The Cloud Boat of the Center Sect didn't land anywhere close to the Fruit Formation Temple. It arrived above the Easter Ocean, hovering in the sky, competing with the setting sun for the attention.
Seeing this, Zhuo Rusui felt agitated and combative, and said what he said.
Liu Shisui also felt the blood rushing to his head, but he kept his coolness as usual.
Zhao Layue displayed a composed countenance, as she thought that they would simply fight them if it came to that.
Gu Qing didn't say anything, but he was wondering how they could beat them.
Turning his head toward the others, Zhuo Rusui exclaimed, "Can't you guys say something courageous?"
"Come in," the voice of Jing Jiu rang out at the back of the Tranquil Garden.
The group walked into the meditation room at the back of the Tranquil Garden, finding that the Young Zen Master had left.
Tiredness appeared on Jing Jiu's face. It took a great deal of his energy to decide whether to solve the puzzle of the Formation of the Dispersed Smoke and Clouds or to figure out the relationship between Taiping and the lotus flower.
Gu Qing told him about what had happened by the stream, as well as their thoughts on it.
Zhuo Rusui asked, "What does the Grandmaster want to achieve? Does he want to cause a mayhem in Chaotian and have all the mortals killed like he had done back then?"
"He wants to protect himself," said Jing Jiu. "He is in the weakest moment of his life. The more turbulent the Cultivation circle is, the safer he is."
Nobody in the group could understand what he talked about, including Zhao Layue, Liu Shisui and Xiao He who knew that the Immortal Taiping had picked a lotus flower.
Jing Jiu didn't tell them about his speculation.
Looking at Liu Shisui's dark face, Jing Jiu thought to himself, "Big Brother, haven't you given up turning this child into another you?"
Noticing Jing Jiu looking at him, Liu Shisui knelt down hastily and knocked his forehead on the ground three times, saying, "Congratulations, Young Master!"
Xiao He knelt down as soon as Liu Shisui did.
Zhao Layue was the peak master of Shenmo, so she didn't have to kneel before Jing Jiu.
It was not a big deal for Gu Qing because he knelt before Jing Jiu countless times before.
Zhuo Rusui was unwilling to do so, but he had no choice but to kneel down slowly. He didn't knock his forehead on the ground though.
Jing Jiu knew that he couldn't stop Liu Shisui from kneeling down before him, so he let him do it. "Okay, time to go. She stays here," he told Liu Shisui.
Liu Shisui was a scholar of the One-Cottage House now, so he had to go back to the residence for the One-Cottage House.
He understood his Young Master's intent, and knew his Young Master's temperament even better. So Liu Shisui was ready to depart. He suddenly thought of one thing, and asked, "Young Master, do you like the chair I made for you?"
"It's not too bad," Jing Jiu replied.
Liu Shisui was pleased with the answer and left happily.
Zhuo Rusui had witnessed how this pair of master and servant interacted with each other, especially in the Illusionary Realm of the Green Sky Mirror; but he still couldn't get used to how Liu Shisui was treated; it was the same as the other matter.
Watching the back of Liu Shisui heading toward the outside of the Tranquil Garden, Zhuo Rusui commented while shaking his head, "I can't get used to seeing Liu Shisui wear the scholar uniform; somehow, I still think he looks like a farmer."
Jing Jiu said, "Shisui is a good farmer. It's he who taught me how to farm."
To say nothing of Zhuo Rusui, neither Zhao Layue nor Gu Qing could understand why Jing Jiu needed to learn how to farm.
Gu Qing refrained himself from thinking about it since he couldn't figure it out. Thinking of the Cloud Boat hovering above the East Ocean and the impending meeting, Gu Qing asked, "Master, are we really going to fight them?"
"Yes," Jing Jiu said, "but not now."
Anyone could tell that the strength of the Green Mountain Sect was evidently inferior to that of the Center Sect. As a result, the northern sects like the Kunlun Sect dared provoke the Green Mountain Sect, and they even dared harm Liu Shisui.
The vacuum left by the departure of the Immortal Liu Ci couldn't be filled by anyone in a short time. Though Jing Jiu could take the seat of the sect master, he couldn't fill this gap.
Feeling surprised, Gu Qing asked, "Do we have to give in this time?"
