Chapter 116 Part 2 Who was the Arsonist that Burnt the Exam Candidates to Their Deaths?

    "Assign people to investigate his background!" This command from Chen Wang caused a slight transformation on Ning Feng's expression.

    Generally speaking, when Chen Wang issued an order to thoroughly investigate a person, there must be an important purpose.

    Han Che really had some characteristics that certainly surpassed all the others, but also one would could see that this person was hard to win over. On top of that, Han Che's attributes contained a conceited condescending air that was uniquely possessed by a scholar, and it made Ning Feng admire this person.

    But since Chen Wang had already issued an order, Ning Feng could only obey and make it work.

    With such a big incident that had occurred in just one night, not only the common people, even those well-bred young ladies from the large and influential families were able to faintly see the flame that lighted up the night sky, and the sounds of fleeing and cries for help. For the moment it had distracted the minds of the people in the capital. All the common people were now stealthily discussing in private the series of incidents that had recently occurred, whether or not it was some kind of warning that Western Chu will soon be gone.

    "Didn't expect a lot of people to lose their lives among the sea of flames in just one night!" Getting out of the bed in the morning, Yun Qian Meng thought of the blazing fire that had filled up half the sky last night, she could not help but shake her head in surprise, the indistinct feeling of uneasiness in her heart was becoming increasingly distinct.

    Yun Qian Meng let Mu Chun open the wood shutters then stretched her hand outside the window, feeling the low temperature outside. The ice-cold elements in the air couldn't help making people shiver.

    In a few more days it would be the eleventh month of the current year. The temperature these days had obviously begun to change. One could feel the coldness in the air when they got out bed each day.

    Recently,the weather had been full of changes, occasionally there were patters of rain in the sky, the frost and dew during the night became heavier. But the flame from the guest house had actually brightened up half of the night sky in the capital in these conditions, making people truly worried.

    "Yes! These exam candidates had experienced a life of strenuous studies for ten years, before the imperial examinations came to an end, they had actually lost their lives in vain, that's truly pitiful! Moreover, those exam candidates who have been burned to their deaths were mostly low-income class scholars, perhaps their families had been hoping for them to bring honor to their families, yet they had even lost their lives now. If the members of their families were to know about it, they would definitely be broken-hearted!" Mi Mama said to Yun Qian Meng as she arranged the tableware on the table.

    For Mi Mama, who was also a mother, such kind of pain seemed to be more vivid than what Yun Qian Meng could have imagined. Needless to say, which mother would be willing to see their children die before they did? With this thought, Mi Mama could not help but rejoiced that, although her own son had failed to live up to her expectations, but still he lived smoothly and steadily; bringing a feeling of comfort in her heart.

    "Xiaojie, nubi has brought your breakfast here!" This time, Ying Xie walked in wearing a tranquil face, afterwhich, together with Yuan Dong, they quietly laid the plates of food down on the table one by one.

    Yun Qian Meng's gaze shifted from outside the window back to Ying Xia, only to sense that this servant girl was unlike her usual way of being active and energetic, although her face appeared calm, but her eyes looked somehow anxious. Looking over at Yuan Dong who had come in together with her, those usually undisturbed eyes contained a worried expression, causing Yun Qian Meng to be suspicious, thus she could not help but ask, "What happened to you two today? Were you being bullied in the kitchen or do you have any unhappy matters?"

    Under Yun Qian Meng's interrogation, Yuan Dong and Ying Xia's faces immediately looked distracted, then the two of them immediately switched to their happy smiling expression. Ying Xia quickly denied and said, "Currently, no one would ever dare to bully me. I am usually the one who bullies other people."

    But, the more they tried to conceal it, the more obvious it was indicating that there must be something wrong.

    Yun Qian Meng shut down the wooden window in her room, only leaving a tiny crack for ventilation, afterwhich she approached the dining table, her eyes calmly swept through the dishes on the table and its order of arrangement, then she asked in a deep voice, "Ying Xia, are you still saying that there's nothing wrong? Why don't you take a look, there was actually two plates of shiso cake on the table, and what is this cup of ginseng soup doing being placed right in front of me?"

    Having heard what was said, Mi Mama immediately stepped forward and examined carefully, sure enough she saw two plates of exactly the same shiso cakes, and that said cup of ginseng soup was evidently placed right in front of her, making her unable to see the other dishes behind it.

