ARC 9: Ancient Times; Jade like Beauty
Chapter 136: Ninth World (1)
Translated by Shiya of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Edited by Sulo
Outside the window, flowers were red and willows were green, and the spring air was full of vitality. Inside the study of Imperial Counsellor Bai1, there was an autumn wind rustling and everything was silent.
It was not easy to finish the eight-legged essay 2 from the beginning to the end. Imperial Counsellor Bai sighed and looked up at his beloved son. Without asking, Bai Duan knew what his father’s comments were and lowered his head in silence.
Seeing his appearance, and thinking about his constant hard work, Imperial Counsellor Bai could not bear to say the words of blame, he could do nothing except for sighing.
The Bai family had always been a family of literati, and Imperial Counsellor Bai was also honest and unyielding, he never went astray. He wanted his child to be an official in the imperial court as well, and required him to participate in the imperial examination like other students in the world, and become a student of heaven with his true talents.
As the only son of Imperial Counsellor Bai, Bai Duan had studied hard since childhood under the supervision and guidance of his father, and also quickly demonstrated his talent. He was not only quick and good at learning anything, but was also not as playful as other children, which had always been the greatest pride of Imperial Counsellor Bai.
When he was only eight years old, Bai Duan successfully got XiuCai in the village’s imperial examination, then he got JuRen in the examination three years later 3. Although his ranking was not high, he was the youngest in the village to get JuRen, which was absolutely unique in the current dynasty, and it immediately caused widespread interest among the people in the village and even those in the court.
However, the miracle called Bai Duan came to an end there.
Two years after the village examination, Bai Duan failed the next examination. Although most people found that a pity, they all still had great expectations for him. However, three years later, Bai Duan participated in the test for the second time, yet he still failed, and gradually a rumor began to spread that, “Child prodigies might not be all that.”
Of course, Imperial Counsellor Bai didn’t admit that his intelligent son would be like Fang ZhongYong 4. He invited famous teachers and personally supervised Bai Duan. Everyone praised Bai Duan for being able to learn from others and drawing inferences from others. The only thing that restricted his achievements was literary talent.
Bai Duan was familiar with the Four Books and the Five Classics, from the opening, amplification, latter argument to final argument5, everything was clear and tidy, and his ideas and content always had some eye-catching views — but his writing always lacked appeal, it could not move people’s hearts.
This was not so much an essay but more like a boring manual. Although the truth could be explained clearly, it was too strict and boring to read. Even the Imperial Counsellor Bai who always loved his son so very dearly had heavy eyelids and felt drowsy whenever he read Bai Duan’s eight-legged essay.
Such shortcomings were not obvious in the village and city examinations with simple test questions and no fierce competition. Moreover, Bai Duan was young, so no one cared much. However, once he arrived at the Imperial Examination full of talented people, it was really a big problem — how could he achieve a good result if people were unwilling to even read it?
<em>T/N: I’m sorta pissed about this, so a perfectly clear essay means you cannot become an official, but being able to use flattering, flowery words, means you can become a good official. Sounds about right OTL.</em>
For this reason, Imperial Counsellor Bai was really worried. He tried his best to improve his dear son’s literary skills, but Bai Duan seemed to be born with less strings on that part of his brain. No matter how hard he tried, Bai Duan didn’t have the sense of enlightenment at all — he couldn’t even write the eight-legged essay that had lower literary requirements well, let alone write poems.
In this way, Imperial Counsellor Bai gradually stopped making Bai Duan take the imperial exams. Anyway, getting JuRen was a reputation enough, he could get a small job as an official in the court with that.
Imperial Counsellor Bai gave up in order to stop embarrassing his dear son, then the next problem of getting his dear son married came in. As they say, “Getting married and getting a stable job is the apex of once life”, as the saying goes, getting married came first, then think about a stable job came after6. Although Bai Duan was no more than sixteen-years old, he was already around the age when he should be looking around for a suitable woman to marry.
Although Imperial Counsellor Bai had some status in the court, he was an upright official. He lived on his salary as an official alone, so there was not much money left in his savings. In addition, Bai Duan’s family was small, and Bai Duan had become ‘Fang ZhongYong’. His future was very rough and uncertain, so no young lady of a big family would like to marry him.
In this regard, Imperial Counsellor Bai was quite open to accept that, from the bottom of his heart, he also did not want Bai Duan to go for noble women. After all, rich people always bring all kinds of bad things. He would rather his son marry a small jade in a family of good conduct, clean and full of virtue — of course, the most important thing was that Bai Duan must like her.
