Chapter 110 The Brute HusbandIf it had ended like that, it would just be a beautiful love story.
However, soon the storyline took a drastic turn.
The noble family of Li Mu’s mother sided with the wrong party in a political fight and fell out of power. Overnight, the prestigious family took the blame on its back and lost its influence. The backbone of the family collapsed as the several key figures were landed in prison or sent into exile. All the glory and splendor they had owned were ripped off, and the high political status they had enjoyed evaporated in a flash.
But Li Mu’s father, the magistrate of Chang’an, pulled some strings and prevented his family from being involved in that incident. Therefore, the downfall of that noble family did not jeopardize his career.
After losing everything, the previous noble family poured their last ounce of resources and connections onto Li Mu’s father, hoping that their son-in-law could become more powerful to help them stage a comeback and regain their prestige.
Yet, to their complete astonishment, Li Mu’s father betrayed the declined noble family at such a critical moment by throwing himself into the lap of their political opponent.
That was truly a striking twist.
When that big changed happened, Li Mu was merely an innocent baby who just completed his first month of life.
As the family of Li Mu’s mother was overpowered, her status in the mansion of the magistrate also plummeted.
The husband and wife who used to be so in love and treat each other with courtesy and respect suddenly drifted apart. Although the magistrate did not divorce his wife for the sake of maintaining his good reputation, he soon took in multiple concubines and neglected his first wife. Moreover, he even began to rebuke her in public.
Later, Li Mu’s mother was banished to a small yard in the mansion. With merely a couple of maids she brought in there when she married the magistrate for company, she started a sad life short of food and clothes.
As a matter of fact, it was under exactly such adverse circumstances that Li Mu’s mother raised him up.
Luckily, the young Li Mu turned out to be a decent man. He was extraordinarily gifted and treated his mother with filial respect. But he hardly received any love from his father. Actually, he had been punished many times for defending his mother, and never enjoyed anything luxurious as any other young master. For him, attending school and practicing martial arts were extravagant wishes. Further, due to the magistrate’s blatant dislike towards his mother, he lived like a handyman in the mansion and often had to endure the spite of many other servants working for his father.
He put up with all that for years until his father decided to finally split up with her mother and marry another woman. Only then did his mother realized that in fact, his father was already married and had a son before he entered the imperial examinations. The reason he wooed her that frantically was just that he wanted to take advantage of her influential family.
When the young Li Mu learned about that, a war broke out between him and his father.
In the end, Li Mu, being young and emotional, launched three punches against his father and severed their relationship. On that day, in the presence of all the guests his father invited, he vowed that he would leave the mansion for more advanced education and would not come back until he became something. Also, he threatened that he would make the magistrate of Chang’an repent and pay for what he had done.
From that day on, Li Mu started a new life on his own.
Afterward, Li Mu’s mother was discarded in a small house outside the mansion and had to make a living by herself.
Zheng Cunjian, a man known as the Heartless Scholar, did have excellent eloquence and tactics in telling stories. After he recounted the key parts of the history, Li Mu already grasped what had happened in the past.
“What a brute he is!”
Li Mu internally cursed the magistrate of Chang’an.
“He is really a brute! If this happened on Earth, he would definitely be a second Chen Shimei, the notorious unfaithful man in Chinese operas! He has climbed up to today’s position by dint of his woman? Whoa, he is the biggest wuss!”
Meanwhile, he also felt for the real Li Mu.
And he found the story of Li Mu’s mother even more bitter and pitful.
She had been deceived by a wicked man on her best day. For the true love she thought she had obtained, she argued bravely against her parents and finally wore them down with their permission to marry that poor scholar and their promise to support him. After the grand wedding, she believed she was heading to a life that she had been dreaming about. However, she later found out that her husband was not the one but a liar who coaxed her into helping him with the power of her noble family, because the man did not stick up for her family when the real disaster fell upon them, instead, he stabbed them in the back. By then, it dawned on her that all her love was wasted. And soon, her husband betrayed and abandoned her, too.
He could imagine how desperate and infuriated Li Mu’s mother was.
If it were not for her baby boy, perhaps she would have committed suicide long before.
Sure enough, women grew tough when they became mothers of their children.
Nevertheless, the real Li Mu was pretty inconsiderate. He fleed from his home to attend school and just left his mother behind. During the past eight years, he did not go back to visit his mother once. It was hard to imagine how his mother managed to keep going.
After hearing the whole story, the fake Li Mu could not help but sympathize as well as admire that mother.
“These days, her health has kept declining. I was told that she has lost her eyesight. Anyway, as always, she is waiting for you to visit her.” Zheng Cunjian smartly picked the right timing to add in more details. “But don’t worry, I have been looking out for your mother all these years, and I’ve sent my men in secret to deliver some living supplies to her many times.”
He was clearly taking credit for himself.
Despite that, Li Mu was still deeply touched by the story.
He could even picture a mother, who had painstakingly raised up her son, crying for the downfall of her family, the betray of her husband, and the departure of her son. She gradually became blind because of the overflowing tears. But she insisted to lean by the door of her year day after day, hoping to see her son back.
Perhaps waiting was the only bright color she had in her life.
Think about it. Years ago, she was a rare beauty, one of the most gorgeous ladies in the entire empire. Numerous men had loved and pursued her. But now, she was tricked by a bastard, pitied by her old pursuers, taunted by her former friends.