    Seeing Ying Xia and Yuan Dong would commit such mistake for a simple task, Mi Mama's face immediately turned gloomy before she reprimanded them, "What happened to you two? Why are you so careless? Ying Xia, xiaojie was convinced with your medical expertise, that's the reason why she had retained you beside her to take care of her diet. But you aren't be able to perform your duty well, at that time who had promised to make her utmost efforts to serve xiaojie? With just a few days passed, you've actually forgot all the things that you've said?"

    Upon speaking, Mi Mama and Mu Chun removed the two plates of shiso cakes from the table, smoothly they rearranged the position of the bowls and plates on the table. Then they slowly supported Yun Qian Meng to her seat.

    Hearing Mi Mama angrily rebuked Ying Xia, Yuan Dong also stood out to acknowledge her mistake, "Xiaojie, this matter does not concern Ying Xia. It was nubi who entered the kitchen to get the morning meals, it was my negligence that had caused such mistake. Xiaojie, please punish nubi instead!"

    Finished speaking, Yuan Dong lowered down her head then knelt down before Yun Qian Meng.

    Yun Qian Meng patted Mi Mama's hands, hinting her not to get angry because of such a trivial matter, after which she stretched out her hands and pulled Yuan Dong up, then gently spoke "You have always been cautious and careful, you are the most earnest one among my four servant girls. Serving by my side for these few months, you had never committed the least bit of mistakes. If it wasn't for something inside your head, I believe you would certainly not commit such basic mistake today. Thus, you must speak out, if there's something I can do to help, I will certainly not allow you to suffer while working beside me."

    Upon hearing these words, the feeling of gratefulness suddenly came rushing forth in Yuan Dong's heart, she could not help but slightly lifted up her eyes and looked at Yun Qian Meng, seeing her xiaojie wearing a light smile on her face, having a sincere expression in her eyes, but with such beautiful xiaojie, truly made Yuan Dong to be unwilling to speak out the news that she had just heard, just insistently shook her head, resolutely denied the matter as she said, "It was because I had not been able to rest well last night, that's why my eyesight became blurred and got the wrong morning meal. Honestly,there were no other reasons, please believe me, xiaojie!"

    Yun Qian Meng did not push any further when she saw that Yuan Dong was unwilling to explain. She only instructed Yuan Dong and Ying Xia was instructed to deliver the morning meals to Ying Qiu, then she herself just sat down and silently had her morning meal.

    Mu Chun saw that Yun Qian Meng wasn't in a good mood. "Xiaojie, would you like me to go and ask around?" She scooped up a bowl of corn congee then knelt down before Yun Qian Meng, as she asked in a hushed manner.

    Yet Yun Qian Meng simply shook her head, even if she were to personally interrogate her, it would still be of no use, Mu Chun was very likely would not even be able to obtain anything. It would be better to let Xi Lin go ahead and ask around, perhaps he would come out fruitful.

    In less than an hour, Yun Qian Meng was already able to guess the reason why it had caused Yuan Dong and Ying Xia to repeatedly commit mistakes, Chen Wang had actually placed Rong fu under house arrest!!

    Such an action truly made people feel puzzled.

    Even if Chen Wang had intentions to revolt, even though Rong fu was the richest in Western Chu, there was no point in apprehending them first.

    After all, if anyone was to obtain victory by doing the things that were least expected, at least he would first capture the members of the Imperial Family within the capital, putting some pressure towards these influential families to assemble their special forces troops.

    But Chen Wang had passed over many Wang fu's, and only set his hands towards Rong fu, such kind of behavior was truly hard to comprehend.

    "Rong guifei didn't go and seek His Majesty's help?" Faced with such kind of occurrence, Rong guifei would not be able to hold her silence, and Emperor Yu Qian and Chen Wang usually did not get along well, it would be unlikely for him to allow Chen Wang to behave impudently like this.

    "But xiaojie, His Majesty is seriously ill at this moment!" When Xi Lin's deliberately lowered voice reached Yun Qian Meng's ears through the wooden window, it seemed all the questions were now answered..

