Aspiring to the Immortal Path - Chapter 45
Chapter 45: The Heavenly Dao Stele
The Sageheart Kingdom encompassed an area of five million square kilometers. It was long from north to south and narrow from east to west, and it essentially covered the entire eastern part of the Rosecloud Continent. The shape of the kingdom seemed rather like a woman being pressed up against a corner.
Canglong Prefecture was located at the sole of the woman, and Wanquan City was located at the woman’s chest. From the sole, reaching the chest in the north required traveling through seven provinces and thirty-some cities—a distance of two-thousand-some kilometers and three months.
Over this long journey, the beautiful natural scenery was the only means of dispelling loneliness.
This was Wei Tianchong’s and Shi Meng’s first time traveling far away from home, so they were brimming with excitement and would go off to play around at every stop. The lady understood her son’s temperament, so she had arranged for them to start their journey early so that he would have plenty of time to play.
Tang Jie spent most of the time reading in the carriage.
He read a lot of books. There was “Treatise on Human Order”, which discussed humanity’s relationship to the Great Dao, and there was “Anthology on Enlightenment”, a collection of essays. He also travel guidebooks like “Zhang Zimo’s Sageheart Travel Guide”, and also stories about Immortal warriors, such as “Records of Sword Immortals”. In his luggage, besides his clothes and those two potted plants, what took up the most space was books.
Today, Tang Jie was reading a book when his carriage came to a swaying halt.
Raising the curtain, Tang Jie saw that a forty-some-year-old man was walking over.
“Steward Zhang, is something wrong?” Tang Jie shouted.
Steward Zhang’s name was Zhang Yuan, and he was one of the outer branch stewards of the Wei Estate. He was primarily responsible for the Wei Clan’s trade caravans, and spent most of the year traveling around. He had abundant experience, and to ensure that the journey was safe, Zheng Shufeng had tasked him with supervising the third young master’s journey to school. Thus, the majority of the matters concerning the convoy were handled by him.
“What else could it be?” Steward Zhang sighed in exasperation. “Tang Jie, you have to go and talk with the third young master. We’ve barely made any progress, having to stop three times a day. If he’s not saying that he’s feeling suffocated and needs to go out for a walk, he’s saying that he finds the scenery nice and wants to take a look around, or that he’s heard about some restaurant and wants to eat. We just arrived at Little Bright Lake, and the young master heard that the scenery was good and that a gifted scholar from ancient times left behind some calligraphy, so he said that he wanted to appreciate the calligraphy of past worthies and also go boating on the lake. The lady gave me ten days of extra time, but if this keeps up, not even twenty extra days will be enough. We might not even reach Wanquan City by autumn at this rate!”
Tang Jie chuckled. “So why did you even bring up Little Bright Lake in front of him? You know his personality. The moment you speak about eating or playing with him, he has to take part.”
Steward Zhang bitterly replied, “Why would I ever bring it up with him? But he has eyes and ears of his own, and I can’t stop him from gathering his own information. Just go and talk with the young master. He listens to you!”
Ever since the Shi Mo incident, after Wei Tianchong learned that Tang Jie had saved him, he had been much more polite to Tang Jie, and when he learned that his mother had given Tang Jie the clan discipline stick, he became even more unwilling to provoke Tang Jie. This was also why he had mostly called on Shi Meng to attend to him during this journey.
Tang Jie considered Steward Zhang’s pleas and asked, “Where is he now?”
“He’s right up ahead in the pavilion, appreciating the calligraphy left on the Heavenly Dao Stele by Zhang Shuhan. But he probably doesn’t even know who Zhang Shuhan is, so what can he appreciate!?” Zhang Yuan dropped his head and sighed.
Tang Jie smiled. “Alright, I’ll go and find him… I think it’s time I talked with him anyway.”
In an eight-sided pavilion next to Little Bright Lake, Wei Tianchong was standing in front of a large stone stele that stood more than ten feet high.
Wei Tianchong was clearly much more mature, his height almost that of an adult. He was wearing a silk scholar’s robe, an elegant hairpin tied up in his hair and a folding fan made by Treasured Celebration Store in his hand. Though he was a little on the plump side, he still had a rather attractive figure.
At this time, he was looking at the three large words carved into the stele:
Beneath the three words, eight more words had been written: 群邪辟易，万恶俯首 (All heresy easily refuted, all evils bowing their heads).
Wei Tianchong carefully examined these words and nodded. “Excellent calligraphy, and excellent words: ‘All heresy easily refuted, all evils bowing their heads.’ Shi Meng, look at the majestic style of this calligraphy, the brush strokes like flying dragons. Truly, excellent writing and excellent words!”
Compared to before, Wei Tianchong was much more eloquent when he spoke.
“Of course. Zhang Shuhan was a master calligrapher of his generation. Little Bright Lake owes half of its fame to the calligraphy of this Heavenly Dao Stele. Every year, numerous scholars and literati come to visit. As we are passing by, it would truly be a great pity if we didn’t come to visit it,” Shi Meng commented.
