Seeing her kneeling before them, State Duke Lu and his son were startled.
State Duke Lu glared at his son, wondering if he had gone to a brothel. State Duke had told his son many times that he had to be prudent about such a venture.
Lu Ming was perplexed, unsure what was going on.
This time he didn't understand what his father's glare meant, otherwise, he would complain that he was wrongfully blamed.
State Duke Lu grew angrier and coughed loudly, wondering if his son wanted her father-in-law to help her up.
Lu Ming understood his father's intention this time, and helped his wife up hastily.
This young mistress had a special status at the Manor of State Duke. It was not because she was the wife of the heir of the manor, but because she was the youngest daughter and favored by the prime minister. Most importantly, State Duke Lu suddenly disappeared in the middle of her and Lu Ming's wedding, which became a joke in Zhaoge City. The members at the Manor of State Duke, including State Duke Lu himself, felt embarrassed and regretful about this incident. As such, they all showed her more respect and tolerance.
"Qinghan, what are you doing?" State Duke Lu asked kindly while looking at his daughter-in-law. "Just tell me if there is something wrong. Your father-in-law will support you."
The young mistress knew that her father-in-law misunderstood her, and said hastily, "It has nothing to do with Lu Ming. I wish to discuss another matter."
Hearing this, State Duke Lu didn't feel better. "What's the matter then?" he asked, frowning.
Thinking of the family next door, the young mistress summoned courage and said, "Your daughter-in-law begs you to talk to the Jing family…"
Lu Ming cut her off with a displeased expression, "Wasn't that marriage proposal dismissed?"
The young mistress said with her head hung low, "That niece of mine has been spoiled more than I was at home. She has been making a fuss over the last two years, causing a great deal of unrest in her manor. Her family can't deal with her, so they want us to persuade the Jing family."
"I proposed on behalf of the Jing family, but was declined by your family," State Duke Lu said. "What do you want me to say to them now?"
Lu Ming sneered, "Your family thought that Jing Shang's position in the imperial court was too low; but they didn't expect Jing Li to become the study partner of Prince Yao, and his family background is more profound than they expected."
The young mistress sighed, "Everybody in Zhaoge City knows that the Jing family produced an outstanding immortal master, but my father had studied at the One-Cottage House…"
Lu Ming cut her off with raised eyebrows, "Though the One-Cottage House has a closer relationship with the Center Sect, they are not enemies of the Green Mountain Sect. What's your point?"
"But you have to remember that my older brothers and some of my relatives all have a close relationship with the Cloud-Dream Mountain," the young mistress said with a bitter smile. Then she turned to State Duke Lu and pleaded, "Father, could you tell the Jing family to forbid Jing Li from seeing our Little Seventh again; otherwise, it will get uglier."
Jing Jiu didn't know anything about this matter.
And in fact, he had no idea the Curtain Rollers were the spies of the imperial court.
Before leaving the Royal Palace, he told the Emperor to inform him through the Curtain Rollers if something came up, because he thought that the Curtain Rollers had their agents all over Chaotian so that they could find him no matter where he was. As for how the Curtain Rollers would send message for the Emperor, Jing Jiu thought it would be an easy task for them since they had already provided him with information a few times before.
After having left Zhaoge City, Jing Jiu didn't travel by riding the sword or riding in the carriage. He avoided the official roads, walking northwestward through the mountains and forests. He hadn't encountered one single town, though he saw some residences with smoke coming out from the chimneys in the valley occasionally.
If he were any other Cultivation practitioner, he would take the opportunity to reflect on the experience in the mortal world. As he had told Zhao Layue, he thought such practice was meaningless, at least for him. If a practitioner didn't have an issue, there was no point in creating one and then finding a way to resolve it.
Seven days later, he was passing through Juye City.
It was not really passing through Juye City. In fact, he was passing the city on the mountains over one hundred miles south of Juye City. Jing Jiu could see Juye City from such a distance because he had special vision, and it was easy to see very far in the clear autumn weather.
Juye City was two hundred miles away from White Town, meaning Jing Jiu was three hundred miles away from White Town at the moment.
He had set a rule for himself that he would never lay foot in a place that was three hundred miles away from the snowland.
