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嫂 is a sister-in-law, but it can also be applied to the wife of a friend, therefore it has been translated as “sister” here, but it refers to a married lady. Chapter 120 – New North Bridge Edited by: bbkgs
TLCed by: bbkgs
The night breeze traversed the woods, cooling the face as it brushed past; he stirred from his stupor, realising the incredible risk he took in conferring with the middle-aged woman on the matter of the Black Dragon. Upon that moment, faint sounds of fury from Xuan Yuan Po came drifting in from across the woods. It was probably due to Tang Thirty-Six stealing the supper that was supposed to be for him. He laughed while shaking his head; let go of the question in his mind and headed back towards the academy. The word “Ice” that the middle-aged woman left upon the stone table was Chen Chang Sheng’s only clue towards the Black Dragon, it also seemed to be a trial of sorts; the Black Dragon was a Mighty Black Frost Dragon, itself, was related to ice and snow. The problem was, ice is something rather common, especially in this season, with Autumn turning to Winter, the rivers and channels that were leveed would occasionally show signs of ice; while the more Northerly areas probably had rivers that had already frozen over into vast plains of ice. Even in the midst of Summer, the aristocracy and elite would have had ice stored within icehouses on their estates. Additionally, for those who walked the path of ice for their cultivation, ice was also something commonly seen; just by preparing a pail of water and extending one’s hand inside, they could have created a pail of ice. At a place like Li Palace, they even had special arrays for the continuous creation of ice for the personal use of the Pope and other high ranking clergy. This was a problem Chen Chang Sheng came across… ice was just too common in the Capital. Back at Xi Ning village, in winter, he would often go with his Senior to the streams in the mountains, collecting ice to play with, here at the Capital, his contact with ice had actually decreased. Thinking back, the most memorable contact he had with ice was when he accompanied Luo Luo outside the academy for shopping, they had bought ice poles to eat. He remembered very clearly that it was in the midst of Summer, the streets were brimming with people and no matter who they were, be they ladies, gentlemen, retainers or peddlers, almost everyone had an ice pole in hand. In contrast, at Xi Ning village or from records in the Scripture of The Way on Summers in other cities, this was something relatively rare. Be it cultivators or special arrays, both could easily produce ice, but couldn’t possibly make ice a low-cost product. Even if the cultivators were to ignore their standing and all arrays were to be held at maximum output, it wouldn’t be enough to supply the entire Capital for the duration of Summer. He left Orthodox Academy and went to the convenience store that was located near the well at the entrance to Hundred Blossom Lane; he asked about the scene he saw during Summer and where the source for the ice poles was. This trail led him to a confectionary store named Xin Chao Fang (New Trends Plaza/Square), which subsequently led him to a government owned icehouse that was under strict supervision. According to his investigation results, in the summer-time, all the Capital’s confectionary stores sourced their ice poles from this icehouse. The icehouse was located in the western district alleys; with its relatively small door, who could have guessed that its icehouse beneath was large enough to store such vast quantities of ice? Chen Chang Sheng had Tang Thirty-Six make a trip, discovering that the icehouse located at the western district alleys did not contain an array, and upon further investigation, it was actually a natural icehouse and apparently relied upon a frost vein beneath the Capital for its endless supply of ice. He then found a way to usher Tang Thirty-Six back to the academy and found a simple food store in the western district alleys for somewhere to sit; taking out a pen and paper and started earnestly plotting out the surrounding area. He naturally didn’t believe in the frost vein explanation. Using knowledge from the Classic of Water, governmental regulations, and findings by Tang Thirty-Six on the icehouse’s layout, he used half an hour’s time to estimate the location of the icehouse’s cellar, ascertaining whether if that location had an underground stream and most importantly… the source of the frost. Heading out of the western district alleys, he headed for the line he had plotted out. After an unknown length of time, he discovered that the bustling noise around him had disappeared, he raised his head in surprise, but could only see a towering wall before his eyes; he had actually arrived before the Imperial Palace. It was the Imperial Palace after all. Seeing the barely visible cornices of the palace walls, and distinguishing between the various buildings; using Orthodox Academy’s position as a reference, he roughly determined the positioning of Wei Yang Palace, he then closed his eyes. He imagined himself walking, like that night of the Ivy League gathering; reaching the derelict garden, entering the frost pond, he started running, running ahead and finally pushing open those doors. He opened his eyes and turned onto a small path behind him on the left, stepping upon a floor that was covered in golden leaves to reach his targeted destination. The Golden Autumn before the Palace was like the Green Ivies of Li Palace, a well-known attraction, it was currently the best time for seeing this attraction, not to