The Battle of the West Ocean was over. There were many different opinions regarding who had benefited most from the outcome. Nevertheless, it was evident that the Green Mountain Sect was the true victor and would have the lion's share of the benefits. As far as the issue of Taiping's escaping was concerned…as long as Liu Ci could still wield his sword as powerful as the one he had done at the West Ocean, nobody would dare make a fuss about it.
But Jing Jiu didn't think so.
After this battle, the Immortal Taiping had revealed himself, and the Dark Phoenix betrayed Green Mountain, which planted the seeds for future internal conflicts on Green Mountain…In his opinion, the Center Sect was the eventual winner.
He didn't hold any grudge against Bai Zao and Tong Yan.
Those two young people had simply inherited Guo Dong's idea of killing Xilai and then his Big Brother.
What had happened afterwards was the doings of Green Mountain itself.
It was he who had returned the Green Sky Mirror to Tong Yan.
He had predicted many things; but he miscalculated one thing.
As a result, the event had such an end.
Thinking of all this, Jing Jiu nodded to Bai Zao, and then walked back into the cabin.
Bai Zao was taken aback.
He turned around and left. He seemed to have behaved normally, but why did she feel as empty as the expansive West Ocean and as cold as the floating ice around Shaoming Island?
She didn't understand why. Similarly, she couldn't understand why the Immortal Liu Ci saved the Immortal Taiping whom he had locked up for three hundred years.
There were seventeen sword boats back when they came. There were fourteen sword boats when they went back to Green Mountain. The fleet looked magnificent all the same; but the onlookers viewed them differently now.
The Immortal Liu Ci had wielded a sword that had shocked heaven and earth. As a result, Nan Qü, who had been the enemy of Green Mountain for the last thousand years, had been killed; the Godly Swordsman of West Ocean had been severely wounded and fled; and the West Ocean Sword Sect had been totally wiped out. On the other hand, the Green Mountain Sect had merely lost two of their seventeen sword boats; and the casualties of their disciples were not high either. It was an extraordinary achievement in every respect; yet, their sword boats traveled in such a subdued manner.
Seeing the sword boats of Green Mountain moving away, the Cultivation practitioners of various sects remained silent. Some of them were silent because of shock and awe, and some fell silent because of other more sophisticated reasons.
That patch of thunder fires was as powerful as the heavenly punishment; but the Immortal Liu Ci had blocked it. They wondered if he had been injured severely because of it.
If he had a mishap, what kind of turbulence would the Cultivation world have?
The sunlight grew warmer, and the ocean wind grew stronger. The floating ice had finally melted; the flowing clouds in the sky had scattered in every direction.
The Cultivation practitioners of various sects had departed along with the flowing clouds.
It was rather quiet on the Cloud Boat of the Center Sect. All of their disciples stood on the decks on several levels on the boat, watching the surrounding areas in the sky cautiously.
The situation was too chaotic that day, and so many things had happened at the end. They had no idea whether the Green Mountain Sect would do something crazy all of a sudden.
There were only two people in the cabin room on the top level of the boat.
Looking at Tong Yan, the Immortal Bai asked nonchalantly, "Liu Ci will die for sure this time. You have done a great deed for our sect. What do you want in return?"
Kneeling on the floor, Tong Yan pleaded, "Master, please let the Green Girl live."
The Immortal Bai had given him the promise back when she agreed to let him leave the Cloud-Dream Mountain with the Green Sky Mirror.
The promise was that she would give the Green Sky Mirror freedom if the Immortal Taiping died in the scheme plotted by Tong Yan.
Tong Yan was fully aware that his Master wouldn't possibly let the Green Sky Mirror, a treasure of the Heavenly State, leave the Center Sect; so the so-called freedom was equal to staying alive.
"Is Taiping dead?" the Immortal Bai asked lightly.
Tong Yan fell silent after shooting a glance at the Green Sky Mirror lying on the floor beside him, got up and walked out of the cabin room.
The breeze was ruffling her ribbons, which seemed to be the reflection of her tumultuous emotions.
Bai Zao was waiting for him outside the room.
Seeing the cold expression in Tong Yan's eyes, she knew immediately what kind of decision her mother had made; she felt a bit startled.
Soon, the cold expression in Tong Yan's eyes was replaced by pain and repentance, though his countenance remained the same, as did his energy.
