During a particular day in the nearing summer, Miss Chun Jiao requested the yamen runners to send a letter all of a sudden, asking for Nan Ge Er to come over. Since Mo Shu visited the red-light district frequently, so Nan Ge Er was rather familiar with the people there. After tidying up the stuff in the government office, he went over at the invitation of Chun Jiao.
Miss Chun Jiao did not have any guests today. She sat beside the table while embroidering something. Noticing Nan Ge Er’s arrival, she waved with a smile, “Nan Ge Er, look at the mandarin ducks I sow.”1
Once Nan Ge Er turned his head over for a look, he went silent in an instant.
“Does it look good?” Chun Jiao looked at him, her eyes filled with expectation.
“Uhh- yes, it looks good.” Nan Ge Er replied ironically. Forgive him, but he couldn’t find any mandarin ducks in the embroidery at all; the only thing he saw was a lump of brightly colored strings…
“Well, I’m going to get married.” Chun Jiao chirped with a hint of shyness.
“Huh?!” Nan Ge Er widened his eyes.
“You know him too; Ah Fang-Ge from the cloth store in the north street.” Chun Jiao chuckled, “Just now, he asked Aunty Zhu to come over here for the proposal of marriage.2
Aunty Zhu, Zhu Xi’s mother, was the most famous matchmaker in the district. The couples she match-made together were rumored to be in the hundreds, if not, thousands. Nonetheless, it wasn’t the main point. Instead, the focus was, Chun Jiao mentioned ‘proposal’!
If I’m not wrong, Chun Jiao worked at the red-light district. The term used when people in the red-light district wanted to leave shouldn’t be ‘proposal’. What is the term… “Erm, Chun Jiao-Jie, has Ah Fang-Ge bought your freedom?” Nan Ge Er scanned through his memories before asking.
Chun Jiao froze. Huh? Nan Ge Er froze as well. Oh no, don’t tell me he didn’t?! “Well – umm – I mean, uhh…” What in the world is going on?! Nan Ge Er didn’t know what to say.
“Pfft…” Chun Jiao buried her head down abruptly, as she laughed out.
“Huh?” Nan Ge Er’s eyes almost bulged out. Don’t tell me she gone mad from the blow?
“Silly Nan Ge Er-ahahahaha!” Chun Jiao lifted her head and cracked up, patting hard on his shoulder as she did so.
“Huh?” Nan Ge Er guessed he probably got something wrong again. His widened eyes got even rounder.
“Goodness, why is there a child like you?!” Chun Jiao guffawed. Tears almost shot out from her laugh.
Although feeling a bad premonition in his heart, he still summoned his courage, asking, “Did I get something wrong?”
Chun Jiao laughed uncontrollably, while still smacking Nan Ge Er’s shoulders violently, “Well, do you really think that us ladies in Chun Lou3 sell both our skills and bodies?”
“Ah?” Hey, isn’t that the red-light district’s nature of work? Alright, I finally understand why, although every brothel in Guang Tian opens its doors wide for business, and that there is a high amount of body contact, no R18 scenes or sounds is visible. It is because they don’t do such stuff at all!
Chun Jiao’s mad laughter finally stopped. She beamed while pinching on Nan Ge Er’s cheeks, “Even if we are, you still didn’t look down us, right?”
“Um, erm, aren’t you angry at me?” Typically, if a person’s job weren’t of such nature, the person would probably get mad at being misunderstood as such. Alright, he finally knew that, all the while, he had a terrible huge misunderstanding of their work.
“Why would I?” Chun Jiao still couldn’t control her laughter. “Even if we are courtesans, we still weren’t looked down by you, not to mention that we aren’t.”
“Uhh…” Nan Ge Er twitched his lips, “What do you guys do for a living, then?”
“We do business too.” Chun Jiao chuckled, “Selling information and whatnots. Information can be obtained much easily in such location, you know?”
“Bu-but…” Isn’t it dangerous? Customers are usually men with ulterior motives, after all.
“In Guang Tian, everyone only comes over to buy information, so there aren’t any problems.” Chun Jiao laughed, “When we are outside…” she blinked, “Don’t you know, the best things are the ones unobtainable. All males and females in Guang Tian’s red-light district are famous courtesans when outside, you know?”
Nan Ge Er was stumped as he pondered for a while. It was indeed so. In Guang Tian’s red-light district, basically everyone he saw had outstanding looks. Finding people with such high-quality appearances outside was impossible.
“But what if others use force?”
Chun Jiao revealed a sinister grin, her finger brushed down, “Who dares to bully people from Guang Tian?”
…Scary. Women really are the scariest beings in Guang Tian! “…You know martial arts?” Nan Ge Er asked cautiously.
“Of course.” Chun Jiao smiled, “Everyone in the red-light district knows martial arts.”
What the heck?! “Erm, are you good at it?”
“It can be considered adequate in Guang Tian, but it is still incomparable to Mo Shu-xiansheng.” Chun Jiao smiled sweetly, “Since there is a frequent need to pry information from the outside world, it is a must to have some self-defence ability, you know.”
