The clattering of horse’s hoofs and carriage wheels mixed to form an unpleasant musical piece. With the occasional addition of village flutes and the clucking of chickens and geese, it was obvious that they were travelling on a suburban road. From time to time, they would hear the hubbub of voices as they passed by what was probably a marketplace.
The gongzi had wanted to ride on a horse but Lei Lei was persistent and had talked him into taking the carriage by reasoning that “this is an important matter, you have to preserve your energy”. Everyone had packed light on this journey and only brought along the essential items. The plan was for Lei Lei to share a carriage with Leng Zui and Wen Xiang but she determinedly refused and entered the gongzi’s carriage anyway. Seeing that she looked like she was in a bad mood, their send-off party didn’t dare to stop her and Steward Zhao had become closer to her in the past few days so he closed an eye towards this action of hers that qingbo-ed the gongzi.
The atmosphere inside the carriage was stale. Ever since she entered the carriage, Lei Lei sat far away with a stiff expression on her face. She didn’t talk or lift the screens to look at the scenery, acting very differently from her usual self.
The gongzi looked at her for a long time before finally speaking up: “Why are you……”
Lei Lei gave him a sidelong glance and sneered: “What’s up with me? Why do you care?”
The gongzi froze and became silent.
“What’s up with me! Ask what’s up with me!” Lei Lei suddenly shouted as she threw herself in front of him. She glared at him ferociously, “Who told Qin Liu Feng that I’m thinking of him everyday, who told you to blab, nosy parker!”
The gentleman education he had received since he was a child now bore the title of “blab”. The gongzi was very troubled and his handsome face revealed his regret: “I thought you……I only mentioned it to Brother Qin in passing.”
Do you know how pompous that guy is! To some extent, Lei Lei also cared about her reputation and seeing that he had downplayed the issue, she immediately transferred all the anger she felt towards Qin Liu Feng onto him. She pointed to herself and yelled even louder: “Mentioned in passing, so now he’s laughing at me!”
The gongzi didn’t expect to have sabotaged himself, so he shifted his gaze: “Brother Qin just likes to joke around.”
Lei Lei was indignant: “You’re letting him make me the butt of the joke?”
The gongzi fell silent.
Lei Lei became even angrier and pushed him: “Why aren’t you saying anything? Say something!”
As she was flipping out, the window screens were lifted: “Who made our Lei Lei Guniang so angry?”
Lei Lei was startled and turned her head, only to see that Qin Liu Feng’s annoying face had appeared in the window again, his raised brows revealing a look of ridicule. It turns out that at some point, the carriage had stopped.
“Could it be Brother Xiao?” With one hand, Qin Liu Feng raised the screen further and looked at the gongzi as he laughed, “Brother Xiao has always had a good temperament, how could he possibly have made guniang angry?”
The gongzi looked at Lei Lei and kept his silence.
“Matters between Xiao Bai and I is none of your business!” Lei Lei rolled her eyes and quickly pulled down the screen, calling out, “Set out, go faster!”
The carriage didn’t move.
Qin Liu Feng’s laughter came from outside the window: “Since Lei Lei Guniang wants to leave, please go ahead.”
“This this……” the carriage driver hesitated.
“Lei Lei Guniang looks very spirited, I don’t think she needs to eat.”
Hearing the abnormalities in his words, Lei Lei let go of the gongzi and got up, getting out of the horse carriage. Besides Qin Liu Feng, Leng Zui, Wen Xiang, Steward Zhao and the others had already gotten off their carriages and were heading towards a nearby shop.
She reacted quickly, jumping to the ground: “It’s time for lunch.”
The gongzi followed her off the carriage.
Qin Liu Feng looked at the two of them and sighed: “Brother Xiao likes peace and quiet. Please spare him, Lei Lei Guniang. Why don’t you ride with me this afternoon, it won’t get boring for you, how about that?”
Lei Lei raised her neck and left: “I want to ride with Xiao Bai.”
Behind her, Qin Liu Feng laughed as he patted the gongzi’s shoulder: “Xiao Bai Xiao Bai, let’s go!”
