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Chapter 2-Part 2

After the two entered, he carefully closed the door, then stood not too close nor too far, lightly, to listen to any sounds inside the room and to keep an eye on the door in case someone approached to disturb them.

Inside the room, after settling down,Hehua spoke with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes, “Master Lin really knows how to train his servants so well.”

Master Lin, knowing she was in a bad mood, quickly responded with a smile, “Oh, not really, not really, they still have much to learn.”

Hehua placed the letter forcefully on the table before slowly speaking, “Just like me, they also need to learn well. Otherwise, if Master Lin sells them off, they’ll have to count money for you.”

Master Lin was indeed cunning. To secure her manuscript, he had offered a higher percentage compared to other bookstores—a fifty-fifty profit split agreement. For this, he had even boasted about the benefits of this contract. But little did he know. Before entering this industry, she had done some research on the book market in Great Qi.

For newcomers, outright purchases were the most profitable and quickest way to get money. But Master Lin conveniently omitted this option, and she pretended not to know. She suspected it was because Master Lin lacked confidence in her manuscripts and didn’t want to invest money in them, thus making her share the risk. Secondly, she wasn’t in urgent need of money herself; she could afford to wait a few months.

Over two years, she had published two books, one from a male perspective and the other from a female perspective, both of which performed reasonably well. Recently, she had submitted a part of today’s manuscript, but Master Lin unexpectedly sent someone to bring her a letter, insisting on changing the contract to an outright purchase and specifying she had three days to sign; otherwise, the contract would default. He was pressuring her into signing! Probably because he heard something and thought she was an easy target. Well, she couldn’t afford to be careless about county matters tomorrow.

Seeing the letter, Master Lin said with a forced smile, “It hasn’t been three days yet, but Master Li has arrived, showing how pleasant our cooperation is. Here’s the new contract; Master Li can sign it.”

Li Hehua tucked the letter away in her bundle, her lips curling up slightly. She then picked up the contract and, after reading it, chuckled lightly, “Shopkeeper Lin, you’ve calculated well. I used to sell my two books for at least one or two silvers each. Now that I have some fame and a steady buyer’s channel, you’re only giving me 5 coins per book. If you were in my shoes, would you sign?”

Shopkeeper Lin’s face changed, his expression turning serious as he said, “So Master Li refuses to sign?”

Li Hehua remained unfazed, her tone unusually firm: “Of course I refuse.” This time, she felt trapped. Next time, perhaps he would only give her a couple of coppers or even make her work for free.

Upon hearing this, a cold gleam flashed in Shopkeeper Lin’s fat face, but he soon sighed with bitterness, “Master Li, you’re young and unaware of the world’s hardships, and I’m in a difficult position too. With the recent turmoil, people can barely survive, let alone afford books. Look at my bookstore; there are hardly any customers all day long. It’s becoming unsustainable.”

He rubbed his eyes, catching Li Hehua’s seemingly interested gaze, feeling irritated inside.

This Li Hehua, despite her young age and being a woman, is so difficult to deal with! Yes, he had long suspected that Li Hehua was a woman, but as long as she could make him money, even if she were a dog, he wouldn’t expose her. He had painstakingly found out that Li Hehua was raised by a widowed mother. Although she had learned some skills in a private school, he had dealt with many bookish types before, and dealing with her was a piece of cake. Yet, Li Hehua showed no fear at all.

His facial muscles twitched, and he snorted, tapping the table with his fingers, “Master Li, no, I should call you Miss Li. You’re not young anymore; you should be getting married soon, right? After you’re married, will you still write? A woman’s virtue lies in serving her husband’s family and raising children. After marriage, writing will just be a pastime. I’m considering your future. Otherwise, if your in-laws find out you’re not content at home, you might be divorced and sent back to your parents. You won’t be able to handle the gossip, and with one wrong move, you won’t just lose money, you’ll lose your life. Miss Li, what do you say?”

Li Hehua remained composed. She didn’t expect her disguise to fool everyone, especially not Shopkeeper Lin, a cunning old fox, but she didn’t mind. Even if everyone knew, including shopkeeper Lin, she didn’t care. When the Grand Princess of Great Qi went out to battle and suppress rebellions, and the Emperor personally bestowed the title of Guardian Princess, who would dare interfere?

She sneered and said, “Shopkeeper Lin, are you very skilled in the style of the spring and autumn brushwork? No wonder you’re the shopkeeper of such a big academy.” Then she smile…

Then her smile faded, and she said, “But I, Li Hehua, am not easily intimidated. Whatever kind of life I lead, I don’t need to explain it to you, nor does it concern you. Let’s talk about the contract. Since shopkeeper Lin lacks sincerity, let’s end our cooperation here. Give me back the first draft, we’ll just part ways amicably. You go your sunny path, and I’ll go my solitary one.”

Hearing this, shopkeeper Lin’s face immediately changed. Li Hehua was unyielding, so he said fiercely, “First draft? What first draft? I don’t have anything here. But it seems Miss Li really doesn’t want to get married.”

Then he laughed again: “Hehua, if you end up being jilted, why not be my concubine? You can enjoy all the luxuries.”

Li Hehua was both beautiful and talented. Just from her writing alone, he could earn a lot. With that money, he could open his own academy. Why should he work as a shopkeeper for someone else? And he wouldn’t have to be controlled by his wicked mother-in-law.

The more he thought about it, the more tempted he became. Shopkeeper Lin reached out his chubby hand to grab hers. Li Hehua felt disgusted to the extreme. She originally thought Moxiang Academy was the largest chain of bookstores in Liangzhou. When they first met, he also appeared kind and easygoing. Who would have known that, at the slightest provocation, he would reveal his true colors?

He was delighted; with his conditions, Li Hehua might have already had thoughts about him. But as soon as their hands touched, he winced in pain and quickly withdrew his hand. Looking down, he saw a shiny kitchen knife and a fresh cut on his pale hand, blood oozing out.

He exclaimed, “Li Hehua, are you trying to kill me?”

Li Hehua casually played with the knife, saying, “Shopkeeper Lin, if you take one step further, who knows what might happen. Shopkeeper Lin, you’re not from Wanshan like us; you probably don’t know that the people from Wanshan fear nothing. Shopkeeper Lin, do you want to try?”

Seeing his own reflection in the knife, Shopkeeper Lin wanted to flee, but his feet wouldn’t move, and cold sweat dripped down his face. He finally remembered that Wanshan County was a place of exile where everyone was tough, especially the Wanshan soldiers, who were known for their fighting skills. Later, due to wars, the male population decreased sharply, and Wanshan women became renowned for their fierceness. Even a delicate girl like Li Hehua carried a kitchen knife with her, appearing fierce and intimidating to him.



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