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The eighth portrait within the Pavilion of Ascending Mist is of Wang Zhi Ce.
For those who had even a small understanding of history, they would clearly know that Wang Zhi Ce is a real legend. He had come from a background of poverty, without any sort of talent for cultivation, yet had successfully entered Heavenly Academy to study.
During the period of Emperor Taizu, he had held the post of a regular scribe within the government, until, at the age of forty, he had suddenly discerned The Way in a single night.
Starlight projected upon the entirety of Chang’an, and he direct entered Ethereal Opening from Purification, subsequently becoming an expert of the generation.
What made others sigh out praises all the more was, Wang Zhi Ce was learned on both the north and south, being especially gifted on military strategy and tactics. He had accompanied Emperor Taizong multiple times on northern campaigns, finally becoming the Deputy Marshal of the alliance army, commanding the army to successively break the demon race’s main force, even taking a single mount to break through the snow plains, successfully killing Helan Shanxia that was not even 800 miles away from Old Snow city.
If it was to be only in terms of military accolades, perhaps only considering the importance of the conflict that happened in that period, Wang Zhe Ce was the most dazzling amongst those shining stars, the only person that could be compared with His Royal Majesty, Emperor Taizong.
With his impressive achievements, he naturally had the right to place eighth upon the portraits of esteemed officials within the Pavilion of Ascending Mist; perhaps, according to the views of the masses, he should have been ranked higher, at least needing to be ranked within the top three.
The reason for his ranking of eighth within the pavilion was very simple. It was because his military achievements and standing amongst the populace was too high, to the point where it had reached the ability to overshadow his liege.
More importantly, during the Hundred Herb Garden incident that happened during Taizu Emperor’s later years, he had not quickly made his stance apparent, unlike the Duke of Zhao, Chen Gong, Qin Zhong and Yu Gong, to firmly stand on the side of Emperor Taizong.
Because of this, even if he was to have achieved even more accolades, he couldn’t acquire Emperor Taizong’s absolute trust.
His loyalty in the end was still questioned, due to this, upon the end to the great war, he had retired and returned home, no longer participating in governmental affairs.
Standing before the painting, gazing at the middle-aged man who held a jade rod in hand with a calm expression, Chen Chang Sheng remained silent for a very long time, he then continued to look at the remaining portraits.
Following this, he saw the portraits of Qin Zhong and Yu Gong, these two Divine Generals that had served by the side of Emperor Taizong all those years ago, had boundless might, and also still had boundless repute, because currently, whether be it within the Imperial Palace or amongst the populace, upon their doors they would post portraits of the two; those portraits were exactly the same as the ones inside the Pavilion of Ascending Mist.
These two Divine Generals were the same as the other virtuous forebears within the pavilion: still human, yet already idols.
Chen Chang Sheng’s legs and gaze slowly moved, the jade-like torch remained tightly grasped in his hand; upon the grey walls, the light and darkness shifted slightly; the people within the portraits seemingly had an increase to their sentiment.
The people of these paintings were all the same as Wang Zhi Ce, they were all legends of the past, with their own respective legends – the atmosphere with the pavilion was very solemn and dignified, yet the people within the paintings were not as such, they all differed, some appeared very mischievous, such as Divine General Cheng Mingjie, while some were very stern and serious, such as the Duke of Zheng.
Without having used too much time, Chen Chang Sheng had finished observing the twenty-four portraits on the Eastern wall, these were esteemed officials that had originally received such an honour when Emperor Taizong had constructed the Pavilion of Ascending Mist all those years ago.
There were tens of other portraits remaining, these were esteemed officials who were subsequently entered into the pavilion during the reign of the late Emperor and Her Divine Majesty.
Chen Chang Sheng became ever quieter. From Emperor Taizu’s revolution of the previous dynasty, to Emperor Taizong’s consolidation of the empire, and then to Her Divine Majesty’s taking of the throne; within the history of these long thousand years, a lot of significant events had happened.
Those within the pavilion were all witnesses, they were important figures that really existed within history, in other words, they were history.
