The disciples of Shiyue Peak who were driving the boat eyed each other speechlessly; they didn't know what to do. Their task was to pick up the wounded Zhao Layue from Zhaoge City, but they were asked by her to go to the distant north, as the Green Mountain was already nearby, not to mention it was against the order of the masters that the Sword Boat had stayed behind for few extra days.
Staring at those disciples, Gu Qing said seriously, "Go get ready for the trip. As you know, both my master and the young senior master have a short temper."
Along with a slight quiver, the clouds around the Sword Boat were disturbed, turning into many flurries and gradually falling behind.
Gu Qing returned to the bow of the Sword Boat and refocused his sight on Zhao Layue's back after returning from the broken and fog, his eyes full of worry.
The speed of the Sword Boat wasn't fast, and Zhao Layue didn't urge the drivers to speed up. The boat would arrive at White Town in a few days.
The usually quiet White Town had become busy with people now, though it was now even colder.
The twilight didn't give out any warmth; it was in the middle of summer, but it felt like being in the middle of winter.
As the Sword Boat of the Green Mountain landed, many magic boats of other sects could be vaguely seen in the distance.
Many courtyards were sparsely scattered in the field that still had a great deal of remaining snow, and it was obvious that these courtyards had been recently built.
"It's indeed in the style of the immortals. They never forget to live comfortably, even at such a grave time."
Gu Qing said this with a peaceful expression, so no one was aware of the mockery in his remark.
It was as if Zhao Layue didn't hear what Gu Qing said, as she fixed her sight on the twilight around her.
Though her Cultivation state was still low, her formed Sword Body had a very sensitive perception, able to perceive a couple of strong energies above the clouds.
She knew that some super powerful swordsmen of various sects were watching the distant north.
Were they simply watching but doing nothing?
The wooden Sword Boat landed outside a courtyard.
Nan Wang was waiting outside the courtyard.
Nan Wang, State Duke He and others had left Zhaoge City together a few days ago and come here.
If it were a usual evet, Nan Wang would definitely have refused to meet Zhao Layue personally.
Though the two of them had similar status and were of a similar generation, their experiences and Cultivation states were too far apart.
It was utterly different that day.
Jing Jiu had done a heroic deed for the Green Mountain Sect and even the whole Cultivation world, but he was trapped inside the snowland, his fate unknown.
It was natural for Shenmo Peak to be concerned about the matter; so the matter had to be treated seriously and respectfully.
As Zhao Layue walked into the courtyard, the disciples of the Green Mountain bowed to her in tandem.
Following behind Zhao Layue, Gu Qing looked around and found there were nine of them, and not one less.
Nan Wang didn't follow them to the courtyard, because it would be more convenient for Shenmo Peak to ask questions or relieve pent-up frustration.
"What has happened?" asked Zhao Layue emotionlessly.
Yao Songshan approached her and told her in detail about what had happened during the Cultivation tournament.
After a moment of silence, Zhao Layue swept all these Green Mountain disciples with her glance.
These Green Mountain disciples all lowered their heads.
Lei Yijing, the disciple of Liangwang Peak, felt especially ashamed, as revealed by the redness in his face.
When Jing Jiu asked them to leave, they were so unconvinced and even attempted to disobey his order by ignoring his senior status.
Yet, what had actually happened later in the Cultivation tournament proved that Jing Jiu's judgment was correct.
It was because of Jing Jiu that they could stand here, otherwise, they would have died in that bizarre fog, just like those two disciples of the West Ocean Sword Sect.
Zhao Layue didn't do what Nan Wang had thought she would do. She didn't say anything more after learning what had happened, telling them to disband.
Later, an elder of the Great Marsh Sect and then an elder of the Hanging-Bell Sect came to the courtyard specifically to thank the Green Mountain, and to offer their condolences to Zhao Layue.
Soon afterwards, State Duke He and Monk Duhai paid her a visit in the courtyard.
Ultimately, nobody else came, and the courtyard returned to its peacefulness.
