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Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
The Grand Examination was about to begin.
It was still at the Li Palace.
A sea of people was still outside the Li Palace.
Each of the gambling markets had long since made their preparations. The storytellers used the finest Maojian tea to rinse their mouths.
(TN: Maojian is a famous type of green tea, named after the shape of its tea leaves: "mao" (毛) means ‘furry’, which describes the fuzz that forms on the surface of the tea when brewed, and "jian" (尖) means ‘sharp’.)
In the end, however, there were still a few places that were different. For example, the expressions and eyes of those people that had come to see the spectacle were not as passionate and excited as last year's. Many people were constantly yawning, and those tourists that had come from the outlying counties and provinces had clearly decreased when compared to last year.
The reason for this was that last year's Grand Examination was a great year, with many of the young geniuses on the upper ranks of the Proclamation of Azure Sky attending. Compared to last year, there was nothing exceptional about this year's Grand Examination, with barely anyone of note taking part. As for the highly anticipated Xu Yourong, with her becoming Holy Maiden, any hope of her attending was lost.
In truth, at present, it was simply impossible for either Qiushan Jun or Xu Yourong to attend the Grand Examination. There had originally been no need for them to attend the Grand Examination to affirm themselves, and moreover, those people that were worthy of competing with them on the same level, such as Chen Changsheng, had already taken part last year.
Of course, Chen Changsheng had still come to the Li Palace, attracting the fervent cheers of the crowd. Naturally, these cheers were also accompanied by that commentary which had not slackened in the slightest over these past few days.
Could Little Principal Chen really be a descendant of the Imperial clan? Could he really be Crown Prince Zhaoming? Fine, this sort of theory was far too absurd. Then was he really attempting to rejoin the engagement? I hear that he stood outside the Holy Maiden's palace all night like a fool, is it true? Wasn't the snowfall that night very large?
Tang Thirty-Six and Su Moyu brought the three new students that had managed to arduously pass the pre-examination to the testing site in the Li Palace.
On the other hand, Chen Changsheng, under the guidance of a cardinal, was led to that palace hall in the deepest parts of the Li Palace. It wasn't because he wasn't willing to take up the responsibility of principal. In truth, this first batch of new students of the Orthodox Academy was quite lacking in foundation. To pass the pre-examination was already a pleasant surprise, but it was simply impossible for there to be much hope of them succeeding in the Grand Examination. Adding on the fact that the Li Palace was essentially the Orthodox Academy's home court, Chen Changsheng was not concerned about encountering any of the problems from last year.
He had an even more important task.
As he watched a seemingly endless and limitless amount of water fall from the wooden ladle onto the Green Leaf, he was once more nagged by those questions of the past.
The Green Leaf World was the same as the Garden of Zhou. Since it could not grow larger, what need was there to assiduously tend to it, to have it incessantly grow healthy and strong?
The Pope placed down the wooden ladle and then took out a soft towel to wipe his hands. He indicated that Chen Changsheng should sit, then said, "There are some rules that perhaps really are too stale and require changing, but you must also understand that without rules, nothing can be accomplished. How can living under the starry sky not require veneration? For everyone to live their lives like Su Li is naturally joyous, but do not forget that although rules are like fetters to experts, to the weak, they are at times safeguards. We must place more consideration on how the world operates and not merely consider our own points of view."
Previously, Chen Changsheng had brought the problems of the Black Dragon and the Monolith Guardians. For the latter, the Pope had produced a clear-cut response, but he did not even mention the former, making his stance on it exceptionally obvious.
"Martial Uncle, isn't it because your view of the world is different from the Divine Empress's that we currently have these problems?"
"You can believe this to be so."
"But…" Chen Changsheng still wished to fight on for a while.
The Pope raised his hand, indicating he no longer needed to speak. Gazing at him, he advised, "Even if you wish to put into practice your view of the world, there is no need to rush to do it all at once."
Chen Changsheng thought of the shadow that lay before him and thought, I am forced to be in a rush.
"Once you become Pope, you can do whatever you wish, and at the time, you will not need to come and ask me."
"Upon hearing this, do you not deeply wish that I would be like Mei Lisha and die a little earlier?" the Pope smiled and said.
Chen Changsheng had simply no idea how to respond to this.
"Relax, you will not have to wait too long."
The Pope walked to the pot and used his handkerchief to very carefully wipe the beads of water off the Green Leaf.
Within the serene palace hall, Chen Changsheng did not receive a single bit of good news. Not long after leaving, however, he heard an unexpected piece of good news: the Grand Examination had formally concluded and glad tidings had come that two students of the Orthodox Academy had actually entered the three banners. Chu Wenbin, the transfer student from the Heavenly Dao Academy, had even managed to place seventeenth on the second banner.
On that night, the restaurants of Hundred Flowers Lane were brightly lit as the teachers and students of the Orthodox Academy happily celebrated.
As for who was this year's first rank of the first banner for the Grand Examination, besides those gambling addicts, no one really much cared.
The world was still primarily concerned with the confluence of the north and south. Not long after the Grand Examination concluded, the two sides finally obtained a nigh perfect result from their negotiations. Next autumn, the confluence of the north and south would finally be signed and the sects and noble families of the south, possessing countless cultivating experts and riches, would finally be incorporated into the domain of the Great Zhou Dynasty. Although in many aspects, this was only a nominal incorporation, this was still a task that not even Emperor Taizong had managed to accomplish. For a moment, the entire continent proclaimed the Divine Empress's glory.
