C100 – Desperate
Xu Zihan returned to the Xu Family in a pitiable condition. The news of their clash with Zheng Xuan quickly spread throughout the capital, reaching the ears of all prominent families.
In just a single afternoon, several business conglomerates and members of the Xu Family joined forces to terminate their contracts.
The Xu Family members, who had previously relied on the support of the Zheng Family and exuded an air of arrogance, were now the targets of disdain from many. The revelation of Zheng Xuan and Xu Zihan’s altercation prompted numerous people to cast stones at them.
Xu Qing seethed with anger but found himself powerless to act.
Xiao Mei, aware that Xu Zihan had come perilously close to being strangled, initially directed her ire at Zheng Xuan for his excessive actions. However, when she heard Zheng Xuan label Xu Zihan as a deceitful individual who had lied to him for three years, her anger transformed into fear.
With a somber countenance, Xu Zihan entered the room. Xiao Mei regarded him with concern and cautiously inquired, “Zi Han, are you alright?”
Xu Zihan tugged at Xiao Mei’s clothing and posed a chilly question, “Mother, you assured me that that wretch Xu Ziyu is dead. Is there no doubt about it?”
Xiao Mei nodded resolutely and declared, “He is undoubtedly deceased.”
“Mother, please reconsider. Are you absolutely certain he’s dead?” Xu Zihan widened his eyes and asked with a fierce demeanor.
Trembling, Xiao Mei responded, “The person sent to eliminate him reported that he leaped from a towering cliff. The height of that cliff makes survival highly improbable. Even if he somehow survived the fall, he would likely have been maimed and poisoned.”
Xu Zihan shook his head and asserted, “No, no, he must be alive. Moreover, he’s one of the one hundred competitors in the finals.”
“That’s impossible,” Xiao Mei exclaimed. The participants in the Top 100 Contest were all prodigies from various academies, with the lowest ranking being in the Third Star Division.
“Why is it impossible? Zheng Xuan was perfectly fine before he entered the finals, but he emerged completely changed. Someone must have influenced him inside, and that someone is likely Xu Ziyu,” Xu Zihan stated with a dark expression.
Throughout the morning, Xu Zihan experienced a dramatic fall from grace. Those who had previously flattered and groveled before him now regarded him with disgust, treating him as if he were worthless.
Xu Zihan clenched his lips. Was Xiao Qi really so crucial? What was so special about Xu Ziyu? Zheng Xuan had nearly strangled him simply because he had impersonated Xu Ziyu.
Xu Zihan couldn’t help but recall the humiliating scene of Zheng Xuan choking him while a crowd of spectators gathered to witness the spectacle. He felt a deep sense of embarrassment and wished he could disappear.
With resentment in his eyes, Xu Zihan glanced at Xiao Mei. He couldn’t help but wonder if, had Xiao Mei been more discreet in their actions, he wouldn’t be in this pitiable state now. Could he have kept that secret hidden for the rest of his life?
Xiao Mei turned her gaze toward Xu Zihan and inquired, “My son, consider Zheng Xuan. He may only suspect that you’re not Xiao Qi, but he seems quite certain.”
As he remembered Zheng Xuan’s icy and menacing stare, Xu Zihan couldn’t help but shudder. His earlier impression of Zheng Xuan as indecisive was now shattered; he dared not think that way anymore. Zheng Xuan had been kind to him solely because he believed him to be Xiao Qi.
Xu Zihan bit his lip, yearning for the past Zheng Xuan who had been so different. He couldn’t fathom why he had been so greedy before and had scorned the one who had been so obedient to him.
The door swung open, and Xu Qing entered.
Xu Zihan spoke with a downcast expression, “Father.”
Xu Qing delivered a harsh slap across Xu Zihan’s face, leaving him in disbelief.
Xiao Mei widened her eyes, watching Xu Zihan endure the beating, and cried out, “Xu Qing, what are you doing? Zi Han is your son!”
Xu Qing snorted coldly, remarking, “Look at what he’s done. He’s fallen out with Zheng Xuan. I’ve repeatedly advised him to treat Zheng Xuan better, to find a way to win over Zheng Xuan. Instead, he showed indifference to Zheng Xuan, who clearly holds affection for him.”
“It would have been acceptable if Zheng Xuan had feelings for him, but Zheng Xuan is enamored with that Xiao Qi from the secret realm. By acting this way, he may drag our entire Xu Family down with him!” Xu Qing exclaimed angrily.
Xiao Mei defended Xu Zihan, saying, “You can’t be so sure. Zihan didn’t willingly reveal his identity. Someone must have maliciously influenced Zheng Xuan.”
Xu Qing fixed a cold gaze on Xiao Mei and retorted, “If Zihan had treated Zheng Xuan better and paid more attention to him, perhaps Zheng Xuan might still have some affection left for him. But given his recent behavior, I fear that Zheng Xuan can only despise him now.”
Xu Zihan’s face flushed with embarrassment. The memory of Zheng Xuan’s disgusted expression made him realize how absurd it was to think that Zheng Xuan would stand by him even after his true identity had been exposed.
Xiao Mei pursed her lips and suggested, “Let’s brainstorm another approach. Perhaps Zheng Xuan merely suspects that we might be able to smooth things over with him.”
Xu Qing shook his head and replied, “I’m afraid it’s not possible.”
Managing to keep this secret from her for so long had already been a stroke of luck. Now, Zheng Xuan’s suspicions made it seem even more challenging to conceal.
Xu Zihan clenched his teeth, hung his head low, and remained silent.
Observing Xu Zihan’s silence, Xu Qing’s anger flared up. Xu Zihan cast a nervous glance at Wu Wei, whose face had paled.
