Upon hearing that question, Bai Xuan shook her head and said, “No one has delivered me any accurate message yet.”
Li Mu sighed with disappointment.
“Fu*k you, old beggar! How can you be so mean? You did take the flood dragon blood and steal the adorkable girl Ming Yue away!”
“You’re truly not fussy.”
“When I find this old bastard and his yellow dog, I will break their legs.”
Bai Xuan did not linger in the room for long. Soon, she took leave before she outstayed her welcome.
After letting go of her concerns, she felt quite relaxed instead.
Nowadays, both Li Mu and Hua Xiangrong were famous figures in the city of Chang’an and could draw the attention of any parties without effort. The former, in particular, was a young talent with unsurpassable brilliance in both poetry and martial arts. He was definitely a pure genius that was rare to see. Only God knew how eye-catching he was. Even though he was kind of a dangerous man, he could bring fame to the Holy House in every single day he spent here.
In the room, Li Mu continued to teach Hua Xiangrong Taoist magic arts.
When the lesson was over, Hua Xiangrong, a Natural Taoist Figure, started singing and dancing in the room to stimulate the Ways. Meanwhile, Li Mu began to practice Xiantian Skill in this environment and yielded twice the result with half the effort.
This was already a must-have event for the two’s daily ‘peer practice’.
Recently, Li Mu felt his spiritual force had been filling up and about to break through a small bottleneck, which would allow him to challenge the Fully Accomplished Rank at the first level of the Xiantian Skill.
He was very much looking forward to it.
“When I become fully accomplished at the first level of the Xiantian Skill, my Third Eye will be activated to a complete scale. Then, how powerful will it be?”
“What? He turned me down again?”
The second prince, who was as handsome as a figure in fairy tales, slightly raised his eyebrows as he heard the feedback of his envoy.
Inside the room, a hot discussion instantly broke out among those counselors around the second prince.
“How bumptious! He is utterly unforgivable!”
“He is ungrateful! Death will serve him right!”
“Your Highness, you can’t be merciful on this conceited man! Otherwise, others will certainly follow his suit. If so, how can Your Highness maintain your stateliness?”
“I suggest Your Highness sending some experts to take out this arrogant rogue!”
Looking overwhelmed with indignation, everyone uttered their advice.
However, the second prince suddenly displayed a mysterious smile. Then, he asked, “Gao Yi, did you fight Li Mu? How is his strength?”
The middle-aged warrior did not hold any detail back but recounted the whole story. Then, he commented, “I’m not his match. If we fight head-on, I may only survive his three moves tops. After three moves, I’ll be dead already.” Although he had been disgraced by Li Mu, he chose to describe the incident with the honesty in his own conceit, so as to prevent the second prince’s judgment from being clouded his prejudiced narration. Yet, he had no idea that this was only his own wishful thinking.
“Oh, turns out that was how it went.” The second prince smiled peacefully and continued, “You go and deliver my visiting letter to him again. This time, try to be polite. It’s normal that a talented man likes putting on airs.”
As those words were out, the hall fell perfectly silent.
Those who were angrily denouncing Li Mu a moment ago instantly shut up. No one dared to speak ill of Li Mu anymore.
“This time, the second prince seems to be quite patient and courteous to the man he wants to enlist.”
A little taken aback at the new order, the middle-aged man felt stressed at once. But he quickly nodded and answered, “Yes, I got it.”
“The second prince is getting serious about this!”
“He killed Yuan Wu, too?”
In the study, Li Gang, the magistrate of Chang’an, who was practicing calligraphy, felt his hand stiffened for a second.
Zheng Cunjian nodded and confirmed, “According to the message of our inside source, it’s true. And killing Yuan Wu was not all of it. I’ve been told that even Routing Supervisor Lu Lizi got injured as well.” Then, Zheng Cunjian told Li Gang everything that happened in the hall of the Supervisory Department.
