Many people thought that Jing Jiu had died in the conflagration at the Royal Palace of Chu State; but Bai Zao didn't think so.
Yet, she didn't know where Jing Jiu had gone, like everybody else in the Illusionary Realm of the Green Sky Mirror.
She thought that the people in the real world could learn of where Jing Jiu was through the green bird; but unexpectedly, even the green bird had no idea where Jing Jiu was.
Seeing Tong Yan's expression, she knew what he was worried about, so she also felt ill at ease.
The person she was worried about was Bai Qianjun, not Jing Jiu.
Though she and Bai Qianjun took different paths, they were nonetheless from the same sect.
Back when they were in the study room of King Jing Manor in Cangzhou, Bai Qianjun requested all the others to leave the room. He let her keep the remaining pride she possessed. He didn't want her to look down on him later by offering her an opportunity to fight against him face to face, but Bai Zao gave up on the option, because she didn't want them both to end up wounded, eventually affecting who would finally win the Fairy Book.
Since she was the disciple of the Center Sect, she would like to do her best to keep the Fairy Book on the Cloud-Dream Mountain, even though the opponent was Jing Jiu.
Tong Yan and Bai Qianjun had the same idea, though the Immortal Bai hadn't asked them to do so from the very beginning.
"I don't understand it. The green bird is the spirit of the mirror; how could it be possible that she doesn't know where Jing Jiu is?!"
Tong Yan furrowed his light eyebrows slightly.
"What about He Zhan? Nobody knows where he is either; is it possible that the green bird can't find him either?"
Bai Zao suddenly thought of a possibility: something went wrong with the Green Sky Mirror.
Tong Yan pointed to the sky and said, "He Zhan is over there."
Looking in the direction Tong Yan pointed at, Bai Zao saw a blue scene.
What she saw was not the blueness of the sky, though.
The blue scene was obviously different from the blue sky around it; it was more evident, giving off a feeling of something more profound.
That was the scene projected by the Heavenly Retrieval Orb.
It was the ocean.
There was a black speck on the surface of the expansive blue ocean.
As the green bird flew over the surface of the ocean in the sky, the black speck grew increasingly clearer. When it became visible enough, the black speck turned out to be a man.
That man wore the eunuch's clothing, with his hands folding behind his back, strolling slowly on the still surface of the ocean.
His face grew darker after bathing in the sun, not as pale as he had been. The depressing complexion between his eyebrows had dissipated; he looked a lot more amiable.
He sensed the green bird approaching and lifted his head to glance lifted the sky, his eyes devoid of any additional emotion.
The green bird took off again. The scene moved backwards at a high speed. The blue surface of the ocean occupied the whole scene once more, and then many thin white lines appeared in the scene.
Each white line was a large ship.
There were at least over one hundred white lines, meaning that there were over one hundred large ships.
The man walking on the surface of the ocean seemed to move at a slow pace; but in fact, he was moving faster than those large ships.
The fleet made of over one hundred ships followed him heading toward the deep part of the ocean.
Seeing the scene in the sky, the Cultivation practitioners outside the Huiyin Valley were shocked speechless, though Sese shouted something cheerfully while holding the hand of the young woman of the Water-Moon Nunnery.
The man's Cultivation state in the Illusionary Realm was the initial state of the Yuanying.
Though the Cultivation practitioners had seen many in such a Cultivation state, they seldom saw such a scene.
In such a Cultivation state, why didn't he choose to ride the sword, or fly in the sky, instead of walking on the ocean?
Bai Zao didn't understand his intention either, asking, "What is he doing?"
"He is enjoying it."
Looking at the ocean in the sky, Tong Yan let out a jovial smile.
He knew that his friend had finally come out of the sadness of Su Ziye's betrayal and the death of Pei Baifa. In the words of the Fruit Formation Temple, his mental barrier had been dismantled.
Yet, his smile faded away; it was because he was even more puzzled now. Now that the green bird could find He Zhan, there was no way she couldn't find Jing Jiu. What was going on?
Tong Yan shot a glance Bai Zao's way.
She didn't say anything.
When they had been in the Illusionary Realm, Tong Yan guessed what Jing Jiu was planning to do, so did Bai Zao.
However, judging from the experience of the history, the possibility for Jing Jiu to succeed in his endeavor was very slim.
More than ten days later, the sky above the Cloud-Dream Mountain was as clear as ever. Yet, a patch of deep blue appeared in the blue sky, which was the ocean in the Illusionary Realm. The seemingly simple ocean was actually quite complicated. If one looked closely enough, they would be able to find that the ocean water had several levels, each of which had different color and quality.
When the wind blew over, the surface of the ocean would become agitated and violent; when it was calm, its surface would look like a translucent mirror, making onlookers feel mesmerized.
