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His first sentence disregarded not only the bloody war between the Devil's Doctrine and the Righteous Doctrine lasting thousands of years but also the fact that the former was doomed under the sword of Mr. Ke of the Academy. Scandalous as these words were, they made some sense. When he spoke, Ning Que appeared righteous and retained his dignity as an Academy disciple.

Yet the next sentence that came from him was an utterly shameless and lowbrow plea for help. He didn't hesitate nor did he try to conceal anything. He couldn't seem any more shameless if he tried.

Tang Xiaotang looked at him with widened eyes, never once expecting him to ask for her help. She was stupefied. Was her brother telling the truth? Was this guy really a core disciple of the Headmaster of the Academy?

Even Mo Shanshan, who knew Ning Que very well, could feel her cheeks burning. A hint of embarrassment was seen in her eyes as she took a step away from him.

Ye Hongyu shook her head with contempt. She had always believed everyone from the Academy to be incredibly proud as the only Unknown Place connecting the mortal and supermundane world. From the Headmaster of Academy to Mr. Ke to the new generation of disciples like Jun Mo, which of them would truly respect the Devil's Doctrine? Now Ning Que was shooting off his mouth here. It seemed to be true that the Academy educated everyone without discrimination.

To be honest, Ning Que didn't have to beg the girl from the Devil's Doctrine to help him leave the Tianqi Mountains. If he tracked the incomprehensive aura and fragments left behind by Master Lotus in his mind, he might be able to find a way out.

That was the same method he used to bring Mo Shanshan and Ye Hongyu out of the Devil's Doctrine. But he didn't want to do it again. He could pass it off as luck for him to find the right path among the deep, serene passageways the last time, but he would invite suspicion if he got lucky one too many times.

"Miss Tang, where are you heading?" he asked.

"I'm going to the south."

The south was an abstract concept, especially for them who were in the bitterly cold Tianqi Mountains far north of the continent. No matter where their destination was, it seemed they had to first head south. Yet Tang Xiaotang spoke seriously and Ning Que also listened to her attentively, even telling her his thoughts truthfully.

"What a coincidence! We're heading to the south too."

"A chance meeting is better than an intentional appointment, as the saying goes. Should we go together?"

It was the mighty ones of the Devil's Doctrine who excavated the stone valleys into passageways throughout the boundless mountains. The stone walls were so smooth and steep as if cut by a knife, hard even for eagles to make a grip on. There wasn't even a hint of dust collected on the stone surface despite the wind, frost, rain, and snow over the years, leaving no hope for green grass or trees to grow.

The Tao Addict of the West-Hill Divine Palace, the girl from the Devil's Doctrine, the Calligraphy Addict of the Mogan Mountain, and the weakest World Wayfarer in the history of the Academy made for a strange quartet as they walked through narrow, lengthy stone valleys in silence.

But silence wasn't quite the right word for it.

"I think we, as the extraordinary young generation of the cultivation world, mustn't follow the same disastrous road that our predecessors did."

Mo Shanshan appeared grim. "Disastrous road?"

"Desperately fighting as soon as they meet each other. What's the point? Isn't it better to just stay calm and cultivate in the mountains, and then say hello and chat when we meet?"

Ye Hongyu replied coldly, "If we don't fight, we can't cultivate."

"I've always disagreed with this line of thought but I won't be arguing about it with a cultivation freak with you. If you have the opportunity to visit Chang'an someday, I'll treat you girls to noodles. It's the noodles with fried eggs that Sangsang makes…"

Tang Xiaotang looked at Ning Que's side profile curiously. "Who's Sangsang?"

"She's my little handmaiden. You may not know this but she makes the most delicious noodles in the world."

Mo Shanshan smiled when she saw how Ning Que's haggard face lit up with delight after mentioning a certain name. She said nothing but felt a sense of inexplicable emptiness inside. That made her feel uneasy.

Mo Shanshan smiled when she saw how Ning Que's haggard face lit up with delight after mentioning a certain name. She said nothing but felt a sense of inexplicable emptiness inside. That made her feel uneasy.

He lowered his voice and said as he looked at Ye Hongyu's back. "Do you know Prince Long Qing?"

Tang Xiaotang was infected by his actions and her quiet voice came from the beast tail."I know him. I saw how your arrow pierced his body earlier… You're really impressive to be able to shoot someone from that distance."

He answered sincerely, "It's nothing compared with tactics of your Enlightenment Doctrine. You even dare to jump from that high place."

Feeling bashful, she lowered her head and murmured, "I was muddled in the head back then."

Ning Que pointed at Ye Hongyu and said quietly, "There's no way the West-Hill Divine Palace wouldn't want to take revenge on me after I abolished Prince Long Qing. This woman wants to kill me all this time, but we've agreed in your sacred site to fight after leaving this place. If a battle is inevitable after getting out of the mountains, I can help you."

Though he kept his voice low, he had no intention of hiding anything. After all, the four of them were walking together in the silent valley. It was impossible for him to draw up a conspiracy or play the game of tactical collaboration.

