Shen Yu nodded his head.
A scholar standing to the side saw Shen Yu.
When the man observed how impressive Shen Yu’s demeanor was, he felt surprised.
He was one of the better-informed people in this year’s examination and recognized most of the other examinees, but he’d never seen this young man in blue.
If he had, there was no way he would have forgotten him.
“May I ask who this gentleman is” he asked.
“This is a good friend of mine.
Just call him Young Master Yu.
I have something to attend to.
Please excuse me for a while, sorry.”
Seeing that one of Jiang HuaiQing’s friends had come looking for him, the crowd of well-wishers couldn’t keep him any longer.
Jiang HuaiQing agreed to meet them later and excused himself.
He struggled his way out of the crowd and walked over to Shen Yu, glancing cautiously around him.
“Are you looking for something” Shen Yu pressed the handle of his fan to his chin.
“After seeing that it’s me, you’re not satisfied”
“How could that be” Jiang HuaiQing blinked.
“It’s just that it’s rare to see you alone.
Did that person not come along”
So he was looking for Shang JunLin.
“He’s here too, of course.
How could I come without him He stepped away.
I know you don’t feel relaxed in his presence so I asked him to see to his own business for a while,” Shen Yu said.
Since Shang JunLin was attending the banquet in person, there were details he needed to confirm.
A few ministers also came over to speak to him.
In comparison Shen Yu was completely at leisure.
The two walked to a place that wasn’t as crowded.
“I didn’t think you and that person would really come here,” Jiang HuaiQing said.
“The situation this time is a bit unusual.
Young Lady Fang’s score shocked them and they’re still making a fuss about it.” Shen Yu didn’t mind giving him some details.
“That was why they relented and agreed to give you and He Xiong a higher official rank.”
“After all, before all this happened no one thought a woman would rank in the top three.” Jiang HuaiQing gave a bashful smile.
“To be honest, I was hoping to at least take second place.”
Shen Yu laughed.
“Before the exam, I actually bet His Majesty that you’d come first, but His Majesty won twice over.”
“How could Yu Xiong have such a high opinion of me” Jiang HuaiQing, who hadn’t expected this, felt startled.
“After losing to both ChengYu Xiong and Young Lady Fang, I have to accept the results.”
Shen Yu was curious what this year’s examinees thought of women becoming officials.
“What do all of you think about Young Lady Fang”
“ChengYu Xiong and I have the same opinion.
I think Young Lady Fang is a good candidate.
A lot of the others were convinced when they read the essay she wrote.
They have some misgivings about women as officials, but they don’t firmly oppose it.”
Jiang HuaiQing sorted out what he’d heard recently and continued, “To be honest, it comes down to the fact they published all the essays.
The truth is so obvious they can’t deny it.
A lot of people, myself included, felt inferior when we read Young Lady Fang’s essay.”
Fang JiaYi’s exam answers were original and insightful.
She deeply explored aspects that other candidates hadn’t considered.
Among a crowd of essays, hers was novel and unique, which really opened people’s eyes.
After Jiang HuaiQing read it, he gained new insight and discussed it later with Hè ChengYu.
Both of them admired Fang JiaYi, a woman, for writing such an essay.
“When I saw her interact with the King of Yue that time, I knew she had hidden depths.” Shen Yu’s eyebrows arched in a smile when he thought of how unlucky the King of Yue was that day.
“A woman stood up and sought justice for herself and others who were hurt.
Even though her opponent was a member of the imperial family she still didn’t back down.”
“Right, even if you include men, how many people would be as brave as Fang JiaYi” Jiang HuaiQing had been there also.
He admired her, which was the reason he remembered Fang JiaYi when they met again later.
Shen Yu cast an apparently casual glance behind him.
“Let’s find a place to sit for a while,” he suggested.
Jiang HuaiQing had no objection.
The hall where the Qionglin Banquet was held was enormous and richly ornamented, with carved beams and painted rafters.
The gardens were beautiful and there were pavilions at regular intervals where people could sit and rest.
The two chose a pavilion with no one else present and walked inside.
The two entered the pavilion and sat down, appearing to have no intention of leaving for the time being.
Seeing this, the people following them exchanged glances.
One quietly left while the other stayed to continue watching.
After listening to the report, the young master frowned.
“You’re sure you saw him He’s not with that Hè ChengYu”
Yi JianMing’s friends had always considered him their leader.
When they saw him toppled by a poor boy from nowhere, they decided to teach him a lesson.
“This servant saw him clearly.
The man he’s with is shorter than Mr.
Hè, and his clothes are a different color.
Oh, and he hasn’t tied up his hair yet.”
“Do you know who he is”
“No, but I heard Jiang HuaiQing call him ‘Yu Xiong’.”
“Surname ‘Yu’.” The young master glanced at the man beside him.
“Is there a family named Yu in the capital”
“Not as far as I know, and no one with that surname passed this year’s examination.”
“Somebody from nowhere…” the young master held his chin and said.
“No one to be afraid of.
Let’s go and have a look.”
“You don’t want to ask JianMing Xiong first” The other man hesitated.
“And this is the Qionglin Banquet.
If something goes wrong…”
“Don’t be so timid.
We won’t actually do anything to that Jiang person.
We just want to make friends with him.
How could we do anything at the Qionglin Banquet We’re not that stupid.”
Unlike Yi JianMing, these young masters were carefully trained by their families.
Their reasons for taking part in the imperial examination were straightforward.
They wanted to rank in the top three so they could enter the Hanlin Academy and prepare to join the cabinet in the future.
At first everything went according to plan, but three “surprises” showed up out of nowhere to ruin everything.