Helpless, the gongzi caught up with her wordlessly.
Seeing the signboard that read “Zhong Hua Wu Yan Tea Shop”, a sense of familiarity welled up in Lei Lei. She then saw the beautiful lady boss at the counter and couldn’t hold back a sigh, GM Zhong really had an eye for the market and knew how to attract customers’ eyes. Every branch’s lady boss was so beautiful and charming.
Sure enough, the lady boss threw out a wink, followed by a sweet “gongzi”, making Qin Liu Feng brim with a smile as if he’d just received a kind favour.
He leaned on the counter: “Zhong Wu Yan, a cup that lacks beauty. It’s clearly fragrant tea and a beautiful person. This name is not appropriate.”
Having been praised by a handsome gongzi, the lady boss’ eyes became crescent shaped as she gave him a close lipped smile: “Having graced my small shop, what tea does gongzi want?”
Qin Liu Feng was embarrassed: “We’re not here to drink tea.”
The lady boss blinked and said in a soft voice: “Don’t worry, what gongzi wants, is what we have.”
Qin Liu Feng raised an eyebrow: “Really?”
The lady boss stretched out her thin hand and poked his forehead, saying with annoyance: “In front of gongzi, how would I dare to deceive people?” As she said this, she intentionally or otherwise, stuck out her soft and white chest and the high peaks bounced.
Flirt! Lei Lei almost suspected that besides selling food and drinks, this shop was also in the brothel business. Catching sight of Qin Liu Feng’s ambiguous expression, she lowered her head and laughed, he’s “Qin Feng Liu” indeed, fooling around with women all day long!
Steward Zhao and the rest were already used to his behaviour and continued their banter as they sat around the table. Leng Zui was the only one who didn’t look too well.
Lei Lei sat next to the gongzi. He had yet to hook up with the female scholar and he’s already fooling around with someone else. This flirtatious scholar isn’t trustworthy, my “Xiao Bai” is still the best!
Seeing that he had yet to order, Wang Cong couldn’t help calling out loudly: “Qin Gongzi, don’t just think about talking, quickly order some dishes so that we can fill our stomachs and continue on our way!”
Qin Liu Feng turned his head: “A feast for the eyes and you’re still shouting that you’re hungry?”
Wang Cong glowered at him: “My humble self only knows that steamed buns, porridge and rice are feasts that can be eaten.”
Qin Liu Feng laughed and straightened up as he looked at the lady boss: “We’re all hungry. I heard that your tea shop also sells food and drinks?”
The lady boss narrowed her eyes: “Gongzi is……”
Qin Liu Feng said: “We came from Jia Kong City to handle matters.”
The lady boss was relieved and retrieved a menu from under the counter before handing it over: “Although my small shop doesn’t have exotic delicacies, we still have humble and simple foods, as long as gongzi doesn’t look down on it.”
Qin Liu Feng accepted the menu and took a look at it, sighing: “These are humble and simple foods? Lady boss is too modest.”
The lady boss crossed her arms across her chest and leaned on the counter as she sent him flirtatious glances: “It’ll definitely be passable in the eyes of ordinary people but in gongzi’s eyes, it’s inevitable that it’ll become a humble and simple meal.”
“What a crystal-like person!” Qin Liu Feng clapped his hands and casually pointed at a dozen different dishes before returning the menu to her, asking offhandedly, “If that’s the case, why didn’t you open a restaurant?”
The lady boss relayed the list of dishes ordered to her shop assistant before turning around and pouring out her grievances: “Gongzi doesn’t know that this is E Mei faction’s territory and the taxes are very high. It’s nothing much for small businesses like us but how can we afford to open a restaurant……”
“That’s not right,” Qin Liu Feng interrupted her, finding it strange, “a friend of mine also owns a shop and I’ve heard that E Mei faction’s taxes aren’t high.”
The lady boss rolled her eyes and gave him a bewitching smile: “Gongzi is perceptive. It isn’t easy to make money and private sales are also convenient for the customers……”
Qin Liu Feng took the hint and nodded repeatedly: “Precisely, making things convenient for others is also making things convenient for yourself. Does Boss Zhong know about this?”
