But tonight quite a few in the hall had mocked Li Mu.
Especially the rest of the scholars of the two academies. They already cursed the young man with all sorts of swear words they could think of. Now, as Li Mu scanned the crowd with his eyes, every single one of them was seized by panic. Their hearts were hammering wildly as if a knife was pressed against their chest, and they did not even dare to breathe heavily.
“Hanshan Academy and Fengming Academy are said to be the two best places for learning knowledge in the ancient capital, Chang’an. But the students there stand facts on their heads. How pathetic and ridiculous they are! Today, I won’t kill you. Go back and tell your deans that in ten days I’ll visit both of your academies and borrow some books stored in your libraries. They must clean the libraries and get all the books ready within ten days and wait for my arrival.”
Li Mu’s eyes swept across those terrified scholars as he ordered them in a tone allowing of no contradiction.
The others on the scene were all amazed by his remark.
“Is he going to challenge the two academies in ten days?”
It should be noted that the libraries of both the academies, the Hanshan Study and the Fengming Stack Room, were forbidden places in the two institutions. Each stored a slew of precious manuals and books, including classic literature and works of poetry as well as secret martial arts theories. It could be said that the libraries were the fundamental reason that the two academies managed to have a foothold in the education world of the empire.
Such crucial places were not accessible unless you were the administration of the academies or their key disciples. However, the young man was going to visit and borrow books in the two libraries. That was practically a blatant challenge against the two academies.
“How daring he is!”
“How arrogant he is!”
The scholars of the two academies were thunderstruck again.
“How come a man could be so unscrupulous?”
Standing next to them, Madame Bai Xuan dropped her jaw as well.
“This request is, perhaps, too demanding!”
“Even the Heartless Scholar himself doesn’t have the guts to say things like that, does he?”
Hearing Li Mu’s words, Hua Xiangrong, who also had some knowledge about the two academies, revealed a gleam of surprise in her gorgeous eyes.
At the moment, she really could not see through him.
Could this young man be merely a talented but powerless scholar as she had assumed?
No, absolutely not.
How could a normal scholar have such high cultivation and menacing aura?
And he was not negotiating with the two academies but informing, commanding, and narrating… He was overlooking them condescendingly, as though a great victor looking down at a swarm of foolish and disgusting bugs.
“He is certainly not an ordinary guy.”
“Then, who is he?”
Hua Xiangrong’s heart started thumping in spite of herself.
“Yes. We’ll pass on every word you said to our dean.” A disciple of the Hanshan Academy finally plunked his courage with efforts to answer Li Mu. He then gritted his teeth and added, “But, Mister, you ought to tell us your identity, so our dean will know what great man will use our library.”
This remark actually voiced the question everyone wanted to ask.
Li Mu smiled. Well, there was nothing to hide, so he was about to reveal his identity…
However, at this moment, something unexpected happened.
Rumbles of rapid hoofbeat were heard, which were followed by the sound of footsteps and the grating noise of armors rubbing against weapons. They moved very fast and soon came to the outside of the hall.
“Get out of the way! The eastern branch of Chang’an government is on a case! People impertinent to the case step aside now!”
Someone shouted to the guests.
“His Honor, Cai Zhijie, is here,” a man yelled.
Cai Zhijie, the security officer of the eastern region, was one of the several giants in the Chang’an government. He was aggressive, brutal, and quite powerful. Even a crying kid would stop whining when hearing his name solely. His position was similar to the head of a Public Security Sub-Bureau on Earth.
When everyone learned that such a figure was here, they immediately knew tonight’s drama was going to reach its climax.
The men from the government finally arrived here.
They represented the authority of the empire.
The guiders of the two respected academies were killed in public place. That was undoubtedly a violation of the laws of the empire, so there was no way the government would leave the case uninvestigated.
A troop of soldiers in shining black armors and carrying sharp broadswords and spears made way through the crowd and marched into the hall.
The one taking the lead was two-meter high, two times larger than a normal man. He was rather heavyset. Due to his too bulky size, the tailor-made black armor he was wearing looked like an iron tower. His beard seemed as hard as steel needles. His large, round eyes were widened as if glowering. He was carrying a heavy broadsword at his waist, looking quite intimidating. Every time he took a step, he gave the others an impression that the whole Holy House was shaking with the ground under his feet, too.
Needless to ask, the corpulent giant in black armor was Cai Zhijie.
The moment he appeared, it seemed the temperature in the hall abruptly dropped, as if a gust of chilling wind had swept in.
The scholars of the two academies instantly felt heartened, as though the giant was their savior.
“The government force is here! Great! Now the mad killer can be reined!”
Bai Xuan, however, was slightly surprised.
Because the troop of the government had arrived a little earlier than she presumed. If nothing else, the one she sent to the government was not supposed to reach the destination until now. And it would at least take half an hour for the government to get into action. So, how come they got here so fast?
At the sight of the official troop, Hua Xiangrong’s face paled.
Her concern about Li Mu’s safety deepened the moment she saw the government force. She patted Li Mu on the shoulder and said in an undertone, “Young Master, run…” Once the government meddled in the case, the problem was serious. No matter how amazing Li Mu’s strength was, he could not be able to confront the government, could he?