Jing Jiu fell into the trap plotted by the Immortal Taiping back when he participated in the Cultivation Tournament of the Plum Meeting, and he had been trapped for six years in the snowland. He didn't want to experience such an incident again, not to mention that he had no desire to face the Queen of the Snowy Kingdom again.
It was the Cold Mountain west of Juye City, where all one could see was the barren land, yellowish wild grass, and isolated mountains; no human beings could be spotted here.
A vast majority of the deviant Cultivation sects and free-traveling practitioners in Chaotian were driven by the orthodox sects to this patch of barren world. There were a great many demons and dangers hidden in this seemingly peaceful land. It was easy for the orthodox Cultivation practitioners to encounter danger here. As such, few orthodox practitioners would come here alone, save for the likes of Fang Jingtian and Yue Qianmen, who had a very high Cultivation state.
Jing Jiu came to a lakeside and sat down.
The reason the mountain was called the Cold Mountain was because it was extremely cold here, especially in recent years, where the cold currents invaded here from the snowland. Though it was autumn, the weather was already as cold as winter. A thin layer of ice formed on the lake, slicing the blue sky into many patches. Jing Jiu's handsome face also had different but beautiful patches after the sunlight was reflected off the ice.
Looking at the middle of the lake, Jing Jiu wondered what object was the hardest in the world; he believed it should be his own body.
His Cultivation state was not so high at the moment that he couldn't find objects to sharpen the sword, otherwise even the Dragon-Tail Inkstone of the One-Cottage House wouldn't be usable as whetstone when his Cultivation state improved because of the principle of "the sword improving with the owner". As such, it was urgent for him to fix his right arm right now. The problem was that the demon bone had been ground to powder; so where could he find another demon bone of the same state?
Did he have to go to Cuiping County in Ruzhou to dig out that mountain demon from his grave? But, the mountain demon had died after being struck by thunder; so his bones might have already vanished after turning into a puff of green smoke. Even if his bones were intact, he shouldn't do so, or that little monk would be mad at him for sure.
He could go to the One-Cottage House to borrow the Dragon-Tail Inkstone through Liu Shisui. If Bu Qiuxiao didn't agree to lend it to him, he could snatch it by force, and if Liu Ci was reluctant to help him, he could try to steal it.
Thinking of all these possible and impossible, interesting and uninteresting options, he felt the bite the chilly air over the lake and started meditating with his eyes shut.
The sunlight grew dimmer, and time went by. The scenery of the lake became darker, and night fell.
His breathing stopped, and no energy could be detected from him. But he was not dead, though he looked like a stone by the lakeside.
In the early morning the next day, the morning sun shone on the surface of the lake, brining some warmth to the lake and driving away the dampness in the air.
A few drops of dew appeared on his perfect face, trickling down all the way to his mouth.
Jing Jiu opened his eyes, awakening like a lotus flower in bloom.
He looked at the surface of the lake, which had formed a thin layer of ice after a chilly night. The surface of the lake looked like a bright mirror, reflecting the morning sunlight.
The deep, booming sound could be heard underneath the ice. It was not the cry of the demons in the lake, nor the earthquake; it was the sound made by the movements of the ice on its own.
Jing Jiu came to the Cold Mountain of his own will as well.
He had some ideas, but he hadn't made up his mind yet, which was why he had sat by the lakeside for the whole night.
The night was over, and the lake was covered with ice.
He walked onto the ice, several formidable sword wills shooting out from his fluttering white clothes.
And soon, he disappeared noiselessly from the surface of the lake and entered the lake, with a round hole remaining on the surface of the lake.
The lake water lapped gently in this dark hole, giving off a pleasant sound.
This hole would be sealed off by the ice overnight; so nobody would know he had been here.
There were many passages connecting the ground of Chaotian and the Underworld.
The most famous spots were the Large Whirlpool in the deep end of the ocean and the Heavenly Well by the East Ocean.
There was a passage on the Cold Mountain, which was the Gathered-Soul Valley; but it was sealed by a great magic treasure of the Center Sect many years ago.
Few people knew that the lake by which Jing Jiu had sat the whole night previous had a passage connecting a branch of the earth source in the Gathered-Soul Valley.
