The World’s Dazzling Talent – The Late Carving
“This dates back to over twenty years ago,” said the Emperor, without halting in his tracks. He did quickly glance at us, however. He then smiled: “A member of Mount Daluo was present. Constable Ming, you might not like to hear this, but when it came to being absurd, he didn’t pale in comparison to you. In terms of martial prowess, though, he was a legend in the martial world. Nowadays, he is considered a deity. His skills are over a hundred times superior to your own.”
I instantly had an idea who the Emperor referred to: “Your Majesty, you would not be referring to your subject’s grandmaster, would you?”
“I am referring to Hero Shenzhou, indeed. At the time, I invited him over to discuss a matter, which was when he left me with the incomprehensible mystery.”
“Grandmaster left a mystery riddle?” I asked myself.
If Grandmaster did leave a mystery, then I was going to have my hands full. Within the parameters of my knowledge, there were more mysteries left behind him than anyone could count, especially during the span of time I grew up.
I couldn’t say for certain if Grandmaster was getting on with age and losing it more and more or what, but he’d frequently say things that totally bewildered us. Shifu said that Grandmaster was a master diviner who could see into the future, but apparently was only right one or two times out of ten. According to what I heard, Shifu once gambled according to Grandmaster’s reading and ended up losing every penny, consequently earning himself over eighty vicious slaps – courtesy of Shiniang.
‘Don’t tell me Grandmaster performed a divination for His Majesty back then…’
“May your subject ask ab-“
“Wait. Bring it up later,” interjected the Emperor, expression stern.
The Emperor raised a hand to signal for the low-ranking eunuch to call over a team of elite guards. Then, the high-ranking eunuch led the way from the forefront. We continued on in silence, passing the corridor and rooms. We went far away from Wuying Hall. At the end of the hall were three stools there for us. The Emperor took a seat first. With a smile, he said, “You two need not stand on ceremony. There is still some time before we reach our destination. Get in the sedan to save yourself some energy.”
Jin Wangsun and I had nothing but questions. The supposed mystery occupied all of our concentration. Hence, we hypocritically refused his offer then immediately got into the sedan. The sedan was presumably reserved for usage only within the imperial palace’s grounds. The tiny sedan made it possible to speak. Two people carried it from the back and front, so it was a stable ride.
A-Hu and Tang Ye orderly followed behind us. Actually, the two of them were perplexed. I wasn’t sure what they were doing, but it seemed as though they were competing in a contest of speed. A-Hu had the height, and therefore stride length advantage. Tang Ye was light on his feet. Their contest was quite heated.
The Emperor looked behind us to see A-Hu and Tang Ye following closely behind. He couldn’t resist the urge to laugh: “I know that you hate these sorts of formalities most as martial arts practitioners. But nonetheless, riding horses in the inner sector of the imperial palace is not permitted. Indeed, it would be laughing matter in the pugilistic world.”
I held my hands up in salute to speak: “This honestly is your subject’s first time sitting in this sort of sedan, and it is a privilege he has all thanks to you. There is nothing your subject could complain about.”
The Emperor was fond of his days in the pugilistic world, which explained why he always referred to himself as a martial artist. He also always treated skilled members of the martial arts world quite kindly. It should come as no surprise, then, that the three offices were still prospering to this day. In fact, they were better off than many schools in the martial world.
We began to engage in idle chatter again. Meanwhile, the Emperor told A-Hu and Tang Ye to take the contest back a bit further away from the sedan. The Emperor then communicated with Jin Wangsun and me using Voice Transmission: “This is a very serious matter, so I must be cautious.”
Obviously the people carrying the sedan weren’t strong men proficient with internal styles. The point being, they couldn’t hear the Emperor. Furthermore, since we were on the move, it’d be impossible for someone with internal strength ten times superior than His Majesty to eavesdrop from a distance.
Once he felt reassured, the Emperor elaborated, “Over twenty years ago, I was concerned about choosing my successor from among my Princes. I also imprisoned a diviner for infuriating me with a result that triggered me. I then invited another three skilful masters to seek their advice in hopes of unknotting my troubles that had begun to suffocate me. When I think back on it now, I realise that I unjustly punished the grand tutor.
