Don’t Be a Kept Man
Chapter 43: Meeting the Emperor
Xie Su Zhi used her hand to hold her head up.
The thin strands of her luxurious hair swayed slightly as she moved, briefly hiding the side of her face as if it was jade glimmering in the dark.
She reached out her other hand to count,
“That year he became the laughing stock of the party, so perhaps he went back and powered through his anger.
This noble consort remembers that three years ago he tried the exam, but he didn’t qualify for any ranking.
Apparently Wu An Hou made him bow before all the known teachers and scholars at the Zhi Wen Institution.
I didn’t think that he would actually make it this year.”
The maid laughed,
“This is called rewarding those who worked hard!”
Xie Su Zhi gave a soft “hmph” before saying,
“I, this noble consort would rather he be more stupid.
If his rotten personality was not fixed, this kind of man going into court to be an official is only to the detriment of all the common citizens.”
Chen Miao Ping and Xie Yu Zhi were led by a maid inside into the palace and they just heard that phrase.
Chen Miao Ping’s footsteps paused for a second, thinking that this noble consort was a straight ball.
The maid glided over to Xie Su Zhi and bent her knees with a bow,
“Noble consort, Second Master and Gu-Ye have arrived.”
Xie Su Zhi was just getting invested in the subject at hand and had not notice the both of them enter.
Once she did however, Xie Yu Zhi was already in front of her and beside him was an attractive young man with a face that was definitely above the average person.
She couldn’t help but take a few glances.
“With respect, we greet the noble consort, wishing you a long and safe life.”
Xie Yu Zhi and Chen Miao Ping were just about to do their bowing but were stopped.
Xie Su Zhi made a stern face, purposefully showing that she was unhappy and said,
“We are all part of one big family.
What are you doing, completing such worthless and empty gestures when you arrive here at Zhi Feng Palace? You won’t call me your elder sister after marriage?”
Xie Yu Zhi couldn’t help but laugh,
“My elder sister, what kind of words are you spouting out? This is only because we cannot be found lacking in our manners.”
Xie Su Zhi gave him a look,
“Who knows when you suddenly started following the rules to the letter? Just take your seat now.”
And then she turned her gaze back to Chen Miao Ping, looking at him from head to toe and then from bottom to top again, slowly taking in all the details.
She complimented him half heartedly with a bit of truth intertwined,
“This must be our Flower Seeker of this exam period.
Definitely one of excellence, with a good aura.
This noble consort has not seen such a fine gentleman for quite a few years now.
Our dear Yu Zhi does have a good eye.”
Chen Miao Ping helped Xie Yu Zhi sit down and smiled as he heard this.
He waved his hand saying,
“Noble Consort, you compliment me too much.
Since its inception, this capital is bloating with the amount of excellent scholars.
And me, I have not done anything to deserve this reputation.
Not to forget that there is the first rank examinee above me.
Miao Ping as a simple Flower Seeker cannot be considered very important.”
Xie Su Zhi took in his actions under her eyes and internally nodded her head.
She fixed her collar while thinking before responding,
“Which does remind me that you should be given something to do now.
Han Lin Academy is a fairly fine place, but there are a lot of little things to be done.
You look like someone who is intuitive, so it is a bit pitiful if you are not even a seventh rank official in such a place……”
Implying that she will be finding him a position.
Xie Yu Zhi smiled and looked at Chen Miao Ping.
He pointedly said,
“Han Lin Academy is quiet and slow.
It will be hard to have your name promoted.”
Han Lin Academy is where all the scholars come together.
If there was a chance, perhaps in the future he could enter into the heart of it.
But unless he was someone who shined brighter than everyone, entering into such a place was about leveraging your age and experience to build up your career.
Remembering the sharp pain from yesterday, Chen Miao Ping subconsciously stroked back and forth on his hand.
He turned towards Xie Su Zhi and smiled.
Underneath the shocked eyes of everyone here, he politely refused,
“There are a lot of things in this world that can become a shackle and fall underneath the idea of chasing after a dream aimlessly.
