Chapter 20 – Prefecture City Crisis

Zhen, the shopkeeper, walked back to the auspicious restaurant. It was lunchtime, and there were usually many customers in the spacious hall, but now there were only two tables, and not a single scholar in sight, let alone those wearing the robes of child scholars or accomplished scholars.

It had only been one day.

Just then, a worker hurriedly arrived and said anxiously, “Boss, it’s not good. Master Su has already said that no one from the Su family is allowed to eat at our restaurant, and they can’t have any dealings with us. The other two noble families are following suit. You need to figure something out. I heard from a friend at the county office that County Magistrate Cai also said that they won’t be using our auspicious restaurant to entertain guests anymore. That means the yamen officials and their relatives won’t come either.”

Zhen, the shopkeeper, looked blankly at the empty hall for a long time and then sat on the doorstep, howling and crying.

“I shouldn’t have underestimated people…”

Unlike usual, the Fang family had meat and vegetables for lunch today, and Yang Yuhuan was no longer reluctant to eat. Instead, she ate whatever Fang Yun wanted to eat.

As they ate, Yang Yuhuan talked about trivial matters, such as someone sending a gift of money and a few wealthy households sending invitations for Fang Yun to attend their banquet.

After lunch, Fang Yun wrote some brief replies to those who had invited him, expressing his gratitude and saying that he would be studying the classics at Magistrate Cai’s house and hoped for their understanding.

After a short nap, Fang Yun sharpened his mind and then began to practice calligraphy.

“The path of the saints is long and arduous, and I must take one step at a time. Even with the help of extraordinary books, I still need to work hard. As a literati, writing is very important. In the Holy Origin Continent, a good piece of calligraphy is more important than a good face.”

“Secondly, I must memorize and understand the classics of all the saints. Extraordinary books can help me with many things, but they cannot make me omnipotent. What is learned on paper is superficial. Extraordinary books are only a stepping stone for me, not the key to unlocking the Path of the Saints. The key to the Path of the Saints is within myself! If I rely solely on extraordinary books, I will never be able to find my own way to the Path of the Saints, nor will I ever be able to achieve sainthood!”

“Thirdly, I must read the weekly publication, Wenhui, which covers all the political, cultural, economic, and technological information of the ten nations of the Holy Origin Continent. It is the best way for me to understand this world. The monthly publication, The Path of the Saints, is also essential. The poems and essays published there represent the essence of the ten nations, and reflect the development trend and fundamental ideas of the entire world. I must read all the past issues of Wenhui and The Path of the Saints.”

Fang Yun took a deep breath and then, with a thought, various calligraphy samples appeared in his mind. He finally settled on the “Liu Style,” the regular script style of Liu Gongquan, a great calligrapher of the Tang Dynasty, which was not yet used in the Holy Origin Continent.

Yan Zhenqing and Liu Gongquan were the two great calligraphers of the Tang Dynasty, and their skills in regular script were not inferior to that of the Calligraphy Saint, Wang Xizhi, but their running script was far from his.

Yan’s style was too rigid and angular, and was not suitable for Fang Yun to learn at this time. On the other hand, Liu’s style was smooth, balanced, elegant, and rigorous, which was more in line with Fang Yun’s character and age.

In the imperial examinations, regular script was more important than running script, but in the military, cursive script was more popular.Fang Yun closed his eyes and silently memorized a copy of Liu Gongquan’s masterpiece, “The Stele of the Divine Strategy Army,” deeply imprinting it in his mind before picking up his brush to copy it.

“The emperor inspected the Divine Strategy Army on the left…”

Fang Yun wrote stroke by stroke, one sheet, two sheets, three sheets…

After writing ten sheets of paper with no progress, Fang Yun did not feel discouraged and continued to write.

After finishing the twentieth sheet, Fang Yun stopped and carefully examined it, a smile appearing on his face. There was a slight improvement in his writing.

“It’s no wonder that this is a world of talent. Now that I have talent, not only has my body become stronger and able to ‘see in the dark,’ but my mind is also more agile, and I can learn anything faster than before.”

