I harshly folded my bed for the fifth time. I don have anything else to do aside from eating and preparing myself for the examination but I figured that once I open the doors of my room, Lady San will never leave me alone.
”I hate Lady San. She made me sleep for only two hours despite knowing the fact that I have an examination today. How very considerate of her, really. ”
After getting tired of refolding my bed, I just looked at my surroundings. Theres a stockpile of fabrics at the end and nothing else. Ive stayed here for a while yet it is my first time to notice that the room is actually spacious. My bag is at the other end and the flower is beside it. Its starting to wither.
It won last long. I crawled my way to the flower and just stared at it. Cutting off the withered parts of it, I wrote on a piece of paper and stuck it on the flowers vase.
Itd be better off without me.
”My lady! You are going to the examination hall, not parting ways with the world. Youd be back afterward and would be staying for a week, don act so emotional! ”
The floor is warm. The sun mustve been high up.
”I am not being emotional! I just thought that Lady San would be able to take care of this little one a lot better than I do. It will decay on my watch. ”
”You have to plant it, my lady. ”
She carefully walked to me and took the flower. She looked at it with ease.
”But Ill tell my mother. Don worry, my lady, shell take care of it. ”
”Thank you. ”
This busy market hasn noticed a thing. The ground is a bit damp due to the rain last night. Its a bit cold.
The feeling of a mans hanbok is new to me. Its almost the same as a womens hanbok but this is loose. I feel like whenever I raise my hands, they can see whats underneath my clothes. Other than that, its manageable, Id get used to this.
I reached the examination hall and just stared at it. The fact of going inside and taking an exam that only men are allowed hasn sunken to me yet. It still feels unreal. I held my bag tighter as I started moving my feet and making my way to the hall. The floor is warm and the cushions are soft. There is one big piece of paper rolled into a scroll and a brush and ink in the middle of the cushions. There are six line-ups containing four cushions per line-up, making a total of twenty-four examinees in this hall.
The examination is normally made outside in the castle grounds space but on the first day was decided to be held indoors since most examinees are from higher positions. The headmaster mustve placed me in this batch so I have lower chances of passing. How lucky of me.
I shut my eyes and just half blindly went to a random cushion.
”Stand up! Id be calling names, go to the place of the number I told you! ”
The headmaster yelled. He snatched the paper his assistant was holding and cleared his throat.
”Ahn-Myung Soo, 1. Kim-Soon Tak, 2… ”
He went on calling the names and I patiently waited for my name to be called. I rocked back and forth as the examinees were sitting at their designated places.
”Mah Oh Chul, 21. Lee Song Yoon, 22… ”
I sat on my seat and realized… Lee Song Yoon?
The Lee Song Yoon? Son of a physician? My best friend?
Oh, he better not. That is not good.
My worries mustve been too visible because someone touched my shoulder and asked,
”Hey, are you okay? ”
And the foolish me turned my head to face him. It is Lee Song Yoon. The Lee Song Yoon I know.
”Sorry, do I know you? ”
Curiosity is written all over his face.
This is bad, he recognizes me.
I turned my face fast before he could recognize me any further. I can talk, I wouldn talk. I haven even trained my voice, why did I forget that? What kind of man has a womans voice?
Well, my voice is pretty deep but my friend recognizes it. And it sounds sexy according to him.
”Whats your name? Im sure I saw you somewhere. Has my father healed you before or your family? Have you ever gone to our residence? ”
He turned to the guy beside him.
”Do you know his name? ”
”Mah Oh Chul, haven you been listening earlier? ”
He irritably said.
”Oh, right. Thank you…? ”
”Kim Seuk Min. ”
”Thank you, Seuk Min. ”
The guy was irritated by the way Song Yun addressed him but he turned instantly to me before he could argue. He adjusted his position and faced me.
”I can remember anyone with the surname of Chul. Who are you? ”
”Whats your problem? He could be anyone. From the market or someone who walked past your gate. Stop harassing the poor guy. ”
Wow, thank you Seuk Min but that won help. Song Yun has this kind of very sharp memory and I swear he could remember anyone in a blink of an eye. He even memorizes a book the first time he reads it. Though its nice to hear that someone defended me the first time I was doing this.
”No, no, he can be just any guy. He looks oddly familiar. Can you look at me, Mah Oh? ”
I can turn. No, I won turn. Aish, for all the twenty-four examinees, why does it have to be Song Yoon? Of all people, why him?
The headmaster clapped his hands and took Song Yuns attention completely. I sighed. That was close.
”Good morning, examinees. I am Ahn Min Yong, the head scholar of the palace. The basics are self-explanatory but Ill explain them anyways. In front of you is a piece of paper accompanied by a brush and ink. We only provide one paper per examinee so we won be replacing your papers if you get something wrong. Bear with it. The King will provide the exam, orally. The number of questions varies and depends on what the King had decided. Please be reminded that this batch is strictly chosen. ”
He looked at me, specifically, before moving on. I feel targeted.
”Therefore, the method of your exam differs from the rest. You have very little chance of passing because only a handful will be chosen from here. Not to pressure any of you but, if you do not pass this exam, you won be able to repeat in the same setup, therefore, degrading yourselves and- ”
”Okay Min Yong, stop scaring the examinees. ”
The King humbly patted the head scholars shoulders and went in front of us.
