Once the royal decree had been announced, it caused many discussions.
Once the son of King Jing came to the capital, he would be unable to leave. Was he to be held as a hostage?
The issue was that it was almost impossible for Cangzhou to agree to send the son of King Jing to the capital. If the decree were declined, would the inner war of Chu State ensue?
What was the Emperor thinking? Was it the idea of Grand Scholar Zhang and other chancellors? Otherwise, how could this decree get out of the palace? Many people who believed in conspiracy theories thought of other possibilities: Had the slow emperor come to his senses and refuse to be a puppet anymore, and that's why he intended to import some forces from the outside to ensure his safety?
The conjecture were spreading in the capital, like the yellow leaves falling from the trees.
As time passed and the weather grew colder, no action was taken in Cangzhou. People became more and more restless.
The son of King Jing had no reason to accept the decree from any perspective. They were in a prosperous and powerful era. Would the royal decree effectively end the era?
Thinking of this possibility, the officials and the populace were both resentful toward the slow emperor in the Royal Palace. In their eyes, this wasn't a royal decree, but obviously an insane request. Even Grand Scholar Zhang, who allowed the Emperor to issue such a decree was criticized by many…
It was the first snowfall of the year, and the atmosphere in the capital of Chu State was exceptionally cold.
A soldier guarding the city gate rubbed his hands as he prayed the slow emperor in the palace would suddenly die, so they all could forget about the royal decree.
All of a sudden, he saw a group of people approach the city in the distant field.
In the wind and snow, the son of King Jing came to the capital city.
The cold wind in the capital city was replaced by the warm atmosphere. Almost all the residents of the city came out from their houses to crowd the sides of the streets.
Innumerable curious and fascinated gazes fell on the carriage in the front of the group. The weather in the capital was not as cold as Cangzhou. It was probably because of this reason that the son of King Jing leaned against the opened window of the carriage, though he had a feeble body. He gazed back at the crowd by the streets with a soft smile while waving his hands at them.
The son of King Jing was very famous in Chu State. Almost everybody knew that he was as beautiful as a flower and that he had a mild temperament and was highly intelligent; in a word, he was nearly perfect.
The only shortcoming was his physical disability, that he couldn't walk properly. Yet, it was for this reason that he was even more admired by the populace.
Seeing the son of King Jing inside the window of the carriage, the crowd by the streets was extremely excited, especially girls and young women. When they saw the smiling intent on the corners of his mouth, they felt like getting drunk or being in a stupor with their knees giving out.
Someone said, "I heard that the Emperor is also very handsome, but unfortunately his brain is not working that well."
This statement drew endless mockery and jeering.
The son of King Jing took risks to come to the capital in order to avoid the inner war, for the peace of Cu State. He was so benevolent and brave that he couldn't be matched by that retarded emperor.
Yet, many people soon thought of a fearful consequence. Since the Emperor was an intuitive leap, he must be confounded and could get angry easily. And given the royal decree that requested the son of King Jing to come to the capital, they thought that the Emperor might indeed have the intention of killing the son of King Jing. This idea soon spread out in the crowd; and the people on both sides of the streets were agitated. Some scholars raised their arms and called upon the crowd to follow them to the Royal Palace. The tide-like crowd charged to the palace gate and requested to meet the Grand Scholar. They intended to protect the son of King Jing for the sake of Chu State.
In a pavilion covered by the snow, the son of King Jing met the famous slow emperor.
Tong Yan had finally met Jing Jiu.
It had been twenty years since their last meeting. Tong Yan, who was usually calm and exceptionally intelligent, couldn't help feeling sentimental. "To speculate what it would be like in the outside world based on our experience here, I would have to say the practice of experiencing the mortal world at the Fruit Formation Temple is rather sensible."
"This is your first time here?" Jing Jiu asked.
"No," Tong Yan replied.
Jing Jiu said, "Bai Zao should have come here before."
Tong Yan glanced at him in surprise and said, "You were not someone who would play one against another before."
"I'm not good at it," said Jing Jiu after some thought.
Tong Yan remarked, "We are mostly what we were in the outside world. Even though we have lived in this Illusionary Realm for twenty years, we still can't change what we were before."
Jing Jiu understood what he meant. What kind of person the participants would become after entering the Illusionary Realm had nothing to do with the Green Sky Mirror, but everything to do with themselves. They would become the kind of person they wanted to become the most and became the self that was hidden deep in their memories. Then, they would follow their own desires and ideas to grow up, until they succeeded or died. For instance, Bai Zao had always regarded herself as the future leader of the orthodox Cultivation sects, and as such she was born as a princess; but she had to withstand numerous tests and difficulties. It was the same for the rest of the participants.
"Big Brother Bai was appreciated by my Master for his courage and decisiveness. But I didn't expect him to have such a formidable will, something that has been displayed fully here. All Zhuo Rusui wants is the opportunity to fight; so he becomes an assassin here. Though cultivation we have gained here can't be transferred to the outside world when we get out of here, I believe that he is the one who will benefit the most from the experience.
"He Zhan was annoyed with the good luck he had in the real world, so he had bad luck here. The most unforgettable memory in his mind was the betrayal of his friend; hence, he would meet a friend here and experience the betrayal again. He would either learn all this himself, or overcome all this," said Tong Yan.
Jing Jiu listened quietly without uttering a single word.
"Que Niang preferred playing chess, so she was born as the son of a chess house owner. This also implies that she would have suffered a great deal in the beginning at the Mirror Sect as a female disciple."
Bai Zao was born as a princess in the Illusionary Realm; was it because she was favored on the Cloud-Dream Mountain and didn't have any suffering there?
Tong Yan didn't wish to think about the most fundamental reason.
