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Published at 12th of February 2020 10:35:03 AM

Chapter 42

“Following Qiyun Sect, there are Qingxiao Sect, Danxia Sect, Huoling Sect and Xuanbing Sect . Those are the most powerful sects in Ping State . There are also many smaller sects but all of them are insignificant compared to the ‘Big Five’ . ”

“All these sects have connections with a certain number of marquises . For instance, Qiyun Sect has relations with Divine Marquis Zhou Wenlong and many local marquises . ” 

Li Xing listens with rapt attention, thinking no wonder that Ping State has never been stable given the repeated occurrence of conflicts among all the antagonistic marquises . Later he says, “I suppose all the sects have built relations with the marquises for the sake of benefits?”

Qian Bixie agrees by nodding, “That’s right . All the Big Five have spared no efforts in backing the marquises due to three reasons . First, as long as they have the marquises on their side, it will be much easier to collect blood crystals, energy crystals and fantasy crystals . The three crystals are the key to the prosperity of a sect . ”

“Second, by holding tight to the marquises, a sect will be able to select blood practicing talents from the civilians and recruit them so as to become stronger . ”

Li Xing is able to see the logic in the first two reasons, asking, “And the third reason is?”

Qian Bixie lets out a sigh, continuing, “The third reason is about ambition . The five major sects all want to be the sole ruler of Ping State . Mr . Li, just imagine the day when one of them is able to control the state . When that happens, it would eventually have all the martial arts talents and all the crystals to itself, making it the unmatched sect of all . ”

Li Xing understands by nodding, “So, I suppose peace will never last in Qingyun City . ” 

Qian Bixie smiles bitterly, “Peace? Each year, Qingyun City is forced to offer manpower and grain to the local marquises to help them fight battles . Only the rich people are fortunate enough to shield themselves from the pain of exploitation!”

As they speak, Zhu Jin, the city ruler, arrives at the audience hall, followed by two servants . Zhu Jin, who is dressed in a dark purple brocade robe and looks affable, announces loudly, “Let us all welcome the princess!”

A group of female servants appear from behind the hall in two lines, and then a girl, who is about seventeen to eighteen years old, slowly walks in . She is dressed elegantly in light color and is of fine, delicate features, with a hint of smile on her face .  

“Greetings, Your Grace!” Everyone in the hall stands up and salutes to the girl .

Qian Bixie also pulls Li Xing up and whispers, “This is Murong Jiaojiao . She always thought she was a better poet than others, but she has never admired anyone else’s poetry except for yours . ”  

Li Xing can’t help but think, “Thanks to the hard efforts I made to memorize the lines of all those famous poets . ” 

Murong Jiaojiao slightly nods her head, saying, “Everyone have a seat, please . ” Then she casts a glance in Li Xing’s direction unconsciously . After everybody sits down, the girl holds up her wine cup and toasts to the crowd, “It’s my honor to have all the young talents at scholars’ banquet today . Allow me to show my thanks with this cup of wine . ” 

After the girl finishes drinking, a young man stands up in the crowd, bows to Murong Jiaojiao and says smilingly, “I’m Zhuo Bufan from Qingyun City . Here as we are graced by the presence of the princess, I’d like to humbly present a poem which I wrote the day before yesterday . ”

But the moment Zhuo Bufan stands up, a hushed jeering is heard from the audience .

“Bah! A talentless man like him even has the audacity to show off in front of the princess?”

“I heard he went out of town and made a purchase for a good poem . He probably had planned on openly flaunting it today . ”

Murong Jiaojiao agrees with his request by nodding, “As long as Mr . Zhuo has good poetry, I believe everyone here is eager to hear it . ”

Zhuo Bufan clears his throat and starts reciting .

Although Li Xing is not much of a poet, he cannot help but burst into laughter after listening to the poem, while Qian Bixie also sniggers with a comment, “What nonsense!”

Meanwhile, after reciting his poem, Zhuo Bufan stands there, looking quite satisfied with himself and waiting for Murong Jiaojiao’s compliment .

