Chapter 223 – The Cry of the Goose (Part One)
Chen Changsheng rubbed his eyes, that ached from staring at the sunset, before standing up from the doorstep. He said, “I’m not waiting for anything.”
Gou Hanshi replied, “Even if you want to walk an untrodden path, using your own words, that method is a little stupid, but you also said that the method was feasible. Logically, it’s impossible for you to not have a method to comprehend the first Heavenly Tome Monolith, because I know your powers of comprehension are far greater than anyone else can imagine.”
As the world’s two most erudite scholars of the Daoist Canon, he and Chen Changsheng were rivals. From the Ivy Festival to the Grand Examination, they had vied with each other for supremacy, but it was because they were rivals that they truly understood each other. He had seen Chen Changsheng rise in the span of a few months from an ordinary youth that could not cultivate at all to someone who broke into Ethereal Opening amidst the rain in the Education Palace. If he did not have such excellent powers of comprehension, how could he have done such a thing?
Chen Changsheng thought for a few moments, then said, “I think the method I discussed with you last night was wrong.”
Gou Hanshi arched his brows and asked, “In what ways was it wrong?”
“It’s not a matter of it being wrong. If I could use that to follow the idea of studying the changes in the monolith inscriptions, I would probably be able to comprehend the monoliths, but I’ve always felt it to be somewhat strange, as if there was something missing. If I can’t figure out what it is that I’m missing and continue to study this method, I will find it very difficult to convince myself, because the Dao I cultivate is to follow my heart.”
Gou Hanshi asked, “Don’t tell me you’re planning on creating a new method?”
“There’s also that train of thought, but I haven’t resolved myself to it yet.”
Gou Hanshi frowned. To change methods halfway through was something best avoided when viewing the monoliths. “You know that this is a very dangerous way of thinking.”
Chen Changsheng understood his warning. If he continued to hesitate in this manner, his hope of deciphering the Heavenly Tome Monoliths would grow smaller and smaller.
He pondered the matter for a long time before finally saying, “If I can’t comprehend them in the end, then forget about it.”
“Regardless of how you think, you shouldn’t be too pedantic about it.” Gou Hanshi said these words and walked into the hut.
Chen Changsheng looked at Gou Hanshi’s back and said, “The egg soup still needs a bit more time. Don’t be in such a rush to take off the lid just yet.”
These words had no hidden meaning, yet Gou Hanshi saw one in it. He thought to himself that Chen Changsheng must have a reason for waiting.
After a while, Zhexiu returned to the grass hut. Of the seven people that resided there, only he and Chen Changsheng had not succeeded at comprehending the monolith. Seeing how the courtyard was now much more cold and cheerless than it had been the night before, his face began to show traces of self-rejection. Turning to Chen Changsheng, he asked, “Why is it that I’m never able to make it work? Could it be that my innate talent is not enough?”
Chen Changsheng thought to himself, this wolf youth who had no sect or school and cultivated all on his own, could live in those cruel, snowy plains. His name could strike fear in the hearts of many famous demons, and he could comfortably beat Guan Feibai and other such youths on the Proclamation of Azure Sky; not only did his innate bloodline talent have no problems, it was also unreasonably strong.
“It has nothing to do with your innate talent.”
“Then what’s wrong? My diligence or concentration?”
“It has nothing to do with any of those, it’s just because…” Chen Changsheng earnestly told him, “You’ve read too little.”
Zhexiu got a little angry. Since he was a child, he had roamed the snowy plains, homeless and miserable. Where would he have found the time to read books?
Chen Changsheng took Xun Mei’s notebook from his chest and handed it to Zhexiu. “It’s fine to not read much, but the most troubling part is that from my observations of you, I’ve realized you really don’t like to read. Of the notebook senior left behind, you only looked at it twice. Last night, you only looked at it for a while before going to sleep. How is that okay?”
Zhexiu’s face paled, but it wasn’t because he was injured, but rather because he was angry. Taking the notebook, he went straight into the grass hut.
