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 Chapter 105: Audience

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The next table, a tall and skinny man stood up and followed the eunuch into the main hall. Several officials around him looked at him with envy.

"He's very fortunate. How can this Chen Zhi be so fortunate to earn himself an audience with the Emperor?" The plump official said in between mouthfuls of food.

After sometime, Chen Zhi emerged, delight and satisfaction evidently etched across his face. The officials sitting around him all proposed toasts to him. Chen Zhi did not refuse them.

"His Majesty has an order. He wishes for Zhan Shi Prefecture's Deputy, Han Xuan to enter the main hall to hold an audience with His Majesty." The shrill voice of the eunuch rang out once more as another official stood up and entered the hall.

After sometime he emerged from the main hall.

'It seems like most of the officials who had a chance of being called up into the main hall to seek an audience with the Emperor chose not to drink beforehand. This was to ensure they were completely clear headed so as to prevent saying or doing anything improper.'

'However after they've been granted an audience with the Emperor, they know that they would not be called in again. Thus, they could start drinking wine with peace of mind.'

Pei Zi Yun watched on as officials were called in one by one to have an audience with the Emperor. There were seven or eight consecutive audiences. After sometime, the announcement for the officials ceased. The officials thus knew that there would no longer be any more being called in, and thus started drinking their wine merrily. They were toasting one another and cheering loudly. This was a fantastic opportunity to make the acquaintances of high ranking officials and everyone seized the chance before them and started socializing.

The officials that entered the main chamber had been called in according to their status, ranks and appointments. They were divided according to their regions and factions as well.

At this point, the eunuch walked up to the front. Immediately, everyone stopped talking and it became silent. However, the eunuch did not announce anything. Instead, the eunuch continued walking and led an Imperial Guard to where Pei Zi Yun was seated. The eunuch then asked, "Are you Ying Prefecture's Pei Zi Yun?"

"Yes!" Hearing the eunuch speak out, Pei Zi Yun then understood that it was the Emperor who wanted to meet him.

"Proceed to have your audience with the Emperor!" Pei Zi Yun then followed him into the main hall. Immediately, someone announced his arrival, "Ying Prefecture's Top Scorer, Green Cloud Monastery's Pei Zi Yun seeks an audience with his Majesty."

The minute Pei Zi Yun entered, he felt the difference in atmospheres between the two halls. The main hall took a more sombre and serious atmosphere. The Emperor took the highest seat, and the Grand Princess sat right beside him.

'It seems like the Crown Prince, Princes and Canton Princes are not here today. If not, the seating arrangement would not be this way, where the Grand Princess would seat so close to the Emperor.'

The high ranking officials sat in two rows on both sides, parallel to the walkway. There was a line down the walkway, separating the two rows of officials. A group of women dancers were dancing at the side, providing entertainment in between pauses. There were Imperial Guards standing across the entire room, and several were standing close to the Emperor, protecting him from any potential attacks.

When the Grand Princess saw that Pei Zi Yun had entered, she batted her eyelids, and looked as if she was smiling. She then leaned over and spoke to the Emperor.

Pei Zi Yun glanced at his surroundings quickly, and noticed that the atmosphere within the main hall was somewhat relaxed, although not as relaxed as the mood outside. Several people were drinking their wines, their faces slightly flushed from alcohol. They spoke in whispers to each other. Even the Emperor, perched atop the highest seat, was drinking deeply from his wine cup.

"Long live, long live, long live Your Majesty." Pei Zi Yun bowed down.

"Arise." The Emperor said before taking another sip from his cup. He then placed it down and laughed, "As for this years Spring Banquet, there have been reports that it had been raining everyday consecutively. Spring rain promotes the growing of crops, it seems like we shall have a bountiful harvest this year. Thus, I am in an especially good mood today. I've read the poem composed by you titled . I wonder if you have any poems to compose today?"

Hearing the Emperor speak, all the officials seated by the side turned around to look at him. All these officials were all of the third rank or higher. These officials were imposing and intimidating. Pei Zi Yun cast a glance on these officials and felt extremely pressured and somewhat nervous.

Hearing the Emperor speak, Pei Zi Yun was not afraid, "Your Majesty, your humble subject can only compose good poems with wine. Without wine, there can be no poem."

The Emperor paused as the scene before them turned tense. There was a pin drop silence, as everyone was stunned by his bold and brazen request. The next moment however, the Emperor burst out in laughter, "It seems like I can't underestimate you Pei Zi Yun. You are the only person who dares to speak this way, with such confidence."