Why did the Hè family in Jiangnan suddenly decide to enter government service It was beyond their control.
However the other two included a woman and a scholar from a poor family with no background, so they had room to maneuver.
Shen Yu and Jiang HuaiQing chatted for a while.
Suddenly they heard the sound of footsteps approaching.
When Shen Yu turned his head and saw several young masters dressed in fancy clothes, he could guess what they were up to.
Jiang HuaiQing was a little confused when he saw them.
These people had clearly sought them out on purpose.
“Yu Xiong, are these your friends”
“I don’t know them, do you”
“Meeting someone is fate.
Just because we don’t know each other yet doesn’t mean we won’t be acquainted in the future.
Isn’t that right, Lord Tanhua”
With these words, the group entered the pavilion.
Shen Yu looked at each of them and found that one was an old acquaintance he’d tangled with several times in his previous life.
Jiang HuaiQing sensed the malice in these young masters and frowned.
“Who are you”
The man who seemed to be their leader found a seat and sat down.
“My surname is Zhao.
The two people with me are surnamed Dian and Lü.
We want to get to know the Lord Tanhua better, that’s all.”
“But I don’t want to know you.” Jiang HuaiQing had a bad feeling about these people and wanted to avoid them.
Young Master Zhao wasn’t expecting Jiang HuaiQing to speak so directly and felt a little impressed.
He thought it would be easy to impose on someone from a humble background.
Instead the man slammed the door in his face as soon as he introduced himself.
With a cold expression, Jiang HuaiQing didn’t hesitate to chase them away.
“If there’s nothing else, please leave.”
Young Master Zhao lost his temper.
“You need to learn what’s good for you.
We decided to come over and make friends because we look up to you.
Otherwise do you think there’s any chance that you, an impoverished brat with no background, could gain a foothold in the capital just because you’re the tanhua” he threatened.
One of his companions echoed him, saying, “You’re always tagging along with Young Master Hè, but he’s just from the Hè family in Jiangnan.
If something goes wrong do you think they’ll be able to do anything about it Instead of choosing him you should find some better friends.
If you’re with us, things will go a lot easier for you in the future.”
“That’s my business not yours.
You don’t need to worry about it!” Jiang HuaiQing’s voice became colder and colder.
“Besides, all of that is up to the court ministers and His Majesty to decide.
Or do you think you have more power than His Majesty”
“We didn’t say that.” Who would dare to buckle that hat on their head
“Then what are you saying” Shen Yu waved his fan.
“It sounds like you’re trying to say you have a lot of influence”
Until this point, Young Master Zhao and his friends were focused on Jiang HuaiQing.
It was only when Shen Yu spoke up that they gave him some attention.
“Who are you”
“I’m HuaiQing’s good friend.
And I can’t say I like seeing you push people around with your power.
Are all the aristocratic families in the capital this unprincipled” Shen Yu deliberately pretended to be an outsider.
“What an eye-opener.”
Because the Zhenbei Marquis was so biased against his di son, Shen Yu rarely attended gatherings in the capital.
Not many people knew him.
After he entered the imperial harem, there were even fewer chances to meet him.
It wasn’t surprising that these people didn’t recognize Shen Yu.
If everyone knew him, he wouldn’t dare to wander around the banquet without a disguise.
Young Master Zhao reminded himself of the reason they came here.
He took a deep breath and suppressed his rising anger.
“It’s just that we admire Mr.
Jiang’s talent so much.
We only want to be friends.”
“It doesn’t look like you want to make friends with that attitude.
It’s more like you want revenge.” Shen Yu tilted his head, pretending to be confused.
“Or is this your unique way of making friends in the capital”
Young Master Zhao was so angry he could hardly catch his breath.
He pointed at Shen Yu and began to stutter, but after a while the only thing he managed to say was, “You…”
Seeing the situation deteriorate, the watcher who hesitated at the beginning secretly called over a servant boy.
In a low voice he gave some instructions.
The boy quietly withdrew.
Shen Yu saw the servant boy follow the path and disappear, but he pretended not to notice.
The servant boy hurried over to Yi JianMing and told him exactly what happened in the pavilion.
Yi JianMing’s face changed color multiple times after hearing it.
“Those fools,” he said, cursing.
They chose to do this at the Qionglin Banquet, the worst imaginable time.
Were they deliberately trying to set him up
But he couldn’t just let them continue.
He was the one who’d brought them here.
If something happened, he would immediately get the blame.
He quickly excused himself from the people he was talking to.
With an ugly expression on his face, Yi JianMing rushed to the place the boy told him about.
When Yi JianMing arrived, a red-faced Young Master Zhao was angrily confronting someone.
Opposite him, Jiang HuaiQing was at ease, like he was enjoying a relaxing stroll.
“Shut your mouth!” Yi JianMing adjusted the expression on his face and walked over to Jiang HuaiQing and Shen Yu.
“Sorry, I apologize for their behavior.
If they said anything disrespectful I hope the two of you will overlook it.”
“Not at all, not at all.
We wouldn’t dare to be unhappy with your noble friends.” Shen Yu opened his fan, concealing half his face.
“I really don’t want to vanish without a trace, though I don’t know how they’d do it.”
“How could…” Yi JianMing gave those people a glare.
He couldn’t imagine why they would have said such a thing! Why were they so stupid How could they let themselves be provoked and say something like that!
“Who will vanish without a trace This emperor had no idea there are people who can make someone disappear under my very nose.”
Transliterated names, places, and titles—new in this chapter:
(Surname) Yu – 餘 – Yú
Zhao – 趙
Dian – 典
Lü – 呂