Chapter 207 – The Battle amidst the Snowstorm
After hearing these words, the surroundings of the rock plateau became incomparably silent.
Everyone there understood that when Wang Po had entered the Mausoleum of Books to view the monoliths in the first year, he confirmed that staying any longer would be throwing his life away. However, he ended up like many others who were reluctant to leave. As a result, he wanted to try the shortcut. However, in the end, he ended up standing behind the line for a night before turning around and leaving the mausoleum at daybreak.
Outside of the mausoleum, Mao Qiuyu looked at the man in the scholartree.
That man said nothing.
Xun Mei stayed silent for a while, and then he understood why Han Qing, in his capacity as Mausoleum Guard, had spoken these words. “So, senior already knows who I am.”
The suit of armor under the pavilion still remained motionless, but that transformative voice erupted from the gloom. “Of course I know who you are. Several decades ago, the cultivators of the continent began ushering in a new set of blossoming flowers: Wang Po of Tianliang, Painted Armor Xiao Zhang, Immovable Mountain Liang Wangsun, Snow-treading Xun Mei….you were all the most gifted and had the most potential. In the fight against the Demon Race, humanity’s hope rested upon your shoulders….You stayed in the Mausoleum of Books to view the monoliths for thirty-seven years, so I watched you for thirty-seven years. You really aren’t bad. Tonight, you finally broke through that obstacle in your mind, so why don’t you leave. Why do you insist on trying the alternate path?”
“No, the obstacle in my mind is before my eyes. I have only seen it, but I have not broken through it. As for the alternate path, it could also be the correct path.”
Xun Mei’s gaze swept past the pavilion and again fell upon the mausoleum’s summit.
Han Qing’s voice paused for a moment before once again reverberating: “Wang Po was a smart man. Since you have set him as your target, then at the very least you should show the same wisdom.”
“Correct, all my life I have wanted to surpass him. Now that I look at it, at least on this matter, he is not my equal.” Xun Mei replied.
Han Qing replied indifferently, “He is not as stupid as you?”
After thinking for a moment, Xun Mei replied, “He is not as foolish as me.”
Han Qing paused for a moment and then replied, “That is reasonable.”
In the forest outside of the mausoleum, that man’s hand rested against the scholartree, but he continued to stay silent.
“In these hundred or so years, you are the first to intrude upon the Divine Path.” In the pavilion on the south of the mausoleum, Han Qing continued to speak.
Xun Mei replied, “I am relatively foolish.”
Stupid and foolish were two words that had similar meanings. However, there was a big difference between them.
“A foolish man can have good karma.”
Han Qing replied, “As the Mausoleum Guard, I am part of the Mausoleum of Books. If you defeat me, then you are allowed to walk upon the Divine Path.”
Xun Mei’s expression was calm as he clasped his hands in a formal greeting.
This was an established rule of the Mausoleum of Books, and it was also right and proper. If one could defeat the continent’s number one Divine General, then one was obviously an expert who could stand alongside the Five Saints and the Eight Storms of the Cardinal Directions. If such an expert wanted to view the Heavenly Tomes, why would they comply with the Zhou Dynasty’s rules? Chen Changsheng felt that Divine General Han Qing had not said these words just for Xun Mei, but for the youths standing at the edge of the rock plateau.
Xun Mei glanced at his feet and noticed where the rocky plateau came to an end and where the Divine Path began. This was where black gave way to sacred white.
Then, he lifted his knee.
Under the pavilion, Han Qing’s head remained bowed. His appearance was obscured in the shadow of his armor, but his voice suddenly became cold. “Xun Mei, although your life has greater meaning for humanity if you remain alive, I am still the Mausoleum Guard. What I guard are the rules of the Mausoleum of Books, so I will not hold back. You may also fight without worry and without any hesitation.”
After waking up from his thirty-seven year-long dream, Xun Mei wanted to see the truth at the summit of the mausoleum. How could he hesitate? It was as if Xun Mei had not even heard the words from the opposition, and he took one step forward.
The step he took was very ordinary. His foot very casually hit the ground and did not make a sound.
