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10 January 2017 @ 02:21 am
living up to you - chapter 07 - Trial  



CHAPTER 07 - TRIAL

Translation Notes: These daoism stuff and all these chinese idioms are driving me nuts!! Finally some new terms in this chapter that I had to use romanization for. 无为 (wu wei) is a daoist concept of non-action. Basically it's the daoist version of 'que sera sera' and letting things run its course without unnatural human interference. There's a longer version of it that basically goes like this: 'non-action, but not doing nothing'. It means to align oneself to the flow of life, because daoism believes in effortless syncronism with the world and not friction with it. Apparently if you understand how to harness this principle of wu wei, you can even rule the world without lifting a finger! There's a situation in this chapter where wu wei comes up, so if you understand the concept of wu wei, you'll get the insider joke lol! Another little piece of trivia is the 雪莲 (xue lian) snow lotus, which is an actual flower in reality. Unlike normal lotuses, it doesn't grow in the water, but in high altitudes and even on snowy mountains and it has white petals. It pops up in a lot of wuxia and xianxia novels, touted as a mythical herb Tian Shan's Snow Lotus with legendary abilities of counter-poison and bringing back the dead. It is however, used in chinese traditional medicine and can get pretty pricey!
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Although the Sword Trial will not be like previous times, the location was as before: Di Mai Peak, the peak with the most new disciples.

The altitude of Di Mai Peak was comparatively lower, unlike Tian Mai Peak which was pleasantly cool. Also because of all the disciples that had amassed here for the Sword Trial, it even had the illusory heat of early summer. Regarding this, Ling Xi actually didn't get much of an experience. She followed closely behind Feng Shu the whole time, wherever they went the disciples there would hurriedly clear out a path for them.

This would be the second time Ling Xi had come down from Tian Mai Peak since she had arrived at Cang Jia Shan.

Ever since Feng Shu brought her up the mountain three years ago, insisting she stayed here against the zhangmen's oppositions, even taking her up to Tian Mai Peak which is supposedly the exclusive cultivating ground of the arch-disciples. Add those to that blunder she had caused half a year after arriving on the mountain, all these rumors surrounding 'Ling Xi' had long spread throughout the entire Cang Jia Shan.

Many of the disciples on Di Mai Peak have never seen Feng Shu, even more have never seen Ling Xi. Seeing the two approaching, they could not help but cast their gazes on them.

Ling Xi kept her head down the whole time, her heart pounding loudly, following closely behind Feng Shu without missing a step.


The platform where the Sword Trial was to be taking place is at the summit of Di Mai Peak. It was built to float in the air. Energy drifted all around it, enshrouding it. Through it, one could vaguely see the the waterfall of Shui Mai Peak in the distance, dropping like a roll of silk.

The seven zhanglaos and zhangmen stood at the very front, behind them in orderly rows were the Cang Jia disciples, standing according to their respective divisions. The four arch-disciples' seats were directly opposite of the zhanmen's, encircling the platform of the Sword Trial.

Ling Xi nervously stood by Feng Shu's side, not daring to lift up her head at all to face that oppressive horde of disciples. She could feel those gazes sweep over her, one after another.

“Ling Xi, what are you afraid of?” Feng Shu just happened to pick up a cup of white wine, asking this faint question in between sips.

Ling Xi's head sunk even lower, hiding herself behind his back.

Feng Shu raised his head, his gaze swept across the platform briefly. It suddenly fell silent all around the Sword Trial platform.

“Sit down.” Feng Shu ordered softly.

Ling Xi looked at him puzzled.

“Sit at my left.”

Ling Xi's eyes darted over, it just so happened that Qing Lian shijie's gaze also swept over. Her heart skipped a beat, in a hushed voice added, “That's Qing Kui shixiong's seat.”

“In the end, he won't be able to come down from Tian Mai Peak today. This seat is going to be empty anyways.” Feng Shu said with indifference.

