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Arriving before the mist, Taoist Ji stilled his steps. Yu Ren had one leg that was slightly lame but if it weren’t for climbing up a steep mountain path, he would rarely have to use a crutch.
He uncomfortably used his left underarm to clutch onto the walking stick, then used both hands to gesture a question: “The Grand Examination should have its result by now? I wonder how junior brother is currently.”
Taoist Ji’s countenance was elegant and untainted by the world, his eyes were the same as it had been in the past, showing no signs of ageing. Seeing the faint hints of worry showing upon Yu Ren’s eyes, he didn’t say anything, but laughed and rubbed Yu Ren’s head.
Yu Ren once again gestured a question: “Master, when do we go to the Capital?”
Taoist Ji answered: “When you need to return to the Capital, we will go.”
Yu Ren didn’t notice the use of the word “return” when his Master spoke of going to the Capital.
This was the Eastern Continent’s most remote and wild mountain range, monstrous beasts roamed freely and the signs of humanity were rare, being much more desolate than the mountain behind Xi Ning Village. The mists were heavily damp and when walking amidst the mists, it would almost seem as if one had left the human realm; how could the people sent by Mo Yu possibly be able to find this master and disciple pair?
The fragmentary sounds from within the mist became increasingly frequent, there were also faint sights of movement, following this, over a dozen overpowering presences appeared; these were likely some extremely powerful monstrous beasts.
Taoist Ji didn’t want to bother facing these grotesque beings that were hidden. He lightly frowned and said: “Open the path.”
Yu Ren followed the instruction and went forwards, facing the thick mist at the end of the mountain path and shouted out.
He was missing the end half of his tongue, therefore he couldn’t talk the way a normal person would, but this didn’t mean he couldn’t produce any sounds; all that could be heard was a sharp and forlorn hiss bursting out from between his lips.
It resembled a hiss, but in actuality it was a word, a single syllable word that contained limitless amounts of information; this was precisely the same type of word used by Chen Chang Sheng in the underground space for communicating with the Black Dragon: Dragon Speech.
Yu Ren let out a solitary, clear hiss, the hiss broke through the air and entered the cloudy mist without a trace, not stirring even a single ripple; yet, at the next moment, the crushing intimidation contained within the hiss, spread out in all directions, from the mist to the entire mountain range.
Those monstrous beasts that were concealed deep within the mist gave out horrified drones of unease in a show of deference and apology; accompanying the sounds of scraping, they disappeared at the fastest speed possible, returning the clouds to serenity.
At a place even farther away from the Capital, there was a white coloured barren plain. Within the centre of this barren plain, there is a city built from stone, its walls encircled tens of kilometres, looking extremely grand.
Several million people knelt upon the barren plains that were outside of the stone city.
Their knees and foreheads, having been in contact for a long time with the scalding hot sand that had been heated by the nine suns, gave off the faint smell of burning, but no signs of pain could be seen upon their faces, only an absolute tranquillity. Neither did they let out any sounds, there was only an absolute silence, akin to a peaceful yet terrifying sea; a sea of people.
At the fore of this congregation was a platform constructed from wood, the wooden platform still had countless green leaves around its edges, making a clear contrast from the barren, simple and blistering surroundings.
Within the centre of the platform there was a symbol shaped like the character “zheng” erected, conveying a strongly religious feeling.
Following the prayers of several million believers, the symbol was currently emanating a faint Holy Radiance.
A middle-aged man stood in front of the religious symbol, quietly watching the millions of people that were knelt before him.
From the look of this man’s clothing, he should be a religious monk.
With his age, faint wrinkles could be seen on the edge of his eyes, but this did nothing to detract from his perfect features. The most captivating feature was his eyes, those calm and peaceful eyes contained boundless compassion and love, as if they could gaze upon places infinitely distant; gaze upon everything.
He raised the Blessed Rod within his hand, using a faintly smiling visage to face this wicked world.
