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Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
The person who had come was Prince Chen Liu, the Chen clan's sole representative in the capital, and also the only member of its junior generation that the Divine Empress would accept.
In the capital, Prince Chen Liu possessed an extremely good reputation, believed to be as warm and gentle as jade and yet also possessing an abundance of courage. Back then, this young prince, in spite of the discussion and rumors, had twice assisted Chen Changsheng and the Orthodox Academy. Chen Changsheng had a very good impression of him, but for some reason, Tang Thirty-Six did not like him at all.
Prince Chen Liu gave a junior's bow to the archbishop, looked at Chen Changsheng, and smiled. "Don't you think that we've met a little too early?"
Mei Lisha ignored the hidden meaning in those words and went straight to the point. "The Orthodoxy wishes to invite the Empress to express her stance as soon as possible. The Tianhai clan will naturally disagree. Tianhai Shengxue is a smart man, but the people of his clan do not necessarily possess his intelligence. Even if they did, they would also be broken apart by the title of Emperor that seems so close at hand. After all, not all people can resist that sort of enticement."
Prince Chen Liu unflinchingly declared, "As the Chen Imperial clan, I and all my brothers in the counties will conduct ourselves in a just and straightforward manner."
Both of these statements had been said to Chen Changsheng.
"The Orthodoxy will always stand behind the Imperial clan. From the year in which Taizu founded the dynasty, this has always been so," Mei Lisha said firmly. "It is also the case now. It is just that because of Zhuang Huanyu's death, there will be some problems on the Heavenly Dao Academy's side. Among the six archbishops, there are still two that have not turned around, because His Holiness turned his views around too quickly."
Chen Changsheng thought to himself, if it's this way, then what was going on with that bloody incident of the Orthodox Academy? Why would His Holiness support the Divine Empress for so many years? He understood that this was all to give him a breakdown of the current situation, but he was still uncomprehending. Just what could he do? Why had the archbishop arranged for him to meet with Prince Chen Liu?
Mei Lisha's next sentence provided an answer to this riddle, but provided a new riddle in its place, for both Chen Changsheng and for Prince Chen Liu.
"In the future, I ask that the Prince must remember the price that Chen Changsheng paid."
Prince Chen Liu had a thoughtful look on his face at these words, but nothing came of it.
Chen Changsheng also could not make anything of this, and his thoughts lay elsewhere. He asked, "What about Zhexiu?"
The Pope had said that Zhexiu would quickly come out, but he was still very anxious—Zhexiu was still in prison, and even worse, it was the Zhou Prison!
It was impossible for him to imagine what sort of dreadful torments that wolf youth had to bear in this period.
Mei Lisha said, "If the Imperial Court still does not release him, I will personally make a visit."
Prince Chen Liu said apologetically, "The second day after Zhexiu was imprisoned, I sent over my card…but you should also know that for a prince like me in front of Lord Zhou Tong, to say something is not very useful."
Standing under that row of maple trees still brimming with the air of spring, Chen Changsheng gazed in the direction rumored to be where Zhou Prison lay, then he turned in the direction of the Mausoleum of Books, then, finally, he turned towards the Imperial Palace and the Li Palace and sighed.
He was no ordinary youth, but in the end, he was still a youth. In this world, there were some matters that were too complex, too weighty, and somewhat difficult to bear. It even made it rather difficult for him to breathe. Compared to the capital, he felt that the storm in Xunyang City was more relaxed and straightforward. He would rather stand together with that metal blade and simply go off to do some things, even if those things to be done weren't all that simple.
Under the humble gazes of the priests, he left the Bureau of Ecclesiastic Education, but he didn't return to the Orthodox Academy. Instead, he went to the market to buy some tasty foods and then went to New North Bridge. Borrowing the glimmer of the sun setting in the west, he used his movement technique to become an illusion and jumped into the dried-up well.
The underground space was still chilling to the bone, but the Black Dragon was still asleep. The mountain range that was its massive body quietly rose up and down, and those iron chains were still rusted and inflexibly attached to the stone wall.
