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Chapter 221 - The Gate of Myriad Wonders
After Zhong Hui had successfully comprehended the monolith, he disappeared without a trace. He had left the words “I’ll take a step ahead of you” to Chen Changsheng, who was still standing on the mountain path. In the eyes of the crowd, Chen Changsheng’s figure seemed rather lonely, although he himself did not feel this way. They looked at him and thought with a small amount of derision that the monoliths of the Mausoleum of Books truly were impartial. No one could be lucky forever.
Some felt that this was not enough and sought to rub salt over Chen Changsheng’s wounds. One of the Scholartree Manor scholars in front of the monolith hut derisively said to him, “The words senior left with you before he departed were said rather indifferently, but to me, they were too modest. Although it’s only a step, once he has finished taking this step, then perhaps the difference will be more than a thousand kilometres.”
These words were meant to mock Chen Changsheng, but it ended up including Gou Hanshi as well. Guan Feibai’s eyebrows leapt up and he was about flare up when, unexpectedly, Tang Thirty-Six beat him to it. He teased the Scholartree Manor scholar, “Didn’t he say he was going a step ahead? Where is he preparing to go? Reincarnation? So impatient.”
That Scholartree Manor was infuriated by his words. Ji Jin’s face also suddenly turned dark. His fingers became rigid and he almost pulled a hair out of his beard.
Mister Nian Guang and the rest of the Monolith Guardians walked over. Nian Guang warned Tang Thirty-Six, “Cease your unruly manners. If this happens again, no one will be able to protect you.”
Tang Thirty-Six looked back at him and scornfully said, “As I said last night, even if you wanted to hit me, you can’t hit me. What can you do with me?”
Mister Nian Guang solemnly said, “We Monolith Guardians are entrusted with keeping order amongst those who view the monoliths. If you continue to make trouble, I will personally write to my school, to have them recommend to the Orthodoxy that you be expelled from the mausoleum immediately.”
Tang Thirty-Six looked at him as if he were an idiot. Pointing to Chen Changsheng by his side, he said, “Truly this is an old man that’s gone muddleheaded from viewing the monoliths for too long. Do you know who he is? At the imperial palace, before countless witnesses, His Holiness the Pope personally involved himself! Countless people in the capital suspect that he’s His Holiness the Bishop’s illegitimate son! Recommend who to the Orthodoxy? If the Li Palace will listen to you, I will cut off my own head and offer it to you.”
Mister Nian Guang became indignant and shouted back, “If the Li Palace really does protect him, I will definitely get my school to ask for the reason!”
Tang Thirty-Six was also indignant and yelled back, “Your school? You should go ask those bishops and the Temple Seminary, who gives a third of their money every year so that you lot can idle around until you die for so many years! You’re all dependent on my family’s support! The Orthodoxy won’t comply because they protect Chen Changsheng, the Temple Seminary won’t comply because of the benefits they receive from protecting me, so you have to get some southerner to come out and scare me! What sort of reasoning do you have!”
Mister Nian Guang trembled in rage, now prepared to discipline him with a few more words, but in the end he angrily brushed his sleeves and left.
Silence reigned around the monolith hut. Regardless of if it was the new entrants to the mausoleum, or the old entrants, they all stared blankly at Tang Thirty-Six. “What sort of person is he, really?” they thought to themselves.
Because Zhong Hui had taken the lead in comprehending the monoliths, Tang Thirty-Six’s mood was extremely bad. He yelled at the spectators, “What are you looking at?! Have you never seen a wealthy person before?”
“Are the Wenshui Tangs…really that wealthy?”
Guan Feibai, Liang Banhu, and Qi Jian looked at each other speechlessly. They had grown up in bitter conditions, and life at the Mount Li Sword Sect was even more Spartan. Even Qi Jian, who had experienced the dotage that only the sect master’s last disciple had, and who since childhood had been raised in the Discipline Hall, had not lived any sort of luxurious lifestyle. It was hard for them to imagine that the world really had this sort of wealthy person. In the aspect of money, the youths of the Mount Li Sword Sect were truly lacking in knowledge.
“If you think about it, if Tang Tang is so wealthy, yet he’s always so swollen with arrogance, why is it that he isn’t that unlikable?”
Guan Feibai thought back to that time in the Li Palace, where those girls from the Thirteenth Division of Radiant Green and the Holy Maiden Peak looked at Tang Thirty-Six with such fervor. He had thought of a probable reason, but he found it awkward to say in front of his junior.
