Tong Yan said, "He is Jin Mingcheng, a Cultivation practitioner in the royal palace."
Que Niang continued, "I was suppressed by him and then brought here…Well, where is this place? Why are you here? Where is my Teacher?"
Zhao Layue and Gu Qing exchanged a look, knowing that they had guessed it right.
Tong Yan said to Que Niang, "You tell us first about the situation in Zhaoge City."
Que Niang had calmed down now, and felt everything was kind of odd, saying, "Zhaoge City looks normal on the outside, but there is a hidden 'current' flowing intensely. It seems that something significant will happen there soon."
Tong Yan turned to Zhao Layue and said, "looks like your judgment is right; the Emperor is going to depart."
"Whom will the Center Sect send?" Zhao Layue asked after a moment of silence.
She didn't intend to ask about their famous elders like the Immortals Tan and Bai and Yue Qianmen; she wanted to know about those strong swordsmen hidden at the back of Cloud-Dream Mountain.
"Those old men are unlikely to strike."
Tong Yan dropped his line of sight for a moment before continuing, "Except a very vicious man called Kou Qintong; I hope he won't appear in Zhaoge City."
Yuan Qü said, "Even if the Center Sect is going to procure the throne of emperor, the Sect Master didn't have to be so cautious and locked us up."
Tong Yan said, "It's because he is well aware that the Center Sect won't employ any scheme this time and they will fight face to face against the Green Mountain Sect. The situation will be very perilous."
Yuan Qü felt unconvinced, as he pressed, "How do you know that the Green Mountain Sect is no match for the Center Sect? Which side are you on?"
"I was almost certain that the Green Mountain Sect would lose before I had learned this news," said Tong Yan.
It was quiet in the manor cave, because the group knew that what he said was true.
If the Green Mountain Sect fought face to face against the Center Sect, the strength of their swordsmen in the highest state was indeed inferior to the Center Sect.
After the departure of the Immortal Liu Ci, this vacuum hadn't been filled yet.
Yet, it was evident that there was an addendum to Tong Yan's statement.
"However, it seems that the Immortal Taiping is not dead yet."
Tong Yan pushed the Go pieces on the board aside before saying, "Now that I know he is the Immortal Jing Yang, the outcome is hard to predict."
Que Niang walked to the opposite side of the table, picked up a black Go piece and placed it on the board solemnly even though it looked like she did it casually.
In the royal palace of Zhaoge City, Ping Yongjia was taking a leisurely walk with Jing Jiu.
He had seldom been so intimate with his Master, nor had he stayed for so long with him. Especially when he saw the tear marks on the white cloth his Master wore, he became more nervous. As such, he often walked in synch with the movements of Jing Jiu's arms and legs.
After they passed through a patch of flowering trees and a few ponds, they arrived in a tranquil palace hall. Jing Jiu pulled up the lapel of his white cloth and sat down in a chair.
Noticing the permission in Jing Jiu's eyes, Ping Yongjia dared sit down in a solemn manner even though it looked like he did it casually.
The people on Shenmo Peak all respected Jing Jiu a great deal; but as far as being intimate with Jing Jiu was concerned, Ping Yongjia was more so than anybody else, save for Zhao Layue, of course, though he had less contact with Jing Jiu.
He was merely a regular disciple at the Sword-Washing Hall back then; he wouldn't have had an achievement if he weren't selected by Jing Jiu himself.
It was for this reason that he was very grateful to Jing Jiu.
"The Plum Meeting is over. You should go back to Green Mountain after sitting here for a while," said Jing Jiu.
Ping Yongjia had spent so much time and effort finding his Master, so he wasn't willing to leave him, and he also realized that his Master must have something important to take care of by hiding in the royal palace. There was no way he, as his personal disciple, would go back to Green Mountain alone.
Hearing what Jing Jiu said, he shook his head as quickly as the limbs of Cold Cicada.
Jing Jiu demanded after shooting him a glance, "Your big brothers have all left; what are you going to do by staying behind?"
Ping Yongjia said, "It's impossible for big brothers to leave you; there must be a reason for that."
"Don't go if you're not willing to go," said Jing Jiu.
It was a troublesome matter to dissuade these children; otherwise, he wouldn't have brought Zhao Layue and the others to the hermit peaks by deceiving them.
Yet, he hadn't predicted that Ping Yongjia would wake up on the Sword Peak, take the magic pills in the vial, participate in the Sword Trial, and come to Zhaoge City.
Everything in the world operates according to its own rules. Given that Ping Yongjia woke up and came to the royal palace, there must be some kind of meaning to it.
Ping Yongjia was glad because his Master agreed to let him stay; but he didn't expect to hear the following.
"Some trivial matters will happen a few days down the road. If I ask you to run, you must run back to Green Mountain and tell Tong Yan what you have seen. He will arrange things afterwards."
Hearing this, Ping Yongjia felt a sensation of extreme anxiety and uneasiness.
Before he could say anything, a voice drifted over from the back of the hall.
"What about me, Teacher?"
Along with the voice, a little girl glided over.
The little girl wore a bright blue cloth, her eyes and brows as pretty as those models in the paintings; the band of her black hair in front of her forehead looked like a leaf, and there was a pigtail on her head. She looked very adorable if the onlookers could ignore her feet that were one yard away from the ground.
Ping Yongjia's heart skipped a beat. He shouted in a trembling voice while pointing to her feet, "Ghoo…st…ghost!"
The Drifter didn't pay more attention to him after shooting him a glance of contempt. She begged Jing Jiu by pulling on his sleeve, "Teacher, you've driven away all the big brothers, but why did you leave me behind? Can you ask him to run away with me? I'm truly scared."
Ping Yongjia realized that this little girl was not a ghost and must be connected to his Master. "Who are you?" he asked cautiously.
