Chapter 33: To Paint
The chief examiner was the professor from the government cabinet, Zhong Zi Qi. He was a little old man with a full head of grey hairs and was normally extremely serious. He opened the scroll in his hands and began to read the topics for today’s exams.
As for ‘painting’, this category was actually different every year. However, since this year the academy examinations and the Chrysanthemum feast were held together, the topic was much simpler. Like ‘literary’ in which the topic was Chrysanthemum, the topic for ‘painting’ was also Chrysanthemum.
There were five long tables on the stage and there were brushes and ink placed on them. After they orderly headed to their respective tables, the drummer beat the drums heavily indicating that the examination had started.
Everyone stretched their necks out to look.
These five people were considered the five who were the most unique of them all. Shen Yue was well known as a talent, Qin Qing was especially pretty and noble looking, Fan Liu-er and Zhao Yan were a pair of beautiful sisters and as for Shen Miao, she was naturally that stupid and ignorant idiot.
The males were mostly looking to see both Shen Yue and Qin Qing while the females were looking mostly at Shen Miao.
Bai Wei covered her mouth and said, “Today Shen Miao looks well-behave. There shouldn’t be any weird actions since it doesn’t seem like it.”
Including this time, Shen Miao had experienced a total of four academy examinations. The first time she picked chess and she randomly placed a few chess pieces and it was a beaten army in total collapse. The second time she picked literary and flipped the ink stab and dirtied her robes. The third time she picked qin and a fine bamboo qin had its strings picked out. Rather than saying that everyone was here to see Shen Miao go up the stage, it would be better to say that everyone was watching how she would humiliate herself.
But there were some differences today.
The stage was spacious as the young lady sat in front of the table. Her brush movements were proper like she had received rigorous training and there seems not to be anything wrong to pick at. The tenth month was the golden month for autumn and the whistling sound of cold wind passed through the hall and lifted the breakaway strains of hair that were on her forehead while she slightly bowed. One was only able to see the beautiful curve of that little goose-egg shaped face as those eyelashes were hanging onto.
Actually there was some beauty.
That lotus purple cloak was making a vigorous fluttering sound as she sat properly, but she put her brush on the paper chicly and her brushstrokes flew smoothly as if she paid it no mind. However there was a kind of calm and confident air, just like the Begonia in her hair, blooming brightly in a restrained manner.
Yi Furen pursed her lips and said to Ren Wan Yun with an unknown implication, “The Fifth Lady had indeed grown up.”
Ren Wan Yun smiled reluctantly but her hands were clenched tightly.
Behind them the young ladies were conversing.
“For Shen Miao to not make a fool of herself till now, was it that her personality really changed?”
“It is not possible. She should be putting up a show. Did you not see that she did not even think before her brush went down? Even Shen Yue have to think for a moment. For her to be like that, the biggest possibility is that she was just casually painting.”
Feng An Ning looked at Shen Miao who was on the stage and that strange feeling came back again. She suddenly had an intuition that today’s Chrysanthemum banquet would not be like it was in the past. For instance, like Shen Miao who was on the stage, would she really make a fool of herself?
Or would she position herself so irresistibly that she would destroy all the misconceptions about her.
At the male side of the seating, there were some that gradually found the difference.
In this group, it was most likely the most pleasing group of all. Shen Yue’s pink dress was elegant and softly pretty. Qin Qing was wearing a green dress with wide sleeves that made her look proud and beautiful. Fan Liu-er had a moving lovable charm, while Zhao Yan looked imaginative and unique. If one was to say who had gave no characteristic feeling, it would be the stupid, cowardly and tacky Shen Miao.
At the first glance, among the five of them, Shen Miao did not only withstand the competition but was particularly prominent.
She just sat quietly and clearly had her head down but there was a feeling of her looking at everyone with disdain, as if… As if in that slim figure was someone who was in a high position that could determine the life and death of others and this couldn’t but made them feel submissive.
Pei Lang frowned. How could a person’s temperament be like the sky and earth turning upside down? Is this person really Shen Miao?
Fu Xiu Yi concealed his surprise into his heart, he did not notice that the Shen Miao now was earth-shaking different from the past one, but noticed Shen Miao’s sitting posture. That straight back and gestures made him thought of one person.
It was the mistress of the six palaces, Her Ladyship the Empress.
Fu Xiu Yi knew that his thought was extremely ridiculous. The entire Ding capital knew that this girl loved him and he also hated to be loved by such a female. However, most of the times the news of Shen Miao were heard through rumours, from them it was known that Shen Miao had no skills, was snobbish, her actions were boorish and she was stupid and cowardly. From what was seen today, there was only a feeling in him that most probably those rumours were all not true.
“It is truly strange.” The blue clad youth who was reprimanded by Cai Lin spoke curiously, “Isn’t it said that Grade Two’s Shen Miao was an idiot? But it doesn’t seem so.”
Cai Lin was also stunned. His sight was always following Shen Yue but it seemed that there was some kind of pull from Shen Miao that could make others to involuntarily notice her. As if she was someone who was born standing at a position that everyone could see, especially today. He tried his best to suppress his strange thought and snorted, “It’s only an act.”
“Eldest Brother, she will win it.” Su Ming Lang tugged the sleeve of the person beside.
Su Ming Feng had some smile in his eyes but his expression was somewhat weird.
After a stick of incense, the drummer beat the drums again to indicate that the time limit was over.
Shen Yue put her brush aside, she was very confident with her painting today. At the left side, it was Qin Qing and she also just completed her painting and was washing her brush. Even a simple action from her was as moving as a painting.
But no matter how moving it was, in the academy examinations, it was not beauty that matters.
She turned around to look at Shen Miao and thought in her heart that Shen Miao would be a total failure like every time, but she did not stir up any trouble today at all. It really seemed that she became smart after being provided with pointers from others. One could pretend, but talent cannot be pretended (faked) and she should be completing it in a flurry.
However from what she saw, Shen Miao had already put her brush aside and looked calmly at the person who was coming over to collect the painting.
Shen Yue’s smile stiffened.
“Alright. Do head down.” After all the paintings were collected, it was the evaluation of the Grade Two females and that would require time.
“Fifth Younger Sister, what exactly did you draw?” After Shen Yue got down the stage, she could not wait to question Shen Miao.
She did not know why but Shen Miao made her feel disturbed.
“You will know it later on.” Shen Miao lightly smiled and that smile seemed to have a more meaning that what it appears.
She turned around and walked to a place where others were unable to see before speaking to Gu Yu, who was beside her, “Think of a way to send this to Historian Adviser Jing residence’s Second Young Master’s hands. He is the one sitting at the opposite side of the banquet, three seats on the left from that blueish-green clad person.”
Gu Yu hesitated and seemed to be somewhat confused before saying, “This servant will leave.”
“Go then.” Shen Miao patted her shoulders and walked back to her original seat and looked at Pei Lang from far away.
Upon feeling a pair of eyes on him, Pei Lang raised his head. Even though it was separated by the distance, he could still see that the gaze contained close observation of himself.
My apologies Pei Lang. Shen Miao said in her heart, in this case I will borrow your hand to shake the unbreakable foundation of Ming Qi’s Imperial family.
After all, you owe it to me.