Today, not even a single floating restaurant could be seen operating on the water of Myriad Red River. The patrolling boats of Great Yan Dynasty's Waterborne Forces were cruising back and forth on the water, completely barring off any unauthorized access to the river itself. In the middle of the river was a floating wooden platform built using expensive woods. It stretched for nearly one hundred acres, with a few pavilions and covered corridors constructed on it. There were even places paved with soils and planted with many exotic flowers, which looked no different from ordinary gardens on the land. A few thousand young men, each clad in the same white robe and a tall crown of goose feather on their head, were seen sitting on the platform with a solemn expression. They were listening attentively to a young girl, who sat on her heels in the center of the platform while reading out a scroll of poem.
The voice of this young girl sounded flat and colorless, and no rise or fall could be heard from her tone. It was just like the water of Myriad Red River underneath them, crystal clear, yet taking a hue of green that struck a chill to one's heart. She was clad in the same white robe with a tall crown of goose feather mounted on her head. Every time she moved her glance, a strong scholarly air would immediately caress towards that direction. Her appearance could only be considered as ordinary, and in this world where beautiful girls were everywhere, it was an outlook of a lower grade. Yet, because of her extraordinary temperament that was completely different from the surrounding young men, it made her look like a swan who was flying aloft in the sky, while all the men around her had become a pool of toads.
All those pretty maids who were walking amidst the crowds, serving tea and water to the attendees, when compared to this young girl were like a flock of sparrows standing facing a Phoenix; the color of their feathers seemed to have faded away completely. Although the young girl's appearance was not enough to overthrow cities and ruin states, yet the description of 'unsurpassed beauty of a generation', 'a girl with graceful bearing', were most probably used for someone like her.
A long, green string was tied to a corner of the table in front of this young girl. On the other end of the string was a kite the shape of a folding fan. On the surface of the kite made using pure white paper were a few young swallows flying around willow branches drawn with rather light and gentle strokes of ink. Although they were formed with merely a few seemingly insignificant strokes of the brush, yet the liveliness and vigor of the young swallows were being perfectly reproduced. It looked like a few real swallows with genuine blood and flesh were spreading their wings and flying on the kite.
Suddenly, the young girl lowered down the scroll of poem in her hand, picked up a jade paperweight and gently patted on the surface of the table in front of her.
*Pap!* A crystal-clear sound rang out. With that, over a few thousand young men sitting on the platform bowed their heads at the same time, tilted their head slightly to one side and listening attentively to the young girl's explanation. Using the surprisingly bright eyes of hers, the young girl threw a glance at the crowd of young men, nodded her head and begun speaking slowly, "The poem composed by young mister Yuhen, 'The Journey of an Immortal', has portrayed a splendid scene. The words used are rich and beautiful, and it gives off an elegant and spiritual air of the Human Immortal realm, dignified, and sumptuous. However, there is one question lingering in Qianqian's mind. Could young mister Yuhen provide an answer to my question?"
Among the front rows of the crowd, a young man with an imposing and handsome appearance rose to his feet. He cupped his fist and bowed deeply towards the young girl, saying with a smile, "Please enlighten me, young miss Qianqian." Out of nowhere, there was a drizzle of tiny raindrops that appeared on top of this young man's head, and the breeze on the river kept blowing them a few miles away before they gently fell to the ground. While they were drifting through the air, they left numerous tiny, long, and deep marks of sword on the surface of the water.
Impressively, this young man was also a Human Immortal who had attained the cultivation of Gold Core realm.
The young girl smiled, looking at the young man and asked with a warm tone, "Young mister Yuhen, as you have not met with a real Immortal before, how do you know the Heavenly Palace of Immortal looks like the one used by the emperor of the mortal realm? Are they really as magnificent, luxurious, mighty and lofty as the one we saw in this world? Or perhaps, the residence for Immortals is just like the one used by those ordinary civilians of Great Yan Dynasty, with walls erected from soils and ordinary roof tiles? Or maybe, they are simply built with weeds and wood planks?"
The young man was struck dumb. He kept staring at the young girl and could not come out with any words. He bowed his head and pondered for a brief moment, then only cupped his fist, bowed deeply once again and said, "You're right with the lecture, young miss Qianqian. Shangguan Yuhen was being overconfident, too impatient to jump to a conclusion about the magnificent world of Immortals. You're right, those legendary Immortals who wander about at leisure outside the mortal world would not carry themselves like how ordinary mortals would, by living in a tall and lofty building which is luxuriously decorated."
