Chapter 114 Part 1: Imperial Examination, Cousin is Grounded

    Although the plague was spreading fast, the imperial examination held once every three years would still continue as scheduled.

    Before dawn, Yun Yi Heng and Yun Yi Jie left for Gong Yuan accompanied by servants. The exam candidates for this year's autumn examination were too many, and the majority of the military troops were stationed at the city gates to inspect the vehicles that came and went, taking strict precautions to prevent infected outsiders from entering the capital. As a result, the amount of time it took for the exam candidates to enter the exam room was much longer.

    Although Yun Xuan Zhi was involved in organizing the autumn exam, he was not a major examiner, which meant that Yun Yi Heng and Yun Yi Jie would not receive preferential treatment. There were different queues for the examinees based on their region of origin and family background. The two brothers loitered in the appropriate line, waiting to be allowed entrance into the exam room.

    "Shaoye, here are the pastries that the old madam especially requested the kitchen to prepare, furen especially brought these light refreshments from Su City for you two shaoye. Nucai put several of them inside, if the two shaoye get hungry, just eat them." When the number of people outside gradually decreased, Yun Yi Heng's servant opened the small food box in his hands and pointed out the square shaped pastries, then took out a piece for Yun Yi Heng to sample.

    "Oh!" Unexpectedly, someone bumped the servant from behind. As a result, the pastry in his hand fell to the ground. The servant turned around in a rage, then roared quietly, "Don't you have eyes? You knocked over my shaoye's pastries!"

    Yun Yi Heng and Yun Yi Jie watched as the pastries made by their mother fell to the ground, causing their hearts to grow annoyed. Following the servant's actions, they glanced towards the back of the long queue and saw a young man wearing a long, sky blue cotton robe. He only carried a bundled wrap around his back with no servants to wait upon him nearby. His place in the queue of scholars also meant he was from a low-income family, and Yun Yi Heng and his brother's gaze inevitably showed scorn. Even the servant beside them could not help sneering at the young man dressed in plain and simple clothing. The servant then stepped forward, one hand pushing the young man's shoulder, and aggressively asked, "Are you blind? Didn't you see that you knocked my shaoye's pastries to the ground? You didn't even apologize. How can a person like you be qualified to join the imperial examination? You might only bring disgrace to our capital!"

    The commotion had attracted everyone's attention. The spectacle was the only compelling distraction for the bored scholars as they waited for the time to trickle by.

    The young man's expression did not contain the slightest degree of anger in the face of the servant's extremely insulting reproach. People only saw the young man's delicate and pretty eyes, prettier even than those of Chen wang which were grave and stern, and as charming as Chu Fei Yang's. With just a glance, the young man's countenance etched itself into the everyone's heart, particularly those brilliant eyes that were as wise and farsighted as the stars, which caused people to subconsciously hold him in contempt.

    The young man spared a glance at the pastries on the floor, then immediately cupped his hands, facing Yun Yi Heng and Yun Yi Jie, and sincerely apologized, "A while ago, I was in a hurry, so I didn't notice your servant standing in front of the both of you. Please accept my apologies, gongzi."

    "What kind of person are you, going so far as to make our gongzi forgive you? Are you even worth of speaking to our gongzi like this?" Yun Yi Heng and Yun Yi Jie both remained quiet, but the servant started shouting, assuming an air of superiority. After the young man took the initiative to apologize, it had merely stoked the servant's anger.

    However, the servant's shouting only induced whispers amongst the present scholars.

    "Whose family does this servant boy belong to, why is he being so arrogant?" This servant beaming from ear to ear caused a surge of angry gazes from the exam candidates lined up in the low-income family queues, who was already quite disgusted with the servant, but due to the servant's two masters belonging to the queue for the landowning class, they repressed their anger and held their tongues.

    "Don't tell me you've never heard of the brothers of the Yun family? Their uncle is the current Right Minister Yun. And the eldest daughter of the first wife of Yun xiang, Yun xiaojie, has been bestowed a marriage by the Emperor to Left Minister Chu. And the family of that eldest daughter's mother is Fu Guo Gongfu! Regardless of which, they surely aren't people to be offended by us scholars from the low-income class." An examinee, who was an expert at gaining information, was pleased with himself as he bellowed the information he had gathered, taking advantage of the free time.

    As the confused exam candidates heard the explanation, their faces showed fear. Although they still hate the servant, they curbed their expressions a lot.

