“Fourth Young Miss!”
The Young Miss of the Sword Marquis suddenly released a relieved cry, rushing into the embrace of the mature woman who had just made her presence known.
Similarly, two maidservants and two young scholars rushed through the crowd to arrive before An Fei.
Each hugged a bundle of books to their chest as they heavily panted before the slightly bemused girl. Neither maidservant nor scholar attempted to display any of the books they had plundered from the library, instead craning their heads to observe the ‘newcomer’.
An Fei did indeed observe that once the two young scholars’ gaze focused onto the mature woman, their bodies fiercely trembled as if given a powerful shock.
“Xun’er has anyone been bullying you?”
The mature woman crooned as she ran her fingers through the young girl’s hair, wrapping the quivering bundle into a warm embrace.
Ignoring the looks directed towards her by the observing scholars, maidservant, or a disgruntled Young Miss, the woman slowly continued to console the Sword Marquis’s youngest daughter.
“Xun’er, Xun’er, ah! Be brave and quickly confess who attempted to hurt you. Auntie will seek the necessary amends for you, so be good and stop crying, alright?”
“Her… She was the one who disdained me…” the young girl shook in the mature woman’s embrace as she pointed in An Fei’s direction.
“The technique of my mother… I finally found it after searching for so long, b-but this girl! Sh-she refuses to let me take it, saying that I don’t have any right and that the manual is her property!”
The young girl in the white dress blubbered as she tearfully ‘confessed’, rending both the crowd and An Fei into an awkward silence. Thirty-five pairs of eyes clashed in the atmosphere, each effused with a sufficient dose of bemusement and exasperation.
…where had the arrogant, cold and indifferent beauty that cared not a whit about others’ considerations gone? Why did it seem as if the young lass before them was being pinpointed as a scapegoat for one’s tardiness?
An elderly scholar seemed to find this matter intolerable as he stepped forward to gaze deeply at the mature woman. As if his gaze could see through everything, the pair of lucid eyes never left the young girl’s countenance.
“Elder Jiang, are you truly going to act whilst disregarding your conscience just based on this girl’s words?” the old man finally spoke, his voice raspy and halting.
However, all he received in return was a disdainful smirk.
“Of course. Though my Xun’er won’t be exempt from punishment if she ended up telling a lie, removing the blight to the Jiang Family’s reputation possesses a far greater priority!”
The mature woman sneered at An Fei, the tantalizing lips rising into a derisive curve. Giving the young girl in the white dress a tight embrace, the woman strode towards An Fei with her chin raised, a scornful gleam within her gaze.
“A beggar’s child dares to slight Xun’er of her mother’s possessions? This elder must commend your courage, though this is the wrong location to flaunt your ignorance!”
“…why is the Fourth Young Miss of the Wei Family considered a beggar’s child?”
Xiao Wen blurted out in a muffled yet clearly audible, her eyes flaring with cold anger.
“The Jiang Family doesn’t possess the face required to slight the Wei Family as such, does it?”
“Hehe, if this were the outskirts of even the central streets of Jiang’an, then perhaps we would have to bow and scrape to your little runt of a girl,” the woman chuckled, the contempt in her voice magnifying with each word.
“However, this is the Pagoda of Sun and Moon. Your Wei Family, unfortunately, does not have any influence in here, whereas I possess the sole authority regarding the initial repository. How is that for an explanation, little servant girl?”
An Fei opened her mouth to quickly rebut in face of the mature woman’s openly issued declaration of abusing her authority, yet one of the youthful scholars who had assisted the maidservants in searching for books rushed out at a faster pace.
“Elder Jiang, this is simply an abuse of your authority!” the youth scowled, his forehead creased into a deep frown.
“You’re simply bullying the Young Miss here, this is not the intended purpose of opening the Pagoda to outsiders!”
“What, have you fallen for the little lass’ seduction, Tie Zhui?” Elder Jiang sneered at the scholar.
