Jin Yu Wang Chao Volume 1 Chapter 6
The chauffeur seemed to have already received the order from Nian Liangfu and drove quickly, weaving crazily in the streets. Not long after, they arrived at their destination. When they stepped out, Nian Liangfu took one glimpse at the polished cars parked outside of the pavilion. The color suddenly drained from his face. “Shit! Shit! He arrived earlier than us!”
Xuan Daiyun replied, “Stop jumping to conclusions. You haven’t even gone in so how do you know that he’s already here?”
“Stupid woman!” Nian Liangfu narrowed his eyes at her and pointed at one of the cars. “That’s the Customs’ insignia! You think that I can’t recognize it?” Nian Liangfu hastily brought the siblings inside. A staff member of the pavilion dutifully guided them and brought them to a luxurious private viewing room.
Bai Xuelan indeed was already there, sitting lazily in an armchair and surveying around. When he had heard movement, he turned his head and his eyes, dark like obsidian, darted past the Nian couple and locked onto Xuan Huaifeng. He warmly stood up and greeted them with a smile, “The guests have arrived.”
Nian Liangfu firstly apologized. Bai Xuelan very naturally waved it away and paid no heed. “I was the one who wanted to come early. It’s a good thing that I did too. If the host arrives later than the guests, then that would truly look awful on my behalf.”
They exchanged small talks. Beyond the open balcony was the stage. It was the perfect viewing position. Peering over, shock ran through him and Nian Liangfu asked, “Today is Yuliuhua’s debut performance. People would normally bleed to get a hold of the tickets so why is it so empty all of a sudden?”
Bai Xuelan artlessly replied, “I’m afraid that too many people making a ruckus would ruin the play so I reserved Tianyin Pavilion. That way, the four of us can all quietly enjoy it.”
This was just too generous. Overwhelmed and happy at the same time, Xuan Daiyun had never expected to be returned in such a way. Nian Liangfu was even more stricken with awe. “Chief Bai, you are too courteous. How can we possibly deserve this? Yulihua is famous for being haughty. She rarely puts on a show for just one person. I can’t believe that you were able to convince her.”
The corners of his mouth curved slightly upward in a smile. “Since it’s me, she at least has to consider it.” As he spoke, his eyes brushed over Xuan Huaifeng who was standing to one side.
Xuan Huaifeng had originally planned to ignore him and his provocations, but after being stared at heatedly, he could no longer tolerate it and discreetly glared back.
Bai Xuelan then smiled more brightly and pretended to focus on the conversation at hand. He recommended, “The play is supposed to start at 7 but it’s currently only 6:30. Since everyone’s already here, let’s tell them to begin now so that we don’t have to wait.”
Nian Liangfu agreed. Bai Xuelan reached his hand out, conducted a hand signal at one of the staff members, instructed them to ready, and returned back to Nian Liangfu. “There’s a slight problem. This room is designed for two viewers. Four people will be a bit crowded. Luckily, the room next door equally has a good view. I’ve already told them to set it up.”
“Chief Bai, you’re just way too considerate! If you keep it up like this, we, as guests, will feel uneasy.” Xuan Daiyun grinned as she thanked him. With one sweeping glance over everyone, she inquired, “But, which two should go? We all want to spend time and learn new things from someone as knowledgeable as you are.”
When Bai Xuelan saw Xuan Huaifeng about to speak, he quickly jumped the gun. “Breaking up lovebirds is the most vile act ever. No matter what, I don’t want to separate a lovely couple such as yourselves.”
Nian Liangfu wanted to converse more with Bai Xuelan but since he had already suggested it, Nian Liangfu could only comply. “Thank you for being so thoughtful. Then, I will leave my brother-in-law here. Chief Bai, please look after him.” After exchanging a few polite gestures, he brought his wife to the next room.
Xuan Huaifeng wanted to follow them out the door, but Bai Xuelan dragged him back in with a tug of his shoulder. Xuan Huaifeng had always been wary around him so he turned with a solemn look and objected, “Take your hand off me! We’re in public.”
Bai Xuelan sincerely released his grip. “Okay. Hand is off, but look. I reserved this entire place just so that I can make it up to you. You won’t even give me this little bit of leeway? Must I kneel down and beg you for forgiveness?” At this time, the calm sounds of a dizi* from the stage echoed into the room.
“See?” Bai Xuelan pointed at the stage and persuaded him, “The play already started. You said before that you like The Peony Pavilion‘s “Confidential Plans”? Let’s just sit down quietly and listen. Is that not possible?” He gingerly revealed an irresistible, fawning expression.
Dazed for a moment, Xuan Huaifeng had already been pulled in and seated by Bai Xuelan with one fluid motion.