The next day at five in the morning, Chen Changsheng opened his eyes and took five breaths’ of time to settle his mind. Afterwards, he got up from his bed and realized that Tang Thirty-Six was sprawled out sleeping on the side, snoring thunderously. Walking to the outer room, he saw that Qi Jian and the others were all in a deep sleep. He realized that at some late hour last night, they had returned from the Mausoleum of Books.
After washing his face and rinsing his mouth, just like the previous two days, he began to boil water and prepare breakfast. Next, he began to sweep the courtyard and repair the toppled fence. Even after Tang Thirty-Six and the others had finished eating breakfast and left to view the monoliths, he still did not seem like he wanted to leave. His face contained no trace of apprehension, and he even seemed to be enjoying the present lifestyle.
The people had gone and the courtyard was empty. He sat back down at the doorstep, opened Xun Mei’s notebook, and began to read once more. He gradually became enthralled and he gained more and more.
For the entire day, besides making meals and cleaning, he did not leave the doorstep. Obviously he did not go to see the Reflecting Monolith either.
As night fell, Tang Thirty-Six and the rest returned one after the other. After dinner, they sat around the table and discussed the inscriptions on the second monolith. The atmosphere was extremely warm and enthusiastic.
Chen Changsheng called Zhexiu into the inner room, took out his copper needles, and began to treat his illness. Right now, he was still confirming the nature of the abnormality within Zhexiu’s meridians. To cure Zhexiu of this condition, that had tormented him for a dozen years, was not something that could be done in a day.
After a long time, the group around the table realized that the two were still missing. Qi Jian was looking at the tightly-closed door of the inner room; his small, young, and honest face held an unbearable expression. Gou Hanshi frowned and shook his head. Right now even he was starting to find it strange.
Not wanting to upset the two in the inner room, the group decided to end their discussion.
Tang Thirty-Six suddenly stood up, opened the door, and told Chen Changsheng, “Today, another three people succeeded.”
Chen Changsheng was concentrating on maneuvering the copper needles with his fingers. He softly said something to Zhexiu, but paid Tang Thirty-Six no attention.
Day after day passed. The number of days after this year’s Grand Examination examinees had entered the mausoleum was now seven.
On the fifth day, Zhexiu finally passed through the Reflecting Monolith. It was unknown whether or not it was because he had spent the last few night studying that book.
Chen Changsheng had still not succeeded in comprehending a monolith. Now, he had established a new record.
Previously, he had established a incomparably glorious and brilliant record in the world of cultivation: the youngest cultivator to enter Ethereal Opening.
The record he had established now was less than brilliant.
Amongst all the previous holders of the first place of the First Banner of the Grand Examination, he had used the most time to comprehend the first Heavenly Tome Monolith, and it was possibly going to take him even longer.
In the blink of an eye, the tenth day had arrived.
At five in the morning, Chen Changsheng finally departed the grass hut and went to the monolith hut. He looked at black monolith in silence, his thoughts unknown.
The dawn light gradually flourished and the monolith viewers began to successively enter the mausoleum. Arriving before the monolith hut and seeing him sitting cross-legged under a tree, at first they were shocked, then they had a variety of emotions.
In their eyes, one could find sympathy, one could find mercy, and one could also find ridicule and schadenfreude.
Some people kept their distance from him and walked into the hut. Others purposely walked in front of him, almost seeming to saunter by, then along with the cool breeze that curled around the roof of the hut, they disappeared.
The group from the grass hut, after finishing their breakfast, also arrived.
Seeing this scene, Guan Feibai creased his brow. He said nothing, but touched the monolith and continued on his way.
Tang Thirty-Six stood in front of him and asked, “Do you need me to keep you company?”
Chen Changsheng lifted his head and seriously told him, “For the Heavenly Tome Monoliths, even a shorter amount of time would be precious. You have to treasure these moments.