As the youngest brother on Shenmo Peak, Ping Yongjia had gained many benefits. Not to mention the care shown him by Gu Qing and Yuan Qü, Que Niang had even rubbed him on the head affectionately when they met on the Chessboard Mountain. What if a younger one came…?
The Drifter replied while lifting up her small face, "I'm the Drifter, a personal disciple of my Teacher. Who are you then?"
Hearing "personal disciple", Ping Yongjia felt upset, because another came after he had become the personal disciple of Jing Jiu for only a few short years.
Before he could throw himself to Jing Jiu and complain by holding his legs, the Drifter remarked in grievance, "I'm a little girl; you shouldn't be competing with me."
Ping Yongjia was taken aback at first, and then thought it was sensible. He would be a young senior master at the Green Mountain Sect someday, so it was not a big deal.
The Drifter resumed persuading Jing Jiu after she found that she had convinced Ping Yongjia. "Teacher, please let me go. I have a very low Cultivation state right now, so I can't help you in any way," she said pitifully while looking up at Jing Jiu.
Jing Jiu was someone who wouldn't be persuaded so easily by anyone. He was unaffected by her pleading in the least, as he said, "Since you want to learn the methods of ruling from me, best opportunity to learn to do so comes in the next few days."
The Drifter was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
She had witnessed with her own eyes her Teacher bringing Gu Qing and the others back to Green Mountain by deceiving them and locking them up in that manor cave. She could guess that something significant would happen soon.
This sense of nervous breakdown hadn't subsided even after she came to the grand hall of the royal palace with Jing Jiu and met the legendary human emperor.
The Emperor shot a glance at her before asking Jing Jiu, "Is she the next emperor you've chosen for the Underworld?"
Jing Jiu uttered "hmm", and said, "I brought her here to learn something from you."
The Emperor said after letting loose a gentle smile, "My secret for being a successful emperor is trying to stabilize the state at all times; besides that, there is nothing to learn from me."
"Stabilizing the state is not easy," Jing Jiu commented.
The former emperor had faked his death and hidden at the Fruit Formation Temple; the Immortal Taiping had caused a great deal of turbulence; the Center Sect watched all this coldly on the sideline; but the Jing dynasty could still operate steadily for more than three hundred years, avoiding major disasters of warfare, which could be regarded as a remarkable and even great achievement.
The Emperor came to the stone steps in front of the grand hall and looked at the seemingly endless square. "Now that we have had so many peaceful years, I hope the state will be stable in the future," he said suddenly.
Jing Jiu returned, "I promise you that the matter will be settled in Zhaoge City alone. Looks like the Immortal Tan has the same idea."
With this promise, the Emperor let out a contented smile, saying, "I'm already quite satisfied when you can accompany me during my last days in this world."
Jing Jiu said, "To think about it, I'm actually rather upset."
This was a sentiment he had rarely expressed.
Feeling a bit surprised, the Emperor turned to him and pressed, "You're used to seeing life and death in the world; why can't you take it lightly this time?"
"I can't take it lightly," replied Jing Jiu.
"Why?" prompted the Emperor while staring at his eyes quietly.
Jing Jiu returned, "It's because I'm afraid of death, and I'm also afraid of your death and the deaths of those I care about."
The Emperor suddenly laughed out, and he laughed quite happily. He laughed like a little child.
Jing Jiu laughed as well. He patted the Emperor's shoulder before turning to leave the palace hall.
Following behind Jing Jiu, the Drifter was perplexed, wondering what the two of them had talked about.
As they came back to the tranquil side hall, Ping Yongjia gave the Drifter an eye signal, and the Drifter returned an expression, indicating that she had no idea what was going on.
Jing Jiu came before the window, looking at the distance with a calm countenance.
Ping Yongjia and the Drifter looked at him.
Jing Jiu was the only figure in the window, looking rather lonely, which made the two of them feel more sympathetic for him.
There was a figure appearing in the round window at the Water-Moon Nunnery.
The old man in gray clothing had a broad forehead that seemed able to contain the entire lake water outside the window.
The Chief Nun and the high level swordsmen of the nunnery stood on the green stone path by the lake, the expressions in their eyes staring at the old man in gray clothing complicated.
The Great Formation of the Water-Moon Nunnery couldn't block this person at all.
The Immortal Tan of the Center Sect was indeed one of the most powerful swordsmen in Chaotian.
But his behavior was nevertheless rude; if the person in the round window were awake, the Water-Moon Nunnery wouldn't have been humiliated like this.
The Immortal Tan pulled back his line of sight from the window and looked at the Chief Nun and the others. "Sorry, but I have something I must take care of. I hope the Chief Nun can forgive me," said he while bowing slightly.
He apologized on his own, though he had a very high status, so the group showed a more amiable look, though they still couldn't forgive him.
The Chief Nun took a few steps forward slowly, arriving in front of the window. "Is the Emperor going to depart from the world?" she asked the Immortal Tan.
Anyone could figure out the intention of his arrival.
The Water-Moon Nunnery had always been preoccupied with cultivating besides guarding the Heavenly Well together with the Fruit Formation Temple. And they had seldom paid any attention to the affairs in the outside world except for the person who was still soundly asleep.
Even though the Water-Moon Nunnery aligned more with Green Mountain for a certain reason, they didn't have any grudge against the Center Sect; in fact, they had absolutely nothing to do with the Center Sect.
The reason the Immortal Tan suddenly appeared here and intimidated everybody with his unimaginably powerful Cultivation state was because he intended to take that prince with him.
"There is no way for the son of a vixen to become the emperor of the human race!"
The Immortal Tan didn't answer her question directly. Having said this, he headed for the other side of the lake.
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