A name chart constructed from pure gold was hung high up at the most conspicuous corner, the light reflected from the gold glistening and attracting every customer who stepped in to halt and to look up.
This was Pin Hua Building's ranking list of peerless beauties.
From the top until bottom in order, they were the top ten most popular beauties of Pin Hua Building in that month.
At this moment where it was yet the opening hours, there was only Ruge who was dressed in red, under the ranking list. She raised her head up and gasped in admiration while looking!
Ruge was speculating exactly what kind of genius the person had to be to produce such a good idea.
All the people in this world have some form of queer mentality. The more a beauty is chased after by the masses, the more one wants to have a try at appreciating it, moreso when it is at a world famous brothel like Pin Hua Building. If one is able to rank in the top three, she will naturally be at a position where she can overlook all the other beauties. Who wouldn't want to have a glimpse of how the beautiful lady looks like? Hence, the top ranking ladies in Pin Hua Building's peerless beauty ranking list would all have a price tag so high that others would stare with their mouths agape.
Furthermore, driven by the ranking list the benefits brought about from being ranked, every lady also used whatever treasures possible and contended with each other over glamour as if their lives depend on it. No one dared to not take it seriously. (As the rankings on the charts can change every month, if one is not careful, one can even fall by a few ranks or even drop out of the charts.)
As the ladies naturally became more and more beautiful with the competition, the quality of the beauties on the charts naturally improved accordingly more and more, the customers naturally swarm after them more and more and Pin Hua Building's business naturally became better and better!
"It's too brilliant! A genius!"
Ruge couldn't stop complimenting until her head was almost about to fall to the ground.
"This girl, what are you doing?"
When Aunt Hua came out from the side hall she saw Ruge smiling foolishly in a daze.
"Good to see you, Aunt Hua!" Ruge turned to greet her and proceeded to scrutinize the ranking list. She inquired, "Aunt, who thought of making this ranking list?"
"Big Boss?!" Ruge's eyes sparkled and tugged Aunt's sleeve. She repeatedly asked, "Who exactly is the Big Boss, why is everyone unwilling to say?"
Aunt Hua looked up at the ranking list in a trance. She only spoke after a long while, "It's not that they're unwilling to say but it's because they don't know."
"Ah? So mysterious?" Ruge was very disappointed.
"Maybe," Aunt Hua pondered and said, "Only Miss Qiangwei(Qiángwēi) should know I think."
Ruge knew who Miss Qiangwei was. She was Pin Hua Building's manager. However, Miss Qiangwei seldom shows herself and she have only seen her once from afar and she only glimpsed her side profile. Even though she couldn't see clearly, she did feel that had a graceful bearing like bamboo, a lofty demeanour and was different from the other beauties.
"Could Miss Qiangwei actually be Pin Hua Building's boss?" Ruge speculated bravely.
Aunt Hua shook her head, "It doesn't look like it."
"Because……" Aunt Hua suddenly came around and reached out her hand to flicked Ruge's head with force. "You this damn girl, why are you asking so many questions!"
She glared at Ruge fiercely and turned away to leave. Strange, how come she would unknowingly speak to a young girl about these.
Ruge anxiously grasped her sleeve again. "Aunt, don't go, I still have questions I want to ask you!"
"Aunt, you're the best……" Ruge pleaded implored in a soft tone.
Aunt Hua inhaled a deep breath and couldn't steel her heart in the end.
Ruge's face was wreathed in smiles. "May I ask Aunt how the ranking of the peerless beauty charts specifically work?"
"Beautiful appearance, service and popularity."
"Oh……" Realisation dawned upon Ruge and she clapped her hands. "That makes sense, that makes sense……but, no that isn't right……" She had a new question.
"What isn't right?"
"It is said that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Our Miss is ranked seventh this month but her appearance isn't inferior to Miss Zi Qingting(Zǐ Qīngtíng). I even feel that she is even a little more pretty than Miss Youlan who is ranked third. Women are attractive in each of their own ways*, it is probably very difficult to judge the standards of who is more beautiful than the other; Moreover if we were to mention service, Miss Fenghuang hurls all kinds of abuse at the customers at every turn and speaks caustically, she shouldn't even be ranked before my Miss right?"
