Chapter 117 – The Starlight Between My Fingers (1)
Translated by: bbkgs
Edited by: bbkgs
TLCed by: bbkgs
The Archbishop didn’t say anything else, and slowly left under the support of Minister Xin. Under the twilight, his crooked old stature looked a little lonely; giving a different feel from the three youths of Orthodox Academy when they ran off into the sunset; the sun was really setting for the life of this elder and no one could predict if it would rise again after setting.
It was only after a long time before the gathered people dared to rise, gazing at the fading back of the Archbishop into the twilight; they had complicated expressions, but no one dared to show any disrespect.
After spring, the Archbishop had an increase to his wrinkles and age spots, ageing considerably; middle-age for humans was a drawn out process, especially for those who had achieved considerable success in cultivating The Way, a process of at least hundreds of years; he had seemingly caught up on his ageing within just a few short months, with hundreds of years being piled on at once.
Why had the Archbishop aged so much within such a short time? It was naturally due to there being too many things he had to supervise; in the eyes of others, this was also a reminder for the Orthodoxy and the entire continent, that this was an elder who was from the same generation as the Pope; the only clergyman in the world that was comparable to and could counter His Holiness, The Pope.
From the past impressions of the people, His Eminence, Archbishop Mei Li Sha, was an absolute confidant to the Pope. The Education Board, under his guidance, had an exceptionally high position, but it was still just one, out of the Orthodoxy’s Six Sacred Churches and otherwise did not stand out; a lot of people were not even aware of its existence, but now, everything had changed.
Orthodox Academy had once again appeared in the Capital, and some elders and factions from within the Orthodoxy had started to express dissenting voices against the Pope; in the Autumn Rain incident that happened before the Education Board, people were dispersed through the use of horses; blood was spilled and countless casualties resulted, behind all of that was the old crooked figure of the Archbishop.
It wasn’t until this moment, that the people finally took notice, he had the support of countless people from within the Orthodoxy; the resources and power he currently had at his command was fast approaching the level of becoming a threat to the Pope.
For him to appear today at Li Palace, this made Priest Huo and the other clergy of the palace too stunned for words. That’s correct, the Archbishop was the architect behind Orthodox Academy’s revival, and was the biggest patron of Chen Chang Sheng’s group; he had expectations of the academy, and expectations on Chen Chang Sheng being able to rank first upon the First Banner at the Grand Examination and was helping him to declare this to the world; he must have had his reasons for this, but the glory achieved at the Ivy League gathering, coupled with his betrothal to Xu You Rong, wasn’t this already eye-catching enough? To state that he will take the first position on the First Banner; for the Archbishop to place such an enormous amount of pressure on Chen Chang Sheng, what purpose did he have?
“Pressure is a form of motivation.”
In the Li Palace under twilight, a horse-drawn carriage was parked, within the carriage, the Archbishop was seated opposite to Minister Xin, he casually said, “The proclamation was only the first dish, the main is the Grand Examination, a gathering from all corners and the gazes of thousands, only under this, can help to mature him at the fastest possible rate.”
Minister Xin was in quiet contemplation for a moment, before answering: “I only fear that the pressure is too great and Chen Chang Sheng won’t be able to cope.”
The Archbishop didn’t say anything else, and did not seek to further inform this seemingly loyal subordinate, contrary to the imagination of outside observers, Chen Chang Sheng and Orthodox Academy were never a tool used by him or other elders from within the Orthodoxy as a challenge to the Pope, conversely, everything related to Chen Chang Sheng was agreed to and confirmed by both, he and the Pope.
Only this, could make him mature in the shortest amount of time possible, only this, could make the entire continent aware of his existence, stopping the eyes of people from straying off his visage, as to what this pressure can bring to Chen Chang Sheng, he and the Pope weren’t overly concerned, because they were very clear; that youth had already been living for the past few years under the greatest pressure possible.
At Heavenly Academy’s main gate, the stone wall was surrounded by people. At Star Seizer Academy’s main gate, a lecturer was busy carving onto the stone wall. The Proclamation of Azure Clouds had a new update, the stone walls of the main schools and academies also required updating. The top position didn’t need to be touched, because it was still occupied by Xu You Rong, but a lot of other changes had occurred. This Autumn’s proclamation was suddenly changed and the biggest victor was Orthodox Academy; a school with only four students, actually managed to have three of them listed upon the Azure Clouds; with Bai Di Luo Heng occupying the second position, a splendid achievement.
At the gates of the various schools in the Capital, people raised their heads to look at the names engraved upon the stone wall, their emotions were complicated, especially those who had previously participated in the siege against Orthodox Academy and attacked the students. Following the update to the Proclamation of Azure Clouds, another shocking piece of news also rapidly spread out, this was the declaration that His Eminence, The Archbishop, had personally declared in place of Orthodox Academy and Chen Chang Sheng.
In the Grand Examination, Chen Chang Sheng wanted to obtain first place upon the First Banner.
The reactions of everyone who heard this news, was that it had to be a joke, who could believe this? But upon confirmation, the majority of people were stunned to the point of disbelief.
