Zhang Xi looked up in confusion and saw a blue sky without a single cloud. The weather was clearly excellent!
A while later, the old monk finally lowered his head. He turned to the little monk next to him and said, “Jie Se, give this person the item.”
“Understood!” the chubby little monk replied, taking out a jade token and handing it over. “We were invited by the State Teacher to attend the gathering.”
Zhang Xi thought, This little monk has quite the kind smile, but why does he have this kind of religious name?
When he received the jade token, he was filled with veneration. He bowed toward the old monk and said, “So it was Tranquility Temple’s Master Jian Huang. This junior has offended you.”
The old monk put his palms together and said, “Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Young benefactor didn’t recognize me, and this old one isn’t some formidable person, so where is there any offense?”
“This master is too humble,” Zhang Xi said, bowing respectfully. Tranquility Temple was an extremely famous sect in the world of warriors. In terms of their background, they were stronger than even his Righteous Sun Sect.
Tranquility Temple was a Buddhist sect, but ever since the Righteous Sun Sect became the predominant sect in the past century, the influence of Buddhism had declined. Their reputation had become less prominent than before. However, as the chief disciple of Watchful Peak, Zhang Xi had received the teachings of a peak lord. He knew a bit more about the secrets of the world than ordinary people.
This Master Jian Huang was an abbot of Tranquility Peak, someone with profound cultivation. When Tranquility Temple was at its pinnacle, the temple had been home to four divine monks, as well as countless other apprentices with the Jian surname. However, following a hundred years of the court’s prosperity and the changes that had taken place within the Buddhist sects in the past, no one knew how many of them were left after so many years had passed.
This time, their sect master had arrived alongside a small novice monk. It seemed as if Tranquility Temple was lacking in talent after all.
Then, Zhang Xi arranged for someone to bring them up the mountain, but he was gracefully turned down with the words ‘those of Buddhism pursue all through simplicity’.
The master and disciple ascended the mountain just like that. Along the way, the small novice monk couldn't help but grumble, “Master, this name you gave me is really awful. Those Righteous Sun Sect disciples who were assigned to welcome guests at the entrance have clearly undergone strict training and normally wouldn’t laugh unless they couldn’t hold themselves back. But when they heard my name, all of them laughed!”
The old monk said solemnly, “Jie Se, the ‘Se’ in our Buddhism refers to all things with form, all things that are tangible. It does not refer to the female charms, lust, or desires that the secular world believes it to mean. In Buddhism, to have color refers to the principle that nothingness is everything. The reason why this master gave you that name is to constantly remind you to be vigilant, to see past the fabricated.”
The chubby little monk gave him a doubtful look, replying, “Then why can’t you hold back your laughter either right now?”
“You are mistaken; I did not laugh,” the old monk said as he rubbed his face, flattening the wrinkles that had curved up.
“You’re clearly laughing!” the little monk replied angrily. “I know it’s because your master gave you the name Jian Huang, which made you a laughingstock for many years. You were never happy about that, so it just passed on from one generation to the next and you made all of us suffer too.”
“You are speaking nonsense. I was not thinking that, not at all,” the old monk instinctively replied. He immediately put his hands together and said, “Amitabha Buddha, this old one has erred.”
Meanwhile, Zu An’s group was brought to a side courtyard. Even though it wasn’t large, the pavilions and kiosks were all elegant and refined. There was even a pond in the center with all sorts of rarely seen plants and flowers grown inside. Greenery covered the artificial rock garden off to one side like a blanket. In terms of elegance and peacefulness, it wasn’t inferior to the Imperial Palace’s Imperial Garden at all.
When the Righteous Sun Sect’s disciples left, Xie Daoyun couldn't help but pat her chest and say, “I was almost scared to death at the Guidance Palace earlier! Fortunately, the State Teacher’s attention was focused on you. If he had noticed me, that would be really awkward.”
Zu An chuckled and replied, “It’s all thanks to Master Yan’s talisman that was able to hide your aura, so the State Teacher didn’t notice anything.”
Zhang Zijiang was a bit confused, asking, “Why does Lady Xie not want the State Teacher to notice you? Could it be that Master Yan and the State Teacher have some kind of conflict between them?”
“Of course not…” Xie Daoyun replied. She was a bit tongue-tied, not knowing how to explain herself.
“There must be a reason why Lady Xie needs to do this. General Zhang, there’s no need to inquire too much about it,” Zu An said to help Xie Daoyun out of the situation.
Zhang Zijiang chuckled and said, “I was being rude. I will leave first to arrange for a dwelling place.” Afterward, he gave Zu An a knowing expression, then left in high spirits.
Zu An was confused, thinking, What is that guy so happy for?
Xie Daoyun said with a moved expression, “The State Teacher really is a giant among men; his temperament is truly incredible. It really is hard to imagine that there could be something wrong with such a person.”
