If she wasn't behind closed doors for prolonged time period, Bai Zao would have had dinner with her parents every year, just one dinner a year under the tree on the cloud platform.
There were merely a few simple dishes on the stone table. Nobody touched the barbecued fish, and they only drank one cup of wine each. Soon after, the Immortal Tan and the Immortal Bai left.
Bai Zao fell silent for a moment. She strolled to the underneath of the tree and looked at the ocean of clouds outside the cliff, thinking that it would be more fun if her Big Brother Tong Yan were here.
For the Cultivation practitioners, staying behind closed doors was a common practice. Yet, she was still a bit worried, because it was too sudden for Tong Yan to stay behind closed doors.
She was also worried about another matter.
The Fairy Book had ended up in Jing Jiu's hands, but the Cloud-Dream Mountain didn't show any noticeable reaction to it. She even felt more uneasy when she saw her mother display an imperturbable countenance throughout.
She wanted to write a letter to Green Mountain to ask about it; but in the end she decided not to do so. Sighing softly, she waved the white ribbons gently, countless snow white natural worm silks falling down like the snowflakes to seal off the cloud platform.
Tong Yan was busily engaged in digging the tunnel underground. He employed the magic to grind the soil and rock chips he dug out into solid mass noiselessly, which became much smaller in size. He piled the squashed soil and rock chips, which looked like the rock balls, neatly on both sides.
There was no light in the tunnel, darkness everywhere, so it was impossible to tell the day from the night. Yet, as a Cultivation practitioner, Tong Yan could tell that it had been over a year since he started the project.
It would take a long time for him to reach the deep part of the Earth Source. Tong Yan's expression was still very peaceful, and he kept reticent the entire time, because nobody would talk to him here anyway.
That formidable energy could be felt somewhere ahead, or in the distance or high above. No matter what, it was always there, though its whereabouts were hard to pinpoint.
The Unicorn wouldn't leave the Cloud-Dream Mountain for sure. If he got close to the Green Sky Mirror and were discovered by the Unicorn, what should he do then? He thought that he should simply give up predicting what would happen if he couldn't calculate it at all; the best strategy was to wait and see. Seeing the underground river in front of him, Tong Yan wondered if he should jump in it and take a bath to celebrate the New Year.
In the deep part of a valley shrouded in the clouds and fog, the natural light changed to a white color, resembling milk.
There were a dozen stony posts amid the clouds and fog. The Immortal Bai was standing on one of the stony posts with her hands folded behind her back, pondering something while looking at the distance.
A huge dark figure appeared in the deep end of the clouds and fog, as if a mountain suddenly materialized from nowhere.
It was the divine guardian animal of the Center Sect, the Unicorn.
The clouds and fog suddenly stirred up. The bright and dark parts of the clouds and fog formed a few vertical lines of words in front of the Immortal Bai.
It was the spiritual awareness of the Unicorn.
"I have sensed that the fairy awareness left by the Great Grandmaster is dispersing, though it occurs at a slow pace. Still, this is something that shouldn't happen in the first place; so I'm worried."
The Immortal Bai was still looking at the distance, as she said, "According to the report from the Old Ones, he is learning scripts and studying the Buddhist methods at the Fruit Formation Temple. Maybe, he will succeed in his endeavor."
If one could see the scene from the sky, they would be able to tell that she was looking southeastward.
The Fruit Formation Temple was located in that direction.
The spiritual awareness of the Unicorn turned into the words again amid the clouds and fog: "I want to go kill him."
"The relationship between the Fruit Formation Temple and Green Mountain is still unknown =, so don't take the risk," said the Immortal Bai.
The words in the clouds and fog: "Those little monks wouldn't dare confront me!"
The Immortal Bai said, "You are our grandmaster guarding the mountain. According to the sect rules, you are not allowed to leave the mountain, unless you are willing to abandon your life form."
It was quiet for a while, and later some words appeared again amid the clouds and fog:
"The price I might pay is worth killing those little rascals."
"There is no need for it. It's because I believe that he can't temper the Fairy Book, even if…he is the reincarnation of Jing Yang."
The Immortal Bai added with a nonchalant expression, "His Cultivation state is too low right now."
Winter was almost over, and spring followed its heel.
Along with a slightly cold spring rain, the trees at the Fruit Formation Temple started growing new buds.
Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue lived a peaceful life in the Tranquil Garden. Though Liu Shisui spent more time taking care of the vegetable garden, he didn't forget asking Jing Jiu for the guidance of his sword work.
Once in a few days, Zhao Layue would go to the Instruction Hall to listen to the teachings of the master monks; the white cat would often saunter over and crouch on the windowsill, bathing in the sun while listening to the teachings of the scripts.
