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Chapter 189 – The Eighth Portrait in the Lingyan Pavilion
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
The stone steps were broad and level, their surfaces carved with a dense network of lines, not to form some sort of design, but to make the steps less slippery. Although the stone steps were seemingly endless, there was no guard rail to speak of, making it feel like one was walking along the edge of an abyss. Yet when ascending the steps, one felt very at ease, as if a misstep was an utter impossibility. Perhaps this was the protection the architect of these steps had left for those to come.
Though these steps seemed endless, there would eventually be a point when one reached the top. Chen Changsheng silently and calmly walked, and after some time, he finally reached the top of the night sky.
At the top of the stone steps was a flat plaza, and in the middle of it was a pavilion constructed of wooden beams and stone bricks. This building occupied a vast area and was also incredibly tall, but because it was so far apart from the ground and human world, it appeared particularly lonely.
When he gazed off into the darkness, the only building on the same level was the Dew Platform. The legendary Night Pearls exuded a faint light, looking like a lantern in the darkness.
In the entire Imperial Palace, and even the entire capital, the highest place besides the Dew Platform was where he was standing right now. He could see all the streets of the capital, and if the weather had been better, he would have even been able to see the willows of the Ba River in the distance. However, Chen Changsheng did not look afar and appreciate the scenery, as it was already very dark and difficult to see the sights on the ground, but he was also in no mood to appreciate such things.
His gaze drew back from the Dew Platform and fell upon the solitary pavilion, not moving again. His expression did not change, but waves were beginning to stir in his mind.
From Xining to the capital, he had experienced endless storms and trials.
He had finally reached the Lingyan Pavilion.
The Lingyan Pavilion did not have a name plate over its door or any lanterns hanging about it. It was utterly without ornamentation, consisting only of those wooden beams and gray stones exuding an innately dignified aura. No light shone from it, making it appear particularly silent.
There was no lock on its door, which seemed like it could be opened with a push.
Chen Changsheng stood in front of the door, pausing for a few moments to steady his mind. Only when his breathing was completely even did he place both his hands on the door and push slightly.
There was no creak—the hinges were as supple as leaves falling into water. The door of the Lingyan Pavilion slowly opened. A ray of light seeped out from the crack, and as the crack widened, more and more light poured out, falling on his body and clearly illuminating the surprise on his face.
The light seeping out of the Lingyan Pavilion was white, making his still slightly childish face look like white jade and making his eyebrows appear a stark black, like two extremely straight strokes of ink.
Chen Changsheng did not understand why it was so bright within and why such profuse light could not be seen from outside. Could the windows be fake?
While he pondered these questions, he did not slow his movements. After pushing open the door into a gap about a foot long, he crossed the threshold and walked into the Lingyan Pavilion.
Just as his left foot hit the ground, the door closed behind him. He subconsciously turned around and looked silently at the tightly shut door for a few moments. He could faintly guess that he was now like this blazing white light within the pavilion, no longer visible to the people on the outside. To put it another way, from the moment he pushed open the door and entered the Lingyan Pavilion, he was cut off from the real world.
Contemplation lasted only for a moment. He turned around and walked forward, with only light visible before him.
There were no lanterns in the Lingyan Pavilion, no tallow candles, no Night Pearls. If a certain type of array was fitted to the door and windows, it could completely shut out the sun, the wind, and sound. Thus, it should have been pitch-black, so where was this light coming from?
He squinted his eyes and walked towards the blazing white light. The dazzling rays made it impossible for him to clearly make out his surroundings, let alone the portraits of the meritorious ministers of legend. He was like a moth seeking the shelter of the light, following his most instinctual and simplest awareness as he walked forward.
Yet he only walked a single step before being forced to stop.
He had sensed a terrifying Qi, a Qi that came from every part of this building, every ray of light. This Qi was somber, divine, bloody, and ruthless, as well as countless other things, yet they all shared the same essence: power, unimaginable power.
This powerful Qi fell on his clothes and face, drilled into his skin, flowed through his blood vessels, bored into the depths of his organs. In but an instant, it had circulated throughout his entire body.