Tang Jie happened to come over at this time. He smiled and shook his head, and as he entered the pavilion, he said, “While Zhang Shuhan was a master calligrapher of his generation, Third Young Master speaks incorrectly when he says that these words were written with brush strokes akin to flying dragons.”
“Eh? What do you mean?” Wei Tianchong was confused.
Tang Jie stood next to Wei Tianchong and glanced at the Heavenly Dao Stele. When he saw the eight words written upon it, he sighed. “Young Master, do you know what sort of person Zhang Shuhan was?”
Wei Tianchong answered, “Wasn’t he a former assistant minister and a scholar of the Hanlin Academy?”
“So Young Master actually knows a little,” Tang Jie chuckled.
“Tsk, do you really take me for a complete incompetent?” Wei Tianchong said, raising his nose.
Wei Tianchong had matured with age, and at the age of sixteen, he was much more knowledgeable. At the very least, he would not commit the mistakes of the past.
“Then does Young Master know what Zhang Shuhan went to do later on? And why he wrote this Heavenly Dao Stele? And do you know why it is called the Heavenly Dao Stele?” Tang Jie asked.
Wei Tianchong opened his mouth, but after a long while, all he could manage to say was, “The book didn’t say.”
Tang Jie burst into laughter.
Wei Tianchong’s face reddened in shame. “If you know, say it already.”
Tang Jie answered, “Zhang Shuhan went to cultivate Immortality.”
“Ah?” Wei Tianchong and Shi Meng both gasped in surprise.
“Yes, Zhang Shuhan went to cultivate Immortality!” Tang Jie repeated. “Back then, Zhang Shuhan had become an official because he believed that while martial might could keep the other countries pacified, civil officials were required to bring health and prosperity to the people. But after starting his official career and spending twenty years in officialdom, experiencing various ups and downs and seeing all that the human world had, he finally realized that having civil officials ruling the country was nothing but a fantasy. In the end, he resolved to resign from his post and enter the Immortal gate… At that time, he was more than fifty years old.”
“An old man still cultivating Immortality? Isn’t it said that the young have the best constitution and that it’s difficult to get results in one’s twilight years?” Shi Meng asked in shock.
“Yes, but he did it anyway. Not only that, he obtained extraordinary results in cultivation. Do you know what level he ultimately managed to reach?”
“What level?” the two asked in unison.
“Celestial Sovereign!” Tang Jie declared.
This caused both Wei Tianchong and Shi Meng to shout in unison, “A Dao-controlling Celestial Sovereign?”
Celestial Sovereigns were even more terrifying existences than Violet Palace True Lords. It was a stage between the Violet Palace Realm and the Immortal Platform Realm, and from a certain perspective, they were even more rare than those of the Immortal Platform Realm.
This was because being a Celestial Sovereign had nothing to do with one’s cultivation realm. Only by mastering a Dao could one be called a sovereign.
A Celestial Sovereign was comparable to an Immortal Platform cultivator in some ways.
“He did not control the Dao, only entered the Dao! Cultivators have their own divisions when it comes to understanding the Dao: comprehending the Dao, entering the Dao, and controlling the Dao. Each one is different,” Tang Jie solemnly corrected. “Defining a Celestial Sovereign as one who controls the Dao is only terminology used by ignorant mortals. In truth, one only needs to comprehend the Dao to a certain extent to be called a Celestial Sovereign. We’re going to be students at Basking Moon Academy in the future, so as people in the field, it is best if we do not repeat this mistake.”
“Then what does it mean to control the Dao?” Wei Tianchong curiously asked.
“I don’t know either. To tell the truth, I’m not even sure about the difference between comprehending, entering, and controlling the Dao. I’ve heard that there are other levels beyond these three, but I have no idea what they are or how many there are,” Tang Jie answered.
When Xu Muyang had been telling him about the cultivation world, he had told him that the Dao was the highest pursuit of all cultivators, but let alone Tang Jie, not even Xu Muyang really knew what the Dao was. He only knew that controlling the Dao was the highest realm of the Dao, but he had never learned how to control the Dao or how many people could control the Dao, nor had he ever seen or heard anyone controlling the Dao.
“Even though Zhang Shuhan couldn’t control the Great Dao, he definitely reached the Dao-entering level. In his early years, he gained fame for his calligraphy, and after he began cultivating, he entered the Dao through his calligraphy. His formidable Eight Arts for Executing Evil caused all the devils of the world to lower their heads and back away. Do you know what the Eight Arts for Executing Evil were?”
Wei Tianchong turned to the eight words on the Heavenly Dao Stele. “It couldn’t be those eight words there, could it?”
“Yes, ‘All heresy easily refuted, all evils bowing their heads’,” Tang Jie firmly declared. “Whenever Zhang Shuhan faced an enemy, he only needed to write these eight words, and all evil, no matter how numerous, would be exterminated. It was an art of limitless power, but alas, his attempt to enter the Immortal Platform failed, and he died. If he hadn’t died, do you really think you would be able to call Zhang Shuhan by his name? You would be calling him ‘the Evil-Executing Celestial Sovereign’, or ‘Celestial Sovereign Zhang’!”
