Joy of Life - Chapter 584 - Can’t Be Covered By Qing Mountain[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:50:03]
Chapter 584: Can’t Be Covered By Qing Mountain
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Outside Shangjing, to the north of Xi Mountain, brought one amidst that quiet and serene mountain. The mountain appeared to be normal, but it was unusual in the hearts of the people because this was where Tianyi Dao’s sect was. Master Ku He’s disciples and grand-disciples cultivated and studied there. After they left, their swords pointed at the world as they helped those less fortunate.
Currently, Qing Mountain was filled with bleakness and sorrow. All of the disciples of Tianyi Dao wore an uneasy expression as they looked at the black structure on the mountaintop. Clenching their fists tightly and pressing their lips together, their eyes were filled with fear. They didn’t speak. Periodically, a person would pass through the stone path going toward the mountaintop. Their faces were always heavy. They never glanced at the disciples of Tianyi Dao.
There were many people on the mountain. Their rankings were high. They included many nobility from Shangjing, officials, famous generals, and such. About half were students that had left the mountain. Now, they had all returned except Shang Shanhu, who was in the South on imperial orders to defend against the attacks of the Southern Kingdom’s Yanjing and Cangzhou’s Northern Expedition Army.
Up and down the Northern Qi court, the talented and powerful officials had gathered at Qing Mountain. Northern Qi’s Shangjing, its political center, had completely been moved to Qing Mountain.
The disciples of Tianyi Dao guessed that something had happened on the mountaintop because only something like that could disturb so many people. Their faces fell deeper into sorrow.
When noon arrived, the Emperor of Northern Qi arrived in casual clothing. With a heavy face, he stepped on the stone path to ascend the mountain. At his side was Lang Tiao. Behind him was Friar He. Soldiers were scattered beneath the stone path. He didn’t wear the dragon robe or have his royal entourage. He only hurried up the mountain with a heavy expression.
The disciples of Tianyi Dao were kneeling on both sides of the stone path and felt fearful. They knew the protector of the Qi Kingdom, their teacher, the person who was the closest to being a god in this world, was about to leave this world.
On Dong Mountain, the Qing Emperor’s Tyrannical zhenqi, which he had bitterly cultivated for decades, as well as the power of the way of the Emperor, poured into Master Ku He’s body. Decades of cultivation and accumulation was like an expansive ocean. In a moment, it had split open Ku He’s old body.
After he was carried back into Northern Qi territory by Shang Shanhu, Ku He sat cross-legged in his sect in Qing Mountain. He didn’t speak or eat but had a peaceful expression. The skin on his body began to gradually crack open, revealing the veins and tendons within. It was beginning to fall apart and appeared terrifying.
Fortunately, a large, soft cloak lay on the Great Grandmaster’s body. It made the disciples serving at his side feel even more sorrowful.
From early in the morning, the people arriving from Shangjing had been endless. Each noble and official all paid homage as disciples. After they saw Master Ku He, they knew it would be the last time they met the Imperial Advisor.
Not even able to obtain peace before his death, his second disciple Mu Peng, who had been nervously adjusting his teacher’s breathing, wore a fierce expression on his face. He couldn’t make any objections because these summons before his death had been ordered by Master Ku He.
Each person was only seen for a moment. Only when he saw the grand tutor did Ku He say a few extra words.
Ku He had protected this country for decades, but he was leaving today. Even though his heart understood life and death, there was still something he couldn’t put down. This was this country. This was his final farewell to his country, as well as his final instructions.
Whether or not the Grandmaster died, his words would certainly have a great impact on the country. Thus, he had to use his last moments to say a few words to these officials that controlled Northern Qi’s court to create a more stable foundation for the Emperor’s future power.
Ku He looked at the military leader in front of him and unconsciously sank into deep thoughts. The Emperor’s abilities were not a problem. It was just that he was still young. Although Shen Zhong had been punished and Shang Shanhu had returned, if he actually died, would the Emperor have the power to control the military?
