The best sect in the Xuantian continent was Tai Hua Mountain. Every seven years they hosted the sect-wide competition.
As the number one cultivation sect, Tai Hua Mountain was not afraid of exposing its strength. Instead, they let the best of their young disciples freely display their superior strength, showing off Tai Hua Mountain’s peerless radiance.
In every sect-wide competition, every single great power in the land was sure to come up to the stage and make a congratulatory speech.
This time, it was spreading like wildfire. The small powers sent their sect leaders or their great elders to lead the participants. As for those four sects, eight major families, and sixteen schools, they immediately sent a Calamity Passage stage elder to express their congratulations.
As the outstanding talents of the young generation, Luo Jianqing and Zuo Yunmo had to shoulder the responsibilities of receiving the guests. After the outside cultivators officially checked into Tai Hua Mountain, Sir Hao Xingzi promptly gathered everyone there and spoke about their crusade against the demonic cultivator, as well as the matter of Liu Yan Valley.
Such a serious matter was naturally nothing ordinary disciples could partake in, even though Luo Jianqing sat in the middle of Ling Yun Hall, serenely listening to the Body Fusion cultivators’ argument with the almighty Out-of-Body cultivators. He came here as a representative of Yu Xiao Peak since Xuan Lingzi never involved himself with other matters like these. What’s more, the demonic cultivator was merely at Nascent Soul stage, so he was not worried at all.
The discussion surrounding the demonic cultivator did not last very long among the older generation, as they were more concerned about Liu Yan Valley.
Liu Yan Valley opened every 50 years. Apparently, when the war between the two races began thousands of years ago, some heaven-rank fire-attribute demon master fell to Changzhou, forming Liu Yan Valley. For thousands of years after, Liu Yan Valley’s fires never went out. Only cultivators below Nascent Soul could explore it, which was always a great opportunity for them.
A heaven-rank demon master was equivalent to a Spirit-Refining stage human cultivator!
With just another step, a heaven-rank demon master could become immortal and achieve a golden body.
It was obvious that Liu Yan Valley was very important to cultivators.
This time, Liu Yan Valley opened early, which naturally made many smaller powers furious. After a discussion that took place over a full day and night, Hao Xingzi finally wrote up a contract. The other representatives signed the contract and left some spiritual sense. At long last, everyone came to a consensus about the exploration of Liu Yan Valley.
After the other sect leaders and elders left, only Luo Jianqing was left, until he heard Hao Xingzi say, “Jianqing, Liu Yan Valley’s early opening is quite fortunate for you as well. If you don’t take advantage of it, you will already have reached Nascent Soul stage and cannot enter again by the time Liu Yan Valley opens again in 24 years.”
Luo Jianqing nodded. “Jianqing understands.”
Hao Xingzi continued, “Regardless, the timing of Liu Yan Valley’s opening is also unfortunate. The young generation of Tai Hua Mountain are not yet fully mature, and we just happen to be lacking in resources right now. As the great senior brother, you must guide your junior brothers and sisters cautiously. Place importance on life above all else.”
After Hao Xingzi explained some more, he sent Luo Jianqing back.
Just as Hao Xingzi said, Tai Hua Mountain was indeed lacking in resources for the time being. Among the disciples who were Core Formation and below, the highest cultivation was the middle stage Core Formation Luo Jianqing. He was very strong among this generation of disciples, but he had not cultivated long enough yet. Unfortunately, this meant that right when Liu Yan Valley opened again, there was no choice but to send them instead.
After his return to Yu Xiao Peak, Luo Jianqing did not return to the bamboo house to cultivate, but took out Shuang Fu and went to practice in the bamboo forest.
His pale white gown lightly fluttered in the sky, the light green of his sword mark resembling green jade, his elegance unmatched. Shuang Fu flashed with a bit of sword light. There seemed to be snakes of lightning swimming around it. Under the moonlight, it seemed to transform into refined jade, radiating with bright light.
Luo Jianqing executed each move with perfect control, the sword energy rocking the green bamboo around him endlessly. The bamboo leaves scattered like petals to the ground, but the trees never fell. If someone watched carefully, they would perhaps discover that he was deliberately controlling his strength so that the sword light would only make the bamboo sway and not leave a single mark.
Luo Jianqing’s face was calm as he raised his sword in preparation. He practiced for an entire two hours.
