Chapter 862 – A Prince Appears from the Rivers and Hills of the Generation1
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
For an expert like Xiao Zhang to have his situation described with the word 'miserable' meant that he truly must be in the direst of straits.
Tang Thirty-Six asked, "Because he saved Wang Po that time?"
Hu Thirty-Two replied, "Correct. In the capital, he ruined the venerable Daoist's plan, infuriating all levels of the government. Right now, the Imperial Court cannot lightly touch Wang Po, but it certainly wouldn't let Xiao Zhang go. In order to establish its might and gain back some of its dignity, it's been constantly pursuing him these past years as a wanted criminal. He's been chased around like a stray dog. It truly is quite miserable."
For Painted Armor Xiao Zhang, an expert of the Proclamation of Liberation, to be placed on the wanted list by the Imperial Court and be hunted down seemed somewhat unbelievable.
But it could not be forgotten that the Imperial Court had countless experts. They could take shifts to rest, but Xiao Zhang was alone, with no relatives or friends. No matter where he went, he had to be vigilant, careful, and concealed, or else when he went out to eat some noodles, he might run into the most sinister assassin from the Department for Purging Officials or the most seasoned bailiff of the Ministry of Justice. And this was not limited to just one day, but every moment of his life.
Tang Thirty-Six glanced at Chen Changsheng.
Chen Changsheng knew what he meant and shook his head. "I had the Li Palace send someone with a message, but he wasn't even willing to meet them."
Tang Thirty-Six asked, "Wang Po then? He should be doing something."
Chen Changsheng replied, "Two years ago, when I last received news from this area, Xiao Zhang had announced in advance that if Wang Po attempted to help him, he would commit suicide on the spot."
Tang Thirty-Six could not help but conclude that this was truly in alignment with Xiao Zhang's personality. Shaking his head, he said, "He truly can't bear the shame of taking that person's help."
Hu Thirty-Two said, "Because Xiao Zhang was responsible for making Fengyang City's winter wild tea famous in the continent, every year, Fengyang City will always set aside a box of the best tea leaves for him. If not for the fact that the Imperial Court was chasing him too closely, we might have been able to see Xiao Zhang in the next few days."
Both shores of the river here were lined with tea trees. After the leaves were plucked from the trees, they were dried in the sun, piled in mountains of tea within the city. The batches of winter wild tea were then graded and divided into batches that were arrayed along the stone steps of Seven Treasures Stronghold. The higher one went, the fewer leaves there were, and their value naturally increased as well. Based on this ordering, the two most valuable baskets of tea leaves were placed at the very top.
Hu Thirty-Two now pointed at this place and explained, "The tea leaves in those two baskets far outvalue the same amount of gold, and if even you did put a price on it, no merchant would buy it, no place would sell it."
Chen Changsheng asked, "Where are those two boxes of tea going to?"
Hu Thirty-Two answered, "Both of them are tribute. One basket will enter the palace."
Chen Changsheng asked, "And the other basket?"
Hearing this question, Tang Thirty-Six looked at him like he was an idiot. Hu Thirty-Two also had a rather strange expression as he explained, "It's naturally for Your Holiness."
Chen Changsheng finally understood that since these precious tea leaves were tribute, since one was being sent to the Imperial Palace, the other one would naturally be sent to the Li Palace.
No matter what the relationship between the Imperial Court and the Orthodoxy was, a small place like Fengyang City had to pay the greatest respect to both sides.
"Were the tea leaves left for Xiao Zhang also of this sort?" Tang Thirty-Six asked.
Hu Thirty-Two shook his head and pointed at the treasure pavilion at the very top of Seven Treasures Stronghold. "The wild tea given to Xiao Zhang is special and is placed in there."
Tang Thirty-Six said, "Given Xiao Zhang's personality, even if the Imperial Court might choose this place to surround and kill him, he still might end up coming."
Hu Thirty-Two noted, "It's already been two years since his last visit."
Tang Thirty-Six inquired, "Then who gets the tea?"
