Chapter 154 – And Winning
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Tianhai Shengxue and Luoluo stood in the sand of the Hall of Washing Away Dust's first floor. The backgrounds of the two, when added together, were enough to awe everyone on the second floor. Of course, the people on the second floor were important personages, but his warning was loud and clear. Moreover, these important personages all belonged to different camps, were part of different factions. They were all in the same room, each person watching everyone else, so even if any of them wanted to listen, they still couldn't.
The room was very quiet and dark, as the light coming in from the window was not very bright. Mo Yu, seated on the chair in the very center, was quiet for a few moments, and then indifferently closed her eyes as if intending to take a short rest. In reality, this action expressed her stance. She had no intentions of listening to what Tianhai Shengxue had to say next.
Xue Xingchuan slightly creased his brow, the two Sacred Hall archbishops slowly closed their eyes, and with a soft sound, the wooden bars outside the window turned. The light dimmed as a sound-obstructing array activated, making it impossible to hear what was happening on the floor below. As for the Li Palace priests elsewhere, presumably none of them were bold enough to eavesdrop and could think of their own ways to render themselves temporarily deaf.
After a while passed, Tianhai Shengxue did not go to confirm that no one was eavesdropping, nor did he care if someone was. He continued speaking to Luoluo, "Using the first rank of the first banner of the Grand Examination to prove that I am strong is meaningless towards my ability to survive or to get more power, so I can give up on it."
Luoluo said, "The first rank of the first banner is a glory hard to come by. It can emphasize your status in the Empress's heart."
"And then what?" Tianhai Shengxue impassively asked. "Of the youths in the third generation of the Tianhai clan, I've always been the most outstanding. What good is there in my being more outstanding? The people who ultimately decide the clan's fate are still my father and those brothers of his."
Luoluo asked him, "So you intend to exchange first rank of the first banner for what you require?"
Tianhai Shengxue affirmed, "Correct, this is why I said that to me, the most important meaning of the Grand Examination is that I am able to meet Your Highness, and Your Highness requires me to lose."
Luoluo pondered this, then inquired, "What do you want?"
Tianhai Shengxue calmly looked at her and said, "I hope that I can exchange for Your Highness's friendship."
Without even thinking, Luoluo said, "No."
Mocking himself, Tianhai Shengxue said, "It seems that the Tianhai name has already stirred the resentment of both man and the gods."
Luoluo denied, "No, I just believe that friendship is not something that can be exchanged, only nurtured."
"That's reasonable." Tianhai Shengxue's expression turned serious. "Then can I have a chance of nurturing a friendship with Your Highness?"
Luoluo replied, "I cannot decide this. I must listen to Teacher."
Tianhai Shengxue thought and felt that Chen Changsheng would probably have no good impression of him, so he asked, "Then does Your Highness have any female cousins?"
Luoluo had a superb intellect, so she naturally understood what he meant. Rather confused, she asked, "The female cousins on my mother's side are all in the Great Western Continent, but…if I remember correctly, aren't you marrying the Princess of Ping next year?"
Tianhai Shengxue replied, "Your Highness should be well aware that the Princess of Ping likes Qiushan, so what meaning is there in marrying her? And besides, marrying her can only make me die a little more quickly."
Luoluo understood his meaning. After thinking a little more, she replied, "I cannot decide this. I must listen to my parents."
"Then what can I exchange with Your Highness?" Tianhai Shengxue asked, his eyebrows slightly rising.
Luoluo was also rather frustrated, saying, "I truly do not know."
Tianhai Shengxue gazed at the tightly shut windows on the second floor and suddenly said, "A promise?"
With a slightly apprehensive expression, she said, "When the time comes, I might not have the ability to fulfill this promise."
Tianhai Shengxue calmly replied, "I trust in Your Highness's character. As long as Your Highness truly attempts to fulfill that promise when the time comes, I will acknowledge it."
Luoluo replied, "You're taking too much of a loss this way."
Tianhai Shengxue replied, "To exchange what one doesn't yet possess for something that is most worthy of pursuit, even if only a future possibility, is still worth it."
Luoluo suddenly felt rather sympathetic for him. "Why does it have to be this way?"
Tianhai Shengxue chuckled, seeming rather lonely. "Perhaps it is the price of maturity."
After saying this, he turned and walked out of the Hall of Washing Away Dust.
As she watched him leave, she felt somewhat anguished.
She was born in the clan of an emperor, but not everyone was as fortunate as her.
Of course, she also had her own challenges and misfortune, but they just hadn't come yet.
Tianhai Shengxue was undoubtedly an intelligent person.
He was exchanging one match of the Grand Examination for a certain safeguard in the future.
It was just like those final words exchanged between him and Luoluo.
Why does it have to be this way?
It must be this way.
The wooden bars turned and light filled the room once more. A sound also filtered into the dark and quiet room: the sound of Tianhai Shengxue's departing footsteps.
Silence reigned over the room.
No one knew what Tianhai Shengxue and Luoluo had spoken about, and even if they had heard the conversation, no one could be sure about just what sort of agreement the two had reached. Everyone present in the room was an important personage, and all of them were sufficiently intelligent, but besides Prince Chen Liu, none of them had the same sort of background as Luoluo and Tianhai Shengxue, so it was very difficult for them to comprehend their greatest fear.
They only saw Tianhai Shengxue leave, forfeiting the match.
Mo Yu glanced at those two solemn-faced Sacred Hall archbishops and thought, in the end, Tianhai Shengxue still has the surname Tianhai; how could he be used by you? Not even his father can do that.
