Ping Yongjia didn't stay at Scenery Garden for too long.
Though he got out of Green Mountain in the name of participating in the Plum Meeting, he still needed to take part in the meeting, and wasn't his Master's home in Zhaoge City? Thinking of all this, he left the patch of thick fog and came back to Cloudy Town, and he found a seemingly ordinary shop under the shocking and admiring gazes of the Cultivation practitioners.
When they were on Shenmo Peak, Gu Qing told Yuan Qü and Ping Yongjia many things, including the situation in the Cultivation circle, Shenmo Peak's enemies and friends, and some important information Ping Yongjia thought he should remember, so he knew this shop was owned by the Gu Clan and he could ask them to do things for him.
"I'm Ping Yongjia," he said while looking at the owner of the shop. "I don't know if you've heard of me."
He and Yuan Qü might not be able to remember all the things Gu Qing told them, but everybody in the Gu Clan had remembered everyone on Shenmo Peak in terms of their names, appearances, temperaments by hearts. The owner of the shop bowed to him reverentially and said, "Please command me, Immortal Master."
Ping Yongjia asked, "Do you know where my Big Brothers went to?"
Though the event at the Sword Trial on Green Mountain hadn't spread yet, the members of the Gu Clan had already learned it. The owner of the shop knew that this immortal master had stayed behind closed doors for many years and he had no idea what had happened. "We haven't received any news either; but Scenery Garden stopped asking for the hotpot about twenty days ago," he replied.
It meant that they had left more than twenty days ago. After some thought, Ping Yongjia said, "I want to go to Zhaoge City."
The owner of the shop was taken aback, as he thought that this immortal master could fly there easily…But he suddenly thought of Jing Jiu; then he came back to his senses and realized that this pair of master and disciple seemed to have the same weird habit.
He led Ping Yongjia into the courtyard behind the shop. Pointing to the horse-drawn carriage that looked still new though it hadn't been used for many years, he said to Ping Yongjia reverently, "This is the horse-drawn carriage the Immortal Sect Master liked the most."
Leaning against the window, looking at the sceneries outside the window and eating the fresh fruits, Ping Yongjia thought his Master really knew how to enjoy life.
The clouds outside the sky window suddenly grew dimmer.
He squinted and found that there was a huge shadow. "Has anything happened up ahead?" he asked.
The driver of the carriage answered reverently, "It's Zhaoge City up ahead."
Zhaoge City had been guarded tightly in recent days. The flying sedans were not allowed to land, hovering in the sky instead. Those entering and getting out of the city gates were checked meticulously.
However, the carriage of the Gu Clan was not checked. It passed the long waiting line and entered Zhaoge City easily. It was not because the power of the Gu Clan had already reached such a point, but because they had made some arrangements ahead of time. They had informed the department of Zhaoge City in charge of guarding the city gates of who was in the carriage.
A regular Green Mountain disciple of the third generation couldn't possibly receive such a treatment; but if he was the personal disciple of the Immortal Jing Yang, it was a totally different situation.
The horse-drawn carriage pulled in Zhaoge City. Without any delay, the carriage headed westward before it arrived in front of a cluster of mountains.
These mountains were connected one with another, extending afar; but they were still within the territory of Zhaoge City. One could easily imagine just how large the city was.
Ping Yongjia got off the carriage and nodded to the driver to thank him. Then he walked toward the inside of the mountains along a mountain path paved with green stones.
This mountain range, like Green Mountain and Cloud-Dream Mountain, was shrouded in the fog all year long; mortals had no way to see its true nature.
Soon Ping Yongjia was intercepted by the officials of the Pure Heaven Bureau, and led to the manor house behind the mountain.
The group leader of the Green Mountain Sect for this year's Plum Meeting was the peak master of Yunxing, Fu Wang. He was surprised when he saw Ping Yongjia, demanding, "What are you doing here?"
Ping Yongjia answered indignantly, "I'm here to participate in the Plum Meeting of course."
"What qualifications do you have to participate in the Plum Meeting?" Fu Wang pressed while arching his brows.
Ping Yongjia said, "It's because I beat Big Brother Jian Ruyun. I won…won."
They were not the echoes in the mountains when he said "won" two times; he did it on purpose to emphasize his point.
Fu Wang had a terrible look. Thinking of the decision before he left Green Mountain, he forced down his anger, waving his hand to signal for him to take a rest.
This Plum Meeting was mostly the same as all the other meetings; the tournaments were zither, chess, calligraphy, painting and Cultivation.
The Green Mountain Sect had done basically the same. Few of the disciples participated in the first four tournaments; they were merely observers of the events.
The Cultivation practitioners of various sects crowded the stone platforms that were as high as the clouds. The blossoming plum flowers looked like the stars in the sky decorating the scene.
The zither music was quite beautiful and the calligraphy and painting were also rather impressive; but they couldn't draw the slightest attention from Ping Yongjia. More than ten days later, when the Cultivation practitioners of various sects were gathered on the Chessboard Mountain and prepared for the chess tournament, he had finally found the person he was looking for.
Que Niang of the Mirror Sect hadn't participated in the chess tournament for many years, and this year was no exception; but she was invited by the imperial court this year as a referee for the tournament.
