Xiang Wanshu met Zhao Layue last year by the seashore of West Ocean, witnessing with his very own eyes her killing a man without a single word.
He had never in his life entertained the thought that one could kill somebody without a word, since he had a quite mild temperament, and he could even be regarded as being weak to some extent.
The rainbow that illuminated the whole Cold Platform was the Thoughtless Sword.
Zhao Layue was the personal disciple of Immortal Jing Yang.
And Immortal Jing Yang was his most admired master of the previous generations.
All these mixed emotions had produced a reverential feeling inside Xiang Wanshu toward Zhao Layue, which in turn led to affection.
However, he knew full well that there was no chance for him and Zhao Layue to become Cultivation partners, so he had no choice but to hide this affection deep in his heart.
But when it came to the Thoughtless Sword, how could he not think about it?
Over the last year, Xiang Wanshu had been thinking of getting closer to Zhao Layue when they met again; at least he could take a few good look at her a few times.
He finally saw Zhao Layue again that day at the Plum Meeting, but he had never expected to witness such a scene.
Xiang Wanshu's voice was full of disappointment and frustration.
Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue were unaware of what those Cultivation practitioners were discussing, nor did they know how many of them were as disappointed as Xiang Wanshu.
It was very natural behavior for Jing Jiu to pick a plum flower and insert it in Zhao Layue's hair, and the seemingly affectionate exchanges between them were merely their common daily conversation.
Since they met in the clouds back on the Sword Peak, they had been seeing each other quite often, and they had been together day and night for the last four years, especially during their long distance travels together, so they had grown familiar with each other's thoughts and behaviors.
Their interaction and exchange were regarded by many as the affection between opposite sexes, but those two didn't see it that way; the very thought hadn't even crossed their minds.
Rather than denying what others had in mind, Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue had indeed never thought of getting intimate with each other. There were simply too many important matters to consider, including the stars and universe, time and eternity. Life was too short. The world itself wasn't even worth the attention, let alone a love affair.
The discussions had gradually died down after the slightly chilly breeze blew through the Cold Platform with the clouds.
State Duke He arrived at the are
According to tradition, His Majesty would appear in person only during the last tournament, which was the Cultivation contest, and those important figures in the Cultivation world would also show themselves during that time if they were to observe the meeting. The Cultivation practitioners all knew of this and shouldn't have been that disturbed by the lack of important figures attending the meeting at this moment; but many young disciples, even some masters, wore looks of disappointment on their faces.
It was mostly because Tian Jingren hadn't shown up.
It was rumored that the mysterious individual who could predict a person's future of success or failure had already come to Zhaoge City, and he would evaluate the disciples participating in the Plum Meeting. Many people expected to see him in person at the Plum Meeting. Even though they didn't all expect to excel at the meeting, it would still be a great blessing to obtain his evaluation and guidance.
The Plum Meeting was one of the most important events for the Cultivation world.
All the participants at the meeting were young people, and they were not important figures in the Cultivation world yet, though some of them would definitely grow up to reach that status. The history of innumerous years in the past had proven it. The influential figures in the land at the moment, except for Immortal Jing Yang, had all debuted at the Plum Meeting and had displayed their talents.
The world-renowned meeting had an uneventful beginning. After State Duke He's announcement, over a dozen young disciples from various sects quietly came up to the cold platform located in the center, their clothes flapping in the wind.
Everything in nature can include Cultivation, and so zither, chess, calligraphy and painting are all part of Cultivation. The most important event at the Plum Meeting was the last tournament, the Cultivation contest. The tournament on this day was the zither competition.
The zither competition for the Cultivation practitioners was different from that among the musicians in the mortal world. There were other evaluating standards in addition to judging how well one performed on the zither, and the participants in the zither tournament were not all playing the zither. The young practitioners on the cold platform were holding different instruments; some were to play the bamboo flute, some to play lute, some to play the ancient earth-pot, and some to play the trumpet. One participant didn't even bring any instrument, as if ready to sing a song. So the zither tournament could also be called the music tournament.
The sound of music rang out like the burbling spring water. The Plum Meeting had started officially as a young girl stepped up onto the arena bravely while holding a zither. The instruments that followed played ever since.
The majority of the initial performers in the music tournament were mostly from the smaller and unpopular sects, but their music skills were rather impressive, demonstrating moving and far-reaching instrumental sounds on par with those famous musicians in the imperial court. However, it was quiet throughout on the highest cold platform. Neither State Duke He nor the achieved monks of the Fruit Formation Temple had made any comments, not even Young Zen Master himself.
The practitioners of various sects didn`t show any unusual reactions.
