“Sir, could you possibly be, the Imperial Preceptor, Senior Grand Secretary, Grade 1a Senior Secretary, and Leader of Zhou’s Civil Service Officers, the renowned Sir Song Tao?” Wen Ting asked enthusiastically.
“All those titles, I’ve long forgotten most of them, this old soul is merely Song Tao, with the family name of Yao, and courtesy name Ming Yang!” Sir Song Tao said this with a sideglance at Wen Ting.
“I have long been a fan of yours, Sir Song Tao, seeing as I am lucky enough to meet you here today, please accept this student’s respect!” Wen Ting was so agitated that he had no idea what to say, and just kept blabbering on at Sir Song Tao.
“Brother, don’t bow to him¹, this old geezer is weird, he even said that you were extremely foolish, and would never come to your senses!” Wen Rou’s voice was snarky when she stepped forward to pull Wen Ting back.
[¹]Bowing to someone - or A Baishi Ceremony is when prospective students wish to become a disciple of someone
“What? I’m foolish? And I will never gain any sense?!” Hearing these two phrases made Wen Ting close to blowing his top!
“Girl, this must be your insensible and foolish elder brother right?” Sir Song Tao coldly asked.
“Who are you calling foolish? Who is insensible here?”
“If you’re not foolish, then why is it that after three attempts, you are still unable to pass the county level imperial exam?” Sir Song Tao scoffed as he said this.
“You!” Wen Ting hated it the most when other people brought up his old past, and re-opened his scar of failing to pass the county level imperial examination three times. At this moment, everything Sir Song Tao had said was really riling him up, now he could hardly give a second thought about the other person’s background and positions!
“Ei, I say, this little rascal isn’t thinking of making a move against Sir is he?!” Sheng Yaoshan asked softly, he was standing close to Ren Yue but the spear on his back was already gleaming menacingly in his hand.
“As if! Look at the little fellow, he looks so frail that a gust of wind could blow him away.” Ren Yue smirked as he stood there with his arms crossed, keeping a close eye on what was happening.
“You’re a fine one to call someone frail.” Sheng Yaoshan immediately shot back at him with a hint of laughter in his eyes.
“Sheng Yaoshan, what are you trying to say here!” Ren Yue’s gaze immediately grew colder.
“Ren San, let’s be honest, when will the two of us duel against each other, freely and without the restrictions of clothing?! Even though I am the military examination champion, up till now, I have yet to see that Flourishing Blossom Sword Skill of yours!” Sheng Yaoshan challenged him.
“Heathen!” Ren Yue’s glance was like a ripple of water, chilly but soul penetrating.
“Ey, quick, look, something’s going to happen soon!” Sheng Yaoshan completed ignored Ren Yue as he began to chatter excitedly.
“That day, your sister kept begging me to help. She kept pushing for me to accept you as my disciple. Hmph, you’re the one who can’t pass the examination, and you’re still afraid that people will gossip about it?! Yet you are still fooling around here in front of me, hmph. There’s no hope for you!” Sir Song Tao looked at Wen Rou, then looked back at Wen Ting as he turned away to leave.
“You! If you don’t want to take me in, then don’t! What right do you have to nag and scold others, and you’re supposed to be the learned one here!” Wen Ting was mad with fury.
“Old geezer! Today, since everyone is here, we might as well clarify things. My brother has no bad blood with you, in fact, you are both total strangers to each other, why did you have to publicly humiliate him!” Wen Rou was also quite frustrated by now. She put down the shaobing (Chinese pancakes) and rushed to stand by Wen Ting’s side.
“Hey, it looks like we have drama!” Sheng Yaoshan laughed as he nudged Ren Yue with his arm.
“You heathen is that all you can do, sticking your nose into other people’s business!” Ren Yue was not really paying attention to him, but his eyes were filled with mirth. It was clear to see that he was also watching what was happening over there.
