The weather was getting colder and the fog was becoming thicker. The snowfalls occurred once in a while, and more people were gathered outside of the manor house.
More and more Cultivation practitioners arrived in Cloudy Town. They either knelt down on the ground outside the fog, knocking their heads on the ground in an attempt to become the personal disciples of the Immortal Jing Yang, or stood in the distance while looking at the patch of fog expressionlessly, occasionally showing a hint of greed in the deep ends of their eyes. And some of them cursed loudly toward the patch of fog, claiming that they wanted to avenge the Immortal Jing Yang and dispose of the sword devil; but none of them dared get close to the manor house. These sorts of ridiculous and comic shows were being staged on the outskirts of Cloudy Town day in and day out, and were repeated daily.
The Green Mountain Sect seemed to know nothing about what was going on in Cloudy Town; or, they paid no attention to it.
As time elapsed, those Cultivation practitioners had learned the attitude of the Green Mountain Sect, so they were not concerned about their behaviors any longer and walked about in Cloudy Town carelessly. They behaved in a noisy way, and the locals were harassed by them sometimes. The situation hadn't improved until one day when something happened.
A practitioner from the Heavenly Sect considered himself extraordinarily talented and the future of the orthodox Cultivation sects. He often shouted vulgar words outside the fog, such as "devil man", "Strike me to death with a bolt of lightning!", and so forth. The patch of fog was as quiet as ever because nobody paid any attention to him. One day, he grew bolder and charged into a restaurant in Cloudy Town.
After this arrogant practitioner drank a few jars of wine in this restaurant, he was ready to do something even more outrageous.
It was then that a blood-red lightning struck down from the sky as the dark clouds in the sky rolled up and down. The fog on the streets suddenly dispersed.
The bolt of blood-red lightning passed through the roof of the restaurant and landed squarely on that arrogant practitioner of the Heavenly Sect in the private room.
The practitioner of the Heavenly Sect had been shattered to pieces before he could respond to the attack.
As a matter of fact, he wasn't shattered into tiny pieces, but rather a dozen burned meat pulps.
The meat pulps were cut very smoothly, with no blood seeping out. It was evident that they were sliced by a flying sword.
This blood-red flying sword was quite famous in the Cultivation circle.
Its name was the Thoughtless Sword because it would have no regret even if it died nine times.
It was the personal sword of the Immortal Jing Yang, and now it was the sword of Zhao Layue, the peak master of Shenmo at the Green Mountain Sect.
It was obvious that that arrogant practitioner couldn't do anything outrageous anymore. And the rest of the Cultivation practitioners in Cloudy Town had no choice but to restrain their behaviors from now on. Those who thought they were extraordinarily talented remained reticent, and those who had been praying toward the manor house became even more feverish; and those practitioners who had yelled "kill the devil man" left the town unnoticed.
Cloudy Town had its peace back. The locals could carry on their normal lives again; the stores selling steamed and sticky buns reopened their doors to the customers, and the store owners even dared talk to the Cultivation practitioners.
That restaurant had reopened its doors as well. The appealing flavor of the hotpots reached afar along with the flowing fog, drawing in many Cultivation practitioners who had nothing else to do. However, the private room on the second floor had never been opened to any Cultivation practitioner, no matter how much they were willing to pay for the room. As for intimidation from these practitioners…well, nobody forgot that that arrogant practitioner from the Heavenly Sect was shattered to pieces by that bolt of blood-red lightning in this very restaurant.
"Why hasn't anybody heard of that sword? Isn't the principal sword of Green Mountain the Inherited Heaven Sword?"
"Many people had learned since the battle of the West Ocean that the Inherited Heaven wasn't a sword but a sheath. It is said that the sheath is used to hold the All in One Sword."
"Is the All in One Sword a heavenly treasure?"
"Of course it is! If it weren't a true spirit of the heavenly treasure, how could it snatch the spiritual soul of the Immortal Jing Yang and be reborn as a human?"
"You should be careful about what you're saying, dear Cultivationist. It's not that the All in One Sword has possessed the spiritual soul of the Immortal Jing Yang, but the other way around; the Immortal has employed a great magic to be reborn as a sword body."
