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Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Priest Xin suddenly realized that the plum blossoms filling the room were exuding a chilly air, even though most plum blossoms loved the cold. In order to drive away this chill, he barely managed to muster a smile and continue narrating the excitement surrounding the Orthodox Academy. He particularly took care to describe how after Chen Changsheng had received the challenge for the Orthodox Academy, the Four Great Markets had reacted quickly and erected an awning at the entrance to Hundred Flowers Lane. Moreover, the Four Great Markets were at this very moment collecting silver for betting stakes.
"It seems that there aren't as many people betting as during the Grand Examination." Mei Lisha smiled as he spoke.
Priest Xin didn't understand. Even though this battle between Zhou Ziheng and Chen Changsheng had naturally attracted the gazes of many, just how could it be discussed on the same level as the Grand Examination? In the next moment, he finally remembered something. During the Grand Examination, when nobody else was optimistic about Chen Changsheng, he had bet all his property on Chen Changsheng—because the archbishop was optimistic about Chen Changsheng.
"I understand." He smiled at the archbishop and said, "In a while, I'll have someone help me put down a bet."
All of the Li Palace knew that after setting the Orthodox Academy on the road to recovery, Priest Xin had become Archbishop Mei Lisha's trusted aide. His attitude was the archbishop's attitude. In this year's Grand Examination, when Priest Xin bet all his property on Chen Changsheng, every priest of the Bureau of Ecclesiastic Education, out of fear of being seen as unsupportive of Chen Changsheng, also bet huge sums of money on Chen Changsheng.
This was an enormous amount of silver.
The Heavenly Fragrance Market's final loss had been so miserable because, apart from the unyielding and callous assault of the Wenshui Tangs, it had to pay out the winnings for all these Li Palace priests.
Hearing Priest Xin's words, Mei Lisha began to laugh, and then he began to cough. The room resonated with the painful sounds of coughing. After a long time, they stopped. After tiredly gasping for breath, Mei Lisha gazed outside the window at the day and sorrowfully said, "I had originally wanted to see just how much Chen Changsheng had progressed. Sadly, it seems that I won't be able to see it."
For Chen Changsheng, tomorrow was the first time after the Grand Examination that he would formally display his power and cultivation. Viewing the monoliths in the Mausoleum of Books, holding up the sky in the Grand Examination, carrying Su Li on his back and escaping from the snowy plains of the land of the demons, returning south...all the things he had learned and comprehended over these days would be displayed tomorrow.
He was about to give a full report and exhibition of the gains he had made to those people that were concerned about him.
Tomorrow would be a brand new day for him.
However, to Mei Lisha, there would be no tomorrow.
Priest Xin suddenly felt his legs grow soft. With great difficulty, he drew closer and gazed at the calm expression on the archbishop's face, but his nerves prevented him from saying anything. The entire Bureau of Ecclesiastic Education quickly became immersed in a nervous atmosphere and a piece of news was sent to every corner of the capital.
The bloodstains from the past year had long since vanished from the plaza of the Bureau of Ecclesiastic Education, but that row of maple trees were as red as blood, as if the harsh and somber autumn had come early. As it turned out, it was the coming of twilight.
Whichever interpretation it was, in the end, they were both ominous, evoking melancholy in others.
Since the autumn had already come, could the deathly stillness of winter be far away?
With the coming of twilight, wasn't the night right before the eyes?
As the night descended and the lanterns were being lit, Chen Changsheng quickly made his way over to the Bureau of Ecclesiastic Education. Ignoring the salutations of the priests, he directly proceeded to that room in the very back.
The room was still filled with plum blossoms, but many of the plum blossoms were no longer so flourishing. Signs of wilting could already be seen.
"I am going to die." Mei Lisha gazed at him, his voice so gentle that it seemed like he was afraid of scaring a small child.
Chen Changsheng had pondered over life and death countless times and had many times believed that he could already see past it, like that time when he was facing the Black Dragon, or that time in the Garden of Zhou. He even believed that he struck up some of the real meanings of life, like how those who said they were the most afraid of death would often be the people least afraid of death, or like how there were many times in life where only by not being afraid of death could one evade death, that only by putting one's life on the line could one continue to live.
But now as he stared at the elderly archbishop, he suddenly realized that those thoughts of his were still not complete, because he had never thought, if one had no enemies, or if one's enemy was time, then how could one battle against it? When death comes, how could one maintain their calm? He did not know, so he did not know what to say at this time.
Mei Lisha looked at him and chuckled. Not continuing on this topic, he asked, "What do you believe your chances of success to be tomorrow?"
Perhaps because death was on the verge of arrival and time was too short, the archbishop today spoke very straightforwardly.
Chen Changsheng was also very straightforward. Without the slightest hesitation, he said, "One hundred percent."
Mei Lisha thought that he was just soothing him. Laughing, he said, "I believe that you've actually thought about it many times, why I've been so good to you."
Chen Changsheng said nothing. Of course, he had thought about this many times, but he had never found an answer. He knew it assuredly had to do with some very big matter, but he didn't want to think in that direction.
"I have hidden some things from you and even deceived you, but you must believe in me, believe in His Holiness, and believe in your teacher."
Mei Lisha continued, "Maybe there will be many things where the true appearance is different from the outward one, but that's only walking a different path. The ultimate destination has never changed. Just like all that we have planned for you. In the future, there may be a time where you feel resentful, even angry, but you must see what the final outcome is. I believe that no matter what, it will not be of harm to you."
