Chapter 36: Heaven's Assistance
Translator: Translation Nation/chuchutrain Editor: - -
Casually raising his head, he saw an entire sky filled with stars. However, his eyes were drawn to the two brightly lit lanterns before him. After crossing the bridge and passing through the huge doors, he stood before a huge open air hallway, completely exposed to a multitude of stars. Bodyguards stood on both ends of the walkway, with swords hanging from their sides.
"Second band, first ranked Grand Scholar is Zhang Zhi Gong!"
The person who was kneeling on the floor stood up. Everything around him added to the confusion. He tore open the golden pouch, read the content, and in a loud voice shouted, "In the eleventh year of the Grand Examinations, the High Scholar who reached first place in the first band is Zao Wen Lin!"
"First band, second place goes to High Scholar Yin Ming Tang!"
"First band, third place goes to High Scholar Shi Qian Min!"
After the announcement had been made, each Grand Scholar took three steps forward, knelt three times and kowtowed nine times to the emperor. Someone read out, "The High Scholar who came in the first place in the first band, High Scholar Zao Wen Lin, shall lead the procession to kowtow and deliver his speech..."
"Long live, long live, long live the dynasty!" Without being completely sure of how much time has passed, these High Scholars shouted the same line over and over again.
"Ah!" Pei Zi Yun roused himself awake and observed his surroundings. The sunlight had penetrated the windows and shone right onto him. What was a quiet and peaceful night had turned into a lively morning.
Perched on the window was a sparrow chirping merrily.
Feeling somewhat disoriented, he only started to wake himself up after hearing some noise coming from downstairs. Massaging his forehead to feel better, he let out a smile, "Pei Zi Yun, you really are underestimating the heroes of this world."
Zhang Zhi Gong took the academic field very seriously from a tender age. At the age of five he went under the tutelage of Zhang Shi Ci. He became an Elementary Scholar at sixteen, a High Scholar at nineteen and succeeded in the Grand Examinations at twenty five and became a Grand Scholar. He was chosen as an honorary member of Han Lin Academy due to his outstanding results. He assisted with the compilation of the emperor's memoirs and was acknowledged by the emperor himself. Due to his success Zhang Zhi Gong rose further up the ranks and became the assistant of the Minister of Rites. However he made a mistake that implicated him and caused him his job. He died three years later from an illness back in his village.
This was just a simple passage of his story, yet it provided an immense breakthrough in energy and spirit. Although this extract was written back in his village, the Legacy contained a significant amount of literary knowledge, however it couldn't be absorbed easily.
"Although the Plum Blossom was a fantastic weapon to own, my body isn't strong enough. If I were to absorb a few more Legacies, I could have my entire consciousness wiped out instead." Pei Zi Yun said to himself in a low voice.
After returning to his hotel last night, he instructed the serving staff that nobody was to disturb him in his rest.
As soon as he entered his room, he placed the book under his pillow, he got used to it by now, and laid down on the pillow and fell into the dream.
This experience was vastly different from the previous due to the huge gain. Within the dream, he withstood the coldness of winter while studying next to the window. He learnt from his tutor, and achieved High Scholar status in his teens and went on to become a Grand Scholar a few years later. He remembered compiling laws for the emperor in the courts before returning to his village, heart cold with grief at that prospect.
When he finally woke up, it felt like ten years of winter and summer had passed and, confused, he didn't know who he was. It startled Pei Zi Yun as it happened even though he only slept for a short time.
"It's a small to pay to gain all this knowledge!" Pei Zi Yun stood up. Although he was still in the prime of his youth, he had a very mature temperament that was hard to describe. He sighed, "The Plum Blossom can indeed acquire such amazing gifts. Lessons that people took ten exhausting years to learn, I can collect them all in a single dream. Although I only managed to absorb a tenth of Assistant Minister Zhang's talents, I'm certain it's enough for me to shine in the High Scholar Examinations."
"It's no wonder that after wasting so many years, the original owner was still able to enter the Dao Path and join a sect. And young master Xie was able to surpass his own limitations and become the first immortal to achieve True Sovereign status."
Different thoughts and emotions rushed into his mind and stirred up within him. If he didn't let it out now, he would feel extremely uncomfortable. He thus prepared his ink and paper and started writing out an essay. As he wrote, he felt the intense pressure in his chest gradually lifting. When he was finally done, he took a look at the essay and let out a laugh.