The Grand Princess whispered to the Emperor, "Your Majesty you have to offer him some wine. You should know that this Pei Zi Yun has a nickname that's been floating around. People often refer to him as the Wine Deity."

"Haha!" The Emperor laughed out loudly, "Fine, since you can only compose poems with wine, then have some wine."

"Thank you, your Majesty!" Pei Zi Yun bowed in gratitude before rising up. He looked at the Emperor.

According to the original owner's memories, the Emperor should be fifty-three years old this year. He wore a crown with jewels and a golden dragon robe. His entire robe was lined with scales. His hair was slightly white and had eyes that looked like bottomless pits. He had the air of a fearsome Emperor.

A eunuch then served up the wine. Pei Zi Yun observed the wine within the jade jug. It was glistening under the light. He received it and drained it in one gulp. It burned his throat and an intense warmth spread all across his body. He sighed, "Fantastic wine!"

Placing down the wine cup, he took seven slow steps forward before reciting.

"The universe is a temporary inn for all living things. Time acts as the transit, of which visitors span one hundred generations. This drifting life is like a dream. Isn't it too short to fully enjoy?"

"Thus, it was quite appropriate for ancient people to, with candlelight in hand, roam at night. Now, the sunny spring draws my attention to the misty and beautiful scenes. The great earth inspires me to come up with ideas for my writings. Today we are so happy to gather in this fragrant garden of peach and plum trees. What a joy to recount the fun events in our midst!"

"Before we are through with sightseeing, we change the subject of conversation from talking freely to more elegant topics. In the midst of blooming flowers, we hold our dainty feast. In moonlight, we pass our wine cups swiftly, from seat to seat, until we all feel tipsy. If we don't compose a good poem for the occasion, how can we elegantly express our feelings? Anyone who fails to come up with a poem will be fined the number of drinks as agreed upon."

When Pei Zi Yun was reciting, there was complete and utter silence in the crowd. It was almost as if everyone was savoring the precious words that came out of his mouth. Everyone listened with wide eyes and gaping mouths.

Seeing that the entire hall was silent, the Emperor picked up his wine up and took a deep gulp. He then whispered, "What a shame. What a shame. It's truly a shame that such talents cannot be put into good use by me. How could you have joined a sect?"

He whispered so softly that only the Grand Princess could hear. The Grand Princess herself was stumped. She had seen for herself the talent possessed by this person, and thus wasn't as astonished as the Emperor himself.

"There are many gifts and treasures under the blanket of heaven. And in a hundred generations we only see one of such talent. It is indeed astonishing." The Emperor said.

At this point, someone then exclaimed, "This poem was composed in seven steps. However i am certain that all throughout history, no words could match up to this. It must be that this is a sign of the Emperor's luck and prosperity, that in his time, such a marvellous and enduring poem shall be composed before Your Majesty."

"With the recommendation of Ying Prefecture's Governor, Free Cloud Sect of Daoist Masters had been unrelenting in their duties to the Imperial Courts. Free Cloud Sect contributed greatly to the people by protecting them. And as a reward seeks out a new title, True Sovereigns."

It was evident that this had been planned out in advance. Following this, the Emperor nodded his head in agreement, "I shall permit it!"

"My gratitudes, your Majesty." Pei Zi Yun exclaimed, knowing that the mission he's been meaning to fulfill for a long time had finally been completed. He hurriedly knelt down and kowtowed to the Emperor. Seeing that there was no other issue, he excitedly retreated.

When this matter had been attended to, the Emperor took a temporary leave to rest in his chambers in the next block. This was also to give his officials the chance to truly relax and enjoy themselves. For the Emperor knew that his officials would remain tense and not be relaxed for as long as he was around. They would be unable to speak freely and unrestrained. The minute he left, it was almost as if the entire hall heaved a sigh of relief. The atmosphere was considerably less tense.

The Grand Princess stood up and prepared to leave as well. At this moment, a Commander stepped forward and said politely, "Grand Princess, please hold up."

Hearing this, and being stopped in her tracks, the Grand Princess frowned. She then turned around as if slightly displeased, "What does the Commander wish to ask of this Princess?"

"I humbly ask for the Grand Princess to explain the background of this Top Scorer Pei." The Commander asked, his face was fiercely intimidating.

Seeing the Commander this way, the Princess paused, before saying, "This person is a Daoist from Free Cloud Sect."

"So he hails from that sect. My thanks to Princess for clarifying. I hope that Princess will advise the Emperor, that such a person shouldn't ever be near the Emperor in future."

