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Xiao Chen got up and asked, "I am Han Chen. How should I address you, Senior Brother?" He saw that this man's cultivation was on the second to third level of the Foundation Building Realm--it was even lower than Gu Hanxuan's. How then did he manage to avoid his Divine Sense? He must have some special way of practicing his cultivation!

  The man in teal smiled and said, "My name is Mo Yaozhui. Remember, it's: Do, not, come, after, me!" Upon saying this, he turned around and a gleaming teal hair clasp suddenly appeared in his hand. The entire hair clasp flashed with flowing light, looking obviously quite extraordinary.

  "Dang dang dang! Look at this, Little Junior Sister! Look what your Senior Brother got you again on his trip!"

  Liu Fenghuang stared at the hair clasp in his hand with unblinking eyes. After a long time, she finally exclaimed. "You... you... you! Have you gone to that place again?... Dad will punish you severely if he learns about this!"

  "Ah, ptooey!" Mo Yaozhui spat to his side a few times and said, "Your Senior Brother found this treasure only after searching high and low outside. What a thing to say, Junior Sister... "

  Xiao Chen finally understood everything, standing by the side. So this man had been a thief in the past! No wonder he could sneak up to where Xiao Chen was without notice. Mo Yaozhui once claimed that he could steal just about anything in this world--nothing could escape his plunder. He would even leave a letter to remind the owner when stealing certain items.

  He was only caught a few years ago by Liu Yunzheng when he came to the Teal Jade Sect to steal the Fuxi Zither strings. After that, he was taken into the Sect and broke himself of this bad habit.

  The three of them chatted and joked in the courtyard and soon the sun set in the west. After Liu Fenghuang and Mo Yaozhui left, Xiao Chen sauntered around the courtyard, halting his steps now and then, sighing to the trees and the flowers. Finally, when it was deep into the night with no one around, he took out the Nine-heaven Jade Pendant from the Divine Vessel and started to play under the moonlight.

  From outside the courtyard came a sudden rustling. Focusing his eyes, Xiao Chen immediately stopped playing and said in a nonchalant voice, "Senior Sister Chu is visiting late at night. Please come in." Under the moonlight, an elegant figure darted in and soon appeared a couple of meters in front of Xiao Chen.

  "Junior Brother Han, you are in high spirits."

  Xiao Chen smiled faintly. "Senior Sister Chu is here so late at night. I'm sure you're not here to hear my clumsy playing." Chu Lingjiao smiled faintly as well. She shifted her dainty feet and approached him, a quietly elegant scent wafting to his nostrils.

  She was dressed in a thin, green silk blouse, her long hair cascading to her shoulders. Neither her figure nor her countenance was anything one could nitpick on from this world. Yet to Xiao Chen, she resembled the most lethal poison in the world at the moment. He smiled gently and asked, "What advice do you have for me, Senior Sister Chu?"

  Chu Lingjiao's figure trembled. Soon she was sitting by his side, smiling faintly. "Junior Brother Han, your playing surpasses even the most sublime tunes of this mortal world. Though your Senior Sister is not capable, I would like the pleasure of another tune." As she spoke, her cheeks flushed and her eyelashes fluttered. She looked even more illicitly intimate under the moonlight.

  Xiao Chen smiled gently, taking in her faint body scent. He recalled that erotic scene by the river days ago, wondering if she would now play the femme fatale after failing to kill and silence him. Immediately, he started plucking the zither strings and playing a tune extempore.

  It was a soothing, peaceful tune, intending to let her know he had no intention of getting involved in their disputes. After the tune, Xiao Chen smiled indifferently. "Senior Sister Chu, I wonder if you like my tune?"

Chu Lingjiao gave a faint smile. "Junior Brother Han has indeed extraordinary abilities in playing the zither. I have to hand it to you. Very well, I shall not disturb your rest." Afer saying this, her figure shifted and she appeared by the gate of the courtyard. She turned her head back before leaving. "Does Junior Brother Han know who used to reside in this abode?"

  "Oh? Please enlighten me, Senior Sister Chu."

Chu Lingjiao smiled radiantly and her figure quivered. She had disappeared in a flash.

  A long time passed. Xiao Chen finally heaved a sigh of relief when he could no longer sense her presence. A large portion of his back was already drenched with sweat. Had I not told her through my playing that I would not become her enemy, he thought to himself, she might have struck and killed me. As his inner strength had not recovered, she would have no trouble slaying him.

  For the next few days, Xiao Chen stayed in the Wind-riding Pavilion, practicing his skills. Chu Lingjiao did not visit him again. Liu Fenghuang, on the other hand, would pester him early each morning to go to this place or that to have fun. This morning, he had just stepped out of his room when Liu Fenghuang started prancing in again.

  "Hee hee, Junior Brother Han, have you recovered your strength?" She mumbled a chant incantation and soon the Fuxi Zither materialized in her arms.

  "Not yet. I will try to play." Xiao Chen went over and received the Jade Zither into his arms. Before gaining Liu Yunzheng's trust, he realized that he could maintain contact with the zither by pretending he had not recovered.

  His fingertips moved but he was still unable to play. He sighed quietly. "It's true that I can't play this divine zither until I've recovered. Please take this zither back, Senior Sister."

  Instantly, Liu Fenghuang pulled a grim face. She kept the Jade Zither and spoke in a soft voice. "Well, even Senior Sister Shen has recovered. Why haven't you, Junior Brother Han... ?" After she said this, she suddenly brightened up and smiled. "But never mind. My dad says he will have someone help you recover your strength tomorrow."

