That place was already thirty miles away. The snowflakes emerged out of nowhere, dancing in the air amid the wind, before disappearing in midair; it was evidently not a natural phenomenon.
The Sword Justice Yuan Qijing led the attack, and the Immortal Guangyuan and Nan Wang were ready to strike at any moment. Maybe more swordsmen were lurking somewhere on the other side of the clouds.
The Green Mountain Sect was renowned for their prowess and self-confidence, but they had sent out so many powerful swordsmen this time, meaning that the matter was not over yet and something more significant would ensue.
"What do you need us to do?" the Master of the Windy-Broadsword Church asked without hesitation.
Suppressing the Underworld was the responsibility of all humans; no human should shrink from it.
"I'm not sure," the Immortal Guangyuan replied honestly. "The Sect Master asked us to come, and we came here without questioning."
Thinking of that young sect master of Green Mountain, the Master of the Windy-Broadsword Church didn't know how to continue the conversation. He asked while looking at the corpse of the Twelfth Priest, "How should we dispose of him? Should I bring him back to Juye City?"
"No need for that."
No sooner had the Immortal Guangyuan spoken these words than the sunlight shone on the Sword of the Returning Sun, making it exceedingly hot, burning the corpse of the Twelfth Priest to ashes.
Then, he took out a piece of paper from his sleeve and read it carefully. After making sure he had the correct time and site, the Immortal Guangyuan cupped his hands to the Master of the Windy-Broadsword Church and stepped onto his sword, heading toward a place a hundred miles away in the northwest.
The singing, which was not so ear-pleasing, had also left, so had the lonely figure in the wind and snow.
The Twelfth Priest of the Underworld was killed by the swordsmen of the Green Mountain Sect as soon as he arrived in the human world. This was too much of a coincidence, causing many conjectures and suspicions.
As Sese had said that the Green Mountain Sect had no need to explain to others, they indeed had no reason to explain to other sects. Still, some people were special enough to deserve convincing
In the meditation room at the deep end of the Tranquil Garden, the Young Zen Master took out a thin stick from his ear and blew away the earwax from its tip, saying, "I didn't expect you to follow in Taiping's steps."
Jing Jiu pushed the iron kettle on the table further away, and said, "I've always been different from him."
The Young Zen Master cleaned his ear with the thin stick earnestly again, then said after tossing the stick out of the window into the mud, "Anyone can figure out that you people have contacted the Underworld."
"We can't do it?" Jing Jiu's voice was even and emotionless.
The Old Dragon had changed himself into the Fiend Prison in Zhaoge City and blocked the passage leading to the Abyss; the Center Sect had gained a great deal of benefits from the Underworld in the name of the Underworld Emperor.
Since the Grand Priest of the Underworld projected his shadow to Zhaoge City and met him, Jing Jiu was certain that the Center Sect had contacts with the Underworld.
The Young Zen Master knew what Jing Jiu meant, and said, "You don't have any evidence."
"You people don't have any evidence on us either," said Jing Jiu after pouring a cut of tea for himself.
The Young Zen Master had also poured a cup of tea for himself, and took a slow sip of it. "Good tea," he claimed. "But it's not a good thing no matter whom you collaborate with in the Underworld."
Jing Jiu said, "The tea was boiled by Gu Qing with the iron kettle. I also think it's pretty good."
The Young Zen Master asked after shooting a glance at Jing Jiu, "Since it's still many years away, why have you decided the heir of the sect master?"
The both of them had read a great many scripts in this meditation room from summer to autumn, and thought of many plans; and finally, they had found a way to mend the Formation of the Dispersed Smoke and Clouds.
As far as the Young Zen Master was concerned, Jing Jiu was only in the initial state of the Broken Sea, far from the upper state of the Heavenly Arrival, let alone ascending.
"After the death of that person, there will be no difference in whom the sect master will be," said Jing Jiu.
The Young Zen Master said, "If Taiping could die easily, he would have died six hundred years ago, or three hundred years ago, or even the year before last year."
Jing Jiu didn't pursue this topic further, as he said, "Keep an eye on the Bai family for me. Don't let her contact the Underworld, at least for a few days."
"It's simple enough," said the Young Zen Master.
Jing Jiu retorted, "But you're not her match."
