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Chapter 13: Silence at Painting Viewing
The nobility of Zhushan District had already arrived in front of Fire Virtue Hall and took their seats in front of the table with incense and offerings. However, the first row at the front was empty.
Just like in past years, these seats were left for Old Master Feng and his children. For most people of Zhushan District, their land would only prosper if the Feng Family prospered.
Feng Qinghan was young. So, while he was well-known in Zhushan District, he held no official post. After greeting the important people who had arrived, he stood silently at the side.
The streets were unusually crowded and the people moved like the tide. They would only part when the procession carrying the kitchen god or the shamans was passing through, and close in once they had passed.
It was a long journey to get to the Fire Virtue Hall for the people living in far away places.
Feng Qinghan’s eyes suddenly narrowed slightly. A tinge of murderousness appeared on his young face.
He looked at the faraway roofs, a white cloud was rushing over at a rapid pace.
When the people in the crowd in front of Fire Virtue Hall witnessed this phenomenon, gasps rose in waves.
Two figures could be discerned in the white cloud. This brought to life the legends of the sword immortals who could fly on cloud and mist.
Feng Futang took a deep breath. As the most effective and competent steward of the Feng Family, he was more composed than Feng Qinghan. He did not have the anticipatory feelings that Feng Qinghan did. He was only slightly anxious.
Xue Wangxu landed in the field.
There were naturally cultivators among the important people seated. They all felt the vast primal energies of the universe contained in the cloud.
This kind of presence was heaven to the earth that represented their cultivation. Each person’s heart trembled. No one dared to speak. Complete silence reigned over the field.
This silence spread outwards. Even the crowd around Fire Virtue Hall had significantly quieted.
Feng Qinghan knew of the level this white-haired and white-bearded old man had reached. But he felt no fear, a dark smile crept on the corners of his mouth.
His gaze landed on Ding Ning, who was behind Xue Wangxu.
Ding Ning stood with his usual calm behind Xue Wangxu. He perceptively sensed Feng Qinghan’s malicious gaze. While he did not know Feng Qinghan’s status, he had already guessed a certain possibility.
He didn’t even look back at Feng Qinghan. He just shook his head slightly.
Feng Futang went forward and bowed respectfully to Xue Wangxu. He said, “Cave Master Xue Wangxu had a change of heart and came to watch?”
Xue Wangxu turned to look at Ding Ning and then at Feng Futang. He smiled faintly. “Yesterday, he said I was fake. Today, you and I should not be so pretentious.”
Feng Futang’s expression froze slightly. “Today, we are worshipping Her Highness the Empress’ calligraphy and painting. On an occasion like this … I fear it is not suitable?” he said softly.
“I will naturally enliven things for the people of Zhushan District after revering Her Highness’ calligraphy and painting.” Xue Wangxu said peacefully.
Feng Futang took a deep breath. He did not say anything else, and made a motion of invitation. He said, “If so, Cave Master Xue, please be seated.”
“I have sat for a long time. I will stand.” Xue Wangxu said coolly.
Feng Futang retreated respectfully, in silence.
Since there was no more need for pretence, everyone ignored Xue Wangxu and Ding Ning.
Through Feng Futang’s attitude towards Xue Wangxu, those seated elites of Zhushan District, vaguely discerned that Xue Wangxu and Ding Ning were not here to cheer. They were here to avenge. Disdain surfaced in their eyes.
In their view, the Feng Family would not be daunted. All they needed to do was watch how these two outsiders would end up.
After circumnavigating around, the kitchen god statue was first seated..Then the parade of jumping shamans danced even more energetically around the kitchen god statue and the tables full of tributes.
At the moment the offerings were all placed, the crowd outside cheered. A sedan, with grandly embroidered curtains, was leading the procession. But no one sat inside the sedan. There was just a tablet of jade with a silk painting scroll in the middle.
The Feng family members walked behind this sedan. Feng Qianzhuo, dressed in simple clean robes, walked at the front.
The people on the two sides of the path were clearly in awe of Feng Qianzhuo. Many even knelt and kow-towed to him.
Looking at the scene, Ding Ning’s demeanour was very calm, like a stone in the tide.
Xue Wangxu couldn’t help shaking his head. “It seems that he is good to the Zheng people here.”
