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Chapter 192 - Once upon a Time… There were Three People (Part One)
What is fate? This word has countless meanings: being born rich or poor, special encounters, the course of life with its ever-changing trajectories and elusive fluctuations, or is it the mysterious, unknown will of the heavens?
If fate really was such an unknown, unchangeable existence, then this type of existence would be pointless. Naturally, cultivators would not accept such a conclusion. When the Heavenly Tomes descended, the people on the continent began to cultivate and borrow strength from the stars in order to change the course of nature. They would reflect on their own fate, face it with an utterly fearless spirit, and dare to change it.
Every cultivator’s first connection with the world occurred on the night they determined their Fated Star. As a result, people’s understanding of fate mirrored the vast sea of stars at night.
Since ancient times, the stars in the night sky would never change, regardless of position or brightness. They would forever shine serenely on the mortal world. Naturally, there was an infinite number of complicated connections between the countless stars, and they simply could not be drawn out on paper in their entirety. The images those connections formed were absolutely impossible to illustrate.
People would look up at the stars and see those beautiful and complicated images. They were so beautiful and complicated that their hearts would begin to palpitate. Quite naturally, they would believe that these images concealed an extremely deep, everlasting meaning.
Countless years ago, the powerful members of the Orthodoxy’s older generations vaguely perceived a sensation from the realm of celestial beings. They speculated that some sort of hidden power within the stars affected the fate of the whole continent.
As for the life of every individual, their Fated Star, the area surrounding it, and all of its connections were perhaps their individual fates.
—This kind of reasoning coincidentally agreed with the philosophy of fate within the Daoist Canons. It was also one of the most difficult explanations to understand: fate was the overview of trajectories concerning interactions between people.
The infinite stars could hold countless lives, hopes, and wishes. Even the corresponding explanation of fate, which people found so mysterious, could certainly also be found within the constellations.
It could be said that after a person was born, a corresponding explanation of their fate’s trajectory would appear within the stars. It could also be said that even before a person was born his or her fate already existed within the stars, perhaps as a short line or as a grand constellation.
If cultivators wanted to change their own fate, they had to change those lines and images which outlined their fates. They had to first change the brightness and position of their Fated Stars. If they truly could change the position and brightness of their Fated Stars to what they wanted, then the connections between the surrounding stars would change accordingly, affecting fates of other people at the same time.
Fate was never an independent existence. The people’s fates were interlinked one with another, just as the the Daoist Canons explained: fate was the overview of trajectories concerning interaction between people.
However, in the past, the continent’s countless astronomers had left behind records explaining that the stars, regardless of their position or brightness, had never changed at all. With all this, it was completely impossible to change one’s fate by desiring to move one’s Fated Star. Who had enough power to stand on earth and affect the heavens? Who could grab the stars from the mortal realm?
In the final book of the Pandect of Daoist Canons, the section regarding fate only had a total of approximately six hundred words. It only mentioned a few simple possibilities in the second paragraph, which included the cultivator being able to truly enter the Grand Liberation Realm or being capable of such an achievement. However, this Grand Liberation Realm was even more mysterious than the Concealed Spirit Realm. According to the legend, it only existed in people’s imaginations. It was like a myth, so how could it be treated as truth?
Then, was there really anyone who had succeeded in changing their fate? According to the records within the Daoist Canons and the statements of officials, such a thing had never occurred ever since the Heavenly Tomes had descended. Even if it had truly occurred before, no one was brave enough to publicly discuss it due to the lack of evidence and its excessively far-reaching effects.
As a matter of fact, there had always been a kind of reasoning or conjecture among the people saying that in the past thousand years, changing one’s fate ought to have occurred three times.
Only those involved in changing one’s fate had the power to expunge all records in the imperial observatory and various observatories. They had the power to cause the entire human world to steer clear of discussing this matter, in fear. This was because those involved in rising against and defying the heavens each of the three times were now all monarchs.
