Way of Choices

Chapter 211

Chapter 211 - A Myriad of Monolith Comprehension Methods (Part One)

Translated by: Hypersheep325

Edited by: Nate

After saying these words, the middle-aged man took his leave. Chen Changsheng stood on the mountain path, baffled at what had just occurred, and naturally also a bit angry. After a little time had passed, he realized that the man had last mentioned that someone in front of the mausoleum was looking for Chen Changsheng. Arriving at the mausoleum entrance, he saw the still closed stone doors, which made him reminisce on the scene from last night of Xun Mei walking out those doors. Just as he had begun to feel somewhat melancholy, he suddenly heard somebody calling his name.

He followed the voice to the side of the stone door and saw that there was a small window set into the wall, through which Priest Xin was waving at him. Somewhat surprised, he paid his respects through the window then asked, “Why did sir come?”

Priest Xin passed some things through the stone window and replied, “His Eminence asked me to come and check on you.”

Chen Changsheng received the things and replied, “All of our luggage is still on the carriages. Yesterday they didn’t let us bring it in.”

“Those are the rules of the Mausoleum of Books. After they’ve finished checking them, they will return it to you. It should probably all be done by the end of the day.”

Chen Changsheng thought about those sour-smelling stinky blankets back in the grass hut and decided to ask, “Could I trouble sir to get us some clean blankets?”

Priest Xin was surprised, then replied, “That won’t be difficult.”

“Since they will be returning our luggage to us, then I don’t think there’s anything else I need.”

Chen Changsheng looked through the things Priest Xin had handed over and realized that there was actually a bag of boiled chicken eggs. He could not hold back his curiosity and asked, “In the Mausoleum of Books, do we have to manage all three meals by ourselves?”

Priest Xin explained, “Every school and sect has made preparations so that every day they can have supplies delivered. As for the commoner students, the Imperial Court will supply them with daily necessities, but they will be of lesser quality. Right now the Orthodox Academy still has many things that need to be done, so you and Tang Thirty-Six definitely would not have made any preparations. Instead, His Excellency the Bishop has already taken care of your preparations, so there is no need to worry.”

Holding a conversation through this tiny window, Chen Changsheng could not but feel a little strange. It felt like he was a prisoner speaking with a visitor.

Seeing his expression, Priest Xin guessed at what he was thinking. “The Mausoleum of Books is a holy ground, yet it is also a prison.”

Chen Changsheng was a little surprised, but then he thought back to Xun Mei’s bitter experience. “That’s reasonable. Many thanks to sir for this warning.”

“How could I be the one to have said such reasonable words? His Holiness the Pope of the previous generation said them. His Eminence asked that I convey those words to you.”

“I understand.”

Through the stone window, Priest Xin looked into his eyes. “You must remember, in one month’s time the Garden of Zhou will open. You must come out before that time.”

Chen Changsheng did not answer, but instead brought up the incident on the mountain path with the arrogant Monolith Guardian.

“How could this happen?”

Priest Xin creased his brow. “To make it easier for their students to view the monoliths, those various schools and academies probably found some way to curry favor with a few of the Monolith Guardians. Along with their special status, this would probably make some of them arrogant and aloof; but they have all offered themselves to the Orthodoxy, so how would they dare offend you?”

Chen Changsheng did not quite understand the logic behind these words. “Not dare offend me?”

Seeing him so at a loss, Priest Xin smiled. “Right now the entire world knows that you are someone watched over by His Holiness and the His Eminence. To offend you is to offend the Orthodoxy.”

When the Monolith Guardian had been lecturing, he had said that no matter how great Chen Changsheng’s background, the youth would still have to revere the Mausoleum. Now that he had heard what Priest Xin had to say, Chen Changsheng had a newfound understanding of those words. Inwardly the youth guessed that it was because of his background in the Orthodoxy that caused some of the Monolith Guardians to innately have some antipathy towards him.

Pondering over these matters, Chen Changsheng walked back to the grass hut. It was completely empty. Those youths had all probably gone to the Mausoleum of Books to view the monoliths. The large pot of porridge he had cooked before dawn had all been eaten up and all the dishes had already been washed. Even the water jar had been refilled. Although he had not seen who had done it, for some reason he felt that it had been Gou Hanshi who had taken care of it all.

Even though there would be new blankets, Chen Changsheng still took the three blankets that Xun Mei left over and carefully washed them several times. Only after making sure that the thirty-seven year’s worth of sweat and sour taste had been completely washed away did he finally put them out to dry in the courtyard. He then cut through the orange grove and came to a distant vegetable field. It was the beginning of spring, when the yellow had not turned to green, so the vegetable field did not have much fresh produce to choose from. The green that could be seen was onions, garlic, and leeks. He picked a few spring onions and dug a few potatoes, then returned to the courtyard and began to prepare lunch.

Once Chen Changsheng had brought the water in the pot to boil, he took some of the dried meat Priest Xin had given him, cut it in two, and threw it into the pot. On top of the meat, he began to cook the rice. Inside the rice he had mixed in fingernail-sized potato pieces. He washed and diced the spring onions, then arranged them on the kitchen stove. He also took out the boiled eggs, ready to place them by the side of the pot at any time. Having finished, he nodded his head in satisfaction and washed his hands.

