The Drum of the Shocking Dragon was hammered ten times in a row and the Bell of the Waking Dragon rang out nine times in front of the Aurum Imperial Hall.
Jiang Chen walked in and headed towards the hall with large strides after the round of drum and bell sounds. Parting the road with the engraved dragon medallion, the ceremonial guards let him pass without challenge.
Under the shocked and astonished gazes of an entire gathering of civil and military officials, Jiang Chen took large steps to the front of the throne, and started wailing his innocence after paying his worship to the king. “Your Majesty, your subject persevered for ten years and industriously studied the civil and military subjects. Heaven and earth can bear witness to my heart of pure loyalty. Alas, your subject has run afoul of scoundrels in his life, and thus they have caused me to suffer a grave injustice. Your subject has nowhere else to request a redress and can only come to Your Majesty to present my case. Your Majesty is benevolent and moral, and can surely make a decision on your subject’s behalf.”
“Minister Jiang, what matter has caused you such desolation? Tell us of any wrongs you have suffered.” Despite Eastern Lu knowing that Jiang Chen was under suspicion for putting on an act, Jiang Chen had been imperceptibly crowded into the same boat as Eastern Lu given the current situation in the capital. Eastern Lu had no choice but to play along for a bit.
“The facts of the matter are, your subject…” Jiang Chen immediately went over the entire issue from beginning to end, and naturally didn’t fail to exaggerate things a bit in several crucial areas. All in all, the spearhead was directed at Du Ruhai.
He was irreproachable on this matter and reason was on his side. Therefore, he felt absolutely no pressure in making a ruckus.
Eastern Lu mused deeply for a while after listening, “If it is indeed as you say Minister Jiang, then you have truly suffered a grave injustice. We know of this matter now, but as with all things, it would be unwise to listen to only one side. We would also like to listen to what the testing site has to say.”
“Your subject is willing to confront that Du Ruhai face to face!”
Jiang Chen’s personality was that one always had to win some points, even if one was being unreasonable – not mentioning that he was entirely within reason this time.
Besides, Du Ruhai had truly enraged him this time. Jiang Chen had already determined that he would fight to the last breath with Du Ruhai.
At this moment, Du Ruhai also came wailing in. He was wiping away snot with one hand and tears with the other. Add to that the eye catching five fingered print on his face, and that he’d also conveniently ripped out his hair bun on the way over to make himself appear bedraggled and disheveled…
It gave others an exceedingly desolate feeling when he walked in like this.
“This Du Ruhai is a sly old fox alright, his acting skills are more than a step higher than the kid Jiang Chen.” A few ministers and officials thought privately.
One had to admit, Du Ruhai’s acting was more consummate and exquisite than Jiang Chen’s. Aggrieved eyes, desolate movement, and a body full of disordered hair and clothing. His entire body was an act.
“Your Majesty, your old subject has suffered injustices.” Du Ruhai’s head hit the floor, his butt stuck up perkily in the air as tears flowed down like an opened faucet.
“Minister Du, stand up and speak.” Eastern Lu could not treat one person well and treat another poorly in front of his assembled subjects.
Jiang Chen didn’t behave atrociously in the Aurum Imperial Hall. He stood to the side coldly, watching Du Ruhai put forth hard effort into his performance. Jiang Chen’s heart was filled with cold contempt and he was filled with scorn for mad little clowns like Du Ruhai.
“Your Majesty, this old subjects wishes to sue that this Jiang Chen is completely without law and order. He caused a great disruption at the testing site of the Hidden Dragon Trials, beat the organizer and even dared to tempt Princess Gouyu to destroy the rules set down by the ancestors. Your Majesty, this brat had already acted wildly during the Rites of Heavenly Worship, and now insults the writs of the forefathers. The crimes of this Jiang father and son are heinous indeed, and your subject respectfully requests that Your Majesty pass a judgment to annihilate the Jiang family clan.”
Given that he now stood in his current position, Du Ruhai possessed a few political schemes up his sleeves. He naturally knew how to stoke emotions, how to generate public anger, how to add insult to injury, how to frame others, and how to pin a label on others – especially in order to put the finishing touches on the Jiang father and son death sentence.
However, in the multitude of his schemes, he had never reckoned that Eastern Lu had long since listed the Jiang father and son as part of the royal camp.
His performance here not only didn’t stoke any corresponding emotion from Eastern Lu, but rather gave birth to a bit of increased precaution against Du Ruhai.