  Xiao Chen's heart missed a beat. Was Liu Yunzheng finally getting someone to test him out? Now that his strength had recovered, it had shown faint signs of reaching the Peak of Lv 9 Qi Refining Realm... if he found someone whose cultivation vastly exceeded his, he would not be able to conceal the truth.

  As he worried and reflected over this, he heard Liu Fenghuang's sudden exclamation. "Wow, Junior Brother Han, is that your zither? It looks so unique!" Xiao Chen now recalled that he had not kept his Nine-heaven Jade Pendant since last night. He turned his head and found her running over to the Jade Zither. He cried out to her, "Senior Sister, don't touch that!"

  It was too late. Liu Fenghuang had started plucking its strings. No sound emitted from the zither, but Liu Fenghuang gave an ear-piercing scream instead. She pulled back her hand as if struck by lightning.

  Xiao Chen hurriedly dashed over and grabbed her hand to examine it. Her fingertips had been cut, yet bizarrely, not a single drop of blood had oozed out. All her blood had been sucked in by the Nine-heaven Jade Pendant.

  Liu Fenghuang's eyes suddenly filled with tears. "It's so painful. What happened... ?"

  The Nine-heaven Jade Pendant was the most ferocious zither in the world. It not only could cut a person's fingers, but could also inject a deadly qi into the wound within an instant. The person who had cut his finger would suffer unbearable pain. Xiao Chen wanted to force that deadly qi out from her with his inner strength, but suddenly realized that it would be exposing himself. He said, "Mobilize your inner strength quickly and force the blood out."

  Liu Fenghuang immediately did what she was told. After a while, her entire palm was covered with dark purplish blood. The pain subsided a little. Xiao Chen wiped the blood from her palm and asked gently, "Does it still hurt?"

  Liu Fenghuang's pretty face turned crimson and she quickly withdrew her hand. She said in a whisper, "No... not anymore."

  Although she was the daughter of the Sect Leader, only a few senior brothers were genuinely concerned about her since she was a child. Most of the male disciples were just trying to please her. Yet when she saw Xiao Chen's anxiety, he looked almost as if he was really concerned. She asked, "By the way, Junior Brother Han, what's wrong with your zither?"

  Xiao Chen turned back, looked at the Nine-heaven Jade Pendant and sighed. "The owners of this zither have all encountered hideous deaths. This zither now only feeds on blood to injure its player. Senior Sister Liu, you must never touch it again."

  In the face of this innocent young girl, he must still deceive her in every way. Yet he must have treated Liu Fenghuang as his first friend since arriving at this strange place.

  "Oh!" Liu Fenghuang exclaimed in alarm. "Do you mean you are in grave danger yourself, Junior Brother Han?"

  Xiao Chen smiled gently. "It doesn't matter. This zither cannot hurt me." He continued, "Another 20 days and it will be the Immortals League Competition. Senior Sister, go back and prepare for it. Don't come looking for me here in the future."

  "Alright." Liu Fenghuang nodded her head and said, "Get well too, Junior Brother. Tomorrow, Dad will get someone to help you recover your inner strength."

  Xiao Chen nodded and smiled. He saw her out of the courtyard, watching her figure retreat and sighing softly and helplessly in his heart. "Xiao Chen, you're here for the zither strings. You cannot bear any feeling for even a flower or a tree here, or they will fetter you on the way in the future."

  While he was in the Human World, he had borne much feelings for Li Muxue, Huangfu Xin'er and so many other people. Had it not been so, he would not have experienced such deep melancholy, having to play the zither to the moon to relieve his loneliness.

  Another twenty days or more to the Immortals League Competition. He had learned from Liu Fenghuang how this competition had begun. Several decades ago, before the Zhou State and Qing State were divided in the East Divine Continent, the two states used to be one until riven by all sorts of disputes.

  Immediately after they broke into two, the two states used to war with each other, year after year. Even the religious sects from both sides fought each other furiously for the Zhou State's Earth Spiritual Meridian. Finally, the two states agreed to hold an Immortals League Competition once every three years. The side which won would hold on to the Spiritual Meridian for three years. The elders did not take part in the Immortals League Competition. Had they done so, with Core Forming and even Nascent Soul superiors participating, it would cause a bloodbath and grave havoc to the living.

  The Zhou State had won the competition five times in succession. Rumor had it that the Qing State had gotten a large number of Heaven List warriors to take part this time, even a young recluse superior ranked in the top 10. It looked like the Spiritual Meridian would switch ownership this time.

  Xiao Chen had wanted to win Liu Yunzheng's trust in the past days, so that the latter would entrust him with the Fuxi Zither strings for the upcoming Immortals League Competition. If he could create a little chaos there, he could take the opportunity to escape. Right now, however, he had no way of knowing whether Liu Yunzheng really wanted to get someone to help him recover, or he was just testing him out. If Xiao Chen were to arouse his suspicions, the loss could not make up for the gain.

  So he decided not to hide his true strength anymore.

  Suddenly, he saw a figure streak past in the distance. That figure aroused in him a feeling of deja vu. He trod on toward that spot.

  He was not familiar with the terrain of Teal Jade Sect. Had it not been Liu Fenghuang out taking him for saunters in the past few days, he would not have recognized the way. As he went after the figure, it seemed at times close by and at times far off, finally disappearing into a white-walled building with green tiles.

Xiao Chen sprinted up in one breath and saw the place the figure disappeared into. Nearby was the gate of a courtyard, with two guards standing by. From their uniforms, he could tell that they were Imperial Palace Guards.

  How could there be imperial troops in Teal Jade Sect? As he wondered to himself, puzzled, a guard yelled out to him, "Who is it? Don't you know you should not be here?"

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