His eyes fall on Hua Man Xi guiltily, “Grandpa has wronged you, Xi Er!”
Something flashes in Hua Man Xi’s eyes, but he remains quiet.
Hua Tian Fan tries to sit up, but staggers miserably. Hua Man Xi immediately helps him up.
Tears glisten in Hua Tian Fan’s eyes; what a filial child.
He turns to Murong Cang, “I did so many things to wrong you in this lifetime, I don’t think I have enough time to repay you for all my sins. Wait until the next life. On the life, I definitely will…..”
Murong Cang does not wait for him to finish, “Whatever debt we have with each other, let’s end it in this lifetime. Let’s not meet each other again in our next lives.”
Hua Tian Fan looks at Murong Cang, his heart turning cold. He has hurt him too much, to the point where he is unwilling to meet him again in the next lifetime.
“Alright, I will listen to you. I will see to whatever it is that you want,” Hua Tian Fan replies.
“You killed my five sons, make up for it with your son’s life! As for the rest, let it disintegrate with the winds,” Murong Cang weakly says. “Murong Clan, Hua Clan and Gong Clan are the reason for Nan Lou Kingdom’s existence. Without any one of the clans, the kingdom would not exist. The three clans built this kingdom, and although the Murong clan obtained the throne in the end, this glory belongs to all three clans. We are old now, we are going to die soon.” After he says that, he looks at Yu Jian, Hua Man Xi and Gong Sang Mo. All of them are handsome and capable. Who knows what the future lies for all of them.
Gong Sang Mo raises his eyebrows, “Don’t look at me, I do not want that troublesome life. I only want Yu Jian to rule independently so that I can bring my wife home. Then, I will follow my wife to wherever she wants to go.”
The corner of Yun Qian Yu’s lips twitches. He is taking such a serious matter lightly. A part of her is still happy when she hears that, he really understands her.
Hua Man Xi rubs his nose, “I can’t do it as well. You all know I am used to doing as I please, I will not be able to live in constraint.”
Both of them push Yu Jian forward, “Stop thinking too much into things, there is only him left. We will help him when needed, at best.”
Yu Jian looks at the two of them, “Do you think I am willing to live such a tiring life? Both of you are bullying me because I am young.”
The three elders exchange a look.
“They are a lot stronger than I am,” Hua Tian Fan sighs.
The old Gong Wangye also sighs, “We lack the kind of trust that they have towards each other.”
Hua Tian Fan is stunned. He is right. If only he trusted Murong Cang a little bit more back then….. None of this would have happened.
Unfortunately, everything is too late.
Hua Tian Fan gets off the bed before turning to Murong Cang, “Let me see Wu Er for the last time.”
“Alright!” Murong Cang agrees.
He limps out of the chamber. Turns out the night has passed and the sun is starting to peek out from the horizon. He turns around to look at Murong Cang and the old Gong Wangye, smiling lightly before saying, “We will not see each other again. We will really not see each other again.”
Then, he turns towards Yun Qian Yu, “Thank you for giving me the chance to apologize, yatou.”
Yun Qian Yu purses her lips, “I do not want my grandfather to have any regrets.”
Hua Tian Fan laughs, “You speak not of what you feel. I will be going.”
The people inside the palace are quiet as they look at his retreating back. Nobody knows what Hua Tian Fan said to Duke Rong, but after he was done talking to him, Duke Rong committed suicide.
“Reporting to Your Majesty,” a guard from Hu Wei Camp runs in. “30,000 soldiers outside the city are waiting for Your Majesty’s order.”
Hua Man Xi looks at Yu Jian, who in turn, looks at Murong Cang who waves his arm off, “Go on. From now onwards, this kingdom is under you lot.”
Yun Qian Yu and Yu Jian each ride a horse to the city’s gate. By the time they get there, the sky is already bright.
Both of them gets off the horse and looks at the troops below from the city’s wall. Yu Jian looks poised and dignified as he stands there.
Seeing him, the soldiers chant, “Long live the emperor! Long live the princess!”
Yun Qian Yu can finally sigh in relief. Who would have thought that the troops that they have accidentally discovered could be so useful?
The peaceful relationship between the three kingdoms is going to be broken soon. They need to take care of their internal turmoil first before going all out against the external enemies. This can be used as a learning experience for Yu Jian.
