Ascending The Heavens Chapter 18: Starry Nights

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Weeks had passed since Zhang had departed from the Mist Mountain Sect’s domain, after the first few days he has gotten used to life on the airship.

 

Every morning he and Cai Cao would go to the mess hall and eat breakfast with the other chosen. Afterward, everyone would return to their rooms to cultivate. But unlike everyone else, Zhang would often walk out into the upper decks at night and gaze into the stars or down onto the scattered cities below.

 

With a sea of stars overhead and sprawling cities full of life and warmth below, Zhang would look into the distance for hours on end until the sun peaked from the horizon and the night ended.

 

He found that by either watching the stars or observing the cities below he would be able to free his mind from the endless stream of questions and stress that plagued him.

 

“What will become of me? What is there in store for me? Will these days of happiness last or will they be stolen from me once again? Will I ever be able to catch up to everyone else? Is this life a life that is for me? Do I have a purpose?” For him, every day presented a new question, some he had the answer to while others would reappear again and again.

 

However, none of this mattered when he was gazing at the magnificence that was presented before him. It is often said that when one immerses themselves into nature, their spirits become uplifted and their minds free of the earthly bounds that plague us.

 

Thus, Zhang would leave his room every night for most of the trip. Tonight was like any other night as he and Little Red departed from their room to go watch the stars. The Little Pup much like its master would also sit for hours on end to watch the stars.

 

“Shhhhh, let’s not disturb anyone.” Zhang whispered to his furry friend who seemed to nod in reply.

 

Walking through the nicely decorated halls and the long corridors, Zhang and Little Red arrived at a beautifully made flight of stairs. Without the use of support beams, each plank supported one another and interlocked to form a solid set of stairs that one could not help but admire. Undoubtedly such a thing could only be made from the use of magic or by a master of the arts.

 

As Little Red jumped from step to step, following its master up the flight of stairs one couldn’t help but all such a scene adorable.

 

Soon they arrived at the upper decks and Zhang walked to his usual spot, the airship’s bow. As he neared the bow, something caught Zhang’s attention. There was someone else standing on the ship’s bow.

 

Shrouded in moonlight an otherworldly beauty stood quietly looking out into the distance, with her face slightly tilted to grace Zhang with its beauty, with her pure white robes flowing in the wind and her long silky black hair drawing attention away from the stars, Zhang could not help but stare.

 

The instant he saw her he remembered the unforgettable night at the lake. The night he had found love at first sight, his heart began to thump while his body unconsciously began to move forward.

 

Lost in a daze, Zhang inched closer and closer toward the mysterious beauty who had unknowingly stolen his heart. Unlike its master whose pace had slowed to a crawl, Little Red sped across the upper deck to where the otherworldly beauty was.

 

Noticing Little Red, the girl of Zhang’s dreams bent down and began petting the furry canine.

 

“What are you doing here?” Her song like voice could be heard as her jade like had brushed against Little White’s snowy white fur.

 

“So-sorry to disturb you.” Zhang managed to say.

 

Hearing Zhang’s voice, the mysterious beauty looked up with a somewhat startled and cautious expression on her face.

 

“I didn’t mean to bother you. But I’ve been coming here every night for the last month.” He said as he saw the girl’s startled expression.

 

“I see…” The mysterious beauty said.

 

If seeing only a glimpse of her had stolen his heart, then seeing her beauty in full view was slowly sapping away Zhang’s courage. Thus, a slightly awkward pause was initiated.

 

“C’mon now… Another chance like this might not pop up again…” He thought over and over in his mind, trying to work up the courage to speak.

 

“My name is Zhou Zhang; may I ask what your name is?” He finally was able to say after he managed to work up enough courage talk.

 

“You may call me Wenji.” The mysterious beauty said. Her startled and somewhat cautious expression was gone after Zhang had introduced himself and asked for her name.

 

“Wenji.” Zhang repeated in his mind with a smile appearing on his face.

 

“This is the first time I’ve seen him get so friendly with a stranger so quickly.” Zhang said as he looked at Little Red who licking the Wenji’s hand.

 

“Maybe I remind him of someone.” Wenji said with a slight laugh as she continued to brush Little Red’s fur.

 

“Are you here to watch the stars too?” Zhang asked.

 

“Of course, I’m certainly not here to admire the boat.” Wenji laughed.

 

Seeing that she was willing to talk to him, Zhang began to walk closer and arrived by Little Red. “I’ll be giving you some steak for this.” Zhang thought as he thought about the chance that this furry friend had given him. Had it not been for Little Red then he would have certainly not been able to begin a conversation with Wenji.

 

Beginning with small talk Zhang was able to begin talking with Wenji. The two quickly became friends with each other as the night went on, both admiring the stars and observing the cities that the airship was flying past.

 

Despite not learning much about her personal life, Zhang’s understanding of Wenji had gone from zero to around twenty, this being out of a hundred. Compared to before he at least knew her name and a bit of her personality. Although it might seem odd that he had not run into her despite being on the same ship for nearly three months, it wasn’t actually that unbelievable.

 

There were a thousand chosen who each had their own rooms and cultivated for most of the day and only left to get food. There were even those who did not leave their rooms at all and had other people bring food to their rooms. So of course since it was impossible for everyone to go to the dining hall at the same time, there were still many chosen who Zhang had yet to recognize.

 

“I should get going now.” Wenji said as the sun began to rose and the other stars were outshined.

 

“I’ll see you here tonight? Also do you have a group for the tournament? You can stick with me and my friend.” Zhang asked, hoping to get another chance to talk to Wenji or possibly getting her to join him and Cai Cao for the tournament which would result in them being together for the entire duration of the tournament.

