Shi Yue gave her a reassuring smile. “Would you show us our room?”
“Y-Yes”, she stuttered, then bowed and nervously went forward.
The way up wasn’t too long, but it was long enough for more than a few women to notice the two of them. Soon they’d run to their boss and ask to be sent into the room, most likely.
Thankfully, as teasing as Madame Bai was, she never randomly selected the women to accompany him and his guests.
It would always be peerless beauties, but most of all, it would be those that could keep their mouths shut and understood rejections. They were artful women that would accompany his meetings with dance and music.
“Do you come here often?”, Tiankong finally spoke up; his first sentence in a while.
Shi Yue hummed. “A good friend of mine likes this place a lot. When we meet, it usually is here.”
Shi Yue only had few people whom he would call as friends. Zhi Ruo was something like a friend, but also half of a daughter - he had been her mother’s friend before.
The man he was talking about was the sixth prince of the neighbouring country and a Master-level cultivator.
They couldn’t meet up often due to the man’s status, but Shi Yue enjoyed his visits. His last one had been two years ago, and the man had declared that he would soon come over to see that little disciple of his.
Xie Yi would like him. Huo Cheng was a fighting maniac.
Tiankong stilled again, following Shi Yue like a quiet bodyguard. It was a stark contrast to before, but Shi Yue also guessed that this was simply how the man was. He didn’t speak as much with and around those he didn’t know, it appeared.
The room they were led into was lavish.
It was decorated with hanging fabric and a large part of the floor was laid out with comfortable pillows, allowing people to sit everywhere or even lie down if they were comfortable. For obvious reasons.
Huo Cheng would always throw himself right into the pillow pile and happily call over a few girls, but Shi Yue was much more restrained.
As it turned out, Tiankong was even more restrained than he was.
The man stared at the area for a solid minute before he followed Shi Yue in taking off his shoes and sat down a bit farther away.
The white-haired man was familiar with the place so he was somewhat leisurely leaning against the pillows, but the other still sat straight when the women came in.
There were eight; two younger girls that brought food and drinks and would wait at the side to serve, then two to play the qin and one to dance or play the flute.
The last three bustled immediately next to the two men in rather sparse clothing.
Only one of them - a woman that Shi Yue knew from before - was next to him, hovering somewhere around the edge of his comfort, and the other two went to Tiankong.
As they were used to, they had no qualms in touching his arms, chest or even legs.
With delighted giggles, they leaned against him.
“Master, you sure are well-trained”, they purred. One began to suggestively stroke over his leg.
Shi Yue turned his eyes away. This was that kind of place, after all. If Tiankong wanted to have fun with the girls then he wouldn’t speak up; there was a reason that the larger rooms always had various smaller ones connected where the guests could retreat to quickly.
Tiankong’s head moved slightly, but otherwise his body was completely still. He didn’t resist the treatment.
Not being rejected, the girls grew bolder.
“Master, this is your first time here? I’m sure you will enjoy it.”
“Master, let me feed you!”
The music began slowly in the background, an enchanting piece where all three musicians played together.
The taller, more mature of the two raised up a peeled grape and held it in front of Tiankong’s mouth. She was half sitting on his lap. The other girl, meanwhile, was fondling his arm.
Shi Yue’s neck prickled and he hurriedly glanced over at the almost indiscernible shift in the mood.
He watched Tiankong’s lips press together, then part for a very quiet, almost inaudible word.
The girls were professionals. They reacted instantly.
With their guest’s displeasure being made clear, even if only vocally, they almost jolted back. Their faces kept their sweet, seductive smiles, but the distance between their bodies was clear.
“It looks like Master isn’t in the mood”, one sighed sadly, stuffing the grape into her own mouth.
“Such a shame”, the other lamented with an equally sad sigh.
Then they giggled and stood up to approach the three girls playing music.
“Sisters, let us accompany you”, they said, shortly vanishing behind a screen and then returning with more musical instruments.
The transition was flawless and not awkward at all - they were used to having complicated guests.
Shi Yue, on the other hand, felt discomfort cloud his heart.
Tiankong’s face had returned to normal and his posture hadn’t changed in the slightest, but his left hand was clawed over his exposed right arm and slowly raking a bloody trail over it.
He frowned, turning to the remnant girl at his side. “Would you please get us a fresh towel and some alcohol for disinfection?”
“Of course”, the girl responded while already standing up.
Shi Yue moved a bit closer to Tiankong and spoke in a low voice. “I’m sorry. Do you dislike this place? You hadn’t rejected it when I suggested it. I had intended for it to be comfortable for you.”
Tiankong’s face turned to him, his features softening to reveal a less stony expression. “I like the music.”
“But you don’t like being touched”, Shi Yue said bluntly. “Why didn’t you tell them immediately? There is no need to let them approach you when it results in this.”
The man didn’t answer.
The girl that had gone out came back quickly, handing everything to Shi Yue and keeping a distance from Tiankong.
The cultivator should probably be able to heal such a shallow wound himself; either with one of the pills that cultivators always carried or if he had enough medical knowledge to use his spiritual energy. But that wasn’t the problem, so Shi Yue had asked for the common tools.
He just wanted to make a show of cleaning up the arm.
Tiankong looked visibly better after he had dragged the cloth filled with alcohol over his arm, but he still looked at his clothes in displeasure.
Somehow, Shi Yue knew that it would be burned as soon as he got his hands on another set.
“Do you have a problem with people touching you?”, Shi Yue asked, to make sure. Tiankong hadn’t looked that way when they had passed through the crowd, but it was better to know where the problem lay to avoid it.
“No, I don’t mind”, the man said as he shook his head. Almost as if to prove it, he handed the cloth right back to the woman who was waiting behind him.
She looked stunned for a moment, then smiled and took it back.
“I just don’t like… that look.”
Shi Yue made a sound in understanding.
The girls here didn’t approach people purely out of their job, but they also didn’t do so out of genuine interest.
It was a deal that went both ways: The men wanted to have some fun, and so did the women. For them, it was simply a nice chance to enjoy some time with a good-looking person that suited their tastes.
To put it nicely, there weren’t really any feelings involved.
To be a bit blunter, they treated the guests they wanted to sleep with as convenient dolls - not unlike most men did with the women.
There was a very distinct difference between people who looked at others out of lust stemming from romantic interest or from physical interest. And then there was the look of someone who wanted your body like a pretty doll.
Shi Yue wasn’t fond of it either, but Tiankong had made it clear that he could absolutely not stand being looked at as an item.
That was why he didn’t reject the woman behind him, who carried no interest in him, but harshly rejected the two that had approached him.
Maybe he was the loyal type who didn’t want any physical connection without an emotional one.
“I understand. Well, there is no need for you girls to come too close, we are here to appreciate the art”, Shi Yue decided to say and turned to the woman behind him who gave a small, acknowledging bow.
After that, things could have gotten considerably more relaxed, if only-
- there wasn’t someone -
- who ran in -
- to mess everything up.
“-have fun here without me!”, someone declared with a pompous voice as he slammed the door open.
Tiankong twitched around, stunned, and stared at the man who had staged such a grand entrance.