Chapter 681 – Returning to the Hometown (Two)
The galloping hooves kicked up yellow, muddy water as the horse sped through the rain, arriving before the Iron Fist school. The rider suddenly pulled the reins. With a whinny, the horse raised its hooves into the air.
“Old school master!” The disciples waiting outside saw the person and all went up to receive him and lead his horse over.
Liu Hong leapt off the horse, no less nimble and powerful compared to the past. He tossed the reins aside and strode through the door. Arriving in the main hall, he noticed Li Long with a single glance and shuddered all over. “You’re really back!”
“Master!” Li Long rushed out of the hall too, dropping down to his knees on the wet ground with a plop. He had studied martial arts in the Iron Fist school with Liu Hong since young, receiving his guidance in many things. He was so close with him that it even surpassed his relationship with his father.
“Good, good, good! As long as you’re back!” Liu Hong was emotional, helping Li Long up with both arms. They entered the hall, holding each other’s arms before taking their seats respectively. Both of them were excited, actually unsure about what to say for a moment.
“Death is unavoidable if you live in this world, unless you’re a cultivator like you. Only then can you transcend death. You can say your father lived a good life with the advanced age he reached, so there’s no need for too much grief. You probably have to return to send me off too before long!”
Liu Hong could not help but sigh when Li Long’s father was mentioned. With his present age, he felt the threat from death growing with each passing day. He was extremely envious of cultivators who could lengthen their lifespans.
“How can you say that, master? Your body is still strong. You can definitely become a centenarian,” Li Long said sincerely.
After almost a decade since Li Long saw him, Liu Hong seemed like he had suddenly grown much older. His face was covered with wrinkles, and a lot of his hair had greyed. Only through practising qi could the ageing process be slowed, so no matter how powerful of a practitioner of martial arts he was, he was unable to withstand the erosion of time. Becoming a centenarian could already be regarded as the limit.
“Yeah, master. Transcending death is nowhere near that easy. You’ll be able to live a few years longer at most. As long as you live your life comfortably, it’s not like a few years will make a difference.”
Wang Lei was in his prime and his body was sturdy, so he did not take the concept of death too seriously. As he listened to how Liu Hong praised cultivators, he did not feel particularly happy inside. He would never envy his junior brother whose martial arts were not even as great as his back then.
Liu Hong shot a glance at Wang Lei. “I’ve lived with my life on the line for all those years, so do I still need you to teach me? Kid, the only reason why you had so many years of peace is all thanks to me, as well as that Li Qingshan.”
Wang Lei was unhappy inside. He was a mighty school leader after all, but Liu Hong still lectured him like a child. However, in the jianghu, the status of their master even surpassed the status of their father. Whether it were the orthodox or the unorthodox, killing your master was a crime that ranked at the top of the list. Everything he possessed came from Liu Hong, so he was unable to talk back.
“Senior brother is right. Life is about satisfaction. Cultivation also has its difficulties. A while ago, I almost lost my life. Honestly, it might not be any better than living your life out peacefully in Qingyang city.”
Li Long persuaded. Although he had spent more time in the fields than having contact with people over the past few years, he could also understand certain things that Wang Lei was thinking, but he had no interest in comparing to see who was better. They already lived in completely different worlds, and he did not want to leave Wang Lei unhappy because of himself. After all, Liu Hong still needed to depend on him once he got a little older.
Hearing how Li Long agreed with him, Wang Lei cheered up again. “You really have understood many things after travelling around. It’s just like what they say. No matter how great it is outside, it can never be better than home!”
Liu Hong said in surprise, “There’s danger too in the Academy of the Hundred Schools? I heard it’s like those immortal dwellings, where all aspects of life are on a completely different level compared to mortals.”
Only now did he notice Li Long’s appearance. He seemed very shabby, but at the same time, he noticed there was not even a speck of moisture on him despite kneeling in the rain earlier. He was still as dry and rustic as before.
Li Long explained what he went through in the Exhibition Matches of the Nine Prefectures and sighed heavily. “There were thousands of cultivators in that battle, but only a few hundred survived in the end. Many people with cultivations greater than me and techniques stronger than mine died. Even when I think about it now, my heart still flutters with fear.”
“I didn’t think the cultivation community would be even more dangerous than the jianghu. I really have to thank that Li Qingshan!”
Liu Hong was amazed. A battle on such a scale was well beyond his imaginations. It was countless times more dangerous than the battles of the jianghu. He found it even more difficult to imagine that the country kid from the past already possessed such exceptional abilities.
“Li Qingshan! I heard he has become someone prominent now!”
Wang Lei behaved like he was listening to a myth, throwing him into a trance for a moment. He imagined how Li Qingshan stopped the fighting on the battlefield, sailing with techniques and dancing with weapons alone. Just how mighty was that?
“Yeah, he’s already become the Scarlet Hawk commander of the Clear River prefecture. He’s close to breaking through the second heavenly tribulation. He plans on getting married to great general Han’s daughter.”
Wang Lei clicked his tongue in amazement. “That’s really impressive. Master, you even gave him a beating back then!”
“It’s not worth mentioning, it’s not worth mentioning!” Liu Hong laughed aloud. Back then, when Li Qingshan demanded ten taels of silver for each punch, he had left him furious. Now that he thought about it, he had actually punched such a prominent figure, which instead made him feel very proud of himself.
Li Long remembered the matters of the past and also began to smile unknowingly. After talking for a while longer, the sky gradually darkened.
Liu Hong said, “It’s getting late. Let’s travel through the night to Crouching Ox village!”
