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Due to his betrothal to Xu You Rong, after the Ivy League gathering, Chen Chang Sheng naturally became a popular topic in the Capital; the declaration made for him by His Eminence, The Archbishop, was akin to adding oil onto a fire.
Countless people began to scrutinise everything about him: his age, ancestry; his relationship with the Divine General of the Eastern Decree’s estate; his power level; none of these things remained secret and thus, everyone was stunned, wanting to know exactly what had happened to him over these past few days, to make his ability rise in such a spectacular fashion, to the point of being able to win four times in succession at the Grand Examination and enter the final list.
Xuan Yuan Po looked at Chen Chang Sheng, his mouth gaping, as if he was looking at some kind of monster; Tang Thirty-Six stared at him directly in the eyes and asked: “Just exactly what have you eaten? We’ve been at Orthodox Academy together every day and having meals together, could it be that you’ve been sneakily making your own meals? Or have you pilfered something good from the Hundred Herb Garden without telling the two of us?”
In that quiet room inside the Tower of Purging Dust, the important figures were also currently in the midst of discussing Chen Chang Sheng’s performance for today.
“Could it be that what he just used is the complete version of Discerning Steps?” someone asked, while looking at Xu Shi Ji.
If some older people, those who had experienced that great war against the demon race, such as Fei Dian or perhaps Jin Yu Lu were to be present, they could have accurately determined what the erratic motion technique used by Chen Chang Sheng was. At the moment, within the room, the only people who might have the knowledge, were Xue Xing Chuan and Xu Shi Ji, two people who had been to the Northern battlefield.
Xu Shi Ji maintained a look of indifference and said: “I haven’t come across any members of the Ye Shi (Discerning) tribe on the frontlines.”
According to reports, for hundreds of years, the majority of people from the Ye Shi tribe in Old Snow City had been drafted by that mysterious Lord Black Robe into an intelligence organisation and would rarely make an appearance.
Xue Xing Chuan’s forces had once captured two spies of the Ye Shi tribe.
The Ye Shi tribe member that had tried to assassinate Her Highness during Spring was currently being held in the Imperial Guard’s prison, thinking back to Chen Chang Sheng’s footwork skill, he shook his head and said: “It’s not the complete version of Discerning Steps, but it has a portion of its substance.”
They all understood his meaning, a portion of the complete Discerning Step’s substance was already enough to display a significant effect in battles at the level of younger people, which the Grand Examination was.
Xue Xing Chuan thought for a while and then continued: “His speed and motion technique are at an apex, combined with suitable luck in the lot drawing, his entry into the last 8 is understandable, but my opinion is that he won’t be able to advance further.”
The Grand Examination’s top 8 had already been determined, counting young experts that were already famous, such as Gou Han Shi, Zhuang Huan Yu, Zhong Hui and Zhe Xiu.
There were also some surprising entrants, such as one fairly inconspicuous girl from Holy Maiden Peak, and a student from Star Seizer Academy that hadn’t received much notice, not even from the Education Board.
The most surprising, was Chen Chang Sheng.
Up to this point, not having been eliminated was already beyond everyone’s expectations, seemingly illogical.
“This is too illogical; how hasn’t he been eliminated yet?”
The list for the Duelling Stage’s top 8 was delivered out of the Education Palace, written upon the mirror in the Hall of Zhao Wen and passed onto the crowd outside of Li Palace.
At this time, it was already approaching twilight, the warm rays of sunset shone upon the stone pillars, landed upon the citizens who had come to join the revelry and landed upon those visitors who had travelled here from afar.
There were currently at least several thousand people thronging outside of Li Palace, it was extremely noisy, the cries of the peddlers had long become hoarse, yet at this time, everyone was discussing the same topic, displaying the same emotion; that topic was of Chen Chang Sheng winning four matches in a row, that emotion was of shock, bewilderment and anger.
Citizens of the Capital did not like Chen Chang Sheng, but in comparison to the examinees that had come from the South, they did not especially loathe him, the reason for their anger alongside shock at his winning four matches in a row, was purely because his performance had caused them to lose a lot of money, some even had red eyes from their losses.
That’s right, apart from first upon the First Banner, there were a lot of other bets for the Grand Examination. There would be winners and losers amongst the examinees in each round, in the same way, after each round, there would be a lot of people from the masses becoming winners or losers.
Due to Chen Chang Sheng, this year, the vast majority of people from the masses were losers.
For each round of the duelling phase, the odds given would be different, this was for the convenience of the masses.
In each round, Chen Chang Sheng’s odds would be the lowest, with the biggest pay-out, currently, his odds remained the lowest – today, he had caused some people to be wildly happy, yet caused far more to lose money, however, people still refused to believe he could continue winning.
Tian Hai Sheng Xue sat in a teahouse located South of Li palace, quietly observing the bustle before the palace, he suddenly said: “If the four major gambling venues are still willing to accept, place five thousand taels of gold on Chen Chang Sheng being the final victor.”
The elderly steward by his side was stunned, hesitantly asking: “Young master, he couldn’t possibly win, could he?”
Tian Hai Sheng Xue said: “In the first round, everyone was of the opinion that he couldn’t possibly win, in the end, he won. In the second round, it remained the same, with no one believing he could win, yet he won, it was the same for the third and fourth round; before the Grand Examination, who could have imagined that he could enter the last 8? As such, why can’t I place a bet on him?”
The elderly steward gave several replies of affirmation.
Tian Hai Sheng Xue suddenly thought of something, saying: “If he really does manage to grasp first place upon the First Banner, take the winnings to repair Orthodox Academy’s main entrance.”