Hu Thirty-Two explained, "On the surface, it naturally won't be given out, but many people know it was sent to the Prince of Xiang's estate in the capital."
Tang Thirty-Six asked in surprise, "Why is that? Just how can the Prince of Xiang take precedence over the Imperial Court and the Orthodoxy?"
Hu Thirty-Two smiled and explained, "The magistrate of the Feng City government is the prince's pupil."
As they chatted over tea, a wispy thread was torn out of the thin clouds. A Red Goose broke through the clouds and descended to the distant county office.
Soon after, gongs and drums began to sound, an announcement was posted, and joyous music erupted from the county office.
For the past three years, Chen Changsheng had been in the mountains of the northern frontier and Tang Thirty-Six had been imprisoned in the old estate and the ancestral hall, so neither of them understood what was happening.
"The Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets has updated the rankings," Hu Thirty-Two said with a mixed expression.
Chen Changsheng and Tang Thirty-Six understood what was happening.
In the past, the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets would either update the rankings around the Grand Examination or around when people emerged from the Mausoleum of Books after comprehending the monoliths. At present, it had been three years since the last Grand Examination and the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets was already a hollow name, but the proclamations continued to be updated. However, it now had little to do with the Orthodoxy, with most of the work being carried out by the Imperial Court.
But this did not affect the credibility of the proclamations. After all, to the common people, the awesome reputation of the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets still existed, and now the addition of the Emperor's seal made the rankings even more trustworthy.
The conversations in the tea house came to an end. Everyone quietly sipped their tea while listening to the voice on the street.
The first proclamation to be announced was still the Proclamation of Azure Sky. Led by Gou Hanshi and Chen Changsheng, more and more geniuses who could reach Ethereal Opening at a young age appeared, and this ranking which once represented those young geniuses with potential gradually fell out of the limelight. But Chen Changsheng noticed that there were a few familiar names on the Proclamation of Azure Sky.
Fu Xinzhi, Chen Fugui, and Chu Wenbin were all part of the Orthodox Academy's first batch of students.
It appeared that Su Moyu was managing the Orthodox Academy rather well.
In contrast to the way the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets used to handle things, when the Imperial Court updated the rankings, it would also publicly announce the Proclamation of Golden Distinction and Proclamation of Liberation as well. What was announced next was the Proclamation of Golden Distinction. This time, there were even more familiar names: Gou Hanshi, Guan Feibai, Liang Banhu, Zhong Hui… His and Xu Yourong's statuses meant that they were naturally excluded from any ranking, but nevertheless, this year's Proclamation of Golden Distinction was still the ranking with the lowest average age in centuries. Other than the generation of Zhou Dufu and Chen Xuanba, no other period had so many youths entering the Star Condensation Realm. This time period was truly worthy of its name as the generation of blooming flowers.
Afterwards was the Proclamation of Liberation. With Wang Po's breakthrough three years ago, he finally relinquished the top ranking that he had guarded for several decades. Since Xiao Zhang was wanted by the Imperial Court and being pursued, he did not have the right to be included in the rankings, so the top spot naturally fell to Liang Wangsun. Following behind him were Xiao De and other such true experts whose names were already spread far and wide, but when Chen Changsheng heard 'Famous Name Guan Bai' at the ninth rank, he couldn't help but be somewhat delighted.
When he still did not hear Qiushan Jun's name, even after the Proclamation of Liberation was completely announced, he looked upstream and shook his head. It was hard to tell what was on his mind.
Suddenly, fireworks shot up from the distant county office. Diluted by the flourishing morning sun, they were not very gorgeous. They had presumably been prepared on short notice for some sort of event.
Why would joyous music be played from the county office, why would there be fireworks, and most importantly… why would the Imperial Court suddenly update the rankings?
Very quickly, Chen Changsheng's party in the tea house and everyone else along the river knew the reason.
The Prince of Xiang had entered the Divine Domain!
1.The title of this chapter once more refers to the poem '其二' by the Qing Dynasty poet Zhao Yi.↩
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