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Chen Chang Sheng felt slightly startled, no matter from what angle this was looked at, this topic of discussion seemed to be inappropriate at this moment, yet Gou Han Shi had brought up the subject very casually. He had never harboured any ill-feelings towards Gou Han Shi and the current casualness from the other party only further relaxed him.
After considering for a while, he informed him of his answer.
“I also believe that it’s probably referencing the line of thought touched upon by Sir Song in his lecture at Lian Creek, but the order I can remember seems to be slightly different from yours.”
Gou Han Shi said in reply, telling of his own answer.
The two of them compared their answer for a time, discovering that, just as they had during the Ivy League gathering, that the difference in their knowledge originated from the revisions enacted by the Orthodoxy in the year 1581. The Classics studied by Chen Chang Sheng were old versions that hadn’t been edited, while Gou Han Shi had studied the edited versions that were approved by the Orthodoxy; one had the advantage in preserving the original meaning, while the other had the advantage of greater clarification, making it difficult to determine which could be considered more accurate.
Though it was only early Spring, the divine avenue was already lined with green trees that provided shade from the sun, a rather serene scene.
Chen Chang Sheng and Gou Han Shi continued walking under the shade while discussing the exam they had just finished, their voices were low and they did not enter any heated arguments, it was a very calm debate. This gave the type of feeling people would imagine to occur from an encounter between two experts, without the insincere idea of refinement in agreement; there were only two seekers of knowledge here.
After a short distance, from the small pavilion ahead that was located beside the stream behind the trees, the figure of Luo Luo appeared.
Gou Han Shi greeted her.
Luo Luo returned the greeting, before hugging Chen Chang Sheng’s arm and asking him in a concerned tone: “Are you tired Sir?”
She did not enquire as to how did Chen Chang Sheng perform on the test, this was partially due to Gou Han Shi’s presence, but also due to her confidence in his ability.
“I’m not tired.”
Chen Chang Sheng massaged his wrist and asked: “When did you leave the Hall of Zhao Wen, I didn’t see you there?”
Luo Luo tugged at his arm and answered: “I didn’t answer any of the questions, I’ve been here drinking tea.”
She did not need any results, thus, she didn’t waste any energy on the Academic Exam and had been waiting at this pavilion for Chen Chang Sheng to finish handing in his paper and come out. Chen Cheng Sheng felt puzzled, if this was the case, why did she expressly request His Holiness, The Pope, for permission to enter the Grand Examination?
Gou Han Shi understood her intention, giving Luo Luo a glance, he felt wistful about Chen Chang Sheng’s fortune and providence. He gave a formal gesture of parting, indicating that he was going to leave first.
Entering the Garden of Dawn, the park had a vast expanse of grass, with the woodlands situated a distance away, there was no longer any shade from the sun.
Luo Luo had managed to acquire an umbrella from some unknown place and used it to shade Chen Chang Sheng from the sun.
Seeing this scene, the examinees that were stood before the evergreen thicket had awkward expressions upon their faces.
For Her Highness to attend to you as such, aren’t you afraid of shortening your lifespan from this type of degeneracy? This was the thought going through many of their minds at this moment.
Chen Chang Sheng had gotten used to this type of attention from Luo Luo during their time together at the academy and thus, did not feel anything untoward about the situation, but under the stares of the other examinees, he quickly came to his senses, retrieving the umbrella from Luo Luo’s hand before taking her to the evergreen thicket, to listen to the lector from Temple Seminary explain the rules of the Martial Trial.
The examinees that had handed in their answer papers early had already entered the vast evergreen forest and currently, before the woodlands, there were only 20 odd examinees waiting, comprising of Chen Chang Sheng, Luo Luo, Gou Han Shi, the four scholars from Scholartree Manor, Tian Hai Sheng Xue and some others.
Hearing the lector’s explanation, Chen Chang Sheng finally knew that the evergreen forest was actually a labyrinth. The evergreen shrubs that had been trimmed extraordinarily neatly, were akin to countless barricades that separated numerous different paths. The first half of the Martial Trial was to have examinees successfully traverse these trees, those who couldn’t complete the task within 2 hours would be disqualified.
