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Chen Chang Sheng had obtained first upon the First Banner in the Grand Examination, causing the Divine General’s estate to prepare a family dinner, yet he had also caused many dinners at many homes to disappear. Even those that remained, were diminished in scope, because a lot of people had lost money.
According to estimates after the incident, for wagers related to the Grand Examination, the four major gambling venues had opened over 300 of them, within these, the top 100 in terms of value, where mainly related to rankings for the examination; due to Chen Chang Sheng’s appearance and also due to the unexpected situation of Tian Hai Sheng Xue’s withdrawal, a dark horse was born, and very few people won anything on this year’s wagers.
Logically, with the bettors losing, the house should be winning, yet this year, the four major venues didn’t manage to garner any great sums from the Grand Examination, this was because just a few nights before the examination started, there were multiple big bets made on Orthodox Academy and Chen Chang Sheng.
The first sum of money was from those few fellows of Orthodox Academy themselves; due to Chen Chang Sheng’s attitude of the Grand Examination being the last endeavour of his life, he placed everything he owned in a wager on himself.
Xuan Yuan Po didn’t have much money, yet he had also passed on the 17 taels of silver he owned. The real bulk of the sum came from Tang Thirty-Six and Luo Luo; though they had only taken out the money they had lying around, due to the immense wealth of their respective families, the sum was already hefty, not to mention the pay-out rate at that time was extremely high.
The second sum of money placed on Chen Chang Sheng came from the Education Board, the one who came forward was Minister Xin, the person he was representing was that ancient yet imposing Archbishop. The sum was extraordinarily large, and rumour had it, apart from His Eminence, The Archbishop, a lot of other clergy from the Education Board also wagered large sums in a display of their loyalty.
The third sum was even larger, to the point where it could be called rather terrifying; that sum came from Wen Shui.
Due to those three sums of money that had been wagered on the successful dark horse, the four major gambling venues suffered extremely heavy losses, especially on the third sum, directly causing the somewhat weaker of the four venues, Tian Xiang (Heaven’s Scent) Venue, to feel extremely pressured.
To be able to host such a scale of gambling, the four venues obviously had tremendously powerful backgrounds. Even though the most important thing in the gambling business could be said to be trust, if it really was to threaten their very existence, it wouldn’t be surprising for a bit of fraud to happen, or at the very least, delays.
Alas, this time, they did not dare to play any tricks, lacking even the courage to appeal for someone to help them plead, this was because no matter how much of a powerful background they had, they still wouldn’t dare to offend Orthodox Academy that had the backing of Her Highness, Luo Luo. They wouldn’t dare to offend the Education Board that was strong enough to stand against His Holiness, The Pope. They especially wouldn’t dare to offend the third sum’s master.
That sum of money had come from Wen Shui, which naturally meant it came from the Tang clan.
Wen Shui only had one Tang clan, the entire continent only had one Tang clan and in the world itself, only that Tang clan would have so much money that they would freely take out a large sum to place a wager on Chen Chang Sheng just to please their own young master…
Anything taken to an extreme will become extremely horrifying, with a clan that has far too much money, such as the Tang clan from Wen Shui, it was no longer your regular sort of horror, but an inordinate sort of horror.
Yet, the Elderly Master of the Tang clan could never have guessed, what had simply been for the purpose of inflating the prestige of his dear grandson in the Capital, that had also caused citizens of the Capital to roll their eyes, had actually resulted in a fairly large return, it could even be said that the winners of this year’s Grand Examination, apart from being Chen Chang Sheng and Orthodox Academy, was the Tang clan.
In just a few days’ time, it would be the Spring Festival, the gifts given to the Education Board for this occasion would presumably be remarkably hefty and those clergy’s dinners at their homes would undoubtedly have a sizeable increase to the amount of dishes available.
Within Orthodox Academy, the wealthy would become even wealthier and the only pauper, Xuan Yuan Po, would probably no longer have to worry about not having any money; while Tian Xiang Venue, that was famous upon the continent, after its subsequent liquidation, will be sold to a southern merchant that trades in the jewellery business.
All of these things were effects brought about by the Grand Examination.
Of course, these effects were only on the outside, the real effects were hidden beneath the water’s surface, awaiting the time to display its might; perhaps at the time the Banners are formally released for the examination, it would reveal a part of that might.