The Young Zen Master had made a similar remark in front of the Immortal Guangyuan and Yue Qianmen at the Plum Meeting last spring. The remark was intended to humiliate the Center Sect, but it was in fact a reminder for the Green Mountain Sect.
Half a year had elapsed, and Jing Jiu finally could make the same remark to the Young Zen Master.
The Young Zen Master exclaimed with a sigh, "You have to remember this place is the Fruit Formation Temple!"
The detailed information about the death of the Twelfth Priest had eventually passed to the seashore of the East Ocean in the afternoon. By now the people there learned that it was the Immortal Guangyuan who had struck the devil man of the Underworld.
By dusk the latest news was that the Seventh Priest of the Underworld with two magic men, who were the experts in controlling minds with their soul fires, showed up in a place near Juye City.
The Seventh Priest and the two magic men were dead before the swordsmen of the Windy-Broadsword Church could take any action. It's worth mentioning that the Broadsword King was guarding White Town far away from the place.
The three were killed by the swordsmen of Green Mountain.
It was early hours at night, and the stars appeared in the sky. The evening drum had been struck, and the evening lesson for the monks was over. It was quiet at the Fruit Formation Temple at the moment. Walking amid the pagoda forest, one could vaguely hear the praying and soft weeping by the sides of the official road; it was unclear which family or families had dying patients.
The Cultivation practitioners had sensitive faculties. As a swordsman in the Yuanying State, Bai Zao could even hear the sound of waves many miles away if she strained to listen to it.
And yet, there was a turbulence in her sea of awareness at the moment, with countless voices screaming in her ears. So she had no interest in listening to the sound that was far away.
As she arrived at the Tranquil Garden, she entered it after being announced by Monk Dachang.
Gu Qing was cultivating in meditation while sitting in front of the stone pagoda. It seemed that he had nothing to worry about now.
Zhuo Rusui dozed off while propping himself against the stone pagoda. It seemed that he had had a satisfactory supper.
As she walked into the meditation room, Bai Zao smelled the faint aroma of tea and saw Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue sitting side by side. After she calmed her mind, she asked, "How many more?"
Jing Jiu didn't give a response; it was because he had no idea how many more of them Tong Yan could lure to the ground above. It wasn't until now that he could understand why those priests of the Underworld were so easy to be deceived and what the Seal of the Underworld Emperor meant for those in the Underworld.
Staring at Jing Jiu's eyes, Bai Zao demanded, "Is my Big Brother under there?"
Jing Jiu didn't answer her.
Zhao Layue opened her eyes, and the faint fog merged back into her body. "How much do you know?" Zhao Layue pressed while looking at Bai Zao's eyes.
"I've only learned a little bit recently," Bai Zao replied.
"Since you've learned something," said Zhao Layue, "you shouldn't come here and ask us. You should go ask your own mother."
This was a seemingly normal suggestion, but it was actually a rather shrewd one. So it was hard to refute.
Bai Zao left the Tranquil Garden and arrived in the pagoda forest, remaining there in silence for a long time.
It was windless that, and no sound of pine waves in the nearby pine forest could be heard; but the sound of pine waves in her ears grew louder and louder until it was interrupted by the footsteps.
They were three young women, Sese, Que Niang and Zheng Tao. They came here after inviting each other, and were on their way to visit Jing Jiu.
They were surprised to see Bai Zao here. And they resumed heading for the Tranquil Garden after exchanging some pleasantries with her while smiling faintly.
Though it was windless, Bai Zao felt it a bit chilly tonight.
The talented practitioners of the young generation were all her friends and peers either during the Cultivation tournament or during the Dao Competition.
They had promised while drinking wines by the lakeside to keep the world in peace.
However, by now…Luo Huainan and Tong Lu were dead; Tong Yan was missing; He Zhan became a monk; Su Ziye turned into a lonely soul; and Guo Nanshan and the disciples of Liangwang Peak were imprisoned on the mountains, unable to come out.
On the other hand, there were so many young people in the Tranquil Garden.
Bai Zao felt a bit lonely.
"Wait a minute."
She called after Zheng Tao, and inquired Zheng Tao with her eyes as to if that senior master was awake.
Zheng Tao shook her head, indicating that nobody knew when she would wake up.
