn and placed it into his bowl.
Without saying anything, the gongzi lowered his head and ate it.
Qin Liu Feng had been watching the two for a long time and raised an eyebrow when he saw this: “Girl, how can you be so thoughtless, only serving dishes to your master and leaving out the guests? Wouldn’t that be a breach of etiquette?”
Harbouring bad intentions of coming between me and my “Xiao Bai”, and you still want laoniang to serve you? Lei Lei threw him a sidelong glare, her eyes catching sight of his bowl and the pile of chives he had picked out. She then glanced at the table to see a dish of chives and eggs. This person clearly didn’t like chives, so she threw a chopstick load into his bowl: “Please, go ahead, don’t stand on ceremony.”
Qin Liu Feng stared at the chives for a long time, mumbling: “Different, it’s different.”
Everyone laughed. Even Leng Zui couldn’t stop a small smile from making its way onto her face.
Our “Xiao Bai” is the best, Lei Lei peeled another prawn and put it into the gongzi’s bowl.
The gongzi blushed, saying in a low voice: “Many thanks.”
He Tai Ping gave her a meaningful look: “It isn’t a good idea for you to remain as a servant girl here, do you remember anything else? I might be able to help by looking into your identity so that you can reunite with your family soon.”
Not again! Lei Lei was nervous.
The gongzi looked at her: “Brother He doesn’t have to worry about this, my people are already on it.”
Seeing that he was bent on helping this girl, He Tai Ping let out a soft sigh and started getting down to business: “I’ve looked into it, the sale of the Longevity Fruit at Bi Shui City is true.”
Both the gongzi and Lei Lei froze.
Qin Liu Feng said: “I’ve heard that it’ll be an auction with a starting bid of one million. It’ll happen on the first night of the New Year at Bi Shui City’s old tea lane and the auctioneer refers to himself as Mr Shi. Although this information has yet to get around Jianghu, many have already bought this news secretly. Those who can fork out this amount number in the few but once the Longevity Fruit appears, it wouldn’t be a question of the bidding price but the social upheaval. Besides, with a treasure of this calibre, Qian Yue Cave and Chuan Qi Valley wouldn’t just stand by and are sure to join in.
The gongzi said in a low voice: “Who exactly is Mr Shi? Does he really have the Longevity Fruit?”
Lei Lei interrupted: “The Longevity Fruit is such a good thing, who would be willing to sell it?”
He Tai Ping said: “Whatever the case, the Longevity Fruit mustn’t end up in Shang Guan Qiu Yue or Fu Lou’s hands. That Mr Shi is intentionally luring everyone to Bi Shui City with ulterior motives. When the time comes, I’ll put out news that we’ll be carrying out investigations at Jia Kong City. We’ll then make a detour to Bi Shui City and mobilise the three major factions to close off and investigate the whole city in order to prevent the evil faction from taking this chance to wreak havoc. At the same time, we can also see who exactly that Mr Shi is, to be able to spread this news while remaining hidden without a trace. There’s a high chance that he’s related to the Longevity Fruit matter.” Whether intentionally or not, he added emphasis to his words: “To prevent that person from finding out, this matter must not be leaked otherwise unforeseen events might happen.”
The listener is inclined to hear what he wants to, Lei Lei rolled her eyes.
Leng Sheng Yin hurriedly said: “Perhaps it was this person who had stolen the Longevity Fruit and shifted the blame to my father, causing him to die so wrongfully……”
He Tai Ping patted his shoulder, cutting him off: “I intend to investigate this matter and avenge your father by finding that culprit.”
Beside him, Leng Zui sat with her head bowed and with slightly red-rimmed eyes.
Leng Sheng Yin smiled: “My father was attacked with Xi Sha faction’s special palm strike, who else could the culprit be? Back then, with the excuse of him being a suspect, the two of them had arranged a meeting on Hua mountain, saying things like mutually explaining……” He stopped here, scoffing: “Covering up their misdeeds by shifting the blame to others.”
He Tai Ping put on a small smile: “There’s something fishy about this situation. Bi Shui City had always been under your Nan Hai faction’s jurisdiction and back when your father was alive, he had always been open and aboveboard, always considering the common people’s interests. I hope that Brother Leng can also look at the bigger picture. Right now, the New Year is still a long way off and I’ll have to trouble you to return first and send your men to investigate this in secret. The sooner we can locate that person’s whereabouts, besides avenging your father, it will also be a great service to the people. I believe that in the nether world, your father will also be relieved.”
