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After the two stages of the flower baskets summary and the professional comments, the candidate ranking the first was Lu Hongxiu, from the Yi Cui House; the second was Xue Rui, from the Fufeng House; the third was Si Yuhua, from the Soft Jade Hall. Naturally, the poems for the three famous prost.i.tutes were given most of the attention.
So far, the poem for Yi Cui House's Lu Hongxiu had not been posted yet.
But the madam of Yi Cui House, who had long since settled herself in a seat at the area for distinguished guests, was sporting a smile as bright as a blossom.
She just could not stop smiling.
Because when she was rebuked by Liu Chenglong, the manager of the Musical House at the backstage, she reckoned she was doomed. But to her surprise, Liu Chenglong paid a specific visit to her shortly afterward and told her unequivocally that a man of high rank intended to support Lu Hongxiu from the Yi Cui House. Then, at the professional review part, Lu Hongxiu's points surely soared up and made her the top one.
Moreover, what really vented Lu Xue's spleen was that the Holy House's Hua Xiangrong had been elbowed to the bottom in terms of rankings, though she had had the audience fallen under her spell with one dance.
When she recalled Bai Xuan's face screwed by oppressed resentment, Lu Xue was irresistibly thrilled.
She even could not disguise her smile to any extent.
This time, she was almost certain that she could tread the Holy House, Bai Xuan, and Hua Xiangrong underfoot to rise to fame and power.
So how could she stifle her smile?
At the backstage, she had endured a huge insult—she firmly believed that being contradicted by Hua Xiangrong was an insult, while she dared not complain about Liu Chenglong's reprimand. But apparently, Hua Xiangrong later affronted Manager Liu for some reason, so the t.i.tle Top Beauty that should have been hers now slipped to the Yi Cui House. As such, she felt it necessary to humiliate the Holy House to her heart's content.
She was dying to disgrace Bai Xuan and to mortify Hua Xiangrong.
She even hoped to... stamp on Li Mu's fame and win the compet.i.tion. For the Yi Cui House, it sounded like a thing that could only happen in dreams, for everyone knew that Li Mu was endorsing Hua Xiangrong. But wasn't it a striking sarcasm if the prost.i.tute backed by such a genius with unmatchable talent in both poetry and martial arts failed in the compet.i.tion at last?
"Here is it! The poem for Miss Lu Hongxiu is coming up!" A leader of the Musical House shouted on the stage.
The shout instantly drew the attention of numerous people.
All the people on the whole Liufang Street p.r.i.c.ked up their ears for the aloud-reading of the new work.
After all, Lu Hongxiu was still ranking the top at that time.
The leader then put up a sheet of fully written rice paper over the main stage before reading it out loud with the help of the voice-booming warlock formation.
"Poem composed after watching Lu Hongxiu's solo dance under the moon. It reads: 'The beauty danced like swirling orchid, just as everyone with sharp eyes must have seen; in the high-ceiling hall carpeted with red wool blankets, she performed a dance no one else in the world could; the music must have come from the fairy in heaven, amazing all the audience and earning all their praises; how stunning her delicate face and slender waist were, how graceful her silk dress with gold embroideries was; she flung her sleeves like fluttering snowflakes, arousing breeze from the right and the left; as the lute and flute sang, yellow clouds over the flowery mountains gathered together to listen; every somersault was done with a trace of divinity, and I saw more creativity every time it was performed; no other melody could be on par with it since the start of the dance, so I fully indulged myself in this soothing piece of music; those who dance merely study the dance, but how can they attain such fabulous postures."
When the person finished reading, an explosion of applause broke out.
"This must be a poem that can last for a century!"
This work had employed all kinds of ways of description that words could manage and depicted the dancing of Lu Hongxiu to perfection. When the poem was read out loud, the audience seemed to have watched Lu Hongxiu's impeccable singing and dancing on the stage again. It gave a gritty account of the sound, image, and movements of the entire performance.
In comparison with this poem, the works Si Yuhua and Xue Rui acquired both paled considerably.
"Wonderful, really wonderful!"
"It's pretty much a 'century poem'!"
"Yeah, it outperforms any of the previous ones!"
"Haha, even if we do the vertical comparison, we see no poem so extraordinary from any of the works in the past six years' Top Beauty Compet.i.tions. Haha, congratulations, Madam Lu and Miss Lu! You can definitely be the champion solely with this poem!"
The place was filled with whoops.
Many famous scholars also offered their compliments.
This 'poem composed after watching Lu Hongxiu dance under the moon' did strike the heartstring of the majority of spectators on the scene. Even those who had little knowledge in literature were also affected by a bout of inexplicable magnificence.
Lu Xue's face was revealing an effusion of ecstasy.
She found her excitement almost uncontainable.
Because she was very clear that this poem was absolutely not the one she had attained for Lu Hongxiu with enormous effort. Although the piece composed by the prestigious poet she hired in Chang'an was quite excellent, it could at best draw level with the poems for Si Yuhua and Xue Rui. But when compared with this work, it was thrown into the shade.
This great piece was delivered here by Liu Chenglong's man.
"Sure enough... Manager Liu can easily stir up sensations."
"This piece outs.h.i.+nes all the other works!"
She knew there was no doubt that tonight's Top Beauty would be Lu Hongxiu.
"Even though Hua Xiangrong is backed by Li Mu, a man who claims to be both exceptionally gifted in both poetry and martial arts, so what? She can't win unless Li Mu presents a 'millennium poem'. But how can a 'millennium poem' be composed that easily?"
"The moment Your Highness finished the last word of the poem, the result of the compet.i.tion is already a foregone conclusion."
In a private room in the Moon-hugging House, Liu Chenglong kept expressing his sincere exclamation and admiration.