Chen Changsheng simply could not resist this Qi. Before this Qi, he was the smallest of ants. He could not react, or even gather the courage to resist.
This Qi circulated inside and around his body several times, but it did not harm him. However, just this interaction caused his spiritual sense to become fiercely destabilized. If this continued for a little longer, his sea of consciousness would collapse, crushed into powder by this Qi.
Thankfully, this Qi did not stay for too long. Just when his body was about to topple to the ground, the Qi suddenly transformed into a clear breeze that gently left his body and vanished.
It was just an instant, but Chen Changsheng's clothes were already drenched in sweat.
He steadied his mind and continued forward. Fortunately, nothing strange occurred on his second step—he was not suddenly thrown into a desperate battle as on his first.
The light was still blazing, and he squinted his eyes as he walked to the brightest, hottest point. He faintly saw something like a blooming flower of light in his vision and understood that this was probably the source.
He extended his hand towards the blooming flower of light. As his fingernails touched it, they did not feel heat, but a comforting coolness. His fingers followed, ultimately tightly gripping the object.
The moment his hand closed, the light vanished, the blazing white interior of the pavilion gradually dimming. His squinted eyes could barely make out a few things until, finally, everything returned to normal.
Only then did he realize that he held a torch in his hands.
The torch was not made of gold or jade, but of something akin to colored glass. It was not transparent, however; its milky-white surface glistened with countless specks of light, each speck seemingly brimming with energy.
This torch had been the blooming flower of light. After he gripped it, the rays of light gradually drew back, resulting in its current appearance. The only light left was the white flame at the top of the torch.
This flame was not vigorous, yet it was very beautiful. It was like a firework in the daytime—not very clear, yet able to cut a clear and awe-inspiring break in the drab sky.
Chen Changsheng examined the torch, recalling a few records he had once seen in the Daoist Canon. Many years ago, the demons once had a divine artifact ranked on the Tier of Legendary Weapons, called the White Sun Flame. Could this be that legendary divine artifact? Could it have been brought back to the capital by Emperor Taizong's generals in that long-ago war?
The moment he thought this, he felt like the torch in his hand had grown much heavier. Only now did he remember that he was now standing in the Lingyan Pavilion, standing in the midst of humanity's most glorious period of history.
He subconsciously looked around and saw that there was no furniture in the pavilion, no tables or chairs. The only object was a prayer mat in the very center, making the place seem very empty, even somewhat desolate.
This building did not seem meant for people to live in. In fact, the Lingyan Pavilion was not meant to accommodate living people, but to enshrine portraits, the several dozen portraits on the gray walls.
Chen Changsheng raised the torch, walked to the wall, and stood in front of the first portrait.
The painting portrayed a middle-aged nobleman with three strands of thick beard. His face was all smiles, yet his eyes were a little widely spaced, giving him an apathetic air. This was the first amongst heroes, the wise and able Duke of Zhao1.
Upon seeing the illustrious brother-in-law of Emperor Taizong, Chen Changsheng paused and bowed, but did not pause too long, continuing to make his way down the portraits.
The second portrait was Chen Gong, the Prince of Hejian. The third portrait was Du Ruyu, the Duke of Lai. The fourth portrait was the renowned Duke of Wei, and the fifth was the Duke of Zheng2, who had an even more famous wife…
Chen Changsheng would respectfully bow in front of each portrait, but he did not pause. Only when he reached the eighth portrait3 did the expression on his face finally change.
1. In real life, the Duke of Zhao, Zhangsun Wuji, was also the first portrait displayed in the Lingyan Pavilion. In life, he served as chancellor to Emperor Taizong. He was the brother to Taizong's wife, Empress Zhangsun.↩
2. In the historical Lingyan Pavilion, the second portrait was Li Xiaogong, also the Prince of Hejian; the third portrait was Du Ruhui, also the Duke of Lai; the fourth portrait was Wei Zheng, the Duke of Zheng; and the fifth portrait was Fang Qiao, the Duke of Liang.↩
3. Following the order of portraits, the eighth portrait was of Li Jing, a renowned general who repelled nomads from the borders of the Tang Dynasty several times.↩