Leng Sheng Yin doesn’t reply.
Beside them, Lei Lei sighed, a grudge such as the killing of one’s father was absolutely irreconcilable. Now that he was firm in his belief that his father had been killed by Wen Ting and there was a possibility that that was the case, she pitied Wen Guniang. Would this icy handsome man accept her sincere feelings? What other melodramatic plot will unfold in the future?
The gongzi recalled: “The day before yesterday, we passed by Xi Sha faction and it seemed like there were many people complaining that the taxes were too high.”
He Tai Ping immediately looked at Qin Liu Feng.
Qin Liu Feng nodded: “I’ll look into it.”
It suddenly dawned on Lei Lei that Qin Liu Feng was in charge of economic issues. To have one specialising in literary and the other in combat, He Tai Ping didn’t lack talented individuals. No wonder Jianghu was still peaceful even after something like this had happened.
With the discussions finished, everyone was about to continue with their food when they suddenly heard Leng Zui say: “We’ll be having a poem meet at Ting Yun Building on the fifteenth day of this month. I would like to invite Brother Xiao, is Brother Xiao available?”
Lei Lei became spirited upon hearing the word poem, even ignoring the roast duck and putting down her chopsticks as passion surged through her. It’s here, it’s here, the chance to display her full abilities, poem writing! How can I, a transmigrated female lead, not know how to compose poems! Laoniang will stun all of you!
“Xiao Bai” also knows how to compose poems? She turned to look at the gongzi.
The gongzi frowned: “I’ve never been good at composing poems……”
Leng Zui cut him off: “Brother Xiao is being too modest. Brother He is busy and wouldn’t be able to make it. Seeing that I’m the one extending this invitation, please do not refuse.”
The gongzi said: “For literary pursuits like this, you should invite Brother Qin.”
Qin Liu Feng smiled wordlessly.
Leng Zui took no notice of him: “It’s just a small poem meet, I do not wish to delay Brother Qin from attending to main matters.”
The gongzi looked at Qin Liu Feng.
Qin Liu Feng said with a smile: “I do have the intention of attending but I’m afraid that Leng Guniang will look down on my few talents and inadequate knowledge.”
Leng Zui gave a faint smile: “Everyone knows of Brother Qin’s talents, it’s great if you’d be able to attend, how would I dare to look down on you? I would also like to invite Brother Xiao to grace us with his presence.”
Since they were planning to write poems, how could Jianghu’s number one scholar be left out? This beauty probably planned to invite Qin Liu Feng but didn’t know how to ask him directly so she put up a facade of inviting “Xiao Bai” too. It was a similar concept to how one would have to invite the best friend when chasing after a girl! She wanted to get in on the fun but she wouldn’t have a chance to show off if “Xiao Bai” didn’t go.
Lei Lei immediately nodded without waiting for the gongzi to speak, readily promising: “We’ll go, we’ll definitely be going.”
“We”? Everyone was confused.
The gongzi ate his rice silently.
Qin Liu Feng held back a laugh: “The invite is for Brother Xiao to compose poems, what will a little girl like you tag along for?”
Seeing that he was purposely picking a fight with her, Lei Lei confidently replied: “Of course I’m tagging along to protect gongzi and ensure his safety.”
The gongzi glanced at her, speechless.
This time, even He Tai Ping couldn’t hold back a laugh.
Qin Liu Feng said: “I couldn’t tell, you’re quite capable.”
Lei Lei kept a low profile: “Isn’t it better to have more people at poem meets? I can also learn how to write poems.”
“You?” Qin Liu Feng sized her up, “Little girl knows how to compose poems too?”
Leng Ning said indifferently: “What does Brother Qin mean by that? Who said that girls cannot write poems? It’s great that Lei Lei Guniang is willing to go.”
Realising that he had misspoken, Qin Liu Feng coughed: “I didn’t mean that girls cannot write poems, it’s just that she……” he looked at Lei Lei: “I’ll have to give her a little test to set my mind at ease. Can you compose a poem right now, with no restrictions on the topic or rhyming?”
