Nightfall - Chapter 689

Published at 8th of January 2019 01:05:13 AM

Chapter 689: Story of the Headmaster (II)

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It had been quite a while since Ning Que and Sangsang left Chang'an. As the carriage rolled down the Vermilion Bird Avenue, Ning Que and Sangsang peered at the street through the window. The familiar view definitely roused their emotions.

And just like those at the West-Hill Divine Palace, the people here in Chang'an did not notice the black horse carriage and could not be bothered to take even one more look at it.

In the east Vermilion Bird Avenue, buildings were shorter. The area was named the Eastern City.

A carriage rolled into the long-missed Lin 47th Street, and it stopped at the gate of the Old Brush Pen Shop.

You could still hear the Wus, who sold counterfeit antiques next door, quarreling. You could also see the oil stain left by the peddler selling hot and sour sliced noodle soup at the alley's entrance.

The gates to the Old Brush Pen Shop creaked open. Ning Que and Sangsang welcomed the Headmaster into the backyard for a rest. A shadow flashed and disappeared after a "meow" at the top of the yard wall.

Ning Que looked to the wall and smiled. He fetched water from the well and cleaned up with Sangsang. Then he was going to cook and treat the Headmaster with a nice meal as a welcoming gesture.

The ingredients were simple vegetables and common meat. The dishes were quickly cooked and put on the table. It was until the Headmaster had taken a few bites and appeared to be satisfied that the nervous Sangsang could heave a sigh of relief.

Right after the meal, Sangsang massaged the Headmaster's shoulders. The atmosphere was peaceful and relaxed. However, Chang'an's hot summer was always vexing, so Ning Que had to stand in front the Headmaster with a folding fan.

He asked while fanning the Headmaster, "Why didn't you bring the 'Ming' Handscroll back?"

The Headmaster then answered, "I would have taken it when I was in the Zhishou Abbey if I wanted it. I was going to leave it for that fellow's disciples. But then your Youngest Uncle wiped out the Devil's Doctrine; I fetched it because I didn't want the Haotian Taoism to have it."

The Headmaster didn't spend a long time in the shop before he finished his tea and left with the other two. They traveled leisurely in the horse carriage, reaching the northern part of Chang'an where a hazy view of the imperial city could be seen.

It was such a hot summer that most people in Chang'an couldn't take the heat. On the streets, trees overnumbered pedestrians. The trees were green and lush, revealing parts of the beautiful wall of the palace just behind.

"When the Tang Empire overthrew the Kingdom of the Desolate, even the West-Hill Divine Palace had to accept Tang's conquest as well as Tang's particularity. Lots of states began to revise their laws under the influence of Tang. As for Haotian Taoism and other cultivating organizations, they began to restore the ruling power to ordinary people."

The Headmaster was watching the imperial palace outside the window. After a short silence, he said, "That was a good thing. Ordinary people can find more ways to balance conflicting interests, because they're not cultivators, and they have less awe of those who are. Their short and limited lives might be the only disadvantage of being ordinary."

"Emperor Li was surely a good strategist and military commander, but he was also no more than an ordinary man. He would age, and when he grew old, it would be easy for him to be muddle-headed. Sometimes we might have opposing opinions that can never be bridged. To avoid furious confrontations, I built the Academy in the southern part of the city, spending years reading there."

The story between the founding emperor of Tang and the Headmaster was a real appetizer for Ning Que, and he couldn't help asking, "What happened next?"

The Headmaster answered, "In the end, he was so muddle-headed that he wanted to eat me to gain longevity. I didn't know where he had learned that, but he was indeed going after me then."

Ning Que looked as if he was worried, and then he asked, "What did you do?"

The Headmaster answered, "I wouldn't let Haotian eat me, neither would I let Emperor Li do it. When he wanted come for me, I entered the palace and killed him."

Ning Que was shocked. "You killed him just like that?"

"Like I had a choice! What? Oh! Should I get his majesty in a trial first, and then sentence him to a body-dismembering death?"

"Master... you know that's not what I meant."

"Yes, that was how I killed the founding emperor of Tang. I may have cried no tears about it, but somehow I feel it was such a pity. So I came up with a new idea— I'll teach the Emperor's successor so that the new one will not be muddled enough to eat me."

Ning Que was finally knew clearly why the Academy was so well respected by the whole Tang Empire.

"The new Emperor was quite obedient and nice." Said the Headmaster. He was stroking his beard and seemed quite satisfied.

Ning Que thought to himself, "Like the new Emperor had a choice! You killed his father, of course you can kill him any time you want a new emperor! His poor Majesty! What else could he do other than to be filial to you?"

"And the successors later were up to my standard. The Li family, they all had something worthy to be proud of in their blood. When all the affairs had been settled, someone so lazy like me would, of course, be unwilling to interfere in politics. So I left the Imperial Palace and I've never gone back ever since."