Due to the low requirements of Imperial Counsellor Bai, there were many qualified women. However, the difficult thing was to find someone that Bai Duan liked.
Imperial Counsellor Bai and his wife were childhood sweethearts and had no guesses in their marriage. After marriage, they had no doubts about their feelings, happiness and love. Even after Mrs. Bai died from childbirth, Imperial Counsellor Bai did not remarry. Instead, he brought up his only son, shouldering the role of being a father and a mother. When he dreamt in the middle of the night, he would still dream of his wife’s red sleeves.
Because of his deep feelings with his wife, Imperial Counsellor Bai hoped that his beloved son would have a happy marriage as well, but not following the usual “orders from parents or the matchmaker’s advice”, where Bai Duan won’t even know how his wife looked like until they were at the wedding altar.
It was a pity that Bai Duan was either not interested in women yet or had a very high standard. He didn’t care about getting married at all. He prefered to hide at home and read books, rather than going out with his peers for outings and encounters with young girls at the age of marriage.
Putting down the eight-legged essay, Bai Yu stroked his beard, “Three days later, the First Princess will hold a flower-viewing festival, you must remember to attend.”
Bai Duan drew a corner of his mouth and was reluctant to accept it, but he knew that the invitation of the First Princess could not be refused, so he only nodded in silence.
The First Princess’s husband died early and she had no children under her. Now she was getting older and older. In addition, she was not interested in all the absurd things happening in the imperial harem, not caring meant less annoyance. So she got into being a matchmaker for the younger generation. Bai Duan was handsome and had a quiet and smart personality. Although he was ‘Fang ZhongYong’, he had always been liked by the elders. Thus, it was natural for him to be on the list of the First Princess, among the people whom she wanted to matchmake. Whenever a party was held, he was always invited to participate.
Bai Duan thought that this time, as usual, would be another boring party, but unexpectedly things changed. He actually fell in love at first sight at the party.
Bai Duan was not interested in any kind of banquet, for one thing, he didn’t have erotic thoughts like his peers, and for another, he didn’t have any friends to talk with.
When he was a child, he studied at home for his father who had great expectations for him. When other children were still playing with cats and dogs, the name of Bai Duan, the young prodigy had already spread all over the capital. ‘The wonder child from Bai’s household’ would naturally be hated by others after all.
As he grew older, Bai Duan became ‘Fang ZhongYong’. The gifted and talented young people didn’t like getting to know him. While those with low education and bad morals still remembered Bai Duan’s childhood fame and often sneered at him. As for Bai Duan, he had a cold personality, not to mention he wasn’t a person who actively showed his affection towards others. Naturally, he couldn’t blend into the circle of his peers.
If that were all, then it was still fine. More importantly Bai Duan had an outstanding and enviable face.
He was as beautiful as a crown jewel, with bright eyes and bright teeth; he had a calm and gentle attitude, he was the dream of many. Even though the ladies from noble families knew that it was impossible for their family to marry Bai Duan, who had no status in the court, and no talents, very few people could take their eyes off him and observe others with a better social status after seeing Bai Duan .
In this way, Bai Duan naturally became more and more unpopular, and he also enjoyed this kind of excluded loneliness. After walking in front of the First Princess and proving that he was invited to come, he planned to find a place to hide and spend the banquet time there.
Against the crowd, familiar with the road, walking further and further along the quiet path, Bai Duan walked slowly towards the lotus pond covered with thick green lotus leaves, and then accidentally saw a slim figure.
Bai Duan’s first reaction was to find another place to hide. After all, although the name of the banquet was flower viewing banquet, it was actually a ‘blind date’, and men and women still had to abide by the rules. It was still not right for a man and a woman to meet alone in the night, it was even something to be criticized for.
However, even Bai Duan didn’t know why. Even though Bai Duan was told by reason to leave as soon as possible, he couldn’t move at all. He could only stare at the figure in the long skirt, and his heart beat as fast as it could.
Maybe Bai Duan’s eyes were too focused, which attracted the attention of the girl beside the lotus pond. She tilted her body slightly, then turned her head and looked behind her. After meeting Bai Duan’s eyes, she was stunned for a moment. Then she turned her body around completely and stood face-to-face with Bai Duan.