He breathed out a long sigh, walked slowly towards the table placed in front of the young girl and picked up the scroll of poem. After that, he casually tossed it into the air. Countless droplets of rain coiled back down, enveloped the scroll and ripped it into thousand pieces. Shangguan Yuhen said, "Although Yuhen had spent the past three years in studying and pondering, yet what I've got is a paper full of nonsense. This is so embarrassing." After letting out a few words of self-mockery, he again bowed deeply toward the young girl, took a few steps back slowly and returned to his seat.
A faint smile emerged on the young girl's face. She looked at Shangguan Yuhen, nodded slowly and said, "Please don't look down on yourself, young mister Yuhen. Compared to three years ago, young mister's skill and style in writing have improved greatly. As young mister has to focus primarily on cultivating the Dao of swords, being able to improve your knowledge in Dao of poems at the same time has proved that young mister is an extraordinary man."
Upon hearing the positive comment from the young girl, the fair face of Shangguan Yuhen immediately beamed with energy, and even had his back straightened up.
The young girl then giggled and cried out, "Are there any more great works composed by any young misters? Please have them submitted to me now. If there aren’t any more poems left for Qianqian to review, Qianqian will announce the new subject for today, so that all of you can show us your style of writing." With her witty eyes, the young girl glanced around, chuckled and said, "The rule remains the same as last year. If any young mister can eventually excel with his poem, after this meeting of poem is concluded, he can accompany Qianqian to an outing for three whole days."
It seemed like this young girl did have a pretty good cultivation base, and even though she did not say with a loud voice, her words had gently drifted through the air and reached to a distance of several dozen miles away. Even all the soldiers of the waterborne forces standing guard on the patrolling boats could hear her words loud and clear, which made them unable to help but throw their glances over to the wooden platform. Naturally, Princess Zhang Le, who was riding on a ferry and sailing fast toward the wooden platform, had heard the words of this young girl as well.
"Ha~" Princess Zhang Le sneered, shook her head and said, "This old woman who cannot get herself married even at the age of over twenty years old is playing the same old trick again. Hmph, go for an outing together for three days? How could going for an outing with her, Yu Qianqian, be considered a grand prize? For so many years, there are already so many men who went out together with her. But why Does she just not want to pick one of them and marry him?"
Cautiously, Taba Haofeng stood not too far behind Princess Zhang Le. He dared not answer her words, but instead kept having his eyes darting around on Princess Zhang Le's body. He bowed his head, yet still had his eyes linger near the edge of Princess Zhang Le's skirt and her legs.
Princess Zhang Le snorted coldly, then suddenly let out a sweet smile and cried out with a delicate voice, "Is that sister Yu Qianqian? Your meeting of poem has been running for two days, but why did you never inform Zi Xuan earlier? Aren't you bullying me by doing this, sister Qianqian? I don't care, I've to punish you, my sister, to drink three dippers full of fine wine. And don't worry, Zi Xuan has brought the wine dipper here!"
With a flip of her palm and a mind full of ill intentions, Princess Zhang Le took out a rice dipper made from purple gold from her storage ring, which was twice the size of the jade wine dipper used by Jing Ke. Smilingly, she placed it on her palm and showed it to everyone. While sitting at the center of the wooden platform, Yu Qianqian had her expression changed slightly. Her eyes went wide as she saw the purple gold rice dipper in Princess Zhang Le's palm. Her face suddenly turned extremely unsightly.
But soon Yu Qianqian brought back her calm expression. Gracefully, she rose to her feet, wearing an indifferent expression and said softly, "Qianqian welcomes the arrival of Princess. Qianqian had assigned young mister Taba the important task of inviting Princess. Why has he only invited Princess here today? Qianqian can't be blamed for this. If Princess really wants to punish someone, just let young mister Taba take the punishment! Qianqian dares not enjoy the three dippers full of fine wine. I think why don't we let young mister Taba enjoy them on my behalf?"
Taba Haofeng's face instantly turned greenish-pale. Could the punishment wine of Princess Zhang Le really be that good to enjoy? Keeping his composure, he took a few steps back. When he raised his head up once again, his face was filled with a blooming smile. He did not answer Yu Qianqian's words, but instead, kept waving his hands in the air and bid his greeting to those young men on the wooden platform.
