Chapter 10 – At the Site of the Great Exam
The 9th day of the Lunar New Year was fast approaching1, and the capital seemed particularly busy.
A long line had started forming outside the Examination Hall since midnight.
Examinees wearing student uniforms, servants carrying test baskets2, and the families that sent them off with earnest reminders almost blocked the whole street outside the Examination Hall.
With so many whispers gathered together in one place, even if they were not very loud, the silence of a peaceful night had long been lost.
But for the soldiers and small officials on duty outside the Examination Hall, this was something they had already been used to.
The Liang state’s Spring Exam that happens every three years was about to begin, and this was a common scene every time.
Even when the time to open the Examination Hall approached and the officials from the Ministry of Rites in charge of the exams arrived, the noise outside still had not abated, so someone finally spoke up and demanded silence.
Lu Qicheng stood within the crowd wearing a scholar’s clothes.
The servant boy following him was carrying the test basket and looked at him anxiously, “Young, Young Lord, are you fine There’s still some time between the admission until you have to go for the test.
Have some rest after entering, don’t burn yourself out.”
It was still midnight after all.
Even if there were countless lamplights outside the Examination Hall that made the surrounds as bright as day, many things were still hidden in the shadows.
For example, Lu Qicheng’s face that was weary from travel, or how his face was so gloomy it almost looked like water could start dripping out of it at any moment…
However, the servant boy kept talking, saying things like how health was more important than the exams, making it feel very embarrassing when heard by others.
A scholar behind Lu Qicheng finally couldn’t help but turn his head and cover his mouth, chuckling lightly.
When this laughter fell to Lu Qicheng’s ears, it sounded like nothing but mockery, and his pitch-black face grew even darker.
He grabbed the test basket from the servant boy’s hand and said impatiently, “Okay, I don’t need you to teach me how to do things.
Go back by yourself!”
The servant boy didn’t dare to say anything or stay any longer.
He retreated to the corner worriedly, but did not dare to leave.
The little boy didn’t dare to say anything, and he didn’t dare to stay any longer.
He had to retreat to the corner with worry, but he still didn’t dare to leave.
Lu Qicheng was about to explode from anger.
He had clearly calculated everything – Lu Qipei was better at writing essays than him, and their teacher said that she would do better than him in the Imperial Examination.
Although he was jealous, he thought to himself that the other party was a woman.
No matter how well she did in the exam, she would only be paving the way for himself, so he didn’t think much about it.
He even made up a scenario to deceive her and got himself stabbed with a knife, all to soften her heart so she would be willing to take the exam in his place!
But now Where did Lu Qipei, who had promised to bring back the first place for him, disappear to All those people with her were so useless! They managed to lose her at this juncture, so he had to run back all the way here for the exam!
Lu Qicheng shook his hand.
The wound on the back of his palm was not very deep, and it would not affect his writing now.
But Lu Qicheng was not confident, because he had been busy with his own affairs and had not touched the books.
What’s more, he just came after traveling a long distance, and his face was showing his exhaustion.
How could he compare with the other candidates who had gathered their spirit and strength just for this day
The more he thought about it, the more irritable he became.
If the servant boy hadn’t left before, he would have thrown the test basket to his face in anger.
But no matter how frustrated Lu Qicheng was, the door of the Examination Hall still opened, and the line began to move forward slowly.
He had no choice but to move forward with the line.
After all, three years would be a very long time, and there would be so many things he could do in that time span.
He didn’t want to delay things, so he could only do his best now.
When Lu Qicheng walked into the Examination Hall with his test basket, he thought in anger; if he found Lu Qipei, he would definitely make her pay!
The weather in early February flip flops between warm and cold.
When the weather was good, you could even take off the thick coat and put on a spring shirt instead.
But when there was wind and rain, it would be as cold as winter.
Therefore, the Spring Exam had always been grueling.
Many examinees would fall not under the mountain of questions, but tossed around by the changing weather.
This year’s Spring Exam could be regarded as an exception, because spring this year was actually warm.
From the beginning of the 9th day to the end of the 18th day, the sky was clear and sunny on all nine days.
This made it much easier for the examines who could only wear one layer of clothes within the exam room, and also reduced the number who withdrew due to illness this year.
Lu Qipei still remembered how grueling it was to spend the nine days and six nights3 in the Examination Hall, but all these had nothing to do with her now.
She slept in Jingchen palace until dawn, washed herself then went out.
When she saw the clear sky, she felt happy and relaxed.
At this time, all the examination question on the Examination Hall should have been sent out, right It was good that this Spring Exam had nothing to do with her!
When Lu Qipei was in a good mood, Qi Yang appeared by her side.
They watched the sunrise next to each other as the golden sun shone on the palace.
Qi Yang suddenly turned around and said, “Ah Pei, how about we go out of the palace today”
Lu Qipei was momentarily dazed when she heard it, then nodded and said, “Okay.”
Lu Qipei had long planned to leave the palace.
Avoiding the Spring Exam gave her a much better chance of escaping the Lu family’s search.