And no matter how high or low of a position, as long as it is to help the country and its citizens, that is of worth.
Miao Ping is still quite young, with little to no experience under his belt.
To be able to calm his impulsiveness to study at Han Lin Academy would be good and so I humbly thank the noble consort’s faith in me.”
Xie Yu Zhi did not expect him to say this and looked at him quite strangely.
Then he fixed his expression and said to Xie Su Zhi,
“Please excuse his behavior, elder sister, his personality is like that.
Reading too many books has made him idiotic.”
Xie Su Zhi was not in a bad mood and her eyes were even glimmering with appreciation,
“You do not need to be so humble.
There are no less than thousands participating in the exam.
To be able to cross the three stages to here, to this Imperial Palace, it is already sufficient evidence that you are not average.
There are a lot of things in this world that can become a shackle, and one can get lost in themselves chasing after an ideal…… But to say, to be able to say these words, it is already enough to win over anyone else.”
Chen Miao Ping lifted his arms to complete a thankful greeting,
“Noble consort, your compliments are too much.
Miao Ping is not worthy enough to deserve them.”
The moment he finished saying this, he suddenly saw an eunuch walk in hastily and whisper into Xie Su Zhi’s ear, anxiously saying,
“Noble consort, the Emperor is heading this way.
He has already arrived at Yu Hua Garden and his expression is not looking too good.”
Hearing this, Xie Su Zhi paused and furrowed her eyebrows slightly,
“Was he not just at the imperial court assembly? For what good reason would the Emperor be heading here at this time?”
The eunuch quietly said,
“Today there was a group of scholars gathered around the entrance of the imperial city, in great dissatisfaction, claiming that there was cheating involved in this year’s Imperial Examination.
The ministers have all passed official documents of complaints to the Emperor, proclaiming that the examination officials at Hu Zhou and Jiang Zhou for the District Exams have accepted bribes, selling out the titles of the rankings.
They question how the editorial examiner could have been promoted for his overseeing when he himself knew of this and did not report it.
“Once this news was passed out, citizens have protested in anger and are urgently requesting that the Emperor must investigate clearly! Today the literary and military ministers have been fighting nonstop but more than half a day has passed with no substantial solution.
His Majesty became mad enough to end the court assembly right there and then.”
Xie Su Zhi gasped in shock and then slapped the table in front of her in anger,
“These people are too audacious.
They still commit actions that could warrant the death penalty, do they not care about anything except gold and silver!”
As they were quite close, Chen Miao Ping could hear their exchange in conversation very clearly.
His hand wobbled when he heard it and boiling hot tea spilled onto his wrist.
Seeing him like this, Xie Yu Zhi took the tea cup away and scowled,
“What are you spacing out for, your hand’s already scorched red.”
Chen Miao Ping’s brain was currently feeling very dizzy but he quickly and silently calmed himself down.
The original host of this body was quite average, but that was compared to this year’s first rank examinee, Jiang Hong Yuan.
From the District Exam to the Metropolitan Exam, it was all from his efforts, not from cheating.
It was only right before the Imperial Palace Examination that the main examiner wanted to link himself to a higher status family with power and offhandedly said some extra words.
The original host was used to being well rounded and his essay somehow hit exactly what the Emperor was thinking.
Hence, he was crowned Flower Seeker.
Just some words tossed offhandedly.
He didn’t even gift the main examiner gold or silver, so even if it gets investigated, it shouldn’t concern him…… right?
Chen Miao Ping’s heart was pumping crazily fast and his change in expression was too obvious which made Xie Yu Zhi look at him a few times.
He narrowed his eyes and asked with suspicion,
“What is up with you? A look that says you have done something guilty…….
Don’t tell me you are a part of this.”
The last sentence was obviously said as a joke, as the first three examinees of the Imperial Palace Examination was specifically looked over by the Emperor.
There was no way those officials would dare to do anything except at the District Exams.
