The musicians all drew back and left the room.
“Miss Hua, you really… Well, I don’t know what to say.” Xin’er sighed, deploring greatly. “Miss, you didn’t really fell for that little scholar, did you?”
Hua Xiangrong gave a sweet smile and directly sat on the floor despite her normal lofty image. She fanned her hair and put her fine legs up playfully as she asked, “What’s up, my dear sister? Isn’t he a decent man that worth my crush? Isn’t he brilliant?”
“He is brilliant. But… Well,” Xin’er reminded her and said bitterly, “You only just met him.”
“For some, it is still meaningless even after a thousand visits. But for the other, the first encounter is already enough to steal my heart.” Beaming, Hua Xiangrong dangled her white, cute feet perkily, her fine ankles and smooth toes swinging from one side to the other.
She was, after all, a girl at the age of sixteen, still preserving traces of childishness. When there were no outsiders around, she would reveal her naughty side.
“Miss, I almost believe you are brainwashed,” Xin’er continued with patience, “I admit, that Young Master was indeed a good man you could marry if it was in the past. But now, the situation has changed. The Bloody-moon faction is closing in on you… If he were powerful, he might be able to help you. But in reality, he is just a poor scholar. Even if he wants to help, he is not capable of it. No matter how brilliant his poem is or how awesome his personality is, it is meaningless to you.”
At those words, the smile in Hua Xiangrong’s eyes instantly dimmed.
Like a burning candle being extinguished by a blast of ruthless wind, the blossoming girl suddenly withered, and her eyes stopped shining at once.
She just bit her lips with the white, seashell-like teeth and sat there in silence, her face screwed up in agony.
At her expression, Xin’er lost her nerves and hastily said, “Miss, that’s not what I mean. I…”
Hua Xiangrong raised her head and gave her a shaky smile. “I know, my silly sister. I’m quite clear what your worries are. And I know you have my best interest at heart. Yeah, I can’t be with him, because that will land him in trouble, too. I’m a dangerous beauty, and I shall not hurt him… Don’t worry, there are still a few days to go before the deadline. I will only see him a few more times. When that day comes, I will no longer cross path with him.”
In the last few days before falling to the abyss of misery, she just hoped to make more beautiful memories for herself.
This requirement was not too demanding, right?
Otherwise, when she was really at the depths of the dark pool of despair and could not see any ray of light, what else could warm and comfort her damaged aching soul?
When Li Mu went down the stairs from the third floor, the hall of the Holy House was still crowded with a sea of people.
The previous onlookers had no intention to scatter away. And it seemed that more people had joined them.
As Li Mu reappeared, the crowd burst into an uproar. The atmosphere changed drastically, as if somebody had tossed a chunk of ice into a sizzling oil pan.
“Out, he came out!”
“It took him so long to get out.”
“Oh, I can’t stand this. Could Miss Hua have already been…”
“My goddess has been tainted…”
Someone howled in a low voice.
The previous Hua Xiangrong was pure and noble as a fairy in the immortal world, because she had never let a man in her room. However, now, everything was different.
Staring at the man walking slowly down the stairs from Hua Xiangrong’s room, many people already thought that once unreachable goddess had fallen to dust and was no longer pure, regardless of what really happened in her room.
“Bah, the plagiarizer finally dares to come out.” Lin Qiushui, the president of the Hanshan Academy who had waited for a long time, marched up to Li Mu and blocked him. “You pitiful thing, we’ve found out you copying other’s work.”
“What are they playing now?”
Li Mu, however, merely threw a nonchalant look at the young scholar.
His lousy acting and provocation did not upset Li Mu.
Anyway, a dragon never bothered to care the defiance of an ant.
Li Mu just found him ridiculous and pathetic.
Void of expression, he sidestepped Lin Qiushui and headed out.
Tonight, he accidentally made a breakthrough—activating the Third eye—when he was watching Hua Xiangrong dancing. Now, he only wanted to hurry back to the Shack and organized his train of thought, so he decided not to tangle with the small potato on that trivial issue.
However, even though he did not want to make trouble, others would not let him off the hook.
Liu Muyang, a scholar of the Fengming Academy, came forward and stood in Li Mu’s way again. He snapped, “What’s the matter with you? Are you scared? Want to escape? Hum, after plagiarizing other’s poem and stealing the thunder, now you want to flee, don’t you? But how come you could have it all?”
Li Mu scowled at him.
He was losing his patience.
He turned around to look at the table he sat before but was surprised to see that Zheng Cunjian was not to been seen there, and the seats were all taken by the disciples of Heaven Sword Martial Club, who were all darting provocatively gloating glances at him.
“What now? Too freaked out to speak?”
“Haha, his trick has been seen through, so he is speechless, right?”
The scholars from the two academies started yelling snide remarks.
“Penniless brat, I’ve invited a witness here. He can testify that your ‘beauty poem’ is a copy. Now, you can’t deny it.” Smiling viciously, Lin Qiushui walked over and threatened. “Tonight, I will expose your true color in front of everyone.”
