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Chapter 217 - Viewing the Monoliths in the Night by Lantern Light (Part Three)
When Tianhai Shengxue had said that these people were about to go crazy, he was not referring to the nonsense-babbling young nobles who were feasting, but their parents, as well as his parents——those people had invited a southerner to disrupt Chen Changsheng’s viewing of the monoliths. The Mausoleum of Book was too important to cultivators. Everyone knew that one slow step would leave them a step behind for the rest of the journey.
However, he did not care too much about it. This was because in the Grand Examination, through Her Highness Luoluo, he had secretly bet on Chen Changsheng. It was also because, although the reason for why the Pope highly regarded Chen Changsheng was still a mystery, there must certainly have been a reason for such high regard. For someone who could fight evenly with Ethereal Opening Realm cultivators, as long as they could not destroy his physical body, it would be almost impossible for them to destroy his spirit. This was how Tianhai Shengxue saw it, but now that he had heard Prince Chen Liu’s words and heard Zhou Tong’s name, only then did he finally realize that he had underestimated the strength of the older generation.
The people of the world said that Zhou Tong was a dog raised by the Divine Empress, but he was no normal dog. Rather, he was the fiercest dog in all of history. Ever since the Judgement Board of the Orthodoxy had been placed under the authority of the Ministry of Personnel, his power and influence had risen to the heavens. Who knew how many ministers and generals had died by his hands? As for who the ministers of the old royal family and the elders of the Orthodoxy loathed the most? It was not the Divine Empress, but him.
Several decades ago, many powerful experts had risked their lives to assassinate him, but not one of them succeeded. As for why this was the case, Zhou Tong always kept numerous sinister and terrible defensive weapons on his person. Moreover, Zhou Tong himself was at the Star Condensation realm. Logically, a cultivator at this realm should have a calm and bright state of mind, no longer concerned with mortal affairs. Even less would they deign to perform such sordid and bloody matters such as interrogation, torture, murder, and search and seizure, but Zhou Tong was just that type of eccentric creature. His interest, no, his goal in life, was in these sordid affairs, not cultivation.
This sort of man could not be moved by the Tianhai family. If he really was waiting outside the Mausoleum of Books for Chen Changsheng, it was, by necessity, a reflection of the Divine Empress’ will. Tianhai Shengxue pondered this in silence, when suddenly, he felt that something was off. The Divine Empress’ manner had been confident and open-minded. Even if she were to act against Chen Changsheng and the revolutionary countercurrent he represented, she would only do so after his return from Zhou Garden.
Thinking up to this point, he lifted his head and looked at Prince Chen Liu’s furrowed brows. He thought to himself that she had purposefully sent Zhou Tong ahead of time. In the end, what was she hoping to accomplish?
The fallout from the Grand Examination had not completely dispersed yet. Within the capital, countless powers were carefully watching the Mausoleum of Books. Within the inns and taverns, common folk also discussed this matter. They were curious about the situation of all the examinees in the Mausoleum of Books, especially Chen Changsheng. Yet they would never have thought that within the Mausoleum of Books, due to specific circumstances, the disciples of the Orthodox Academy and the Li Shan Sword Sect were living under one roof, nor would they have imagined that Chen Changsheng had gone together with Gou Hanshi to view the monoliths. Just like how those examinees around the monolith hut did not think that after Ji Jin had finished his criticisms, Chen Changsheng and Gou Hanshi did not appear to humbly accept this advice, nor did they seem ready to admit fault.
Under the dim moonlight, the monolith hut seemed rather eerie. The atmosphere with stifling and tense. The young cultivators did not know what to say. The anger on the faces of Zhong Hui and the other two from Scholartree Manor continued to grow while Ji Jin maintained his icy expression. At this moment, Chen Changsheng broke the silence, saying something that no one anticipated.
He looked at Ji Jin and said, “Senior, you are wrong.”