    It was just that for Emperor Yu Qian to become seriously ill at this time made Yun Qian Meng feel suspicious. Seeing how the Empress Dowager being so intense about Emperor Yu Qian, why would she allow such information to leak out? Could it be that the power in the hands of Chen Wang had reached a level wherein even the Empress Dowager would not be able to handle anymore? And why had not Chen Wang forced Emperor Yu Qian to abdicate during this rare opportunity wherein he was seriously ill, yet only closely concentrated his attention solely on Rong fu and refusing to let go?

    It may be assumed that with Rong Yun He's temper, it was definitely improbable for him to yield to any other person. There was also the question of whether or not he had been made to suffer hardship.

    "Is everything alright with Rong fu?" It's not surprising for Ying Xia and Yuan Dong to forget their manners. For each and every person who had even a little bit of conscience, care and affection, that person would still worry about her previous master.

    "Don't worry xiaojie, Chen Wang only prohibited all the members of Rong fu to enter and exit the residence, he didn't interrogate anybody by means of torture." Xi Lin told of all the things that he knew about, he also knew that Yun Qian Meng asked these questions because she wanted to find out something, then he tried to explain everything in details as much as possible.

    "Thanks a lot, you go ahead now!" Attaining quite a lot of information from Xi Lin, Yun Qian Meng needed more time to settle and digest. She then allowed Xi Lin to return back to Chu xiangfu, then she instructed Mu Chun to Ying Qiu's room, to fetch Ying Xia and Yuan Dong.

    "I believe, you two were worried about Rong fu, right?" Looking at the two persons in front of her who remained silent, Yun Qian Meng spoke indifferently.

    And just as she had expected, after hearing her words Yuan Dong and Ying Xia both lifted up their heads simultaneously. Their eyes were full of surprise, it was safe to assume that they were wondering how Yun Qian Meng came to know about this matter.

    "Ying Xia, Yuan Dong, since you two have decided to serve xiaojie, you must wholeheartedly attend to xiaojie's needs, and yet how could you still worry about your previous master?" The most awful thing that Mi Mama could not bear to see was disloyal servants.

    Particularly now that Yun Qian Meng's status was evidently different from before, dishonest persons were certainly not allowed beside her, for the fear that Yun Qian Meng might suffer from any harm.

    Yun Qian Meng naturally knew why Mi Mama had such kind of reaction. Firstly, in the olden days she had not displayed utter loyalty towards Qu Ruo Li, this made Mi Mama feel a twinge of guilt and incessantly blaming herself; secondly, Mi Mama did not hope for someone to perform the same conduct as what she had done before, as a result, her mood seemed to be moved emotionally.

    "Mama, we cannot put the blame on them!" Yun Qian Meng used her meaningful glance to pacify Mi Mama, Yuan Dong and Ying Xia had not commit any mistakes to be driven away by Rong Yun He only to serve beside her. For the two of them to be able to serve beside Rong Yun He, it was most likely that they had gained Rong Yun He's. Such kind of friendship between the master and servants, how could it be broken off by a few words? To worry about Rong fu and Rong Yun He, that was also a matter of common sense.

    On the contrary Yun Qian Meng was somehow glad that they had such kind of reactions, it had indicated that the two of them were pretty passionate and with good nature, they really were not heartless persons.

    "Xiaojie, where did you learn about it?" After a long while, Yuan Dong slowly spoke.

    She looked at Yun Qian Meng's simple and elegant shallow smile flashed on her face, without any reason her heart had calmed down, her prior worries and fretful thoughts were soothed down by that simple smile, actually enabling her to calm down her mind to reflect on the matters at hand.

    "Where in the world do you see a wall that didn't permit the wind to pass through? But I can tell you instead, that everything is safe and sound at Rong fu! The people inside Rong fu were being restricted to move around, yet they didn't suffer from any harm, you ought to be at ease!" Seeing Yuan Dong regained her usual composure, the smiling expression in Yun Qian Meng's eyes became even brighter, then she simply described the current situation inside Rong fu all over.

    Only now Yuan Dong and Ying Xia could lay down all the worries in their hearts. The two of them then knelt down before Yun Qian Meng, and pledged, "We servants will certainly serve xiaojie fully with all our hearts and souls!"

    With this information on hand in exchange for the loyalty from the two of them, this had actually went beyond Yun Qian Meng's expectations, following which she allowed the two of them to go ahead and take their morning meals.