"What did they mean by offering their condolences? It's outrageous!" Young Yuan exclaimed with a slightly red eyes.
Gu Qing kept his coolness as he asked, "What should we do next? Just wait here?"
"No one knows what has actually happened inside the snowland. The decree of the Sect Master is quite clear: The Green Mountain disciples are not allowed to take one step in the snowland, especially me," said Zhao Layue with an indifferent expression.
After some thought, Gu Qing said, "I'll go there to get some info. Even though Luo Huainan is severely injured, it would be impossible for him to remain unconscious on the Cloud Dream Mountain for too long."
Looking at the dark raining cloud in south, Zhao Layue said, "I'll go meet Principal Justice."
Young Yuan wanted to say something, but stopped himself.
Gu Qing went to the courtyard of the Center Sect.
As the leaders of the orthodox Cultivation circle, the Center Sect and the Green Mountain Sect had never liked each other.
If he had visited them before the events, he would definitely have received cautious and hostile stares.
Yet, that day he received a cup of hot tea. As they learned that he was the personal disciple of Jing Jiu's, they added a plate of fruits on the table in front of him.
His receiving person changed from a regular disciple to an elder in the Yuanying state.
The atmosphere was somehow tense and depressing in the courtyard of the Center Sect.
Bai Zao was the sole daughter of their Sect Master, so her status in the Center Sect was much more important than Jing Jiu's on the Green Mountain.
Gu Qing asked, "May I ask this master, is the immortal master Luo awake?"
The elder replied, "Not yet. The Immortal Bai is treating him right now."
The Cultivation circle knew that the Immortal Bai was the wife of Center Sect Master, and Bai Zao had her mother's last name.
Wei Chenzi, an elder of the Center Sect in the Yuanying state, had attempted to assassinate Zhao Layue in the Cuiming Valley outside Zhaoge City, and for this incident, the Immortal Bai went to the Green Mountain to meet the Sect Master of Green Mountain and Yuan Qijing to give them an explanation. Gu Qing of course couldn't meet her due to his low status and generation.
The Center Sect Master couple was both out worldly swordsmen in the Grand Arrival State, equal to the Heavenly Arrival figures like the Sect Master of Green Mountain and Yuan Qijing. They could connect to the heaven and earth, were almost the same as the fairy immortals in the stories. Helped by such a person, Luo Huainan should be able to wake up soon, as long as he could still breathe a little.
Gu Qing asked, "Is it okay for me to wait here?"
The elder of the Center Sect looked at him once, thinking that as it would get dark soon, it was of course inconvenient for a disciple of the Green Mountain Sect like Gu Qing to stay here, but he understood why Gu Qing was so anxious that he didn't ask Gu Qing to leave. "Then, you can wait right here if you want to," he told Gu Qing.
The remark meant that Gu Qing should stay in the same place, and his wandering about would draw suspicion.
Gu Qing thanked the elder many times.
The elder of the Center Sect couldn't stay with Gu Qing all the time, so he left.
Staring at the newly replaced hot tea and fruit plate, Gu Qing believed his heartfelt sensation became more and more real.
The relationship between the Green Mountain Sect and the Center Sect would really get better.
The fact that his master and Bai Zao disappeared together could actually usher in an era of unity in the orthodox Cultivation world.
Gu Qing waited quietly, thinking of these possible and impossible events.
It had grown late when Gu Qing lifted his head upon hearing footsteps.
"Luo Huainan is awake," the elder of the Center Sect said as he walked in.
Gu Qing's expression changed slightly, and then he readjusted his sitting position to show he was ready to listen.
The elder of the Center Sect began repeating the story told by Luo Huainan.
Gu Qing listened very carefully, focused, uttering "Hmm" here and there, and let out surprised sounds hushed voice once in a while. The worried and moved expressions were displayed fully on his face, and then he became sentimental.
In that story, Jing Jiu and Bai Zao were good people, and Luo Huainan was of course a good person as well.
However, Luo Huainan fought the snow worm bravely in order to save Tong Lu, and were then swallowed by the snow worm into its stomach and became severely wounded; as a result, his awareness wasn't quite clear.
