Chapter 10: The Academy
In the end, Yin BiYue was unable to go to the peak meeting that had been scheduled early the next morning.
Why? Well, it was because a blue messenger sparrow had landed outside his courtyard.
The letter he received was written on thin note-paper decorated with cloud patterns. On it, the message was composed of straightforward Tai-styled characters printed in profound Huizhou ink.
‘Lan Yuan Academy invites you, the esteemed Sire, to return and chat. We eagerly await your arrival.’
Even the words were composed of formal speech and filled with polite honorifics. However, although this invitation was tastefully made, it was actually something any high-ranking Sect or influential aristocratic family could create.
What was different from those was that the invitation card was not only marked with the Academy’s ‘Life Blossom Stroke’ crest, but also the Academy Director’s personal seal.
Lan Yuan Academy was not part of the ‘Three Mountain Sects’, the ‘Double Buddha Temples’, or the ‘Twelve Demonic Sects’. It was a neutral faction, but behind all of those different powers, the shadow of the Academy could faintly be seen.
The esteemed Elder of the Bao Pu Sect once went to the Academy to borrow a book, and the head of the Jie Kong Temple also went there before to speak about Dharma. The cornerstones of these major sects all had a couple disciples that came from the Academy. The Academy’s influence was so great that several illustrious officials from the North Imperial Court Hall had graduated from Lan Yuan Academy as well.
But, what was most important was that the Academy Director was one of the six great Sages.
Duan ChongXuan clicked his tongue in astonishment at the sight of the letter, “This kind of godly method, as expected of the Academy Director. Fourth senior-apprentice brother, do you think the spatial array in the seal can take two people? How about we hold each other and go together?”
The corner of Yin BiYue’s lips twitched. He reached out, plucked the invitation back from Duan ChongXuan and read it.
The way the letter was written looked amiable, but it did not indicate a time for departure.
The meaning of that was very simple. It basically meant that the recipient of this invitation was to head out immediately.
He suddenly recalled a vulgar saying from the cultivation realm, “Cang Ya Mountain’s tyranny was genuine: ‘If you don’t accept it then I will beat you until you do, this Lord is the law!’ And although Lan Yuan Academy looked gentlemanly on the outside because of their polite and amiable actions, they would not allow you to refuse them.
Yin BiYue’s slender finger rubbed the mark at the corner of the letter, the one barely the size of a palm. The red ink paste was somewhat protruding, and the texture felt exquisitely smooth and soft. It was the ‘Academy Director’s personal mark,’ a four character seal without any fancy additions.
Duan Chongxuan watched from the sidelines. Anxiety was written all over his face, as if he feared Yin BiYue would disappear in the blink of an eye.
Once true essence was poured into the spatial array of the Academy Director’s personal seal, it would activate the array channel. Lan Yuan Academy was in the middle of Yunyang City, while Cang Ya Mountain was to the west; the distance between them was a thousand miles.
But nowadays, one could get to the other place in the blink of an eye.
Yin BiYue could not think of a reason why an important figure like a Sage would want to see him. He also did not believe it was for the reason Duan Chongxuan had thought of, that ‘because you finished school with good grades, the Director invited you back to lecture’. An explanation like that held no weight at all.
That was because in the three years he had stayed at the Academy, he didn’t even know the location of the entrance of the Director’s residence. All the matters of the Academy, whether small or large, were all dealt with by the deputy director and a group of teachers.
The Academy Director seemed to only need to worry about living as a legend.
However, if he couldn’t think things through, then there was no need to think about it any longer. In the end, Yin BiYue had to go see him eventually.
He dipped his head and spoke, “Junior-apprentice brother, I will take my leave.”
Duan Chongxuan quickly moved closer, “Fourth senior-apprentice brother, will you really not consider taking me along?! ……Hey, senior-apprentice brother, senior-apprentice brother……”
Duan ChongXuan’s voice was still ringing by his ear when he had appeared in an unfamiliar place. Shallow water pooled on top of green-bricked ground while the air contained some faintly cooling water vapors.
It had just rained in Yun Yang City, so the sky was still clearing up.