Whereas amongst the crowd of assembled officials, some old men’s emotions had become a bit restless thanks to Du Ruhai’s machinations.
They were all old antiques and had already felt quite put out by the fact that Jiang Chen had luckily escaped being caned to death after his atrocious behavior during the Rites. They thought it was a bad omen.
And now, Jiang Chen hadn’t even properly licked his wounds before causing a great disturbance at the testing site of the Hidden Dragon Trials, and had challenged the writs of the forefathers! In their eyes, this was high treason and a monstrous crime.
“Your Majesty, the Jiang father and son are too presumptuous, and their behavior cannot be condoned!
“I too agree, we cannot facilitate the growth of such unhealthy trends!”
Two old geezers with white beards had quickly jumped out to chime in.
Jiang Chen flicked a glance at these two old geezers and then looked at the duke of Soaring Dragon who was standing deep in thought to the left of the dial.
The duke of Soaring Dragon wore a calm and indifferent expression, as if this business had absolutely nothing to do with him. But in actuality, Jiang Chen could be certain that he must have been controlling everything for the matter to have progressed to this state.
Du Ruhai putting on an act and complaining, two old geezers adding fuel to the flame, and a crew of followers playing jackal to the tiger as well.
Those present were all heavyweights in the Eastern Kingdom. If there were those that belonged to the duke of Soaring Dragon’s party, then there would definitely be those against him.
“Your Majesty, this old subject feels that something must be amiss after listening to Jiang Chen and His Excellency Du. Why not give them a chance for both to offer an explanation, respectively, and clear their own name? If Jiang Chen was in the wrong, then the law of the land will not forgive him. But if someone truly is so bold as to cheat and cause mischief on the Hidden Dragon Trials, is that not also an act of provocation against the writs of the forefathers? This old subjects feels that we cannot wrong a good man, and cannot let any villain off the hook. This matter must be handled in a just and open manner in order to give both sides a satisfactory explanation.” This person was obviously a firm stickler for the royal family and had stepped forward to give Eastern Lu a hand.
“Yes, your subject also thinks this way. At the end of the day, it’s a one-sided story from both of them. Your subject feels that we should let them finish their words and allow them to defend themselves.” This was an official that was friendly with the Jiang family.
Eastern Lu was deep in thought for a moment and then nodded. “Since this is the case, Minister Du, you start first.”
Du Ruhai nodded, “Alright, then please allow this old subject to speak first. This Jiang family had come to me twice before the three foundational exams began. The first time was to gift me six hundred thousand silver. I have been blessed with royal favor and my responsibilities are great, how could I be someone who takes bribes and bends the law? I immediately harshly denied Jiang Feng’s preposterous request to cheat and paid the silver to the national treasury after the fact.
The Jiang father and son once again invited me to their manor the second time. When their coaxing and pestering tactics failed, this Jiang Chen took to publicly threatening me, saying that I would regret my actions sooner or later.
This old subject is a firm and unyielding character. I have a clear conscience throughout the many matters I’ve handled for Your Majesty, why would I be afraid of the Jiang family threats? Except, who would’ve thought that this Jiang father and son would be so perverse and rabid as to disturb the testing site and even beat me when he didn’t pass! Your Majesty, professionals handle the many portions of the exams, and those subject officials reading the answer scrolls can attest to the fact that the scroll Jiang Chen handed in for grading was sheer bullshit and irrelevant. In this case, how could I have shown favoritism and cheated? Destroyed the objective rules of the Hidden Dragon Trials? Destroyed the writs as laid down by the forefathers?”
Du Ruhai’s tone was gloriously in state and he didn’t even pause for breath. Judging from his appearance, it was as if he was as impartial and incorruptible as Justice Bao (1).
One had to give it to him, his eloquence was fantastic. After his round of words, many neutral officials all felt that this Jiang family was probably not innocent.
Eastern Lu also felt this matter was quite tough to handle and looked at Jiang Chen.
“Your Majesty, your subject has come to the Aurum Imperial Hall not to engage in a verbal spar with this Du Ruhai. He has been an official for more than a decade and has long since trained his official eloquence to a perfect and flawless realm. He would even be able to say that a stick of straw was a bar of gold.
