The thin fog on Shenmo Peak dispersed.
Gu Qing was kneeling before Zhao Layue.
Neither Jing Jiu nor Zhao Layue liked to see their disciples kneeling in front of them; but Gu Qing had to kneel that day. It was because he came back without Jing Jiu.
Zhao Layue looked at the empty ground by the edge of the cliff, thinking of the bamboo chair that had lain there before. She remained silent for a while and asked, "When did it happen?"
Gu Qing replied, "Seven days ago."
Yuan Qü stood by the side and thought anxiously that his Senior Master had traveled outside for three years, but was missing after having just come back.
Zhao Layue asked, "Did he tell you anything?"
Gu Qing intended to say that he hadn't, but he suddenly remembered the incident when they passed through the Cold Mountain, saying, "My Master said that we should check out who was the sect master of the Mysterious Dark Sect, and then kill him if possible."
Zhao Layue said, "Check it out then. Have it arranged immediately."
Gu Qing thought that his Master meant he would kill that sect master himself; but Gu Qing figured that his Master might not be able to come back this time. He couldn't help but feel very sad.
He saw the wielding sword between the blue sky and ocean clearly with his own eyes.
Who could survive the sword wielded by the Godly Swordsman of West Ocean with all his might?
The atmosphere was depressing; but not everybody was as sad as Gu Qing.
The white cat was sleeping on the Jade Bed while holding Cold Cicada, his eyes closed as he snored slightly
During his travel outside Green Mountain, he didn't get the chance to fight with the Old Dragon or the chance to launch a sneak attack on Jian Xilai. All he did was play with a little body in Zhaoge City. It was a really boring experience for him.
He didn't care about Jing Jiu's fate in the least. It would be for the best if he died. He would wish those two brothers died as soon as possible; a few people were wishing the same thing.
The white cat suddenly opened his eyes, suddenly remembering that the five pieces of Thunder-Soul Wood were still at the bottom of Shangde Peak. His pupils shrank a little, thinking that he still needed Jing Jiu…so that he shouldn't die yet…There is no way I'll be able to get those Thunder-Soul Woods back from Dead Dog.
Yuan Qü was not that sad, simply worried. It was because he had no idea what the sword wielded by the Godly Swordsman of West Ocean meant.
Yet, Zhao Layue's calmness made Gu Qing feel worried.
Though there wasn't any bamboo chair by the cliff's edge, there was a man.
He Zhan sat there dejected and bewildered.
Pei Baifa's corpse was brought back to the No-Mercy Sect by Fang Jingtian personally. He had no idea how they would react when they saw the corpse on the Longevity Mountain.
Su Ziye was his trusted friend; that was why He Zhan rescued him in Yizhou City and introduced him to Tong Yan. As a result, the scheme against the Godly Swordsman of West Ocean was plotted.
No one would have thought that Su Ziye would ultimately betray them in secret and that the Godly Swordsman of West Ocean had known this scheme all along. What happened wouldn't have, otherwise.
Mister Pei was dead; Tong Lu was dead. And the fate of Guo Dong was unknown…all this was his fault.
Sitting by the cliff's edge, He Zhan gazed at the mist before him, and his eyes were covered by a layer of mist as well. His voice was hoarse and deep.
"It's all my fault."
Zhao Layue walked to the edge of the cliff, standing behind He Zhan with her hands folded behind her back.
Gu Qing and Yuan Qü thought that she was going to say words of comfort to He Zhan…
…They didn't expect her to suddenly kick He Zhan off the cliff.
It was quieter now. She felt a little better, since the depression deep down in her heart had been released temporarily. She didn't want to hear the mumbling of that useless man anymore.
"Shiyue Peak said that the magic treasure called the Huanxi Silk should come from the Water-Moon Nunnery."
Zhao Layue looked at dazed Gu Qing and said, "Bind him and take him there."
"I don't want to go to the nunnery!" He Zhan's frustrated voice came up from the bottom of the cliff.
Zhao Layue didn't pay attention to him, turning around and entered the manor cave.
Yuan Qü realized that his Master was actually in a very bad mood.
