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Chapter 188 – Ascending the Steps
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
"What's in the Garden of Zhou? Treasure?"
"Most likely the weapons and secret technique manuals of the powerful experts that Zhou Dufu defeated. Of course, the most important thing is that his own legacy might be in the Garden of Zhou."
"You can keep whatever you find after entering the Garden of Zhou? You don't have to hand it over to the Imperial Court?"
"Receiving a reward according to one's achievement is the guiding principle. Of course, although the Garden of Zhou is a good place, it is very dangerous to venture into its depths, and there are also many opponents of the same cultivation level within. As a result, the most important significance of the Garden of Zhou is that it is the best place for young cultivators to undergo a trial by fire."
"Won't the senior experts enter the Garden of Zhou to steal away treasures?"
"Those unaffiliated experts or the personal disciples of those old monsters might hazard a journey into the garden, but even they have to fear the position of the Five Saints, so they presumably won't act too excessively."
Many years ago, in a historic battle in Luoyang, Zhou Dufu defeated Emperor Taizong of the Great Zhou, so Emperor Taizong had assuredly lost something to him. Many years before that, outside Xuelao City, Zhou Dufu had defeated that Demon Lord once hailed as the strongest. The incredibly powerful Heavenly Net used by the Demon Lord had been severely damaged, causing it to incessantly shed ranks on the Tier of Legendary Weapons. Ultimately, it could only be used to conceal an assassination attempt in the Orthodox Academy.
From these two facts, one could see just how great Zhou Dufu's effect on the continent had been, how far-reaching and concrete. In his life, he had defeated countless powerful experts. If the weapons and techniques of those experts were all in the Garden of Zhou, they would constitute the greatest treasure.
And this was not even taking into account the fact that Zhou Dufu had not appeared for several centuries. Perhaps he was dead, or perhaps he had broken through the void, but regardless of the circumstance, it was just as Jin Yulu said: his legacy might have been left in the Garden of Zhou.
The legacy of the continent's supreme expert…just thinking about it made one's heart waver in unease.
After listening to Jin Yulu's description, the three youths finally had a clear understanding of this matter. The gatehouse became even more quiet, the dripping of the oil off the hog's tusk sounding louder and louder.
With such treasures, just who would not want to enter the Garden of Zhou?
Over the many years, the scheduled opening of the Garden of Zhou had shaken the continent, but its exact location could not be confirmed every time. This year, the Garden of Zhou's position had finally been confirmed, which meant that the Great Zhou Dynasty was certain to send many people into the Garden of Zhou to seek out those true treasures.
All Qiushan Jun had done was find the main gate of the Garden of Zhou and obtain its key. The great fog around the Garden of Zhou was gradually dispersing, but the world within remained an enigma.
However, this miniature world which opened every ten years had extremely strict requirements, operating in unfathomable ways, on the level of cultivators that could enter it. Only those at Ethereal Opening could enter it alive.
Tang Thirty-Six and Xuanyuan Po subconsciously turned to Chen Changsheng. In the final match of the Grand Examination, Chen Changsheng had incomprehensibly succeeded in breaking through into Ethereal Opening, so he naturally had the right to enter the Garden of Zhou.
Chen Changsheng shook his head. He was very sure that the number of young cultivators that would be able to enter the Garden of Zhou would certainly increase, as tomorrow was the day they would enter the Mausoleum of Books to begin comprehending the Dao.
"Prepare the medicine and crystals for tomorrow, and strive to comprehend and break through in the Mausoleum of Books." He looked at Tang Thirty-Six and Xuanyuan Po, saying, "When the time comes, we'll go into the Garden of Zhou together."
Jin Yulu added, "Her Highness will also enter the Mausoleum of Books tomorrow."
Chen Changsheng replied, "Then all four of us will go together."
In truth, Chen Changsheng was not too concerned about the Garden of Zhou, as it was too far away…but in reality, it was not too far off, time-wise. But Chen Changsheng's mind was always focused on what was before him, on tonight.