The crowd was slightly agitated until a scholarly disciple from the Great Marsh Sect had arrived on the platform.
The performance by a disciple from a famous sect was indeed exceptional. As this scholar folded the fan in his hand and sat down in front of the zither, the wonderful music flew out from his fingertips, which was even felt by the energy of heaven and earth. The clean and chilly mountain breeze had died down, and a layer of frozen dew had formed on the plum flowers around the Cold Platform, shimmering under the bright sunshine like the crystals, looking extremely beautiful.
At last the cheers and applauds burst from the cold platforms after the scholar had finished his playing. Afterwards, the unusual natural phenomena occurred constantly as the young Cultivation practitioners from those popular and major sects took the stage one after another; the wind rose up and the rain fell with their music. As Xiang Wanshu, representing the Center Sect, stepped on the stage carrying his bamboo flute and started playing, his music caused the snowflakes falling and the plum flowers to appear even more colorful.
The intervals of cheers and applauds became shorter and shorter, and the praises and compliments grew more and more frequent; but some of the spectators were still unmoved, or could even be said uncaring.
Some of the gazes couldn't help but fall on the cold platform occupied by the disciples and masters of the Green Mountain Sect.
The disciples and masters of the Green Mountain Sect were absolutely the typical example of uncaring.
Different from the other Cultivation sects, the Green Mountain Sect didn't pay much attention to the methods claimed by others to be beneficial for cultivating the Dao heart, including zither, chess, calligraphy and painting. Viewing it from another point, the Green Mountain Sect was a totally different species as far as the Cultivation circle in Chaotian was concerned.
In the memory of the Cultivation practitioners in Chaotian, the Green Mountain Sect had seldom participated in the first four tournaments of the Plum Meeting. Only many years ago, as they remembered, the current peak master of Qingrong, Nan Wang, had participated once in the zither tournament, and she unexpectedly won the tournament that time.
It was unknown why Nan Wang had taken part in the zither tournament back then. Those who were present that the time could only recall that she was obviously upset about something, and walked onto the cold platform with a red face; she picked a piece of leaf somewhere, put it between her lips, and then played a folk song with that thin piece of plum leaf, as a result…the dogs of the whole Zhaoge City howled happily.
Without any dispute, she won the first place in the zither tournament.
It was also the only time in first place for the zither tournament in the history of the Green Mountain Sect.
The Green Mountain Sect had never again had any outstanding performance in the zither tournament since. Of course, nobody dared mock the disciples of Green Mountain because of this particular incident, since they weren't looking forward to meeting an angry and murderous Green Mountain sword in the final Cultivation tournament.
The disciples and masters of the Green Mountain Sect did indeed pay no heed to the zither competition happening at the moment.
"The winner will be the Water-Moon Nunnery anyway," Nan Wang commented.
Nan Wang was just a young girl hailing from the barbaric southern lands when she won the zither tournament back then; and she was praised by the Plum Meeting host as being natural and truthful. Nowadays, she had become an important figure at the Green Mountain Sect, having a profound bearing, but she still maintained some of her old temperament, such as making the above comment, which was a little too direct.
Though her comment wasn't loud, the disciples on the Cold Platform could hear it undoubtedly. The expression on the faces of the female disciples of Qingrong Peak and on that of Yao Songshan all concurred
Yet, Zhao Layue didn't quite understand it. She looked at Jing Jiu, hoping for an answer.
Jing Jiu took his eyes off of from Nan Wang, saying, "The Water-Moon Nunnery is specialized in the Heaven-Human Connection. They're focusing on Cultivation through the sound of zither. So nobody can compete with them in this aspect."
A disciple of the Water-Moon Nunnery finally took the stage while Jing Jiu and Zhao Layue were talking.
The cheers and applauds had already echoed in the Cold Platform even before the music started.
This reflected just how much the crowd expected of the Water-Moon Nunnery.
The young woman on the stage was Mo Xi. As a personal disciple of the Water-Moon Nunnery, she won first place in the zither tournament easily last year at the Four-Sea Banquet, so her zither skill was naturally exceptional. She might be able to win easily at a regular competition, but many people didn't think that she had a good chance to win after listening to her zither playing that day, and even Mo Xi herself didn't pin too much hope on winning.
The mountain breeze gently tousled the white silk curtain. Xiang Wanshu and other disciples of the Center Sect gave out the path by moving to the sides as a young woman, clothed in white with the malleable and lovely eyes and brows, sauntered out from the tent.
"Is she Bai Zao?"
"Bai Zao has actually taken the stage! The Water-Moon Nunnery may not be able to win the tournament so easily this year."
The comments and discussion roared throughout the Cold Platform.