Chapter 803 – Come, Soldiers and Warriors1
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Three Sacred Hall archbishops and two thousand escorting cavalry made for an imposing and grand force.
Of course, this was the battlefield on the northern border, and the Mount Song Army headquarters commanded several thousand black-armored cavalry. If there was truly to be a battle, there was an army there that could fight it.
The problem was that Ning Shiwei and his most trusted subordinates and officers had all died that night in the mountains. The Divine General's seat in the Mount Song Army headquarters was empty. The several thousand black-armored cavalry and the even more numerous ordinary soldiers were all nervous, mystified as to whose orders they should follow.
Most importantly, even if there was someone who dared to command the troops, just who would dare bear the responsibility?
Divine General Cheng Tao and Divine General Jian Xi belonged to different factions, and Snowhold Pass and Blue Pass had never been able to see eye to eye. But now, with the Orthodoxy bringing down this formidable pressure, they had no mind for those old grudges. They looked in each other's eyes, seeking out help and support.
The Prince of Zhongshan and Tianhai Chenwen, however, did not choose this moment to glance at each other, as the possibility they had worried over and been wary of had already become reality.
Three years ago, Zhou Tong was executed via death of a thousand cuts on the snowy street, the previous Pope returned to the sea of stars, Chen Changsheng succeeded him, and then he vanished into the snow.
The capital quickly returned to tranquility, the situation steadily proceeding forward. Many people had guessed that this had been an agreement between the Orthodoxy and the Imperial Court, between Chen Changsheng and Shang Xingzhou, student and teacher. As long as Chen Changsheng did not remain in the capital, nothing would happen.
The Pope was not in the Li Palace, but comprehending and cultivating in the world. This was the first time such a thing had ever happened in all of history.
Everyone knew that in reality, the Pope had been exiled.
But nobody would underestimate, much less ridicule, the young Pope for this reason.
In the eyes of the people, he was only willing to leave for the sake of the overarching situation, for the sake of all living beings, for the sake of resisting the demons.
In the next three years, Chen Changsheng truly did not return to the capital.
Other than when he had appeared once on the snowy battlefield of the north, no one even knew where he was.
In these three years, the Orthodoxy had also been extremely subdued.
The Li Palace had been extremely quiet, its famous stone pillars growing much older, the green ivy on its walls tarnished with dust.
The Grass Moon Hall was silent in the twilight, and while the cassias of the Pure Cassia Palace released their honey-like fragrance, no bees came to taste them. The Moss Institute was still gloomy, the Clearwater Tower exuded a tranquil porcelain-like beauty after being washed by rain, and many of the maple trees outside the Bureau of Ecclesiastic Education had been moved to the Autumn Residence. Meanwhile, the Hall of the Heavenly Dao appeared incredibly desolate in the snow.
Daoist Baishi, Archbishop of the Hall of Literary Glory; Mao Qiuyu, Archbishop of the Hall of Illustrious Persons; Daoist Siyuan, Archbishop of the Hall of Subjugation; An Lin, Archbishop of the Divine Edict; and Linghai Zhiwang, Archbishop of the Hall of Drifting Clouds; each kept guard over their respective treasure of the Orthodoxy and remained in their five halls, disregarding secular matters and rarely appearing before the public. Only the Grass Moon Hall remained without a master.
The Heavenly Dao Academy and the other five Ivy Academies strictly maintained their academy rules, and the Daoist churches in all the provinces and counties maintained an extremely low profile.
The All-School Martial Exhibition had faded into nothing, and even the Ivy Festival and Grand Examination had been paused for three years.
The southward invasion of the Demon Army was the public explanation given by the Imperial Court, the tension of the situation on the battlefield resulting in their temporary suspension, but everyone knew the real reason.
The Lingyan Pavilion had been rendered into a ruin by the Divine Empress and the Orthodoxy did not agree to opening the Li Palace. Under these circumstances, was there any meaning in holding the Grand Examination?
Only after that bloody night on a late autumn day in the snowy mountains and this winter day did the world finally hear some news about the Pope. At this moment, three Prefects of the Orthodoxy leading two thousand Orthodoxy cavalry suddenly left the capital and, unbeknownst to all, visited the Mount Song Army headquarters in the distant north.