Gu Qing could feel her pain personally. He didn't dare say anything, and he told the monkeys hurriedly to go down to the bottom of the cliff to find He Zhan.
The Cloud-Dream Mountain was like the real fairy realm.
Standing by the cliff's edge, one could see the pine trees in the distance, but couldn't see the top of the high platform since it was in the cloud. The fairy cranes flew among the peaks, passing through the rainbow and picking up some magic fruits from a distant place.
Tong Yan stood on the high platform by the edge. He remained silent while looking at the scene. His light eyebrows seemed to disappear under the sunlight.
The pine trees swayed a little; the ribbons drifted like the clouds and then were retrieved into the sleeve.
A young woman appeared atop the pine tree.
She should be in Zhaoge City; but for some reason, she came back to the Cloud-Dream Mountain in a hurry.
"What on earth has happened?" Bai Zao asked while staring into Tong Yan's eyes.
The news about what had happened in the deep end of the West Ocean spread to all of Chaotian.
The No-Mercy Sect Master, Pei Baifa, challenged the Godly Swordsman of West Ocean to avenge what had happened to him many years ago, and died after losing the battle.
Later, the disciple of the Water-Moon Nunnery, Guo Dong, attempted to assassinate the Godly Swordsman and failed as well. She was rescued by an elder of Green Mountain, but they were hit by the sword wielded by the Godly Swordsman of West Ocean while trying to escape.
Tong Lu was involved in this matter. He failed to kill his own Master and then committed suicide out of despair.
Bai Zao knew that Tong Yan had something to do with this event, and that it was he who had set up the whole thing.
Tong Yan didn't want to tell her anything before, so she didn't press him. But it was different now.
She could guess that it wasn't an elder who had rescued Guo Dong, but Jing Jiu.
In the Jing House a few days ago, Jing Jiu's reaction was sort of strange when Bai Zao mentioned Guo Dong.
She decided that she must go back to the Cloud-Dream Mountain to find out what had happened.
"This was the scheme we had planned at the Baotong Zen Temple. The first stage is what everybody saw."
Tong Yan paused for a moment, and said, "The senior master Guo Dong didn't trust Su Ziye and thought he might betray us; but she believed that Jian Xilai was too arrogant not to come to the battlefield. As such, she hid behind and became the changing factor in the scheme."
"Is this the second stage?" Bai Zao pressed.
"That's right," Tong Yan replied. "I and the senior master Guo Dong were the only ones who knew this stage. I had objected to the plan, but she insisted."
Bai Zao stared at his eyes and asked, "Then…what is the third stage?"
"There is none," Tong Yan answered calmly.
Bai Zao said, "Big Brother, we have grown up together. Nobody knows you better than I. And I know, you have never planned things as simply as this…"
Tong Yan remained silent for a while and said, "The third stage is actually rather simple. I, Su Ziye and Mister Pei didn't think that Jian Xilai could be killed, because he was too strong. My Master wouldn't even be able to achieve it if he fought with the Godly Swordsman. As such, the battle in the West Ocean is actually merely the first half of the scheme. We only wanted Su Ziye to win the absolute trust of Jian Xilai. As for what will happen next, we will have to wait and see."
Bai Zao felt doubtful about this and asked, "So many people died just for Su Ziye to win the trust? As you said, Jian Xilai is too powerful; how can he succeed in killing the Godly Swordsman?"
Tong Yan said, "Su Ziye promised me that he could definitely find a way to kill Jian Xilai. Under the circumstances, I had to choose to believe him."
After a long moment of silence, Bai Zao said, "You two have deceived Tong Lu, and the senior master Guo Dong, and Mister Pei…"
"Mister Pei knew about the plan," Tong Yan said. "He thought that this was the best choice if he couldn't defeat Jian Xilai. As for Tong Lu…he would commit suicide if Jian Xilai were killed; the difference for him was only if his death would be an earlier or later one."
"What about Guo Dong?" Bai Zao asked. "If she is the senior master you think she is, how could you have the gall to make use of her?"