The Headmaster was speaking as he looked outside the window. He was glancing over the lively trees and the foggy Golden River. At last his eyes settled on the red-painted wall of the palace. He looked peaceful as usual, but deep inside his eyes, there was a touch of sadness.

Slowly, the black horse carriage left imperial city, away from the palace, leaving all the bustle and crowds behind. People in the shops on both sides of the street watched the carriage till it stopped in front of Chenjinji Cosmetics Store.

The Headmaster walked into the store and bought Sangsang a big pack of cosmetic powder.

"Master... she's going to become so spoiled. Why?"

Ning Que couldn't help laughing as he saw Sangsang's face with proper make up. Then he said, "I hate to say it but my wife's getting fairer than before."

Sangsang felt a little bit shy upon hearing Ning Que's praise. She lowered her head and thanked the Headmaster.

The Headmaster waved his hand, showing that he did not mind.

The carriage then left the shop for the south. On the straight and broad Vermilion Bird Avenue, it passed by the well-known Vermilion Bird Carving.

The carriage rolled along the floor tiles which had the embossing of the Vermilion Bird on them. Visitors from all other states and counties of Tang were enjoying the embossed art, sunshades in hand. There was a sudden gust of wind, causing them to squint.

In the breeze, the eyes of the carved Vermilion Bird moved vividly as if they were coming alive. When the breeze stopped, the movement suddenly stopped, looking like the bird had lost its soul.

In the dark carriage, a little red bird suddenly appeared.

The bird was moving slowing on the floor. As clumsy as it might appear, it looked quite adorable. However, its feathers, which were vermilion red, seemed to hide an awesome power that would make people shudder.


The little Vermillion Bird walked to the Headmaster and made a sound.

The Headmaster petted its head with his finger.

The bird then rubbed its head on the fingertip, seemingly enjoying it.

"Is it what we know as 'the Vermilion Bird'?"

Ning Que had run into too many shocking things so far. He now knew that both Chang'an and the God-stunning Array were made by the Headmaster. Therefore, he wasn't that surprised when seeing the Vermilion Bird appear in the black carriage.

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Ning Que then tried to pet the legendary bird, just like how the Headmaster did.

Suddenly the little bird turned to Ning Que and looked him in the eye. It looked quite stern, and its eyes showed caution, resentment, contempt, and scorn.

Ning Que looked back to the days when Sangsang and him were looking at the Vermilion Bird Embossing. Then he remembered he was seriously injured and laid on the embossing. When that came to his mind, he quickly sat on the Big Black Umbrella.

And when the little bird turned to Sangsang, it became quite confused.

The Black Carriage was finally out of the Southern Gate of Chang'an, heading to the Academy.

Ning Que glanced at the view outside the window, and then he stopped looking. This path used to be the one he walked on to the Academy every morning, and he had grown too familiar with it.

He was going to ask the Headmaster about the changes the Academy had witnessed in the past 1,000 years, but then he gave it up when realizing that the question was unnecessary. The Academy had gone through numerous deans, but the Headmaster was the one and only.

"You're the first and the present dean of the Academy. What were you doing during the break? You said you were tired of worldly affairs. Why would you return to power once more?"

"I had been busy for hundreds of years. I was a librarian in the West-Hill Palace, and I was a reader myself. Now that I got the Academy, I had to go around the world and collect books, which, obviously, cost me years and years."

The Headmaster said. "And don't forget I've spent many years flying to heaven. It also took me even more years to make the decision. Throughout my journey, I've been looking for the legendary Underworld, the world's edge, delicious dishes, and mostly, looking for people of my kind."

Ning Que asked, "Your kind?"

The Headmaster then answered, "Yes, people like me."

Ning Que asked, "Did you succeed?"

The Headmaster answered, "I've found the Drunkard and the Butcher, from whom I've known more about Haotian as well as the Everlasting Night. Then I asked them to team up with me."

"And they refused?" Asked Ning Que.

"Yes." The Headmaster nodded and answered.

"Then what did you do?"

"I fought with them."

"Who was the winner?" Ning Que then waved his hand, "Sorry, that was a dumb question."

The Headmaster sighed, "Of course they were no competition for me. But it annoyed me even more that they wouldn't listen to me even when they had been defeated."

"What was your plan exactly?" Asked Ning Que.

The Headmaster looked to Ning Que and said, "You asked what I've been doing those years, right?"

Ning Que nodded.

The Headmaster then said, "I've been spending most of the years trying to figure out just one question."

Ning Que asked, "What was it?"

The Headmaster then answered, "How to defeat Haotian."

Quietness was growing in the black carriage, and it was like the final answer was still echoing. When the Headmaster's voice finally settled, the three could hear the little Vermilion Bird gently stepping on the floor.

The answer didn't come as a surprise because they had already known it and they had even talked about more details. Yet it was, indeed, still breathtaking when it came down to such a simple and short answer.

Ning Que was silent for a long while. Then, he looked up and asked, "Teacher, have you thought of a way?"

The Headmaster was annoyed and answered, "Would I still be in this horse carriage if I had already thought of a way?"

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