Special Exams Right Around the Corner
The special academic and martial arts exams were to commence on the same day. That being said, examinees had to abide by different sets of rules, participate in different locations and for different lengths of times.
The academic exams were to be held at Taishu Courtyard or Daren Academy. Usually, they needed three days, which included all the time for eating, sleeping and so forth. Once the papers were completed, they needed to be handed up, recorded, assessed by the examiners and His Majesty. The judges needed an extensive read and discussion before they determined who passed. Roughly speaking, it took more than a month after the exams before the results were announced.
In regards to the martial arts’ exams, they were typically conducted at the military camp. They, too, held them over three days in front of the examiner. Twenty-four finalists would then compete in front of the main palace for His Majesty’s viewing. Since wins and losses were determined on the spot, the finalist would be announced on the same day.
Though there were differences, at the end of the day, the pressure and difficulties were all as high as could be.
Although the many contests who journeyed to the capital for the exams were still unsure of upcoming exams’ details, there was no questioning their abilities.
The selections for academics had always been strict. Consequently, those participating in the exams were those who already accomplished. As rather few were selected from the finalists’ pool, the competition was extra fierce.
Due to the lenience towards the Seven Champion White Princes – in addition to Fiends’ Genesis’ recent rampage – the journey to the capital was more dangerous than ever. Before Yi Ya returned, reaching the capital was basically a preliminary elimination round. Therefore, any martial artist still alive was the real deal.
There wasn’t much time to prepare for the forthcoming exams. Liu Shan Men had no spare time to prepare due to the fiasco. Shen Yiren knew about it, which was why she sighed and said, “There have been two exams since I took the reins. Shuang’er once won an exceptional improvement prize, but that’s been the only accomplishment we’ve ever netted. This special exam is an opportunity. I understand you hardly have time to prepare, but you never slacked off on training, so you could test your mettle in the ring. Liu Shan Men has twenty nominations. Don’t let yourselves down. If you’re confident, register with your direct superior, and discuss it with me. Oh, by the way,” Shen Yiren tapped Ming Feizhen on the shoulder, “you can also consult Head Constable Ming. He’s well-informed on the subject.”
When all the wide eyes focused on him, Ming Feizhen widened his eyes, too. “Wait. Boss, am I?”
“Should I be?”
“Stop acting.” Shen Yiren leaned in and whispered, “Didn’t you… win once?”
“Ah?” Ming Feizhen flapped his eyelids until he realised what Shen Yiren referred to, prompting him to shake his head vigorously.
That wasn’t me!
It was public knowledge that Jingan’s husband was an exam winner who passed the academic and martial arts exams with flying colours. He was the only person in Li Dynasty’s history to ever win in both categories. Besides his status protecting him from criticism, it was his unmatchable competence that rendered him immune from criticism despite being away from the capital and missing from the radar for months at a time. He was the only man in the imperial court who could get away with that. But Ming Feizhen knew that the real winner wasn’t him but his shifu.
Not even Ming Feizhen knew what sort of crooked-unvirtuous-unscrupulous stuff his shifu did before throwing it all in his lap.
“B-but my experience is probably insufficient. Advising others is…”
Su Xiao raised his hand sky high. “Vice-Captain, Big Brother Ming cannot hack it.”
“Hear what Xiao said?”
“Why not?” inquired Shen Yiren.
Su Xiao explained, “Because he has to participate in the exams, as well.”
Ming Feizhen and Shen Yiren: “What?!”
Su Xiao stretched his eyes at the chemistry displayed. “Why… have you two forgotten? Big Brother Ming attended Daren Academy to study for the exams, did he not? His Majesty also mentioned wanting to see him win.”
“Oh, right, that’s true.”
“It is?!” exclaimed Ming Feizhen. “I object! I’ve just been released and am still in my healing period; I haven’t even been able to sit on a stool yet or tidied up my treasures, and you want me to take an exam? I refuse.”
Whether it was surviving having his scapula pierced, turning the tables on people trying to assassinate him or surviving Gongsun Chu’s attacks, Ming Feizhen had a way to get out, but there was no way he could pass the exams. There was nothing he could do. Nothing. Forget the win; trying to make him score last place was an ordeal. If the examiner were to see the paper he submitted, he’d pay Ming Feizhen a visit with a butcher knife. Only problem was, how was he going to explain the ancient knowledge he supposedly possessed when Emperor Yuansheng asked?
Bai Yeshuang: “Head Constable Ming, are you defying an imperial decree?”
Cleaner Huang cautioned, “Head Constable Ming, defying an imperial decree incurs the death penalty.”
Liu Yuan: “Exactly, stop acting up. Telling you to take the exams is praising you.”
Ming Feizhen: “That still doesn’t justify forcing someone injured to take an exam! Who would milk their vassal like this?! Right, Xiao?”
Su Xiao: “Right! Big Brother Ming has only just returned; he is hurt and tired. Besides, how can you expect him to get anywhere with his brain? Big Brother Ming, stay here, okay?”
“Xiao, you’ve grown so much in the time I’ve been gone, although one line in there sounded wrong…”
“Ehehe.” Su Xiao scrubbed the back of his head.
“You must go,” asserted Shen Yiren. When she saw the eyes of a betrayed soul from Ming Feizhen, she wagged her hand. “No, no, I’m not exploiting you.” She lowered her voice before elaborating, “You’re still recovering, so just mindlessly participate. Even if your results are abysmal, you can use your condition as an excuse, and Uncle will still confer you a rank. If you miss this one, the next one will be a strict one that you can’t avoid.”
That sounds… logically sound…
“Ehehe, you have a point. I shall force myself to partake, then.” Ming Feizhen overlooked one thing. “Abysmal results” wasn’t a synonym for not trying whatsoever.
Shen Yiren dismissed everyone after over four hours of talking. Naturally, she went to drink plenty of water afterwards, which was when she saw Ming Feizhen head out. “You’re heading out?” she asked.
“Mm, I have some stuff to do.”
Shen Yiren checked around for people and then, in a quiet voice, reminded, “You need another seven days before you’re recovered. It may be more peaceful now in the capital, but not everyone is friendly. Be careful out there.”
Ming Feizhen smiled. “I won’t be going far. Don’t worry.”
Shen Yiren wanted to continue the conversation. Unfortunately, Bai Yeshuang and company had approached her with a stack of documents, forcing her to bid him goodbye.
Ming Feizhen climbed onto a horse carriage once he exited Liu Shan Men.