Some of the Cultivation practitioners in the restaurant had come to the town since the very beginning of the event, and some came here recently; but their discussions and debates would always end up in an argument. The same occurrence repeated itself over and over again.
The current Cultivation circle thought that Jing Jiu was mostly that sword devil; it was because there was so much evidence to back up such a claim, and he failed to present the Inherited Heaven Sword to exonerate himself. However, most of the Cultivation practitioners who came to Cloudy Town believed that the person in the fog was the reborn Immortal Jing Yang; in other words, they hoped Jing Jiu was the Immortal Jing Yang.
The statements the Immortal Taiping made through the Drifter had basically substantiated who Jing Jiu was.
As for who had the highest Cultivation state in the Cultivation circle, it was also apparent.
The Immortal Jing Yang was the number one in Chaotian for a thousand years.
He was still the number one for a thousand years even though he had failed in his attempt of ascension.
It had the conclusion of the Cultivation circle over the last few hundred years.
The fake manor cave of the Immortal Jing Yang had drawn so many venturous practitioners back then; who wouldn't want to take a look since the person in that patch of fog might be the real Immortal Jing Yang? Though they had no chance of meeting the person except for looking at the patch of fog, they had a possibility of being seen by the person in the fog. It was a considerable fortune to simply breathe the similar energy of heaven and earth, as they were within a close distance from that person.
Nothing could prevent them from aspiring to reach the path toward heaven.
The Immortal Jing Yang was the path.
"My dear Cultivationists, please enjoy your meal. I have to go back to Scenery Garden now."
A monk from the Dongyi Daoist Temple set down the chopsticks, pressed his palms together at the Cultivation practitioners in the restaurant, and walked out of the restaurant.
Many days had passed since the Grand Ceremony of Green Mountain. The Green Mountain Sect didn't pay any attention to these Cultivation practitioners in Cloudy Town. These practitioners hadn't detected any commotion in the fog, and had no intention of leaving the town either. This monk from the Dongyi Daoist Temple had been waiting outside the patch of fog all day long except when he ate his meals; he demonstrated a great deal of patience.
There were many practitioners like this monk in town; they probably thought that the Immortal Jing Yang was testing their willpower.
Looking at the back of the monk heading toward the outskirts of the town, a middle-aged man dressed like a scholar remarked in a slightly mocking tone, "He has come here every day to eat meat and drink wine…I heard that they are not forbidden to get married. I have no idea how the masters of the Fruit Formation Temple can tolerate these deviant monks; they should expel this kind of monks out of the Zen sects as soon as possible."
The rest of the practitioners let out a smile without responding to his remark. Some of them stood up and went after that monk.
The middle-aged man was bewildered at first, and then let loose a wry smile, saying, "Okay, okay! It'll probably work if we are reverent enough. I'll wait for another hundred days."
Having said this, he put down a large golden leaf before he strode out of the restaurant.
The rest of the Cultivation practitioners eyed each other, smiling, afterward telling each other to go there together after laying down the golden leaves on the tables. They all left the restaurant.
The manager of the restaurant came out from behind the front counter and picked up the golden leaves from the tables. After putting the leaves into a pouch casually, he brought the pot to the last table and added more boiled water to the white soup for them. The manager returned to behind the front counter after exchanging some pleasantries with the customers, his expression composed and nonchalant. He didn't show any excitement even though the money he received today was worth the annual income of a large restaurant in Zhaoge City.
"This manager looks ordinary, but he is evidently not. Looks like this restaurant is not an ordinary place."
The two customers sitting at the last table were a master and their disciple. The older one had a collected expression in his eyes, an elder of the Mysterious Heaven Sect, Zhou Yunmu; the younger one was the current sect master of the Mysterious Heaven Sect, Lu Jin.
"I've heard of a rumor that Senior Master Zhao Layue likes eating hotpot," said Lu Jin. "And I've also learned of the name of that place. It's said that there is a large courtyard in that patch of fog; so people think it should be a second manor house and garden for the Immortal Jing Yang, and call it Scenery Garden."