Li Mu was, still, unperturbed by the newcomers.
He gave Hua Xiangrong a soothing smile and just stood on the spot with perfect calm.
The atmosphere in the hall now looked quite eerie.
However, to everyone’s astoundment, the awe-inspiring Cai Zhijie did not give the order of arrest to capture Li Mu, the murderer. Instead, he just glanced at the floor and caught sight of the bodies of Zhen Yuandao and Jia Zuoren, but he did not do anything or even ask about their death. Void of expression, he beckoned at his subordinates and ordered, “Take them away.”
Soldiers scurried over and directly carried the bodies of the two guiders out of the place.
“Your Honor Cai, you must seek justice for us…” A scholar of the Hanshan Academy approached Cai Zhijie with a sullen face, reckoning his savior would help him.
“Take him out,” shouted Cai Zhijie with a stony face.
Two ferocious deputy generals by the side instantly leaped forward before dragging the scholar by his arms to the outside.
“Your Honor, what are you doing? Your Honor… I’m not the murderer…” That scholar panicked, struggling with all his might to break free.
But the black-armored soldiers simply gave him several slaps without listening to his protest. The scholar’s mouth and nose started to bleed, and before long, he passed out. Then, the soldiers shackled him, stuffed a piece of cloth in his mouth, and lugged him down the road.
At that scene, the rest of the scholars of the two academies were alarmed, an ominous feeling rising in their hearts.
“This doesn’t seem right.”
The others also began to catch on to the situation.
“It appears that this security official is not here for arresting the killer, is he?”
With several hundred people in the hall staring unblinkingly at him, this government official who was extremely powerful and notoriously fierce landed his eyes on Li Mu. A second later, he took a few steps forward and, under everyone’s incredulous attention, cupped his fists courteously at Li Mu and said, “I pay my tribute to Great Master Li.”
Naturally, he was well aware of Li Mu’s identity.
Because it was Zheng Cunjian who sent for him.
A Great Master in martial arts enjoyed a special status in this empire.
This world was dominated by martial arts cultivators. The Divine Land was governed jointly by the nine Holy Clans, the three empires, and some alien races that adopted theocracy. Whether in the Western Qin, the Northern Song, or the Southern Chu, experts that had reached a certain level were all subject to the investigation of the Supervisory Department if they broke the laws. But if a cultivator had entered the Great Master Realm, he was practically out of the reach of the normal laws. Great Masters were critical talents to the empire, so they were seldom accused of any crime, unless what he did was truly outrageous.
Thus, the problem to be answered here was clear—was killing two academy guiders an outrageous crime?
Of course not.
Even if the Supervisory Department took this case, they would mainly serve as a mediator and eventually discipline Li Mu symbolically. As for landing him in jail and punishing him for taking others’ lives with the death penalty, well, that could never happen.
Hence, regardless of the power that Cai Zhijie had, he would not be so silly to impress others by taking on a Great Master.
Not to mention that the identity of this Great Master Li was rather more special.
The remark of the Heartless Scholar crossed Cai Zhijie’s mind again, which made him even less daring to neglect Li Mu. The common folks only knew Li Mu as the abandoned son of the magistrate of Chang’an, but who could learn what the magistrate was really thinking of him. Plus, even though the one cast out into the Pig-Herding Alley was miserable and incapacitated, for all those years, he was still very much alive in this half year. The story behind that must be quite long.
With all those uncertainties in mind, Cai Zhijie chose to treat Li Mu politely.
But when his politeness was captured by the crowd in the hall, their eyeballs almost fell out of their eye sockets.
“What the heck is going on?”
“His Honor Cai… should hold this young man in respect?”
“What does that mean?”
Those who were actually expecting to see Li Mu being suppressed now all went petrified.
This was another turn of tonight’s event.
“Gosh, who on earth is this young man?”
The disciples of the Heaven Sword Martial Club who had provoked Li Mu and Zheng Cunjian a while ago were already drenched in cold sweat. How they wished they could plunge their heads into the soil like ostriches in case Li Mu spotted them in the hall.
But fortunately, Li Mu had not noticed their existence.
“You know me?” Slightly taken aback, Li Mu gazed up at the bigshot in the Chang’an government system and then quickly realized something. “It’s Mr. Zheng who sent you here, am I right?”
“Yes,” replied Cai Zhijie.
Li Mu nodded at him.
“No wonder Zheng Cunjian was nowhere to be seen since I got out.”
“Turns out that he was fetching some help.”
When Zheng Cunjian saw Zhen Yuandao and his lot came to the hall, he must have known trouble was around the corner, and that was why he tipped off the eastern government branch. But certainly, Zheng Cunjian did not ask the official to come to his rescue but to deal with the aftermath of the incident.
“Well, may I go now?” asked Li Mu.
“Sure, as you wish.” Cai Zhijie told him with all due respect.
Li Mu could tell that this iron tower-like man was an excellent expert of martial arts. He was much stronger than that Zhou Yiling, and perhaps on a par with Zhang Chengfeng, the owner of the Heaven Sword Martial Club who was famous for his Heaven-breaking Legend Sword.
Since the officer treated him so courteously, Li Mu certainly would not be difficult with him.
And it was time for him to take off.