Pei Mianman, overcome with emotion, let out a long, shuddering sigh. “That woman actually has such a soft heart underneath her flirtatious exterior. No one would want to make an enemy out of someone like this…”
In the other private room, Xie Daoyun quietly dabbed at the corners of her eyes. As she looked at that fair and graceful figure behind the pearl curtains, she too sighed deeply. “If we speak purely on her technique at the zither, I might still be slightly above her. However, in terms of imbuing emotions into her playing and moving the soul with music, I am truly inferior.”
Xie Xiu echoed his sister’s admiration. “I’ve heard many courtesans play the zither before. In the past, I was always generally appreciative of their playing. Only now do I realize that, compared to her, the others aren’t even worthy of carrying her shoes.”
He pivoted the conversation smoothly towards consoling his sister. “But sis, you don’t have to put yourself down for this. You’ve always lived an extravagant life. You’ve grown up in a warm and blessed environment, and your emotional experiences are like a blank canvas, so it’s not shameful at all to be inferior to another in this aspect. She has experienced far more that you have in this place of romance. Although she still looks like a sweet and innocent young lady on the surface, her heart has surely been riddled with hurts.”
His tone didn’t carry the slightest bit of disdain, but was instead filled with praise. “Only someone with such deep wounds could bring out so much emotion through her playing.”
Xie Daoyun gave his brother a considering look. She had not expected him to be so knowledgeable. Father was usually always cursing him for being irresponsible, but it seemed like his curses were uncalled for.
As the song ended, the audience was filled with frustrated disappointment. They were totally unaware that their faces were already drenched in tears.
Many in the audience immediately rose to their feet with applause and cheers. They were all trying to outdo one another, as if they were afraid that the goddess on stage would overlook them if they were too quiet.
Qiu Honglei also stood. Leaving her zither behind her, she gracefully walked over to the railing. As she approached, two pretty girls helped to pull aside the pearl curtains to allow her to pass through.
A beautiful face that could overturn the heavens appeared before everyone’s eyes. She bowed slightly and said with a smile, “This humble girl Qiu Honglei greets everyone.”
Only now, when she was standing by the edge of the railing, did everyone notice that her arms were barely covered in a layer of snowy silk. Her snow white arms, as smooth as jade, were faintly visible.
This woman really is good at using her physical assets. Pei Mianman could see through her tricks with a single look.
It was a pity that the men below weren’t as sharp as her. When they saw this sight, their breathing immediately became ragged, and their mouths lost all moisture. If only they could drag Qiu Honglei into their embrace, tear apart her snowy silk dress and ravage her exquisite body…
Unfortunately, these would forever remain fantasies. With the whole world watching, who dared to court public anger and do such a barbaric thing?
Zu An sneered. Mister Lu Xun really was right after all. The human mind’s ability to make associations really was too rich. It could conjure up the image of the naked body just by seeing an arm. Clearly, it worked the same way no matter which world he was in.
Chen Xuan chose this moment to stand, boldly and confidently. “My lady, I am Xuan Cheng. It is an honor to meet you!”
He lived a blood-soaked life, and so he was much bolder than others, and had fewer misgivings. As he spoke, he assessed her in an unrestrained manner.
This face, this chest, this waist, that butt… even if you added up all of the girls I seized, they couldn’t even compare to a single one of your toes!
I must obtain this woman! He continuously repeated this mantra to himself with conviction.
Qiu Honglei was unfazed by his provocative expression. She had long grown accustomed to the predatory male gaze.
A faint smile appeared on her face. She bowed slightly. “Well met, Sir Xuan.”
Xuan Cheng laughed heartily. “I never thought the day would come when I would be called ‘sir’! I am the type of person who usually hates this sissy way of addressing someone. If others addressed me so, I guarantee you that their heads would have been swiftly separated from their bodies. However, when I hear Lady Qiu addressing me so, it instead feels extremely arousing.”
The others all glared at him, feeling offended.
However, at this critical moment, none of them could spare him any attention. They were all striving to be the first to strike up a conversation with Qiu Honglei and impress her.
“This humble one is Du Chunfeng, my family runs a fur business. It’s an honor to meet Lady Qiu.”
“This humble one is Zhao Dezhu, my father is the city’s…”
Before he could finish, his voice was drowned out by another’s.
“This humble one is Yuan Junhui. It is an honor, Lady Qiu.”
“Hello Lady Qiu, my name is Wu Yun. My father is Wu Gang.”
Introductions rose and fell in succession. Most didn’t even have a chance to finish their sentence before they were interrupted by someone else. Everyone was trying to leave the deepest impression possible in the shortest amount of time.
Some even resorted to smashing teacups to attract Qiu Honglei’s attention.
Unfortunately for them, she had served as a courtesan for so many years, and had already seen every trick in the book. A simple thing like that was not enough to faze her.
Besides, the place was too noisy. The sound of a teacup shattering was quickly covered by the endless introductions.
The young masters Wang Yuanlong and Chu Hongcai abandoned all vestiges of propriety. They crammed their way forward to introduce themselves, their faces red with the effort.
Even Chu Yucheng threw aside the bear girl he’d been glued to just a short while earlier, shoving his way forward while incoherently shouting his own introduction.
Zu An watched all of this with great disdain. Didn’t he just say that he liked buff and well-developed women, and that he didn’t care for the slim ones?
Even though Qiu Honglei’s chest could be considered well-developed, she didn’t have any fat to speak of. She would have been considered chubby if she’d had a bit more meat on her, or skinny if she had a little less.