Chen Chang Sheng didn’t know of these things, didn’t know that his wealth had already increased several-fold and that it was enough to allow him to live in the Capital even more comfortably for over a decade, though of course, he would first have to live on for another decade or more.
Neither did Tang Thirty-Six know of these things, or perhaps it could be said, he did not care for these things, the amount of money he had wagered, in the eyes of others, was already tremendously large, but in truth, it was only a few months of his allowance, this level of gambling, was not something he would bother remembering; as for what those at Wen Shui had done, he was even less clear on the events.
The horse carriage returned to the academy.
Countless people from the populace had also accompanied them to the depths of the Hundred Blossom Lane, the scene was highly lively, with cries of “congratulations to Banner Lead Chen” and the like constantly being heard, there was also a lot of surprised chatter.
The surprised chatter was not targeted at Chen Chang Sheng, but were targeted towards the current entrance of Orthodox Academy.
Chen Chang Sheng and the others got off the carriage, seeing the front entrance, they were slightly startled, wondering to themselves as to what was going on.
Last year, on that morning where an Autumn shower was falling, a purebred warhorse from the Tian Hai clan had collapsed in a puddle, on the verge of death, constantly spurting blood foam; the academy’s entrance had been smashed into an unsightly mess, akin to some ruins.
From that day onwards, the academy’s entrance had been left in that state, without being repaired, even the most basic cleaning had not been performed, making it all the more derelict, if it wasn’t for Jin Yu Lu, lying on a bamboo chair with a pot of tea on a daily basis, no one would have been able to tell that there actually used to be a gate there.
This was a contest between Orthodox Academy, which is favoured upon by His Eminence, The Archbishop, and the Orthodoxy’s new faction that was led by His Holiness, The Pope. It was also a contest between the tradition faction that is loyal to the Imperial Chen clan, and the Tian Hai clan.
This type of contest was very high levelled, yet, in the end, on the ground level, it was a quarrel that carried with it a childish air.
It was probably due to the three youths from Orthodox Academy being too young and likely also because they didn’t think of the situation in too complex a fashion; they only knew that the entrance had been damaged by someone from the Tian Hai clan and thus, they were the ones who should repair it.
The Tian Hai clan would obviously not repair it, that would represent defeat and surrender. With the academy also not bothering, this caused the ruined entrance to stick out before the eyes of the Capital’s citizenry, until the ruined entrance finally became a famous new sight for the Capital – what was being contested here was a grudge, so obviously no one would be the first to stand down.
Yet currently, surrounding the originally shattered entrance, there were over 10 craftsmen wearing government uniforms, there were also a large amount of wooden beams and jade material that looked evidently extraordinary, that had all been placed upon the empty ground by the side of the entrance. From the look of things, it actually seemed as if someone was preparing to repair the entrance, no wonder then, as to why the populace were vigorously discussing things, heavily surprised.
The old manager that was in charge of works to repair the entrance did not directly address Chen Chang Sheng’s group, but instead, followed the instructions he was given and loudly declared to the crowd that had gathered to watch as to what he and his group intended to do.
The Tian Hai clan wanted to repair Orthodox Academy’s front gate?
And it was a white jade gate?
Could it be that the Tian Hai clan really was conceding defeat? How could this possibly be?
Under the accompanying gazes of countless citizenry, Chen Chang Sheng’s group entered the academy, Jin Yu Lu continued to do what he had always done, he lit a fire at the gatehouse and began to make tea, he then carried the bamboo recliner and placed it before the academy entrance, after telling the nervous craftsmen that were currently surveying the work that had to be done that they should not disturb him, he began to enjoy the night view.
Under the banyan tree by the lake side, the lawn had only been dyed with patches of green by early Spring, Chen Chang Sheng’s group headed towards the direction of the library.
Xuan Yuan Po asked what should be eaten for dinner and whether if cured meat, though tasty, would be too salty? Tang Thirty-Six replied with a question of what kind of occasion was it, how could they bother caring and that over the past few days his tongue was close to being insipid to the point where a “fowl” was on the verge of emerging from it.
The voices and the fluttering of a flock of wild birds from the woods, drifted towards the direction of the Hundred Herb Garden.
The lights in the library were lit, making it slightly yellowish, very cosy. The academy was the same as it ever was, slightly drab, very peaceful; even if the Grand Examination had only just ended and they had experienced and completed many things, neither the academy or the three youths underwent any sort of change.