Seeing the white cat so often, the monks got used to him, and they would occasionally play with the cat. Every time that happened, Zhao Layue would feel nervous, because she was afraid that the white cat might suddenly act up and harm someone, which would affect the relationship between the Green Mountain Sect and the Fruit Formation Temple.
Jing Jiu seldom went to the Instruction Hall now. He spent most of his time lying on the bamboo chair, cultivating while being accompanied by the spring breeze, spring sun, and spring rain. Yet, his Cultivation state stayed the same, though he gained a better understanding of the Zen methods and the Fairy Book.
One afternoon, he opened his eyes and discovered everywhere he looked was lush green; he realized that it was already the late spring. He shot a glance at the white cat.
The white cat had forgotten how long he had lived a long time ago. Nevertheless, nobody had lived longer than he, besides those old guys like the Round Turtle and the Unicorn. The desire of finding a sexual partner had been long gone for him, but the feeling of drowsiness in spring had occurred right on time, indicating the desires were not so important for lives as lying down was.
It hadn't rained for the last few days; the futons in front of the stone pagoda were baked very dry by the sun, on which Liu Shisui put some fine grass specially selected for the white cat. As a result, he slept comfortably on the futon, and sometimes he even forgot the comfort of the young woman's lap.
The white cat opened his eyes, awake, and looked at the sky with a bewildered expression. All of a sudden, he remembered there were a few pieces of paper on this very futon early in last spring.
The spring sun, spring breeze, spring atmosphere and the futon were exactly the same, except that this place was short of those paper slips.
He stood up instinctively and headed for the outside of the Tranquil Garden. He rambled over the ponds and forests, small bridges and the courtyards of the disciples of the temple while sniffing the scents in the air.
As the cacophony grew near, he leaped effortlessly to the top of the wall, strolled along the eaves on the wall to come to the middle section of the Fruit Formation Temple, and then jumped down to enter the pagoda forest.
There was a quiet meditation room up ahead. Nobody was on the stone steps, or inside the room. It was as quiet as a graveyard.
The white cat came to the stone steps, curled up into a ball and closed his eyes to sleep.
By the time the white cat woke up, the twilight had already filled the sky. Now he came back to his senses, wondering what had happened to him.
After returning to the Tranquil Garden, he went back to the small stone pagoda and resumed his sleep; but he couldn't fall asleep no matter how hard he tried.
The white cat was bothered by an unknown emotion so much so that he didn't even notice Jing Jiu was looking at him quietly.
The White Mountain meditation room was empty now.
A cook was missing in the front kitchen, but nobody had noticed it since he was seldom present; and people quickly forgot about that young man who had hardly appeared. Yet, an old and young monk were found in a closed guarded room in the Justice Hall. These two monks were none other than Yin San and the Great Grandmaster of the Mysterious Dark Sect.
Yin San seemed more handsome, even cute after his hair being shaved; the Great Grandmaster of the Mysterious Dark Sect seemed more unsightly after his hair being shaved, especially his red nose, which was more obvious and looked more disgusting.
The Great Grandmaster of the Mysterious Dark Sect rubbed his nose a few times and walked to the rear of Yin San.
He could tell that Yin San spent more time on meditating since he knew that Jing Jiu was at the Fruit Formation Temple; but nobody knew what was on his mind.
The Great Grandmaster of the Mysterious Dark Sect noticed that there was a small bulge on Yin San's neck, and it had slowly moved to different spots.
Soon after, he smelled a faint scent, his expression changed a bit, but he didn't say anything.
The scent was very faint. Though it was not stinky, it made anybody who smelled it felt uncomfortable. It had a slight smell of a rotten leaf, or an old piece of wood that had been placed outside over a long time.
The Great Grandmaster of the Mysterious Dark Sect knew that Yin San's body of flesh couldn't sustain for too long; and he was not sure if the Immortal could find a perfect way to integrate the spiritual soul with the body of flesh within ten years.
They had been staying at the Fruit Formation Temple for many years just for this purpose.
The Great Grandmaster of the Mysterious Dark Sect shifted his sight to the front of Yin San. He found that there was a small piece of paper on the ground before the futon, with a few lines of words on the paper.
Those words were written by Jing Jiu.
The Great Grandmaster of the Mysterious Dark Sect was confused, wondering why the Immortal put the paper slip in front of him since he didn't dare believe in what Jing Jiu said.
Another year had passed. It was again the time when the new was replacing the old; and heaven and earth were at their height. It was dark in the Tranquil Garden, and the only things that were visible were Zhao Layue's eyes.
She fixed her eyes on Jing Jiu.
Jing Jiu opened his eyes and released the sword will. And then he reached out his hand and dipped in the sword will, as if it were the ink, and wrote a script.
