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The Divine General’s estate was very quiet. Within and without the room, apart from the light sound of footsteps and the brushing of fabric upon fabric from clothing, nothing else could be heard, even coughs were absent, this was probably what could be called a household’s “style”.
The stone that was laid upon the path were as such and even the trees within the courtyard were the same.
Thick and straight, spaced at a fair distance, yet between the branches, there wasn’t a lot of green foliage; silent, sombre and cold.
Chen Chang Sheng sat by the side of the table, seeing the porcelain tableware before him that had a considerable feel of age, he didn’t know what he should say – from entering the estate till now, there had yet to be any meaningful discourse.
Xu Shi Ji and his wife sat on the main seats, while he sat in a position reserved for guests, Granny Hua stood by one side quietly and reservedly, ready to attend; the one serving the dishes was actually that haughty and delicate to the extreme girl, Shuang’er.
Within the room, were these five people, yet outside of the room, the amount of servants was numerous; several middle-aged stewardesses with cold expressions were glaring at the surroundings; maids would hold table trays and continuously head in and out, as their dresses crossed the high doorsill, it was all rather effortless.
The table trays those maids were holding contained lime juice, contained cold and hot wet towels and contained ivory chopsticks alongside small tiger chopstick rests carved from mahogany; in comparison, trays that held food dishes were far fewer in number.
Tonight’s dinner at the Divine General’s estate was relatively simple, there was smoked pork belly and pea shoots blanched in superior broth, the dishes were delicious, yet very standard, without the rare and precious sea fish commonly seen in banquets for guests by dignitaries in the Capital, neither was there any soup simmered from the marrow of yao beasts, even the amount of dishes were very few.
Calling it a family dinner; it truly was a standard family dinner.
Chen Chang Sheng mostly understood the reason for Xu Mansion in presenting this kind of posture, and could only use silence in reply, his head was lowered as he ate, yet he noticed that the dinner at Xu Mansion, apart from not having rare fowls, regular poultry was also absent, and even the commonly seen duck gizzard sauce was missing from the tens of condiment sauces present.
He was slightly curious, but didn’t inquire.
Once the dishes had all been served, Madam Xu began to converse with him, as with this family dinner, the conversation revolved around monotonous topics, yet didn’t touch upon obstinacy from the past.
And thus, a meal drably reached its end, the Divine General’s estate remained as quiet as it had been previously.
Madam Xu gave Xu Shi Ji a glance, raising the wine pot and filling Chen Chang Sheng’s cup to the brim.
This was Chen Chang Sheng’s second cup of wine for the night.
He gave a word of gratitude.
Xu Shi Ji raised his cup, looked at Chen Chang Sheng, then emptied it.
Chen Chang Sheng also emptied his cup.
Madam Xu poured wine.
Xu Shi Ji once again drank it.
Chen Chang Sheng followed suit.
Madam Xu once again poured the wine.
Xu Shi Ji held his wine cup, looked at Chen Chang Sheng and said, expressionlessly: “I must admit, from beginning to end, I had never felt any benevolence towards you.”
Chen Chang Sheng remained silent, not saying anything.
Xu Shi Ji indifferently said: “But everyone would have to admit, I did not bear you any malice, otherwise, you would have had no chance of continuing to remain alive to this point in the Capital, being able to sit opposite me.”
Chen Chang Sheng continued to remain silent, he stood up and took out a paper envelope from within his clothing, placing it upon the table.
That paper envelope was rather thick, and evidently new, though its contents could not be discerned, everyone knew that the item within must be old.
Madam Xu’s expression immediate changed, Granny Hua also showed slight signs of worry, only Shuang’er’s eyes brightened.
“You… what is the meaning of this?”
Xu Shi Ji narrowed his eyes and looked at Chen Chang Sheng, his expression progressively becoming cold, the cup within his hand slowly lowered, though the motion was slow, the moment the cup’s bottom touched the table’s surface, an extremely heavy thud could be heard from the contact.
