Nanjin City in the South County .
Nanjin City was located at the edge of the South County, only dozens of miles from the border of Nanman .
Jiangnan was known for its rainy weather . Nanjin City, at the edge of the South County, was especially wreathed in a vast blur of mist and rain all year long amongst its picturesque scenery .
For some scholars and Confucianist disciples, it was the perfect weather for them to use an umbrella and wander on the arch bridge, but elegant enough to keep their robes dry .
Sima Qingshan didn’t like this kind of weather .
Because then the ink wouldn’t dry quickly on his paintings and everything became a blur as soon as he rolled the parchment up .
He couldn’t sell a blurry painting, not even on the street .
He was a painter . A penniless one .
He had to make a living by selling his paintings .
Sima Qingshan opened his eyes in shock . Many pairs of eyes stared at him curiously from all directions .
“Brother Qingshan, you have a cold . Father caught a big fat fish tonight and made hot fish soup . He asked me to bring a bowl to you . ” a young girl with braided hair and patched clothes said with a smile .
Several other children around him started to jabber away as well . The noise gave Sima Qingshan a headache .
These children were from the poorest families in Nanjin City .
Sima Qingshan taught the kids how to read and paint for free so that they could have a chance to change their lives and distinguish themselves in the future .
“Go back home . Don’t let your parents worry . Remember to come and study on time tomorrow . ”
Sima Qingshan played with the children for a while .
The kids left, babbling and laughing .
Sima Qingshan closed the broken door and exhaled a deep breath . He was a poor painter who could only support himself by painting .
Having grown up in Nanjin City, he had no choice but to rely solely on himself since his parents died from illnesses .
“The immortal…imparted the Daoist method to me?”
Sima Qingshan rubbed his eyebrows .
He had indeed caught a cold and passed out right after drinking the medicine from the doctor . He had such a strange dream . It surprised him .
“There is no such thing as immortal in this world…”
Shaking his head, Sima Qingshan walked to his shabby dining table and picked up the bowl of steaming hot fish soup .
Children from families in poverty grew up faster . These kids might be young now, but they were all very sensible .
He took a sip of the fish soup . The hot soup flowed down his throat and dispelled the chill brought by the rainy weather .
Sima Qingshan regained his strength after drinking the fish soup .
He felt an especially warm feeling in his abdomen .
He walked to the study—which was really just a shabby woodshed .
He lit the oil lamp carefully . The dim light flickered .
Sima Qingshan gently ground the ink stick .
He laid out a piece of paper and dipped his brush in the ink .
The tip of the brush moved naturally and smoothly . He sketched out the elegant figures of ladies .
The ink flowed effortlessly, and the painting was done in one sitting .
All of a sudden, Sima Qingshan started .
“When did I… become such a good painter?!”
He stepped back in shock and looked at the painting he had done, flustered and alarmed .
He stared at the hand holding the brush and felt inexplicably frightened .
A splendid picture slowly unfolded in his head as if the sound of the immortal from the Dao Impartment Platform was blasting in his mind .
Sima Qingshan’s face flushed . A wisp of hot steam rose from his abdomen and wrapped around his brush .
The ladies in the painting were so vivid . It was as if they came to life as soon as the tip of his brush touched the paper .
Capital city .
Tang Xiansheng changed his clothes and led Tang Yimo to Zijin Palace .
He remained calm and composed as if he hadn’t just been the target of an attempted assassination .
Jiang Li walked in front of him and guided Tang Xiansheng into Zijin Palace . However, he stopped Tang Yimo outside the palace .
“Mayor Tang, His Majesty permitted only you to enter,” Jiang Li said .
Tang Xiansheng squinted . He tapped Tang Yimo on his shoulder then stepped into the palace .
The wooden door, red and carved with golden rims, closed, blocking Tang Yimo and Jiang Li from looking within .
Jiang Li took off his helmet and glanced at Tang Yimo . He was stunned by the impressive strength Tang Yimo displayed during the fight on the long street .