Composing a poem on the spot? Lei Lei hadn’t anticipated this and started to perspire. Laoniang had always recited poems about the moon, flowers or wine. Right now, no one was drinking any wine, there was still a long time to go before the moon appeared and there were no flowers or plants in sight. The only thing she had was a table of people having a meal. Were there any great poets that had written a poem about eating?
With his chopsticks, Qin Liu Feng played around with the chives in his bowl: “Compose a poem?”
Due to the abruptness of this request, Lei Lei had zero inspiration. After racking her brains for a long time but still not coming up with any poems relating to food, she looked up only to see Qin Liu Feng’s teasing expression and she felt even more gloomy.
Damn it! If she’d known that things would turn out like this, she would’ve covered herself on all sides by memorising a few such poems!
The pain of many authors in similar situations has solidified a principle —— “Stress forces Inspiration”. In low spirits, Lei Lei’s knowledge actually grew and she finally recalled a very famous yet profoundly educational poem. She had recited this poem at every mealtime since kindergarten till she was in Primary Three. It had educated countless generations of Chinese so it was ingrained in her memory.
But it was a little elementary to recite this now and she was slightly embarrassed to do so……
But she’s in a desperate situation and it was better to just get this over with first! Lei Lei wiped the perspiration on her forehead, starting: “Weeding the grain seedings, on that afternoon, sweat droplets fall to the soil.” she stopped and observed their expressions cautiously.
From a table of dishes to physical labour, she had digressed a thousand miles from the topic, Leng Zui frowned and put down her chopsticks.
The corner of the gongzi’s lips twitched.
“Interesting,” Qin Liu Feng picked out a chive from his bowl, “Weeding grain seedings on an afternoon, sweat droplets fall to the soil, then?”
Seeing his disdain for her, Lei Lei didn’t care anymore and threw out the remaining two sentences in a loud voice: “Who knows this plate before me, how much hard work each and every grain is!”
The whole table was immediately silent.
Qin Liu Feng’s chopsticks paused in mid-air with a single stalk of chive gripped in them. He stared at her for a long time before he coughed, deciding to sacrifice his taste buds. He then sent the vegetable into his mouth and frowned as he swallowed it.
Seeing that her bowl was still half full of rice, Scholar Leng Zui lowered her head and picked up her chopsticks.
Lei Lei was discouraged when no one praised her.
With this short poem recital, a cold wind blew past the dining table. He Tai Ping couldn’t stop himself from looking at Qin Liu Feng and saying with a smile: “It’s a good poem indeed, every rice and every grain isn’t easily obtained, we should cherish them even more, I only hope that everyone in Jianghu will understand this principle.”
Qin Liu Feng forced a smile before turning his attention to dealing with the remaining chives in his bowl.
Xiao Tai Ping knows how to appreciate quality indeed! After personally experiencing the joy an aunty at the kindergarten felt after successfully educating a child, Lei Lei ignored others’ sufferings, feeling extremely gratified. She then turned her head to see that the gongzi was looking at her with slanted eyes that contained hints of a smile. She was shocked to the point of feeling giddy.
It’s infinitely charming when a handsome man smirks.
That evening, after discussing the Longevity Fruit issue in detail and setting up their next meeting, He Tai Ping left with everyone. Lei Lei then accompanied the gongzi in sending them off. It was a long distance away before everyone got into their respective carriages and asked the two not to go any further.
Leng Sheng Yin turned around and clenched his fist: “The situation is urgent and I’ll have to set off tomorrow. Brother He will also be going to Jinjiang City in a few days to investigate. I’ll have to trouble the two of you to take care of my sister.”
It turns out that Leng Zui had refused to return with her brother, insisting on remaining to organise the poem meet. She was stubborn by nature and there was nothing else that Leng Sheng Yin could do.
Both the gongzi and Qin Liu Feng nodded: “You can be rest assured.”
Leng Zui lifted the carriage curtain: “Brother Xiao, please do not forget about the poem meet on the fifteenth at Ting Yun Building.”
Lei Lei nodded her head like a woodpecker: “Won’t, we definitely won’t.”
Qin Liu Feng was riding on the horse sidesaddle and raised his eyebrow at her: “Not just Brother Xiao, there’s Lei Lei Guniang too.”