“Are those who are attractive always good people?” Zu An replied with a chuckle. “But the State Teacher’s charms really are lethal toward women. I saw many women go crazy over him earlier. I didn’t expect little sister Ling’er to also like that kind of style.”
“I don’t!” Xie Daoyun replied, panicking. “I was just commenting impartially. Besides, he’s not even the most handsome out of those I’ve seen before.”
“Oh?” Zu An replied with interest. “I wonder who little sister Ling’er thinks is the most handsome?”
Xie Daoyun blushed and said, “Not telling you.”
Zu An chuckled and didn’t think too much of it. Right now, his biggest headache was Golden Token Seven’s death, as well as whether Violet Mountain’s great competition had anything to do with the emperor’s Fengshan ceremony. Unfortunately, he couldn't make any progress in either investigation because both cases lacked information.
Just then, all those who had ascended the mountain decided on which rooms to take. Zu An, as the most important official, was naturally given the largest room in the center. Zhang Zijiang and the other guests surrounded and protected him. Wang Bolin was specially left a spot, or else it would really look bad. Of course, they still played some tricks, placing Wang Bolin’s room in a spot quite some distance away from Zu An.
However, that left Xie Daoyun in an awkward spot. She discovered that there weren’t any rooms for her. She couldn't help but ask, “General Zhang, what about me?”
Zhang Zijiang pointed at Zu An’s room and said, “You’re going to live with Sir Zu, of course.”
“Huh?” Xie Daoyun replied, her face turning completely red.
Even Zu An, who was writing some letters at a table, couldn't help but frown. He looked over in confusion.
Zhang Zijiang thus said with a deadly earnest expression, “It is mainly because your current status is as Sir Zu’s personal attendant, so you have to be close to him and take care of his everyday needs. If there is anything at night, you need to immediately heed his call and send a message. If you live separately, those from the Righteous Sun Sect will definitely suspect your identity. Furthermore, your skin is so fair. If they begin to suspect you, they will easily discover that you are female. You have shown yourself at King Yan Manor before, so it won’t be too difficult for the State Teacher to recognize you.”
Xie Daoyun was a bit ill at ease. She said, “But… but…”
She hadn’t expected things to end up like this at all! Otherwise, she definitely wouldn’t have dressed up as Zu An’s attendant.
Zhang Zijiang chuckled and said, “Don’t worry. Lady Xie will live in the outer room, with a partition separating you two inside. If our general needs something, you will have to go over and make arrangements. I do not believe that Sir Zu would trouble you in the middle of the night.”
He secretly winked at Zu An as he spoke. At the same time, he was really in admiration of himself. How am I so smart? This bootlicking is already at the level of perfection!
If these two stay together in one room and sparks fly, won’t a fire start immediately? What will a partition do?
Sir Zu should know what to do then. He’ll definitely praise me for my competence.
Hmph, Mister Wang, you only know how to do things in a slow-witted manner. How can you compare to me?
Zu An was speechless when he saw Zhang Zijiang’s proud expression. After everything, the look he had gotten earlier was just for that?
He was about to say something when Xie Daoyun nodded and said, “What General Zhang says is reasonable. I will just stay here.”
Either way, there’s a partition in the middle, which makes it more or less how servants live. Also, big brother Zu is a gentleman. He won’t do anything disrespectful in the middle of the night either, she thought. However, even though she told herself that, her face was still as red as the sunset.
When he sensed her awkwardness, Zu An walked over and suggested, “The scenery outside isn’t bad. Why don’t we go out for a walk together? We’ll see if there’s anything special about Violet Mountain along the way.”
“Okay~” Xie Daoyun replied, exhaling, in relief. Big brother Zu really is considerate, helping me out of my trouble.
Zhang Zijiang chuckled. “There is something else here that needs to be put in order. I will not be going with you.”
What kind of a joke is this? Why would I disturb their alone time? All of my earlier bootlicking would be for nothing!
Zu An and Xie Daoyun left the courtyard. There were all kinds of figures all around them along the way; they were clearly the disciples of different sects. This was a rare opportunity, so they were either observing Violet Mountain’s various sights curiously, or discussing cultivation with each other. Many were old friends who had finally reunited. There were also some young and vigorous male disciples trying to hit on the female disciples of other sects. It made the men of those other sects glare at them angrily.
Of course, the overall mood was still rather friendly. No one dared to cause trouble in such a place, because that would embarrass their sect, and they could also easily lose their place in the competition that was scheduled to happen soon.
Just then, two ladies walked over, conversing at a volume only they could hear.
“What’s so special about this Violet Mountain? In the past, I slaughtered my way in and then back out…”
“Okay, okay, you’re really awesome, master. But this is already the eight hundredth time you’ve bragged about that.”
“Did I really talk about it that many times?” the older one asked in surprise.
“Of course,” the young lady replied. She was about to say something when her eyes suddenly lit up and exclaimed, “Master, look, it’s Ah Zu!”
The older one’s entire body immediately trembled. She felt the urge to turn around and run on the spot.