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The Qiong Hua Temple was built on a hillside halfway up the Western Mountains and surrounded by dense forest. When Ruo Chan opened a small door in the courtyard wall, I discovered a beautiful place that seemed like a secret paradise behind it.
The mountain road turned around less than a hundred paces from the temple, and a modest mansion was hidden in the shade of the woods.
The walls of the mansion were white and exquisite, and it looked like a newly built residence.
“What is this?” I looked at Ruo Chan, but she gestured for silence by raising a finger to her lips. She tugged me through a side door after pushing it open, and we both walked in.
The entire house was hushed. A red peony tree was growing tall in the middle of the courtyard, its branches blossoming with red and delicate flowers. Ruo Chan seemed familiar with this courtyard and led me down a corridor.
“Master.” An old woman hurried to bow in welcome when she saw us coming.
Ruo Chan asked her in a low voice, “Has the client arrived?”
“At last,” replied the old woman.
Ruo Chan nodded, and without consulting anyone, she continued to walk towards the house.
The newly built house was in pristine condition, and the moss hadn't had enough time to creep up the corners of the walls and floor. Ruo Chan pushed an ornate wooden door that opened without making a creak. A whiff of a fragrance drifted over, not mild or greasy, but pleasant and sweet. It seemed like sandalwood, but with a twist.
I glanced at Ruo Chan with a questioning look, but she smiled and continued to advance.
We reached a room that was small but still luxurious. It was closed off from the outside, and when the door was shut, it was so quiet that it seemed like I had entered another world.
The silk carpet on the floor was soft and thick, and my feet didn't make a sound when I stepped on it. Soft muslin curtains of red color were hanging down from the beams, and the ambiance looked indistinct and mysterious in the darkness.
When we reached the last set of curtains, Ruo Chan motioned for me to halt.
At that moment, I heard some strange murmuring voices, and a peculiar feeling flitted across my mind. Ruo Chan nudged the curtains aside, revealing a beaded screen draped in front of a small window.
As I looked through and beyond the beaded screen, my eyes widened in shock.
I saw an elaborate wide bedroom with red canopies hanging low. A golden stove was emitting a sweet-smelling incense, and in the center, was a large bed covered with red brocade. On it, a middle-aged man was embracing a half-naked woman in his arms.
The woman was holding a small cup of wine in her hand. She tilted her head up to take a sip, and then, moved her lips close to his. As a few wine drops trickled down the man's beard, he savored it by smacking his lips with a ** sound, reveling in her actions. He tore off the woman's clothes in one quick movement, and he opened his mouth to suck her erect and soft breasts.
“Ah……” The woman gasped softly, and I couldn't help but spin away as my face burned.
However, Ruo Chan grabbed me by the chin and didn't let me move.
“Don't you want to know what a man likes?” She said in a light voice, “What? Afraid?”
As her breath brushed my ear, I shuddered at the tingling sensation and reverted to look through the window again.
The man's face was flushed red, and he was in high spirits. He held the woman in his lap, squeezed and rubbed her body with both hands, causing her to laugh. She pushed the man away, and whispered, “...... Master is still wearing his clothes. Allow this servant to undress Master .......” As she spoke, she stepped down and knelt in front of the man.
She was uninhibited, with white flesh soft and plump, and a flattering smile on her alluring face. Her skilled hands were flexible like they were boneless. On one hand, she undressed him, while on the other, she lowered her head to kiss her way down his stout body.
The man exhaled a deep breath.
“The favor of this beauty is indeed a thousand gold......” he said with a laugh. Then, he yanked the woman up onto the bed, turned over, and pressed her down.
I saw him expose something thick and hard between his crotch. With one hand, he held the woman's leg, and with the other, he drove it straight into her.
I was so ashamed that I rushed to cover my eyes with my hands.
The woman's moans reached my ears, in waves of pain and joy, one after another. I didn't understand what the man was saying, his coarse voice was thick and muddy with ecstasy.
I couldn't help but fork my fingers a crack. I saw two stark-naked ** intertwined. The vivid image of their figures on the bright red brocade mattress was seductive with its erotic appeal.
The heat creeping up my face and neck was unbearable, my throat was dry, and something seemed to surge from the depths of my body. It had been dormant for a long time but was stirring awake again. I felt a soft rubbing sensation creep up my shoulders, making me bizarrely weak in my legs......Startled, I twisted back but saw that it was actually Ruo Chan.
She looked at me, her eyes up close, with a half-smile.
I was a little spooked for a moment. I swatted her hand from my shoulder and escaped the room.
As I plowed through the door, I was greeted by a burst of fresh wind. I ran into the courtyard where the sun was shining above my head, and the peony flowers were swaying in the wind.
I took in deep breaths to let the confusion and strange feelings within me subside.
A peal of soft laughter sounded in the background, and I pivoted to see that Ruo Chan had followed me out of the room.