Yu Jian stations the troops 30 miles from the capital. Once the imperial examination is over, they will select a suitable person to lead them.
Today, the capital changed greatly. It is as though the smell of air has changed as well.
During the morning court, Yu Jian made his appearance at the Jin Luan Palace, settling the uneasy hearts of the ministers. Yu Jian is very happy. All the internal thorns have been dug out. The entire court has been washed clean; they can have a fresh start.
A series of edicts are released.
Rui Qinwang rebelled against the imperial clan. The emperor is magnanimous. Instead of taking their lives, His Majesty retracted Rui Qinwang’s title. He and his entire clan are exiled to the border and can never come back to the court.
Not many people are implicated along with Rui Qinwang, only his direct accomplices. Yu Jian has only ascended the throne, the court is not stable, it is better to make as little changes as possible.
Situ Han Yi is one of those direct accomplices. He is sentenced to beheading and the imperial family took back the Feng Yun Manor. Since the manor was given as an imperial gift back then, it is only natural for the imperial family to take it back.
Situ Han Yu barely escaped the capital, dressed in black and her face covered. As she escapes, she turns around and takes a last look at the capital, a flash of hatred appearing in her face. Then, she boards the carriage and leaves without looking back.
Yu Jian dealt with the Duke Rong’s manor rather lightly, owing to the fact that the Hua Clan is one of the founding clans of the kingdom, as well as taking Princess Ming Zhu and Hua Man Xi into consideration. He allows Duke Rong to die in honor and even announces a national mourning period. The title will be inherited by Hua Man Xi.
The imperial examination will be held three days from now. The emperor will personally oversee it.
Guo Shu Huai who is far away in Qing Zhou, heaves a sigh of relief, “Such a clever and extraordinary girl, it is only natural that she managed to go through this safely.”
Another big matter has shook Duke Rong’s manor.
Hua Man Xi inherited the title ‘Duke Rong’. The ill old Duke suddenly ordered the separation of the Hua Clan. Hua Man Xi will be the only successor to the clan. The rest of the family is going to be send off. The remaining family members naturally throw a big fuss, but it is to no effect. The old Duke stubbornly divides the family tree.
The occupants of the remaining courtyards, other than the main one, have no other choice but to move out after the burial of the late Duke Rong.
Hua Tian Fan told Hua Man Xi, “This is the only thing grandfather could do for you.”
A couple of days later, he passed away.
As for the 3rd madam, she and her son were buried next to the 3rd young master.
After Hua Tian Fan was buried, Hua Man Xi demolishes the mo bamboo forest and destroys all the secret passages.
Princess Ming Zhu’s courtyard is originally flanked by the 2nd and the 3rd madam’s courtyards, but now, the two courtyards have been demolished by Hua Man Xi. He builds corridors and pavilions there, and orders the servants to plant all kinds of flowers. When the spring day comes, the flowers are going to bloom beautifully. As for the mo bamboo forest, he replaces it with a large lotus pond. There are little bridges around the pond, connected to the little pavilion in the middle of the pond.
Hua Man Xi does all these so that his mother would no longer remember the past. When she walks out of her courtyard, all she can see are beautiful things instead of the things that would remind her of what the late Duke Rong did.
Princess Ming Zhu naturally understands the reason behind his actions. She is very touched by his filial piety.
The considerate Jiang Yun Yi has been visiting Princess Ming Zhu, these past few days, trying to make her happy. Princess Ming Zhu likes her more and more. Unfortunately, due to the recent deaths, Hua Man Xi and Jiang Yun Yi’s marriage has to be pushed back to 3 years from now. Princess Ming Zhu’s heart aches for the maiden. She will be 19 years old by then, already too old to be unmarried.
Jiang Yun Yi has considerately told her, “I am willing to wait. Please do not worry, Your Highness.”
Princess Ming Zhu likes her even more after that.
To tell the truth, Jiang Yun Yi is considered pretty lucky, even though the wedding has to be pushed back. There are no extended relatives living there anymore. Once she moves in, she will be the sole bride. Her mother-in-law will dote on her. She will be living a worry-free life. The other maidens in the capital envy her so much.
