Zu An’s playing was slowly joined by the sound of the xiao, painting out a sorrowful tune. However, Qiu Honglei’s playing didn’t seem as proficient compared to her skill at the zither.
Xie Xiu couldn’t hide his confusion. “This doesn’t seem right. With Qiu Honglei’s skills, her skills with the xiao shouldn’t be so far below her skill at the zither. Why does her playing sound so… so ordinary?”
He had already chosen the most polite way of describing what he was hearing. Qiu Honglei’s playing lacked any semblance of smoothness, with some large hiccups that were audible even to him. If it had been anyone else, they would have long been chased off the stage.
Xie Daoyun frowned. “It might be because she is unfamiliar with this song…”
She quietly trailed off, unable to continue her justification. There’s no way an expert would mess up this badly, is there?
With that sharp, wrong note, Qiu Honglei had finally had enough. She lowered the xiao with a reddened face. This really was too embarrassing! She actually couldn’t play the song!
However, no one else doubted her skills. All of them instead rushed to reassure her:
“If not even a master like young miss Qiu could play it, then this song was probably just randomly thrown together!”
“Precisely! Brat, don’t drag Lady Qiu down with you if you don’t know how to play it yourself!”
However, quite a few in the crowd had discerning ears. To them, Zu An’s playing flowed freely in a natural, unforced manner, and did not sound at all like it had been recklessly put together. Surely, then, such an accusation could not be levelled at the part he had written out for the xiao.
Wang Yuanlong couldn’t help but nudge Chu Yucheng. “It seems that I have truly been deceived by the rumors. I thought that the young master of your Chu clan was a good-for-nothing. I never expected him to actually possess such skill! No wonder Chu First Miss chose him to be her husband.” He sighed in admiration.
Chu Yucheng also wore a strange expression. He nudged Chu Hongcai, who was next to him. “Did you expect such a thing to happen?”
Chu Hongcai shook his head dumbly. A hint of bitterness spread across his face as he watched how close and intimate Qiu Honglei and Zu An were.
Chu Yucheng seemed to have guessed what he was thinking. He reached over to console his cousin. “You don’t have to feel so discouraged. They are only playing a duet together. It doesn’t mean anything more. Besides, even if they do end up doing something together, it’s better if Ah Zu were the one, instead of someone else. We should strive to keep such blessings within the family!”
Chu Hongcai had no words for his cousin.
What the hell do you mean, ‘keep the damn blessings within the family’? Should I be thanking you for your insight?!
Zu An had also stopped to console Qiu Honglei. “This song is somewhat difficult. The melody changes quite abruptly in certain places, and the jumps are quite big. It’s hard to play them correctly if you aren’t familiar with the tune.”
Qiu Honglei smiled at him appreciatively. Even though she normally acted the part of a world-toppling beauty, she was still a young lady deep down. She had never encountered such an embarrassing predicament before, which had left her slightly dazed.
Zu An carefully explained some easy ways to tackle the issues, as well as some areas in the song that deserved special attention.
Qiu Honglei gradually calmed down. She closed her eyes to center herself, and then read through the entire song from start to finish. With that, she finally understood why she kept messing up.
“Let’s try it again.” Qiu Honglei’s expression was full of anticipation. Not only was she ready to redeem herself for her embarrassing performance earlier, but this song really seemed amazing to her, and she was eager to see what it would sound like when it was played properly.
“All right!” Zu An smiled. Seeing that she was ready, he began to lightly pluck the zither.
Qiu Honglei pursed her bright red lips and blew gently, her ten fingers moving along the xiao as if they were dancing.
With the zither occupying the middle register, and the beautiful and serene sound of the xiao floating across it, the music began to tug at the heartstrings of all those present. The melodies of the zither and xiao weaved in and out, going back and forth as if the two were having an intimate conversation, leaving all the men swimming in an endless sea of envy. Each of them wished fervently that they were the ones to have such an incredible opportunity with Lady Qiu.
Xie Daoyun stood by the window of her private room, her eyes glued to the two of them performing this duet. She remarked, “The pairing of the xiao and the zither works for this song, but it lacks that distinct effect he had been bragging about earlier.”