Such a figure should definitely be considered a stick in Chu Yucheng’s eyes.
And yet, who would have expected him to go completely mad for her?
In the end, aren’t you all only concerned with her face?
Zu An really was looking down on them.
“Young master, why aren’t you heading over to introduce yourself?” Leng Shuangyue asked curiously, blinking in puzzlement.
These girls knew that their job was to entertain their customers when they returned to their seats.
“What kind of introduction is this? It’s basically putting on a monkey show!” Zu An snorted in contempt. “Look at that Qiu Honglei. She looks so cheerful and engaging, nodding towards all of these people, but she hasn’t spared an ounce of interest for any of them.
“All of them said that they came to a brothel to pick a girl to have fun with. Why does it seem like the girl is the one doing the choosing instead?” Zu An’s tone dripped with disdain. It wasn’t that he had anything against Qiu Honglei. Rather, he couldn’t stand the way these men were behaving, as if they had never seen a girl before.
All of you are really embarrassing our male gender! Even if she is pretty, there’s no need for you guys to simp for her so much, is there? Look at me. Even though I am living off a woman, I have to do it resolutely! Can’t all of you just learn a little from my example?!
Unable to read his thoughts, Leng Shuangyue merely assumed that he was dissatisfied with Qiu Honglei. She looked towards the second floor and explained quietly, “You know, it’s not easy for Lady Qiu, either. Even though she doesn’t care much about them, she will still have to remember everyone’s names. It is really hard for girls here to do that.”
Zu An stared blankly. He couldn’t help but sigh in amazement. “It turns out becoming the queen of courtesans isn’t something you can achieve with just looks…”
Leng Shuangyue nodded, clearly overcome with emotion. “Correct! Our trade never lacks pretty girls, but it’s no mean feat to become the queen of courtesans! Especially for someone like young miss Qiu.”
Zu An gave her a strange look. “Seems like you’re quite close with this Qiu Honglei.”
“We aren’t that close,” Leng Shuangyue hurried explained, “but all of us are in the same brothel, after all. With all of us so close to each other, there’s always the chance to overhear some things.”
“Oh.” Zu An let the matter lie. “By the way, since all of you are from the same place, you should know quite a few things about her, right? Can you tell me some?”
“I don’t actually know that much… What does young master want to know?” Leng Shuangyue sighed inwardly with relief. He didn’t seem to want to continue badgering her about her physiology.
However, she was afraid that he might remember again, so she decided to attempt to distract him by answering any questions he had. As for the questions she couldn’t answer, she would just claim not to know.
“The things I want to know, you definitely know.” Zu An said with a chuckle. “Has she ever had a boyfriend before?”
“Boyfriend?” Leng Shuangyue blinked but did not immediately reply.
“You know, like a partner.” Zu An explained.
Leng Shuangyue gave a startled cry. “Of course not! Everyone knows that Lady Qiu is perfectly pure. How could she have had a partner?” She waved her hands adamantly to punctuate her point.
Zu An still wasn’t convinced. “Don’t be scared, it’s just the two of us here. There’s no need to worry that you’ll somehow harm her reputation.”
Leng Shuangyue hurriedly said, “She really hasn’t had one before! I can guarantee this with my life! Lady Qiu has never had any partners, and she has always remained a virgin…”
“Is that so?” Zu An’s gaze drifted automatically to the beautiful figure on the second floor. This really was quite strange.
From her second-floor room, Pei Mianman observed the scene below her with undisguised contempt. Those fawning men were really putting up a shameful display.
Men were good for nothing but being the playthings of women.
Her heart skipped a beat, and she cast her gaze around for another figure.
She finally caught sight of Zu An, who was sitting leisurely, and not embarrassing himself like the others. She nodded in satisfaction.
You didn’t end up disgracing Chuyan. You’re not like all of these rotten and uncultured men.
However, just as she started to smile, she noticed Leng Shuangyue at his side, peeling grapes and feeding them to him one by one.
Zu An ate until his entire mouth was dripping with juices, yet he never forgot to tease the girl, messing with her until she squirmed in obvious discomfort.
Pei Mianman’s smile immediately turned cold. “Men aren’t good for anything after all!” she declared with a dismissive snort.
After enduring the mindless display, Qiu Honglei finally parted her red lips to speak. “Thank you everyone for all your love. However, I feel like my skill at the zither has reached a plateau recently, and I would love it if everyone could give me some pointers. Please help me see if there are any areas that can be improved.”
As soon as she had begun speaking, the rowdy hall instantly became quiet. No one wanted to make her unhappy.
When they heard what she said, they began to get all jittery.
The consensus had been that Qiu Honglei would use her song as the means to choose the one she most admired. Sure enough, it was now starting!
“Lady Qiu must be joking! The song you played just now was truly sonorous and resonant, the notes lingering in the air perfectly. Your skill at the zither is clearly at its peak. How could there be anything beyond that?” one of the men, Zhao Dezu, piped up immediately. His introduction had been cut short earlier, and he was looking for a chance to redeem himself.
Everyone else immediately gave him the same damning assessment. Qiu Honglei was clearly trying to test everyone. What is your stupid bootlicking going to accomplish?
As expected, Qiu Honglei smiled faintly. “Young master is too generous with his praise. Unfortunately, I wish to hear some more concrete opinions to address my inadequacies.”
After saying this, she turned to the others, her eyes filled with encouragement and expectation.
As her gaze moved to sweep across the private rooms above the main hall, she sneered inwardly.
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