And now, she had told Qi Yang about her identity as a woman and about her twin brother, so it was time for her to leave…
As Lu Qipei thought of that, she also felt quite sad.
However, what she and Qi Yang was thinking about was completely different!
The two rode in sedan chairs, then changed to a carriage to carry them out of the palace.
However, before Lu Qipei could decide whether she was going to leave immediately after leaving the palace, or to accompany Qi Yang first for today, Her Royal Highness The Princess’s carriage brought her to a courtyard in the city’s western part.
Lu Qipei followed Qi Yang and exited the carriage, but for a while she didn’t know where they were going.
Before she could ask, Qi Yang pointed around and said happily, “Ah Pei, this is my new courtyard.
Here, come with me.”
Did Her Royal Highness The Princess have this courtyard before Lu Qipei thought about it for a long time, but did not manage to come up with anything.
But with Lu Qipei’s temperament, she wouldn’t look too deep into it.
She temporarily suppressed her thought of saying goodbye and followed Qi Yang to the courtyard.
The two did not walk too fast, and Lu Qipei subconsciously took a look around the courtyard.
Pavilions and terraces, ponds and rockeries, they were all exquisite but there was nothing new about them.
On the other hand, the flowers and trees along the road attracted her attention more.
The two men did not walk fast, and Lu Qipei unconsciously looked at the other courtyard.
Pavilions, pavilions, ponds and rockeries are exquisite but nothing new.
It was instead the flowers and trees along the road attracted her attention.
Perhaps because of the warm spring, everything came back to life earlier compared to previous years.
The withered trees grew new branches, and the wilted flowers grew new buds.
Everything was full of vitality wherever the eyes can see.
Lu Qipei gave another look at an apricot tree on the wall.
Its branches were already filled with small flower buds.
Although only a few pink and white flowers had bloomed here and there, one could imagine that its branches would be very lively in a few days.
Qi Yang stopped and saw her looking at the flowers, and said with a smile, “When the flowers bloom in a few days, I’ll fold them and send them to you.”
Lu Qipei was inexplicable touched.
Looking at the little princess’s face that was all smiles, she did not respond with either yes or no.
The two of them continued moving forward past the corridor and entered the courtyard.
Lu Qipei looked at the house in front of her and became even more puzzled – this did not seem like she brought her here to play.
She finally couldn’t help asking, “For what reason has Your Highness brought me here”
Qi Yang walked ahead of Lu Qipei, and had now pushed open the door of the room in front of her.
Through the open door, you would be able to see that there were all kinds of bookshelves and tables inside the room.
Except for the fact that there were no books on the bookshelves, and no brush and ink on the tables, it looked just like a study room.
Lu Qipei looked at the empty study and became even more puzzled, but Qi Yang didn’t even leave her with time to wonder.
Instead of answering her, Qi Yang pushed Lu Qipei into the room first, and then called out, “Servant.”
Zhi Ting came out of nowhere, carrying a big basket in her hand and handing it to Her Highness with a wooden face.
Qi Yang casually put the basket on the empty desk, then turned into a serious look.
She said to Lu Qipei, “I have an unreasonable request, I wonder if Ah Pei can help me”
Lu Qipei looked at Qi Yang and suddenly felt that the person in front of her was very different from the little princess she remembered.
Her little princess would not be so reckless, so strong, and so inexplicable… This was simply overwhelming!
But she could not refuse Qi Yang, especially not when she had a debt towards her in their previous life and now decided to leave.
So after a brief silence, Lu Qipei asked, “What is it about”
Qi Yang pointed at the basket and showed a particularly bright smile.
“Ah Pei is talented, can you help me write some essays”
Well, it wasn’t a big deal…
Lu Qipei opened the basket with a feeling of helplessness.
What she saw inside were neatly arranged brush, ink, paper and inkstone4, and a blank paper filled with topics.
When she inadvertently glanced at the latter, her pupil suddenly shrunk, and her body turned stiff.
What did she just see It was the examination questions from this year’s Spring Exam!
She didn’t have any doubt that she had read or remembered them incorrectly, but why did the little princess ask her to write this!
Lu Qipei (sad): I don’t want to take the exam, I don’t want to at all!
Qi Yang (touching her head): No, you do! My good girl, take the exam well so you can be the Prince Consort.
Lu Qipei (…): Okay.
That… also sounds nice.
The Lunar New Year happens just around the start of spring.
Some cultural festivals/events also happen on the 9th day of the first month, such as the birthday of the Jade Emperor (leader of the Heavenly Court).A basket/backpack carried by scholars, usually containing their study tools and food/traveling luggage.
They look like this:
Some have that canopy-like thing because poor scholars from places far from the capital would have to go on a long travel there on foot.
Each phase takes 3 days (and 2 nights).
I assume this means they don’t have to stay there in between.The four are also collectively known as the Four Treasures of the Study.
The “ink” refers to the inkstick form.
An inkstone is a slab of stone that you add water to and then grind then inkstick on to create the liquid ink.