When he had just put back the sword technique “True Nine-Petaled Lotus Record”, he heard a cold voice behind him. “Your heart is not stable, so your swordsmanship is not pure enough. Jianqing, the sect-wide competition is in two days. Are you going to show everyone Yu Xiao Peak’s swordsmanship with this kind of strength?”
Luo Jianqing’s entire body was rigid. He immediately turned around and said with his head bowed, “Master, this disciple knows his mistake.”
Sir Xuan Lingzi wore a white lapelled chang pao. His black hair scattered naturally, his level gaze aimed at his disciple in front of him. He starred seriously at him for a while, then suddenly stepped forward and grabbed the sword in Luo Jianqing’s hand.
Luo Jianqing reflexively gripped the handle tight. Xuan Lingzi said in a satisfied voice, “Good, you still know to protect your sword.”
Luo Jianqing nodded his head but didn’t understand. His voice was suddenly caught in his throat just as he thought to say something.
As if he had just taken a bath, Xuan Lingzi’s long hair slid lightly, without any jade crown or headband to keep it in place, completely relaxed. His jet-black hair fell to the sides of his cold phoenix eyes, making his face even colder and tranquil, like cool water under the moon.
The Tai Hua Mountain disciples liked to cause trouble, and there was always one disciple in the back joking, “Yu Xiao Peak’s restrictions are necessary, Sir Xuan Lingzi’s honor needs to be protected. I heard Feihua Sect of the ‘Four Sects’ has a great elder that secretly admires him. And don’t even mention our great senior brother. If there were no restrictions, who’s to say whether little senior sister will climb up the mountain for nightly attacks. I’m afraid that many outside female cultivators wouldn’t be able to control themselves either!”
Yu Xiao Peak’s brilliance not only lay in the master and disciple’s strength, but also in their appearances.
With the beauty of fair and perfect jade, they were so flawless and beautiful that it made one perfectly willing to comply.
Luo Jianqing stared blankly for a time. Xuan Lingzi conjured some spiritual energy in his palm and took Shuang Fu into his hand. Luo Jianqing’s first instinct was to seize his sword, but Shuang Fu shook twice with strong discontent. When Xuan Lingzi used just a bit of force, however, Shuang Fu submitted.
Xuan Lingzi said, “Jianqing, watch carefully now.”
“At the very beginning, one petal will open, and when nine petals open, it will become the nine-petaled lotus.”
Voice falling, Xuan Lingzi raised the sword, and a luminous sword light surged forward.
Under the moonlight, the honored senior with his black hair and white clothes danced lightly with the sword, his every move as if precisely calculated. The observer standing off to the side was so moved that a gasp left his lips without realizing. The sword light was a hundred times stronger than Luo Jianqing’s earlier movement. In that bamboo forest, not a single bamboo swayed, and even the tips of the leaves were still and silent.
Finally, the boundless sword light became a golden ray and shot straight towards Luo Jianqing, stopping a mere inch from his face.
Xuan Lingzi returned the sword to Luo Jianqing, asking, “Jianqing, did you see it?”
Luo Jianqing nodded. “Yes, I saw clearly.”
Xuan Lingzi said, “Then do it again.”
Without hesitation, Luo Jianqing lifted his sword. With the effort used to make a cup of tea, he withdrew his sword and looked towards his master. The latter knit his brows slightly, then suddenly took a step forward and pulled Luo Jianqing’s hand!
Luo Jianqing’s entire body became rigid.
With a hint of fragrance, Xuan Lingzi spoke quietly into his ear, “You are too worried.”
Just as his voice fell, Xuan Lingzi grasped Luo Jianqing’s hand, still slowly guiding his sword.
The burning warmth shot through his skin as soon as he made contact, spreading through all the blood vessels in his entire body. When Xuan Lingzi took his hand back, some unknown feeling rose in Luo Jianqing’s heart. He blankly raised his head to look at his master, and realized with a start… that tonight, he seemed to be unusually gentle with him.
Xuan Lingzi spoke softly, “There are still two days left, you need not worry. Do you know… what day it is today?”
Luo Jianqing stood dumbly, shaking his head. “This disciple does not.”
Xuan Lingzi’s lips slowly rose up, exposing a warm smile. “Today is your birthday.”
Luo Jianqing was stunned speechless.