If Her Highness, Luo Luo, was not the daughter of the White Emperor, or no one knew of her status; if she were to enter the Grand Examination as a member of Orthodox Academy, then she could have had a chance against Gou Han Shi and the other experts of the various participating sects, but the Archbishop had stated very clearly that it was Chen Chang Sheng who intended to place first upon the First Banner, not Orthodox Academy.
The Chen Chang Sheng that was known to the entire Capital as to being unable to complete his Purification?
Due to Orthodox Academy’s performance at the Ivy League gathering and the evaluations from the Council of Divine Ordinance, there was no longer anyone that dared to consider him trash, but from their view… he was still someone that couldn’t cultivate; even if good fortune was to suddenly descend upon him, and he was to complete his Purification, with only three short months left before the Grand Examination, what chance did he have of surpassing the countless geniuses of his generation that had already successfully started cultivation years before him?
Impossible, even if he was someone like Xu You Rong or Qiu Shan Jun, with a gifted bloodline, he still wouldn’t be able to achieve this; this would be a complete breach of logic and reason.
In regards to Orthodox Academy’s achievement at the Ivy League gathering and the declaration that Chen Chang Sheng wanted to place first upon the First Banner, different people had different reactions.
In an isolated area of the Heavenly Academy campus, Zhuang Huan Yu sat beside a disused well, his entire body was soaked through with its cold, icy water; his dark hair was sprawled across his figure and continually dripped onto the floor, forming a puddle beneath him. The reason for this, was because he felt burning hot, the reason for this, was because he was infuriated.
He had fallen from rank 10 to rank 11 on the Proclamation of Azure Clouds, being overtaken by Qi Jian, this was an injustice to him. Qi Jian was someone that had lost to him before and his goal was Qiu Shan Jun, therefore, having entered the top 10, he no longer bothered issuing challenges. On what basis was this judgement made? Didn’t the Council of Divine Ordinance usually use the results of personal duels as the basis for their evaluations?
His wet hair draped across his eyes, blocking out his sharp gaze. Thinking of his little junior, nay… Her Highness, Luo Luo’s current position on the proclamation, was enough to drive him into a frenzy, but he immediately calmed himself, with only his eyes showing a hint of red. He had once thought that he didn’t need to prove his strength in front of others, but he now knew he was wrong. That Chen Chang Sheng wanted to place first upon the First Banner? Junior Luo Luo called him Sir? Very well, Zhuang Huan Yu raised his head, finding that he longed for the date of the Grand Examination to quickly arrive.
At the Tian Hai clan’s manor, the current family head, Tian Hai Cheng Wu, and his son, Tian Hai Sheng Xue, had a brief discussion over today’s update to the proclamation and the declaration that was made.
“If Chen Chang Sheng was to be able to place first upon the First Banner, then he really might be able to marry Xu You Rong into his family… but this is impossible.”
“I agree, this is impossible.”
Tian Hai Sheng Xue calmly replied to his father, his pearly white face didn’t reveal any reaction; he didn’t care as to whether Chen Chang Sheng could complete his Purification, even if Chen Chang Sheng was to come across multiple miracles, he still wouldn’t care. He knew that Chen Chang Sheng wouldn’t succeed; he himself had returned from the faraway Yung Xue pass to the Capital in order to achieve only one goal and that was to place first upon the First Banner.
In the anterior section of the Li Palace complex, behind the Cedrus trees lining the divine avenue, the guesthouse that was hosting the Southern envoy group was still as quiet as it was during the day.
Gou Han Shi was sat upon a long chair that was beside the veranda, looking at the sectioned off night sky that was visible through the courtyard’s skylight. He quietly contemplated for a lengthy amount of time, as if he wished to discern some sort of truth from the myriad of stars above.
Liang Ban Hu, Guan Fei Bai and Qi Jian all sat on chairs to the side, quietly discussing something. Elder Xiao Song Gong had left, alongside the Qiu Shan family head, those elders who had come for the betrothal, had already embarked on the journey towards returning to the South. They had to participate in the Grand Examination and thus remained; without their elders around, these youths from Li Shan Sword Sect were evidently more relaxed.
“Is there even the possibility?” Liang Ban Hu asked with his eyebrows knotted in a frown.
Guan Fei Bai quietly contemplated for some time and replied, “No matter how you look at it, it’s impossible.”
Qi Jian rather timidly shifted his position forwards and asked: “Has there ever been something similar in the past?”
The topic of discussion amongst these three youths of Li Shan Sword Sect was naturally whether Chen Chang Sheng could place first upon the First Banner at the Grand Examination.
As the Seven Laws of the Divine State that had forcefully swept across the proclamation in recent years, for them to discuss the prospects of a youth that hadn’t even achieved Purification in such a serious and earnest way would have shocked any onlookers. It was obvious that the Ivy League gathering and today’s evaluations from the Council of Divine Ordinance had caused Chen Chang Sheng to become a source of pressure for these proud and confident youths.
Qi Jian had asked for past examples, but what he was looking for was a record, the three fellow disciples turned to look at Gou Han Shi.
Gou Han Shi retracted his gaze from the stars and stared at his juniors, shaking his head and laughing: “There hasn’t been anything like this in the past.”
