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Inside a residence on the western streets of Lin’an Prefecture, the sunshine was like fragmented gold, sprinkling down between the gaps in the leaves of a parasol tree.
Fu Wanqing reclined upon a rattan chair, eyes squinted in content.
She was the one that had bought this house. She had the silver in hand, but wasn’t someone fond of extravagance; were it not for Yu Shengyan’s love of quiet, she wouldn’t have had the thought to spend on this.
“Does this count as buying a beauty’s smile with a thousand gold?” she suddenly asked. Yu Shengyan’s line of sight only stayed on Fu Wanqing’s face for a short moment, then went back to her scroll.
The books she read were mixed. Whether it was the Four Books and Five Classics or vernacular stories about ideal pairs of lovers, she read them all with a calm mind, even having a serious face while flipping through spring palace books. Fu Wanqing had long known about this, but was still dissatisfied that this book could wrest away Yu Shengyan’s attention, huffing coldly.
Yu Shengyan’s eyes were laid upon the mosquito-sized characters, but her mind had long floated off to a world of fantasy. She had been looking at Fu Wanqing, but the more she looked, the more she realized that she couldn’t take her eyes away. That was an odd emotion. She instinctively wanted to evade it, relaxing her feelings in result.
“Yu Shengyan, only you could—“
Before Fu Wanqing could finish, a man in gray clothes lightly hurriedly into the courtyard. She frowned, sweeping a look at Yu Shengyan. The other sensed her state of mind and made to get up and leave, yet got her sleeve grabbed by surprise.
Shooting a glance at Fu Wanqing, she sat back down again.
“Eldest Lady, Uncle Rong had sent me here,” the man said respectfully.
“What’s up?” she asked casually, lips hooked up.
“The Manor Lord knows that you’re in Lin’an Prefecture. He says for you to not make a disturbance, and also that it would be best if you could help Young Master Yang of the Protectancy find the jade Guanyin.”
“He thinks that should have been our Manor’s. Looks like he’s lost faith in the Yang family over a treasure map.” She chuckled.
“This is a letter passed on from there.” The man in gray took a sealed letter out from his sleeve, presenting it before her deferentially.
She took it, opened the seal, and hurriedly glanced through it. A couple traces of appreciation appearing in her eyes, she nodded with a smile. “Very good. Go tell ‘Cosmos-Sleeve’ Gui Li that the time he’s needed has come, and have him go help me with something.”
The man explained a lot of other things to her, and her smile got all the wider.
This was ultimately a jianghu in disorder, and one worthy of her exploitation.
“Ah, right; Eldest Lady, Shen Shengyi of the Azure School has also arrived in Lin’an,” he turned his head and said right when he was about to leave, suddenly remembering this fact.
Yu Shengyan could detect that when the name ‘Shen Shengyi’ was spoken aloud, Fu Wanqing’s breath slightly hitched.
Warm as jade, with clothes whiter than snow — the Junzi Sword, Shen Shengyi, was the most outstanding disciple of the Azure School’s younger generation. A year ago, he had dueled Fu Wanqing, and only lost by half a move. His reputation in jianghu was good, and just as Fu Wanqing was a ray of moonlight in the hearts of jianghu fighters, he was similarly a casanova that those in boudoirs sought out in their dreams. He was a refined and erudite man controlled in his propriety; it would be better to say he resembled a scholar rather than a swordsman.
He was also one of the few men in jianghu that Fu Wanqing wasn’t disgusted by.
Because of that, he was hated by most male warriors, especially Yang Wugong.
“Everyone’s here. How very lively. Looks like the Whitepath Alliance is taking this pretty seriously.” She watched a wutong leaf float off of a branch up above, smiling slightly. “Have you ever met Shen Shengyi before, Yu Shengyan? Such a glorious man. I’m afraid that when you see him, you’ll fall in love with him just like Yang Wumin did.”
She questioned her while grinning, resentful jealousy growing as madly in her heart as weeds. If Yu Shengyan nodded, she would very likely be unable to resist going and wringing her jade-like neck.
Yu Shengyan peered at her with narrowed eyes. “Do you like Shen Shengyi?” she asked. Her expression was distant. The wutong leaf, swaying with the fall wind, reflected in her eyes.
With a wave of her hand, Fu Wanqing crushed the leaf in her palm, a heap of fine powder trickling down through the cracks in her fingers to disperse in the head-on breeze. Her smile was soft, the look in her eyes enticing. She got in close to Yu Shengyan, lips hooking upwards. “Even though he’s marvelous, you are the only one under the whole sky capable of entering my sights. I said I like you, so I only like you! And you, Yu Shengyan, can only like me!”
“Hm,” the other lightly huffed.
Fu Wanqing nodded in content. “Do you know what was written in that letter?” she asked, but before Yu Shengyan could respond, she kept on talking. “Those people from your Black Mountain Hall are really beyond hope. They’ve already been captured by my subordinates. The silk shop that had originally been under your Creed’s name has also been taken over by us. If Lou Kexin got news of that, she’d definitely cuss out her underlings a hundred-thousand times.”
