Standing next to him, Bai Xuan also caught on what was happening. With a rather abashed look, she said, “What can we do now? Someone is giving Hua’er a hard time on purpose? No wonder that kind of result came out from the professional rating… This is… Well, it’s me to blame. Hua’er, it’s all my fault. If I didn’t ask you to participate in the Top Beauty Competition, there would not be so many twists and turns. Perhaps at this time you would have already removed your registration and left with Young Master Li and turned a new leaf. But now… Alas.”
She was seized by a twinge of self-accusation.
That remark spurred Li Mu into holding this madam in higher esteem.
“She does have some kindness after all. After hearing this news, the first thing came to her mind is not that the failure of Hua Xiangrong to be the Top Beauty would damage the interests of her Holy House. Instead, she is concerned about Hua Xiangrong’s safety… That proves she really regard Hua Xiangrong as her sister.”
For the moment, Zheng Cunjian also felt a little helpless.
“What if I go back and ask the magistrate of Chang’an to come forward…” Proposed the scholar, who actually had no assurance on this solution either.
At this point, the maid, Xin’er, was getting anxious, too.
Hua Xiangrong did not speak for fear that she would put Li Mu under too much pressure or placed him in a pickle. She just gently grabbed Li Mu’s arm with both hands, vowing inwardly that she would no longer submit to any other man even at the expense of her life.
Li Mu, however, laughed out of amusement and asked, “Why did you all put on such a doomed look? It’s not like the sky is collapsing. Even if it is, I can restore it to its original state.”
Frankly, for an Earth resident like Li Mu, the so-called deregistration was simply a formality. If he intended to take Hua Xiangrong away, who dared stop him?
Bai Xuan pondered over the issue for a moment before advising, “Young Master Li, let’s do this. You hit the road with Hua’er right now. Since the Top Beauty Competition is not over yet, those people can’t be expecting your escape. When you get out of the city, you can go anywhere in the vast world. Then, even if the emperor wants to find you, it will be as difficult as fishing a needle in a sea.”
Xin’er’s eyes gleamed at this solution. She chimed in, “Yes, yes, now is a good opportunity. Young Master Li, you take Miss Hua on the run, and I’ll stay here to help Madam Bai mislead them. When those men of the Musical House see I was here, they absolutely won’t believe Miss Hua has already left.” The maid was thrilled by this plan, because she knew given Li Mu’s current strength, he could easily take another person out of Chang’an without anyone noticing.
“No! I can’t leave you here…” blurted Hua Xiangrong. Although Xin’er was her maid, she had long taken her as a sister. Thus, how could she bring herself to ditch Xin’er here? Further, she could imagine what dreadful punishment Xin’er would suffer once the Musical House discovered the truth. The maid might face the torment much worse than death.
Half-amused and half-agitated, Li Mu said, “Stop making random plans for us. Why shall we leave? Even if we’ll, that’ll only happen after Hua’er gets the Top Beauty title and I kick the asses of the bad guys.”
“But…” Doubted Bai Xuan, a little discouraged.
“There is no ‘but’.” Li Mu said in confidence, “The Top Beauty is definitely Hua’er. Not everything in the world is under the control of those from the high class. Our great leader Chairman Mao once enlightened us that the folks are those who drive the wheel of history forward.”
Hua Xiangrong thought, “What?”
Bai Xuan thought. “What?”
Zheng Cunjian also thought, “What?”
Xin’er, of course, felt confused, “What?”
“Who is Chairman Mao?”
“Why does it sound so weird?”
Nonetheless, Li Mu’s confidence truly moved them.
“You all go back to your position. Just do what you ought to do.” Li Mu waved at Zheng Cunjian and Bai Xuan and then sent them away.
So, there was only Li Mu, Hua Xiangrong, and Xin’er left in the tent.
“If we get into a fight tonight, Hua’er, you just need to protect Xin’er. As to the rest, leave it to me.” Li Mu decided to take precautions beforehand, so he quickly planned everything up. He had a feeling that something huge was going to happen tonight.
Hua Xiangrong nodded firmly in agreement.
“Young Master, is the situation getting quite dangerous?” asked Xin’er with a blink. Clearly, she was still worried about Hua Xiangrong.
Li Mu answered, “Yes, it’s gonna be very dangerous… to our enemies. It’s highly dangerous.”
Xin’er then put on a doleful face.
“Look at the circumstance! How come Young Master Li still has the energy to pull off my leg?”
Then, Li Mu ceased teasing her and turned around to give Hua Xiangrong some tips on how to defend herself and pull off a counter-attack when she came across an expert in martial arts. Of course, the foremost part was to secure the upper hand, so the use of the shield technique was particularly critical. After that, he gave Hua Xiangrong some disposable Taoist instruments that he had refined in the past few days and taught her the application methods.
“You have been focused on studying the Taoist magic arts for quite a while. Your true combat ability is certainly beyond your imagination. Perhaps tonight is an opportunity for you to ascertain how much you really learned.” Li Mu said to Hua Xiangrong in faith. “In time, you’ll find how fragile those so-called renowned experts and masters are in your presence.”
Hua Xiangrong nodded sheepishly. She had taken in every single word Li Mu just told her.
But in truth, she was not interested in all the fighting and killing.
Even so, she still noticed that her Brother Mu was deliberately cultivating her in this field. As long as it was what Brother Mu desired, she was willing to make it happen regardless of her interest.