mention almost its last time; though the weather was rather cold, tourists were still numerous. He carefully avoided the muddied hands of a small child, respectfully let an elder pass by, before crossing several trees to arrive at a well. He knew that the name of this place was New North Bridge, but this was the first he knew of the well located here. He leaned over to investigate the well and found that he couldn’t detect its bottom, yet it lacked any moisture, indicating that it was probably an abandoned well. He raised his head and gave a glance towards the towering autumn skies, looked at the gathered tourists who were nearby and began to feel awed, conflicted. That Black Dragon was actually confined under here? The entrance was actually in plain sight? New North Bridge wasn’t actually a bridge; it was a location. So why was this place called New North Bridge, even though there was no bridge? In regards to this, the Capital had a famous legend. It was said that many years ago, when the allied forces of humans and yao had a bloody battle upon the central plains against the demon race, a powerful evil dragon took the opportunity to pillage and destroy, coming to the Capital to cause chaos. Wantonly slaughtering innocent people, it was unstoppable; upon the Capital being embroiled in disaster, unexpected by all, Wang Zhi Ce secretly returned from the front lines and took the divine troops stationed at the Capital to defeat the evil dragon. The evil dragon was a member of the dragon tribe and was one of the most sacred, divine things in existence, wanting to completely destroy one was an extremely difficult task, it was also rumoured that the evil dragon had the blood of the Dragon King running in its veins. Thus, even a legendary figure such as Wang Zhi Ce was afraid of the possibility that killing the evil dragon would provoke the dragon tribe that had long been reclusive, or that the evil dragon would put up a last stand that could bring even greater disaster upon the Capital. This caused him to decide to give the dragon an alternative: Wang Zhi Ce entreated the dragon to accept humanity’s imprisonment as punishment, promising that they would construct a new bridge above the prison and that once the bridge had turned old or was submerged by the River Luo, the dragon would be released. Dragons had an unimaginably long lifespan, the evil dragon thought to itself, a new bridge turning old is only a matter of tens or hundreds of years, it also had a deep knowledge of the water patterns around the Capital due to its inborn talent and was certain that Luo Shui would flood once every 60 years; coupled with its injuries at the time, that placed it on the verge of death, it agreed to the conditions. The evil dragon surrendered and the Zhou Dynasty laid down powerful restrictions outside of the Imperial Palace, imprisoning the dragon beneath the ground, yet… didn’t construct a bridge on the surface. Luo Shui traversed the entire Imperial Capital, but didn’t cross this location, the so-called bridge was naught but a fake bridge. Wang Zhi Ce also did one more thing, he named this location: New North Bridge. This bridge, would never be submerged by the River Luo. This bridge, would forever be new. The evil dragon, was destined to never leave. Chen Chang Sheng sat down by a tree, his eyes rested upon a scroll, but he couldn’t bring himself to read further. Behind the tree, a father was telling his child this legend. The father was singing praises for Immortal Wang’s endless legacies while the child clapped in joy. A child asked, “Isn’t that evil dragon currently in the ground beneath our feet then?” The other children present, upon hearing those words, became afraid; the adults all laughed uproariously, stating that stories are just stories in the end and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Chen Chang Sheng had also heard of this legend, but had never thought that it would be true. He looked at the abandoned well that was not far off and his mood became increasingly mixed. Those who had heard of the legend of New North Bridge would abhor the violence of the evil dragon and praise Wang Zhi Ce’s wisdom; but he felt that the evil dragon was pitiful. Of course, there was the chance that the legend was true and the dragon had killed countless innocents, leading to the trickery of Wang Zhi Ce. Having these kinds of feelings caused him to feel unsteady, he had after all, seen the current pitiful state of the dragon and upon comparing the beautiful autumn scene before him with the cold and frosty cavern beneath the ground, he couldn’t help feeling sympathy. During the daytime, New North Bridge had a lot of people, far off beneath the palace walls there were palace guards patrolling, while atop of the palace walls, Imperial flying carriages would also land once in a while; occasionally, you could also see wisps of flame, they were probably from Xue Xing Chuan’s Fire Cloud Unicorn. He knew that there wasn’t a chance to enter the underground and that he had to wait for a suitable opportunity. He lowered his head and continued to read. Leaves left its perch and landed upon his side, the yellow glimmer was akin to that of a leaf made of gold. After an unknown period of time, the surroundings gradually quietened down, twilight also receded and night arrived. He raised his head and checked his surroundings to make sure no one was paying any attention to his direction and moved towards the abandoned well. He knew that he couldn’t show any hesitation, otherwise he would attract the attention of others. Thus, he directly dropped his body; the gold-like leaf rose up, and then fell, landing outside of the well’s