Qing Kui was still serving his penalty time, unable to come down from Tian Mai Peak. Originally since this was the Sword Trial taking place only once every ten years, Zhangmen had specially lifted his penalty allowing him to come down. Who knew that when the word came the other day, his reply was that he's not taking any disciples anyways, so there's no point in watching the Sword Trial. He was just going to stay put.

Ling Xi was startled, unable to say anything for a moment. Da Shixiong has always acted rather unbridled, extremely protective of her and her shortcomings, but she is no longer that foolish girl from three years ago. She can't just take Qing Kui's seat under the watchful eyes of all these people, ignoring all the possible consequences. Strictly speaking, she isn't even an official Cang Jia disciple.

“I, I...” Ling Xi stood there stammering for an awkward while, seeing Feng Shu's brows already creasing, she hurriedly sputtered in one breath, “ Ling Xi is short, if I sit there I can't see the duel on the Sword Trial platform.”

Feng Shu did not persist. Ling Xi swore she saw the end of his lips curl up ever so slightly, like he was trying to suppress a smirk. She finally let go of the breath she was holding.

The first round of the Sword Trial: the formal trial.

All of the contestants come onto the Sword Trial platform, the question is given by the zhangmen.

Ling Xi raised her head, looking towards the Sword Trial platform floating in the air before diverting her eyes, seeing the other disciples get on their swords, flying off one after another. It looks so effortless how they reached the platform, but her two hands were tightly balled into fists, wishing she could just find a hole in the ground and jump in, never coming out again.

She came to compete in the Sword Trial, yet she couldn't even get to the platform. It's almost like a joke inside a joke...

Feng Shu, as if sensing her recoil, reached out and took her hand. With his other hand he easily formed a cloud.

“Go on.” Feng Shu gave her hand a light squeeze.

Ling Xi felt that jade-like warmth again, her heart stopped shaking replaced by gratitude and security. She stepped onto that cloud.

The Sword Trial platform was a lot bigger than it looked from down there, one could almost use the word endless to describe it. There was a desk before every trial contestant, on that desk a blank sheet of paper, a set of brush and ink. Her eyes swam across the platform, what she saw was a myriad of pale blue robes, it was actually rather similar to the imperial test in the mortal realm.

“You have been on Cang Jia Shan, the longest several hundred to over a thousand years, shortest being three to five years. To remember the pillars of Cang Jia Shan, that is the first task you must complete.”

Those on the Sword Trial platform cannot see what is happening underneath, they can only hear Cang Yu's voice, course with age, steadily drifting over, “For the first trial of today, you will be tested on the fundamental knowledge that you have all accumulated during your stay on Cang Jia Shan. Write on what you believe to be the single most important pillar to uphold on Cang Jia Shan.”

Once the topic had been revealed, everything fell into silent anxiety.

The question seems simple at first glance, in actuality, it was finely crafted.

Usually one would like to think that the most important pillars to uphold, should be those that one finds the hardest to uphold. If one writes honestly this way, it would escalate into a situation where all those weaknesses and shortcomings that perhaps one didn't even know existed would end up exposed on the paper. Even if one is willing to expose their weaknesses, then there is another issue. Cang Jia Shan's pillars are like a massive forest, amounting to the thousands, perhaps even over ten thousand individual pillars. In this short amount of time, how could one possibly pick out a single one to explain in a reasonable way?

Almost a thousand trial contestants, brush in hand, hesitant to mark their papers.

Ling Xi here, didn't even pick up her brush.

When she comprehended Cang Yu's question, her mind seemingly crumbled into nothingness. She stood there completely blank.

She had known from a long time ago that there would be a formal trial in the Sword Trial. Those incantation books that Feng Shu had given her to memorize in the past two years, she had never taken them lightly. The reason was that she felt this was the only trial she could have a chance at. Now, she can't possibly let herself be kicked out in the first round could she...

She had memorized all those incantations, but had never had much contact with much less form an understanding about the pillars...