So, everyone in the entire street is skilled in martial arts then?! Most people in Guang Tian knew martial arts and seemed to be capable at it. Now, he was told by Chun Jiao, the people in the red-light district aced in martial arts… But he was completely unaware of that! Sure enough, the lack of awareness is, indeed, due to the vast difference in skill then? As expected, I’m the weakest. Such truth dealt a severe blow on Nan Ge Er.
“Nan Ge Er really had no idea at all, huh?” Chun Jiao laughed, “Didn’t Mo Shu-xiansheng tell you?”
“…Nope.” Or should I say, it never crossed my min?
“Let Jie Jie tell you then.” Chun Jiao grinned, “The information is basically related to Guang Tian’s defences. All of us carry out our own businesses, before dealing with defence. There is a need to differentiate genuine and fake news when prying information. Some patrol, while some others travel to deliver goods. Oh, right, every year, there will be kids leaving Guang Tian, hmm? So, some located outside will help the kids. Sometimes, if they want to return to Guang Tian, Mo Shu-xiansheng will personally meet and get them back.”
“There’s a need for Mo Shu to go?” Nan Ge Er was stunned for a bit.
“Yup, if their identities are slightly problematic.” Chun Jiao chuckled.
Although her smile was still much more amorous than a flower, indescribable coldness and contempt were hidden in it, “Outside of Guang Tian, most of us are usually fought over by kings. If we are obtained, the kings fear that they can’t control us; if we aren’t obtained, kings fear that we will turn into the sword that kills them. Anyway, we are doomed to a tragic end, which is why everyone will return in the end. However, some have powerful statuses, so Mo Shu-xiansheng has to get them back personally.”
Chun Jiao’s words were quite vague, but being someone who had experience on it, Nan Ge Er understood it rather clearly. He nodded, “People in Guang Tian are truly amazing.” Almost everyone had outstanding talents. Thus, they were both adored and feared.
Chun Jiao was a little astounded as she looked at Nan Ge Er, “Aren’t you a person from Guang Tian too?”
Nan Ge Er froze before replying in a daze, “But I’m not as amazing as you all.”
“Huh?” Chun Jiao expressed her disapproval, “I feel that Nan Ge Er is the most marvelous of all. You can completely change the government office, and still be able to have a full meal every day, while also able to provide Mo Shu-xiansheng with sweet snacks.”
After being silent for quite some time, Nan Ge Er answered bitterly, “…I was forced to do all that.” Chun Jiao gave him a sympathy pet.
“Come to think of it, the reason why I invited Nan Ge Er over is to ask Nan Ge Er to have a look at the wedding dress I made.” Chun Jiao recalled out of the blue. She stood up and took a red outfit from a cabinet at her side.
“Why don’t you ask the opinions of everyone in the red-light district?” Nan Ge Er was a little puzzled. In any case, they are her sisters4; it is outrageous to let me, a guy, to admire your wedding gown.
“Those women… each and every one of them has no skills in needlework at all.” Chun Jiao expressed her disdain, “They are fiercer than guys and heavy-handed. I’m even afraid that they might tear my wedding gown by accident.”
Nan Ge Er looked speechlessly at the indistinguishable mess of golden threads on the crimson red wedding gown. He silently dissed in his heart, I don’t think you are good at needlework either, Chun Jiao-Jie.
“Ah Fang-Ge treats me so well.” Seeing that Nan Ge Er was ‘appreciating’ her dress, Chun Jiao smiled jubilantly, “He told me, when we are married, I don’t have to do any household chores or needlework. He’s worried that my hands might get rough.”
…I think Ah Fang-Ge simply doesn’t wish to wear such abstract looking clothing outside, Chun Jiao-Jie.
“I don’t have to cook.”
He’s afraid he might be poisoned by you!
“I don’t have to clean.”
He’s worried you might destroy the furniture!
“He doesn’t even want me to wash the dishes!”
He’s scared you might shatter every single bowl, my dear sister!
Nan Ge Er dissed silently in his heart for quite some time, before finally commenting profoundly, “Chun Jiao-Jie, I think Ah Fang-Ge likes you very much, that’s why he invited Aunty Zhu to come over for the proposal of marriage.” It must have been a genuinely profound love that gives him the courage to make such a huge sacrifice! Ah Fang-Ge, it must have been hard for you.
Chun Jiao was joyful, “Of course!” She smiled while petting Nan Ge Er’s head, “Oh right, Nan Ge Er, I’ve requested others to buy some new types of snacks from outside a few days ago. I’ll treat you; wait for a bit.” She sashayed out of the room with a smile. On her way out, she closed the door to make it convenient for Nan Ge Er to ‘focus’ on ‘appreciating’ her meticulously sewn gown…
1Mandarin ducks: (From Wiki) In traditional Chinese culture, mandarin ducks are believed to be lifelong couples, unlike other species of ducks. Hence they are regarded as a symbol of conjugal affection and fidelity, and are frequently featured in Chinese art.
2Traditional marriage proposals usually involves a match-maker. More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_marriage#Traditional_marriage_rituals (first point)
3Chun Lou: the brothel Chun Jiao worked in
4Sisters (recap from chp 17): Courtesans address their co-workers as sisters