The three were Emperor Taizu, Emperor Taizong, and the………Divine Empress of the Zhou Dynasty.
A thousand years ago, the previous empire had begun to show signs of corruption, and people lived on the edge of starvation. In the north, the Demon Race stared greedily at the empire, and in the south, several aristocratic families were rebelling. Countless armies arose, and wars were being fought continuously, destroying almost the entire landscape.
In the midst of the constant warring, countless experts surfaced throughout the continent, and even several great experts of the Saint Realm continuously appeared. This was also the first period of explosive growth the world of cultivation had experienced.
For a time, the flags on the gate of Luoyang changed countless times. One day a great general would dethrone the current emperor and kill his way into the eastern hills, and on the next day, a second young master of the Xiao Family in the south would suddenly change sides and call himself “Sima”. He would take the written admonition from Holy Maiden Peak and stage a coup d’etat with experts from various sects. Nobody knew who exactly it was that cleaned up that mess of a broken landscape in the end.
In that time, Taizu was a senior official of the Tianliang County. As he was related to the deposed emperor’s most beloved concubine, he was trusted and held in high regard, due to which he was ordered to guard the city. It could be said that he was very low-key or that he was very ordinary. However, in countless years he had never actually left the area of Tianliang County to go to Fork Mountain even by half a step.
In the eyes of the commoners, he was extremely mediocre and unambitious. When compared to those great lords who were in the spotlight at that time, he was standing in the dark, and truly nobody believed that he would be able to conquer the world. When discussing about who had power, nobody would even mention his name. People only believed that the Tianliang County had a decent geographical position, and that the clever sons of Taizu could protect themselves in this time of prominent emerging by bearing patiently and surrendering to the strongest force at that time.
However, who would have thought that after many years, the situation on the continent would change so suddenly? Great lords battled without rest, causing great losses and damage to every force. As Taizu built up strength in Tianliang County, he slowly grew in power. One day, he led a great army of thirty thousand eastwards from Fork Mountain, and actually conquered seventeen cities in one breath. He formed alliances with many aristocratic families in the south and also received the full support of the Way. He actually achieved a great victory against the Rebels of Tiger Hill, which was renowned for its valiance outside of the city of Luoyang. He had successfully killed his way into the city. In the second year, he conquered the capital city and had officially taken the throne in front of the Mausoleum of Books. He had truly united the world.
Looking at this period of history when the Zhou Dynasty empire had been founded, there were many parts that could not be explained, and many things which could not happen according to reason. For example, the great lords could have taken a small glance at the Tianliang County in the beginning, and squash Taizu who was still weak at the time. In the first three bloody battles, when Taizu had arrived at Fork Mountain, just when the situation was about to take a turn for the worst, he would always be able to pull through and change misfortune into blessing. In the dozen or so uninterrupted, intense battles outside of the city of Luoyang, Taizu should have met his end, but he did not, as if there was some type of hidden power always protecting him.
If it was luck, then such great luck that would last for such a long time could only be called fate.
After Taizu had ascended to the throne in the capital, various sages led countless famous generals on expeditions everywhere. The various sects and aristocratic families in the south had all became his subjects, and those great lords who were unwilling to accept it had all been eliminated. For a while, all of the heroic characters in the world were either being killed, captured, or sent to the capital. How could those experts resign themselves? They all cursed loudly without end on the execution grounds.
It was at that time that a legend began to spread. The reason why Emperor Taizu could tower over the experts of the world and kill his way to victory whilst seemingly being an ordinary person was that in the previous dozen or so years, he had focused on cultivation. In essence, he had formed an alliance with the leader of the Way at that time and had used some sort of secret technique to change his fate, thus changing his Fated Star into an Emperor’s Star.
Variations in translations:
道藏/道典 – Scriptures of the Way, Classics of the Way, Daoist Canons, Daoist Scrolls and so on all refer to the same thing