In the Curtain Rollers’ booklet, Jing Jiu was ranked seventeenth and Tong Yan first in the chess tournament. Jing Jiu believed the odds should be about the same in the private betting games.
If someone bet on him being the first in the chess tournament, and he did actually win, he should be able to make a lot of money.
Though he could give this family a box of gold leaves, the betting win would be clean and secure.
It was a natural thing to do for the Jing family to bet on their own son.
He wasn’t sure if the family would believe him about wagering a great amount of money unwaveringly or foolishly on his winning.
Chaotian was extremely vast, and the heavenly and earthly spiritual vigor was concentrated in the middle section of the land. The map of Chaotian looked like a green phoenix. Zhongzhou*, which is where Zhaoge City was located, formed the head of that green phoenix; and it had the unparalleled spiritual energy in terms of its quantity and density. The wings of the green phoenix were the territory covered by the great Green Mountain range, where the intensity of spiritual force was lower, but purer.
Until now, the Cultivation world still couldn’t agree on which place was more suitable for Cultivation. However, the intensity of spiritual force was more important for those fetuses in their mothers’ wombs, who needed to breathe the heavenly and earthly energy. This was why Zhongzhou had far more talents and geniuses, helping the Center Sect become the number one Cultivation sect in the world.
Though the Green Mountain Sect was located in the southern land, the sect didn’t give up any opportunity to acquire disciples around Zhaoge City. There were a few disciples from Zhaoge among dozens of the participants and observing disciples of Green Mountain, like Zhao Layue, who was the most successful case. Of course, Zhao Layue was the most disappointed loss for the Center Sect in recent years.
In Zhaoge City, Zhao Layue didn’t need to stay in the Immortal House.
After she had received the letter, Zhao Layue told her family and put on the conical hat, passing through the thread-like drizzle and arriving in a small alley near the Taichang Temple.
The wooden door opened with a faint squeak. The young housewife welcomed Zhao Layue with a great deal of enthusiasm.
Standing in the middle of the courtyard and looking around, Zhao Layue sensed something odd.
Here was indeed the Jing family, but it didn’t look like this family could bring up somebody like Jing Jiu.
Yet, it was normal for practitioners to feel comfortable when returning to their secular homes. This uncomfortable feeling would go away until their secular relatives gradually got older and vanished from the world.
At that moment, the Cultivation practitioners could truly step out onto their own path.
Zhao Layue thought her feeling came from this typical issue facing the Cultivation world, so she didn’t give it much more thought. Soon she got a totally different answer from Jing Jiu.
"They are not my real family. My identity and origin are all falsified."
Jing Jiu didn’t intend to keep it a secret from her when inviting her here.
Zhao Layue was taken aback a little, prompting, "And?"
"That’s it. I just want to let you know."
Looking at her messy hair, Jing Jiu knew nobody had taken care of her at her house. "What happened to the female servants at home?" he asked.
"Not used to somebody standing by my side."
Zhao Layue rubbed her hair carelessly, making her hair even messier.
Shaking his head, Jing Jiu took out a wooden comb and handed it to her.
Zhao Layue took it and combed her hair, and her black hair became smooth right away. "This comb works really well," she said.
"I went to the Curtain Rollers last night," Jing Jiu said.
Zhao Layue’s eyes sharpened, and she pressed him on. "And?"
"That’s it. I just want to let you know."
Zhao Layue asked, "When will you tell me your true identity then?"
"Later," Jing Jiu replied.
Zhao Layue inquired, "Why have you always avoided Nan Wang?"
Nan Wang was the name of the Peak Master of Qingrong.
"Tell you later," replied Jing Jiu after a moment of silence.
"That’s it" and "later" were the most used words in this conversation.
Zhao Layue felt annoyed, yelling, "Why did you even bother calling me here?"
"I want to tell you another secret."
Jing Jiu said, "This small courtyard was arranged by State Duke Lu; so we can contact him from here."
After a brief silent moment, Zhao Layue asked, "Was this arranged before the ascension of Senior Grandmaster Jing Yang?"
Jing Jiu could keep his cool now after hearing the two words "Jing Yang". "He was worried something might go wrong, so he had a back-up plan, including this courtyard, and you…me," he said.
After another moment of silence, Zhao Layue asked, "I don’t understand, since Senior Grandmaster had sensed something might go wrong, why did he insist on ascending?"
Jing Jiu fell silent for a while, then he replied, "Maybe it was too hard to resist the temptation of ascension."
"State Duke Lu is a favorable official in the Imperial Court. Can we trust him?" asked Zhao Layue.
Taking out the wooden board and handing it over to Zhao Layue, Jing Jiu said, "Yes. If you or your family members got in trouble in Zhaoge City, you could present this wooden board to seek his help. The mechanical system is on the green rock by the door. I have placed the hidden imprint of Shenmo Peak on the rock; you can use the Piercing Discernment to discover it."
