Chapter 115 Part 1 The Emperor is Seriously Ill, Spring Exam is Held Ahead of Time

    Chapter 115 The Emperor is Seriously Ill, Spring Exam is Held Ahead of Time

    "Xiaojie, a while ago Qu gongzi stood outside of Ting Yu Xuan for a little while, but he left without going inside." Xi Lin said in a low voice beside her as Yun Qian Meng was ascending the horse carriage to leave Fu Guo Gongfu.

    "Cousin? How long was he there?" As she was climbing over to the small seat she paused and cast a sidelong glance at Xi Lin; no wonder there had been no sound of activity outside, as it turned out, it was because Qu Zhang Qing had been present.

    If it had been someone else, her secret protector would have taken action.

    "Qu gongzi arrived at Ting Yu Xuan a little while after Lan gugu took her leave." Xi Lin conscientiously relayed to Yun Qian Meng. Qu gongzi had previously been positioned under xiangye; so when xiangye left, he was given instructions not to guard against this person, so he had not taken any action.

    "Thanks a lot, I got it." Nodding at Xi Lin with a smile, Yun Qian Meng pulled Mu Chun along to settle inside the carriage.

    Yun Qian Meng allowed Mu Chun to take off all her hair ornaments, while she took out a beautiful handkerchief to wipe off the makeup from her face. Her mind was busy thinking about how much information Qu Zhang Qing had heard at Ting Yu Xuan, and what necessary steps he would take because of it.

    "Xiaojie, let nubi fix your hair." Mu Chun said in a low voice as she fished out a wooden comb from her tiny embroidered pouch after putting away the hair ornaments used by Hou fu's yatou.

    Yun Qian Meng slightly nodded, and immediately, with swift movements, Mu Chun combed Yun Qian Meng's dangling black hair.

    From the color of the sky, the time was already far from early. Yun Qian Meng slowly lifted the carriage curtain with one hand, finding travellers on the road bustling with activity while each and every large fu had their gates tightly shut. Aside from the servants guarding the doorway, there was no other trace of  noise and excitement.

    A burst of evenly treading footsteps echoed. Yun Qian Meng's eyes slowly shifted and saw a line of military troops passing the horse carriage. Their expressionless faces told of their patrolling in regards to the plague.

    When the people in the streets saw the military troops, they stepped aside to make way for the fear of being mistaken as outsiders who had just recently entered the city. Aside from the sound of the wheels rolling on the limestone road, only the footsteps of the armed men treading along could be heard while all others were too quiet which made a peculiar atmosphere.

    As they came close to the xiangfu, the horse carriage stopped by the northwest side corner gate. Yun Qian Meng had already changed into her usual house clothes before stepping out from the horse carriage. She nodded at Xin Lin, then led Mu Chun as they carefully entered the gate.

    The remaining time spent for the autumn exam seemed to pass by smoothly. When the exam finally ended, each candidate from the capital was being welcomed home by their respective families, while those from foreign lands were being escorted to their guest house by the city military. The seemingly normal scene gave off a strange air as even Yun Xuan Zhi, who should now be a little free after the autumn exam ended, seemed to be busy once again.

    "Xi Lin, have wangye and Chu xiang arrived in Luo City already?" By her count, more than ten days had already passed. Yun Qian Meng's heart felt a bit worried wondering whether or not Chu Fei Yang and Chu wang had already reached Luo City safely.

    Xi Lin stood in the hallway wearing his sturdy black uniform. Hearing Yun Qian Meng's inquiry from where he was stationed outside, he replied in a lowered voice, "Xiaojie, based on the estimated time if they went at a normal speed, I'm afraid xiangye and wangye will have yet to enter the city. The two of them would have already reached Luo City's territory but five days ago, wangye and xiangye suffered an attack from bandits halfway through, so they're a bit delayed."

    Yun Qian Meng's brows slightly wrinkled inadvertently. Tightening her grasp on the brush, she quickly asked, voice full of concern, "Bandits? How is that so? Did wangye and xiangye get hurt? Where are they now? Why didn't you tell me about this important incident earlier?"