Looking at the street outside the restaurant, Zhou Yunmu said, "This Master of yours entered the Yuanying State accidently, and as a result has seen many more sceneries…But, your talent is similar to mine and your temperament is much better than mine; so I don't want to see you stagnate in the current state; the Yuanying State is not enough for you. Since there is an opportunity, I hope you will take it."
"I fought at the Plum Meeting with Jing Jiu--oh, I mean…the Senior Master--shoulder to shoulder; but I was mostly protected by him the entire time. And it was something that had happened thirty two years ago."
Lu Jin was the most favored disciple of the Mysterious Heaven Sect at that time, and earned the right to participate in the Cultivation tournament of the Plum Meeting after a great deal of hardship. He was assigned to the same group as Jing Jiu.
After that, Jing Jiu became the brightest star among the Cultivation practitioners of young generation, and later became the Immortal Sect Master of Green Mountain!
He would occasionally recall the past event, feeling sentimental about it.
As for whether he should visit Jing Jiu, he had never even dreamed of the idea.
The Green Mountain Sect was like a huge animal in comparison to the ant-like existence of the Mysterious Heaven Sect; the difference between the two sects was simply too big for them to meet.
Unexpectedly, a new development occurred; Jing Jiu turned out to be the reborn Immortal Jing Yang!
No matter whether he was the Immortal Jing Yang or the sword devil, he was now expelled from Green Mountain. Even though the possibility was slim, Jing Jiu was nevertheless closer to the human world now; as such, he might give the matter of visiting Jing Jiu some serious consideration.
The so-called Scenery Garden couldn't be seen from outside since it was shrouded in the thick fog; it was only something existing in people's imagination. The mountain stream was flowing down the slopes. The Cultivation practitioners could be spotted everywhere among the flowering trees on the ground, meditating with their eyes closed. And some of them were practicing the magic methods and sword work; it was as noisy and exciting as in a market.
Seeing this scene, Zhou Yunmu and Lu Jin were astonished, wondering what was going on here.
"The Flowing Water and Three Flower Sect is the accessory section of the No-Mercy Sect. So their sword work is not too bad, and this young man is rather talented. But, does he think he will be taken on by the Immortal Jing Yang simply by doing this? What is he thinking?"
The middle-aged scholar who had been in the restaurant earlier remarked in a mocking tone while looking at the young Cultivation practitioner practicing the sword work in front of the fog, "Making the sword flying back and forth like that, is he performing an acrobatic show?"
Hearing such a sarcastic remark, Lu Jin said with a smile, "All these people here have something to desire. You, my dear Cultivationist, shouldn't make fun of them."
The middle-aged scholar sneered, "I don't want to obtain some sort of secret sword method, and I'm even less interested in being taken on as a disciple by Immortal. I've come here because someone in my family is sick, and the Fruit Formation Temple can't treat her."
A family member was sick; this seemed to be an understandable reason for coming here. In actuality, it was not so simple; otherwise, why didn't he go to the Fruit Formation Temple instead of coming here to wait?
Lu Jin felt some sympathy about his situation, as he thought the illness must be very tricky since the Fruit Formation Temple couldn't even treat it. But, why did he come here to seek the treatment from the Immortal Jing Yang?
Zhou Yunmu said, "The Immortal Jing Yang is the half-master of the Young Zen Master; and there is a saying 'One might know all the methods if they know one of them'. There is a possibility that Immortal has a solution for the illness."
The middle-aged scholar changed his expression slightly, saying, "You've shown an extraordinary knowledge."
"I'm Lu Jin of the Mysterious Heaven Sect. But I don't know your name yet," said Lu Jin.
The middle-aged scholar exclaimed excitedly, "You're the sect master of the Mysterious Heaven Sect? And this is the Senior Master Zhou Yunmu?"
Hearing this, the Cultivation practitioners in the surroundings gazed in this direction, and later came over to greet them.
Though the Mysterious Heaven Sect was a small sect in the Cultivation circle, they had produced two outstanding sect masters, Zhou Yunmu and Lu Jin, in the last few decades. And moreover, Zhou Yunmu had become a swordsman in the Yuanying State a few years ago. As such, he was a rarely seen swordsman with a high state among the regular small sects and the free-traveling practitioners.