Yin BiYue turned around to look at the shadows before he calculated the time difference and distance between the two countries.
He was currently standing in front of the Academy’s large, vermillion gates which faced a huge array stone shaped like a spiritual mushroom. A vast presence directly assaulted his senses.
A child dressed in a red robe with his hair combed into a bun was by the large stone. He cupped his hands at Yin BiYue in greeting, “Please follow me, senior-apprentice brother. The Director has already been waiting for you for a long time.”
Rather than calling the Academy a school, it was better to call it a city within a city.
Why? Well, because its size was extraordinary.
Next to the array stone was the wide main road of the Academy, leading far away to the lesson hall where the students usually gathered. Currently, it was ‘class time’, so the students were all gathered to listen to a lecture.
The large main road and hall made the place seem even more empty.
After one strolled past the lesson hall, the road would suddenly split off into several paths. There were complicated, winding corridors, and green bricks pathing roads that were accessible from all sides.
Yin BiYue walked upon the roads that the original Yin BiYue had traveled many times before.
A black locust tree with a trunk three arm spans wide acted as a canopy. Green vines crawled and covered the fourth floor of the library, making it a land of green when viewed from afar. The paint on the pillar between each lesson room was somewhat mottled, revealing the original dark colour beneath.
The wind carried the sweet scent of grass and the sound of flipping books, while the scenery gave off an ancient feeling.
What did Lan Yuan Academy teach?
They taught everything and anything.
Calligraphy and painting, the Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art, poetry and prose1, classical music, basic cultivation, the Hundred Schools of Thought2, the Vastness of the Universe3, and palace court calculations.
The Academy Director once said, “Questions can be asked early or late. There aren’t merits or drawbacks in doing so either way. There are three thousand paths to take, but all of those routes will eventually lead to the same destination.”
This was precisely the objective of the Academy.
The child leading him turned and passed yet another arched door, smiling as he asked, “Senior-apprentice brother has graduated from the Academy for quite some time now. Do you still remember your way around here?”
Yin BiYue replied, “I walked these roads ten million times in those three years, I naturally remember. I am just a bit ashamed to say that despite being a student from the Academy, I never knew the Academy Director’s honored name.”
He thought that since this child was the Academy Director’s child servant, he should know the Director’s surname. At least that way, Yin BiYue would be able to greet the Director by name when he met him later.
But unexpectedly, the child answered, “The Director’s honored name, there really isn’t anyone that knows it. I think, perhaps even the Director himself no longer remembers it.”
Yin BiYue was a bit flabbergasted at the information, “Like how some people did not dare to call the Sword Saint by his honored name, so after some time passed, people forgot it?”
From his observations, this child looked naive and had a lively temperament. It could be seen that the people the Director kept by his side were kind. Well, at least on the surface.
The child frowned, his face at a loss.
“Yes, but also no. I reckon that for the most part, the Director’s seniority is very high, so no matter who it is and how illustrious their identity, they still all address him respectfully as ‘Director’. Director is very open-minded, so no matter how lowly or poor someone’s social status was, they could address him as ‘Director’. And after this went on for such a long time, his name and surname have long become unimportant. After all, from the Director’s point of view, every living being on the earth and the heavens are to be treated equally.”
All living beings were equal? Yin BiYue faintly smiled. This Academy Director truly seemed like a genuine saint.
But for things below the Saint, everyone else were but insignificant ants.
And since they were all ants, then naturally, they were equal.
Yin BiYue’s face was as peaceful as water as he followed the child and went past many libraries, before they walked into the secluded depths of the Academy. When they took another turn, he suddenly fell behind a step. By the time Yin BiYue looked up again, the child’s figure had disappeared into thin air.
Yin Biyue did not panic. Instead, he headed forward as if he was on a leisurely stroll.
The entire academy was part of the Director’s private domain. A flower, a leaf, a bird or a beast, anything inside were within his grasp. So if he got lost, then the Director would know.