The millions of people upon the white, barren plains stood up, annunciating to the hills and valleys:
“None care not for their homeland.”
It was early Spring in the Capital, yet it still remained bitingly cold. Old Snow City’s early Spring was unrelentingly cold and harsh; blizzards fell like a sobbing grievance upon the city’s streets and alleys, chafing across as if it were a sandstorm, making it hard to open one’s eyes.
The demon race enjoyed the night and tranquillity, enjoyed blood and slaughter, with the latter being to their core; therefore, within the secretive dwellings of the demon race’s royalty or artists, there would inexorably be paintings that had vivid colours or strange outlines.
Yet, the colour hue for Old Snow City was a drab grey, causing people to feel tranquil, or perhaps even a little numb. The city’s populace enjoyed wearing black robes and from afar, it was difficult to make out as to who was who.
A demon dressed in a black robe walked within the blizzard; the black robe he wore was rather plain and a little old, with its hem showing some tears, but at the very least, this black robe was slightly different from others.
The black robe flitted in and out of view within the furious blizzard, even if one was to stare intently, it would be hard to confirm its position, this lasted until he exited Old Snow City, standing at the glacier on the Southern side.
A chill wind blasted through, lifting the brim of his hat and revealing the side of his face. That face was abnormally pale; as if it hadn’t come into contact with the sun for many years; as if he had just recently suffered a serious illness; as if it lacked any warmth at all; even more so, as if it was completely devoid of life, carrying with it a sense of death that could cause palpitations.
That demon gazed towards the South, the direction of the Capital, and remained silent for a long while. His lips then curled and his detached voice bore an uncontrollable sense of elation: “You finally cannot continue to ignore his existence.”
After Luo Luo moved to Li Palace, the Hundred Herb Garden remained vacant. With all the youths from Orthodox Academy having gone to participate in the Grand Examination, the academy was also devoid of people, this naturally meant no one knew of the new door upon the wall being opened.
The Black Goat walked out from the door, heading towards the lakeside. Remnants of snow still remained on the grass by the lakeside, with the grass stems wilting and brown, the Black Goat felt a little puzzled, thinking that the grass that youth had fed it half a year ago didn’t have this type of taste.
The Divine Empress had also come to Orthodox Academy.
This was her first time visiting the academy in over ten years.
Previously, at the Hundred Herb Garden, she was reminded of the massacre committed by Emperor Taizong towards the royal clan; currently, standing at Orthodox Academy, she thought of her own massacre against the Orthodoxy’s tradition faction.
Since Emperor Taizong’s ascent to heaven, she had killed a lot of people who opposed her, from the moment she had started to handle state documents for Emperor Taizong, those people had started to oppose her, this persisted until over ten years ago.
When His Royal Majesty was on his sickbed, suffering excruciating pain, those people continued to not care about anything else, only wishing to oppose her.
Those who dared to oppose her would in the end be killed by her; she had killed for hundreds of years, up until over ten years ago, after having killed so many people at Orthodox Academy, would finally, no one dare to stand out and oppose her.
She knew that her hands were steeped in blood, but she didn’t care; it was just, having arrived at the academy after so many years and seeing that its old lawn space was no longer neglected and desolate, she was naturally reminded of those days that had constant bloodshed.
These memories wouldn’t make her feel unhappy, but neither would they make her pleased.
Especially because amongst those she had killed, there were a lot of people she admired; those people were courageous, virtuous, able, talented, outstanding, resolute and noble; she had given them many chances, yet, they never gave her any, even to the point of forcing her to kill them.
Because those people wanted to attest to the world that she is a tyrannical ruler.
The Divine Empress looked towards the direction of Li Palace, thinking back on the past made her feel rather bitterly cold; bitterly disappointed.
A spell of rain a spell of cold.
The Pope had actually intervened.
She had previously thought that Chen Chang Sheng would only reach that point, but it was only now that she understood it wasn’t as such; therefore, she wanted to ask those people: “What point do you want to reach? Do you want to, once again, force me to kill?”
