Chapter 456 – Gathering at the Parlour of Clouds and Rain
Xiao An fished out the shiny Guardian King’s pearl. After staring at it for a while, she suddenly pressed down on it. Resplendent golden light poured out from the tips of her fingers as waves with the vague roaring of guardian kings and buddhist chanting. With a crack, it turned into golden dust and scattered.
She waved her hand, and the eighteen prayer beads returned to her pale, slender wrist. Long, seaweed-like hair draped down, covering her body that was just as slender and pale.
At this moment, on a whim, she spread her arms and raised her head. Like a sprouting willow in spring, her body gradually stretched upwards.
Li Qingshan’s group returned to the academy. Hua Chengzan specially held a banquet at the Hua estate to welcome him back.
After washing and grooming herself, Hua Chenglu emerged from the back and specially toasted him, thanking him for saving her life.
Li Qingshan emptied his cup and smiled. “Never did I think that the girl back then would end up becoming such a beauty now. If your big sister Han hadn’t been a step faster, I probably would not be able to help myself but to ask you to pledge yourself to me.”
Hua Chenglu reddened, but she did not back down. “Never did I think either that the brat back then would become such a heroic figure. If big sister Han hadn’t been a step faster, I probably would not be able to help myself but pledge myself to you too.”
She left Li Qingshan surprised, who asked seriously, “Han Tieyi is not here, right?”
That led to a roar of laughter. Hua Chenglu stamped her foot. “What are you trying to do?”
Hua Chengzan even jokingly said, “Qingshan, you’re not even afraid of the rock demon. How can you be afraid of tiger Han?”
Li Qingshan said, “If he’s here, I’d like to go three hundred cups with him.”
“Brother, why didn’t you tell me this beforehand?” Hua Chenglu then grumbled. Who knew how many private conversations he had eavesdropped on during their missions.
Hua Chengzan immediately raised his cup and apologised to his younger sister. Li Qingshan smiled. “It’s not just you. Even I was left in the dark without the slightest clue of what’s going on.”
Before she returned to her seat, Hua Chenglu blinked her eyes and said to Li Qingshan, “Big brother Li, don’t forget you still owe me a favour.”
Li Qingshan smiled and expressed, “As long as it’s not pledging me to you, I’ll do whatever I can.”
“Zijian, it’s your turn now.” Hua Chenglu understood the value of his word very well. She returned to her seat and pushed over Yu Zijian who was beside her.
Yu Zijian offered up a cup of alcohol, but her eyes were fixed on Li Qingshan. His smile eased up slightly, but he continued to smile with his eyes. “What, is there something on my face?”
“There isn’t. Thank you for saving me.” Yu Zijian found he resembled him more and more. Although their statures and appearances were completely different, their manner of speaking and their expressions were basically the same. However, she also doubted whether it was just because of her initial impression of him.
“Zijian, you’ve done very well with the missions this time. I find it very admirable,” Li Qingshan praised.
Hua Chenglu said, “Do you just admire everyone that’s a beauty?”
With both the host and the guest thoroughly satisfied, Li Qingshan took his leave from the banquet. Hua Chengzan accompanied Li Qingshan to the entrance and whispered to him, “I just received the news. In three days time, still the Parlour of Clouds and Rain. Negotiations about the alliance.”
Li Qingshan’s expression changed. “That works too. At least your efforts haven’t gone to waste.”
“You already know?”
“I know a bit. Don’t worry, I won’t blabber.”
“You should pay a visit to the Han family too.”
“Understood.” Li Qingshan patted Hua Chengzan on the shoulder. He leapt up and arrived mid-air before taking a step and flying into the clouds. With a few flashes, he vanished into the horizon.
Hua Chengzan stared at the sky for quite some time before sighing gently. “What impressive judgements.” Who knew whether he was talking about Gu Yanying or Han Qiongzhi.
Li Qingshan returned to the Qing Xiao dwelling. Xiao An was already waiting there. She took out the strange rock that Strongboulder had left behind.
The Rock of Slaughter flickered with blood-red light, dimming and brightening over time like a beating heart. This was her gift for him.
Li Qingshan stroked the uneven surface of the Rock of Slaughter gently. Countless riling scenes of slaughter and of war poured through his head, tempting him to fight and slaughter too.
He suppressed this urge and sighed gently. “A loose end has finally been tied up.”
“Qingshan… look at me…” Xiao An called at him extremely softly and murmured.
“What’s wrong? You seem a little different today?” Li Qingshan turned his head and finally noticed what was different about Xiao An. He circled around her.
Her seaweed-like hair seemed to have become even longer, and she stood slightly taller too, almost past his waist. Her delicate facial features had become even more distinct, now with a hint of breath-taking beauty.
Li Qingshan clapped his hands together. “You’ve grown a little.”
“If I don’t grow, I’ll attract suspicion.” Xiao An lowered her head and explained it like that.
Although a profound cultivation could delay ageing or even rejuvenate youth, Xiao An’s cultivation was nowhere near that profound.
Because she had been practising the Path of White Bone and Great Beauty the entire time, she was unable to change the size of her skeleton. Fortunately, she had been avoiding the eyes of others for the past few years, and she did not attract much attention in the first place. However, as time went on, she would definitely attract suspicion.
“Really?” Li Qingshan rubbed his chin and pressed his hands against Xiao An’s cheeks, rubbing them happily. “Very good. Very beautiful. Though, don’t grow too much all of a sudden.”
“Ah!” Xiao An became disappointed. With his encouragement, she originally wanted to keep growing!