Fang Yun had confidence and wrote more smoothly.

After an hour of writing, Fang Yun walked around the courtyard for half an hour before returning to the house to continue practicing calligraphy.

After practicing calligraphy, Fang Yun burned all the copybooks. “The Stele of the Divine Strategy Army” recorded an event where various countries surrendered to the Tang Dynasty and could not be seen by others.

Fang Yun rested for a moment and took out a slightly old book of the “Book of Changes” from the bookshelf to read.

The original text of the book had no punctuation, and even the paragraphs were messy, but there were some markings made by Fang Yun with a brush, similar to periods, which were called sentence markers.

Fang Yun began to recite the “Book of Changes,” and after reciting the first chapter, “Qian,” he was surprised to find that he had completely memorized it, which was not clear in his previous memory.

“This is photographic memory. The Imperial Scholar has been blessed with talent many times, so their bodies and brains are extraordinary, which is why they can have photographic memory. I never expected that as a mere Child Scholar, I could also have photographic memory. Could it be the power that comes with the world of strange books?”

Fang Yun was overjoyed and continued to recite the chapter “Qian” from the beginning.

Reading a book a hundred times reveals its meaning.

By the third time, Fang Yun found that his mind was becoming clearer, and the words in front of him seemed to come alive. Information that was perceptible but could not be clearly expressed appeared in his mind, helping him understand the “Book of Changes.”

Fang Yun immediately guessed that this was another function of the world of strange books, helping to digest knowledge and turning what was in the world of strange books and what was in books into his own, turning the dead into the living.

Fang Yun continued to recite, and the most essential meaning hidden in the words slipped through his mind and was gradually understood and absorbed.

After reading it ten times, Fang Yun had a slight feeling of fullness, as if he had just eaten a meal.

“No wonder Confucius said that he didn’t taste meat for three months. I’m afraid it’s because he ‘ate’ the most fundamental thing in this world, so he naturally didn’t care about the taste of meat.”

Fang Yun did not recite the next volume of the “Book of Changes” but picked up his brush to write down what he had just recited.

After writing the first chapter, “Qian,” Fang Yun’s feeling of fullness disappeared, and the characters he wrote this time had greatly improved. Each character tended towards perfection and seemed to contain true meaning.

Fang Yun picked up the sheet of paper and found that it was ten times heavier than the previous copybook, and the ink was thick and did not dry for a long time.

Fang Yun touched the ink with his hand, feeling as if he were touching glass, smooth and round.

The ink did not stain his skin.”The mark of a talented writer is to not stain the skin with ink. Even a talented scholar needs to practice for three to five months before achieving this. The next step is ‘resonance of words,’ which allows one to harness the energy of the world and fully master ‘paper discussions.’ If I had achieved this during my time as a Child Scholar, I could have mastered ‘paper discussions’ as soon as I became an Accomplished Scholar. It’s not uncommon for the weight of the paper to increase, but it’s said that the words of a Sage are as heavy as mountains, which is terrifying.”

Fang Yun was surprised at how quickly he was progressing and felt motivated to continue studying and practicing. He recited and wrote each passage ten times over.

As he wrote and studied the Book of Changes, his talent gradually grew stronger, and the entire study room became more solid.

Unknowingly, the sun had set, and the room had become dark. However, Fang Yun continued to recite and write, seemingly unaware of the darkness.

At night, his eyes were brighter than usual. As a Child Scholar, he possessed the ability of ‘night vision,’ allowing him to see clearly even in complete darkness.

Fang Yun finished writing a character and was reciting when he heard Yang Yuhuan’s voice from outside.

“Little Yun, it’s time for dinner.”

“Okay, I’ll be out soon.”

Fang Yun had dinner as usual, but Yang Yuhuan seemed different. She used to talk very little with Fang Yun, but these past few days, she talked about everything with him, from her search for a maid to their neighbors. Every time someone praised Fang Yun, she would be overjoyed and her face would light up, making her even more beautiful.

Fang Yun listened quietly and occasionally interjected. He felt warm inside, as Yang Yuhuan had become dependent on him.

