# 20. Half a Qilü Stuns the Great Scholars “Xu Cijiu, my student. Knowledgeable on the arts of warfare, and is one of great promise and talent.” Master war strategist Zhang Shen introduced him. *He can’t write poetry.* That last sentence though, he said in his mind. Master Zhang was confused; clearly he doesn’t know how to write poetry, why would he come out? Thinking that the purple jade amulet was guaranteed to be his, Zhu Tuizhi initially was cautious when he heard someone else step up. However, when he saw Xu Xinnian, his worry disappeared. He merely gave him a look. Having lived in the same dorms for many years, whilst one cannot say they know each other through and through, knowing weaknesses and strengths was nonetheless a guarantee. Xu Xinnian was outstanding in debate and strategy, and also skilled at the art of warfare. Poetry, however, was more like a great hall that he could never reach. *That pendant is still mine.* The students’ gazes fell upon Xu Xinnian. He basked in the attention that everyone was giving him, with an expression like all was beneath him, looking at the warm sun hanging in the sky. “*Yellow clouds covering a thousand li, the sun setting dim;*” The Go master Li Mubai nodded, stroking his beard. This sentence was a simple introduction of the scenery, the initial brush strokes painting a scene on the paper. “*In whirling snow, the north wind drives the wild geese;*” It was currently just entering winter. The snows hadn’t come, but they were not far away, so this line was not unseemly. Dusk rays scatter the sky, snows swirling around, with the north wind howling, scattering the formation of the wild geese flying. The feeling of a landscape finally flourished. These two lines painted wonderfully the background, a perfect match for this farewell ceremony. Zhang Shen was stunned, scrutinising Xu Xinnian carefully. With his student’s talents for poetry, these two lines must’ve taken him hours upon hours of blood and tears to get down. If this standard could be kept, perhaps it would beat out Zhu Tuizhi. Of the three virtuous and respectful great scholars, Ziyang Jushi had the highest talent for poetry. He chewed on those words now, feeling suddenly a pang of sadness. A thousand li, dusk, north wind, lone geese, snow swirling around… it painted a bleak and lonely picture. He was not sent out on a mission, but was rather thrown into the provinces, far from where he was worthy to be. However, though bleak the scene, it still had some charm that only a quiet, snow-covered land may have. This governorship, though seeming like he was being put to good use by the court, being given authority, but will the forces from the Imperial Academy really watch him stroll through the azure clouds? Will they really allow him to plant roots in officialdom for the White Deer Academy? Going to Qingzhou, his future was uncertain, and the path ahead was hazy. Suddenly, Xu Xinnian spread his arms out wide, his handsome face being lit up in the sunlight, seeming perfect and delicate like the finest jade. He shook his arms, looking directly at Ziyang Jushi, and with vigour intoned the last two lines: “*On the road ahead, surely will be friends dear and true;* “*Throughout the land is there anyone who knows not you?*” Within and without the pavilion, all fell silent. In an instant, all present felt goosebumps. Zhu Tuizhi turned around stiffy, looking at the proudly standing Xu Xinnian with a dumbstruck expression. “On the road ahead, surely will be friends dear and true; Throughout the land is there anyone who knows not you.” Li Mubai excitedly punched his fist in the air, “Marvellous!” The first two lines painted a desolate scene, the latter two turned that emotion on its head, like the fog on the path ahead suddenly being cleared by a gust of wind, giving the traveller courage. Zhang Shen looked at Xu Xinnian deeply, falling silent. Ziyang Jushi, with his love for poetry, was deeply engrossed within the picture that this Qilü poem painted, heart shaken. “What a good poem…” he muttered. “Why is there only half?” Master of War Zhang Shen saw that his own student did not continue, and couldn’t resist asking. The corner of Xu Xinnian’s mouth twitched, “This poem only has half the verses.” Only half!? All the scholars present stared wide at him, finding it difficult to believe this fact. Who writes only half a poem? Is he still human? “No matter, half a poem is still enough to stun the heavens.” Ziyang Jushi calmed his emotions, smiling deeply, “Xu Cijiu, this poem, what’s its title?” “It has none!” Xu Xinnian maintained his proud expression, but in reality did not know how to explain. Only by maintaining his haughty demeanour, can he prevent people from asking further. “No need to rush,” Ziyang Jushi’s smile seemed to widen even more, “This poem was written for me, right?” Xu Xinnian nodded. “Why not, let this old man help you make a title?” Go master Li Mubai and war master Zhang Shen suddenly realised his intentions, and felt as sour as if a lemon had been squeezed inside them. “Then let’s call it *A Send-off for Yang Gong to Qingzhou, in Mianyang Pavilion*, how about that?” For a great and mighty scholar, his eyes showed childish excitement. “Of course!” Xu Xinnian unconsciously replied haughtily, and thinking that this attitude might be showing disrespect, quickly added, “All according to you, Sir.” “Shameless old bastard!” “Humph!” The two other great scholars felt even more sour. “This is what’s called good fortune,” Ziyang Jushi laughed, swaggeringly clasping his hands together, and bowing