The appointed battle between Li Mu, a young Great Master, and the Heaven-Sword Celestial Being, a legendary old sword expert, had caused a great stir in Chang’an. In particular, the martial arts circle in Chang’an all regarded it as a grand event. After all, it had been over ten years since the last combat between Great Masters occurred.
Everyone was looking forward to the duel.
“Your Honor, shall we intervene at this point?” Zheng Cunjian asked Li Gang, the magistrate of Chang’an, for instructions.
The battle involving Great Masters was so unusual that it might need the government to supervise. Great Masters represented the medium and high-classed combat ability of a nation. On this continent, the total number of Great Masters from the three human empires—the Western Qin, the Southern Chu, and the Northen Song—was less than ten thousand. Those cultivators were practically standing on the top of the martial pyramid. And for either of the empires, every Great Master was extremely valuable. Thus, the empires would do their best to avoid losing any of them. Now, two Great Masters were going to fight against each other in Chang’an. As the local administrator, Li Gang certainly could not block this news. And he was duty-bound to report it to the higher administration.
If given Zheng Cunjian’s way, he would ask the local government organ to suspend the appointment between the young and old Great Masters until the central government declared where it stood on the issue. This way, the local government could at least stay out of trouble. Even if later the higher administration looked into this, they would not be liable for letting the duel go unchecked.
However, the magistrate, Li Gang, shook his head with a smile and said, “Let them do whatever they want.”
His attitude towards the issue was rather passive.
Confused by what the magistrate was really playing at, Zheng Cunjian reluctantly gave up persuading him.
Having governed Chang’an for decades and survived several political storms, the shrewdness and manoeuvers this magistrate had were absolutely not as common as his name was. If someone still deemed the unbeatable politician as empty-headed, he himself would be the one in trouble at the end.
Zheng Cunjian had schemed for Li Gang for many years. Although in most cases the magistrate followed his advice, which even enabled Zheng Cunjian to enjoy a very special status in the government system, Zheng Cunjian was the only one knowing that such status was bestowed by Li Gang, who could also deprive him of it at any time. Therefore, Zheng Cunjian always acted very carefully around the magistrate as if treading on thin ice.
Adding that now he was subject to the control of Li Mu’s Life-and-Death Spell, he was disheartened to make any move.
Fortunately, Li Mu had not required him to do anything yet.
As to the help he provided for Li Mu to refurbish the house in the Pig-Herding Alley, he found it unnecessary to be kept a secret, so the magistrate had long been informed of it.
At the moment, Li Gang raised the writing brush and started scribbling on a piece of blank paper.
Back then, he was also a champion of the liberal arts examinations, so naturally, his calligraphy skills were quite outstanding. These days, he had already become a renowned contemporary calligrapher across the empire. He wrote nonstop until it came to the last word. After finishing the writing, he cast aside the brush and blew on the desk. Immediately, splendidness seemed to rise up from the desk.
That was indeed splendid writing.
Li Gang was not only good at calligraphy but a top-rated writer and poet.
What he just wrote on the paper was a poem.
“A mountain has fame not for its height, but for a deity being in it. A lake has the spirit not for its depth, but for a dragon being in it. My room, although simple and humble, is famous for my virtues. Here, moss kisses the steps, and green grass catches the eyes. Confabs here are all made by erudite men but shallow people. Here I can play my undecorated zither and read wise sutras, neither interrupted by such noises as from those silk-string and woodwind instruments nor exhausted by official documents. My room, famous for my virtues, like Zhuge Liang’s Thatched Cottage in Nanyang and Ziyun’s Pavilion in western Shu, is just described as Confucius said, ‘How can such a shack be simple and humble?'”
It was beyond doubt that the poem was a uniquely conceived, well-organized, high-minded popular work.
When Zheng Cunjian finished reading it, he already understood where the poem was from.
The poem was not a work of Li Gang. Instead, it was the one that had incurred a huge sensation, though it just started to spread around Chang’an yesterday.
And the author was precisely Li Mu, the young Great Master who had already made great waves in the city.