“Are you a cultivator?” Jiang Li asked .
Tang Yimo hesitated for a moment and nodded slightly .
“Are you the reason why Tang Xiansheng risked coming to the capital city? You are powerful indeed . Even though you’re not as good as some of the other cultivators I’ve met, you’re really impressive,” Jiang Li complimented him .
Tang Yimo shot Jiang Li a glance and nodded silently .
Jiang Li was intrigued . Tang Yimo didn’t seem to show any sign of competitiveness even when he was goaded .
“Don’t you want to know who these cultivators are? The ones who are better than you,” Jiang Li said .
Tang Yimo shook his head . “So what if I know? I became a cultivator to protect my mother and sister . I don’t have any reason to compete with others . They can be as powerful as they want . It’s none of my business as long as they don’t hurt my mother and sister . ”
Jiang Li looked at Tang Yimo in surprise .
This man was very interesting .
Inside Zijin Palace .
Tang Xiansheng bowed and cupped one hand in the other before his chest, walking forward in short, quick steps .
“Tang Xiansheng greets His Majesty . ”
Yuwen Xiu sat upright on the Dragon Throne in the dim light .
Tang Xiansheng didn’t raise his head . He behaved as a humble servant waiting for his master’s judgment .
A hoot of laughter came from the Dragon Throne .
Yuwen Xiu stepped down from his high seat and helped Tang Xiansheng up .
“Citizen Tang, you came to the capital city from thousands of miles away . Thank you for the trouble you’re taken . ”
Yuwen Xiu laughed .
“It’s an honor to meet Your Majesty . ”
Tang Xiansheng gestured in respect .
The two chatted for a long time in Zijin Palace while the rain fell in torrents outside .
Finally, the wooden door opened .
Tang Xiansheng walked out .
“Citizen Jiang, someone attempted to assassinate Mayor Tang’s life shortly after he entered the capital city . He is very frightened now . You need to send people to protect Mayor Tang and search for the assassins in the entire capital city! You have to capture the assassins and free Mayor Tang from his worries . ”
Yuwen Xiu’s voice came from Zijin Palace .
Jiang Li frowned slightly but he didn’t say much .
He gestured and answered, “Understood . ”
Tang Xiansheng grinned cordially and left with Tang Yimo holding his arm .
Jiang Li took a long look into the depths of the palace .
It seemed like the Emperor had really decided to join hands with Tang Xiansheng . Or maybe, the collaboration with Tang Xiansheng had been Yuwen Xiu’s intention since the beginning . He might even be willing to plan an assassination attempt to achieve this goal .
Jiang Li had recognized the assassin who distracted him as the old eunuch who received his Immortal encounter at the Dragon Gate .
The other assassins were all members of the Black Dragon Guard as well .
No wonder he seemed familiar .
“Tang Xiansheng seemed kind yet was internally cruel . His Majesty would only bring trouble upon himself by teaming up with him . ”
Jiang Li shook his head .
The situation had just begun to stabilize . Yuwen Xiu was leading it into turmoil again .
Great Zhou was provoking the world by joining forces with the South County .
Naturally, the West County and North County wouldn’t sit still and watch passively .
Wearing a Daoist robe, Xie Yunling went down Tiandang Mountain and bought a horse in Nanjiang City . He rode to Zhongnan Mountain in the South County .
Zhongnan Mountain was not as steep as Tiandang Mountain .
This was not Xie Yunling’s first visit . He knew the mountains well and climbed the bluestone path with ease .
He entered a luxurious pavilion . Following a sword disciple, he walked through a long passage, crossed an old wooden bridge, before he reached the back of Zhongnan Mountain .
The back of the mountain was a relaxed and serene place .
A wooden house was located at its center .
Xie Yunling heard a hoot of hearty laughter floating from the house before he was close .
“What day is it today? Why are so many old folks coming to find me?”
The person laughed loudly .
Two figures walked out of the wooden house .
One bent his back and wore a sackcloth shirt with metal armor on his arms . He looked unfathomable .