As for Yu Jian and Yun Qian Yu, they are busy in their own rights. The exam questions this year are created by Yun Qian Yu herself.
The exam will hold place tomorrow and will go on for three days. The chief examiner is originally Xian Wang and the deputy, the late Duke Rong. Since Duke Rong has passed away, Hua Man Xi takes his place.
On the next day, the capital that has been shrouded in heavy atmosphere for the past few days is finally lively again. Today, the imperial exam is going to begin.
Before the test even begins, Yun Qian Yu and Yu Jian are already at the venue.
There is military strategy test for the martial arts participants this year, so they are also required to undergo a writing test.
Grand Tutor Jiang is very surprised when he reads the question sheets.
He looks at Yun Qian Yu in surprise. He knows that the questions are all given by Princess Hu Guo, but can these be considered as legit questions?
There are three types of questions, choosing between two choices, fill in the blanks and objective questions. There are even marks allocated to the questions.
In Yun Qian Yu’s opinion, if they stick to the old system, there is a high probabily of cheating by the test-takers. Due to that, she decided to implement the system from the modern times to minimalize the possibility of cheating.
“Your Highness, what if the students does not know how to answer these questions?” In the end, Grand Tutor Jiang forces himself to ask.
“The emperor wants talented, well-rounded people. If they cannot answer these, then they have no place in the morning court,” Yun Qian Yu hard-heartedly replies.
Grand Tutor Jiang is astonished. He looks at Lu Zi Hao who is calmly instructing his people to allocate the question sheets. He inwardly sighs: Is he too old to be working with these young people? Seems like he needs to retire and go home.
The scene in the martial arts competition is also the same. Gong Sang Mo and Hua Man Xi look at the question sheets, stunned, before they burst into laughter.
“This girl is so crafty,” Hua Man Xi exclaims.
Gong Sang Mo wonders if this is part of her memories from the previous life.
When the question sheets reach the participants, most of them grow restless. What kind of questions are these? Some of them are brave enough to ask, but the invigilators reply them with the same exact sentence that Yun Qian Yu uttered.
When the participants hear the reply, they would look down, embarrassed, and try to figure out how to answer the questions.
There are still a few people amongst the lot who are able to answer calmly.
Yun Qian Yu and Yu Jian patrol the literary test’s hall. She carefully studies the takers’ expressions. Some of them managed to remain calm, which is no easy feat in her opinion.
She spots the man that she saw in Ya Xuan, the one who greedily read all those military books. He does not appear nervous at all, in fact, he seems very interested in the questions.
There are a few other familiar faces who are calmly answering the questions. There is the son of Liu Xiang Rouge Shop’s owner, Ye Cheng Yan. Yun Qian Yu has asked Hua Man Xi about the suspicious shop and found out that Ye Cheng Yan’s father was once saved by the late old Duke Rong. Since the late Hua Tian Fan needed a trusted helper inside the capital to do things for him, Ye Cheng Yan’s parents left the comfort of Qingzhou and settled here.
Since Hua Tian Fan is already dead, there is no need to dig out old grudge. If this Ye Cheng Yan is really talented, Yun Qian Yu will not obstruct his path.
From the literary exam, Yun Qian Yu drags Yu Jian to the martial arts exam.
This test is very lively. There are a lot of new faces here, people that Yun Qian Yu has never seen before. Most of the men here are coarse, so seeing the questions makes them crazy.
Yun Qian Yu points at a couple of people, “You, you and you……. All of you no longer need to take part in the exam.”
The people that she pointed at are asked to leave the hall.
They cannot understand why they are being taken away. Some of them are daring enough to ask for the reason why they are being eliminated.
Yun Qian Yu looks at Yu Jian’s confused expression, “You must be wondering why.”
Yu Jian nods, “What did they do? Why won’t you let them take the test?”
Yun Qian Yu points at the dozens of men, “Because they are too impatient.”
Yu Jian is still having difficulties understanding why.
As for Gong Sang Mo who has led an army into battle before, he knows why.
Hua Man Xi whispers at him, “Smiling fox, do you understand what the yatou is talking about?”
“Just listen on and you’ll know,” Gong Sang Mo says, refusing to tell Hua Man Xi.
Hua Man Xi made a strangled noise and tries to perk his ears to listen better.