Though he could let Bai Zao see his pain and gentleness, he couldn't let the Immortal Bai sense them.
"You have done your best," Bai Zao said in a slightly trembling voice.
Tong Yan uttered "hmm".
Then, he asked himself a question.
"Have you really tried your hardest?"
The Green Girl had had no idea what Tong Yan wanted to do the entire time. She only thought that he wished to lead her in escaping from the Cloud-Dream Mountain, but she had absolutely no idea about the scheme regarding the West Ocean and the Fairy Book brought into the Illusionary Realm by the King of Fire Carps, to say nothing of all the behind-the-scenes dealings and conspiracies.
Tong Yan had completely deceived the Green Girl.
He had misled the whole world.
And he had succeeded at that.
He asked himself one more time.
"Have you really tried your hardest?"
You have deceived the whole world, including the Immortal Taiping; then, what reason do you have for not being able to free the Green Girl?
The answer was obvious. In fact, he had already known the answer before the Immortal Bai said those words.
This is why he didn't tell his Master about the Snow Girl.
Not even a word.
After the fourteen sword boats reached the mainland of Chaotian, one of them left the fleet and headed southward.
They soon reached Yizhou as they traveled to the south. Then, they arrived at the barren mountain that was devoid of any spiritual source and were able to see the collapsed cliff.
Fine powder was scattered everywhere at front of the cliff. No original forms of flowers and trees could be recognized, and the ruined temple and the black coffin in it were nowhere to be found.
It was the sword boat of Shenmo Peak.
Zhao Layue brought the white cat back onto the boat.
The white cat lost a great deal of blood. His long hair stuck together and made him look quite deplorable. The cat seemed to be severely wounded, which made Yuan Qü's and Ping Yongjia's hearts skip a beat.
Nan Wang headed to the cabin while heaving the unconscious Nan Zheng in her hand after making a sneer. For some reason, she didn't kill this former member of her tribe.
The white cat knew the meaning of her sneer; but he didn't pay attention to it. The cat propped himself against Zhao Layue's bosom with his eyes closed, pretending to be weak and vulnerable, as he thought that he had earned this treatment after risking his own life and that nobody could drag him away from her!
The night sky was full of stars.
On the top of that highest peak, it was blindingly bright.
A large sword boat hovering in the night sky a few miles away was illuminated clearly by the starlight.
This peak was one of the most desolate places in Chaotian; so there was no need to worry about disturbing any mortals here.
Standing on the top of the peak and looking at the scene, Jing Jiu fell silent.
He wasn't disappointed, and nor did he have the idea of leaving Green Mountain.
The sword boat of Shenmo Peak left the fleet because he was to have an important conversation with somebody.
The night breeze blew over, and the starlight deflected a bit. Liu Ci arrived by his side.
"You're late," Jing Jiu said.
Liu Ci said, "You know exactly why I fly so slowly."
It seemed that they had had a similar conversation back when they were on their way from the Cloud-Dream Mountain to Green Mountain.
Both Jing Jiu and Liu Ci displayed a calm and nonchalant expression on their faces.
Killing Nan Qü was the hardest thing in the world, yet no happiness or ensuing fear could be detected in their eyes.
In fact, this outcome had been determined thirty years ago when Jing Jiu returned to Green Mountain.
Their collaboration would find no equal in the world, as long as Jing Jiu accepted the invitation.
Nan Qü had indeed developed a brand new sword method by means of turning the sword ghost into a human being and the human being into a sword.
Like what Liu Ci had said, Jing Jiu had done so ahead of Nan Qü, and he had achieved the true integration of sword and human body.
According to the saying "The sword improves with the swordsman," Liu Ci was playing a more important role.
If it were Zhuo Rusui who had wielded the sword today, could he kill Nan Qü? He might not have even been able to slash a single hair off of him.
Liu Ci was the only one who had the capability and qualification to wield that sword.
The current Liu Ci was the true and absolute number one swordsman in the world.
"Will another Nan Qü emerge on the Foggy Island?"
Jing Jiu seemed to murmur to himself while also presenting the question to the other person.
Looking at the sword boat under the starlight, Liu Ci said, "It won't happen."
"Will Xilai return?" Jing Jiu asked.
Liu Ci said, "It's probably impossible."
"So it was you," Jing Jiu remarked after a moment of silence.
Liu Ci uttered "hmm".