Important people have important considerations to make, small characters need not concern themselves with the considerations of important people, Chen Chang Sheng didn’t care as to how many people were fixating on the Grand Examination, fixating on himself. Just as how he and Luo Luo had previously discussed, he only cared about whether if he could take first place upon the First banner, whether if he could enter the Pavilion of Ascending Mist (Ling Yan Pavilion).
In comparison to this, even the demon race’s invasion would be unimportant, let alone other matters. That’s why he patiently prepared for the last match, quietly and intently listening to the battle tactics Tang Thirty-Six had laid out for him.
Tang Thirty-Six looked at him, and with a seriousness he had never displayed before, he said: “First, use compassion to move others. Then use reason to persuade others. Then use power to pressure others. Then finally, do you move onto fighting others.”
He continued: “Three sentences, three methods, the ordering is very important. Let’s hope it has some effect, of course, if that impoverished scholar is still obstinate, then I suggest you consider what type of method you should use that can allow you lose a little less unsightly.”
Luo Luo was by the side and said in a low voice: “Sir, try bribing him.”
Tang Thirty-Six scoffed and said: “That’s Gou Han Shi, a scholar that takes pride in being a virtuous gentleman, how could he possibly be bribed? He’s not a pauper like Zhe Xiu that has never seen money before.”
Zhe Xiu was near the white poplar tree, on the stretcher, his bleeding had slowly come to a stop and his condition had improved somewhat; hearing Tang Thirty-Six’s words, his face remained expressionless, neither did he say anything.
Luo Luo got close to Chen Chang Sheng’s ear and said something to him in a low voice, Chen Chang Sheng felt rather startled, not wanting to accept, but he couldn’t stop her pushing the item onto him.
Tang Thirty-Six saw the item Luo Luo stuffed into Chen Chang Sheng’s chest area and couldn’t stop a small twitch from appearing on his lips, he then searched himself. Finding that he couldn’t find anything of a similar level and after giving it some thought, he freed the Sword of Wen Shui that was held upon his waist and passed it over.
“I have my own sword, what do I need yours for?” asked Chen Chang Sheng in a puzzled voice.
Tang Thirty-Six stared at him in the eyes and said: “That’s my Tang Clan’s Ancestral Sword, akin to Qi Jian’s Discipline Hall Relic Sword. It’s not suitable for entering the Banner of Hundred Arms, but that doesn’t mean it’s weak. Taking it with you, at an important juncture it can help you block a manoeuvre; even if you don’t have a use for it, it’s not exactly heavy, it can’t possibly hinder you?”
Chen Chang Sheng understood his meaning and the kind intent was hard to reject, after thinking upon it for a moment, he accepted it.
“Sensible,” Tang Thirty-Six’s action reminded Luo Luo; without any hesitation, she uncoiled Rainfall Whip from her waist and passed it into Chen Chang Sheng’s hand.
Xuan Yuan Po used his massive hands to search himself thoroughly, but didn’t find anything worthwhile, not even a safety talisman could be found; he couldn’t help feeling a little dejected.
Chen Chang Sheng patted his upper arm and said, while smiling: “You’ll make dinner in the evening.”
Xuan Yuan Po gave a simple laugh and said: “If you win, I’ll specially add two more spoons of salt.”
Chen Chang Sheng gave it a thought. If he really could take first place in the Grand Examination, then consuming a little more salt and oil for a single meal and drinking two, three small goblets of wine seemed to be fine.
He prepared to leave the woodlands, but suddenly thought of something, he turned his head back to look at Zhe Xiu, who was on the stretcher and said: “Whether if I win or lose, I will strive my best to give you that thing.”
Zhe Xiu looked at him with an expressionless face and said: “You have to win.”
Chen Chang Sheng entered the Tower of Purging Dust.
Gou Han Shi had already entered the arena, quietly standing. His clothing was slightly faded from washing and his sword didn’t have anything that could identify it as to being precious or common; just as how he was himself.