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Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
That lady was the important maid of the Xu Estate, Shuang'er.
A year and a half had already passed. She seemed much more steady and mature, and her eyes also seemed to have grown somewhat more serene.
Shuang'er gazed past the lantern at the youth…no, he should already be called a young man. For some reason, she felt more and more nervous, her tightly clenched hands becoming sweaty and hot.
She wanted to say something, and she felt that she should say something before her young lady returned to the capital. This was because she had realized that just as her master and the mistress had said, to the young lady, this marriage might really be the best choice. And yet…so many things had happened back then. If it were her, she would definitely still be nursing a grudge.
Just as she grit her teeth and prepared to speak, Chen Changsheng arrived before her. He nodded his head, then continued onwards to the other side of the stone arch.
There was no resentment, no hatred, no head held up in pride nor gnashing of teeth in anger.
It was very calm, like a passerby nodding his head in greeting to some person he had once met at some place and some time.
Shuang'er was stunned.
In this time, Chen Changsheng walked past the stone arch.
Shuang'er turned around, raising her hand as if she wanted to yell at him to stop. In the end, though, she did not.
As she watched his departing figure, she felt a little frustrated.
She found it somewhat puzzling. Why did she feel that not much time had passed, but that youth and this world had changed so much?
Leaving the Divine General of the East's estate, he followed the main road forward until he reached a stone bridge.
It was still that stone bridge. In the scorching summer night, the shores of the river under the bridge were filled with crowds looking to cool off in the shade. There were no fallen leaves in the river water. He stood at the end of the bridge and turned away, looking back at the upturned eaves of the Divine General of the East's estate. He did not speak, not knowing that he and Shuang'er were feeling the same emotion—only a year and a half had passed since he first entered the capital and came here to end the engagement, but why did it seem like a lifetime ago?
Back then, his primary objective for leaving Xining and coming to the capital was to participate in the Grand Examination, obtain first rank of the first banner, enter Lingyan Pavilion, and search for the secrets to defying the heavens and changing fate. Ending the engagement was just something he could do in passing. Of course, it was also something he had to do. Although he still hadn't managed to find a method to defy the heavens and change fate, it was without question that his fate had already gone through a fierce change. But just why had he still not been able to end this engagement?
He shook his head and crossed the stone bridge, determined to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.
Whoever hangs the bell on the tiger's neck must untie it, and to remove an engagement followed the same principle. The Grand Minister and his wife had long since departed this mortal coil, and his teacher had brought his senior brother along to vanish like a crane amongst the clouds, so he could only look towards the third party involved in this engagement.
He went to the Li Palace.
Without any need for advance notice, the priests standing guard outside the Li Palace reverentially invited him in. They even accompanied him along the interminable Divine Avenue until they reached the palace hall in the deepest depths of the Li Palace.
The Li Palace at night was exceptionally serene, and the palace that the Pope resided in was even more so. When he gazed at the many stars in the section of sky partitioned off by the four walls of black eaves for too long, it really did seem like the opening to a deep and serene well.
At some point, he had removed that string of stone pearls from his wrist.
From the tranquil palace came the sound of gurgling water. He turned, walked in, and bowed to the Pope, that ordinary old man watering the Green Leaf.
"Martial Uncle, just what is the reason for all this?"
In the past, Chen Changsheng very rarely referred to the Pope as ‘martial uncle’. It wasn't because he had some sort of phobia of the title, but purely because he wasn't very used to it. However, the many events involving the Orthodox Academy and those plain statements Xu Shiji had declared to him at the Divine General of the East's estate made him realize that no matter how he addressed the Pope, the matters involving him and the Pope were already inseparable in the eyes of the masses. Then it would be better to get used to it ahead of time. He was a person that greatly valued his time. Since he had made his decision, he would carry it out.
Just like how this question had lingered over his mind for a very long time, and now that he could see the Pope, he would definitely ask it straight away.
The address of ‘martial uncle’ and the question itself somewhat surprised the Pope, then it caused him to chuckle.
Chen Changsheng had asked about the conflict between the new and conservative factions of the Orthodoxy as well as the Li Palace's silence in the past few months.
"You are all young. Although the matters of young people can't be called trivial, if there is some sort of mistake or some place that is lacking, there will always be some leeway or reason to offset the deficiency."
The Pope returned the wooden ladle to the pool of water. He took the cloth handed over by Chen Changsheng and gently wiped his hands as he said, "But we old ones cannot. Young people can be impulsive and hot-blooded, but we must be cool-headed, even apathetic. In the eyes of all, we are all scheming and calculating, or to put it a bit more nicely, far-sighted and deep planners. Then all our actions are by necessity never acts of impulse. Everything we do must have some hidden scheme behind it, so we only need to move, and the matter very easily becomes much more serious, and now there is no more leeway for error."
These two statements had been rather fragmentary, but Chen Changsheng understood.
This storm had originally been the opening of an assault by the Tianhai clan and the new faction of the Orthodoxy against the Pope, but it had been stopped cold at the gates of the Orthodox Academy. It was only natural that the Li Palace maintain its silence.
The Pope walked back to his chair and indicated that Chen Changsheng should sit. "Besides, this is an opportunity."
