THE FIRST KISS?!
Song Lijun glared at the drunk man as his brain went on to think on how to escape this situation. But before he could even think of a way, the person behind him speak up again.
“Since you don’t believe us, then I guess I’ll just have to prove it to you,” the man then leaned down, his lips were so close to Song Lijun’s ear that Song Lijun could feel his hot breath. “Play along,” Song Lijun heard the man whisper.
Song Lijun didn’t understand at first, and before he could ask what the other had meant, he felt a hand on his cheek. His face was turned in a gentle and loving manner. He watched as the man’s face inched closer. Not long after, he felt soft, warm lips pressed against his.
Song Lijun’s mind blanked out. He didn’t know how long his brain stopped working, but by the time he regained his thinking ability, the man had already pulled away.
“Is that enough proof for you?” Song Lijun heard the man ask the drunk man.
“That doesn’t prove anything at all! Everyone who works here needs to be at least that professional!” the drunk man retorted.
“Honored guest, have you been waiting long?” just then, a charming, yet containing a hint of seductiveness came from the way Song Lijun came before.
The three of them turned their head and saw an elegantly dressed woman. Compared to the ladies who worked on the floor below, one could see that this woman is probably one of the top-ranked ladies in their establishment.
Upon seeing the woman coming their way, the drunk man’s expression changed as he leered at the woman with his lecherous eyes. “Are you the one who the management allocated to me?” he asked, his anger disappeared.
“If the honoured guest’s surname is Wu, then indeed it is this lady who will keep the honoured guest company for the afternoon,” the woman replied as she went over to hold the drunk man’s arm and pulled him into the room. While the drunk man was intoxicated by the woman’s beauty, the woman didn’t forget to look back at both Song Lijun and his saviour, giving them a playful wink. After closing the room, the door was closed so Song Lijun is no longer able to see whatever happened inside.
Seeing this scene, Song Lijun can’t help but feel disgusted. ‘Truly! People who make frequent visits to the pleasure house all have indecent characters! Did he forget that his own wrist was injured just recently all because of lust?!’ Song Lijun thought to himself. Then he realized what he had thought would also include his third brother, so he quickly corrected himself. ‘Most people! Most… the third brother still has a good character despite him being like that.’
After a while, ambiguous sounds of pleasure could be heard from behind the door and Song Lijun who heard it, couldn’t help but scrunch his face in disgust. Especially since most of the sound came from the drunk man from before.
“I… should go now,” Song Lijun said as he turned around to face his saviour. “Thank you for saving me, sir…” when Song Lijun looked at him, his mind replayed the kiss from earlier and his face immediately exploded in shades of red. He quickly looked down and lowered his straw hat so that the man wouldn’t be able to see his flustered look.
“Don’t mention it.”
Song Lijun heard the man’s reply and nodded his head. Since his eyes are trained on the floor, he could only watch as the other’s feet started to move away. “Ah, wait! Tell me your name. I will help you pay the pleasure house so you can just enjoy yourself here for the whole day without worrying about the fee!” Song Lijun said.
Flower Pavilion has a different method of calculating their fee for their guests. The guests will first, pay for the type of woman they wanted, from the lower-ranked to the higher-ranked. Then, they will also be charged according to the time spent as soon as they are served. Waiting time is not included.
When the man heard what Song Lijun offered, his face turned dark. It was only unfortunate that Song Lijun didn’t see it. “I’m not here to seek pleasure. I’m here to look for someone. We were supposed to meet an hour ago, but then his retainer came and told me that he was distracted here instead,” he told Song Lijun.
“Oh… what a coincidence! I’m also here to look for someone.”
“Then you should get going. Or else, you’ll end up in trouble again,” the man said.
“You’re right. If fate wills it, we will meet again. When that happens, I will treat you for a good meal!” Song Lijun said before he finally decided to return to his task of finding his sister.
Song Lijun had just taken a step when the man called out to him. He turned around and gave the man a questioning look. “Is there something else that you need?”
“Ah?” Song Lijun was confused. He didn’t understand what the man was trying to say.
“My name. Didn’t you ask for it?”
