After having listened to the talk between Gu Qing and her son for a while, Royal Concubine Hu couldn't stand it anymore and demanded, "Why are you talking about all this at such a critical moment?"
Gu Qing had been aware that she was listening to their conversation secretly, and said, "The prince will rule this country, and he of course needs to know these things."
He knew that his Maser had already fled the Fiend Prison, so his countenance was a lot calmer, looking more like the teacher of the Prince.
Royal Concubine Hu laughed heartily, for she was pleased to hear this; so she didn't say anything more.
"The Fruit Formation Temple and the Water-Moon Nunnery were among the seven major Cultivation sects at the initial Plum Meeting. But these two sects are practicing the otherworldly Dao, as they follow mostly the path of the mortals. They should be considered as the neutral sects."
Gu Qing turned to the Prince Jing Yao and continued his lecture, "Though the Windy-Broadsword Sect and the West Ocean Sword Sect are two new powers, they are quite popular because of the Broadsword King and the Godly Swordsman of West Ocean. But of course, the latter has been damaged to some extent due to the battle of the Cloud Platform and won't be able to recover for a few decades. The Hanging-Bell Sect, the Great Marsh, and the Mirror Sect all have outstanding magic methods, but their sects have never had anybody who had successfully ascended, and they lack the figures in the Heavenly Arrival State; so they should be considered as the sects of lower level."
The Prince Jing Yao said while looking at the sky, "I'm a Green Mountain disciple, and I will be on good terms with Green Mountain, naturally; however, this won't be enough. Teacher said that I can trust the One-Cottage House, but the old maidservant told me that all of those scholars don't like me. Whom should I seek out then?"
The morning sunlight shone on his small face, making him appear soft and naïve.
Gu Qing felt a bit taken aback before saying, "The relationship between the Royal Family and the Fruit Formation Temple has been always close."
Jing Yao felt baffled as he asked, "Aren't those at the Fruit Formation Temple a bunch of monks?"
"I don't know the reason," Gu Qing said. "You should ask the Emperor when you grow up. But I guess that it's because the influence the Center Sect has on the imperial court is simply too much."
Jing Yao seemed to understand it a bit, as he asked, "I have become a Green Mountain disciple…Is it true that the Center Sect is not pleased with the arrangement?"
"What the Emperor did is to make all the sects feel unpleased," Gu Qing remarked.
This remark had a deep meaning to it. It might even reveal the true intention of the Plum Meeting back then.
Jing Yao sighed like an adult, and commented, "That's right. As I will contend with my royal brother for the throne of the emperor, the Center Sect will definitely be displeased with me no matter what."
The conversation couldn't continue at this point.
Royal Concubine Hu had no patience to listen to anymore, and she pulled Gu Qing inside the room from the window. "Come here. I'll show you something wonderful," she said in a mysterious tone.
As she was about to show Gu Qing the Jade-Egg of Rosefinch, she found that he was looking at her quietly.
"What are you thinking?"
Royal Concubine Hu said this angrily after she had come back to her senses from the initial stupor.
"What was Your Highness thinking? What I intended to say is that you don't have to beat that old maidservant as a staged show for me…" Gu Qing said while looking at her eyes. "If you cherish your friendship with her, just send her back to her hometown. She will have a better life there than in the Royal Palace, and she will be taken care of by the local officials. It's better than to stay here and not even know how she dies."
Royal Concubine Hu said softly after a moment of silence, "I see."
They could talk about these trivial matters of the palace at the moment, indicating that they felt relief like everybody else.
Though there were dozens of minor earthquakes occurring in Zhaoge City, the strongest swordsmen of the human race had arrived; there was no need for worry.
"All of them are here."
The old man transformed by the spiritual soul of the Old Dragon said while looking at the Underworld Emperor's eyes, "There are more swordsmen of the Heavenly Arrival State today than the day when they captured you. To say nothing of your current Cultivation state, even your father at his height of the Cultivation state would be captured easily by them."
Sensing the energies outside the Fiend Prison, the Underworld Emperor said sentimentally, "In just six hundred years, the human race has added a few more swordsmen of the Heavenly Arrival State. It is a marvelous achievement."
The old man said, "The fact is sad, but you have to accept it. Any of your escape attempts will give the humans an adequate excuse to kill you."
