The entire Pure Heaven Bureau was very busy these days, but Shi Fengchen, vice-inspector and a high-ranking official, was leisurely frittering his time away. This was an indication that he was marginalized.
He was in charge of investigating the case in Chaonan City three years ago, and he finally found the perpetrators last year. Unfortunately, he came upon the Green Mountain Sect.
After he returned to Zhaoge City from Haizhou, Shi Fengchen was reprimanded by his boss, almost losing his official position. His position was saved because the Royal Concubine spoke on his behalf. Last year, he went to the Imperial Palace to thank the Royal Concubine for her help, but he failed to get further support from her. So many people thought Shi Fengchen lost his worth, both inside and outside the Imperial Court, and he was naturally marginalized; he hadn’t been assigned any specific tasks since then.
He still couldn’t understand why the Master Command Chief of the Pure Heaven Bureau was so angry at the time, even if he had offended the Green Mountain Sect. As far as he knew, Command Chief Wei had been a traveling practitioner and didn’t have much of a connection with the Cultivation sects of the southern lands; it was State Duke Lu who recommended him for his current position.
It didn’t feel so bad to forget all about these matters. The plain tea in the teacup tasted pretty good, and the leisurely time had its benefits. At least Shi Fengchen now had plenty of time to enjoy a good cup of tea. He had enough time to prevent a high-quality spring tea from turning into a soy-sauce-like soup, and he had enough time to replace the teacup with newly boiled tea instead of drinking the watery tea most of time.
As Shi Fengchen was thinking about all these, he squinted out at the Plum Garden in the distance.
The Plum Garden was situated to the west of the Imperial Palace, where the Plum Meeting was to take place.
Many years ago, the monsters of the Snow Kingdom had invaded, and the heritage of Imperial Court had been interrupted; the human race faced its most perilous moment in history. The remaining children of the royal family and a few young leaders of the orthodox Cultivation sects formed their alliance in the Plum Garden by drinking wine mixed with their blood as a way to consummate their vow. Afterwards they fought together, first to solve the refugee crisis, and then to defeat the monster army of the Snow Kingdom, with the human race eventually returning to its former glory.
In order to remember this most important alliance in human history, the Imperial Court would host the Plum Meeting every three or four years and invite the orthodox Cultivation sects that participated in the alliance, and many other Cultivation sects, to the meeting. In addition, the Plum Meeting had another important function, which was that the Orthodox Federation would allocate the crystal stones and other Cultivation resources to various Cultivation sects for the next few years according to their performances at the Plum Meeting. The variation of the resource wasn’t so important for the major Cultivation sects like the Center Sect and the Green Mountain Sect. They were concerned most about their reputations as a result of the Plum Meeting.
For many years, the Plum Garden had been just a garden. Shi Fengchen had been to the garden before, visiting the spot where the important alliance was formed.
The current Plum Garden was formed by dozens of high platforms connected by a straight stone passageway, with the plum trees planted everywhere, along the passageway or on the platforms. If watching it from the distance, the entire structure itself looked like a huge plum tree; but it was veiled by the clouds which had been summoned by the Formations, so the common populace unfortunately couldn’t see its spectacular features.
The most favored concubine in the Imperial Palace at present was Royal Concubine Mei, and rumor had it that she started to threaten the status of Royal Concubine Hu.
Thinking of his meeting with Royal Concubine Hu last year, Shi Fengchen squinted even more, his eyes almost becoming two lines, his smile showing a stronger hint of mockery.
But this time the mockery was toward himself.
At the time, he thought he could use the clue he had found in the old files against Royal Concubine Hu, and then he would ask her for help in his cause by threatening to reveal her secret if she didn’t cooperate, but he didn’t expect that the Emperor had learned this secret long time ago. If he hadn’t reacted fast enough to change the topic, he would have already been dead.
The usual method wouldn’t work!
Shi Fengchen sighed helplessly in his mind. The Emperor chose a vixen demon as his Royal Concubine, and likewise, the Green Mountain Sect chose that young woman as its peak master. Was this the omen that the world would be in big trouble? Did the previous troublemakers come back to destroy the world? It was apparent that he couldn’t depend on Royal Concubine Hu to help him, and worst of all, she herself was a problem. The Imperial Court couldn’t do anything about her, and the Justice System couldn’t either, which is why he thought he had to take matters into his own hands…and kill her.
"Kill you. I must kill you!"
Shi Fengchen murmured while looking at the sky in the distance like a madman.
In the late spring in Zhaoge City, the sky was blue and cloudless; dozens of residual sword lights were plainly visible in the sky.
The major Cultivation sects like the Center Sect and the Green Mountain Sect would do their best to win at the Plum Meeting; but those small sects like the Sect of Three and the Clear-Sky Sect were quite content to simply come to the meeting, and they didn’t expect to achieve anything at the Plum Meeting. They wished to see as many legendary figures as possible so they could boast to their colleagues when they went back to their mountains.