Chen Miao Ping could not be more frightened at this time and returned to his senses in time to discreetly give him a look,
“I am of Jin Zhou, and the cheating scandal happened at Hu Zhou and Jiang Zhou.
The distance between the two is at least more than a million kilometers away.
It is too shocking instead to hear that a cheating scandal happened at all.”
Xie Su Zhi with her furrowed eyebrows scolded Xie Yu Zhi,
“There is no change to that bold personality of yours.
Daring to say whatever out loud!”
And then she rose up and ordered her maid to wait, as if to prepare to welcome His Majesty.
Xie Yu Zhi was speechless and secretly looked at Chen Miao Ping.
Seeing him still out of his mind, he said to Xie Su Zhi,
“Elder sister, since His Majesty will be arriving, we will not bother you and head off first……”
“Ha ha ha, is this not the second son of the Xie family.
It is so rare to see you enter the Imperial Palace for once.
We are one big family, why talk about whether you are a bother or not.”
A deep, strong voice sounded outside and right after, from the palace entrance, there was a bright yellow silhouette.
In walked a man about thirty years of age, dressed in his royal robes, with a certain authoritative look and above average looks.
Right behind him was a crowd of servants, which was very indicative of who this was, the present reigning Emperor.
Everyone at Zhi Feng Palace immediately bowed down and Xie Su Zhi went forward to bend her knees in respect as a customary greeting.
Shocked, Chen Miao Ping quickly followed Xie Yu Zhi to bow down,
“This Royal Consort bows in respect to see His Majesty.”
“This imperial official bows in respect to see His Majesty.”
The Emperor walked quickly into the palace and lifted up Xie Su Zhi himself.
He sat down with her and signaled Xie Yu Zhi and the rest to rise up and sit down.
He smiled and said,
“There is no need for such greetings between Zhen’s beloved consort and Zhen1.
Zhen came here quite coincidentally at the same time as Zhen’s beloved official Xie.
He has taken his new decorated position and doesn’t even do anything, making it hard for Zhen to catch him.”
Xie Yu Zhi smiled,
“This imperial official deserves death.”2
Only this phrase and nothing else.
The capital has always leaned towards the literary arts over militant subjects, which created quite an imbalance in the imperial court assembly.
To have a burgeoning Xie Yu Zhi that was suddenly crippled (in both matters of physically and spiritually for the court), the Emperor felt pain and pity.
His eyes scanned over and found that there was an invisible backdrop Chen Miao Ping and thought that he looked familiar.
He furrowed his eyebrows.
The eunuch beside him whispered in his ear to remind him,
“He is the current Flower Seeker Chen Miao Ping.
He was wed to the second son of the Xie Family yesterday.
Perhaps Your Majesty has forgotten but it was your own official imperial decree.”
The Emperor thought about it and then remembered.
But his head was still throbbing in pain from the situation before and hearing any news related to the official examination, his expression immediately cooled.
He looked at Chen Miao Ping and with an unflinching voice that one could not tell if he was happy or not, he asked,
“You are Chen Miao Ping? Quite prim and proper, quite a pair with Zhen’s beloved official Xie.”
On the surface Chen Miao Ping looked quite composed, and hearing this he rose up and bowed with his hands,
“Miao Ping thanks Your Majesty’s praise.”
He felt like he was on the edge of a knife and decided to keep his mouth shut.
The more he spoke, the more likely he could be in trouble.
He hoped that the other would only ask a few questions.
But it seemed that the Emperor did not want to let him go with just that and continued his line of questioning,
“Where are you from?”
At this time, if he was from Hu Zhou or Jiang Zhou he would most definitely be inching towards misfortune.
Chen Miao Ping lowered his head quite modestly and said,
“Miao Ping is from Jin Zhou.”
Xie Yu Zhi felt like the situation was getting out of hand and discreetly gave a glance to Xie Su Zhi.
The latter signaled for him to not worry.
Then she lightly laughed and shook the arm of the Emperor, saying,
“Your Majesty, it has been a few busy days for you and it is rare for you to come to see this royal consort.
