Marquis Of Grand Xia Chapter 23: Shameless Bast*rd

Blood streamed out the corners of Ning Chen’s mouth as his True Qi ran amok in his body. He immediately focused his psyche, blocking out any distractions and began reforming his collapsed Qi flow.

 

“How...”

 

Qing Ning’s eyes opened wide the very next second as a layer of frost began to form around the room. The temperature instantly dropped to zero as the surrounding spiritual energy swarmed into his Dantian. A massive whirlpool formed within his Dantian as his entire Qi ocean began revolving rapidly as it consumed the spiritual energy.

 

“Herrgh”

 

She began channelling her body’s energy as she infused her True Qi into Ning Chen’s body via her right index finger, stabilizing the raging Qi Ocean and the whirlpool within it.

 

An hour later, his pained expression finally receded as the Qi Ocean in his body finally calmed down. A silvery cloud laid stationary within the ocean, calmly revolving in place.

 

Upon seeing this, Qing Ning finally heaved a sigh of relief and retracted her right hand. Mixed into her relief was a trace of anger, this kid was simply too reckless, if it wasn’t for her impeccable timing, he would’ve been dead.

 

As the kid in question opened his eyes, he was greeted with the angry face of Qing Ning. His heart skipped a beat, clearly afraid that he had angered her once more. However, he was also touched by her concern for him.

 

“Give me your hand, let me check your injuries.”

 

She said in a serious tone, concern having gotten the better of her fury as she looked at the traces of blood near his mouth.

 

“*cough cough* It’s fine, I’m alright.”

 

He gave her his usual silly smile as he anxiously searched for an excuse to gloss over this situation. There’s no way he could allow her to do so, after all that would expose the fact that he wasn’t a eunuch.

 

He wasn’t afraid that Qing Ning would harm him. However, the same couldn’t be said for Zhang Sun who might punish him in a fit of rage.

 

He didn’t forgotten how she had covered up the matter of Mu Chengxue for him. Just based on that alone, he could tell that as long as the matter didn’t concern Zhang Sun, she was a lot more tolerant towards it. Even if that matter involved assassinating the Xia Emperor.

 

However, once it concerned Zhang Sun, she was a totally different person. If it ever got out that there was a fake eunuch beside the current Empress, the ensuing scandal would be huge. He was certain that if Zhang Sun gave the order, she would kill him without hesitation.

 

It was for this reason that he prepared to escape while flashing that silly smile of his. If this woman insisted on this, he had to resist it no matter what.

 

After all, what was an injury compared to his life. He would’ve endured it even if it had been ten times more serious.

 

Seeing his actions immediately aroused her suspicion. Her eyebrows jumped slightly as they knitted together. In a cold voice, she said, “Are you hiding something from me?”

 

“Haha, no way. I don’t have the guts to do so”

 

As he said this, he quietly edged towards the corner of his bed, his heart pounding furiously. Did this woman really intend to use force?

 

There’s no way she can beat him!

 

Thankfully, what he feared never came to pass. She merely stared at him for a moment before turning around to leave.

 

“In that case, you should get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

“Good night, sister Qing Ning.”

 

He quietly heaved a sigh of relief as he waved his hands, all the while hiding in the corner of his bed, not daring to take a step forward.

 

*Hrrgh*

 

He spit out a mouthful of blood the moment she left the room; he was finally unable to suppress his internal injuries.

 

Outside the door, Qing Ning halted her feet mid-step. She turned around to look at the closed door but decided against entering in the end. She stood watch outside for a long while before finally leaving quietly.

 

As the moon disappeared with the rising sun, Ning Chen sat atop his bed, quietly meditating on his cultivation technique. His concept of time slipped away as he focused his entire attention on it.

 

By the time he woke up, the glaring rays of the morning sun were already out in full force as they blinded his half-awoken eyes. His heart sank as he remembered what day it was. It was the day of the literary challenge! The thumping of his heart grew faster as he hastily tidied up and pushed open the doors to leave. However, just as he was about to leave, he was stopped by a junior eunuch standing guarding at Weiyang palace’s entrance.

 

“Her Majesty has ordered that you’re not to leave Weiyang Palace.”

 

The eunuch explained in a courteous yet strangely resolute tone. He anxiously tried to explain his intentions however no matter how hard he tried, the eunuch refused to listen.

 

Given Zhang Sun’s cautious personality, she would immediately send for him if they encountered a difficult question. There could only be two reasons why she hadn’t done so. One, they had already solved the question, two, Qing Ning had mentioned the matter of his injury to her.

