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65 Taking the Exam Along the Fourth Miss

    After handing over his identity tablet, Yu Zixu gave a scroll containing his recommendation as well. The man he handed it to read through all of it carefully and slowly, nodding thoughtfully.

    All the while his recommendation was being read, Yujia was internally panicking.

    If he knew that she was impersonating his brother, then why did he act so courteous to her? Why did he suggest to back her up with his credentials? Did he prevent her from leaving just so he could emotionally humiliate her in front of everyone once he exposed her true identity?

    Yujia struggled to think of calmer, happier thoughts. Her entire mind was buzzing with panic and panic and more panic. She couldn't think of any way to plan ahead.

    The man at the table nodded one last time and handed the contents back to Yu Zixu. He gestured ahead. "You may enter."

    Yu Zixu bowed but didn't leave. Instead, he turned towards Yujia, and beckoned for her to come forward a little.

    Her mind still filled with alarm, Yujia stumbled forward.

    Oh god.

    It was happening.

    He was going to expose her.

    He was going to reveal who she was and they would never let her in the academy and she would be so embarrassed and how was she going to earn five hundred taels if she couldn't sell art in the academy and Yujia never felt more panic in her entire life she just really really hated public confrontation and why was the world like this and what was her luck for running into Yu Zixu out of all people?

    "This is my younger brother. He forgot to bring his identity tablet and recommendation letter, but we both learned art from the same master, so I feel like my recommendation letter should cover him as well. As for his identity, I believe that I am equally as qualified to certify that his identity is accurate."

    Yujia couldn't believe what she heard.

    She looked to Yu Zixu, shocked. She looked back at the man at the table. She looked to Yu Zixu again. And then back at the man at the table.

    The regulating man was looking at her with a judging expression, so she immediately switched her expression to a forced "normal" one.

    Yes. She was totally Yu Ziyang.

    The man gave her a long stare, then picked up his brush on a scroll of paper he was recording names on. "I normally wouldn't make exceptions for a situation like this, but I was given orders to treat anyone with the surname of Yu with more grace. What's your name?"

    "Yu- Ziyang."

    Yujia couldn't believe her luck.

    She thought she was having bad luck before, but whatever orders this man was given was clearly to her favor.

    The man wrote her name down with clean and neat writing, then gestured forward. "The two of you may enter. Next."

    Yujia walked through the front arch of the school in a dreamlike daze.

    She was so sure that she was going to fail terribly, but here she was now. The first step to this long journey was over.

    With a lowered voice, she asked Yu Zixu, "Why would you cover for me?"

    Yu Zixu widened his eyes. "What do you mean, dear little brother? Of course I would cover for you any time!"

    She could hear the sarcasm in his voice. Clearly, he had ulterior motives. It couldn't be that he was willing to help her out of his free will, or that he actually thought that she was his younger brother. But whatever it was, she was allowed to take the exam now. That was all that mattered as of this moment.

    Ah. The exam.

    Yujia hoped that it would go well.

    ...

    The two entered the room where the exam would take place right at the hour of Chen. The examiner at the front seated them at the very back and began to proceed for instructions once he closed the door to the room.

    Yujia pitied a few of the individuals who were behind them in line. They were originally not late to arriving at Lingxin, but because of the long entrance process, their opportunities were cut off until the next quarter.

    In a steady voice, the examiner explained at the front, "The enrollment examination will take place in three stages: art theory, painting evaluation, and live demonstration. In the first two rounds, ten individuals with the lowest scores will be eliminated. At the very end, for the remaining individuals, their scores from each round will be averaged together. If it does not score higher than a seven, they will not be allowed to pass either."

    Hearing this, Yujia was not that worried. After all, she passed college with spectacular grades, so her knowledge in art theory was all fairly well even though a few years had passed since she last learnt it. As for evaluating the paintings of others, she thought that it sounded easy too. Demonstrating her skills live wasn't of her concern either.

    As far as she predicted, the exam shouldn't be too troubling.

    Shortly after the general explanation, the examiner began to explain the first part of the exam.

    "In testing your knowledge over the theories, concepts, and history of painting, it will be a written exam from hearing spoken questions. Each question will only be asked once, and you will be given a fair amount of time to record your answer on the paper in front of you. Discussion is not permitted. Is everyone ready?"

    Everyone in the room nodded in agreement.

    The examiner looked down on a booklet of questions he had. "Then, to start us off with an easy question, what are the six elements that define a painting?"

    Around the room, people picked up their brush and began writing, the answer coming easily to them.

    On the other hand, Yujia completely blanked out.

    Six elements that defined a painting?

    She faintly remembered hearing about it when she took classes over art history, but it wasn't required to memorize them too thoroughly since she didn't specialize in learning Chinese painting. That was why she was unable to recall any specific details about it.

    Yujia racked her mind thoroughly to see if she could remember it, but all she recalled were hazy textbook words that she couldn't quite define.

