Chapter 721 – Setting Off and Going Back
Wind rushed over and turned into a pair of half-transparent wings behind Li Qingshan. It was the wings of wind he had not used in a very long time!
The fierce wind kicked up waves in the pool. With a violent flap, he rushed into the air, diving into the depths of the clouds in the blink of an eye.
Fragrant Flower market became as small as a mustard seed, blurring in the endless sea of forests. He cast his gaze towards the north and whistled away.
Although he could not enter the atmospheric winds and make use of them because his strength had yet to fully recover, he travelled in a straight line and constantly flapped his wings, so he continued to speed up, leaving behind a spiral stream of air. With this innate ability, even thousands of kilometers would be nothing. It would take him a day or two at most to reach the boundary between the Mist province and the Green province. After he reached there, he would check his bearings and fly off towards the Ruyi commandery.
Li Qingshan gazed at the sky and split off a part of his focus, leaving it with his mirror clone. He lowered his head and said, “A’man, how do you plan on explaining my identity?”
Only now did Xianghua Man return to her senses. “What was that earlier?”
“Just a clone.”
Xianghua Man was shocked. “Just a clone!”
Over the past year or so, she never saw him fight or take action again. She only saw him grow with each passing day. Although she knew he was constantly growing stronger, she did not know just how strong he was becoming. The unexpected glimpse earlier allowed her to understand how powerful this child had become.
In the past when he promised he would use her for two years at most before letting her go free, she was not particularly convinced. If she were a man and had such a beautiful matriarch she could do whatever she wanted to as a servant, she would never let her go so easily. But now, she no longer had any doubts. She never bore any importance to him in the first place, which instead filled her with a faint sense of resentment and refusal to acknowledge this.
Li Qingshan said, “I’m asking you. What’re you standing there in a daze for?”
“You can just say that you’re my man!” Xianghua Man made her way over, her hips swaying from side to side before she crouched down. She embraced him and kissed him deeply as she smiled. With his daemonic characteristics hidden away, he lost some of his devilish charm, but it was replaced with some tenderness and handsomeness.
“Aren’t I your daddy?” Li Qingshan smiled, except the lust in his heart lit up again. She was dressed in some splendid attire today, with a delicate, silver tiara on her head and a colourful dress of black and blue, which highlighted her beautiful figure. She was filled with exotic charm.
He lowered his head and could see a deep gully. He casually reached into her clothes and grabbed a pile of softness. He tugged the clothes gently, and with a rip, a pair of jade bunnies leapt out.
“Ah! You’ve just finished harassing my daughter, and now, you’re harassing me. Yep, the White Lotus cult will publicly recruit disciples in Fragrant Flower market later. By then, all you need to do is go. I will tell A’lu to keep what happened today a secret! I’ll also write a letter. You just need to hand it to A’zi when the time comes, and she’ll give it to you. However, you have to promise me something!”
Li Qingshan said, “What?”
“Once this is all over, you have to come and visit me. You have no idea how much pain and hardships I’ve gone through to wait for you to grow up. You’re almost there, but if you just walk away now, wouldn’t you fill me with regret for the rest of my life?” Xianghua Man grumbled.
“I don’t recall you going through any pain or hardships.” Li Qingshan raised his eyebrows and smiled. They had only come across each other by chance in the first place, taking whatever they needed from one another. Although they had never actually done it, they had done plenty of other things already, so her complaint was completely without reason.
Xianghua Man nibbled on his ear and whispered a few things, which made Li Qingshan’s heart skip a beat. This really was a land of southern barbarians. They sure were uninhibited!
“Alright, we’ll see when the time comes!”
“I’ll definitely leave you satisfied when the time comes, A’yue!” Xianghua Man smiled. If the Fragrant Flower clan could draw in a backer like him, it would be far more reliable than the White Lotus cult. There were far too many followers of the White Lotus cult, and their resources were limited, but this person would always let benefits seep through between his fingers, enough for her to enjoy them to her heart’s content.
