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Chapter 303 - Passing Through the Four Seasons, Thus Seeing the Mausoleum
Xu Yourong did not understand. She thought to herself, you’re in your twenties at most. You can't be older than me by much. So how is it that you can understand life so well? Moreover… for you to actually use such simple words to clearly explain such complex subjects, just how did the Snow Mountain Sect teach you? Just what was your everyday life like?
She said, "I've never met anyone as good with words as you."
Chen Changsheng was a little startled by these words. He had never imagined that he would ever receive such an evaluation. Since he was small, he had lived together with Senior Yu Ren and rarely spoke. For the most part, they had used hand signs to communicate. In the capital, he had been regarded by many people as silent and reticent. So when did he begin to talk so much? When he had to give Luoluo and Xuanyuan Po lessons in the Orthodox Academy? Or was it because Tang Thirty-Six, that wealthy princeling who made his head hurt, spent every day over the past year prattling on and on by his ear? Or perhaps… it had something to do with the person across from him?
As he gazed at this girl's elegant face by the light of the fire, for some reason, he began to feel flustered, and then he said somewhat distractedly, "It's all just random musings."
Xu Yourong sincerely asked him, "How do you understand all these matters?"
Chen Changsheng thought to himself, that's because ever since you were a child, you grew up in the grasslands, separated from the world, so there was no one tell you these things.
Xu Yourong said, "To explain so clearly about responsibility and pressure and life, I could waste a day and night in self-reflection and not do this. You are truly amazing."
Chen Changsheng honestly replied, "It's really not much. It's just that something like pressure often brings on negative emotions. That's not good for your health, so I don't like it."
Once the snowstorm stopped, the two departed the sacrificial temple and continued onward.
Suddenly, they walked into a torrential downpour.
Before they even had time to think about getting away from the rain, it stopped.
The sun once again blazed over the plains, causing the rainwater to instantly evaporate. In the humid atmosphere, it seemed as if it was now summer.
As they continued forward, the grass yellowed and became covered with white frost. The White Grass Path gradually began to blend into the surrounding plain. It was a bleak scene, as if it was autumn.
The plains of the Garden of Zhou were as enigmatic as expected. Maybe it was because space was twisted, or perhaps it was because time flowed strangely, but the four seasons alternated with each other rapidly, catching them unaware. At the most ridiculous point, they had walked through spring into summer and from autumn into winter in the short span of only dozen or so li!
Although the surroundings were harsh, they could at the very least determine one thing. The thing that most comforted them and simultaneously most set them on edge was that they had not encountered a single monster.
Running out of a cloudy and rainy summer, Chen Changsheng placed Xu Yourong down on a brilliant patch of spring flowers. Then he took out a big piece of pure white snow that he had taken from the winter as well as some implements that he had taken from the last two temples. He began to thaw the snow and boil it into water. At the same time, he began to pluck and disembowel the autumn goose he had caught this morning and began to prepare a water chestnut stew with goose meat.
The stew's aroma gradually began to pervade the air, but the plains on both sides of the path were quiet and without sound.
This sort of strange and deathly silence had once made them extremely vigilant, but now they had learned to ignore it.
He was even more concerned about the time. Based on the scale of the flowing water bottle, they had already been in the Garden of Zhou for over twenty days. The Garden of Zhou would only remain open for one hundred days. When it closed, the rules of the miniature world within would undergo a single change. The monsters and fish living within would have no problems, but the cultivators possessing seas of consciousness would be struck dead by heavenly lightning.
He did not know what the situation was outside the Garden of Zhou. Logically, the garden gate's closing should have drawn the attention of the people outside. Archbishop Mei Lisha and the Solitary Drunk under the Moon should have had some sort of response. It was just he did not know if they had managed to open the gate. As for those several hundred human cultivators that had been gathered together, would they leave those gardens and search the wilderness for their companions?
Of course, he had not much faith in the latter occurring.
“The deeper we go into the plain, the slower time gets. At our location, one day is roughly equivalent to fifteen minutes on the outside, so for the moment, you don't have to worry about the closing of the Garden of Zhou." In the past few days, whenever Xu Yourong was awake, she was performing calculations with her Fated Star Plate. Using the minute differences between their two flowing water bottles, and the speed of that sun that wanted to set but never ended up doing so, she had found a relatively accurate answer.
When she said these words, she was on Chen Changsheng's back, one hand holding a flowing water bottle as she examined it, while the other held onto his shoulder. Naturally, she was lying completely against Chen Changsheng's back.
By now, they had grown very familiar with each other, and their interactions had also grown much more casual. Her hugging his body had already become extremely natural, not as it was initially. Even when she was weak and without the strength to support herself, her two hands would still be holding onto his shoulders. She kept her body extremely close to his. It was truly exhausting.