    Once she heard the sound of others setting their brush down, finished with their answers, she panicked, quickly scribbling down a few elements of art that were invented from Westerners: line, shape, form, value, space, and color. She was certain that those who would be grading her papers would not have ever heard of these elements, but it was better to put something down than nothing at all. Perhaps they would even feel enlightened by her answer and count it as correct.

    The examiner moved on to the next question. "Name a famous painter."

    Yujia thought about this for a few more moments. She knew that this was a dynasty occuring when the Tang Dynasty once was, so if she were to name a painter, it would have to come from a time period before.

    All she could think of was the painter Zhan Ziqian, so she recorded that down.

    "Now, below the famous painter you named, name one of his most notable works."

    Yujia blinked.

    Zhan Ziqian, Zhan Ziqian, Zhan Ziqian...

    What was the name of his artwork again?

    She knew it was a famous piece, one of the oldest landscape paintings in history. The only thing was that like before, she studied all of these things before. It was just too long ago so she couldn't remember any of it very well.

    Hesitantly, she wrote down "A Journey to Spring."

    In her defense, it did sound like a valid painting name. She just had to hope that it was the right name of the painting.

    "Back to the topic of the six elements," the examiner continued, "elaborate on the meaning of the first one."

    Yujia wanted to cry after hearing the question.

    The six elements? She didn't even know what the six elements were, so how was she supposed to elaborate on it now?

    She regretted thinking that this first part of the exam would be easy. Very clearly, it was anything but easy. Learning art in the modern world was just nothing similar to learning it in ancient times.

    Her only hope was that she would somehow manage to pass this one and score very well on the other two to get her in the academy.

    With that thought, Yujia wrote down what "line" symbolized. She was positively certain that it would be an incorrect answer, but again, it was better to guess. Hopefully, the next few questions would not ask her to elaborate any more and give her something easier.

    "Now, proceed to elaborate on all the other five elements."

    At this moment, Yujia really hated herself.

    ...

    Somehow, Yujia managed to finish the exam without internally dying from her lack of knowledge to all of these answers. Somehow, she managed to hear that all examinees would be given the time of half a stick of incense to relax before the second part of the exam began. Somehow, she managed to walk her way out of the room to a central courtyard where all the other examinees were gathered, conversing with each other about the test.

    Yu Zixu found her standing in the corner. He examined her downcast expression, then said, "How did you feel about the first part? I thought it was pretty easy. All those questions about the six elements- who wouldn't know the answers to that?"

    "I didn't."

    Flatly, Yujia replied, looking him in the eye.

    His expression morphed to one of surprise. "How so? Have you never studied under any master or read any of the books?"

    Oh, yes she did study under many teachers. For a whole four years, in fact. Yet it was the sort of studying that had to do with more hands-on applying, critiques, briefly reading over handouts, and Western art styles than learning about six elements of Chinese painting.

    Of course, this wouldn't be something that she could explain to him, so she just chose not to respond.

    Seeing that she didn't want to say anything to him, Yu Zixu advised, "Well, I heard that the results will be put out at the end of the resting period."

    "Alright. Thanks for telling me."

    He left after that.

    ...

    In a more secluded room, a stack of papers were delivered to three graders, who read through the answers and determined the scores of all the individuals.

    Things seemed pretty typical until one of the graders began reading through a sheet marked with the name of "Yu Ziyang". Quite frankly, what made it stand out from everything else was how wrong all the answers were.

    The grader who was scoring the paper gestured to the other two. "Look at this. This 'Yu Ziyang' doesn't even know what the six elements of art are. And, for Zhan Ziqian's most notable work, he put 'A Journey to Spring', when it should be 'Spring Excursion'."

    One of the other two graders replied carelessly, "Just mark him with a fail then." He scoffed. "'A Journey to Spring'? Nice try. Who doesn't know of 'Spring Excursion'?"

    "But haven't you heard from the orders of the school head's son?" The third scorer cut in, "He said that anyone with the surname of Yu should be scored easier."

    The second scorer pulled out a sheet that he just graded. "He's probably talking about this Yu Zixu. I just graded it, and all the answers are perfectly correct. Not a single wrong response."

    "We don't know for sure though which one he's talking about."

    "Then," the grader who held Yu Ziyang's paper remarked, "I'll just pass him for this round. At most, we'll just say that we gave him a chance for all the rounds, but we can fail him in the end if he proves to be so unknowledgeable about art. That way, even if the higher ups looked into this matter, we have a solid excuse."

    The other two nodded at his words. This was a wise choice.

    ...

    Yujia looked with disbelief at the rankings posted for who failed and passed.

    There were thirty-four names written on a chart and pasted on a board. At the very top of the chart, "Yu Zixu" was written. And at number twenty-three, it was her "name", "Yu Ziyang".

    The words of the examiner came back to her- ten individuals with the lowest scores wouldn't be allowed to move on to the next stage.

    She was one step away from the cut off mark.

    An excited smile surfaced on her lips. She didn't know how she managed to pass, but right now, all that mattered was that she did.

    To her side, Yu Zixu commented, "Congrats."

    She smiled back, congratulating him as well. "You're at first. That's impressive."

    It was as if all her confidence came back to her.

    She was lucky. Too lucky.
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