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Chapter 616 – Facing Death to Live (I)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
The caresses of the night breeze, originating from those massive black wings, dispersed all divinity and light, cut off all sights and senses, brought with it the purest gloom and power.
"The clear cry of the young Phoenix surpasses the old Phoenix…in the end, that is still a matter for the future." (TN: The first part of this sentence is a line from a poem by Li Shangyin. Its meaning is that the young will surpass the old.)
The Divine Empress gazed at Xu Yourong in her hand and expressionlessly noted.
Not a single person could enter this darkness unless she permitted it, like that patch of red.
Mo Yu lowered her head and kneeled outside the hall, not daring to glance inward.
"Send her back to Holy Maiden Peak. Once Chen Changsheng is confirmed dead, release her."
Hearing the Divine Empress's voice, Mo Yu finally dared to raise her head. She wanted to say something, but ultimately chose not to.
The bamboo carriage was prepared and the Black Goat strolled back from some place.
The Divine Empress glanced at the Black Goat. After a moment of silence, she nodded her head.
The wheels of the carriage rolled over the gray stones, slowly heading out of the Imperial Palace.
Mo Yu sat within, gazing at the unconscious Xu Yourong in her lap. She suddenly felt somewhat sad.
She was sad for Xu Yourong, and also for Chen Changsheng.
It seemed that Chen Changsheng's death was certain.
In truth, she was also somewhat sad.
It had been a long time since she had gone to the Orthodox Academy or met with Chen Changsheng. In addition, she had no reason to go, and even if Chen Changsheng died, she had no reason to be sad. When she thought of this, she grew even sadder.
The bamboo carriage seemed to travel slowly, but it traveled with incomparable speed, and there was something indescribably strange about it. Although there were not many pedestrians on the road, there were many people hunting for Chen Changsheng's whereabouts, as well as experts and cavalry seeking to protect Chen Changsheng, yet none of them noticed this carriage.
It didn't take long for the bamboo carriage to depart from the capital's south gate and step upon the official road towards Holy Maiden Peak.
Almost at the same time the carriage left the capital, Xu Yourong opened her eyes.
It was not because she had some hidden technique. This was the Divine Empress's will.
She opened her eyes yet could not make a single move, not even twitch a single finger.
Because a hair clasp was seemingly very casually thrust into her black hair.
Or perhaps it was better to call it a wooden hairpin.
Third-ranked on the Tier of Legendary Weapons, Wooden Sword Little Phoenix.
Xu Yourong could not move, but she could speak.
However, she was clearly not in the mood to speak, and only quietly stared at the roof of the carriage. If her gaze could pierce through, who knew which part of the starry sky it would rest on?
"Every person has their own fate. His fate isn't good; there's nothing that can be done about that." Mo Yu looked at her with a pitying gaze as she spoke.
Xu Yourong drew back her gaze and looked at her, saying, "I don't feel that he will die."
Mo Yu naturally knew of the current state of Chen Changsheng's body. She thought to herself, even if His Holiness can protect him from being killed by the Empress, how many more days can he live?
Xu Yourong seemed to understand some incredibly important matter. She calmly said, "Since it is his fate in the end, it should operate according to his way of thinking. I wanted to cut him off from the world, but he wanted to go back. The Heavenly Dao wants him to die, but he insists on facing death to live."
"Facing death to live?"
"Do you still remember the story of Divine General Han Qing?"
"Emperor Taizong said before, those who face death to live do not die very easily."
Chen Changsheng was not considering the problem of life and death. He had already placed life and death out of his mind.
He left the Imperial Palace and came to an extremely secretive place, or perhaps a very ordinary place.
The Plum Garden Inn outside the Mausoleum of Books.
At the beginning, he had lived here for a considerable amount of time. At this place, he had truly gotten acquainted with Tang Thirty-Six.
This inn was very meaningful to him. It was the place where his life in the capital had begun. He now returned to this place, firstly because no one would ever think that he would come here, and secondly because he wanted the final part of his life in the capital to begin from this place.
He had no idea that not long after he left the Imperial Palace, a bamboo carriage drove out of the Imperial Palace with Xu Yourong inside.
He also did not know that at this moment, his senior brother Yu Ren was in the Mausoleum of Books across the river, reading books under the starlight.
On this night, the two most important people in his life were both very nearby, but he was unaware. His thoughts and energy were completely on himself, on the medicines and magical artifacts on his person, on the various techniques in his sea of consciousness, and in the countless swords within his sheath.
He sat under the tree in the small courtyard, beginning to sort out the state of his cultivation under the starlight.
Because his meridians were all shattered, his current true essence output was even weaker than it was two years ago, not even up to the level of an ordinary Meditation cultivator. But the star radiance scattered about his body was like the snow covering a mountain range. It looked like pieces just scattered about, but in reality, the total area was vast. Moreover, although he had encountered problems in breaking into Star Condensation, it could not be considered a complete failure. On the surface, it seemed as if his cultivation level was paused at the peak of Ethereal Opening, but if he did not care about shattering his meridians again and jeopardizing his life, he could in a very short time condense a domain of starlight.
In other words, if he did not care for his life, then in a very short time, he could gather up a massive amount of true essence and become an initial level Star Condensation expert.
He also knew countless sword techniques, movement techniques, and Daoist techniques.
After he entered Ethereal Opening, the opponents he encountered were mostly Star Condensation experts. The simplified form of the Yeshi Step that had helped him many times in the past was no longer very meaningful. When comparing the increase in speed brought by this movement technique to his body's own speed, the difference was extremely small. Similarly, ordinary techniques like the Hundred Flowers Sword and the Seven Stars Sword might have some use when facing opponents on the same level, but in tonight's battle, they would be of no use and could be excluded.