The military leader was the Head of the Bureau of Military Affairs. After receiving a number of instructions from the Imperial Advisor, he didn’t hear any more sounds. Involuntarily, he raised his head in fear to have a look. In Northern Qi, no matter whether it was the royal family or the generals, they all had boundless fear and respect for Master Ku He, who was not like the Qing Kingdom’s Ye Liuyun. From the beginning, he had scattered his influence and power into every crevice of the Northern Qi court.
The second Tianyi Dao disciple, Mu Peng, moved close to his teacher’s ear and quietly said, “The Emperor and empress dowager have both arrived. Do you want to summon them in?”
In the entire world, only Ku He had the right to use the word “summon” for the Emperor and empress dowager.
Ku He calmly shook his head. The cracked skin at his neck rubbed slightly against his shirt with a tearing pain. Without a doubt, this was not a pain that humankind would be able to endure. However, it seemed that he had not felt anything. He only furrowed his brows slightly.
Mu Peng was kneeling to his teacher’s left. Seeing the bloodstain on the back of his teacher’s clothes, his heart throbbed with grief. He couldn’t resist crying.
With this cry, sorrow welled in the Head of the Bureau of Military Affairs kneeling in front of Master Ku He. In addition to his fear for the future of Northern Qi, his eyes grew wet. He crawled for two steps. Giving three solid kowtows in front of Master Ku He, he gritted his teeth and said, “General Shangshan is in the South, and I am in Shangjing. Unless we died, we will not allow the country to come to any harm. Even if we died, we will ensure the Emperor’s safety!”
Ku He glanced at him with a gentle gaze and warmly said, “It’s been 12 years since you left the mountain. The future of the Qi Kingdom will need your heart and your life.”
The Head of the Bureau of Military Affairs kowtowed again, gritted his teeth, and stood up to leave. As he went out of the door, his eyes were slightly red. Unexpectedly, he saw the ashen-faced Emperor outside. He unconsciously sighed.
The Emperor of Northern Qi had waited outside for a long time. Seeing his official’s slightly red eyes, his heart thumped like it had sunk into an endless abyss. He raised his foot and was about to charge in.
At his side, Lang Tiao pulled on his sleeve. The Northern Qi Emperor turned his head and glared coldly at him. Unconsciously, Lang Tiao developed a glimmer of sternness. Although the Emperor had learned martial arts from him, he didn’t have any talent in martial arts. However, the might of a monarch was becoming stronger and stronger.
“You may all come in.” Master Ku He’s sound traveled lightly and faintly out of the room. The Northern Qi Emperor tidied his clothes with a serious expression. He turned to take the empress dowager’s hand and walked into the room.
Inside the Tianyi Dao sect on the mountaintop, other than Ku He, who was already like a withered piece of wood sitting tiredly on the floor, there were only a few of his closest disciples, in addition to the Emperor and the empress dowager.
Although the wide and soft robe covered the Great Grandmaster’s body, everyone who saw Ku He felt a chill in their hearts. It was as if they saw the crack on the Imperial Advisor’s body, like the cracks in the earth during a drought, through the thin robe. They also saw the faint blood stains around the outside of the collar.
It was beyond the ability of people to heal such a heavy injury. The Northern Qi Emperor’s heart felt cold. Without any pretense, he knelt cleanly and neatly in front of Ku He and kowtowed for the last time toward him. “Grand Uncle.”
Everyone in the world paid homage to the Emperor, and the Emperor paid homage to none. However, in his life, the young Emperor of Northern Qi had paid homage to Ku He twice. He had kowtowed twice.
The first time had been when he was very young. At that time, the previous Emperor had just died. The empress dowager had held the little Emperor and sat in the main hall of the beautiful Royal Palace in Shangjing and kowtowed to Master Ku He. Ku He had ensured the mother and son over a decade of peace, protected them against the battle in the Northern Qi royal family, and allowed the little Emperor to grow up.
This second kowtow was the Northern Qi Emperor saying goodbye to his Grand Uncle. In his heart, he had always had a feeling of distance and fear toward this god-like Grand Uncle. However, more of what he felt was gratitude.