At this time, a youth began walking towards them. Guan Feibai and the other two clasped their hands in greeting, and smiles appeared on their faces. It was very obvious that they were very familiar with this person. Especially Liang Banhu. Normally, he was rather wooden and oppressive, but now he had even stepped forward to welcome this youth. He even patted the youth on the shoulder several times, making it seem like they were quite close.
Gou Hanshi introduced the youth to Chen Changsheng. “This is my third martial brother, Liang Xiaoxiao.”
Chen Changsheng realized that this was the Third Law of the Divine State’s Seven Laws, Liang Xiaoxiao. Liang Xiaoxiao had always been ranked third on the Proclamation of Azure Sky. It was only during this year’s rearranging of ranks that he was bumped down to fourth by Luo Luo. Chen Changsheng also knew his name because he was the previous year’s first rank of the First Banner of the Grand Examination. Previously, when all those people were standing in the crowd, nobody took note of his presence. Ji Jin and Zhong Hui’s words from last night were reasonable. The Mausoleum of Books truly was a place where heroes gathered. To be first rank of the First Banner in the Grand Examination really was not anything special here.
Liang Xiaoxiao clasped his hands in greeting towards Chen Changsheng, his expression indifferent. Apparently, he was not one for much talking.
He then turned to Gou Hanshi and said, “Senior, these past two days, I fixated on the East Pavilion Monolith, so I did not have the time to find all of you.”
Gou Hanshi responded, “Of course viewing the monoliths and cultivating is more important. Since we’ve already come to the mausoleum, there will be plenty of opportunities to meet each other.”
Chen Changsheng recalled that yesterday, Gou Hanshi said that he would introduce him to somebody. Now that he thought about it, Gou Hanshi probably meant this youth.
Once Qi Jian heard the three words “East Pavilion Monolith”, he said with amazement, “East Pavilion Monolith... that’s the sixth monolith. You’re really amazing third brother.”
Liang Xiaoxiao gave a subtle nod. Although his name contained the word ‘Xiao’(笑), he did not show the slightest hint of a smile on his face. He was actually a bit more icily arrogant then Guan Feibai. (TN: Liang Xiaoxiao is written as 梁笑晓. 笑 means laughter or smile.)
Gou Hanshi smiled. “Since you’ve already seen the East Pavilion Monolith, then presumably breaking through to the next realm is not close at hand.”
Liang Xiaoxiao solemnly said, “Half a year ago, I broke through into Ethereal Opening realm, and have not been able to take a single step forward since. I am deeply ashamed, so I didn’t send any messages home.”
Liang Banhu gave a good-natured laugh. “It’s fine, it’s fine.”
Gou Hanshi told Chen Changsheng, “Third brother and fifth brother are siblings by blood.”
Tang Thirty-Six’s gaze moved back and forth between Liang Xiaoxiao and Liang Banhu’s faces, then asked in confusion, “Why is it that the fifth sibling looks older than the third sibling?”
Upon hearing this, Liang Xiaoxiao turned his head and gave Tang Thirty-Six a cold stare.
Tang Thirty-Six stared back.
Qi Jian suggested, “Third brother, he’s just that sort of person, no need to worry about him.”
Liang Xiaoxiao took this advice to heart, and turned away from Tang Thirty-Six.
Zhexiu glanced at Qi Jian, his gaze somewhat odd.
Qi Jian sensed his gaze, then as if he were stung by a scorpion, he quickly retreated behind Liang Banhu.
As Gou Hanshi explained to Chen Changsheng, originally the Fifth Law, Liang Banhu, was the elder brother, and the higher ranked, Liang Xiaoxiao, was the family’s younger brother. Then Chen Changsheng recalled that Liang Xiaoxiao had said that half a year ago he had broken through, so he understood that this person was already at the Ethereal Opening. In other words, the moment he left the mausoleum, would he leave the Proclamation of Azure Sky and enter the Proclamation of Golden Distinction?
“I would have to trouble you with telling Her Highness Luo Luo, I will not be fourth place on the Proclamation of Azure Sky.”
Liang Xiaoxiao apathetically delivered these words to Chen Changsheng. He did not wait for a response, nor did he wait for Tang Thirty-Six to open his mouth. He turned to Gou Hanshi and seriously said, “Senior, although we came from the South with Scholartree Manor together, being in Mount Li is still Mount Li. How can we fall behind?”
Gou Hanshi replied, “I have my own way of keeping score. You continue to meditate on the monoliths. There’s only one month’s time left before we have to leave. Time is of the essence.”
