# 44. The Escape
The two brothers ran out of the Lesser Sage Hall, not daring to run on the big paths, rather taking the small winding alleys at the sides of the Academy, running into the mountain forest. Only after a long time, did they finally stop.
Xu Qi’an’s breaths were steady, whilst Xu Xinnian leant against a pine tree, gasping for air. Due to the intense exercise, his white face bore a flush of red that could move a person’s heart.
“What do we do now?” Xu Qi’an decided to ask his “doing things with reason” younger brother, “Did I just help solve one of the Academy’s oldest and hardest problems?”
He didn’t expect that that phrase would cause such a monumental sign, and was not sure what would happen after, so he listened to his heart and escaped alongside Xu Xinnian.
Xu Xinnian was still breathing heavily, and simultaneously tried to calm his beating heart, and laughed in a proud tone, “At most a problem two hundred years old.”
Xu Qi’an handed over his waterskin.
Xu Xinnian took it, taking a swig, before continuing “If I had just enrolled in the Academy, I may have suggested that you stayed where you were, and waited to enjoy the teacher’s praises and admiration.
“However as to the present me, I just wanted to take you and escape.” He threw back the waterskin, and waited, seeing that his face was calm, with no sign of confusion.
He was both somewhat disappointed, and appreciative.
He appreciated the fact that his older cousin had a brain, and was different from his father’s vulgarity. This made Xu Xinnian, who always looked very highly of himself, sincerely gratified.
He was disappointed that he could not show off in front of his brother, and make an appearance of the clever man’s superiority.
Even if his cousin had several times written down poems that would make any scholar sigh, even if his cousin had wrote those words on that stele, that had the power to split mountains… Xu Xinnian still thought that his own intelligence was still a tad higher.
If he had not this attitude, then he would never have been able to write “*If heaven births not I, Xu Xinnian; then the Great Feng forever, will be in night that never ends.*”
The two brothers quickly made their way through the forest, and secretly made their way towards the stables.
The best choice now would be to leave without saying goodbye.
If Xu Qi’an had remained where he was, then what faced him was most likely the appreciation and praise of the Cloud Deer Academy. He may even be made a great scholar… even if that was not likely.
That would be the good side.
The bad side would be clear; the conflict between the Cloud Deer Academy and the Imperial Academy was one over the very Confucian orthodoxy itself. At the same time that Xu Qi’an received the praises of the Cloud Deer Academy, he would raise the ire of the Imperial scholars.
And all the officials and nobles at court, were all from the Imperial Academy.
A single tax silver case had already left them with no end of trouble, yet this would be more dangerous and difficult than a hundred tax silver cases combined.
*Cijiu’s and my thoughts may have taken different paths, but we’ve reached the same conclusion…* Xu Qi’an laughed, “Cijiu, you really are a sly dog.”
*Very good, Erlang isn’t a rotten old scholar. Perhaps because he studies military strategy?*
“Base.” Xu Xinnian immediately retorted, continuing “As long as we leave, I’m sure that afterwards the Academy won’t brazenly announce anything, and keep the secret for us.”
He did not say any more, as he fell into deep thought, and focused on getting to their destination, seeming silent and solemn.
A courtyard outside the Lesser Sage’s Hall.
Zhao Shou, wearing his hemp clothes and with his salt-and-pepper white hair, suddenly made a move that one would not expect: he suddenly turned, and looked towards the back of the Academy.
After a few seconds, the three great scholars did the same, with a serious face.
The Eldest Princess was confused, and unconsciously followed their gazes. A fresh breeze wafted across the clear sky, and nothing was to be seen.
But in the next second, a plume of azure qi, visible to the naked eye, rose up into the sky, piercing through the clouds. The thick white clouds that swirled around Qingyun mountain slowly dissipated in front of everyone’s eyes.
Zhao Shou disappeared first, the three great scholars following shortly after, displaying the might of their Laws follow Commandments, making three feet beside them the back of the Academy.
The eldest princess’s willow like brows slightly furrowed, as she picked up her skirt, and quickly but still gracefully chased after them.
Her stature was tall and lithe, with delicate curves, and the aura she had when walking could not be described, and could only be experienced.
Lesser Sage Hall. The candles were tipped over, their wax trickling onto the floor.
In the empty great hall, azure qi drifted around like the spring wind, surrounding Zhao Shou’s shadow. He quickly looked over every little corner of the great hall, and finally his eyes fell upon Lesser Sage Cheng’s stone stele, with a crack down its middle.