After illustrating everything, Li Mu sighed inwardly as he caught Hua Xiangrong’s gaze full of innocent trust. Actually, he was not sure whether he was helping or harming her by pushing this girl with a completely pure and cleansed soul to develop into a Martial Arts Goddess who could command the world. After all, once she stepped onto the road of practicing martial arts, there would be no soft breeze or drizzle but violent storm.
But if he wanted Hua Xiangrong to become a woman who could assist him in the future, the present hardships were simply inevitable.
Deep down, Li Mu knew he was kind of selfish.
Finishing all that, Li Mu closed his eyes and began to practice in the tent. He activated the Xiantian Skill to adjust his body and mind.
About half an hour later, Bai Xuan came in again. “The last part— the poem promotion— is about to start. I was wondering if Young Master Li has got the poem for Hua’er at ready.” If by any chance Hua Xiangrong could turn the tables and win the title of the Top Beauty tonight, this last part was her only opportunity. Once Li Mu composed a poem that might be popular for 1,000 years, and it struck a responsive chord in the hearts of the audience, it was possible that the ranking from the second part of the professional ratings would be altered and Hua Xiangrong could still be the champion against all odds.
To say the least, if there was a truly affecting poem that could be passed down for 1,000 years, those famous men of the professional panelist had to take their reputation into account instead of succumbing to the rich and powerful. Otherwise, their dignity and glory would be pegged onto the pillar of shame along with that poem in permanence.
However, how could a poem that would be popular for 1,000 years be created effortlessly?
In light of the three poems Li Mu composed before— the Epigraph of My Shack, the Beauty Poem, and the Hua Xiangrong Poem, they were all incredibly splendid. But those pieces could only be classic for a century. Although the Beauty Poem might be at a higher level, it was certainly not that marvelous as a poem that could last for 1,000 years.
Therefore, when Bai Xuan came in to pose that question, she was a little expectant but not too hopeful on this.
“Ah? I forgot!” Li Mu tapped his forehead in chagrin. Since he had been so absorbed in other matters, the task of copying, oh no, composing poems truly slipped his mind.
Another spasm of despair shot through Bai Xuan.
“I’ll start now.” Grinning, Li Mu stood up. The maid, Xin’er, swiftly prepared the writing tools on the desk. Li Mu strode to the desk, picked up the writing brush, and mumbled to himself, “Emm, what subject shall I write?”
He looked up and saw the bright moonlight pouring down from the sky over the tent. He suddenly recalled the instant when the moon shone profusely on Hua Xiangrong as she did that stunning dance on the main stage. At that moment, she was like a fairy in a white dress that could sprout feathered wings and ride the wind to heaven any second, as the silvery moonlight cascaded upon her exclusively.
Li Mu’s eyes sparkled and he started writing without stop.
Bai Xuan already did not entertain much hope. But this was her last resort, so she just stayed wait by the side and watched Li Mu write in silence. As Li Mu proceeded, her eyes suddenly lit up. Then, due to exhilaration, she started trembling from head to foot.
A dozen poems had been hung up on the main stage.
Those were either the works of all the talents and scholars from various regions presented to the prostitutes they endorsed, or the pieces some prostitutes had acquired by going out of their ways, considering this was the last chance they had. It was an old custom that through a flattering poem a beauty could be glamorized and gain more fame. At one of the previous Top Beauty Competition, a prostitute had messed up her performance due to stage fright and ranked among the last by the first two parts. But luckily, she obtained a poem written by the gifted Wen Zongbin, and then rose from the bottom and became the Top Beauty at that years’ contest.
That vividly demonstrated the importance of poems in the Top Beauty Competition.
Every time a new poem was hung up, a specific man by the stage read it out loud. His voice would then spread to the whole Liufang Street by dint of some voice-booming tactical deployments set by warlocks, allowing everyone to judge and admire the work.
For many scholars, the Top Beauty Competition was also a golden opportunity for them to make their name. They would be known by the world if the audience happened to fancy their work.
At the seats for distinguished guests in front of the main stage, scores of ‘professionals’ were giving comments to the poem already displayed over the stage.
“The poem for Miss Si Yuhua is supposed to be the top one… ‘Intricate cords echoed the music of smoke and river; the long sleeves swirled like a pair of phoenixes; simultaneous as the movements are, I almost believed I was looking into a mirror’… This poem presents a gritty picture of the gorgeous sleeve dance of Miss Si,” complimented a middle-aged scholar while wagging his head with pleasure.
Many people consented to that remark.
Indeed, this poem was a fantastic piece. It was quite outstanding among the works posted up so far.
“That’s not necessarily correct, because the piece for Miss Xue Rui is also an eye-opening work… Look, ‘Her thin brows are distant mountains that stretched afar; her slender waist is graceful as dancing willow branches; when she completed doing the makeup and posed in the spring breeze, her one smile worth a thousand ounce of gold; when I went back to the city of wind, I told the brothel about her beauty; though I’ve viewed all kinds of flowers, none of them is comparable to Xue Rui’… In particular, the line ‘her one smile worth a thousand ounce of gold’ can be said to be a peerless brilliant part.” Tie Zhan, the president of the Hanshan Academy as well as one of the reviewers on this occasion, gave the poem pretty high praise.
When the famous prostitute Xue Rui first came to Chang’an, she had caused a huge sensation. And the place she dwelt in temporarily was the Hanshan Academy. So for the majority, it was no surprise that Tie Zhan was rooting for Xue Rui.
But they had to admit that the poem for Xue Rui was truly a masterpiece. When examining it carefully, they found it was even better than the one for Si Yuhua.