Few people had witnessed Jing Jiu striking in person, since most of those witnesses had died. Nobody knew how brutal he was apart from Zhao Layue and a few others.
Yet, everybody was aware that Jing Jiu didn't talk much.
He had said two long sentences today, both accusing the Center Sect of their negligence.
An uproar occurred in the grand hall, and then died down; the grand hall was as quiet as a graveyard.
Even if Jing Jiu was the sect master of Green Mountain, he shouldn't talk to the Immortal Bai like he was lecturing someone junior to him, because she was none other than the Immortal Bai! Moreover, the Center Sect had come with the intention of humiliating the Green Mountain Sect, but they ended up leaving in silence without achieving any of their goals. It was a great humiliation for them already; what did the triumphant Green Mountain Sect intend to do now?
What Jing Jiu said was simple enough; he intended to warn the other party.
Judging from today's result, the Green Mountain Sect had gained a great deal of benefits. The rules of the Plum Meeting had been upheld; the quota belonging to the West Ocean had been re-allocated to Green Mountain. And the "hand" of the Center Sect that had extended to the Underworld had been wounded, meaning it would be difficult for the Center Sect to keep on acquiring the resources from the underground. Yet, nobody was aware of how many risks the Green Mountain Sect had to take for this outcome.
It wasn't until now that Jing Jiu was unsure if Tong Yan could return above ground safely.
The Green Mountain Sect had paid a steep price for killing those priests and swordsmen of the Underworld by using a great deal of crystals and magic pills, and most importantly, the precious time for cultivating.
All this was forced upon Green Mountain by the Center Sect.
When Jing Jiu told the Immortal Bai not to let it happen again, he intended to give her a warning that the Center Sect shouldn't try and challenge the status of the Green Mountain Sect in Chaotian again, though it seemed that he referred to the passage of the Gathered-Soul Valley and the invasion of the Underworld. He implied that the counterattack of the Green Mountain Sect would be far more brutal and straightforward next time.
The atmosphere grew exceedingly tense in the grand hall.
The layer of cloud and fog shrouding the Immortal Bai was flowing and rotating slowly.
Time seemed to pause at this very moment.
It was the same as the surface of the ocean in a windless day turning into a mirror.
No one could tell what would happen next.
If the Immortal Bai struck, this grand hall would turn into ruins, and so would the Fruit Formation Temple.
Countless huge and violent waves would form on the surface of the East Ocean ten miles away; and those people weeping and praying by the sides of the official road would die.
Afterwards, an all-out war would ensue in the Cultivation circle; all of the gorgeous things, like the small bridges and the water flowing underneath, and the high-rising buildings, would be destroyed.
Then, Chaotian would return to a thousand years ago, and the human race would be on the brink of destruction.
None of this could be allowed to happen.
Bu Qiuxiao took two steps forward.
The feet of the Young Zen Master had landed on the ground undetected.
Ada hid in Zhao Layue's sleeve.
The Great Formation of the Fruit Formation Temple was ready to be activated at any moment.
What happened next was unexpected by everyone.
Unexpectedly, the Immortal Bai said to Jing Jiu calmly, "I've learned my lesson."
Having said that, she led the group of the Center Sect from the Fruit Formation Temple and headed to the north on the Cloud Boat.
Seeing the huge boat disappearing into the horizon, the people in the temple were dealing with complicated emotions. They felt lucky that they survived a potential disaster; but more than anything else, they felt puzzled.
It was evidently not the style of Cloud-Dream Mountain.
After the departure of the Immortal Liu Ci, the Center Sect had been acting tough either in the imperial court or in the Cultivation circle. This Plum Meeting at the Fruit Formation Temple was the result of their effort.
However, the Cloud Boat had left, and the Immortal Bai had done nothing, and even said that she had learned the lesson.
A scholar of the One-Cottage House commented while shaking his head, "Who could have thought that such a significant meeting would end so effortlessly?!"
"If you knew how brutally the Green Mountain Sect had struck on the Cold Mountain," said Xi Yiyun, shaking his head, "you would think differently."
"You're right. The confrontation between the Green Mountain Sect and the Center Sect is not at the Fruit Formation Temple, but on the Cold Mountain, and probably even in the Underworld."
Bu Qiuxiao put the Dragon-Tail Inkstone back in his sleeve and walked toward the opposite side, while waving his hand to signal for Xi Yiyun, Liu Shisui and other disciples not to follow him.
The Green Mountain Sect was on the other side.
Zhao Layue and others were aware that Bu Qiuxiao needed to talk to Jing Jiu; so they left the site.
Looking at the young and perfect face and recalling the conversation he had with Jing Jiu in Zhaoge City that year, Bu Qiuxiao couldn't help but feel sentimental.
He used to be the youngest sect master among the major orthodox Cultivation sects; but he was still much older than Jing Jiu when he became the house master of the One-Cottage.