"You’ve given me the Thoughtless Sword, and now this wooden board. What do you have then?" Zhao Layue asked.
Jing Jiu said, "I’m just lazy. Don’t want to deal with these things. So I’ll let you take that lead."
"Just like climbing up the Shenmo Peak?" Zhao Layue asked.
"Yes," Jing Jiu replied.
After some thought, Zhao Layue took over the wooden board, saying, "Okay. But if I can’t walk anymore, you have to carry me."
"Certainly," Jing Jiu concurred.
"A mysterious female disciple of the Water-Moon Nunnery, named Guo Dong, will take part in the Plum Meeting. Nobody has seen her before. I heard that she is the personal disciple of Lian Sanyue’s," Zhao Layue remarked all of a sudden.
Jing Jiu didn’t understand why she cared so much about this person; it wasn’t like her to care about such things.
"I heard there was a conflict between Senior Grandmaster and Lian Sanyue, and that they fought a few times."
She stared into Jing Jiu’s eyes while she was speaking.
Jing Jiu thought about it and said, "The relationship between these two people…was indeed problematic, and they indeed fought."
"If so, as the personal disciple of the Senior Grandmaster, I can’t be defeated by this disciple of Lian Sanyue," Zhao Layue declared.
Noticing her sincere and combative eyes, Jing Jiu realized she was serious about this battle, and felt helpless.
"The female disciples of the Water-Moon Nunnery are usually pretty, even more so than those of Qingrong Peak.
Zhao Layue suddenly felt her hair was a bit too short and her eyebrows a bit too thick.
Looking at herself in the mirror for a long time, Zhao Layue blocked both of her eyebrows with two forefingers, asking, "Does it look better this way?"
Jing Jiu walked behind her and rubbed her hair. "It’s so cute," he said with a laugh.
Zhao Layue felt a little upset, but she didn’t say anything.
Jing Jiu continued, "No need to compare yourself to her, as you don’t know how to play the zither anyway."
The tournaments were the zither, chess, calligraphy, painting, and Cultivation; playing the zither was the first event.
The disciples of the Water-Moon Nunnery were very good at playing the zither. Last time at the Four-Seas Banquet, Mo Xi won the zither tournament. The personal disciple of Lian Sanyue’s had to be better at the zither.
"You really have a death wish," Zhao Layue said to Jing Jiu’s reflection.
The security in Zhaoge City was always good. There were great number of magic guards and swordsmen of the Imperial Court here; and with the concentrated spiritual vigor, they could easily breach the Formation set up by those in the State of Broken Sea, not to mention those thieves and bandits. Even the Cultivation practitioners dared not make trouble here.
According to the rules, the practitioners were not allowed to fly into the city directly unless they obtained the special permits from the Imperial Court. However, this prohibition rule was temporarily revoked because of the Plum Meeting. The populace of the city could witness from time to time the sword light passing through the blue sky or the green light emitted by the treasure relics, triggering cheers and discussion.
There were also many scholars waving their arms excitedly on the streets and in the alleys, telling the crowd these phenomena in the sky were the trick of the Imperial Court. The Cultivation practitioners didn’t exist in this world; neither did the monsters eating snow in the north. The purpose of these lies was to secure more payments for the Pure Heaven Bureau and the North Guard Army, and then those military payments would enter some masters’ pockets. For instance, the huge expense for this year’s Plum Meeting actually entered the pocket of Royal Concubine Hu in the Imperial Palace, who then gave it to a certain monk to conduct some kind of Buddhist ritual. "If you still don’t believe what I have said, you should ask yourself this question: How come this speaker has not been cut in half by a white flash driven by an immortal swordsman after speaking here for so long?"
The scene of cutting someone in half by a white flash from hundreds of miles away hadn’t happened of course, as this was Zhaoge City. The Cultivation practitioners wouldn’t kill a man randomly; and no practitioner would want to deal with these crazy bookworms. The Imperial Court was quite busy lately, and the Pure Heaven Bureau was even busier. A total of over a thousand participants and representatives of various sects were attending the Plum Meeting. The affairs of registration, accommodation, and the itinerary had already filled up their schedule, and the Plum Meeting started today, so many decision-making officials went to the Plum Garden. The subordinates had nobody to report to, like a bunch of headless flies running around without. The flying sedans were taking off and landing one after another, and the automatic moving chairs invented by Lumeng were moving about everywhere in the bureau’s courtyards. It was quite chaotic.
Shi Fengchen was, on the contrary, quite relaxed, and sat by the window with a teacup in his hand, watching all these chaotic scenes, a hint of mockery reflected in his eyes.
* Zhongzhou means Central State.