*T/n: A direct translation of this phrase would be that Yang Yuhuan (Noble Consort Yang) was plump while Zhao Feiyan was slim. They are two of Ancient China's Four Beauties. Hence it is saying that there are many beauty standards.
Aunt Hua laughed. "You don't understand. The current trend is the uncivilized and fierce type. A wild cat like Fenghuang just happens to be many customers' tastes. You have to admit defeat at this."
"Ah? It's like that?"
So it turned out that you have to firmly secure the pulse of every trade's popular trends.
"But what you said isn't wrong as well." Aunt Hua looked at her in approval. "It's very difficult to judge whether the appearance and service is good or bad, therefore this ranking list is mainly according to popularity."
"Yes. Additionally, this popularity does not simply refer to who have more customers. What is more important is the status of the customer. Just like Youyou(Yōuyōu), she is able to ranked at the sixth position because Minister Liu took a fancy to her a month ago. That's why she could become popular so rapidly. Have you understood already?"
Ruge blinked her eyes and flashed a smile.
So it was like that!
It looks like relying on dressing up to stand out was insufficient to help Feng Xixi to enter the top three. The shortcut was to find customers who have influence!
The next problem——
Where should she go to find influential customers?
Ruge started to have a headache.
It was the first day of the month.
Night just fell.
An unusual atmosphere secretly fluctuated in Pin Hua Building instead.
Ruge helped put on Feng Xixi's face veil attentively and asked curiously, "Miss, don't you think that something is a bit off these few days?"
Feng Xixi's immensely beautiful face was covered by the mist-like white veil as if it was a dream, causing her to look very mysterious and alluring. She admired her reflection in the copper mirror and said indifferently, "Every month is like this. Whenever it is the first or fifteenth day of the month, a lot of ladies in the building and their maids would become thieves, eavesdropping and peeping everywhere to try discover others' methods."
Ruge became even more curious, "Methods? What methods?"
"Of course it's methods to attract men." Feng Xixi casted a glance at her. Seeing that she still appeared to not have understood, she then explained patiently, "You still haven't been here for long, no wonder there are a lot of things which you don't know. Every first and fifteenth day of the month at Pin Hua Building is when the most customers congregate. It is also the best opportunity for the ladies to display their appearances and talents. As long as you can grasp this opportunity and become the centre of attention, your price tag and fame will all surge tremendously. If you can also take advantage of this good chance to attract one or two prestigious customers, you can then fly up the branch and laugh proudly at all the other beauties." Ruge suddenly saw the light. "So it's like that. I understand already! So the respective ladies all want to know how the others are dressing up and whether they are more outstanding than themselves. They will exhaust all ideas to to outshine the other beauties and fish the most mighty customer!" That means that she probably wouldn't need to be frustrated about how to find an influential customer to boost Feng Xixi's rank.
She heaved a sigh of relief.
"What must you do to attract men?"
She asked for advice humbly.
Feng Xixi smiled bitterly. "This is the most challenging part."
Ruge pricked up her ears and listened earnestly.
"A man's heart is like a needle at the bottom of the ocean. It's really hard to fathom."
A sigh long-drawn sigh was heard……
Eh? This sentence is usually used to describe women but it also applies to men?
"Every customer's preferred taste is different. Some like a more bashful one, some like a more licentious one, some like a colder one…… but whenever you appear, you can only dress up in one way. It's like gambling, if you're lucky then your wager is successful, if you're unlucky you can only helplessly watch good customers snatched away by the other ladies."
"Then what should you do?"
"You can only gamble."
Feng Xixi suddenly smiled. "But, even if you were to gamble, you also can't gamble with no preparations at all. I have done a bit of homework."
"The most eye-catching customer tonight should be——"
Ruge widened her eyes and waited for her to continue.
Feng Xixi lightly caressed her indistinct beautiful face under the white veil and said in a lowered voice, "Tian Xia Wu Dao(Tiān Xià Wú Dāo) City's Young Master, Dao, Wu, Xia." (Dāo Wú Xiá)
Just hearing the name already made people feel that he must be a brilliant figure.
Feng Xixi muttered, "I heard that Dao Wuxia has a lofty character and probably wouldn't girls who fawn over him but, if I'm too aloof, I'm afraid that he has already seen it too many times and don't find it rare. Hence, Ge Er, do you think that my manner of dressing today is suitable?"
