The next day, a fresh piece of news ignited heated debates.
A photo showing Christina dining with several renowned designers had gone viral.
The accompanying caption suggested her consistent victory was due to their guidance.
Those seasoned within the design industry would recognize these designers as influential figures.
Anyone, regardless of talent, would undoubtedly succeed under the tutelage of such masters, which led to a flurry of rumors and conjectures spreading across the internet.
Netizen A: Is being able to afford to hire multiple designers to tutor her considered cheating?
Netizen B: It’s not cheating. She just has an unfair advantage over other contestants.
Netizen C: Even someone completely clueless about design would excel under such guidance, making the competition unfair for other contestants.
Netizen D: This is so unfair to the other contestants! We call for Christina Steele’s disqualification!
Christina felt bitter as she read through the derogatory comments online.
Although she did meet with the designers that night, their conversation revolved around recent developments in the fashion industry, not about her competition.
Christina was no stranger to such online mudslinging.
She consoled herself with the thought that as long as she was innocent, the rumors would eventually die down.
Ever since Holly was disqualified from the competition, resentment festered in her heart.
Seeing these online allegations, she concocted a plan to exploit the situation and amplify the rumors.
Let’s see how long you can stay smug. Christina!
Then, she pulled some strings to get her vindictive plan going.
She would never reveal herself to be the mastermind behind this. After all, she only had to pay others to do her bidding.
Meanwhile, the competition was still ongoing.
Upon seeing the false rumors online, Selena immediately retweeted them in Christina’s defense, clarifying that the contestants weren’t allowed to leave the villa during the competition, thus ruling out any possibility of cheating.
The designers in the photo also shared the disparaging articles and clarified that their meeting with Christina was merely an academic discussion. They expressed high praise for her performance and even declared that Christina could be the next fashion trendsetter, urging the public to pay more attention to
Rayne immediately showed her support for Christina online. The ensuing commotion online was swiftly doused, but the situation took a turn for the worse on the following day.
A group of self-organized protestors barricaded the villa’s entrance, shouting, “Christina Steele cheated. and doesn’t deserve to take part in the competition! She should withdraw immediately!”
The clamor grew louder with each chant.
The commotion woke everyone in the villa. Margaret and Nancy, upon hearing that the protestors were – targeting Christina, excitedly urged other designers to join them at the window to watch the spectacle
Christina joined them, listening to the resounding cries from outside. The protestors were perfectly synchronized, and their leading figures even held signs bearing the word “Withdraw” in red.
Margaret sneered at the sight of the clamoring crowd. “How embarrassing. I would have packed my bags and left if it were me.”
Nancy added insult to injury by saying, “Why aren’t they doubting the rest of us? Obviously, they must. have found something wrong. Anyone with dignity wouldn’t have continued to stay.”
Then, she threw a side-eye at Christina.
Two other designers beside her also cast disdained looks at Christina and said, “I know, right? Hurry up and withdraw already.”
Infuriated by their audacity, Benjamin came to Christina’s defense and chided, “You’re all petty trash who are envious of Christina. That’s why you’re all so eager for her to withdraw.” He couldn’t stand watching them ostracize Christina.
The upcoming round was the final that would decide the top three rankings. Driving away one more contestant would undoubtedly be advantageous for them, especially one as formidable as Christina, who posed a threat to their rankings.
I bet they are even thinking about eliminating Christina in their dreams.
In Margaret’s eyes, there was no one else she looked down upon more than Benjamin. There were men among the ranks of designers, but none possessed such effeminate qualities as he did. Every look she cast. in his direction would bring a disapproving frown on her face.
“This is none of your business. This is a women’s conversation!” Margaret retorted.
“You…” Benjamin boiled with fury at her admonishment.
He was merely stating the truth. What does that have anything to do with gender?
Benjamin turned around and tugged at Christina’s sleeve. “Let’s go. We don’t need to pay heed to these people.”
Christina threw a frigid look at the group and replied, “There’s nothing impressive about glib talk. We’ll see who’s the best during the competition.”
Substance would always trump style.
The two of them went back to the room. Benjamin let go of Christina right away. He had only tugged at her sleeve to lead her away from the gossip. As a matter of fact, he didn’t have experience in any form of physical contact with women, despite his age.
“Christina, let me make you some good coffee. Don’t let the pettiness of others dampen your mood.
Maintaining a positive outlook is the key to designing beautiful work,” Benjamin said.
“I’m all right.” Christina chuckled. She had shrugged off the ill wishes of others with ease. Deep inside, however, she was genuinely touched by Benjamin’s warm gesture.
At least there was someone willing to stand by her side when others cast side-eyes at her.
Benjamin rummaged through his luggage. After a round of fervent searching, he finally found two packets. of coffee beans. “This is a special treat I brought back from my overseas stint. You’re in for a delight today!”
As he brewed the coffee, they fell into easy conversation.
It was during this exchange that Christina discovered Benjamin’s mother had been a tailor. The world of fashion and design was deeply embedded in his upbringing, nurturing his passion, which eventually led him to study the same.
They also found shared ground in their academic journey. Both of them had gained admission to prestigious universities for acing the entrance examinations, but they had to opt for less expensive institutions due to financial constraints.
“Who knew we shared such a bond? I’m a year older than you. From today onward, consider me your elder brother,” Benjamin said with a hint of a smile in his eyes. However, his demeanor was serious, suggesting the sincerity of his proposition.
“Sure.” Christina smiled.
Just then, a phone rang.
Upon seeing the caller ID, Christina held up a finger to Benjamin, signaling for silence before answering
“All the online rumors have been dealt with. Are you still at the villa? Has anyone been bothering you?” Nathaniel asked.
“Of course not. No one is allowed in or out of where I’m staying. You don’t have to worry,” Christina reassured the person on the line.
Nathaniel was concerned that she might be facing a situation similar to before. Hence, he called to make sure she was all right. “Okay, remember to contact me if anything comes up.”
Hearing Nathaniel’s comforting words felt more reassuring than anything else.
It felt like a warm fireplace in the midst of a cold winter.
A feeling of warmth spread through Christina as her lips curled into a smile. “Of course, I will. Get some rest. Good night.”