“Hmph, the young truly are ignorant²!” Sir Song Tao nonchalantly said this, his face was inclined upward as his gaze passed over Wen Ting.
“You! You old bald geezer, you have one foot in the grave and all the food you eat will become sh*t!” Wen Ting’s temper had blown and he randomly made up this reply.
→ So the original text is more poetic (seeing as Wen Ting was able to ‘answer’ the first line)
The original line Sir Song Tao recites is from a real Tang Dynasty Poem here
Young child at learning’s start, sun and moon or east and west are all you know Old fellow at death’s door, all the food you eat will become sh*t
“Haha haha! What a brilliant ‘answer’!” Liu Xian had been listening by the side, and when he had heard the phrase “food will become sh*t”, he could not help but gesture excitedly. He would never have been able to hear such a lively phrase inside the confines of the palace!
“Ay, not bad! I say, Ren San, that little fellow’s got quite the nerve, I bet you that Sir will definitely not accept him as his disciple today!” Once again, after hearing Wen Ting’s rather ‘peculiar’ poem, Sheng Yaoshan excitedly nudged Ren Yue who was beside him.
“Tsk! What do you keep touching me for?!” Ren Yue impatiently shook his sleeves, as a faint trace of disgust flickered across his handsome features.
“Do you not believe me?” Sheng Yaoshan had not noticed Ren Yue’s expression and continued to talk to himself.
“I don’t necessarily think so. I think that this little fellow seems to have some substance to him, plus he’s exceptionally brave! It’s completely possible that Master might change his mind today!” Ren Yue’s eyes filled with a hint of playfulness.
“Hmm, how about we bet on it?” Sheng Yaoshan challenged.
“With you?” Ren Yue sneered as he looked at Sheng Yaoshan.
“If I lose, then I whole-heartedly, with bone and flesh, offer up both my ears!” Sheng Yaoshan said this with a sneaky look in his eyes.
“On! You’re the one who said it! Don’t regret it!” Ren Yue’s expression turned serious and a flash of ferocity crossed his eyes, as his hand reached for the Jade Sword Belt around his waist.
“Then what if you lose?” Sheng Yaoshan cheerily asked.
“If I lose, then do whatever you want to me!” Ren Yue’s reply was unhesitating.
“Hehe hehe!” Sheng Yaoshan gave the white-robed Ren Yue a once-over, and noted his snow-white skin, starry eyes, the way his hair fell down his back, and the slight curve of his thin lips.
This fellow has such a beautiful appearance, even girls would be jealous when they see him.
If it were not for the fact that he has unrivaled intellect and has god-like sword skills, there would definitely be people who made the wrong assumption based off of his face alone!
“What are you laughing at?” Ren Yue complained.
“Ren San, these are your words, if you lose then you have to do whatever I want!” Sheng Yaoshan double confirmed this with him.
“I am a man of my word!” Ren Yue crisply answered.
“Good! If you lose, then you have to dress up as a girl and ride your Ying Xue all around the City of Xianyang!” As soon as Sheng Yaoshan blurted this out, he was soon laughing uncontrollably.
It was almost as if the Ren Yue in front of him, was already clad in a flowy dress, with his hair elegantly tied up. He was also already riding side-saddle on Ying Xue, his gaze was misty and unfocused, the entire sight would be mesmerizing.
“You! And you dare to call yourself the top scholar of the military examination! You’re so uncouth!” Ren Yue was pissed off now, and he turned to leave.
“Look, you’re the one who said that. If you dare to take up the bet, then you need to pay if you lose. How about this, if you lose, then you have to give Ying Xue to me, okay?” Sheng Yaoshan had had his laugh, and now returned to his serious self.
“Alright, it’s a deal!” Ren Yue turned around again.
As this was happening, the two siblings, Wen Ting and Wen Rou were having a stand-off with Sir Song Tao.
“You… You dare to call me an old bald geezer?” Sir Song Tao was furious.
