Chapter 10: Competition
Today Yan Su was wearing palace dress, not yesterday night’s horseback riding outfit. It was obvious that he just finished court.
He stood tall in the morning light and glanced towards them. There was cold frost in his dark eyes that smiled so warmly and gently before. Thin and beautiful lips lifted slightly up; a faint smile on his face.
“Greetings to Concubine Hui,” Yan Su politely bowed to Concubine Hui. Concubine Hui smiled. Yan Su then turned his head to Qin Jiu, raising his eyebrows and looking at her. He didn’t say a word, merely walking in the direction of the royal study.
Concubine Hui’s face turned dark, and her lips were slightly pursed with worry on her face.
Qin Jiu was also worried; she knew that meeting Yan Su here today was no coincidence.
The eunuch by the Emperor’s side saw Concubine Hui from afar and hurried over to greet her.
“This is the Reed Branch Leader Qin Jiu from the Heaven Sect. She made this special visit to His Majesty, please let him know.” Concubine Hui spoke.
The eunuch bowed to Concubine Hui and replied, “Please wait a moment. His Highness Anling, His Honor Su, and last year’s champion of martial arts are with the emperor right now.” Concubine Hui nodded.
After a while, the little eunuch back, “Please come in, Concubine Hui and Branch Leader!”
Qin Jiu followed Concubine Hui into the royal study. Turning at a crystal screen, they saw the Emperor sitting in front of the dragon desk. He was dressed in a bright yellow shirt with narrow sleeves. He looked in his forties, still handsome and graceful, with wrinkles at the corners of his eyes and lips. He looked pale and not in good health. There were not many servants, only two little eunuchs, one holding a cup and the other rubbing an ink stick.
Three people sat on the seats beneath the dragon desk. The first was Yan Su, His Highness Anling. Next to him was an old man with a white beard. After a brief scan, Qin Jiu knew that he was the prime minister named Suqing. Another young man dressed in black and blue clothes, who came in together with Yan Su, was the new winner of the martial arts competition Xie Dichen.
After Concubine Hui and Qin Jiu bowed to the emperor, they were told to sit down. Emperor Qing inquired, “How is your master doing?”
Qin Jiu stood and answered, “Everything is fine with him, thank you for your concern.”
Emperor Qing nodded his head and said, “I thought your master would send a male disciple this time, but I was wrong.”
Yan Su stood up and said, “Father, since the master sent Qin Jiu to serve the court, she must have a great advantage in military strategy. I would like to see it.”
Suqing was also interested and spoke, “Your Majesty, although our dynasty has an official rule for people coming from the Heaven Sect that they don’t need to pass any tests to serve, I want to see if they are really qualified. Your Majesty can ask the Heaven Sect to change the person if they are not as good as we expected.”
Xie Dichen also stood up and said, “Your Majesty, I heard His Highness Anling say that he met Qin Jiu last night. Because he didn’t know who she was, they had a spar unintentionally. I would like to complete with Qin Jiu too, if your majesty would be okay with this.”
Yan Su smiled and said, “Father, just take it as a test. If Qin Jiu wins, she can stay in court. But if she loses…”
Yan Su didn’t finish, but Qin Jiu understood the meaning of his words. If she lost, she would only get an unimportant position or be sent back to the the Heaven Sect. Of course the second choice was unlikely, after all, the Heaven Sect held an important position in the court which couldn’t be ignored.
Qin Jiu looked at Yan Su, Suqing, and Xie Dichen, her eyes narrowed. Obviously, these three people came prepared.
The assassination last night naturally wasn’t a ‘spar’. The three soldiers must’ve reported her identity as part of the Heaven Sect to Yan Su, which was why he wanted to kill her. He wasn’t a person that would kill a woman for winning a lantern from him. Now, he turned the assassination to a spar. Yan Su clearly knew that she was injured, but still wanted to test her against this year’s winner of martial arts. He obviously wanted to force her to go back.
Concubine Hui heard Yan Su’s words with dissatisfaction on her face, “Your Majesty, it is rather unfair to let Qin Jiu compete with the winner.”