    And during this time the low-income class scholars who were temporarily staying inside the Chen Wangu still had not regained their normal state yet from the joy that they had felt last night, but then they got scared to the point that their whole bodies were drenched in cold sweat because of the imperial edict that was recently issued out.

    At first they thought that they were going to live inside Chen Wangu until the next year, yet quite unexpectedly Emperor Yu Qian had suddenly issued an imperial decree, shifting the spring examination that previously was scheduled for next year to the first day of the following month. Finger busy counting, there's actually one or two days left, this made all the exam candidates to lose their heads out of fear. Now they were definitely not in the mood to enjoy the beautiful scenery inside Chen Wangfu, each of them was clasping books in their hands quietly reading and reciting.

    As compared to the nervous minds of all other people, on the contrary, Han Che seemed to be unruffled. The young man kept on reading the pages of the book in his hands with his usual pace, such quiet and contented personality, it had actually made another exam candidate living with him in one room to be utterly envious, he could not help but exclaimed, "Brother Han, sure enough you have planned in advance, surprisingly not quite anxious, it had truly made me feel ashamed!"

    Having heard what was said, Han Che's both eyes slightly left the pages of the book, then glanced at the person sitting in his opposite side, in a shallow smile he gently said, "Thanks for the praise brother Kong, I'm just a bit slow in reading books. On the contrary I'm quite envious of brother Kong's speed in reciting the poetry and literature, indeed it can be considered as ten lines at one glance, having a highly retentive memory!"

    That exam candidate being conversely praised by Han Che, felt quite embarrassed, he quickly waved his hand and retorted, "What highly retentive memory, I suppose it's called forgetting after reading it. Contrary to what one had expected, Chen Wang had forcefully invited brother Han to live inside Chen Wangu yesterday, it can be clearly seen that Wangye had a strong preference for you. Brother Han, I believe he must have a heart full of confidence in you!"

    Hearing the respectful manner of expression from Kong Fan's tone of voice, Han Che just responded with a faint smile, then afterwards he continued to read the book in his hands while lowering his head.

    Meanwhile, Kong Fan seeing Han Che almost not wanting to discuss this topic, just behaved discreetly had no desire to talk further, but his eyes were filled with admiration, yet the feeling of uneasiness had also rushed forth.

    But, no matter how hard all the people continuously tried to recite the poems and literatures day and night without stopping to sleep, the time still passed by bit by bit. Within the blink of an eye it had reached the day of imperial service examination on the first day of the eleventh month.

    According to the ancient rules, the literary exam for the imperial service exam would no longer be held at Gong Yuan, but it would be rather held at the Ministry of Rites.

    It was evidently differently from the autumn exam which was packed with people. Now,, there was a fixed number of people attending the imperial service examination, yet they had gone through the first stage with the autumn examination, hence everyone was already familiar with each other.

    But the large fire which had occurred on the night of the twenty-eighth day, had killed a number of low-income class scholars who had passed the autumn exam. Yun Xuan Zhi together with Superior Shen of the Ministry of Rites and the few other major examiners of the imperial service exam, under the situation of pitying the capable individuals, had presented a memorial to Emperor Yu Qian, hoping to put forth the names of the few other exam candidates, which was also considered to be keeping the talented persons of Western Chu.

    Such kind of proposal had gone through the Empress Dowager before received Emperor Yu Qian's approval. Afterwhich they had issued an imperial decree to fill up a few more names for a few persons who had passed the county exam, as a result the number of exam candidates who had came to attend the imperial service exam today was still the same as the number of people on the list.

    All the people sat down in their respective seats which were already set up, afterwhich laying down all the things which they normally used while sitting down beside the desks, awaiting the examiners to hand out the exam papers.

    But, when Han Che sat down, he discovered himself sitting across Yun Yi Jie's seat, and perhaps Yun Yi Jie had already discovered such situation, because this time he was staring at him with a face full of evil smile.

    Until the examiner had given out all the exam papers, Yun Yi Jie regained his own gaze, concentrating his full attention on the exam paper before him.

    Han Che generally looked over all the exam questions on the exam paper, then he opened up the cover of the ink stone, preparing to grind the ink stone to answer the questions, but he suddenly heard Yun Yi Jie uttered some words, drawing Superior Shen's attention.