These word immediately caused an uproar. A fifteen-year-old youth actually dared to point out to a Monolith Guardian, who had been viewing monoliths for far more than fifteen years, that his method of comprehending the monoliths was wrong?! Even if he was this year’s first rank in the First Banner of the Grand Examination, it was just as Ji Jin had said. Every year, the Mausoleum of Books would welcome another first rank of the First Banner from the Grand Examination. In this place, how could Chen Changsheng even compare with Ji Jin?
The next thing that happened caused the people viewing the monoliths to become even more shocked. After a brief moment of silence, Gou Hanshi also said a few word to Ji Jin. “Senior, you really are wrong.”
The night was dark. Although the stars twinkled in the night sky, to clearly make out all those complex lines was still rather strenuous. Some time before, someone had quietly lit an oil lantern that had been hanging off of a tree outside the monolith hut. The dim light of the lantern mixed with the starlight and fell on the youthful faces of Chen Changsheng and Gou Hanshi, both calm and resolute.
They knew that what Ji Jin had just said was actually very reasonable. The so-called ten thousand changes but never straying from the original. It was true that the commonly seen methods for comprehending the monoliths, if traced back to the source, would never be able to escape the confines of the three most mainstream and most orthodox methods: take the shape, take the idea, and take the form, but they were both well-read in the Daoist Canons and they had also taken a look at Xun Mei’s notebook, so they were even more confident that they would manage to find a new path.
“Before the Heavenly Tome Monoliths, there are no set methods and no set rules.”
Gou Hanshi looked around at the young examinees as he spoke. “Correct, right now the only standard methods that we can instantly call to mind are all variations of the three mainstream methods, but it cannot be believed that the countless ways to comprehend the monoliths, all of which have already been realized by our predecessors. If we were to think in such a way, then how would we have ever surpass them?”
Back at the Li Shan Sword Sect, he had often played the role of a teacher for his juniors, so these words came very naturally to him.
Hearing these words, Ji Jin’s expression became more and more heavy. He felt that this was the unyielding provocation of the younger generation. He coldly retorted, “The current junior generation seems to be getting more and more arrogant. What often occurs when they want to surpass their worthy predecessors, just like that madman that only knew how to paint armor! But don’t forget, if you’re as arrogant as him, in the end you’ll end up possessed by madness.”
“To cultivate the Dao is to look at the worthy and unworthy, not early and late.”
Gou Hanshi calmly told him, “If those who came later didn’t have the courage to surpass those who came before, then how could each generation become stronger than the last?”
When Ji Jin had received the message from his alma mater, it only further inflamed his inborn loathing for Chen Changsheng to extreme heights, which was why he had, from early morning until late night, confronted Chen Changsheng in order to humiliate him. He could not have imagined that Gou Hanshi would come to refute him. In the south, the Scholartree Manor had deep roots and long bloodlines, but in the end it still could not compare with the Li Shan Sword Sect, the number one monastery of the Longevity Sect. He did not want to argue with Gou Hanshi, but he was also burning with rage and was being watched by all these members of the younger generation, so how could he take into consideration these other factors? Rebuke apparent in his voice, he said. “The Dao of the Heavenly Tomes lies within the Monolith Inscriptions. You’ve only been in the mausoleum for two days, so what Dao can you have understood? What sort of justification have you cooked up? You insist on taking the wrong path to failure?”
Chen Changsheng replied, “Ten thousand streams, each with a different scenery, but in the end they all join the ocean.”
Ji Jin stared into his eyes as he callously said, “I hear that during the Grand Examination you managed to break into the Ethereal Opening Realm, shaking the entire capital. Presumably you think yourself to be one of those bubbling clear streams, but don’t forget! Many streams initially seem to have an abundance of water, but when they leave the mountain, after a few days they dry out in the wasteland, so for what reason would you be able to escape this type of end?”