The elder steward thought to himself: “Wasn’t the entrance to Orthodox Academy damaged by young master yourself? Not to mention, the academy hadn’t bothered to repair their entrance and the entire Capital understood what this meant. If you were to repair Orthodox Academy’s entrance for them, wouldn’t this be tantamount to surrendering?”
He was very surprised, but thinking that the young master must have his own purpose for his actions, he didn’t dare to blather, only puzzling over some details.
“If… and I am saying if, if Chen Chang Sheng was really to win, it would mean a large amount of money, even repairing the front entrance for Orthodox Academy wouldn’t require such a large sum.”
Tian Hai Sheng Xue gazed at the evening-time Li Palace, replying in a detached tone: “If he really does win, what harm is there in gifting him a gate made from white jade?”
The elderly steward was even more confused, thinking to himself that even if Chen Chang Sheng was to place first upon the First Banner, that youth is Orthodox Academy’s flag, a figurehead used by the Orthodoxy’s tradition faction to challenge the Divine Empress.
No matter what, the Tian Hai clan could not enlist him to their side, what exactly is your purpose in such actions?
Tian Hai Sheng Xue didn’t offer any explanation, he lifted his teacup and took a sip, suddenly feeling that it was rather bland and insipid.
Qiu Shan Jun didn’t appear, Mo Yu remained ahead of him; the Grand Examination did indeed cease to hold much meaning for him, but to relinquish it in such a fashion, undoubtedly made his feelings a little complex.
The Divine General of the Eastern Decree’s estate, in a drawing room, Madam Xu looked at the middle-aged woman in front her, with her brows lightly knotted and asked: “Granny Hua, are you sure you didn’t hear wrong? He really has entered the last 8?”
Granny Hua replied in a low voice: “It should be correct, the four major gambling venues have already hung out their odds for the next round, young master Chen’s name is indeed listed upon it.”
Madam Xu was speechless, feeling the onset of a headache, if that brat really was to obtain first place upon the First Banner, what should they do?
She looked at the chair and empty tea table in the drawing room, thinking back to the scene in last year’s Spring, when she had first met Chen Chang Sheng.
That Taoist youth was reserved and very sanitary.
He hadn’t taken a single sip of tea.
Madam Fu felt a sudden palpitation, thinking of a certain possibility.
At a room in the Eastern wing, Shuang’er, who had just received the news, was also startled to the extreme.
She thought back to the scene where she had first met Chen Chang Sheng in the back garden.
She couldn’t imagine, that reserved Taoist youth, who had come from the countryside, that trash who couldn’t cultivate, he had actually entered the top 8 in the Grand Examination’s duelling phase.
According to his rumoured performance at the Ivy League gathering, his results in the academic phase were definitely going to be superb, didn’t this mean he was only a step away from entering the Grand Examination’s First Banner?
That’s right, Chen Chang Sheng only needed to win another around, entering the last four, in combination with his results for the academic phase, he had an extremely high probability of entering the First Banner.
The problem was, could he continue advancing? Or was he only going to make it this far?
There was a small side hall deep within the Imperial Palace, it was extremely cold and lonely, as if it were an isolation palace.
The Black Goat stared at the Chinese olives that were hanging on a tree by the stone steps, remaining indecisive for a long time over whether to eat them or not.
It could clearly remember, that the fruits that youth had fed it in the Hundred Herb Garden previously, were reasonably tasty. It just couldn’t determine as to whether if it was the fruit’s own flavour, or was it because the fruit had that youth’s lingering scent.
Nanny Ning silently walked across its side, saying in a low voice: “Young master Sheng Xue conceded.”
The Divine Empress held a piece of scented wood; its edge was currently burning, atop its wisps of scented smoke, a medicinal pill was suspended in mid-air.
Her fingers slowly shifted the scented wood, the smoke lightly turned in direction, prompting the medicinal pill to slowly spin.
Hearing those words, her fingers stopped, causing the medicinal pill to hang motionless in the air.
Her expression slightly changed, then she came to an understanding, emotionally saying: “A child of Tian Hai is finally showing promise.”
This was something positive, yet also not so positive.
The more promise descendants of the Tian Hai clan had, the harder it was for her to completely let go, the harder it was for the Zhou Dynasty to free itself of that problem.
But she finally felt a little gratified.
Nanny Ning hesitated for a moment before continuing: “Orthodox Academy’s Chen Chang Sheng has entered the last 8.”
The Divine Empress’ brow slowly rose.
Nanny Ning felt rather nervous, she was fond of that child, Chen Chang Sheng, but she was worried about the Divine Empress being displeased.
The Divine Empress didn’t say anything.
In the next moment, she appeared within the pitch black underground.
She lightly flicked her sleeve, the thousands of Luminous Pearls in the dome above, lit up.
The cold white rays fell upon the frost covered floor, illuminating everything.
A young girl, garbed in black, with a frosty face was lying prone weakly.
The Divine Empress lightly flicked her finger and that medicinal pill fell by that young girl’s body.
“Chen Chang Sheng has yet to be eliminated, your blood seems to retain a little purpose.”
That young girl garbed in black, raised her head with much difficulty, stared at the Divine Empress, without any signs of fear, only loathing, and said: “And what type of damnable medicine is this?”
The Divine Empress replied with a calm expression: “Motherwort ointment.”
The black-garbed girl knew that a fearsome human such as the Divine Empress would have countless methods to punish her if need be, and wouldn’t bother messing with a medicinal pill, she swallowed the medicine without any hesitation.
“Can Chen Chang Sheng obtain first place upon the First Banner?” she looked at the Divine Empress and asked with some curiosity.
“It’ll end at this point,” the Divine Empress replied coolly.
In the next moment, she arrived beside the abandoned well at New North Bridge, her hands were held behind her back as she gazed at the myriad of stars in the night sky above.
She remained silent for a long period of time, unknown as to what she was pondering.