‘Grand tutor… I remember he was from Wudang or something…’
Jin Wangsun impressed: “Would the grand tutor you are referring to be the man who was one of the Ten Supreme Saints, who you conferred as the world’s leader in dao, Lai Jingzhen, Immortal Lai, who was also nicknamed Half-Deity?”
I followed up. With that said, as I wasn’t supposed to be able use Voice Transmission, I had to speak in a muffled voice: “Your subject heard that he is devoted to his cultivation in seclusion and rarely stepped into the mundane world. He is currently with Empress Dowager and Red Prince on Mount Zisheng.”
“That is him,” replied the Emperor, seemingly not minding me speaking out loud: “Haha, his name sure has been polished, since you both knew right away.”
‘It’d be strange for me not to be familiar with the name.’
I never met him in person before, but he had been mentioned in The Black and White Reflection plenty of times. According to their claims, his martial prowess was inconceivable. He was the only person from Wudang to ever be part of the Ten Supreme Saints, after all. By those standards, he qualified for a spot among the figures at the peak of the martial world. His character, on the other hand, was considered rather unruly. One could make the argument that he was the priest version of Yan Shisan and that bastard Ximen.
Resembling a man recalling his memories, the Emperor said, “Because of him, I invited the three adepts.”
The Emperor’s tone was very rich with emotion. He calmly and slowly recalled the historical event for us using Voice Transmission. However, it wasn’t surprising, as he also mentioned the “the six dragons shall seal the nation” prophecy. He was busy with national affairs and afraid of the prophecy but regretted giving the Princes the cold shoulder. Alas, he wasn’t just a father, but also a monarch. Thus, he had no choice but to give them the cold shoulder.
I suddenly somewhat understood why he was lenient with the Orange Prince’s punishment after hearing the story.
Jin Wangsun looked incredibly touched by the story. He bootlicked the Emperor with his snot and tears resembling dog piss.
‘Filial kid, your filial self forced your father to feed the cattle just days ago. I can’t keep up with your rapid transformations, kid.’
I reacted differently to Jin Wangsun after hearing the story. The three of them enjoyed the feast celebrating the first month of the newborn baby, resided in the imperial palace for half a month, eating and taking things easy. Then, my grandmaster exchanged all of that with a couple of words.
‘Wh-Why is this sounding more and more like a three elders scam team?! The logic sounds familiar to the fake medicine scam for two chickens the grandpa pulled off at Qiling Village last month.’
When I planned to ask about the sensitive money topic…
“Money? Oh, hahaha, that’s nothing. I was young and fiery. If anything, I must’ve offended the exalted masters with things I impulsively said. Being exalted adepts of their era, it would’ve been impossible to invite them, which was why I prepared some events to express my gratitude,” said the Emperor, laughing heartily: “It was only twenty thousand taels per person each day. It was no big deal.”
‘But I nearly fell off the sedan hearing that number!’
‘You sure were young and fiery! You cannot spoil those three! I do not know what they said to you, but I assure you they are not the type to refuse invitations, especially the Shaolin Abbott and Wudang’s patriarch. Those two would come running as fast as you could fly when they hear there is money for them! Had my grandmaster not had a sore tooth and had eaten a fair amount, I bet he would have been first to lead the back there!’
By the way, did he say over twenty years ago? I seem to recall I was still living in that rundown house that rain could leak through. I used to go running around in the mountains trying to catch rabbits and pick berries to stave my hunger.
‘How dare that old geezer embezzle all that money for himself! Had it not been for you, we’d have been able to move into a large home! I wouldn’t be stuck in that sorry excuse for a home. I wouldn’t have crashed into all sorts of things when I suffered qi deviation during my Yijin Jing training, either. My junior martial uncle wouldn’t have been force to turn to celibacy, either! So you were the culprit behind all of the misfortune!’
“I still remember the three exalted master’s glorious images today.”
‘Hey! Focus when you’re speaking! The three are still alive! Can you not mourn them before they need your condolences?! It wasn’t easy for my grandmaster to live over a hundred!’
*Immortal Lai – Immortal is more of a title than it is a claim he is actually immortal. It’s used to indicated that somebody has mastered the spiritual side of daosim (which his school’s belief system is), which also means that they’re supposedly a perfect person.
**Junior martial uncle – Can I use “Shishu”, instead? Can you remember it similar to Shiyi? Otherwise, it’s being wrong for the sake of simplification.