“Don’t tell me you really plan on growing up completely in a single breath!” Li Qingshan had no idea how to respond.
“Don’t. You’ll scare people like that. Don’t worry, I can wait.” Li Qingshan lifted her up with a smile before becoming troubled again. “If you get any bigger, I won’t be able to carry you on my shoulders.”
“This is enough.” Xiao An wrapped her arms around his neck and murmured.
“Look at this.” Xiao An broke free from his arms and opened her mouth towards her hand. She spat out a misty, azure-blue object.
“That’s Strongboulder!” With a closer glance, Li Qingshan noticed that it resembled Strongboulder. Suddenly, he understood that this was Strongboulder’s soul.
Xiao An removed the Ice Flames of Soul Refinement, and Strongboulder seemed to awaken from hibernation. He recovered his senses and immediately tried to fly away.
Pale, white flames surged in from all directions like a cage, trapping him in Xiao An’s hand. As soon as Strongboulder came in contact with the flames, he felt bone-chilling coldness, forcing him back.
Li Qingshan huddled over in amazement.
“Who are you?” Strongboulder was surprised, fearful, and furious. Suddenly, he recognised Li Qingshan. “It’s you!”
“Then who am I?” Li Qingshan snickered, and his pupils gradually turned scarlet.
“Northmoon! It’s you! You’re a human! No, you’re half-daemon?”
“That’s not your problem.” Li Qingshan smiled. It was no wonder both the main characters and the antagonists would monologue in those various stories, as it just felt too fucking satisfying.
“Xiao An, he can’t escape, right?” Li Qingshan asked in confirmation. He liked the beginning of this story, but he did not want an ending where the tables turned.
“Absolutely not. I can refine him.” After achieving the Samādhi Flames of White Bone, not only could she refine blood, flesh, and bone to nurture her white bone, but she could even refine souls to strengthen herself.
“That’s good then. I have a whole heap of stuff to say to him!” Li Qingshan stopped worrying. He ignored Strongboulder’s curses and threats and cleared his throat. He put on an act and said, “Strongboulder, oh Strongboulder. Do you know why you’ve failed?”
He spoke until he became parched. After having his fill, Li Qingshan waved his hand. “Xiao An, torture this bastard properly for me, and see if you can get any useful information out of him.”
Afterwards, he returned to where the Rock of Slaughter lay and patted it. “This might be a good material for forging artifacts!”
Deep underground, in Cobweb city.
Spider Queen Lolth snapped open her eyes and summoned Dragonsnail. She asked coldly, “Strongboulder’s aura has vanished. Investigate who was behind this. The Daemon Generals under Strongboulder will now serve you.”
There definitely were not a lot of humans or daemons capable of killing Strongboulder silently within the Clear River prefecture. Apart from some of the heavy-hitters from the Daemon Suppression alliance and the Academy of the Hundred Schools, she thought of Northmoon.
If it really were a case of murder, Dragonsnail would never do it, while Bloodshadow was currently healing. As a result, the only one capable was Northmoon who came from unknown origins.
“Yes.” Even Dragonsnail was slightly surprised inside. Strongboulder had actually fallen in battle despite his strength. He felt certain things were escaping his control.
Following the traces and questioning the Daemon Generals who had gone to slaughter the city with Strongboulder, he finally arrived in the cavern where Strongboulder had been slain.
A buddhist glow continued to flow through the cavern. Dragonsnail frowned. “Is this the handiwork of a disciple of buddhism?”
Within the Clear River prefecture, there did not seem to be any powerful figures of buddhism apart from those in the school of Buddhism of the Academy of the Hundred Schools. At the very least, none of them could kill Strongboulder silently.
He could recall that a monk Strongboulder had once killed seemed to be closely connected with the Chan Monastery of Deva-Nāga. He had managed to heavily injure Strongboulder with the Chant of Deva-Nāga right before his death. If the Chan Monastery of Deva-Nāga had sent a disciple for revenge, then it would be beyond his control, let alone avenging Strongboulder.
Dragonsnail returned to Cobweb city and reported this to the Spider Queen.
The Spider Queen only dismissed her suspicion of Northmoon after hearing Dragonsnail’s theory before sinking into her thoughts again. The Sword Collection palace, the Umbral Yin sect, and the Chan Monastery of Deva-Nāga were the three great sects of the Green Province. Every single one of them was a colossal existence that required Daemon Kings to contend with.
However, if a disciple of the Chan Monastery of Deva-Nāga really was responsible for this, there was no reason for them to be so secretive. Were they trying to avenge their disciples while maintaining the current situation, or were they trying to warn them that the massacring of cities could not continue…
The Spider Queen licked her bright, red lips. “Send orders to Northmoon and Bloodshadow. Strongboulder is already dead. I want them to massacre a hundred cities in revenge!”
Xiao An’s actions had drawn away the Spider Queen’s doubts. As for Dragonsnail, his investigation had already taken up three days.
Today, the Parlour of Clouds and Rain seemed rather deserted. The regular people had all been blocked from entering. Only cultivators could enter.
Regardless of whether they were actually cultivated people or they were purposefully putting on an act, they all spoke under their breaths. Only the disciples of the sect of Clouds and Rain who moved between them demonstrated some of their past liveliness.
“School leader Liu, it’s been a long time since you last visited. Are you no longer satisfied with us now that you’ve reached Foundation Establishment?” A few seductive women clung around Liu Chuanfeng, which filled him with awkwardness. He barked powerlessly, “Begone! Begone!”
“Release him! If you have any problems with him, come at me instead!” Li Qingshan emerged from behind Liu Chuanfeng and shouted.