 

“I’ll see you tonight. As for the tournament, I’m already partnered up with someone.” She replied with a smile as she patted Little Red’s head and headed for the staircase that led to the lower decks.

 

Inside Zhang’s mind, an image of himself appeared giving himself two thumbs up as a wide grin appeared on his face. Sometime after Wenji departed, Zhang too descended the stairs while being filled with glee.

 

Once he arrived at his room and crawled into bed, he quickly fell asleep. Normally people who were in a state of mind similar to Zhang’s would not be able to sleep due to being too excited. However, he had stayed up all night and had come to the point where he only needed a comfortable place to lay down on before falling asleep.

 

It was not until noon did Zhang wake up and exited his room, heading toward the dining hall. Once he arrived, Zhang spotted Cai Cao who was seated at the far end of the hall. So after getting a few dishes from the cook, Zhang walked over to where Cai Cao was and seated himself.

 

“Good morning.” Zhang said with a smile.

 

“Good morning, you sure seem happy today.” Cai Cao replied with a laugh.

 

“Of course, I am something wonderful happened last night.” Zhang said cheerfully.

 

“It that so?” Cai Cao asked.

 

Soon Zhang began to recall the dreamlike events that had occurred. Describing Wenji’s beauty, the various things they talked about and the possibility of meeting her again tonight, Zhang spoke without end. Throughout this recollection, Cai Cao would occasionally smile, blush and even laugh but for the most part he did not comment.

 

So after finishing his story and his meal, Zhang and Cai Cao parted ways and each headed toward their own rooms to cultivate.

 

After feeding Little Red, a small roasted chicken that he had taken from the dining hall and bolting his room’s door, Zhang climbed onto his bed and sat crossed legged.

 

Pulling out a small sack filled with essence supplement pills and placing one into his mouth, Zhang began to rotate the essence within his body while channeling in essence from the air. His goal was to strengthen his body from being as hard as bronze to iron before they arrived at the Crimson Sky Sect.

 

While in a meditative state time began to become irrelevant and sped on without Zhang noticing. Besides occasionally placing an essence supplement pill into his mouth after the previous one had been entirely refined, Zhang continued to mediate for most of the day. It was not until the sun had settled and ten essence supplement pills had been consumed that Zhang open his eyes.

 

“After a few more days my body will become as hard as iron.” He muttered with a smile.

 

“Little Red let’s go.” He called out as he departed from his room.

 

Instead of heading to the upper decks he arrived at the room beside his and knocked.

“Brother Cai, can you keep an eye on Little Red for me? I have to go to my date.” Zhang said after knocking on the door, however there was no reply.

 

“Guess he’s sleeping or meditating.” Zhang thought with a shrug before departing.

 

So with Little Red in tow, Zhang arrived at the upper decks to see that Wenji was waiting for him at the ship’s bow.

 

A small part of him was afraid that she would not come, but as soon as he saw her figure under the moonlight this thought was instantly dispelled and joy filled Zhang's soul.

 

“Sorry for coming late.” Zhang said as furry canine friend sped across the upper decks like it has done the previous night.

 

“It's okay, I just came early.” Wenji laughed.

 

Thus, the two of them would talk and watch the skies for the rest of the night and the following nights also.

 

During the day, Zhang would train and chat with Cai Cao while during the night he would be graced with what seemed like a dream as he watched the stars with the girl that stole his heart.

 

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After a month that seemed like it had ended too quickly had passed, the Mist Mountain Sect’s airship entered the domain of the Crimson Sky Sect.

 

As they got closer m to their destination hundreds of airships just like theirs could be seen coming from all directions. With Each ship having a different banner symbolizing which sect it belonged to.

 

But of all the ships, there were eight who caught Zhang’s. This was because in terms of size they were double the size of the other ships and in terms of extravagantness they made all of the other airships look like toys.

 

“Brother Cai do you know which sects those ships belong to?” Zhang asked.

 

“That ship right there with the white liger on its banner belongs to the Enlightened Tower Academy. That ship with the spider on its sails is the Undying Night Sect. That one with the cauldron with dragons coiling around it belongs to the Immortal Pill Sect. That one with the lotus is the Golden Buddha Temple.  That one with the sword is the Divine Sword Sect. Those three ships belong to three of the four great clans the Huang, Wang and Li clans.” Cai Cao said while pointing to each ship.

 

“Our Misty Mountain Sect in terms of power is considered a small sect, while the Crimson Sky Sect is considered a midsized sect, then there are the five sects and four clans who stand above the rest. Of the nine great influences the Enlightened Tower Academy is the one with the most disciples, their disciples number in the millions this was because instead of a sect they are more like a school. While the Enlightened Tower Academy had the most disciples the Undying Night Sect have the least but is considered the strongest influence. The Immortal Pill Sect could be considered the weakest in terms of power but when it comes to influence and connections there is no one who has more than them, this is because they are the ones who supply the other influences with pills. The four great clans are not sects and do not accept disciples so there’s not much to say about them.  As for the Golden Buddha Temple and Divine Sword Sect, I don’t know much about them because they were relatively new additions to the influential forces within the continent. “Cai Cao also said, informing Zhang of the various influences that basically rule over the continent.

 

“Which clan is the fourth great clan?” Zhang asked.

 

“That the Cai clan but they usually don't come to watch the Crimson Sky Sect’s tournament.” Cai Cao said with a sigh.

 

“The Cai clan? So you are from one of the four great clans?” Zhang asked.

 

“No, we have no relation, just similar family names.” Cai Cao replied instantly.

 

“Also, I guess there's a first for everything because that ship over there has the word Cai on it.” Zhang said as he pointed at a shop that was far off in the distance.

 

“^%$&^&*….. why are they here…” Cai Cao said in an inaudible voice as a shiver ran through his body.

 

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