Chen Changsheng was also no longer as cautious and prudent as he was at the beginning. He used whatever position he found most comfortable to hold up her legs and no longer worried about whether he had gone too high.
At the same time, her casualness made him feel even more comfortable. To feel her soft body on his back on this endless and seemingly never-ending journey gave him much more strength.
Although he felt the soft touch of her body, it would be embarrassing for him to imagine her body, so he naturally came to a conclusion: the legends were right, elven girls truly are enchanting.
When he thought about how her injuries had not yet recovered while he was thinking about such things, he felt rather ashamed. Perhaps because he wanted to dispel his shame, he asked, "Later on...is it okay to call you Ruanruan?"
(TN: Ruan(软) means soft)
This was still to not have anything so finding something to say. Moreover, this was a most idiotic and disastrous example. The moment the words left his lips, he immediately felt regret.
Throughout this journey, he had known perfectly well that she was a pure and cold young lady, carrying a dignified air about her. She would definitely not find this sort of teasing very amusing.
Of course, Xu Yourong did not like it. If this were a normal day, she would have gotten furious, and then beat Chen Changsheng into such a state that not even Luoluo would recognize him.
Yet for some reason, although right now her face was filled with anger, she did not say or do anything.
Through spring flowers, summer rains, autumn fruits, and winter snows; they passed through the four seasons and continued onwards. Occasionally, they would rest, killing a monster for a meal, reorienting their minds, and then they would always be able to find another old temple. They grew increasingly familiar with each other. Even when they were not talking and just calmly gazing at each other, they did not find it awkward. There were even times where he would make a funny face, causing the weak her to chuckle.
Of course, when they were resting and waiting for the meat to cook, they would often engage in conversation. In addition, Xu Yourong would often take the initiative by requesting that he talk about some topic. Since she was small, she had become the famous person on the continent, the focus of countless gazes. Whenever she went out, she would be guarded by countless experts. But she was alone. In Xining Village, he only had his senior as a companion. After he came to the capital, he had grown used to the tranquility of the Orthodox Academy, but he was never alone. He could feel her loneliness, so every time she wanted to hear something, he would always talk about it, digressing on a vast number of random topics. For instance, he would say that a certain type of fish was tasty and not poisonous. Or that, when the stream water is clearest, you can see more than a dozen zhang down to the bottom of the pool. Or he would talk about how over there is a type of pigfish that was extremely delicious if you took out its toxic sac. Or even that those pine trees on the mountain really look similar to monsters.
Occasionally, she would also talk. She would describe which auntie in that small village loved to curse in the street, or which restaurant made the best food. He did not quite understand, but he guessed that it was most likely the place she grew up in. Only because she was getting weaker, and because she felt that no matter how dazzling her life was in the eyes of others, it could only seem dry and tedious in comparison to Chen Changsheng's life, she began feeling inferior and did not like to talk about it too much.
She was really thankful that Chen Changsheng was willing to talk with such a dull person as her.
On a certain day in which a snowstorm was once again raging, they were resting in the seventh old temple on the White Grass Path.
By the bonfire, Chen Changsheng concluded his reminiscing of his childhood memories.
She looked at him sincerely and said, "You really are a good person."
Chen Changsheng thought to himself that this evaluation wasn’t bad.
She whispered her blessing, "May the sacred light be with you."
Since that rainy night in the old temple where they held their first actual conversation, dozens of days had passed.
May the sacred light be with you.
Every day, she would say this prayer.
They were getting ever closer to Zhou Dufu's mausoleum, and she was getting ever weaker.
Relying on the Black Dragon's Black Frost coldness, Chen Changsheng's injuries had been slowly recovering, but there was no such good turn of things for her. The Peacock Plume continued to spread through her body and gradually began to wreak havoc upon it. She had lost too much of her Heavenly Phoenix true blood and was powerless to stop the poison. Several times, Chen Changsheng had ventured into the plains and hunted down several monsters, but the blood of those monsters, whether it had a fiery or cold nature, had not done a single thing to ameliorate her situation.
Her hands held tightly onto his clothes, and she calmly leaned against the pile of grass, watching the flames leap about the fire while saying no more.
The snowy temple was silent. Even the wind had stopped.
Gazing at her pale face, at those eyes in which that emblematic water had gradually begun to dry up, Chen Changsheng felt very sad.
It was a sadness that he had begun to feel ahead of time.
He wanted to say something, to shatter this oppressive and deathly silence, but he did not know what to say.
Seeing his bowed head, Xu Yourong knew what he was thinking about. She calmly said, "It has nothing to do with you."
Chen Changsheng lifted his head and looked at her. "Although, even until now, you've never been willing to tell me what happened on that first night, I definitely know that it was you who saved me. Moreover, you've never once thrown me away."
