Hearing this remark, Jing Jiu was at a loss.
In his own eyes, he was still the same as before; he wasn't aware that his aura was even purer now in others' eyes, full of the bearing that a man of the fae would possess.
Jing Jiu didn't realize what was going on until he recalled the Underworld Emperor's reminder.
It was at the moment that a gust of wind blew over the room and the scent of flowers arrived on his face.
He absorbed the scent. The energy inside his body became slightly mixed, and he thought that the drifting feeling in his body weakened a little.
Bai Zao blinked a few times, wondering if her eyes were deceiving her; but she still felt that Jing Jiu was quite different from what he had looked like a few years ago.
"What are you doing in Zhaoge City?" asked Jing Jiu.
To think that he would ask such a question after they had not seen each other in three years; any other woman would feel disappointed or even resentful after hearing the question.
Yet, Bai Zao knew what his demeanor was like; it wasn't an intentional act of being cold toward her or keeping some distance between them. She simply let loose a smile.
"It was decided a while ago that I would come to the Palace of the Prince."
At the time, when she left the Cloud-Dream Mountain, it was still peaceful in Zhaoge City. Who would have thought such a significant event could happen in the Fiend Prison?!
The Palace of Prince Jing Xin was turned into a large prison now. So she couldn't go there, so she came to the Jing House instead.
Though she didn't know that Jing Jiu was here ahead of time, she came here for him nonetheless.
As far as the incidental meeting was concerned, one person had to walk in the direction of another person in the first place for them to meet.
"I have just come out not long ago myself," said Jing Jiu.
According to his temperament, Jing Jiu wouldn't tell others what he had been doing in the last few years.
Bai Zao asked, "Where have you been these last few years?"
"I've been cultivating in a secret place in the Royal Palace…"
Jing Jiu gave her the answer he had prepared beforehand.
After a moment of silence, Bai Zao asked, "Gu Qing is the teacher of the Prince Jing Yao, and you have cultivated secretively in the Royal Palace for three years. What does the Green Mountain intend to achieve?"
Jing Jiu replied, "I don't like Jing Xin. What has happened lately proves that he is not qualified to be the next emperor."
His opinion that Jing Xin was not suitable for the position of emperor had nothing to do with the event of the Fiend Prison, nor did it have anything to do with the assassination attempt on Zhao Layue. It was simply that he didn't like Jing Xin as a person.
When he learned that Jing Xin's mother was the disciple of the Immortal Bai, his resolution grew even firmer.
"Isn't the Green Mountain Sect afraid that the next emperor will have the blood of a vixen in his body?" Bai Zao asked. "You shouldn't ignore the fact that Royal Concubine Hu will be the Royal Dowager by then."
"It is an inevitable fact that Jing Xin won't be the next emperor; so Jing Yao will be the only choice."
Jing Jiu's voice was monotonous, but it had an irresistible intent.
Bai Zao perceived the changed energy in his speech, certain that Jing Jiu had made progress in his Cultivation. "Congratulations!" she said sincerely.
She was really happy for him.
All of Chaotian knew that Jing Jiu had burnt his Sword Source for six years back in the snowland in order for her to survive the extremely cold environment. And later, Jing Jiu seemed to be affected by it, his Cultivation stagnating. No matter how much his Cultivation state had improved, or whether he had reached the upper state of the Undefeated, it was a good thing as long as he progressed a bit.
Jing Jiu fixed his gaze on Bai Zao, and sensed that she had already completed the Golden Pill State and showed signs of forming the Yuanying; this was equal to the initial state of the Free Travel of the Green Mountain Sect.
Though her progress was not as fast as Zhao Layue, as a woman who was feeble at birth, the fact that she could have broken through the Cultivation state so quickly showed that her talent and diligence were indeed outstanding.
It was also because the ancient Yudan Script was really suitable for her.
Jing Jiu said, "If there is an opportunity, you should go to the Water-Moon Nunnery to get some guidance. This method originally came from that place."
Hearing the Water-Moon Nunnery, Bai Zao remembered something. "I feel that the Cultivation world won't be as peaceful as it is now," she said softly.