Among the few thousand young men on the wooden platform, approximately 1/3rd of them rose to their feet and bowed deeply towards Princess Zhang Le while mentioning 'Princess' in their mouth. Meanwhile, the rest of them were seen kneeling and bowing on the floor, touching their forehead onto the carpet underneath their feet, as they bid their respect to Princess Zhang Le.
Those who only cupped their fist and bowed towards Princess Zhang Le were the young misters from various wealthy and influential clans. They were given special privilege that they did not have to kneel and greet her with a formal gesture on meeting Princess Zhang Le in an unofficial event. Yet, for other young men who did that, they were all scholars who came with the background of ordinary civilians. Although they were talented, they did not hold any power in their hands. Thus, they had to greet the Princess like an official meeting his master.
Arrogantly, Princess Zhang Le gazed at these men who bowed their heads before her, then lightly snorted and said, "Rise now, all of you. As this is the meeting of poem and drawing for young miss Qianqian, you don't have to be too courteous." After all the young men rose to their feet, only then did Princess Zhang Le spring gracefully up. She covered nearly one thousand feet over the water and landed lightly on the wooden platform. Eight Ghost Immortals carried Bai Zu'er, unleashed a chilly wind and brought all the palace guards on the same boat over to the platform as well. Behind them, Taba Haofeng shook his head slightly, then sprung up in the air. He lightly tapped a few times on the surface of the water with his feet and carefully landed on the platform.
When Princess Zhang Le landed on the platform, Yu Qianqian hastened her pace and greeted her. When there was still a distance of nearly eighty feet between them, both of them stretched their arms widely and walked towards each other. Princess Zhang Le let out a loud laugh and said, "Sister Yu, this is the fifth time Zi Xuan is participating in your meeting of poem and drawing. If my memory serves me well, this should be the thirteenth time that your meeting has been held, right?"
Yu Qianqian had her expression changed slightly. When she was fourteen years old, her name was spread across the entire Ji City after she composed a drawing and a poem, and her fame quickly overshadowed her father and grandfather, who were then the Chief Editors of Great Yan Dynasty. Since then, her reputation as a talented girl had been heard all over the world. However, with what she just said, Princess Zhang Le had hinted that the meeting of poem and drawing had been held for thirteen times, simply teasing Yu Qianqian hadn't married even at the age of twenty-seven.
Clenching her jaw tightly, Yu Qianqian giggled and said, "I suppose you're right about that. The time does slip away really fast. Can't you see I'm getting older now? Oh, I have to congratulate Your Highness Princess for forming your Gold Core and attaining the corporeal body of Human Immortal. With that, you will never grow old again, and I suppose for the next few hundred years, you will still maintain the same young and beautiful face. At that point in time, presumably, many young and talented men will still bow under Princess's skirt?"
Princess Zhang Le was teasing that Yu Qianqian had yet to marry someone at the age of twenty-seven. While not willing to admit defeat, Yu Qianqian's words of congratulations had prayed that Princess Zhang Le still won’t be able to marry someone even after a few hundred years. The expression and attitude of both made them look like a pair of best friends, yet the words exchanged between them had a strong smell of gunpowder.
Amidst the cheerful giggles, Princess Zhang Le and Yu Qianqian hugged together.
Bringing her little mouth to Yu Qianqian's ear, Princess Zhang Le sneered in a low voice and said, "What trick is sister Yu going to use today and confuse those young men?"
With a same low voice, Yu Qianqian chuckled near Princess Zhang Le's ear and said, "Are you worry that sister Yu will snatch all the young and talented men from you, my little princess? Hehe, I heard that young mister Taba is having an intimate association with you for the past two years. If sister Yu uses some tricks and makes him as my admirer, will my little princess’ rage once again?"
Princess Zhang Le twitched her tiny lips, sneered disapprovingly and said, "You can go ahead if you want. That Taba Haofeng is just a scoundrel. How would I ever have my eyes on him? How about like this, I'll ask my father to declare an Imperial Decree and arrange a marriage between sister Yu and Taba Haofeng?"
Suddenly Yu Qianqian had her face fell. Then, she quickly took a few steps back, giggled and said, "Everyone, we're fortunate to have Princess Zhang Le with us today. She not only has an incredible cultivation base, but she is also one of the famous, talented girls of Great Yan Dynasty. Her drawing of birds and beasts is an unparalleled work of art under the heaven. Why don't we let Princess Zhang Le draw it for us here, today?"
Princess Zhang Le's expression changed instantly while Yu Qianqian was seen narrowing her eyes, giggling.