Chapter 46: Into the Examination Halls
Translator: Translation Nation/chuchutrain Editor: - -
As spring gradually approached, rainy days have been a frequent sight. The spring rain brought with it a certain coldness that was somewhat refreshing. Pei Zi Yun had to wear another layer of clothes while he was revising in his room.
When he opened the window, he saw several servants sweeping fallen leaves. Some distance away, he could see rain drops trickling from the rooftop onto the pavement, causing that part of the ground to glisten.
The scholars that stayed in the guest rooms by the courtyard barely left their rooms. They were cooped up, studying the entire day. The sounds of reading could be heard, especially in the morning.
Tomorrow was the big day of examinations. Pei Zi Yun was studying too, reading the essays and preparing himself. It's just that this examination was different from the previous one. This time, he was full of confidence. He was memorizing specific passages, and was very sure of his abilities
"Only today do I truly understand the true meaning of confidence"
He placed the book down, and picked up another from the bookshelf.
The Location Records was a book that included the history of a particular location, along with its culture, notable people and geographical features. It is segregated according to county, province and capital.
In his previous life, Pei Zi Yun had been reading holy scriptures before he entered the Free Cloud Sect. After he had entered the Sect, he wanted to revive the Sect and restore it to its former glory, and thus did not bother himself with the conditions of the local area. The book he held in his hands contained the important events of the previous dynasty.
He flipped it open and started reading the first few pages.
"The provinces had ambitions, but were subdued by the plans of the bandits, and thus did not make much progress."
"To be specific, the bandits laid waste to many villages and caused the people to sink further into poverty. Diseases spread, and the villagers had no means to get treated. The only way out for them was to produce a student amongst them, who would be able to strategize a defense plan based on the geography of their village. Furthermore, he could think of ways to alleviate the rampant diseases and prevent it from spreading further."
Just as he was deep in thought, pondering the meaning of the texts, a knock was heard on the door. Yi Zhi Quan had come.
Returning the book to the shelf, Pei Zi Yun opened the door and saw Yi Zhi Quan panicky. He was holding on to a book and his eyes were bloodshot, almost as if he had not slept last night, and was bothered by something.
When he entered his room Yi Zhi Quan asked Pei Zi Yun a question regarding a topic.
These past few days, the Elementary Scholars had been exchanging knowledge with each other, and their feelings towards Pei Zi Yun was rather complex. They had always turned to Pei Zi Yun with unanswered queries, and were envious and jealous of his intellect and wisdom.
It was rather normal that everyone had some degree of envy and jealousy towards Pei Zi Yun, since he was unnaturally gifted. What was uncommon was that someone could suppress his pride, and ask for help. Yi Zhi Quan was already 32 years old, but he had lowered his pride to enquire on a question. Pei Zi Yun respected that about him.
Yi Zhi Quan forced a laugh and said, "I've spend the entire night pondering over this question, and yet could not reach an understanding. So I've come to ask you for help."
Pei Zi Yun took the book and looked at the question. He considered for sometime before explaining, "What it's trying to say is that, rarely are people born with innate talents for literature. Most people have nurtured themselves up to a respectable level."
He first answered the question, and then explained it clearly in simple terms for Yi Zhi Quan to understand. Yi Zhi Quan then thanked Pei Zi Yun profusely, "Thank you so much brother Pei. My gratitude transcends just mere words."
Pei Zi Yun had not shut the windows, it was still raining. The spring wind was rather cold, thus Pei Zi Yun had decided to boil some tea over the stove. They decided to sip some tea together.
When Yi Zhi Quan finally understood the meaning of the quote, he said, "Tomorrow is our big day, yet I've been feeling very uneasy. Luckily I have you to answer my queries. I will repay you for your kindness one day."
After Yi Zhi Quan said his farewell, the look on his face was one of uncertainty and sorrow.
Just as Pei Zi Yun wanted to reply him, he was interrupted by Yi Zhi Quan, "I have failed in my past two examinations. The reason I'm here again this year is because I still harbour dreams of becoming a High Scholar. As long as there's a glimmer of hope, I will keep trying. Who knows, maybe I'll pass this year."