Ruge sized Feng Xixi up and down.
She donned a white silk gown accompanied with a transparent white veil, tied her hair bun up high and only pinned a fine white tallow jade hairpin*. She was charming like an elegant fairy within the morning mist.
"Miss, you're really breathtakingly beautiful!" Ruge complimented. After that, she asked puzzledly, "But why do you want to use a white veil to cover your face?"
Feng Xixi sneered at her, "Young girl, don't you know that men are inherently low. The more hazy you so that he can't see your appearance clearly, the more he would like to see. I think that this Dao Wuxia also shouldn't be an exception."
Is that so? Men are inherently low?!
Ruge was speechless due to shock.
Nevertheless, right now she suddenly felt that Feng Xixi's face shrouded under the white veil was like a Chinese peony in a fog, faintly discernible yet beautiful and teased people to check out. It was really seductive that it took away people's souls!
Feng Xixi saw Ruge staring infatuatedly at herself and couldn't help being pleased inside. She patted her head and said, "It's not early, we should be appearing."
"Yes." Ruge responded when suddenly, she had a question again. She blurted out, "Miss, why are there particularly many customers on the first and fifteenth day of the month?"
Right in the middle of Pin Hua Building's Main Hall was a stage built by bamboo.
Bamboo was used as the railings and curtains were draped lightly. The calming scented fragrance from the old incense burner could actually overwhelm the smell of food and drinks in the whole building, making people's hearts to feel brighter. 一张青竹琴案。 A bamboo zither desk. 一张古琴。 A zither.*
*T/n: guqin: a type of seven-stringed plucked instrument that belongs to the zither family
The man in white sat down and played the zither in a serene manner.
The sound of zither gurgled.
Like the small streams that flow through the mountains which are transparent and with clear ripples. The cobblestone at the bottom of the stream sparkles brilliantly as if every pebble had its own small joy and small grief……
All the customers in Pin Hua Building remained silent.
The customer's sight all gathered on that man in white. They were immersed in his zither sound and couldn't control their themselves like they were drunk and in a daze, as if they have fallen into a refreshing dreamland.
Only now did Ruge understand.
Previously she had always found it strange that the main hall had a bamboo stage which occupied a lot of space but yet had no use for it. So it turned out that this bamboo stage was specially left for this man in white and no one else were permitted to use. So it also turned out that the man in white only comes here to perform every first and fifteenth day of the month, hence it was the most bustling in Pin Hua Building these two days of every month.
Could he actually be the legendary Zither Sage?
Unfortunately, Ruge could only see the back of the man in white from the position she was at and couldn't see his face. But even if it is his rear view, it also appeared to be otherwordly as well as elegant and pure like an immortal.
Feng Xixi told her that his name was Qin Hong(Qín Hóng).
And persuading Qin Hong happened to be a task Ruge must face. Naturally, this task was assigned to her by Feng Xixi. Only success was allowed and failure was not an option. This was also Feng Xixi's request to her.
But looking at the back of the man in white, Ruge's heart suddenly started to thump.
The customers were listening to Qin Hong's zither pieces attentively.
The ladies of Pin Hua Building were secretly sizing up and down the customers in the hall instead.
There was a total of thirty six tables in the main hall.
Amongst them, there were nine large red varnished padauk round tables of the best quality and twenty seven top-notch square tables with carved patterns. Every padauk table was served by a pageboy and a girl servant while every square tables with carved patterns was served by a pageboy. The silvers needed to reserve a padauk round table was ten times that of reserving a square table with carved patterns. Furthermore, if one only has money but lacked in status, for example if you are a wealthy landowner, no matter how much more silver you offer, Pin Hua Building would rather have the padauk tables empty than to let you sit there.
The customers who are qualified to sit at the padauk tables were no doubt both wealthy and influential.
Hence, the eyes of Pin Hua Building's ladies were mostly congregated on the guests at the nine padauk tables.
Especially the one nearest to the bamboo stage.
There were three people at that table.
Before entering, Feng Xixi had roughly told Ge Er their names and characteristics.