The lady boss chuckled and lowered her voice: “Boss Zhong has a very good friendship with the head of E Mei faction’s Taxation Bureau.”
It dawned on Qin Liu Feng: “I see!”
The lady boss’ gaze danced around: “Gongzi wouldn’t……make things difficult for me right?”
With deep interest, Qin Liu Feng said: “I’ve never been interested in making things difficult for beautiful people. Tell them to hurry up, we still have to continue on our way after eating.”
The lady boss happily agreed and went in to expedite their order.
The gongzi, Steward Zhao and the rest were all taken aback and Lei Lei was dumbstruck. This “Zhong Hua Wu Yan Tea Shop” always complained about the high taxes but were actually cheating people with cheap tax tricks!
Surprisingly, Qin Liu Feng didn’t inquire further. He walked back straight away and sat down beside Lei Lei.
Isn’t he in charge of these matters? Seeing everyone’s indifference, Lei Lei couldn’t stop herself from nudging him with her elbow: “You’re not going to handle this?”
Qin Liu Feng feigned ignorance: “Handle what?”
Adopting flexible policies towards a beauty, he’s so corrupt! Lei Lei felt increasingly disdainful of him and refused to acknowledge him.
There weren’t many customers and they were pretty efficient. In the blink of an eye, two tables of food and drinks were ready. In the middle of a dozen dishes was a glossy roast duck and just from its fragrance, Lei Lei recognised that this duck wasn’t any ordinary duck. It was the famous “Su Su Brand Roast Duck” and its brand spokesperson was the flirtatious scholar beside her.
Seeing that Qin Liu Feng was going to make his move, Lei Lei quickly grabbed her chopsticks and dumped a bunch of chives into his bowl. She smirked: “Qin Gongzi, enjoy your meal.”
This time around, Qin Liu Feng dispensed with the formalities and quickly swapped their bowls, muttering: “I don’t eat chives, I want to eat meat.”
Lei Lei immediately said: “I’ve already eaten from that bowl!”
Qin Liu Feng smiled: “It’s alright, I like it.”
So ambiguous, so ambiguous! Everyone was wide eyed. The two of you, stop acting so disgustingly over here!
I’ll give you one! Lei Lei glared at him for a long time before an idea came to mind. She immediately knocked on the table, saying smugly: “There’s food and drinks, we cannot do without poetry.”
Qin Liu Feng put down his chopsticks: “Lei Lei Guniang wants to compose poems, such a rare instance! Let’s hear it?”
Having learnt her lesson from the poem that was stolen from her at the poem meet, Lei Lei didn’t stand on ceremony and said in a clear and loud voice: “Goose goose goose, singing to the heavens with raised necks. White feathers float on the crystal clear water, red soles create clear ripples.”
Everyone at the table looked at each other with weird expressions on their faces.
Wen Xiang lowered her head and laughed softly, Leng Zui had a look of disdain on her face.
The gongzi remained silent and continued eating.
Having not achieved the desired results, Lei Lei felt that something wasn’t right: “What is it?”
Leng Zui said unenthusiastically: “This is the poem that Qin Gongzi had composed when he was seven, you don’t know?”
Damn it! Is he the contemporary Luo Bin Wang? As if she’d been struck by lightning, Lei Lei was extremely shocked, embarrassed and speechless. It turns out that this person had been in the plagiarism business since he was a child. Oh Senior, it’ll be weird if you’re not a scholar after plagiarising so many poems! From now on, let’s not recite these things when nothing’s up.
Qin Liu Feng tilted his head and looked at her with a faint smile on his face: “I had composed it for fun when I was a child, it’s rare that Lei Lei Guniang would be so thoughtful.”
Lei Lei suffered twice the attack, feeling ashamed and angry: “I’m not that free to memorise your poems!” Pointing to the roast duck, she defended: “I just recited it after seeing that.”
