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Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Zhou Tong put down the file and turned to his subordinate, asking, "Confirmed?"
The subordinate took a portrait from his chest and said, "Absolutely true."
Zhou Tong did not take the portrait, just examined it with his two eyes in silence.
The subordinate continued, "According to our records, in Chen Changsheng's entire year in the capital, he never mentioned this person."
Zhou Tong gazed out the window at the daylight for a very long time. Suddenly, he said, "Speak, do you think Crown Prince Zhaoming actually died, or was he secretly taken away by those traitorous fellows from the Imperial clan that refuse to die?"
The subordinate didn't know how to answer. Extremely nervous, he said in a slightly hoarse voice, "My lord's meaning is?"
Zhou Tong shook his head, then said, "I don't mean anything. I just inadvertently thought about this matter."
The subordinate didn't dare respond.
"There are some matters which we temporarily cannot investigate clearly that we also do not need to care about." Zhou Tong withdrew his gaze from the window and said, "Why was Liang Xiaoxiao willing to strike a deal with that devil Black Robe, why did he prefer to commit suicide in an attempt to deal with Su Li and his daughter? Because he wanted revenge. That year, why did Su Li go to the Longevity Sect and kill so many people and then also run off to Xunyang City and go on a killing spree, causing the Liang Household's strength to greatly decrease? Because the southerners wanted to take advantage of my Great Zhou's internal chaos and invade the north, and so captured his wife to threaten him, making him go crazy. Why was the Great Zhou in such chaos? Because of that bloody incident of the Orthodox Academy. Thus they say that all things share a common origin. In the final analysis, all these matters were concerned with the problem of the position of Emperor of the Great Zhou. As long as we recognize this fact, there should be no mistakes on our side."
The subordinate said, "In the past five days, Prince Chen Liu visited the Bureau of Ecclesiastic Education three times."
"Don't forget, although the Empress has no child of her own, Emperor Xian still has many sons and grandsons. Even if the Empress really did abdicate and turned the position of emperor over to the Chen Imperial clan, with Prince Chen Liu being so young, just what chance does he have? It's only natural that he's anxious."
"My lord's meaning is that Prince Chen Liu wants to win the Orthodoxy's support?"
"Mei Lisha is about to return to the sea of stars. He will not appear for this matter. As for striving to obtain the good impressions of the priests of the Li Palace, just how do you think he has been able to survive in the capital up to now, and moreover to live better and better as time passes?"
"Although you don't care about the position of emperor, everyone excluding you does. Consequently, I believe that the end of all these problems, or perhaps the source of all these problems, is precisely the position of emperor. Principal Shang's thoughts will also rest upon that throne."
After listening to Tang Thirty-Six's words, but before he began to ponder them, Chen Changsheng first paid notice to that name.
"Principal Shang…who is he?"
"Your teacher, Shang Xingzhou."
Chen Changsheng fell into a long silence.
This was the first time he had heard that name, and he had already lived together with this name's owner for fifteen years.
In recent times, he had many opportunities to learn this name, but he had never asked, no matter if it was to Mei Lisha or the Pope. This was because he did not want to know this name, because he did not want to, after learning that name, confront those problems he did not want to think about. He also did not want other people to know that he did not know this name, because this fact made him somewhat sad.
Tang Thirty-Six could vaguely guess at his current mood. For some reason, he developed a bad impression of Chen Changsheng's teacher. He asked, "Did you ever think about why he accepted you as his disciple?"
Chen Changsheng was somewhat at a loss, asking, "Master picked me up by a river; is there a need for any other reason?"
Tang Thirty-Six stared into his eyes and said, "Your surname is Chen."
"So?" Chen Changsheng had no reaction.
Tang Thirty-Six said,"Could it be that you never thought…that you might be of the Imperial clan?"
Chen Changsheng was momentarily stunned, then shook his head. "No way, I floated down from one of the rivers originating from the Cloud Grave. My parents are probably descendants of some clan that had committed a crime in the past."
Tang Thirty-Six teased, "And just how old were you back then? You don't know a thing."
Chen Changsheng replied, "This is what Senior said. Senior has never deceived someone, much less deceived me."
These words were said very definitely, and there was no hint of uncertainty in his clean eyes.
Tang Thirty-Six wanted to say something else, but when he saw those eyes, he somewhat restrained himself. He changed the subject, "What path are you prepared to walk next?"
When Chen Changsheng had arrived at the capital from Xining, he had originally thought his path to be crystal-clear. It was to find the secret to defying the heavens and changing fate, and thus escaping from the shadow of death. But now, he suddenly realized that before he could reach that point, he had to confront many different side paths.
"I don't know."
"You need someone to help you."
"Who can help me?"
"Okay, then you can help me."
It was a very simple conversation, and confidence that made one feel very warm—this was because the two of them were both youths.
Perhaps calm and mature, perhaps arrogant and frivolous, but they were all youths.
There were times when youths were so hot-blooded and naive that it exasperated others, but when compared to those elders that had endured many long years of tribulations, their lives were much simpler and the relationships between them would also be much simpler.
Tang Thirty-Six replied, "No problem. First, we should understand all the factors behind this matter."
Chen Changsheng shook his head, saying, "First help me do one thing."
Tang Thirty-Six didn't feign any thought. Without any hesitation, he declared, "Speak, tell me this thing."
Chen Changsheng looked at him and said, "Can you first take a bath and brush your teeth?"