“I took them out because they are the types that will get impulsive on the battlefield, they will be easily manipulated by the enemy. We are trying to pick a General, not a foot soldier. Every decision they made will determine the lives of millions of others. They will decide whether or not we can win battles. Every soldier out there is another person’s child, we cannot take their lives for granted.”
“I understand,” Yu Jian says, enlightened.
Despite that, he turns around to face those people and say, “Although all of you are not suitable to lead the troops in a battle, there are other things that you can do. Do not be discouraged.”
The originally disheartened people becomes very comforted when the emperor says that to them. The emperor is not abandoning them, it’s just that they are not suitable to be the decision-maker on the battlefield. With that in mind, they leave the hall with an open heart.
The people who are left are all amazed with Yun Qian Yu. They were originally questioning the method of her test, but have now realized that this enables them to see each other’s capabilities better.
“Why is the yatou so smart, smiling fox? It is like she has been to battles before,” Hua Man Xi praises in surprise.
“She is a lot smarter than you,” Gong Sang Mo laughs.
“Tsk,” Hua Man Xi rolls his eyes at Gong Sang Mo.
Yun Qian Yu and Yu Jian circle the hall one more time, before sitting in front with Gong Sang Mo and Hua Man Xi.
She sweeps her eyes over Hua Man Xi who is wearing the official robe of Duke Rong, “You look your place. You are not wearing red robes anymore? You finally look so solemn.”
“Ai, my manor is in a mourning period right now. I like to wear red, but cannot wear them at the moment. In the end, I chose to wear this. At least it has a splash of color,” Hua Man Xi complains, irritated.
“Are you thirsty? Drink some tea,” he hands Yun Qian Yu a cup of tea, trying to drag her attention towards him instead of Hua Man Xi.
Yun Qian Yu accepts the cup and takes a small sip.
Yu Jian and Hua Man Xi, on the other hand, look at them incredulously. Such a jealous man!
Gong Sang Mo ignores them and trains his eyes on Yun Qian Yu.
“How should the answer sheets be reviewed?” Gong Sang Mo inquires.
Yun Qian Yu puts down the tea cup, “I have prepared the model answer paper. Once they are scored, the scores will be added to the other tests. Their names will be listed according to their final scores. I will personally test them after seeing their answer sheets.”
Hua Man Xi claps, “Great! No one can cheat, this way. We will probably be able to find an exceptional talent this time.”
Gong Sang Mo nods. This method seems to be very fast as well, and there won’t be any disagreements and debates like the ones in the past years.
Yun Qian Yu and Yu Jian stay until the test ends. By then, the sky is already dark.
Yu Jian is so tired that he goes to bed the moment he returns to the palace, skipping dinner.
Yun Qian Yu shakes her head; he is still a child.
In the end, she resigns to her fate and decides to go to the imperial study to review the memorials on Yu Jian’s behalf.
But when she gets to the imperial study, she finds Murong Cang there, buried deep in reviewing memorials. The white wolf that Hua Man Xi gave him is perched on the table. He occasionally runs his hand through the fur, cherishing it so much.
“Why aren’t you resting, grandfather? You could have left those memorials to me,” Yun Qian Yu says as she walks in.
“Yu Jian already went to bed? Even zhen would get tired during the imperial exams, much less you children. Grandpa only wants to help you two. You should rest as well,” Murong Cang says as he looks up at Yun Qian Yu.
Instead of returning to her palace, she sits next to Murong Cang, watching him review memorials.
“I sincerely think that an emperor’s life is not good to have.”
“Why?” Murong Cang looks at Yun Qian Yu, amused.
“You wake up earlier than chicken, goes to bed later than dogs and are more tired than dying pigs all day long, and even then, you have to be wary of other people trying to pull you down.”
“Haha, yatou, your description is on point! It is not easy to become the emperor, but other people does not know that,” Murong Cang laughs.
“They probably got swayed by the promise of riches!” Yun Qian Yu yawns.
“This yatou, you should go to bed if you are tired!” Murong Cang nags at her.
Yun Qian Yu decides to listen to him. The memorials that need to be reviewed are not that many, anyway. She gets up and just as she walks off, Murong Cang’s body sways a little before he falls on his side.
“Your Majesty!” Li Jin Tian and Yun Qian Yu scramble to his side.
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