Finally understanding that the man was giving his name, Song Lijun smiled at him. “Then, brother Qiu, I am called Jing Yuan. When we meet in the future, we don’t need to act as strangers!” Song Lijun replied before he turned away to continue looking for his sister.
After he left, the man lifted up his hand and covered the lower half of his face. Though there doesn’t seem to be any change in expression, if one were to look at him properly, one would notice that the tip of his ears was red. “Jing Yuan…” he uttered the name in a soft voice.
Just then, he heard a footstep behind him and he turned around to see a man he knows very well. The other also saw him and had a surprised look on his face.
“Jin Rongqiu, it looks like the time where you finally indulge yourself has finally come! Why didn’t you tell me? Am I not your good brother?” the other man’s face lit up as he then teased Jin Rongqiu. He slung an arm around Jin Rongqiu’s shoulder and playfully poked Jin Rongqiu’s cheek. “Finally decided to become a proper man, is it?”
“Bai Ruohan… you told me that you wanted to go and eat some meat but instead, you came here?!” Jin Rongqiu glared at the man he called Bai Ruohan. “And we were supposed to meet by the south gate an hour ago. I’ve waited for a long time only to see your retainer coming over to tell me you are currently indulging yourself in sexual activity?”
“But Rongqiu, ah! I didn’t lie to you at all! I did come here to eat some ‘meat’!” Bai Ruohan replied.
“Eating meat in a pleasure house? Who are you trying to fool?”
“Aiya! This is why a serious man like you always misunderstood things,” Bai Ruohan let out a sigh. “As your good brother, it is my responsibility to keep you educated. My dear friend, the meat I am talking about is, of course, referring to both women and men! After all, human are made of meat too,” Bai Ruohan said with a mischievous grin.
“Now since we are already here, how about we go an enjoy ourselves? I still have enough for a few hours. We can just go down and ask the management. Trust me, this place is really different from what we have back home. The people who worked here are truly great at giving services…” Bai Ruohan added.
“Scram!” Jin Rongqiu then smacked the other on his forehead before walking away. “Hurry up! If we waste any more time, we will not be able to arrive at the camp before sundown!”
“A shame. You know, if we can’t get back to the camp in time, then we might as well stay here!” Bai Ruohan suggested playfully.
“Then stay here! See if I will not report your indecent behaviour to uncle Wuchen!” Jin Rongqiu replied.
Upon hearing this threat, Bai Ruohan’s expression changed considerably. From being playful, he turned pale from fear. “Rongqiu, Rongqiu! Don’t do that, ah! If you tell him, he’ll just force me to get settled instead! You know that I don’t want to get married!”
But Jin Rongqiu continued to walk, ignoring Bai Ruohan’s plea. Thus, all the way from Flower Pavilion to the southern gate of the capital, Bai Ruohan never stopped giving Jin Rongqiu compliments that would make even the heaven envious in order for Jin Rongqiu to forget about reporting to his uncle.
When they arrived at their camping site to the south of the capital, Bai Ruohan was still pleading Jin Rongqiu all the way until they entered the biggest tent in the campsite. “Rongqiu, ah! Are you really going to report to uncle Wuchen?”
“Did you stay in the pleasure house? Or did you return to the camp?”
“Return! I returned!”
“Then you already have your answer, ba!”
“The seas are deep, the skies are wide! But none of them can compare to the vastness of your benevolence! I, Bai Ruohan is forever in your debt!”
“Enough with the compliments! Don’t you ever feel embarrassed?” Jin Rongqiu finally could not handle any more of Bai Ruohan’s compliment. He covered his own face with his hand as he hides his embarrassment.
“Alright, alright. I’ll stop,” Bai Ruohan said with a burst of small laughter. “Speaking of which, earlier you were also covering your face. You only did this whenever you’re shy, or embarrassed… say, did something happened earlier in the pleasure house?”
At Bai Ruohan’s question, Jin Rongqiu was reminded of the event in Flower Pavilion. His mind could still vividly remembers the feeling of those soft lips against his and his heart raced at the thought. He could feel his face burning up and he turned his face around so that Bai Ruohan wouldn’t be able to see his face.