While it was true that salted fish and dried meat were tasty and paired well with rice, they were not very healthy; eating a lot would be bad for the body. Priest Xin said the archbishop had taken care of matters. The Mount Li Sword Sect would probably also have sent someone to deliver supplies. He didn’t know if he would be able to guarantee fresh meat and produce in the future. Cheng Shangsheng sat on the doorstep thinking about these sorts of things. If yesterday he played the tourist for the entire day, then today was he going to play the cook? In the Mausoleum of Books,  rather than go view the monoliths to strenuously ponder their secrets, he instead thought of these sorts of matters. If someone were able to see him sitting on the doorstep lost in thought, who knows what their reaction would be?

As Chen Changsheng sat on the doorstep, he looked out into the grass hut’s courtyard at the half-toppled fence and the not particularly good-looking trees in the orange grove. It was very peaceful, and for a very long time he did not move an inch. Obviously, matters of food and drink did not need such a long time to think about, and he had never been concerned about matters between men and women; so what was he pondering?

Gazing at the toppled fence and the fog in the forest gradually being dispersed by the sun, he was extraordinarily focused, to the extent that he didn’t even realize that the luggage that they had left outside the mausoleum had been delivered.

The cries of birdsong finally caused him to awaken from his contemplation, upon which he finally saw the small mountain of luggage to his side. He walked over and found his bag, then took a brush, ink, paper, and inkstone from it. He then resumed sitting on the doorstep, staring off at the fence and the trees, except this time his hand held a brush and inkstone with ink by his side.

As time passed, the sun gradually rose higher, and the angle at which light struck the courtyard changed with it.

The fence was very scant and, moreover, on the verge of the collapse. Amongst the stakes, though, there were a few that were thicker than the rest.

As the light changed, the shadows that those stakes cast also changed. The tips of the branches of those trees in the grove also began to change. The stakes began to grow shorter. Beside them the thin stalks of bamboo began to grow wider. Under the ever brighter sun, some of branch tips seemed ready to disappear; whereas others, because of the shadow cast by the light, grew more distinct.

Chen Changsheng quietly looked at this scene and its various transformations. He thought back to the early morning in front of the monolith hut. As the sun rose, the lines upon the surface of the monolith changed with red warmth of the sunrise, as if they had come to life. When the edges of the deep lines were lit by the sun they seemed to grow thinner, while the shallow lines seemed to grow wider.

Those complex and ineffable lines: the Monolith Inscriptions. The inscriptions that had endured countless years of wind and rain and would never change. But were not they changing at this very moment? If the messages hidden within the Monolith Inscriptions were fixed, how is it that everyone that had read them found different meanings? Yes, it was all because of these changes.

Chen Changsheng dipped his brush in ink, opened his notebook, and began to draw. He didn’t use words to record his insights, instead capturing what was in front of his eyes as well as his inferences. He began to describe those lines on the Reflecting Monolith, the end of his brush traveling heavily across the paper.

After who knows how long had passed, Chen Changsheng’s brush stopped. He had actually managed to draw the entirety of the lower right corner of the Reflecting Monolith into the notebook. He then took out the book of rubbings that he had bought in one of stall outside the Mausoleum, turned to the page with the Reflecting Monolith and began to compare the two. He then realized that there was a large discrepancy between them; compared to the rubbings, the drawing on his notebook was clearly much more vivid. If his strokes had been even more vigorous, perhaps those drawings would be even more vivid, as if they were about to come to life.

The fog in the forest had completely dissipated, and the bamboo in the fence had become drier. The light shining on the courtyard was incredibly bright; it was actually now noon.

Chen Changsheng rubbed his aching eyes, then closed his eyes to rest them for a while. As he got up to prepare lunch, he realized that no one had come back. All around the grass hut was silence. Because the temperature had risen, even the birds in the trees did not feel like singing. He felt rather lonely standing in front of the door by himself..

The rice had long ago been cooked, so he placed it on the side to cool. The fragrant smell of the potatoes mixed with that of the dried meat, making for a very strange yet alluring smell. He took out one half of the dried meat from the pot, and after a moment’s thought sliced off only a small piece. He cut this piece into even smaller pieces and poured them into the rice bowl. He also peeled a boiled egg. Along with a cup of mild tea, he hastily concluded his lunch.

After the meal, he took a casual stroll around the courtyard, then he returned to the hut and took a rest on the bed. He then returned to the doorstep, notebook in his left hand and brush in his right, and resumed being lost in thought while staring at the scenery. If the light was incessantly changing with time, then he would have to incessantly examine it.

As the sun gradually set, the rays of light that spilled over the courtyard gradually grew more intense. The stakes and bamboo stalks that made up the fence, the tree branches which splayed in every direction, they all changed with the light. Chen Changsheng watched quietly for a very long time, then finally put his brush to the paper, attempting to commit all the changes that he had observed in the afternoon. The changes were not very precise, only representing a set of hastily executed lines.

By dusk, he had drawn the majority of the inscriptions of the Reflecting Monolith.

He knew that he was not far from understanding this set of Monolith Inscriptions.

At this time, the other people boarding at the grass hut returned to the courtyard one by one.

The first to arrive was Liang Banhu. Chen Changsheng nodded his head at him in greeting, but Liang Banhu did not seem to notice. Liang Banhu headed straight towards the kitchen and drank a ladle of water. Afterwards he headed out the courtyard and stood on the collapsed portion of fence that Tang Thirty-Six had last night pushed over. He stared at the sun gradually setting below the mountain, his face full of sadness and joy.

Qi Jian followed soon after. The youth was rather dazed, but he didn’t forget to greet Chen Changsheng. As Qi Jian entered the hut, he narrowly avoided striking his head against the door. After some time, he emerged from the hut and, for some reason, bowed his head and began to walk around the courtyard. His mouth constantly moved, but it was hard to know what he was saying.