    "How dare you make a big fuss inside the exam room, what a scandal!" Superior Shen seeing it was Yun Xuan Zhi's nephew, wrinkled his brows and berated.

    Yet Yun Yi Jie seemed not to fear such kind of reproach, but instead he pointed his finger at Han Che in the opposite side, then exposed it to Superior Shen, "Superior, a while ago I think I saw something mysterious in Top Scorer Han ink stone, please inspect Top Scorer Han's bundled wrap!"

    Western Chu was considerably strict when it comes to exam candidate's corruptive practices, once discovered, the consequences were quite severe. The minor consequence would be to get disqualified in the exam, get exiled in the borderland, the major consequence would be to get beheaded, and even the family members would also be involved.

    And today, Yun Yi Jie had actually pointed his finger at Han Che saying he was cheating, not to mention Superior Han, even Han Che was frightened by his accusation.

    But after half a quarter of an hour, Han Che immediately resumed his usual look, then he immediately retorted back "Although Mister Yun and I had a little misunderstanding, yet unexpectedly Mister Yun had such a vicious mind, going so far as to use such kind of method to make false charges against me?"

    But Yun Yi Jie just spoke to Superior Shen with his face full of resentment, "Superior, I only lifted my eyes to cast a quick glance at Top Scorer Han, only to find something strange then reported it to you, I have no intention to deliberately plant false evidence against Top Scorer Han. But this imperial examination is every scholar's dream, how could we allow loopholes from a dissident group of people, for the sake of being fair, I was just handling things carefully. Besides, if Top Scorer Han really didn't cheat, why should he obstruct the superior to search around?"

    Yun Yi Jie had clearly stated all the things that he wanted to say, he just hastily took a glimpse at Han Che, perhaps at one glance he had misjudged him, consequently if they were not able to find any evidence, it might be simply because he was being cautious and timid, and really had not been deliberately wanted to entrap Han Che. Even if it was Superior Shen, he would not also convict him at random. And besides, inside the exam room today, Yun Xuan Zhi also kept watch, all other officials would also do the same thing out of general consideration.

    Hearing Yun Yi Jie saying this, Superior Shen's brows knitted up even more tightly, then he instructed all the other administrators to look after the peace and order of the exam room, then he personally walked in front of Han Che, then in a lowered voice he said, "Top Scorer Han, please temporary stop your writing brush, let me inspect on it, if it isn't real, you may continue to answer them with ease."

    Han Che glanced at Yun Yi Jie on the opposite side, seeing him continuously sneering at him, suddenly he realized that Yun Yi Jie's action would not really be able to prove that he was cheating, perhaps he just wanted to delay the time for him to take the examination, making him unable to finish the exam on time.

    With this thought, Han Che had actually stood up coordinatively, standing beside Superior Shen, allowing the imperial guards beside to inspect the things that he had brought along with him.

    Those few imperial guards were extremely cautious with the inspection, even pulled apart the pastries inside the meal box one by one, carefully lifted them up in his hands to examine carefully whether there were any handwriting inscribed on the surface, and that tiny square ink stone had been inspected for not less than ten times, even Han Che who had a clear conscience and had laughed at false accusations earlier, now was not able to control the cold sweat that drenched both his palms when he was faced with such extremely strict inspection.

    After an hour, when those few imperial guards confirmed that there werte not any suspicious things used for cheating, they decided to report everything to Superior Shen.

    Seeing the scholar he personally admired to have a real ability and learning, Superior Shen's expression between his brows had relaxed a bit, he immediately allowed Han Che to sit down and continue to answer the exam questions, then he himself led the imperial guards back to their seats.

    Han Che heaved a sigh of relief during this time, if it had not been for his thorough inspection on his own bundled wrap before he left Chen Wang fu, perhaps someone might have already plot against him. But he was wondering whether the person who had stuffed a slip of paper in his bundle had joined hands with Yun Yi Jie, or else why would Yun Yi Jie want to expose him for cheating without any reason?

    With one hand grinding the ink stick, Han Che's narrowed eyes emitted faint cold rays against dark ink. One couldn't see what he was really thinking.

    At this time the entire Palace was filled with joy, almost breaking through the dark clouds which had been constraining in the sky above the Imperial Palace.