Oh, this guniang has such a great imagination, associating the golden roast duck to “White feathers floating on the crystal clear water”! Everyone continued shoving food into their mouths.
Qin Liu Feng coughed: “Eat, eat.”
Lei Lei huffily seized her bowl and resolutely took a big mouthful of food.
Qin Liu Feng was put on the spot: “I don’t want to eat chives.”
Lei Lei yelled: “Each and every grain is only obtained with hard work!”
Qin Liu Feng shook his head and poked at the chives with his chopsticks. After staring at it for a moment, he picked up two stalks and ate them: “Actually, it doesn’t taste that bad.”
“Pu!” At the next table, Wang Cong spurted.
“I’m full.” Leng Zui suddenly put down her chopsticks and stood up, returning to the horse carriage to rest.
Having lost face, Lei Lei also wished to sneak away and hide in the carriage but because Leng Zui had just found an excuse to leave, she was embarrassed to follow her out right away. So she hastily ate half a bowl of rice, and seeing that everyone was almost done, she got up and asked Steward Zhao for money, taking the initiative to leave the dining table and settle everyone’s bill.
The gorgeous lady boss showed her the bill: “Two tables, a total of twenty nine taels and two coppers.”
Lei Lei counted the money and handed it to her: “Thirty taels, change please.”
The lady boss immediately looked like she’d been put on the spot: “This……my shop doesn’t have change.”
At this point, Lei Lei was already very dissatisfied with the settings that Jinjiang Time Travel Corporation had configured. Hearing her say this now, her stubbornness came out and she sneered as she pointed to the two tables of customers not far away: “Then wait for them to finish eating and you can give me the change when you have it.”
The lady boss was upset when she heard this, pulling a long face as she whispered under her breath: “Isn’t it just a few coppers, what a broke and petty girl!”
Lei Lei was angry: “What did you say?”
The lady boss replied with an ‘oh’ of surprise: “I’m just the humble owner of a small store, how would I dare say anything about guniang?”
Used to the service attitude of “customer is king” and seeing how she was deliberately speaking in an odd manner, Lei Lei was about to go off on her when a voice filled with smiling tones sounded: “It’s alright, we don’t need the change, let’s go.”
The lady boss was overjoyed and threw him amorous glances: “Gongzi is generous indeed!”
New grievances piled onto the old and Lei Lei couldn’t hold back any longer. She pointed right at Qin Liu Feng’s face and scolded: “You with the family name of Qin! Do you think that everyone’s a bum like you? It’s not easy to earn money, there’s still many in this world who have trouble even settling their meals!”
“You clearly know that they’re evading taxes but you’re still covering for them and not handling this matter impartially……”
Having received a scolding, Qin Liu Feng touched his nose and gave her a wry smile.
Lei Lei’s admonishments were like chaotic winds that levelled the lands.
“What’s so amazing about ‘Moonlight at my bedside’, laoniang knew how to recite it when I was four!”
“Don’t think that you can look down on people just because you know how to plagiarise two stanzas of a poem!”
“Who do you think you are, do you think you’re likeable?”
“You think too highly of yourself!”
This young lady was full of life and looked well-behaved but was so formidable and had such a shrewish manner when scolding someone. Not just the gongzi and the others, even the inn’s lady boss was stunned.
Tired from scolding him, Lei Lei finally stopped and drank from the cup of tea that was on the counter.
A beautiful hand patted her shoulder.
Just as Lei Lei thought that this person would apologise, Qin Liu Feng sealed her acupoints and picked her up before leaving: “Let’s go.”
Everyone held back their laughter and didn’t say anything.
After just a few steps, Qin Liu Feng paused and turned around to look at the lady boss with a smile: “Beauty, can you help me to pass on a message to Boss Zhong?”
The lady boss had yet to react: “A message?”
Qin Liu Feng nodded: “Right, tell her that……within a month, she should repay the amount owed to the various district’s tax bureau, then write a self-criticism piece.” He then emphasised: “Don’t forget about the fine, if there’s even one copper less, every branch will have to stop their business and restructure.”
