The water in the white soup had finally dried up; and a few slices of green onion dangled by the pot droopily, looking like Zhuo Rusui's eyelids.
As Liu Ci left, his sleeve brought up a gust of wind, blowing off the fire under the pot, so there was no need to worry that the green onion would be burned to ashes.
The mist in the private room and the restaurant was cleared. A gust of clear wind strayed out from the front door of the restaurant and arrived on the street, dispersing all the clouds and fog there.
The cold and clear sunlight shone down on Cloud Town. It was the first time people could see the sceneries so far and so clearly in the late autumn.
Though the visitors from out of town were not so amazed by the scene, the residents of the town were truly stunned.
A vast majority of them had never witnessed such a scene devoid of clouds and fog.
They had soon realized that this must be due to the magic employed by the immortal masters of Green Mountain; so they all knelt down on the ground hastily.
The clouds and fog came over from the peaks of Green Mountain; they were the natural movement of the water steam in heaven and earth, and also had something to do with the great formation.
As the Great Formation of Green Mountain opened, the natural light changed a bit; and the colors of the red trees and green forests among the peaks changed a little as well.
The disciples by the Sword-Washing Stream and on the peaks lifted their heads to look at the sky. As they saw a patch of sword cloud, they knew it was the Sect Master coming back from the Cloud-Dream Mountain, and bowed in tandem.
The patch of sword cloud didn't land on Tianguang Peak, but instead drifted to Shenmo Peak farther away. The forbidding formation of Shenmo Peak was automatically dismantled; all the trees on the peak swayed side to side, seemingly welcoming them.
The Green Mountain disciples felt surprised at first, but they soon thought of a possibility, and their faces revealed how overjoyed they were.
Young Senior Master had come back!
In the past, Liangwang Peak was the most admired and proud place for these young disciples of Green Mountain, but it had been replaced by Shenmo Peak now.
Shenmo Peak had Zhao Layue and Gu Qing. Though they were the same age as theirs, they were already quite famous now, not to mention that their peak had Young Senior Master.
It had been fifteen years since Jing Jiu participated in the last Plum Meeting. He had been trapped in the snowland for six years, and snuck into the Fiend Prison in Zhaoge City to cultivate with the Underworld Emperor for three years in an effort to overcome the problem of forming Sword Ghost; later, he accompanied Guo Dong for a few years. To think about it, Jing Jiu hadn't stayed on Green Mountain more than three years in the last fifteen years.
However, his name hadn't been forgotten by the disciples of Green Mountain; he had instead become a legend.
Zhao Layue lost to Zhuo Rusui in the Sword Trial on Green Mountain, but it didn't take long before Young Senior Master won it back on the Cloud-Dream Mountain, and meanwhile won the first place in the Dao Competition hosted by the Center Sect!
The thin snowflakes flew down on the mountains of Shangde Peak. Young Sister Yushan and several big brothers on duty were sitting in the Daoist Hall, chitchatting while cracking and eating the pine nuts.
They suddenly heard a commotion coming from outside. When they walked outside, they saw the patch of sword cloud land on the top of Shenmo Peak. Yushan's face was full of surprise and delight; she thrust the remaining pine nuts into the hand of a big brother beside her, and said, "I have to go to take care of something."
Seeing her figure turn into a band of snowy smoke on the mountain path, that big brother sighed, "Young Sister always does this…I don't even know which peak she belongs to now."
As the sword cloud landed on the peak top, it dispersed swiftly, turning into countless cloud steams and merging into the clouds among the cliffs; as such, it was hard to tell the patch of sword cloud from the other clouds now. Jing Jiu hadn't seen Green Mountain for quite few years; if he were somebody else, he would feel sentimental about the experience, but he didn't feel this way. Instead, he merely sensed that there were changes.
Seeing the seemingly unchangeable Daoist Hall and manor cave and listening to the screams of the monkeys, Jing Jiu suddenly discovered that he had stayed on Green Mountain less and less in this life as he traveled throughout more and more in the world. It was all Zhao Layue's fault, since it was she who insisted on traveling in the world back then, Jing Jiu told himself.
The cheerful screams of the monkeys among the cliffs suddenly stopped, and so did the rustling sounds in the forest. The monkeys who were to come to the peak top to welcome Jing Jiu discovered the presence of Liu Ci, and they didn't dare come forward. Gu Qing and Yuan Qü walked out from the manor cave. The two saw Liu Ci before they could greet Jing Jiu in courtesy, and bowed hastily to Liu Ci. Though they hadn't seen the Immortal Sect Master in person, they saw the portrait in that small building when they entered the inner gate from the external gate; no Green Mountain disciple dared not to forget his face.
