Chapter 245 – Outside the Garden of Zhou, a Storm Came (Part Two)
So you are Chen Changsheng? He is Chen Changsheng? Who is Chen Changsheng? From the Ivy Festival, or to be more precise, from the time that the news of his engagement with Xu Yourong spread to the entire continent, these were the three phrases that Chen Changsheng had heard the most often. As time passed, this situation had not improved one bit. Contrarily, as his name became more and more famous, there were times where he was not sure who he was.
The curiosity of humans was not too different from a cat’s. Not even the Divine Empress could block up the mouths of all the people in the world. Ever since he had begun to hear those comments and see those gazes filled with nervousness and caution, he had slowly become silent and numb to them. Only now he was unable to treat this as he had done before, because the man who had asked the question was Zhu Luo, the Solitary Drunk Under the Moon. He was a powerful personage that even the Li Palace had to treat with extreme courtesy.
He took several steps forward and bowed to that distant grass hut, dignified and orderly.
The peace and quiet gradually began to grow restless. Many pairs of eyes fell upon his body.
Chen Changsheng’s expression was calm, but how could he be calm? When he thought about that scene in Wenshui City, or how on the road some people would flatter him while others would give him a cool eye, he felt extremely helpless. He began to have the feeling that being famous really was not that fortunate after all. How could Xu Yourong have borne this for so many years?
Compared to liveliness of the capital and Wenshui City, the crowd outside the forest was much faster in calming down. Zhu Luo was asking a question to Chen Changsheng, who would dare to disturb them?
The Eight Storms of the Cardinal Directions stood at the peak of human experts. In terms of strength, they were not necessarily below the Five Saints. Although the opening of the Garden of Zhou was very important, it was enough for just Zhu Luo to be overseeing it. With one of the world’s most powerful experts here, unless the Demon Lord or Black Robe personally came, there would be no problems.
Zhu Luo did not look at Chen Changsheng. Instead, he looked at the snowy peak. In the twilight, his long hair that fell to his shoulders seemed to blaze with that snowy peak. It made him give off an especially wild feeling.
“Has Mei Lisha gone senile? He actually let a child like you become Principal of the Orthodox Academy.”
Hearing these words, it became even more quiet. Many people turned towards Chen Changsheng, their eyes showing all sort of expressions. Some had pity, but naturally there was also scorn and pleasure in his misery.
Even though he had performed that great merit of summoning the starlight in the Mausoleum of Books, in the end, he was only fifteen. To become the Principal of the Orthodox Academy at such an age, this decision had been discussed and censured all across the world. It was just nobody dared to oppose the Pope’s decision in public
Even though Zhu Luo was a member of the Eight Storms, not even he would defy the Pope’s will in public. So although he said Mei Lisha, everyone knew who he was really talking about.
Mei Lisha was the archbishop of the Bureau of Ecclesiastic Education and one of the Six Prefects of the Orthodoxy. His position had a similar status to that of Zhu Luo’s. Zhu Luo’s taunting words were not necessarily provoking the Orthodoxy, nor was it bullying a weak child.
Priest Xin walked over to Chen Changsheng and whispered a few sentences into his ear. Only then did Chen Changsheng know that as master of the Tianliang’s second most powerful family, he had built a very close relationship with the imperial family of Chen over the past several hundred years. Because the Divine Empress had ascended to the throne and suppressed the imperial family, this peerless expert’s relationships took a turn for the worse and his relationship with the Li Palace became cold. On the other hand, he was very close with the Orthodoxy’s conservative faction which Mei Lisha represented, and he was old friends with Mei Lisha. Reasonably, he should have been looking after Chen Changsheng.
Why did this supreme expert say these words which made things difficult for Chen Changsheng?
Chen Changsheng seriously pondered this question, then he realized that Zhu Luo was jeering at the archbishop, not him. Regardless of his age, status, or strength, he was obviously a child in Zhu Luo’s eyes.
To the world, the Orthodox Academy had fallen into ruin long ago. Chen Changsheng was its principal in name only. Perhaps they did not know that the academy, deep within the Hundred Flowers Lane, only had three students? However, to a worthy senior like Zhu Luo, this was a far cry from the Orthodox Academy of old. Under the leadership of that principal, the Orthodox Academy of the past could be considered to have limitless potential. Not even the current Mount Li Sword Sect could compare. Seeing that Chen Changsheng had actually been made the principal of this academy, Zhu Luo naturally felt somewhat sorrowful or even uneasy. For such a powerful person as he, not even he could imagined that the words he had said without thinking would place such great pressure on Chen Changsheng, and such great expectation in the minds of the spectators.
The crowd was silent as they looked at Chen Changsheng, waiting for his answer to Zhu Luo’s question. Some were scornful, some took pity on him, but very few people were worried about him. Just at this moment, Chen Changsheng recalled the words that the Pope had said to him during the Grand Examination’s announcement of the ranking——lower your head, so that I might crown you.
Upon which he made a slight bow, then lowered his head.
He paid his respects once more to Zhu Luo, not saying anything, then returned to the carriage.
What was this? Was it disregard? The scene once again grew restless. They all thought that Chen Changsheng was about to meet with tragedy for offending Zhu Luo. Everyone knew that amongst the continent’s peak experts, Zhu Luo’s temperament was the harshest. How would he discipline Chen Changsheng?