Of course, Bai Ruohan could see the change in his friend’s behaviour so he became playful again. “Something happened?! Something did happen?!” Bai Ruohan quickly pulled Jin Rongqiu’s hand away from his face. “Rongqiu, your face is red! What, did you fall for someone?”
“Bai. Ruo. Han,” Jin Rongqiu said Bai Ruohan’s name in a slow and threatening manner. “Go and feed the horses! That’s your punishment for wasting my time today!”
“Your Highness, may I come in?” just then, a voice came from behind the tent’s entrance. Both Jin Rongqiu and Bai Ruohan looked at each other before they adjusted their expression. Gone was the friendly and playful expression from Bai Ruohan, and even Jin Rongqiu’s expression turned cold and detached.
“Come on in,” Jin Rongqiu said out loud.
A soldier, fully dressed in his armour, came in before kneeling on the ground as he saluted the two people. “Greetings to Tianyin Wangye, may you live for a thousand years! And greetings also to Lengxue Gong, General Bai!” the soldier greeted the two.
“En. Get up. Come and tell this prince what it is that you have to report,” Jin Rongqiu said calmly.
“Your Highness, a messenger arrived from the Imperial City carrying this letter addressed to Your Highness,” the soldier said as he held out the letter he got from the messenger with both hands.
Jin Rongqiu walked over and took the letter from the soldier, carefully eyeing the piece of parchment. “You may leave now.”
“This soldier expresses his thanks to His Highness,” the soldier saluted them once again before he quickly left the tent.
Once the soldier has left, Bai Ruohan could finally put away his serious expression and went over to Jin Rongqiu. “So, what is it?” he asked as he watched Jin Rongqiu read the content of the letter. “Is your father really that anxious to meet his new harem member? I admit, that the rumours about Dong Xing’s twin jade make everyone curious. People sing praises about their beauty. But, who knows, it might just be exaggerated!”
“The letter stated that Imperial Father was assassinated.”
“…” Bai Ruohan’s expression changed once more. “My condolences, Your Highness.”
“Doesn’t matter. Other than feeding me and raising me up, he never once acted like a father to me. I do not have any attachment to him, so I am not sad that he has died,” Jin Rongqiu replied, his voice lacked any emotion. “The letter mentioned that Imperial Father did not name any successor to the throne yet. Even the Imperial Jade Seal had gone missing. Now, my dear royal brothers are trying to stake their claim on the throne,” Jin Rongqiu added.
“Then, what about you? If you want the throne, we should return as soon as we can. Us, from the Bai family, will fully support your cause.”
“We will first see how it goes. The letter also mentions that we have to act as if nothing had happened…” at this, a frown is formed on Jin Rongqiu’s face.
“Act as if nothing happened… then, does that mean, we have still had to bring your father’s new bride even though he is now a corpse?”
“The agreement was to give her away to the Imperial Harem as part of a tribute to our country in return for protection. Even if Imperial Father has died, it only means her husband candidate has changed to the next Emperor. Has the messenger we sent to King Song Min returned yet?” Jin Rongqiu asked.
Bai Ruohan only shrugged his shoulder with a helpless look. “Brother, you know I’ve always been with you for the whole day? How would I know if he has returned or not?”
“With me the whole day? Then how is it that I have to enter a pleasure house in order to find a certain someone?” Jin Rongqiu asked in a warning tone. “If you don’t know, go find out! And don’t forget to feed the horses! I better not find out that you ask someone else to feed the horses or else, I will write a letter to uncle Wuchen!”
“Yes, yes! Anything Your Highness commands! Just don’t you dare write that letter!” Bai Ruohan said in a panicked manner before he rushed out of the tent.
Once left alone, Jin Rongqiu went over to his table and took a seat. He once again read the letter that he had just received before smiling. “I wonder which of my brothers killed Imperial Father? I really pity them…” Jin Rongqiu said before his hand reached into his robe and took out a jade seal. He rubbed his thumb over the cool jade as he held it in his hand.
“They did all that work, but the Imperial Jade Seal is here with me. Without this, those fake edict they prepared will become useless since it lacked the stamp of the seal. What a fool.”
Written by: Lin Xiaolong
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