Walking within the pavilion was walking within the long flow of history itself. Those paintings had the melancholy of history and more so, the weight of history. Countless secrets accompanied those that had passed, into oblivion; quietly, without words, but those secrets were here, supporting countless world-shaking histories.
If the virtuous forebears within the portraits could come to life, or perhaps, if they could leave behind any sort of information for later generations to perceive and understand, those scholars that studied history would definitely no longer have any regrets.
Observing all the paintings within the pavilion took around an hour; Chen Chang Sheng returned to the prayer mat in the centre of the building; he then stood in place and began to ponder over something.
Momentarily after, a bell resounded, the sound came in from the ground and was slightly far away, making everything appear all the more secluded and quiet, but all it did was to rouse him from his thoughts, unable to still his mind.
Following the sound, the torch that had been held in his hand all this time, suddenly snuffed out, the pavilion instantly became pitch black, from the gaps of the doors and windows, not a single ray of light came through.
Chen Chang Sheng looked around in the darkness, coming to understand something.
For the Grand Examination’s first upon the First Banner to quietly contemplate in the pavilion for a night, they first had to achieve peace. Within the pavilion, there were no distractions of the mind from outside, the bell chimes were serene, and at this moment, it was also difficult to see anything. Apart from quietly sitting upon the prayer mat and contemplating, there was nothing else to do.
The Zhou Government wished for the portraits within the pavilion, alongside the presence that had initially appeared, to get closer with the person that came in for contemplation, to the point where they would be in harmony, where they would have the mentality of staunchly serving the empire’s Imperial clan, to serve Her Divine Majesty.
The first upon the First Banner for the last few years; if they weren’t a disciple of Li Shan Sword Sect then they would still be a southerner, and would naturally not harbour too much loyalty towards the Zhou Government.
Not to mention, those who could enter the pavilion would resist the powerful presence, naturally resulting in the situation not being able to fulfil the wishes of the person who originally made this rule, to solidify the mentality of those entering.
Chen Chang Sheng is from the Zhou Empire, and really could probably complete the initial wishes of the person who designed the Grand Examination; the only thing was, since he could enter the Pavilion of Ascending Mist, he couldn’t settle his heart, his thoughts couldn’t lie upon the future of the country and its people, or upon the unification of humanity. It could only fall upon smaller or perhaps more personal things.
Time slowly and silently passed by; as with before, not a single ray of light appeared.
Chen Chang Sheng did not sit on the prayer mat and quietly pass through a night like the past first upon the First Banners; he untied the short sword from his waist, his left hand held the scabbard and he then thrust it into the space in front of him.
Within the pitch darkness inside of the pavilion that resembled night, fingers cannot be seen from an extended hand. The short sword also disappeared from sight, but from his leaving of Xi Ning Village, the short sword had rarely left his side; he very familiarly raised his right hand, accurately clasping onto the hilt.
His two hands slowly separated, yet the short sword didn’t leave its scabbard, what he drew out was not the sword but a ball of light, akin to the dawn’s first rising; the pavilion’s interior was immediately illuminated.
A perfectly spherical Luminous Peal appeared within the palm of his right hand.
A soft light illuminated the grey walls and lit up the floorboards through the gaps between his fingers, behind him, a long shadow was cast; through the gradual brightening of the Luminous Pearl, that shadow gradually faded.
He was certain that the gaps of the windows and doors of the pavilion wouldn’t leak any light, therefore he didn’t worry.
He raised the Luminous Pearl and headed toward the portrait.
Walking within the quiet pavilion, the night was scattered by the radiance within his palm, on the verge of revealing its truth. He looked at the people upon the portraits, feeling that those depicted were very similar to himself.
He suppressed the strange feeling, and once again walked before the portrait of Wang Zhi Ce.
He grasped the short sword and stabbed its sharp tip in the gap between the green bricks on the side of the portrait, then slowly and carefully pushed forwards. The hands that held onto the sword lightly trembled, with the fingers becoming pale.