“Are you feeling better?” She asked.
I counter-questioned her, “What kind of incense was burning in that room?”
Ruo Chan exposed a surprised look, and her smile became deeper. "It's an original aphrodisiac that I manufactured in secret. Do you want to take some back with you?”
It was as I had guessed. I took another long breath to calm down the heat of my body.
The mansion belonged to Ruo Chan. The Qiong Hua Temple area was remote and hard to maintain. A year ago, Ruo Chan had donated a large sum of money to the temple. In exchange, she “borrowed” the neglected forest at its back to build a separate annex.
Unlike Chang An, Yong Province was a small region. Other than at banquets and outings, there were few areas where the high officials and noblemen could gather. Ruo Chan built this mansion in a remote area with a plan to provide a secret haven where these men could satisfy their selfish desires. They could be entertained without any inhibitions or fear of being exposed to the eyes of the public.
“I didn't expect you to run a whorehouse apart from a troupe hall,” I said with sarcasm.
“The world is a difficult place, and it's a good way to make a living.” Ruo Chan was unconcerned. After a while, she said, “But don't worry, I've already invited the Eldest Young Master over several times, but he has never consented to give me the honor.”
“Oh?” I looked at her and asked, “Who else have you invited besides him?”
Ruo Chan's smile was light and breezy, “I have no comment.”
When I returned to the Wei residence by carriage, it was past afternoon. After seeing Madam Guo, I bathed and changed my clothes, and lay down on the couch to sleep.
Wei Tan returned to the residence during dinner time.
Perhaps because it was the fifteenth day of the month, everyone was gathered in the main hall at dinner. Besides Wei Jue, Wei Tan, and Wei Zhao, Wei Ci, and the other nephews were also present. This bustling excitement in the crowded main hall could only be seen on the days they returned.
When Wei Jue had gone to the Palace in the morning to see the Emperor, an envoy from the Western Regions had arrived. He had presented the Emperor with a Ferghana horse as a meeting gift. The Emperor had seen Wei Zhao at their side and said: “I have long heard that the Second Young Master of the Prime Minister's house is talented in poetry. I would like to hear a poem from you.” After accepting the order, Wei Zhao had only pondered for half a moment. Then, he had composed a poem with remarkable speed, shocking everyone in the Palace hall.
Perhaps it was because of this incident that Wei Jue was in an excellent mood at the banquet. Likewise, Madam Guo had a constant smile on her face. As we all chatted, Wei Jue heard that I had gone to a temple to offer tributes earlier today, and he asked me which temple I had visited.
With an explanation ready, I answered, “Qiong Hua Temple on the Western Mountains. It's said that it's most auspicious for offering tributes on the fifteenth day."
“Oh?” Wei Jue smiled and remarked, “That name is unfamiliar to me.”
I responded, “I realized that the shrine was located in the middle of nowhere only after going there. So I don't think many people know about it.”
Wei Jue nodded in acknowledgment and moved on to conversing with others.
My palms were sweaty. I didn't know that Wei Jue would be back tonight, and I wasn't certain if he was aware of the secrets of the Qiong Hua Temple. But from what I saw a moment ago, it seemed like he had no idea of it.
As I was sighing with relief, Wei Tan locked eyes with me. He was gazing at me with calm but unreadable eyes.
Without getting rest, my heart began racing again. The Qiong Hua Temple events popped up in my head as if to compound my jitters, and the back of my ears felt hot.
“Does Fujun want to drink wine?” I picked up a wine pot on the table.
“Hmm,” assented Wei Tan.
I started to pour wine into the cup in front of him.
“Tonight,” I hesitated, my heart drumming in my chest, “will Fujun still be going out?”
“Not going,” Wei Tan said with indifference.
My hand jerked, and a few drops of wine spilled from the spout.
The moon was half-hidden in the clouds, and the night wind was strong, causing the lanterns under the corridor to sway.
Wei Tan was sweaty from being outside, so he went to bathe after we returned to our courtyard.
I stopped at the same mirror as before, my thoughts were messy as I stared at my reflection.
The room was silent, and everything in the mirror was wrapped in a half-dark, half-bright halo of light, and I couldn't help but be distracted. An image of the red brocade bed was engraved into my mind. Further, it was impossible to get rid of the couple's moans, and their ** intertwined...... The back of my ears flushed for the second time as my heart raced. I suspected that this inner strife was caused by a hint of the aphrodisiac that still lingered.
“You're an adult, you're twenty years old!” An inner voice encouraged me.
Yes, I was twenty. While Wei Ping's wife Zhou-shi had a child at sixteen, I was still nervous about my first night in bed at twenty……
With everything a mess, I closed my eyes and shook my head.
I was twenty years old, wiser, and braver. The things that married couples did were the norm of human relationships. For example, one day, Wei Tan and I would lie in bed together, and similar to the man from the morning, he would press me down and......