 

While it was true that there was no guarantee he would know the answer and Zhang Sun knew of this as well, but given Zhang Sun’s nature, there was no way she would let go of any possibility no matter how small. Furthermore, the first person she would think of when facing strange questions such as those would probably be him.

 

Ning Chen had never been so annoyed by a person as much as he was right now. No matter what he tried, force, persuasion or bribery, none of it worked on this eunuch.

 

Why are all the people in Zhang Sun’s palace so strange!

 

He suddenly had the impulse to hit someone for the first time since he entered the palace.

 

Naturally, he went through with this impulse!

 

“Oh, Her Majesty!”

 

Ning Chen exclaimed out of a sudden. The junior eunuch immediately turned around, ready to greet the Empress. However, all that greeted him was darkness as Ning Chen gave him a solid thump on the back of his head with his fist.

 

“Hmph, you’re still too young to fight with this Master.”

 

Ning Chen haughtily stepped over the junior eunuch’s body and sprinted towards Revelations Hall at break-neck speed. As he ran, he quietly scorned himself, normally he would do his utmost best to avoid Zhang Sun, and yet here he was, rushing off to see her without even being summoned simply out of some silly concern for her.

 

At the back of Revelations Hall, Ning Chen stood there, heaving from the exertion as he stared at the palace guard blocking the entrance. What should he do now?

 

“Ning Chen Gong Gong?” Suddenly, the nearest palace guard called out to him, having suddenly recognized him.

 

A look of confusion crossed his eyes as he wondered, did he know anyone in the palace?

 

“Don’t tell me Little Gong Gong has forgotten, this one is Ling Xiao, the guard who sent Little Gong Gong out of the palace.” The guard leader reminded him.

 

Ning Chen squinted at the man’s face. An instant later, his eyes lit up, having finally recognized who the guard was. He almost forgotten about the incident that night. He had pulled a fast one on this man that night, to think that they would meet again, at this crucial moment too.

 

“Oh, it’s Officer Ling Xiao. I almost didn’t recognize you in your new armor. Congratulations officer.” He immediately latched onto this in order to cover up for his minor gaffe.

 

Ling Xiao’s face immediately brightened up. He smiled and replied, “It’s all thanks to Little Gong Gong. Is Little Gong Gong here to meet with Her Majesty? Should this one send a word for Little Gong Gong?”

 

Upon hearing this, he furiously nodded his head. This was exactly what he needed right now.

 

“Please wait a moment, Little Gong Gong.”

 

He gave him a hearty smile before entering Revelations Hall.

 

With nothing much to do in the meantime, he gave a bored look at his surroundings. He gasped as he took in the decorations for the first time; the exterior was the most lavishly decorated building he had ever seen in his entire life. Exactly how much was spent on these?!

 

“Little Gong Gong, Her Majesty has permitted your entry.”

 

Ling Xiao called out having come back from a short trip to the grand hall. As Ning Chen walked up to the entranceway, he leaned in and whispered, “Little Gong Gong must be cautious with his words later on, Her Majesty seems to be in a little bit of a bad mood.”

 

Ning Chen nodded and threw him an approving look. Brother, you’ve done me a solid.

 

Ling Xiao returned his look, having understood his intentions. Small matter.

 

He quietly entered the grand hall from the back entrance, as his eyes swept across the grand hall, it landed on Zhang Sun’s position. His heart leaped into his throat as he saw the expression on her face. This wasn’t just a little...she was definitely in a foul mood…

 

However, now that he was here, there was no turning back. He gingerly took up position behind her and threw Qing Ning a questioning look.

 

She returned it with a shake of her head. Clearly, now wasn’t the time for questions.

 

Having taken a hint, he snuck a peek at the XIa Emperor atop his dragon throne before turning to the court officials gathered below. He then turned to see the annoyingly smug faces on the Zhenji emissary and his attendants. He roughly got the picture.

 

Grand Xia had suffered a setback and was on the verge of losing. Their dignity was about to be lost.

 

“Hath my subjects thought of an answer?”

 

The Xia Emperor asked once more in a grave tone.

 

Ning Chen lowered his head and looked at the parchment on top of Zhang Sun’s table. His eyebrows jumped as he stared at the parchment, a mix of shock written all over his face, within it was a certain emotion as well.

 

Looks like the Confucian scholars of Grand Xia were pretty knowledgeable as well. Whether it was poetry, literature, chess or music, the questions had all been answered perfectly. All except for three of five couplet questions written on it. These antithetical couplets seemed simple at a glance but upon closer inspection, proved a lot more complicated than expected. [1]

 

It wasn’t that they were impossible, rather, the situation simply favored the questioning party too much. After all, unlike the person who posed the question, the one who answered had a time limit, making the question significantly harder.

