One had to admit, Jiang Chen’s memory was impressive. He had completely filled out multiple scrolls within the span of two hours.
Jiang Chen stood up, nicely rolled up his answer scrolls, and presented them.
“Your Majesty, please peruse these and then pass them over to the various subjects’ officials.” Jiang Chen’s tone was at ease and brimmed with confidence.
Eastern Lu took the scrolls and glanced a few times over them. He discovered that these answer scrolls were indeed different from the ones before. He thought deeply for a moment and then passed them onto the four subject officials.
“Four ministers, read them well. This is an important matter and you absolutely cannot be numb or careless.” Eastern Lu reminded.
The four officials in charge of their own respective subjects suddenly felt a mountain of pressure on them.
On one side was the ruler of the kingdom – the king’s reminder – and on the other was Du Ruhai’s gaze that held blatant warning and threats.
They were, after all, in the Aurum Imperial Hall, in royal territory. A king’s dignified majesty finally overcame the psychological pressure that Du Ruhai brought them.
The four people tried quite hard to calm themselves down and started reading.
At first, the four’s expression were only vaguely surprised as they thought that this answer scroll was indeed completely different from the one previous.
But when they read the creative portion in the second half, the expressions of the four subject officials became exceedingly grave. They would occasionally reveal an expression deep in thought and then smile in understanding. They would follow that up with an expression of running into a difficult problem, but then a look of sudden enlightenment would spread across their faces.
Many were extremely curious upon seeing the rich play of expressions across the four faces. Was the answer scroll that complicated to make this four read it with such ridiculous expressions?
The four finally rolled up the scrolls after a long while, despite wishing to continue.
“Well?” Eastern Lu asked personally.
“In response to Your Majesty, if we were to grade these scrolls, we would have surely awarded full points.”
“Absolutely, indeed. And, the creative portion displayed such a depth in theory, unique opinion, and vast experience that even your humble subject feels quite humbled and doesn’t quite measure up.”
“Your humble subject greatly agrees. This answer scroll brims over with talent and inspires the feeling of beholding a high mountain.”
“Your humble subject only has one sentence to say. This scroll is the first that your humble subject has seen in his life, it is unprecedented!”
The evaluations were one higher than the other.
Anyone could see that the officials in charge of the four subjects weren’t talking off the cuff. The fact that these answer scrolls contained many things that they would need time to digest could be seen from their intoxicated expressions.
Judging from their satisfied expressions, it was most likely true that the contents within the scroll were enough to open their eyes, and imparted no small amount of benefit.
Eastern Lu looked at Jiang Chen meaningfully and sighed lightly. “My ministers, we are a bit confused. How can the two answer scrolls be so drastically different with regards to the same test subjects. One of them brims with talent and has subdued the subject’s officials, while the other is full of unreadable rubbish and does not pass.”
“Your Majesty, a night has passed since that exam. The Jiang Han household could have easily hired a crew of experts to craft a satisfactory answer scroll through the course of a night. Such a matter would be so easy.”
It was true that many things changed easily throughout the course of a night.
Du Ruhai also started clamoring. “Your Majesty, this Jiang family is self styling themselves as clever and is not worth despising. Your subject would like to say something unwelcome. This Jiang Chen is renowned throughout the capital for being a good-for-nothing as well as ignorant and incompetent. Even the peddlers and the porters would be hard pressed to believe that he had created answer scrolls that had subdued examiners.”
The situation was once again disadvantageous towards Jiang Chen.
When everyone’s gazes had once again focused on Jiang Chen, he gave a hearty laugh and took a proud step forward. “It is reasonable for you all to think that I’ve cheated given it’s the same exam topic. Then if it would please the examiners, please propose a few more topics and Jiang Chen is willing to immediately engage the examiners in a bout of learning from each other.”
Learning from each other!
“Jiang Chen, do you think this is your Jiang Han manor? Your childish play will not be tolerated in this great hall! Once had already been outrageous enough, how could you be permitted to do so again?”
Indeed, the king had already been magnanimous enough to allow you to answer the questions again. How could your atrocious behavior be permitted again?
Eastern Lu laughed heartily and curbed the officials and courtiers itching to take action. “In this great hall, we sit and pontificate. It’s a wonderful thing that our Eastern Kingdom has a young junior with such courage. This should be commended and not smothered. We will accede to Jiang Chen’s wishes. Unfortunately, this places additional strain on the four subjects’ officials and causes them to expend more effort.”
The four subjects’ officials didn’t really care, they had already let loose. Since there was an opportunity to express themselves before the king, this wasn’t too bad either.
Besides, they were truly curious. Had Jiang Chen truly created the four answer scrolls? If that was the case, they too wished to test Jiang Chen and see what they might gain.
The four main subjects of “The Articles of Martial Arts”, “The Articles of Spirit Medicine”, “The Papers of Power and Influence”, and “The Papers of Military Strategy”.
Of those, “The Papers of Power and Influence”, and “The Papers of Military Strategy” were actually accompanying topics. There wasn’t much content tested, and their proportion wasn’t as weighted. Therefore, these two subjects were tested first.
The two examiners each gave two topics. Jiang Chen thought briefly and began to respond eloquently.
Clear thinking, innovative perspectives, an aspirational viewpoint, an unbound realm.
When Jiang Chen had answered all four questions, not only did the two examiners, but also some of the courtiers and officials, break out in applause.
