[If you’re not reading this on chichilations, then you’re reading a stolen copy. Reposts are not allowed anywhere or for any reason!
Links for mobile viewers: Ko-fi Donation — Chichi’s Twitter — Project Index — Digital Version Library
I see all your likes and comments~ Thanks in advance~
The sponsors of this large-sized (8k) chapter are: MeJo (8), meg (4), and Olli (4)! Thank you much!
(Click here for details on how sponsored chapters work.)]
Lady Ninth stroked the fine hair beside her face, restoring her cute, smiling look. “What’s wrong with that? You’re worried about him divulging secrets, so let him join us. Won’t that be an eternal solution?”
Deng Xiucai laughed in mockery. “Are you dreaming? He’s a Dynasty official. Men like him are typically the most holier-than-thou of all. Why would he keep company with crooks like us?”
“That’s false. No matter how holier-than-thou sages are, don’t they still have to eat and sleep? Dare I ask how much your yearly salary is, Sir Tang?”
Why was yet another person asking him this? He shook his head. “It’s shameful to say… according to the precedent set by the Great Ancestor, sixth-ranks like me get ninety-six dan(4800kg) a year, but most of that gets converted into cloth and paper money. The latter thing is basically waste paper, and might not even be worth that many silver taels. In a word, I’m poor. I practically have to drink northwestern wind.”
She smiled, covering her lips. “You can’t even eat meat, normally?”
He laughed dryly. “No… I have to write romance novels to supplement my income. Let’s not speak of such humiliating things.”
“I have a generous gift for you, Sir Tang. I’m not sure whether you’ll accept it or not.”
She took out a few silver banknotes from her lapels, which still carried her personal fragrance as she handed them over for him to see. He gave them a look, and… oh, dear.
There were ten notes faced with the denomination for a hundred taels, summing up to a thousand taels in Huitong Bank tickets. That was some sincere treatment, right there.
What could a thousand taels do? It could buy a home like the one Sui Zhou currently lived in, and still have some leftover — but that was only due to high housing costs in the capital. If this were another area, it would be more than enough for becoming a landlord that never needed to worry about food and drink.
Lady Ninth giggled. “This is but my greeting gift. If you want to become a member of our Society, countless treasures await you.”
“You’re pretty generous, Lady Ninth,” Deng Xiucai said darkly. “With all that money you have, wouldn’t it be better to aid your little brother in bypassing this crisis, instead?”
She side-eyed him. “You don’t need to be so sour. Aren’t the assets that you’ve accumulated over the years more a hundred times this? These are from my own private funds. I’m simply delighted to see a talent like Sir Tang, and I need to attract such people, is all. You know that we’re lacking most in strategic figures right now. I’ve been the Overseer’s envoy for a long time, and often hear the Leader say that we have to drum up some more people like him to come to our splendid Society. If the Leader knew that Sir Tang was willing to join, they would likely give him even more than this.”
Tang Fan coughed fakely. “Many thanks for your praises, Lady Ninth, but as a Court official, I’ve received the Emperor’s grace. I can never be reduced to an outlaw.”
“Don’t be afraid,” she giggled, “I’m not asking you to resign. You can keep being an official as always, you’ll just be a member on the sly. If the need ever arises, we’ll ask you to be a little flexible on certain worldly things, and that’ll be enough. We won’t treat you poorly, of course. You could continue how you are, plus added income. Does that not satisfy both ends?”
“If I verbally agree, is that regarded as joining?”
Deng Xiucai laughed before she answered. “You think it’d be that pretty? If you agree to join, you’ll have to get yourself engraved with the Society’s mark, so as to prevent you from betraying it.”
Seeing that Lady Ninth had no retort, Tang Fan knew that those words were true. He looked at the banknotes, revealing a slightly affected, and incessantly conflicted, look. “You can let me think it over, right?”
She smiled. “I can, of course, but don’t think for too long. Our time is limited. Do consider it thoroughly, hm? If you agree, we’ll immediately let these children go, and you can step forward to be gifted with that great contribution, as well.”
Deng Xiucai huffed. “I seem to have not agreed yet, have I?”
“If you consent, I’ll put in some good words to our superiors and exempt you from ten-percent of your assignment for this year. Like so, I’ll get the credit of a referral, you’ll get your wish granted plus money saved, and the Society will gain another talent. Is that not one act with four results?”