Moreover, there were all sorts of strange fish and birds in and above the ocean, and the sea animals eating the fish and the birds; also, there were many islands in the ocean and lands on the edge of the ocean.
He Zhan's fleet had arrived at two alien lands, but they didn't venture into the deep parts of the lands. By now, he had already been away from Zhao State for twenty years.
One night, he felt bored, so he dived to the bottom of the ocean and caught a huge sea turtle. He shared the turtle meat with the people of all the ships.
The meat of the sea turtle was hard to chew regardless of how they cooked it, but it would taste much better if being barbecued, just like the dried raw beef.
Lying on the bamboo chair, He Zhan was drinking the well brewed wine and chewed the turtle meat with narrowed eyes, and enjoyed the breeze from the ocean. He was having a good time.
A flash of fireworks suddenly occurred on the distant ocean surface.
He narrowed his eyes slightly.
The sea merchants brought the latest news to him.
The Royal Dowager of Zhao State had died of illness.
In fact, it had happened over seventy days ago.
After a moment of silence, He Zhan spat the turtle meat out onto the deck, remarking, "It tastes awful."
Then, he walked, bringing the alcohol jar with him, to the rear of the deck, in the shadow of the ship tower.
He Zhan had stood in that patch of shadow all night.
It was unclear if he had drunk the whole jar of wine by himself or poured it into the ocean.
The next day, the former officials of the Intelligence Bureau, who were the rulers in their respective regions of the ocean, gathered in this patch of the ocean.
They only had one question to ask, "Master, are we going back?"
Looking at the other side of the ocean, He Zhan answered calmly, "All those we know have died; what would we do when we got back?"
Less than three years after the Royal Dowager of Zhao State had died, Zhao State was conquered by Qin State, and the former Zhao Emperor was appointed as King Hejian.
Many people guessed in private that the Qin Emperor made such a humiliating gesture perhaps for the purpose of infuriating Eunuch He, who had disappeared for a long time, enticing him to come back.
After the demise of Zhao State, the people started missing Master Eunuch He, like the people of the former Chu State who later on had a different evaluation of their former Chu Emperor; but it was too late.
Soon after, Qin State conquered Qi State within one year, and it took Qin State four years to kill off the barbaric tribes who had fled to the barren north.
It was then that the Qin Emperor became the final victor.
Now he set his sight on a place to the southeast, a mountain one hundred miles away.
Though the Qin Emperor had forgotten many things, he hadn't forgotten the first words when he arrived in this world.
"No matter what method you employ, as long as you can unite the entire land and become the ruler of the world, you will be recognized by the godly commissioner to win the Bronze Tripod and obtain the Fairy Book of Longevity."
That mountain was called the Buzhou Mountain.
There was a temple on the mountain.
It was said that the godly commissioner lived in the temple.
However, nobody had seen the godly commissioner; it was because no one could get close to the temple.
Over the years, the Qin Emperor had sent many agents to Buzhou Mountain secretly; but not even one person had come back.
Yet, this fact somehow strengthened his confidence.
He decided to perform a grand ceremony of praying to God on the Buzhou Mountain.
There were many mountains and forests between Xianyang and the Buzhou Mountain; it was very difficult to travel to the mountain.
Since the day when the Qin Emperor decided to have the ceremony on the Buzhou Mountain, Qin State employed millions of workers to cut down the forest and bring in the stones, in order to build a broad road. The road was officially named the "Heavenly Road", which was one mile wide and built on the clay foundation and the gravel surface. The areas within ten miles on both sides of the road were cleared. It was an unimaginably difficult and expensive project.
To build this road, Qin State collected a large amount of taxes and employed the workers as the slave labor. The brutal rule of the state led to many rebels; but all the rebels were suppressed bloodily by the powerful army of Qin State. Buried by the road were tens of thousands of the road builders and soldiers who had rebelled and were killed.
In the following autumn, the road was completed. The Qin Emperor didn't wait one more day before he announced the start of the grand ceremony of praying to God.
A large black sedan, surrounded by ten thousand cavalrymen and soldiers and bodyguards, rolled out of the city gate of Xianyang and onto the Heavenly Road.
It took merely nine days for the group of such a magnitude to arrive at the foot of the Buzhou Mountain. It was evident that the Qin Emperor was very anxious to get to the destination.
It was the late autumn. The leaves had all turned red on the Buzhou Mountain, resembling the burning clouds, looking marvelous.
The Qin Emperor took a bath and changed clothes. He burned an incense stick and prayed, then trod up the stone steps.
He was rather old now, with silver hair all over his head. Yet, the expression in his eyes was still as cold as before, and the intimidating energy exuding from his black robe was as if it could hurt somebody at any moment.