"What about you?" Jing Jiu asked Tong Yan.
Tong Yan said, "According to my calculation, I am most likely to be a capable prime minister or military adviser."
The prime minister or the military adviser was the supporting role.
It was obvious as for whom he would support.
Jing Jiu fixed his sight on the wheelchair.
A wool blanket was in Tong Yan's lap.
He was a powerful swordsman among the young disciples of the Center Sect in the real world, and a true young fairy master; but why did he become a disabled person in the Illusionary Realm?
It was perhaps because Bai Zao was born feeble and ill; Tong Yan pitied her so much that he wished to replace her body.
Affection was indeed a troublesome emotion.
Jing Jiu thought of all this in silence.
Tong Yan, who was such a smart person, couldn't keep away from the feeling of affection.
Tong Yan figured out what Jing Jiu had guessed, and he pulled up the wool blanket a bit. "What I don't understand is why you were born as the prince of Chu State. Given your temperament and desire, this shouldn't have happened. Hence, I would really like to find out your true identity in the real world. The Jing family in Zhaoge has no way to raise a son like you."
Jing Jiu didn't answer his question directly, as Jing Jiu said, "Nobody could predict all the things that would happen to others, including you and me."
"Among the twenty six participants in the Dao Competition, Zhuo Rusui killed seven, and I killed two. As for the seventeen remaining participants, nine of them are under my control and I can get rid of them at any time. The last seven participants are Xi Yiyun, He Zhan, Zhuo Rusui, Bai Qianjun, my Young Sister, you…and him."
Tong Yan shot a look at the bodyguard outside the pavilion, and then continued, "Xi Yiyun hasn't appeared anywhere; it's rather strange. Zhuo Rusui's whereabouts are hard to determine. As a result, I can only try to control the five of you."
Jing Jiu said, "When you thought you couldn't control me any longer, you attempted to kill me instead. You have sent over seven groups of assassins; it's indeed troublesome."
After he turned fifteen years old, Jing Jiu hadn't eaten anything. As for how he concealed it from the eunuchs and the palace servant girls, it was up to Liu Shisui to deal with.
And he had been always in the deep part of the Royal Palace and never left the gate of the palace; so it was truly difficult to kill him.
Yet, Tong Yan had never given up the hope; but it was just that he hadn't succeeded in the attempts.
Tong Yan looked at the bodyguard outside the pavilion and remarked, "I didn't expect that he was so powerful, and so patient."
"Since we knew what you attempted to do, it became much easier to deal with you," said Jing Jiu.
Tong Yan asked, "But how did you know that those assassins were sent by me? Why didn't you suspect the Grand Scholar Zhang? Why do you have so much trust in him?"
Jing Jiu said, "This has nothing to do with trust. If he wanted to kill me, he could gather the army to attack me; he has no need to use the assassins to do it, which is a dishonorable method."
"You have a high opinion of him," Tong Yan commented.
Jing Jiu said, "He has done many things for me."
Tong Yan asked, "Why didn't you think the person who sent those assassins were other participants, like Bai Qianjun or He Zhan?"
"I'm a 'slow' emperor who is no threat to them," Jing Jiu said.
Tong Yan said, "Nobody would think Jing Jiu of Green Mountain is a slow."
"My 'slowness' is judged based on their insane behaviors," Jing Jiu said. "In their eyes, the choice I have made or the path I have chosen is wrong, which makes me 'slow.'"
"I don't think so," Tong Yan said, "though I haven't predicted what path you have chosen until now."
Jing Jiu said, "It's because you think I'm right, so you want to kill me."
Tong Yan said, "I have always thought that you were the most formidable competitor for my Young Sister, and that others are nothing to worry about, which is why I have to kill you, to feel more assured."
"Your worry is inevitable," Jing Jiu said.
Tong Yan said after a pause, "I hope that you will give me a chance to prove that I'm wrong."
By the Green Sky Mirror, Xiang Wanshu and Que Niang had just woken up. Having ascertained what had happened, they displayed the regretful countenances, and then they noticed each other.
"Thanks," Que Niang said with a small smile.
Xiang Wanshu replied, "You're welcome."
Without further exchange, the two of them closed their eyes to reminisce their experiences in the Illusionary Realm.
Two days later, they opened their eyes and smiled at each other. As Xiang Wanshu was about to say something, they suddenly heard some noises in the distance.
The place where they were in was the deep part of the Huiyin Valley. Even the closest spectators of the Dao Competition were still a long way from here. But they could hear the noise in the cave, meaning there must be an uproar in the valley.
Que Niang became concerned and stood up, heading to the outside of the cave. The rest of the participants were unwilling to leave. Xiang Wanshu was the only one who summoned the Escape Method of Heaven and Earth to catch up to her after some thought.
When Que Niang and Xiang Wanshu came to the outside of the Huiyin Valley and saw those Cultivation practitioners on the platform, especially those familiar but also a bit strange faces, both of them felt somewhat bewildered.
Yet, their attentions were drawn to the scenes in the sky before the two of them could keep their bewilderment and sentimental feelings at bay.
The Heavenly Retrieval Orb embossed in the sky was the sun in the Illusionary Realm.
The scenes projected by the orb in the sky revealed what was happening in that world.
The scenes in the sky were round in shape, just like the window in that nunnery.
One could see a tree branch through the window; and a green bird perched on the branch.
The Royal Palace of Chu State was intermittently visible in the distance amid the wind and snow.
A royal guard stood outside the pavilion, his clothes covered by the snow.
Inside the pavilion, Jing Jiu and Tong Yan sat across from each other silently. A black Go piece was placed in the middle of the Go board.
Seeing this scene, Que Niang covered her mouth with her hand to prevent herself from yelling out; but her eyes were filled with tears.
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