The music test was conducted in the late afternoon in the Imperial garden. They had set up an outdoor venue in a wide open space surrounded by flowers all around, with a pavilion in the center of it, there was a small platform set some distance away in front of the pavilion for the performances. In the pavilion, there was a table set with snacks and tea with two seats where the emperor and the empress dowager sat. While at the two sides of the platform, tables settings placed around for the officials. After the table settings for the officials, there were rows of table settings were the candidates were sat directly facing the pavilion.
The performances today were divided into four instrumental categories; Konghou, zither, erhu, and the pipa. It seemed that the candidates had only chosen these four instruments and so to make it easier to set the stage, the performances will proceed by instruments in the order of erhu, pipa, konghou and zither. The erhu and pipa were instruments that were played on the lap, so the performers only required a stool, while the konghou and zither were provided with a pillow to sit on and a low table for the instrument.
**(Konghou is basically an ancient Chinese harp. Erhu is basically a 2-stringed violin (played on the lap though) and the pipa is basically a guitar)**
Lei Xing was in a good mood, she was leisurely enjoying the snacks and tea as she listened to the relaxing erhu music. The atmosphere was perfect, you could hear the faint sound of streaming water in a distance, the air carried a wonderful fragrance of flowers, birds happily softly chirping, the cool summer breeze and warm late afternoon sun shining down.
...See, with some good food and good music, this garden is even more enjoyable, I could stay like this forever...the person who arranged this has good vision...now if we could just get rid of all these people, then it'd be truly perfect...
Lei Xing had chosen to perform the zither, not because she is skilled in it, she has never even touched one before. She chose it for one simple reason: it's easy...or at least easier than the rest. She had seen it played in several historical dramas, and frankly half of those times, the music lacked any steady rhythm to her, and the notes sounded random.
...Isn't it just sitting there looking dignified, plucking a string every 2-4 seconds?... I can do that...inspiration will come...
After going through lovely performances of the erhu, pipa, and kongzhou, it was finally time for the zither performances, which was the category with the most candidates, there were 10 of them who chose to play it. The performances were going in order of how they were sat and Lei Xing was first. She got up and approached the platform and took her seat in front of the table with the zither.
...I can't tell if this is good or bad...
She grazed her fingers over the strings, took a deep breath and began to play, copying the mannerisms of the characters she had seen in historical dramas.
...It sounds okay...I think?...
Lei Xing got more confident as she listened to her music and her movements became more confident, it seemed she was creating a rhythm, in her mind. Of course, this was in her mind only, the spectators were completely lost on her tune, which seemed to be all over the place. When she finished, she looked up to find the spectators looking at her blankly. She stood up and bowed and was ready to head down.
"What piece is this?" The empress dowager suddenly asked.
...What piece?! I don't know...What do you mean what piece? Why am I getting questioned, when everybody else just got a "Very good, you can go."?!...You can keep the "very good" just give me "you can go" ...please?...
Lei Xing was annoyed, she stalled for a bit and said, "It is called fluttering heart."
"Fluttering heart? I have not heard of it before...who is the composer?"
Lei Xing bowed her head respectfully and said, "I composed it myself."
...Can I go now?...-_-)
Some of the ministers started whispering and Lei Xing could hear some of their words, they weren't exactly trying to be quiet.
"No wonder the piece seemed to be all over the place, you composed it yourself." One of the ministers said.
"A piece can only be a reflection of its composer's soul." Another minister said while shaking his head.
...Are these people turning me into a joke?...
Lei Xing took a deep breath, "A piece reflects what it is intended to, this piece was intended to portray a fluttering heart. I am sure everyone here have all experienced their heart fluttering for one reason or another, either be it for love, anger, war, excitement, or pain...and I am sure at that time, your hearts beat all over the place as well."
The ministers fell silent.
"It takes considerable skill to be able to portray so well something as complicated as emotions." Prince Yi calmly spoke up, Lei Xing looked in his direction with raised eyebrows. He smiled at her and lifted his teacup to her.
...Skill, yeah sure...what's up with this guy now?...
Lei Xing was not the only one confused at his sudden praise, the onlookers were also dumbfounded as he had been criticizing her the last two rounds and now to suddenly compliment her, especially to compliment this. The ministers were baffled and some started whispering again. Lei Xing was even more annoyed in her heart.
...Can you all shut up? It seems this atmosphere made them feel too relaxed...
"That's enough." The empress dowager said, "Prince Yi's words make sense, portraying human emotions through art is not an easy feat. Since this piece is quite novel and quite contentious...Lady Yin, why don't you play something else to properly showcase your skills?"
...Play something else?!...
Lei Xing felt panicked and quickly looked down, slightly frowned, then bowed, "Alright." She slowly went back and calmly sat down, while her mind was frantic on the inside. She placed her hands on the strings.
...Play something else? I didn't have anything in the first place...Haah, This is going to be so embarrassing...
Lei Xing took a deep breath, braced herself and raised her hands and plucked a string.
"Stop." Lei Xing froze and looked up. The emperor calmly took a sip of his tea, glanced at her and then looked towards the dowager, "It is unfair to allow her to play a second piece. Each candidate has been allowed only one performance so far, there should be no exception."
"That is true, I was enjoying their performances so much, I almost forgot that this is still a competition." The dowager said with a laugh. "Fairness must be upheld, you can go down."
Lei Xing relaxed and wanted to laugh in relief, but restrained herself. She got up, bowed and walked back to her seat. She looked down and closed her eyes to calm herself down.
...I was saved...you can kill a person, but you must not humiliate them. Even in failure, one must maintain their dignity...I have never been so grateful to rule sticklers before...
Lei Xing was a bit rattled, she was almost cornered. She felt grateful to the emperor for his strict adherence to the rules and even felt the urge to give him a standing ovation when he spoke up. Her heart was beating faster and her palms were a bit sweaty, she was truly nervous just now, she really could not think of any way she would have been able to save herself from embarrassment if she had truly been made to play another piece. After a while of listening to the soothing music, she started to calm down a bit, although she still felt uncomfortable.
...I can't wait for this to be over...
Lei Xing was absentminded the rest of the performances and was very grateful to leave once they were done. She quickly went into her room and fell on the bed, she was worn out, those few moments of anxiety really drained her.
...Just two more days...
Tomorrow was the last test and Lei Xing was not worried at all about the literary competition. Out of all the tests, this one was the one she was least worried about. Given the way the other tests were structured, they will most likely be asked to compose something, rather than to regurgitate something...she had always been good at literature, she had even won some awards for compositions in high school. Although it's been a while since she composed anything, almost ten years actually, she still had the confidence that she could glide through this without any problems, at least without it almost being a train wreck like today was. As Lei Xing thought these over, she gradually fell asleep.
...Just two more days...Just two more...
Bio: An avid reader of Novels, my most recent genre of obsession is with Chinese novels...and got so into them that I'm translating them now😅😅...Oh and I also started writing my own novel, "Circumventing Fate"🙈...it's an evolutionary process👩💻LOL