 

On the white parchment were three questions:

 

1.寸土为寺,寺旁言诗,诗曰︰明日送僧归古寺

(Cùntǔ wéi sì, sì páng yán shī, shī yuē︰míngrì sòng sēng guī gǔsì)

 

2.乾八卦,坤八卦,八八六十四卦,卦卦乾坤已定

(Qián bāguà, kūn bāguà, bābāliùshísì guà, guà guà qiánkūn yǐ dìng)

 

3.一二三四五六七

(Yī èr sān sì wǔ liù qī)

 

The last question seemed the simplest but was actually the hardest.

 

While the Confucian scholars of Grand Xia were all learned men with years of academics under their belt. This subject of couplets was an obscure one that was more of an entertainment form for the educated members of the general populace. Naturally, scholars such as them had little experience with this matter. The fact that they managed to answer two out of five was already impressive enough.

 

He gave them a scorning look once more. Exactly how shameless could you get? You gave them a set of questions that you had probably spent half a lifetime thinking of and then expect them to answer it within the duration of an incense stick? No wonder they said that the shameless man was an invincible man.

 

“Oh Emperor of Xia, it seems like your officials have no answer for it.”

 

He laughed uproariously, the arrogance barely contained within his acidic words. “A thousand years ago, Fu Zi (Confucius) was born in our great Zhenji, he spread his teachings far and wide and finally created the school of Confucianism. Only in the later years did he arrive in Grand Xia. And yet the masses mistook him as a subject of Grand Xia. Such a laughable story.”

 

“F*ck.”

 

Ning Chen couldn’t help but swear at their usage of alternative facts. When did Fu Zi (Confucius) become a man of Zhenji? You might as well say that Grand Xia belonged to you a thousand years ago.

 

Hearing this shameless proclamation, the Confucian scholars turned red with anger as they began scolding him. To them, Confucius and Confucianism was a sacred matter.

 

“How uncivilized.”

 

The emissary laughed arrogantly, the grudge of losing yesterday had now been repaid in full and he was enjoying every moment of it.

 

“Your Majesty.”

 

He whispered in a low voice; he could no longer endure the level of shamelessness on display.

 

“I’ll handle this.”

 

It was now Zhang Sun’s turn to be shocked as she turned towards of the owner of those words. Upon seeing the seriousness on his face, she paused, giving his request some thought.

 

However, the burning incense stick simply didn’t allow for such luxury, and so without wasting anymore time, she stood up and addressed the Xia Emperor:

 

“Your Majesty, this loyal spouse wishes to recommend a person.”

 

His eyes squinted for a moment before exclaiming, “Approved!”

 

“Ning Chen.” She turned to face him, her face graver than he had ever seen it before, “Do not tarnish the dignity of Grand Xia.”

 

Guaranteeing a person before the Emperor and his subjects was a heavy matter even if it was the Empress doing so. If Ning Chen were to lose, it wasn’t just a simple matter of losing a round.

 

Ning Chen naturally knew of the gravity of this situation, as well as the pressure on Zhang Sun’s shoulders.

 

It wasn’t rashness that motivated his action, it was instead the lack of time that forced his hands. There wasn’t enough time for him to make any preparations, therefore, answering the questions himself was the most expedient solution.

 

Most importantly, Zhang Sun was his benefactor and he couldn’t leave her in the lurch.

 

He calmly stepped out, his back straightened and his head held high; there was no turning back from this point on. A petite palace maid immediately brought out a parchment and brush, and placed it on the desk situated in the center of the hall.

 

Under her command, Qing Ning went up to prepare the ink. In the midst of the grand hall, the image of her delicate figure quietly toiling over the ink mortar created a picturesque scene within the otherwise sullen mood of Revelations Hall.

 

Ning Chen lifted up the moist brush and with a few swift of strokes of his brush, wrote out the answer for the first couplet.

 

   寸土为寺,寺旁言诗,诗曰︰明日送僧归古寺

(Cùntǔ wéi sì, sì páng yán shī, shī yuē︰míngrì sòng sēng guī gǔsì)

 

   双木成林,林下示禁,禁云︰斧斤以时入山林

(Shuāng mù chéng lín, lín xià shì jìn, jìn yún︰fǔ jīn yǐ shí rù shānlín)

   [2]

 

“Fantastic!:

 

A number of Confucian scholars cheered as they saw his answer. Their voices could barely contain the excitement they felt right now.

 

The words had matched perfectly. This junior eunuch had given them a pleasant surprise once again with his impressive creativity.

 

A short distance away, the emissary’s robes quivered as his hands gripped down onto the armrest of his wooden chair. His eyebrows jumped at the unexpected display of the junior eunuch.