After dinner, Fang Yun left with some paper and went to the County Office. The Imperial Scholar lived in the back courtyard of the County Office.

In the back courtyard, Fang Yun met Lady Cai, who was very polite. After some small talk, the Imperial Scholar took him to the study and taught him how to write essays.

“Essays have a complex structure, including breaking the topic, connecting topics, giving a small lecture, submitting the conclusion, presenting the original topic, giving a big lecture, expressing personal opinions, presenting the original text, and concluding. You don’t have to be restricted to this structure, but you must understand all of it.”

Fang Yun already had some knowledge of essays, as even as a Child Scholar, he needed to understand essay writing to broaden his horizons.

As the Imperial Scholar spoke, Fang Yun wrote down everything he thought was important.

The Imperial Scholar nodded.

“Breaking the topic is the most important part of writing an essay. The goal is to solve the topic and explain the words of the Saints in your own words. If you make a mistake in breaking the topic, you’ll make more mistakes later. If the examiners find a mistake in breaking the topic, they’ll immediately disqualify the paper.”

The Imperial Scholar then gave examples of different ways to break a topic and explained the traps within them, making it easy to understand.

Usually, only Accomplished Scholars taught Child Scholars, and even the most talented Accomplished Scholar couldn’t compare to an Imperial Scholar. Furthermore, these Imperial Scholars continued to study essays and paid attention to the yearly exam topics, as essays were the best way to understand the teachings of the Saints.

The Imperial Scholar spent an hour and a half explaining the structure of essays, which was exceptionally clear. Although Fang Yun wrote everything down, he didn’t understand many things due to his lack of experience.After finishing his lecture, Fang Yun was about to say goodbye when the prefect suddenly asked, “What types of questions did I just discuss? Repeat them all without looking at your notes.”

Fang Yun remained calm and answered, “The first type was the ‘whole chapter question,’ which uses the content of a whole chapter as the question. The second type was the ‘cut-off question,’ which only takes the first four characters of a sentence. The third type is the highly debated ‘cut-and-paste question’…”

Fang Yun answered all the questions accurately and even added his own understanding.

The prefect was stunned and then became red-faced, saying, “Well done! You truly deserve to be a top scholar. You will surely hold a high position in the court in the future! Even if you have a place in the ‘Holy Tower,’ I won’t be surprised! Unfortunately, I’m afraid that if I teach you too much, you won’t be able to digest it. Otherwise, I would lecture until dawn!”

“Thank you, Prefect Cai,” Fang Yun bowed respectfully.

“I’ll give you a good evaluation and a poem about our county. In return, I will teach you some classics that are not well known.”

As they walked outside, the prefect and Fang Yun continued to talk.

After seeing Fang Yun off, the prefect stood in the courtyard and sighed at the moon, “This child is excellent in every way, but unfortunately, he is not my son.”

Back at home, Fang Yun continued to study classics and practice calligraphy. Before going to bed, he repeatedly recalled what he had learned at the prefect’s house.

That night, Fang Yun had his first encounter with classical literature.

That night, a pawnshop belonging to the Liu family in the Willow Mountain Prefecture suffered a fire, resulting in a loss of over 32,000 taels of silver.

That night, Fang Shouye visited the Liu family mansion and slapped Liu Zicheng, forcing him to apologize before leaving. Before he left, Fang Shouye threatened that if Fang Yun was killed, the next day would be Liu Zicheng’s death anniversary.

That night, Liu Zicheng used the academy’s homing pigeons to contact his brother, Liu Zhi, who was far away in the capital, and received his reply.

That night, Liu Zicheng brought all his savings to visit the military academy’s guard general, presenting Liu Zhi’s letter and bribing the fifth-ranked official of the Willow Mountain Prefecture.

That night, Liu Zicheng looked towards the direction of Ji County and swore, “I won’t kill you, but I will ruin your literary reputation, block your path to success, and destroy your future! Not only will you never enter the military academy, but on the day you enter, I will humiliate you in front of everyone, making you kneel before me like a dog, to wash away the humiliation Fang Shouye brought upon me!”

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