Looking at the stern expressions upon everyone’s faces, with some displaying dismay, Chen Chang Sheng felt a little confused. The Capital had many parks and gardens which contained similar labyrinths that even little children could complete, even if this forest was exceedingly vast in size and its design was to be a little more complex, it couldn’t possibly compare with the difficulty of the Academic Exam?
“This forest is called the Dallying Forest.”
Luo Luo knew that though he had read the Scripture in its entirety, he had little familiarity with many things that were common knowledge. She explained to him in a low voice: “It’s said that this was originally used by Wang Zhi Ce as a recreational game to relax when studying, while he was at the Capital. At the time he had used a brush and paper, but as his designs became increasingly complex, it became increasingly difficult to complete.”
She continued: “Many years later, the reigning Pope of the time felt that this game was useful for tempering the minds of young people and could also be used to test the strength of someone’s divine sense, therefore, an evergreen forest was constructed in the Garden of Dawn, according to the design.”
“It’s difficult?” asked Chen Chang Sheng.
“Wang Zhi Ce named this game ‘dallying’; due to its difficult nature, it could squander away all your time,” explained Luo Luo.
Something that was considered difficult by a legendary figure like Wang Zhi Ce could only be truly challenging.
Chen Chang Sheng considered for a while before asking: “Many of the solutions used by Wang Zhi Ce should have been disseminated, why haven’t I have seen any of them recorded in any books?”
Luo Luo answered: “Wang Zhi Ce used brush and paper, but relied upon calculation and planning, for something he considered to be a minor recreational game, he didn’t bother recording it in his notes, therefore, his solution remains unknown.”
Chen Chang Sheng looked at the never-ending trees and said: “Using a brush and paper, you can sketch out innumerable designs in a short period of time; with the design becoming something this vast, a person traversing it cannot possible match the speed of sketching on paper, to find a solution within 2 hours is indeed difficult.”
“That’s why your divine sense has to be strong enough.”
Luo Luo looked at him and carefully said: “Using the divine sense as a brush, the stronger your divine sense is, the farther you can perceive, this is the equivalent of being able to sketch farther ahead; being able to evaluate this quicker.”
“So this is a test of the divine sense and ability to perceive, I think… there shouldn’t be any problems.”
Thinking of his distant Fated Star, Chen Chang Sheng felt confident, but he suddenly thought of something and asked: “There is only a single correct path?”
If there was only a single correct path, then examinees that couldn’t use their divine sense to determine the correct path could still resort to following others.
“According to the calculations and estimates done by His Holiness in his youth, this forest has more than 4,000 entrances, and over 700 exits. There are at least 3,927,400 different solutions, or more specifically, routes. If an examinee was to successfully solve this quandary through one of the routes, then anyone unlucky enough or shameless enough to be on the same route, would regrettably have to start over again.”
The lector from Temple Seminary looked at the examinees and said: “Please choose your individual entrances.”
At that moment, one of the young scholars from Scholartree Manor asked: “It should be fine as long as the route taken is different, therefore, can we enter from the same entrance and split up once we reach a farther location?”
The lector’s eyebrow lightly twitched as they answered: “That is not allowed.”
According to the regulations for this year’s Martial Trial, only examinees that manage to pass through this forest would have the right to participate in the final duelling phase, anyone that failed would be directly disqualified, while the first to pass this stage would be rewarded with an advantage in the duelling phase.
An important rule was that the Martial Trial had to be completed alone – the Grand Examination intentionally sought to break down the barriers between the various schools and sects and recruit them into the folds of the Imperial Government or Orthodoxy, therefore, it naturally forbade the various schools and sects from acting together; this was an evident distinction from the Grand Meeting of Zhu Shi.
Scholartree Manor is a famous school from the Southern Domain that frequently participated in the Grand Examination and Grand Meeting of Zhu Shi, it couldn’t have been unaware of this rule.
The words of that scholar were obviously directed at someone else.
While he had spoken those words, his gaze was on Chen Chang Sheng and Luo Luo.