Tang Thirty-Six was speechless. He thought to himself, “You’ve spent the last ten days playing tourist and cook, and you can still sincerely tell me that.”
Zhexiu said nothing, directly sitting next to Chen Changsheng.
Chen Changsheng made no comment.
The morning wind swept through the trees, causing the green leaves to rest upon the roof of the hut.
“Thank you, it’s about time now.” Chen Changsheng sincerely said.
Zhexiu stood up and entered the monolith hut.
This “about time” was not about his hopes of comprehending the monolith, but for Zhexiu keeping him company.
On the twelfth day at noon, the spring sun was particularly luminous. Chen Changsheng sat in the monolith hut, borrowing the roof to keep the sun from hitting him.
With a cool breeze, two youths suddenly appeared in the monolith hut. One of these youths was called Guo En. He was a brilliant student from the Gentle Stream Monastery in the south, under the administration of the Holy Maiden Peak. In the previous year’s Grand Examination, he had placed third. The other person was called Mu Nu. Before Zhuang Huanyu, he had been the strongest student from the Heavenly Dao Academy. He had been viewing the monoliths in the Mausoleum of Books for about four years now.
These two youths were once geniuses on the Proclamation of Azure Sky. Yet as time passed and the days which they viewed the monoliths increased, they broke through into Ethereal Opening and had long since entered the Proclamation of Golden Distinction. The northern and southern sects had never gotten along. Outside the mausoleum, the two youths had a relationship like fire and water, but now their relationship was not that bad at all.
“You are Chen Changsheng?” Mu Nu expressionlessly asked him.
Ten days ago, when Zhong Hui had successfully comprehended the monolith, these two people were amongst the crowd, but Chen Changsheng did not recognize them, only knowing that they were probably older entrants of the mausoleum. “Correct. Do you two have some advice for me?”
The corner of Mu Nu’s lips moved, as if he was smiling, yet not smiling, but he did not answer.
Guo En shook his head and sighed. “A letter came from my sect saying that this year’s Grand Examination produced an extraordinary individual, but now that I see him, it seems that they really exaggerated it.”
Mu Nu replied, “Otherwise, for a fifteen-year-old to break into Ethereal Opening is truly amazing. It’s just that cultivation is like a sharp blade cutting through bamboo at first, but afterwards it’s stagnant like sand and stone and hard to proceed. In the course of history there have been many of these kinds of people. Keep in mind that the Mausoleum of Books is the real test. This person can’t even pass through the Reflecting Monolith, he may very well be that sort of person. It’s truly lamentable.”
They were looking right at Chen Changsheng, but they were talking to themselves, as if Chen Changsheng did not exist, or perhaps because they did not care for Chen Changsheng’s opinion.
Chen Changsheng was silent for a moment, then he returned to contemplating the monolith.
Guo En and Mu Nu chuckled to themselves, then turned around and began heading down the mountain, but their conversation continued.
“What sort of person is Xu Yourong that she got engaged to him.”
“This is the hope for the revival of the Orthodox Academy? Truly hysterical.”
Not knowing if it was on purpose, their conversation was incredibly clear, so that even Chen Changsheng could hear it.
A bout of laughter followed from the mountain path.
Chen Changsheng calmly viewed the monolith, as if he did not been affected in the least.
The spring atmosphere gradually deepened.
In the sky, there were several hundred snow geese, returning from some far away place.
They had originally come from the warm lands of the Great Western Continent, and now they were crossing the ocean to return. They were going to Heaven’s Pillar Peak to spend the long summer.
The cry of the geese was somewhat tired, but still clear and bright.
In the forest around the monolith hut, the various birds cried out in response. It was as if they were mocking the snow geese for bringing such trouble upon themselves, for being so unbearably stupid.
Chen Changsheng looked up into the blue sky at those two beautiful white lines, and thought about how, as a child in the mountain behind Xining Village, he would play around by chasing that flock of snow geese, and he smiled.