Most of Chaonan City hadn’t woken up yet. Many bands of cooking smoke rose up slowly and waveringly into the sky. One could easily imagine just how much hustle and bustle the city would experience during the day.
Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue stood shoulder to shoulder by the river bank, their conical hats were lost awhile ago.
They had discovered that they lost the hats when walking at night, and since they walked so fast, their hats perhaps were blown away somewhere on the road by the gust of wind.
Now they wrapped their two pieces of gray cloth around their faces, looking like those ascetic monk doctors of the Fruit Formation Temple practicing Cultivation in the northern land.
The water in Muddy River was quite muddy, flowing awfully fast, with torrents and whirlpools found everywhere in the river, making it appear dangerous No one knew if there were demons and monsters hiding in it!
Many years ago, the people on both banks didn’t dare ride the ferries to cross the river, so travel was stopped. Until the founding of the Green Mountain Sect, the founding master ordered the disciples of Xilai Peak to employ the Unlimited Magic to bring in wood and rocks, so a bridge was built, and the Sword Formations were employed to suppress the demons and monsters hidden in the river. The issues with travel between the banks were resolved, once and for all.
As the Muddy River was too wide, the mid-section of the arch bridge was built exceptionally high, and so when fog formed around the bridge and over the river, watching from the banks of the river, the bridge looked as if it were leading toward heaven when watched from the banks of the river, a marvelous and spectacular thing to witness. It was for this reason that it was called the Bridge to Heaven, which had nothing to do with the name of Chaotian, meaning the Land that Leads to Heaven.
Watching this spectacular bridge from the river bank, Jing Jiu felt a stirring of emotions.
He thought that what those wise men of past generations had said was really true: Knowledge does indeed come from both books and experience.
He had already read ten thousand books at a young age, and later he rode his sword, visiting many places. However, he was focused on Cultivation, so his time and energy were spent mostly on practicing Cultivation, so he still hadn’t been to too many places, nor had he seen that many scenes. Moreover, he always flew high up in the sky when traveling, so he had never had the feelings and experiences he was having now.
On those occasions he flew really high up in the sky, all the scenes he saw were flat pictures when looking down.
Now he stayed on the ground and had to look up when watching any scenery, which wasn’t really all that convenient, but what he saw now was three-dimensional and vivid in comparison to the previous flat scenery.
"I haven’t finished today’s assignment yet."
Standing by the bank with him for some time, Zhao Layue found too much time had been wasted, and so she reminded him.
Jing Jiu found Zhao Layue acted exactly like himself when he was her age, saying with a gentle smile, "Let’s go."
There was nothing wrong with focusing on Cultivation, either for Jing Jiu then or Zhao Layue now.
Compared to his past self, Jing Jiu had more qualifications and leisure time to enjoy the scenery he had missed before.
Yet, whenever he thought about attaining these qualification, it felt unpleasant, even painful.
The Bridge to Heaven was quite old, with many cracks on the surface of the bridge and even potholes the size of a fist in some spots, through which one could see the river below, it was a scary experience. However, sensing the solid stone surface of the bridge and the Sword Formations which could be triggered at any moment when needed, Jing Jiu believed the seemingly worn-out bridge would survive the attacks of wind and rain for another thousand years, and the bridge wouldn’t be damaged even a little bit, even if all the river demons in the Muddy River attacked it all at once.
The came to the middle of the bridge where the elevation of the bridge was higher, about a thousand feet above the river, so they were able to see farther.
Pointing to a group of white cliffs upstream, Zhao Layue said, "That small gap was caused by a Dace Devil crashing into the cliff."
Jing Jiu was quite familiar with this devil. The Dace Devil was a very cruel monster that liked to eat humans, both men and women, young and old; it was also rumored that they liked eating virgin children. The legends of the local folks made the monsters sound even more dreadful and mysterious.
When the Dace Devils had begun doing their evil deeds in the Muddy River years ago, the Green Mountain heard the news and soon sent the disciples of the last generation on Liangwang Peak to vanquish them. Jing Jiu remembered the young Lei Poyun taking part in the battle. Why had the devil revived after so many years of extinction?
There had been a rumor that the devils and demons in the Muddy River swam upstream from the Western Ocean. As for where they were before getting to Western Ocean, it was believed that they might come from one of the three Big Whirlpools—the Skyward Sea. It had been rumored for a long time that the deep end of the Skyward Sea led directly to the Underworld.
So these big devils and demons were perhaps sent by the Underworld, and it was normal for them to appear every dozen years or so, or every hundred years.
Jing Jiu had never been to the Underworld, and didn’t know whether these rumors were true or not, but was thinking he would like to go there to ask a few friends when he had the chance.
There was a nine-story building west of Chaonan City with gray colored walls, a famous place even though it looked unkept.
This was the largest auction place in the Nanhe State—the Precious Tree House.
In the early hours of the morning, in front of the gray walls of the Precious–Tree House appeared two people whose heads and faces were wrapped with gray cloth, their strange attire attracting some attention.
A few flashes of sword light in the distant sky could be seen as a faint alarm rang out
"It’s really not a good idea," said Jing Jiu.
Earlier, Zhao Layue rode her sword, with Jing Jiu on it, flying over the western city wall, but this act alerted the officials of Chaonan City and some Cultivation practitioners.
Shooting a glance at Jing Jiu, Zhao Layue said, "Do we actually have to wait till dark? We don’t have that much time."
Jing Jiu wondered what they should do now. The Cultivation practitioners of Chaonan City were coming this way with their flying swords.
Do we have to reveal our identities?
When he traveled by sword in the past, he seldom stayed in the cities; he was received by the Emperor himself every time he went to Zhaoge City, so he never encountered this kind of situation.
"As long as we can get in."
Zhao Layue led him into the Precious-Tree House.
"What is this place?"
"This is the auction house, and the manager is a mortal, though since they have very strong background, nobody in Chaonan City bothers them."
Jing Jiu asked, "Who is their background?"
"Us," said Zhao Layue.
Now Jing Jiu realized this auction house was an outside business of the Green Mountain Sect.
The two of them walked into the Precious-Tree House through an invisible door on the gray wall.
The manager who received them was in his forties with a thin beard and a pair of sharp eyes, resembling a rat, though not giving an impression of deception.
Seeing these two wrapped in gray cloth on their faces and heads, the manager asked with a nice smile, "Can you two show your faces for us?"
"No," said Zhao Layue.
The manager didn’t insist, pointing outside and asking with a smile, "And those flying swords?"
"That’s right, they are coming to find us," said Zhao Layue.
"You should know our rules; the Precious-Tree House can only guarantee the security of our guests inside the building, if you leave here, we cannot be responsible for your safety."
"Of course, we first have to make sure you are indeed our guests," said the manager, smiling as he looked at Zhao Layue.
To become a guest of the Precious-Tree House was very simple, and also quite difficult.
It was simple because you could get a Wooden Board of the Precious-Tree House once you paid them enough money.
Anybody could bid for the precious treasures by showing this Wooden Board, and the Precious-Tree House took a twenty percent commission fee.
As for the difficult part, the amount of money required was beyond what regular people could pay; even some practitioners could barely afford it.
Having the experience in the Inn, Zhao Layue looked at Jing Jiu.
Jing Jiu thought about it for a moment, took out a handful of golden leaves and put them on the counter in front of the manager.
The pile of golden leaves was enough to buy a large house in Chaonan City.
After seeing the golden leaves, a sarcastic expression formed on the manager’s face.
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