The music had already begun. The first to take the stage was a jing*. He sang, ”
‘Priestess in hibiscus robe,
hair too short to coif and pin…‘”
Though he wasn’t particularly young nor good looking, he sang well. After this stanza was finished, another from behind the set sang, ”
‘Private words in clandestine tryst,
not for public knowledge:
long I hesitate,
before voicing them abroad.‘”
The voice was beautiful, as if luring souls out and drowning them in it. Even Xuan Huaifeng couldn’t help it but straightened his posture and gazed fixedly at the stage. Then, a person walked out and began, ”
‘Fragrance of falling petals
fills the hall of gold.‘”
She must be the famous Yuliuhua, acting the part of Liu Mengmei. Her every movement was impeccable, breathing life into the character.
Xuan Huaifeng hadn’t attended an opera ever since he went to England. He wasn’t interested at first but unexpectedly, the more he listened, the more he appreciated it.
It turned out that “Confidential Plans” wasn’t the only scene that was being performed. A while later, Du Liniang’s dan* appeared. Xuan Huaifeng thought that because Yulihua was the star of the show, the dan couldn’t perform as well as her. After singing “Abscondence of the Newlyweds”, Huaifeng knew he that he was wrong. Her voice was equally spectacular.
After the music had stopped and the sounds reverberated, someone uttered in his ear, “I just don’t understand what’s so good about those few lines in “Confidential Plans” that you happen to like it so much.”
Without any warning, Xuan Huaifeng nearly fell off his seat. Startled, he turned his head and discovered that Bai Xuelan had moved his chair right next to him. When he had spoken, his lips very nearly brushed against his ear.
Had he been someone else, he could’ve passed it off as recklessness and laughed it off. However, Xuan Huaifeng had a secret hidden deep within and never told anyone about it. Seeing Bai Xuelan so close, he moved himself farther away. His brows drew taut and he snapped, “What are you trying to do by sitting so close?! What’s it your business what I like?!”
“Okay, alright. None of my business.” Bai Xuelan, still in a good mood, lightly shrugged his shoulders and sang, ”
‘But in this glorious season,
where are the sounds of joy in this garden?‘”
He again leaned towards Xuan Huaifeng and asked, “How’s my singing?”
Indeed, it wasn’t bad. Xuan Huaifeng didn’t want to lie just to retort so he contemptuously answered, “On par with the leads. If one didn’t know, he or she would’ve thought that you were professionally trained.”
From their first meet, Xuan Huaifeng knew that Bai Xuelan loved to go off-topic, as far as possible. If this conversation persisted, who’d know what nonsense would come out of his mouth next. He stood up and said, “Thank you for the play. It’s finished now, so I’ll take my leave.”
Bai Xuelan quickly stood up as well and interjected,” “What are you leaving so soon for? Such a pity.”
Before he could continue, the door was knocked upon. Nian Liangfu cheerfully walked in with his wife and declared, “If not for Chief Bai, we would’ve never been able to watch such a marvelous play! Shame! It’s such a shame. I’ve listened to opera for many years, but this is the first one that truly opened my eyes.”
Xuan Daiyun, also elated, concurred. “I know that Yulihua played Liu Mengmei but I’m unsure who was Du Liniang. It can’t be some small-time actress. She sang too well.”
Bai Xuelan responded, “It’s Fulanzhi.”
Surprised, she exclaimed, “I had a feeling that it was her! It’s amazing how you were able to invite two of the biggest stars to perform! That mustn’t be easy. I heard that Fulanzhi’s based in Shanghai so I didn’t expect her to show up here.”
Bai Xuelan languidly remarked, “She is based in Shanghai but she had come over here to visit a friend. Coincidentally, we bumped into each other and I requested her to perform. Fortunately, she knows The Peony Pavilion.”
Standing next to Xuan Daiyun, Xuan Huaifeng whispered, “Sis, let’s not bother him anymore. We should go.”
Just after speaking, Xuan Daiyun discreetly pinched his leg and resumed the conversation with Bai Xuelan.
Of course, this all fell into Bai Xuelan’s line of sight. He ordered a staff member to bring two extra chairs and some desserts over. They had been invited to sit down and chat.
Just as Xuan Daiyun had pulled Xuan Huaifeng to sit down, another person lithely walked into the room, smiled at them, and gracefully bowed. “Honorable guests, thank you for attending today.” It was Yulihua. She had already removed her costume makeup, changed into modern clothes, and specially came over to greet them. Her fame was widely known and was one of the more requested performers in the industry. Even top government officials sponsored her. She was no ordinary actress.
This wasn’t the first time that Nian Liangfu had seen her perform but it was the first time that he had seen her this deferential. “Oh my!” He stood up and explained, “No need to be so cordial. I am only an invited guest.” He walked up to her and reached an arm out to help her up.
Of course, why would Yulihua let Nian Liangfu casually touch her? She sidestepped him as she stood up. With a smile that put flowers to shame, she began, “Chief Bai’s munificence is just too much. It’s not about the money but your very presence that has graced me. When the day comes, I will repay this favor back.”
Idly sitting in his chair with his eyes twinkling at her, he queried, “If in the future I want to see a play on a whim and invite you to perform again, will you accept it?”
Yulihua walked over to the table and chuckled as she poured tea and offered it to Bai Xuelan. “Chief Bai, are you jesting with me again?”
With a look of innocence written across of his face, he quipped, “Why would I do such a thing?”
