Trigger Warning: The following chapter will include topics of prostitution and implied sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.
Gu Qingyu's blood turned cold when she heard the courtesan's name. Xian Di, Xuan Yi. She raised her head and looked at the man on stage, then turned around and saw Murong Zuoyu standing next to her. She could not read his expression, but his amethyst eyes sparkled under that mask.
"Brother Murong, he's..." Gu Qingyu frowned and spoke.
Murong Zuoyu nodded, and said softly, "Xian Di."
The song swelled and dipped as it kept its audience on their toes. The man on the stage played intently as his hands flew across the strings, his hair scattered and draped across his shoulders. A thunderous applause filled the room when the song ended.
"Xuan Yi, starting at five hundred pieces of silver!" The madam declared with a smile.
The crowd fell silent for a moment. A second later, they erupted.
Xuan Yi stared at the Guqin on his lap in silence as the auction continued.
Finally, the bidding slowed when it reached two thousand pieces of silver. The madam was grinning ear to ear at this point. There were only two bidders left.
"Three thousand!" A clear voice sounded. Everyone turned to the speaker, it was a young man in a black brocade. It was Gu Qingyu. Murong Zuoyu turned and looked at her in disbelief, but she stared unflinchingly at the madam and repeated. "Three thousand."
"Three thousand...Would the two of you like to continue?" The madam looked at the two men cautiously.
One of the two bidders, the better-looking one, gave her a side-eye. "Where did this boy come from? Are you trying to pick a fight with your father?"
Gu Qingyu mirrored his contemptuous side-eye. "Where did this crass old man come from? Are you trying to pick a fight with your grandpa?"
"You! Who are you? Do you know who I am?"
"Me? Didn't I say that I'm your granddad? That's easy, you're my grandson!" She laughed and stole a glance at the man on the stage, he was still staring at the instrument.
She paused. "So, do you want to continue?"
The man gritted his teeth. "Three...Three thousand five hundred."
"Four thousand." Gu Qingyu kept her steely glare on him. The man's face collapsed as he turned and walked out of the brothel. Gu Qingyu wanted to find the other bidder, but he was already gone.
"Now, four thousand pieces of silver. Anyone else?" Gu Qingyu glanced around, the crowd was in silence.
The madam clapped with all smiles. "Very well, deal! Xuan Yi would be waiting for you upstairs."
Gu Qingyu nodded and glanced at the man on the stage again. He slowly got up, it looked like he had been taking a nap. He picked up the Guqin and walked off the stage without even glancing at the audience. She watched sorrowfully as he disappeared upstairs. Xian Di, the man that terrorised her, the person that had the power to send them back in time, started out as a prostitute. After the crowd dispersed, Gu Qingyu sat back on her seat.
"Brother Zhu, what are you doing?" Murong Zuoyu hissed.
"Huh? I just want to help him." Gu Qingyu sighed softly, "Nothing else."
"I know." Murong Zuoyu also sighed softly, "But in the future, he would kill everyone that ever came to this place. That includes you, Brother Zhu."
Gu Qingyu nodded with a wry smile. Even if she helped Xuan Yi right now, he may still kill her as Xian Di, in order to erase all traces of his past. In fact, in order to cement his reputation as the all-powerful, untouchable Xian Di, he would have to silence her. But, he didn't do that. He didn't kill her when they first met, when her ex-fiancé kidnapped her. He was close though.
The madam came over and smiled. "Young sir, this way!"
Gu Qingyu nodded, gave Murong Zuoyu a reassuring look and mouthed, "Wait here." Then she followed the madam upstairs.
While going up the stairs, Gu Qingyu asked, "Who was that person just now?"
"That person is General Leng's friend, Count Chu." The madam seemed to look at Gu Qingyu with a bit of fear. "I offended him for you, sir. To have the audacity to steal his prize right under his nose, you must come from an interesting background as well. Although, for Xuan Yi's sake, I would appreciate your assistance to keep this place free from Count Chu's anger."
Gu Qingyu smiled and shook her head. What a joke, that money was for Xuan Yi, not the madam. Besides, did the madam really offend that man for her? No, she did it for the money. The madam tried to continue, but Gu Qingyu ignored her and walked into Xuan Yi's room.
When she opened the door, the first thing she saw a red robe fluttering to the ground and pooling at his feet. And she was staring at his bare, naked back.
Gu Qingyu immediately turned her face away, but heard Xuan Yi chuckle in disdain. "Why pretend? There's only two of us."