In an early morning, she was walking about casually amid the mountains. She checked those pavilions and the set-ups of those chessboards, making sure the games were fair for both sides.
The familiar scenes and objects reminded her of the amazing game played by her Teacher and Young Master Tong Yan when she participated in the Plum Meeting the first time; she couldn't help but let out a faint smile.
It was then that she heard a voice from the forest up ahead to her side, "This way! This way!"
She turned around and saw a strange young man standing behind a big tree, feeling a bit perplexed.
The young man jumped out from behind the tree, and said while waving his hand, "Big Sister, I'm Ping Yongjia."
Que Niang remembered him when she heard his name and his calling her "Big Sister". "You're Little Ping? How come you're here?" she asked with a changed expression.
Ping Yongjia said, "My Master and the others are all gone; so I came to Zhaoge City to find them."
Que Niang was surprised to hear this, and pressed, "Aren't Teacher and the others in Scenery Garden outside Cloudy Town?"
"There is no one in Scenery Garden right now," said Ping Yongjia.
Hearing this, Que Niang became anxious. She couldn't care less about the chess tournament, and led Ping Yongjia descending the Chessboard Mountain.
In Zhaoge City, they went to the Jing House and the Zhao Garden, but they had found nothing there, and neither did they find any clue.
Que Niang grew more anxious now. Yet, she didn't dare tell this to the masters of her sect. It was because Jing Jiu had a special status; it was hard to tell what kind of turmoil it would cause if this news was known by others.
"The Cultivation tournament will start soon. You go to White Town first, and take good care of yourself. Come back safely."
She continued while rubbing Ping Yongjia's head, "There are only two of us now. I'll take care of investigating the matter here. You shouldn't worry too much about it."
Ping Yongjia was moved and said, "Big Sister, I won't disappoint you."
The young Cultivation practitioners in the Cultivation tournament had all gone to White Town. In the icy and cold snowland, they would repeat what those of the previous generations had done. They might encounter dangers, and they might meet some fortunate occurrences; and they might recognize the ugly and benevolent aspects of human nature through these events. But first of all, they would understand the life and death in this tournament.
Under the roofed corridor at the immortal residence of the West Mountain dozens of paintings were placed, on which the bare plum branches were waiting to be added with the blood-red plum flowers.
Unexpectedly, this year's Cultivation tournament was over very soon; it was finished even sooner than the one in which Jing Jiu had participated.
Only three days after the Cultivation tournament had started the plum branches in a painting were filled with the red flowers.
The dense red plum flowers occupied the entire painting. Though they were a bit less than the flowers Jing Jiu had had back then, the painting could nonetheless rank second in the history of the Plum Meeting. So this person would win the first place in this year's Cultivation tournament.
Ping Yongjia was the author of this painting of bloody plum flowers.
A few days later, Ping Yongjia returned to the immortal residence of the West Mountain in Zhaoge City under countless shocked gazes.
It wasn't until then that his true identity was known to the others.
After learning that he was the personal disciple of Jing Jiu, their shocked response had turned to that of taking it for granted.
On the same night, Ping Yongjia and Que Niang met on the Chessboard Mountain.
Hearing the footsteps behind her, Que Niang pulled back her gaze from Zhaoge City and turned to look at Ping Yongjia; then she shook her head to express her regret.
Ping Yongjia exclaimed bafflingly, "Why did they leave Scenery Garden? Were they threatened? Where can they find a place in this world that is safer than Green Mountain?"
"Maybe we have thought too much into this matter," Que Niang tried to comfort him. "According to the carefree manner of my Teacher, he may lead them traveling around after coming up with a spontaneous idea."
Ping Yongjia said while shaking his head, "No, my Master is not a carefree person; he is just lazy. If nothing happened, they wouldn't have left the place."
Que Niang said, "If something happened, how can you find Teacher and the others? I think you should go back to Green Mountain first, waiting for them there. Teacher might go back there later himself."
Ping Yongjia thought there was nothing else he could do about it, nodding in agreement.
Que Niang said, "That painting of yours has been brought to the royal palace for the Emperor. Will you meet the Emperor tomorrow?"
He had heard from Big Brother Gu Qing that the painting of his Master's was kept in the royal palace. Learning that his painting was also going to be kept in the royal palace by the Emperor, Ping Yongjia felt thrilled, saying, "I'll thank the Emperor warmly."
Seeing him so excited, Que Niang reminded him, "You'd better be careful in the royal palace. Zhaoge City has been not peaceful lately."
The peace (aka. Taiping) was a forbidden word for the Green Mountain disciples.
Especially after Ping Yongjia had learned that his Master was the Immortal Jing Yang, he was even more sensitive to the word. "Rest assured, Big Sister," he said to Que Niang.
After the two of them parted, Que Niang didn't go back to the immortal residence for the Mirror Sect; instead, she went to Zhaoge City. She asked Ping Yongjia to go back to Green Mountain after the Plum Meeting was over because she was worried about his safety; but she had to investigate what had happened to her Teacher. Otherwise, she couldn't feel at ease.
She was to check the Jing House again. On her way to the house, when she was near Taichang Temple, she saw a short and chubby figure, but it disappeared into a patch of golden light in an instant.
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