Hundreds of thousands of people knelt down behind him, like the receding tide.
Before Bai Zao left the Illusionary Realm, she reminded him that he might forget many things, like a certain name.
The Qin Emperor had indeed forgotten that name, but he felt vaguely somebody would appear that day.
This feeling was terrible. As a result, he had waited patiently for two years before the Heavenly Road was constructed.
He had to kill all those opposing him, and clear the fields and mountains on both sides of the Heavenly Road, ensuring that nobody would interrupt the grand ceremony.
No assassin had shown up on the Heavenly Road; so he felt relieved.
There were tens of thousands of cavalrymen and highly achieved swordsmen here. Even if ten swordsmen who were equivalents of Master Mo attacked at the same time, they wouldn't be able to break through layers of defense line and get to the top of the mountain.
The Qin Emperor got closer and closer to the top of the mountain; and he could vaguely see a small temple up ahead.
Dozens of swordsmen in black clothing followed him close behind, watching the surroundings vigilantly.
These swordsmen were selected carefully, and they were absolutely loyal to the Qin Emperor, and immensely strong and brave.
Yet, the Qin Emperor was still a bit suspicious of the rumored temple and the godly commissioner. Anybody would have the similar feeling when they had to deal with the unknown.
He felt uneasy about the fact that none of those kamikaze swordsmen he sent out had returned.
Yet, nothing unexpected had occurred so far.
The small temple was up ahead at the end of the path.
The Qin Emperor breathed a little faster now.
It was unclear when the green bird had come from afar and landed on a tree branch, watching the scene before her eyes.
Likewise, the Cultivation practitioners outside the Huiyin Valley were watching the scene at the same time.
It looked like the Qin Emperor would attain the final victory, and the Fairy Book would remain on the Cloud-Dream Mountain.
This was something many people had anticipated at the beginning of the Dao Competition. However, they didn't understand why He Zhan would give up on the excellent situation he was in and leave Zhao State on those ships, paying no heed to the mortal affairs ever since. More importantly, where was Jing Jiu? Wouldn't he do anything to stop the Qin Emperor from winning the Tripod?
Sese was very anxious, wondering if that handsome idiot misunderstood the rules. It was not that whoever lived the longest in the Illusionary Realm would be the final winner. If the Qin Emperor was recognized by the godly commissioner and succeeded in obtaining the Tripod, the Dao Competition would be over, and all the participants would be brought out of the Green Sky Mirror.
Everybody was looking at the sky, including Tong Yan, Bai Zao, and the Immortal Bai.
She stood atop the peak, looking at the scene in the sky quietly. Somehow, not a hint of contentment could be found on her face.
Turning his head to look at the path he had walked on, the Qin Emperor saw the stone steps resembling the jade ribbon, and his chancellors and populace at the foot of the mountain resembling the black ocean waves, and the beautiful mountains and rivers of his land; he was extremely sentimental.
Over the years, he had experienced innumerable hardship; and he had forgotten many things and had given up on many things. At last he arrived here, and nobody could stop him now.
And soon he would lose all this.
He turned back and walked to the front of the temple; and he saw the Bronze Tripod in the temple.
He felt somewhat surprised because the Bronze Tripod was much smaller than he had imagined. In fact, he could hold it with one hand.
A man stood by the Bronze Tripod, his back facing the front gate of the temple.
That man wore a white long robe, his black hair dipping all the way down to the ground like a waterfall, exuding a fairy aura. He must be the godly commissioner.
The Qin Emperor untied the crown and put it on the ground. He pulled up the front lapel and stepped over the doorsill, and knelt on the ground. "This Emperor Bai Zhou meets the Godly Master Commissioner."
The man in the white robe whirled around and revealed his face after the black hair parted in front of his face with the wind.
The face looked icy cold but extremely beautiful; it was impossible to see such a face in the mortal world. He was indeed a fairy immortal.
The Qin Emperor lifted his head to look at him. As he was about to praise his beauty, he suddenly felt this face was kind of familiar. He couldn't help but be startled.
"You are not the godly commissioner!"
The Qin Emperor suddenly remembered many things, as he screamed astonishingly, "No! You are Jing Jiu!"
Jing Jiu looked at him quietly, saying nothing.
The Qin Emperor felt it absurd. "This is impossible! It's impossible that you are here!" he yelled with a pale face.
He had climbed the mountain from the other side, and he abandoned the treasures and horses and cut off the relationship and friendship. And he tolerated the humiliation and curses when treading the path alone with a great deal of difficulty. Now he had finally reached the top of the peak.
It was then that he realized that the peak top was merely a mound in the expansive heaven and earth.
Most of all, his opponent had waited here for him a long time ago.
It was indeed the most ridiculous thing.
And it was the most painful thing to bear.
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