Gu Qingyu was taken aback and glanced at him. He sat down in the bathtub beside him, the water reached his shoulders.
She opened her mouth, but Xuan Yi continued, "Sorry for the inconvenience, I'm afraid you would have to wait for me to finish bathing. Also, whatever the madam promised you is gone, I hope you're not disappointed."
Gu Qingyu looked at him silently as tears pricked at the corner of her eyes. He used to be someone like this. No wonder he was so cold and proud. That was his walls. But...Xian Di would never behave like this.
After a while, Xuan Yi got up and slipped into a thin silk robe. "Go ahead."
Gu Qingyu finally lost her temper. She stomped up to him and slapped him harshly. A red mark immediately appeared on his handsome face and he stared at her in a daze.
"Xuan Yi, are you really going to let people just...do this to you?" She stopped and took a few deep breaths to calm herself. "You have a right to say no. You can fight to say no. You don't have to live like this. If it didn't work the first time, fight back next time. Why have you given up already?"
Xuan Yi lowered his eyes. "I..."
"I won't touch you. I'll pay the madam, then you can do whatever you want." She closed her eyes and turned away.
"Wait a minute!" Xuan Yi said suddenly, "What is your name?"
"Is that important?" She dodged the question.
"Then...why do you want to help me?"
"You don't need to know why." She dodged the question again and left the room.
When the madam saw that Gu Qingyu came out, she immediately stood up and smiled. "Oh, that was quick. So when will the silver arrive?"
"Three hundred." Gu Qingyu looked at the madam with a face of stone.
The madam gasped, "Three hundred? But you promised four thousand pieces of silver..."
"Three hundred in gold. For his freedom, would that be enough?" She clarified, her icy rage seeped into her voice.
The madam froze for a moment, and immediately smiled. "Enough! Of course it's enough! It is enough to buy this whole brothel!"
"Good, the gold will be delivered to you by late afternoon. Make sure you let him go." Gu Qingyu glanced at the madam, and then walked outside. When Murong Zuoyu saw her, he immediately got up and followed Gu Qingyu like a loyal servant.
After walking out of the brothel, Murong Zuoyu looked at her and said, "How did it go?"
"I thought she would at least try to haggle for more." Gu Qingyu shook her head, "It's not hard to believe that Xian Di will become like the person that he is in our time."
"He..." Murong Zuoyu began tentatively.
Gu Qingyu nodded, and then looked at Murong Zuoyu. "Brother Leng, do you have 300 pieces of gold?"
"Yes." Murong Zuoyu nodded.
"Haha, even if you don't have it, I should be able to gather it, if I just stole and robbed a few noble households..." She laughed nervously.
But Murong Zuoyu didn't have time to pay attention to her humor. "Brother Zhu, are you sure you want to do this?"
Gu Qingyu looked into the distance with firm eyes. "Yes, we have to save him."
"Even if his hands will be stained with the blood of countless innocent lives?"
She answered after a pause. "Yes."
"Even if he might kill us right here, right now?"
She went silent. She felt sad for Xian Di, but she firmly believed that Xian Di was not as cruel as the people said. He could have killed her when they first met. But he didn't, he never tried to kill her. He made her suffer, yes, but he did not try to kill her. Even when he attacked her with Fang, she could sense that he was not aiming for her vitals. He was more soft than he appeared. Maybe he did not like to kill after all. He might even have been a sweet and kind person, but he was robbed of his agency and he had to obey certain people. She could hear him as he swore that someday he would return all of his pain a thousandfold.
Gu Qingyu sighed softly. "He won't do that."
"You really trust him?" Murong Zuoyu asked, and then walked forward, seemingly not wanting Gu Qingyu to answer, "Let's go, we need to keep looking for the rest."
Gu Qingyu nodded and looked forward. "I think there isn’t anyone else in this city."
"How about going to the capital?" Murong Zuoyu suggested.
"The capital? But what about here?" Gu Qingyu frowned.
"I can handle it." Murong Zuoyu stroked her head. "This is the only way. Now that I know the Spirit Gem is this city, then I will definitely protect it."
"Okay. I'll be back as soon as possible." Gu Qingyu smiled and changed back to her pink dress.
"I'll be waiting for you." Murong Zuoyu suddenly pulled her into a gentle hug. "Take care, Brother Zhu. Come back safely."
Gu Qingyu returned his hug. "I will."Previous Chapter Next Chapter