The other said nothing else. Lady Ninth gave Tang Fan a tender look, then ordered for him to be brought back.
He was blindfolded as per the rules, but had mentally recorded his route on the second trip anyways. Secretly corresponding the layout with the surface area, then adding that onto what Big Liu had said before, it wasn’t hard for him to draw one conclusion: the area he was in had likely been made by gang members linking up the cellars of the deserted village’s dwellings. Said homes were close together, so digging out connections between their cellars wouldn’t have been hard at all. Few people ever came here, too, which gave them ample conditions to act as they willed.
No wonder Big Liu had claimed that it was safe here. If the original cellar entrances were sealed up and people couldn’t find the new ones, getting in would be unfeasible. It was hard to live here, though, being little better than the dark tunnel Tang Fan’s group had traversed through; it thus could only be used for temporary shelter, not long-term residency.
On account of the trouble they were in and their carriage having broken down from being loaded with too many people, Deng Xiucai’s group needed to lie low here, though they surely had to be itching to leave for the surface.
Were Tang Fan able to struggle free right now, and the Guard or Depot also just happened to be outside, they would be able to catch this group all in one net. Too bad there was obviously no such beautiful thing about to happen.
The reality was that he was trapped here, his own life practically difficult to guarantee… unless he joined their criminal organization, and got carved with an annoying mark that would act as a contract.
If that really did get sliced onto him, even a jump into the Yellow River wouldn’t wash it off.
Owing to Lady Ninth’s expressed interest in recruiting him, Xin Shitou was a tiny bit restrained on the return trip, not being as impolite as before. Tang Fan was returned to his original cellar, yet Big Liu was no longer around — he had likely been called out to do something.
Tang Fan took advantage of this time to smile at Xin Shitou. “Brother Xin, you’ve seen that I’m going to become one of you soon. Can you help me by loosening this? The rope’s binding is quite uncomfortable. I’m just a scholar, so I couldn’t run, anyways.”
Why would Xin Shitou ever be willing to do that? “You’ll have to go ask the second-in-command. I can’t act on my own.”
“Lady Ninth gave me those thousand taels. I feel in my heart that if I accept, we’ll be comrades later on. Big Liu and you were the first I met here, and discord leads to concord, so you two feel more familiar than anyone else when I look at you. If you take the trouble to help me out, I’ll give you five hundred taels for you to split with him. No need to see me as an outsider from here on out.”
Xin Shitou’s eyes lit up, expression easing up at once, but he still pretentiously declined. “That won’t do. She gave it to you, after all.”
Tang Fan quit smiling. “If you don’t accept it, I’ll see you as the outsider, Brother Xin.”
“It goes without saying that you’d be one of us. Why be a stranger, Sir Tang? If you enter the Society, you’ll automatically be someone of the Overseer’s, and your status will be much, much higher than this little brother’s. When that time comes, you’ll have to look after us a lot more, eh?”
As he spoke, he reached out and helped Tang Fan loosen his binds.
His wrist had been strained until there was blood coming out of it and it hurt awfully when bumped, but he couldn’t care much about that. He simply fished out the stack of banknotes, then handed five leafs to Xin Shitou. “By the by, no need to call me ‘Sir Tang’ if we’re going to be familiar, Brother Xin. You have more experience, so I’ll have to trust you with giving me some pointers.”
The man took the banknotes, placidly placed them into his lapels, then sighed. “What pointers? I’ve been following the second-in-command for six years, yet I’m still muddling about in the Southside Gang. I’ve never seen the Overseer before, and it was only after meeting Lady Ninth did I know that we were even connected to them.”
They chatted a bit more, their friendship appearing to quickly get closer via the silver. “I’m going to go patrol the exits,” Xin Shitou said, “so that they don’t get found out. You’d best stay here, ’cause if the second-in-command finds out, I won’t be able to give him a good explanation for it.”
Tang Fan lightly smiled and nodded. “I understand. You’re busy, Brother Xin, but could you get me a bowl of water? I’m quite thirsty.”
Money could indeed move the mind. “How hard is that to do?” Xin Shitou asked breezily, then hurried away to fetch it.
As soon as the man left, Tang Fan put away his smile.
Despite the blindfold both ways, he had heard the sounds of footsteps and talking by the wayside. According to his conservative estimate, the number of underlings Deng Xiucai had here was no less that a dozen to twenty. This small amount likely derived from the fact that this area wasn’t spacious, and couldn’t contain many people. Otherwise, with how big a business the Southside Gang was, and with how Deng Xiucai’s position was, there definitely wouldn’t be such a small number of subordinates present.