*This…* The dean’s eyes like ancient wells suddenly showed a rush of shock and disbelief, as he quickly found the reason to the azure qi rushing towards the sky.
The stone stele suppressing the hall had split, the Cloud Deer Academy’s righteous qi had broken free from its bonds, and overflowed out into the air, causing that sight.
The question was, why would Lesser Sage Cheng’s stele split out of nowhere?
Quickly, Zhao Shou realised, as his eyes were drawn to the stone stele that he had placed in the hall himself. He looked at what was written on it, and felt as if the whole world had lost its colour, and was slowly disappearing, with only that column of ugly characters remaining burned into his vision.
Burned into his heart.
Becoming this world’s only thing.
The azure qi spread outwards, making one feel as if they were in a spring breeze. The three great scholar’s shadows materialised, as they instinctively scanned the entire hall.
Seeing the broken tablet of Lesser Sage Cheng, their pupils unconsciously shrank.
*It was sitting there so well, why would the tablet split… no, this is a good thing, this means that the chains binding down the Cloud Deer Academy’s fortune had been shaken…* Li Mubai thought, before he suddenly realised that the dean’s attitude was not quite right.
He had that feeling of being stuck deep within his own world, gazing into space.
*The stele has split, in the era where a Lesser Sage has not appeared for a long time, there is a person who could shake Cheng’s stele…* Zhang Shen and Chen Tai exchanged looks, and saw in each other’s eyes shock and confusion.
Soon after, they and Li Mubai all discovered Zhao Shou’s unusual expression.
“*To ordain conscience for heaven and earth, to secure life and fortune for the people, to continue lost teachings of past sages, to establish peace for all future generations…*” Zhang Shen muttered.
He was utterly stunned by the soul, by the spirit, by the will imbued within that sentence, as goosebumps raised all over his body. His blood ran hot around his body.
“This is what a scholar really should do.” Chen Tai’s lower lip trembled, saying “To be an official, is to serve the people, to serve the country, to serve all living things, and not for one family, for only the very few.”
This great scholar, praised as a master of governance, could not control his shaking, as his voice was hoarse, “An enlightenment, an enlightenment!”
Li Mubai took a deep breath, calming his emotions, “Who wrote this?”
The three of them all looked towards Zhao Shou. Their dean had been in solitary meditation for over a decade, for the sole goal of overturning the rationalism of Chen, pouring blood, sweat, and tears. In this current age, apart from him, no one could open up a new school of thought.
But the dean was just with them, and furthermore, his expression said all.
What replied them was silence, as after a long time, Zhao Shou said in a low voice, “Leave for now. If there’s anything you want to say, we can discuss later.”
He added, “A Junzi is reticient.”
The three great scholars bowed and cupped their hands, leaving the hall.
As the great door closed, the room fell into silence, as Zhao Shou stood silently in front of the stele, behind him a lattice window, the sunlight shining onto him in spots.
After a long, long while, he smoothed out his clothes, and bowed towards the characters on the stele, “In the morning, I heard the way. In the evening, I would die happily.”
The eldest princess finally reached the Lesser Sage Hall, finding that within ten zhang of the hall, was covered in a qi wall, like an overturned bowl, separating within from without.
She did not rush, rather silently stood on the steps outside the hall, like a silently blooming flower.
Soon after, the three great scholars exited side by side, their faces solemn, but one could not tell whether the news was good or bad.
“My three good sirs, could you pray tell?” The Princess looked towards the hall.
“Your Highness is best not to ask,” Chen Tai bowed, “This, we currently cannot make head nor tail.”
The eldest princess smiled, her noble face was as calm as ever.
Leaving the three great scholars, she went back towards the Refined Hall herself. In the mountain breeze, her dress rippled, as if she was a spirit of the mountain, an immortal that had come down to the mortal world to play.
Two rows of armed, armoured solders guarded the hall like before, looking like a series of silent statues.
This contingent of twenty four Jinwu Guards was her bodyguard detail. At the mountain’s foot were also a group of seven Nightwatchers.
But the Academy despised Wei Yuan, and so did not allow the Nightwatchers up the mountain.
The eldest princess lead her guards down the mountain, and located the seven Nightwatchers that were stationed by the road. She said with a clear tone “Azure qi rushes to the heavens in the Cloud Deer Academy, the Lesser Sage Hall has been locked off, report this back to Duke Wei, and make him watch the Academy closely, and find out the root of this.”
“Yes, Your Highness!” the Nightwatchers clasped their fists.
She continued, “Investigate a person for me, bailiff Xu Qi’an of Changle County Constabulary.”
“At once, Your Highness!”