Chapter 393 – Before the Storm
Jiang Shancheng chuckled, but he was unable to hide his haughtiness. Among his friends, his background had been the worst. His talent had not been spectacular either, but he happened to make it into the Pine Sough academy and reach Foundation Establishment first. He had specially borrowed this Soaring Dragon ship from his master for his return this time. Now that he saw his old friends again, it was time for him to show off.
Just Hua Chenglu’s stunned expression at the entrance had brought him great joy. This little girl had actually become so beautiful since he saw her a few years ago. When he saw Han Qiongzhi again, his eyes even lit up. No different from before, she stood gracefully and confidently, except her slight masculinity of the past had been replaced by the charm of a mature woman.
“Little Hua has established a foundation, so of course I have to come back and take a look. Where’s Tieyi?” Jiang Shancheng’s thoughts returned to the past. Back then, he would often be looked down upon when he played around with his friends. Only the three of them never despised him. She had even shown him great encouragement.
Hua Chengzan said, “You know, Tieyi hates something like this the most.”
“Who’s this?” Jiang Shancheng shifted his gaze and saw Li Qingshan standing together with Han Qiongzhi. He seemed very close with her, so he frowned.
“This is Li Qingshan, the primary disciple of the school of Novels and Qiongzhi’s man.” Hua Chengzan introduced him with a smile.
“What?” Jiang Shancheng saw Han Qiongzhi redden slightly, but she did not object. His heart sank. “Qiongzhi, y- you’re already married? Why didn’t you let me know?”
Hua Chengzan said, “It’s not just you. She didn’t let any of us know.”
“What’s this all about?”
“Big brother Mountain Boar, you don’t know, but…” Hua Chenglu giggled as she told him the whole story. Where’s your haughtiness now, you big mountain boar? You’re just a Foundation Establishment cultivator, that’s all. You’re nowhere close to stealing big sister Han’s heart.
“Mountain Boar” was Jiang Shancheng’s nickname in the past. Hua Chenglu had always despised Jiang Shancheng in the past. She found him to be jittery and constantly sunken-faced, and now, he acted haughtily like this. Hua Chengzan might have been able to ignore it, but she was unable to accept it. If it weren’t for you filling the spot in my brother’s place, would you still have been able to join the Pine Sough academy?
“Y- you’ve already!”
Even with Jiang Shancheng’s cultivation that had reached a point where he could control his vitality, his face still became flushed in an instant. It was like he had been struck by a bolt from the blue, feeling complete disbelief. Originally, he wanted to return home with his successes and fulfill his dream of strutting around proudly, but his past dream lover had already become someone else’s woman.
“You log, why aren’t you speaking? This is my friend, Jiang Shancheng!” Han Qiongzhi’s face reddened slightly, making her seem even more charming as she bumped Li Qingshan.
Li Qingshan remained silent with a smile. He could tell with a single glance what Jiang Shancheng was thinking. Kid, you’re too late. I might not be a Ximen Qing, but with my stature, I’m a Wu Erlang at the very least. I’m way better than you. He clasped his hands.
TL: Wu Dalang’s younger brother is Wu Erlang, or more commonly known as Wu Song. He’s known for killing a tiger with his bare hands, so in other words, he is known for his strength. You should be able to see the comparison to Li Qingshan here.
“Greetings to fellow Jiang. I’ll definitely have uncle Han approve of this marriage and hold a grand wedding with Qiongzhi. I’ll definitely let everyone know by then. I do hope you can attend when it happens.”
“Qiongzhi, isn’t your judgement lacking a little? This guy’s cultivation is so low. It’s no surprise that uncle Han wouldn’t approve of the marriage. What school is he the primary disciple of again? The school of Novels? I’ve never heard of it! It sounds like any random person could join them and become their primary disciple!”
Jiang Shancheng’s expression became even uglier. He was just a measly eighth layer Qi Practitioner, and he was speaking to him in such a manner. Do you really think you’re on equal footing with me just because you’re on good terms with Qiongzhi? In particular, Jiang Shancheng found his aura like he had defeated him or something to be even more irritable. I could kill ten people like you with a flick of my hand.
“Jiang Shancheng, what’re you blabbering about?” Before Li Qingshan could say anything, Han Qiongzhi’s face changed, and she barked, “I don’t need you commenting about who I like! Qingshan, let’s go!” She pulled Li Qingshan with her and travelled away, but Li Qingshan refused to budge. She became worried. He was not a man who would let others make fun of him.
Li Qingshan snickered as he said, “Any random person could, just not a mountain boar. You better go back and check yourself in the mirror. You’ve destroyed my appetite just by standing there!”
Jiang Shancheng was furious. Li Qingshan’s face merged with the countless mocking faces in his head. He was about to attack him, but Hua Chengzan stopped him and pulled him upstairs.
“Chengzan, let go of me!” “Today is my celebration, so just do it for my sake. If you hurt him, Qiongzhi really will resent you.”
Jiang Shancheng shot Li Qingshan a vicious glance as his killing intent bubbled. If he had the chance, he would definitely make this kid suffer a horrible death. Li Qingshan seemed to recover his silent smile too. There’s no need for me to stoop to the level of a person with one foot in the grave.