After carefully managing the Chang’an government for so many years, Li Gang had long since plant his agents in the local Supervisory Department. Thus, nothing there could escape his ears.
He was, after all, the local tyrant.
A quite formidable local tyrant.
When Li Gang heard Zheng Cunjian out, he put the writing brush on the holder, took a hot towel from his attending concubine to wipe his hands, and then said, “Lu Lizi has entered the Natural Realm a dozen years ago. I’ve heard that he has refined 40% of his internal qi into the Natural qi, hasn’t he? And he has also mastered the Crape Myrtle Mad Broadsword Skill and ranks the 30th among the 36 Routing Supervisors in the headquarters of the Supervisory Department, right?”
Zheng Cunjian suggested, “The 40% of Natural qi is merely his own assertion. I guess it’s likely an exaggerated number. Anyway, given his character, he may have overstated it a little. So, it’s probably only a bit over 30%.”
“That’s already quite a large amount. Well, this evil spawn of my surely stunned me over and over again.” Li Gang then took a bowl of ginseng and cubilose porridge from the attending concubine, guzzled it down, and said, “Cunjian, in your opinion, is it that he has reserved part of his power every time he struck, or his strength has been growing all the time? On that day he dueled with the Heaven Sword Martial Club, though he bombarded the Heaven-Sword Celestial Being with a single one move, he showed no ability to harm Lu Lizi at that time.”
Zheng Cunjian shook his head and admitted, “Frankly, I don’t know. If he has been reserving his power, it doesn’t fit with the incidents in the past. But if we say his strength has been increasing, it seemed unlikely that he can make progress at this rate. No one in the world can do that. I’m afraid that even the heads of the nine Holy Clans or that man in old times whom people abstain from speaking of never had a power hike like this.”
“Fair point well made.” Li Gang stifled all the speculations that went rampant in his mind.
“Your honor, the day after tomorrow is the Top Beauty Competition. Will you attend that event?” Asked Zheng Cunjian.
Li Gang shook his head and explained, “It’s inappropriate for me to be present at such a frisky occasion.” Now that he was the actual ruler of the city of Chang’an, he saw no need to manifest his power there. As to the so-called Top Beauties, he could totally make them line up for his favoring if he truly wanted.
Zheng Cunjian hesitated for a moment before asking, “And what about that thing the second prince intends to do?”
After settling himself back into the chair behind the desk, Li Gang stared at the flickering candle and said, “Being cooperative… to some extent. We can do the share that is in line with the laws of the empire. As to the rest that violates the laws, we shall leave it to him.”
“Got it.” Zheng Cunjian nodded.
Time lapsed rapidly.
Soon, two days passed by.
The day of the Top Beauty Competition finally arrived.
The official start time of the competition was at dusk when the lights were all lit up.
At daytime on that day, the Musical House organized another flower parade. The female slaves captured from the vast pasture and the beautiful women from sinned official families, including the widow and two daughters of General Tang, were confined to iron cages carried by carriages and dragged around the city for a second time.
The younger daughter, Tang Mi, was still feeling dizzy because she had not recovered from the cold. She had no idea what kind of pathetic life was waiting for them at all. The Widow Tang and her older daughter, by contrast, looked miserable and terrified.
By doing this parade, the Musical House hoped to warm up the atmosphere before the competition started.
When the sun was setting at twilight, the Liufang Street, where the Musical House was located, was soon packed with people. Clamorous as it never had before, the whole street was immersed in a festive ambiance. With the hustle and bustle of large crowds, the place was almost full to bursting.
Like all the grand events and gatherings back on Earth, this competition was elaborately arranged by the Musical House. There was an opening ceremony at the beginning. The whole event was open to anyone who was interested. Now, on a huge stage in the open air, young and gorgeous prostitutes who had signed up in the Top Beauty Competition but did not make to the top 30 in the screening were presenting their excellent performances in succession to earn more popularity. They caused bursts of loud cheers and whoops from the throngs on Liufang Street, creating an animated atmosphere.