“Unless he is from the Earth or the reincarnation of the dead who used to live on Earth, what fu*king testimony could he give?”
Li Mu was unwilling to waste time on this matter. He clenched his fists, ready to punch this ignorant little scholar. But it suddenly occurred to him that the Hanshan Academy was pretty influential in Chang’an. If he completely made an enemy out of them, though he had no fear of it, it would probably put Hua Xiangrong in a difficult position and affect her reputation, wouldn’t it?
As Li Mu was hesitating, a grey-haired old man walked to the front of the crowd.
He seemed in his fifties. He was wearing an off-white scholar uniform, his face thin and wrinkled, giving off an aura of learned elegance that made him look quite mild and good-natured. However, the words that came out of his mouth were rather spiteful.
“Everyone, I am Zhen Yuandao, the top guider of the fourth grade in the Hanshan Academy. I’m here to testify. Tonight, the ‘beauty poem’ this little friend composed is actually a copy of my work.” The old man did a self-introduction and continued with a hint of smile. “Several days ago, I was drinking in a pub. As I got slightly drunk, I saw an extremely gorgeous girl passing by the window. Inspired by her beauty, I came up with the ‘beauty poem’ on a whim. Then, I wrote the poem on the wall of that pub and felt quite good for myself. Perhaps this little friend happened to be in that pub at that time and read my work. But tonight, he displayed it in the Holy House as his own, that really took me by surprise.”
Before the remarks faded, the hall was drowned by a rumble of shocked cries.
Zhen Yuandao, the guider of the Hanshan Academy, was a respected figure in the literature circle in the entire Chang’an. He had created many famous works, such as the Taking up the Arms, the Star and the Moon. Although his works might not be passed on for centuries, some had really been spread from mouth to mouth for ages. He could definitely make to the top ten list of men of letters in Chang’an. It could be said that he was one of the leaders of the literary arena here.
Thus, once he came out to testify, the scales were tipped towards him.
“Turns out it’s really a copy!”
“That’s what I’ve been saying. It only makes sense when that fine poem is from Mr. Zhen.”
“He is shameless! How dare he poach Mr. Zhen’s work to trick us?”
“And he has also swindled Miss Hua. That’s unforgivable! He should be arrested and be torn up by five horses, be slashed by a thousand knives.”
With the roars of the scholars from the two academies, the other audience in the hall were also seethed with indignation.
“Haha, I was wondering what kind of amazing talent he is. But he turns out to be a fraud. Hahaha, I’ll be ashamed to be in league with him.” The arrogant scholar, Song Qinfei, let loose of a fit of cold laughs while hitting Li Mu when he was down.
Liu Muyang, a scholar from the Fengming Academy, was wearing a frosty smile, but inside he was a little vexed.
Because he had invited over his teacher, Jia Zuoren, with the same purpose. But unluckily, Zhen Yuandao was one step ahead of him. Watching the great poem that might be popular for centuries being robbed by Hanshan Academy’s Zhen Yuandao, he felt it hard to take.
“Beat him to death!”
“Pull off his robe and hang him up!”
People shouted with justified wrath, especially that short stout scholar from the Hanshan Academy.
Of course, the onlookers were not all idiots.
Some had detected the flaw in Zhen Yuandao’s testimony.
In a normal case, if a poem that excellent was his brainchild he got by chance and he really had written it on the wall of a pub a few days ago, by now, it should have been known by the masses. Given the charm of the poem, it would certainly get wild in no time. But how come no one had not heard about the poem at all during the last few days?
Moreover, if it was really a work of Zhen Yuandao, then, why didn’t Lin Qiushui, the direct disciple of Zhen Yuandao, point this out when the poem was just released? Instead, he invited his teacher over after it had been so long since he was humiliated by the young scholar. He could not be so slow on this.
However, even though people had noticed something fishy in the accusation, no one dared to uncover the scam.
After all, the Hanshan Academy had quite a say in the literature circle in Chang’an. They had control over the public opinions. If someone questioned their points, he would become a target of the Hanshan Academy and have big trouble. As to the young and reckless man, he had annoyed both the Hanshan Academy and the Fengming Academy, the two pillars of the local literary world, so this was what he asked for.
“Yes, life is just unfair.”
“And there is nothing we can do to change it, is there?”
As such, even though many of the audience were smart enough to spot the flaw, they all pretended they knew nothing.
“Boy, considering you’re young and senseless, I don’t want to be too hard on you. You might have done it on an impulse.” Zhen Yuandao, who was grey-haired and grey-bearded and had an aura of mystery, smiled like a lenient grandfather and went on, “As long as you admit that you plagiarised my work, I won’t be difficult with you. Just apologize to me and I will let you leave unscathed.”
“Look, that’s the generosity of a real master in the literature circle.”
“Yeah, he is the real master. Tolerant and broad-minded!”
The scholars from the Hanshan Academy instantly seized the opportunity and began to flatter their master.