towards the other two scholars. The poetic talent of the Great Feng had fallen so, that if this work were to spread out, it would cause uproar in scholarly circles, and would be recited by students all across the world. Ziyang Jushi’s name would also spread with it, and most importantly, by doing this he had forever bound his name to this poem. If this poem became something that would passed down through generations, then Ziyang Jushi’s name would be spread for thousands of years to come. And for a work of this quality, that was highly likely. In the other two great scholars’ eyes, what was most embarrassing, was that Xu Xinnian in the position of a student gifted this to his teacher, and so the name of the poem should not contain one’s birth name, and must rather use the “courtesy name” or “title name” instead. Only good friends of the same generation had any right to write one’s birth name into a poem. So one can see how much this old bastard was willing to lose face, if it meant his name spreading wide and far. Being a teacher, Zhang Shen realised that this poem might not have been his student’s own creation, but he did not speak up. If his student could earn the good graces of Ziyang Jushi, it would be his own good fortune. As a teacher, Zhang Shen was nonetheless happy for him, In the raucous discussion of the crowd, Xu Xinnian coughed, and told truthfully, “Teacher, two Sirs, this poem was not originally my work, there was someone else.” The conversations immediately fell silent. The three great scholars’ reactions were all different. Zhang Shen’s suspicion was confirmed, and he showed an “of course this was the case” look. Li Mubai was shocked, not expecting this turn. Ziyang Jushi’s reaction was the largest, as he stepped forward a few steps, anxiously asking, “Who? Is it someone else in our academy? Are they here right now?” His gaze danced past Xu Xinnian, searching the crowd. “It was my brother!” Xu Xinnian raised his chin, replying haughtily. The silent students began to chatter again: “Xu Cijiu’s older brother?” “Where did he study? Why have I not heard of his person?” “Um… if I remember correctly, Xu Cijiu was the eldest son?” “Cijiu, what’s your brother’s respected name, who did he study under… aiya, c’mon, say it, how do we not know this incredible poetic talent?” The students were impatient and eager. The three great scholars looked at Xu Xinnian. *Shit, I was influenced by my simple uncle, I shouldn’t have told them about my stupid older brother…* Looking at the expectant faces of the other students, Xu Xinnian suddenly realised that he made a mistake. Everything in the world was lowly, only the intellectuals were not, and so one could see how proud the intellectuals were, Xu Xinnian included. Scholars of the Cloud Deer Academy was even more proud. If Xu Qi’an was an intellectual as well, then they would praise him, even look up to him, but to let everyone know he was but a bailiff at the constabulary, would cause the opposite effect. If lowly constabulary runner could write a world-shaking Qilü, what face do we scholars have? Xu Xinnian internally prepared to face the onslaught, “My brother… spends much of his time at home studiously reading the classics. He is not a student in our Cloud Deer Academy, and neither at the Imperial Academy. He- his personality is very quiet and introverted, and he doesn’t like fame or merit, and only to study.” *Such integrity, he could be a model for all of us. He should be looked up to…* the students were stunned by the description, and they all thought the same thing. There was no debate on the best poem, the purple jade amulet went to Xu Xinnian. Ziyang Jushi bade farewell to everyone, face ruddy and bright, feeling a well of emotion. Stepping into the carriage, he left behind one parting remark: “Such a great talent must not be left in the dust. Chunjing, Jinyan, what do you think?” One cannot be sure if the two other great scholars didn’t understand, or were pretending to be understand, but nonetheless they silently watched as Ziyang Jushi departed. Waiting until the carriage has gone far, Li Mubai suddenly dragged Xu Xinnian’s hand, pulling him aside, asking “Cijiu, this old man suddenly has heart to take a student. I have nothing going on today, why don’t you take me to see your brother?” Zhang Shen was shocked, as he immediately added “Cijiu, if your older brother was to also take this old man as his teacher, it would certainly be praised far and wide.” Whether or not he wrote any poems was not important, mostly they didn’t want to leave such a prodigy forgotten. But if he were to suddenly have a stroke of inspiration, and write a legendary poem, like *My Teacher Zhang Shen* or the like, that would also be great. Li Mubai said unhappily “The art of warfare is not a main focus. Us scholars’ first focus should be on philosophy and the classics, and then debate, and then self cultivation and one’s house.” “Heh, and is Go the main focus then? And an unbeatable player at that… only to lose spectacularly against Wei Yuan.” Zhang Shen snorted. “Old bastard, shut your mouth, don’t speak of Wei Yuan in front of me. This old man has always appreciated talent, this student is mine.” “Old thing, what is this ‘appreciating talent’ now? You’re merely after his poetic ability.” “Shameless old bastard, I’ll smite you down with righteous spirit!” Xu Xinnian’s hair stood on end. The students far away were all shocked and stunned. They didn’t know what happened, but the two great scholars were red faced and arguing with each other, even making as if to fight.