 

In the midst of their surprise, Ning Chen’s hands had never stopped, not even for a second. It wasn’t long before the second couplet was completed before their eyes.
 

  乾八卦,坤八卦,八八六十四卦,卦卦乾坤已定

(Qián bāguà, kūn bāguà, bābāliùshísì guà, guà guà qiánkūn yǐ dìng)

   鸾九声,凤九声,九九八十一声,声声鸾凤和鸣

(Luán jiǔ shēng, fèng jiǔ shēng, jiǔjiǔbāshíyī shēng, shēng shēng luánfèng hè míng)

   [3]

 

*hah*

 

The Confucian scholars laughed upon seeing his answer. While it wasn’t the most artistic of answers, it was definitely an apt one. Furthermore, it even managed to praise the Emperor and Empress while doing so.

 

The Luan and Phoenix were an auspicious sign and were a perfect match for each other.

 

The Xia Emperor’s lips broke into a rare grin. While the son of heaven was conferred the title of True Dragon by the heavens and was thus inappropriate to address him as a Luan, he didn’t mind lowering his status a bit in order to suit this outstanding couplet.

 

 
 
 
 
 

Footnotes:

 

[1]  Antithetical Couplet

 

[2]

   寸土为寺,寺旁言诗,诗曰︰明日送僧归古寺

(Cùntǔ wéi sì, sì páng yán shī, shī yuē︰míngrì sòng sēng guī gǔsì)


 

   双木成林,林下示禁,禁云︰斧斤以时入山林

(Shuāng mù chéng lín, lín xià shì jìn, jìn yún︰fǔ jīn yǐ shí rù shānlín)

 

This couplet employs a literary method where the word is taken in its constituent form and its combined form.

 

For example, 寸 and 土 (inch and land) combined to form 寺 (temple). 言(words/speech) is the left character of 诗(poem). The right character is 寺(temple). It’s cleared in traditional chinese where 詩 is the word for poem.

 

诗曰 is a Tang dynasty poem name. The following phrase is an adaptation from that poem and roughly translates as “Sending the monk back to the ancient temple".

It is helpful to refer to the wikipedia page about antithetical couplets.

   双木成林,林下示禁,禁云︰斧斤以时入山林

This sentence follows the principles along with the basic couplet rules.

双木 (double, wood)-> 林(forest). 林下 (forest, below)-> (示禁 show/reveal, restriction/prohibit)  

斧斤以时入山林: Is a phrase from one of Meng Zi’s poems and roughly translates as "the woodsman enters the mountains at the opportune time to cut wood".

 

The story behind this couplet is:

 

A beautiful and talented lady was looking for a husband but yet had rejected all the proposals sent before her. She didn’t care about their betrothal gift or wealth at all. Instead, she said that would marry anyone who could answer her couplet.

 

   寸土为寺,寺旁言诗,诗曰︰明日送僧归古寺

 

This challenge ended up being too difficult for her suitors and after a long string of rejections, her parents tried to get her to abandon this foolishness. However, she persevered. One day, a passing scholar with the surname of Lin (林) saw the couplet and found it amusing. He ended up answering the couplet and the two became happily wedded.

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

[3]

  乾八卦,坤八卦,八八六十四卦,卦卦乾坤已定

(Qián bāguà, kūn bāguà, bābāliùshísì guà, guà guà qiánkūn yǐ dìng)


 

   鸾九声,凤九声,九九八十一声,声声鸾凤和鸣

(Luán jiǔ shēng, fèng jiǔ shēng, jiǔjiǔbāshíyī shēng, shēng shēng luánfèng hè míng)

 

The first sentence refers to the Bagua (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagua)

 

坤,乾 are sections of the Bagua, and the phrase refers to 四象演八卦、八八六十四卦, which is the four cardinals births the Bagua(eight trigrams), the eight eight trigrams combines to form the 64 hexagrams. 卦卦乾坤已定 -> Bagua is a way of interpreting the heavens and natural phenomenon. So the last phrase means that "the fates are already determined by the Bagua."

 

鸾九声,凤九声,九九八十一声,声声鸾凤和鸣

 

(Luán jiǔ shēng, fèng jiǔ shēng, jiǔjiǔbāshíyī shēng, shēng shēng luánfèng hè míng)

 

(鸾)Luan is a type of chinese phoenix, 凤(phoenix)

 

鸾九声,凤九声 (Luan nine sounds/howls/etc. ,phoenix nine sounds/howls etc,)

 

九九八十一声 (nine nine -> 81 sounds)

 

声声鸾凤和鸣 (resonating)


 

Credits:

 

Special thanks to Steve Granger!!

 

Series:

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