”The King has arrived! ”
All of us stood up and bowed as a sign of respect and sat back down.
”The King is here so if youll excuse me… unless someone wants to back out and come with me outside- ”
”Min Yong, thats enough. ”
Disappointed, the head scholar bowed his head and went outside. The King examined us one by one before clearing his throat.
”I know most of you or rather, all of you know but I am Shin Ho Yeon, the King of Joseon, son of the late King Shin Kim Ha. It is true that only a few will be chosen from this batch and you won be able to retake the exam this way again but breathe. Ease yourselves a bit. Are you nervous? Don be, I will not shake any of you to the core for I will only ask a single question that requires just a single answer unless you want to explain your answer with a why I wouldn mind. Once I sit down, none of you are allowed to ask questions from both me and your fellow examinee. Now without further ado, you may start writing your answers now. ”
He gently sat down and the whole place fell silent. No one is moving and I can tell that everyone is confused.
He hasn given the question yet, what are we supposed to write?
I stared at my paper and then lifted my gaze at the King. Is this some kind of puzzle? I looked at the other examinees and they were just as puzzled as I am. A few moments later, the first examinee passed his paper to the King. And I swear to all living creatures living in Joseon, he has written something on it, and whatever is written made the King smile.
Where the hell did he find the freaking question?
I peeked at Song Yoon and saw him writing on his paper as well. Whats the problem with these intelligent people? I could really use my sisters intelligence right about now.
I looked at Seuk Min and he was getting irritated. Getting surrounded by people possessing big brains does make anyone irritated.
”Three minutes left. ”
I don have much time, I need to look for the question now. I looked at my paper and rubbed my fingertips. Its rough and thin. I placed it in the daylight and looked for a question hidden in the paper.
I didn find any.
Maybe its not the light, maybe it should be wet. I started rubbing my saliva to all places where the question could possibly be hidden but found nothing. I even placed it really close to my face in case the question is so tiny no one can see it but theres nothing there as well.
I was finally giving up when Song Yun stood up and saved the day. Due to either laziness or excitement, he forgot to roll the paper, therefore, making me see some of his answers.
I saw the word yes.
Yes to what?
I looked at the King then back at Song Yun then I realized what the question was. I dipped my brush into the ink and started writing.
He did mention a question. Its Are you nervous? no answer was given to that question despite it being a rhetorical question.
My hands danced with the paper as I wrote my answer. Ill try to be as honest as possible.
Shit. This is bad.
My parents would never let me set foot in our residence ever again. That means no more alcohol and no more girls. No! I can live with that! Of all disciplinary actions, why does it have to be a scholar exam? How am I supposed to answer a missing question?
”Good luck Seuk Min. Fighting! ”
I stared at that guy visibly showing my annoyance. Who is he to call me by my name? Doesn he know who I am? I am the youngest son of the head of the ministry of defense. We are not close enough for him to call me by my name. He hasn even used any honorifics. Show some respect, man.
I stared at my paper again and looked at that guy who acts so much like a woman. Doesn he have any pride? What kind of guy licks his paper for the sake of answering this stupid anonymous question?
More people are passing their papers to the King. What do these dudes even write?
Confucius said that… no thatd be too common. Anyone who wants to be a scholar would write that. I don so I won .
”One minute left. ”
The King stated. Where does this guy get the right to pressure people? I am being pressured far enough.
The girly guy stood up and passed his paper with such gleaming eyes. Whats so enthusiastic about answering some dumb question?
Argh, whatever. Ill just write whats on my mind.
”I… don know… the answer… ”
I wrote it in calligraphic form so it wouldn look so offensive. Kick me out of the family registry for all I care. Do they think I can live on my own? What good would being a scholar bring me anyways? Id just be stuck with people who have been feeding their brains non-stop until it becomes obese.
Besides, there are no girls inside the scholars chambers. Wheres the fun with that? Even alcohol isn allowed. What do they expect me to do? Fuck some dude? Get a life, you lowly creatures.
I rolled the paper and stood up. I made my way to the King and gave it to him with my chin up. Yes, I am proud of my answer or whatever.
After receiving it, I was instructed to go back to my seat so I did. He opened my paper and for hells sake, I saw him laugh. Is he making fun of me? Hes just the King, I can have the defense walking to my command unlike him, how dare he make fun of me?
I kicked the cushion and sat down.
”Hey, don be so gloomy. Who knows? Maybe you got the right answer. All of us just guessed and that is okay, none of us knew what the question was anyways. ”
The problem is I wrote that I don know the answer. Thats not even the proper way to tell someone that you don know something. The only proper way is my handwriting. Why does he care anyways?
”Look at the bright side and hope we both get to pass. ”
He smiled so wide I thought it would tear his face.
Why can anyone just leave me alone? I swear I could kill a person if this guy is with me if I pass. Its less likely and I am happy with it. I can still be with girls. And girls alone.
”The allotted time has passed! Please pass your papers with or without your answers. ”
The King said.
We were dismissed and I walked happily outside the hall when the head scholar looked creepily at me.
”You didn pass. Theres no way youd pass. Even if you do, I swear your life would be so miserable youd quit the first day you get here. Mark my words. ”
What had I done wrong with that guy?
I gleefully went outside the castle grounds when someone pulled my hand and hid me in the bushes.
What is happening? Who is this?
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