Ada saw that small black wild cat running away to the distance while he was in Zhao Layue's bosom.
The lines of many people's sights had also followed the black cat, and their gazes moved upwards and gradually fell on the distant mountains.
Nobody glanced at He Wei. They were unwilling to make him feel more mortified out of sympathy for him.
The atmosphere had been one of anxiety before, but now it was now full of depression and unease.
The sect master of Kunlun, who wasn't afraid of offending either the One-Cottage House or the Green Mountain Sect in order to avenge his Young Brother, had no choice but to remain silent because of what the Immortal Bai had just said.
Was this due to the absolute power of the strongest swordsman in Chaotian? However, would the Immortal Bai's act alienate her allies such as the Kunlun Sect?
The autumn wind blew over from the distant mountains, bringing a draft of chilly intent to the quiet grand hall.
The purpose of cultivating was to live a long life; but what they were doing was squandering time that they should instead use on Cultivation rather than on watching such a show.
Many people felt it rather wearisome, thinking that they shouldn't be here at the Fruit Formation Temple at all. They would rather stay on their mountains behind closed doors.
There was no such thing as spring, summer, autumn or winter in the Underworld. They only had two "seasons": the bright season and the dark season. Their seasons were determined by the rise and fall of the sky fire and the Underworld River. As such, there was no autumn wind here. Their capital city was situated amid some black rocky mountains. There were a few ordinary looking thatched huts by a broken cliff a few miles away from here, but the golden leaves atop the huts looked exceedingly magnificent.
This place was the soul residence of the principal disciple of the Underworld Master, so it was unnecessary to have it guarded by swordsmen here.
For the populace of the Underworld, the principal disciple of the Underworld Master was a godly being, and they didn't dare get close to this being's residence. All they dared to do was kneel at the foot of the broken cliff, bowing to the ground and praying constantly. Looking at the folks resembling ants at the foot of the cliff, Tong Yan thought of the patients stationed by the sides of the official road in Moqiu leading to the Fruit Formation Temple. His pale face showed a hint of undetectable emotion.
The sky fire grew dimmer, and the Underworld River quieted down. The underground world had welcomed a night that was not so different from the day.
Tong Yan drew back his gaze and walked into a thatched hut. The gloomy room was brightened by the golden leaves and crystals, in stark comparison to the dark world outside.
A little child was writing at the desk, the black bang in front of his forehead tousling slightly; yet, his hand holding the pen was as steady as a rock.
The words written on the paper were very distinct, and they could be considered beautifully written.
Tong Yan felt surprised. This little child was the descendant of the royal family and had been lost for a long time. He was found and brought back by the Underworld Master a few years ago. How come he knew the human language and words so well? Even if the Underworld Master had taught him how to read and write the human words, it was nevertheless an outstanding achievement for him to learn the language in such a short time.
It wasn't until now that Tong Yan d the true name of this future underworld emperor. The Underworld Master told him that he could call the child the Drifter.
The Drifter was an interesting name.
In the ancient language of Chaotian, this word had the similar meaning as ghost.
Seeing the way the Drifter was writing the human words, the idea crossed Tong Yan's mind that the child seemed to be a Go piece placed by his opponent on the board.
Tong Yan liked playing the game of Go the most, even though he didn't like playing it with Jing Jiu. He sat down across from the Drifter.
The Drifter laid down the pen and looked at him quietly, waiting for him to speak.
"The cause and effect is not only the idea of the Zen sects, it also relates to the direction of time."
Tong Yan picked up the pen on the desk and drew a line in the space between the two of them, saying, "The direction of time is a line that has a beginning but no ending."
The Drifter asked after some thought, "What if it's a sphere?"
Tong Yan replied, "If the beginning and the end could connect, many interesting events would ensue. But based on our experiences, the head and end of this line can't connect."
"Hence, the cause and effect can't be disrupted?" the Drifter pressed.
"At least the people living here can't do it, nor can the ascensionists. Nobody can transcend cause and effect. All we can do is cut off the cycle of cause and effect."
Tong Yan went on, "If the Sect Master agrees, you will be the next Underworld Emperor. Where will you intend to lead the people of this world?"
"I have read many books over the last few years," said the Drifter. "The first thing our ancestors were concerned about was protecting ourselves and not being wiped out by the evil people of the outside world like you; then they became resentful. They wanted to share the sunlight and raindrops in the world above and share the fertile fields that can produce the crops. I've eaten the rice; it tastes really good."
"These thoughts are sensible and understandable," said Tong Yan. "But I'm afraid that the Immortal Sect Master won't agree to these requests."