Wang Lei said, “It’s difficult to travel on the mountain paths when it’s wet. Junior brother has travelled a great distance, and he hasn’t even eaten. There’s no need to be in such a hurry. Why don’t you just rest in Qingyang city for a night and wait for tomorrow? Tonight, you can take a proper shower and change into a set of better clothes. That’ll basically be returning home gloriously, with fame and riches.”
“He has to change into mourning clothes anyway once he gets back, so what’s there to change into?” Liu Hong glanced at Li Long again. “Though, why don’t you just change into the mourning clothes here?” He was basically trying to say that he too found his current appearance unpresentable.
The emphasis of returning home gloriously with fame and riches was on “gloriously”. The smaller the village, the more they cared about this “glorious” image.
Li Long could only smile bitterly. Earth elder Huang had personally bestowed these clothes to him. Although it seemed very shabby after being passed down through the school of Agriculture for many generations, it was still a supreme grade spiritual artifact after all. It brought great benefit to his cultivation, so did it really draw so much contempt?
“Master, let’s eat before we head over!”
Wang Lei originally wanted to hold a great banquet in Qingyang restaurant to welcome and wash off the trail dust from Li Long, but after Liu Hong scolded him again, he held a banquet in the hall. He called over a few prominent figures of the Iron Fist school for company. The drink they drank was fine alcohol aged for over twenty years, and the food they ate was delicious local delicacies.
Li Long only drank a cup of alcohol and ate a few mouthfuls before stopping. Wang Lei said, “Junior brother, are they not to your tastes? I can get them to remake it!”
“I’m used to eating fruit and vegetables! I grew these myself, so why don’t we all try it?” Li Long took out some fruit from his hundred treasures pouch and split it among the people at the table. He also took out a jar of fruit wine he had made himself.
Throughout the years, basically everything he ate each day was the crops he had planted himself. They could basically replace the pills normally used for cultivation. He sold off the excess, and it would always fetch a decent price. As a result, as long as there was enough land and they were willing to put in the hard work, disciples of the school of Agriculture were all very wealthy.
“Then let’s try it.” Wang Lei glanced at the hundred treasures pouch on Li Long’s waist enviously. He sneered inside, Why does he seem like a poor relative from the country? He even brought some of his own produce.
Upon tasting it, no one could stop anymore. For a moment, there was complete silence. Only when they finished off the fruit and alcohol did they exhale deeply, savouring the flavour.
These regular fruits were actually more delicious than any of the delicacies on the table, making them feel entirely refreshed. The jar of alcohol went even more without saying. A faint scent oozed through their mouths as if it was rather light, but it immediately began to burn like fire. They felt like all their organs were being massaged as the fragrance lingered about. The fine alcohol they usually drank was as tasteless as water compared to this. To those who loved drinking, even losing a decade or two of lifespan would be worth it if they could drink alcohol like that daily.
One of the leaders beamed with joy. “My inner force has grown by quite a lot!” It was not only him. Everyone felt their bodies change. Not only did their inner force increase, but even some hidden injuries they had accumulated over the years healed without any prior signs.
When they looked at Li Long again, they all felt deep admiration. Just some fruits he had casually shared with him were rare treasures in the jianghu! It would be very common for these items to lead to great bloodshed. After all, a simple spiritual ginseng back then had thrown Qingyang city into chaos.
As a genius disciple of the school of Agriculture, the fruit and vegetables Li Long grew were basically on par with the spiritual ginseng. Although the spiritual ginseng was much older, it had not been tended to with care.
“Junior brother, these items mustn’t have come easily!” Wang Lei’s feelings were rather mixed. He no longer dared to look down on disciples of the school of Agriculture anymore. Li Long right beside him suddenly seemed unfathomable.
“It was very difficult in the beginning. It took me quite a while before I understood everything. You need to pay particular attention to the control over sunlight, rain, and dew. Most importantly, you also need the corresponding technique…” Li Long explained a few ways of farming from the school of Agriculture, but when he saw how everyone was completely lost, he stopped talking.
Liu Hong stroked his beard, feeling great relief. Li Long had even prepared a jar of alcohol for Liu Hong, but upon considering its value, he no longer dared to take it out so boldly. He wanted to wait for the right time.
After eating these things, everything else from the banquet had become tasteless. And, even though they did not feel full, they did not feel hungry at all.
As a result, they set off through the night. Basically all the disciples of the Iron Fist school were rallied, travelling off to Crouching Ox village as a formidable group.
Crouching Ox village was also drenched in rain. Only caretaker Liu and village head Li’s homes were still lit. In a dark house to the west of the village, a man and a woman currently conversed.
The woman said with a deep, gruff voice, “Old man Li is dead, so Li Long will definitely return to the village. He’s on speaking terms with Li Er, so we need to get him to pass a letter to Li Er. He’s doing well now, so he can’t forget about us. We’re the ones who took care of him for so many years. If it weren’t for us feeding him, he would have starved to death long ago!”
That had once been the voice Li Qingshan hated the most, and this had also been his home in the past, or more accurately, the neighbouring, run-down cowshed had been his home in the past. A yellow ox now occupied the cowshed. There would also be a child playing a flute, riding on the back of the ox to Crouching Ox hill to let the ox out for grazing. However, there was no need for him to stay in the cowshed, and who knew how many times better off he was compared to Li Qingshan in the past.
Elder brother Li rolled over in bed and said with a muffled voice, “He’s already severed his ties with us. We haven’t spoken in all these years, so what’s the point of sending a letter?”