Chapter 119 – Riddle
Translated by: bbkgs
Edited by: bbkgs
TLCed by: bbkgs
The Black Goat calmly looked at Chen Chang Sheng, before suddenly lowering its head and lightly tapping his forehead.
Chen Chang Sheng misunderstood its meaning and started searching himself for anything edible, but found nothing, upon lifting his head, he saw that a tree to his right had some fire loquats; seeing that they were ripe, he silently motioned some gestures towards the Black Goat and tiptoed to pick them, before handing them towards the Black Goat’s head.
The Black Goat lightly tilted its head, continuing to quietly observe him. This made him feel slightly uncomfortable; he couldn’t help feeling that the gaze was laughing at him, causing him to feel slightly helpless, upon this moment, the Black Goat lowered its head, took the fire loquat and slowly began eating.
Chen Chang Sheng let out a breath of relief; feeling as if he had managed to complete some sort of monumental task.
After the Black Goat finished its chewing, it nudged Chen Chang Sheng’s knee, before moving towards the woods. Previously, at the Imperial Palace, it had used this same method to lead the way for Chen Chang Sheng, thus, he followed the Black Goat, thinking to himself, “Where does the goat want to take me?” while thinking this, he saw light from within the woods.
It was that stone table; an oil lamp; a pot of tea; two tea cups and the middle-aged woman that couldn’t speak.
Chen Chang Sheng greeted the middle-aged woman, his expression was calm, but he felt nervous; he knew that the Black Goat had a special status within the Zhou Dynasty’s Imperial Palace; according to rumours, only Mo Yu could approach it, for the Black Goat to accompany this middle-aged woman tonight to the Hundred Herb Garden; who was she?
He had initially thought that the middle-aged woman was a Lady Official of the Imperial Palace, maybe even the Principal Lady Official, but now it seemed possible that she ranked even higher.
He thought of a different possibility but immediately denied it, this was because everyone knew that that Saintly Countenance had a charm that could dazzle the world, and was the continent’s most famous beauty during the reign of Emperor Taizong. If she really were to be that Saintly Countenance, why would she intentionally change her appearance and come looking for a nobody like himself?
Upon realising that the person approaching was Chen Chang Sheng, the middle-aged woman did not reveal any sign of surprise, she only looked at the Black Goat with a faintly twitching brow, akin to reprimanding it for bringing him here.
Tapping noises could be heard, as the woman used her finger to gently rap upon the stone table.
Chen Chang Sheng sat down, raised the tea pot and filled in the two tea cups, before respectfully passing one of them towards the woman.
The woman held the tea cup between two fingers, akin to someone pinching a stone by the riverside, and brought it to her lips, gently sipping.
Chen Chang Sheng used two hands to raise his cup, akin to clasping a Luminous Pearl, and brought it to his lips, gently puffing at the hot tea.
The woman looked at his actions and gave out a silent laugh, an expression that felt indescribably free and natural, it seemed like she was laughing at him being overly careful.
“It’s too hot, there’s no other reason behind it.”
Chen Chang Sheng explained, while being slightly embarrassed. He then remembered that she couldn’t speak and seemed to also have problems with hearing; he placed his teacup on the table and did a few gestures with his hands.
After that, came the tea drinking.
The same as that first time they met each other in the Hundred Herb Garden, the middle-aged woman and youth didn’t converse with each other and only sat down drinking tea; their gazes rarely landing upon each other.
Chen Chang Sheng was used to this kind of atmosphere, reminding him of his Senior; he did not know how his Senior was doing back at the Old Temple in Xi Ning village, nor when would he be willing to travel to the Capital.
What he also didn’t know, was that Mo Yu had sent people to Xi Ning village and found the Old Temple vacant; Taoist Ji and his Senior Yu Ren had disappeared to some unknown location.
Chen Chang Sheng’s gaze fell upon the middle-aged woman for a moment.
He had wanted to enter the Imperial Palace in order to see the Black Dragon, but couldn’t find a route, he couldn’t rely upon the Black Goat for this… having guessed that this middle-aged woman had a high position within the Imperial Palace, he had the sudden urge to ask her how could he stealthily enter the palace and whether if she had ever heard of a Black Dragon.
No matter how you looked at it, doing this would be akin to seeking death; asking a mysterious aristocrat from the Imperial Palace as to how could one stealthily enter the palace alongside probing for information on something as restricted and classified as the Black Dragon, apart from seeking death, what else could it be?
But for some unknown reason, he felt that they would be willing to tell him what he wanted and wouldn’t harm him.
Having grown up alongside his Senior Yu Ren, he had always felt that deaf and mute people were all kind and gentle. Looking at this middle-aged woman made it easy to conjure up memories of his Senior; it felt intimate, trustworthy, just like the first impression he gave others. Not to mention, on that night, when she had extended her hands to gently stroke his face, it reminded him of someone he had long forgotten, or more specifically, an existence he hadn’t thought of for a long time.
He was an orphan, those two people, or perhaps their existence, had never existed in his life, therefore it was hard to conceptualise and easily led to him not thinking about them for a long time.
The hot tea within the tea pot was endless, and the steam rising from the tea cups were never to dissipate, only the night breeze could scatter it, making the vapour drift slightly.
Chen Chang Sheng’s hands gestured rapidly in front of him, expressing his intent.
The woman looked at his actions with an expressionless face, the previously calm atmosphere being replaced by an icy chill. It was obvious that she wasn’t pleased with Chen Chang Sheng’s question.
Upon Chen Chang Sheng finishing his questioning on the Black Dragon, she raised her right hand and used three fingers to gesture in the night wind.
The motions of her fingers were like the breeze and hard to fathom; if it were not for Chen Chang Sheng’s keen eyesight and concentration, he wouldn’t have been able to see them clearly, let alone understand its meaning.
Though, understanding her message wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
She was asking Chen Chang Sheng: “Aren’t you afraid of death?”
Chen Chang Sheng gestured in reply: he didn’t want to die, but a promise is important. He was also on the verge of facing a problematic situation, if it wasn’t handled correctly, he would likely never have a chance to enter the palace again and will never meet the Black Dragon, therefore, he could only risk asking her.
The autumn woods were ethereally frigid, the woman quietly looked at him for a long time, before suddenly letting out a silent laugh and gesturing: “It seems like you really don’t fear death.”
The first reply of “Aren’t you afraid of death?” was an expression of her displeasure and an intimidation, this current reply was her appraisal of him.
This was also what she admired the most about him.
The woman dipped her hand into the tea cup and wrote a single word upon the table, before rising and leaving for the Imperial Palace.
The Black Goat had emerged from some unknown place and followed behind her, it turned and gave Chen Chang Sheng a single glance.
Chen Chang Sheng wanted to do the same thing he did last time, and escort her to the entrance of the secret passage at the Imperial Palace wall, but fearing that the word on the table would disappear, he could only stay behind.
The tea was black tea, and was deeply red in colour, etched upon the grey stone table, it was very vivid.
It was a single word: “Ice”.
Chen Chang Sheng didn’t quite understand and raised his head, he could still see the fading image of the middle-aged woman and the Black Goat.
He couldn’t converse with the middle-aged woman, they could only use sign language, but this word… was a riddle.