What did they want to do?
This was what the Prince of Zhongshan and Tianhai Chenwen had been the wariest and most concerned about.
After three years, the Li Palace finally ceased its silence. The Orthodoxy was prepared to make its voice heard once more in the continent. What did this mean?
"Is His Holiness the Pope finally thinking about home?"
The Prince of Zhongshan stood up, a mocking tone in his voice. "If this means a civil war in the Great Zhou Dynasty, then this truly is splendid."
He had not hesitated to feign madness and eat feces so that the Divine Empress would spare his life. He was even willing to treat himself this viciously, so what did he have to be afraid of?
But his opponent today was also a very unyielding person.
Linghai Zhiwang was the currently the youngest of the Orthodoxy's Prefects, one of the scant few Sacred Hall archbishops to have a background in the military. If not for the fact that the Pope had called him back to the capital, he would already be a Divine General of the Great Zhou, his seniority even greater than Divine Generals Cheng Tao and Jian Xi.
In fact, if Chen Changsheng had not appeared, many people thought that either he or Daoist Siyuan had the highest chance of being the next Pope.
What did a person like that have to be afraid of? And he had just come from silently waiting in the gloomy and damp confines of the Moss Institute for a whole three years, which had not only failed to pacify his violent personality, but pushed it to the point of explosion.
"Your Highness is confused!"
Linghai Zhiwang's tough and callous voice echoed throughout the Mount Song Army headquarters.
Some people in the crowd and in the headquarters with somewhat shallow cultivations felt like a thunderclap had exploded next to their ears, and couldn't help but feel dizzy.
He stared into the Prince of Zhongshan's eyes and heavily intoned, "An assassination was attempted on His Holiness the Pope; should the Orthodoxy not respond?"
The Prince of Zhongshan, his gaze sharp, responded, "Secretly mobilizing the Orthodoxy cavalry and coming to the northern border is your response?"
"Correct." Linghai Zhiwang raised his chin and arrogantly proclaimed, "Because I must conduct an investigation."
An attempted assassination on the Pope was naturally a massive case, but just how was such a case investigated?
It was the four demands he had made before entering the Mount Song Army headquarters.
The Tianhai clan should hand over people!
No one from the Zhu clan or Emotion-Severing Sect should even think about running!
All the officers of the Mount Song Army headquarters should be arrested and brought back to the capital for the Li Palace to interrogate!
The Imperial Court must give a clear explanation!
If all of Linghai Zhiwang's demands were truly complied with, the Great Zhou would inevitably be thrown into upheaval.
The Prince of Zhongshan remained unswayed, impassively asking, "And if I agree to your four conditions?"
The matter in the snowy mountains had nothing to do with him, and although he had plotted to seize the Cinnabar Pill, he had not had the time to act.
"That should only be expected from the Imperial Court!" Linghai Zhiwang did not have any intention of backing down, harshly saying, "But before the Li Palace completely investigates this case, nobody should think about becoming commanding general of the Mount Song Army headquarters, as this might affect my investigation."
Tianhai Chenwen sighed and asked, "Unless it is a person designated by His Holiness the Pope?"
He was naturally speaking of Chen Chou.
The Prince of Zhongshan's complexion turned even nastier as he exclaimed, "Truly preposterous!"
Linghai Zhiwang's face remained expressionless, cold and apathetic, just like his voice.
"His Holiness the Pope made the Cinnabar Pill out of pity for the living beings of the world, yet there are surprisingly people in the court presumptuous enough to think about seizing this treasure and even harming His Holiness. Do you really think that you need pay nothing for this? Moreover, what use is there if you agree to these four conditions? Does the Prince of Xiang also dare to agree?"
1. The Chinese title is '临兵斗者', which is a part of the saying '临兵斗者,皆阵列前行'. This saying translates to 'Descend soldiers and warriors, and array yourselves before me'. It originated as a sort of prayer in the Daoist text 'Baopuzi' by Ge Hong to invoke Daoist gods to protect the devotee as they climb a mountain.↩