The assassins of the highest level in the Old Ones might be able to hide themselves in the shadows in a certain manner; but the shadow under the tree was in fact the real one. As such, there was only one possibility: It was the projected shadow from the Underworld.
In Mingcui Valley outside Zhaoge City over twenty years ago, the assassin of the Old Ones was killed by using the projected shadow of the third disciple of the Underworld Master after his botched assassination attempt.
Whose projected shadow was it in Zhaoge City tonight?
The shadow bulged slightly on the ground, as if it were on the verge of leaving. Shone on by the starlight reflected off the wall, a figure had gradually formed.
The figure was short and chubby; and its appearance was imperceptible. But the iridescent clothing was vaguely visible, indicating that he had a very high status in the Underworld.
"Let me introduce myself."
The short and chubby figure had a high-pitched but gloomy voice and yet gave off a powerful and awe-inspiring energy.
The pronunciation of the voice sounded a bit awkward, meaning that he had seldom spoken the human language.
"I'm the Grand Priest of the Underworld."
If the Underworld Master claimed that he was the most powerful person in the Underworld after the death of the Underworld Emperor, he was the only one in the Underworld who could object to it.
The royal blood of the Underworld flew in the body of the Grand Priest. He had tremendous power and Cultivation state in the Underworld, and was a truly important figure.
If it were other Cultivation practitioner or even elders of various sects, they would cause two reactions when they found out that it was the Grand Priest of the Underworld who had suddenly appeared in front of them, the first being them, pale-faced and shrieking as loudly as they could to alert others, the second being fear so overwhelming it caused them to pass out.
However, Jing Jiu was rather calm, acting as if he had encountered an old man asking for direction. "What do you want?" he demanded.
The Grand Priest's voice seemed to drift in the alley like a gust of wind, and it also seemed to be able to snap off like the broken zither string at any moment. "Don't you fear me?" he asked Jing Jiu, astounded.
Jing Jiu replied, "Even though you are very powerful, this is Zhaoge City; it should be you who is afraid here, not me."
"During the ascension of your Master, I went to Green Mountain to take a look," the Grand Priest said. "Zhaoge City is, in comparison, not as dangerous in the least."
Jing Jiu said, "Tell me what you want."
It was quite eerie when the iridescent clothing of the Grand Priest was intertwined with the gloomy shadows, so was his voice. "I heard that you are someone who is good at negotiating. As such, I don't think you will insist on any principles."
What he said was rather sensible, but Jing Jiu had extracted more information from his words. Had today's conversation between him and Bu Qiuxiao been known by the Underworld already?
"Get to the point," Jing Jiu urged.
The Grand Priest said, "If the Seal of the Underworld Emperor were indeed in your hands, we might be able to cooperate."
The saying "No wall is dense enough to prevent the wind from passing through it" was true in this case; neither the huge wall separating the human world and the Underworld nor the Abyss could prevent the conversations from being heard.
The conversation between him and Bu Qiuxiao had been heard in the Underworld, and even the conversation between him and the Underworld Master, which was unknown to anybody else, had been learned by the people of the Grand Priest.
Jing Jiu said, "I have talked to him first."
"That's no problem," said the Grand Priest. "I just want to inform you and leave my name with you today. When you make the decision in the future, you will remember there is another choice. At the very least, you should give us a chance to name our price."
"I can't imagine what benefit I'll gain by cooperating with you," Jing Jiu said.
The Grand Priest said, "The most obvious benefit is to help you eliminate the supporters of Taiping."
Jing Jiu asked immediately, "Are you familiar with the Center Sect?"
The Grand Priest replied expressionlessly, "If you don't trust me, you can simply forget that I have ever been here. But I hope that you will remember this conversation."
After he said this, the starlight grew dimmer, so did the shadow under the tree.
The wind stopped and the leaves fell. The shadow returned to the underground, and the ground returned to its normal condition.
Jing Jiu turned to leave the alley.
Yet, he didn't go back to Green Mountain, instead going to the old plum garden.
The nunnery hall of the plum garden was enshrouded in the starlight, as if the clean water was washing the eaves noiselessly.
Jing Jiu walked into the nunnery hall and sat down in front of that dusty table.
It was not the original body of the Grand Priest, but his projected shadow.
If the Grand Priest suddenly struck him, Jing Jiu might be in big trouble, because the Great Formation of Zhaoge City might not be activated in time.
Now that the Grand Priest dared project his shadow in Zhaoge City, he must have had someone protecting him here. Since that helper couldn't be the Immortal Taiping, who was he then?
The Underworld Emperor had been imprisoned in the Fiend Prison for over six hundred years; so it was understandable that the Center Sect had been in secret contact with the Underworld.
Was the Cloud-Dream Mountain trying to identify him one more time or to bring harm to him and Green Mountain? Jing Jiu had thought that Zhaoge City was the safest place apart from Green Mountain and the Fruit Formation Temple and that nobody would attempt to assassinate him here. But thinking of the event two years ago at the Fruit Formation Temple, this idea became questionable.
