A clear night untouched by dust, the color of the night like silver.
Chang’an City, Chang’an Mansion, Clear Mind Study.
With his hair wrapped in a bun and wearing a cap of purple gold and dressed in magnificent clothing, the Chen Zhangtian whose refined complexion was just like a distinguished scholar’s sat motionlessly before a desk.
Outside the room, a cold wind wailed. The camphor trees outside the room rustled and outlined the night’s desolation. However, the inside of the study was filled with candleflame, the warmth overflowing. The graceful scent from the Western Region’s benzoin resin wafted inside the room, making one’s mood relaxed and their spirit energetic.
With her tall stature, Lady Xin quietly stood beside Chen Zhangtian, made up in a cloud bun and wearing green palace dress. She watched the benzoin burn out. Lady Xin’s fang-like finger gently pointed, and a thin line poked the congealed wick of the scented lamp.
The wick ignited, and the room filled with its aroma.
Lady Xin was once a Thunder Tribulation cultivator, but after she became Chen Zhangtian’s lady, she settled down. Then, when she became Chen Zhangtian’s wife, she devoted herself to her wifely duties, making people nearly forget altogether that she was once one of the most famous female cultivators in the Great Chong Dynasty. However, no one would dare look down on the strength of Chen Zhangtian’s first wife.
“Zhangtian, you should be taking a break by now.”
After Lady Xin lit the lamp, she spoke with a flat tone.
“Ever since Mo’er obtained tanhua, both Lin’er and Luan’er have worked even harder.” Lady Xin wore a motherly smile.
Chen Zhangtian grunted.
Several sheets of paper were placed over the desk. Lady Xin glanced at them.
“Are you worrying about the Sword Casting Villa?”
Chen Zhangtian had nothing to hide from his wife, “His Imperial Majesty wants to ally with the Sword Casting Villa and the Four Great Sword Sects in order to forge Star Weapons for the imperial guard.”
“This is quite troublesome. If the Sword Casting Villa and the Four Great Sword Sects come forth, then the Tang imperial family will be like a tiger that’s grown wings.” Lady Xin’s brows slightly creased. “His Imperial Majesty is too wary.1 Zhangtian, you are clearly loyal and devoted to the Tang family and to the state, yet Emperor Tang wants to do his utmost to make things difficult for you.”
“Since ancient times, merits and contributions that are too great have caused rulers insecurity.”
“If great merits and contributions unsettle a ruler, then this ruler is not a wise lord.” Lady Xin evaluated Emperor Tang.
Chen Zhangtian smiled: “Wan’er, you cannot speak so irresponsibly about this.”
Lady Xin said: “I know.”
“Zhangtian, can it be that there is no way to stop the Sword Casting Villa from casting Star Weapons for the Tang Family’s imperial guard? I heard Her Highness Huan Wen has recently been in secluded cultivation…” Although Lady Xin already no longer cultivated with deliberation, she often met with other noble ladies. She could always gather secret intelligence from the other ladies.
Huan Wen was in secluded cultivation. This was not a good sign.
“I have already dispatched people to investigate. His Imperial Majesty is working very secretively and has not shown signs of activity for the time being. The Tang imperial family has the Star Gathering Wagon. Without knowledge of its whereabouts, I fear stopping them will be difficult.” Chen Zhangtian’s brows were locked with worry.
“We must quickly upgrade the Star Weapons of the Long Saber Guard.”
“Upgrading Star Weapons requires both tremendous resources as well as the cooperation of the Sword Casting Villa to work. How can one do this with just their own power.” Chen Zhangtian calmly overruled this suggestion. This was too provocative and would instead make people feel that Chang’an Mansion was planning something.
Lady Xin faintly sighed. Her Lord Husband was too loyal to the imperial family, otherwise, how could this be so troublesome.
“Then is this it?”
“We shall see at the Title Bestowal Ceremony. Right, how is Mo’er recently.” Chen Zhangtian asked.
“Are you worried that His Imperial Majesty will harm Mo’er?” Lady Xin smiled: “Perhaps Mo’er does not need our worry. Right now, he has gone out to train.”
Eastern Sea, a certain area of open water, a boat was currently floating tranquilly on the water.