In an aloof tone similar to Zhangsun Qianxue’s usual style, Ding Ning said , “If he really is good to others, when Ba Mountain Sword Field was overrun by the army, he should have died along with his senior sect brothers.”
Xue Wangxu looked worriedly at him and said, “It is not good to know too many stories.”
Ding Ning said, “Regardless of whether it is the stories or the present, some truths will not change. This is why I like Senior Sect Brother Zhang Yi and not Senior Sect Brother Su Qin.”
Xue Wangxu stilled slightly and expressed admiration. “You are right. Even if Zhang Yi is extremely sentimental and nagging, he does care for his fellow disciples … sometimes, it is hard to say what is right or wrong, but we have to first consider moral integrity.”
Feng Qianzhuo walked to the incense table.
This entire time, he didn’t even glance at Xue Wangxu. Despite the respectful cheer surrounding him, he showed no arrogance. He was incomparably deferential, as though the sedan in front of him didn’t carry the empress’ painting scroll but the empress herself.
He was the first to burn incense and then he started to speak. Unlike previous years, the focus of his speech was the empress’ painting scroll.
He spoke of the generosity of the empress, how much care she had for Zhushan District, and how the empress had made a painting scroll with auspicious meaning for the Kitchen God Festival to pray on behalf of all the people of Zhushan District.
The speech and the repetitive “Her Highness” and “the empress” turned Ding Ning’s downturned and calm face frosty.
He did not express his thoughts to avoid worrying Xue Wangxu too much.
If the most noble woman of the Qin Empire was really so magnanimous and loving towards the Zheng people, why hadn’t she stood up and said something when the Country of Zheng was destroyed and countless Zheng people died in hard labor and forced migration?
In those times, she had appeared even more callous than the Qin people because she did not want others to unnecessarily connect her to the Zheng people.
If this was her remorse and atonement for her callousness in the past, when she would consider other past events and her outrageous callousness, would she feel any regret?
The temple festival quickly reached its peak.
As the people of Zhushan District thunderously roared “Long Live the Empress”, Feng Qianzhuo solemnly bowed to the scroll and then retrieved it. He walked to the kitchen god statue and untied the gold thread holding the scroll closed.
All sounds quickly disappeared and the field quieted. Everyone waited with bated breath to see what the empress had drawn.
Ding Ning also wanted to know. So he took a deep breath and slowly raised his head.
Feng Qianzhuo’s hands were unusually steady as the painting scroll slowly unravelled in his hand.
Gasps of disbelief sounded.
Many people of Zhushan District started to tremble in terror and some were on the verge of tears.
The scroll that Feng Qianzhuo unfurled was completely white. An unusual kind of white that exuded inscribable coldness and brought bitter cold snow to the mind.
The empress had bestowed a painting but the scroll was empty with only the intent of bitter cold. What did this mean?
Had Zhushan District erred and the empress was warning them with this painting?
Yet in a flash, many people’s eyes widened.
A majestic and vast presence suddenly flowed out of the bitterly cold scroll.
Suddenly, flux of primal energies of the universe that only cultivators could feel appeared in front of this scroll. Those were seal lines formed with mental power.
Threads of red appeared from the blank scroll.
As the bright red surfaced on the cold desolate snow, a blooming red plum flower took form.
The moment the red plum blossom appeared on the scroll, threads of red fire energy appeared in the air in front of the scroll. The flames rose up and formed countless red flowers in the air, warming the Fire Virtue Hall.
“The bitter cold disappears, the red plums bloom … this is sweetness after bitterness!”
Someone shouted from within the crowd.
The terror and anxiousness of the Zhushan District people disappeared. They looked at the flame flowers with respect and gratitude.
This kind of scene and magnificence was a miracle to them.
“The empress has a higher realm than me.”
Feeling the invisible seal lines and gentle primal energies of the universe in the air, Xue Wangxu said with gravity and respect, “I fear she is only lacking a breakthrough into realm eight.”
Ding Ning paled slightly. Under the reflection of the falling bright red flowers, he appeared to have a feverish flush.
Feng Qianzhuo’s gaze finally landed on Xue Wangxu.
At such an age, what couldn’t he understand? Did he still want to hold onto his anger after seeing such a painting today?
He could not understand Xue Wangxu’s way of thinking and shook his head.
Translator Ramblings: The Feng Family are the good guys in the story of Zhushan District but the villains for many other people.