Looking at the outside of the Tranquil Garden, Jing Jiu knew someone was on her way coming here, and said, "If I've decided to give in, there is no point in me coming here."
Someone requested to see Jing Jiu.
She was Bai Zao of the Center Sect.
Hearing the voice of Monk Dachang, Zhuo Rusui and Gu Qing bade their bye to Jing Jiu, heading toward the outside of the Tranquil Garden.
A moment later, Zhao Layue walked out with her hands behind her. Seeing Ada on the heap of the fallen leaves at the foot of the stone pagoda, she intended to pick him up, but thought better of it. Seeing her back, Ada was about to catch up to her, but he suddenly understood her intent. He hurled up on the heap again, merging into the fallen leaves, but his ears pricked up.
Bai Zao was standing in the courtyard.
Jing Jiu was sitting under the corridor.
The atmosphere was hard to describe at the moment. But, it was obvious that the warm feeling was lacking between the two. It was maybe because of the unfamiliarity due to the elapse of time, but it was not the only reason.
The two of them had eyed each other at the West Ocean in distance. Other than that, they hadn't met for a long time.
The memories could be obscured over time, like the six years in the snowland; it was like something that had happened in a former life.
Jing Jiu was very calm. He didn't feel any nostalgia, nor did he feel sentimental.
This was something a Cultivation practitioner had to experience and endure.
Over the long years of Cultivation, they would experience many things, but the memories would sometimes become dull, and sometimes become vivid. This was probably the same as the difference between water and wine.
Bai Zao spent most of her time in the snowland sleeping, but she always thought that she could remember those nights, the fire, and the back of that figure.
She looked at Jing Jiu quietly without saying anything; it seemed that she was waiting for something.
It was obvious that she didn't wait for Jing Jiu to speak first. It was not that she was in a sulky mood; this sort of womanly temperament was not in her. And she was also fully aware that it wouldn't work for Jing Jiu.
What she was waiting for was the arrival of the twilight and the autumn wind.
The leaves fell down with a rustling sound. The drifting leaves became red colored when shone on by the setting sun. They fell on her body like flames and flowers, and also like raindrops.
It was a beautiful scene.
It seemed that Jing Jiu appreciated the scene very much.
He was interested in almost nothing in this world, save for the beautiful scenes and smart people.
She still remembered the begonia tree at the Jing house in Zhaoge City, and he liked seeing the begonia flowers falling onto her.
She was certain that Jing Jiu still remembered those scenes, which was enough. She pulled up the rims of her skirt and came to the underside of the corridor, sitting on the floor across from him.
The white ribbons dropped to her side like the clouds loaded with rainwater.
Jing Jiu still didn't say a word.
Bai Zao moved two steps forward. She put her hands on the ribbons over the floor, leaning forward.
The little princess of the Qin State did the same back then.
Yet, Jing Jiu was not the same little prince of the Chu State who couldn't refuse the advance of the little princess, so he wouldn't allow her to lean into his chest again.
He reached out a finger and stabbed the center of her brows, making her body halt in the midair.
Time halted as well.
Seeing this scene while hiding in the heave of the fallen leaves, Ada thought this scene was truly beautiful.
After a long while, Bai Zao sat back down, and said embarrassingly, "I just wanted a hug."
"The fight will start," said Jing Jiu.
Bai Zao asked, "Is it because the fight will start?"
Jing Jiu didn't respond to her, but smiled faintly.
Bai Zao picked up a gold leaf from the bottom of her skirt and put it gently on his hand.
Ada, in the heap of the fallen leaves, displayed a cold expression in his eyes.
Gazing at his face, Bai Zao said softly, "I thought you were extraordinary when we first met."
Jing Jiu returned, "Many people thought at first; they will get used to it after a while."
The people on Shenmo Peak, the cat and the cicada wouldn't feel amazed and go mad anymore when they saw his face.
Bai Zao remarked with a smile, "But you have still brought many surprises to the world, even those things beyond what my imagination could perceive. How come…why did you become the sect master?"
As she spoke, she was smiling. It was because she felt proud and happy for Jing Jiu; but she felt a bit regretful, even sad, somewhere in the depths of that same smile.