“Who asked you to call me an ignorant kid?” Wen Ting was not in the least bit frightened.
“Elder brother Yaoshan, I thought ignorant kid² meant a child whose teeth are all yellow?
 The original text for ignorant kid is literally “yellow mouth little child” from earlier.
“Pfft.” Sheng Yaoshan failed to control himself and let out a laugh.
“What that elder brother said isn’t wrong though, Sir is really a bald old guy, so why is Sir so angry now?” Liu Xian turned to look at Sir Song Tai again as he raised his face up questioningly.
“Pfft.” This time it was Ren Yue who could not hold it in, and his laugh appeared like the caress of the spring breeze over leaves.
“What a foolish fellow, you’re exactly the same as that irritatingly foolhardy girl, you two truly are siblings!” Sir Song Tao angrily vented.
“Sir, I greet you as such because I respect you, so don’t be too much! You can’t speak like that about my little sister!” Wen Ting threatened.
“A fellow with a strong sense of justice! Didn’t you want to be my disciple? Alright then! Let me test you today. That way you are the one seeking your own embarrassment!. Only this way will you be able to know of the gap between being foolish and sharp!” Sir Song Tao berated him.
“Old fellow! My elder brother’s intellect is not a joke. Today I’ll let you see, what it truly means when a student surpasses the master!” Wen Rou defiantly shot back.
“Sister!” Wen Ting felt a tad embarrassed.
“Brother, you are the best, usually you spend your days revising and studying. Today is not an examination, regardless of whether you win, lose, pass or fail, just relax, and show the best side of yourself, let that old geezer see what’s what!” Wen Rou tried to encourage her brother.
“Mmm, alright! Since you said that, I will definitely use all the talent I have in order to win some face back for our Wen Family elders!” Wen Ting nodded as his heart swelled up with confidence.
“Little fellow. Listen carefully! I will recite the first sentence, and you have to ‘answer’ it! If you can’t complete the couplet, then you lose!” Sir Song Tao said.
“Feel free to ask anything you want!” Wen Ting straightened up as he replied unflinchingly.
Sir Song Tao’s gaze traveled to the distant silhouette of water, and as he twirled his mustache he slowly recited,
“The water should be free of worries, but the wind brings with it wrinkles.”
Wen Ting’s brows were tightly knit as he looked into the distance at the mountain. There had recently been a bout of snowfall, and it was vaguely visible that the gathered snow had yet to melt away, and soon Wen Ting happily replied,
“The mountains should not have to age, yet their tops become white with snowfall.”
“Brother, good work!” Although Wen Rou hardly knew much about how to battle, but hearing that Wen Ting was able to come up with a reply, she excitedly began to clap her support.
Sheng Yaoshan’s eyes brightened as his heart trembled with excitement, this little fellow wasn’t too bad! It wasn’t very visible, but he did seem quite capable!
Ren Yue’s eyes were still quite indifferent, to him, if the fellow could not even form a reply to that, he should not even bother trying to become his Master’s disciple!
“Old geezer, how about that? My brother managed to reply it!” Wen Rou suddenly felt much more confident as she began to press the old guy.
“Hmph hmph, we’re just beginning!” Sir Song Tao’s expression remained unchanged, he was not in the least surprised by Wen Ting’s performance.
“Brilliant poem, what a brilliant poem!” Everyone’s tempers had been slowly simmering to a boil when suddenly a childish voice broke out.
Wen Rou hastily turned her head, wanting to reply as she looked in the direction of the voice that was praising her brother.
But all she saw was that some time ago, Liu Xian had managed to find the way to the front of the grill on his own. He had picked up the warm, just-grilled Rou Jia Mo and was delightedly taking huge chunks out of it.
As he was eating he kept on praising, “Delicious, delicious!”
He’s probably saying “Delicious!” rather than “Brilliant poem!”
