In the midst of the frost season, the golden autumn brings a refreshing breeze. The land of Yao is busy with farming activities, and markets of all sizes are scattered throughout the area. The shouts and calls of vendors can be heard everywhere, and people come and go in a bustling manner. It can be said that from early morning to broad daylight, the sounds of people are as lively as boiling dumplings in a pot, and when night falls, the lights shine brightly, making it a city that never sleeps!
At this time, there was a wealthy man named Zhang Xianghao who set off from Nangong with a large sum of money to do business in Shunde Prefecture, passing through Renze Xingwan. The journey was long, and the porters were exhausted and thirsty, so Zhang Xianghao decided to take a rest. He remembered that there was a famous inn called "Wolf Dog Restaurant" in Yaoshan, so he ordered his men to obtain the necessary documents and head north to Yaoshan.
When Zhang Xianghao and his entourage arrived at Yaoshan, they saw a crowd of people, bustling and bustling. Zhang Xianghao originally wanted to squeeze into the crowd, but one of his companions reminded him, "Mr. Zhang, be careful, there may be people with ulterior motives here." After hearing this, Zhang Xianghao ordered his porters to clear the way, but even so, he was pushed and shoved several times, ending up with a disheveled appearance and feeling embarrassed.
After a difficult journey, Zhang Xianghao and his entourage finally arrived at the entrance of the Wolf Dog Restaurant. However, the restaurant was also bustling with guests coming and going. The Wolf Dog Restaurant was not an ordinary inn. In Longyao, there were three treasures: Lianzi Town Jinmailang, Longyao Lamb Soup, and the Yao Mountain Grand Restaurant - Wolf Dog Restaurant. It was said, "In the south, there is Louwailou; in the north, there is the Great Wolf Dog." This Great Wolf Dog was the Wolf Dog Restaurant. If you wanted to have a meal there, ordinary people had to make reservations before the New Year and could only be seated on the 15th of August the following year. Even if you were from a prestigious family or a high-ranking official, you still had to pay a hefty sum. If anyone claimed to be able to be seated immediately, it was probably only the imperial officials or the Prince Yao himself. It was already difficult to get a seat on ordinary days, let alone during the busy season. The guards of the Wolf Dog Restaurant saw Zhang Xianghao and his entourage looking tired and disheveled, so they stopped them from entering. Zhang Xianghao felt displeased, but he didn't want his servants and attendants to cause a scene, so he instructed them to take the others to another restaurant to rest while he himself dealt with the guards.
Taking the opportunity, Zhang Xianghao carefully observed the Wolf Dog Restaurant. Oh! He hadn't paid much attention before, but the Wolf Dog Restaurant was truly magnificent:
- At the entrance, there were two stone lions, one on each side, weighing thousands of jin, over ten zhang tall. They had golden faces, silver claws, and jade eyes. They shook their heads and wagged their tails, looking vivid with every strand of their mane clearly visible. The main entrance was divided into three parts, with side doors on both sides. In the middle were twenty door pillars, with a pair of couplets hanging above them: "The red sun above the clouds, the clear wind of the bright moon, talented scholars compose poems like green ants; white cranes in the clouds, green willows by the blue waves, light boats and leisurely travelers intoxicated by the spring river." There was a huge pear wood plaque hanging above the lintel, with four large characters written on it: "Wolf Dog Appearance."
- The building had eight floors, with the first floor being the main hall. In the center of the hall, there was a large table facing the entrance, with a tea stall and a wine shop on each side. It was probably selling their own brewed fine wines and fragrant tea. The first and second floors were connected, with a large lantern hanging from the ceiling and countless candle holders, making the hall bright and splendid. The second floor was connected to the outside by a balcony. The third and fourth floors were private rooms, where only "important people" sat. If they were not discussing Taoism or nature, they were probably talking about poetry and literature. If they were not officials or nobles, they were probably wealthy merchants. The fifth and sixth floors were filled with numerous singing and dancing girls, each with beautiful eyes and teeth, and fair and delicate skin. Their sweet voices and gentle words were adorable, and even the Buddha would be confused when seeing them! The seventh and eighth floors were a platform, with numerous gardens and pavilions built, including eight gardens in the east, south, west, north, and four corners, each with a different style. In the middle, there was a large altar with a grand hall called "Wolf Dog Pavilion," a magnificent Eastern Babylon! The walls were inscribed by famous people, and the screens were painted by masters. The entire building was over a hundred zhang high, with colorful glazed tiles and red sandalwood lacquer.
While Zhang Xianghao was still in awe, two people walked out from inside the door. One was dressed in red and purple robes, looking very imposing, while the other was a burly man with a scarred face. The burly man escorted the person in purple robes to the entrance, bowed with folded hands, and said, "Please take your time, sir. It's busy inside the restaurant, so I won't accompany you further." Zhang Xianghao secretly thought to himself: This burly man is probably the owner of the restaurant. Since he personally escorted the guest, there must be a seat available inside. So Zhang Xianghao approached and asked, "Innkeeper, is there a seat available in the restaurant?" The burly man turned around and said, "Of course! Follow me, please!" Then he saw Zhang Xianghao's face, which had a distinct Chinese appearance, and quickly changed his words, "Sir, please forgive me. Foreigners often come here, and I've just learned their language. I mistakenly thought you were not from our region, so I spoke out of turn. I apologize if I offended you." Zhang Xianghao was momentarily speechless and followed along.