How did that saying go? ‘I haven't even brushed my teeth…’ In short, a somewhat irritated Tang Thirty-Six was pushed out of the library by Chen Changsheng and was washed sparkling clean with the aid of two large basins of hot water. After assuring that he didn't have a single speck of dirt from the Mausoleum of Books, he was allowed to change into a clean set of clothes. Afterwards, he took a steamed bun that Xuanyuan Po had just finished making and walked to the lakeside.
Chen Changsheng place Sir Xun Mei's notebook on the bookshelf and recorded it down, then went to wash Sir Xun Mei's bedding and Tang Thirty-Six's fur skin. It took him an entire hour to wash them clean, after which he hung them up on the great banyan tree. Hanging from the tree, they looked just like two swings.
The rain in the morning had long since ceased and the sun of the early summer shone over the lake. It didn't bring up too much mist from the lake and there was no feeling of stuffiness.
No more were the curses of Tianhai Ya'er. The Orthodox Academy was a picture of serene beauty.
Standing by the lake and gazing at the scenery on the other shore, Tang Thirty-Six said, "My grandfather once said that His Holiness is a good man, so you also shouldn't worry too much."
As he spoke, he absorbed himself in tearing the steamed bun in his hand to pieces.
The Pope was Chen Changsheng's martial uncle. Logically, he should be very happy to accept these words, but on his journey from the snowy plains to the south with Su Li, he had encountered far too many assassinations and plots. It was truly difficult for him to convince himself that the Pope really was a good man.
"Zhu Luo and Guan Xingke were most likely requested by His Holiness to go."
Chen Changsheng looked at the reflection of the blue sky and white clouds in the lake, which looked as if it had met with that perfect and seemingly unreal sky of the Green Leaf World. He shook his head. "How could a good man become the Pope?"
"This sort of way of viewing the world seems very mature, but it's actually very crude."
Tang Thirty-Six threw the torn-up pieces of the steamed bun into the lake and said, "His Holiness was never famous because of his intelligence. He was able to become the leader of the Orthodoxy because, in the past, he was very close with the Divine Empress. Of course, the most important factor is still because that old man's strength is unfathomable. Even your teacher Principal Shang ultimately lost to him."
Chen Changsheng said, "But…he wanted to kill Su Li."
"We've come back around again." Tang Thirty-Six looked at him and said teasingly, "I'm going to say something you're not going to like. In his life, Su Li has killed so many people, and countless people want him dead. Could it be that all those people are bad guys? In reality, in the eyes of those people, you protecting Su Li on his journey south makes you the real bad guy."
Chen Changsheng thought to himself, is that really true?
"We first have to make clear for what purpose Principal Shang let you enter the capital."
Tang Thirty-Six continued, "You must know, my grandfather once said, the people that can truly make him feel afraid in this world number only three and a half. Your teacher is one of them."
Chen Changsheng's curiosity was piqued. He asked, "And the other people?"
Tang Thirty-Six replied, "The Empress, the Divination Elder, and also Black Robe."
Chen Changsheng counted up those powerful figures of the continent and asked in confusion, "What about the Demon Lord?"
Tang Thirty-Six answered, "The Demon Lord's not a human."
"Then that half a person…who is that?"
"Black Robe. Since he's devoted his life to the Demon race, it's only natural that he no longer be counted as human."
Chen Changsheng had seized upon the most vital point of this sentence. He questioned, "Does the Tang Old Master know Black Robe's true identity?"
Tang Thirty-Six did not answer this question.
Time gradually passed and the sun also gradually moved across the sky. The azure sky gradually turned red and twilight suffused the sky.
In the sky behind the great banyan tree, one could already see a smear of the coming night.
They stood by the lake, softly discussing these matters which they fundamentally had no interest in.
Back then in the Plum Garden Inn, Chen Changsheng and Tang Thirty-Six had their first meaningful conversation. At that time, they had both subconsciously wanted to seem more mature, to imitate the conversation and social intercourse of adults. But all this did was make them seem rather cute in an awkward and childish manner.
Now that they had finally touched upon these things, they abruptly realized that they didn't want to mature anymore.
Because maturing often indicated decay, indicated complexity and exhaustion.
Several dozen koi kicked their tails in the water. Because they had eaten their fill of steamed bun, they seemed lacking in strength. One of the fattest koi was even slowly sinking into the mud at the bottom of the pool.
The atmosphere of the lake was somewhat heavy.
"The world has always been very big and the minds of men have always been very complex. The dark times will always exceed the night, the uninteresting times will exceed the Heavenly Dao Academy, especially those old folks that rule this world. Their bodies exude the smell of dust from every pore." Tang Thirty-Six looked at him and said, "But those things aren't really important, because we aren't that sort of people."
Chen Changsheng gazed into the water at his reflection, examining his own face. Somewhat uneasy, he asked, "Did you ever think…in the future, we might change into that sort of abhorrent people."
Tang Thirty-Six sneered, "That's every single person's own problem. Could it be that even if you turn into a pile of shit, you still have the face to blame the world?"
He continued, "You must understand, if we want to become a certain type of person, then our world will change to that type of world."
Chen Changsheng thought that these two sentences were exceedingly reasonable.
Before he departed from Xunyang City, Su Li had said some words to him. Only now did he completely understand them. Raising his head, he looked at Tang Thirty-Six and said, "Thank you!"
According to Tang Thirty-Six's character, he should have indifferently replied right now with a 'you're welcome', but for some reason, he didn't.
A refreshing night breeze blew across, slicing the golden ripples on the lake into countless pieces.
It was almost like he had returned to Xunyang City, on that long and stormy street with cracks in space everywhere, the edges of those cracks giving off a blinding light.
A metal blade was bared before the storm, absolutely unwavering.
"I want to become a person like Wang Po."
He said, "I want to live like he does."