These were simpler and even more ambiguous words, but Chen Changsheng still understood.
If the assault of the Tianhai clan and the Orthodoxy's new faction could be limited to a certain extent, then to him and the Orthodox Academy, this was an incredibly valuable opportunity.
Just as his spiritual sense had been washed in that ocean of sword intent and become purer and more tenacious, these battles would enable his sword to grow steadier and stronger.
"Only this way can we have you mature as quickly as possible," the Pope said to him with a kind gaze.
Chen Changsheng only understood a part of this conclusion. After his discussion with Tang Thirty-Six, this was the only point that he could not be certain of. Why had the Pope chosen this method of having him mature? It seemed rather rushed. To use Tang Thirty-Six's words, it was like pulling up the plants by the roots to help them grow.
Seeing his expression, the Pope was rather surprised. "I thought that you wouldn't be that interested in these matters, that you would still need some time to understand, or else have come to find me even earlier."
"There are many things you might lack interest in, but you still have to learn. Since you can't avoid it…this is what Tang Tang said to me," Chen Changsheng replied.
Tang Thirty-Six had said to him, "Since you're going to become the Pope, you have to learn about those seemingly uninteresting things. You have to have your own team, like the Orthodox Academy."
The reason he had been able to understand all of the Pope's previous statements was also because Tang Thirty-Six had done a similar analysis.
Now it seemed that all of Tang Thirty-Six's deductions had been correct.
"You've got a very good friend." The Pope seemed somewhat emotional. "When I became acquainted with his grandfather, we were about your age. It was just that due to a few things later on, I and his grandfather had differing opinions, naturally making it impossible to maintain that friendship. He returned to Wenshui, I entered the Li Palace, and in a flash, so many years have passed."
A few days ago, when he was watching Mo Yu and Tang Thirty-Six converse, Chen Changsheng became aware of the so-called upper layer of society, but he still had not imagined that the Pope and the Old Master of the Tang clan were once so close.
"Since you had not come in the past few days, I thought that you would not be coming for some time. Why did you suddenly come tonight?" the Pope asked.
The Orthodox Academy had already endured through the most difficult period. As it had not asked for the Li Palace's assistance at that time, there was even less reason to ask for it now.
"I went to the Divine General of the East's estate," Chen Changsheng explained. "I wanted to end the engagement, but that side has always delayed, so I wish to request Martial Uncle's assistance in directly removing this marriage."
The Pope realized that his expression was very serious. With a somewhat strange look, he asked, "Do you know what this marriage signifies?"
In the past, Chen Changsheng would definitely have believed that story his master had told him: Xu Yourong's grandfather represented Emperor Xian in offering sacrifices to the mountains and then was ambushed and heavily wounded by a great general of the demons. Even the imperial physicians were powerless to cure him, but his master Daoist Ji just happened to be passing through the area. With magical hands, the man was cured. In his excitement, the Grand Minister decided this engagement. But now, he naturally was aware that this engagement definitely had some ulterior motive.
After all, his master was not merely Daoist Ji, but also Principal Shang, the Divine Empress's most powerful enemy.
"No matter what this engagement signifies, it has nothing to do with me."
If an ordinary youth said this sort of thing to an elder, their word would often be rich with a childish and laughable feeling, brimming with a hot-blooded feeling that caused others to cover their noses when it was really nothing but selfishness and presumptuousness. But when these words came from Chen Changsheng's mouth, they had none of these problems. He spoke very calmly and very persuasively. The difference was that an ordinary youth often had no idea what the responsibility meant, while he had very seriously thought it over before confirming that this was not a responsibility he had to bear.
Life and death was his own matter, marriage was his own matter, to have children or not was his own matter, how to raise the child was his own matter. Chen Changsheng had not sorted out these things in his mind, only naturally did things in this manner, or perhaps it was because he had always cultivated the Dao of following his heart, and the previous four points were all the lowest on his heart's demands.
The Pope asked him again, "You will not regret it in the future?"
A profound sensation flashed through those eyes of his that were as vast and boundless as the sea of stars.
Chen Changsheng did not notice. "I will not."
The Pope calmly gazed at him. "Very well."
Before Chen Changsheng took his leave, he asked, "Is it possible to not fight?"
This was naturally speaking about that event anticipated by the people…the battle between him and Xu Yourong. According to the news Tang Thirty-Six had heard, it was said that the Thirteen Divisions of Radiant Green were already preparing the letter of challenge, the writer apparently a great scholar of the Imperial Court. After his visit today to the Divine General of the East's estate, he grew even more sympathetic for that girl he had still yet to meet. Now that he had received the Pope's approval to end the engagement, he felt that there was even less of a reason to fight this battle.
"We both cultivate the Dao of following the heart. As long as you wish it, of course it's okay. Even if the other side wants it, you can still avoid it."
The Pope raised up the wooden ladle from the pool of water and continued to slowly water the Green Leaf. He slowly spoke, "If you are able to confirm it to yourself, then your choice will truly be according to your heart's desire."
Chen Changsheng gazed at the Pope's back. This time, it could finally be said that he somewhat understood. He knew that these words contained some other profound meaning.