Jing Jiu liked playing the game of piling sand grains on this ceramic plate while lying on the bamboo chair since a long time ago.
Neither Liu Shisui nor Zhao Layue knew what kind of a game he was playing at the time. They vaguely realized that it was a method of predicting and calculating ever since Jing Jiu came to the Plum Meeting in Zhaoge City and played that amazing Go game with Tong Yan and made that comment.
But Jing Jiu had stopped playing the game for many years. The people of
Shenmo Peak had seldom seen the ceramic plate and the grains of sand until that day.
After placing the last grain of sand on the plate, it formed a picture.
No fracture could be detected on the smooth surface of the picture depicting the ragged mountains and meandering rivers.
It was because all the grains of sand were arranged in a dense and orderly manner and designed by Jing Jiu beforehand.
Such a picture was the result of an unbelievably complex spatial construction and calculating ability, something that was beyond the capability of humans.
It was quiet in the Scenery Garden. The wind blew over the stream and flowering trees on the banks soundlessly.
Looking at the sand picture on the ceramic plate with wide opened eyes and mouth, Ping Yongjia thought that his Master was truly awesome and that what he had done must be more difficult than ascending.
It was unclear when Ada left Zhao Layue's bosom and crouched across from Jing Jiu obediently and reverentially, his buttock hunched upwards.
Zhao Layue's reaction was rather calm in comparison; maybe it was because she had seen Jing Jiu play with the sand too many times.
She looked at the grains of sand on the ceramic plate sideways while holding her knees, her messy hairs tousled by the gentle wind. The strands of her hair were swaying in front of her eyes, dividing her distinct black and white eyes into many patches.
Her eyes suddenly grew brighter; it was unclear if she had detected the deep meaning in these grains of sand or she had tears swimming in her eyes.
It was unclear what she had thought of to make her so distressed.
After hearing the zither music played by Lian Sanyue at the Plum Meeting, Jing Jiu had said that it was better not to understand.
She felt he was very distant at that moment.
She was a powerful swordsman in the upper limit of the Broken Sea State, and there were fewer things in this world that she didn't understand. Of course, she understood what the "distance" meant.
Given enough time, he would be able to go to a very distant place.
"It's still early for that."
Jing Jiu was aware of what was on her mind. He rubbed her head a few times to console her.
Her short hair became even messier after being rubbed by him.
Jing Jiu took out a braid and handed it to her.
It was the braid that she had cut off one hundred years ago before she left the Jing House in Zhaoge City. Gu Qing was a very meticulous person; he had put it under Jing Jiu's pillow the entire time.
"It's so dirty." Zhao Layue shot a disgusted glance at it and didn't take it. She lit the sword fire on her fingertip and burned the braid into a puff of green smoke.
Though she could part with her own braid and the peach flowers in front of the Water-Moon Nunnery or the begonia tree, Green Mountain was a place she had to go back to.
The group left the Scenery Garden and went to Cloudy Town.
The restaurant that had been there for more than two hundred years served nothing but the hotpots now.
The restaurant had excellent business since it was backed by the Gu Clan and patronized by the visitors of various places and the Cultivation practitioners. However, the restaurant didn't dare open its door to any guest that day.
Unfortunately, the group of the Scenery Garden had eaten hotpot that day already. The manager of the restaurant looked at those figures passing by him disappointedly while kneeling on the ground.
When they came before a house, Jing Jiu saw the horse-drawn carriage inside a courtyard through the wall, and yet they walked past it.
Though they didn't travel by riding their swords and walked on feet, it didn't take long before they arrived outside the southern mountain gate after covering the whole length of the mountain path now that they were all in a very high Cultivation state.
The thick fog dispersed without the aid of the wind. The simple and unmanaged stone gate stood in front of the group. A caretaker of Green Mountain was dozing off behind the stone table, but it was not the same caretaker from years ago.
Jing Jiu decided not to disturb the caretaker. He walked past the stone gate, his white clothing looked like the cloud and fog when being tousled by the mountain wind.
Zhao Layue with Ada in her arms and the others followed Jing Jiu past the mountain gate.
The South-Pine Pavilion was not far from the southern mountain gate, where Jing Jiu did his Cultivation as an external disciple…if sleeping could be counted as a method of cultivating.
The green pines resembling umbrellas could be seen everywhere at the foot of the cliffs. Sitting under the pine trees, the external disciples were practicing diligently, the hot white steam emerging from the top of their heads. They could hear the shouts of those disciples practicing boxing in the deep end of the forest once in a while.