This was the last chance those rejected prostitutes had to show their talents and gain more fame. Hence, they did all they can during their performance.
When the opening ceremony was over, the real Top Beauty Competition got started.
All the famous prostitutes from assorted brothels in Chang’an and other provinces staged their best show one by one to contend for the ‘Top Beauty’ title.
Time flew by. By this time, all the streetlights were lit.
The darkness slowly descended on this land.
Two bright moons were watching the event in silence from high above.
As a poem in the Tang Dynasty went, each of the moons looked just like a plate of jade as the boys on Earth often called it.
Even the weather was very cooperative with today’s event. They sky was not overcast at all. The moonlight was extremely beautiful. It enveloped the land like a thin veil, coating all the buildings in Chang’an with a layer of white frost.
Before the competition started officially, Li Mu appeared in a private room for honored guests on the second floor of the Fairy House, which was about twenty meters away across the stage. He was watching the event attentively.
Of course, he was here to boost the morale of Hua Xiangrong.
This private room was the one Madam Bai Xuan, the owner of the Holy House, reserved specifically for Li Mu. The vision and the angle of view there were quite good, for Li Mu could have a clear view of all the performances on the stage and not be blocked by the crowds on the street. Also, when Hua Xiangrong stepped onto the stage, she could easily see Li Mu cheering for her.
Indeed, Bai Xuan had gone through a lot of trouble to help Hua Xiangrong champion the competition.
Li Mu was sitting in the private room. Beside him sat Zheng Cunjian.
The chrysanthemum leopard had curled up at a corner of the room. With its eyes half-closed, it was dozing off and snoring at ease.
In truth, Li Mu was also a little excited and curious about this event.
After all, the selection of the Top Beauty was a very appealing activity for any man. To watch all the extraordinarily talented and pretty girls within a radius of several thousand miles doing performances was definitely a feast for the eyes. Plus, Li Mu certainly could not just support his favorite girl by paying lip service. So tonight, he came to the event to back up Hua Xiangrong by action.
It actually gave him a pleasure of participation.
It was a pleasure utterly different from that he experienced in making progress in martial arts practice.
The competition was about to take place at any second.
The outstanding prostitutes that had ranked the top 30 were doing their last-minute preparations and drawing lots for turns to go onto the stage.
Before coming to the event, Li Mu had already learned the rules and procedures for the selection of the Top Beauty from Zheng Cunjian.
Same as the various talent shows on Earth in essence, the final result of the Top Beauty Competition would be decided by three steps— the ‘audience voting’, the ‘professional screening’, and the ‘promotional comparison’.
In the ‘audience voting’ step, those who liked the performances of those prostitutes could give a flower basket to their preferred performer during the shows. One flower basket equaled one silver ingot. The final number of the flower baskets or the value of silver ingots a prostitute received would be a part of the basis for her rating. But in Li Mu’s perspective, it was practically the same as the text message voting back on Earth. Anyway, you had to throw in money to support your idols. But since a flower basket cost a silver ingot here, this was absolutely a game of the well-off.
In the ‘professional screening’, a review panelist constituted by a total of 30 distinguished guests from the higher class, extremely wealthy tycoons, powerful officials, and well-known madams from all the brothels, would rate each participant’s performance. Their rating would be counted in each performer’s final points.
And in the third step, the ‘promotional comparison’, those celebrated scholars that the prostitutes had invited here beforehand would present poems flattering the girls they patronized. Based on the quality of the poems they made, they could win extra points for their girls in the last part of the competition.
“The last step of writing poems is especially important for the final result of the Top Beauty Competition. A poem that might be popular for a hundred or a thousand years can cause a sensation among the audience and be widely spread across the world. Therefore, it’s also the most critical part of the whole competition… But needless to say, this part is not a problem for you, Young Master Li. Tonight, Miss Hua is bound to be the Top Beauty,” said Zheng Cunjian.