Tonight, he needed to enter the palace and do what he needed to do, and needed to do well. Only in this way could all the other things of this world, like treasures or legends, have any meaning to him.
At dusk, in the deep twilight, a carriage slowly came to a stop outside the Imperial Palace. Tang Thirty-Six leapt off, then Xuanyuan Po caused the ground to shake, and finally Chen Changsheng walked out from the carriage.
A large crowd was gathered in front of the Imperial Palace. Nearby were the young disciples of various schools and sects, while in the distance was the spectating populace. The desire of the denizens of the capital for excitement had never been affected by the weather or time of day.
When the three youths of the Orthodox Academy appeared, especially Chen Changsheng, the crowd's chatter instantly grew louder while the faces of the young examinees changed somewhat.
Tonight, the forty-two examinees ranked on the three banners of the Grand Examination would participate in a grand banquet held by the Divine Empress in the Bright Hall, with singing, dancing and drinking to celebrate their achievement. Afterwards, they would stay the night in the palace, and on the next day, they would head straight to the Mausoleum of Books.
Only Chen Changsheng, the first rank of the first banner, would not attend the banquet. He would have to meditate for the night in the Lingyan Pavilion, as this was the rule.
The chatter of the crowd and the change in expression of the examinees arose from this fact. The Lingyan Pavilion was a sacred pavilion, a forbidden ground. The emperor would only enter it for a great ceremony or major dynastic event. Besides this, only the Grand Examination's first rank of the first banner would be allowed to spend one night within the Lingyan Pavilion to meditate. On the surface, this was naturally a rare honor, but in reality, no one believed this to be a good thing.
The Lingyan Pavilion undoubtedly did not contain bedding, and a night in meditation would have to be spent seated with legs crossed. Let alone sleeping, even taking a small break was incredibly difficult. After enduring this night of torment, one would assuredly be thoroughly tired and exhausted in the early morning, so when one entered the Mausoleum of Books, one would undoubtedly be greatly affected when viewing the monoliths and comprehending the Dao.
No one understood why Emperor Taizong had established this rule. They could only conclude that this mighty monarch wished to use this method to strengthen the loyalty every Grand Examination's first rank of the first banner held towards the dynasty.
But as the years passed, this rule became just a rule, forgotten and even blatantly ignored by many. Only to Chen Changsheng was this rule not some simple rule, but a matter of utmost importance. He had left Xining, come to the capital, entered the Orthodox Academy, participated in the Grand Examination, experienced so many trials, and risked so many dangers…just for this reason.
Sent off by countless gazes, he walked through the gloomy and cold palace gate.
Under the guidance of a chief eunuch, he walked into the deepest part of the palace. He walked past the Hall of Cold Light and past the abandoned garden, both places he had been to. He then saw that high palace wall on the west face and the ivy that covered it, and knew that the Orthodox Academy and Hundred Herb Garden were on the other side.
The deeper he went into the Imperial Palace, the quieter it was, even becoming rather deserted. Earlier, he had still been able to see a palace maid or eunuch, but now he saw no one. The distant music from the Bright Hall was also becoming softer and more remote, transforming into a sound from another world. Ultimately, it completely vanished, leaving only silence.
That chief eunuch had at some point silently departed.
All that was left was Chen Changsheng and a tower.
That tower stood forlornly before him, unmistakable. It was the Lingyan Pavilion.
No directions were needed, and he would not get lost, as there was only one path to the Lingyan Pavilion.
The Lingyan Pavilion was very tall and that path was very straight, formed from countless stone steps.
Night had already enveloped the capital, the multifarious stars descending once more on the mortal world.
Starlight shone over the stone steps, plating them with a faint radiance. When looking from the bottom, the stone steps appeared to have no end, leading straight into the highest point of the night sky.
Without any hesitation, Chen Changsheng ascended the stone steps towards the Lingyan Pavilion in the night sky. His steps were firm, but not slow. His hands at his sides were already clenched into fists, symbolizing his nervousness and anticipation.
A gust of wind blew past, causing his clothes to flap and rustle in the air.