Jianghu warriors had to deal in business as well, else they wouldn’t have money to confidently squander. In the eyes of those in the Martial Forest, Jadeite Water Creed was a demonic, wayward path, but ordinary citizens didn’t care about all that; upon visiting a shop, all they looked at was what goods there were and how much they cost. There was no harm in the shop’s owner going through numerous changes of face, either, so long as the stuff was unchanged.
There were a lot of stores under the Creed’s name, which far surpassed some jianghu sects’ numbers. Some of them were seized by extraordinary means, while some were transferred to it above-board. The Creed was considered Demonic from peoples’ resentment of it, and among that were bits about them forcefully thieving things and bullying the benevolent; but where was that benevolence, really, in this crowd that lapped up the blood off the tips of their blades?
The benevolent people had long since transformed into a pile of yellowed dust.
Softly, like withered wutong leaves, they fell to the ground without a sound.
“Who’s there?!” she shouted loudly, launching fierce swordlight from her hand.
“Shen Shengyi.” A warm voice came from the gate of hanging flowers. A young gent wearing white robes was keeping a jade pin-crown on his head, which had nearly been sliced off by her sword qi.
Yu Shengyan gave him only a look, then took back her gaze.
Clean, serene, fresh, handsome, elegant.
Meanwhile, Fu Wanqing wasn’t snapping out of looking at him.
“Last year, the jade Guanyin was lost. Suddenly, after Lu Qi gets murdered, it gets brought up anew, and also involved an alleged hidden treasure map. Warriors started scrambling like ducks in an instant, but this Shen doesn’t believe in it. I came to Lin’an firstly on Master’s orders, and secondly to win Lady Fu’s smile by finding the Guanyin, making it return to its rightful owner.”
She smiled gently, some cynicism appearing in her eyes. “Young Master Shen gets his info quickly and efficiently.”
Shen Shengyi apparently didn’t understand what she meant. He stood in place, cupped his hands, and shook his head with a smile. “This event has extended across jianghu, and the Whitepath Alliance has gotten roped into it. I can’t not know about it. Now, out of the five families of the Alliance, disciples from four have come. All that’s missing is Brother Guo Ju from Flying Falcon Fortress, and when the time comes, we’ll gather together to discuss.”
She smiled. “I don’t care about the Guanyin, I simply came here to view the scenery. Your Alliance hasn’t a thing to do with me. The Yang siblings are here and they’re pretty interested in this, so you may as well have a talk with them. Yang Wumin will probably be delighted. As for whether Yang Wugong will fight you or not, that’s up to the will of the gods.”
“It’s rare for us to get together all at once for a cup of tea, and the Longjing in Lin’an is actually—“
“Heh.” She laughed, turned, and faced him, a fingertip swiping across her red lips. “I only like drinking blood.”
His expression changed. He didn’t see her sword, but he could already sense its bloody light. He quickly retreated along the white wall that was overgrown with vines, sword qi brushing his cheeks, and then stood steady, wiping dust off his clothes with a smile. “Your arts have gotten even more profound, Eldest Lady. There’s likely not a quicker sword in the world.”
When he said this, his eyes landed upon the noiseless Yu Shengyan. He recognized the woman and was astounded on the inside, though his face retained the same calm as ever.
“Is Young Master Shen still not leaving? Do you see who this is next to me?” Fu Wanqing lightly smiled.
An icy smile, a smile hiding murder — like a sword, like a sabre.
He wasn’t someone that didn’t know when to draw back, but today, upon seeing the two women, his heart instead grew a rushing feeling of ill acceptance. Striding a step forward with a bright, kindly smile hung on his face, he asked, “If this Shen likes her, would you be willing to part with her, Lady Fu?”
“What are you taking her as? You should be asking her that.” She pouted at Yu Shengyan.
He took another step forward.
Fu Wanqing’s eyes were partly cold, but she didn’t take her sword out.
His eyes lingered on Yu Shengyan. Everyone claimed that Fu Wanqing had a maid that she had disguised as the Creed Head, but was that the truth? He was going to find out that answer today. Under the pressure of Fu Wanqing’s sharp gaze, he advanced step by step, then reached out, his hand nearly clasping Yu Shengyan’s shoulder. “Miss, I—“
He shut up, as he felt a forceful sword qi attacking his face, though he saw no sword, nor any swordlight — he saw a book coming at him. Its thin pages appeared to be folded together into sharp knives. Pushing off on his toes, the dexterity of his figure resembled a swallow’s, and in an instant, his sword was drawn in hand, stabbing out forty-nine times towards the book.
His blade was quick enough.
He landed on the ground. The destroyed bits of paper flew through the wind.
Frowning, he reached up and felt his face. It was full of fresh, red blood — at that very moment, the sting of having his skin sliced open came through. He had jabbed out forty-nine moves, and the scraps of paper had also left forty-nine small, fragmentary little wounds on his face, although they only looked like one single wound.
He left, heart heavy with depression.
Fu Wanqing laughed in delight. She embraced Yu Shengyan, whispering into her ear, “All men act one way: in their eyes, all women are commodities. No matter how well-groomed he is, there might be a beast hiding inside him.”
The translator says: All Men in Ancient China Sucked, and Not in a Good Way: The Novel
 A quote from A New Account of the Tales of the World, section Appearance and Manner. Used to describe Ji Kang, who was apparently a hunk way back in the day. (His picture… leaves a lot to be desired, imo, but that’s probably the old art style.)