Tong Yan looked at a white crane drifting amid the distant ocean of clouds, as he said, "Since she wants us to follow her path, she should be able to understand my plan."
"But, the problem is that Jing Jiu is dead also…"
Bai Zao added, "He was not our colleague."
"Was it Jing Jiu who rescued the senior master Guo Dong?"
Tong Yan said with arched brows, "It's impossible."
"Believe me," Bai Zao said. "He was that person."
Tong Yan remained silent for a moment before saying, "He may not be dead then."
"Why would you say so?" Bai Zao asked in a trembling voice.
Tong Yan pulled back his gaze and reached out his hand to wipe off the tears on his young sister's cheek.
Speaking of Jing Jiu's death, Bai Zao cried.
Gazing at her, Tong Yan said with a smile, "We all thought that you and he were dead in the snowland back then; what happened next?"
"Big Brother, people who are good at playing chess like you are really relentless," Bai Zao remarked.
"You must remember," Tong Yan said, "the chess playing is all about life and death; there is no place for affection in it. I'm this way, so is Jing Jiu."
The ocean wind weakened after passing through the forest. Thought the dry and muddy road didn't become dusty, it was still hard to walk on.
Jing Jiu walked on the road while hauling Guo Dong along. He saw some badly damaged houses by the road, a few broken fishing nets, and some animal skeletons after being eaten; but he didn't see any human. The cold starlight shone on these objects, giving out a desolate and horrifying feel.
It was evident that no human had lived here for a long time. It should be the case that a formidable devil was somewhere nearby.
Thinking of this possibility, Jing Jiu was not worried, instead thinking they finally found a place to rest.
Though he was wounded and couldn't ride on the sword, the ordinary devil animals couldn't harm him.
After leaving the muddy road, Jing Jiu followed the traces to a mountain not far away. It didn't take long for him to find a cave among the rocks and long vines.
It was a large and dry cave. There was a big pile of bones in the far end of the cave. He could tell that most of them were the bones of whales and fish.
The walls of the cave had the clear marks that looked like being made from an iron broom.
It was a devil animal with hard and strong hair and who was good at diving into the ocean. It was unclear whether it was a bear devil or other animal.
Jing Jiu set Guo Dong on the pile of bones. Then he walked back to the cave entrance slowly with the support of the iron sword, and looked down at the bottom of the cliff.
It was late at night, and the starlight was bright. He could, with his special vision, see very far.
A mile away, a devil animal as big as a mountain was moving to the seashore. As the devil animal was about to enter the ocean, it turned around and glanced at the cave once.
It was obvious that the devil animal was unwilling to leave its cave; but for some reason, it was too terrified not to leave.
Seeing the devil animal vanish in the ocean, Jing Jiu felt regretful, as he thought that the state of this devil animal was high enough that he could take out its Devil Pill to let Guo Dong eat it.
On the beach last evening, Guo Dong had already taken the magic pill of the Waster-Moon Nunnery; but the fresh medicine would be more helpful for treating her wound.
He didn't expect the devil animal to be so cautious and run away so soon.
Jing Jiu didn't understand it. He thought that his wound was quite severe, and his energy hadn't leaked out at all; why would the devil animal be scared away?
Still, he wasn't aware that he had stayed in the Fiend Prison for three years, nor that he had also acquired a good deal of smell from the battle between the Underworld Emperor and the Old Dragon. It had been merely a few days after the battle, so he still had the residual smell on him.
And he would hold Liu Ada once in a while.
It meant that he had the smells of the Old Dragon of the Center Sect and the White Ghost of Green Mountain on him at the same time.
Regardless of how formidable a devil animal was, it would be scared senseless after smelling the energy in the wind. So it had no choice but to flee.
The starlight streamed into the cave, illuminating the objects inside.
A cocoon was on the pile of white bones; and there was a person in the cocoon.
Guo Dong's face was exposed to the outside.
She was asleep, like an innocent infant.
This was an interesting scene.
Jing Jiu thought that it would be better if He Zhan was here so he could paint the scene.
He sat down before the pile of white bones, starting to recuperate with his legs crossed.