Chen Chang Sheng looked at Tang Thirty-Six and said his first words upon returning to the academy: “Where did Zhe Xiu go to? Did you recover the Sword of Wen Shui?”
“If you didn’t ask, I would have almost forgot, how did you and Gou Han Shi fight? How did you make my sword fly off to such a distant place? Will you stop staring at my waist? It clearly isn’t there… Minister Xin said it had landed within a restriction, he’ll return it here after a few days.”
Speaking up to that point, Tang Thirty-Six frowned and said: “Zhe Xiu got up once his injuries became slightly better, he ignored the advice from me and Her Highness and directly left the Education Palace, I don’t know where he went, but… with his personality, he will definitely look for you, it’s only a question of when.”
He then looked at Chen Chang Sheng and asked: “Just how did you fight against Gou Han Shi? Have you really completed your Ethereal Opening? Even if you have, you couldn’t have possibly been able to win, have you really completed your Ethereal Opening?”
In a single speech, he had asked about the Ethereal Opening twice.
Tang Thirty-Six stared at Chen Chang Sheng, his eyes glimmering to the point of resembling stars; the topic of Ethereal Opening made him far more shocked and envious of Chen Chang Sheng than his taking of first place in the Grand Examination.
Not just him, for all the young geniuses that were ranked at the top upon the Proclamation of Azure Clouds, what they wanted to achieve the most, was to surpass that hurdle as early and as safely as possible.
Chen Chang Sheng wanted to say he hadn’t even figured out as to what had happened, but suddenly, he heard a loud noise from the direction of the entrance, outside of the library, he involuntarily felt a little startled.
Xuan Yuan Po pushed open the doors and left, to see what was happening, after a while, he returned to the library. Rubbing his head, he said, in a slightly confused tone: “They’ve started to repair the gate.”
“That quickly?” Tang Thirty-Six raised his brow and said: “What does that fellow from the Tian Hai clan want to do?”
With such an interruption, Chen Chang Sheng had forgotten what he wanted to say; remembering Tian Hai Sheng Xue’s voluntary forfeiture when faced against Luo Luo in the Education Palace, he felt that there had to be some reason he did not know of for the event.
Outside of the window, it suddenly began to rain.
The trickle of chill rain in the early Spring fell upon the window’s upper frame, it lacked any sound, only carrying with it moisture.
Thinking of the spells of rain that fell within the Tower of Purging Dust today, Chen Chang Sheng became even quieter.
Those spells of Autumn rain were the handiwork of His Holiness.
Yet, why had His Holiness saved him? Ignoring the fact that he was only an unimportant character, even if he wasn’t, His Holiness had personally destroyed Orthodox Academy many years ago, why would His Holiness now intervene on behalf of the academy?
His mood became rather complicated, because he found that events were becoming more complicated.
On the night the examination ended and the same night they returned to the academy, the dinner cooked by Xuan Yuan Po was unavoidably a little simple, after consuming three slices of cured meat and having three bowls of rice steeped in tea, Chen Chang Sheng felt full, he then felt that he could no longer restrain the feeling of fatigue from taking over his body and that it was difficult to continue sitting around.
“Let’s rest a little earlier,” he said as he stood up.
Tang Thirty-Six was very displeased with tonight’s dinner, as he was eating, he had continuously grumbled, seeing Chen Chang Sheng preparing to leave, he became even more displeased and said: “Just like that?”
Chen Chang Sheng was slightly confused and asked: “What else should there be?”
“Please, you’ve only just taken first upon the First Banner in the Grand Examination and smacked the faces of those who had looked down upon you, can you not appear so calm?”
Tang Thirty-Six yelled: “Didn’t we already discuss this before, tonight we eat stuff that isn’t healthy at all and then get drunk? If we need dancers, then just a single call from me will get you a troupe of over a dozen.”
Chen Chang Sheng felt a little troubled. He understood that they really should do a few things to celebrate at a moment like this and that it would be considered normal, but the three slices of cured meat he had just eaten were already a big compromise for himself, getting drunk was something he really couldn’t bring himself to accept.
He looked outside the window, only seeing the cold snow slowly thaw, the stars slowly twinkle and that the time was now late, he turned to face Tang Thirty-Six and said: “The day after tomorrow, no, it should be tomorrow, I’ll… drink a few with you?”
That was the day the Banners are official released for the Grand Examination.