“36 years ago, I picked you up from the riverside. If a superior constitution is born, it is inevitable that it will occur along with a natural phenomenon. Back then, your parents left you at the riverside. I secretly gave them some silver and took you back with me. Now, 36 years have already passed. I found that a few days ago that your parents have died this year. Jianqing, would you like to go back and visit?”
Luo Jianqing smiled slightly. “No need, Master. Since you’ve already broken off the connection with them for me, then all is life or death, I have no relationship with them.”
Xuan Lingzi watched the handsome youth in front of him, his phoenix eyes drooping slightly. “That natural phenomenon was the heavenly lightning, and eighteen thousand li of the Luo River’s water gradually clearing. As a result, I named you Luo Jianqing. (1) In those 36 years, were you ever curious about what different direction your life could’ve taken?”
Luo Jianqing smiled brilliantly, unable to keep some softness from his voice. “Master, being with you is enough for Jianqing.”
These words suddenly rendered Xuan Lingzi mute, staring at the handsome young man under the water-like moonlight. His fingers started to tremble, a hint of disorder also in his spiritual energy. Looking at this exceptional, elegant face, rolling flames seemed to roar in his heart, gradually becoming more unstable.
Xuan Lingzi’s expression suddenly chilled. “Your master will spend your birthday with you this time, but after this year, you must never entangle yourself with mortal life again. Forget the world of mortals and henceforth dedicate yourself to becoming immortal soon.”
Luo Jianqing blurted out, “How could I ever forget that?”
Xuan Lingzi paused for a moment. “Cut yourself off from worldly ties, and devote yourself to the Greater Paths.”
Luo Jianqing asked again, “How can I cut myself off?”
After being silent for a long time, Xuan Lingzi said, “You are already disconnected from mortal affairs. Henceforth it can be assumed that you have already cut off worldly ties.”
Upon hearing him, Luo Jianqing smiled instead. “Master, I have never done that. In my heart lays Tai Hua, second junior brother, third junior sister… and every elder and senior that protects me.”
His words abruptly cut off at that point. Luo Jianqing lightly raised his bright eyes, which carried a brilliant smile. His gaze was locked on Xuan Lingzi as his voice rang clear and loud like he was speaking the sweetest words: “And Master, you are there too.”
Xuan Lingzi did not reply. His face remained cold as always, while Luo Jianqing kept gazing at him with a smile.
After a while, Xuan Lingzi spoke, his sleeves fluttering, “We are definitely not part of your worldly ties. After you reach that cultivation level, you will surely understand.”
His voice falling, Xuan Lingzi flew inside his bamboo house. Luo Jianqing felt only a gust of wind wrap him up and carry him into the bamboo house. Xuan Lingzi took a jade hairpin and gently pushed it inside Luo Jianqing’s hair. His fingers fiddling in his hair made his head tremble slightly.
“This is made from divine jade agate and contains one attack with sixty percent of your master’s power. Jianqing, after you use it, it will become nothing more than a mere accessory. Use it wisely.”
Luo Jianqing’s eyes curved with his smile. “Yes.”
After that, Luo Jianqing combed Xuan Lingzi’s hair for him and helped him tie his jade coronet.
Supposedly they were celebrating his birthday, but throughout the entire night, the master and disciple did not speak much, only sitting on the side of the chessboard staring at each other. By the time the sky turned blue, Zuo Yunmo’s voice could be heard from the base of Yu Xiao Peak, who was calling Luo Jianqing to help with the sect-wide competition matters.
Luo Jianqing immediately rose and walked to the gate, but couldn’t help turning around and asking, “Master, this disciple wants to know something. Have you cut off your worldly ties yet?”
Xuan Lingzi’s back faced the gate, looking right at the chessboard.
After a very long time, just when Luo Jianqing thought he would be waiting forever for an answer, he heard Xuan Lingzi seem to sigh. “Your master… has not.”
Luo Jianqing saluted and left, and the bamboo house resumed its state of quiet.
Xuan Lingzi sat straight up on the bamboo couch, his gaze falling next to the chessboard. After a long time, he extended his hand and slowly caressed every chess piece Luo Jianqing had just left behind. His movements were as tender as could be, filled with love and memory. After his touch passed over the last piece, Xuan Lingzi’s entire body shook and took back his hand as though he had just been burned.
- (1) 洛: name of Luo River, surname