    Yun Qian Meng's interrogation was already enough reproach for him, thus Xi Lin's eyes flickered grudgingly. He had been instructed by xiangye to not divulge the incident to Yun xiaojie, but with her prudent and meticulous mind, even if he made no mention of it, from the distance the party had already travelled, she would be able to guess that something had gone wrong. There was no way for him to be able to explain everything away properly, so he thought it would be better for him to be honest and confess.

    "Don't worry xiaojie, xiangye and wangye will be safe and sound. Those bandits were merely homeless common people from Luo City. Because of hunger, they started to rob travellers that crossed the area. Xiangye and wangye already had people find some place for them." Concealing all other details, Xi Lin chose to tell Yun Qian Meng the incident in the most trivial way.

    "While on their journey, did they meet with assassins?" Unexpectedly, Yun Qian Meng already thought to this point, causing Xi Lin to tensed up.

    "Why do you ask, xiaojie?" Being chased by assassins simply could not be avoided. Wangye maintained a low profile all year round and Chu wangfu was too well protected, effectively blocking off people who harbored malicious intentions. Consequently these people would not simply let this rare opportunity slip by.

    Xi Lin thought that, as a well-bred young lady, Yun Qian Meng would only worry about the safety of wangye and xiangye. As long as she knew that the two of them arrived at Luo City safe and sound, she would be at ease.

    Yet unexpectedly, Yun Qian Meng's thoughts were quite deep and profound. Xi Lin, who was usually capable of facing sudden and unexpected situations, became frightened and was now sweating from head to toe.

    But recalling xiangye's warning, Xi Lin replied with gritted teeth, "Xiaojie, you are thinking too much. Everything is alright with wangye and xiangye."

    After the hesitation before Xi Lin responded, Yun Qian Meng's mind came to a different conclusion.

    There were quite a lot of people in Western Chu who wanted to take the lives of Chu Fei Yang and Chu wang. But now that the two were evidently siding with her, those who were originally aiming at her temporarily shifted their target, intending to eliminate Chu wang and Chu Fei Yang first .

    Apparently, someone wanted to undertake evil plots by taking advantage of the epidemic. What  she ought to do now though was to worry about her own safety. At least, when the time comes, she would not be dragging Chu Fei Yang behind.

    She clenched the writing brush in her hands once more. Yun Qian Meng then continued to practice her writing brush with single-hearted devotion to the sounds of the rain pattering outside.

    Ten days passed and the scores of the autumn exam were finally posted at the doorway of Gong Yuan; numerous exam candidates personally went to check the list.

    "The first-placed candidate is... Han Che? Who is this person? How come I've never heard of him before?" People squeezed themselves to the front of the rather small announcement board to carefully search for their own names. An exam candidate who had already found his name started to recite the names on the list at his leisure. But compared to the other familiar names, this first-placed candidate, Han Che, was really unfamiliar.

    "Judging by his name, he doesn't seem to be a nobleman from the distinguished families of the capital. Could it be that the first-placed candidate this time is somebody from the low-income class?" Another candidate who was accompanying the aristocratic exam candidate frowned. Inwardly, he was really upset. If he was right, then all the noblemen in the capital would certainly lose face.

    Those who had been under the guidance of the Emperor were surprisingly nothing compared to a unknown lad from some out-of-the-way place. The great teachers that the noblemen had invited were surely all of the finest literary scholars of Western Chu, yet they were all outdone by this unknown youngster. These thoughts alone had successfully ruined their mood.

    "Could this person be the exam candidate who clashed with Yun Yi Heng and his brother?" Another exam candidate who was more quick witted recalled the face of that particular exam candidate, then he thought loudly, "That exam candidate had quite a lofty and unyielding character. After being able to attain such an achievement, it was indeed not too strange at all."

    But somehow his pertinent words had caused all the other noblemen to stare at him, included among these were Yun Yi Heng and Yun Yi Jie who were standing outside the crowd.

    Yun Yi Heng was coldly staring at the name of the person who had occupied first-place, and a faint rage started to bubbling in his eyes.

    Yun Yi Jie's carefree eyes had been carefully sweeping through the list. After spotting his name, that was actually last on the list, his face exposed a smile and his heart could not help but rejoice. At this level, he was not really qualified, but fortunately, with his uncle's support, everything was going well.