As for those hidden currents that many people were worried might appear, they were strictly controlled by the Imperial Court. The number of fingers cut off and the number of ghosts added in the principal alley of the Northern Military Department were uncountable. Zhou Tong and those officials loyal to the Tianhai Divine Empress had added on innumerable vile deeds to their record of achievements.
As for the most worrisome southward invasion of the demons, it also, fortunately, failed to come into reality. It was said that this year, the snowy plains of the demon realm were ravaged by blizzards. The Demon Imperial clan and the noble clans of Xuelao City had placed all their thoughts on providing relief for their own tribes and annexing others, having no spare attention to gaze south.
Just like the common people, Chen Changsheng was also very happy, because this meant that when the human world confronted the demons, they would be more unified, more powerful, and more difficult to defeat. This also meant that Xu Yourong's status would become even more transcendent. At the same time, it was said that the White Emperor couple would attend the signing ceremony, so Luoluo should also be accompanying them, right?
The southern diplomatic missions gradually departed the capital. South Stream Temple's group was the last to leave, but they still had to leave.
To Xu Yourong, the capital was her hometown, but Holy Maiden Peak was the place where she would pass her many years of cultivation.
Wind and snow blew over the Bridge of Helplessness, almost like it had returned to that day.
"See you again at the Boiling Stone Summit."
"See you again."
On the snowy bridge, Chen Changsheng and Xu Yourong wished each other well, and then said goodbye.
Holding the Yellow Paper Umbrella, he watched as her figure gradually faded into the wind and snow. He did not feel much sorrow over this parting.
The Boiling Stone Summit would be this summer and they would quickly reunite, and there would inevitably come a day in which he went to South Stream Temple.
On the contrary, his attitude became even calmer and more composed.
Not merely towards her, but also towards himself.
He firmly believed that he could defy the heavens and change fate, that he could live past twenty, and then past two hundred, and then year after year.
Because now, he was no longer alone. He wanted to live a long life together with her.
In the past, he only thought that he must live, but he had never thought, and naturally had never experienced, that living itself was a very beautiful thing.
Only that day on the Bridge of Helplessness when the white gauze fell and he saw her eyes did he finally understand.
From that day, he changed greatly. He was still calmly focused on survival, but he lived life much more naturally and spontaneously.
To put it another way, the current Chen Changsheng lived much more vibrantly, no longer the oppressive and even wooden self of the past.
This sort of change in his spiritual world also affected the efforts he made to survive.
He continued to read, study, meditate in cultivation. Although the five stone pearls on his wrist failed to emit even the slightest trace of Qi, they were far more useful than the most precious of crystals. He continued to practice the swords Su Li had taught him, as well as all the swords of the world, and he also did not forget to practice those one hundred and eight blades.
His cultivation continued to grow more and more stable, getting ever closer to the peak of Ethereal Opening. Every night, he would draw in the radiance of the stars, gradually accumulating it in the meridians and orifices of his body, waiting for the future day in which he would release a great light, and his future would inevitably be bright.
It had been almost two years since he had come to the capital.
It had been one year since he had entered the Lingyan Pavilion and read Wang Zhice's notebook.
He still had three years.
Over the course of this year, he had never once thought about defying the heavens and changing fate in accordance with the method outlined in Wang Zhice's notebook, even though he was now recognized by the entire world as the next Pope. Logically, this was his best opportunity, the best circumstances, to make the entire world dance and thus change the appearance of the sea of stars.
But he would not do this, because too many people would die.
He believed that he could reach the Saint Realm in three years, enter the Divine Domain, and attempt to reconnect his meridians.
This sounded like an inconceivable, unaccomplishable task, but since he had gone from being a young and ignorant Daoist from the countryside to the next Pope and an expert that could see the threshold of Star Condensation in the course of only two years, what couldn't he do?
The word 'impossible' had no meaning to him.
Because he was not allowed to think it impossible.
As Chen Changsheng advanced, the entire world advanced as well.
Worthy of being called the generation of blooming flowers, after the generation of geniuses that included Wang Po, Xiao Zhang, Xun Mei, and Liang Wangsun, even more geniuses surged forth.
In the spring, the various proclamations issued by the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets were formally updated.
This time, the proclamations underwent massive changes.
First of all, the Tier of Legendary Weapons that had remained unaltered for so many years was finally changed.
The Frost God Spear was still ranked first.
The Halving Blade was still second.
The Wooden Sword Little Phoenix was ranked third.
The Heaven Shrouding Sword that had reappeared in the world was ranked fourth!
Everyone knew that this was because the wielder of the sword was too excessively powerful.
It was also a fact that no matter how strong the divine weapon, only in the hands of a powerful person could it display its true might.
Because that magical artifact of the Orthodoxy that had been lost and thus had its name scrawled out into gray, the Vault Sheath, had once again ascended the cultivation world's stage, the new ink seemed abnormally vivid. The sword called Stainless was ranked ninety-fifth, in front of the Six Protections Divine Armor but still far from the sixty-ninth ranked Dragonscale Sword, perhaps also by the same reasoning for the Heaven Shrouding Sword.
The divine weapons and tools of the Tier of Legendary Weapons naturally attracted the notice of the crowd, but what people were truly concerned about was still people themselves.
Liberation, Golden Distinction, and Azure Sky—these three Proclamations had also been updated.