“I don’t have any other intention; I only want to complete this task. Originally, this should have been completed a year ago; due to some misunderstandings, it had never been successful…”
Chen Chang Sheng looked towards Madam Xu, Granny Hua and Shuang’er, then earnestly said: “I didn’t lie back then, I came to the Capital in order to absolve the marriage, but you all refused to believe me.”
Hearing these words and seeing the hefty paper envelope on the table, Madam Xu’s expression suddenly became exceedingly unsightly, the worry between Granny Hua’s brows became even deeper and Shuang’er was evidently very shaken.
“Misunderstanding?” Xu Shi Ji glared at Chen Chang Sheng’s eyes, his expression akin to frost, saying: “An entire year, the Capital had been embroiled in a storm, the continent itself in an unending tumult, are you to say all of this is due to just a misunderstanding?”
Chen Chang Sheng didn’t answer his question, but instead, looked towards Madam Xu, doing a gesture of courtesy and then saying: “Madam, you previously spoke some words; I have not come after a year, for the express purpose of proving your words wrong. I only think, currently, you probably won’t consider me to be a young Taoist priest from the countryside that is trying to cling onto the Divine General’s estate in order to change my life, therefore, it’s probably time for me to complete this task.”
Silence filled the room, the lime juice reflected the lights, akin to heavy liquor. With such an atmosphere, no one said anything; beyond the balustrade, the night wind lightly brushed past, yet it was all the more restless.
After a long period of time that was hard to gauge in length, Xu Shi Ji looked at Chen Chang Sheng, with a mildly derisive tone, he said: “You’ve done all this, to the point of even audaciously jumping into a violent swell you don’t have the qualifications to touch upon, and it was all due to my wife’s words, because of that pitiful and laughable self-esteem?”
Chen Chang Sheng took some time to carefully consider this, after confirming that what he had done was not overly problematic, he replied: “Self-esteem was indeed the reason, but I don’t think it is laughable, neither do I consider it to be pitiful.”
Xu Shi Ji slowly stood himself up, lifting his hands.
His massive body that was akin to mountain, he leaned forwards slightly, carrying with it a difficult to withstand pressure, he then stared into Chen Chang Sheng’s eyes and said, making each word very clear: “Obtaining first upon the First Banner in the Grand Examination, entering the sights of His Holiness, you consider… this to be enough to prove that you are superior to Qiu Shan Jun? That you can serenely and freely withdraw under the guise of a victor?”
Chen Chang Sheng felt slightly startled, thinking to himself that he had never thought this way, he wanted to say a few words in explanation, but found that he didn’t know how to explain such a private matter, as he was thinking this, Xu Shi Ji turned around and left the banquet, after a moment, he came back with a dossier, directly throwing it in front of Chen Chang Sheng.
“Look at it yourself.”
Xu Shi Ji looked at him indifferently and said: “This is no longer a secret, tomorrow, everyone on the continent will come to know of the reason why Qiu Shan Jun did not participate in this year’s Grand Examination.”
Granny Hua and Shuang’er had already quietly left.
Chen Chang Sheng pondered for a moment, then picked up the dossier from the table and opened it. Following the reading of its contents, his expression gradually changed, becoming somewhat complex, understanding the reason as to why Xu Shi Ji said those words.
This year’s Grand Examination was the liveliest in the past decade, indisputably an outstanding year, if there was to be any discussions of regret, then it would probably be that Qiu Shan Jun and Xu You Rong didn’t make an appearance.
With Qiu Shan Jun and Xu You Rong’s bloodline talent and potential, they obviously didn’t need to go through the Grand Examination and would still be able to acquire the right to view the Mausoleum of Books, yet, everyone still wanted to see them at the Grand Examination.
A lot of people thought that the reason why Qiu Shan Jun didn’t appear for this year’s Grand Examination, was perhaps due to Xu You Rong not participating, a bigger possibility was perhaps due to the betrothal between Xu You Rong and Chen Chang Sheng.
After seeing this dossier that had only just been organised, Chen Chang Sheng finally knew the real reason as to why Qiu Shan Jun had not participated in the examination. He quietly contemplated this, finding that he actually couldn’t stop himself from wanting to say a word of admiration.