"The Grand Princess might not understand, but most of us realized that within this main hall, this person still possessed the sharpness and prowess of an elite swordsman. It was almost like his sword techniques were unaffected by the restraining enchantments. It is indeed extremely terrifying."

"The next time Grand Princess recommends someone, this subject shall assess him before I shall allow him to interact with the Emperor." The Commander finished before turning around to follow the Emperor.

When the Grand Princess heard this, she was stumped, "Could it be that this Pei Zi Yun is really an elite swordsman, who's reached the master level? It's been said that such people could defeat ten skilled swordsmen without much difficulty."

Pei Zi Yun left the mansion, since he didn't feel a need to stay for the banquet. The minute he walked out, he heard a voice calling out, "Young Master Pei, please hold up."

Pei Zi Yun turned around to look, and noticed that an Imperial Guard was calling out to him, "Young Master, the Grand Princess wishes to speak to you. Please follow me."

'Why would the Grand Princess call me?' Pei Zi Yun thought of all the possible reason. Could there be further instructions? Thinking this way, he smiled, "Please lead the way."

"Please follow me." The Imperial Guard led the way and brought him through a narrow road. Pei Zi Yun followed closely behind.

They walked past an entire garden of dense peach blossoms. The peach blossoms were all in full bloom, as bees were buzzing and dancing around the flowers. When they walked past the dense peach blossoms, he saw a hot stream which had steam wafting just above the waters. The sunlight pierced through the thin steam. The reflection of sunlight caused a spectrum to form, as a little rainbow took shape. When Pei Zi Yun was near, he could clearly observe the spectrum. It was indeed how a Paradise should look like.

Pei Zi Yun touched the surface of the water. He gauged that the stream must be at least 30°C. It was no wonder this place could sustain an entire forest of peach blossoms, and even facilitate the blooming of flowers. It was so grand that it was fit for a deity to live in. This Grand Princess was indeed living in extravagance.

"The Grand Princess is on that tiny island, please follow me." There were several huge pebbles that were suspended along the streams, forming a path of sorts leading up to the island.

The Imperial Guard continued leading Pei Zi Yun for another 100 meters. After stepping through several stones, the Imperial Guard and Pei Zi Yun were enveloped in thick mist. After another 100 meters, the mist parted to reveal a beautiful sights of colorful flowers and a pavilion. There were more plants and flowers all around the pavilion, and the mist had been completely cleared up, granting perfect visibility.

As he approached the pavilion, he could hear the sound of a string instrument being played. The melody was refreshing to his ears. When he looked up, he saw the Grand Princess seated within on a stone chair within the pavilion. She was drinking a cup of tea. When the Canton Princess saw Pei Zi Yun, she fumbled with her chords and messed up the melody. She then stopped playing, as her face blushed a deep shade of red.

The Grand Princess gently took a sip and looked at Pei Zi Yun, "You're trained in sword techniques?"

"Yes!" Pei Zi Yun replied. Having received the skills of sword fighting from the Evergreen Daoist, who had refined this art his entire life, Pei Zi Yun could consider himself trained. Hearing Pei Zi Yun's reply, the Grand Princess gently placed her cup down, and covered it with a lid. After sometime, she spoke again, "An army commander said that you were covered with an elite swordsman aura, and that it was extremely terrifying. Since that's the case, you are not to meet the Emperor ever again."

When Pei Zi Yun heard this, he muttered to himself before replying, "I am a free and unbridled traveler. I should not have been granted the honor of meeting the Emperor, and only did by the grace of the Grand Princess."

The Grand Princess thus recalled that it had never been Pei Zi Yun's request to meet the Emperor. She then changed her expression and smile, "You are only sixteen this year right? I am extremely curious as to how you came about such amazing poetry skills, such wisdom and such talented sword techniques?"

The Grand Princess smiled, her charm and beauty was exceptional. Considering the fact that she was a married woman, this was sure to cause any men to feel hot in their heads. Feeling extremely parched, Pei Zi Yun retracted his gaze and muttered, "I've been practising daily and improved gradually every single day. I've persevered and danced with my sword every morning and turned it into a routine. Before long, all the steps and techniques were ingrained into my head. Hence, I became familiar and proficient with my sword."

Pei Zi Yun didn't have to think twice before saying that. In his head, he recalled the long hours the original owner had spent practicing his sword techniques. This was compounded by the many long years the Evergreen Daoist had practised on his sword techniques as well.

"I used to practice sword techniques as well. Although I already have ten years of experience, the Commander would not even praise me. You're so young, and yet the Commander is so fearful of you. Why don't you show me your sword techniques, I'm sure it will be a sight to behold." The Grand Princess laughed.

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