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That painting underwent some changes.
Besides Jing Jiu, three others in his group had also killed some monsters. A few red plum flowers had been added to the nearby cold branches, looking pleasant. By now, the painting looked complete when these close-by red plum flowers counterweighed abundant ones in the distance.
The newly added plum flowers had been done by He Zhan as well. After having finished the painting, he appreciated it in satisfaction for a while, gulping down the rest of the wine in his alcohol jar and leaving the West Mountain Residence.
The Cultivation practitioners of various sects were speechless while looking at the painting sentimentally. They were all fully aware that Jing Jiu would be the winner of the Cultivation tournament at this year's Plum Meeting.
This news had soon been passed to the Green Mountain.
The young disciples on the nine peaks were naturally quite happy upon hearing the news, feeling honored and proud.
The masters of the peaks had had high expectations for Jing Jiu, but they had also thought that Jing Jiu was still young, and so had no chance of beating Luo Huainan. However, they were quite surprised and joyful after the news had been confirmed.
On Shenmo Peak, Gu Qing and young Yuan made a plate of tree leaf salad, washed some fruits, and opened a jar of medicinal wine.
Those monkeys came up from the bottom of the cliff after smelling the wine and foods, making constant noises and adding a needed warm atmosphere to the celebrating banquet.
"I'll go out from the mountain to meet my master tomorrow."
Young Yuan put down the wine cup. His happy mood had been replaced by worry.
As the news from Zhaoge City wasn't clear enough, he didn't know how badly his master had been wounded.
According to the schedule,
the wooden sword boat that had gone to pick up Zhao Layue should arrive at Cloudy Town next day. "I'd like to go with you, of course," Gu Qing demanded.
Young Yuan said, "But someone has to stay on the peak."
Gu Qing pointed to those monkeys and said, "Aren't they here?"
Jing Shang, among all the officials of the Taichang Temple, was the humblest and always kept a low profile. Even though his colleagues all knew who his young brother was and congratulated him after that chess game at the Plum Meeting, he was still acting like before, doing what he was expected to do without showing an ounce of audacity.
His way of doing things prevented him from hosting a big banquet and asking friends and colleagues to join his celebration. Yet, he asked his wife to cook a table full of delicious foods that night and opened a jar of wine which he had preserved for fifteen years. Pretty soon, he had gotten a little bit drunk and was red in the face.
His father didn't know what had happened and asked him about the matter.
His wife said with a smiling face, "Nothing big happened. We have just heard…my young brother-in-law has won first place in the Cultivation tournament."
Hearing what she said, Jing Shang wanted to remind her that she shouldn't call Jing Jiu "young brother-in-law", but he couldn't help feeling proud of having such a prominent "young brother," and so didn't stop her. He emptied a few more cups of wine; but he wondered regretfully, why didn't Jing Jiu tell him to bet on him winning this time?
State Duke Lu and his son were drinking together in the duke's manor.
"A glowing pearl is a pearl that glows. Neither the sandy wind nor the cold snow can obstruct its brightness."
His son said with his eyes full of admiration, "The successor is so outstanding, and the original wooden board holder would be even more outstanding. My grandfather really had the ability to choose the right person."
State Duke Lu said, "Don't be stupid. It's not that you grandfather had the ability to choose the right person; it was the other way around: Your grandfather had been chosen. What we need to do is to prove that we are worth being chosen by the original wooden board holder."
His son wondered if that was really the case. "Father, I'd like to go to West Mountain Residence to look at that painting," he told his father.
Since those plum flower paintings would be kept by various sects after the Cultivation tournament, he had to go and see it now as Jing Jiu's painting was at West Mountain Residence at the moment while the Cultivation tournament was still under way.
"That painting has already been sent to the imperial palace by sundown because the Emperor wanted to see it," said State Duke Lu.
Before being sent to the imperial palace, Jing Jiu`s plum flower painting had to be delivered to the Net-Perception Temple for the Young Zen Master to evaluate.