Pei Zi Yun sighed as he heard this. If he did not have the Plum Blossom, who knows how long would it be before he could become a High Scholar. The original owner was a native and was rather talented as well, yet he only became an Elementary Scholar at the age of 21. How much longer before he could become a High Scholar?
But since he had the Plum Blossom, he was always able to acquire the thoughts and wisdom of other people. In this upcoming examination, he was fully confident. However, seeing a student whose whole life was dedicated to studying, Pei Zi Yun was speechless and felt pity.
When the room had turned quiet once more, there was another knock on the door which broke the silence. He opened the door to find Yu Guang Mao and the rest of them dropping by to pay a visit to Pei Zi Yun. When they entered, they saw Yi Zhi Quan in the room, holding a book. One look and they all knew that he had come to ask questions on a particular topic.
The few Elementary Scholars strode in with smiles. Yu Guang Mao said, "I was just saying we should find brother Yi and brother Pei to tell them that we should head to the examinations together tomorrow. Brother Wang had said that brother Yi would be asking brother Pei questions, and indeed, both of you are here."
Yu Guang Mao continued, "Let's go together tomorrow and line up tomorrow, what do you say?"
"Brothers, I might be the oldest, but not the most capable. However, I've had some experience with taking this examination." Yi Zhi Quan stood up and bowed. He then continued, "As for tomorrow's examination, please remember to pack adequately. Bring an additional blanket today, since it's going to be cold the next few days. There will not be blankets provided within the examination halls."
"Bring a few more clothes as well, but remember to bring old clothes and old blankets. This is because the examiners might be rough with it, and even cut it open to check for cheating materials."
"For quills and inks, those will be provided."
"Prepare some snacks. Although the meat pastries aren't bad, it'll be hard to survive solely on those for 3 days."
Listening to all these, Pei Zi Yun understood, 'I'm the only one here who's taking the examinations for the first time. The rest of them had taken this before. This was even Yu Guang Mao's second time. So these instructions are for me.'
'Looks like he's trying to show his appreciation to me by sharing these tips.'
Pei Zi Yun was secretly thankful for this. Although the original owner had taken the examinations before, and thus he has memory of the examination situation, this examination is quite different. They would be tested for 3 days. The examiners will only provide pastries and water for sustenance. Having that for 3 days would be extremely unbearable.
Whatever the candidates feel like eating, they can bring. It's just that if they get a stomachache or fall ill, they have to bear the consequences of that.
Yi Zhi Quan did not know that Pei Zi Yun had any experiences, and was discussing the things to pay attention to, and taboos that he should avoid. With all these preparations, the examinations would be that much bearable.
"These Elementary Scholars are pretty united!"
From the mirror that revealed all these, Mistress Cloud was watching as she smiled.
The examinations would take place tomorrow. Taking a look at these Elementary Scholars, she was somewhat certain of her predictions. Among them, Pei Zi Yun was the most gifted. Yu Mao Guang came next, followed by Yi Zhi Quan. The rest have a small chance. To do well in this examination, 70% is based on the individual, and 30% would be the will of heavens.
'We'll have to see your luck then.' The mistress thought to herself.
The air was cold as raindrops trickled down from the heavens. The sun was not out yet, but the courtyard was already bright from all the lanterns hung. The Elementary Scholars were all up and ready to leave for the examination.
Fu Mansion was relatively near the Academic Institution. From the mansion, a glimpse of the street across the Institution could be seen. Outside the examination halls, a huge canopy had been erected in anticipation of the rain. Torches were set on many stands, burning brightly.
Several armed guards were standing in front of the stage. The soldiers within the capital had all been activated for this examination, and many soldiers lined the streets. Wooden planks were used to cordon off the streets. Nobody except for examination candidates were permitted to cross.
The soldiers were lined in an orderly fashion, with their starched pressed uniforms, and each of them carrying a lance. They guarded the roads leading towards the examination halls, and there were several soldiers on horseback patrolling the area, preventing the possibility of anybody cheating. Another purpose served was also to ensure the safety of the candidates.
