Most parts of Chaotian were enjoying the warm spring, and the winter had finally left White Town.
Guo Dong returned to the old temple as pear blossoms began to form throughout town.
The huge beam-like broadsword was still as soundless as before, and the golden Buddha statue was still as smiley as ever as it looked at the world outside the temple and the distant snowland.
She ambled to the front of the Buddha statue, taking a bite out of fruit that she picked up from the table. Afterwards, she went back to the doorsill and sat down, looking at the snowland that had already seen the lifting of the fog.
"Looking at the same scenery day in and day out; don't you find it boring?" she asked.
"I wish this world would be boring like this all the time; but the actions are one after another recently in many places of Chaotian. This sort of excitement makes me uneasy."
The deep and distant voice, which was a bit hoarse, burst out, sounding a lot like that famous broken bell in the Fruit Formation Temple.
Guo Dong responded with raised eyebrows, "It has nothing to do with me. I don't even know where that list of names came from."
"Do you think they could wipe out the Old Ones this time?" that voice asked.
Guo Dong replied without much thought, "Of course not."
"What about that person?" the voice pressed.
After a moment of silence, Guo Dong said, "It's very difficult to get rid of him. Even though Jian Xilai might be forced to come out in the end, he won't leave any evidence behind, and it's not easy to kill him."
"Do you want to kill him?" the voice asked.
Guo Dong threw away the remaining fruit in her hand and stood up, saying, "Even if I did, I wouldn't need your help."
The rain was a common occurrence in spring.
The spring rain had already fallen for a day and a night in Zhaoge City, and it didn't seem as if it would stop anytime soon.
The rain wasn't heavy, but the constant drizzle was troublesome, especially on the wet smooth green slabs, on which the pedestrians could easily slip and fall.
The dark eaves of Taichang Temple looked more like the horns of an old dragon when they soaked in rainwater, as if a pair of eyes gazing at the funny happenings in the street, like the pedestrians dodging the raindrops and children falling down after slipping on the green slabs.
In the courtyard that was not far from the Taichang Temple, the Jing family was having their dinner together.
Jing Shang was discussing with his father and wife the matter of their child attending the school, as well as that child's marriage.
The child, who couldn't even walk steadily and asked for a hug from Jing Jiu years ago, was twelve years old now, and was eating with his head lowered, showing his obedient temperament.
In the nearby State Duke manor house, the drizzle tapped on the windows lightly, blurring the spring scene in the courtyard.
The natural light was reflected by the raindrops, making the vase made from the Lu Kiln look even more beautiful.
State Duke Lu pulled his gaze away from the vase and looked at his son, saying, "You shouldn't leave the house in the next few days, because something might happen."
His son Lu Ming asked curiously, "Father, what will happen?"
After a moment of silence, State Duke Lu said, "It's quite interesting that…The Old Ones want to kill me."
Upon hearing this, Lu Ming was quite astonished, thinking that his father gained the Emperor's trust, and could enter the royal palace at will, but he always kept a low-profile and seldom offended anybody; why did he become the target of the Old Ones?
Lu Ming grew worried before his shocking emotion had subsided. He was well aware that the Old Ones were a dreadful group of people, and though his father had a high status and immense power and was always protected by the swordsmen wherever he went, but how could he avoid the assassination all his life?
"I have to admit that the Old Ones seldom miss their target; but there is no need to worry about it, since we know about it in advance."
Seeing his son's expression, State Duke Lu knew what was on his mind, adding, "This thing will end soon. It won't last too long."
Lu Ming didn't quite understand what this meant, but feeling relieved nonetheless, asked, "Why do the Old Ones want to kill you?"
State Duke Lu said, "I don't think someone wants to buy my life, so it has something to do with my current position."
Lu Ming felt it made even less sense, since his father was merely the chief of the Taichang Temple, and what did this position have to do with the Old Ones, an assassination organization?
State Duke Lu got out of bed before dawn. He had suddenly become diligent and attended the court everyday in the last few days, though he had often been absent for one reason or another.