When he had finished laughing, he dried his ink and picked up the essay he wrote and stood up, "It's time to meet the Mentor."
Walking out of the hotel, he faced a long street lined with shops. The sight that greeted him was a feast for the eyes. Pei Zi Yun started walking towards a book shop. Not only would the bookshop sell books, there would be ink and paper for sale as well. He bought some paper, an ink stone, ink and quill. These are referred to as, the "four treasures of literature". Although the price he paid wasn't expensive, it wasn't cheap either, it was just right for the occasion, his first visit with the Mentor.
Although the Mentor was an upright and strict man, it didn't mean he was immovable. Should he reject such a simple gift, it would clearly mean that he was giving the impression of being upright to intentionally bring fame to himself.
Once he had chosen the items, he headed straight for the Mentor's house.
Slow River county, the Mentor's house
The yard cannot be considered big, and there was a narrow corridor leading up to the main room. There were three rooms in the main wing, and another five rooms in the side wings.
As a rare chance for a break, the Mentor was engaged in conversation with someone. In reality, the Mentor had features that, combined, gave him a pleasant look. He kept his beard long and had a fierce expression on his face all the time. It was this expression that gave others the impression that he was cold and unapproachable. He was currently discussing poems. There was a plate of nuts on the table and a plate of chicken. The other person sitting at the table was the Dean of High Scholars.
The Mentor was an official of the ninth rank, the Dean was unranked yet was a respectful High Scholar figure. They had known each other for a long time and were discussing poems and proses over some wine.
They were currently discussing the qualities of the new batch of Elementary Scholars. Just as the topic landed on Pei Zi Yun, the Dean said, "His essays offer an extremely mature point of view, and his analysis is thorough and in-depth. Being able to pass the Prefecture Examinations isn't a fluke. Based on my opinion, his ranking could've been better."
The Mentor stroked his beard, and looked at his old friend. The Mentor was capable of becoming a High Scholar, while most of these county teachers couldn't even reach Elementary Scholar rank themselves. It's no wonder he agreed with his friend. Nodding his head he said, "What you've said is absolutely correct. His logic is irrefutable, and his ideas are very incisive. However he does have several critical flaws. Being able to pass this time, showed that the marking officials are afraid of letting talent go to waste, and thus decided not to throw his paper out."
The Dean was shocked and asked, "Can you provide more details?"
"Apart from his rhetoric and demeanor, his style of literary writing seems to be severely lacking in some aspect and inclusive of a very pessimistic outlook. Since the establishment of the new dynasty, the officials are afraid of overlooking talents. With him writing this way, if it weren't for the fact that the chief examiner was able to appreciate his work, it could've been thrown out by any other person."
"Although he's talented, the chances of him becoming a High Scholar is fairly slim." Said the Mentor.
The Dean was an old Elementary Scholar as well, taking a long time before finally reaching it. Hearing these words, he paused for some time, a shadow cast over his heart as he was somewhat dazed. He then smiled and said, "That is so!"
He then said, "Based on the last examination, his paper was marked as quality work. There had been rumors that the chief examiner even said he had the qualities of making High Scholar. However, his resentment towards life is evident in his essays, and it is somewhat taboo in the dynasty to hold that much grievances. Although, it could be attributed to the fact that he lost his father at a young age and grew up in poverty. However, he became an Elementary Scholar at such a young age. Hopefully as he matures, that resentment will wane."
The Mentor took a sip of tea and said warmly, "Let's hope that's the case. Although a person's innate character is hard to change..."
Before he could complete his sentence, his old servant spoke in a hushed tone. As soon as the Mentor heard him out, he smiled and said, "Speak of the devil. He is here. Let him in!"
It seemed like Pei Zi Yun has arrived a few minutes ago and knocked on the front door. The old servant answered and welcomed him in. As soon as Pei Zi Yun was led into the hall, he noticed two men seated across each other with plates of nuts and chicken, and a jug of wine.
"Junior pays his respect to the Mentor and the Dean."
The Mentor said plainly, "Oh, so you have come."
Seeing that Pei Zi Yun didn't come empty handed, his face turned grim, "You've come to pay a visit, but brought a gift. Please take it back."
Pei Zi Yun blushed in shame but composed himself and said, "I've attained Elementary Scholar status, and I know that you are a teacher. In the past I was ignorant, and didn't pay a visit. Now that I am here, I wish to make up for that. It's just the four treasures of every scholar. I beg the Mentor for forgiveness."