The lady boss gave him a strained smile: “Gongzi’s joking……”
“Joking?” Qin Liu Feng interrupted her with a raised eyebrow, “Remember to tell this joke to your Boss Zhong and also tell her to visit that friend from the E Mei faction taxation bureau to say that the scenery at the countryside is very good, perfect for nurturing his temperament and enjoying his later years. Next month, he can return to his hometown to grow turnips.”
The lady boss lost her smile: “You……”
He said with a smile: “My name is Qin Liu Feng.”
Seeing that the gongzi was looking at her, Lei Lei was about to ask him for help when she was thrown into the carriage. Qin Liu Feng then followed her in and sat down.
The horse carriage jolted.
Qin Liu Feng sat leisurely across from her: “In front of Lei Lei Guniang, how would I dare to bend the law in favour of others? Now that I’ve dealt with this matter fairly, is guniang satisfied?”
Lei Lei rolled her eyes.
Qin Liu Feng said: “Are you curious about why I didn’t penalise her on the spot and only waited till now?”
Lei Lei immediately looked at him.
“That will affect the dishes they cook,” Qin Liu Feng leaned back, “A cook’s dishes will depend on their mood. If they’re nervous and flustered, they won’t have proper control over the fire and the food will taste bad. Regardless of who the punishment will be meted out to, they wouldn’t be in a good mood.” He paused and adjusted himself to a more comfortable posture: “They should be fined, but there’s no reason that my tastebuds should have to suffer for it.”
No wonder he’s in charge of financial matters. His quick-wittedness isn’t something that someone as inflexible as “Xiao Bai” could compare to. Lei Lei found him admirable.
Qin Liu Feng looked at her for a while before straightening up and hauling her in front of him, questioning: “Say, should I unblock your acupoints or leave you like this?”
You don’t say! Lei Lei had already been feeling uncomfortable for quite a while.
Qin Liu Feng calmly thought about it for a while before saying: “It’s quieter like this.”
Lei Lei was worried and blinked her eyes repeatedly.
Qin Liu Feng sighed and made a compromise: “I can’t bear to make women feel inconvenienced. As long as you stop yelling, I’ll unblock your acupoints.” He continued without waiting for Lei Lei to indicate her reply: “Actually, it’s fine even if you start yelling, I can just block them again.”
Lei Lei glared at him.
Qin Liu Feng laughed under his breath: “Isn’t it more fun to ride with me than Brother Xiao?”
After her acupoints were unblocked, Lei Lei immediately bolted to the side. She stayed far away from him as she yelled at the top of her lungs: “Stop the carriage! Stop the carriage!”
Their horse carriage was the leading carriage and once it stopped, the whole group also had to stop. Commands were called out as the reins were pulled in. Everyone was baffled as to what this woman intended to do.
Lei Lei swiftly jumped down from Qin Liu Feng’s carriage and climbed aboard the very last carriage.
The gongzi was still wondering what had happened when this woman suddenly entered. He stared at her blankly.
The group started moving forward again.
Lei Lei lunged over and hugged him: “Hey, Xiao Bai!”
The gongzi pushed her away with a dark expression on his face: “You……”
Lei Lei frowned: “Xiao Bai!”
Sure enough, the gongzi stopped moving and let her take advantage of him: “Weren’t you with Brother Qin?”
Lei Lei hugged him as she whined shamelessly: “I don’t like to see him one bit. I like sharing a carriage with you.”
The corner of the gongzi’s mouth twitched: “Don’t quarrel with Brother Qin.”
Lei Lei was displeased: “He was out to get me. Seeing him treat me like that, why didn’t you help?”
The gongzi deliberated for a while before asking a question in reply: “You remembered Brother Qin’s poem?”
It turns out that he had also misunderstood her. Lei Lei finally knew the reason and was very pleased with herself. You can take your time to think about it, laoniang won’t explain things to you.
1. 水晶人 – Used to describe a person with a special quality that makes them stand out like crystals that dazzle. (Was very tempted to use ‘special’ so I won’t have to leave a footnote. Heh.)↩
2. One of the four great poets of early Tang Dynasty↩