Melodious guzheng music came from the boat, adding quite a lot of character to the empty void. The musician was a young man about sixteen to seventeen years old. His complexion was elegant, and his profile as he played with concentration actually had somewhat of a scholarly feel. Beside him, there were several women, who could be described as outstanding beauties, currently listening to the side. From an outsider’s perspective, this was the stereotypical scene of a noble young lord partying on the sea.
However, that young man’s music was somewhat detached, sounding suave, like a running stream.
The rustling of bamboo, the reflection of streams and rocks, the exquisite sounds of nature were free and unfettered, making for a contemplative mood, as if all things in the world had sublimated into this real and fantastical mood. It was intoxicating, and even the most irritable of women would feel calm listening to this.
“Your Highness, did you compose this yourself?” Earthly Boat Orchid Star Yu Youwei asked, moved.
Without a doubt, this young master who was on a scenic tour was none other Chen Mo.
“It’s quite artistic.” Manao was not stingy with her words of praise.
“Youwei, did you like listening to it? It’d be pretty good with a pipa accompaniment.” Chen Mo smiled.
“En, I never thought that Your Highness’ guzheng skills would be so profound.” Yu Youwei was being truthful. She had an extreme fondness for the guzheng, but she believed that making a new composition required strong fundamentals. Chen Mo, any way she looked, did not seem to be that experienced, but the notes he played contained calmness. In that calmness was contemplation, a kind of “tranquility stops water, raise your head to see the fleeting clouds” mood.
The song that Chen Mo played on this guzheng was actually a modern one, the “Free Flowing Meditative Mind.”2 Its significance was in: being elegant and unfettered, entirely in the free flow; meditative mood, also entirely in the free flow. However, Chen Mo had the Bodhi Soul Technique’s meditative mind, and he had Yu Youwei’s Profound Sound Innate Skill. His proficiency with music was of the highest caliber, and he imbued much of his own comprehension into playing this Free Flowing Meditative Mind.
This leisurely and contented mood transcended the messy and timeless complexities of the mundane and the world of the living. The myriad changes and extensions of the world’s things were displayed in every gesture and movement. Sublimating, it directly became tranquility, so it was not difficult for them to exclaim in admiration.
Yu Youwei stared at Chen Mo’s playing posture. She wanted to say something but hesitated.
“Youwei, what do you want to say?” Chen Mo asked.
“Nothing at all.” Yu Youwei elegantly grinned.
“The Star Gathering Wagon is coming.” Zhongli Sanmei stood up and jumped atop the sail, looking into the distance.
“It’s here?” Chen Mo’s eyes lit up. He naturally did not run to the Eastern Sea to intentionally play the guqin upon the ocean. This trip was specially to wait for the Star Gathering Wagon that Emperor Tang gave to the Sword Casting Villa.
In order to reduce trouble to its absolute lowest level, Emperor Tang chose to use waterborne methods to loop around and avoid surveillance in order to arrive at the secret casting location. Doing this was indeed outside of expectations. If it was not for the clues that Chen Mo obtained through his position in the Sword Casting Villa, it would be very difficult to discover this.
“How many people?”
“There’s a battleship.”
“A single insignificant battleship is enough to make us Star Generals set out. Chen Mo, you have made This King very disappointed.” Manao faintly smiled.
“If I could take care of them by myself, then what do I need to steal the Star Gathering Wagon for.” Chen Mo rolled his eyes. The opposition had several God Transformation Realm cultivators. The ramifications of this Star Gathering Wagon were profound; perhaps there was some other backup lurking about. For the purpose of safety, Chen Mo naturally felt that the stronger his side was, the better.
Chen Mo donned a new face mask and wore a black jacket over the Heavenly Silkworm Snow Brocade. Zhongli Mo and Manao each took out masks that Chen Mo already crafted. These masks were like the type found in Beijing opera, but their lines were very concise.
“Nianyou, you stay right here next to Youwei, understand?” Chen Mo instructed. “Youwei, take good care of Nianyou.”
Yu Youwei sat on the floor and brought out her own Star Weapon guqin, Flowing Water Echo, and played with her pale white fingers.
A patrol boat braved the winds and waves. Fifty warriors and cultivators were aboard the boat, and these warriors and cultivators were all dressed very simply. But their eyes and postures completely lacked the complacency of those from the Jianghu; they were clearly disciplines, appearing like steel.
