Chapter 23: Romance in the Temple
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The mountain was shrouded in a thin layer of fog that no wind could disperse.
After falling from the cliff, all Chen Jingzhai could feel was numbness in his body. It took him quite a while to regain his senses. When he woke up, he noticed that he was lying in front of the entrance of a temple. The temple was heavily damaged. Almost half of it was destroyed, and cracks could be found in the remaining standing pillars. Moss could be found all over the walls, veins covered the fences, and water dripped from the roof tiles.
Chen Jingzhai tried to stand up only to realize that all his energy was drained from him. His consciousness was blocked, and his five senses were interrupted by something. It was as if he had returned to when he was 12 years old and had yet to start cultivating.
“Is this the second test?” he thought before walking into the damaged temple. The statue of a deity could be found inside the temple. Though old and covered in dust, it was still in good condition. However, unlike other deity statues, it depicted a man. Its green robe was patchy, and the brush of its fly-whisk was all over the place. A gourd for storing herbs and a sword hung on the statue’s waist. It wore a pair of straw sandals and stood atop a divine tortoise.
Chen Jingzhai immediately recognized the statue as the Medicinal Master spoken of in folklore. There were a lot of cultivators in the Pulao Kingdom who had proved their incredible powers. Some did it to help the poor, some out of compassion, and some did because it was their nature. Similar to the story of the Sword Celestial, the Medicinal Master was a well-known Taoist Sage. No one knew the Medicinal Master’s real name as he was a figure who lived thousands of years before Chen Jingzhai’s time. In folklore, he was known as a sage who had saved many lives and had slain a lot of demons. He had immense power, yet was generous. For this, he was well-loved by the people of his time.
That was why his temples were built in places where humans existed, even deep in the forest below the cliff. Although many of the Medicinal Master’s temples were lost with time, many still remained. What surprised Chen Jingzhai the most was someone praying to the Medicinal Master there.
“Hmmm… Am I still in the Luanyun Mountain Range?” Chen Jingzhai frowned as he stared at the statue. He walked around the temple before calming himself down. Just as he was about to sit down to cultivate, he heard the sound of a bell and a donkey coming from outside.
Not long after that, he could hear a lady asking, “Hey, are you the attendant of this broken temple?”
Chen Jingzhai opened his eyes and raised his head to find a young lady dressed in a green robe with a pure black donkey behind her. On her other hand was a stick.
He frowned. Something felt off to him.
“Are you deaf?” The lady pouted.
“No, I’m not. I’m not the attendant either,” Chen Jingzhai replied. “You can do whatever you want around here, but please don’t interrupt me…”
He closed his eyes once again, not waiting for her response. Knowing that it was impossible for an ordinary person to wander into the mountain range, he quickly speculated that he was in an illusion. He believed that nothing around him was real, including the young lady and the donkey. Yet, no matter what Chen Jingzhai told himself, he could not calm himself down. All he could think of was the young lady’s playful face.
That had caught him off guard. He had vowed that he would only focus on cultivating to reach the top in his second life. He thought he could ignore any romantic feelings he would have, that he would only fall in love at first sight because the lady was pretty and nothing more. However, he did not expect nor could he explain why the young lady he had just met would not leave his mind.
“So, you aren’t deaf, and you aren’t the attendant too? Well, makes sense. There’s no way people are still staying in this broken temple. Good thing that you are a passerby then,” the young lady chuckled.
She tied her donkey to the stone outside the entrance and gathered a few dried branches. After sitting down by a wall, she lit the branches. As the warmth of the fire spread throughout the room, the young lady rested her chin on her hands as she quietly studied Chen Jingzhai. Back in the Cloud Palace, everyone was stunned the see the scene unfold on the cloud.
“The second trial tests the path in his heart,” Elder Qin said. “Although everyone has different paths and the manifestation would be different, this is the first time I’ve seen something like this.”
“This sure is rare,” another elder laughed. “We’ve been seeing the same manifestations over the years. It’s refreshing to see something new.”
“Refreshing isn’t the word I would use,” Nascent Zhenjun, sitting next to the headmaster, said. “Headmaster, if I’m correct, this should be the Trial of Love, right?”
“The Trial of Love?” the elders and Sage Lu exclaimed.
Romance and sex weren’t banned in the Luo Sheng Sword School. Instead, as the descendent of a Sword Celestial, they took romantic feelings seriously. There were a lot of disciples of the clan who eventually became married couples. However, the mention of the Trial of Love made everyone’s expression turn sour. The Trial of Love was known to be tedious. A small mistake could cause Chen Jingzhai to fail the test.
“Did you guys not notice who the young lady is?” Headmaster Fuyun sighed. “She’s Ren Mingyue, the second master of the Hongluan Peak. This is her Trial of Love.”
“Master Mingyue?” The expression of the elders turned even sourer.
“Master Mingyue was the strongest after Founder Luo Sheng. However, she was trapped by the Trial of Love for thousands of years,” the headmaster explained, his expression mixed. “Master Mingyue decided to set her hardship as one of the trials so that she could find an answer. Almost none has ever started the Trial of Love. Chen Jingzhai was the first in the past 1,000 years.”
As the 28 tests were all created by Luo Sheng’s Taoism Charm, they worked in mysterious ways. Almost every disciple of the Luo Sheng Sword School had walked the path of the Test of the Twenty-Eight. From young cultivators who had just arrived at the clan to cultivators who had reached a high level would take the Test numerous times as the Test was both a simple test and a challenge. It was similar to the Heaven Path of Sea of Clouds of the Soaring Cloud Clan, which was a place to test their disciples and refine their minds. The core of any celestial clan based on Taoism had always been to strengthen one’s mind first. To them, the state of one’s mind was critical.
For the past 5,000 years, countless cultivators have taken the Test of the Twenty-Eight, leaving a lot of Taoism Charms and obsessions in the Test, and the Test had since grown because of that.
The illusions that emerged from the Test would cause one to lose themselves. The Trial of Love that Chen Jingzhai had stumbled onto belonged to the second founder, Ren Mingyue. It replicated an event that occurred to Ren Mingyue when she left the mountain to train after reaching the Foundation Plane. She met a man and fell in love with him, only to get hurt for the next thousand years.
“Headmaster, will the boy be in danger because of the trial?” Sage Lu asked.
“He won’t be in danger,” the headmaster sighed again. “However, if he managed to clear this trial, the Hongluan Peak will want him. He won’t be able to train under you then.”
“Why’s that?” A hint of anger could be heard in the sage’s cold voice.
Since he was the one who had recommended Chen Jingzhai, the young man would become his disciple after passing the second Test. If Chen Jingzhai could pass the third and fourth tests, the young man would become the sage’s younger brother. No matter the result, Chen Jingzhai was supposed to train in his branch. It was an unwritten rule that the school had obeyed for a long time.
Sage Lu could not understand why the Hongluan Peak would want Chen Jingzhai to join them. It made him show signs of anger, even though he was usually expressionless.
“Because the past is involved in this trial,” the headmaster explained. “This is the order left by Master Mingyue and is detailed in the Headmaster Bill. It’s something that we cannot disobey.”
Sage Lu opened his mouth but could not argue back. All he could do was show the expression of someone who had lost a treasure. Since it was written in the Headmaster Bill, there was nothing he could do about it. Even Headmaster Fuyun and the master in seclusion training had to obey it.