Realising this person’s bad intentions, Lei Lei quickly hid behind the gongzi, scolding him in her head. What nonsense number one scholar? When the time comes, Laoniang will recite a few poems by Old Li and Old Du and scare you to death!
The carriages finally left, kicking up dust in their wake.
The two people stood beside the pavilion as they watched the guests leave. The sun had set and their robes swayed in the evening breeze. Standing in the wind, the gongzi looked all the more at ease, his posture was straight and he had a calm expression on his handsome face.
He turned around: “Let’s go back.”
Lei Lei returned to her senses and felt a little guilty when she recalled the trust he had in her: “Xiao Bai.”
The gongzi looked at her.
Lei Lei considered for a long time before looking at him: “Actually, I made up the whole thing about being chased by people who were after my life.”
The gongzi doesn’t reply.
Lei Lei added: “But I really have amnesia and don’t remember anything that had happened before.”
The gongzi eventually nodded: “I know.”
Sure enough, he had already known that she was here to leech free food from him. No wonder he was willing to cover for her, Lei Lei was happy.
The gongzi looked away and started walking: “This situation of yours, I’ll get someone to help investigate.”
Investigate? That won’t do, I’m the little devil! Lei Lei caught up to him: “Xiao Bai Xiao Bai, you’re so good. There’s really no need to investigate, I don’t remember anything anyway. I’ll just stay here to attend to you and be your maidservant, is that okay?”
“Xiao Bai Xiao Bai?”
With someone tugging on his sleeve and hanging onto his arm, the gongzi could no longer maintain his calm demeanour. Embarrassed, he walked back with her.
For the poem meet at Ting Yun Building that was on the fifteenth day of the ninth month, Lei Lei had set her heart on displaying her rare talent so she decided to start on her preparations, diligently collecting all the poems she could remember and reciting them a few times. Hence, after accompanying the gongzi for dinnertime, she would hide away in her room as she recited all the poems from “The moonlight in front of my bed” to “Daybreaks but I’m still sleeping obliviously”, then from “Two yellow Orioles” to “Goose goose goose”. At the same time, she made predictions on the possible topics for the poem meet.
As the curtain of night descended, a crescent moon hung in the west sky. It was shaped like a woman’s fine and delicate eyebrows.
Seeing this, Lei Lei felt a strong urge to write poetry and plastered herself to the window as she shook her head at the moon: “When will Chun Hua and Qiu Yue end, how much of the past do you remember!” I’m actually quite cultured.
She heard laughter by her ear.
Having been kidnapped before, Lei Lei jumped away from the window in fright and opened her mouth to scream but it was swiftly sealed by an ice cold hand. This was followed by a fragrance that wafted to her nostrils before she was pulled into someone’s arms.
“Don’t shout, it’s gege.”
A gentle and refined smile that brightened the whole room.
With a full moon by her side that shone brilliantly, who would still pay attention to the crescent moon in the sky? Lei Lei stared at him blankly.
Reflecting the light, his perfect face looked refined and gentle. However, the snow white garment that he wore was dazzlingly cold and this shift between the cold and warmth turned into an almost evil and bewitching disposition.
“When will Chun Hua and Qiu Yue end? These words aren’t good, how can us siblings end?” Shang Guan Qiu Yue let go of her, his gaze sparkling as he said in a soft voice, “how much of the past do you remember, how much of the past do you remember?”
1. This is a direct translation of the original text ‘古茶巷’. It doesn’t sound like a venue / shop and seems to be an actual lane, but it doesn’t sound quite right for the auction to happen at a random tea lane so I’m leaving this note here until we figure out where exactly this is↩
2. Refers to Li Bai (李白) and Du Fu (杜甫), famous Tang Dynasty poets↩
3. Qiu Yue didn’t repeat the same line twice.
For those that can read chinese, the original text says “往事知多少，你又记得了多少往事?”.
For those that can’t read chinese, the first half is Qiu Yue repeating Chun Hua’s poem and the second half is QY asking CH how much she remembered.
(I’d wanted to translate the first and second half differently but couldn’t think of any other suitable translation so I added a bold font to the ‘you’ in the second half. Alternate translation suggestions are welcomed with open arms)↩