Murong Jiaojiao, however, doesn’t look impressed at all, saying with a smile, “Mr . Zhuo’s poem sounds nice to the ear . ” 

Sound nice to the ear? Everyone else understands that’s far from being a compliment and secretly keeps taking delight in the man’s embarrassment, aware that the princess is actually mocking him .

Zhuo Bufan sits back down, ashamed . Another sullen-faced young man rises up from his seat soon afterwards with a snarky comment, “There’s never been a single real poet in Ping State! Some people’s poetry are just revolting!” 

The young man is dressed in an old robe that has lost its original color from the wash, but he has such an intolerably assuming air that it seems he detests everyone like they are his debtors .

Seeing the man speaking, Qian Bixie sneers and says to Li Xing, “This man is Zhuang Renjie . He always claims that money is dirt to him . He is good at pulling the aloof-from-the-world act . ”

Li Xing finds it amusing as he realizes that unreasonably cynical men like him exist in every world . They largely end up doing no good for the country they live in, but they often complain that they are born under an unlucky star and always act haughty and mighty in front of others .

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Zhuang Renjie’s words immediately draw disapproval from the crowd, with someone grumbling, “Zhuang Renjie, you say there is no real poet in Ping State . Are you an exception?”

Zhuang Renjie laughs out loud, “I also wrote something the other day, and I’d like to read it .  I will value your comments!”

Murong Jiaojiao approves with a smile, “Please . ”

Zhuang Renjie straightens his back and starts reciting loudly, “How rare the moon, so round and clear! With cup in hand, I ask of the blue sky…”

After hearing the first two lines, Li Xing is dumbstruck . Isn’t that the poem he read to Qian Bixie the other day? Qian Bixie, on the other hand, is blue in the face with rage . Before waiting to hear the end of the poem, he jumps up from his seat and denounces with indignation, “You shameless scum!”

Even Murong Jiaojiao’s face darkens and frowns .

Angry at being interrupted, Zhuang Renjie barks back, “Qian Bixie, you’re being unacceptably rude!”

Qian Bixie is so annoyed that he cannot contain his disdainful laughter, “Rude? You unscrupulous garbage! How dare you call someone else rude? The poem you were reading was written by someone else . You stolen it and pretend it’s yours . That’s beyond shameful! You are a disgrace to all the other men of letters!”

Qian Bixie’s scathing criticism also makes Li Xing feel ashamed for pretending Li Bai’s and Su Shi’s poems as his, which is precisely what Zhuang Renjie was doing . But he then comforts himself by thinking, “Never mind .  I’m not depending on poetry for a living .  No need to overthink it . ”

After hearing the condemnation, Zhuang Renjie immediately turns pale as sheet .

It turns out that there has been a long story . Back then when Li Xing first recited the poem, Qian Bixie wrote it down . As luck would have it, a servant in the Qian family also knew a little about poetry . And after he saw the poem Li Xing recited, he instantly liked it and managed to learn it by heart .

Days later, the servant came across a destitute scholar and decided to show off by saying that he had composed a poem .  That poor scholar was stunned and eventually managed to hear the poem by treating the servant with a twenty-copper meal and wine

And days after that, the scholar ran into Zhuang Renjie and sold the poem to him at three thousand coppers . In fact, it has long been a commonplace that scholars trade poems with each other .

But Zhuang Renjie has never in a million years expected what he did would come to light! He originally thought that the poem was written by that poor scholar and that no other person would be able to find out the truth . Obviously he was clueless as to how exactly hands were exchanged regarding the poem .   

Murong Jiaojiao sighs, saying without much emotion, “From my knowledge, this poem was indeed written by another man . ”

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Zhuang Renjie laughs miserably into the air and stumbles out of the hall in front of everyone else . Since then, he has never been seen in public and has become a laughing stock in the literary circle .

To lighten the mood, Murong Jiaojiao says to the crowd smilingly, “Since Zhuang Renjie didn’t finished reading that poem, I’d like to invite the real writer to recite the rest of the lines . ” Her eyes then land on Li Xing .

Hearing what the princess said, everyone else also turns their look at Li Xing while wondering if he is the man who wrote the poem .

