Bai Zao was the only daughter of the Center Sect Master; she was and was very bright and had a calm temperament. She was also a rare talent of Cultivation, and so the masters of the Center Sect had high expectations of her. She was ranked in the top positions among the Cultivation practitioners of the young generation at the Center Sect. More importantly, she was broad-minded and decisive when actions were necessary, and as a result, she was greatly respected by her peers. The proud Tong Yan, while claiming to have have no respect for Luo Huainan, treated Bai Zao with a great deal of respect and reverence.
Luo Huainan had publicly expressed at the last Plum Meeting that he was to go to the north to fight the monsters of the Ice-Snow Kingdom for the benefit of mankind; Tong Yan was a lonely and proud soul; Zhuo Rusui had been behind the closed doors for many years; and Zhao Layue had shown her talent only recently. This is why Bai Zao was seen by many as the strongest candidate for the future leadership position in the Cultivation world in Chaotian, meaning she was the most likely person to take the position of the Orthodox Federation Chief, which had been unclaimed for many years.
This was the first time for many Cultivation practitioners to see Bai Zao in person.
People didn't expect to see a feeble and pretty young woman in place of a rumored intimidating figure with a calm and stately bearing who always acted in a decisive manner.
Her white dress flapped in the breeze, as did her hair. With her distinct, picturesque eyes and thin eyebrows, she appeared weak and feeble, like a lotus, or even more like a thin willow leaf. Her appearance could easily make others wish to act as her protector.
Such was Bai Zao.
People were so shocked by her beautiful and feeble appearance that they couldn't utter a word for quite some time.
Yet the disciples of the Green Mountain Sect were comparatively calm, or to put it another way, they had come to their senses more quickly, as they were used to seeing Jing Jiu's beautiful face, so they were less likely to be shocked by yet another beautiful object.
"So she is the Bai Zao!"
Zhao Layue was somewhat surprised.
The disciples of Green Mountain, on the other hand, felt somewhat surprised by Zhao Layue's reaction, thinking that while Bai Zao was just as famous as she, their Senior Master, or perhaps even more talented than she was, Zhao Layue had in fact never paid any attention to her.
"Bai Zao is actually a woman!"
Jing Jiu also felt somewhat surprised.
He had heard of this name, but he didn't know of her gender.
The disciples of Green Mountain thought these two senior masters of the ninth peak were really different from others.
The seemingly gentle pluck by Bai Zao's thin and feeble finger produced loud and clear sounds, like a willow branch falling into a stream of water and unexpectedly creating lightning.
Regardless of what thoughts they had beforehand, the very first note of Bai Zao's zither had gotten the full attention of everybody on the dozens of cold platforms.
The slightly chilly mountain breeze ruffled her white dress and the locks of hair by her cheeks. Though she appeared physically weak and feeble, the music she played was strong and crisp. Her wonderful music summoned innumerous wild birds from forests and mountains, who landed on the plum trees or in the grass by the mountain path. Her zither music, coupled with the birds' singing, had created a fairyland described in the books for mortals.
Mo Xi knew that she had lost to Bai Zao in the zither tournament. Though she had prepared herself for the result, she still couldn't help but feel disappointed. Yet her disappointment became even worse when she saw Xiang Wanshu's gaze.
Xiang Wanshu didn't gaze in her direction or Bai Zao's.
He gazed at the cold platform occupied by the disciples and masters of the Green Mountain Sect.
Mo Xi knew whom Xiang Wanshu was gazing at.
The sound of zither music echoed throughout the cold platforms. Any listener would be moved by the mixture of zither music and the hundreds of birds singing. Nan Wang even raised her eyebrows in a show of appreciation. The State Duke He's praises could be heard coming from the top cold platform.
Yet Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue remained calm and nonchalant, their expressions unchanging. Xiang Wanshu and Mo Xi didn't pay close attention to Bai Zao's zither performance as they both held their own private thoughts at that moment. What about Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue?