The sounds around the pavilion were still sounds of water: the sound of water from the waterfalls descending from the cliffs onto the rocks below and the gurgling water in the canals.
Xun Mei’s foot had crossed the line.
The Mausoleum of Books that had been shrouded in darkness suddenly lit up brightly.
The glow from lamps were barely visible very late in the evening. The only light that could possibly illuminate the entire mausoleum could only come from the sky. It would have to come from the sea of stars.
Chen Changsheng raised his head and saw the stars in the night sky shine with unmatched brilliance. He unconsciously squinted his eyes.
In reality, the stars in the sky did not actually grow brighter. Even if they had, there would be no way that a human eye could tell the difference. This was purely a feeling or maybe something only the spiritual sense could perceive.
Everyone near the rock plateau felt it, but none of them could perceive it as well as Chen Changsheng could. This was because none of them had a spiritual sense as tranquil and profound as his.
He could even faintly sense which star had begun to shine first among the countless stars in the sky.
That star was in the distant depths of the southeast region. Perhaps it was Xun Mei’s Fated Star.
After taking one step forward to see the truth, the Fated Star had sensed that and had suddenly grown brighter. Xun Mei….just what level had he cultivated to?
Chen Changsheng thought back to that time in the Pavilion of Ascending Mist where he saw the starry sky and became filled with a sense of awe.
The brilliance of the starlight turned the entirety of the Mausoleum of Books into a world of silver.
Xun Mei stood before the pavilion. The hair, which he had bound behind him in the courtyard of the grass hut, had at some point become free and flowed down to his shoulders. The starlight had instantly washed away the filth on his body. His long hair floated in the breeze, and those silver-white hairs particularly stood out.
He stood between the Divine Path and the rock plateau. He remained in the same place, and he obviously had not begun walking toward the pavilion….but he had already begun walking toward the pavilion.
On the Divine Path, a footprint gradually appeared.
The Divine Path was made of white stone. His footprints were wet, so they were naturally very distinct.
Xun Mei had tread through water, so his shoes were naturally wet.
After observing this scene, Chen Changsheng’s eyes went wide. Zhexiu also just stared blankly where he was. They had grown up in Xining village’s old temple and the cold, bitter snowy plains respectively. They had rarely seen a true battle between two experts, so they had no idea, unable to explain those footprints. Comparatively, Tang Thirty-Six and the four members of the Mount Li Sword Sect were relatively more calm.
The wet footprints continued to appear on the Divine Path, as if there was an invisible man walking across it.
Xun Mei looked calmly at the pavilion.
Not long afterwards, the footprints had already moved ten or so yards closer to the pavilion.
There was a metallic sound.
Under the pavilion, the night wind began to blow.
Han Qing’s head remained bowed, and his sword remained undrawn. However, the sword leaning against his chest already seemed eager to leave, half an inch out of its sheath.
It was only half an inch, but it seemed like it had already been fully drawn.
Countless motes of dust flew off the edge of the sheath, diffusing into the air of the pavilion.
Along with this dust, an incredibly powerful Qi emerged from the middle of the pavilion, spanning the entire breadth of the Divine Path.
This Qi was still like iron, and it still had blood. It was solemn and firm like an ancient city wall stained with the blood of countless soldiers.
No one could see this wall, but they all knew that it was there, sitting upon the Divine path.
Xun Mei’s steps ceased. For a long time, wet footprints did not appear on the Divine Path.
Then, his gaze pierced through that pavilion and the monstrous figure sitting under it. It landed upon the Mausoleum of Books, just like a match to a fuse, which began to burn fiercely with a crackle.
His gaze began to burn. His vision began to burn. His eyes began to burn.
His eyes began to shine, as if they were newborn stars.
His body began to slowly lean forward.
A wet footprint once again appeared on the Divine Path.
If Han Qing’s sword was a city wall, then he wanted to directly smash this city wall to pieces.
On the Divine Path, traces of water became more and more defined as the footprints marched forward. This was the path he would take.
He was going to walk the Divine Path, walk under the pavilion, and proceed directly to the summit of the Mausoleum.