Hearing what he had to say, the Mentor's face sank as if he was about to teach him another lesson. The Dean however smiled, "This is common courtesy. It can't be that you won't even accept this student's gift?"
The Mentor was also unable to refute what the Dean said. He muttered several words before saying, "The Spring Examinations are fast approaching, instead of studying at home you're out gallivanting. Why is that?"
Although these words came across as harsh, Pei Zi Yun considered them and thought, 'He is indeed a scholar set in his ways.'
He then smiled, "This student had been studying these past few days. In fact, I've brought an essay for the Mentor to look at and provide some pointers"
He handed the essay over as soon as he spoke. The County Mentor received it and flipped through it wordlessly. When he got to the body of the essay, his expression changed. After sometime, he put it down and said, "This essay can do. I shall take a closer look tonight. Drop by a few days before the literary event. I will have some words for you."
Pei Zi Yun's heart skipped a beat as he agreed readily. Without another word, he stood up to leave.
As Pei Zi Yun made his exit, the Mentor shouted, "Fetch my old wine, I shall sample this essay with some good wine."
The Dean was surprised and asked, "Why are you doing this?"
"Why don't you try reading it!" The Mentor handed over the essay. Just as the Dean started reading he became shocked. His facial expression also changed as his hands quivered. "This is amazing."
"That's right. This student's essays had elegant and well formed ideas, however there was always this impression that he was missing out on something important, and was very resentful. This was why I said it was hard for him to achieve High Scholar status."
"But this particular essay is completely devoid of any negative energy. In fact, it's brimming with grace, like a good wine, and it displays immense maturity. The ideas are well conceived and the words used are very accurate with a superb flow."
The Mentor was stroking his beard as he spoke, and even unknowingly plucked a few strands.
Seeing the Mentor this way, the Dean also couldn't bear with it. Having such a talent was what he had hoped for his entire life. All these years of hardships, if only he could have had just a strand of the talent this student possessed. But alas, he didn't have any of these qualities. After reading the essay, his entire body was shaking, "There is no reason for this student to fail becoming a High Scholar. In just over a month he has improved leaps and bounds. Does he really have the heavens assisting him?"
As he spoke, tears rolled down the Dean's face.
'Could it be that the disparity between a genius and an average person is that vast?'
This High Scholar's composition, really cannot be questioned by any average man.
In such a short span of time, there was a weird feeling in his chest, as though he had lost all will and was utterly disappointed and envious.
The Mentor glanced at the Dean, and understood his feelings as well. He waited for him to compose himself before saying, "Look, the words he used are the words used by Han Lin writers. Although, this particular method of writing often came across as boring, this essay showcased his sincerity and conscientiousness. There would be no examiner who wouldn't enjoy this essay."
"I am certain this student can achieve High Scholar status and even become a Grand Scholar. He has such a deep grasp of literature!" The Mentor said, despite feeling conflicted. He took the wine that he had asked for and downed a cup in a single mouthful.
After the Dean saw his actions, he followed suit, choked a little, and started coughing. After he was done he forced a weak smile and asked, "Do you really think this student has the potential to become a Grand Scholar?"
"Old friend, you know this too. After I've become a High Scholar, I went to take the Grand Scholar Examinations three times and even then came back empty-handed. After the establishment of this dynasty, although I was a High Scholar in the previous dynasty, I decided to become an official and thus became a mentor in the county."
"Although I failed in three examinations, I managed to grasp the skill of writing Grand Scholar's essay writing. In the city there are several bookshops which sell books written by previous dynasties Grand Scholars as well."
"Based on this current essay, his standards are almost there if not already there." Even the Mentor was amazed by his essay and continued, "And he is only fifteen years old, yet is already at the crucial point of essay writing. This would really scare to death all the scholars in the world. Could it really be that the heavens are helping him?"
After saying this the Dean calmed down and nodded his head, "Ever since the establishment of the dynasty, the literary standards of all the students have taken a huge decline. This could be a good reason for the heavens to aid him, and help improve the standards of all scholars."
"If he really becomes a High Scholar in this examination, his future will be as broad as the horizons."
Both men agreed on this. Since the new dynasty has been established, there were many vacant imperial positions in court. It would be too easy to fill these spots for a talented individual. They remained silent in thought.