Thinking back to it now, Deng Xiucai’s group hadn’t been totally flawless in their diversion tactic. Simply put, Tang Fan’s group had been too anxious, worried that these guys would escape if they were too late, so they hadn’t the time to think clearly about that one guy’s confession, scurrying up the mountain as he had claimed. If they had instead carefully searched the village, they might have discovered the entrance to this hidden area.
Yet, having said that, even if Sui Zhou and them did discover that they’d been conned and turned back, it apparently wouldn’t be of any use. Their enemies were many, and friends few; as soon as these crooks put a knife against a child’s neck, they would be in a bind, unless Wang Zhi was able to hurry over in time.
In spite of these worries, Tang Fan did not stew in them. He poured out the bowl of water into a corner, shed his outer garment to wrap the bowl in it, then viciously slammed it against the ground.
No muffled sound was issued, but when he undid the wrap, the bowl had since broken into several large pieces.
He stowed the fragments away, after which he shuffled out of the cellar he had been confined in, then to the room that imprisoned the children by memory.
There were two people guarding it. As soon as they saw Tang Fan, they immediately stood up, looking fierce. “Who are you?!”
He cupped his hands and smiled. “Big brothers, I’m the guest your second-in-command invited over. I’ve come to take a look at the kids.”
Using the opportunity of this conversation, he had already surveyed the situation inside the room. More than ten children had been thrown into a corner, hands tied and mouths stuffed up. Each of them had eyes permeated with fear, all huddled in with their shoulders touching each other, as if they could get a bit of a secure feeling like so.
He also saw that among them was a chubby little girl, one of her cheeks slightly swollen and red, who was staring right at him in extreme excitement. If her mouth wasn’t blocked up, she likely would have started shouting immediately.
He gave her a look to have her keep calm. She understood, quickly quieting down and making no more sounds.
The two men naturally refused to let Tang Fan in, shouting, berating, and shoving.
“What’s going on?” came a delicate voice. Tang Fan immediately knew who it was without turning his head.
“Lady Ninth,” the two guards promptly saluted.
“Hello, Lady Ninth.” Tang Fan cupped his hands as well. “I should let you know that my little sister is amongst the children caught. I followed tonight precisely because of her.”
Lady Ninth smiled faintly. “So that’s how it is. No wonder you ventured to put yourself in harm’s way! How very admirable!”
He smiled bitterly. “If she hadn’t been captured, would I have ever bitten off more than I could chew by making life difficult for you all?”
“As that’s the case, wouldn’t it be unreasonable for me to forbid it? Sir Tang is only going in for a visit. After a quarter-hour, remember to come find me in the room you were in earlier.”
Upon receiving the flirty look she cast at him, his face went red, and he looked like he wanted to peek a couple more times at her, yet was afraid to. She giggled from his teasing, then departed with a sway to her.
It really didn’t need to be said that that grace of hers was immensely attractive to men; such a fact could be discerned just from the way the guards stared straight at her.
With Lady Ninth’s permission, Tang Fan entered without a hitch. The children’s faces and clothes were filthy, but their charming features and that good fabric material could still be seen.
He noticed that there was one boy and one girl that looked particularly delicate, and would surely become even more outstanding after a few years of growth. They were probably Zhu Yong’s daughter and Assistant Minister Geng’s grandson that everyone was overturning the sky for. With those looks, it wasn’t surprising that the traffickers got too greedy, then incited this big mess.
As for the other kids, they were all from fairly wealthy families, and had been raised up with fine features. The most understated one was actually Ah-Dong herself, but the traffickers had perhaps seized her along with them based on the mentality of ‘don’t let any small fry go, the more the merrier,’ since she was fair-skinned.
Tang Fan couldn’t show much care for the others. He crouched before Ah-Dong, patted her on the head, then leaned in close to her ear. “I’ll talk, you listen. Don’t make a sound.”
She nodded, staring at him on and off.
He took the cloth wad out of her mouth. “I know you to be sensible, so I’ll have to ask you to help with keeping watch on these little siblings of yours. When and if someone bursts in to rescue you, these villains are certain to resist like their life depends on it. You can’t just go running around because you’re afraid; you have to obediently wait here for us to save you. Got it?”