After each step he took, his face grew paler and paler. Each step was more and more painful, but his eyes were filled with joy.
Life is only real when there is pain.
What he wanted to face was reality.
As time passed, the footprints on the Divine Path continued to press forward, until they had almost reached the pavilion.
Xun Mei was still separated from the pavilion by about one hundred yards, but he could already see that pair of eyes in the shadows of that armor.
Two powerful Qis silently clashed south of the Mausoleum.
The clear water in the canals seemed to boil in alarm, and then it began to overflow in all directions. The supple and formless water slowly began to take a form.
Even the firm and hard black rock plateau began to change. Under the pressure of their powerful Qi, it began to sink down and form a depression.
It was as if an unfathomably huge, heavy, and invisible boulder had landed on it.
Stone fragments flew about, and the edges of the canals produced a tooth-aching and distorted sound.
Only by rapidly retreating did Chen Changsheng and the others avoid the shockwave. After observing the cracked and sunken surface, their eyes were filled with awe while looking at the two figures upon the Divine Path.
The clash of their Qi did not last for too long.
Xun Mei stared at the pavilion, and then he whistled.
The whistle was like that of a stage manager’s who ordered someone to begin spreading paper pieces all over the stage. These paper pieces represented fake snow, but at this moment, real snow came falling down.
No, it was not snow, but starlight that had been split into numerous pieces.
The scattered starlight that drifted down was in no way different from snow.
Xun Mei stood in the snow, as if he had gone back to the old days.
In those days, he had been a teenager. He had stood before his teacher’s door for three days and three nights until the snow had piled up to his knees.
What year was that? It was a year even earlier than from thirty-seven years ago.
After almost fifty years of bitter cultivation and thirty-seven years of viewing monoliths, he had long ago ceased to be that frail child who had fallen badly sick from the cold of the storms.
He was a cultivator that had almost reached the level of Saint Realm.
Only until now did those youths who were viewing the battle realized that Xun Mei’s cultivation had reached such a level. They could not help but be shocked into silence.
At this time, the Mausoleum Guard under the pavilion lifted his head.
The features which had been obscured in the armor’s shadow finally saw light.
It was an elderly and apathetic face.
His shout cut through the air.
Countless motes of dust spilled out of the countless cracks in his armor.
He had sat before the Divine Path for several hundreds of years.
This was several hundreds of years’ worth of dust.
Several hundred years ago, the war between humanity and demons had entered its final stage.
He had been the last general appointed by Wang Zhice.
When he finally lifted his head and looked at Xun Mei, his gaze served as the sharpest sword.
In addition, his sword had truly left its sheath.
The scattered starlight slowly drifted down to the ground.
Divine General Han Qing’s sword was steadfast in the wind and snow, like a golden spear or armored horse.
In front of the pavilion, it had already become a snowy plain.
From Xun Mei’s perspective, this shredded starlight was the snow from the days when he had stood before his teacher’s door.
From Han Qing’s perspective, this shredded starlight was the snow that fell on the battlefield from all those years ago.
Two different snows represented two different wills. They each had their own wills.
Although they were separated by over one hundred yards, Xun Mei looked at that elderly face as if it was up close.
This battle had finally entered its climax, the moment in which victory and defeat were decided. The two experts had both unleashed their strongest techniques. The teenagers viewing the battle from the edge of the rock plateau were incapable of withstanding it anymore. Even if they took steps after steps backwards, they still were blown every which way by the violent snowstorm, and could fall over at any time.
At this moment, Gou Hanshi suddenly grasped Chen Changsheng’s left arm. Chen Changsheng understood his intention and forcefully grabbed onto Liang Banhu’s arm. They held onto each other tightly, like tender trees amidst a snowstorm. They were lined up in a row, steadily resisting the full force of nature.
If the conditions far away from the battle were so bitter, then it could imagine what those two in the center were undergoing at the moment.
The battle between a general of one hundred battles and a poor, humble scholar amidst the snowstorm. In the end, who would obtain victory, and who would suffer defeat?