"Sir, as you can see, there are not many empty seats in our restaurant. Please have a seat on the second floor for now," the innkeeper said. "Once a room becomes available on the third floor, we will move you there." Zhang Xianghao was already feeling hungry and couldn't wait any longer, so he quickly said, "No need, no need! This place is fine, this place will do." "Alright then, Xiao Si! Bring a pot of Taihang Mountain Xiao Zhong tea for the guest!" After Zhang Xianghao settled down, it was already the second hour of the evening.
While waiting, Zhang Xianghao looked around and noticed a table by the railing with a good view of the moon. There was only one person sitting at the table. Zhang Xianghao got up and walked over to sit opposite this person. As he observed this person, Zhang Xianghao couldn't help but marvel at the fact that such a person existed in the world:
West River Moon · Bamboo Man
- Bright and shining eyes like goldfish, slender and thin like white bones, dilapidated door and messy teeth, skin like snow mixed with soil;
Sword-like eyebrows pointing left and right, sleeves swaying as he danced, when you look at this person's temperament, he exudes the elegance of a gentleman! *
There was nothing on the table, and the person remained silent, gazing out the window. Zhang Xianghao asked, "Sir, do you have something on your mind?" "Haha, not really, let's have some tea," the strange man said, but there was no tea on the table.
At that moment, they suddenly heard the sound of drums and gongs outside the window. It was a flower carriage passing by, carrying an exceptionally beautiful woman. Zhang Xianghao was instantly captivated and asked, "Who is this person? What's with the grand procession?" "This is the daughter of the Jing family in Yangcheng, Longyao. She possesses unparalleled beauty and is skilled in qin, chess, calligraphy, and painting. She is well-versed in the principles of governing the country and is knowledgeable about various languages and cultures. She is a rare talent without any flaws, a match for the gods. She was given the name Xiangyu by the emperor." "Amazing!" Zhang Xianghao was infatuated and couldn't take his eyes off Miss Jing. She was truly stunning, with a beauty that could overthrow cities and make flowers blush. There is a poem to prove it:
Green Jade Case · Jing
- The window lattice opens, and the moonlight fills the room. Leaves are about to fall, trees sway gently. Black hair and cloud-like eyebrows dance gracefully. Feathers tremble lightly, decoys flutter. Where does the soft sound come from?
Listen, the clouds are sighing alone. It seems to understand the autumn wind's sorrow. Delicate hands casually flip through books. The tired face is hard to resist, suddenly hearing the flapping of wings. Startled, realizing it has been a thousand years. *
"Do you know the name of Miss Jing?" Zhang Xianghao couldn't help but blurt out. Realizing his mistake, he quickly covered his mouth and said, "Please don't mind, sir. I have never seen such... haha, a beautiful woman before. I misspoke for a moment. Haha!"
The strange man waved his hand and said, "This woman is known as the shame of Xi Shi and the embarrassment of Diao Chan. She is also an excellent cook, so she is called the Star Chef Mother Big Worm Jing. This name is not something ordinary people can handle. The word 'Jing' originally means 'big,' and these four words in her name are enough to overwhelm ordinary people."
"How strange, to be so beautiful but have such a vulgar name?"
"You don't understand. In our Longyao region, who doesn't know the Jing family in Yangcheng? Apart from the royal family of Yao, the Jing family is the most prominent. We commoners must avoid using their name. The Jing family's daughter was born during a celestial phenomenon, with the stars shifting and the Milky Way pouring down. After the chaos subsided, when people looked at the Jing family's daughter again, it seemed as if there were constellations and stars between her eyebrows and eyes, corresponding to the stars in the sky. That's why the emperor gave her the name Xiangyu, which means 'towards the universe.'"
"Is there more to this story? It doesn't concern me, does it?"
"This Miss Jing is the wife of the second generation of the angry Duke, but unfortunately, the angry Duke is obsessed with making achievements and believes that he is not yet at the age to discuss marriage. Therefore, he has not officially married her. However, from Yao South Pass to Shunde Prefecture, everyone knows about it!"
After hearing this, Zhang Xianghao was shocked and broke out in a cold sweat, leaving his chopsticks and leaving.
The strange man seemed lost in thought and suddenly said, "Early dreams, late ghosts. Keep an eye on this person. If he speaks nonsense, kill him on the spot." After speaking, the strange man left, and everyone in the restaurant trembled with fear.
Why? Because this person was none other than the eccentric Duke of Variations, the second generation of the angry Duke. His wife, Xiangyu, wanted to go out for a stroll, but the angry Duke was worried and went to protect her. When Zhang Xianghao entered the city, the angry Duke had been observing him for a long time!