Only 1 additional chapter this week!
As this post is up rather last min, it is not yet edited yet… Once it is done, the post will be updated again.
Edited by Tnyhy & Larkspur (Updated 30th May 2022)
Chapter 41: Servant
Up on stage, Gao Yan finally finished reading ‘Circulation of Law’.
In the beginning the surroundings were silent before a whispered discussion erupted. The students did not understand the meaning behind the essay but found the words and citations gorgeous. However, the Darens sitting at the male side of the banquet understood the depth, and even though this essay seemed inconsequential, it could inadvertently point out the loopholes in Ming Qi’s laws and while making clever suggestions on what changes were to be made. For a student, this was somewhat inconceivable.
The examiners on the stage did not expect Gao Yan to be someone who hid his real knowledge. But rules were meant to be kept, thus, when they were suspicious of a student’s performance, they would be tested, just like Shen Miao’s painting before. In all fairness, this ‘Circulation of Law’ was much superior than Shen Miao’s painting as it was literally well written and practical. The examiner questioned, “As per the essay that was read out, Ming Qi’s laws cover a wide scope and as for the sub categories, what kind of breakdown should there be?”
Gao Yan’s heart jump for joy. Other than that ‘Circulation of Law’ in the manuscript, there was also a question that was exactly the same as what the examiner asked. He was really grateful to the person who helped him by writing this manuscript and thought to reward some more money in the future. Therefore, he calmly raised his head and answered according to the manuscript, “It is divided in three portions. Merchants’ portion, officials’ portion and commoners’ portion should respectively…”
Off the stage, Historian Adviser Jing was grinning from ear to ear. To reach his position in the official circle, he only relied on the Emperor’s support and his wide network. As for real abilities, he did not have any. It was good that he had Gao Jing, a good son who could help him to deal with a lot of matters at his young age. Now, with his second son who had displayed such unusual improvements in talents, he would’ve to go to his ancestral hall to burn two big incense sticks as offerings.
Gao Jing was smarter than his father and did not believe that his own younger brother could possess such wisdom. To be this eloquent even with the examiner’s question, it could not be that he was able to bribe even the examiners. Thus, he was unable to understand at all.
Pei Lang picked the teacup on the table to take a sip, but his hand was somewhat trembling. He did not know why, but every sentence that Gao Yan spoke felt as if imprinted in his mind. That kind of familiarity made him feel ridiculous and the anxiety in his heart could not be quelled.
Su Ming Lang took a short nap and upon waking up saw the people around him staring at Gao Yan with a look of appreciation. He tugged Master Su’s sleeves and asked, “Father, is what he spoke really good?”
“A highly-talented youth.” Father Su directly commented.
Su Ming Lang pouted as if it was incomprehensible. After turning around and not seeing Su Ming Feng’s figure, he asked, “Why is Oldest Brother not back?”
Master Su lightly coughed, “Now that your Eldest Brother is weak, it is actually with great reservations that he came today. So let him rest for a while more.”
Fu Xiu Yi heard the commotion there and glanced at Master Su. Seeing that Master Su was not even changing his expression when mentioning Su Ming Feng, he retracted his gaze thoughtfully.
In any case, Gao Yan had fought today’s battle very beautifully and as for the questions that the examiners posed, he could answer them naturally and thus dispelled the suspicion in everyone’s heart. Needless to say, he naturally had gotten a ‘first rank’. Ranking was only the second thing as from this day onwards, when one mentions Historian Adviser Jing, other than Gao Jing, one would know that he had a highly talented second son.
Gao Yan stepped down the stage complacently. This round of ‘selecting’ ended like this and it was now the turn of the ‘selecting’ category for the female group.
Feng An Ning did not go up the stage as she had already won first rank in ‘qin’, and since she had already gotten the qin in the ‘drawing lots’ category and was not particularly gifted in other areas, there was no need to go up on stage. Shen Qing chose chess as she was good in calculation which was a slight advantage when playing chess. As expected for Shen Yue, she chose ‘qin’.
Shen Yue had always loved things that could highlight her refined appearance and because Chen Rou Xiu had good qin skills and could also compose some music and lyrics, Shen Yue also learned these skills well. Every year she would rank first and it was during this time that everyone would be able to listen and appreciate her qin abilities.
In the female group, once there was Shen Yue, the others would not pick the ‘qin’ and disgrace themselves. Shen Qing, naturally, also put in a lot of hard work and got the first rank in the ‘chess’ category.
After going around, it was time for ‘qin’ and the audience started to discuss again.
Shen Yue went up the stage and washed her hands in incense. She was born with an air of gracefulness and a gentle appearance which was truly moving. With a light smile on her lips, she really had an appearance of a little fairy.
The piece she played was ‘Singing to the Moon’.
‘Singing to the Moon’ was an extremely difficult piece and was about a distant traveller who was missing their homeland and loved ones. The beginning was gentle and wistful, followed by intense sadness before leaving one in tears at the end. This piece tested the skills and talents of the player and was also an emotional piece.
In the last lifetime, Shen Yue had also made use of this piece to gain the limelight and for a period of time no one was second to her. As compared to Shen Miao who was much lower than her, it was even more unbearable. Now to think about it, every time Shen Yue gained a favourable reputation, it was stepping on Shen Miao’s sorry situation to climb up.
Shen Miao looked towards the young lady on the stage.
Shen Yue had started. As she plucked the qin’s strings, it was as if the strings had spirits of their own, spreading their ethereal sound under her soft and gentle hands to everyone’s ears. Her fingers were like butterflies weaving through the sea of flowers, each turn was well coordinated with nature.
Feng An Ning bit her lips. Even if she did not like Shen Yue, she had to admit that her qin skills were outstanding. Upon comparison, the piece she played to get ‘first rank’ was very clumsy.
This was a piece of missing one’s loved ones and homeland, but it made Shen Miao to clench her fists.
Even if she lived her life again, those who were dead cannot be resurrected. Wan Yu and Fu Ming would no longer appear. Shen Yue’s song was like a resentful knell. When one heard it, not only was there no comfort it was also filled with blood feud.
Cai Lin ran out of the banquet as he was thinking of getting closer to the stage so that he could look at every single expression of his beloved. He was drunk in the beautiful qin sounds when suddenly someone’s conversation interrupted.
“Second Young Lady is truly unlucky. She has never gotten second place before and the first position was unexpectedly won by Fifth Young Lady with tricks.” The one talking was a slender servant who Cai Lin recognised as Shen Yue’s personal maid, so he involuntarily looked over.
“That’s not only it. In addition, Fifth Young Lady did not even want to participate in the ‘selecting’ category and it’s obvious that she is setting herself against Second Young Lady.” the other servant said.
“Ai. Unfortunately, our Second Young Lady is good-hearted and has suffered a heap of anger from Fifth Young Lady. If it were not because of Fifth Young Lady’s reliance on First Master, could she treat Second Young Lady like this? Second Young Lady is truly pitiful. She has prepared for so long but was robbed of the fruit without any reason.”
“If only someone was able to help Second Young Lady to vent it out. For example… Calling Fifth Young Lady to the stage during the ‘challenging’ category?”
“What nonsense you speak about.” The other person interrupted her words, “Everyone knows that Fifth Young Lady has no knowledge of the four scholarly arts. If they were to pick Fifth Young Lady, it would be akin to lowering their position. I see that it is not possible for the female group. But if someone from the male group were to challenge her, that would then be venting for Second Young Lady.”
The conversation gradually softened and Cai Lin’s eyes moved. Looking at Shen Yue on the stage, an idea formed in his mind.