Chapter 224 – The Cry of the Goose (Part Two)
Suddenly, the bird cries vanished without a trace. It was not known if they ceased because they realized a person even noisier than themselves had arrived. Seeing Tang Thirty-Six appear in front of the monolith, Chen Changsheng was somewhat baffled. Based on what he had observed these past several days, only when the sun had almost set would Tang Thirty-Six be able to pull himself away from the Heavenly Tome Monoliths.
“Do you know who those two people are?” Tang Thirty-Six looked at the mountain path, his brows arched.
“I don’t know their origins, those two…” Chen Changsheng deliberated over his wording for a moment, then said, “They’re what you would call ignorant people.”
Tang Thirty-Six took a look at his face and realized that he did not really care about the deliberate words of ridicule spoken by those two. Somewhat irritated, he asked, “Even if they’re what you call ignorant people, does that mean you don’t care what they call you?”
Chen Changsheng replied, “Let’s not talk about those things, why did you come out?”
Tang Thirty-Six remembered what he had come here to do. He stared at Chen Changsheng in the eye and proudly said, “I’ve seen the third monolith.”
Chen Changsheng was at a loss, “Isn’t that something that happened yesterday?”
Tang Thirty-Six was clearly unsatisfied by his reaction, then said a bit louder, “More importantly, I’m ready to break through.”
Chen Changsheng was startled, then a big smile appeared on his face, and he sincerely said, “Is that so? That’s great.”
Tang Thirty-Six felt somewhat helpless. “I’m almost about to catch up to you. Got it?”
“I’ve always been waiting for this day.” Chen Changsheng’s face was ecstatic. He took a box of medicine from his chest and offered it to Tang Thirty-Six. “Inside I left instructions on how to take the medicine. Breaking through into Ethereal Opening is a big deal, so we can’t afford to be careless. At each step, which medicine to take and at what dosage, not a single mistake can be made. Tonight I’ll ask Zhexiu to help me keep watch over you.”
Within the box were pills that Luoluo had asked the priests of the Li Palace to refine before the Grand Examination. They were made from the valuable medicinal herbs that Tang Thirty-Six and he had stolen from the Hundred Herb Garden, as well as assortments of precious ingredients Luo Luo had asked her clansmen to prepare for them. They were specially prepared for cultivating in Meditation, as well as breaking through into the Ethereal Opening. In terms of medicinal strength, perhaps not even Scholartree Manor’s Crossing Heaven Pill was its better.
Tang Thirty-Six, dumbfounded, took the medicine box. Originally he had wanted to motivate Chen Changsheng a bit, so how did the conversation become like this? Suddenly he thought to himself, if Chen Changsheng was acting this way, could it be that he had already given up on comprehending the monoliths? As he thought of this, his mood immediately became heavy.
The spring became increasingly vibrant. The flocks of snow geese that passed through the capital on their way home to the Great Western State increased in number. Twenty days had passed since the examinees of the Grand Examination had entered the Mausoleum of Books. During that period of time, the examinees had one after the other succeeded in comprehending the Reflecting Monolith. Only Chen Changsheng was left sitting in front of that monolith hut every day. Compared to the liveliness of the first day, the scene in front of the monolith hut was now rather desolate.
Gou Hanshi felt that perhaps there really was a problem with his state of mind. Even Tang Thirty-Six and Zhexiu were beginning to lose confidence in him. Those Monolith Guardians that had always been watching him from the shadows had already lost interest, not even speaking of the other monolith viewers. Whenever they saw his figure in front of the monolith hut, they could not even hide their looks of derision.
The situation inside the Mausoleum of Books had been accurately conveyed to the capital. The fact that Chen Changsheng was still unable to successfully comprehend the monoliths brought forth a host of different responses. In the Divine General of the East’s Mansion, Madam Xu had rarely seen Xu Shiji in such a bad temper. When speaking of the family feast that was scheduled to be held in just a few days, Xu Shiji descended into silence, even accidentally breaking a famous Ruyao porcelain cup. In the building of the Bureau of Ecclesiastic Education, the atmosphere was rather oppressive. Everyday, Mei Lisha lay in his room filled with plum flowers, his eyes closed almost as if he were asleep, yet Priest Xin had clearly heard him muttering remorseful words to himself multiple times, “Could it be that we pushed him forward too quickly?”