Standing in the tunnel of the palace gate, State Duke Lu chit-chatted and joked with other courtiers, appearing normal so nobody would know what was on his mind, or what he was waiting for.
By the time when he left the palace, the morning sun had already risen in the east, and the drizzles drifting down onto the streets shimmered in the sunshine, looking very beautiful.
Looking at the scene outside the window, State Duke Lu furrowed his brows instead, wondering why the Old Ones hadn't attempted the assassination yet.
In front of the Taichang Temple, State Duke Lu got out of the sedan, and shook his head with a smirk while looking at the dark eaves in the drizzles, for he might have thought of something.
Other officials came out to meet him, and he responded to them with a mild expression. He walked into Taichang Temple, followed by his subordinates; then, State Duke Lu came to a room at the far end of the temple.
The room was very warm and dry. It didn't take long for the water beads on his official robe or his sideburns to dry up. State Duke Lu exhaled deeply, feeling much more relaxed, and picked up the tea cup close by his hand.
Every morning he came to his office, there would be a cup of boiled tea waiting for him at the place where he could extend his hand to pick it up with ease.
The caretakers in the tea kitchen had been doing a good job in this regard for many years.
The tea in the cup that day was Shanmei tea, which was light red in color, his favorite tea of the spring season. He naturally had other favorites during the other seasons.
The temperature of the water in his tea cup was just right, neither too hot nor too cold, which was the exact temperature he preferred.
Usually, he would have taken a few sips already; but he didn't drink the tea right away that day, even though he held the tea cup in his hand. He appeared dazed, in deep thought of something.
All of a sudden, he heard a barrage of noises in the distance, including a few surprise shrieks.
State Duke Lu was still looking at the Shanmei Tea in his cup, his countenance unchanged.
Along with a lot of hurried footsteps, many people arrived in front of his room, and a man dressed as a servant was pushed down to the ground.
Someone reported, "State Duke, this man is the caretaker of the tea kitchen; family name is Zhou. It's he who has put the poison in the tea."
State Duke Lu asked without even lifting his head, "Have you found the residual poison? What kind of poison did he use?"
"He was vigilant. He threw the rest of the poison into the stove after putting it in the tea. This subordinate didn't prevent him from doing it in time, and had to examine the poison in the tea later."
The speaker wasn't a staff of Taichang Temple, but an official of the Pure Heaven Bureau, judging from his official uniform.
State Duke Lu lifted his head and put the tea cup back on the table, looking at the caretaker of the tea kitchen with narrowed eyes.
This assassin of the Old Ones was not a Cultivation swordsman specialized in assassination, merely a caretaker who had worked for many years at Taichang Temple.
If he hadn't known it beforehand, he might have drunk the tea in the cup that day.
The common poison was not fatal enough for somebody like State Duke Lu; nevertheless, the poison in the tea must be extraordinary since it was plotted by the Old Ones.
As the caretaker wasn't a Cultivation practitioner, the Pure Heaven Bureau wasn't worried that he might commit suicide, so they had only tied his hands with rope, without bothering to use the Source Lock.
Sensing State Duke Lu's stare, the caretaker felt extremely terrified, unable to kneel, instead lying on the ground, trembling with a pale face.
Seeing his reaction, State Duke Lu figured that this caretaker didn't know about the ins and outs of the plot, let alone that the Old Ones were the masterminds behind the scene, and he was probably persuaded or even coerced into doing it. He waved his hand to motion for him to be dragged away.
It was quite chaotic in the temple, with people everywhere in the corridor, their clothes soaked in rainwater as they bumped into each other.
An official jostled hastily in the crowd, yelling that he had something important to report, and soon arrived in front of the room, sweat everywhere on his anxious face.
As he was about to step over the doorsill, the fine drizzles under the corridor were suddenly scattered.
A gust of deviant wind blew over from nowhere.
State Duke Lu raised his head.
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