His words were spoken softly, without any intent to end the conversation, but it still gave the impression of being irrefutable.
Liang Ban Hu and Guan Fei Bai let out inexplicable sighs of relief.
Qi Jian continued to have signs of worry on his face and said: “Even if there hasn’t been anything similar in the past, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible for the future.”
“Little junior has logic in his words, but I think the possibility is low, within a short three months, you cannot achieve Ethereal Opening from Purification… this isn’t a possibility.”
Gou Han Shi continued: “This isn’t a problem of cultivation, but a simple calculation, discounting Purification and Meditation and only considering the need to open the door to the Ethereal Palace; this would require the use of Starlight for one-hundred nights, unless there really exists a legendary item for extending time, Chen Chang Sheng will not be able to achieve Ethereal Opening by the time of the Grand Examination.”
He had read ten-thousand scrolls, and understood the concept that mathematics does not lie, therefore he was certain of his reasoning.
Upon hearing these words, the others finally understood their second senior’s certainty.
Without achieving the Ethereal Opening realm by the time of the Grand Examination, Chen Chang Sheng could not achieve first place upon the First Banner.
This was because, their second senior had already achieved Ethereal Opening.
There were also a few other students from the younger generation that might come to the Zhou Empire’s Capital for the Grand Examination who had already achieved Ethereal Opening.
The Ethereal Opening realm was a stage of life and death; it was also a dividing-line. Within and without this dividing-line were two different worlds.
Within the blizzards of the Northern Reaches, a lone youth turned Southwards, his fingertips stained with blood.
Outside of the South’s Scholartree Manor, a number of green-robed scholars bid farewell to their peers.
Upon various corners of the central continent, youths that were entering the Grand Examination, began moving.
What was different from past years was that they all had the same target in mind.
That target, was the name, Chen Chang Sheng.
“This is only an attempt to muster recognition… though, the momentum is certainly impressive.” The Divine Empress followed the pond until she reached the walls of the Imperial Palace. She extended her hand and picked a wild chrysanthemum before handing it behind her and said: “If it wasn’t for the age of Chen Chang Sheng being far too young, I would have suspicions on the intentions of those people.”
She didn’t have anyone behind her, it was only the Black Goat.
The Black Goat gently leaned its head, avoiding the wild chrysanthemum that was being extended, expressing a lack of interest in the food.
The Divine Empress shook her head and extended her hand to push open the door, crossing the long and quiet passage and taking the Black Goat with her to the Hundred Herb Garden, “You haven’t been here for some years, if there’s anything you want to eat, then go eat it.”
The Hundred Herb Garden was filled with rare and precious medicinal herbs and fruits; using these reagents to create medicine would fetch high prices, even the elite of the Capital would have trouble acquiring a quantity, but for the Divine Empress, these were nothing more than nibbles for the Black Goat; not to mention it had to depend on if the Black Goat felt like eating.
Outside of the palace, there has been a rumour that the Black Goat which pulled the Little Green Bamboo Carriage was personally raised by Lady Mo Yu, this wasn’t correct… neither was the Black Goat personally raised by the Divine Empress. Conversely, in those long years past, when Taizong Emperor had first confined her to the isolation room of the Hundred Herb Garden, she had to often endure hunger, it was this Black Goat that had brought fruits for her from time to time.
Reaching the stone table, the Divine Empress began drinking tea, there were clearly no servants here, yet unknown when, the teapot had tea inside; upon pouring into a cup, there was still steam visible.
It was unknown as to where the Black Goat had wandered off to, or what it was currently eating.
Her gaze went across the steam and fell upon the dividing wall beyond the autumn woods.
That wall belonged to Orthodox Academy.
Chen Chang Sheng wasn’t in the library; he was in his own room in the small dorm. He was sat beside the window, a book in one hand, with the other hanging outside the window, receiving Starlight descending from the night sky.
The Archbishop’s declaration had roused a hail of gossip within the Capital, this hail became a storm and traversed the walls of Orthodox Academy; no matter how he tried to ignore what was happening beyond the windows, the sounds of the storm was too fierce and couldn’t be blocked out of his ears. His current mood was thusly, rather sombre; he didn’t know what intentions the Archbishop had, he didn’t know how the Archbishop came to know of his need to achieve first place upon the First Banner, and he equally didn’t know what meaning was there to him participating in the Grand Examination when he couldn’t achieve Purification.
The Starlight landed upon his palm; his meridians were clear, yet there were no changes.
He could clearly sense the position of his star within the deepest reaches of the night sky, that fleeting connection gradually calmed him down again.
The book he had in his hand was the Four Classics of Meditation, he had spent the last few days researching the various principles behind the Meditation Realm, to help prepare for Luo Luo and Tang Thirty-Six’s life-and-death endeavour to break through into the Ethereal Opening Realm. He didn’t let up on his own cultivation however, spending countless nights guiding Starlight for Purification, alas, his body didn’t undergo any changes, leading to him feeling tired and despaired.
Yet, at this moment, within the Four Classics of Meditation, he saw a passage that made him think of a certain possibility.
His five fingers were slightly outstretched and the Starlight fell through the gaps, landing upon the window screen.