Just as she said that, the melody of the zither gradually grew louder, while the xiao retreated into the background. However, the sound of the xiao didn’t fade away completely, but lingered like wisps of cloud blown by a gentle wind. This served to take the music to greater, more soul-stirring heights.
“This…” Xie Daoyun’s beautiful face was full of awe. She muttered to herself, “So the zither and the xiao can work in harmony together… such a pairing truly is flawless.”
The music from the zither grew more forceful, as if heralding the start of a war. However, the xiao remained as gentle and mellow as before.
This carried on for a while, before the zither slowly became quiet again, with the xiao taking its turn to grow bolder. The two instruments continued in this vein, each taking their turn. It was almost as if there were several zithers and several xiaos performing at the same time.
Even though the melodies of the zither and the xiao were complex and constantly changing, each rose and fell in a perfect cadence, beautiful and moving.
Xie Daoyun sighed in admiration. No wonder even Qiu Honglei, with her wondrous abilities,had struggled and failed several times. The song sounded so complex just from an audience’s perspective—she couldn’t imagine just how difficult it would be for the actual musician.
The expressions of disdain slowly faded from the faces of the crowd, and they felt the blood pumping in their veins as the song reached its climax. They subconsciously rose to their feet, feeling as if they were currently on the battlefield, fighting for their families, fighting for their country, fighting for the fate of this world.
As the music went on, the zither and xiao traded places one final time. With the zither backing it up, the xiao took the lead, its notes swirling higher and higher.
A mysterious wave of sorrow swept the hall, and the audience unknowingly began to shed tears.
With a rousing crescendo of sound, the zither came to a sudden stop, and the music of the xiao faded as well.
A magical silence filled the Immortal Abode, which no one dared to disturb.
Qiu Honglei was completely awestruck. She almost couldn’t believe that she was the one who had played such a moving melody.
She lowered the xiao to look at the man sitting in front of the zither table.
She had originally planned to help him out secretly, but who knew that he would be the one to bring her such a pleasant surprise?
“Young master Zu, does this song have a name?”
Zu An stood slowly. “This song is named ‘The Proud, Smiling Wanderer’. I will give this song to the lady as a gift in hopes that the lady can let your sorrows go, and to instead be proud and ever-smiling, just like this song.”
“You’re really giving it to me?” Qiu Honglei couldn’t hide her stunned surprise. After all, in a brothel, a good song was enough to push even an obscure brothel girl to the title of courtesan queen.
Even though she was well known in Brightmoon City, there were many other courtesan queens out there whose reputations far exceeded hers. With this song, however, her name might become well known throughout the world.
“Of course I am.” Zu An said with a smile. It was just a song after all—what was she getting so emotional for?
Pei Mianman snorted. “This guy really doesn’t skimp out when chasing after girls.” Watch me rat on you to Chuyan. She really needs to keep a tight leash on this husband of hers!
However, she really hadn’t expected this fellow to possess such a skill. She would definitely have to get him to write her a song some time in the future as well.
Xie Daoyun also began to mutter to herself, “Given time, Zu An will definitely become famous throughout the world.”
Xie Xiu’s face was filled with shock. “Is this performance really that big of a deal?”
Xie Daoyun rolled her eyes. “You’ve dabbled a bit in music, haven’t you? You should understand that this ‘Proud, Smiling Wanderer’ is completely groundbreaking.”
Xie Xiu couldn’t help but remark, “But then again, this is still a world where cultivation strength is paramount. No matter how deep one’s musical knowledge is, it will always remain a small field.”
Xie Daoyun couldn’t contain her frustration. “Why are your words sounding more and more like father’s? You all are just a bunch of uncultured trash!”
She got up and stormed off in annoyance. Victory and defeat had already been decided. There was no way Xie Xiu would be chosen, and so she wouldn’t have a chance of meeting Qiu Honglei either.
However, her trip here hadn’t been in vain, thanks to this song.
She had many burning questions for Zu An, but the Immortal Abode really wasn’t the best place to pose them. Besides, it would be best if she didn’t expose her identity here, so talking to Zu An would have to wait.
