Qiu Honglei’s hurt expression made all of the men in the hall glare furiously at Zu An. This little bastard actually dared to hurt young miss Qiu!
You have successfully trolled the onlookers for 44… 44… 44…
Zu An was overjoyed!
This visit to the Immortal Abode has really been worth my while! These adorable perverts have gifted me so many Rage points… I’ll have to properly tally them all up later.
Sigh, it seems like my previous suspicions were right on. Trying to earn Rage points alone really is too slow, but with a pretty girl at my side, it’s just too easy.
Even now, he still cherished that night he’d taken Chu Chuyan out for a stroll. Wherever he’d gone that night, Rage points had been quick to follow.
It really was a pity that Chu Chuyan’s skin was so thin. After going out with him once, she had never agreed to go for a walk again.
But now, wasn’t Qiu Honglei an excellent candidate for this? With her background, showing herself in public wasn’t a big deal at all. Pair this with her bewitching charm, and the results might be even better than what he could achieve in the company of Chu Chuyan.
Buoyed by this thought, he began to consider his reply. Taking advantage of the situation before him, he began, “Young miss’ skills at the zither have already been talked about enough just now...”
The sound of tongues clicking echoed around the hall.
Qiu Honglei’s eyes tinged with disappointment. I’ve already decided to help you out, but you have to at least put in some effort!
Otherwise, how could we possibly convince everyone here?
After carefully taking note of everyone’s reactions, Zu An continued casually, “Though, in my opinion, not a single one of them has commented on the most important point.”
At his words, the hall erupted in an uproar. After all, not everyone here was unlearned and ignorant—there were some genuine talents here who had a clear understanding of the zither, and their comments on Qiu Honglei’s playing were thoroughly appropriate.
Among them, there was even a great talent like Xie Xiu. Don’t tell me that he didn’t pick up on this important point, yet you somehow did?
Xie Daoyun shook her fist at him from the second floor. “What is this guy playing at? Don’t tell me even someone like him understands the zither?”
While the rest of the crowd believed that Xie Xiu had provided his own evaluation earlier, the truth was that he had only borrowed his sister’s expert analysis, which had been formed after her careful listening. And yet, Zu An still felt like her commentary had missed the most important point?
She had enjoyed the arts since she was a child, and her achievements in this field were quite profound. As a proud and established member in her area of expertise, Zu An’s words truly rubbed her the wrong way.
To his sister’s question, Xie Xiu shook his head. “I don’t think he knows much about the zither.”
Xie Daoyun scoffed. “It seems like he’s no different from the other fellow, deliberately sharing a provocative opinion. He is just teasing that girl, and then he’ll move on after.”
You have successfully trolled Xie Daoyun for 233 Rage points!
She couldn’t even be bothered to remember Chu Hongcai’s name. As the daughter of the city lord, she never paid much attention to the affairs of the world, let alone the name of the child of a concubine.
Zu An looked towards the second floor in surprise. So, Xie Xiu’s older sister is upstairs too! Didn’t that guy say he was gonna introduce me to her? Where is the follow-up on that?
“Why does young master Zu say such a thing?” Despite her slight disappointment, Qiu Honglei still did her best to give Zu An another chance, to see if he could turn things around.
Zu An continued from where he left off. “There are no issues with this young lady’s skills at the zither, and the blending of emotions into the notes was also exquisite. However, I couldn’t help but notice two flaws.”
The crowd was so incensed that they began to laugh instead. This little shit was getting too cocky!
Xie Daoyun knit her brows together in a frown. Even with all of her knowledge regarding the zither, she had barely managed to pick out a single problem, and that problem couldn’t even be considered a big one. However, this brat actually dared to claim that her playing had major flaws, and two of them at that?
Pei Mianman put her face in her palm, clearly embarrassed for his sake. It was a good thing Chuyan wasn’t here. With her personality, she might have immediately dug a hole and jumped into it.