This was a faint "hmm", without any fluctuation in his tone; but it was exceedingly significant.
Back when the Immortal Taiping was released from the Sword Jail and Lei Poyun was killed for silencing him, all the incidents indicated that Taiping had a helper on Green Mountain.
After Jing Jiu had returned to Green Mountain, he had been looking for that helper over the years.
Liu Ci and Yuan Qijing were his most trusted people, and they were also the most suspicious ones.
It was because they were the only ones who had the ability to achieve the feat. Fang Jingtian didn't have the capability even though he had concealed his true strength.
However, he didn't know who that helper was.
They had all eaten hotpot together and killed others as a group, and they were partners in capturing his Big Brother, so he couldn't find a reason for that person to do it.
The answer had been revealed today.
Liu Ci was the chief "devil man".
Glancing at the sheath of the Inherited Heaven Sword in Liu Ci's hand, Jing Jiu said calmly, "You people won."
The Sword of the Universe hovered quietly in the night sky over the top of the peak, absorbing the starlight.
No sword fight would take place tonight because the state difference between these two was too big.
More importantly, everything had been determined after Jing Jiu accepted Liu Ci's invitation at the temple ruin to come to the West Ocean.
Jing Jiu said, "If all this had been planned by my Big Brother, I have to admit I'm impressed."
"No," Liu Ci said. "You were wrong, and he was wrong as well. To put it more precisely, both of you have thought too much."
Jing Jiu pressed, "Wasn't it his plan to invite me to go back to the sheath?"
"Just because I freed my Master from the Sword Jail doesn't mean I support his idea, and I'm far from obeying to his commands."
Liu Ci continued after shooting a glance at Jing Jiu, "What I wanted to achieve was very straightforward; I simply wish to have a sword."
The topic he and Jing Jiu talked about the most when they met several times over the years was the sword.
Liu Ci had never grown bored of stating that he didn't have a sword not matter if he said it in a serious manner, a helpless one, or in resentfulness and sentimentality.
What he intended to convey was evident: He wished to have a sword.
Or in other words, he wanted to have his sword back.
Jing Jiu had never bothered responding to his complaints.
Back when he held the Fairy Book of the Center Sect in his left hand and faced tremendous risk, Liu Ci asked him if he would like to use the sheath to cover the hand. He refused the suggestion without a second thought.
This was something Jing Jiu disliked the most, and something he avoided doing the entire time.
The Inherited Heaven Sword had always been a sheath rather than a sword.
It had always like this since the Green Mountain Sect was founded tens of thousands of years ago.
The sect masters of all the generations had been the holders of the sword.
The sword in the sheath was not free.
Jing Jiu didn't like the feeling. Even though he had accepted Liu Ci's invitation, he still insisted on saying, "This sword is mine."
"I'm the sect master, so this sword is naturally mine," retorted Liu Ci.
Jing Jiu waved his hand, indicating that there was no point in arguing about the issue in such a childish way.
Liu Ci suddenly asked, "Did you ask Gu Qing to give the Green Sky Mirror back to Tong Yan because you predicted the Center Sect's plan?"
Jing Jiu said, "I had thought that he and Su Ziye wanted to kill Xilai at the time."
"You might have had such a thought at beginning," Liu Ci said, "but you should have guessed what would happen after receiving my Master's letter."
After a long pause, Jing Jiu said, "You're right. Killing him had always been something I wanted to do the most."
After having received that letter, he, Liu Ci and Yuan Qijing had a meeting on the top of Tianguang
9 Peak, which was witnessed by the Round Turtle.
At the end of the meeting, he had set the basic goals of the crusade against the West Ocean Sword Sect: Kill Nan Qü first and then Taiping; the world would be at peace.
These were goals and also the reminder and warning. Liu Ci and Yuan Qijing, no matter who was the "devil man", should think the consequence before their action.
If everything proceeded according to his predictions, Green Mountain wouldn't suffer any losses, regardless of how many ideas the Center Sect had had and how perfectly Bai Zao and Tong Yan had plotted the scheme.
At least his Green Mountain would be left totally unscathed.
However, he failed to predict one thing, something somehow anticipated by the Immortal Bai.
Liu Ci had stood before his Master.
The Heavenly Punishment landed on him instead.
"It's an unworthy act," Jing Jiu said, after giving a glance his way.
Liu Ci took a look at the surface of the ocean, and smiled.
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