Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Though the man had been dead for a long time, Li Xuantu could tell from the various traces of energy on his body that he could have reached the basic level of the Grotto Heaven realm at most. Anyone who could reach this level would be considered a top-class expert in any era, but not by Heaven.
Heaven was so proud that not even the twelve Supremes had a chance to see this Celestial Palace. This Ge Zhu from the Wei-Jin period was weaker than Li Xuantu and Wang Chong, so how could Heaven ever have permitted him inside?
"This truly is very strange."
Wang Chong frowned. He had also noticed the oddities that Li Xuantu had pointed out.
There really seemed to be no reason for Heaven to let in an outsider. But he had to have his reasons for it.
Taking the notebook from Li Xuantu's hands, Wang Chong carefully looked through it. Inside the book were various clues that had been gathered from ancient texts, ending with his discovery of the Founding Tree and his journey within. The words were brimming with pride, and it was clear that this man had been very proud of his accomplishments.
In other words, he had been in the dark the entire time and had no idea what sort of place he was entering.
A shuddering came from behind them.
Wang Chong and Li Xuantu both shivered as they realized what was happening.
"Heaven is coming!" Li Xuantu gravely said.
Wang Chong's expression had also turned grave. He immediately shot forward with Li Xuantu and Little Nightmare.
As they proceeded farther and farther, they saw more and more people, corpses of ancient people fused with the walls.
Some of these people were Daoists, alchemists, or scholars, and some were armored figures, clearly generals from the battlefield.
The sight of these people made the furrows on Wang Chong's and Li Xuantu's brows grow deeper and deeper. They had believed that many people like Ge Zhu could have 'mistakenly' entered this place, but seemed that they were gravely mistaken.
It seemed that whether accidentally or intentionally, numerous people had entered this place, no less than one hundred.
However, time was short, so Wang Chong and Li Xuantu only had time for a brief glance.
After some time, Little Nightmare spoke once more. "Master, look at that!" In this long passage, Little Nightmare had seemingly discovered something different.
Wang Chong and Li Xuantu turned in the direction Little Nightmare had indicated and, sure enough, thousands of feet above them, an object was brightly flashing in the Heaven-Reaching Path.
"Let's go and see."
Wang Chong quickly appeared in front of that flashing object.
Li Xuantu glanced at the object and creased his brow.
"This is… a bronze token?"
Someone had used profound energy to nail this bronze token into the wall of the passage, but there was no sign of any body around it. This was the first time the two of them had seen a situation like this.
Not only that, as they got closer, they sensed an extremely powerful spatial seal within the token. The person who had imbued the token with this seal had to have a mastery of space that was even above Wang Chong's.
"No, this isn't some bronze token, but an Emperor's personal token! To see this token would be the same as seeing the Emperor!"
Wang Chong waved his hand and took the token out of the wall. After all, the passage of time had weakened the seal somewhat, so it wasn't too difficult for someone of Wang Chong's power to remove it.
Without another word, Wang Chong turned the token over. Upon seeing the image on the back of the token, Li Xuantu was shaken. He understood why Wang Chong had said that this was an Emperor's personal token.
On the back of the token were nine dragons. There were various types of dragon, but only the true dragon had five claws, and all of the dragons on the back of the token were five-clawed golden dragons, true dragons!
The Supreme Sovereign of the Nine and Five! In ancient times, this token could only represent one person.
The Emperor of the Central Plains, and one that belonged to an orthodox dynasty!
Li Xuantu could even see a few words written on this side of the token.
'Accepting the Mandate of Heaven, Let the People Live Long and the Country Forever Prosper!'
Li Xuantu's heart was heavy. The Emperor to which this token belonged had to have been an extraordinary individual.
Besides the nine dragons and that line of words, there was nothing else to identify its owner on this side of the token. But back on the other side, they saw two words…
'Zhi Ge' (止戈)!
Li Xuantu frowned as if he had thought of something, and he glanced at Wang Chong.
"It should be him."
Wang Chong slightly nodded as if he understood what Li Xuantu wanted to ask.
"Since ancient times, there is only one person who would call himself 'Zhi Ge' (止戈): Emperor Wu (武) of Han."
(TN: In Chinese, you put 止戈 together and you get 武, which means 'martial'.)
The Central Plains had been home to many Emperors, but the only one connected to '止戈' was Emperor Wu of the Western Han, who had reigned nearly one thousand years ago.
That Emperor had spent more than half of his life on the battlefield.
The Central Plains had originally been rather small. It was Emperor Wu who had vigorously expanded in all directions, crushing all contenders, and led it to be the size it was today.
The vast territory of the Great Tang had its basis in the expansion of Emperor Wu's period.
This sovereign was famed for his martial prowess, and he had opened up everyone's minds to new possibilities. But how had this token carved with nine dragons, clearly a personal possession of that Emperor Wu of Han, appeared here?
"Your Highness Crown Prince, it is said that the imperial household knows many secrets from past generations and has many books that are not circulated in the outside world. Did those records ever mention Emperor Wu of Han being a top-class martial artist?" Wang Chong asked as he glanced at Li Xuantu.
