Chapter 16 Wind Crane: A Sticky Situation
Naturally, his risqué attitude did not sit well with the judges nor the audience, and he was quickly booed off at the end of his performance, with not even a single flower to his name. The next performers quickly followed. All of their requests were addressed to Linglong, none to Moonglade itself, but the owner of Moonglade merely watched on, with a smile on his face, from his corner seat in the hall. Of all the performers that followed, the highest number of flowers that were given out was 6, a far cry from the 14 of Linglong. The requests were varied as well: some were from men with ulterior motives, while several were from the women present who only requested something because the situation demanded it.
Qi Jianqiu looked at the hourglass beside Linglong, and turned to Feng Luodi worriedly, “Are you not planning to go yet? The judges are going to be exhausted by the time you go up if you wait too long.”
“Don’t worry, I need more time to observe the others first.”
“Alright. But be careful of the time!” Qi Jianqiu reminded her again gently. If not for Feng Luodi’s confidence, Qi Jianqiu would’ve been really worried. If she really were to win against Linglong, Qi Jianqiu thought to herself, I would be thrust into the spotlight as well!
The mere thought made her excited. She was about to turn and ask Feng Luodi about her request but, seeing her friend deep in thought, decided that she would find out later.
Feng Luodi stared at the cup of wine in her hand. There was another reason that she did not tell Qi Jianqiu: she wanted to be the last to play, to understand the styles popular with the crowd, and if they would be receptive to the modern tune of her songs.
As time passed, although not a single performer had yet to beat Linglong, everyone was enjoying themselves. After all, this was a gathering, not a showdown. Finally, at the end of a performance, Feng Luodi stood up, ignoring her sore knees, smiled gracefully at Linglong, “My name is Feng Luodi, may i play for the audience next?”
“Of course, Miss Feng. May I know your request?”
Feng Luodi’s palms were sweating; this was the moment that would decide if she could get Wind Crane. “My request is Wind Crane, your Guqin.”
The audience drew a sharp breath. Immediately, all the eyes in the audience turned to face Feng Luodi, their stares turning to daggers. Even Linglong, who presented herself immaculately, seemed to stiffen up at her request. Feng Luodi was surprised at the reaction of the crowd: why did they suddenly seem so hostile towards her? She looked around the room, and saw the purple robed man glaring at her, his fists clenched tightly.
A laugh came from the table next to hers, and she looked over to see the man in indigo smiling at her. From the way he carried himself, he seems to be Jiang Moyin, one of the Four Masters that Qi Jianqiu kept talking about. Feng Luodi was now even more confused; what had she done wrong?
There was a tug on her skirt, and she looked down to see Qi Jianqiu looking up at her worriedly. “Luodi, is there bad blood between the two of you? Why would you request to take her zither! Are you trying to humiliate her?”
Now Feng Luodi understood why the audience was upset. The instrument of a zither artiste was the key to her livelihood, much like the limbs of a dancer or the voice of a singer.
“My apologies, Miss Linglong, I did not intend to offend you in any way. Having heard of the fame of Wind Crane, all I wanted was to play a song on it. I hope that request is not too much to ask for.”
Linglong recovered her composure. “Of course, Miss Feng. Being a lover of zithers as well, I completely understand your request. You may play for us now.”
Shooting Qi Jianqiu a reassuring look, Feng Luodi quickly walked up to the zither in the middle of the hall. As she got close, she felt something was wrong about the zither. With a start, she saw that one of the strings were broken; that rendered the zither unplayable.
However, the sand in the hourglass was nearing its end.
“There’s no way you can beat Miss Linglong, even if the zither was in good condition,” the man in the purple robe spoke up again, “why don’t you just give up? We can save the effort of calling the handmaiden to fetch another zither.”
One of the judges spoke up as well. “The time is almost up, why don’t we end the gathering here? Thanks to Miss Linglong, everyone had a great time today.”
It seemed as if Feng Luodi would not get the chance to play. The staff of Moonglade made no move to procure another zither for her, and the audience below were already getting ready to leave.