Against all their expectations, Zhu Luo was not angry, nor did he say anything. Using two of his fingers, he brought up a flask of wine to his lips and took a drink, then he looked up in silence at the gradually emerging stars.
The words that he had said were for the Li Palace, for Mei Lisha, and also for the Pope. He wanted to make his dissatisfaction known, but none of his words had ever been directed at Chen Changsheng.
Naturally, Chen Changsheng did not need to answer.
To not answer turned out to be the best answer.
Priest Xin wiped the sweat off his forehead, then softly asked Chen Changsheng, “Enter the city to rest?”
Chen Changsheng shook his head. “I won’t enter Hanqiu City. Just waiting in the carriage is fine.”
The seemingly endless night tranquilly passed. With the coming of the dawn, people emerged one after another from the official road. Even more people hurried over from Hanqiu City.
Under the protection of several dozen priests, Mei Lisha arrived, at which point Chen Changsheng realized that this venerable elder was supervising the opening of the Garden of Zhou. However, he wondered when Mei Lisha had arrived, and why did he not travel together with them? The cultivators of the various sects and schools all had different reactions when seeing Mei Lisha. Some of them thought back to the words that Zhu Luo had said last night and subconsciously turned towards that grass hut.
The light spring wind breezed through the grass hut, ruffling Zhu Luo’s sleeve. Zhu Luo’s eyes were closed, his body leaning against the fence. It seemed like he had drunk himself into intoxication and he was unwilling to awaken.
Mei Lisha looked over and he could only smile and shake his head. Afterwards, he indicated that the ceremony to enter the garden should begin.
Every ten years, the Garden of Zhou would open once. It would remain open for one hundred days. After these one hundred days had passed, everyone had to exit, or else risk being torn to pieces by the changes and chaos occurring in the Garden of Zhou. This was an iron law that had been verified many times in the past. The Garden of Zhou possibly contained Zhou Dufu’s legacy. It would also contain the legacy of all those experts that had been defeated by Zhou Dufu. This was a truth that had already been affirmed.
To enter the Garden of Zhou could be said to be going on an adventure, and it could also be called a trial by fire. For this reason, the rules which humanity established for the Garden of Zhou were very simple. No matter who was the one that picked up a treasure or technique in the Garden of Zhou, that item would belong to the sect or school of whichever cultivator managed to successfully take it out of the Garden of Zhou. Stealing was permitted in the Garden of Zhou, and any other methods except killing were allowed.
In the past, there were people that asked, were these rules not too cruel and violent? The Pavilion of Divination, which had been entrusted by the Saints with devising these rules, gave the following explanation: if bitter encounters and the spilling of blood could not be had in the Garden of Zhou, then in the future, when confronting those callous and murder-loving Demon experts, they would still die. Why squander the resources? If humanity wanted to continue existing on this continent, then they must be a little heartless to the younger generation, which would bear such heavy responsibility.
As the priest explaining the rules delivered a solemn warning to the cultivators entering the Garden of Zhou, even more priests registered the names of the cultivators in books and distributed cloth bags. In these cloth bags were two items: a flowing water bottle to keep track of time and a gray string.
There were some people that did not understand why the flowing water bottle was necessary to keep track of time. Even if the sun and the stars in the Garden of Zhou were impossible to use for calculating the true date, they were nonetheless Ethereal Opening cultivators that would never count the days wrong. As for the gray string, everyone was very clear on its use. If one encountered an unconquerable danger in the Garden of Zhou, they found their harvest to be satisfactory, or no longer wanted to continue their exploration; they only needed to light that gray string and they would be automatically sent to the Garden of Zhou’s gate.
Zhu Luo would stand guard outside the Garden of Zhou — the human world had no moonlight. He could only drink alone under the starlight. Regardless of how dead drunk he was, as long as people could see him, they felt safe.
While Chen Changsheng listened to the priest explain the rules and took the bag that Priest Xin had gave him, his mind was elsewhere. His eyes somewhat nervously moved about the crowd.
The senior from Holy Maiden Peak as well as Ye Xiaolan had journeyed together with him. Now, the two women stood together with several other girls. They were probably their fellow disciples from Holy Maiden Peak. He very seriously looked around very seriously, but he did not find anyone that looked like her —— He had never met her before, but he heard that she was extremely beautiful. He should have been able to tell who she was at a glance.
Had Xu Yourong come or not? If she had come, then where was she?
The morning light gradually flourished, yet the fog did not disperse. In that space between the forest and mountains, the fog only grew thicker. The light of the morning sun was dispersed in that fog, transforming into all sorts of strange lines.
Suddenly, a cry of alarm arose from the crowd.
As the crowd looked into the fog, they saw a small bridge faintly come into being. Under bridge was flowing water. They saw a gallery, and at the corner of this gallery sat an old plumtree. This quiet and secluded beauty seemed to be one side of a garden.
Was this the Garden of Zhou?
This quiet garden amidst the fog seemed to be both fake and real at the same time.
It was like a mirage.
The instance the Garden of Zhou appeared, Zhu Luo opened his eyes.
He turned towards the quiet garden within the mountains, and a complex swirl of emotions bubbled up in his eyes as he began to think about many things.
His hand rested on the fence, constantly patting it.
Mei Lisha also opened his eyes. Slowly, he said, “Go, and do not lose yourselves in greed and forget the time.”