Li Xing has no choice but to stand up, cupping his hands respectfully at Murong Jiaojiao and saying, “Happy to be obliged, Your Grace . ”

Murong Jiaojiao smiles appreciatively, “I’ve known many poets and read many classics in my life, but I’ve never come across any poem comparable to Mr . Li’s . ”

Li Xing says to himself, “Of course, there is no better poet than Su Shi . ” But he can never reveal the truth whatsoever because there is no way he can come up with a convincing explanation .  So he just smiles back .

Qian Bixie also stands up and points at Li Xing, announcing, “Everyone! This is the man who wrote that moon poem, Mr . Li Xing from Three Chivalries Garden!”

“Alas! He is from Three Chivalries Garden! How come I’ve never met him before?”

“I know there is Li Zheng, Li Fei, Li Jue, Li Jie and all the others in Three Chivalries Garden . But I had no idea that there is a man named Li Xing . ”

Some with more information says in the crowd, “You all need to know that Li Xing is the only son of Li Ziran of Three Chivalries Garden . Not long ago, he won a spot for Qiyun Sect and the entire Three Chivalries Garden was in shock . He has become famous lately . ”

As always, Li Xing remains silent and doesn’t react to any of those remarks .

Murong Jiaojiao, however, still holds a little bit of grudge as she remembers, “Although this man is brilliant, it is abominable of him to make that snarky comment that ‘I’m an affected woman who likes making a fuss about nothing . ’” Trying to feign friendliness, the girl says, “Please recite the rest of the lines, Mr . Li . ”

Li Xing replies, “This poem should be sung and reciting it will reduce its beauty . If it’s possible, could I ask for professional girl singers?” 

In the Song Dynasty, most of the poems are written following specific melodic notes . The Prelude to Water Melody Li Xing recited back then should be sung according to its corresponding melody .  

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Zhu Jin, the city ruler, laughs heartily, “The girl singers are right here . ” He claps his hands, and there walk out a dozen or so maidens, each holding a piece of musical instrument like the ancient bamboo yaoqin (a stringed instrument), pipa (a plucked string instrument), jade chime and sizhu (a traditional stringed and woodwind instrument) .

After getting seated in the middle of the hall, one pretty maiden speaks to Li Xing respectfully in a gentle voice, “Mister, could you please give us the score?”

However, Li Xing knows little about scores, so he walks to the maiden and whispers the lyrics and melody into her ear . Instead of the ancient rendering of a poem’s notes, he sang it to the girl as a pop song in the only way he knows from the world he came from .  

As he sings, the maiden looks quite amused by the notes, but as she listens on, her face starts to lighten up in amazement .

After finishing singing, Li Xing asks, “Did you remember that?”

The girl singer chuckles, answering, “Yes, I did . Thank you, Mister . ”

Li Xing nods in satisfaction and strides back to his seat .

Since the other guests have no clue what Li Xing is doing, they all look at that maiden curiously, waiting for her to sing .

The maiden bows to the princess and to all the guests and then whispers something to her fellow singers . The maidens are all quick-witted and intelligent enough to remember the notes after listening to her once .

A few minutes later, the lead maiden smiles to the crowd, “Please forgive me for keep you waiting . ” Then she starts playing her yaoqin gently and the hall is filled with melodious notes .

“How rare the moon, so round and clear! With cup in hand, I ask of the blue sky…”

Back in the world he’s from, Li Xing wasn’t a big fan of pop songs, except for the Prelude to Water Melody - How Rare The Moon which was one of his favorites . He only expected the maiden to sing the lyrics out and avoid being off key, but little did he anticipate that she could sing so well .

Even to his delight, the maiden has such a beautiful voice that he is transfixed after she finishes the entire song .  In his memory, the girl sings even better than the original singer .

Not only Li Xing, all the other guests are also carried away by the song . Never have they heard such graceful music, compared to all the other roughly written lyrics they’ve heard in their lives .  

The maiden is also radiant with joy, feeling glad that she has sung it correctly . She knows that from now on, this single song will make her and all her fellow singers famous across Qingyun City .

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