“Finally at the age of seeking romance that you would talk back to an elder with conviction, eh? It seems that you and Tie Meng have forgotten that had old man Luo not taken pity and adopt you two, both of you would have become one with the earth?”
“Tsk, tsk, how disgraceful,” the mature woman scolded as she clapped her hands in mockery.
“Since you’ve done us all a great service by forgetting your affiliation to defend an outsider instead of the Pagoda as you have sworn to, that’s perfectly justifiable for execution or even lifelong imprisonment. However, since I need to give that old man some face, let’s settle with the two of you scramming to the side, and I’ll wash this matter clean, how about that?”
Tie Zhui and Tie Meng shuddered with anger as they glared at the woman with narrowed eyes, their auras becoming rather chaotic. However, a single shake of the head from the elder caused the two youths to deflate, resentment and unwillingness shrouding their eyes.
“Sorry. We… we can only give this much assistance,” Tie Zhui sighed as he and Tie Meng placed their stacks of books onto a nearby table.
“Young Miss, we apologize for being unable to address this wrongdoing incurred on your behalf!”
Flashing an apologetic smile towards An Fei and the two maidservants, the two youths slowly merged with the crowd of scholars with lowered heads.
Observing such a scene, Elder Jiang snorted derisively, and the Sword Marquis’ daughter attempted to conceal a triumphant smile.
“Well then…” the mature woman focused her gaze onto An Fei once more. “That book, hand it over. From this moment on, you don’t require a manual of that sort.”
Without even permitting enough time for An Fei to respond, Elder Jiang marched forward to stand level with the girl. An iron vice-like grip forcefully pried away the girl’s thin fingers from the silver and leather-bound <Heart of Snow>, leaving behind a several purple bruises on An Fei’s skin.
Xiao Ying involuntarily stepped forward, her hands clenched upon noticing the painful rings of violet marring the fair, soft skin. Though she glared at Elder Jiang, the mature woman was now merrily examining the pile of manuals gathered by the two scholarly youths.
“Oh? <Icy Sword Mirage>, not a bad technique. I’ll be taking that in addition to recovering Lingyun’s technique.”
“Elder Jiang, do not push for a mile after receiving an inch,” an elderly man suddenly interjected.
“The reputation of the Three Lotus Sect, do not undermine for personal exploitation.”
“…I’d like to see how anyone would stop me, especially since you’d have to go through the Sect Leader first,” the mature woman beamed at the old scholar with a magnanimous smile, the corners of her eyes crinkling.
“Though to be completely frank, I do believe I am quite lenient with this lass. Usually, I would dish out some humiliation, but…”
“You’re just an early Foundation Establishment cultivator, nothing difficult to kill,” Xiao Wen suddenly interrupted, her eyes glinting with a cold and menacing light.
“I’d like to see exactly why you can toss your weight around without repercussions.”
“Indeed, I am weaker regarding progression in cultivating compared to the two of you,” Elder Jiang chuckled gleefully.
“However, I’m an elder of the Three Lotus Sect. Attack an elder of the sect, and all members are obliged to defend me to the end.”
The maidservant hatefully gazed around the crowd, her anger morphing into unease as the gazes of the scholars reflected anguish and resentment.
Taking a deep breath and relaxing her fists, Xiao Wen stepped to An Fei’s side, holding the girl’s bruised hand.
“That’s the spirit,” the mature woman laughed, her tinkling voice resounding throughout the tenth platform of the Pagoda of Sun and Moon.
“However, I’ll have to punish this lass even more for your mistake, since I felt rather terrified from your threat. How about this…mm… <Frost Torrential Flower>, that seems to adequately fulfill the recompense I seek.”
Waving the three books in her hand, Elder Jiang began to stride towards the eagerly awaiting Young Miss of the Sword Marquis, leaving behind a trail of merry and condescending laughter as the two departed from the platform.
“You, little lass, let this elder teach you a lesson, ah? It’s about humility, for even the heavenly dragon must bow before the local snake. Don’t cling on to the naive ideal of justice, for you’ll then never know when you died, heh!”