Suqing sneered, “Unfair? If she can’t win, that means she’s really not up to par. Why should we make an exception to accept the Heaven Sect’s people?”
Emperor Qing laughed and stated, “I haven’t seen a competition of martial arts for a long time. Let’s do one this time. It is not important who wins.” Since Emperor Qing had agreed, Concubine Hui knew that they couldn’t avoid this; she helplessly glanced at Qin Jiu.
Qin Jiu thought in her heart. She knew how good she was. If she wasn’t injured last night, she could take the chance to compete with Xie Dichen. However, she was still in pain from the wound on her body; she probably couldn’t win this time.
“Your majesty, may I ask if the date of the competition can be postponed? I came all the way to the Palace, and my body has not recovered yet. I am afraid that I can’t use all my strength at this time.” Suqing and Xie Dichen apparently didn’t expect Qin Jiu to say that, so they turned to Yan Su and asked his opinion.
Yan Su said with a cold smile, “Branch Leader, if the enemy were to attack the city, would you not fight because you don’t feel well?” Emperor Qing listened silently and hummed softly, “Don’t take it too seriously. Just play around.”
Since the Emperor had spoken, she knew that she couldn’t make any excuses. If she had known that Yan Su would do this, she would’ve gone to see the emperor at a later time after she recovered. There were no others to blame but her.
“If that’s the case, please be merciful!” Qin courteously replied.
Even if it was said that it wasn’t serious, when the Emperor passed down his orders, the little eunuchs were told by their superiors to build a platform outside. Soon, everyone was aware of these big movements. Thus, when Qin Jiu arrived at the platform, she saw many ministers who hadn’t left waiting there.
The platform for competition was set up in the imperial garden. In front of the garden was a large ground surrounded by tall trees, providing shade in the summer. The trees were bare now though.
Qin Jiu and Xie Dichen started fighting after they bowed to each other. In fact, it was a fight with no suspense at all. Perhaps it was doomed from the beginning that Qin Jiu would lose. Even so, Qin Jiu still refused to give up, hoping that some miracle would happen.
When she took the frame and picked the embroidery needle out. The scene amazed many onlookers. If the rule for winning was stunning, Qin Jiu would definitely be the winner.
However, the two of them did not fight for long, Qin Jiu’s three silk threads were cut by Xie Dichen’s sharp sword.
Qin Jiu had much less strength than yesterday. Not only was she injured, her internal strength was also damaged. Her silk thread was made of shark thread, which could cut a sword if enough internal force was poured into it. But if there was not enough internal force, it would only be a little tougher than ordinary silk thread, and be very easy to cut off.
Qin Jiu was staring at the several pieces of broken shark thread which were not easy to get at all. While she was still distressed, Xie Dichen’s sword had already arrived at her side like the wind. She twisted her body and avoided the attack.
“I lost!” Qin Jiu said, holding the embroidery frame. The wound on her body had already re-opened, and it hurt badly when she moved. Besides, she didn’t want to lose any more silk threads.
Xie Dichen put away the sword and turned to her, but Qin Jiu had already begun to count how many silk threads were still on the frame. “Branch Leader, are you playing around? You haven’t lost yet!” Xie Dichen said coldly.
Qin Jiu blinked her eyes and said, “I have lost my weapon, doesn’t that mean I lost?” Was it that she must die under his sword before she gave in? Qin Jiu walked quickly to Emperor Qing and declared, “I am not as good as Xie Dichen. I admit my loss.”
Suqing immediately said, “Your Majesty, you can see that not all disciples from the Heaven Sect are outstanding.”
Emperor Qing was hesitant and seemed to be thinking about how to deal with the situation.
Yan Su came forward and spoke, “Father, I saw Qin Jiu’s martial arts was derived from the embroidery skills, so let’s put her in the embroidering department first!” Although that department was not a leisure job, it wasn’t an important position either. Qin Jiu couldn’t do anything in that position.
Emperor Qing nodded his head and said, “This is a good idea.”
Qin Jiu accepted the position and asked, “Your majesty, I wonder if I may have the opportunity to join this spring’s test.”
Emperor Qing was stunned for a moment; he did not expect that Qin Jiu wanted to join the spring test. However, he still approved.