Chapter 81.1 – Casino
Jun Zi City was the most prosperous city in the empire of Da Ya. The streets were always bustling with crowds. People were pressed shoulder to shoulder as they navigated the streets. On both sides of the road were hawkers loudly advertising their wares. Laughter occasionally sounded from the groups of energetic young men and women standing in front of these stalls.
Compared to Chang Province, this was simply a paradise.
Recently, due to the emperor’s talent selection, the capital was even livelier than before. Pretty women with beautiful faces could be seen everywhere on the streets. Most of them were women who had came to participate in the talent selection.
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The second round of the talent selection would begin on the tenth day after the decree was issued, so these women still had three days to adjust. The candidates who arrived to the capital early would settle in and wait at the Beautiful People Building*.
[*T/N: 美人楼 mei ren lou – literally “beautiful people building”]
The Beautiful People Building was also known as the Talented Ladies Building.
As the name suggested, it was a building specifically for harem candidates from outside the capital to reside in.
Because the harem candidates were always beautiful, the building was later re-named Beautiful People Building. Every year during the talent selection, the Beautiful People Building would be the liveliest place of all.
It was said that an imperial consort, a gui fei, once hailed from the Beautiful People Building.
That gui fei was the mother of the second prince. She was known as Shi gui fei. She had a face of unparalleled beauty. When juxtaposed beside her, all the other harem candidates lost their brilliance. Chong Ming Emperor was captured by her beauty at first sight, and she was favored for a period of time. It could be said that she had unlimited glory. Regardless of whether the emperor still favored her or not, for a commoner like her to become a distinguished noble in a single leap, her story was enough to motivate those who had no status and no backing.
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And it was because of this very rumor…
Every year, candidates who stayed in the Beautiful People Building would all compete for the room where Shi gui fei once lived. More than twenty years later, that room was still captivating enough to make all of the candidates scramble madly for something unobtainable like quacking ducks.
The year before, a rich woman paid five thousand silvers to win that room. It was the highest price thus far. No one knows if the record would be broken this year.
Rumor had it that that rich woman went from an eighth-tier concubine to a third-tier concubine in two years. Don’t know whether that piece of news was true or not, but there would definitely be a frenzy among the candidates in the Beautiful People Building this year.
Today was the penultimate day counting down to the second round of the talent selection.
Asides from candidates who lived further away from the capital and therefore needed more travel time, and those who couldn’t make it due to some extenuating circumstances, everyone else was already gathered in the Beautiful People Building.
At this time, the Beautiful People Building was filled with crowds of people, men and women, all sizing up their competition.
“Don’t know which beauty will win the bid this year, but there will be a good show!” A man stood just outside of the assembly of people. While looking towards the crowd, he commented with a face full of expectation.
His companion replied, “Eighty percent are ladies from rich and wealthy families. In order to get ahead, you need a good portent. Unless they don’t want to win, they won’t be hiding away their money.”
The man suddenly turned his head around, “Not necessarily.”
His companion said in surprised, “Not necessarily? What do you mean?”
The man said, “I happened to hear an interesting thing in the last two days. Apparently, the Beautiful People Building is not going to auction off the room that the gui fei had lived in.”
“Why is that?” The companion was dumbfounded.
Translations by Vanilla Muse
The man said, “The concept of bidding with silver is not fresh and exciting anymore. The landlord of the Beautiful People Building decided to select a winner through a talent competition. The person who lasts until the end will be able to live in that room.”
The companion laughed, “That certainly is more interesting than bidding with money. But there are so many contestants. Would a day’s worth of time be enough?”
“There’s a point you’re not aware of.” The man raised his index finger and shook it from side to side. “The landlord of the Beautiful People Building is a profiteer. How could he give up such a good opportunity to make money? So not all of the ladies would be able to participate. Those who want in on the contest must pay fifty silvers in order to sign up.”
The companion hissed, “This registration fee is too expensive!”
The man smiled mischievously.
Otherwise, why would that landlord be called a profiteer?!
At this time, there were two outstanding men standing outside of the crowd. It was Fu Wu Tian and An Zi Ran. In the morning, he promised to accompany his wang fei out, but Fu Wu Tian did not bring along his subordinates. The location of Beautiful People Building was rather conspicuous. Not long after leaving from the prince’s palace, the two arrived here and overheard the conversation between the man and his companion.
An Zi Ran heard that the talent selection was very grand. He didn’t pay much attention to it at first. Today, he unexpectedly witnessed it. The grand occasion of the talent selection was very much similar to talent competitions of later generations.
“Scholars, farmers, artisans, and merchants, with the merchant class being the lowest of them all. Revealing one’s family background in this place would only draw other people’s attention.”
No woman was generous enough to allow a threatening woman to enter the palace and compete with her for the emperor’s grace. Shi gui fei was indeed a successful example, but for her to gain the status of a gui fei and to maintain her position till this day meant that she could not be underestimated. These women wanted to follow in the gui fei’s old steps? First, they would have to ask the gui fei herself whether she was willing.
Fu Wu Tian heard this sentence and turned to look at his wang fei’s elegant profile. “This prince believes that with wang fei’s level of skills merchants will one day be placed before scholars.”
An Zi Ran turned his head in surprise. He rolled his eyes a little as confidence exuded from him.
“That is inevitable!”
Looking down on businessmen?
No matter. Those people will suffer for it in the future!
The two finished speaking and got ready to leave. They were not interested in Beautiful People Building and the talent competition that it was hosting. But just as they turned around, the conversation between a man and a woman in the corner caught their attention.