It was easy to recognize the people of Green Mountain; it was because they were the ones who always came to the meeting last. And they were truly recognizable.
The person who looked clean-faced with a tranquil aura and holding a sword to his chest was none other than the teacher of the future emperor, Gu Qing.
The man who had droopy eyelids and looked drowsy while holding himself with his own arms was none other than the personal disciple of the Immortal Liu Ci, Zhuo Rusui.
The young woman who had distinct black and white eyes with black hair locks tousling over her temples and wearing a braid was none other than Zhao Layue.
The man in white who looked unlike anybody else in this world was none other than Jing Jiu.
Countless gazes fell on Jing Jiu.
Similar to the swordsmen of the Underworld who had to fly up to the world above, the Cultivation practitioners had to fly up to accomplish the ascension. On the other hand, Jing Jiu flew up to the highest position in the Cultivation world.
He, after cultivating for merely thirty some years, had become the sect master of the Green Mountain Sect and someone with the highest status in Chaotian. It was something that had never happened in the history of Cultivation world.
The crowd bowed to him in tandem; but their emotions were far from being so simple. Many of them were curious about him; however, many others felt resentful and unimpressed, and some even displayed disdain and mockery toward Jing Jiu.
Jing Jiu uttered "hmm" to their greetings. He walked into the grand hall after nodding to a few young women he was acquainted with.
The Cultivation practitioners of various sects followed the group of Green Mountain into the grand hall. And the Plum Meeting had officially begun.
Many chairs were placed in the dim hall. The Immortal Bai sat in the first chair on the left side, and Bu Qiuxiao of the One-Cottage House sat in the second chair, followed by the three valley masters of the Center Sect and He Wei of the Kunlun Sect and the representatives of other sects.
Jing Jiu sat in the first chair on the right side, and Zhao Layue sat in the second chair, followed by the Great Marsh, the Hanging-Bell Sect, the Mirror Sect and the representatives of other sects.
The two camps were clearly divided, and they looked more confrontational at the moment. Yet, nobody could tell the opinion of the One-Cottage House. Standing quietly behind Bu Qiuxiao were Liu Shisui and Xi Yiyun. Many Cultivation practitioners felt it odd, wondering what was going on.
There were some special seats in addition to these two rows of chairs.
The Young Zen Master sat at the head of these chairs cross-legged. His posture was not very dignified, resembling those people at the Dongyi Daoist Temple when they sat on the coal-heated beds. The small green curtain sedan of the Water-Moon Nunnery was parked quietly at the back, not making any sound. Sitting by the side of the Young Zen Master were State Duke He and Zhang Yiai, the chief commander of the Pure Heaven Bureau, representing the imperial court.
Zhang Yiai had a terrible look on his face. He had been attacked constantly by the officials in the imperial court over the last two years after he broke off with the Center Sect due to the turmoil of the Fiend Prison. He was under tremendous pressure.
He Wei's face looked terrible as well, though it was not because of the tiredness he felt due to the long journey of coming from the Kunlun Mountain overnight.
His line of sight had never left Jing Jiu.
Jing Jiu didn't pay any attention to He Wei. He was looking quietly at the Immortal Bai across from him.
Though they were merely one hundred feet from each other, Jing Jiu still couldn't see her clearly through that layer of cloud and fog.
The fact that he couldn't perceive her true state indicated that she had developed her Cultivation to a more ideal state; on the other hand, his own Cultivation state was still too low in comparison.
The Young Zen Master hadn't spoken a word so far. The grand hall remained quiet, and the atmosphere grew more and more eerie. The crowd grew more and more uneasy; they looked around reflexively in an attempt to get some relief.
As they looked around, they discovered an interesting phenomenon.
In the camp of the Center Sect, the Immortal Bai was an important figure who had been famous for a long time, and Yue Qianmen and the other two valley masters and He Wei showed some trace of age though they looked energetic rather than old. In the camp of the Green Mountain Sect, Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue were two young people, so were Zhuo Rusui, and Gu Qing and the representatives of other sects in the camp, such as Sese of the Hanging-Bell Sect, Zheng Tao of the Water-Moon Nunnery, and Que Niang of the Mirror Sect…
The three young women were very noticeable in such a gloomy and depressing grand hall.
Cultivation needed time to improve, and the longer one spent on cultivating, the higher state they would have. What were on the minds of the masters of these three sects? What was the Green Mountain Sect thinking?
"Let's start then."
It seemed that the Young Zen Master suddenly remembered this matter. He lifted up his head and announced it.
The crowd thought that the first speaker should be someone from the Center Sect or State Duke He who represented the Emperor. Unexpectedly, it was He Wei, the sect master of the Kunlun, who stood up first.
