Blue skies, clear water, a mountain range, and white clouds.
On the surface, it looked like a perfectly ordinary landscape painting. You couldn’t sense any particular feeling or emotion with it. If you sold it purely as a decorative object for people to admire, it wouldn’t fetch much of a price.
But when Ye Zichen took hold of it, he saw the painting move.
The white clouds drifted through the blue skies, and the lake water rippled in the wind. A man stood on a wooden raft near the edge of the water. He wore a conical straw hat and carried an oar, which he was using to steer the raft towards the center of the lake.
As he drew near, Ye Zichen even heard a distant and indistinct sigh of emotion.
“Oh, the times! Oh, my destiny!”
These words were like an incantation. They lingered in Ye Zichen’s ears, instantly shaking his heart and soul. His blood surged through his veins. He frantically looked away from the man, then clutched his hands to his chest and breathed raggedly. However, when he tried to recall what he’d seen, he was shocked to discover that he had no memories of the painting whatsoever.
Ye Zichen glanced back at the painting with a hint of trepidation. He no longer saw it as a mere landscape painting. Just now, only a few breaths of time had passed, but the painting had already set his blood stirring. What would happen if he spent a longer amount of time examining it?
This painting was far too compelling. Ye Zichen initially didn’t want the painting, but after considering his missing memories, he couldn’t help but desire it.
Just what had happened to him when he looked into the painting? Why had it had such a profound effect on him?
He forcefully suppressed his surging energy, then put the painting away. When Kong San saw this, he felt a hint of jealousy. He didn’t know what Ye Zichen had seen in the painting either, but from the look of things, he’d obviously caught a glimpse of its true profundity.
He’d had this painting for over a decade, but he’d never seen anything but unexceptionally painted mountains and lakes.
It seemed that, although he’d purchased it, he was only destined to encounter it, not to possess it.
“I’ll accept this painting. I won’t take it for nothing, either. This is a jade slip I've made. If you ever encounter any danger, so long as you crush it, I’ll do everything in my power to save your life.”
He’d actually made this life-saving jade slip for Wu Di, but Wu Di was currently within range of his immortal sense. There was no point giving him the jade slip for now.
This landscape painting definitely contained an enormous secret. Kong San had given him such a precious treasure. If Ye Zichen didn’t repay him somehow, he’d have a guilty conscience, so he decided to give the slip to Kong San instead. Later, when he and Wu Di parted ways, he’d just make another slip.
“This….” Kong San felt a hint of terror. In truth, he had no way of comprehending the painting anyway and had just wanted to pawn it off on someone else. He never would have guessed that Ye Zichen would grant him such a treasure in return.
In truth, he wanted to accept it. Ye Zichen had severely wounded several human immortals with the wave of a hand, so he was at least an earth immortal. If Kong San took the jade slip, he’d have a life-saving trump card up his sleeve. Yet it was just too precious, so he felt somewhat hesitant.
“I told you to take it, so take it. If you don’t want it, just destroy it.” Ye Zichen tossed the jade slip to Kong San, then led Bai Xiaosheng back to their room without looking back.
“Boss, is this painting really as mysterious as Kong San said it was?” Earlier, when Ye Zichen unfurled the painting, he’d been curious and had glanced at it as well. However, aside from mountains and water, he’d really seen nothing at all.
Ye Zichen nodded calmly. He didn’t immediately start contemplating the painting. Instead, he set it on the table and turned to his subordinate. “Bai Xiaosheng, there’s something I’d like you to do for me.”
“Of course, Boss. What is it?” Bai Xiaosheng nodded repeatedly and said solemnly.
“Go investigate that Cai Renfei’s background for me, as well as where he’s currently staying and what he’s been up to lately. That kid seems different from an ordinary silk-pants rich kid. He’s rather crafty. People like him are ruthless. I’m worried that he’ll try something underhanded.”
Ye Zichen detested dealing with this sort of shrewd young master. Earlier, he’d given Cai Renfei no face at all, but Cai Renfei endured it. He’d even smiled as he left the hotel. He’d clearly buried his true feelings deep within his heart. They’d have to be careful.
Who knew what Cai Renfei would do after returning home? If Ye Zichen simply ignored him, it might cause enormous amounts of trouble down the line.
Bai Xiaosheng nodded, but before he could leave, Ye Zichen added, “My apprentice, Wu Di’s family seems to be holding their grand competition now. I’ll be in seclusion examining this painting for the next few days. If anyone bullies my apprentice, don’t dilly-dally. Find Wei Jie immediately and have the gang avenge him.”
“Understood.” Once he’d received all his orders, Bai Xiaosheng left the room.
He still recalled the way his blood had surged earlier. He was certain that, had he not retreated in time, he would have risked serious injury.
“I refuse to believe this painting is really that powerful.” Ye Zichen the skeptic sat cross-legged atop his bed, grit his teeth, and unfurled the painting.
When he looked at it, he saw the same blue skies, jagged mountains, and white clouds. As he looked around the painting, his memories came rushing back.
“The man in the straw hat…..”
It was that man who’d sent Ye Zichen reeling. Ye Zichen focused with all his might and waited for him to reappear.
Soon, the lake’s surface rippled, and off in the distant mountains, he saw a wooden raft…..
The man on the raft was still wearing the same conical straw hat and rowing with his bamboo oar, stirring up ripples in the water’s surface. He seemed rather far away, but in the blink of an eye, he’d reached the center of the lake.
“Oh, the times! Oh, my destiny!” The man let out a soft murmur. Ye Zichen remembered what had happened last time and immediately held his breath and prepared to defend himself from the incantation.
“The oarsmen isn’t the one speaking.” When he realized this, Ye Zichen was stunned. He’d been certain that the speaker was the oarsman in the straw hat, but that wasn’t the case.
Instantly, a tea table appeared above the utterly empty raft. Two men sat there, one on each side of the table.
One was clad in reddish-purple imperial robes, but his hair was disheveled and tangled, and his dense black hair was streaked with white. His gaze was despondent as he hefted his glass and laughed bitterly, “I, the Five Elements Great Emperor, have lived free and unfettered my whole life. To think I would end up like this!”
Just hearing his mournful tone was enough to sense his bleak despair. At that moment, the man across from him, who wore golden robes and a crown atop his head, furrowed his brows and snorted, “Five Elements, I did it to inherit the light of the North Star and become the legitimate ruler of creation. Why can’t you accept this?
“You…. you’re nothing but the debase little man who usurped my star’s destiny,” the Five Elements Great Emperor sneered contemptuously. He pointed at the golden-robed man and snorted, “you stole my star’s destiny, and my fortune, and my legitimate position. Now, I’d like to ask you this….. Are you at peace with yourself?”