No meeting had been called at the Fruit Formation Temple since. The Cultivation practitioners of various sects took the advantage of the opportunity to ask the highly achieved monks at the temple for some of their unresolved questions, and some of them exchanged ideas with their colleagues regarding the magic methods. Some others, like Sese and Zheng Tao, opted to walk about the temple. And yet nobody had left. It was because they all wished to find out the final outcome.
More news came from the north.
A formidable figure came up from the Underworld.
He then died.
Another one came up.
He died as well.
It was always the Green Mountain Sect that had struck them.
It was the early morning of the seventh day. The sunlight shone on the wild fields.
A huge sword boat of Green Mountain landed on the ground along with a desolate light.
The spots where the devil men of the Underworld showed up were mostly around the Cold Mountain.
For some reason, the various sects and the imperial court hadn't sent anyone over since the very beginning of the event. It was understandable that the Windy-Broadsword Church and the imperial court didn't take any action because they were fully aware that this was an event in which the Green Mountain Sect and the Center Sect were confronting each other in secret; so nobody wished to get involved in it. However, it was strange that even the Center Sect hadn't sent anyone over.
Seeing the distant sword boat of Green Mountain, an elder of the Windy-Broadsword Church commented sentimentally, "What on earth does the Green Mountain Sect want to achieve?"
A bloody battle broke out on the Cold Mountain on a previous night. A priest of the Underworld severely injured Chen Youtian
by employing the burning soul fire. As the Master of the Windy-Broadsword Church was about to help Chen Youtian, a few flying swords suddenly dropped down from the sky. The powerful sword wills slashed that priest and his subordinates into powder. The followers of the Windy-Broadsword Church, who had been paying a closed attention to this battle, realized by now that almost all of the strong swordsmen of the Green Mountain Sect had come, including Yuan Qijing and other five peak masters, and eight elders in the Broken Sea State…The strength of Green Mountain in this battle was not so much different from that in the battle of the West Ocean.
After a moment of silence, the Master of the Windy-Broadsword Church commented, "It's the safe way to do it; otherwise, Green Mountain can't afford to take responsibility if anything goes wrong."
Everybody knew that the action of the Underworld had something to do with the Green Mountain Sect, and many people even suspected that the Green Mountain Sect had colluded with a certain force in the Underworld. Due to the previous turmoil caused by the Immortal Taiping, it would arouse a great deal of suspicion and doubt even if the Green Mountain Sect let go of one swordsman of the Underworld and had one single mortal killed in this event.
As such, the Green Mountain Sect had to catch and kill all of those swordsmen of the Underworld like the eagles capturing rabbits, making sure nothing would go wrong.
The elder remarked while shaking his head, "This is too bizarre; how could the Green Mountain Sect explain it to others later?"
The Master of the Windy-Broadsword Church commented, "No matter how bizarre the matter is, nobody can say anything about it as long as Green Mountain has tried their best. It's not so easy to kill those devil men of the Underworld! Take the two combats we have witnessed as examples; do you think we can win if we won't invite the Broadsword King back to help us?"
A few days later, the chilly wind whipped up. The sword boat of Green Mountain took off along with the wind, heading southward.
An autumn wind also arose by the seashore of the East Ocean, blowing off some leaves. The Cultivation practitioners were gathered in the grand hall again.
The Center Sect withdrew their proposal they had concocted at the Plum Meeting of last spring.
Moreover, the quota that had belonged to the West Ocean Sword Sect was allocated to Green Mountain.
The Green Mountain Sect shared a half of the quota with the Great Marsh, the Hanging-Bell Sect, the Mirror Sect and other sects. Unexpectedly, the No-Mercy Sect, which had sealed off their mountains, had obtained a majority of the share.
No sect had any objection to the allocation, since it was Green Mountain's quota anyway, so Jing Jiu could do whatever he wanted with it.
Various sects bade each other farewell.
The group of the Center Sect was ready to leave.
It was then that the voice of Jing Jiu broke out.
"The Gathered-Soul Valley is a passage guarded by the Center Sect. Many devil men of the Underworld have come up; it's no good."
He continued saying to the group of the Center Sect, "Green Mountain can kill them all this time; but it's your responsibility. I hope there won't be another incident like this."
The Immortal Bai turned to Jing Jiu and pressed calmly, "Is Sect Master Jing accusing us of a wrongdoing?"
"Hmm," Jing Jiu uttered.
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