    As for the queue belonging to the landowning class, those sons from influential families flagrantly sneered at Yun Yi Heng and his brother. Perhaps the scholars of the low-income class did not understand that Yun Yi Heng and his brother were merely lodging under another person's roof to acquire their status, and their father was actually a person who idled, with no official rank. Their being able to line up in the queue was only by the influence of Yun Xuan Zhi's.

    But now that Yun Qian Meng would soon become a member of Chu wangfu, with Chu wang and Chu Fei Yang's influence alone, it was enough for those scholars of the landowning class to give face to Yun Yi Heng and his brother on such an ordinary occasion so as to not offend anyone.

    The young man that had been rebuked by the servant only responded with a smile; afterwhich, with a clear and distinct voice, he said, "A while ago, it was me who had accidentally knocked over the gentlemen's pastries, and I have already apologized. Why are you still being forceful, brother? Besides, you are in no position to decide whether or not I am qualified to join this imperial examination. I am the same as all the exam candidates here, who have all gotten through the county exam, prefectural exam, college exam, and have the qualifications to enter today's autumn exam. Don't tell me, brother, that you are also capable of controlling these things?"

    The young man looked at that servant mockingly; although a smile graced his lips, he obviously despised this nucai who was taking advantage of his position to bully others.

    After being taunted by the young man, the servant's face blushed red, and he suddenly shifted his gaze to Yun Yi Heng, eyes a bit dejected and fierce.

    "Gongzi, your voice is quite severe. My servant is the one who was wrong." Yun Yi Heng spoke in a deep voice, disdainfully looking at the young man.

    Yun Yi Heng's current goal was to get the top score on this year's imperial exam.

    But this young man who appeared out of nowhere made him feel threatened, particularly his eyes and manner of speaking. It was not too difficult to figure out that this person truly had both ability and aptitude his responses were eloquent enough to somewhat shock people.

    "Why are you all gathered here? In the evening you will all begin to take the exam, but to my surprise, you still have the leisure to chat here?" A major examiner for this year's autumn exam walked out from Gong Yuan. It was the most exalted scholar from the Imperial Hanlin Academy-Guan daren.

    Behind him was the Minister of Justice, Su Yuan.

    Though, what confused Guan daren the most was that Su Yuan, who was the Minister of Justice, had been recommended by Chen wang to be a secondary examiner for the autumn exam, which seriously made people wonder whether they should laugh or cry.

    Su Yuan did not receive his post through the imperial examination process. He started his official career by relying on the blessings of his ancestors, and with the addition of Yun xiang's recommendation a few years ago, he was elevated to the position of Minister of Justice.

    Though Su Yuan's rank was not that low, if he were to assume the role of secondary examiner of the autumn exam, he did not have the qualifications, which made Guan daren a bit puzzled.

    "What happened?" A grim voice echoed from the back of the crowd.

    Guan daren and Su Yuan looked around, seeing both Chen wang and Qu Zhang Qing standing together at a distance, the two of them immediately approached, leading all the exam candidates and greeted, "Good to see you, Chen wang."

    Seeing all the exam candidates kneeling on the ground, Jiang Mu Chen said in his particularly cold and detached voice,, "Stand up, all of you." He immediately glanced at Su Yuan, but then turned to Guan daren to ask, "Guan daren, why was there a quarrel in this area before the literary examination?"

    Guan daren glanced in the direction Chen wang had come from and realized that Chen wang and Qu Zhang Qing must be heading towards where the military examination would be held. On their way, they had to pass through Gong Yuan, and after hearing the noise, they came to investigate. "Wangye, it was just some trivial matter. I will handle it properly."

    Su Yuan then stepped forward, cupping a hand in the other and said, "Wangye, I saw some scholars creating a disturbance. From what I have observed, it would be better to imprison the involved exam candidates in the Ministry of Justice for a few days, or else they would never understand what kind of place Gong Yuan is."

    All of a sudden, Yun Yi Heng's face ashened as the young man fluidly wrinkled his brows. All the other exam candidates lowered their heads to avoid being involved in the trouble.

    Guan daren, having heard Su Yuan's malicious methods, immediately retorted, "Su daren, do you consider these exam candidates prisoners of your Ministry of Justice, after ten years of strenuous studies? Only those who have participated in the imperial examinations are able to understand the hardships involved. If you arrest them now, and they miss the imperial examination this year, they have to wait for another three years. Su daren, you are quite cold-hearted!"

