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The Dallying Forest covered a vast area, but for a cultivator that had completed their Purification, this was a distance that could be crossed relatively quickly. The key to crossing this evergreen forest was dependent upon finding a correct path using one’s divine sense, therefore, only those who were confident they could pass through the sea of trees would begin entering the forest – an examinee entering the forest would be an indication that they could exit, the only thing left to consider was how long they would take.
The report from the Martial Trial caused everyone in the Hall of Zhao Wen to feel shocked; Mao Qiu Yu picked up the time records and found that from the time when Chen Chang Sheng had first started to spread out his divine sense to his entering of the forest, the time taken was actually shorter than that of Liang Ban Hu’s. Prince Chen Liu could also view the records from the side and said in an astonished voice: “Could Chen Chang Sheng’s divine sense really be this strong?”
“If his divine sense really was this strong, why would he be unable to even Purify?” replied the principal of Li Palace College with an expressionless face; he did not believe in Chen Chang Sheng possessing such a strong divine sense.
Prince Chen Liu considered for a while and then answered: “From observing him previously, it seems he has completed his Purification.”
Li Palace College’s principal gave a cold laugh: “Even then, what of it? To take such a long period of time to succeed in Purification could only mean an average divine sense at best; it’s more likely that that youth couldn’t grasp the paths within the Dallying Forest, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to pass, he decided to throw caution to the wind and take his chances in the forest itself.”
The Hall of Zhao Wen once again became silent, for the words of Li Palace College’s principal sounded reasonable – currently, amongst the hundreds of examinees that were inside the forest, there must have been a considerable number that had decided to enter after being unable to map out the entire forest while outside.
Entering due to having no choice other than relying on luck to stumble upon a correct path; Chen Chang Sheng might have also made the same decision.
They all turned their gazes towards the one sat in the centre of the group, towards His Eminence, The Archbishop.
The Archbishop’s eyes remained closed, as if he was sleeping and thus, deaf to their current conversation.
What followed, caused the principal of Li Palace College’s face to quickly darken.
Reports from the forest constantly arrived at the Hall of Zhao Wen, with clergy members setting up a map to depict the present situation – a red mark indicated Chen Chang Sheng’s current position; since entering the forest he had never stopped, constantly moving onwards; though the path taken wasn’t straight, its direction could only lead forward; his consistent speed further indicated his confidence and conviction.
As time passed, the red mark representing Chen Chang Sheng continued inexorably forwards, towards the outer perimeter of the forest. Tracing out a path that might have seemed complicated, but was actually one of the simplest routes; the hall became increasingly quiet, everyone looked at the remaining section of the path, though it was still obscure they understood that it shouldn’t produce any difficulties.
Minister Xin, who had been standing outside of the hall, saw something that caused him to wipe away the sweat that had accumulated on his forehead and reveal a small smile.
The clergy continued bringing in the latest updates to the Martial Trial and that attention-grabbing red mark once again moved forwards, but this time, it had moved out of the Dallying Forest.
The Hall of Zhao Wen remained quiet, the Archbishop’s eyes remained closed, not showing the least bit of concern.
The principal of Li Palace College was silent.
Prince Chen Liu musingly said: “This fellow’s divine sense was actually this strong, who could have guessed?”
It was indeed unexpected for Chen Chang Sheng, who couldn’t even complete his Purification, to have such a strong divine sense.
Mao Qiu Yu said: “After the Grand Examination, we need ask that child the process he went through to determine his Fated Star.”
Everyone nodded their heads in agreement, since Chen Chang Sheng possessed such a strong divine sense, his Fated Star couldn’t have been ordinary, this needed to be clearly documented for the glory of the Zhou Dynasty.
Receiving news on the Martial Trial a little later than the Hall of Zhao Wen, the masses that had gathered outside of Li Palace quickly came to know of the latest development; cheering erupted amongst them.
Hearing the faint sounds of cheering drifting in, Mo Yu turned to Prince Chen Liu and asked: “No one dared to wager upon Chen Chang Sheng being able to place first upon the First Banner; what would you say they are cheering for?”
Prince Chen Liu was momentarily stunned, understanding the logic behind her words, the joy that had briefly surfaced within him quickly dissipated.
Mo Yu laughed without saying anything.
None of the people gathered here had wagered on Chen Chang Sheng succeeding, yet, the reason for their jovial cheering was clearly because they all knew that he had no chance in the duelling phase. Since this youth from Orthodox Academy will not cause any of them to lose money, they naturally felt magnanimous enough to cheer for him.
Having exited the forest, he was greeted by a crisp, cool wind to the face, causing the slightly beleaguered Chen Chang Sheng to feel somewhat refreshed, as for the dumbfounded or perhaps shocked stares, he intentionally ignored them.
The clergy tasked with recording results for the trial and the examinees that were outside of the sea of trees could never have guessed that he would exit the forest this quickly – Chen Chang Sheng had used very little time in crossing the Dallying Forest, faster than even Liang Ban Hu, though it was yet uncertain as to who was faster out of him and the youth that had been registered as a student of Star Seizer Academy.
Turning back to gaze at the sea of trees, he thought back to his usage of divine sense while moving through the forest, he had thought he could vaguely make out the sound of surging leaves, drifting past in waves; he remained silent for a while.
The Ivy League gathering and Proclamation of Azure Clouds had proven that he wasn’t trash, yet, being called knowledgeable, well-read, familiar with the Scripture of The Way in its entirety; in a world that revered strength, such descriptions were nothing more than empty words and phrases, dressed up to look attractive. This world still looked upon strength as the most important asset to have, or more specifically, strength that could affect life and death.
Today, he had proven to the world for the first time, that he possessed that type of strength.
But this wasn’t enough, passing through the Dallying Forest was only the first half of the Martial Trial, he still had more to do in order to enter the duelling phase.
Leaving the sea of trees and crossing a meadow, he arrived before a beautiful riverside in Spring.
The river was named the River Qu (Song/Melody/Crooked) and flowed through Li Palace before joining the River Luo.
In the Garden of Dawn, due to the flat landscape and several times of overflowing, this section of the River Qu was wider than the River Luo located in the Capital. The shortest distance between its shores was at least over 100 metres (~109 yards).
The waters of the River Qu were very calm, and deeply green in colour; for scholars and intellectuals, this would have perhaps inspired thoughts of poetics and arts, but for Chen Chang Sheng and most of the examinees, it was more akin to a copper mirror that had rusted over in green, a rather unpleasant sentiment.
The atmosphere of the observed, depends upon the observer’s mood.
This year’s Martial Trial for the Grand Examination really was well planned.
The first half had examinees cross a sea of trees.
The latter half had examinees cross a river in Spring.
As long as an examinee managed to cross this mirror-like river that was over 100 metres wide and reach the opposite shore, they would have passed the Martial Trial, gaining the right to enter the Duelling Stage of the Grand Examination.
The trouble was, this wasn’t so simple a task.
The rules made it very clear, apart from the soles of your shoes, any part of an examinee’s body coming into contact with the river’s waters would result in disqualification.
Chen Chang Sheng walked to the river’s edge; gazing at the forest on the opposite shore naturally made him think of the lake at Orthodox Academy.
The other shore mentioned by Minister Xin, was the one opposite.