“Is that so? Then I must ask young master Zu for your advice.” Qiu Honglei’s expression cooled further. What is wrong with this guy? How are others supposed to even help you out if you behave like this?
You have successfully trolled Qiu Honglei for 250 Rage points!
Seeing such a meager haul, Zu An couldn’t help but think that this woman really was stingy. “Young miss, your composition was too monotonous and bland. It lacks a bright rhythm, and the tempo is also unclear. That is why it can’t help but sound slightly tedious.”
Xie Daoyun scoffed, not bothering to hide her discontent. “This fella really only knows how to spout a bunch of nonsense. The zither's notes are gentle and muted to begin with. It’s not an instrument that uses a clear tempo or rhythm.”
Qiu Honglei furrowed her brow as well, clearly sharing similar thoughts. However, even before she could speak, several zither enthusiasts began to mock Zu An for being full of shit.
Zu An didn’t seem to mind at all. He continued to look calmly at Qiu Honglei.
When she saw that he wasn’t flustered at all, Qiu Honglei grew uncertain of herself. This guy doesn’t look like an idiot, so why does he insist on saying such things? Don’t tell me there really is something more to this?
As such, she pursed her bright red lips and replied, “Perhaps the young master has misunderstood. The music of the zither soothes the self, and soothes the people who listen to it. Since ancient times, the music of the zither has never excelled in rhythm or tempo. Rather, it is used to paint an artistic mood.”
Zu An smiled. “It really is interesting that you say the music of the zither soothes the self. When you performed for everyone just now, was it to please yourself or please others?”
Qiu Honglei was stunned into a long silence.
Upstairs, the beautiful brows of Xie Daoyun drew together in a frown. She began to have a vague understanding of what this fellow was trying to say.
Pei Mianman leaned against the windowsill, an ambiguous expression appearing on her face. “This fella really has some strange talents.”
Perhaps because standing up was too tiring, she fetched a stool. She supported her breasts gently on the windowsill and sat down, immediately feeling much more relaxed. She stretched comfortably, revealing her truly wondrous curves.
Fortunately, each room had excellent privacy. Who knew how many pairs of eyes this would have attracted otherwise.
Zu An continued, “The notes that a zither produces are moderate and gentle, and its tone reaches deeply into the soul. The songs played on a zither often evoke ‘long-lasting peace’, or perhaps ‘transcendent hope’, and other such feelings. These songs are usually played in beautiful and peaceful settings of mountains and flowing rivers, or within a quiet and private inner residence. However, the lady insists on playing it in a noisy brothel! The environment here clearly clashes with the intrinsic quality of zither music, so the music can’t help but seem naturally dissonant. I believe that this might also be why the lady has felt her skills plateau recently.”
Xie Daoyun let out a cry of surprise from the second floor. She turned his words over carefully in her mind.
Qiu Honglei had initially felt disapproval as well, but as she continued to listen, her forced smile gradually disappeared as she fell deep into thought.
Seeing her smile disappear, the crowd believed that Zu An’s words had made her angry. They immediately seized the chance to butter her up.
“That’s nothing but nonsense! There are plenty of girls who play the zither in brothels! Who says that it has to be played in a quiet setting?”
Zu An replied, “Isn’t it precisely because these establishments want to please all of you so-called ‘enlightened scholars’, that’s why there are so many zither players in brothels?
“Few ordinary brothel girls play the zither. More of them are proficient in instruments like the guzheng[ref]The zither that Qiu Honglei plays is the guqin, which is a shorter zither with five to seven strings. The guzheng is also a type of zither, which is a longer instrument with between 21 to 26 strings.[ref] or lute, which are good enough to please the ordinary folk. Those who choose to play the zither are often the queen courtesans in their respective brothels. They need to set themselves apart from the others. Because the zither is refined and elegant, they used it to raise their own status, market themselves differently, as if it would add a bit more of an otherworldly aura to their presence. However, they did not consider that a zither is completely incongruous in a brothel setting.”
