Chapter 237 – The Young Principal
At the start, he thought that he had no questions to ask, but later, he realized that there were countless problems which he had not gotten the answer for. Facing the Pope’s eyes which felt like they could penetrate through the world, Chen Changsheng remained silent for a long time. Although he was still young, it did not mean that he did nott understand. He knew that there were certain questions that he could not bring up, such as Xining village, or his senior, or the Orthodoxy. He could only ask things that he was allowed to ask.
Such as the Garden of Zhou?
After the Pope heard his question, he gave a smile. “There are several important objects in the Garden of Zhou that you must obtain, because you represent the Li Palace.”
Chen Changsheng directly asked, “Who would fight against me for them?”
Those words seemed somewhat arrogant, but in reality, they were honest. Within the Zhou Dynasty, who would dare compete with the Li Palace? In his heart, he already knew the answer. He only needed confirmation.
The Pope replied, “The Orthodoxy is separated into the north and the south. Since you go to the Garden of Zhou as a representative of the Li Palace, those who would dare vie with you are naturally southerners.”
The Pope did not tell him what exactly the objects he was supposed to obtain in the Garden of Zhou were, he only told him that he would know when he saw them. In truth, Chen Changsheng had already guessed as to what the objects were. It was just that the Pope had not spoken of them for some reason, so naturally he also was unwilling to bring it up.
Recalling the words that Luo Luo had said atop the great banyan tree, he knew that his opponents in the Garden of Zhou would probably be Ethereal Opening experts from the Holy Maiden Peak, the Longevity Sect, and the Scholartree Manor.
As well as that girl.
“Will Xu Yourong really be entering the Garden of Zhou?” He asked.
The Pope seemed to grasp his meaning. Faintly smiling, he said, “On the day you entered the Mausoleum of Books, a message arrived from the south. In a small village, Xu Yourong broke directly into the upper level of Ethereal Opening. In other words, her cultivation level is exactly the same as yours. If you two were to meet in the Garden of Zhou, it would surely be extremely interesting.”
Chen Changsheng was silent. He knew that if their cultivation levels were equal, then he was absolutely no match for her. Due to this fact, he remained silent for quite a while before continuing, “What about Qiushan Jun? Based on the rumors, he loves Xu Yourong and cares deeply for her. If Xu Yourong enters the Garden of Zhou, then he should be accompanying her.”
He did his utmost to keep his tone as calm as he usually was, but he was only fifteen years old after all. At some points his tone became strange, especially when he said the word “loves”.
The Pope smelled that faintly acrid smell of the hall that had been stirred up by the wind, and his smile grew larger. “Which is why I said that it would extremely interesting. Ten days ago, Qiushan Jun successfully broke into Star Condensation, so he is not allowed to enter the Garden of Zhou. So regardless of what Xu Yourong does in the Garden of Zhou, he has no means to disturb her.”
These words contained a mischievous, and even annoying, side of the Pope which was completely at odds with his stature. Chen Changsheng could only be stupefied for a few moments before waking up.
Suddenly, he realized the important part of the Pope’s words, and his face showed a somewhat astonished expression.
“Qiushan Jun… broke into Star Condensation?”
“Previously when he was stealing the key to the Garden of Zhou from the demons, he suffered serious wounds. Contrary to expectations, it brought series of fortune, and treating it as an opportunity, he successfully broke through.”
Chen Changsheng contemplated this in silence. If he remembered correctly, Qiushan Jun was almost twenty years of age. He had not participated in a Grand Examination, nor had he entered the Mausoleum of Books Yet, he still managed to enter Star Condensation. Xu Yourong was younger than Chen Changsheng by three days and she had not entered the Mausoleum of Books to view the monoliths either, yet she had actually entered the upper level of Ethereal Opening.
He silently sighed to himself, so that is what a true genius is.
He cultivated the Dao of following his heart, so he paid particular attention to keeping his heart calm. In addition, he truly did not have much affection towards Xu Yourong. Yet, for some reason, whenever she was mentioned alongside Qiushan Jun, he would always feel somewhat awkward. What made him feel even more uneasy was that no matter how many miracles he had produced, Qiushan Jun was always there to put him in his place.
In the Grand Examination, he obtained first place upon the First Banner, but Qiushan Jun obtained the key to the Garden of Zhou. He entered the Mausoleum of Books to view the monolith and reached the limits of Ethereal Opening, but Qiushan Jun did not even need the Heavenly Tome Monoliths to enter Star Condensation. The great affairs of the country compared with the small affairs of the individual and not requiring external help compared with requiring outside help. How could the latter be considered stronger?
“I believe that you are stronger than Qiushan Jun.”
The Pope apparently knew what he was thinking and smiled. “Even if other people do not think this way, they would also not dare to say that you were weaker than Qiushan Jun.”
Chen Changsheng shook his head. “I’m not as good as him.”
The Pope calmly replied, “You are four years younger than him.”
Chen Changsheng stared at him blankly, then happily smiled.
The Pope continued, “As for Xu Yourong… she is the daughter of Xu Shiji after all.