Why did they come to Cloudy Town?
As the Cultivation practitioners were thinking of this question, a surprised cry suddenly broke out.
"The gate is open…The gate of Scenery Garden is opening!"
The thick fog had never dispersed, and Scenery Garden had never shown its true appearance, let alone open its gate.
These Cultivation practitioners had waited here for many days, and they had finally succeeded. They were too excited to react to the event immediately; instead, they were still standing on the same spots, not knowing what to do.
A moment later, they came back to their senses, their bodies trembling uncontrollably. Yet, they didn't dare take a step forward, besides standing on the original spots.
Yuan Qü walked out from the courtyard, and asked while looking at the crowd, "Where are the Cultivationists from the Mysterious Heaven Sect?"
Countless gazes fell on Zhou Yunmu and Lu Jin.
The two of them felt astonished, wondering what was going on. Yet, they didn't dare delay for a moment, and came to the front of the courtyard hastily, bowing to Yuan Qü and identifying themselves.
Yuan Qü extended his right hand, signaling for them to follow him into the courtyard.
An uproar broke out among the rest of the Cultivation practitioners, thinking that they were not so different from these two even though Zhou Yunmu was a rarely seen swordsman in the Yuanying State from a small sect.
Some of them made a few steps forward, attempting to say something to Yuan Qü.
Yuan Qü didn't say or do anything, save for looking at the crowd casually.
Though he was insignificant on Shenmo Peak, the expression in his eyes displayed a stare as cold as the snow, almost matching that of his great granduncle.
The crowd was intimidated considerably, not daring to take another step forward.
"Sect Master Lu!"
A hasty yell in a trembling voice burst out in the crowd.
The middle-aged scholar took a few steps forward and dropped his knees on ground with a thud, raising his hands over his head holding a nicely bound booklet.
The winter wind ruffled the booklet, exposing the old and new inky words in it.
This was neither a booklet on some sort of magic method nor a precious book about the magic treasures; it was a booklet recording the medical cases and medicinal prescriptions...
He didn't expect Lu Jin to bring him to Scenery Garden today; all he hoped for was to win a chance for his family member to survive the illness.
Lu Jin was well aware that this was a very fortunate opportunity for him; if he did something extra to displease the immortal masters of Green Mountain, he might miss a great opportunity.
Yet, like his Master Zhou Yunmu had said, he truly had an extraordinary temperament. He bowed to Yuan Qü without a second thought.
Yuan Qü nodded in agreement.
Lu Jin turned to enter Scenery Garden after taking the booklet of the medical cases from the middle-aged scholar.
Seeing the gate being closed again, the middle-aged scholar moved his lips slightly without uttering a word, his face pale; it was unclear whether he was at the moment nervous or expectant.
It didn't take long before the gate was opened again. Zhou Yunmu and Lu Jin walked out from the courtyard.
The thick fog enshrouded the mountain and fields again, and Scenery Garden disappeared from the sights of the crowd.
All the Cultivation practitioners approached the pair of master and disciple, mentioning their past encounters, asking about the situation inside, and trying to find out what they had gained.
Zhou Yunmu and Lu Jin didn't reveal anything. They came before the middle-aged scholar without pausing.
Lu Jin handed the booklet to him and said while shaking his head, "Sorry, but the Immortal can do nothing about it either."
Hearing the news, the middle-aged scholar reacted as though he had been struck by a bolt of lightning and wobbled a few times; he almost fell down, his face turning paler.
"Sorry, dear Cultivationist," said Lu Jin while looking at him sympathetically.
The middle-aged scholar took the booklet of the medical cases with his trembling hands. He tried to tear it apart, the joints of his fingers turning white as he pulled hard on the booklet.
But, he didn't tear the booklet to shreds in the end; it was unclear whether he was too weak to do it due to his despair or he thought the booklet was too precious to be destroyed.
A moment later, he calmed down and placed the booklet back into a pouch on his chest before he bowed to Zhou Yunmu and Lu Jin earnestly to express his gratitude.
Next, he bowed toward Scenery Garden that was shrouded in the thick fog.
Then, he turned to walk toward the outside of the mountain.
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