Liu Ci motioned for them to get up, and was about to instruct them in some mild words.
Gu Qing was currently quite famous, and would be the teacher of the emperor someday. This young man Yuan from Lelong County had a noticeable background…
All of a sudden, they heard the sound of fallen leaves being broken by walking feet.
The white cat sauntered out from the cave. His long hair was combed very smoothly; it was unclear if it was Yuan Qü who did it or the Cold Cicada hiding in the hair that did it.
The Master White Ghost, the Green Mountain Principal Guard, usually put down his paws soundlessly, but he broke the fallen leaves by stepping on them to make quite a bit noise obviously on purpose. He did it to remind people to notice him.
Liu Ci glanced at the cat once, and then turned to Jing Jiu. "The mighty Guard of Green Mountain can't always guard your gate," he said.
Jing Jiu snapped, "As the Guard of Green Mountain, if he doesn't guard me, whom would he guard for then?"
The white cat narrowed his eyes, thinking this senior master and young master finally stopped pretending not to know each other; it was truly dreary.
Liu Ci didn't know how to reply to Jing Jiu. And he couldn't use that question to rebut Jing Jiu in front of the disciples, Gu Qing and Yuan Qü. He had no choice but to leave with a bitter smile.
As Gu Qing and Yuan Qü were flabbergasted, the white cat strolled over and caressed against Jing Jiu's calf affectionately.
Jing Jiu knew his intention. He extended his right forefinger to write a few lines of words on a leaf on the ground. As he caught the leaf in the air, he was to give it to the monkeys; but after some thought, he handed it to Yuan Qü and said, "Give it to Yuan Qijing."
Yuan Qü felt a bit nervous. He looked at Gu Qing who was wearing a small smile and the seemingly smiling eyes of the Master White Ghost, wondering if there was no need to conceal his relationship with Shangde Peak anymore.
He left the peak top by riding the sword; but he didn't arrive at the destination directly. Instead, he followed the rules of Shangde Peak, landed at the foot of the peak, and then walked up from the bottom.
He saw Young Sister Yushan descend the mountain like a gust of snowy wind, only after taking two steps on the mountain path, feeling surprised. "Young Sister, where are you going?" he asked.
Seeing him, Yushan was also quite surprised, saying, "I'm on my way to see Senior Master; why are you here?"
Yuan Qü handed the leaf to her, and said, "Help me bring this letter back. Put it under the rock where you and I watched stars that night."
Yushan felt a bit embarrassed, and snapped, "I don't care what relationship you have with the masters on the peak. You should send it yourself, but I want to go to Shenmo Peak right now."
Yuan Qü sighed, "Senior Master is so lazy; him taking you on as another of his disciples is impossible. Even if you wanted to come to our peak, nobody would take you on."
Yushan's face showed confidence as she stated, "It was Senior Master Jing who asked me to go to Shangde Peak back at the Inherited Sword Competition. There is no way he won't take care of me."
Yuan Qü said helplessly, "Don't make a fuss, at least not today. It seems that Senior Master is in a bad mood at the moment. He has been holding his fist the entire time, looking like he is going to hit somebody."
Yushan opened her eyes wide, wondering what had happened, since Senior Master hadn't ever lost his temper before, his temperament being sort of nonchalant.
Yuan Qü continued sulkily, "I don't know why. Who would dare ask him now that he's behind closed doors?"
As the big brother and young sister were guessing what had happened to their senior master, there was a significant event unfolding on Shenmo Peak.
Looking at the familiar ocean of clouds from the edge of the cliff, Jing Jiu felt a bit sullen while thinking of the conversation he had with Liu Ci on their way back to Green Mountain.
He turned to Gu Qing and said, "I have something I need to talk to you about."
"This disciple is listening," Gu Qing said earnestly.
"You will be the sect master someday, so you have to focus on practicing the Inherited Heaven Sword. The other things can wait."
Jing Jiu continued, "Also, your sword is terrible. Don't always think that the sword will improve along with the owner. I will find the opportunity to get another sword for you."
Though Gu Qing was usually cautious and unbothered when encountering the challenges and had a tranquil Dao Heart, he was perplexed this time.
He was aware that his Master had a profound background on Green Mountain and in the Cultivation circle, but speaking of the sect master…can your disciple become the sect master when you think your disciple should?