Under prior circumstances, the two of them had a slim chance of getting together even though Jing Jiu was the talented disciple nurtured specifically by the Green Mountain Sect. There was no possibility now because Jing Jiu was the sect master of Green Mountain.
And it was also because she would be the next sect master of the Center Sect.
Bai Zao got up, and said before taking her leave, "I know Big Brother Tong Yan is on Green Mountain. Thank you for taking care of him."
It was impossible for the Center Sect to let go of Tong Yan. They had spent a great deal of time and manpower to looking over the last few years, but he was nowhere to be found.
She and Tong Yan were like sister and brother. She knew what he had on his mind at the time, so she guessed where he was most likely to go.
"He is not on Green Mountain," said Jing Jiu.
Bai Zao was aware that Jing Jiu had no need to lie to her. Feeling surprised, she wondered where her Big Brother had gone.
Jing Jiu suddenly said, "You should be careful at a certain critical moment."
After a moment of silence, Bai Zao pressed, "Could you make it a bit clearer?"
"No," said Jing Jiu. "It's because I haven't figured it out yet myself."
He knew something, but not the cause of that something.
Bai Zao understood what he meant; she took her leave.
Jing Jiu picked up that gold leaf and looked closely before his eyes.
One couldn't find two same leaves in the world in terms of the shape of the stem and the lines of the leaf.
And he had never thought of keeping the leaf.
The leaf grew on the tree and fell down after dusk.
The leaves should belong to themselves.
Ada watched him quietly in the heap of the fallen leaves.
After a long while, Jing Jiu let go of the leaf.
The gold leaf didn't break into pieces. It drifted to the stone pagoda and fell onto the heap of the fallen leaves, landing squarely on Ada's eyes.
Jing Jiu didn't lie to Bai Zao. Tong Yan was not on Green Mountain at the moment.
He was in the Underworld.
A faint smell of burning dried-leaves permeated the air; it should come from the Underworld River.
The Underworld River looked like the underground river of lava, but it was not the case. He had seen the boats with corpses and flowers float on it.
This world had three colors: black, white, and fire, no matter whether it was mountain or field. It was exceedingly monotonous to look at.
A fire river was flowing in the gloomy and dark sky. It seemed that it would fall down at any moment, making the onlookers feel depressed and scared.
As far as the humans were concerned, the sunless underground was the most barren world. For those human Cultivation practitioners, this place, devoid of the spirit of heaven and earth, was like the hell and hard to withstand.
If the human Cultivation practitioners stayed here for a prolonged period of time, they would die due to the dispersing of their zhenyuan, regardless of how strong they were.
Tong Yan's face was pale, since he had no idea how long he would stay in the Underworld.
A bright blue color and a few dark figures suddenly appeared in the black and white sky.
They were the disciples of the Underworld Master.
Tong Yan noticed a little child among those disciples.
The people in the Underworld were all small; but that child was even smaller than others. The child had smooth black hair, and comely eyes and brows. The bang of the child's hair looked like a leaf. It was hard to tell if the child was a boy or girl, but either way, the child looked like a pretty doll.
Yet, the Underworld Master showed a reverent attitude toward the child. He said to the child, "Your Highness, he is the ambassador from the world above."
The child pulled the bang aside and shot Tong Yan a glance, full of curiosity in his eyes. "Thank you, Ambassador," he said to Tong Yan.
After that, the child was brought by the disciples of the Underworld Master to the underground. It seemed that the child came specifically to meet Tong Yan.
Tong Yan guessed the identity of the child, and chose to remain silent.
The Underworld Master said, "He is the next Underworld Emperor. Do you think Jing Jiu--the Immortal Sect Master--will like this child?"
"If the child's hair could be cut shorter, he might like him even more," Tong Yan said after a pause.
"Though I don't understand why," said the Underworld Master with a faint smile, "I think it's quite sensible."
As they spoke, it suddenly grew brighter in the sky on the other side of the Underworld; an intermittently visible passage could be seen under the bright glow.
In the passage, a figure with powerful energy was traveling at a high speed, like a flash of lightning.
The passage was located close to the top of the Abyss, leading to the ground of Chaotian.
Looking in that direction, the Underworld Master said, "He is the Twelfth Priest, with a big ambition and pure blood. He is not easy for me to deal with."
Tong Yan said, "He will die."
"Thanks," said the Underworld Master.
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