The one who received the most attention was a young man. He was dressed in brocade with a jade belt and his hair was bundled with a gold cap. He had a jade-like complexion, a handsome appearance and a dignified temperament. He should be the point of interest for this time——
Still not too bad. Ruge nodded her head.
Tian Xia Wu Dao City was a sizable sect only second to Lie Huo Manor in the jianghu* and had the hidden intent of surpassing them. Dao Wuxia was Tian Xia Wu Dao's Young Master and the future City Master. His martial arts can be said to be the outstanding talent among the young generation of swordsmen. In addition, since his looks were extraordinary and possessed a good reputation, it was reasonable that he had become the focus of all the beauties' competition tonight.
*T/n: If you read a lot of wuxia stories, I think you will know what this means. To put it simply, it's like the martial arts community.
Dao Wuxia's left hand was a man of a younger age. He was slightly plump with a fair complexion but he had a slightly dark look in his eyes. He should be Dao Wuxia's biological younger brother Dao Wuhen(Dāo Wúhén). The strange thing was that both brothers were so disparate in their appearances.
Ruge looked towards Dao Wuxia's left hand——
Ha, that was a girl.
According to the regulations, Pin Hua Building do not welcome female customers, but if this female's status were to be very "lofty", or if the status of the person who brought her in were very "lofty", an exception could still be made. (What? Someone asked what is the standard for "lofy"? You can just think of it by yourself.)
Her name seemed to be ——Dao Liexiang(Dāo Lièxiāng), Tian Xia Wu Dao City Master's sole daughter.
Dao Liexiang didn't look very gentle, her facial features were more robust and she carried a sense of heroic spirit between her brows. She wasn't listening carefully to Qin Hong's playing but only lifted her wine up and quietly drank on her own.
Good, observation complete.
Ruge withdrew her sight and and glanced at the graceful Feng Xixi sitting in front of her. She secretly wished that everything would go smoothly for her tonight and that her wish would come true.
That's not right!
Ruge suddenly felt that she had missed something out. She abruptly raised her head and looked towards one corner of the main hall.
An ordinary square table with carved patterns.
There were three ordinary small dishes placed on top. There was no wine and the dishes have not been touched.
There were two people beside the table.
One was a man around twenty seven to twenty eight years old dressed in black. He had indistinct eyebrows, thin and narrow eyes and was standing respectfully behind another man.
That was a man who resembled a jade.
He was dressed in a green plain cotton clothing and looked to be about twenty two to twenty three years old. He had a handsome appearance, two gentles like lustrous jade and he carried a faint splendor between his brows. On first glance, he did not catch the eye but if you were to continue observing carefully, you would be reluctant to shift your line of sight as if you were captivated.
The man in green sat in a wooden wheelchair instead and appeared to be disabled in both legs. His two hands were placed on top of his legs and looked neat. On his left hand was a fine white tallow jade thumb ring carved with flowers which couldn't be seen very clearly as she was far away.
When Ruge glanced over, that man in green also happened to be looking at her.
The two people's visions cut across the main hall full with guests.
The man in green smiled.
His smile was like a beautiful jade with the aura of the sun and moon. It was elegant and smooth and knocked into Ruge's chest!
Ruge was like a little dear that have been frightened. She hurriedly bent her head down and dared not look at him any further but her heart had already become a state of frenzy. She momentarily forgot where she was.
Bamboo Zither Stage.
Qin Hong raised his wide sleeves lightly. A piece had ended.
Only after the remaining sound echoed for a while did the whole hall of guests somehow gradually awake from a dreamland. Cheers and gasps of admiration swayed like the waves and the atmosphere reached a high tide.
Yet Ruge still hadn't calmed herself down from the shock of seeing the man in green.
Qin Hong left the stage.
Ruge was still staring blankly.
Feng Xixi was a little anxious and secretly turned her hand backwards to tug at the corner of her clothes.
Ruge blinked her eyes. Aiya, she almost forgot that she still charged with an important task. She quickly posed a hand sign to Feng Xixi for her to not worry, then turned around and left the main hall.
Translator Corner: People don’t seem to be really interested in this novel so this will be it for this side project for a while haha. If any of you are interested, you can check out my other novels or the . I am also planning to take up a main project called “” soon. Thanks!