He calmed his heart and cleared his mind, removing those assorted sword techniques and Daoist techniques, only leaving behind in his sea of consciousness the toughest, sharpest, and most powerful of techniques. The Wind and Rain Sword of Mount Zhong, the True Sword of the Orthodoxy, the Toppling Mountain Staff, the Sword of Hithering Light, the Three Forms of Wenshui, the Army Shattering Sword…and the three swords taught to him by Su Li.
The Blazing Sword, the Intellectual Sword, the Stupid Sword.
These were Chen Changsheng's most powerful techniques.
To true masters of the sword, perhaps there was no such thing as high or low in terms of swordplay, but there was such a thing as great and small.
These sword styles that Chen Changsheng was most skilled in were all great sword styles, especially the three swords that Su Li had taught him. In terms of both flexibility and atmosphere, they were all extremely great.
Great swords, or perhaps great techniques, were extremely exhausting on true essence and spiritual sense. Chen Changsheng's spiritual sense was extremely stable and powerful, and he also had vast quantities of true essence. However, he had always had problems with outputting true essence, so he could not endure long battles. In many of his past battles, he had strived to bring them to a close as quickly as possible. Only in the final battle of the Grand Examination and in that chaotic battle in Xunyang City, when he had no other choice, had he allowed himself to sink into a bitter struggle. And in truth, those battles were extremely bitter. On many occasions, he had almost lost to his opponent's sword.
Tonight, he was heavily injured. If he forcibly moved his true essence and struck, it was absolutely vital that he not be forced into such a situation. He had to win in a single strike.
He opened his eyes and gazed up at the countless stars in the night sky, beginning to deduce and calculate.
That person was not born impoverished. His birth mother was a concubine of the previous assistant minister of the Ministry of Rites. There were no unbearably painful experiences in his childhood and he had not been lacking for food or clothes, nor was he humiliated by the primary wife. Although his imperial examinations could not be said to have gone smoothly, that was not a unique situation. That person's temperament was extremely cruel and merciless, his strength extremely frightening. His spiritual sense was particularly strong, as if formed from the resentment of millions and boundless suffering. He had experienced it before and it truly was something that no ordinary person could resist…
Countless pieces of information appeared in his sea of consciousness. They were like the stars in the sky, too many to be counted and seemingly randomly clumped together. It was simply impossible to analyze anything useful from them, yet these stars were connected, the invisible lines between them forming a star map, and within, one could naturally find the hidden meaning.
After some time, he stood up and walked out of the Plum Garden Inn.
The Stainless Sword continued to quietly rest in the Vault Sheath, but he had already unsheathed his sword.
The bamboo carriage followed the official road south. The Black Goat pulling the carriage was most likely not clear on the unstable situation in the capital. It had just spent too long in the Imperial Palace and wanted to go out for a stroll. It didn't find anything fresh about those autumn trees by the road, but it did find the freshly formed dewdrops on the grass rather interesting. Walking and stopping in this manner, it did not seem to move very quickly, yet in the time it took to drink a cup of tea, the carriage had made it all the way from the Imperial Palace to Mount Xiao. With this pace, perhaps they would arrive at Holy Maiden Peak by noon.
The Tianhai Divine Empress's gaze moved from Mount Xiao to the east, arriving at the plains where the mountains came to an end. In the center of the plains sat a vast city, its walls thick and tall. Purely in terms of spectacle, this city was even more grand and imposing than the capital. It was the nominal capital of the world, Luoyang.
In Luoyang's Market of Eternal Peace, which occupied the best position in the entire city, sat a massive prince's mansion, extravagant beyond compare. The Prince of Xiang, the Prince of Tai…many of those people who were nominally her sons, as well as several of her grandsons, were currently there, embracing singing girls and indulging in all their desires. She did not know if they were doing it for her or her subordinate officials to see, but she didn't really much care.
She drew back her gaze to the capital and saw the old man currently watering his plant in the Li Palace, her relatives in their mansion, the candles in the Little Orange Garden that had not yet burned out, the snow at the bottom of New North Bridge, the crabapple tree in the principal alley of the Northern Military Department, and the young man holding up an umbrella as he proceeded in that direction.
She stood on the Dew Platform, the entire world at her feet, but in her eyes, it was just that person she did not see.
Ten-odd years ago, she believed that this person had died. She had not expected for the person to have survived. From the day she confirmed this fact onward, a crack appeared between her and the Pope. Besides her and the Pope, no one in the world had perceived this fact. The storm over the capital remained as docile as it had been for the past ten-odd years, but in the end, things still could not be the same.
She clearly understood that this person had allowed Chen Changsheng to come to the capital to intentionally divulge this secret, precisely so that she and the Pope would grow suspicious of each other. But she could only accept it, because time could not be reversed. That incident of the Orthodox Academy had occurred and the Pope could not trust that she would have no complaints on this matter.
From their first meeting in the Hundred Herb Garden, she had never liked that person, even detested him. Only when she realized that he was not merely Shang Xingzhou but also Daoist Ji did she begin to face him directly. Those matters which she did not understand at the time finally had an answer.
The name Shang Xingzhou represented the legitimate line of the Orthodoxy and those enemies that opposed her.
The name Daoist Ji represented the will of Emperor Taizong, his unfulfilled wishes.
This was the true cause of her wariness.