Over the past decade, the hardships and tortures that woman who was supposed to be favored by fate had endured were beyond imagination.
“Young Master, your mother is not doing very well now. A few days ago, the last maid she has was forced to get married and left her. Now that Your Honor has become the county magistrate, why not take a trip to the Chang’an government and bring her over. Your mother is waiting for you!” suggested Zheng Cunjian.
Now he looked like he was totally on Li Mu’s side.
Li Mu sneered at the Heartless Scholar. He knew it very well that the man was not trustworthy. How could that wrenched man be kind enough to look out for Li Mu’s mother? And the advice of going back to Chang’an was probably not as simple as it seemed. It must be some kind of trap, wouldn’t it?
Since Chang’an was the territory of that brute magistrate and the Heartless Scholar, it certainly was as dangerous as a tiger’s den. If Li Mu now went to the Chang’an government, in no case would the brute magistrate remain silent.
After all, the magistrate of Chang’an already dispatched Zheng Cunjian, Chu Shufeng, and Ning Zhongshan to get rid of him when he had just become the county magistrate. He believed the old man was capable of anything. If it were the real Li Mu, the outstanding scholar, who stayed in the county government now, he would have been ripped to bones by now.
As if able to read minds, Zheng Cunjian hurried to explain, “Young Master, I am absolutely not trying to seduce you to go to the Chang’an government. In fact, you can also send some guys there to pick up your mother…”
Li Mu did not reply.
He was mulling over the genuineness of Zheng Jiancun’s words.
Remarks of a spiteful man like Zheng Cunjian were not necessarily true, maybe there were some tricks.
Thus, Li Mu spent quite a while combing through the logic and the details of the whole thing in his head before he made sure that there was no flaw in Zheng Jiancun’s narrative. Plus, it was impossible for the scholar to make all this up in such a short time, because Zheng Cunjian had no idea the Li Mu in front of him was an imposter.
After wrapping his head around the story, Li Mu figured that it was true.
“Your Honor, if I have lied to you in any aspect of that matter, I’ll die a nasty death, be hit by the lightning…” swore Zheng Cunjian, who got really anxious at Li Mu’s silence.
After giving it a thought, Li Mu nodded before swiftly landing another slap in his face.
Zheng Cunjian flopped into a coma again.
Then, Li Mu hitched Li Bing over and gave him several slaps in the face, too.
“Aaaah, please spare me, spare me…” Li Bing shrieked in pain as he woke up. When he caught the sight of Li Mu, he trembled like mad and began to howl like a pig ready to be slaughtered.
“Shut up!” Li Mu threw him a glower and bluffed, “I ask the questions, you give me answers. If you lie to me, I will cut off your manly part!”
Li Bing, who had already been traumatized by Li Mu’s intimidating power, nodded frenetically.
Therefore, Li Mu repeated the story Zheng Cunjian told him to Li Bing but only with certain abridgments and additions.
After that, he asked, “Do you know all those things?”
Li Bing did not dare to conceal any truth. He recounted all he knew about the matter in detail and corrected the modifications Li Mu made on purpose. Although his story was not exactly the same as Zheng Cunjian’s due to their different stances and points of view, the two versions practically fitted with one another.
When Li Bing finished, Li Mu was completely sure that Zheng Cunjian was telling the truth.
Then, he sent Li Bing into unconsciousness once again.
With the two both passed out, he dropped to the ground and started to ponder over the signification of that matter.
“Should I go to the Chang’an government and rescue that poor woman?”
He found himself hesitating.
In truth, this fake Li Mu was an orphan. He had no idea who his parents were. The old faker told him that he was found in remote mountains. Each time he mentioned the issues about his birth parents, the old faker always claimed that he knew nothing at all. If Li Mu kept badgering, the old faker would give him a good beat. Later on, he gave up probing into the identity of his parents.
As an orphan, Li Mu often envied those classmates who could play around with their parents. Whether it was in primary school or junior high, no matter it was in the county or in the downtown, every time Li Mu saw girls or boy of his age walking happily with their parents, he peeked at them with jealousy.
Even when he saw some kids were scolded by their parents on the streets, he reckoned it as a kind of happiness, too.
Since he lived with the old faker, he regarded him as his parents for a long period of time.
Reminded of that bitter experience of his own, his heart was now full of compassion after he learned what had happened to Li Mu’s mother.
Of course, he wanted to help that mother who had suffered so much.
He, however, was not a saint. He was not a naive adolescent who would rush to the enemy’s base on account of his lack of maternal love. If he did go there, he would put himself in danger.
“So, should I go?”
“Or not go?”
Li Mu mused for a good while.
After that, he lifted Zheng Cunjian up and awoken him in the same violent fashion.
“Aargh…” Zheng Cunjian opened his eyes as he whined. He gingerly touched his cheeks to find that his teeth were loose and his face was numb, whereas, he did not dare to grumble a word.
“Young Master, all I told you is true. I definitely didn’t attempt to trick you into delivering yourself into the magistrate’s hands. I simply…” reasoned the scholar while he struggled with the sharp pain in his legs.
Li Mu waved him off and then said, “No need to persuade me. I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to Chang’an.”
“Ah?” Zheng Cunjian went stupified.
He thought Li Mu would not want to go, at least not on such a short notice and without any assurance.
Still, Li Mu jeered, “If the Chang’an government is a tiger’s den, I will just kill the tiger if it gets in my way… No one can stop me!”