”Xu Yourong gazed calmly at him and replied, "You were the same.”
Chen Changsheng said, "I suddenly understand those words you spoke of that night. If I was strong enough, as strong as you were before you were injured, when faced by those demon experts, I could still have brought you away. I wouldn't have been forced by circumstance into these plains and walked this path of no return."
Xu Yourong said, "Contrarily, I believe that it was the words you said on that night that make sense. If I wasn't trying to be brave, then perhaps I wouldn't have even been injured."
This was what she truly thought about this matter. When she had first caught onto the trail of the demons, if she had not traversed that mountain path alone due to her pride, maybe things would be different. If she had chosen instead to join hands with the other human cultivators, like the youths of the Mount Li Sword Sect with whom she was acquainted, or even that fool called Chen Changsheng, maybe none of this would have happened.
The snowy temple once more grew quiet, so quiet as to stir unease within the heart.
Chen Changsheng did not like this sort of silence. When she thought of that prayer she recited, he asked, "Is this the practice of your people?"
Xu Yourong thought to herself that the Snow Mountain Sect isn't that remote, and he's so well-versed in the Daoist scriptures, but somehow he doesn't even know this.
"Yes, it means to wish you a peaceful life."
"I also thank you."
Xu Yourong grew weaker by the day, but she had never forgotten to say those words.
Those were her heartfelt blessings and hopes.
She knew that it would probably be very difficult for them to leave these plains. Then if there was still a possibility of living, she wanted to give it all to this good-hearted disciple from the Snow Mountain Sect.
Just when it seemed like her fifteen years of life were about reach their end, the White Grass Path ended.
Just when her eyes were about to close, she finally saw that mausoleum.
She was on Chen Changsheng's back and was a bit higher up than he was, so she saw it an instant before he did.
From a distance, the mausoleum seemed like a mountain. There were no cliffs and few trees on this mountain, making it so that those straight lines that ran from the peak to the foot of the mausoleum could be clearly seen.
Chen Changsheng thought they felt rather familiar. When he got even closer, he realized that they seemed very similar to the Heavenly Tome Monoliths.
They had walked through the plains for dozens of days, and now they had finally found the legendary Mausoleum of Zhou. However, he and Xu Yourong were extremely exhausted, so they could not show any happiness or anxiety.
Following the White Grass Path, it still took a long time for them to walk the dozen or so li and finally arrive before the gray mausoleum.
They could finally estimate just how tall and just how large this mausoleum truly was.
Now that they were up close, they could more clearly make out the details of the mausoleum, and its loftiness seemed more real. For instance, the several thousand zhang divine path which led straight down the center towards the wall of the mausoleum, or the massive stones that it was made of. Compared to seeing it from a distance, its grandeur suddenly seemed many times more imposing, and they were struck head-on by a dignified and solemn sensation.
Chen Changsheng noticed that around the mausoleum were ten stone pillars. These stone pillars were about a zhang tall, their carvings long eroded into blurry drawings by several hundred years of wind and rain. They seemed very shabby. Compared to the grandiose mausoleum, these stone pillars were rather strange. It was not for any other reason except that they were too short. They did not match with the mausoleum.
"You may not know, but the Li Palace also has a lot of stone pillars outside it. The first time I saw them, I thought they were very strange. I didn't think that there would also be some here."
He continued, "I don't know why, but I also think that this mausoleum is very strange. It seems just like a Heavenly Tome Monolith, but there's something different."
Xu Yourong weakly chuckled as she thought to herself, when I was three years old, I would climb those pillars every day for fun.
Resting against his shoulder, she strenuously lifted her head to glance at the mausoleum. A little perplexed, she said, "The style of the mausoleum hall is very similar to the Longevity Sect's Golden Hall."
"Right, that's the problem," Chen Changsheng said. "This mausoleum seems very similar to a lot of the famous buildings outside of the Garden of Zhou, but when put all together in one place, it feels a little..."
Xu Yourong said at the same as he did, "...inappropriate."
After they said this word, they looked into each other's eyes and laughed.
To the legendary and supreme figure that was Zhou Dufu, there was no one that would not be incomparably reverential. In front of his mausoleum, presumably they wouldn't even dare to speak loudly, much less deliver such a commentary.
If it were any other cultivator that came before Zhou Dufu's mausoleum, not to mention being so excited that they could not control themselves, they would even cry tears of joy. They would be shocked into silence, and maybe only shouting and screaming could give vent to the excitement in their hearts.
But Chen Changsheng and Xu Yourong did not. They were very calm, as though they could not care less.
The instant they rather irreverently said that word, the entire journey's worth of exhaustion and hardships seemingly disappeared without a trace.