“So you say! You reserved this entire place yet you just implied that I don’t put on enough shows.”
“Isn’t it because you sing so excellently?”
“Naturally! I had been practicing nonstop for half a month just so that I can perform “Confidential Plans”. I was already rusty with the script and songs. Chief Bai, what shall I do if the audiences hoot at me one day?”
Bai Xuelan laughed heartily. “Whoever dares to hoot you, I’ll send him or her to the Ministry of Public Security to be locked up!”
Yulihua eyed him seductively. “Aren’t you Chief of Customs? You administer Public Security as well?”
Bai Xuelan winked at her. “The chief over there and I are well acquainted.”
Yulihua giggled “oh”, glanced around, and questioned him, “This was my first time to take the stage with Fulanzhi. She looks quite pretty on stage but after she washes off, she seems average. I heard that she is famous in Shanghai. Do you want to invite her over for a chat?”
“No need. You’re the lead after all. That’s right. I need your consultation on a particular issue.” As Bai Xuelan and Yulihua chattered away, Xuan Huaifeng’s expression changed little. Bai Xuelan then directed his finger at Xuan Huaifeng and requested, “Can you help me take a look? If this friend of mine is to be touched up and take the stage, would he be more attractive or Bai Yunfei?”
Bai Yunfei, at this time, was a very handsome male actor.
Xuan Huaifeng already wore a look of great displeasure and now, his mood completely darkened.
When Yulihua had entered into the room, she already took a glimpse at the exceedingly charming young man; however, not knowing him and with Bai Xuelan present, she paid no further attention. Since Bai Xuelan had asked, she turned her head to inspect Xuan Huaifeng and sniggered. She looked back at Bai Xuelan and answered, “I’ll only say this in front of you all. Please don’t spread it around. Otherwise, I will be scorned by Bai Yunfei.” After a pause, she continued, “Truth be told, if your friend here is to be properly trained in the arts, he can, within a few years later, surpass him.”
Livid, Xuan Huaifeng quickly stood up to leave. His sister, knowing well his temper, reached over to grab his sleeve and swayed his arm, imploring him to stay. He could only tolerate. His head turned to the other side in protest.
Adding injury to insult, Bai Xuelan further inquired, “Strange. You’ve never heard him sing so how do you know he can surpass Bai Yunfei?”
Performers knew best on how to read the situation when it came to socialization. Yulihua understood right away Bai Xuelan wanted her to compliment this friend of his. She slightly tilted her head and explained, “Yes, I have never heard him sing but I judged him based on his striking appearance. With his beauty and air of elegance, one already knows that his presence alone can easily command the stage. His voice, without a doubt, must also be equally good.”
Bai Xuelan burst out in laughter. He gently caressed Yulihua’s smooth and fair hand. “You are too lovely!” He then turned his attention to Nian Liangfu and asked, “Commissioner Nian, what do you think? Do you agree with her?”
Grinning from ear to ear, he nodded, “Very true! Very true! Only an insider like Miss Yu has the credibility to assess it correctly!” He then leaned closer, lowered his voice, and meekly stuttered, “That… Chief Bai, I’m only a section chief. The title of commissioner… I’m afraid that I’m unworthy.”
“Section chief or commissioner, little difference!” Bai Xuelan nonchalantly waved his hand and with a shallow smile, he implied, “If I say you are, that means you are.”
Nian Liangfu stood there dumbfounded and not long after, his eyes lit up like beacons. Xuan Daiyun, astounded as well, quickly perked up in her chair.
“Bluntly speaking, with someone of Commissioner Nian’s caliber, putting him in the Ministry of Education is such a waste. If Chief Liao doesn’t mind, I can request him to relocate Commissioner Nian to the Ministry of Customs. I can’t guarantee anything else but when it comes to monthly earnings, it’ll definitely be better than what was before. I, Bai Xuelan, never mistreat my own people.”
No sooner than after hearing him speak, a feeling of uneasiness grew within Xuan Huaifeng. As if something bad were to happen, he slightly quivered in his seat. Bai Xuelan glanced over him and then faced the Nian couple. “In addition, I highly value Huaifeng’s potential. Hah. After all, we cannot let him actually join the arts. I wish for Huaifeng to become my deputy.”
Xuan Huaifeng instantaneously reacted, “Don’t you already have one?!”
He responded, “Deputy Chief Sun isn’t bad, but there are too many things on his plate already. I still need another one.” He looked towards Xuan Daiyun and calmly affirmed, “If Huaifeng doesn’t mind such a post, then I’ll have Customs work on the documents and we can resettle Commissioner Nian and Huaifeng together.”
Fed up, Xuan Huaifeng slapped his hand on the armchair. “It’s my business so why are you telling this to my sister?!”
For the last time, he stood up. Irate, he stormed out without saying goodbye.
*dizi: bamboo flute
*jing: see image here
*dan: the lead female (actor or actress)
T/N: \(!!˚☐˚)/ This chapter was a pain in the @$$ with all that Written Vernacular Chinese.