Chapter 20: Scholar Listening to Poetry
On the dark streets, a lonely scholar passed by the nondescript walls of the Wu’an Manor.
His clothes were thin and ill-suited for this chilly night. His body was skinny, resulting from long periods of hunger.
It’s too cold.
He groaned and took out a half-eaten dried bun. He found some slight shelter from the cold wind by shrinking back into a corner of the wall.
He heard a voice from inside.
“Us, our kind of people. We were… born to fight. …But only to die on the battlefield.”
This particular line shocked the scholar outside.
Turned his head, he took a good look at the high stone walls, exuding a subtle but stately grandeur. However, the voice from beyond the wall held a tone of helplessness and weakness.
This should be the manor of a general. The scholar thought. Shaking his head, he looked back at his own dried bun.
Such laughable words. That man is obviously rich and wealthy, but he goes so far as to begrudge his own situation. If that man is pitiful, who can say they’re comfortable!
The scholar grumbled as he finished up his bun.
He prepared to leave before he heard a clear female voice from behind the wall.
“Fine wine in a jade moonlight cup;
Urge to drink but the pipa player orders us onwards.
If we are drunk, crouching on the battlefield, do not laugh;
Since old times, how many men return from war?”
[Qing zun meijiu yeguang bei; yu yin pipa mashang cui.
zui wo shachang jun mo xiao; gulai zhengzhan ji ren hui.]
The four lines stopped this scholar in his tracks.
“Miss Gu, good poetry. Finish this wine!”
Outside, the scholar smiled slightly. This girl even made him feel a bit like a heroic warrior.
The scholar felt surprised and turned away, but not before he committed the poem and name to memory.
On the following day, the poem became the talk of the scholars.
The poem was short, only being four lines long. Although the title was not known, it was reported to have been written by a particularly talented ‘Miss Gu.’ After being heard by a passing scholar, the poem was quickly circulated around the various academic circles.
Soon, under the imaginations of the scholars, it painted a story of heroism and valor.
But such a warlike poem felt strange coming from a female.
This poetry expresses great sorrow but valor. It held the aura of a tired and fatigued general, writing with an intoxicated melancholy.
It just begs the question of who this girl is.
Apparently, the scholar heard it from outside the Wu’an Manor.
Who doesn’t know Lord Wu’an? But, there are only a few women in the family and only a few servants too.
And an eccentric woman that enjoys drinks and poetry? Such a rare combo.
A court scholar then recalled a rumor that Bai Qi took in a disciple some time ago.
Since that’s the case, was this disciple a woman?
This erupted into a curious investigation.
Some people said that they’ve seen a very unique girl before. She wasn’t just beautiful but even more so handsome. She wore male robes and carried a long sword in her hands. When she walks, she held the aura of a general and the battlefield. From these traits, it would be hard to tell if she was a man or a woman at first glance.
Some others say that this girl’s talent is extraordinary. Rumor is that Bai Qi took her in only after a conversation at a teahouse.
There were many thoughts and opinions. But regardless, the name of Miss Gu spread throughout Xianyang.
“Hm, during the Spring and Autumn Periods and the Warring States Periods, was there really no place to have fun?” Gu Nan grumbled as she looked up at the midday sun.
She wore a set of black men’s robes. Although the linen was somewhat uncomfortable, it retained warmth during the cold day.
The black clothes made her look more handsome, and the slightly raised chest was concealed by the thick, layered fabric. Unless special attention was taken, it would easy to recognize her as being only a particularly pretty boy.
The past few days, Bai Qi had not continued his normal instruction and neither did he give any directions. In short, she would still wake up early, but she didn’t know anything to occupy her time.
At first, she was fine strolling the streets of Xianyang. However, when leisure turned into boredom, she felt a sense of distress at her constant idleness.
It’s just like vacationing for a few summer months, eventually it gets boring once again.
There were not many places for entertainment during the Warring States Period. She also wasn’t into those high-class institutions for painting or poetry, which she held minimal interest into.
Speaking of painting, she does have at least some modicum of talent, but everything else is quite weak.
So this is the feeling of endless boredom?
Gu Nan leaned against the roadside wall, gazing at the clouds drifting slowly through the sky.
Two well-dressed young men slowly walked past her.
“Hey, have you heard? Dongzhan Pavillion got a new guest member. Everyone’s been praising her looks and her literary talents. I heard this from Brother Zhuang. Whenever he mentions her, his face is just stuck in a daze.”
“Haha, is that so? if you have nothing to do, why don’t we go to see today?”
“Can’t, we can’t just meet her. I heard to even have an audience, we must have an original poem. This is her personal requirement.”
“This… And the Dongzhao Pavillion boss would agree to such a request?”
“Don’t question it. That old madam has really pulled all the stops for her. Dongzhan Pavillion has reaped quite the profit the last few days.”
“Still, I must see what everyone’s been talking about.”
“Since you’re so insistent, I’ll accompany you. Let me say first though, I don’t have any money.”
“Ugh! My treat, let’s go.”
Gu Nan stood by and eavesdropped on their conversation.
Hm? Were they talking about going to a brothel?
All in all, for there to be brothels in the Warring States Period is completely unsurprising.
The famous scholar Guan Zhong invented the state-run brothel during the Spring and Autumn periods.
[TL: “By enjoying the company of these skilled, entertaining, and intelligent women, [men] could escape from their sexual obligations to their wives and concubines, as well as the dull atmosphere of their homes.” –Prostitutes and Poets]
Gu Nan’s face turned a bit strange.
Go and look?
Thinking of this, her nose turned a bit red. Never before had she ever stepped in a brothel. What would those in the modern era think?
My heart cannot be swayed by mere clubhouses, so might as well go.
Gu Nan reassured herself and quietly began to tail the two young men.