Why are you only asking Miao Ping and not asking about this royal consort?”
Hearing that Chen Miao Ping was of Jin Zhou, his expression warmed up quite a bit.
He patted on Xie Su Zhi’s hands in comfort and said,
“All the ministers have handed in complaints of cheating in this official examination.
Zhen is quite in pain.
There is still that crowd of scholars waiting outside the Imperial Palace calling for an investigation and those old ministers cannot find a solution.
Now that the Flower Seeker is here, Zhen wants to hear the opinions of this youth.”
Once these words were put out there, Xie Su Zhi could not in good faith stop him.
She thought in her heart that at least there was still the face of Chang Guo Gong and His Majesty should not do anything to Chen Miao Ping.
It was also fairly reasonable that he would do this.
Perhaps, Chen Miao Ping could even be noticed and remembered by the Emperor and she became reassured.
The Emperor lifted and sipped on his teacup.
As if it was a casual conversation, he said to Chen Miao Ping,
“The cheating situation that Zhen has just mentioned, have you heard of it?”
Chen Miao Ping slightly furrowed his eyebrows, never wishing more than anything that he was deaf,
The Emperor lowered his eyes and said,
“Do you know why those scholars outside have been outraged for so long and are not willing to leave? The main examiners accepting bribes is one, but many more reasons are that this year’s exams had about 262 men who passed and 70% of those are of high family status.
“Zhen has ordered an investigation and those who have involved themselves in this do not number more than ten.
But it is still hard to pacify the rage of my citizens.
Zhen remembers that you have come from a poor background, so how do you see this situation?”
The moment his words were spoken out loud, everyone’s eyes were on him.
Chen Miao Ping did not speak and internally his mind was flying through everything he knew.
Trying his best to think about how he could answer without exposing himself as a fake.
His history teacher seemed to have lectured about this before.
Most of those official positions, before it was restricted, were given to sons of those with high family status.
It did not matter whether they had the skills to back it up or not.
They did not need to put in a lot of effort to become a minister.
Those with actual skills and knowledge have no chance to show off their talents.
The restrictions on the imperial examinations was no doubt a way for these poor background scholars.
From the examination they could become an official and, with the Emperor’s backing, raise up the skills of the cabinet of ministers.
But before they could get their name out, it was nearly impossible to change the difference between the poor and the rich.
After mulling it over for a bit, Chen Miao Ping opened his mouth to say,
“There is a common saying within the scholars where there is no poor background up and no high family in the bottom.
This is no doubt harsh, but it does have a reason.
Although the official examination is proclaimed fair in that it does not prohibit age or status, one cannot say that there is not still a difference between high status families and those with no background.”
Xie Su Zhi’s face immediately changed as she heard this and she wanted to say something but was stopped by the Emperor.
Chen Miao Ping looked at the face of the Emperor and continued,
“This difference is not only in the wealth, but also in the background.
If those of poor status want to learn, just talking about the entrance to a teacher, there is a big cost to consider.
In addition to that is the brushes and paper which can all too quickly be used up.
To save money, a lot of scholars would practice calligraphy on the ground with branches.
“Sometimes a family could scrape out their entire fortune and they still might not be able to invest enough for a scholar in the family.
These are part of the invisible shackles and this is only the first issue.
“The second is that there are too many private teachers that open their schools up in poor places.
These teachers are usually those who failed to continue onwards in the exam and very few are real scholars who could have become bloated from studying.
For those with family backgrounds, they have hundreds and hundreds of scrolls, and they can invite those with actual knowledge and skills to their homes to teach them.
This is already another setback.
The third, the palace exam for the top ranking examinees, the literary essay is only a half……”
The air in the palace was reaching a freezing point.
Chen Miao Ping paused and his eyes met with the worried eyes of Xie Yu Zhi, before moving his eyes away to look up at the Emperor.
Reaching out with two fingers, he said,
“…… This essay only covers a half, the other half, is reputation.”
“Every examination year, there are numerous intelligent and excellent scholars that gather.