Yao Songshan came back to his senses from the wonderful dreamworld created by zither music after a experiencing a change in his sword heart, though, surprisingly, he looked at Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue and asked, "Senior Masters, is her zither playing still not good enough?"
Zhao Layue didn't quite catch what he meant, saying, "I think it sounds pretty good."
"It sounds very good," Jing Jiu concurred.
For Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue, "sounds good" was already a compliment, but this comment seemed unnatural and forced when heard by others.
Yao Songshan scratched his head, asking, "Why are Senior Masters so calm?"
Now Zhao Layue understood what he meant and said, "There are many wonderful sounds in the world. All you need to do is listen to them. Do you really need to applaud when hearing the ear-pleasing sound of the flowing stream water?"
Yao Songshan was baffled a bit. He thought her answer, while a solid one, felt not quite right.
The birds didn't want to leave after the zither playing was over. They were mesmerized.
Bai Zao stood up, looking at the cold platform of the Green Mountain Sect.
It was then that Zhao Layue looked at her.
Their two gazes connected.
Bai Zao's lips were raised slightly at corners, creating a faint smile.
She was the talented young woman of the Center Sect, regarded by many as the future leader of the Cultivation world; so she enjoyed countless compliments and a large fanfare. However, her glory had been diluted by the attention paid to the new rising star Zhao Layue a few years ago. It was natural that Bai Zao kept close tabs on Zhao Layue. When seeing Zhao Layue looking at her, Bai Zao thought the other had done the same
However, Bai Zao was mistaken.
Though Zhao Layue looked at Bai Zao, she was actually thinking of another person.
"Why hasn't Luo Huainan shown up, since she's here?"
There were many famous figures among the Cultivation practitioners of the young generation, including this Bai Zao, who stood amid the platforms like a fairy being, as well as the rumored intelligent and immortal-like Tong Yan, the mysterious Zhuo Rusui, who had been behind the closed doors for many years, the principle disciple of Green Mountain, Guo Nanshan, Tong Lu of the Western Ocean Sword Sect, and Zhao Layue herself.
Tong Yan was the most famous in the mortal world, and Bai Zao was the most revered in the Cultivation circle. But Luo Huainan was the most remarkable in the hearts of the young swordsmen. It was because Luo Huainan had the highest Cultivation state and was the most powerful among them.
Besides Zhao Layue, Nan Wang was also concerned about this matter, as she asked, "Why haven't Luo Huainan and Tong Yan shown up?"
"We haven't received information on them yet," replied a disciple of Green Mountain responsible for communication with the outside.
It was possible that Tong Yan was unwilling to come since he was proud and unpredictable; but it was unreasonable for Luo Huainan, as the principle disciple of the Center Sect, to not show up at such an important gathering as the Plum Meeting.
Unless he was deterred by something more important than the Plum Meeting.
But what could be more important than the Plum Meeting?
A disciple of Green Mountain guessed, "He may be preparing himself for the Cultivation tournament, trying to break through his current state."
Yao Songshan shook his head. "He has no need for that," he said.
According to the information from the Curtain Rollers, Luo Huainan had already entered the final state of the Golden Pill at the beginning of the year, which was equal to the middle state of the Free Travel to the Green Mountain Sect. Such strength in a Cultivation state had no equal among the practitioners of the young generation.
Even the Cultivation practitioners of the second generation, many of whom had died during the war with the Snowy Kingdom, could hardly beat Luo without a great deal of effort.
"If our Big Brother were here, we might have a slight chance of beating him."
The disciples of Green Mountain nodded in agreement with this statement, thinking Guo Nanshan in the initial state of the Free Travel had a slim chance of defeating the powerful Luo Huainan.
Many gazes were instinctively fixed upon Jing Jiu.
It was he who had broken Guo Nanshan's sword at the Sword Trial on Green Mountain.
A voice blasted out.
"I'll take part in the Cultivation tournament!"
The speaker wasn't Jing Jiu.
He wasn't interested in such a matter.
It was Zhao Layue.
The disciples of Green Mountain were stunned.
Jing Jiu shot a glance her way.
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