Chen Changsheng was silent. Since Xu Shiji was the Divine Empress’s dog, Xu Yourong naturally stood on the same side as the Divine Empress and the southerners. In other words, she stood opposite to the Orthodoxy.
He thought of an extremely terrifying possibility. “Does the Divine Empress know of my origins?”
The Pope nodded. “Mo Yu had long ago sent someone to Xining Village to investigate your origins. This matter could never be kept hidden forever. After the Grand Examination, I spoke to the Divine Empress about it.”
Chen Changsheng sat in silence for a while, then asked, “Won’t the Empress… ?”
“No.” The Pope smiled at him. “If the Empress does not want to tear apart our alliance, then she will not. At the very least, on the surface, she will not act against you, because that is the equivalent to making my entire Li Palace her enemies. Nobody wants that situation, even if she is the Tianhai Divine Empress.”
What was self-confidence? This was self-confidence.
“The items in the Garden of Zhou are naturally very important, but never forget that the true enemy has always been in the north. This time, the key to the Garden of Zhou has landed in our hands, but there is no way that the Demons will let it go so easily. If Black Robe still lives, he will have planned something. Inside the Garden of Zhou or outside, as long as you have not returned to the capital, you must remain cautious and vigilant.”
“Many thanks to the Saint for his guidance.” Chen Changsheng said.
The Pope replied, “Do you have to call me a Saint?”
Chen Changsheng said somewhat awkwardly, “Yes, Martial Uncle.”
The Pope smiled in satisfaction.
At the end of the conversation, Chen Changsheng brought up a demand.
As the Pope had previously said, on the last night of the Ivy Festival, he told Mo Yu to take Chen Changsheng into the Tong Palace. Then, he should know very well what lay beneath that cold pond.
“I want to see that Black Dragon.” He sincerely asked the Pope.
The Pope had not imagined that the only request Chen Changsheng would bring up was actually this. Smiling, he asked, “I hear that you’ve apparently met with that Black Dragon?”
Chen Changsheng recounted his meeting with that Black Dragon under the pond, but he left out many details. Nor did he mention that it was there that he attempted Meditation Introspection and almost burned himself to death. He only spoke of the agreement that he had with it, that if he was allowed to leave, then he would find time to come back and see it again. That was the promise that he made.
“Although it is an evil dragon, a promise is a promise.” The Pope was apparently satisfied at how Chen Changsheng valued promises. “When Wang Zhice chained it under the pond all those years ago, he truly was rather ungenerous.”
Chen Changsheng asked, “Then how can I go to see it?”
“The well near the New North Bridge is already open.”
Saying these words, the Pope took a wooden placard out and handed it to him.
Chen Changsheng took the placard and saw the words carved into it: Orthodoxy Academy.
“This is… ” Chen Changsheng looked at the wooden placard in confusion.
The Pope smiled. “This is the Orthodox Academy’s school nameplate.”
Chen Changsheng still did not understand.
The Pope said, “Only the principal of the Orthodox Academy is allowed to hold this nameplate.”
Chen Changsheng still did not understand, or more accurately, he vaguely understood, but he was unable to believe it.
The Pope smiled at him. “In our first proper meeting, as your martial uncle, I have to give you a gift to commemorate our first meeting. Only opening the well by the New North Bridge seems a little too petty. How about this nameplate?”
Chen Changsheng did not know much about this nameplate. He did not know what type of wood it was made from nor how many years of history it possessed. He only knew that it had suddenly gotten much heavier.
“Coming from Xining to the capital, then accidently entering the Orthodox Academy. Now that I think about it, how could that not be some sort of sign? Under the hands of your master, the Orthodox Academy was destroyed. It is only right that it should be under your hands that it is reborn.”
The Pope said sorrowfully to him.
Only then did Chen Changsheng realize that as soon as he had taken the nameplate, he had become the newly appointed principal of the Orthodox Academy. Only… what did it mean to be the principal of the Orthodox Academy? In the past two decades, the Orthodox Academy had fallen into ruin, resembling a cemetery. Despite this, it was still one of the Six Ivies. In the past, it once stood shoulder to shoulder with the Heavenly Dao Academy. It was the oldest of the academies. In addition, earlier today in the afternoon, Luoluo had told him that last month, the archbishop of the Hall of Subjugation had fallen ill and died. Mao Qiuyu, the principal of the Heavenly Dao Academy, had been promoted to the rank of the Orthodoxy’s Six Prefects.
He was only fifteen years old, and yet suddenly he was now the principal of the Orthodox Academy? He suddenly felt that not only was the nameplate getting heavier, it was also starting to burn his hands.
He had not gotten far from the hall when he heard the sound of coughing from the side of the path. As he turned, he saw the head of the Bureau of Ecclesiastic Education, Archbishop Mei Lisha. He hurriedly walked forward to pay his respects.
Mei Lisha looked at him and smiled, then indicated that he should walk with him. In his slow voice, he asked, “Do you understand everything now?”
