Chengfeng walked towards the middle of the hall and casually picked up the calligraphy brush beside the calligraphy set. He swung the calligraphy brush and wrote one word on the paper as he asked Zhou Qingyang, “Dear Young Master Zhou, the self-acclaimed ‘national scholar’, please tell me… what is this word?”
If anyone looked at the paper, all they would see was just gibberish. The writing was so sloppy no one could make out what it was. Zhou Qingyang glared at Li Chengfeng. His face turned red from fluster while his lips trembled, as he could not give an answer.
“Oh, you don’t recognise it?” Li Chengfeng proceeded to write another word of gibberish on another piece of paper. He held it up as he asked Zhou Qingyang again, “Well, Young Master Zhou do you know this word then?”
Zhou Qingyang’s lips trembled once again. Though unsure if it was from fear or from wrath, he replied, “You’re writing gibberish, aren’t you? No one can recognise that!”
Li Chengfeng held the two pieces of paper together and presented it to the crowd. “Does anyone recognise these two words?” he asked.
On the floor above, Liu Sumei, who stood behind Little Bell, quietly muttered two words. Little Bell quickly took the chance and replied to Li Chengfeng, “I think it’s read as the ‘Lian’ [廉] in ‘Lian Chi’ [廉耻] and the ‘chi’ [耻] in ‘Lian Chi’ [廉耻]!”
[T/L note: ‘Lian Chi’ 廉耻 means “with no conscience nor shame” in Chinese]
Li Chengfeng suddenly threw the two pieces of paper on the ground. He aggressively pointed his finger at Zhou Qingyang as he yelled at him, “Zhou Qingyang! It seems all your studies had been for nought!”
Zhou Qingyang’s already horrendous facial expression instantly changed. As he was about to try and defend himself, Li Chengfeng began unloading his pent up rage towards Zhou Qingyang. His words spouted out like cannons, and his sentences were like heavy storms, attacking Qingyang until he was burnt to a crisp.
“Even a young handmaiden from a brothel could recognise these two words! It reads: ‘SHAME’! How ironic it is that you call yourself a scholar, yet do not even know the word ‘shame’? And you even dare to mention academic texts and the relics of saints?! From what I see, you’re not just a decorative pot whose insides are ugly, shattered and cracked, you’re also a monster who has no conscience! No kindness! No intelligence! And no dignity!” scolded Li Chengfeng furiously, not leaving even an inch of space for Qingyang to retaliate.
“Y-you!” Zhou Qingyang’s face turned from red to purple from fluster. Just as he was about to talk, Li Chengfeng cut him off once again.
“Silver Hairpin was pregnant with your child, yet you killed her to save your reputation! Not caring if she was carrying your flesh and blood! Even a vicious tiger will not eat its cubs, just what kind of cruel monster are you!” Li Chengfeng exclaimed. With each word he took one step towards Qingyang, his finger poked at Qingyang’s heart at every sentence, each word like a sharp knife piercing through his body.
“Everyone knew Zhixi had only sold her talents and not her body throughout her life, she was a woman with moral integrity. She had never let anyone see her true face. Yet, she trusted you of all people and let you into her boudoir! And all you were thinking throughout your exchanges was how to taint her reputation with your dirty hands! When she was still alive, you treated her as if she was a beautiful phoenix, but the second she had turned into a cold corpse, you were already playing around with other women! Having fun as you threw her to the back of your mind like she never mattered! What sort of injustice is this!”
Zhou Qingyang’s face was as red as amber, the veins on his neck popped. He stuttered as he tried to retaliate, “S-s-she, s-she w-was no-nothing b-b-but a woman from a brothel! She and I were just messing around!”
Li Chengfeng let out a guffaw, but his laughter was filled with rage. He once again poked Zhou Qingyang on the chest and said, “Just ‘messing around’? What a good show you’re putting on! Even if you two were just ‘messing around’, why have you shown yourself at such a venue? From what I know, in Daqi anyone who prepares for the imperial examination is considered a reserved official, and all officials are expressly prohibited from doing one thing: prostitution! You knew that it was forbidden yet you still commit this crime?! The level of disrespect you have for the official’s code of conduct!”
Zhou Qingyang’s face was filled with horror. He suddenly staggered as if someone had just punched him in the chest.
Li Chengfeng continued, “You’re out of your mind, on the one hand, you talk of the relics of saints yet, on the other hand, you commit such despicable acts. Even three-year-olds know that these acts should never be done, yet you! A self-proclaimed scholar who had studied the relics of saints can actually commit such heinous crimes! This level of decrepit shows how insolent you are!”
“Silver Hairpin betrayed others just to help you, she even killed a person for you! She gave her entire life to you, yet you coldly threw her and your unborn child to the side and killed them so that no one would know of your heinous crimes. This level of betrayal and abandonment shows how untrustworthy you are!”