“But who could kill him? Not even a Titan of the Immortal Platform would be able to kill him, right?”
Tang Jie smiled. He pointed at the stele with his chin. “Who do you think it could be?”
Wei Tianchong and Shi Meng glanced at each other and blurted out, “The Heavenly Dao?”
“Correct! The Heavenly Dao! The Heavenly Dao is heartless. In Zhang Shuhan’s era, the Immortal factions were vying for supremacy. It was an era of constant war, and the people lived in constant misery. Zhang Shuhan wished to save the world, but he was helpless against the heavens. He raised his brush and wrote out these words criticizing the Heavenly Dao, futilely attempting to make the Heavenly Dao the head of all evils so that he could execute it, and destroy the Heavenly Dao to rescue humanity. It goes without saying what his end was.”
One man attempting to execute the heavens was really one man trying to challenge the world, and this world was not the Rosecloud Domain, but the Great Stellar Chiliocosm!
Although Wei Tianchong and Shi Meng found it impossible to imagine such a battle, they still stared at Zhang Shuhan’s calligraphy in shock.
This was like an ant trying to hack at an elephant!
“Then this Heavenly Dao Stele…” Shi Meng said.
“This Heavenly Dao Stele is said to be the work of calligraphy that Zhang Shuhan futilely attempted to imbue with his Eight Arts of Executing Evil to suppress the Heavenly Dao, and you see the result. The Heavenly Dao reigns above while the Eight Arts are below… It was the Eight Arts of Executing Evil that ended up being suppressed by the Heavenly Dao. Even so, the essence of Zhang Shuhan’s calligraphy and Dao still remain in this Heavenly Dao Stele, causing countless people to visit and get rubbings of them, some of them even trying to use these words to comprehend the Dao. Don’t just look at the Heavenly Dao Stele on the surface. Its foundation is actually deeply rooted, and it is impossible to break or move. Countless people once fought against each other in the hopes of seizing the Heavenly Dao Stele for themselves, which ended up making the surrounding area into a blessed land. But later on, people realized that trying to comprehend the Dao through the Heavenly Dao Stele was too difficult, and it was anyway impossible to monopolize it. Thus, people gradually put an end to such ideas and allowed the stele to remain here for the fortunate. Thus, every year, many Immortals come to admire the stele, and many ignorant mortals attempt to imitate them. Gradually, this valuable Immortal treasure became a scenic spot frequented by tourists and literati. The common people only know of Zhang Shuhan, and not of the Evil-Executing Celestial Sovereign.”
Tang Jie softly chortled. “In his later days, Zhang Shuhan’s writing stopped pursuing the art of calligraphy, instead emphasizing righteousness and the execution and subjugation of all evils. His brushstrokes were brimming with power, and just a single glance is enough to shake the soul. Thus, his words are resounding with strength and power. Rather than mellow and gentle, they exude a murderous aura. Third Young Master described the brushstroke like flying dragons, but using mortal calligraphy to describe the calligraphy of an Immortal is lowering Zhang Shuhan. You have to realize that even if there was a true dragon, it would still have to bow its head to Zhang Shuhan. If he were still alive, he definitely would not appreciate this evaluation.”
Wei Tianchong’s face went red. “How could I know about all this? I just thought that the words were pretty…”
Tang Jie casually said, “Calligraphy, cultural relics, historical sites—you have to understand history to actually appreciate these things. Taking this Heavenly Dao Stele as an example, if you didn’t understand its history and only looked at the stele, you wouldn’t understand its meaning. If you don’t understand its meaning, then this Heavenly Dao Stele is nothing more than a stone stele upon which someone wrote words, and there’s little point in looking at it. Once you understand its history, when you see those words, you will think about that peerless hero hastily writing with his brush, radiating power and glory. You could imagine his rage and his audacity in challenging the heavens, and you can imagine his tragic death… You can feel his emotions, feel his helplessness, feel his plan. When you stand here, before this stele, you are transported back into the past, bearing witness to that point in history…”
As Tang Jie softly spoke, he looked at the Heavenly Dao Stele. The image of Zhang Shuhan writing his Eight Arts of Executing Evil down to suppress the Heavenly Dao emerged before his eyes. He felt like he could see the eight words, “群邪辟易，万恶俯首”, erupting with the most resplendent light in the sky above the stele, carrying endless killing intent and anger as they charged up to the heavens.
And then he saw the clouds split open and a giant law wheel manifest, slowly turning and radiating a dazzling divine light.
The eight words were puny before the divine light of the heavens, and with a boom, they were suppressed and disintegrated. At the same time, a person standing on the horizon also dissolved into nothing. “Agh!” Tang Jie shouted as he staggered back, blood almost ejecting out of his mouth as his face turned ghastly pale.
“Tang Jie!” Wei Tianchong shouted, scared out of his wits.
When he looked at Tang Jie, he saw a brief flash of divine light in his eyes. Tang Jie stared hard at the Heavenly Dao Stele and softly muttered, “The Heavenly Dao Law Wheel!”