Liang Xiaoxiao said nothing more.
It was just as he said. Although that ranking in front of the Mausoleum of Books had long been destroyed by Zhou Tong on the order of the Divine Empress, in matters of competition and even glory, there was no way to forcefully wipe it from the hearts of the people. The speed at which one comprehended the monoliths and the total number of monoliths comprehended, within the hearts of the people, there still remained a formless ranking.
This year, there was no unparalleled genius that had comprehended a monolith on the first day, nor was there one that succeeded on the second day, but on the third day, Zhong Hui had successfully comprehended a monolith. This could already be considered as not bad, but those old entrants, who already knew who Chen Changsheng and Gou Hanshi were, already knew that they were the top two from this year’s Grand Examination. In addition to this, rumors from outside had already trickled in, that these two were reputed for their profound knowledge of the Daoist Canon. Naturally, the two youths attracted quite a bit of attention. And yet, up to this point, neither of the two had managed to comprehend the first Heavenly Tome Monolith. Inevitably, this would stir up some discussion.
“After Wang Zhice, the people who are most praised for their erudition in the Daoist Canon are these two people. But who would think that they would be beaten by that scholar from Scholartree Manor.”
“Not all rumors are true. What well-read in the Daoist Canon? It’s more like at a young age they broke into Ethereal Opening. From what I see, some facts were likely over exaggerated.”
The monolith viewers all went back to their respective monoliths to achieve enlightenment. Liang Xiaoxiao also took his leave. The crowd in front of the Reflecting Monolith gradually dispersed, and the mountain forest regained its tranquility. Chen Changsheng walked up to the front of the monolith hut and stared at the black monolith. After a long period of silence, he suddenly asked, “How did he disappear? Don’t tell me that the back of the monolith contains a miniature world?
Tang Thirty-Six and the others thought he was ruminating over some important matter, not pondering this sort of question. They could not help but be struck speechless.
Gou Hanshi said, “It is said the Heavenly Tome Monoliths are pieces of some miniature world that have now scattered all over the true world. Although the space that they were once a part of is now destroyed, these pieces are still somehow interlinked. It can also be understood like so: each monolith is a sliding door, but these sliding doors don’t lead to anywhere except other sliding doors, which are the other Heavenly Tome Monoliths. In addition, the sequence of monoliths is eternal and unchanging.”
Chen Changsheng replied, “So it was like that. No wonder it’s said that the Mausoleum of Books only has one path, but, how do the Heavenly Tome Monoliths decide whether the key in the hands of the monolith viewer is the right one?”
The Daoist Canons did not record how one moved from one Heavenly Tome Monolith to another. As for those previous great experts that had recorded their time in the Mausoleum of Books, they had also not mentioned such details. This was because in the view of cultivators, this sort of thing was common knowledge and there was no need to explain it.
Chen Changsheng knew many bits of esoterica from the three thousand classics of the Daoist Canon, but he was somewhat lacking in knowledge of the world or cultivation. This was because he was a self-made genius.
Gou Hanshi answered, “The Heavenly Tomes cannot comprehend. In many ways, the Heavenly Tome Monoliths themselves are mystical and maybe even incomprehensible. Whether one’s interpretation of the monolith inscriptions is correct or not, this is something that the cultivator can never decide, nor can a spectator. Only the Heavenly Tome Monolith itself has the right to decide.”
“Decides by itself?” Chen Changsheng did not understand so he repeated the words.
Gou Hanshi explained, “The monolith viewer touches the monolith. If the Heavenly Tome Monolith feels that you understand, then you have really understood it.”
Chen Changsheng thought of that famous description of the Heavenly Dao in the Daoist Canon: Mystery of mysteries, the gate of myriad wonders.
If the Heavenly Tome Monolith was a door, what sort of wondrous world would be behind it?
Seeing him with such a pensive expression before the monolith, Tang Thirty-Six and the others decided to stay silent.
Zhong Hui had already deciphered the first Heavenly Tome Monolith. Was Chen Changsheng now interested, or was he content on continuing to sit on the sidelines. Could it be that he was still in no rush?
“Ah!” Chen Changsheng suddenly thought of something and said, “I have to go back.”
Tang Thirty-Six asked in surprise, “What is it?”
Somewhat anxious, Chen Changsheng replied, “You dragged me out in such a rush that I forgot that I was still boiling water on the stove. What will we do if it boils dry?”