"The world has never truly known peace," Jing Jiu remarked.
Bai Zao walked to the window, and said while staring into his eyes, "But it has never been like it is now; so many events have happened, though I'm not sure what effect they will have. The Cloud-Dream Mountain has had some tumultuous years lately, mishaps that have been occurring one after the other. It feels almost like someone is acting against us in secret."
Jing Jiu didn't comment on what she said.
The death of the Old Dragon had more detrimental effects on the Center Sect disciples' mental state than that caused by the death of Luo Huainan.
Bai Zao didn't say anything more. All she did was look at him quietly. Her expression was focused and serious, as if she was appreciating a painting.
"What's the matter?" Jing Jiu asked.
Bai Zao said, "You really look good."
"You saw me before," said Jing Jiu.
Bai Zao said, "I'm afraid that I'll have even less of an opportunity to see you; so I'd like to look at you as much as I can while I still have the chance."
The Fiend Prison had experienced a mishap, and Yue Qianmen, Xiang Wanshu and other Cultivation practitioners of the Center Sect wanted to enter it, but they were stopped from doing so by the imperial court.
During the later investigation, the Principal Justice of the Fruit Formation Temple, Monk Duhai, famous for his benevolence, displayed a tenacious attitude, putting the Center Sect in an embarrassing position.
All of this had a peculiar implication to it.
More importantly, the candidates for the next emperor chosen by the Center Sect and the Green Mountain Sect were different; this was an unsolvable issue.
The once warm relationship between the two leaders of the orthodox sects seemed to be growing cold.
As the future master of the Center Sect, no matter how much she liked Jing Jiu, there was no way they would be able to live together, and it may eventually mean they couldn't even be friends.
Seeing the feeble young woman by the window, Jing Jiu fell silent for a while. Then he walked out of the room and arrived under the begonia tree.
The setting sun was close to the western horizon, revealing a bright twilight, with the falling petals from the tree branches looking like they were ablaze.
The street outside the house was still deserted, except for the occasional sounds of the workers who were repairing the houses.
Bai Zao walked underneath of the begonia tree and lifted her head to look at Jing Jiu.
"Cultivation means the cultivation of the self. We have no choice but to admit that we are influenced by our sects, family backgrounds, family names, and bloodlines…all of these external factors…but they shouldn't affect our Cultivation."
Jing Jiu's voice sounded like the fallen flowers in the twilight; they looked warm, but were actually cold.
Bai Zao said, "We have hoped to surpass the limits of the sects, family backgrounds and blood lines; they are by and large the same ideal."
The "we" in her sentence referred to herself, Tong Yan, the late Luo Huainan, Guo Nanshan and the other disciples of Liangwang Peak, and those aspiring and ambitious young people of various sects.
Jing Jiu of course knew of this, because Liu Shisui was someone like them. "I wish success," he said after some thought.
Though Jing Jiu didn't like the way Liangwang Peak had done, it didn't mean that he wanted to see these young people fail in their endeavor.
"When you mentioned the Water-Moon Nunnery, it reminds me of something."
Bai Zao said, "Young Sister Guo Dong is one of our members; but maybe we shouldn't call her our Young Sister."
"I don't understand what you mean," said Jing Jiu, the expression in his eyes changing slightly.
Bai Zao said, "That's what Big Brother Tong Yan said."
Jing Jiu had an impression of Guo Dong.
Back when the Plum Meeting in Zhaoge City took place and he and Zhao Layue left the meeting to meet Tian Jingren, they heard the zither music on the mountain path.
The music was obviously played by a beginner, but it somehow could astonish heaven and earth.
He felt at the time that the music had the style of someone he knew.
If Young Sister Guo Dong was not a young sister, then the known music style was actually played by a known person.
The begonia flowers falling from the tree over their heads suddenly halted in midair in front of Jing Jiu.
Jing Jiu blinked his eyes after an unknown period of time.
The begonia flowers continued on their falling course.
Jing Jiu suddenly figured out many things.
"Where is Guo Dong?" he asked.
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