“You’re a monster. A cruel, insolent, betraying, untrustworthy, conscienceless and unintelligent monster in sheep’s clothing. You have failed all five basic morals, how could you possibly still have the face to show yourself to us all!” yelled Li Chengfeng, his face was solemn and severe.
Zhou Qingyang’s face went paler and paler, Li Chengfeng poked his chest once again. At this moment, Qingyang unconsciously covered his chest as he felt a sudden throbbing pain. He pointed to Li Chengfeng as he trembled, only to reply, “Y-you…..”
Li Chengfeng glared at him, coldly, “Why? Have I said anything wrong?”
Zhou Qingyang couldn’t help but let out a gasp, and from his lips came spouting a mouthful of thick dark blood. He painfully fell to the ground. An uproar among the crowd surrounding them ensued, everyone was looking at Li Chengfeng in shock.
A lot of them here today are not young masters in Cheng’an, but regular folk. They had heard of Li Chengfeng, the tyrant. ‘Cheng’an City’s King of Troublemakers’ as they called him, was not one to be messed with. Yet some of them could not understand- the Li Household was considered as one of the declining households in the city, so why did Li Chengfeng have such a fearsome reputation?
But hearing all those rumours could not be compared to seeing it with one’s own eyes! The trip to the brothel today truly opened their eyes, never had they seen someone be scolded until they puked blood!
Although these people were shocked, they were also men who were anxious to see the world in disorder. Suddenly the crowd cheered, each and every one of them laughed and applauded at Qingyang’s humiliation.
Everyone in the hall could not really see what was going on, but after Li Chengfeng muttered a few sentences to Zhou Qingyang’s ear, he immediately looked as if he saw a ghost. The crowd were not idiots, upon hearing the exchange of the two young masters they all finally understood the reason for the great Zhixi’s death. Although these men did not like Cheng’an City’s King of Troublemakers, yet they could not help but applaud him for his deeds.
Little Bell’s voice could be heard distinctively amongst the chaos, she giggled as she looked at Liu Sumei and said “Sister! This man is indeed…”
Liu Sumei gave her a glare. Little Bell cheekily stuck her tongue out, giggling as she casually did some stretches and a lazy bow as to show respect to Liu Sumei and replied, “Yes, M’lady!”
Liu Sumei stood by the window and glanced at the floor beneath them, she then glanced at the handmaiden by the door. Using her eyes to convey her message, the handmaiden immediately caught on and summoned two of the brothel’s thugs to help Zhou Qingyang up.
Liu Sumei said to Little Bell, “Quick, go give him one of my blossom pills.”
Little Bell pouted, “What? For him? Such a waste!”
Liu Sumei glared at her, “Young Master Li just poked Zhou Qingyang’s acupuncture points three times, that was why he coughed blood! Did you really think you could scold someone until they puked blood? If we were to send him home in this situation, the Young Master Zhou would definitely be dead within three months!”
Little Bell clapped her hands in delight, “Good! That’s great isn’t it? He’s eradicating harmful vermin for the people! Thoroughly exterminating evil! And he’s doing the lord’s work! Now, sister Zhixi can finally rest in peace!”
Liu Sumei couldn’t help but smile as she lectured Little Bell. “Yes, she might be able to finally rest in peace. But what about Young Master Li? A visible spear is easily withstood, but an unseen arrow is hard to guard against. If this Young Master Li were to make enemies with the Zhou household for Qingyang’s death, more trouble would be upon him.”
Little Bell smiled as she replied, “When you’re covered with lice, you don’t itch; when you’re up to your ears in debt, you stop worrying. He’s already offended the Prefecture Chief, another enemy made with the Zhou family would be nothing.”
Liu Sumei stared at the rich young man on the floor below, her brows furrowed with slight wariness. “It’s not only the Prefecture Chief.”
Little Bell stared blankly and looked towards the direction Liu Sumei gazed in. “...The toad?” she asked puzzled.
Liu Sumei gave Little Bell a faint smile, “So the Fourth Young Master from the Zhan family is also a toad in your eyes?”
Little Bell suddenly went pale, “Zhan family?...” But she immediately felt as if she had lost her cool from her reaction and pouted as she replied, “Yeah, that’s the toad of the Zhan family.”
Liu Sumei giggled and said, “Oh you, you’re soft everywhere except your harsh mouth.”
Little Bell cheekily smiled, “Thanks to sister, Little Bell’s bones are quite hard as well!”
The two of them joked back and forth, while the people underneath their floor applauded and cheered. Only the rich young man could be seen with a solemn face as he glared at Li Chengfeng, his eyes blinded with rage. The rich young man gave a cold laugh and violently charged towards Li Chengfeng.