When Pei Zi Yun woke up, he lighted up a lantern and closed the windows. He took the bag which contained all his necessary items and made his way towards the examination venue.
Yi Zhi Quan and the rest of them had gathered downstairs before making their way to the venue together.
When they had gotten near the examination venue, Pei Zi Yun heard the clatter of horse hooves, before turning around to see a soldier on horseback riding past him. The soldiers on horseback all wore a woven raincoat and carried a sword with them. The rain still persisted and dripped off the raincoats of the soldiers.
The soldiers on horseback did not don any armour, but all had a menacing look on them. When they rode past, the students all became quiet. All that could be heard was the sound of horses walking, and the raindrops falling.
'Ever since the establishment of the dynasty, the soldiers have become more fearsome. The imperial courts were also very particular about examinations.' Pei Zi Yun looked at these soldiers on horseback, and thought back to his own world. Deploying armed soldiers just for an examination is slightly excessive. He sniggered to himself, 'In the future, even if the most important examinations would not be that decorated, there wouldn't be armed soldiers guarding the examination venues anymore.'
The examiners conducting this examination were all dressed in their red official robes and sat on the upper deck of the examination venue. They observed the proceedings from above, and had torches lit all around them. There were several guards beside them, all of whom were wielding swords. They were to protect the examiners, who were also officials.
There were several soldiers standing outside the examination halls. They all wore woven raincoats and were standing under the rain. There was a stage behind them, which was used specially for igniting the torches. The embers of these torches shone onto the backs of these soldiers, giving them a faint glow and making their menacing expressions more pronounced.
Before all these examiners were a desk, a pot of tea and some dried fruits. At this point, nobody spoke. Everyone looked down quietly at the Elementary Scholars.
There were several entrances, each belonging to different prefectures. Pei Zi Yun, Yu Guang Mao and Yi Zhi Quan were all Elementary Scholars from the Dong An Prefecture, and so they entered from the entrance that had a sign indicating "Dong An Prefecture Entrance."
Situated at every entrance were many scribes and an examiner facing the oncoming Elementary Scholars. When an Elementary Scholar goes through the door, he was required to report his name and details. One candidate walked through and provided his particulars. The official then started shouting at him loudly, "Why do you look different from your portrait. You're missing a mole on your forehead."
This Elementary Scholar was stumped and couldn't say a word. The official then instructed, "Take him down, and check his identity out. If he's an Elementary Scholar, revoke his title."
Several foot soldiers materialised and took him, one on each arm, and dragged him out. Just as he was being dragged out, he started shouting too, "Your excellency, let me go. I will not do it again, I will not do it again. Let me go!"
The shouts continued for sometime until he was out of range. The surrounding scholars were all stunned from witnessing something like this. Pei Zi Yun walked in and faced the fire. There were several tables around with soldiers surrounding it. These soldiers had armour on and stood still, a feather in their helmets.
Yi Zhi Quan then came up close to him and said, "These soldiers with a feather on their helmets have a special purpose in the dynasty. They are always sent to observe examination proceedings. Do not offend them, for they have the authority to remove an Elementary Scholar title."
The examiners would empty the Elementary Scholar's belongings out onto the table, where there will be a mess. They will check quills and ink stones for anything suspicious, and even dismantle the quills to ensure that no paper is placed within. Apart from food and clothes, nothing else should be brought in.
These examiners had expressions that were as vicious as bandits. In order to thorough check all the items, they would use knives and cut them open. Seeing that nothing was wrong, they would throw everything back into the basket.
All the Elementary Scholars had to strip down their robes, down to their undergarments. Only after they had been thoroughly searched, shoes included, would they be allowed in. Thankfully there was a fire burning nearby, and thus they did not feel cold. It's just that their dignity took a hit with such treatment.
Pe Zi Yun had a sudden thought, 'In stories, there had always been woman dressing up as men to take the examinations. Only after such a check, completely stripping a person's modesty and dignity, will they be allowed in. Women are no exceptions to this rule.'