Chen Changsheng took out the food he had bought and, using lotus leaves to carry them, arranged them in front of the Black Dragon's body. Finally, he untied the ruyi from his waist and placed it on the ground.
The Black Dragon's spiritual soul was still sleeping in the ruyi and he didn't know when it would wake up.
After doing all this, he thought for a few moments, then wrote a few words in the frost on the ground. Then, he left.
He appeared in the pool, thoroughly soaked. After changing to a dry set of clothes he had prepared beforehand, he once more met the Black Goat in the courtyard of the Imperial Palace. He broke into a smile and crouched down to warmly embrace it, completely disregarding the slightly raised head of the Black Goat and its unwilling appearance.
There was a gust of wind, still chilly, but quickly dispersed several dozen zhang away. The lotus leaves on the frost once again became tender green and the fresh food once again began to emit warm heat.
Her hands held behind her back, the Tianhai Divine Empress had her head lowered as she read the words Chen Changsheng had just left behind in the frost. The corners of her lips revealed a mocking smile.
Without even a glance, her spiritual sense moved and that jade ruyi once again appeared on her waist.
At this moment, the strand of the Black Dragon's spiritual soul awakened and transformed into a chilly intent. By means of the red birthmark between the eyebrows, it returned to the dragon body. The dragon's pupils slowly opened and the ice streamed down. The mountain range of its body shrank at an unimaginable speed, ultimately transforming into a small black-clothed girl. However, the coldness of her appearance had already been greatly diminished by that cinnabar birthmark.
"Did you see, men are all fickle and lacking in affection,” the Tianhai Divine Empress said teasingly to her.
The black-clothed girl saw the words he had left behind, then after a period of silence, said, "He didn't know when I would wake up and had things to do, so it's only natural that he leaves first. Moreover, he also doesn't know that I'm a girl…"
"You are a female dragon." The Tianhai Divine Empress calmly said, "If you were to let him know of this fact, what meaning would there be?"
The black-clothed girl was very angry, the baleful air about her increasing even more and the temperature of the underground space plummeting like a stone.
The Tianhai Divine Empress did not care. The circle several dozen zhang in radius around her was still as warm as the spring, and the ground by her feet even seemed to be showing little starry points of green.
The world above the well was early summer at dusk, and there was a bit of summer heat in the air. The ice shop far in the distance was doing good business, but this place by the well was very cold. This was because many imperial bodyguards were walking around, and also because of those terrifying Snow Mastiffs resting on the grass under the tree. Mo Yu held the leash in her hands as she quietly waited.
When the figure of the Divine Empress appeared once more, she quickly went over and said, "Prince Chen Liu also just went to the Bureau of Ecclesiastic Education."
The Divine Empress glanced at her and asked, "What do you want to say?"
Mo Yu said, "I can't understand, even if Chen Changsheng is Daoist Ji's student, is he really worth the Orthodoxy paying him so much attention? This…could it be some sort of camouflage technique?”
This sort of incomprehension was a question that the ministers and wise advisors had required her to ask as soon as possible, but perhaps not even she could perceive that this actually made the Empress lower her guard against Chen Changsheng a little more.
The Divine Empress said, "The actions of the people in the Orthodoxy are best when they are deliberately mystifying. There is no need to understand them."
This said, she began walking towards the Imperial City. Those two Snow Mastiffs noiselessly left the tree and followed behind her.
Watching the Empress's back, Mo Yu gave a slightly sarcastic smile. She thought to herself, if there really is no need to understand, why is it that when Chen Changsheng came to see the Black Dragon, Empress followed him?
Her inability to understand was because she did not know of the pact between the Divine Empress and the Black Dragon, nor of the existence of the jade ruyi.