(TL: Ruyao is a rare type of porcelain that was produced during the era of the Northern Song Dynasty.)
In her leisure hours, Lady Mo Yu would still go to that small building in the Orthodox Academy and lie in Chen Changsheng’s bed. However, the clean youth’s scent was beginning to fade from the bedding, and her mood grew increasingly fidgety as a result. As she read through memorials in the place of the Empress, she rather rudely gave two governors an earful of harsh criticism. Tianhai Shengxue had returned to Snowhold Pass and did not affected by the mood of the current number one family of the continent. Their several mansions in the capital continuously held feasts, scholars and literati wove their way through them like hunting dogs. The clan leader, as well as several key members of the Tianhai clan seemed calm on the surface, but in reality they were relieved.
The fact that Chen Changsheng was incapable of comprehending a monolith sparked numerous discussions in the capital. People all tried to explain the matter, but no matter what they said, it did not seem to make any sense. In the end, the line that the Tianhai clan leader had said in jest at several feasts was adopted as the consensus: “An even more resplendent diamond, if it was burned in such a fierce way, what can be left except a few strands of smoke? It must be known that he’s been burning for an entire year now.”
From the Ivy Festival to the Grand Examination, this youth from Xining Village had given this part of the continent too many shocks, basically miracles. At this point, the Mausoleum of Books had become a tall mountain obstructing his path. There was no one left who believed that this youth would continue to produce any more miracles. They all felt that he would be like those other fallen geniuses in history, disappearing without a sound.
Only one person remained confident in Chen Changsheng. On the top floor of the great hall of the Education Palace, Luo Luo stood at the edge of the railing, her hands shading her eyes. She did not like the false sunlight of this world. No matter how far she looked, she could only see unchanging perfection. She could not see the real world where the Mausoleum of Books was, nor could she see her teacher, who was, at that very moment, viewing the monoliths.
“Teacher has never cared for the hopes that other people placed on him, because he only lives for himself, but has there ever been a time where you placed your hopes on him and he has let you down?”
She turned to Jin Yulu, her beautiful face full of confidence and pride. “I don’t know why he has not deciphered the first Heavenly Tome Monolith even up to now, but I’m very certain that it’s not because he doesn’t know how to, but for some other reason. If he can succeed, then he will absolutely cause everyone to be stunned into silence.”
As promptly as ever, Chen Changsheng awoke at five in the morning, collected himself, and opened his eyes. He got up, washed his face, rinsed his mouth, made rice, and did some cleaning, before finally proceeding to the Mausoleum of Books.
Of the seasons of the year, it was spring. In a day of the season, it was dawn. The spring dawn was the most beautiful time of day, except it was just a tad bit chilly. Chen Changsheng tightened his collar and sat down in front of the monolith hut. He had already sat here for many days now. Excluding the occasions where he would retreat under the roof to shelter from the rain or the blazing sun, he had never changed that position from day to day. The limestone that he used as a seat had not a speck of dust on it. In fact, its surface seemed somewhat glossy.
Chen Changsheng had read Xun Mei’s notebook from cover to cover many times now, and he had long ago committed its words to his heart. The complex lines, that made up the monolith inscriptions, had long ago been deeply embedded into his sea of consciousness. Although there was not enough time to see how those inscriptions changed throughout all four of the seasons, he had already grasped the day-to-day changes. He no longer needed to see the monolith anymore and directly closed his eyes.
There were footsteps in the distance that hurriedly walked by him, and there were footsteps that slowly walked right by him. There was the low whisper of discussion on the mountain path, as well as the clear sound of ridicule by his ear. Those voices all slowly disappeared, leaving behind the quiet woods and the song of the birds.