The girl also looked like she was fifteen or sixteen-years old. She had just reached adulthood, and her eyebrows still looked a little childish. Her facial features were not as delicate and soft as other women’s, instead, they were full of youthful heroism, and her figure was quite tall, almost equal to Bai Duan’s. She didn’t look like someone who would be dependent on others.
The lack of femininity on her appearance was probably not good for a woman, but it had a unique charm in Bai Duan’s eyes, which made his heart rate more stalled and made it hard for him to look away.
The girl’s makeup was not very delicate, and her clothes were made of good material, but she had obviously worn them for a long time and it was dyed with some colors of aging. She was alone and had no servant around her. She should be an unpopular middle girl of a noble family, who was often ignored.
Bai Duan imagined a bit about how the girl must have suffered in the deep courtyard, and Bai Duan felt a strong pity. After staring for a while, he clearly realized that he had fallen in love with the unknown girl at first sight.
There was a light red on his face. Bai Duan hesitated to talk to her, as he worried that he was too abrupt and would offend her. In the middle of hesitation, he suddenly heard the footsteps and conversation of others not far away.
Bai Duan frowned, turned his head to the direction of the voice, and then took another look at the girl. He quickly stepped aside to avoid damaging his sweetheart’s reputation.
After waiting for a long time, Bai Duan finally waited for the group to pass and hurriedly returned to the lotus pond, only to find that there was no one there.
He stood beside the lotus pond for a long time, but still didn’t see the beautiful woman return. He could not help but feel depressed and lonely.
In order to find his sweetheart, Bai Duan showed up for the first time before the party was over. His eyes were constantly wandering among the female guests, causing a large amount of fluttering hearts before finally drawing back his gaze in disappointment.
“What, brother Bai, which young lady did you take a liking to?” A youth nearby noticed Bai Duan’s abnormality and took the initiative to talk to him, his tone full of interest.
Bai Duan glanced at him and knew that his intentions were bad so of course he was not stupid enough to tell him about the girl.
The young man was half angered by Bai Duan’s cold attitude, but he had to maintain his demeanor at the First Princess’ banquet. He could only hum heavily, swing his sleeves aside and join the circle of others.
Bai Duan knew that the young man would talk with others about how he was arrogant and disrespectful, but he was not moved at all. He raised his head again and continued to look for the girl beside the lotus pond, but he still got nothing.
Until the end of the banquet, Bai Duan didn’t achieve his wish. He lingered at the gate of ChangChun Garden, where the banquet was held, for a long time, until all the people had left, then he turned gloomy.
The girl seemed to be just a dream, beautiful and sweet, which was unexpected, but fleeting, and made him feel lost.
——It’s true that “There are beauties out there, ones that you can’t forget after you see them, ones that you can’t find after searching, but you keep thinking of them as if you were crazy.”
- The Imperial Counsellor deals with counselling the emperor and things related to the examination. It’s different in different periods of time, but in general, there’s one emperor, below him are the Three Excellencies (The Chancellor, the Imperial Counsellor, and the Supreme Commander), then below them are the Nine Ministers. This is just to give you a feel of where this Imperial Counsellor stands in the pecking order.
- Is a type of ancient writing format that was usually required for people taking the exam to become an official in the Imperial Court. For more please ask wiki-san: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-legged_essay
- In the ancient examinations, only about 2-3 million people get to take the village’s examination, XiuCai is the highest attainable at this point. After you got XiuCai, you could go to a bigger city to take a more important examination, that’s where you could get JuRen (Lowest), JinShi (A3, A2, A1). There are only three people in the A1 tier, namely, the ZhangYuan, BangYan, and TanHua. At this point in time, I think no one is reading this anymore, but for some reason I’m still writing lol. To be a ZhangYuan means your writing is the best, but to be a TanHua, you must be both handsome and have great writing skills, so TanHua are usually very handsome and might be happier than the ZhangYuan.
- It is an ancient short story about a boy called Fang ZhongYong, the story goes with Fang ZhongYong being a prodigy who had great writing and memory, his parents were happy of course and brought him around to show him off and get money from that. They did not put effort in training the boy or give him education, so years later he was even worse than other kids of the same age who were not prodigies. The title of that passage is called ZhongYong Lament.
- I give up on explaining this lol, if interested please read here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-legged_essay#Structure_and_content
- That’s just the ancient people, you can try if you can get married before you find a stable job lol. I doubt many girls would be lining up for that.