Included within are those of the same rank who will have their reputation passed onto the main examiners, leaving a good impression.
Which means in the case where two essays are comparable, those who have a good reputation will win.
“This is called winning by voice.
Like this year’s examination, Ji Zhou has Zhao Ying, Lin Chuan has Shi Chun Yun, Lan Tian has Wang Shu Qing.
These men are from the respective wealthy and known families of those areas.
Their networking is naturally higher than the average commoner.
Even within the pool of scholars with no background, those with some reputation are higher than those without, but are still beneath those with status.”
He finished his speech and lifted his hands in a bow to say to the Emperor,
“Miao Ping did not look carefully at the list of rankings at the District Examinations, but I can boldly take a guess.
These 262 passing examinees must have shadows of these couple of families.
“Of course, Miao Ping is not saying that these three do not have the real skills and knowledge to back it up, but in comparison to everyone else, they are considered above the rest.
It is not a lie to say that one with no background could study by a freezing window and suffer in the conditions for more than ten years.
“Freezing is really freezing, suffering is really suffering.
But from the past to now, to be able to fly up to the top, there have only been so many.
Why the books of history would focus its memoirs on these particular scholars with no background who succeeded above the rest is because there are too few of them.
“The more it became like that, the more the scholars with no backgrounds collected hatred in their hearts for the system.
This year’s cheating scandal is really, only a temptation to lure out those dissatisfied voices.”
His last word dropped and silence reigned in the palace for a long while.
The people from ancient times and the people from the modern ages have a very different perspective and thought process.
Chen Miao Ping is someone from thousands of years in the future.
He can stand above with many details at his disposal to conclude the whole, having an omniscient view.
To have the ability to look through a history of more than 5000 years, he can see more clearly than any of the people here today.
Xie Yu Zhi and Xie Su Zhi were both deep in thought and the Emperor looked at his personal eunuch,
“How many of those who the Flower Seeker just mentioned is on the list?”
Someone immediately went to check and not long after, he came back to report,
“His Majesty, Zhao Ying, Shi Chun Yun and Wang Shu Qing are indeed on the list of rankings.”
He leaned back in his chair and looked at Chen Miao Ping, saying in a tone that was indistinguishable from any emotion,
“You certainly have a courageous heart to dare to say out loud whatever you are thinking.
Are you not afraid that Zhen will chop your head off?”
Xie Yu Zhi subconsciously was about to rise up, but his actions were stifled by Xie Su Zhi’s immediate sharp glance.
Chen Miao Ping could see that the Emperor was not really angry and completed a bow with composure,
“To reward or to punish is all from our Majesty’s grace.
If Your Majesty wanted to chop off Miao Ping’s head, Miao Ping has no words of resentment.”
With a complicated expression on his face, the Emperor said,
“There has been no one daring enough to say that to Zhen.
Every word you said has enough reason and logic, but there are points that Zhen does not agree with.
To say that you enter a teacher’s group, to have them become your master in education, that their practices can influence each prospective scholar’s thought process.
“Indeed there are a lot of talents who do not make it past the Metropolitan or the District Exams that become private teachers, but are those scholars to be those with no background without enough skill to be knowledgeable without that kind of help? If they are, Zhen is afraid that they might not be up to it after all.”
Chen Miao Ping said,
“Of course, there are those who can rise above everyone with their own efforts, or with those teachers, but those must be the top of the top.
However, how many of those could actually be produced in such years?”
Ancient texts are hard to understand, meanings are even harder to decipher.
A long, long scroll without any punctuation does not have a set translation.
Hence, there can be so many interpretations of one single text out there.
Seeing that the Emperor was not uttering a sound, Chen Miao Ping only wanted to rush through his meaning and vaguely pass through this,
“There are many sides to a person, and with that, there are enough and more people out there that make humans unique.
Within history books that have the same sentence, there are many more that try to interpret the meaning.
“Why there can be extraordinary philosophers and instructors with their own ideas and thoughts that can be considered “extraordinary” is because each word, each phrase has their own interpretations and understandings.