These people were the Azure Dragon Imperial Guard. This Star Gathering Wagon was secretly under the charge of the Azure Dragon Imperial Guard Deputy Commander, Peng Pengxin.3 These fifty imperial guardsmen were all Lesser Thunder Tribulation experts. The Azure Dragon Imperial Guard could not be compared with other cultivators. Not only did they possess formidable abilities, they even had powerful martial arts and cultivation.
Peng Pengxin came to the hold. Inside the hold was a massive wagon. Its entire body was of red lacquer, shimmering with stars. Beside the wagon were a dozen cultivators sternly standing guard. Additionally, there were two God Transformation cultivators in the middle of imbuing magic energy into the Star Gathering Wagon.
“It truly is worthy of being called an Ancient Treasure. This Star Gathering Wagon is honestly difficult to maintain.” A lanky and red-faced old man dressed in a crimson robe stroked his beard, breathing deeply. His breathing carried a hint of fire-intent.
“Thank you for your troubles, Headmaster Rong.” Peng Pengxin calmly said.
This old man was none other than the Fire God Sword Sect’s headmaster, Rong Yingzong.4 He was nearly a hundred years old, a red hue across his face.
“What does Headmaster Rong have to complain about. If it was not for his worries about Chen Zhangtian’s influence, how could you or I have the qualifications to serve Emperor Tang.” The other white-faced middle aged man laughed aloud.
He was the Black Turtle Sect’s headmaster, Yin Jianbi.5 The Black Turtle Sect’s sect-guarding cultivation method, the Dragon Snake Divine Cultivation, was developed from the Black Turtle Seven Changes. They were a force of the Jianghu that the imperial family meticulously raised. However, Yin Jianbi himself had the ambition to replace the Four Great Sword Sects. He was happy to be able to serve the imperial family.
“The headmasters are being modest. Some of the Four Great Sword Sects have always been stubborn. His Imperial Majesty has always wanted to find people to replace them. Your Servant feels that Headmasters are not bad.” Peng Pengxin said.
The two headmasters showed expressions of delight, uttering thanks again and again.
Rong Yingzong sneered: “That Chen Zhangtian is unable to discern good from bad, and in the end, he is about to be destroyed.”
“Headmasters, rest the thought for now. We will still need two more days to reach the Sword Casting Villa. Your Servant fears that these two days will exhaust you two.”
“To serve His Imperial Majesty is the blessing of three lifetimes for us. This exhaustion amounts to nothing.”
“Exactly. Rather, we will tell His Imperial Majesty of Commander Peng’s diligent efforts.”
The two headmasters returned the compliments.
Peng Pengxin was the deputy commander of the Azure Dragon Imperial Guard and was higher than them by one level in both cultivation and status. Establishing a relationship with him was beneficial to them. Peng Pengxin was very pleased with their words of flattery and smiled.
A while later, a subordinate descended into the hold to report: “Commander, our scouts have detected a situation.”
Upon hearing that there was a situation, Rong Yingzong and Yin Jianbi both grew worried, fearing that Chen Zhangtian had dispatched someone to rob them. Although Chang’an Mansion’s power was reduced before, they also knew of Chen Zhangtian’s sky-covering capabilities. If he actually had dispatched people, just the few of them probably would not be able to keep their lives. However, this escort for the Star Gathering Wagon was already prepared for a long time. At the start of the Divine Warrior Examination, the two headmasters put on the facade of leaving secluded cultivation and reconnecting with the outside world. Outsiders basically would never imagine that they would appear on a boat in the Eastern Sea.
“Headmasters, no need to worry. His Imperial Majesty was long been preapred for this. With the three of us, even if the enemy is a Fate Realization cultivator, he will die without an intact corpse.” Peng Pengxin self-confidently said.
The two headmasters felt a bit awkward to have forgot themselves.
“It seems there is a small boat in our path with a young master bringing some women for a pleasure cruise.” The subordinate answered.
“Small boat? Young master?”
“The nearest shore to this place is several hundred li away. Why is a young master in this place to make merry?” Rong Yingzong wrinkled his brow. “I fear this is a trap.”
“Some noble young lords like to do strange things. We had better not disturb the snake for now.” Yin Jianbi solemnly said.
“Is it only one young master? How is that young master’s cultivation?” Peng Pengxin asked once again.
“He seems to be an ordinary warrior.”
“Ordinary warrior?” Peng Pengxin narrowed his eyes. “A noble young master without any courage dares to steal from us.”
“We shall go take a look first, you two protect the Star Gathering Wagon!”
“As you command.”