rim. The abandoned well was bottomless, and naturally did not contain any silt, akin to entering nothingness. There was not a single ray of light here, only darkness, Chen Chang Sheng plummeted down the darkness increasingly fast. When he jumped down the well, he had placed his arms around his head; his Master and Senior had used medicinal decoctions and cudgels to toughen his body from when he was a child, thus he ensured he wouldn’t receive any injury from bumping into the walls of the well in his descent. After entering this darkness from the bottom of the well, the wind whistled past his face, he didn’t worry about falling to his death, because he knew that the Black Dragon would definitely notice his arrival. Not to mention, inexplicably, the closer he got to the Black Dragon, the closer his emotions got to being the same as that on the night of the Ivy League gathering; fearing nothing, not even death itself. He was still in mid-air as he heard that long, drawn-out breathing, before hearing it slowly stopping. From within the darkness appeared two ethereal spheres of divine flame, these were its eyes. The Black Dragon awakened. A dense and seemingly physical, air cushion appeared below Chen Chang Sheng, aiding him in landing upon the ground. A mountainous figure, horrifyingly and slowly moved towards him; the vast underground space’s air, due to the pressure, let out dreadful sounds of splintering. An unimaginable sense of chill, surrounded his entire body within a moment, his eyelashes immediately froze over with frost that could drift off at any moment. “It’s me.” He took out the Luminous Pearl and used it to illuminate his face. Upon him bringing out the Luminous Pearl, the thousands of Luminous Pearls that lined the upper reaches of this dark, underground space, also lit up. That Black Dragon had once again appeared before him, that dragon body was like mountain valleys, endlessly stretching away. The dragon head was like a palace, with dragon scales like mirrors that had frost set in-between, while the surface was coated with dust; an unspeakable mourning; gently undulating dragon whiskers, akin to lightning given physical and enduring form. This was Chen Chang Sheng’s second time seeing the Black Dragon’s actual visage, yet it was still astonishing, he took some time to gather his senses. He put away the Luminous Pearl and greeted the Black Dragon, upon thinking of the Black Dragon’s age, he conducted himself as a someone from a younger generation, “Mister Dragon, I’ve come to see you.” Seeing that Chen Chang Sheng had actually come, the divine flame burning within the Black Dragon’s eyes flickered incessantly, akin to dancing, appearing to show unbridled joy, but upon hearing his address, the two spheres of divine flame immediately froze and became chillingly frosty. That fearsome Dragon Might, once again appeared within the underground space. Chen Chang Sheng suffered immensely, and quickly raised his right hand, saying: “I understand.” The Dragon Might lessened, the Black Dragon looked at him indifferently, waiting for him to redo his greeting. Chen Chang Sheng thought it through, “Mister” must have been too plain, and judging from the lifespan of dragons, even if this Black Dragon had been imprisoned here for hundreds of years, it might still be a juvenile or at most a youth; not to mention it was probably like the married women of Xi Ning village who did not like being called auntie and preferred to be called “sister”… He once again bowed and formally greeted the Black Dragon, affectionately saying: “Long time no see, Brother Dragon.” A snap was heard as the Black Dragon released its Dragon Might in full, terrifying force, Chen Chang Sheng immediately fell to the ground, raising a shower of ice. The Black Dragon slowly flew up above him, its whiskers dancing in the air, akin to tentacles creeping out from some abyss, it was clearly incensed. Chen Chang Sheng laid down on the floor and struggled to raise his right hand, saying: “Venerable Elder, Venerable Elder, please calm yourself.” Venerable Elder wasn’t fully suitable either, but the Black Dragon begrudgingly accepted it; Chen Chang Sheng sat within the ruined snow, having trouble dissipating the fear he felt from remembering what just happened, thinking to himself, if he had only managed to squawk out some sounds, would he have been instantly frozen into ice shards by that fearsome Dragon Breath? According to that night’s promise, Chen Chang Sheng had to visit the Black Dragon and converse with it, but at this moment, both human and dragon, were sat opposite each other wordlessly. The atmosphere was tense and a little embarrassing; the Black Dragon understood human speech, while Chen Chang Sheng knew of some phonemes from the dragon language but didn’t know dragon speech, how could they converse? Suddenly, Chen Chang Sheng thought of how he previously jumped into the abandoned well at New North Bridge; he pointed at the barely visible black dot on top of the dome ceiling above and asked: “Has it always been like this? In these countless years, there must have been a lot of people who have accidently fallen into the well, did they die? Or were they saved by you? If they were saved, then where did they go?” This was the most important question for him right now, though he felt some pity for the Black Dragon after hearing that legend, and was grateful for it previously allowing him to leave this place alive; if… people who had fallen into the well ultimately became its food, he would definitely be unable to continue sitting here. He didn’t fear being eaten by the Black Dragon; but couldn’t accept conversing with a man-eating Black Dragon.