Yesterday, as the poem was disclosed from the Marvelous Mathematician, the second master of Xiongfeng Martial Art Club, it rapidly circulated among a certain group of people. There happened to be a poetry seminar last night. When the Marvelous Mathematician read that poem out loud, all the poets and scholars present were amazed. They took the poem as a work of God, and then made great whoops and hollers about it. With the enthusiastic recommendation of those men of letters, the whole city began to seethe with admiration just like someone had spilled a pinch of salt into burning oil.
Like whirlwind, the Epigraph of My Shack instantly swept through the literary circle of Chang’an.
Considering the one who created the work was that rather high-profile young Great Master, Li Mu, the poem appeared to be more legendary.
So far, many people had dug out the background of this unbelievable talent, especially the part of him severing ties with his father, the magistrate of Chang’an, before running away from home and living a poor life. With Li Mu’s story and experiences in mind, the poem seemed to be quite suited for the circumstance and have more artistic quality.
Although there were some abstruse phrases in the poem that no one had a concluded explanation, such as the names of two places, the Zhuge Liang’s Thatched Cottage in Nanyang and Ziyun’s Pavilion in western Shu, and the word ‘Confusious’ in the last sentence, it was irrefutable that because of the poem, Li Mu was even more famous in the city of Chang’an.
Now, he was regarded as a marvelous talent who studied both literature and martial arts.
It was said that, within just a couple of days, Li Mu had already gained a load of fans. Some nobles even saw Li Mu as the most mouthwatering prey and were discussing in private about how to capture him.
Zheng Cunjian never expected that Li Gang would write down the poem in his study.
“Well, Cunjian, you’re a distinguished poet in Chang’an. Come on, what do you think about this poem?” asked Li Gang with a nonchalant smile.
Zheng Cunjian felt his heart missed a beat. He had no idea how to comment on this work.
In truth, during the past few days, he clearly felt that the magistrate, who had once exchanged three punches with his son and banished him ever since then, appeared to hold less detest and hostility towards Li Mu than people assumed. Even though Li Gang had dispatched him and Chu Shufeng to pick on Li Mu in Taibai County, Li Gang’s attitude towards his abandoned son seemed to have altered exactly since that incident.
Now, the magistrate was neither willing to get close to his son nor intending to keep him at a distance… Anyway, it was hard to tell.
“This poem is in line with Young Master Li’s mindset. It shows he has a style of his own, which is quite a brilliant work.” Eventually, Zheng Cunjian could only come up with such a compliment that everybody was saying.
Li Gang burst into a fit of hearty laughter. The handsome man in his early forties was at the peak of his personal charm. He seemed as gentle and elegant as a piece of jade when he smiled. Then, he said, “Having a style of his own is an understatement. This poem coming from my evil spawn is really unprecedentedly stunning. It is a work demonstrating his ambition. ‘A mountain has fame not for its height, but for a deity being in it. A lake has the spirit not for its depth, but for a dragon being in it.’ Haha, my evil spawn is comparing himself to a deity and a dragon. Put it nicely, he is aiming for the highest; but if put it in a more candid fashion, his ambition is wild.”
Zheng Cunjian pondered over the remark and found it very accurate, given the arrogant impression Li Mu left him. He was the devil, the one with no fear, so it was not wrong to say his ambition was wild.
Smiling, Li Gang meditatively lifted the writing brush again and added beneath the poem a short line of words in small characters.
How could a golden fish be confined in a pool forever; it will turn into a dragon once a storm comes along!
After that, he tossed the brush onto the floor and left the room with a broad smile.
Zheng Cunjian followed the magistrate out with the normal expression. However, he was shocked within.
“Is that a comment on Li Mu?”
“Turns out that the magistrate thinks so highly of his abandoned son. Turns into a dragon once a storm comes? Seems that his expectation on Li Mu is even higher than on First Young Master, Li Xiong, isn’t it? But why did he…” At that thought, Zhen Cunjian suddenly realized he probably had got it all wrong.
“Then, where is the storm for Li Mu?”
“The imminent duel with the Heaven-Sword Celestial Being?”
“Perhaps it is.”
Zheng Cunjian’s mind could not stop racing.
“Epigraph of My Shack?”