    "Guan daren is right. But without rules, it will not be fair. Guan daren, don't tell me that you feel enough pity for the circumstances of these exam candidates that you don't even care about the regulations of the exam anymore? Today, they dared to cause trouble inside Gong Yuan. In the future, when they enter the Throne Room, whose to say they will not offend the Emperor? Wangye, why don't we refresh their memory and let them know what this place is?" Since Guan daren was intentionally opposing him, with the help of Chen wang, Su Yuan did not see it fit to give honor to an important examiner like Guan daren as he rebuked him and vented his anger.

    Qu Zhang Qing had been watching the Yun brothers and the young man since the start of the argument. Although he also disliked Yun Yi Heng and his brother, having observed the young man's tough and upright character, it gave rise to Qu Zhang Qing's emotions, so he said, "Wangye, Guan daren and Su daren are both reasonable. But these exam candidates came from very far places, it had indeed been difficult for them. Although Su daren has the intention to discipline them, the Ministry of Justice is a place to imprison criminals, these exam candidates hadn't really committed any major offenses under Western Chu's laws. If you imprison them only for this matter, perhaps the common people would say that our imperial administration is being vicious. Furthermore there is an outbreak of a plague in Luo City, and the Empress Dowager went to the Pu Guo Temple to pray for blessings for the common people. If we were to handle things based on Su daren's suggestions, I'm afraid that it might go against the Empress Dowager's sympathies for the common people. It would be better for these exam candidates to remember their lesson this time, and at the same time, the court should value their talents."

    Qu Zhang Qing's words made Guan daren repeatedly nod his head, while Su Yuan just stared at him with malice, yet Qu Zhang Qing only stared back at Su Yuan, fully meeting his glare with a coldness of his own. It made Su Yuan's heart tremble; so, he could not help but look towards Chen wang.

    Chen wang's eyes shifted between Yun Yi Heng and his brother to that young man. His eagle-like eyes made everyone's heart tense up, and they eventually realized that the road to officialdom was quite challenging. They would not dare to start a commotion in this place anymore for the fear of getting imprisoned in the Ministry of Justice.

    "Since Guan daren and Qu daren pleaded for you, then we will just drop this matter this time. If it happens again, you will be severely punished." After speaking, with frost surrounding his body, Chen wang left Gong Yuan. And Qu Zhang Qing, being a major examiner of the military examination, naturally would not linger in Gong Yuan for too long. After giving Guan daren a meaningful glance, he immediately caught up with Chen wang walking towards the arena where the imperial military competition would be held.

    "Everyone hurry up and enter. In a moment, we shall commence the first round of the written examination. You must not delay." Guan daren immediately turned around and urged once Chen wang was further away.

    Guan daren then preceded everyone and stepped inside the gates of Gong Yuan; meanwhile, Su Yuan was still at the very center with candidates on all sides. His hazy eyes had a profound expression as he glanced at Yun Yi Heng and his brother standing to one side, a grim smile on the corner of his mouth, before he walked into the exam room.

    After the unexpected occurrence just now, Yun Yi Heng's servant was already terrified, particularly after learning that he almost caused his gongzi to be forbidden to take part in the imperial examination. He wished he could bite off his own tongue, but the servant placed the majority of hatred against the young man who had opposed him. He glanced at the young man's figure with hateful eyes.

    "Alright, just leave us here. Go and announce our smooth arrival to our grandmother and parents without delay. If you were to divulge any details regarding today's incident, I will kill you." Yun Yi Heng commanded as he took all of the food cases and other items from the servant's hand. He too had malevolent thoughts for Su Yuan in his heart.

    The servant was already frightened and was completely drenched in a cold sweat from head to toe. At first he thought Yun Yi Heng intended to peel off his skin on the spot, but now that Yun Yi Heng had easily let this matter slip by, he immediately took a deep breath and relaxed. He would not dare make irresponsible remarks again, and insistently nodded his head, watching as Yun Yi Heng and Yun Yi Jie entered the exam room. Then, without stopping to rest, he hurried towards the direction of xiangfu.

    Early in the evening, the huge bell inside Gong Yuan slowly rang. The autumn exam that would last for nine days and seven nights had officially begun.

    But when the servant returned to the gates of xiangfu, he was blocked off by housekeeper Zhao and, regardless of how hard the servant begged, housekeeper Zhao refused to let him in.

    Rui mama, who was on guard inside the gate, heard the servant's voice, and immediately dispatched a yatou to run to Bai Shun Tang to ask the old madam to come over without delay.

    "Does he have any news from Yi Heng?" The old madam immediately stood up from her seat and anxiously asked as soon as she caught sight of the yatou.