Chen Changsheng didn't quite understand the meaning of these words, but he understood the archbishop's meaning—these two meanings were different. As long as the result was good, the process and methods used to reach it were not too important. Mei Lisha wanted to say precisely this. But was he talking about the mind or talking about actions? As Chen Changsheng gazed at Mei Lisha's aged face, he no longer wanted to think about these questions. He believed that to an elder that was about to depart from this world, to continue questioning was an exceptionally cruel act. In addition, he could feel that this elder was sincerely thinking about his well-being.
In everyone's view, in both the Ivy Festival and the Grand Examination, the reason that Chen Changsheng was able to obtain the final victory and his name was able to shake the capital, the person he and the Orthodox Academy had to thank the most, was precisely Archbishop Mei Lisha. Prior to the Pope personally crowning Chen Changsheng with the crown of thorns, Mei Lisha had been his sole supporter in the world, the patron of the Orthodox Academy. It was only natural that he was very close to Chen Changsheng. Only Chen Changsheng himself clearly understood that, in fact, he and Mei Lisha had only met each other a few times. Coming from Xining to the capital, everything had happened too quickly, time had flowed by too fast. Without any warning, he and the Orthodox Academy had come to this day, and the archbishop was going to die.
Their meetings had been few and, given they were separated by several hundred years of existence, it was naturally impossible to say that they were good friends; yet he could feel Archbishop Mei Lisha’s heartfelt goodwill towards him, and even a great...pity, as if Mei Lisha knew his greatest secret, causing his eyes to always be filled with apology. Every emotion was mutual. As Chen Changsheng gazed at him on the verge of death, Chen Changsheng did not know what he could help with. He felt rather useless and deeply apologetic, so much so that his eyes began to grow moist.
Mei Lisha allowed Chen Changsheng to depart. He had Priest Xin come into the room and take a book off the bookshelf.
In the final moments of his life, he was still reading. It was a Daoist scripture with a rather old cover.
He read it for a very long time, then closed the book and gazed out the window at the darkness. He mumbled, "Principal Shang truly is an extraordinary man."
Priest Xin didn't comprehend why the archbishop, at this time, would mention that once-principal of the Orthodox Academy, even though he had just met Chen Changsheng who had been that man's student.
"Interesting." Mei Lisha's dried-up and thin finger tapped twice against the book, and then he said, "I'm very curious about just how the next Pope's life will be recorded in the Daoist Canon."
Priest Xin didn't understand, not expecting that the archbishop would be concerned about the great matters of the Orthodoxy that would occur after his death. He asked, "Who does Your Eminence believe will win the match tomorrow?"
This was changing the subject, but he was also truly interested. It had nothing to do with all his property, only that he really didn't understand.
During the Grand Examination, Chen Changsheng's victory could be described as a miracle.
He broke into Ethereal Opening in the middle of the match, and then he used the final move of the Mount Li Sword Style to compel Gou Hanshi to concede the battle. Only this way was he able to obtain first rank of the first banner.
Tomorrow's opponent was Zhou Ziheng, a person in the Star Condensation Realm. He couldn't repeat the scene of the Grand Examination and break into Star Condensation in the middle of the match. A miracle by definition was extremely rare to see. If a miracle were to occur twice in the short span of a year, then that was no longer called a miracle. It was called impossible. No matter how Priest Xin looked at it, he couldn't make out whether or not Chen Changsheng truly believed he had a chance at defeating Zhou Ziheng. He wished to know if the archbishop really believed Chen Changsheng could win or if he was just hoping, in the final moments of his life, to inspire a little confidence in that youth, to escort him for a little while more.
The petals gradually wilted and dropped off, but the branches of the plum blossoms remained firm and upright. Even if they were twisted, even if the temperature in the room suddenly dropped and it became bitterly cold, they still did not show the slightest sign of snapping.
Mei Lisha gazed at the plum blossom on the table and smiled. "I am still optimistic about Chen Changsheng."
Chen Changsheng sat in the great hall of the Bureau of Ecclesiastic Education, Luoluo at his side. She said nothing, only holding his hand. Priests stood off in the distance, not coming up to disturb them. Some people like Zhou Ziheng sometimes forgot about the fact that this youth was the Principal of the Orthodox Academy, but these people could never forget this. Moreover, the mood was somewhat oppressive.
After a while, Chen Changsheng raised his head and realized that the hall was abnormally silent. Those priests had vanished off somewhere.
An old man dressed in a hempen robe quietly stood in the great hall in front of that mural on the wall. It was the Pope.
That mural was massive, but it was only a drawing of a plum blossom.
The fragrance of the plum blossom arose from the bitter winter. Whether it was the Orthodoxy or the South Stream Temple or the Mount Li Sword Sect, when teaching the next generation, they all carried on this way of thinking.
Chen Changsheng rose up and walked over. After bowing respectfully, he asked a question which had perplexed him for many days.
Maybe because tonight was particularly special, or maybe because Mei Lisha had spoken so directly to him, the question he asked was also very straightforward.
"Why did Your Holiness suddenly change your view?"
The view was naturally indicating the Pope's view of the Divine Empress, of the Imperial clan, of the world.
Chen Changsheng gazed into the depths of the great hall and said, "It naturally can't be because of me, and I also think that it shouldn't be because of him."