But he didn't reach his left hand directly into the script this time. After a moment of pondering silently, he selected a few words in the script and picked them out from it.
His left fist hit his right palm.
His left hand returned to normality after gleaming for a split second. In the blink of an eye, life and death had already completed a cycle.
Jing Jiu closed his eyes again, and reopened them after a long time. Undetected, he arrived by the side of Zhao Layue, and commented, "It's fine."
Zhao Layue bowed to the ground in front of him.
"I still don't have a gift bag for you," Jing Jiu said.
Zhao Layue flashed a gentle smile, and then said seriously, "I'm on the verge of breaking through the state."
Looking at her quietly, Jing Jiu said, "I think you should wait for a few more years, to stabilize your current state a bit more."
Zhao Layue felt confounded.
Her initial state of the Free Travel was utterly stable now, and her Dao Heart and sword will were both at their height; why would she have to wait?
Jing Jiu didn't explain why. Zhao Layue felt displeased, so she didn't sit by Jing Jiu's side this time.
Under the tree on the cloud platform were the similar and simple fruit plates, with the wine cups almost still full; in fact, they were not the remaining wines and left over dishes, since her parents hardly touched them.
Bai Zao strolled to the cliff's edge and looked at the freely drifting clouds, musing that she wouldn't make the barbecued fish anymore since her Big Brother was the only one who liked eating it.
Big Brother Tong Yan had already stayed behind closed doors for two years; what magic method was he cultivating? Where was Jing Jiu? And what was he doing at the moment?
In spring she finally wrote a letter and sent it to Green Mountain; then she received a reply from Gu Qing. And Gu Qing didn't offer a clear answer to her questions, meaning that he was trying to hide something from her.
She turned around and saw the fruit plates and the wine cups on the table. She felt disheartened while thinking of these matters.
Tong Yan was busy digging the tunnel at the moment.
He hadn't done anything else.
The figure of the Unicorn was visible intermittently amid the clouds and fog. His spiritual awareness stirred and then formed words in the air.
"I sensed that he has tempered some more of the Fairy Book. If we didn't stop him from doing it, not only would your plan not come to fruition, it could also potentially provide him with unlimited power."
Standing on the stony post against the wind, the Immortal Bai looked in the direction of the Fruit Formation Temple and remained silent for a while, saying, "As I said, you are not allowed to leave Zhongzhou according to the sect rules."
The Unicorn wrote a line of words amid the clouds and fog with his spiritual awareness: "I can change myself into the spiritual entity."
The Immortal Bai said calmly, "Your spiritual awareness, in the suppressed Cultivation state, will be not as powerful as 1/100th of your original body."
A line of words appeared amid the clouds and fog:
"But it would be enough to kill him! And though my spiritual awareness is suppressed, my spiritual body is invincible; nobody can harm me!"
The Immortal Bai pulled back her gaze, and declared, "No."
"The Old Dragon died because of him. I must kill him! Now that your idea will come to nothing, you should let me give it a try! I won't give him any chance of succeeding in tempering the Fairy Book. Otherwise, if he obtained the fairy energy, it would be a disaster!"
The Unicorn was furious.
The clouds and fog in the deep end of the valley rolled up and down, seemingly very restless.
The words shown in the air seemed to be written with a knife; they were fairly sharp, full of lethal intent.
Time passed faster than the movement of the poets' pen.
Before one could feel sentimental about letting bygones be bygones, the bygones had already vanished without a trace.
It seemed to be the blink of an eye, but Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue had already stayed at the Fruit Formation Temple for five years.
Jing Jiu remained silent longer and longer lately. His face looked paler, but his eyes grew brighter. A layer of golden color could be spotted in the deep end of his eyes, adding a hint of peculiar appearance to his handsome looks.
It would be the New Year in a few days.
Jing Jiu had written the last script the same night, in an attempt to temper the Fairy Book completely.
If he succeeded in his endeavor, the unlimited fairy energy in the Fairy Book of Longevity would be in his possession.
If he failed, he would be controlled by the fairy awareness and become a puppet of the Center Sect.
It was something Zhao Layue failed to understand, why Jing Jiu didn't let her break through the Cultivation state and yet sped up the process of tempering the fairy awareness, even at the expense of exhausting a great amount of sword source and spiritual soul.
Why was he so anxious?
The upcoming New Year was also significant for the Fruit Formation Temple.
It was because State Duke Lu would represent the Emperor to come to the temple to repay his promise.
Though such an event occurred every year, the scale and level of the event would be much more significant this year.
Jing Jiu didn't understand why the event would be so significant at first; it wasn't until he heard a sigh from Monk Dachang that he remembered that the person in the small stone pagoda had already passed away three hundred years earlier.
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