She nodded again, using a mosquito-like voice to speak with. “Don’t worry, big brother. I’ll look after them like you said.”
He was quite gratified. What he was most worried about was not that the lives of the children would be in danger, since they were Deng Xiucai’s money trees; unless it was a last resort, he would never abandon them, else he wouldn’t have hidden away here for them. His worry was that if Sui Zhou’s group really did find this place, a brutal battle would be unavoidable, and these thoughtless kids would run around at random in a blind panic. If they got injured by undiscerning fighters, the goal of this whole expedition would be wasted.
They couldn’t exchange many quiet words before a quarter-hour passed in a wink. He knew that although Lady Ninth appeared to be easy to talk to, she was a cunning character, and it was only because of her contradiction with Deng Xiucai that she seemed to be comparatively easier to get through to.
He didn’t tarry much, hurriedly giving a once-through to Ah-Dong before he got up and left.
The cloth had been removed from her mouth, yet she had made no big scene, instead consoling the others into calming down. She was relatively older amongst the children, and because she had suffered a slap on Zhu Yueping’s behalf, they all subconsciously had quite the trust in her, willing to listen. Even though they still sniffled, they ultimately, gradually, came to be quiet.
Seeing that she was able to quell them, the guards were delighted at having clear ears, so they didn’t stuff the cloth back into her mouth. In their eyes, they were just a bunch of kids that couldn’t make any waves whatsoever, anyways.
However, at an angle they couldn’t see, Ah-Dong was now holding a big, sharp piece of porcelain.
Meanwhile, Tang Fan returned to his original room to see Lady Ninth sitting there, body sinuous and conveying grace. She was even more alluring than her older sister.
What a shame that this beauty was nothing more than a pretty serpent.
Upon seeing him, she pursed her lips into a smile. “You’ve come back?”
How ambiguous that sounded, like a wife talking to her husband that had just returned home. Face remaining unchanged, he cupped his hands like he hadn’t heard that. “I’ve troubled you with waiting for long, Lady Ninth. My heart was a little upset from seeing my sister, so I tarried a bit.
She smiled. “That’s a normal human emotion for when siblings see each other. But, since we’re so familiar, you don’t need to call me ‘Lady Ninth’, Mister Tang — call me Ah-Han. That’s my nickname.”
…When did I turn into a praying mantis? he thought, depressed, though his face showed a flattered expression. “I-Isn’t that too much?”
“What’s too much? Is it a bad nickname?”
He shook his head. “Of course it isn’t. ‘Lotus incense afresh, drawn barges afloat, makes a gent ever recall Yangzhou.’ That’s beautiful to think of, so how can it be bad?”
“I don’t understand that verse too much, but it sounds really beautiful.” She showed a look of being enchanted. “Scholars truly are different, to be gifted with gab. Even their flattery is all nice to hear.”
He chuckled. “Though I am a scholar, I cannot invert black and white, or right and wrong. You are indeed as beautiful as a lotus, and resemble your namesake. Should I say that you aren’t pretty?”
No woman hated to be praised on their looks, and Tang Fan’s speech could coax even sparrows down from the sky. She was made to beam from his words. “Will you still be calling me Lady Ninth?” she pouted flirtatiously.
“Ah-Han,” he said, going along with her suggestion.
Happily, she agreed, then reached out to pull him into a sit. He did so without waiting for her to touch him; they weren’t seated close together, but also weren’t too far apart. Lady Ninth forced herself to express satisfaction with this, gazing at him tenderly. “Do you realize how dangerous your situation is right now, Mister Tang?”
He revealed a very surprised look. “Dangerous? Why do you say that? D-Didn’t you say that whatever Society you’re in wants to recruit me?”
She was entertained by his expression. “My White Lotus Holy Society, it is. This is true, but it’s also just my own notion. Deng Xiucai actually wants to kill you.”
Tang Fan let out an ah, divulging some other reactions in a timely manner. They had to be measured exactly — he couldn’t respond with too much dread and cowardice, as that would cause her to look down on him. Since she was wanting to recruit him, he couldn’t act overly lily-livered. His reaction being too dull wouldn’t do, either, as it would seem too artificial.
“I don’t understand, Ah-Han. What good does killing me do for him?”
Light as a feather from his utterance of ‘Ah-Han’, Lady Ninth smiled lightly, after which she became grave. “I advocated for you to join our allegiance and for those kids to be returned, since the authorities, who you could make peace with, were hunting them down. You heard as much when you were in there.”