That poem was composed by the second prince a moment ago. He finished the whole piece without a stop. It was true that the second prince had an apt.i.tude for writing. This fine work did send Liu Chenglong in a daze. Before, he only knew the second prince was a rare talent in martial arts, but today he was overwhelmed to find out that his attainment in literature was equally amazing.
A smile crept onto the second prince's handsome face.
In the royal family of the Western Qin Empire, he was unmistakably a prince versed in both literature and military affairs. For that reason, he gained the support of most officials and became a hot candidate for the crown prince. Still, he had to admit that this poem was the best he had written up to now. He had really outdone himself tonight.
But only he knew that this poem was, in fact, not composed as he watched the solo dance of Lu Hongxiu under the moonlight but that of Hua Xiangrong. The instant Hua Xiangrong started that dance, he was in a trance and experienced an outburst of inspiration.
However, he gave this brilliant work to Lu Hongxiu.
Because he wanted Hua Xiangrong to know that he was better than Li Mu whether in light of power, strength, or literary talent.
He believed that the reason why Hua Xiangrong was so mesmerized with Li Mu was just that he took the advantage of being in a favored position, given that Li Mu met Hua Xiangrong before him. If he had met Hua Xiangrong before Li Mu, it was out of question that he would have been the man Hua Xiangrong admired and fell for.
Therefore, the second prince was determined to rob Hua Xiangrong of her chance to be the Top Beauty.
It was not only a punishment for her refusal to meet him in the Moon-hugging House but an attempt to prove to Hua Xiangrong that Li Mu was not that capable. He wanted Hua Xiangrong to be let down, be disheartened, and to distrust Li Mu. He was going to disintegrate her love for Li Mu.
But of course, there was another reason.
In order to have Hua Xiangrong, he had to take a low-profile strategy and hide her in the dark. Accordingly, he would not allow Hua Xiangrong to stand in the limelight.
If Hua Xiangrong became the Top Beauty, given her breath-taking performance tonight, she would definitely cause a sensation. Then, her name would probably be spread to Qin City and draw a lot of attention upon her. In that case, it was almost impossible for the second prince to start any relations.h.i.+p with this woman in secret.
Hence, for his own sake, Hua Xiangrong must learn to make sacrifices for him if she was going to be his woman.
"Li Mu's poem has not been presented yet, has it?" inquired the second prince, who was standing by the windows and overlooking the throng of people as if he were a deity looking down upon a swarm of wriggling worms. Everything that happened tonight was under his control. Thus, in his eyes, Li Mu, who was said to be incredibly genius in poetry and martial arts, was merely a worm that was a little bigger and stronger than the rest.
"Not yet," Liu Chenglong said with a confident smile, "Now that Your Highness has come up with this 'century poem', the result is practically known already. Li Mu perhaps has run out of his talent. Even if he is incredulously lucky and produces another 'century poem', he can merely admit his defeat in front of the pure gold presented by Your Highness."
"Hey, do you think it's possible that he can create a 'millennium poem?" asked the second prince with a tinge of ridicule.
Liu Chenglong answered positively, "Not at all. A 'millennium poem' is too scarce. Even the Young Master Wen Zongbin in our Great Qin Empire has only created two poems of that kind. Li Mu is surely gifted. But he is too young, after all. So he has no chance to compose a 'millennium poem'."
The second prince nodded.
He was holding the same view.
Liu Chenglong laughed and remarked, "I bet right now Li Mu is thinking why the Creator still produced Your Highness even though he has got him... Haha, his legend will come to an end tonight."
The second prince nodded again and added, "Also, his life will come to an end tonight."
"Now that he refused to be under my command, he shall die."
"I'll take your woman and your life. This is the price for turning me down!"
After that, poems for other prost.i.tutes were displayed and announced in succession.
But in front of the pure gold of that Poem for Lu Hongxiu's Dance under the Moon, the rest of the works did not cause any stir. Despite the fact that the aloud-reading was full of emotion, the next dozen poems seemed rather flavorless.
At the sitting area for distinguished guests, Lu Xue looked florid.
While on the main stage, Lu Hongxiu found it even more difficult to conceal the joy written on her face.
Eventually, only the poem for Hua Xiangrong was left to be unveiled in the third part of the compet.i.tion.
And at this time, nearly everyone was waiting for the last work with bated breath.
Hua Xiangrong's dance had blown away loads of spectators, so the result of the professional rating in the second part had incurred a deluge of complaints. Plus, since almost all the audience had heard of the beautiful love story between the talented Li Mu and the stunning Hua Xiangrong as well as Li Mu's fame in poetry and martial arts, they were all convinced that this time Li Mu would create another work for Hua Xiangrong.
But could he turn the tide this time?
Unless he produced a 'millennium poem'.
But that was not an easy task at all.
Even Li Mu had very small odds to achieve that.
"Humph! It seems that she has regarded herself the Top Beauty and felt it fine to keep us waiting here. How can she be dawdling like this? I'm afraid the poem she got is trash, and she is too embarra.s.sed to present it in front of us," snapped Lu Xue acidly. Tonight, she had really started a feud against Hua Xiangrong. Now that she had Manager Liu as her backer, she had no fear of Hua Xiangrong or the Holy House and made the derisive remark without scruples.
Madam Lu from the Yi Cui House was never a tolerant and forgiving person.
"Send some guy to prompt her! If she doesn't show the poem, we'll take that she has given up the compet.i.tion," yelled Lu Xue.
Some people around her also shouted their agreement.
At those words, the madams of the Holy House looked rather bitter, but they could not think of anything to talk back.
Right then, over the main stage, the voice of a leader announced, "The poem of Miss Hua Xiangrong from the Holy House at the third part is here..."