Qin Zhen, the princess, had just finished reading the poem. She was extremely surprised and amazed to see such a wonderful work.
She was shocked because, in her understanding, Li Mu, who was corrupted in morality, could not write such a good poem that had its unique style.
That was a common logic.
Many people believed one’s writing showed what kind of man the writer was. Literary works, like poems, never fooled people. A writer always created works depicting his true spiritual world. Throughout history, a great number of extraordinary predecessors had left behind tons of great works that were passed on for several hundred years. However, no one could ever write a simple but profound sentence like ‘A mountain has fame not for its height, but for a deity being in it. A lake has the spirit not for its depth, but for a dragon being in it’. The poem fully displayed the vigor and spirit of the writer.
“Is this a ghostwriting?”
She was skeptical about the author.
But soon, she dispelled all her suspicions.
Because the poem just tallied with what Li Mu had been through.
Only the one who had experienced and been tormented by such hardships and sufferings could write such a poem. Since the story of Li Mu giving three punches against his father, even though she had no care for that figure, she could not completely ignore it with Wang Chen, now a big fan of Li Mu, constantly filling her in about Li Mu’s legend.
“Did I really misunderstand him?”
Qin Zhen started doubting her previous judgment.
A moment later, Wang Chen came in from outside and said, “Your Highness, it’s all set. In two hours, we’ll set off for the Musical House. Please be reminded that your identity can’t be exposed.”
In a mystical place in Chang’an…
“Well, adolescent Great Master… The Epigraph of My Shack… My officials, do you think if this man can work for me?” A gorgeous young man looked up from a copy of the Epigraph of My Shack and questioned the crowd in front of him beamingly.
“A man who has succeeded at such a young age is not likely to serve Your Highness.” One of the officials offered his opinion.
“The poem is too lofty,” commented another official.
“But it might worth a try.”
“Haha, it’s natural for Your Highness to be eager to discover and recruit a real talent. If Your Highness intends to promote him to be an official, I volunteer to persuade him and make him your man.”
“Yeah, he is young, innocent, and has good potentials, and is a good candidate for further cultivation. But the more stunning he is, the more pompous he might be. Your Highness, you perhaps need to prepare for both the good outcome and the bad one. If he can’t be useful for us, he must be finished off as soon as possible.”
The officials each held a different opinion.
And every single one of them was high-leveled.
The young man just said with a smile. “I have no concerns about his arrogance or pompousness. What worries me is the possibility of him being unappreciative. The spirit of a poet, well… I figure I can wear him down. I’ll let him know that working for me is his only option. After all, few talents that I picked managed to slip through my fingers.”
Li Mu appeared at the entrance of the Musical House in Chang’an.
In essence, the Musical House was a brothel opened by the government. The hookers there were mainly wives or daughters of the noble families or government officials who committed crimes and got the whole family purged. Once being forcefully escorted to the Musical House, those wives or daughters that were used to be set high above the masses were instantly converted into prostitutes that could be taken by any men. How miserable that was! But exactly due to their once prestigious status, lewd men were scrambling for a night to spend with those women.
Thus, it could be said that the Musical House was the most popular brothel in the entire city.
Li Mu, who had been musing over the way of the Mediation Approach for days, was pretty fretted about his slow progress. As such, he summoned Zheng Cunjian through the Life-and-Death Spell and asked him to accompany him roaming the streets in the evening to relax his mind and avoid jumping to the wrong path of practice in haste. It might be a great experience to see the prosperity of the large city in the alien world.
He had been quite curious about this strange world since day one.
But with Zheng Cunjian leading the way in a seemingly unintentionally fashion, he suddenly found himself standing at the gate of the Musical House.
“Young Master, why not go in and enjoy the view?” suggested Zheng Cunjian.
Looking as composed as usual, Li Mu nodded, “Okay.”
Truthfully, he already could not wait to see the inside.
Li Mu was not an obstinate and conservative man in the first place, let alone that for any man who time-traveled to an ancient dynasty, a tour of the ancient brothel was the utmost wish they had. Now that he was here, why not go in and have some fun? Even if he did not try anything, he could have some wine and look around. That was also a kind of experience in life.