"I haven't congratulated you on becoming the sect master of Green Mountain," said Bu Qiuxiao.
Jing Jiu answered, "It's not much of a joyful thing."
The Cultivation practitioners sought for peaceful mind and desireless state, and they also had to follow a path that was against the rules of nature. No matter what, what a Cultivation practitioner desired had nothing to do with power and status.
His answer was sensible for the Cultivation practitioners, but how many Cultivation practitioners could actually think and act this way?
Bu Qiuxiao sensed that his answer was genuine and was his true thought. He was more convinced that Jing Jiu was someone extraordinary. "I heard that Liu Shisui had made a chair for you," he said.
"He had seen me do it before," said Jing Jiu.
Bu Qiuxiao suddenly changed the topic and asked, "From whom has the Green Mountain Sect learned regarding this action?"
Jing Jiu knew what he meant without further elaboration.
Anyone could tell that the Green Mountain Sect must have some contact with the Underworld since they could kill so many devil men of the Underworld at a time.
"I hope that your helpers in the Underworld are not the remaining supporters of Taiping."
Bu Qiuxiao continued, "If that were the case, I would consider the conversation we had in Zhaoge City as having never happened."
His meaning was clear enough.
If the Green Mountain Sect couldn't get rid of Taiping's influence, Bu Qiuxiao wouldn't care about Jing Jiu's threat anymore, and would fight against the Green Mountain Sect even if his reputation were ruined.
Because Jing Jiu had a high opinion of Bu Qiuxiao, he was willing to offer him an explanation. "I've sent a disciple of Green Mountain to the Underworld in advance," he told Bu Qiuxiao.
Bu Qiuxiao didn't expect to get such an answer, feeling a bit startled. He couldn't help but feel appreciative about the young disciple of Green Mountain entering the Underworld. "I hope he would come back safely," he said.
The Grand Priest had a mishap in Cultivation, so he had to stay in the Underworld River bathing himself all the time. His followers were carrying out their actions without a leader. As Jing Jiu predicted, these priests were worshiped and offered gifts by the populace every day, living a lavish corrupted life. They couldn't think it through when being tempted by the Seal of the Underworld Emperor, and were lured by the Underworld Master into Tong Yan's scheme.
No matter how slow-witted those priests were, they had finally realized that it was a scheme plotted by the humans after the occurrences of so many mishaps. They felt immensely shocked and furious.
The golden leaves on the thatched hut made it appear more beautiful in this black and white world, as though it were a dream or illusion. In contrast, the huge tree of inky color by the cliff had a different beauty to it.
Standing under the tree and watching the on-going and atrocious battle between the armies of the two sides, Tong Yan suddenly asked, "The Underworld has been sending the resources to Cloud-Dream Mountain for the last six hundred years, and the passage must be very stable. I'm wondering why those priests didn't opt to go up through that passage."
The Underworld Master drifted to a spot at the same level as Tong Yan, and said, "That passage is under the control of the Grand Priest, and Cloud-Dream Mountain forbids anyone to use it. You should be able to understand the reason."
The formation that could transport the resources for Cultivation was probably unable to transport the life forms; more importantly, the Center Sect couldn't afford to let others know that they had been gaining benefits from the Underworld. At least they couldn't allow others to find any evidence regarding this matter. Otherwise, how could they explain themselves since they enjoyed a very high status among the populace as leaders and protectors of the world?
"Since this passage has been used for six hundred years," said Tong Yan, "one would think it's hard to conceal it from others. But strangely enough, I hadn't detected any trace of it when I was in the Great Formation of Cloud-Dream Mountain."
Speaking of which, Tong Yan, the former talented disciple of the Center Sect, probably knew about the Great Formation of Cloud-Dream Mountain better than anybody else, save for the immortals Tan and Bai and the Unicorn.
And he had dug the tunnels under Cloud-Dream Mountain for many years.
The semitransparent face of the Underworld Master let out an eerie smile, as he said, "That passage is very secretive. I haven't found it out yet; so you don't have to test me."
"I'm just curious; that's all," said Tong Yan.
The Underworld Master suddenly extended his hand to the grayish air, and said a moment later, "This is it."
Tong Yan couldn't see what was in the Underworld Master's hand, but he could sense a strong danger, saying, "I'll bid my farewell then."
Pointing to the battlefield in the distance, the Underworld Master said, "If you choose to leave at this moment, I can't promise to take you to the bottom of the well alive."
Tong Yan knew that what the Underworld Master said was somewhat true, though it was slightly exaggerated.
The priests were in a frenzied state as a group after they discovered that they had been deceived.
The capital of the Underworld was besieged by the priests and their fanatic army. The combats were even engaged in in the sky.
Those frenzied and fearless soldiers of the Underworld and the priests with red and furious eyes fought exclusively for Tong Yan's death this time rather than for the position of the emperor.