The empress dowager sat down next to Ku He. She bent her head down and cried silently.
“It’s alright. Who can escape death?” Ku He’s eyes closed slightly. “I have already lived many years and taken great advantage of heaven. Everyone will die. The one in the South Kingdom is no exception.”
Ku He had not personally spoken of what actually happened on Dong Mountain. Shang Shanhu had guessed some of it and reported it to the Royal Palace in Shangjing. Hearing Master Ku He say this now, the Northern Qi Emperor’s heart felt a great chill. He knew that if it was so, then his counterpart in the South Kingdom was incredibly powerful.
Seeing the Emperor’s expression, Ku He light said, “Are you afraid?”
The Northern Qi Emperor pressed his lips together tightly, not sure how to reply. Throughout his life, he had always viewed the Qing Emperor as his goal. He even faintly saw him as his idol. He only hoped that one day he would be able to defeat him. He had now discovered that the Qing Emperor’s silent endurance these dozen years was a complete illusion. When compared to himself, he was too old and experienced. He was also a Great Grandmaster.
“Fear is a very normal emotion,” Ku He faintly said. “When his finger touched between my brows, even I felt a trace of fear. He has the strategies of a ruler and power of a Grandmaster. There isn’t a weakness to be found anywhere on him. The most terrifying thing about him is his perseverance. For his goal of sweeping through the land, he was able to plan for decades, focused single-mindedly on this one goal, never deviating.”
“Such a person is not human.”
Ku He smiled slightly and gave the Qing Emperor an evaluation. “Everyone says that I am the one closest to a god, what they don’t know is that the heartless, hate-less, love-less, and unfathomable person in the South is the true god.”
“Can we really do nothing against the Qing Kingdom?” A trembling voice asked this question. It was Lang Tiao. He knew that the Emperor was also thinking this. As the ruler, he could not ask.
“When a person stood at the peak of martial prowess, secular power, and intelligence, then such a person is impossible for defeat.” Ku He was a bit tired. He closed his eyes and said, “If you want to bring him down from the outside, it is almost impossible.”
At this time, the Northern Qi Emperor was still kneeling in front of Ku He. Two traces of emotion flashed through his eyes. He suddenly bowed. “Grand Uncle, I am going to the Temple.”
When this word came out of the Emperor’s mouth, the entire room quieted down. None of the six people commented. Lang Tiao and his third disciple brother, Bai Shen, looked at each other and saw the shock in the other’s eyes. Mu Peng was holding the teacher’s body gently and looked in astonishment at the Emperor. In a flash, the emotion in the eyes of these three disciples of Tianyi Dao turned serious and faintly excited. In the present world, no one was able to defeat the Qing Emperor. However, there were still the temples. For an immortal, would they also have no way to deal with a mortal?
The Temple was illusory and imaginary, either myth or legend. But, all six of the people in the room knew that after Xiao En died, there was still one person who knew of the Temple’s existence and where it was.
It was Ku He.
The Northern Qi Emperor had never given up his thought of worshipping at the Temple and obtaining the support of some miraculous power. At the time, he had focused single-mindedly on rescuing and imprisoning Xiao En. He had even clashed head-on with the power of Ku He’s faction because he wanted to know the secret in Xiao En’s mind.
“The Temple?” Ku He slowly opened his eyes and looked at the Emperor kneeling in front of him.
The Northern Qi Emperor had thought his Grand Uncle’s gaze would be severe and angry. The only person in the world to have gone to the Temple was him. Furthermore, he had given his all to hide the existence of it from the rest of the world. However, there was only a faint mocking in Ku He’s eyes, as well as the trace of a smile. He knew that everyone, including his disciples, when faced with the power the Qing ruler had unconsciously developed, had the idea that they could not win. Thus, they had entrusted their hopes to an illusory and imaginary Temple.
“I know where the Temple is.” Ku He once again closed his eyes slowly. “But, I will not tell you.”
The faces of the people around him filled with shock. They thought, If you took this secret to the grave with you, how will the Qi Kingdom protect its territory?”