Seeing him nod, she sighed. “Unfortunately, he staunchly disagrees. He wants to take them all away, because he’ll be able to sell them for high and take in a huge sum, at the bare minimum. He wouldn’t eliminate them unless he was forced to. As for you, he doesn’t want to bow his head to those in officialdom, so he feels that keeping you around is a burden.”
“Ah-Han, there’s some things that I’m quite puzzled about, but I’m not sure if I should ask them.”
She placed her hand on his thigh and squeezed. “You can ask. Why fake politeness?”
He really couldn’t take this behavior of hers. Goosebumps crawled over nearly his whole body as he resisted the urge to slap her hand away, doing his best to not pay attention to it while it was on his leg. “I previously heard you say that you were dispatched by the Overseer. It’s reasonable to say that your status ought to be higher than his; why do you have to obey him?”
“Who said that I have to obey him? There’s simply a lot of his subordinates around, making it so that I can’t openly oppose him. In any case, the Southside Gang was founded by his hand—“
“Isn’t there still the first-in-command, Ding Yimu?” he interrupted.
“You’re dumb. That guy’s just a puppet made up to dupe outsiders. Deng Xiucai is the real gang leader.”
Like so, Tang Fan had a sudden realization. “To be honest, the group of Brocade Guards I was pursuing his trail with earlier have currently been drawn up the mountain, but when they find no one, they’re bound to soon return. If they then dig up three chi of earth all around the village, they might be able to find us here pretty quickly. If this goes according to your plan, both sides will be appeased, but if Deng Xiucai refuses to surrender, how will he be able to escape?”
“Fancy that you’re a scholar… how have you not heard about crafty rabbits having three burrows? Leave here, go into the mountains, and there’s a fortress that’s another one of his strongholds. Had his carriage not broken down partway through, he wouldn’t be stuck here. He’s dragging his feet in leaving because he’s waiting for his fortress subordinates to come receive him, so that he’s not struck by the Guards as soon as he steps out.”
“Then, after he leaves… how will I not be killed?” he whispered.
“Is this not what I’ve come seeking you out for? If you want to keep your life, you have to join our Holy Society. Once the mark of a lotus flower is carved onto you, you will be one of us. In the rules of the Society, those that murder a fellow member are to be hunted down by all members, then turned to mincemeat by the blade. Deng Xiucai will thereupon never dare to act against you. I am able to save you, sweetie. Hurry and take off your robes so that I can mark you.”
Tang Fan, of course, did not wish to be marked at all. He was only being falsely cordial with Lady Ninth to scout out a bit more information.
Now that he had brushed against this immense behemoth, he gradually came to understand how tremendous the power of the White Lotus Society was, both bribing up with Court officials and colluding down with gangs’ influences. No wonder Li Zilong had been able to stir up the capital into chaos. No wonder the Brocade Guard had been searching all this time, yet had failed to extinguish the union.
He didn’t answer her words, but rather showed a faintly yearning tinge. “I’ll be blunt, Ah-Han. I’m really quite useless as a sixth-rank official. Putting aside my low salary, I’m mistreated in all aspects. Even my Palace Honorate and Hanlin backgrounds are now worthless. I’m not sure what kind of figure your Leader is, but since they’re able to agitate the Great Ming’s weather all by their lonesome, I know that we’re not on the same level. After I enter your Society, will I ever have the fortune to pay them a visit?”
“Chances for that will be plentiful, of course! You just have to join.”
He had been thinking to pry into the Society’s headquarters, but Lady Ninth was a leery person, roundaboutly not divulging their true circumstances while wholeheartedly insisting that he join. Presumably, her licentious mannerisms were just an external facade, and it was only through her discord with Deng Xiucai that Tang Fan had clearance to survive this.
Thinking so, he sighed. “Back in the day, Daoist Li saw the Forbidden City as his own home, entering it whenever he pleased. It was said that he could summon the elements and turn cast beans into soldiers, really god-like. What a shame that he was beheaded later on… I’ll never get a look at his grace.”
She grinned furtively. “Even you say that he’s god-like… so how could he die so easily to the talons of the Court’s eagles?”
He was greatly shocked upon hearing this, uncertain as to whether her statement was true or false. “He hasn’t yet died?” he asked, pleasantly surprised.