Xu Qing remembered how Xu Zihan had previously dared to criticize his father due to his close association with Zheng Xuan. Xu Zihan had even prevented him from accepting his own son, fueling his disdain for his own flesh and blood.
“I heard that when Zheng Xuan came out of the competition, you commented that he hadn’t put in enough effort and didn’t perform well? Are you out of your mind? Regardless of your identity, he’s the marshal’s grandson, and we should consider your position!” Xu Qing lashed out angrily.
Xiao Mei, covering her mouth in disbelief, fixed her gaze on Xu Zihan. She knew her son was headstrong, but she had never imagined he would be audacious enough to criticize Zheng Xuan.
Xu Zihan’s face burned with embarrassment. Little did he know that this would be the outcome when he had criticized Zheng Xuan numerous times in the past. However, Zheng Xuan had never paid much attention to him before.
Regret filled Xu Zihan’s heart as he reflected on his past actions.
“I didn’t mean to! Now is not the time to scold me! You all agreed to let me impersonate Xu Ziyu years ago. Over the years, you’ve reaped numerous benefits from my relationship with Zheng Xuan. Now, when trouble arises, you’re blaming me!” Xu Zihan protested with frustration.
Hearing Xu Zihan’s explanation, Xu Qing slapped him once more, causing Xu Zihan to cover his face in anger.
Xiao Mei watched Xu Zihan being struck, but she dared not intervene. She secretly resented the assassin for squandering so many Star Coins and failing to eliminate that detested individual.
If Zheng Xuan were to discover the truth, he would undoubtedly harbor a grudge against the Xu Family. Even without Zheng Xuan, there were plenty of individuals eager to curry favor with him, and they could easily bring the Xu Family to its knees.
Reflecting on the past, Xu Qing regretted replacing Xu Ziyu with Xu Zihan and sending Xu Ziyu away. With Xu Ziyu’s gentle and kind-hearted nature, he would not have held a grudge against his father for all these years, sparing Xu Qing from enduring such anxiety and unearthing the truth.
Xiao Mei had dispatched individuals to eliminate Xu Ziyu, but Xu Qing had paid little attention to Xu Ziyu’s fate, leading to his indifference. However, if Zheng Xuan investigated the matter and uncovered the truth, he would lay the blame squarely on Xiao Mei’s shoulders.
Observing Xu Qing’s expression, Xiao Mei suddenly had a thought. “Xu Qing, are you now trying to make me a scapegoat to win favor with Zheng Xuan?”
Xu Qing glared fiercely at Xiao Mei. “What do you mean by making you a scapegoat? Are you truly innocent?”
Xiao Mei gazed at Xu Qing in disbelief. “Xu Qing, you’ll regret this deeply!”
Xu Qing looked at Xiao Mei and let out a heavy sigh. “Gentlemen, take care of the lady and young master.”
Xiao Mei watched Xu Qing’s departing figure with a fierce expression. Decades of marital friendship had seemingly evaporated, showing that even in times of great adversity, husband and wife might sail in opposite directions.
Xu Zihan was taken aback. “Father, what are you doing?”
Before Xu Zihan could react, they were both apprehended.
Seated on a chair, Xu Zihan had originally thought that the worst outcome would be breaking up with Zheng Xuan. Little did he anticipate that after parting ways with Zheng Xuan, his father would also abandon him.
Within the imperial palace.
“Flying Rain,” Lou Jing approached Lin Feiyu.
“Second Princess,” Lin Feiyu greeted her.
Lou Jing smiled at Lin Feiyu and inquired, “I heard there was a falling out between Zheng Xuan and Xu Zihan. Since you’re close to Xu Zihan, do you know what happened?”
Lin Feiyu shrugged, expressing his own uncertainty. “I’m not entirely sure either. Right after Zheng Xuan finished the competition, he had a falling out with Xu Zihan.”
Lin Feiyu’s own situation was far from ideal, and seeing Xu Zihan’s predicament brought a strange sense of equilibrium, secretly satisfying him in Xu Zihan’s misfortune.
Lou Jing narrowed her eyes and spoke with a hint of disdain. “I always said that Xu Zihan was problematic and had no redeeming qualities. He’s too fixated on Zheng Xuan and, as it turns out, is nothing more than a fraud.”
Lou Jing had always held a distaste for Xu Zihan. His social background was not particularly esteemed, and his demeanor left much to be desired. Previously, they had felt compelled to ingratiate themselves with Xu Zihan to gain Zheng Xuan’s favor.
Lin Feiyu shook his head and remarked, “I never anticipated that Xu Zihan’s influence over Zheng Xuan was built on deception.”
With a solemn expression, Lou Jing suggested, “Let’s set aside Xu Zihan’s issues for now. What’s crucial is identifying the individual Zheng Xuan is enamored with. I’ve inquired among the contestants on the competition field, and it seems likely that the person Zheng Xuan truly admires is one of these one hundred participants. We need to enlist them promptly, preventing them from joining Lou Yu.”
Lin Feiyu nodded in agreement, saying, “I’m on the same page.” He had also delved into the Zheng Xuan matter and suspected that the person might be none other than Mo Yi, who stood beside Mo Fei. If that were the case, the situation would be exceedingly dire.
Lou Jing fixed her gaze on Lin Feiyu and suddenly disclosed, “Lou Yu has ascended to become a level 6 star master.”
Lin Feiyu was momentarily taken aback before acknowledging, “I’m aware.”
Lou Jing continued to scrutinize Lin Feiyu and inquired, “Do you have any regrets?”
Lin Feiyu shook his head resolutely, whether for his own conviction or to reassure Lou Jing. He replied earnestly, “None.”
Lou Jing nodded with a wry smile and silently reflected, “It’s truly an unfavorable situation!”