"It's impossible to break through the capital. You will be able to stay alive if you choose to stay here," the Underworld Master said while looking at Tong Yan's eyes. "It's a bit absurd, but I still have to say that I can see a trace of my Master on you. I believe that I will be able to settle the situation here with your help."
It would be easy for Tong Yan to get used to the black and white Underworld; however, he would grow weaker as his zhenyuan kept on leaking out and eventually die because there was no spiritual energy of heaven and earth here. "I have no intention of becoming a pale and feeble military advisor in a wheelchair or on a stretcher," he said.
The Underworld Master said with a small smile, "You can easily survive a few years here, and I can play chess with you."
"What do you want me to help you with?" asked Tong Yan.
The Underworld Master replied, "First of all, I'd like to find out, with your help, who Jing Jiu actually is."
"But I don't understand what you mean," said Tong Yan.
The Underworld Master said, "I had thought it's impossible for him to be that person; but I'm inclined to think otherwise now."
After a moment of silence, Tong Yan pressed, "What do you intend to tell me?"
"If he were that person, I would no longer dare cooperate with him out of fear."
The semitransparent face of the Underworld Master emitted countless glows, eerie but immensely solemn. He looked like a godly statue with the peeled paint.
The waves of the East Ocean sounded like the thunders when listening to them in a close distance. It had something to do with the hard and pointed rocks by the seashore. The rocks on the cliff walls of the Heavenly Well had the same material; they were extremely hard and slippery because of the moss on top of the rocks. And there were innumerable amulet scripts and formations attached to the walls of the well over the years. Save for some special life forms living under the ground, nobody could climb up the well.
Cold Cicada turned its body around on Jing Jiu palm, and then disappeared as it went to somewhere else.
The ocean wind in the late autumn was a bit chilly. It was unclear if it was for this reason or something else that the Young Zen Master kept on scratching his smooth and bald head, his handsome eyes full of worry and anxiety.
"It turns out that you have colluded with the Underworld."
"Say it again with different words."
"You have cooperated with the Underworld."
Jing Jiu headed toward the seashore, ignoring him.
Following closely behind Jing Jiu and stepping on the pointed rocks with his bare feet, it seemed that the Young Zen Master couldn't feel any pain. "Is it the Underworld Master? It must be the Underworld Master!" he bellowed out.
Jing Jiu halted his steps, and scolded expressionlessly in an ironic tone, "Can you yell a bit louder?"
"Of course I can. I learned how to howl like a mountain devil from my adopted father at a young age."
The Young Zen Master went on matter-of-factly, "But what are you afraid of? You know this matter has to be concealed from others, but why did you still do it?"
Jing Jiu remarked, "It's so troublesome."
Thinking that he had to explain to Yuan Qijing after he returned to Green Mountain, Jing Jiu felt a headache already.
Staring at Jing Jiu's eyes, the Young Zen Master said, "Since the Underworld Master is Taiping's disciple, you and your Big Brother have duped the Center Sect again this time."
"The opportunity was there; it would be a pity not to seize upon it," said Jing Jiu.
It was a forced situation, but the situation was truly advantageous for Green Mountain.
It was the same as kicking one's opponent from a favorable position.
"Don't forget," said the Young Zen Master. "I was killed by your Big Brother."
"It happened in your former life," Jing Jiu protested.
The Young Zen Master said, "Your Brother, the late emperor, was also killed by him."
"That's why I want to kill him," said Jing Jiu.
After a pause, the Young Zen Master said, "As a matter of fact, the both of you are not as good as Liu Ci; he looked mild, but he knew what ideal he should hold onto. Well, Yuan Qijing is actually even better than you two."
"But we are still alive," said Jing Jiu.
This was the very reason why he couldn't forgive Liu Ci.
The Young Zen Master had figure out the meaning in his words, and said nothing more.
A few gusts of gentle wind occurred as the sunlight shone on the East Ocean.
The waves formed on the surface of the ocean as the wind blew over it; the waves clashed onto the rocks, turning into the tiny snowy foams.
The sentiment of the onlookers, as they looked at the scene, depended on the mood they were in at the moment.
The sea water was more brittle than glass.
Thinking of Liu Ci who had turned into the "spring rain", such beautiful scenery made the onlookers feel even more troubled and become angrier.
Jing Jiu and the Young Zen Master stood by the edge of the cliff, as the sprays underneath extended to distance.
"What are you going to do next?"
"I'd like to try it again."
Jing Jiu had listened to the scripts at the Fruit Formation Temple, wielded sword at the West Ocean, and traveled the world with the First Child Sword.
He had lured out the Immortal Taiping and tried to kill him three times. He had almost succeeded in first two attempts, but the last attempt was a total failure.
If the lotus flower indicated the reincarnation, the Immortal Taiping should be in his weakest condition. So Jing Jiu was inclined to try it one more time.
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