"It is true," said the Underworld Emperor.
Having said that, the soul fires in the cracks everywhere in the Fiend Prison drifted out from them, turning back into little emperors hovering quietly in midair.
This showed the Underworld Emperor's intention, or perhaps attitude.
"What do you want?" the old man asked.
The Underworld Emperor replied, "No more mosquitoes."
The old man said, "If you were willing to cut off a piece of your Soul-Fire and send it to the Underworld to prove you are still alive, the mosquitoes were not needed in the first place."
"I also want a patch of green valley," the Underworld Emperor said. "And it needs to be real. And I want to talk to someone, and it'd better be someone of my own race."
These were the specifics of the negotiation.
If the old man didn't agree to the requests, the soul fires would enter the cracks inside the Old Dragon's body again and put him in unbearable pain.
The old man said after a long moment of silence, "I'm not authorized to accept these requests; you have to talk to those people outside."
The Underworld Emperor laughed and said, "If I went outside, how could I threaten you? And they would kill me right away without negotiating with me."
The old man said, "What can we do then? The Chaotic Wind is too strong here, so the spiritual awareness can't reach them."
"You can ask those people to select a representative to come here," the Underworld Emperor suggested. "Well…I don't want to talk to anyone from the Cloud-Dream Mountain. I'd like to talk to anyone from the Green Mountain, if there is one."
The old man exclaimed helplessly, "Do you think it's possible?"
The passageway was filled with the filthy and bloody chaotic winds.
It was impossible for the Immortal Sect Master of Green Mountain to come here.
The Underworld Emperor thought it was indeed the case, and said, "I will not go out for sure. You have to think of something."
Those soul fires resembling the Underworld Emperor were merely a few feet away from the wounds inside the Old Dragon's body, ready to re-enter them at any time.
Thinking of the pain those soul fires had inflicted earlier, the old man's face grew paler. "You come with me to the upper level," he said in a trembling voice.
The Underworld Emperor could still threaten the Old Dragon there, and the spiritual awareness of the swordsmen of the human race in the sky over Zhaoge City could reach that level; as such, both sides could negotiate there.
The Underworld Emperor accepted the old man's suggestion and drifted to the destination with his hands behind him.
The expression on the old man's face became a lot more relaxed. He followed the Underworld Emperor close behind.
They had passed the long passageway and arrived at the intersection of the second level of the Fiend Prison and the lowest level, where the messy rocks were hovering above, with the purple flowers hiding among them.
The Taichang Prison was to the left side of the intersection, and they could reach the Green Pond by passing through the crack between the messy rocks.
The Underworld Emperor drifted into the crack like a flowing cloud with his hands on his back; and soon he arrived at the bottom of the pond, which was a transparent light green and shapeless barrier.
The Underworld Emperor broke through the barrier and entered the Green Pond.
A band of the Soul-Fire formed in his eyes, and the Soul-Fire turned into a thin membrane to cover his whole body so his clothes and hair were not eroded by the pond water.
The greenish pond water dripped down from his body as he stood up.
The old man had already arrived by the edge of the pond in advance, and looked at him quietly with a peculiar smile.
"Your smile looks terrible. It gives an impression that you might have a bad intent and would mount a sneak attack at any moment."
The Underworld Emperor halted his steps at a place thirty feet from the edge of the pond. "I'm certain that your spiritual soul isn't a match for me; otherwise, I would believe that you might actually do that," he said with a smile.
Even though he said that he didn't believe it, the Underworld Emperor was actually quite alert at the moment; otherwise, he wouldn't have halted his steps.
The smile on the old man's face grew wider, and his mouth opened wider as well; and he looked even uglier.
Countless rocks suddenly rolled out from the steep cliff thousands of feet high. Soon after, the cliff collapsed abruptly.
It seemed that the dark sky had suddenly lost its support and collapsed toward the ground; and in the meantime the bottom of the pond and the surrounding ground had abruptly risen up.
In the brink of an eye, the expansive space in the Fiend Prison had grown narrower.
This wasn't due to the switch of heaven and earth. The switch of heaven and earth was the simple change of spatial positions; but instead, the old man had directly reduced the size of heaven and earth!
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