    "Imperial physician, you're saying that there was still five more days before you can produce the antidote?" The Empress was always staying beside Emperor Yu Qian during these days, watching her own husband to suffer like this, it was really too hard for the Empress to take it, now that they suddenly heard the imperial physician talking about it during this time, how could they not feel excited?

    But as compared to the Empress who went wild with joy, the Empress Dowager seemed to be utterly calm, seeing her staring at the imperial physician in front of her with eyes like cold stars, the Empress Dowager then prudently asked, "Concocting antidotes shouldn't be careless, His Majesty is already extremely weak, if there were any mistakes on the antidote, even if we were to kill all your relatives it will still not be enough."

    That imperial physician originally thought that by concocting antidotes, he would perhaps receive rewards from the Empress Dowager, yet unexpectedly he was drenched in cold sweat due to the Empress Dowager's cautious warning, thus he immediately responded, "This humble servant will be extremely careful, please feel at ease, Empress Dowager and Empress!"

    Seeing the imperial physician understood what she meant, the Empress Dowager's expression slightly eased up a bit, then with a relatively gentle voice she said, "Since that is the case, you must prepare it properly, you must not be careless. And as for safety measures, until you produced the antidote, you will be temporarily staying in the side palace hall, in a moment I shall let Qu gongong follow you to the pharmacy to get the herbs that you needed."

    Upon hearing this, the imperial physician immediately stooped down and retreated out of the chamber hall.

    Seeing the Empress Dowager had permitted the imperial physician to slowly concoct the antidote, the Empress anxiously asked, "Mother Empress, His Majesty is still suffering right now, how can you allow the imperial physician to slowly prepare the antidote? During these few days His Majesty merely drank soup, I'm afraid that......"

    While speaking, the Empress was shedding tears......

    The Empress Dowager just calmly glanced at the Empress, afterwhich she indifferently voiced out, "If he mixed the antidote wrongly, I'm afraid that it might cost His Majesty his life! It would be better to give the imperial physician some more time, allowing him to carefully prepare it, this will be the most effective way to save His Majesty. Being the Empress of Western Chu, how can you just easily cry? How can this contain the least bit of motherly love for the nation? If His Majesty was to wake up right now, I presume he wouldn't want to see your weak appearance."

    Hearing the Empress Dowager's reprimand, the Empress Dowager immediately restrained back the tears in her eyes, just lowered down her head and responded back, "Thanks for the reminder, Mother Empress, I shall remember it."

    Seeing the Empress had heard her words, the Empress Dowager nodded her head, her expression suddenly became somewhat merciful, patting the Empress' hands she said, "You must return and properly dress and arrange yourself, with this look, how can you meet other people? Wouldn't it allow other people to sneer at you? I will properly tend to His Majesty's need here, you must go back and take some rest before you come back again."

    The Empress evidently knew that with this appearance she might get sneered at by all the other imperial concubines in the harem. She then paid her courtesy, leading her own servant girls as they left the chamber hall.

    The weather gradually turned colder, the summer clothings were already kept inside the wardrobes, all the people in the capital had switched into a bit thicker clothings. Everyday the temperature early in the morning and in the evening got even colder, causing Yun Qian Meng to sink into the melancholy of being homesick, ever since she came across the winter, experienced the three seasons spring, summer and autumn, and now when it was about to enter the winter season, having a lot of occurrences within almost a year, and she had adapted favorably well to survive, she could not help but feel a bit surprised for herself.

    Holding the recently delivered letter that Xi Lin had handed over to her, looking at the familiar words on it, Yun Qian Meng was carefully reading it, she found out that Chu Fei Yang did not discuss anything about smallpox this time, just merely reported being safe and sound to her, seeing the date indicated in the lower left portion of the letter being the thirty first day of the tenth month, just three days apart from his previous letter, perhaps Chu Fei Yang still had not received her previous letter.

    But, looking at the letter in her hand, Yun Qian Meng could not restrain her thoughts to think of the changes in the season, did Chu Fei Yang bring enough clothes for the winter? The plague in Luo Cheng still had not been contained, did he ever maintain his health well enough?

    Not knowing how to properly put her inner thoughts through the writing brush in her hand to paper, she merely staring at the ink dropping to the fine writing paper producing a fancy ink pattern. Suddenly, Yun Qian Meng stood up and approached the window side, only to provide an instruction in a lowered voice to Xi Lin who was standing outside of the window.
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