The Drifter remarked earnestly, "Though the sunlight and raindrops are good things, they are not suitable for our magic methods, and even incompatible with our spirits and blood. Our race has lived under the ground for tens of thousands of years and has already merged with everything in here; there is no way we can separate from everything here. As such, why would we want to get out of here? It's only that the life here is truly hard; maybe, you people are willing to show a bit of your generosity?"
Looking at this child's eyes under the flickering light, Tong Yan couldn't tell if this child was lying or if he was truly thinking this way.
What he was saying was that all the things mentioned above were pretty good, but they were unsuitable for him, so he didn't desire them.
The reasoning was feasible, but few people could actually live like that.
"I heard that the Crown Prince of the human race has a teacher, and he is an immortal master of Green Mountain as well."
The Drifter suddenly laughed out and continued, "In this case, he and I are pretty much alike."
"Why would you say so?" Tong Yan pressed.
The Drifter appeared quite earnest with his eyes opened wide, as he asked, "Aren't you an immortal master of Green Mountain?"
Tong Yan returned, "I can be counted as one."
The naïve expression in the Drifter's eyes had suddenly changed into a wicked and sinister one, as he said in a low voice, "But I know you're Tong Yan of the Center Sect."
Tong Yan said calmly, "You have no need to tell me all this; it's because I'm not your cause-and-effect."
"Who is the one then?" the Drifter asked curiously.
Tong Yan said, "If nothing unexpected occurs, you will become the disciple of the Immortal Sect Master."
Feeling somewhat surprised, the Drifter exclaimed, "Will he come down to the Underworld?"
Tong Yan shot him a glance before saying, "It will be you who goes up, of course."
Having said this, Tong Yan walked out of the thatched hut, and came to the underneath of a tree by the cliff's edge.
It was unknown what kind of a tree it was, but it grew quite lush and large in the Underworld without the sunlight. The tree looked like a huge and conspicuous inky blot in this gray and dark world.
Standing under the tree, the bright blue cloth on the Underworld Master looked like a colorful patch amid the inky blot.
"For such an important matter, he is unwilling to come down here and to check things out himself; is he afraid of death or too lazy?"
"Both, I think."
Tong Yan followed the line of the Underworld Master's sight toward the distant sky.
A figure flew swiftly upwards along with the lightning, as the remote passage was illuminated by the flash of the lightning.
The Underworld Master remarked, "Another one has gone up. It looks like they have believed it."
"I advise you not to put anything on the Drifter," said Tong Yan. "The Immortal Sect Master doesn't like the troubles."
"His Highness is the future of our Underworld; I don't dare to do anything like that," the Underworld Master said calmly.
The small black wild cat came back to the outside of the grand hall stealthily. It seemed that the cat was drawn by a special energy inside the hall.
Through the crack of the gate, the cat saw a white cat with long hair, lying elegantly in a young woman's bosom.
The young woman had a desolate aura, making the cat feel intimidated; the cat wasn't sure what the relationship was between this young woman and another young woman at whom this young woman was looking.
That young woman was speaking something in a low voice.
"What is the paper amulet?""What is the crystal?""The medicines of the Dongyi Daoist Temple must taste awful simply by their awful names.""The devil pill should be better."
The small wild cat couldn't understand what that young woman said; but the cat could tell that this young woman wearing a white skirt had a pretty appearance and a feeble countenance; yet, her voice was calm and amicable, sounding very comfortable.
The others in the grand hall had similar thoughts.
Countless gazes were fixed on Bai Zao, their eyes full of admiration.
Listening to the requests she raised in a calm voice on behalf of the Center Sect, the crowd felt the autumn became seemingly more amiable and the lines on the fallen leaves more visible.
She had a deep and serene bearing, indicating that she had completed the Yuanying State and would be able to reach the Huashen State in twenty years.
The whole of Cultivation circle was aware that she was born with some disabilities, and many people thought that she would encounter many difficulties in Cultivation. Even though she could improve her Cultivation states as quickly as other geniuses with the aid of the magic methods and magic pills provided by the Center Sect in the early period, she would lag behind later on. However, nobody expected her to be on a par with Zhuo Rusui and Zhao Layue till now.
Her progress in Cultivation naturally had something to do with the rich resources of the Center Sect; but many people in the grand hall also knew of another secret relating to her Cultivation. Thinking of the six years she spent in the snowland, they gazed at Jing Jiu reflexively.
Though Jing Jiu's eyelids were dropped, they all knew that he was awake at the moment.
Bai Zao didn't try to avoid him; she spoke while looking at Jing Jiu calmly.
Zheng Tao clutched her own sleeves, feeling quite troubled.
Que Niang shook her head a few times, and she suddenly noticed that Xiang Wanshu in the group of the Center Sect was looking at her. She returned the greeting with a small smile.