Ku He’s eyes were closed. He quietly said, “The Temple is just a pair of eyes. It never interferes with human matters. Why disturb it?”
Without waiting for anyone to reply, a self-mocking smile appeared on the corners of Ku He’s lips. “Besides, do you really think the Temple is omnipotent?”
He opened his eyes and fixed his gaze on the Emperor in front of him. Sincerely and earnestly, he said, “Don’t entrust your hope to something that doesn’t exist in hope.”
“Your Majesty… Before I went to Dong Mountain this time, I had met up with Sigu Jian and made sufficient preparations for the situation on the mountaintop.” Ku He looked at him. “Do you know what we guessed the Qing Emperor’s last trump card was?”
The Northern Qi Emperor shook his head in confusion. Although he was a monarch, he still felt fear toward strange existences such as the Great Grandmasters and Temple.
“Sigu Jian and I thought that the Qing Emperor’s final line of defense would be someone from the Temple.” Ku He smiled warmly, while everyone else was shocked. Did the Qing Emperor have some secret connection to the Temple?
Ku He smiled slightly and said, “If someone from the Temple had come, it was nothing to be afraid of. We were afraid of the Temple breaking its own rules. However, the Qing Emperor also did not have the power to achieve this.”
There was no one else in the world who understood the Temple better than the Ku He. Although his understanding was only a shallow layer on the outside, he understood the person, which was enough. The Temple did not interfere in human affairs. If someone had come to help the Qing Emperor, then the black-clothed blind man would certainly stand on against the Temple. This was the reason that Ku He did not worry about this matter.
“There are no god Emperors in this world, and no saviors.” Ku He sighed and thought of the words the immortal girl had once said to him and Xiao En many years ago. “Once you have reached the realm of a Great Grandmaster, you will discover that the Temple is only so much. An existence not in the mortal world, what difference is it to a dead thing?”
Although he was going to die, his faint words carried a calm, cold, and accurate evaluation of the Temple.
“Then, what should we do?”
Although the fire continued to burn in the Northern Qi Emperor’s heart and he would not give up on searching for the Temple because of a few words from Master Ku He, he knew that he couldn’t ask anymore. Grand Uncle Ku He did not have much time left.
“When a person cannot be brought down from the outside, then one’s hope must be that a problem will appear on the inside,” Ku He said quietly. “If the South Kingdom wants to send their army North, they will need at least three years. Your Majesty must do all that you can to stall for time.”
Stall for time? The Northern Qi Emperor repeated this in his heart. His brows furrowed together. This was only a superficial solution.
“The longer you can stall for time, the better it is for us. No one knows what will happen in the Qing Kingdom.”
“You’re talking about… Fan Xian?” The Northern Qi Emperor looked at Ku He’s old visage in astonishment. He pressed his thin lips together and determinedly shook his head. “Fan Xian will not be able to change the Qing Emperor’s intentions. No one can. Furthermore, he is, after all, a Qing person. He will not stand on the side of the Qi Kingdom.”
“Who knows?” Ku He gazed at him peacefully. “Fan Xian has always been different from everyone.”
“He is the Qing Emperor’s illegitimate child, and the Qing Emperor trusts him greatly.” The Northern Qi Emperor expressed his opposing opinion heavily, “What I can give him, the Qing Emperor can give him more. Even if he did give his support to me, he cannot bring any harm to the greater picture.”
“You forget, he is also the son of the mistress of the Ye family.” Ku He’s smile appeared a bit odd. “You are still underestimating Fan Xian’s use. Don’t always think of him as an immortal poet, a Qing prince, or a powerful official. His most important identity is actually that of Mistress Ye’s son. He has already inherited and controls many powerful things.”
The Northern Qi Emperor’s heart jumped. He abruptly raised his head to look at Master Ku He. Huge waves rose in his heart. He understood the meaning in his Grand Uncle’s words, but he dared not believe it. To be able to enjoy the benefits brought by the palace treasury in Jiangnan through Fan Xian’s hands was already the best scenario the Northern Qi Emperor could imagine. His Grand Uncle was expecting Fan Xian to move the entire palace treasury to Northern Qi?