Tianhai Shengxue went straight out of the Education Palace, ceasing his participation in the Grand Examination. In any case, his grade in the literary test was at least in the top five, and no one would dare to push him out of the three banners.
The Li Palace priest stood on the stone steps and announced, "Princess Luoluo of the Orthodox Academy wins without fighting."
Winning without a fight?
This highly anticipated battle of experts actually didn't take place? Tianhai Shengxue unexpectedly withdrew from the competition? The examinees outside the Hall of Washing Away Dust were all deeply shocked, mystified as to what had occurred in the hall just now.
Luoluo walked back to the forest's edge.
Chen Changsheng looked at her and asked in confusion, "What's going on?"
Luoluo's face looked rather frustrated. It was not frustration at the unknown, but frustration from having one's emotions stirred.
She looked at Chen Changsheng and said, "Teacher, I promised him that I wouldn't tell anyone else, including you and my royal parents. My apologies."
Chen Changsheng was a little startled, then said, "It's fine, there's no need to talk about it."
The second round of matches for the Grand Examination formally concluded, and the third round began. The third round's match placement was still decided by lots, but the drawing was much less tense than the drawing for the second round. Examinees who had entered the third round were basically guaranteed a spot in the three banners. All that was left was to decide their specific ranks. Those examinees who were content to get into the three banners would naturally not care about who they matched up against. Those examinees who had greater desires, who wanted to get into the first banner, would eventually have to face strong opponents, so they also did not care about who they drew as opponents.
Of the examinees that had taken part in the second round, only Su Moyu, Huo Guang, and Tianhai Shengxue—the first two too heavily injured to continue fighting and the third strangely conceding—were not present on the testing ground. The rest of the losers were still present, intending to take part in the tie-breaking matches that would happen in a little while, so there were still sixty-one examinees outside the Hall of Washing Away Dust. The vast majority of these examinees were all looking to the forest's edge at the Orthodox Academy group.
Everyone was curious to see if those powerful figures in the Orthodoxy would still attempt to rig the drawing and give Luoluo and Chen Changsheng opponents that they would find difficult to defeat. After Tianhai Shengxue's departure, the only person who could defeat Princess Luoluo was Gou Hanshi.
There was also one other matter that made the examinees nervous: who would draw the wolf youth Zhexiu as their opponent? Although it was true that none of them cared about who they got as opponents after entering the third round, there was still no one that wanted to face Zhexiu. It was actually quite fine if they suffered an embarrassing defeat, but this youth was far too cold-blooded and ruthless, and it was no good if they suffered heavy injuries.
The Li Palace priest quickly extracted the paper slip bearing the alias of Zhang Tingtao. Zhexiu's opponent was Guan Feibai.
Zhexiu's face remained impassive, making him appear particularly cold. But one could tell from his calm eyes that he was very satisfied with this opponent.
Guan Feibai said nothing, and it was difficult to tell what he was currently feeling.
The third- and fifth-ranked individuals of the Proclamation of Azure Sky would fight. The bloodthirsty wolf youth of the snowy plains would battle against the Divine Kingdom's Fourth Law of the Mount Li Sword Sect. Either name was sufficient to make the match seem exciting, so much so that even those examinees who had originally not cared for the drawing of lots gasped in surprise.
Before these gasps could cease, they rose up again.
Liang Banhu was fighting Qi Jian.
What sort of tempo was this?
Gou Hanshi's expression turned grave.
Soon after, he drew a young expert from Star Seizer Academy as his opponent.
The examinees began to chatter amongst themselves.
The second round of matches had been for suppressing the Orthodox Academy, so was the third round meant for moving against the Mount Li Sword Sect?
In this round, Chen Changsheng's and Luoluo's opponents were both rather weak.
But amongst the examinees whose goal was the first rank of the first banner, their luck was not the best.
In three consecutive rounds, the opponents that the Heavenly Dao Academy's Zhuang Huanyu was matched up against were all rather weak.
Scholartree Manor's Zhong Hui was in the same situation.
Gou Hanshi entered the Hall of Washing Away Dust.
This was the first time in the Grand Examination that he had stepped onto the stage.
With Tianhai Shengxue gone, he was now the strongest of the examinees.
This match naturally drew a lot of attention.
The match still proceeded very calmly and normally, perhaps even excessively dully.
It didn't take too long for the door of the Hall of Washing Away Dust to open once more.
Gou Hanshi and the young expert from Star Seizer Academy walked out. Both his and the Star Seizer expert's bodies were completely clean of blood and injuries, not even stained by dust. It was like the two had not even fought.
The victor was naturally Gou Hanshi.
"I'm no match for him. The gap is too great."
Luoluo watched Gou Hanshi walk to the stream, somewhat admiring, somewhat uneasy. "Even if I were at Ethereal Opening right now, the chance wouldn't be big."
"What are you dreaming about? He's my opponent, not yours," Chen Changsheng chided.
Gou Hanshi's first match was surprisingly boring.
Qi Jian versus Liang Banhu, this internal strife between two disciples of the Mount Li Sword Sect, was even more surprising.
This match was surprisingly intense, the sound-obstructing array of the Hall of Washing Away Dust utterly incapable of blocking out those shrill and terrifying howls of swords. The blue sky was crisscrossed with clashing sword intents, and even the people standing outside the hall could feel the might and danger of those two swords.
Most surprising of all was that the final victor was not Liang Banhu, but Qi Jian.