Up to here, the hostility had already transformed into barely concealed insults, even curses. The onlookers all turned pale at these words, and even the oil lantern hanging on the tree seemed to grow dimmer.
Chen Changsheng could not help but shake his head at these words. “In the past, I heard that senior was a famous talent of the south who willingly offered his life to Dao, making you even more worthy of praise. I didn’t think that you were this sort of person who resorts to threats when he can’t speak reason. It would seem that not one bit of the graceful bearing from the past remains.”
He was not returning Ji Jin’s ridicule, but rather really thought this way. His face naturally contained some sorrow and disappointment, but in the eyes of everyone else, it was an expression of ridicule against Ji Jin.
Ji Jin flew into a rage at these words. Pointing at him, he yelled, “You want to talk reason, then we’ll talk reason! Since ancient times, of the countless methods used to comprehend the Reflecting Monolith, which of them was a part of the ocean that is the ‘correct path’? Who could not take the shape, could not take the idea, or could not take the form to open this monolith? Was it Zhou Dufu or His Majesty Taizong? Was it the previous generation’s Holy Maiden or His Holiness the Pope? Or was it that person surnamed Su from Mount Li? Or maybe it was that principal from the Orthodox Academy?”
The speed of his voice became faster and faster. As he spoke the names of these outstanding and famous personages, he was almost like a hurricane, rushing forth with skull-crushing speed. The last two names were seniors of Chen Changsheng and Gou Hanshi. The last name of the principal of the Orthodox Academy especially seemed to contain some hidden subtext.
The area around the monolith hut became completely silent. Likewise, Gou Hanshi and Chen Changsheng also said nothing. As for how those legendary figures that Ji Jin had mentioned ultimately comprehended the monoliths, no one knew the exact details. According to the Daoist Canons and official government records, they had all used the conventional methods, that is the most orthodox methods. The year Zhou Dufu had used one glance to comprehend the monoliths, he had afterwards revealed his method in idle chatter with Taizong. He had taken from both shape and idea and combined them into a high-level method, but it was still within accepted practice.
Just as everyone felt that Gou Hanshi and Chen Changsheng would be left speechless in the face of these cold hard facts, Chen Changsheng once again spoke.
The oil lantern on the branch gently flickered about due to the night wind. The light swayed to and fro, reflecting from his eyes, almost as if there were stars twinkling within them.
“One thousand one hundred and sixty-one years ago, His Majesty Taizong came to the capital from Tianliang county to view the monoliths. That year, he was accompanied by the Duke of Wei, who, back then, was the official secretary of the county. His Majesty Taizong used only one day to view three monoliths, whereas the Duke of Wei needed two whole months to understand just this Reflecting Monolith. Of course, everyone knew that the Duke of Wei didn’t know how to cultivate. Logically, it would be correct to say that there was no way for him to understand the Heavenly Tome Monoliths, so His Majesty Taizong did not laugh, but rather was baffled at how he managed to comprehend the monolith. He asked the Duke of Wei just what he had seen in the Reflecting Monolith. The Duke of Wei replied that he did not see the flow of true essence, the traces of spiritual sense, nor did he see any sword forms or moves…”
Chen Changsheng pointed at the unspeaking monolith as he recounted this ancient and long forgotten tale. Everyone’s gaze, including Ji Jin’s followed his finger, resting upon the inscription on the monolith. They wanted to know in the end, what had the Duke of Wei seen? Could it be that there were actually methods outside the three main methods?”
“He saw a forcefully twisted straight line. He saw the pain and helplessness of that formerly straight line that had been forcefully distorted by external forces. He saw what was hidden within the fold was the power of straightness. In his eyes, the lines on the Reflecting Monolith had nothing to do with cultivation. It was beyond cultivation. Those lines were the law. They were rules.”
There was naught but silence in front of the monolith hut. Only Chen Changsheng’s voice resounded.
“In this way, the Duke of Wei comprehended the Heavenly Tome Monolith.”