Xie Xiu hesitated a moment before following his sister out. After all, there wasn’t much point in staying here, and this was also the sort of place where crooks were mixed in with honest folk. If something were to happen to his sister, there would be no way for him to redeem the situation.
Qiu Honglei stood as well, and said to the crowd, “I am feeling a little tired, so I will take my leave now. Everyone, please make yourselves comfortable.”
After saying this, she turned around and walked off slowly, ignoring the pleas of the crowd for her to stay. Soon, all that was left of her was a lingering fragrance.
Zu An stared blankly. The two of them had been chatting so happily just now. How could things end just like that?
Was she leaving just like this?
You have successfully trolled Chu Hongcai for 233 Rage points!
You have successfully trolled Chu Yucheng for 233 Rage points!
You have successfully trolled Wang Yuanlong for 233 Rage points!
Zu An immediately jumped in fright when he saw the Rage points come in. What is going on?
Looking around the hall, he noticed all of the other men staring at him with murderous eyes.
Chu Yucheng walked over to him. “Congratulations brother Zu, congratulations.”
“What congratulations?” Zu An was dumbfounded.
“Do you really not know, or are you just acting? Lady Qiu has already taken her leave, which means she has already made her decision. Who else could she have chosen other than you?”
Chu Hongcai’s face was darker than coal. This fellow had already gotten what he wanted, and yet he was still acting all innocent. How could he stand this?
You have successfully trolled Chu Hongcai for 345 Rage points!
His heart burned with regret. Why did he bring this scoundrel with him today?
However, it dawned on him that, even if he hadn’t brought Zu An, he would still have offended Lady Qiu, and someone else would have definitely been chosen anyway.
Sigh, I guess third brother speaks the truth. I suppose this can also be considered as keeping the blessings within the family.
But then, why do I feel like crying so badly?
“She chose me?” Zu An was momentarily stunned, then erupted in laughter. “Haha, didn’t I tell all of you earlier? How can any woman resist my charms?”
Chu Hongcai, Chu Yucheng and Wang Yuanlong shared the same open-mouthed expressions.
As they stared at him, mouths agape, a delicate and pretty maid hurried over. “Young master Zu, our young miss has invited you to meet her.”
“Okay, I’ll be right over.” Zu An clasped his fist towards the people at his table. “Brothers should always remain loyal to each other. However, a beauty is calling for me. Please excuse this, gentlemen.”
Chu Yucheng was completely speechless. He hurriedly waved his hands, “Since Lady Qiu is calling for you, you should just go.”
Opposite him, Chu Hongcai’s face had fallen completely to the floor.
Zu An turned and took a few steps after the maid, before suddenly hurrying back. He said quietly, “How much does a night for a courtesan queen cost? I don’t have any experience, and I really don’t know anything about such matters.”
Everyone at the table stared at him, dumbfounded.
Zu An said with an embarrassed smile, “I know that Sister Hua said that all of my expenses in Immortal Abode are waved today, but does that include the night with a courtesan queen? I forgot to bring any money out with me.”
His companions had reached the limits of their patience. This guy really had no sense of shame!
How could anyone put a price on Lady Qiu?
If money was all anyone needed to get close to her, countless men of Brightmoon City would have already lost their family fortunes.
Am I going to have to give up on this opportunity? Zu An curled his lips. However, borrowing money from people he knew really was quite embarrassing.
With this in mind, he followed the maid halfway up the stairs before suddenly turning around and clapping his hands, drawing everyone’s attention. “Do you all have any requests for me?” he asked loudly.
In her private room, Pei Mianman was already back in her seat, sipping leisurely on some tea. When she heard his voice, her eyes narrowed suspiciously. What is this fellow up to now?
The crowd was dumbfounded as well. “Why would we want anything from you?” someone yelled resentfully.
If there’s something we want, it’s for you to get out of our sight as soon as possible. Just looking at you is irritating.
“There’s really nothing?” Zu An smile mischievously. “For example, wouldn’t you like me to be… a little gentler to your goddess later?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter