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Eldest Brother said, "I don't understand why master would say that."
The Chief Preaching Monk looked at him and gently said, "You are the Headmaster's student. You should know how he is like. If he really thought that killing Sangsang would cause Yama to invade us, he would have brought Ning Que and Sangsang back to the Academy. Would everything that had happened since autumn happen then?"
Eldest Brother fell into silence.
"I heard Ye Su once said in Lanke Temple that Haotian Taoism is doing the right thing while the Buddhism Sect is doing what we think we should do. Only you all at the Academy have been doing what makes you happy all along."
The Chief Preaching Monk looked at him and said, "You people at the Academy do not have beliefs, respect nor fear. You might be infinitely powerful. But in the end, you might discover that you don't understand what would make you happy."
"I don't know if the Headmaster is happy or not. But I know that he is hesitating. He does not know what is the right thing to do and what he should do to make himself happy. When you return to the Academy, please give him my regards and tell him that to a large extent, the future of the world lies in his hesitation today."
With that, the Chief Preaching Monk held his monk's staff and climbed up the horse carriage with difficulty. The sixteen horses neighed painfully and pulled the carriage out of the temple.
Eldest Brother remained silent as he watched the slow retreating horse carriage. He thought to himself, "Could teacher be hesitating? If he wasn't hesitating, he would have long acted."
Winter had ended, but spring had not yet fully arrived. Among the hills in the north of the Yuelun Kingdom, vegetation was turning green, but it was still vaguely hidden between the withered and frosted leaves.
Both sides of the path were rather bare, and when the horse carriage sped past, it looked like a single block of color moving. It was no better off than the plainness in the Wilderness.
In the carriage, Sangsang was dressed in fur clothing and was huddled under thick bedding. Her face was pale and she held a leather pouch filled with strong liquor. She would take a few gulps whenever she felt cold. It could slightly warm her chest and abdomen, but it could not stop her cough.
Ning Que stared at the small medicine bottle above the copper basin. He'd count the time carefully and cough softly every now and then. The injury he had suffered in Chaoyang City was basically healed, but he still had some small problems with his lungs.
Sangsang was injured by the arrow but had recovered under his care. What made him uneasy now was that he did not know if it was due to the continuous escape that the cold aura in her body seemed to show signs of acting up again.
The slightly pungent smell of medicine gradually spread through the carriage. He took down the medicine bottle and placed it on the floor to cool. Then, he took the liquor pouch from Sangsang and stuffed a Buddhist scripture into her hands.
"I can memorize it," said Sangsang, looking at him pathetically.
Ning Que's heart was like steel and he was unmoved. He said, "Master Qishan said you have to continue reading scriptures and studying Buddhism. It's pointless even if you can memorize it. You have to understand Buddhism through reading the scriptures."
Sangsang said, "I've read so many scriptures, but I don't know if they're useful."
"Didn't we confirm that it is useful in Chaoyang City?"
Ning Que walked to the windows and said, "Think about it. The Chief Preaching Monk spoke in the voice of Buddha, and look at how impressive that was. If you can learn that trick, maybe with just a command, the cold aura would be so frightened it would disappear."
Sangsang laughed, and continued reading the scripture.
Ning Que lifted the curtains and looked toward the back of the mountain path.
It was a scene of desolation with the occasional green. However, there were plenty of coniferous forests that had not yet produced new leaves. His eyes did not stay on this scene but strayed towards the more distant south.
He wondered how his Eldest Brother was.
This was what Ning Que was most worried about other than Sangsang's health after leaving Chaoyang City. However, he thought that since he had left with Sangsang, the Chief Preaching Monk would have no reason to cause trouble for Eldest Brother, risking the wrath of their teacher. Then, Eldest Brother should be safe.
They were already several hundred miles away from Chaoyang City. They had long lost the tail of Master Qi Mei and the Yuelun Kingdom's cavalry. Ning Que made the Big Black Horse stop at the side of the path for them to rest for a while.
Ning Que got off the horse carriage and saw a stream on the side of the path, which made him feel very satisfied. He patted the Big Black Horse's back and filled his water pouch. Then, he began to stew dried meat and fed the horse an old ginseng.
The Big Black Horse chewed frantically and swallowed the ginseng in seconds. It was a little bitter, but it knew that it was very nourishing and did not dare to show Ning Que his displeasure.
Ning Que had stolen the old ginseng and other cooking herbs in the medicinal vat inside the carriage from a rich manor in Chaoyang City back in winter. They were all extremely precious goods.
The dried meat gradually bloated up in the boiling water and a rancid smell emerged from the pot. The Big Black Horse turned his head with disdain and went searching for flowers by the road to chew on. It wanted to get rid of the bitter taste of the ginseng in its mouth. However, there was but a few stalks of grass on the ground, much less flowers. It grew annoyed.
"Passing winter in the green hills really turned you wild. Only my Eleventh Senior Brother would do something like eating flowers. Why would you want to chew something like that?"
Ning Que scolded him and looked up at the sky.
The dark cloud continued following Sangsang. It was significantly thicker as compared to when they were in Chaoyang city and was also gloomier. It was like a wet old blanket and felt very heavy.
Ning Que's mood was solemn. The cloud was a weight on his shoulders and was depressing. When he heard the sounds of cawing and saw several black crows circling the skies, he felt even more agitated.
He wanted to chase the black crows away and even kill them. However, he had tried to use his boxwood bow to shoot them down to no avail. He even wanted to try using the Primordial Thirteen Arrows but eventually gave up on this line of thought. He was worried that these black crows could not be killed and he would waste his precious iron arrows.
No matter the clouds or the black crows in the sky, they continued to follow the horse carriage. It was eerie as they followed closely without straying. It was annoying and terrifying.
Ning Que could guess where the cloud and black crows came from. The clouds might have gathered because of the cold aura leaking out from Sangsang, causing the aura of Heaven and Earth to change. The intelligent and seemingly unkillable black crows could be a physical manifestation of the cold aura inside Sangsang.
The cold aura was an imprint left behind in Sangsang by Yama. The clouds and black crows were Yama's methods. Even the most bizarre and wondrous incidents could be explained by an existence that was greater than that of the human realm.
The black clouds and crows continued following the black horse carriage. It was a very obvious sign. Ning Que did not know if Yama could see it, but he knew that many people had seen it, since he kept meeting little troops of the Yuelun Kingdom's cavalry.
The black carriage was no longer able to hide its tracks. This meant that many were watching Ning Que and Sangsang's journey and they were forced out into the light.
Since this was so, Ning Que decided not to think too much about it. He ordered the Big Black Horse to speed up, hoping that he would be able to reach the Wilderness. Judging by the Big Black Horse's speed, once they entered the limitless Wilderness, the cultivators of both Buddhism and Taoism sects as well as the cavalry of the Yuelun Kingdom would find it hard to catch up with them unless they also had an Eldest Brother.
They rushed madly toward the north, and within days, the black horse carriage successfully traversed through the northern lands of the Yuelun Kingdom. It exited the kingdom and reached the sparsely populated Wilderness.
It might seem simple, but the black horse carriage had encountered several attempts at blocking them on their journey. They also encountered several dangerous situations.
The powerhouses of both the Buddhism and Taoism sects, as well as the Yuelun Kingdom's military, had set up four blockages in the north. One of the most dangerous encounters they've had occurred when the black horse carriage changed its path and attempted to travel through the northeast.
The people that the West-Hill Divine Palace had placed in the ridge had been heading north at that time. They happened to meet the black horse carriage which was at the northeast border of the Yuelun Kingdom. The West-Hill Divine Palace team had over ten deacons from the Judicial Department amongst them and hundreds of Papal Cavalrymen. What was even more terrifying was that they had two Haotian Taoism visiting professors who were at the Knowing Destiny State.
Ning Que's first thought when he saw the powerhouses from the West-Hill Divine Palace was to wonder: when had cultivators in the Knowing Destiny State become so common? And secondly, how many powerful people did Haotian Taoism actually have hidden?
The third thought, of course, was to escape.
If Sangsang was the enemy of the world, then no matter how powerful Ning Que was, he could not just simply escape when he wanted to. The black horse carriage could traverse through many blockades and escape even though they met many powerhouses from the Buddhism and Taoism sects. They had crossed through the borders and entered the Wilderness successfully. Other than the fast speed of the Big Black Horse and Ning Que's rich experience in fleeing, the most important reason for their success was that someone had been secretly helping them.
Ning Que did not know who was helping them but he could vaguely guess. His conjecture was confirmed when those people were forced to appear as he met the powerhouses from the West-Hill Divine Palace.
Those who had been helping them escape were from the West-Hill Divine Palace. They were the deacon from the Judicial Department, ordinary priests and two highly ranked priests in red.
Many people hand died tragically to protect Sangsang in the sudden battle by the northeast border of the Yuelun Kingdom. One of the priests in red had used his Divine Skills to self-ignite, seriously injuring the Haotian Taoism visiting professors in the Knowing Destiny State. That was how Ning Que and Sangsang had managed to escape.
The wind in the Wilderness was still just as cold.
Sangsang grew more and more silent as the priests from the West-Hill Divine Palace exposed themselves or died in order to cover the whereabouts of the black horse carriage as they fled.
Ning Que lifted the curtains and looked at the scenery of the Wilderness that he had never seen, but looked familiar. He thought of the tragedies that had occurred as they fled and said, "They are all from the Divine Hall of Light."
Sangsang murmured in agreement.
The deacons in black from the Judicial Department, the Taoists from some Taoist temple, ordinary priests, priests in red. These people all came from different places, and were not all subordinates of the Divine Hall of Light in the West-Hill Divine Palace.
However, these people had something in common. They had all met one person and studied under him or served him. Some might had only spoken a few words with the person.
And after having these experiences, no matter what kind of person these people would become in the future—the ruthless deacons in black of the Judicial Department, the Haotian Taoism visiting professors, the honorable priests in red, or the ordinary cavalry of West-Hill Divine Palace—they would be determined to follow the light and thought of themselves to belong to the Divine Hall of Light.
Because the person they all met was called Wei Guangming.
Wei Guangming was the most impressive Great Divine Priest of Light from the West-Hill Divine Palace in over a hundred years. He was also the greatest traitor of the West-Hill Divine Palace in over a hundred years. To those of the world, he was also the person who had once been the closest to Haotian.