Returning to the Imperial Palace, she gazed at the pool in front of her. As she thought about how Chen Changsheng had most likely emerged from this pool just a while ago, she also began to think of a much earlier time, about that first night in which Chen Changsheng first emerged from this pool—that youth did not care that he was deep in the palace on dangerous ground. When he saw a woman about to be struck by a flower pot knocked over by a panicked squirrel, he had rushed over.
The Divine Empress once more revealed a mocking smile, but it always seemed to give off the feeling of an elder teasing a junior.
With the slightest stimulation of her spiritual sense, the jade ruyi left her belt of its own accord and floated above the pool. The water of the pool fell into turmoil, as if it was boiling, and the pool began to give out clouds of mist.
A light shot out of the jade ruyi and projected onto the mist, and a picture gradually began to grow distinct—these were the scenes that the Black Dragon saw after leaving the capital with Chen Changsheng. Later on, there were many times when her soul had been asleep in the ruyi, but the ruyi, tied to Chen Changsheng's waist or on his wrist, had still recorded those scenes down.
Seeing these scenes, the Divine Empress grew quieter and quieter. The smile did not disappear, but it was no longer very mocking, leaving behind only a sort of interest.
The scenes quickly sped by, gradually transforming into streaks of light. It was many times faster than normal speed, and only a Saint like her would be able to make out the scenes clearly.
When the golden wings illuminated the night and the image of the heavily injured white-clothed girl appeared, the Divine Empress's brows leapt up, for the first time expressing a deep concern.
Xu Yourong was her most dearly beloved junior. Although she was disguised, it was impossible to conceal it from her eyes.
In the next scenes, Xu Yourong met Chen Changsheng, but neither of them knew who the other was. The Divine Empress silently smiled, most likely thinking this very amusing.
Eventually, she saw that unsetting sun at the edge of the plains, saw the surging tide of monsters, saw Xu Yourong not leaving, Chen Changsheng not abandoning, and saw that person's mausoleum.
The smile on her face gradually faded. She calmly gazed at the Mausoleum of Zhou in silence.
Eventually, the light dimmed and then everything vanished without a trace.
With a light wave of her hand, the scene went back to the place where Xu Yourong and Chen Changsheng first met, and also the first place where their misunderstanding began.
That place was an isle of reeds at the edge of a lake, the two people having come across each other but not knowing who the other was.
The ruyi could not record the inner workings of Xu Yourong's mind, but the Divine Empress clearly knew what she was thinking about, why she had never connected that unconscious youth with Chen Changsheng who she had an engagement with—no matter who it was, nobody thought Chen Changsheng looked like a fifteen-year-old youth. He was too unflustered and calm, even when he was unconscious. Back then, when Xu Yourong had looked over, she had thought this person was around twenty years old. Then, just how could this person be Chen Changsheng?
The Divine Empress stood in front of the pool for a very long time, and what she thought about was unknown.
Suddenly, she looked at Xu Yourong in the scene and said, "Originally, even you felt he wasn't fifteen years old.”
The night wind breezed through the grass. At some point, a chief eunuch had arrived outside the palace hall.
She asked, "What?"
The chief eunuch reported in a low voice, "There are still no new clues in the case. Lord Zhou Tong also did not discover anything in Xining Village…only that crazy Lord Hu on the Imperial Board of Astronomy still continues to insist…that Crown Prince Zhaoming is still alive.”
He had been with the Divine Empress for several hundred years and had experienced countless great matters, but when he mentioned what that insane Lord Hu had said, his voice still could not help but tremble.
The Divine Empress gazed up at the night sky at a certain place where a star should have existed. For what seemed like ages, she said nothing.
(TN: The chapter title, ‘Granting Shining Light’, is a line from one of the poems of the ‘Classic of Poetry’, 诗经. The poem in question wishes blessings and shining light 昭明 to the king, as well as wishing that he is blessed with sons and daughters and a long life. If you have the translation of the Classic of Poetry/Book of Songs by Arthur Waley, the poem is number 202. In this case, the 'shining light' also refers to the name of Crown Prince Zhaoming 昭明, so it can also mean 'Granting you a son, Zhaoming'.)