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Chapter 823 – Discussing Punishment
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Daoist Baishi was the Archbishop of the Hall of Literary Glory, possessing a most esteemed status within the Orthodoxy. According to the rules written in the Daoist scriptures, even if an important figure of his level contravened the laws of the church, in order to bestow punishment upon him, the Pope would first have to open a meeting in the Great Hall of Light. Before the church, they would announce his crimes and then have the Hall of Drifting Clouds decide the punishment.
This was how the previous Pope had banished Mu Jiushi from the Li Palace.
The current Pope, Chen Changsheng, had not returned to the capital for three years now. Even if he returned to the capital to discuss Daoist Baishi's punishment, there might be people who would stand on Daoist Baishi's side, or at the very least request that he be spared the death penalty. Also, Shang Xingzhou was in the capital, and he would certainly not watch as Daoist Baishi was killed.
Chen Changsheng gave no assessment of Daoist Baishi's words, only calmly gazed at him and asked, "Why?"
It had already been three years since he left the capital, and the Li Palace had been placed under enormous pressure in the meantime. Although Grass Moon Hall, the Moss Institute, and the rest of the six halls were sealed, they could not prevent that pressure from sneaking in with the wind. After the confluence of the north and south, the Great Zhou Imperial Court became increasingly powerful, and even more crucially, Shang Xingzhou was also a legitimate successor of the Orthodoxy, as well as a true Saint. With the departure of the Pope and Archbishop Mei Lisha to the sea of stars, there was no one else older than him in the Orthodoxy, no one with as long a record of service. Even Pope Chen Changsheng was his student.
In these circumstances, how could a few people within the Orthodoxy not have other thoughts?
He had originally thought that Daoist Siyuan and Linghai Zhiwang were the two most likely to follow his master, as they had a grudge against him, but he had never expected it to be Daoist Baishi. After all, Daoist Baishi had been one of the witnesses to that final order and had always been silent and subdued. It was simply impossible to think that he could betray the church.
"Why? Because I must consider the future of the Orthodoxy, the good of the Human race." Daoist Baishi stared into Chen Changsheng's eyes. "The Orthodoxy is not the church of one man, but the sect of millions upon millions of believers. It absolutely cannot move according to the will of only Your Holiness alone, not unless you are a true Saint. Unfortunately, although you have outstanding talent, even having the chance of becoming the youngest true Saint in history, you and I are both aware that the venerable Daoist master will not give you this chance, and you also know that you will never have this chance. Thus, after three years, you could no longer keep silent and decided that you might as well start stirring a storm."
Chen Changsheng was quiet for a while, then replied, "I believed that many people within the Orthodoxy were anticipating the day that I finally stood up once more."
"Those people are all fools." Daoist Baishi made no attempt to hide his scorn as he shot a glance at Linghai Zhiwang. It was evident that the once-new faction of the Orthodoxy led by Linghai Zhiwang and Daoist Siyuan had maintained a very radical stance, hoping that Chen Changsheng could reign over the world as Pope as quickly as possible.
Daoist Baishi continued, "Why did His Holiness choose you as his successor? Because he felt his martial nephew was very similar to him. But now that you've stood and begun relying on the authority of Pope, begun relying on these so-called strategies, in an attempt to win this war against the Imperial Court, you become less and less similar to his esteemed self, becoming more and more like your master. And if you want to become a person like your master, just how can you possibly defeat him?"
After saying this, he turned to Linghai Zhiwang and An Lin, and yelled, "Did none of you ever think of this question? Why is it that the Orthodoxy must consign itself to eternal damnation because he inexplicably wants to disobey his teacher? This being the case, why don't we just welcome the venerable Daoist master as His Holiness the Pope!"
All was quiet outside the church. The tree behind the holy gate lightly swayed in the wind, casting off that white flower that was the first to bloom last night.
Chen Changsheng's gaze fell on the indistinct and distant figures of the priests in the forest. He was quiet for a few moments and then finally said, "Perhaps you do not understand me very well."
Daoist Baishi did not expect to hear this sort of answer. He froze for a few moments, then became cold and unyielding once more. "It doesn't matter. The most you can do right now is deprive me of my position as archbishop. You can even treat me like Mu Jiushi and cripple my cultivation, but on the day that the venerable Daoist master returns to the Li Palace, I will be waiting there for you."
An Lin was silent, but Linghai Zhiwang said, "I've worked with you for several decades, but I never realized that you were such a stupid person."
Daoist Baishi gave him a cold glare and asked, "What sort of crime do you want to press? Scheming to harm His Holiness the Pope? Just like at the Mount Song Army headquarters?"
Linghai Zhiwang replied, "Crimes are not pressed by others, but committed by oneself."
Daoist Baishi expressionlessly warned, "Do not forget, this is Wenshui."
Wenshui was the territory of the Tang clan.
No matter how powerful the Orthodoxy was, if they wanted to execute Daoist Baishi here, they could not possibly hide it from the Tang clan. This also meant that if Chen Changsheng wanted to preserve the dignity of the church laws, he could only arrest Daoist Baishi and perhaps even sever his cultivation, but he could not have him executed.
At this moment, footsteps came from the forest. The Archbishop of Wenshui arrived in front of the church, letter in hand.
The archbishop had his head lowered, not even glancing at Daoist Baishi's blood-covered figure, nor revealing any sort surprise. Just like usual, he was calm and meek.
"Your Holiness, the letter you were waiting for has arrived."
Chen Changsheng took the envelope and opened it, reading the letter within.
Linghai Zhiwang and An Lin turned to look, as did Guan Feibai and Zhexiu. Even Daoist Baishi, whose fate still hung in the balance, cast his gaze over.
They all knew that someone had been exchanging letters with Chen Changsheng this entire time. The matter of the Mount Song Army headquarters and his route to Wenshui had all been decided by the writer of those letters.
Everyone was very curious to know the identity of this letter writer.
Only Nanke had no interest in this matter. She continued to obey Chen Changsheng's orders, standing in front of Daoist Baishi and staring into his eyes.
After finishing the letter, Chen Changsheng seemed to fall into a contemplative mood. After a while, he offered the letter to Linghai Zhiwang.
Daoist Baishi sneered, "Feigning mystery… just what did that person write? Could they have predicted this matter beforehand?"
Linghai Zhiwang took his eyes off the letter and looked at Daoist Baishi's face with a somewhat strange expression.
Daoist Baishi suddenly felt a little cold.
Linghai Zhiwang said, "You guessed correctly. That person said that we must kill you, thus establishing our might."
Daoist Baishi's complexion changed at these words.
He did not know the identity of that letter writer, but he knew that many of the Orthodoxy's matters recently had emerged from that person's brush.
Crucially, based on his observations over this period, he was certain that Chen Changsheng deeply trusted that person, and would follow his every word.
It was then that a priest appeared on the outskirts of the forest.
The Archbishop of Wenshui went to inquire. He returned after a moment and whispered to Chen Changsheng, "The Tang Second Master has come to pay respects to Your Holiness."
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