He seldom traveled in the world, so he didn't know about it himself; but the Immortal Taiping's diary recorded it. As such, he wanted to try his luck here. The Underworld was good at controlling the devil animals, which had been proven by the Dace Devil encountered by Liu Shisui in the Muddy River. Though the Gathered-Soul Valley was sealed by a magic treasure, the remains of some large demons after the fierce battles that took place many years ago should be able to be found.
The Heavenly Well was also called the "Heavenly Pit"; the passage under the Gathered-Soul Valley was an underground crack, where the passageways were as complicated as the spider-web and very narrow in some sections. It was very difficult to walk in them.
Coming to the underground crack from the bottom of the lake, Jing Jiu arrived in a dark world. With his sword vision, Jing Jiu could only see an area of less than one hundred feet.
The passageways had a great many turns and bends, so he had almost no opportunity to see that far.
Soon after he entered the underground crack, Jing Jiu sensed many sorts of energies.
Those energies hidden in the darkness were either cautious or vicious, but they had one common characteristic in common: They were all very powerful. Jing Jiu didn't care about their threat. It was because those devil animals could hardly detect his existence in such a dark world. The reason he hesitated last night was not because he was afraid of encountering those devil animals, but because of other reasons.
He walked through the underground crack for many hours, and arrived in a cave with a relatively large space.
This underground cave was very peculiar. It seemed that the surrounding damp rock walls had a special gravitational force; one could barely tell the top from the bottom when standing in it. If one stayed in it for too long, they would lose proper sensation and easily get lost. As a result, one would be unable to find their way back, or worse, they would be trapped in this maze-like underground crack and die.
Jing Jiu sent his sword awareness forward, sensing the distant energy in the deep end of the crack. He found that the bones of the large demons were in an area over ten miles under the ground. If he walked along the underground crack, it would take him at least twenty or thirty days to get there, even if he didn't get lost. He had been thinking of other options since the very beginning.
He was about to take out the Sword of the Universe, but he brought his hand back after some thought. Then, Jing Jiu rolled up the sleeve on his right arm and tied it up, exposing the slightly deformed right hand.
He leapt into the air, turning his head upside down and reaching out his right hand.
The white cloth was fluttering.
A gust of violent wind rose in the underground cave, drawing the attention of many devil animals.
Jing Jiu vanished without a trace.
He broke through the hard rocks and headed toward the deep end of the underground.
He was like a real sword, and his reached-out right hand was the tip of the sword.
The rock chips were splattering out after being cut; one could imagine his traveling speed.
It was strange that the air didn't grow damper as he traveled deeper into the underground. On the contrary, the air became drier, and the rocks and the sandy soil became less packed. Jing Jiu was flying at an increasingly faster speed. Some powerful energies sensed him approaching, but they didn't have enough time to launch an attack. Even if they had enough time to do so, how could they strike Jing Jiu who was inside the rocks?
After a long time, his right hand bumped into an object, followed by a loud booming sound.
Jing Jiu was surprised because the object must be extremely strong to block his right hand; was it the demon bone he was looking for?
Using his sword awareness to sense the spatial structure of the rocks outside, he wiggled his body slightly to get out of the rocks.
This place was located more than five miles under the ground, and the air was exceedingly hot here. The murky lava was flowing slowly less than twenty feet from him. Jing Jiu's right hand had rubbed against a great many hard rocks for so long that it became extremely hot. The hand glowed when it met the air, which was even brighter than the lava.
In the dark underground, Jing Jiu was as visible as a firefly in the dark night.
He walked to the object into which he had bumped.
It was a magic treasure of a high state, with a heavy lethal intent and an unsettling bloody scent. It must have been tempered after harming countless lives.
Jing Jiu furrowed his brows slightly and picked up the magic treasure of a deviant sect.
With a sizzling sound, the magic treasure gave off a few puffs of green smoke after Jing Jiu touched it with his right hand; it was damaged badly.
A hard object might not be able to withstand the high temperature, objects such as diamonds.
This magic treasure was the same sort.
A voice in surprise and anger burst out close by, a voice that also had a hint of disbelief to it.
"Where did this little thief come from? You dare steal…No! How dare you damage this old man's magic treasure!"
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