Han Qiongzhi was irritated. “Will you die if you held that in?”
“Can you be a little more mature?”
“I can’t.” Li Qingshan raised an eyebrow. I’m an eighteen year old boy. I’m in the prime of my youth and immaturity.
“Were you jealous?” Han Qiongzhi rebutted and studied his expression in interest.
“Hah, just from that mountain boar?” Li Qingshan said disdainfully.
“He’s still my friend. Can’t you be a little more polite to him? He hates it when others call him that.”
“It’s not like I called him that first. Nobody would want to be friends with him!”
“So you’re calling me a nobody? You really are jealous. Whatever, I can understand, you stingy man.”
“If I found another woman to call you ugly and to label you as unworthy of me, you wouldn’t be happy either!”
“Can you find one?” Han Qiongzhi said disdainfully.
“Chenglu, it’ll all be up to you now.”
Hua Chenglu had been following the two of them. She happened to be amused by their bickering when she was caught off-guard by Li Qingshan turning around and giving her a glance that seemed to say, “I’ll leave this heavy responsibility to you”.
“I would never.” Hua Chenglu stuck out her tongue. She was simply adorable.
“I watched you grow up for heaven’s sake, and you can’t even help me out with this. I think you still owe me something.”
“Huh? Who did you watch grow up? You clearly owe me!”
“Sigh, look at how confused I’ve become with how your big sister Han has angered me. So what do you want, little sister? Just mention it to your elder brother!”
“What elder brother? Don’t you feel any shame at all? Oh right, were you serious with what you said earlier?”
Happiness flowed through Han Qiongzhi’s eyes. As it turned out, he had been constantly thinking about this.
“I’ve become confused from anger. I can’t remember it anymore.”
“Don’t you dare!” Han Qiongzhi shot a glance at him.
Li Qingshan chuckled. “I’ve remembered it again, thanks to your reminder. A true man is a man of his word!”
As he said that, the banquet began. Delicacies and delicious food flowed out like water as songs and performances began. There were too many things for him to admire.
A cultivators’ banquet was actually less restrictive compared to those of regular people. It was more like a gathering than a banquet. The people acquainted with one another huddled together, talking and laughing with each other.
Han Qiongzhi happened to be talking with a group of disciples from the school of Legalism, and Li Qingshan was bored. Suddenly, he noticed a lot of people gathered in a corner, but they were silent, so he went over to take a look. Chu Danqing was painting portraits of people. Just when he finished a painting, he felt someone pat him on the shoulder, so he turned around. “It’s you!”
“Come. Let’s go drink!”
Chu Danqing actually accepted his offer. He apologised to everyone around him before arriving beside Li Qingshan. Only then did he let out a sigh. “Thanks.”
He was accidentally recognised by someone, so they asked him to paint a portrait of them. As a result, portrait after portrait followed in an unceasing fashion. With those female cultivators in particular, he had no idea how to turn down their soft-voiced pleadings.
“There’s no need to thank me. Let’s drink!” Li Qingshan shoved a cup of alcohol into his hands.
“Spare me!” Chu Danqing was pained. If he acted up out of drunkenness in front of so many people and embarrassed himself, he would even consider suicide.
“Don’t worry. If you act up, I’ll knock you out.” Li Qingshan laughed aloud.
“Count me in too.” Juechenzi walked over with a smile. Beside him was a beautiful woman with quite the bearing, also at the tenth layer. She was the primary disciple of the school of Music, Qin Yin. She smiled. “Junior sister Xiao An is not here?”
Afterwards, the primary disciples of the schools of Mohism and Agriculture made their way over. Before long, all the primary disciples were present apart from the ones not attending the banquet. They got along as they toasted to one another constantly. No matter how distant they were with one another usually, they still referred to each other as juniors or seniors right now, which made them seem very close with each other.
Juechenzi proposed a toast. “A toast to everyone! We, the hundred schools, are of the same breath and branch! We really should spend more time together!”
Li Qingshan smiled. As it seemed, everyone could sense it already. They had begun to move.
If the Academy of the Hundred Schools was treated as a sect, then it would be the largest, most influential sect with the most resources in the entire Clear River prefecture, while they, the primary disciples, would be the elite disciples of the sect.
With the various sects banding together, the Hawkwolf Guard was not the only one being provoked. The Academy of the Hundred School’s dominant status was being provoked too, as well as everyone’s interests. Before they knew it, the scattered people of the academy had begun to rally together.
“How lively. What’re you talking about?” Han Qiongzhi arrived behind Li Qingshan and placed her hand on his shoulder with a smile.
Now that Hua Chengzan had reached Foundation Establishment, she would be the next primary disciple of the school of Legalism if nothing went wrong, so she obviously had the right to stand among them. The other disciples of legalism knew they had no right to approach this group.
Wu Gen gazed at Li Qingshan from afar. His feelings were very mixed. No one had ever imagined that this unlucky disciple of the school of Novels would be able to sit there peacefully. He possessed the lowest cultivation among them, only at the eighth layer, but he had proven his talent and strength countless times already. No one dared to look down on him.