He stared at Jing Jiu as he demanded, "Elder Chen of our sect died tragically at the hands of your disciple a few days ago. I'd like to get an explanation from the Sect Master Jing."
Jing Jiu didn't bother giving him an explanation. It was not because He Wei was not qualified to get an explanation, nor did Jing Jiu try to be aloof; it was because he knew that Green Mountain had no need to do so.
It was impossible for the One-Cottage House, according to their usual style of action, to ignore the matter involving Liu Shisui.
"If the person Sect Master He talked about is my student, I hope you'd better choose your words carefully."
Bu Qiuxiao stood up from the chair and said to He Wei, "It was Master Huiyuan who had killed the Cultivationist Chen Wen, not anybody else."
Now that He Wei intended to accuse Liu Shisui, he had anticipated that Bu Qiuxiao would say so. "Though it was Huiyuan who had struck, he was an evil member of the Old Ones, and Liu Shisui can't shrink from his guilt in this matter so easily either," He Wei said with a sneer. "Why did Young Brother Chen Wen confront Liu Shisui at the foot of that cliff? As everybody knows, it's because of that devil vixen of the Old Ones! The devil vixen had done many evil things when she was at the Old Ones; her hands are full of blood of innocent people. How can she be forgiven simply because she abandons the Old Ones and joins an orthodox sect? The fact that she was expelled from the Green Mountain Sect and Liu Shisui was locked in the Sword Jail indicates that the Immortal Liu Ci didn't trust these two people!"
The meaning of what he said was clear enough. The Kunlun Sect suspected that Liu Shisui was still in contact with the Old Ones; so Liu Shisui and the Master Huiyuan set a trap together and killed the elder of the Kunlun Sect. This speculation was sensible in the views of some people. Xiao He had been with Liu Shisui the entire time, and she was supposed to be under suspicion in the first place.
Bu Qiuxiao said sternly, "This student of mine is a rarely found gentleman. I'd like to ask Sect Master He not to tell us more of such groundless conjectures."
"What about my Young Brother? Shouldn't we avenge him?" He Wei exclaimed icily.
Bu Qiuxiao said after calming down, "This case is indeed rather odd. It should be investigated thoroughly. Sect Master He, please accept my condolence."
"Who will investigate this case then? Your house or the Green Mountain Sect?" He Wei pressed in a mocking tone.
"What is Sect Master He's suggestion then?" asked Bu Qiuxiao, a hint of anger flashing on his face.
He Wei replied apathetically, "I believe that House Master should be able to trust the integrity of the Immortal Bai and the action style of the Center Sect. Why don't we let Cloud-Dream Mountain investigate the case?"
An angrier expression showed on Bu Qiuxiao's face. Zhao Layue lifted up her head. Zhuo Rusui raised his eyebrows, readying to curse. Jing Jiu didn't show any reaction, as he thought that his Big Brother must have calculated this result; if the Kunlun Sect insisted on accusing Liu Shisui, the One-Cottage House and the Center Sect would have a more strained relationship.
He Wei's proposal was tantamount to bringing the Center Sect into the conflict directly when he suggested for the Immortal Bai to uphold the justice for his sect. In the eyes of He Wei and many others, the neutral position held by the One-Cottage House had led to Jing Yao becoming the Crown Prince. Such choice of action offended the Center Sect deeply; so the Center Sect wouldn't let go of this good opportunity to punish the One-Cottage House. Would the responses from the Green Mountain Sect and the One-Cottage House further worsen the conflict between the two camps? And, wasn't this Plum Meeting intended to force the Green Mountain Sect to yield?
The Young Zen Master didn't say anything. Seeing Jing Jiu's expression, Zhang Yiai had no choice but to remain silent.
Staring at the three valley masters of the Center Sect, Zhuo Rusui thought to himself that he couldn't beat anyone of them.
Looking at the Immortal Bai shrouded in cloud and fog, Zhao Layue thought that she had no chance of beating her even with the help of the cat.
Looking at Bai Zao standing at the back inconspicuously with the Sword of the Universe at his chest, Gu Qing tried to detect the thoughts of the Center Sect from her expression, but he couldn't read her face.
Everybody was waiting for the Immortal Bai to speak. The atmosphere grew more unbearable.
"The talk about this matter stops here."
The voice of the Immortal Bai rang out.
Hearing this, the grand hall became even more hushed.
A small and black wild cat slipped into the grand hall. Sensing the dreadful atmosphere in the hall, it turned around immediately, fleeing in terror.
Ada spun his head in Zhao Layue's bosom and looked in that direction, wondering why he hadn't seen that cat a few years ago when he was at the Fruit Formation Temple.
Hearing this unexpected answer, He Wei fell silent for a while as he froze on the same spot. It seemed that he had grown older in an instant.
A moment later, he sat down in his chair slowly, and didn't say another word until the very end.
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