“Such things as Great Grandmasters can be used to create chaos for a country, but it cannot be used to conquer or build a country,” Ku He said warmly. “The Qing Emperor cannot ride out alone to challenge the world. Neither military power nor national power can be missing. When it comes to the end of a battle, it still depends on the power of a nation.”
“Unless the Qing Emperor runs to Shangjing and becomes the enemy to tens of thousands of people…” Ku He’s smile became amused. “He is a serious man, a man who hopes to leave a brilliant name in history. How could he be as crazy as Sigu Jian?”
The Northern Qi Emperor’s mouth was rather dry. He still could not believe in Ku He’s judgment. Fan Xian. Why would he not be a prince and come to support him? Was it just because of his deal with Haitang? Who would believe that an empty verbal promise would be enough to make Fan Xian pay such a price as this?
Everyone else was silent, listening to Ku He and the Northern Qi Emperor’s conversation. Ku He looked at the Emperor and quietly said, “Even if you put your hope in Fan Xian, you cannot show it these two years.”
“I understand. I will immediately make arrangements to take action against Fan Sizhe.”
Ku He nodded and felt joy in his heart. The Emperor was indeed intelligent. He had only made a small suggestion, but he understood what should be done so as to not draw the suspicions of the Qing Emperor.
“Earlier I said you must stall for time,” Ku He lowered his head and said. “After I die, Mu Peng, you will immediately go down the mountain and go to the South Kingdom.”
Everyone looked at Ku He in astonishment, not understanding why he was especially giving his second disciple, Mu Peng, a task now. Although there were not many disciples of Tianyi Dao, of the four main disciples, Mu Peng had always been the most subdued and weakest. Other than medical skills, he had no other talents.
“You mostly live on the mountain, so not many people outside know what you look like.” Ku He gently coughed but covered it with his hand, not letting the blood spray out. Looking at his second disciple by his side, he said in an even tone, “I want you to go to the South Kingdom. There is nothing you need to do. Just try and go treat Chen Pingping.”
Treat Chen Pingping? Everyone was shocked. Who was Chen Pingping? He was the Qing Emperor’s closest and most loyal official. Regardless of whether it was 30 years ago or the incident that just happened at Dong Mountain and Jingdou, Chen Pingping had been the most important person. Hearing the news that the Qing Emperor’s old black dog was getting worse and worse, and didn’t look like he would live many more years, the people of Northern Qi and Dongyi had felt joy in their hearts. But, Master Ku was going to have his exceptionally medically talented disciple go treat him?
The tone was heavy. Although Mu Peng did not understand, he lowered his head and agreed. Everyone else in the room looked at Ku He as if wanting to hear an explanation. Master Ku He remained silent.
This was Ku He’s last move before he died. After stabilizing the Qi Kingdom’s internal politics, he had cast his gaze toward the South. He had already thrown out two moves. Chen Pingping was the one he had held back.
Ku He was not the Qing Emperor. He had not woven an earth-shattering plot of dozens of years. Rather, he had acutely caught a glimmer of light through his knowledge of the immortal girl from a long time ago, his examination of people’s natures over the decades of his life, and out-of-place existences during the Dong Mountain incident.
He was guessing that within the Qing Kingdom, behind the present calm was hidden an old affliction that would tear apart people’s hearts. If Chen Pingping died of an illness or old age, then Ku He’s guess about human nature would not have any effective. Thus, he had to ensure that Chen Pingping would live on properly until someday someone didn’t want him to live anymore.
Everything seemed to have been arranged. Ku He had no more hopes for this world. He closed his eyes as if he was going to sleep.
The empress dowager forced down the sorrow and fear in her heart. In a trembling voice, she said, “What should be done with the sect?”
Tianyi Dao’s sect was rooted deeply in the country. Ascetic Monks traveled around half the world. It still faintly had some connection with the Qing Kingdom’s Qing Temple’s system. For such a large power, what should be done with it after Ku He’s death was a matter of great importance. However, at this time, three of Ku He’s main disciples were in the room. With their statuses, they could not ask.