"How would I know that?"
Li Xuantu couldn't help but laugh.
"The Great Tang inherited the possessions of the Sui, and if you had asked me about something from one hundred years ago, I might have been able to answer. But nearly one thousand years ago? Who still knows about that? Moreover, do you think I can so easily reveal the secrets of the imperial household? Or, King of Foreign Lands, do you think that the Grand Scribe has recorded how high your cultivation level is and what martial arts you know? Not even mentioning anyone else, even after all these decades, still no one knows how high that beloved Li Taiyi of yours managed to reach in terms of cultivation," Li Xuantu said.
Li Xuantu's words were truly amusing, and Wang Chong couldn't help but laugh. The words were crude, but they were true. Some secrets couldn't have survived the passage of time.
After a brief pause, Li Xuantu put away his smile and gave a sincere analysis. "However, that Emperor was famed for his martial prowess, so there's a significant chance he possessed profound martial arts. Moreover, martial arts flourished in the time of the Han, even more than now. Various alchemists and generals all possessed outstanding cultivation. Without astounding strength, this Emperor would have long ago had a Great General rebelling against him and changing the dynasty. From this, we can conclude that he should have been much more powerful than is commonly known, at least on par with you and me."
Wang Chong fell silent as he pondered these words, but he quickly regained his focus.
"Let's go. This place is turning out far more complicated than we imagined. I have a feeling that more people have been here than we thought, and there should be even more clues up ahead," Wang Chong said.
A few moments later, they found a new clue.
"Master, look at that!"
Little Nightmare pointed at a certain place ahead of them.
These were large words written in ancient script, chiseled into the jade-green walls.
The walls of the Heaven-Reaching Path contained an enormous and complicated spatial framework, and they were tougher than steel. It should have been impossible to leave behind such large words on the wall.
This person had to have possessed an extremely high level of cultivation.
Li Xuantu floated in the air as he read out the words. "On decree of Emperor Wu of the Great Han, General of the Adjunct Guard Zuo Qing accompanied Great General Huo to the Kunlun paradise, coming here in search of the Queen Mother of the West and the green bird!"
The two of them glanced at each other and were able to see the shock in each other's eyes.
There wasn't anything that stood out about the words themselves. This 'General of the Adjunct Guard Zuo Qing' was not a name the two of them were familiar with, and there had been nothing about him in the history books, so he probably had not belonged to the regular army. There was a possibility that he was a general who privately served Emperor Wu. But the information in these words left them stunned.
Li Xuantu broke the silence, his brow furrowed in confusion. "The Queen Mother of the West? The green bird? Could it be that incident?"
Seemingly knowing what Li Xuantu was saying, Wang Chong breathed in deeply and agreed, "It really might."
There had been many things that they had passed by that the history books had never imagined, leaving them without any clues to pursue.
"In ancient texts, it is said, 'On the seventh day of the seventh month, when the One Above had performed his ablutions in the Palace of Upholding Resplendence, he ordered the guards to light the dragon incense. A few moments later, a green bird arrived, saying that the Queen Mother had come to visit…'"
(TN: The Queen Mother of the West is a powerful deity who is said to dwell in the Kunlun Mountains, and the green birds are her emissaries. She is associated with several stories in which sovereigns seek the secret of immortality from her. It is said that on the seventh day of the seventh month, she visited Emperor Wu of Han and taught him the secrets to attaining immortality, though it is said that Emperor Wu failed to understand them.)
Wang Chong sighed as he recited the contents of that ancient text.
"Everyone thought it was just a legend, but it was actually real."
"But the truth should differ somewhat from the ancient texts. None of them mentioned that Emperor Wu sent elite experts to seek out the Queen Mother of the West and the green bird.
"And don't you think it's strange? If the green bird visiting Emperor Wu of Han was a trick of the Celestial God Organization, why the green bird and the Queen Mother of the West? Heaven has a high view of himself as the Celestial Emperor, so why the Queen Mother of the West? And from what I recall, that Master Guangcheng said that not even the twelve Supremes had the authority to approach the Celestial Palace, and many people have never even heard the term before. So who was it that met with Emperor Wu?"
Emperor Wu lighting the incense and welcoming the green bird was a classical story, a fairytale, but to Li Xuantu and Wang Chong, it was a scam.
Heaven had granted himself the title of Celestial Emperor, and there was naturally no such thing as the Kunlun paradise or the Celestial Court.
After a few moments of thought, Wang Chong said, "Too little information remains, and it's impossible to say what the truth was back then. Regardless of who this Queen Mother of the West was, they must be connected to Heaven. Moreover, Heaven must have had a reason to get in touch with Emperor Wu of Han!"
No one went to pray at the temple without a concern, and Heaven's every step had a defined goal. The incident with Emperor Wu and the green bird was no exception.
"But what could he have obtained from that Emperor? He's never cared for the possessions of mere mortals."
Li Xuantu pensively frowned.