She was personally brought up to Cang Jia Shan by Feng Shu, personally arranged by him to stay on Tian Mai Peak. From beginning to end, the only people she had ever came in contact with were him, Qing Kui, Qing Lian, and Qing Nian. Why in the world would she ever need to learn these so-called pillars?

The trial contestants around her have already started to move their brushes. No matter how hard Ling Xi wrung out her brain, she could not recall any mentions of Cang Jia Shan's pillars that she might've heard before. Even the pillars of the mortal realm, she could not recall even a single one.

It was so quiet on the Sword Trial platform to the point that the only sound perceptible was the melody of water splashing down from Shui Mai Peak's waterfall. The formal trial only lasted the period of a single incense. All the contestants were writing furiously, all except that lone white-robed figure standing like a statue in her spot. Her eyes were already red and puffy from nervousness, but she was completely helpless.

It was as if she could already hear their taunting laughter. They were taunting her that she was still a fool after three years, can't even write a single word. They were taunting Da Shixiong, that he is even more foolish than a fool to keep a fool like her and pouring his heart into teaching her. She could almost see Zhangmen, the expression in his eyes saying 'Sure enough.' Also Cang Hai shishu, she could hear his sarcastic and taunting remarks, aimed at Da Shixiong with every ill intent.

She didn't know what to write, so for the first trial she... submitted a blank scroll!

The incense burned out very quickly. As soon as the time was up, the sheets of paper drifted up into the air on their own, as if they had minds of their own, collecting together into tidy rows and then spreading into a circle before drifting off the platform and downwards in an orderly way.

Ling Xi's entire face was pale, without a single hint of blood.

Without waiting long, Cang Hai's enraged holler sounded up from below, “Who submitted a blank scroll? Not even having the decency to include a name?”

Ling Xi's body was trembling slightly.

“Who is it? Step out this instant! This is an outright dishonor to Cang Jia Shan!” Cang Hai's enraged roar became even louder.

On the Sword Trial platform, nobody could see what was happening underneath. Those under the platform however, could clearly see every single person on the platform down to their every subtle movement. All of the contestants are wearing pale blue robes, Ling Xi was the only one wearing a white robe. Even if she didn't do anything, she was already very conspicuous. With Cang Hai's holler, all of the contestants have already started looking left and right, seeing if anyone would step out. Only Ling Xi remained standing in her spot, her head lowered so much it looked like she wanted to bury it into her chest if she could. It didn't take long for all of the trial contestants to figure out who it was that submitted the blank scroll, all eyes fell on her.

Ling Xi's entire body was enveloped in cold sweat, blinking profusely, forcing back the tears that were about to escape.

She can't cry. It doesn't matter if she embarrasses herself, she can't embarrass Da Shixiong.

“Ling Xi, lift your head.” Cang Yu's voice was gentle as it had always been.

Ling Xi took in a deep breath and lifted her head, but her eyes were still downcast.

“Was it you that submitted the blank scroll?” Cang Yu asked her.

Ling Xi slowly nodded her head.

“Why?”

Ling Xi's gaze drifted up and around, trying to catch a glimpse of Feng Shu, but was greeted only by the multitude of gazes cast over by the other contestants.

“Shixiong asked you why you submitted a blank scroll, did you not hear?” Cang Hai repeated in anger, “If you don't want to answer, you may leave Cang Jia Shan immediately!”

Ling Xi bit down harshly on her lower lip, not knowing how to respond.

“Wu wei.”

A tremor passed through Ling Xi's entire body, who is talking?

Ling Xi eyes swept through her surroundings. All of the contestants were still staring at her unmovingly, as if they had not noticed anything out of the ordinary.

“Why?” Cang Yu asked once more, a hint of sternness present in his voice this time.

Ling Xi, left with no other choice, replied “Wu wei...”

Those gazes directed at Ling Xi, one after another, gave way to disbelief. Underneath the platform, it was also a muted scene.