Jing Jiu didn't stop to meet these external disciples, and he had no interest in giving advice to the disciples for their Cultivation. He passed through the pine forest and headed for that small building.
Many years ago, he walked like this when he returned to Green Mountain, as if he were a lion inspecting his territory. What was he going to do today?
Zhuo Rusui and Yuan Qü exchanged a look, both feeling nervous.
The guard of the small building was an elder of Shiyue Peak. Seeing the group charge into the building, he was about to question them, but when he saw Jing Jiu's face, he bowed to the ground with a cry after rubbing his eyes reflexively.
Jing Jiu gestured for him to get up. Then, he started looking at the portraits in the building with his hands folded behind his back.
He started from the founding masters of the Green Mountain Sect, the Grandmaster Immortal Daoyuan, his Master, the Immortal Chenzhou, then…the Immortal Taiping and himself.
The portrait of Liu Ci was placed at the very end.
Jing Jiu stood before this portrait for a while. He suddenly pointed to the two portraits before Liu Ci's and said, "Take them down."
The elder of Shiyue Peak felt astonished when hearing this, but he didn't dare object. He brought down the two portraits with trembling hands. "Immortal Sect Master, what should I do with these…" he asked.
Jing Jiu cut him off, "Hang it up again after one of us dies someday."
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There was a mountain outside Shangzhou. It was not famous, and the scenery there was not appealing either. A dozen farmer families resided there; they stayed mostly in their own courtyards, not visiting each other.
In the courtyard of a remote household there was a rundown grinding stone. The Dark Phoenix stood on it with an awe-struck bearing; but a feather was missing on his tail, so he looked a bit pitiful, as if he were a rooster crowing every early morning but found the sun hadn't risen for many days.
"Why? Why does he always have such a good luck? Why has he won again?"
Trotting anxiously on the grinding stone back and forth, the Dark Phoenix looked like a tiger that had been trapped in a cage for many years. His voice became increasingly sharp, "The Immortal had already calculated everything; after the Little Four becomes the sect master, we will be able to go back to Green Mountain in little more than ten years and control the sect in secret. Then we will wipe out the Center Sect in the north and the Fruit Formation Temple in the south, and have Zhaoge City under our control. By then the whole of Chaotian will be ours…But why did he wake up at such a critical moment? And why is he so strong?"
"Pooh!" the Great Grandmaster of the Mysterious Dark Sect spat at the ground. Then he cleared his throat and resumed gnawing at a greasy meaty bone.
The Dark Phoenix glanced at him in disdain before exclaiming, "How can you eat such meat? It's really disgusting! Looks like you're having a hard time eating it; why don't you throw it away?"
The Great Grandmaster of the Mysterious Dark Sect put the meaty bone on the grinding stone and said after taking two heavy breaths, "I have bad teeth now, so I don't have any appetite; otherwise, it's impossible for me to have a hard time eating it."
The Dark Phoenix said in a mocking tone, "I've never seen any demonic devil as stupid as you. He is the All in One! But you dared swallow him. Now that you have a large hole in your stomach, it would be a miracle if you had a good appetite."
The Great Grandmaster of the Mysterious Dark Sect said earnestly, "I'm different from you; the bad appetite is not due to the injury…but rather my old age."
Hearing this, the Dark Phoenix fell silent, his eyes filled with some pity.
He was the Principal Guard of Green Mountain, and had a long lifetime. He would have many years ahead of him, but the Great Grandmaster of the Mysterious Dark Sect…was really old now.
The courtyard of the farmhouse grew quiet. The wind blew over from the west, and the twilight was fading and the stars in the sky were growing brighter.
Looking at the large ash tree outside the courtyard, the Great Grandmaster of the Mysterious Dark Sect remarked in an aged voice, "Immortal, I don't have many years left. I've traveled the world with you for so many years; but when is the end?"
A youth was sitting atop the ash tree; his red clothing was very noticeable against the fading twilight, as if it were ablaze.
His left arm looked intact, except that it looked a bit pale and tender, like the one an infant had or a lotus seed that had just been dug out from the bottom of the lake.
Because of the total transformation, now he could even recover from the injury inflicted by the All in One Sword.
"Yeah, when is the end of such a life?!"
Yin San raised his hand with a pebble in it while squatting on the treetop and threw it at a mouse in the field.
Seeing this, the Great Grandmaster of the Mysterious Dark Sect and the Dark Phoenix eyed each other, feeling exceedingly baffled…as well as worried.
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