In the next morning, Guo Dong opened her eyes and woke up.
She was not unpleased with the fact that she was placed on the pile of white bones, and there was no indication whatsoever that she wasn't used to this situation.
Like she said on the beach the other day, she had killed too many people and saw too many white bones.
She knew that Jing Jiu had been awake the entire time.
"What are you thinking?"
Jing Jiu opened his eyes and said, "I'm thinking whether I should bring you back to the Water-Moon Nunnery or to White Town."
This place was closer to White Town, but the town was still quite far.
They had no way to walk all the way to those places in their current condition; and they couldn't inform their mountain gates either. If they asked somebody else to pass the message, the safety was always a concern.
Guo Dong said, "A little over one hundred miles in the southeast from here, there is a town called Dayuan City, and there is a nunnery on the outskirts of the city. We can go there."
Here was the north of Chaotian, outside the territory of the Green Mountain Sect; but the nunneries could be found in every state and county.
After some thought, Jing Jiu thought it a good idea, saying, "Let me arrange it. It's time for you to sleep."
Staying in the cocoon of the natural worm silk was like hibernating; it was helpful for cultivating and treating wounds.
Guo Dong of course knew about it, saying, "Call me if something happens."
Jing Jiu moved to the outside of the cave with the support of the iron sword and sat down.
The last stars in the distant horizon were disappearing, and the morning sunlight was very red.
The mist drifted over from the surface of the ocean.
The mist rose up gradually after encountering the mountain range extending to the north. Eventually, part of the mist went over the mountain range successfully and became countless stripes.
They would turn into the spring rain to nourish the soil and lives on the other side.
There would be streams and rivers on the other side, flowing into the ocean in the end.
The cycle would repeat time after time.
Jing Jiu thought of this sentimentally.
The cause and effect are the same. There is no way to know where the cause starts, but the cause and effect influence each other.
He closed his eyes slowly.
When he reopened his eyes, more than ten days had passed.
He used the Sword Awareness to check himself and found the wound was getting better, though he still couldn't make vigorous movement
For instance, he couldn't ride the sword to leave this place, or kill somebody with the sword, or leap a few miles onto the cliff enshrouded by the fog and mist; but he could carry out some simple tasks.
The iron sword left his body and drifted back inside the cave. It moved at a high speed on the ground and cliff walls, making faint friction sounds.
The seemingly blunt tip of the iron sword carved countless complicated and fine patterns.
After having done all this, Jing Jiu got up and walked back in the cave, arriving by the pile of white bones. He found the color on Guo Dong's face got better, with more reddish hue.
Her injury was lessened. Though it couldn't be completely cured, she wouldn't die in a short time at least.
Seeing her ordinary face, Jing Jiu remained silent for a while.
He wondered why she still failed to figure out who he was; but he thought that he failed to recognize her back at the Plum Meeting. So he felt relieved.
He and she were both slow in this aspect.
Jing Jiu woke her up, and then brought the iron sword back into his body.
Seeing this, Guo Dong remembered the rumor. "It was said that you had encountered the problem in Cultivation, stagnating. It looks like you have solved it, right?" she asked.
Jing Jiu didn't respond to her inquiry, but said, "I'll go out to do something."
"Where?" asked Guo Dong.
Jing Jiu said, "There seems to be a village nor far from here."
Climbing over the mountains and hills was a difficult thing for Jing Jiu in the current condition. It was fortunate that he could rely on the help of the iron sword; and he merely needed to climb over one hill, and then he would be able to see the village on the other side of the hill.
He had lived at the Liu house in the small village for a year; so he should know how to deal with people there.
Jing Jiu picked up a conical hat outside a house and walked to the village entrance under a big ash tree. And he bought the information he wanted to know with a golden leaf.
He found out where this place was, how far the closest city was, and which family had the carriage.
Then, he found that he had a problem.
The only family in the village that had the carriages was headed by a retired official from the town government.
It was the large house not far from where he stood. It was said that there were quite a few large carriages in that house.
But, it was said that it would be impossible for the retired official to lend his carriage to anyone, because he had a very bad temper.
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