    But the words from the other exam candidates made Yun Yi Jie's good mood vanish like smoke in thin air. Slightly narrowing his eyes, he stared at the words 'Han Che' and the face of the exam candidate they had had an encounter with appeared in his mind. Yun Yi Jie coldly snorted and said to his older brother, "Big brother, why should you care about those exam candidates' comments? There's no lack of people among them who flunked the exam, they must be jealous of us and are taking the opportunity to drive a wedge between us. They are waiting for us to get Han Che in trouble, then we might get disqualified from the exam, and it will only fulfill what they wished-for. Besides, in my opinion, that Han Che is at most, just a poor scholar, what good does his unyielding manner do for him, will he use the silver to buy a position or buy food? Even if he is the top scorer, without a background, he will be send away to the border towns to be a seventh-rank minor government official. There's really no need to worry about him, brother."

    Yun Yi Heng was well aware that although his younger brother's words were somehow prejudiced, there was still truth in them. But thinking back about the incident, Yun Yi Heng simply could not just let it go. With a dark expression, while gnashing his teeth, he said, "I will certainly not let him become the top scorer of this imperial examination."

    He turned around and left Gong Yuan. Yun Yi Jie also immediately collected himself, then quickly followed after Yun Yi Heng.

    "Look at that pair of brothers, they seem so full of themselves. That Yun Yi Heng seemed clever, and isn't like an idiot, yet he only got second place. He really lost a lot of face this time." The discussions started when the others saw the Yun brothers leave. Compared to their lowered voices a while ago, they appeared to be much bolder now.

    "Humph, in my opinion, Yun Yi Heng and Yun Yi Jie's ranks are overstated. Don't you know that Yun Yi Jie frequently visits the brothels? How could he be able to focus his mind to studies? It is very likely that with his strong family background, he has someone assisting him." An exam candidate who failed the exam spoke maliciously as he ferociously stared at Yun Yi Jie's back.

    People began to shift their heads around, searching for the source of the voice, only to discover that the person speaking was actually an exam candidate who was closest to Yun Yi Jie. The two of them had common interests; they similarly hated studying, but now Yun Yi Jie was among th top, while he had not received anything-no wonder he was so envious.

    Still, his words were quite reasonable.

    The secondary examiner for the autumn exam had been the Minister of Justice, Su Yuan. Was Su Yuan's younger sister not Yun xiang's most doted yiniang? With that kind of relationship, it was naturally easy for them to manipulate things.

    When Yun Yi Heng and Yun Yi Jie were about get on their horsebacks, they saw Han Che in a sky blue cotton robe approaching Gong Yuan.

    "Oh, if it isn't the newly announced first-placed candidate; Han gongzi. Looking at your outfit, isn't that the same one that you wore twenty days ago when we took the exam? Why, is your family experiencing a difficult situation so you can't even afford a new set of clothes? Let me take a sniff at it... it actually smells sour; you probably haven't bathed for several days already!" At Yun Yi Jie's meaningful glance, the servant beside him readily blocked Han Che's way, afterwhich he unhurriedly stepped forward to jeer at him.

    Han Che glanced sideways and saw Yun Yi Jie was approaching in his bright clothes, harboring malicious intentions. At first, he refused to get tangled with this person, but to no avail. A dog was already blocking his way, so he could only stamp his feet lightly. With his eyes like the stars and face like still waters, he stared at the approaching Yun Yi Jie as he spoke in a calm voice, "I didn't expect myself to be so fortunate as to have the chance to meet you two gentlemen again on the announcement day. But I wonder if you could watch your servant, so as to avoid him wandering off everywhere and scaring other people."

    Although Han Che referred to the boy as the servant, his choice of words after that was as if he were referring to a watchdog. When the servant heard them, anger spread across his face, which made him wanted to hurriedly throw curses his way, yet Yun Yi Jie butted in, "Han the top scorer, are you jealous? Your family is too poor that you can't even afford to hire a servant. No wonder you have to study as if your life depended on it for the sake of high position and great wealth in the future."

    These words were extremely humiliating, as if the reason Han Che had strived hard in his studies was for the sake of only seeking pleasures in life. Yun Yi Jie had apparently forgotten that he himself was doing the same thing by trying to marry Wu Qin Qin not so long ago.