Ling Xi's heart was beating so hard, it felt as if it was about to jump out of her chest. Whatever this 'wu wei' that just spurted from her mouth was... she had no idea either... if Zhangmen happens to ask one more question, she would be done with! Also, that voice just now...

She started to scour her surroundings again. Somehow that voice felt familiar to her ears, but there shouldn't be anyone familiar here on the platform...

“Ha! Looks like this kid might actually have some wisdom roots buried in there after all!” This was Cang Qu shishu's voice.

It's rare that he opens his mouth and doesn't pollute the air with his drunken breath, moreover talking clearly without a slur. “Cang Jia's eighteenth pillar, second decree, unpursuing of name, untempted by interest, unbridled by rigidness, unfazed by prejudice, ruling by wu wei.”

Ling Xi listened vaguely, not understanding a word Cang Qu said. The only thing she knew was that apparently her 'wu wei' was the right answer.

“Walking along the water bank, waiting for the clouds to rise!” Cang Qu laughed loudly as he spoke, “This is also a state of enlightenment indeed! This kid has not only remembered it, she has put it into practice. This kind of potential is rare! Truly rare!”

Cang Qu was thoroughly amused, stroking his cleanly shaved chin while completely ignoring Cang Hai's drilling glare. This... can't possibly blame him! Who knew what possessed that brat Qing Kui to steal his precious vat of wine that he had buried for nine hundred ninety nine years! He even threatened that if he didn't help Ling Xi during the Sword Trial, he would pour all of that wine into the Eastern Sea...

It's not a big deal whether or not the girl could pass the first formal trial, but his thousand year fine wine is a big deal! Anyways, even if she does pass the first trial, there's still the second, the third...

“At her young age, Ling Xi already has such a state of mind, surely she will have immense achievements in the future! Let's get in preparation for the second trial now!” Cang Qu's mouth closed, once it opened again, he had already decided that since he was going to go above and beyond. So he just gave her a free pass into the next trial.

In the past, even if the zhanglaos have disagreements, they would take care of it behind closed doors and then give the disciples a following conclusion. Now, since Cang Qu has spoken out and made a decision, even if the others didn't agree, they would keep it to themselves.

Cang Yu's facial expression didn't have any changes, only sending a quick glance Cang Qu's way before giving a slight nod to express his consent.

Ling Xi was still trying to decipher where that voice had come from just now. That voice sounded very close, very low, very familiar...

Ling Xi froze in realization, then started to shuffle through her clothes. Sure enough, she found a little black turtle with wings hiding inside one of her sleeves! It must've been Qing Kui who sneaked it on her when she was about to leave...

All of the contestants have descended the Sword Trial platform, waiting on the results from the first trial. Ling Xi stepped onto the cloud Feng Shu had formed and descended as well. Seeing the smile at the corners of his lips, she just lowered her head and pretended she hadn't seen.

She had cheated. If it weren't for little black turtle, she might've already been thrown out of Cang Jia Shan. But because of little black turtle, even though she had passed the first trial she couldn't feel any joy.

Ling Xi quietly stood behind Feng Shu, her eyes were looking down at the little black turtle in the palm of her hands. She pursed her lips, making a decision.

“Da Shixiong...” Ling Xi sheepishly brought out the little black turtle, placing it on the table. “Here.”

Feng Shu's expression changed. Ling Xi kept her head low, continuing in a small voice, “I will try my best in the next trial, by myself.”

The second trial, a test of spirit.

This test of spirit, tests not only a contestant's spiritual temperament, but also the temperament of their heart.

Of the thousand contestants from the first trial, only about half remained. The Sword Trial platform appeared even more spacious. In the first trial, there was a desk before each contestant. This time it is a single flower seedling.

The flower seedling is a lingshu grass, a special type of plant that grows on Cang Jia Shan. Every time a new disciple is chosen, they will be asked to hold the lingshu grass in their hand in order to determine their spiritual potential along with their character.