He could vaguely remember a bloody sword pierced through the snow worm's skin.
Young Sister Bai Zao infused her zhenyuan into his body.
In the wind and snow, Jing Jiu fought the snow worms dispassionately.
It seemed that the cold fog had no negative effect on Jing Jiu.
The wind and snow grew stronger, the cold fog grew colder, and the situation became more dangerous. Jing Jiu, covered in blood, still fought bravely and fearlessly.
Realizing she couldn't hold up any longer, Young Sister Bai Zao activated the Ten-Thousand Mile Seal to send Luo Huainan back to the Cloud Dream Mountain.
The last scene Luo Huainan saw was Bai Zao rushing toward Jing Jiu, and then the heaven and earth turned white.
A snowy avalanche occurred.
What had fallen down from the cliff was not the snow, but were countless snow worms.
Having stated the story, Luo Huainan passed out again.
Gu Qing left after having listened to the story.
Having repeated the story, the elder of the Center Sect looked at Gu Qing with a gentler expression and offered his condolences, then asked Xiang Wanshu to walk out with him.
Xiang Wanshu was very sad, and made many remarks to him.
Gu Qing didn't remember the specific contents of those remarks, except for some common expressions like "Thanks", "If Jing Jiu hadn't helped", "Please pass on his thanks", "If he has time, he would like to visit", and so forth…
Gu Qing couldn't remember these remarks perhaps because he felt cold at the time.
The field in White Town at night grew even colder than during the day.
Looking at the vaguely visible gray white mass under the night sky in north, Gu Qing thought to himself, was that the said cold fog which would kill anyone who dared enter it?
Was my master still alive?
He tightened his collar reflexively.
When he was on Liangwang Peak, he had already learned the Six-Dragon Sword Style of Shiyue Peak, which had a sword movement acting like a fire-dragon, and its sword will was the same, fearing the coldness the least.
Yet, at this moment he felt the intent of coldness piercing through his bones.
The long night was almost over.
The morning sun had almost risen up.
As Gu Qing returned to the courtyard of the Green Mountain Sect, Zhao Layue had just returned as well.
It was unknown how long she had stayed under the raining dark cloud, but it was apparent that she failed to persuade the important figures of the Green Mountain Sect to change their attitude.
Yuan Qijing didn't agree to allowing her to enter the snowland.
Young Yuan said hesitantly, "Should I try…"
Patting on Yuan's shoulder, Gu Qing said, "There is no need for it."
Then, he retold Luo Huainan's story.
This story was simple, lacking many details, because Luo Huainan was badly wounded and had a confused awareness. Young Yuan listened to the story wholeheartedly, and he filled in some scenes in his own mind. He felt his senior master was truly dazzling, and with his blood rushing toward his head, he felt like charging into the snowland to fight those monsters himself at this very moment.
All of a sudden, Zhao Layue turned to Gu Qing and asked, "What do you think about the story?"
After a moment of silence, he replied, "This is a very good story, and it has no obvious flaws since it has no details; but I…still don't believe it."
It was because Gu Qing didn't believe the story, and as such, he felt the night wind was so cold when he left the courtyard of the Center Sect.
Zhao Layue said emotionlessly, "I don't believe it either."
Young Yuan was surprised and said, "I don't think there is anything wrong."
"That's because you haven't had enough time to get to know my master," said Gu Qing.
Young Yuan asked confusingly, "What's wrong with senior master?"
Gu Qing said in a slightly hoarse voice, "It's because he couldn't be the person described by Luo Huainan, who was brave enough to fight till the end and unwilling to leave the battleground."
Young Yuan couldn't understand this, wondering why Luo Huainan would say so many good things about senior master Jing Jiu and described him as such a courageous person.
Gu Qing said, "I can't explain it, but I know the person described by Luo Huainan doesn't match my master's temperament."
Zhao Layue said with her eyebrows dropping slightly, "You're right. He is so lazy and so afraid of dying…"
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