Sese sighed, as she thought that it would be a lot of fun if they could snatch her Brother Zhan from White Town and eat the barbecued fish and drink some wine, instead of pretending that they didn't know each other while talking about some uninteresting matters. It was all Jing Jiu's fault, and it was all because he became the sect master of Green Mountain so early, she thought.
To say nothing of these young women, even the masters of the previous generation felt sentimental when they saw Bai Zao talk while standing in front of Jing Jiu.
The story about this pair of young man and woman was truly too famous in the Cultivation circle.
Bai Zao withdrew the magic method.
The map in the grand hall turned into glowing specks and then vanished.
"The Underworld army hasn't invaded Chaotian for over three hundred years. The number of their swordsmen is very limited even if they show up occasionally. And they only appeared by projecting their shadows over the last sixty years. So they won't be able to cause any big turbulence here. Cloud-Dream Mountain has never denied the sacrifice made by the Cultivationists of Green Mountain, and we don't dare disrespect them. But I still have to point out--with all due respect--that Green Mountain should take some responsibility since it was the crime committed by the Immortal Taiping."
Bai Zao turned to the Young Zen Master and continued, "We still insist on the requests we raised last spring; the detailed list of the recalculated quotas has been sent to Zhaoge City."
Sitting in the chair cross-legged, the Young Zen Master implied that he had nothing to say about this matter.
Bai Zao turned to Zhang Yiai, and said, "Senior Master Zhang, the Pure Heaven Bureau should have seen the list we sent."
Hearing her respectful address, the look on Zhang Yiai's face grew more terrible.
"According to the rules of the Plum Meeting, the imperial court won't get involved in this matter. As long as Green Mountain agrees to it, the Pure Heaven Bureau will carry out the new regulations."
It was a considerably troublesome process to collect, manufacture and assign those magic materials, whether they were the crystals, magic pills, sea pearls and glowing silvers, or the pure gold, devil pills, monster blood and other resources. Six hundred years ago, the Immortal Taiping, relying on his own calculating prowess and the full support of the Water-Moon Nunnery and secret support of the Fruit Formation Temple, coupled with the instigation of the late emperor, had finally persuaded the Center Sect and other major Cultivation sects. The true peace of the Cultivation circle had started from that moment on.
It was of course a significant matter when the Center Sect wanted to change the quotas regulated by the Plum Meeting. Yet, the changed amount was very minimal, considering the surplus gained from the West Ocean Sword Sect. The proposal, on the surface, was not completely unacceptable for the Green Mountain Sect. However, as the Great Grandmaster of the Foggy Island, Nan Qü, said, Green Mountain would retreat all the way to the end if they chose to back down this one time.
No matter how much one backed down, a retreat was still the retreating.
The strategy of retreating before counterattacking later was the only choice the weak opponents had to take.
Bai Zao came before Jing Jiu, waiting for his answer.
Jing Jiu lifted his head and stared at her, saying, "First of all, the quota for the West Ocean is ours; nothing else should be changed."
Bai Zao looked at him quietly, knowing he would have more to say.
Looking at Jing Jiu, Zhao Layue suddenly understood what he would do next, her eyes beaming brighter.
A small hole appeared in the clouds in the autumn sky. A flying sword arrived at a high speed.
This sword letter came from Green Mountain and landed on Gu Qing's hand. Jing Jiu signaled with his eyes for Gu Qing to hand the letter to the Young Zen Master directly.
In the next moment, the bell at the Fruit Formation Temple rang out.
The Cold-Signal Bird came down from the sky, brining the news from the Cold Mountain.
The flying letter of the Pure Heaven Bureau had arrived as well.
The Cultivation practitioners in the grand hall felt uneasy when so many reports came all at the same time.
Bu Qiuxiao asked, "Has something happened in White Town?"
Having read the sword letter, the Young Zen Master gazed at Jing Jiu meaningfully before saying, "No. An important figure of the Underworld has come to Chaotian."
"Who is he?" demanded Bu Qiuxiao, raising his eyebrows.
The Young Zen Master replied, "It's the Twelfth Priest."
Bu Qiuxiao had heard of this swordsman of the Underworld, famous for his ambition and cruelty. "Now that he is neither the Grand Priest nor the Underworld Master, it's not a big deal when his projected shadow comes here."
"It's his real body coming," said the Young Zen Master while shaking his head.
Upon hearing this, an uproar broke out in the grand hall.
A swordsman of the Underworld came to Chaotian in person!
Such an event hadn't occurred for a great many years. Was it a sign that the Underworld would invade Chaotian soon?
Bu Qiuxiao stood up abruptly, and demanded, "Where is he? What about casualties among the populace?"
"The Twelfth Priest showed up on the Cold Mountain, and then…"
The Young Zen Master continued after shooting Jing Jiu a glance, "He's been killed by the Cultivationists of Green Mountain."
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