“Their group of thoughts on those meanings become their own philosophy or school of thought.
In addition to that, thousands of things and thousands of ideas are out there that have a step by step procedure.
One teacher who stops before the Imperial Exam and one teacher who has been through all stages of examinations, may I ask Your Majesty who you think has the more experience?”
With this, those who have a background are already ahead of the race and those who have no backgrounds, coming from poor families are just participant racers, to show that there is a race.
Their limited background is enough to cover them with a blindfold going into the examination halls, so it could be said that everything was already against them.
These words were, however, too straightforward and so Chen Miao Ping did not say it out.
He saw that the Emperor was still contemplating while having some doubts and gave an example,
“Miao Ping has heard a story before.
A scholar rushing to the exams was met with a pouring rain and must stay at his relatives’.
But for three days, this rain did not rest.
And that relative was also quite a stingy person and did not want him to stay for free and diminish his food supply.
So he wrote on a piece of paper these words —- ‘A raining day keeps guest day(heavens) keeps I do not keep’.
May I ask Your Majesty, how would you explain these words?”
The Emperor thought about it harder and said,
“A raining day keeps guest, heavens keep I do not.”
Chen Miao Ping smiled and shook his head,
“Does Your Majesty have any other explanations?”
*1 Zhen: This is a reference call to “I” or “me” only used by the Emperor
*2 “deserves death”: a phrase that is usually said to the Emperor for being pointed out for doing something wrong or when you have done something wrong.
It can be used in good faith or to save your life, kind of like placating the Emperor and saying that you know you did wrong/were guilty to ease the anger (if not said like in this situation where the Emperor is really just rebuking Xie Yu Zhi and not really outraged)
Special Notice on a schedule change!!!
Alrightie, so another announcement for a schedule change… as we have very much so been too optimistic and overestimated our pile of work on this novel.
(´;︵;`) Chen Miao Ping’s smooth talking and bullshitting skills are seriously off the charts But, (you may have notice from my reply to comments…) that in turn creates a lot of work for me to research and translate as I mentioned in Chp 39 (in particular, trying to find an official english translation and if there is none, me pretend to be literary scholar and researcher haha), compared to the first volume where most things I already knew the equivalent (or closest to, at least) like the slang and lingo.
Plum is also kind of in the same boat, in the sense that there’s too much information that I have given them and trying to slim that down to something more readable, and to reach my goal of limiting footnotes (as that would be so much easier but it’s way too much jumping around for reading) is a lot for them.
We have found ourselves to take frequent breaks and do it in small batches, but as it stands, it doesn’t exactly work out.
So as much as I hate to change the schedule (especially when I am a reader myself and waiting for updates, gah), I will have to cut down one of the release dates, just so we can keep up some sort of schedule before overwhelming the both of us.
For right now, we will just keep Mon, Wed and Fri as when chapters are released (starting from today) to hopefully catch ourselves a bit of a break (seriously, I have an immense appreciation for all those who translate historical genres and all translators actually because this is hard work, to find the right words).
At this point, I must also say I am very grateful and thankful to everyone who keeps reading (and liking and commenting and providing feedback), as time and time again, my motivation (and Plum’s) to continue really is because so many of you are enjoying this in some way and continue to read this translation ʚ♡⃛ɞ(ू•ᴗ•ू❁) Sincerely (and out of the bottom of my heart), thank you so much for all your support (and all those lovely comments and likes) to power me (and Plum) through!! I will see you Wednesday for the continuation of what’s going happen to Chen Miao Ping!
>>Edit: The phrase “Wei Chen” has been changed to “This imperial official” as Plum and I have discussed and thought it was better that way, but it seems the editing software did not want to save it and we didn’t notice the blunder before we released the chapter >: ( In any case, if you were questioning what that meant, wei chen means a third person to refer to oneself, to the emperor (cause you can’t really say me/I), and it’s basically to refer that you are a loyal subject to the emperor.
Only pertains to males with positions(ministers/officials).
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