The cry of the birds amidst the forest suddenly seemed to crowd together, then from up high in the sky came the cry of the geese. Amongst these cries, one of them was particularly clear and bright.
Chen Changsheng opened his eyes and looked up at the azure sky. He only saw a flock of snow geese flying from the east. This was one of countless flocks of snow geese that had returned to the capital. The appearance of so much snow made the spring sky seem all the more beautiful. He thought to himself, the goose that gave that particularly clear and bright cry, perhaps it was that of a chick, or maybe this was its first time going on such a long journey.
The flock of snow geese flew off into the distance. Perhaps they would rest in the capital for a few days, then continue their journey west.
“I suppose this is it.”
Chen Changsheng said these words with some regret as he stood up and walked into the monolith hut.
Seeing the ice-cold monolith, as well as those lines which he had seen so many times he was sick of them, he shook his head. He thought to himself that his skills were truly still lacking.
For him, as well as all the other members of the grass hut seven, Xun Mei’s notebook had brought enormous benefits in terms of comprehending the monoliths. For Guan Feibai and the others to comprehend the monoliths so smoothly, the notebook had allowed them to draw closer to the wisdom of their worthy predecessor and achieve various enlightenments. As for the benefits he obtained, there were many points of reference.
In the notebook, Xun Mei had left behind many lines of thinking for comprehending the monoliths. For the Reflecting monolith alone, he had left more than ten, but in Wang Zhice’s notebook, which Chen Changsheng had found in the Pavilion of Ascending Mist, the first line he had read said that “The positions are relative”, and so what Chen Changsheng aimed to do was not follow those lines of thinking to comprehend the monoliths, but to completely avoid them and create a new path.
By means of observing the monolith inscriptions amidst the natural changes of heaven and earth, he would find an answer that was completely his own. This was how he wanted to comprehend the monoliths.
This line of thinking was most likely correct, but under his standards, it was far from perfect, or in other words, it was not pure enough. It was still a variation of the three most traditional and mainstream methods: take the idea, take the shape, and take the move. In other words, this method had still not broken away from those intrinsic lines of thinking.
He was unsatisfied, so he had spent the past twenty days in deep thought. Regretfully, he had not met with success.
Most importantly, it was just as he had told Gou Hanshi, his Dao was to follow his heart. He had always felt that all those methods, including those used by countless past experts and saints, were all wrong. He felt that the Mausoleum of Books and those monoliths still held some deeper meaning. That was what he wanted to see.
It was truly regretful that he did not have more time.
That clear and bright cry caused him to wake up. Time had passed too quickly. In the blink of an eye, only several days remained before the opening of the Garden of Zhou.
On the first day they entered the Mausoleum of Books, Gou Hanshi had asked him, did he want to go to the Garden of Zhou, or did he want to stay in the Mausoleum of Books for a bit longer. Back then, Chen Changsheng had said he was still thinking, but over the past few days he had made it clear to himself which choice he would make.
If he could not change his fate, or cultivate until the Concealed Spirit Realm, then he only had five years left to live.
Of course, he wanted to go to more places, see more sights, get to know more people.
He wanted to go to the Garden of Zhou, he demanded to go to the Garden of Zhou. Then, he would have to start comprehending the monoliths.
Thus, he began to comprehend the monoliths.
He lifted his right hand and pointed at some place towards the top of the monolith. “This is the character for ‘house’ (家).”
With the angle of light at this moment, amongst the complicated lines on the surface of the monolith, several of the shallower lines seemed to float in the light. One could faintly make out a character in these lines.
Then he pointed at another place on the monolith. “This is the character for river (江).”
Immediately, without pause, he pointed towards the top of the monolith at a mess of lines from which no one would be able to make out a character and said, “Gentle (淡).”
In the blink of an eye, he had, without pause, named twenty-eight characters, all of which were on the monolith.
The last character was light (光).
His voice was clear and bright, very similar to the cry of that goose. It was a voice of expectation, filled with that confidence and fearlessness of the unknown world.
Then, a cool breeze blew.
He vanished from in front of the monolith.