    "Old madam, the eldest shaoye's servant has returned, but he is being refused at the gates. Rui mama is asking for you to go over there." The yatou gasped for breath as she came to a stop, luckily she did not miss a word.

    The old madam immediately dragged Yun Yi Yi sitting nearby and they swiftly entered a palanquin and hurried over to the gates of xiangfu.

    "Old madam!" Rui mama was talking about today's situation with the servant when she saw the old madam scurrying over to them. She quickly went to support the old madam, and they stood together by the gates to peek outside through the small wooden window on the door.

    "Quickly tell me, were the two gongzi able to reach the exam room safely?" The old madam had been extremely anxious, particularly when she heard that the secondary examiner this year was Su Qing's brother, Su Yuan. She had been so worried that she was unable to eat anything, fearing that Su Yuan might deliberately make things difficult for her grandsons, going so far as to deny them entrance into the exam room.

    "Old madam, the two gongzi have entered the exam room. The eldest gongzi also permitted me to report this you, old madam, then to the laoye and furen as well, so that you will not worry about him and his brother." At Yun Yi Heng's instructions, the servant naturally would not say anything about the incident. He only spoke of the information that was pleasant to hear, and the old madam had a smile on her face as expected.

    "What time did they go inside? Was there anyone who made things difficult for them?" Although the old madam's heart relaxed a bit, she was still thinking that Su Yuan might find an opportunity to avenge his younger sister. Therefore, she had asked with concern for fear that this servant was not reporting the whole truth and only the good news.

    The servant did not expect the old madam to be so attentive, but he immediately smiled and said, "Please don't worry old madam, the two shaoye are fine. The amount of exam candidates who went were too many, so they were delayed a little bit."

    The old madam's tensed nerves gradually loosened since it was unlikely for the servant to lie. Afterwhich, she let Rui mama throw an ingot of silver through the small wooden window as a reward for the servant. "Go ahead and serve laoye and furen for a few days at the north courtyard. Once the autumn exam ends, you must go fetch the two gongzi. Don't just have fun and forget the time."

    After having received the reward, the servant would evidently follow every order from the old madam. Bowing and scraping, he said some words of praise and gratitude, then left the gates of xiangfu.

    "Grandmother, you should be at ease now." Upon receiving the news that her two older brothers had entered the exam room, Yun Yi Yi's heart felt quite delighted. And deep inside, she could not help but still rejoice that Yun Ruo Xue had almost been beaten to death last time and was still lying in bed. If she were to run and report these matters to Su fu, it could ruin her two brother's future.

    The old madam just smiled and nodded. With the support of Rui mama, she sat inside the palanquin again and returned to Bai Shun Tang.

    With the disturbance caused by the old madam this morning, in addition to the servant who came to report Yun Yi Heng's safety, Yun Qian Meng was naturally unable to leave xiangfu for the time being. She asked Mu Chun to prepare the uniform of a third rank yatou and bring it inside the room in preparation for when she leaves tomorrow.

    During her leisure time, she went to the bookshelf left to her by Qu Ruo Li and took out an ancient book about Western Chu Liao Yuan. As she slowly flipped through it, she was delighted to find that this ancient book had a complete record all of the measurements of the territories of Western Chu, although the map was not as accurate or delicately sketched as those of modern times. Nevertheless, it had precisely labeled the distance between the cities, giving Yun Qian Meng the impression that she was obtaining a most precious treasure. With single-hearted devotion, she immersed herself among the maps within the yellowish pages of the books and tried to find the location of Luo City.

    Her delicately long fingers followed the marks on the map as they slowly moved; as expected, she found the two words 'Luo City' labeled on it Yun Qian Meng was delighted; her eyes immediately looked for the distance between the capital and Luo City. Afterwhich, she converted the distance by means of travelling through horseback riding: if a person were to travel day and night to Luo City without stopping to rest, perhaps it would take around ten days. It can clearly be seen that the thousand miles distance was not an exaggeration.

    Her fingers covered the words 'Luo City' as Yun Qian Meng's thoughts wandered to other places. It was reasonable to say that even if the plague broke out, it would not necessarily require two distinguished persons like Chu wang and Chu xiang to personally attend to it, and based on their approach towards this matter, it seemed like they had gave utter importance to it. What did Luo City really have that made them both willing to go there this very moment, risking their lives?

    Lightly knitting her eyebrows, Yun Qian Meng gazed at a peaceful scene outside of the window; yet, she felt that the moonlight tonight was a lot colder than last night. She wondered if Chu Fei Yang was taking good care of himself on his journey.
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