Because Jiang Chen’s answers had simply been too splendid. Each answer had not deliberately pursued to do something new and original.
But each answer had cut in from a fresh angle and resulted in unexpected responses that also made sense. Listeners were able to reflect on the answers and gain something.
“Your Majesty. These two topics already encompass your humble subject’s lifetime of knowledge. No matter what angle we look at it from, young duke Jiang’s response has surpassed your humble subject’s level of learning. Your humble subject acquiesces.”
“Your humble subject also acquiesces. Your humble subject believes that with young duke Jiang’s level for “The Papers of Military Strategy”, there is no way that he was the person of the original scroll.”
These words created waves when they were spoken.
“Examiner Hua, what do you mean by that?”
Examiner Hua of “The Papers of Military Strategy” spoke faintly, “I am an old pedant, but also a scholar with a scholar’s integrity. Young duke Jiang’s standards leaves me in admiration. Therefore, I will say an additional word. As the organizer of the Hidden Dragon Trials, Your Excellency Du is broad minded, tolerant of diversity, and should be able to accommodate a variety of sounds?”
Du Ruhai’s face darkened, “But aren’t your words a public defamation that someone in the Hidden Dragon Trials cheated?”
“As to whether or not someone cheated, we prevail upon His Majesty to make an honored judgment. This humble subject dare not speak brashly.” Upon concluding, examiner Hua consciously backed up, closed his eyes and automatically entered a playing dead state.
“Heh heh, this humble subject will now test young duke Jiang in “The Articles of Spirit Medicine”.”
“Please deliver your instructions.” Jiang Chen cupped his hands.
“Alright, the first question deals with cultivating spirit ingredients. How is it that the common degree ninth rank spirit ingredient Three Immortal Grass often appears as one or two blades of grass when cultivated, as opposed to three blades of grass as it should be, like the three immortals in the heavens?”
Those who understood how to cultivate spirit ingredients all privately cursed this examiners. This question was too tricky wasn’t it? Even the examiner himself probably didn’t know why?
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. “The reason is simple. The Three Immortal Grass is a spirit ingredient in which three blades grow on the same stalk. If there is the slightest deviation during fertilization, causing one blade to become overly strong, it will swallow the other two blades. Therefore, in the cultivation of the Three Immortal Grass, there can be absolutely no aberrations in the tillage of the soil and application of spirit fertilizer. The slightest aberration will cause the gravest mistakes.”
“What? To think it would be so demanding?” The examiner thought carefully and suddenly whapped his head. “That’s true, why didn’t I think of this? I always thought it was the seed’s problem. According to the records, the Three Immortal Grass is like eagles and hawks in nature, able to eat their own kind. So it turns out it’s not that the Three Immortal Grass cannot grow three blades, but that it was swallowed by its brethren on the stalk!”
The examiner grinned widely and a few additional traces of admiration appeared in his look at Jiang Chen.
“Then I shall test you another question of refining pills. If you can also answer this question, I too shall vouch for you like old Hua has done!”
“Please go ahead.” Jiang Chen was neither humble nor overbearing, and did not forget himself in excessive joy because of the other’s promise.
“When I refine the ‘Divine Returning Qi Pill’, I sometimes use the eggs of the water heart bug, and sometimes the wings of ice cicadas. Why is it that using the eggs of the water heart bug can sometimes result in an upper rank pill, and sometimes the wings of ice cicadas can result in an upper rank pill? I’d like to ask which of these two ingredients are more suited for refining the ‘Divine Returning Qi Pill’?”
This question was also one that plagued this examiner for quite a while. In all these years of refining the Divine Returning Qi Pill, he ended up with a middle rank nine times out of ten and rarely produced an upper rank pill.
This had caused him to not gain much, and sometimes even resulted in a loss.
Jiang Chen searched through his memories and made his response. “Although the eggs of the water heart bug and the wings of the ice cicadas are both ingredients used in refining the Divine Returning Qi Pill, but they’re actually not the most ideal choice. If you use the Spirit Dream Frozen Rain Fruit, it will increase the chances of you refining an upper rank pill to seventy, eighty percent.”
“But why is that?” The examiner asked humbly.
“It’s quite simple. Whether it’s the eggs of the water heart bug or the wings of the ice cicadas, they are all beings of flesh and blood. The main ingredients of the Divine Returning Qi Pill will be somewhat cancelled out by the vigor of these two beings. When this is the case, you’d be hard pressed to refine an upper rank pill. Being able to produce one once in a while is simply good luck. The Spirit Dream Frozen Rain Fruit is a plant and has no vigor. Its characteristics also correspond best with the main ingredients. That is the best choice.”
“Ah…” The examiner’s mouth fell open and he didn’t speak for a long while. He finally bowed towards Jiang Chen after quite a bit of time had passed. “Now that I have heard this today, I can die without regret. I, old Zhao, also acquiesce.”
He then came to Eastern Lu, “Your Majesty, this youth’s knowledge of spirit ingredients is broad and profound, far surpassing this old man’s. Your humble subject also feels that young duke Jiang was not the author of that answer scroll.”
Examiner Zhao paused, and then added, “Completely incomparable. One is in the heavens, and the other on the earth.”
One person’s words may not hold much weight. Two people’s words could also be a coincidence.
But if three people speak, then that is no longer a coincidence.
The three examiners who had tested Jiang Chen had already spoken on his behalf and praised him ceaselessly. This situation had far outstripped everyone’s expectation.
Changes began to slowly occur in the situation.