At first glance, the lingshu grass looks like an ordinary seedling. Once someone touches it though, it would bloom forth snow lotuses. The number of snow lotuses represents the capacity of that person's spirit. The color of the snow lotus then, represents the heart of that person. The purer the color of the snow lotus's petals, naturally one could tell how pure that person's heart and mind is. If the snow lotus's color is too deep however, it could mean that person's mind is overridden by distracting thoughts, and the person's heart is harboring evil intentions. They would immediately be driven out of Cang Jia Shan. In the even rarer case of a person blooming snow lotuses of pure black, they will be executed on the spot.

Since Ling Xi put down the little black turtle, her heart had actually lifted. Her expectations are not high, as long as she is able to bloom a single flower, a single pure and white snow lotus, she will be satisfied. That at least proves that her heart is pure and righteous, Da Shixiong didn't choose the wrong person.

One after another, all of the contestants took their seat on the ground, held their breaths, reached out and placed their hands on their lingshu grass. In the blink of an eye, the lingshu grass sprouted, branched into stems, and bloomed.

Ling Xi also had her eyes closed, could feel the soft green grass brush against the palm of her hand, sprouting upwards without end.

After a long time, Ling Xi still had her eyes closed. The grass in the palm of her hand was still gliding upwards, without a sign of stopping at all.

The Sword Trial platform had fallen into a dead silence. Although Ling Xi could not see, she could feel the countless eyes fixed on her. With a queasy feeling involuntarily growing inside her heart, Ling Xi couldn't help herself and secretly opened her eyes. With one glance, she saw the lingshu grass in her right hand.

The lingshu grass was still rising upwards. New branches brought forth endless buds, which before long, all bloomed in sync. The blossoms embraced each other, every blossom linked together in clusters that rose ever higher, as if wanting to bloom forth a pure white ladder reaching straight up into the heavens.

Ling Xi was so startled she nearly cried out, withdrawing her hand in a hurry. Only then did the lingshu grass stop growing.

Once the bewilderment passed, following it was uncontainable happiness. Her lingshu grass, it bloomed more flowers than everyone else! The flowers she bloomed, were more pure than everyone else! She had won! The second trial she had won! Without little black turtle, without cheating, she still won!

Ling Xi was so flustered that tears wanted to seep out of her eyes. She stuck her head out to look over the edge of the platform, urgently looking for Feng Shu, but she could not find him. She did however find the Cang Yu Zhangmen, whom she hadn't seen for a fairly long time.

Cang Yu stepped off of the cloud, slowly making his way over. His posture was full of authority, his brows deeply creased. On his face was also unconcealable shock.

Ten thousand snow lotuses blooming by a single hand, the ancient books have record of this. From his entry into Cang Jia until now, he has never seen it before.

Ling Xi only knew that since she had bloomed the most flowers and her flowers being the purest, that meant she had won. Facing Cang Yu, this was the first time she let down her guard, happily declaring, “Zhangmen, I won, right?”

Ling Xi's smile was as radiant as flowers as she asked Cang Yu this, turning her head to look at the snow lotuses that she had bloomed.

At that very moment, at the turn of her head, the tide turned drastically. The lingshu grass that was nearly a thousand hands tall a second before, had withered before her eyes at the rate of crumbling leaves. Ten thousand pure white snow lotuses suddenly turned into black ash, like stained snow, blotting out the entire sky before smashing down to the ground in heavy clumps.

Cang Jia Shan which had been tranquil and quiet a moment ago suddenly became loud with commotion. Even the most collected of Cang Jia disciples at this moment were shouting out in panic.

Snow lotuses disintegrating into ash, an omen of calamitous proportions!
 
 
 
(Anonymous) on January 10th, 2017 05:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the chapter!
Ah that Qing Kui is so caring despite his mild insults xD
(Anonymous) on January 10th, 2017 11:57 pm (UTC)
This is an amazing novel!
Hoo, this completely captivated me! I'm etvolare, could I entice you to drop me an email at volaretranslations @ gmail? Would love to work together! :)