Hua Chenglu secretly made up her mind that even if she did not possess her elder brother’s talent, she would definitely be able to stand among them as long as she worked hard on cultivation.
Qian Rongzhi puckered her lips. Opportunities seemed to be multiplying!
Similar to that, the first senior brothers and sister of a few sects gathered together before they even knew it in another corner of the hall. They all talked and laughed together while glancing over coldly.
People seemed to move around in a disorderly manner in the hall, but there was a distinct separation between disciples of the academy and disciples of sects.
It was much more quiet upstairs. Foundation Establishment cultivators conversed among themselves softly. After their gestures of courtesy at the very beginning, they too had split into three factions unknowingly. One belonged to the various sects, while another belonged to the various school leaders.
The last faction was composed of sects that had yet to join the Daemon Suppression alliance and clans currently waiting and observing. The Hua family happened to stand out among them. Although Hua Chengzan was a member of the Hawkwolf Guard, the Hua family had numerous connections with various sects. However, the patriarch of the Hua family did not simply stand around. Instead, he moved his way through the groups, remaining on friendly terms with both sides.
“Sect master Qiu.” Hua Chengzan continued to greet people until a person arrived before him and lowered her head slightly.
Standing before him was the master of the Sect of Clouds and Rain, Qiu Haitang. Tonight, she wore a faint, pink palace dress with a golden tulle on top, outlining her exaggeratingly enchanting figure. She had styled up most of her hair in a simple manner with the rest draping down her neck. There was a tiny ruby near her forehead, which complemented her perfectly.
There was a golden phoenix hairpin on her head. As she walked over gently, it jingled softly, which added to her charm. It made her seem as natural, graceful, and poised as a peony that had just bloomed.
Ever since Hua Chengzan had come upstairs, Qiu Haitang had not shifted her gaze from him, not even once. This situation now was exactly what she had been waiting for all this time, but how he referred to her displeased her.
“Big sister Qiu.”
Qiu Haitang beamed, but she saw a short, young man huddle over. His eyes contained undisguised lust and greed, which was all too common to her. She was slightly taken aback, and then she said indifferently, “Oh, isn’t this Shancheng?”
“It’s me. I’ve just returned from the Pine Sough academy,” Jiang Shancheng said in a hurry. Han Qiongzhi did treat him well, but the person who interested him the most was still the mature and charming Qiu Haitang.
“There’s something I want to talk to little Hua about.” Qiu Haitang withdrew her gaze and stared at Hua Chengzan fixedly.
Jiang Shancheng felt like he had just been snubbed. He came up with another idea and returned downstairs, arriving before Han Qiongzhi. “Qiongzhi, there’s something I want to talk to you about.”
Everyone stopped talking and looked at Han Qiongzhi. Han Qiongzhi glanced at Li Qingshan helplessly, who nodded with a smile.
“If you want to speak ill of him, then save it. If you want to keep going, you can forget that we’re friends,” Han Qiongzhi cut right to the chase.
“How many years have we been friends? You’re treating me like this just because of an outsider? If this continues, you’ll suffer. I can propose marriage to uncle Han. He’ll definitely approve of it.”
“You better just stick with being a friend!” Only now did Han Qiongzhi understand what he wanted. She shook her head with a smile and patted his shoulder before returning to Li Qingshan’s side.
Jiang Chengshan felt extremely vexed. He felt like he had completely failed to achieve his purpose after returning. He utterly resented Li Qingshan. He was a mighty Foundation Establishment cultivator, yet he had actually been humiliated like this by a Qi Practitioner. He swore on his humanity to get revenge.
Returning upstairs, he ran into Qiu Haitang. She was gloomy, and the rims of her eyes were red.
“Shancheng, I want to go back. Accompany me!”
“Ahh- okay!” Jiang Shancheng was overjoyed. As a Foundation Establishment cultivator, why would she need anyone to accompany her? This was clearly some kind of signal.
Hua Chengzan extended his hand, but his lips faltered. He did not say anything in the end.
Qiu Haitang waited for a while before smiling miserably and taking off first.
Jiang Shancheng wriggled his eyebrows at Hua Chengzan. Chengzan, if you don’t want her, then don’t blame me for swooping in.
Li Qingshan gazed outside through a window and saw the Soaring Dragon ship rising up into the air. The cup of alcohol in his hand shuddered.
As the water rippled, something seemed to surge within the dark waters of the boundless Lake of Snakes and Dragons. A figure burst out of the water, passing through the rain and unfurling a pair of wings of wind. Then, it took off into the sky.
In the blink of an eye, it pierced the clouds. The many stars twinkled before him, while the moon was curved like a sickle. After flying for a while, he spotted a huge, dragon-like ship several hundred meters long sailing through the sea of clouds. It was just like the dragons and whales of legends that drifted through the ocean.
Li Qingshan pulled back his wings and erupted with a wave of air. He shot off right towards the Soaring Dragon ship. He landed on the large, empty deck and pushed open the cabin door.
You mountain boar, you wanna try to take my woman? I’ll send you off on your way right now!