Ku He kept his eyes closed as if he was tired. Quietly, he said, “The sect will be handed to Haitang.”
Everyone bowed and accepted the order. The three main disciples, including Lang Tiao, were not surprised. The Emperor and empress dowager also knew that Ku He had already made this decision many years ago. Everyone had long seen Haitang as the next leader of Tianyi Dao.
But, where was Haitang now?
Everyone had questions in their hearts. Apparently, Haitang was still on the mountain last night but. Now, her whereabouts were a mystery. Before Ku He’s death, his favorite disciple, the heir of Tianyi Dao, was not at the Master’s side.
“Haitang has gone to do some things,” Master Ku He closed his eyes and quietly said. “She won’t be back these three years… Matters relating to Tianyi Dao will be given to Lang Tiao while this Qing Mountain will be handed to your younger sister disciple.”
These words were aimed at Lang Tiao and the other two. Although the matters surrounding Tianyi Dao were given to Lang Tiao, the Qing Mountain was the foundation of Tianyi Dao. Young sister disciple? Lang Tiao and the other two disciples looked at each other. Was he talking about the young lady of the Fan family?
The Northern Qi Emperor’s pupils constricted. He immediately understood the meaning of these words. He began to make preparations in his mind as to how to make use of this matter. Subduing Xia Mingji would make Fan Ruoruo’s name shine above Qing Mountain. The Imperial Advisor indeed had good plans. The more they did this, the more the Qing Emperor would suspect that Northern Qi was purposely challenging them. He would not develop suspicions toward Fan Xian, so Northern Qi’s last hope for survival was safer.
However, even now, the Northern Qi Emperor still did not dare to believe that, one day, Fan Xian would bring an incomparably rich dowry and come to his country.
Having given instructions on all secular matters, Ku He closed his lips and didn’t say another word. He quietly felt the life drain out of his body. Amidst his daze, he experienced an extra sliver of joy. The past seemed to rise before his eyes. Those images finally stopped on a seemingly endless stretch of snow decades ago.
In his final moments, Master Ku He remembered the strange, high-pitched cries of the bald eagles that ate rotten flesh and those subordinates who had fallen dead along the way. That endless night, the faint light inside the tent in that dark night, the silent and unspeaking Xiao En, and the neat and tidy human arms he had arranged around the edges of the tent.
That imposing dark blue temple built against the mountain.
The blind man that killed his way out of the Temple.
The little girl that had run out of the temple.
Human flesh did not taste good. He had already lived so many extra years. He knew what the Temple looked like, so what was there to be unsatisfied about? The Great Grandmaster Ku He sank like this into his memories and passed away with a complicated smile on his face.
On an icy tundra to the north of Northern Qi, a girl wearing clothing made from animal skins was using the Man language to greet the people in the tribe. This girl’s cheeks were bright red and full of smiles, but a faint trace of sorrow and dazedness flowed in her eyes.
A number of years of endless snow had rendered Northern Man completely unlivable. Thus, the tribe that the famed general Shang Shanhu was unable to subdue after many years, began to move around the tall mountains and transferred to the warmer south.
Many tribes had already settled on the grasslands to the northwest of the Qing Kingdom. However, they had paid with many lives to receive the tolerance of their distant relatives.
Some tribes, as well as the old, weak, women, and young, lived on the snowy wastelands to the north. Perhaps as there were far fewer tribes, the limited prey was actually able to support these people’s lives.
Not long ago, a girl that was said to have gotten lost from the Ka’erna Tribe had come to these tribes and began to follow them in hunting and herding. Everyone liked this girl because she was hardworking and capable. No matter how hot-tempered a horse, once it was in her hands, it would become docile. No matter how ferocious the wild beast, it seemed that they were afraid of hurting her and would run far away.
The only thing that the simple and straightforward Man did not like was this Ka’erna girl’s way of walking. In such a difficult environment, her swaying way of walking appeared to waste far too much energy.
However, everyone thought that her name was very pretty, Songzhi Xianling. It seemed to mean the blooming of some kind of flower.