The blooming plum flowers filled the high platforms that were shrouded in clouds, just like in a realm of fairies. The masters and disciples of small sects, who were standing on the platforms, felt somewhat nervous and excited at the same time. Some disciples wondered why there were so many blooming plum flowers in late spring, but they only received mockful responses. Here stood the Plum Garden, which boasted all kinds of plum trees from around the world. The plum flowers would bloom any time of the year, regardless of whether it was spring, summer, autumn, or winter. And helped by the Formations, the plum flowers would bloom all at once, even during the wrong seasons, as long as the Emperor wanted it to happen.
"The highest Cold Platform on the north side was for the Center Sect. Which sect was the highest Cold Platform on the west side for? The Fruit Formation Temple?"
"The Fruit Formation Temple has never taken part in the tournaments, and seldom comes to the Plum Meeting; there is no point to have a platform for them."
"You idiot. This year’s Plum Meeting is hosted by the Young Zen Master. It’s impossible for the Fruit Formation Temple not to come this time."
On the stone benches near the ground, the disciples of various sects discussed these topics, and they couldn’t help but feel excited being so close to those legendary figures.
The current Plum Garden was composed of dozens of high platforms that looked like a huge plum tree from the distance.
Those high platforms were like plum leaves or plum flowers, hiding in the clouds all year long and generally called the Cold Platform.
The name was from the verse "The lonely plum flower blooming in the cold winter".
Since the Plum Meeting had started, the spots for most Cultivation sects were fixed, with few changes, especially the dozen or so cold platforms on the highest level.
The spot for the Center Sect was located on the highest cold platform on the north side; but it was said that Luo Huainan and Tong Yan didn’t come today, which disappointed many disciples. Next was the spot for the One-Cottage Sect, where ten scholars sat on the futons quietly without the supervision of a master. They were either meditating while examining the plum flowers or pondering over Dao while examining the sky; they behaved differently from those poor and arrogant scholars on the streets of Zhaoge City.
The highest cold platform on the west side was the spot for the Fruit Formation Temple. The two lower but evenly leveled cold platforms were for the Water-Moon Nunnery and the Western Ocean Sword Sect respectively. The female disciples of the Water-Moon Nunnery all covered their faces with a white veil rustling with the breeze; and they all looked alike, all with a similar attractive curved body shape, so nobody could tell which one was the mysterious personal disciple of Lian Sanyue. The relationship between the Western Ocean Sword Sect and the Imperial Court was not so close, so they sent only a few people to the meeting. The young disciple standing in front with a straight posture attracted many gazes; he was Tong Lu, who had gained increasing fame over the last year.
The cold platforms on the south side were the spots for the Great Marsh Sect, the Hanging-Bell Sect, and the No-Mercy Sect. The latter was oppressed by the Western Ocean Sword Sect lately.
The highest cold platform, opposite the cold platform of the Center Sect which was the highest on the other side of the Plum Garden, was still empty.
That was of course the spot for the Green Mountain Sect.
The spots on the Cold Platform of the Plum Garden had been arranged according to the strengths of various sects.
The Jing Imperial Court had been revived for many years, and the situation for the Cultivation sects remained mostly the same. The Green Mountain Sect and the Center Sect were undoubtedly the leaders. Though the disciples of the younger generation at the Green Mountain Sect were not as strong as those of the Center Sect in recent years, the Cultivation practitioners had a long lifespan, and the path toward heaven was perilous and unpredictable; nobody could tell what the situation would be in the future. For instance, the Green Mountain Sect recently produce some outstanding disciples of the younger generation, like Guo Nanshan, Zhuo Rusui, and of course Zhao Layue.
Besides, the Green Mountain Sect had ten masters in the State of Broken Sea, and two in the State of Heavenly Arrival. Who would dare look down on such a sect?
The Peak Master of Shangde Peak, Yuan Qijing, finally admitted that he had already entered the State of Heavenly Arrival the year before last, becoming another significant figure in Chaotian.
As the visiting guests of various sects gathered on the Green Mountain to congratulate Yuan Qijing, they couldn’t help but feel rather intimidated.
The other Cultivation sects would have felt even more apprehensive if they hadn’t known the relationship between the two brothers, the Sect Master of Green Mountain and Yuan Qijing, wasn’t so cozy.
"Here comes the Green Mountain Sect!"
A yell suddenly blurted out in the arena.
Dozens of rays of the sword light illuminated the sky, and abruptly disappeared above the Plum Garden.
Dozens of figures emerged on the highest cold platform on the south side. All of them wore light-green sword robes, looking gorgeous and intimidating, except for their group leader, the Peak Master of Qingrong, Nan Wang.
The discussions started on the cold platforms, including the highly located cold platforms like the Kunlun Sect and the Great Marsh Sect.
"Who is Zhao Layue? I haven’t seen a young woman with the messy hair."
"Who is Jing Jiu? Does he really look handsome?"