Lady Ninth laughed without words, not answering him. She could be labelled as having the ultimate skill of keeping people in suspense. “Sweetie, I’ll be honest. Our Society has a pressing need for talents like you. Even though your official’s post is minor, if you have our secret backing, won’t the promotions you want be just around the corner? After that, if we have the need, you can lend us your hand. Is this not both sides coming to an agreement, and conflicting demands satisfied? Furthermore, you only get so much salary per year. If you join us, glory and riches will surge right to you. Is there anyone in this world that would rather die poor, not having the sky-soaring wealth of a promising future?”
In layman’s terms, she meant that he would act as the Society’s plant in Court. He put on a moved, but hesitant, look. “You’ve spoken correctly. That’s indeed both sides getting the best of this. I’m just worried about the brand… after all, I am an official. If someone discovers it on me, not even a dive into the Yellow River will get me clean… how about this — I’ll promise to join, but don’t brand me. Is that alright?”
She narrowed her eyes in a smile. “Of course it isn’t, Mister Tang. If you don’t put out a bit of good faith, why would I venture to hand you those children?”
Tang Fan smiled bitterly. “But even if I do join, won’t Deng Xiucai prevent me from taking his ‘money trees’ away from him?”
Getting in close to him, she laughed quietly. “Truthfully speaking, I have the Overseer’s token of command. Unless he wants to betray them, he won’t dare to disobey me.”
Heart twitching, he gave a look of epiphany.
A fair, svelte hand suddenly touched his shoulder, then tore half of his outer robe off with all the momentum of a thunderclap closing in on the ears!
“Dear Mister Tang, you cannot be overcautious when doing great things. How about I help you decide? I’ll mark you on your lower back so that no one will ever find it.”
Sir Tang turned pale with fright; it wasn’t because he was just about getting molested, but because he feared that she would discover the broken porcelain he had hidden in his robes.
“Don’t mess around, don’t! Let me think on it! I’ll think on it!” he repeated, simultaneously trying to pull his clothes back up.
Lady Ninth giggled, but appeared to not want to squander any further time, climbing right over whilst drawing an engraving awl out of her own lapels.
At exactly that moment, a voice fell down from the heavens to become his savior star. “I was wondering where you had gone to, Lady Ninth. Turns out you’re flirting with this punk!”
Deng Xiucai stood at the entryway, face overcast. “We’re setting off immediately. This guy’s a burden, so let me kill him. If you want a prettyboy, wait until we leave! You can have as many as you want, then!”
Lady Ninth also stood. “Would those other prettyboys have an official’s status like him? If I can rope him into the Society, it’ll be a great boon! How about we both take a step back? Tang Fan’s little sister is amongst those kids; leave her behind, and take the rest. After you leave, everyone will go their own ways to get their own wealth.”
“No!” he answered, resolute. “He knows too much! He can’t be set free!”
Her face cooled down. She drew a token of command out of her arms. “Meeting with this token is like meeting with the Leader! Do you still dare to defy me?!”
His expression was indeterminate. A long while later, he swiftly reached out to snatch the token, sneering as he did so. “I’ve tolerated you long enough, bitch! You always act like you have the power, and make things harder for me all the time! It’d be better to just dispose of you here, then blame it on those officials!”
Lady Ninth was shocked, having never anticipated that this guy could be so very daring. Her reaction was a bit sluggish, token almost getting seized. Upon seeing him hack at her with a longsabre, she quickly dodged to the side, grabbed the flexible whip wound around her waist, and moved forwards. The two immediately fought into a fray.
Tang Fan was surprised that their longstanding, accumulated anger would result in infighting here and now. No matter how bright he was, when faced with his present predicament there was no way for him to get out, as there were blockades on all sides. He had no other option but to draw things out for as long as possible and hopefully wait for reinforcements to arrive.
Yet… before those reinforcements could, Deng Xiucai and Lady Ninth had started brawling.
Sabre light and whip shadows criss-crossed inside the room. At risk of being swiped, Tang Fan watched out for an opportunity, then rolled to the side, using an opening to scramble into the passageway. However, he didn’t scramble towards the area where Ah-Dong’s group was kept; he instead went to look for aid for Lady Ninth.
The translator says: Lady Ninth is a touchy creep, Deng Xiucai is a narcissist. They can go fight to the mutual death, really.
 From ‘West Lake’s Play Shows Similar Wanderers’, by Ouyang Xiu. The character for ‘lotus’, 菡 (han), is used in Ah-Han’s name.