In a flash, the woman's face in my imaginations was replaced with mine, causing my heart to skip a beat.
I took a deep breath and buried my face in my hands.
The “affairs between men and women” was just five words to me. I didn’t have a complete understanding, but rather just a vague idea of it. After today's events, I realized that it was an intimate affair. More so than any of the times I was with Pei Qian.
The proverb “ignorance is bliss” was perfect for me. I had faith that “if there is a will, there is a way” and that “everything happens for the best”. Whether it was joining the Wei family, or doing business with Li Shang, I relied partly on my experience, and partly on my willpower. It was the same in this case as well. After today's lesson, I learned the intricacies of the process and began to start weighing things in my mind. Asking myself all sorts of questions, I began letting my imagination run wild.......
The sound of an opening door clanged out, interrupting my thoughts. When I turned around, Wei Tan was walking in, wearing a single unlined robe.
The smell of the night breeze seeped in, and it seemed to have some warmth to it. He went to the clothes rack, took down a towel, and wiped the remaining moisture from his neck……
“What is it?” Wei Tan whirled to stare at me.
“Huh?” I gawked dumbstruck.
“Furen keeps looking at me again,” Wei Tan's dark eyes glanced at me, a little mischievous.
Embarrassed, I hastened to refute his claim, “I'm not.......”
"Furen," Wei Tan interrupted smoothly and pointed at his head, "if you are willing, why don't you come and help bind your Husband’s hair? It's loose.”
To my surprise, I discovered that Wei Tan's hair was in good condition. Although he was a man, it was moderately soft and strong, and it felt smooth under my hands. His sharp and neat hairline didn't need much styling or trimming.
I was accustomed to combing my hair with care, I would untangle each knot one by one with my fingers because I was afraid of the pain. Wei Tan didn't mind me taking my time, and relaxed on the couch. With the back of his head facing me, I was unaware of his facial expressions.
The lamps rippled with orange light. Fresh from the bath, a faint fragrance emanated from his body. It was hard to pinpoint the scent, it was strange and clean.
When I looked down, I could see a section of Wei Tan's neck under his collar. His wheat-colored skin showed that he spends most of his time outside. But under the candlelight, it had a different texture. Recalling the image of Wei Tan's chest and abdomen when he had taken off the robe, I realized that it was the same color. If I touched it, would it be firm and smooth......
Daring in my fantasies, I envisaged, “Would I like this more than that man today?"
“Who told you that the Qiong Hua Temple was the most auspicious?” Wei Tan interrupted my thoughts with an abrupt question.
“Huh?” I was stunned, but improvised a story, “Oh, I heard it from a few of the noblewomen at Duke Lu’s residence a few days ago.”
“Is it so.” Wei Tan's voice was calm.
“Has Fujun ever been there?” I asked.
“The red hibiscus blossoms there were gorgeous,” I ventured to expound on my visit.
“Oh?” Wei Tan drawled, “Someone said something similar to me a few days ago, and invited me to enjoy the flowers.”
I nearly dropped the comb.
“I heard that there were also red peonies at that temple,” Wei Tan continued chatting. “Is it true, did Furen happen to see them?”
My heart at my throat, I whispered, “There were quite a lot of hibiscus flowers, but no red peonies.”
If Wei Tan had turned his head at that moment, he would have seen my paralyzed face look like I was having a stroke.
The wild thoughts in my head were smashed to the bone. With luck, he stopped his interrogation, allowing me to bind his hair and tie it into a neat bun atop his head.
“Well? Is it fine?” Wei Tan spun in his seat and asked with a doubtful look when I announced that I was done.
“All right,” I said with conviction.
After Wei Tan checked with the mirror, he curled his lips up, and said, “Not bad.”
I smiled at him in return. I straightened and made to leave the couch when suddenly, Wei Tan grabbed me with his arm and hugged me to his front.
The flame from the beak of the crane-shaped lamp shined on Wei Tan's face, half-dark and mysterious.
His face was so close to mine that our breaths seemed to mix, my chest was pressed against his, leaving my mind blank.
“Why is Furen in such a hurry to leave?” His voice was low and slow, as elusive to understand as the expression on his face.
I looked into those dark eyes, which flashed with some expression; passion, desire, or perhaps restraint...... The image of the intertwined bodies popped up in my head.
My heart pounded and my mouth was dry......
He opened his mouth slightly, his eyes were hidden under the shadow of his brow bone and black eyelashes.
“The day after tomorrow, I am going to Qing Province.”
** - It was censored in the Raws, no idea what the author meant.
T/N: Hope everyone had a happy and safe thanksgiving weekend! ）（＾v＾）
Sorry I couldn't update on time, I ended up spending more time editing this chapter... （T⌓T）
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Beginning as an avid reader, I am translating novels with the help of machine translation and online dictionaries.
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