The voices that were cursing him gradually quietened down. Some of them began to realize that his words weren’t entirely without reason.
Market themselves? Pei Mianman was still leaning against the windowsill, but she wore a strange expression. Even though the words this fellow used were crude, they were quite interesting. But now, not only did he end up offending Qiu Honglei, he had also offended all courtesan queens.
As expected, when she heard his evaluation, Qiu Honglei’s face became completely pale, and her chest trembled.
Zu An immediately added, “Of course, strictly speaking, this isn’t Lady Qiu’s mistake. Rather, this is just how things are. There’s no need to be too bothered.”
Qiu Honglei rolled her eyes with hidden resentment. “How can I not be bothered? After hearing the young master’s remarks, I might never play the guqin again.”
Anguished wails greeted this pronouncement.
“Please, Lady Qiu! Your playing is really beautiful!”
“That brat is speaking nonsense! He doesn’t know anything!”
“Exactly! If you don’t play the zither again, then it would be a loss for all of Brightmoon City! No, the entire Great Zhou Dynasty!”
These people continued to howl in grief, all the while glaring at Zu An with hate-filled eyes.
As he watched his Rage points rocket up another couple of thousand points, Zu An immediately became full of disdain. Simps and white knights everywhere. Keep licking boots until you find out there is actually nothing left for you.
Of course, without all of you lovely bootlickers, where would I go to farm so many Rage points?
At this moment, Xie Siu tilted his head slightly, as if he was listening to someone nearby. Sudden shock flashed across his face, and he said loudly, “Brother Zu, even though what you say makes a bit of sense, Lady Qiu has already masterfully played her piece, and her emotions were perfectly blended into her music! The things you have pointed out are too vague, and there is nothing concrete.”
After saying this, he smiled apologetically to Zu An. It was clear that tearing him down like this left him slightly embarrassed as well.
When he noticed this expression, Zu An guessed that he was merely the mouthpiece, and that these were probably Xie Daoyun’s words.
Xie Xiu’s objections encouraged the rest of the crowd.
“That’s right! Everyone can speak about vague and broad principles. However, only specific pointers of improvement are truly worthwhile!”
Zu An said in a calm and unhurried manner, “The main reason why the zither is not suitable for a brothel environment is because the melodies it produced can be slightly too bland. Its sound color is also concentrated in the middle register. If it can be paired with another instrument that can complement it, the soundscape will become much richer, with more layers, and the tempo and rhythm will become clearer. This will naturally make the music more appropriate to this setting.”
Xie Daoyun snorted, and passed her comments to Xie Xiu to convey.
Xie Xiu’s wore an expression of helplessness, but he still spoke in her place. “You make it sound easy, but different instruments have different sound colors and different qualities. The zither’s sound is small and intimate to begin with. If other instruments are added to it, it could be overpowered, and the effect may be jarring.”
Qiu Honglei nodded in agreement. “Indeed. In fact, such ideas have been tried by many musicians before, but all of their efforts ended in failure. There is no practical way to implement what the young master says.”
Hisses of glee could be heard from all directions. The crowd were ecstatic to see him embarrassed.
“With the right approach, all this can be easily solved. You all just haven’t found it yet.” Zu An was slightly surprised. Was the level of musical understanding in this world really so shallow that they couldn’t even figure out such a simple issue?
Up on the second floor, Xie Daoyun snorted. Arguing with this fool was surely a waste of her time.
This guy wants to brush over something no zither player from past to present has ever achieved? If only it was that easy!
She had a clear enough idea of what was going on. This fella was most likely a nobody, possessing only the slightest understanding of the zither. To think that she had actually engaged in such a passionate discussion with him just a second ago! The humiliation was almost overwhelming.
By this time, Chen Xuan had also finalized his plans. Knowing that there was no way Zu An could feel good after being put down like this, he took the opportunity to twist the knife further. “It’s always easy to talk—talking is something anyone can do! If you have the skills, why don’t you do it, then?”