Jing Jiu didn't heed the man, who was somewhat lost in thought, and entered the manor cave, and arrived in front of the closed stone door.
Zhao Layue had been staying there behind closed doors since she lost to Zhuo Rusui.
For many Cultivation practitioners, staying behind closed doors was a pious affair; that was why nobody dared disturb Zhuo Rusui back when he stayed behind closed doors on Tianguang Peak.
Perhaps Jing Jiu had stayed behind closed doors too many times back then, so he didn't think it was a pious affair in the least. He had told Zhao Layue and others that the people on Shenmo Peak would keep communicating with the outside world while staying behind closed doors, and they should come out to listen to the folk songs on the opposite Qingrong Peak when feeling bored,.
Sensing Jing Jiu's presence, the stone door opened slowly. Along with the smoke and dusts, Zhao Layue walked out from the cave.
Long time no see, are you alright?
Yet, Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue didn't ask this sort of questions, except exchanging a glance.
What was on Zhao Layue's mind at the moment was that according to what Gu Qing told her, Jing Jiu was already in the middle state of Free Travel, but why did he still carry the iron sword on his back?
Jing Jiu found that she had already completed the initial state of Free Travel and had sign of breaking through the state, feeling satisfied. But he was displeased when seeing her looks.
The short hair she had on her head had grown into a long hair reaching her shoulders, and it was evident that she didn't comb it, making her hair look messy, much worse than even Liu Ada's hair.
"What happened to the comb?" Jing Jiu asked.
When Jing Jiu left Green Mountain this time, he remembered to bring the bamboo chair with him, and also remembered to leave the wooden comb behind for her.
Zhao Layue answered casually, "I'm not going to meet anybody anyway."
Yet, she was meeting somebody now.
She reached out her hand and grabbed some water from the air and ran her wet hand over her black hair; it looked clean and smooth at once.
"Come with me."
Jing Jiu led her out of the manor cave, and headed to a higher spot on the peak top.
Gu Qing stood by the cliff's edge like a mud statue; the white cat followed them close behind while shaking his head.
There was a cave at the highest spot of the peak top; and a large hole had been chiseled on the roof of the cave, which could let in the starlight and the energy of heaven and earth.
It was in this cave that Jing Jiu sent out the traveling sword to inform his friend, the Giant, to keep a tab on that old devil on the Foggy Island.
He activated his will slightly, and summoned the Thoughtless Sword. He reached out his hand, caught the sword and then looked at it.
Zhao Layue instantly clutched her chest while glaring at him.
No matter how much trust she had of Jing Jiu, it was still a rude gesture to take the sword from a Cultivation practitioner without telling them beforehand.
The color of the Thoughtless Sword was indeed different now.
"Why did you suppress the sword will intentionally?" he turned to Zhao Layue and demanded.
Zhao Layue said, "Zhuo Rusui is a disciple of later generation. It was already a case in which a senior fought with a junior; if I made use of the power of the Thoughtless Sword, it would have been even more unfair to him."
"You shouldn't have this sort of idea outside Green Mountain," Jing Jiu said.
Zhao Layue said, "If he were an enemy, I would've kill him with one swing of the sword."
Jing Jiu liked the saying "killing with one swing of the sword", so he reached out his hand and rubbed her head; he found her hair was still a bit wet.
Zhao Layue reached her hand into her sleeve, seemingly to get something from there.
Jing Jiu didn't notice it. He waved his right hand softly and released some objects.
Zhao Layue was highly alarmed.
It was because she couldn't see those objects.
Liu Ada was also alarmed, and the hair on his body all stood up on the end.
He smelled the scent of those objects, and determined those were the mosquitoes from the Fiend Prison!
Cold Cicada fell to the ground from the erected hair of the white cat. When Liu Ci was here, Cold Cicada was almost scared to death, and didn't dare stick his head out. Now that he dropped to the ground, he looked upwards curiously; his translucent eyes wavering constantly, as if staring at something.
Jing Jiu was surprised to find that this little beetle from the snowland could see those mosquitoes.
Perhaps, though, Cold Cicada actually couldn't see the mosquitoes; what he did was sense the existence of them by perceiving their heat.
Jing Jiu found it quite interesting, and told Cold Cicada, "If you could take good care of them, I'll let you have them."
Cold Cicada was taken aback at first, and soon turned over his body to expose his belly to Jing Jiu, in an effort to express his submission and gratefulness.
In the next moment, Cold Cicada made his thin limbs collide with each other at a high speed, creating a buzzing sound; it sounded quite pleasing to the ears, like someone tapping the soft jade, making the listeners feel thrilled.