Ye Hongyu, who walked ahead of them, stopped and turned around angrily. "Can you just shut up? I feel sorry for the Headmaster of Academy to have you as his student. I can guarantee you'll be the shame of the Academy in the future."

"You don't have to wait for the future. I'm already one now."

Ning Que replied with a smile. He was telling the truth. His classmates ignored or mocked him for several months after his inexplicable fight against Xie Chengyun of the South Jin Kingdom. He heard the words 'shame of the Academy' targeted at him countless times but he had long learned to turn a deaf ear to it. He didn't even consider it a derogatory term.

His principle was still the same. As long as he could grow old with Sangsang in peace, he would do anything. The girl from the Devil's Doctrine was the strongest of them all at the moment. She also appeared not to care for the Academy or its Headmaster. It wasn't a big deal for him to cozy up to her.

If he was willing to, he could make anyone from the soldiers to the people of the City of Wei to Master Yan She to even the emperor happy. It wasn't a surprise for him to see Tang Xiaotang, the girl from the Devil's Doctrine, become happy and laugh cheerfully now and then.

"So you're the sister of the legendary Tang! I've heard much about you."

Ning Que recalled Chen Pipi's words when they lied down on the meadow at the back of the mountain on his first day in the Academy. He was taken aback and remembered even things, including Chen Pipi's description of his ideal lover. He thought Tang Xiaotang looked increasingly familiar and realized, except her young age, she matched the description exactly.

"Since you're heading south, you should really come and visit Chang'an. It has nothing to do with the noodles with fried eggs that I mentioned earlier. Chang'an is the greatest city in the world and many interesting people live there. I want to introduce a friend to you. He's about my age but he's a genius who has entered the Knowing Destiny State years ago."

Tang Xiaotang's eyes widened in surprise. "Is there truly someone who can enter the Knowing Destiny State at such a young age? Is he even better than the Tao Addict?"

Ye Hongyu suddenly interrupted, saying, "That damned fatty has a bad temper, but his cultivation is incredibly fast in breaking through realms. At most, we can say Haotian favors some people more than others. If it comes to battles, he's not your match."

She paused for a moment before turning to Ning Que. "Is he doing well in the Academy in the past few years?"

Ning Que only recalled that Chen Pipi and the Tao Addict were old acquaintances and the arrogant fatty would actually shiver after hearing her name. He scratched his head and answered, "He's doing okay."

Ye Hongyu was silent for a long time after hearing this answer. She then said calmly, "That's good then."

The four continued to walk in the still and somewhat deathly stone valley. Though they were the best youngsters in the cultivation world, coming from different sects, holding different ideas, even harboring a deep hatred for one another, there were no signs of bloody fights. Perhaps they became sick of the bloodiness and conspiracies after watching the old monk at the snow-capped peak or perhaps they weren't willing to complicate their innocent journey home with such matters.

Truly, youth was a wonderful thing. Whatever they were addicted to, be it books, Tao, strength, or money, they retained an innocent and pure part inside them. They didn't completely sink themselves in the mud-like worldly matters.

Perhaps there would be fewer killings and disputes in the world if only youth remained and no one had to decay. People would retain their warm hearts. They would solve their conflicts by fighting one another straightforwardly without the need for calculations and conspiracies. The world would definitely become a simpler and lovelier place.

Sadly, everyone would eventually grow old and wise. More responsibilities would weigh down their shoulders, enough to make them bend their waists. They would be more diligent to think but lazier to feel.

At the south end of the vast Tianqi Mountains, the lower ridges plunged into the Wilderness before disappearing north of the Hulan Sea. The merchant team from the Central Plains had stayed in place for a long time. Even as the lake completely froze over, they had no intentions of leaving.

The middle-aged man slowly raised the edge of his cap and gazed at the Snow-capped Peak from afar.

He believed someone was there.

Was it someone from the abbey? The Haotian Taoism typically wouldn't only send the young generation like Tao Addict and Long Qing if they wanted to snatch the Ming Handscroll.

But who, except him and the guy hiding in an unknown place practicing the Twenty-Three-year Cicada Cultivation, knew of the other exit at the north of the Hulan Sea?

But he wouldn't stop his plan even if the abbey sent a World Wayfarer here. He had been swaying between the Empire and the West-Hill for many years and kept his silence all this time. He was desperate to escape that feeling so he decided to do something about it.

If he had the Tomes of Arcane in his hands, then he could obtain true freedom.

As one of the few strong successors of the Devil's Doctrine left in the world, the middle-aged man was fully confident in the legend.

"Is it you? The one who likes carrying a wooden sword?"

The middle-aged man looked at the Snow-capped Peak from afar with a contemptuous smile. He put his half-eaten lamb's leg back on his plate and accepted a scarf from his subordinate to wipe the oil from his hands before standing up.

He stepped on the surface of the recently frozen Hulan Sea and slowly walked toward the mountains opposite of the lake. His every step was so firm as if he wanted to split the frozen surface into pieces.

He had many enemies in the world, and they knew well that he didn't know how to swim and feared the water. But today, he insisted on crossing the lake as if to cross over the line that contained all his past grievances.

The cold breeze hit him squarely in the chest. He felt as if he had returned to being a young man. What a great feeling it was.

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