There was indeed a matter involving six hundred thousand silver, but it definitely wasn’t from my father requesting him to cheat and let me through. But rather, this man came to my Jiang Han manor to solicit a bribe, hinting that my Jiang family could buy peace of mind with money. If we didn’t pay up the six hundred thousand, then he would halt my progress in the foundational exams.
He accepted the money but then came once again to my family after receiving pressure from some parties. He indicated that he had received the money but would still halt my progress in the foundational exams. My father could not contain his anger and argued with him a bit. He did indeed say that Du Ruhai has accepted money but not done the corresponding work.
If six hundred thousand could buy peace, then our Jiang family was willing to be that sucker. When it’s all said and done, we could just go back to our territory and tighten our belts for a few years of hard living. But, never did we anticipate that this Du Ruhai, charged with royal favor, would accept the threats from a few parties and completely ignore the regulations of the ancestors and blatantly undermine the rules of the Hidden Dragon Trials. He employed slight of hand and switched out my answer scroll! Those present are all heavyweights with names and reputation in the kingdom. I would to ask how is it possible that I could pass the first two exams, but couldn’t pass the third that was based off rote memorization? Does this conform with common sense?”
“What? Switched out the answer scroll?”
“This Du Ruhai has such presumptions?”
“No one has ever messed around with the Hidden Dragon Trials throughout the ages. Can this Jiang family be making a false complaint?”
“What Jiang Chen says makes sense. The third exam completely relies on rote memorization. Even a seven, eight year old child could pass given some time!”
The officials held heated discussions. They suddenly didn’t know what was true and what was false.
If based on usual reputation, the duke of Jiang Han, Jiang Feng, was indeed a staunch and steadfast man.
On the other hand, Du Ruhai’s reputation was more mediocre. Many in the capital had heard that the man was greedy and had his fingers in and ate out of many pies when he was an official.
Eastern Lu rubbed his forehead and looked out at the rows of his subjects. He sorely wished that Princess Gouyu could materialize at this moment and help him make a judgment.
Except, this Gouyu hadn’t appeared even now. What was she busy with?
Du Ruhai was hopping mad, “Jiang Chen, you’re making unfounded, venomous accusations! Let me tell you something – this is the Aurum Imperial Hall. Your words must be backed up with evidence, if you have none, then I can sue you for the crime of defamation against an important official.”
“Evidence?” Jiang Chen gave a cold laugh. “I only ask one question. Du Ruhai, you say that my answer scroll is complete bullshit and irrelevant. Then let’s make a bet in the Aurum Imperial Hall. Summon the subject officials in charge of reading the scrolls, I will answer for them again, right now. We’ll see if my answer scroll is as unbearable as you say!”
“Answer again?” Du Ruhai planted his hands on his waist and laughed. “Jiang Chen, who do you think you are? The rules set forth by the ancestors have never been modified. Why should they be changed for you?”
“Du Ruhai, you object with all your might because you have a guilty conscience.”
At this moment, all the subject officials and Jiang Chen’s answer scroll had been presented to Eastern Lu.
Eastern Lu took a brief look and sighed lightly. “Jiang Chen, this answer scroll has your name on it and this handwriting is the same as yours. You will need more evidence to prove your innocence.”
Jiang Chen was wholly unafraid as he looked lightly upon the four subject officials. “Your Majesty, it would be difficult for your subject to find evidence given how the situation is now. However, I happen to remember all the contents of the exams as well as clearly remember my answers. I respectfully request Your Majesty to give me an opportunity to rewrite my correct answers. In this way, even if my Jiang family still loses this lawsuit and the dukedom, I, Jiang Chen, will accept and admit my defeat!”
“In that case, bring out the four treasures of the study!” Eastern Lu immediately gave his approval.
“Your Majesty, doesn’t this violate the writs of the ancestors?”
“Please consider carefully Your Majesty, how can the laws of the forefathers be easily changed?”
Eastern Lu smiled faintly, “Those assembled need not unduly worry, we merely wish to view this Jiang Chen’s correct answers, but did not say that we would let him pass if his answers were correct. Our actions are done to pursue a judgment on the case, and not to readminister the exam. Both sides in the case are our important ministers, and we dare not act carelessly.”
The four treasures of the study were quickly readied and Jiang Chen stepped forward confidently and naturally. His facial expression was cool and composed as he started writing.
The atmosphere of the scene however, fell into a strange sort of anxiety.
1. Ancient Chinese judge known for his absolute impartiality and fairness