The starlight streamed through the window and fell on his body; and the starlight also cast a shadow on the ground in front of the table.
In the next moment, the shadow drifted up from the ground, resembling a leaf blown up by the wind.
This scene had just been witnessed by him not long ago.
"Come back already?"
Jing Jiu felt tired.
Yet, the figure in the shadow was much smaller.
It was the projected shadow of the Underworld Master this time.
Jing Jiu asked, "How come you know I'm here?"
The Underworld Master shook the dust off his blue robe gently; the figure in the shadow was perceptible now and then.
"Now that he knew about our conversation, why can't I find out what he is doing? In fact, the information about the Seal of the Underworld Emperor was leaked out by me on purpose."
Regardless of whether it was in the human world or in the Underworld, the struggle for the power was always so exhilarating, even though it was boring for Jing Jiu.
Jing Jiu knocked a few times on the table before him and demanded, "Let's get back to the topic. How did you know I was in the old plum garden?"
The Underworld Master didn't respond to his question, but said, "Cooperate with me, and send the Grand Priest to the Underworld River."
"And how does this benefit me?" Jing Jiu asked.
The Underworld Master strolled to the window with his hands folded behind his back. The shadow made the starlight outside the window appear dimmer.
His projected shadow was even smaller than his original body, looking like an eerie and dreadful ghost.
"I have investigated a long time, and finally I'm certain that he has had secret contact with the Cloud-Dream Mountain. It's both beneficial to me and your Green Mountain to kill him."
The Underworld Master turned to Jing Jiu and continued, "If he slept forever in the Underworld River, the chaos in the Underworld would be resolved, and you and I could select the new Underworld Emperor without unnecessary interference."
Jing Jiu pressed, "Is this the accord between us?"
The Underworld Master said, "I'm not like Liu Ci or Yuan Qijing; this is not enough to persuade me to betray the Immortal. I will only cooperate with the final victor; and you are still so weak. As such, it's hard for me to trust you."
"Take your leave now," Jing Jiu said.
"I'm here to deliver a letter," the Underworld Master said. "Are you sure you don't want to know what's in it?"
Jing Jiu intended to take out the bamboo chair and lie on it; but he remembered that the chair was used by the Snow Girl for squatting on . He had no choice but to lie down on the floor while gazing at the stars outside the window.
After shooting a glance at Jing Jiu, the Underworld Master waved his sleeve slightly; his shadow turned blue for a brief moment and vanished without a trace.
It was unexpected to see two extremely powerful figures of the Underworld back to back in one night, even for Jing Jiu; he felt quite tired.
He had acted as if he were indifferent and even arrogant during the conversations with both of them, but it was merely a mask he put on.
The projected shadows of the Grand Priest and Underworld Master had both posed a tremendous threat to him.
The difference in their Cultivation states was simply too vast. If he hadn't had the Seal of the Underworld Emperor, the conversations wouldn't have happened in the first place.
If he hadn't had the life board of the Dark Phoenix and known that secret, Bu Qiuxiao wouldn't have met him during the day to negotiate with him in the first place.
A youth traveled the world with precious books and conversed with the nobles and kings about the Dao. Though it was an admirable experience, it was actually quite dangerous for the youth.
Jing Jiu knew who wrote the letter mentioned by the Underworld Master.
It was indeed the most convenient and fastest way to have the important figures of the Underworld deliver their messages through their projected shadows over the vast land of Chaotian.
However, how could people of Chaotian send the messages to the Underworld?
Before Jing Jiu had those mosquitoes of the Fiend Prison, the Immortal Taiping was the only one who had such a capability, and maybe the Center Sect also had some way to achieve this feat.
Jing Jiu knew his Big Brother well enough to know that he might fall into his Big Brother's trap even after having a mere glimpse of the letter; as such, he had no interest in reading it.
He had another suspicion; if the Grand Priest traced him based on the information from the Center Sect, how did the Underworld Master learn that he was in the old plum garden?
He himself didn't know that he would come here before he made up his mind to.
Jing Jiu realized that something was out of place.
He had the similar feeling when he conversed with Bu Qiuxiao in the nunnery hall during the day.
Was it possible that someone had left a traceable signal in his body?
Jing Jiu recalled all his experiences in this life carefully. Then he checked every part in his body. He hadn't found anything that was suspicious.
Back when he and Tian Jinren fought across the space, his opponent had indeed instilled his spiritual awareness into Jing Jiu's body; but not a trace of it had remained.
His body was still as clean and pure as before, except that there were some natural silks in his abdomen, waist and spine.
Jing Jiu spent the whole night thinking about it quietly.
The morning sunlight shone on the window. Jing Jiu stood up, and was about to leave the nunnery. But he suddenly saw a line of words on the spot where the Underworld Master had vanished.
"A cloud has drifted over from the south."
His body stiffened as he read it. Jing Jiu turned slowly to the window and looked in the direction of the south.
He wondered which cloud was the one that had to be eliminated now that there were so many of them in the sky of the south.
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