→ The raw text used phrases that would have sounded similar if said with a full mouth,
Delicious, 好吃 （Hào chī) and Brilliant poem, (Hǎo shī)
Wen Ting had also caught sight of what was happening, and he could not help but feel a slight sense of disappointment.
Wen Rou pursed her lips as she tried to hold in a laugh, this 9th Prince really had grown such a heart for food!
Sir Song Tao shook his head and began to pluck at his mustache hairs again,
“For us foreigners, the word ride ‘骑Qí’ comes from sitting ‘奇Qí’ on a horse ‘马mǎ’, the word stretch ‘张Zhāng’ comes from the characters long ‘长Zhǎng’ bow ‘弓Gōng’, there are 8 kings ‘王Wáng’ in the four characters ‘琴Qín瑟sè琵pí琶pá’, thus we never lose a battle.”
This is too difficult! Just listening to it alone made Wen Rou’s eyes tear up, what the h*ck was this, it was such a tongue-twister!
Sheng Yaoshan scratched his head absentmindedly and then smiled, he turned to look at Ren Yue as his eyes conveyed a hint of a challenge.
Ren Yue shot him a glance and quickly turned to look at Wen Ting with a sharp gaze!
Deep in thought, Wen Ting lowered his head as he paced back and forth. Suddenly, he lifted his head up and smilingly replied,
“The separate characters of thou ‘尔ěr’ and people ‘人rén’ combine to form the character you ‘你nǐ’, the character for false ‘伪wěi’ can be split into behavior of a person ‘为Wéi人rén’, the character for attack ‘裘Qiú’ splits into meaning begging for clothes ‘求Qiú衣yī’, and demons and monster surround us on all sides, but each and every one of them is but an imp.”
“Brilliant!” Sheng Yaoshan could not control himself from clapping in agreement.
“Brother, you really are amazing, you were even able to answer this! Next year you will definitely pass the county level imperial exam!” Wen Rou excitedly chattered as she bounced up and down.
Sir Song Tao was also stunned right now, he had used this couplet during the imperial civil service examination that year and had let the scholars listen in. Back then, hardly anyone was able to form a reply, how was it possible that this little fellow had succeeded in just a few steps? Could it be that he really was a person with potential?
“Brilliant poem brilliant poem!” That childish voice could be heard again.
Wen Rou looked over in the same direction again, and saw that Liu Xian had enjoyed eating it so much that his entire face was smeared with juices from the Chinese bacon, he must be trying to say “Delicious, delicious again!”
The first couplet
(Originally by Li Wenfu during the Qing Dynasty 清朝李文甫)
绿水本无忧, 因风皱面。(Lǜ shuǐ běn wú yōu, yīn fēng zhòu miàn)
青山原不老, 为雪白头。(Qīngshān yuán bùlǎo, wèi xuě báitóu)
→ General meaning = That the mountains, lakes, and rivers should not have to worry about aging or have any worries at all, but because of external factors, they do look aged and do have worries.
The second couplet
(Originally by Ji Xiaolan during the Qing Dynasty Reign of the Qianlong Emperor 清朝纪晓岚 )
[ Although the version the author used seems to fit a more modern setting, which is before the Battle of the Yalu River 甲午海战 ]
(Wǒ é rén, qí qí mǎ, zhāngzhǎnggōng, qínsè pípá bādà wáng, wáng wáng zài shàng, dān gē chéng zhàn)
(Ěr nǐ rén, qiú qiú yī, wěi wéirén, chīmèiwǎngliǎng sì xiǎoguǐ, guǐ guǐ fàn biān, hé shǒu jí ná)
→ General meaning = The first was a challenge to the Chinese people from foreigners, the second was a Chinese official’s reply; there seem to be many versions of it, but the one I found was from this list.
T/N: Hope you enjoyed it~ If there are any errors do comment below and sorry in advance! Also is the caption font too small? Would you guys prefer it if I took out the descriptions and put it in normal text size instead?