“Gongshu Yu, Philosopher of the Jiguan School,” Xie Yunling called, “weren’t you hanging out with Mo Beike? Why have you come to Zhongnan Mountain?”
Xie Yunling gazed steadily at the figure .
The short, round-shouldered guy opened his mouth . His voice was extremely hoarse, almost like clothes rubbing against rocks .
“Xiang Shaoyun led the West County Army and broke through the Mohist City of Traps . The Jiguan School suffered great losses, the Mohists even more . ”
“After his immortal encounter, Xiang Shaoyun was no longer the Overlord who only knew brute strength,” Xie Yunling said . “It’s not a surprise that you lost the Mohist City of Traps . That city is effective only in fending off martial arts practitioners . It is useless when it comes to cultivators . ”
Unwilling to acknowledge the defeat, Gongshu Yu snorted .
“Haha, let’s not argue . Old folks like us rarely get a chance to have a reunion . Why do we have to spend it on endless quarrels?”
A soft voice rang out .
An old, white-haired man who wore a brocade robe smiled and looked at Gongshu Yu and Xie Yunling .
This man was the reason for Xie Yunling’s trip .
The Philosopher of the Zhongnan Sword Sect and the Sword Saint, Hua Dongliu .
The Daoist School, the Sword Sect, and the Jiguan School… Philosophers of three prominent power groups of the Hundred Schools of Philosophy were meeting each other in a small wooden house on the backside of the Zhongnan Mountain .
The world would tremble if this fact became known .
“Old Hua,” Xie Yunling said, “the Daoist School and the Sword Sect have been getting along . Besides, we’re both located in South County . You know what the Daoist School has been through, don’t you?” He glanced at the white-haired man .
“Of course, I know . I was just talking to Gongshu about you . ”
“The great Daoist School couldn’t stop a disciple expelled five years ago . ” Hua Dongliu started to laugh .
Xie Yunling didn’t care .
“He was better than us . So we lost . What’s there to laugh about? It’s inevitable that the younger generation surpasses the older one . ”
“I came to find you today to remind you that White Jade City has quite an ambition,” Xie Yunling said .
“White Jade City wants to bring the Daoist School under control . After the Daoist School, he will be aiming for the Sword Sect . The Tianji School has already succumbed and even their name was changed to Tianji Pavilion . He wants to place himself above the Hundred Schools of Philosophy . ”
“Our Daoist School couldn’t stop White Jade City . Do you really think the Sword Sect can? If I remember correctly, several of the Seven Heroes of the Sword Sect died in Beiluo City, didn’t they?”
Gongshu Yu took a brief look at Hua Dongliu .
“Old Xie, spill it out . What did you come here for?” Hua Dongliu asked softly .
Xie Yunling smiled and raised his hand . A wisp of Spirit Qi swirled in his palm .
“I want to go to Beiluo City and meet with the famed Lu Ping’an…”
“Are you two willing to join me? Let’s go meet this legendary Young Master Lu . ”
Xie Yunling said with an inscrutable expression .
“Old folks like us will be buried soon if we don’t make some moves now . The era of the Hundred Schools of Philosophy will pass immediately after our demise . Have you resigned yourselves to that?”
Hua Dongliu remained silent .
He didn’t expect that Xie Yunling came to invite him to go to Beiluo .
Three Philosophers marching to Beiluo together…
The news would spread like a bombshell .
“Count me in,” Gongshu Yu answered suddenly .
Hua Dongliu was stunned for a moment, then he started to laugh .
“That being the case, Sword Saint Hua Dongliu will take a trip to Beiluo as well . It would be a good chance to catch a glimpse of the strength of Lu Ping’an, the best cultivator in the world,” Hua Dongliu mused .
He held one hand behind his back . His brocade robe flapped in the wind .
He raised the hand and waved it abruptly .
With a loud clang, a ray of light suddenly shot out of the wooden house .
A long sword was stuck into the ground in front of Hua Dongliu, quivering .
The shining sword reflected the three figures of the Philosophers .