He walked past the martial arts training room. The youngsters within the room were currently diligently training their swords, their faces young and their expression determined. Their sweat flowed down from their foreheads and into their collars. After passing through the long corridor, Yin Biyue came upon the Contemplation Hall, where the students were being noisy. Currently, it sounded quite crowded. There seemed to be two students who were quarreling endlessly, their faces red in anger as they glared at each other.
Within the library, a figure flashed by the window in a hurried gait as they held thick scrolls and letters against their chest.
It was a student of the school, one still in his prime.
Yin BiYue remembered the ‘contemplative debates’ and ‘sword-play practices’. These two subjects were ones he had also went through before. The teachers that taught those were very strict and harsh.
There had been countless nights where he had burned the midnight oil to read and study, before getting up to practice sword-play in the early morning until dusk could be seen from afar.
Yin Biyue was never the most talented of geniuses, but he was more diligent than every other genius.
Memories rushed up like a flood in his mind, the old days flashing by his eyes one by one.
The affairs of life were like a long dream. In his three years at the Academy, he had experienced happiness, anger, sorrow and joy. Starting from the moment he nervously entered the lesson hall for the Academy’s preliminary exam, to the night of his graduation where they drank wine and broke out in songs, every day had been unforgettable.
At this moment, as he went down memory lane, it was as if mist had finally touched that antisocial teenager’s shadow, as if Yin BiYue had really been him in the past.
The experiences of the past all molded the person I am now.
Something stirred in his mind and he unsheathed his sword as a mournful cry sounded. The green bricks below his foot split open into a foot deep crack.
When a day ends, the world became bathed in a color like blood.
At the same time, deep within the courtyard of the locust tree, a middle-aged scholar that looked like an official smiled.
“His spiritual energy was already out before his sword was, wonderful.”
All the locust tree flowers of the courtyard gently swayed in the wind, as if echoing his delight.
Yin Biyue was still immersed in his sword’s wish. It was an intuitive feeling of being close to something profound.
Suddenly, the scenery before his eyes changed.
It turned into a courtyard full of locust trees.
It was only the second month of spring, yet the branches of the locust trees here were already heavy with flowers, the air drifting of their sweet fragrance.
Below the locust tree was a person, the master of the Academy.
Before Yin Biyue met the Academy Director, he had fantasized to himself countless times what kind of person this Director would be.
Most people would probably just be curious about the few people who existed in a plane far beyond themselves. What would they look like? And what kind of power and influence would they hold?
But nothing they imagined would describe the current situation.
Yin BiYue had believed that the Director would be an old man with the aura of an immortal sunken into his bones, yet the man before his eyes actually had a middle-aged scholar’s appearance.
That man sat below the tree as he waved his left hand somewhat lazily at him, the same way a rich and idle person of a great family would do.
Even though he wore the most proper official class clothing, it still gave him an unorganized air.
He did not have the might and power the Sect Leader showed outside, or Jun Yu’s sword intent that couldn’t be seen up close. He didn’t even have Liu QiShuang’s martial and heroic aura.
But Yin Biyue had a keen intuition over whether someone’s spiritual soul was weak or strong, so he did not dare to relax his vigilance in front of this man.
The man before his eyes was very powerful.
Even in comparison to the people he had met in his long transmigration journey, this man could be considered as a rarely seen, powerful individual that sat at the top of the world.
Yin BiYue went forward two steps and kept a polite distance as he assumed the proper greeting posture for a disciple.
“This student greets the Director.”
The honorable and idle person waved his hand in a gesture for him to relax, his attitude practically sloppy.
Only then did Yin BiYue heave a sigh of relief.
But in the next second, the feeling of a crisis completely overtook him.
It felt like all the blood in his body suddenly froze, as if he had fallen into an ice cave.
Because that man glanced at him while beaming, before he sighed a bit regretfully.
“If you weren’t able to kill him, then forget about it.”
- A particular type of Chinese writing where the whole literary piece is made up of pairs of sentences, where authors paid particular attention to antithesis, careful harmony and resounding words
- More info about this can be found here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundred_Schools_of_Thought
- This is roughly translated to ”the great desolateness of the universe”, the second line from the famous piece the Thousand Character Classic which is used as a highly influential enlightenment piece for children in China