After a moment of silence, Chen Changsheng replied, “For the most part, I understand.”
Mei Lisha looked up towards the stars in the night sky. Some time passed before he finally said, “You know that I am very old?”
Mei Lisha continued, leaving no time for Chen Changsheng to respond. “Currently in the Orthodoxy, His Holiness and I are the oldest. To be old is a good thing. One is able to see all sorts of things. Yet to be old is also a bad thing, because one remembers too many things. To live this way is somewhat exhausting.”
“What happened to the Orthodoxy back then, even now I still remember it clearly. Yet strangely enough, I have actually somewhat forgotten what had happened in the Orthodox Academy nearly two decades ago.”
Mei Lisha coughed twice, then continued, “I knew your teacher very well, so I was the first to realize your identity. Back then, I still was not clear about the His Holiness’s intentions, so I waited for some time before telling him. Of course, you can also understand your teacher’s prudence.”
Chen Changsheng still had not fully grasped the situation, so he remained silent. At night, the Li Palace was very quiet. They walked along the stone path between the halls. The resplendent lights on the distant Divine Avenue could faintly be seen.
There was a question that he had been afraid to ask the Pope. Now he had finally suppressed the worries in his heart and uneasily said, “I am somewhat worried for my master.”
“Mo Yu sent someone to Xining Village long ago, but you have no need to worry. On that day, all the experts of the Zhou Dynasty besieged the Orthodox Academy. The Empress and His Holiness personally took action. Since your teacher could even live through that, right now this is nothing.”
Chen Changsheng looked into the elderly man’s squinting eyes and sincerely said, “I am thankful for the care Your Eminence has given me in this past year.”
Mei Lisha squinted his eyes, then smiled like an old fox. “Living in the capital is actually very easy, because wanting to die is a very difficult affair. The people who live here are all on good terms with each other, and they are all willing to do things for each other for old time’s sake.”
Chen Changsheng earnestly took in the meaning of those words.
Mei Lisha turned towards him and said, “But outside the capital, it is not so. Especially outside the borders of the Zhou Dynasty, it is full of dangerous hardships. Out there, only you can look after yourself.”
Chen Changsheng remembered the Pope’s words and said worriedly, “Black Robe… could he actually still be alive? Could the demons have some sort of plot for the opening of the Garden of Zhou?”
Mei Lisha replied, “Since the key to the Garden of Zhou is in the hands of humanity, no matter how determined the demons are, they still have no means of seizing the initiative, so there is no need to worry too much. On the contrary, you must not forget that in my Great Zhou, there are some people whose intelligence is a far cry from Black Robe, but in terms of mercilessness, shamelessness, and contemptibility, they far exceed him. You must be wary of those sorts of people.”
Chen Changsheng knew that he was speaking of Zhou Tong.
Arriving at the Divine Avenue in front of the main hall, Mei Lisha stopped. “I will send you up to here.”
Chen Changsheng clasped his hands in respect and bowed. “After this junior returns from the Garden of Zhou, this junior will come to see Your Eminence again.”
Mei Lisha shook his head. “Too low.”
Chen Changsheng was a little stunned. He did not understand the meaning of those two words.
“You bow too low.”
Mei Lisha looked at him and smiled. “You are now the principal of the Orthodox Academy. The only people deserving of your full bow are His Holiness and the Divine Empress. Other than those two, there is no need to pay your respects to other people like that.”
Only now did Chen Changsheng realize that his status had already changed.
He was now of equal status with the archbishop of the Bureau of Ecclesiastic Education.
From the depths of the quiet Li Palace suddenly came the distant bright ringing of a bell. This bell was not a signal to return home, but rather signified an official edict from the Orthodoxy. The contents of this edict spread faster than the night wind, reaching all the palace halls and every county and country in the continent.
“From this day forth, there is no need for you to lower your head.”
Mei Lisha smiled, then turned and left.
Chen Changsheng stood by the Divine Avenue, somewhat dazzled, not believing that any of this was true.
Two bishops stood atop the Divine Avenue, waiting to send him out. Previously, when they had brought him into the Li Palace, their manner could be described as calm and polite. Now they could be considered to be even more respectful.
The hierarchy of the Orthodoxy was extremely distinct. In the Li Palace, the dividing lines between classes had always been strict. He was no longer a new student from the Orthodox Academy. He was the principal of the Orthodox Academy. Naturally, he would be looked upon with a different sort of reverence.
The tall lamps illuminated the ramrod straight Divine Avenue.
Under the care of the two bishops, Chen Changsheng followed the Divine Avenue out of the palace.
The priests that they had encountered moved to the sides of the path.
Previously, when he had entered the Li Palace, he had encountered a similar scene.
Only that previously when the priests had stepped aside, they only needed to meet his gaze. However now, they could not do so, because what was polite then was rude now. They had to bow to Chen Changsheng now.
As the teenager walked through, several hundred priests paid their respects, their expressions humble, their voices coming one after the other.
“I pay my respects to Principal Chen.”
“My respects to Principal Chen.”
“Greetings Principal Chen.”