Unexpectedly, no news came out from the temple until the next morning.
Even those who didn't like the acting style of the Green Mountain had to admit that Jing Jiu should be the winner of this year's Cultivation tournament.
What went wrong with the Cultivation tournament?
On the highest place of West Mountain Residence, the clouds and fog enshrouded the wooden railings, looking like the fairy realm.
The important figures of the Cultivation circle had gathered here again for one event.
The rarely seen Elder of the Center Sect had arrived surrounded by a pure, mild energy.
In the middle of the building, there was an object looking like a sand board. Its bottom had a glow that could be only emitted by a special magic treasure, and the scenes on the sand board were covered by the mist, visible intermittently.
This was the most important magic treasure of the Great Marsh Sect—The Thousand Mile Map.
The Thousand Mile Map could reveal scenes from long distances. Coupled with the Cold-Signal Bird of the Kunlun Sect and the Daoist magic treasure of the Fayuan Sect, the map could let observers learn the detailed information about the situation in the frontline.
Lately, the strange cold fogs had appeared less often, so the picture was clear enough to let the observers see the exact positions of those young disciples participating in the Cultivation tournament.
The majority of the young disciples had already entered the dark mountain range, getting closer to the center of the Snowy Kingdom and nearer to the real dangers as well.
There were eight or nine faint illuminated dots that were ahead of all the others in the mountain range. They were separated into two groups, so they should be Luo Huainan and Tong Lu's groups.
At a distance far away from the first two groups in the valley, there were many lighting dots gathering together. The dots were so many that the patch of the valley was actually brightened as a result.
"At the beginning, they stopped for two days. After they resumed advancing, they met other groups on the way; then they all have been walking and resting together since. And they don't seem to intend to separate until now."
State Duke He said, "They should be aware of the rules of the Cultivation tournament well enough to know that this is wrong, but it doesn't look like they are going to cheat."
He looked at the sand board as he spoke. Yet all the masters and elders present knew whom he was talking to.
Nan Wang was emotionless, as if she didn't hear what State Duke He had said at all.
According to the news from the frontline, all these ideas were Jing Jiu's.
After having slain scores of snow foot monsters that night, Jing Jiu led the young disciples on the snowy land and between the cold mountains, walking a little and resting a bit. He had already gathered more than thirty disciples by now.
It was obvious that he did this on purpose. The question was, what did he actually want to do?
"He thinks he is the winner of the Cultivation tournament, and he is so proud as to want to become the leader of the new generation?!"
The Sect Master of the Kunlun sneered, "Does he have any respect for us, the masters, and any respect for the rules?"
"Of course it's a proud thing to be the winner of the Cultivation tournament. Besides, he is the personal disciple of the Immortal Jing Yang. Few people in the Cultivation world have the qualifications to be his masters."
Nan Wang said this without emotion.
She didn't like Jing Jiu because he was too good-looking and too attractive; he wasn't like Jing Yang back then, smooth like a jade and strong like a pine tree.
But right now, she had to speak on Jing Jiu's behalf.
The Elder of the Center Sect had finally spoken, "I don't think we should make judgment too soon. Perhaps they have met some unexpected things."
He said so not for Jing Jiu's sake, but because Bai Zao was among them.
The most important part was that according to the news from the frontline, the reason why Jing Jiu could have persuaded those young disciples to stay with the big group was mostly due to the support from Bai Zao.
Jing Jiu had never thought of winning first place in the Cultivation tournament.
His Cultivation state was much lower that Luo Huainan's. Before pursuing the snow foot monsters that night, he had had no idea that he was so suitable for the snowy land; so he of course didn't ask Jing Shang to bet on him.
It was for other reasons that he came here to participate in the Cultivation tournament. What he was doing right now was one of the reasons.
What on earth did he want to do?
In the cold valley and amid the wind acting like the flying sword, the young Cultivation practitioners, numbering more than thirty, all had this same thought while looking at Jing Jiu's back.