The White Ghost crouched outside the cave.
Cold Cicada led those mosquitoes guarding it in the surroundings.
The forbidding formation on Shenmo Peak was dismantled.
Nobody could hear the conversion between Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue, not even Liu Ci and Yuan Qijing.
Jing Jiu started, "I have something important to tell you."
Zhao Layue nodded, feeling a bit nervous.
There were only the two of them in the quiet manor cave.
"Sit down," said Jing Jiu.
Zhao Layue sat down in front of him.
She behaved like she had done before when Zhao Layue was around Jing Jiu outside the cave; but when nobody was around, she showed more and more respect to Jing Jiu.
Jing Jiu said, "As a matter of fact, I have forgotten quite a few things."
Zhao Layue wondered if he was going to tell her the truth.
"I feel a bit nervous now," Zhao Layue said.
When she traveled on the Sword Peak or in the human world, slayed those demons and devils, was attacked by the assassins of the Old Ones, or assassinated Luo Huainan, she had never felt nervous. In fact, she had never felt nervous about anything.
As Jing Jiu was about to talk about the past, she felt nervous.
How could she do away with this nervousness?
Zhao Layue took out the wooden comb from her sleeve and handed it to Jing Jiu, and then turned around.
In so doing, she didn't have to stare at his eyes.
Jing Jiu took the comb from her with his right hand, and started combing her hair.
The black comb ran through the black hair slowly and smoothly in wonderful rhythm.
"Taiping brought back this wooden comb from the Underworld,= and then gave it to me."
Jing Jiu could tell that Zhao Layue's body had grown rigid for a split second.
"It was because of Taiping that I could find the Underworld Emperor in the Fiend Prison."
Jing Jiu told her about the events of the last few years in detail.
Though Gu Qing had told her some when he came back to Green Mountain, he was the only one who had the detailed information about what had happened in the Fiend Prison and later at the West Ocean.
At last he told her about the Dao Competition hosted by the Center Sect and the process of obtaining the Fairy Book.
It seemed that those things were something that had happened a long time ago; but it was actually yesterday when he obtained the tripod on the Buzhou Mountain and stepped into the empty space.
Zhao Layue felt somewhat flabbergasted, as she asked, "Do you mean that the Fairy Book is in your left hand right now?"
"Yes. A fairy awareness left behind by Bai Ren is inside the Fairy Book, in addition to the fairy energy."
Jing Jiu added, "Like I told you before, Jing Yang succeeded in his ascension."
Zhao Layue recalled that he had indeed told her this many years ago, but she wondered why he came back.
"He stayed in the extensive heaven and earth for a while, but he encountered a problem there. He had no choice but to come back to the human world again."
Jing Jiu continued, "I didn't know what that problem was until I held this Fairy Book in my hand."
Zhao Layue pressed, "Is it because…you are familiar with the fairy energy in the Fairy Book?!"
"It's not the fairy energy," said Jing Jiu. "It's the fairy awareness left behind by Bai Ren, and that is something I'm familiar with."
It was deathly quiet in the manor cave.
After a moment of silence, Zhao Layue asked, "Do you think it was the Center Sect that had meddled with Jing Yang's ascension and not the Immortal Taiping?"
"I had told you, back when we were by the Muddy River, that I found that the Immortal Taiping had nothing to do with Jing Yang's ascension; that doesn't mean he had nothing to do with this matter."
Jing Jiu continued, "He had the motivation and the capability."
"You had said that there was nothing wrong with the Formation of Dispersing Smoke and Cloud."
Jing Yang started rising skyward from this very manor cave back when he ascended.
The Formation of Dispersing Smoke and Cloud was also located in this cave.
"Indeed, there was nothing wrong with the formation; and nobody on the peaks of Green Mountain could meddle with it. But perhaps the formation itself was flawed to begin with."
After a pause, Jing Jiu continued, "In other words, he didn't intend to let Jing Yang succeed in his ascension one thousand years ago when he taught Jing Yang the magic method."
If this was the case, it would be meaningless no matter how much he analyzed the event.
Yet, Zhao Layue chose not to believe the assumption. "Perhaps…it was the Great Grandmaster Bai Ren who assaulted the Immortal Jing Yang in heaven secretly, and it really had nothing to do with the Immortal Taiping," she offered gingerly.
Jing Jiu shook his head, and commented, "If the formation was not flawed, Bai Ren wouldn't be a match after Jing Yang succeeded in his ascension."
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