    Seeing Yun Yi Jie being so arrogant, Han Che merely smiled a little, those uniquely clear and bright eyes were both flickering with his utmostly sincere expression, but behind that expression, it had concealed up his disdainful gaze towards Yun Yi Jie, then he slowly replied, "Yun gongzi, you are truly fascinating, even if I make great efforts to study harder for my future high position and great wealth, at least I have my own recognition from all of the superiors like you, but Yun gongzi you were born to be prominent, why don't you show us some of your achievements?"

    At this time, those exam candidates who have already saw the notice approached one by one, seeing Yun Yi Jie and his brother had indeed obstructed the new top-scorer's way out, suddenly they all rushed in as they advanced to the area curiously.

    Although all the people did not have a favorable impression towards this unexpected winner like Han Che who suddenly broke out of the siege, yet they felt more hateful towards the Yun brothers who had their wishes fulfilled by relying on the influential powers of other people.

    Particularly during this time when they saw Yun Yi Jie's disrespectful servant boy who had obstructed Han Che. However, those exam candidates under the low-income class immediately expressing their support towards Han Che, "Top-scorer Han, congratulations to you!"

    Seeing all the people congratulating him, Han Che replied in  af aint smile "Many thanks!"

    Afterwhich he glanced back at Yun Yi Jie, then indifferently said, "Since I had already known my rank, then I need not proceed inside to see the list. I shall leave now, I'll see you all again next year during the spring exam."

    Finished speaking, Han Che cupped his hand while facing the crowds, then no longer paying attention to Yun Yi Jie, he turned around and walked in the direction of the guest house where he had been temporarily staying.

    "Oh, brother Luo, you also have your list announced today?" This time, among the few exam candidates who approached from the martial competition arena, someone called out to one exam candidate of the literary exam in this area.

    The person whose name had been mentioned saw that person was actually someone he knew very well, hence he immediately went ahead and asked, "Yes, today's the announcement. Who is the top-scorer for the current martial competition?"

    "Sigh, the current top-scorer, is actually a son of Han family of the late Duan Wangfei...... Han Shao Mian! His martial skills, even made Chen wang exclaim in admiration during that time!" That exam candidate who was being asked slightly sighed, in his heart he had accepted his defeat wholeheartedly.

    After all, the martial arts competition is a place for exhibition of real blades and spears, it cannot allow any least bit of mistakes, or else even if one was to die in the arena, no one would ever feel any sympathy for that person.

    That Han Shao Mian's sword skills had reached perfection, indeed he had stunned all the exam candidates and examiners during that time. Everyone knew that he would certainly become this year's top-scorer, but today, seeing Han Shao Mian's name on the top of the list, in their hearts they were somehow frustrated, and was blaming their own skills to be unproficient and inferior as compared to others.

    That exam candidate Luo seeing his own friend being like this, he knew immediately that he must have failed the exam similar to himself, his mood was lightened up, suddenly he approached a bit closer to the exam candidate Luo, then two of them encouraging each other as they left Gong Yuan together.

    "Yi Jie, let's go!" This time, Yun Yi Heng suddenly spoke, afterwhich he hopped on to the horseback, rushing quickly towards the direction of the courtyard where their parents were currently staying.

    As for Yun Yi Heng, Han Che was his greatest competitor right now. That Han Shao Mian who excelled in the martial skills exam, was not someone he for him to be worrying about.

    Seeing Han Che had already left for a quite some time, Yun Yi Jie eyes slightly exposed an insidious look. Afterwhich he returned by the side of his own saddle horse, stepping on the back of the servant boy as he hopped onto the horseback, then the servant boy leading the horse along as they slowly headed towards the direction of the courtyard.

    With nothing more worth seeing, all the others said their goodbyes to one another, then returned back to prepare for their spring exam next year.

    At this moment, inside the Palace where Emperor Yu Qian usually took his rest was full of people. The Empress Dowager was sitting in front of Emperor Yu Qian's bed, her face was anxiously watching the imperial physician checking the pulse, from time to time she would ask; "What's going on? What happened to the Emperor?"

    The Empress and Rong Guifei were keeping watch beside the bed, gravely staring at Emperor Yu Qian who was lying on his bed with his face flushing red, frowning while suffering from pain, their eyes appeared to be deeply worried.
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