A few days later, the peaceful, or in other words, boring times Li Qingshan spent in the Fragrant Flower market came to an end.
The envoy of the White Lotus cult arranged a ceremony in the Fragrant Flower market. White lotuses bloomed, all as large as tables. The refreshing fragrance filled the surroundings, enough to dazzle and enchant everybody.
Afterwards, he began accepting disciples. He only accepted children below the age of fifteen and adult shamans with a certain foundation!
Before this occurred, news of it had already broken out, so the Fragrant Flower market that was already very prosperous and busy became packed. Everyone wanted their child to become a shaman. Joining the White Lotus cult was a shortcut to fame.
In the packed market, children lined up and made their way onto the platform one by one, having their talent tested. However, there was barely anyone that actually possessed the talent to cultivate, and the White Lotus cult’s requirements to accept disciples were extremely strict as well. If their talent was too poor, they would not want them either. It was basically a one-in-a-hundred selection.
In this place without any Academies of the Hundred Schools or sects to compete for resources, the White Lotus cult that dominated the region did indeed possess this right to be picky.
Below the platform in a pergola, Xianghua Man smiled. “The envoy sure is meticulous.”
“This is the very foundation and future of the White Lotus cult. With the holy mother looking down from above, how can I afford to mismanage this?”
The envoy of the White Lotus cult was a benevolent old man with white hair. He spoke in an unhurried manner, and his voice was soft and magnetic. Even with those children who had no talent, he spoke softly to them and comforted them, without the slightest restlessness at all. No one could connect him to a heretic sect.
At this moment, a child stepped on the platform, and immediately, all the lotus flowers bloomed, leading to a series of cries.
The envoy of the White Lotus cult immediately set down his tea cup. This symbolised supreme talent. He never thought he would actually run into someone with supreme talent in such a small place. When he arrived in front of the child, his eyes lit up. What a pretty child!
“What’s your name? Which tribe do you come from?”
“I’m Goldie A’yue. The Bone Eating tribe destroyed my tribe. The matriarch of the Fragrant Flower clan saved my life!”
Li Qingshan was dressed in simple, local clothes. He bowed towards Xianghua Man and glanced at Xianghua Lu beside her. Xianghua Lu obviously did not have to go through any test. Having sat there for all this time, she just happened to be bored. She saw Li Qingshan and almost cried out, covering her mouth in a hurry and recalling Xianghua Man’s instructions.
Originally, she hated him to the core, but when she heard that he came from Goldie fort, she could not help but feel some sympathy. So the Bone Eating barbarians had eaten both of his parents!
Having sustained heavy losses in the Fragrant Flower market, the Bone Eating tribe vented their fury on Goldie fort. It led to quite an uproar back then, but it was soon forgotten by everyone. Fragrant Flower market used this opportunity to claim Goldie fort’s gold mines and establish a new group of merchants. After destroying the Bone Eating shamans, they became the strongest tribe in the region.
The jungle of the Mist province had always been like this. Tribes of various sizes would constantly spring into existence and be destroyed.
The envoy of the White Lotus cult expressed sympathy towards Li Qingshan’s predicament and praised Xianghua Man for her actions before accepting Li Qingshan.
Li Qingshan stood together with the children that had passed the test, just waiting for the day they would set off. He sensed a pair of eyes constantly glancing over, so he turned around and smiled at Xianghua Lu. Xianghua Lu turned away in a hurry, no longer daring to look at him anymore!
At the same time, his clone had already set foot in the Green province. However, after entering the Green province, he became even more careful. He flew above the clouds as much as possible, and when there were no clouds, he would try to find a way to hide himself. He did not want the Dragon King of Ink Sea to find out that he was still alive!
When Li Qingshan was about to set off to a branch of the White Lotus cult with the envoy, the familiar landscape began unfurling before his eyes on the other side!
It had been almost three years since then. He was finally back!
Li Qingshan went to the Chain mountains first. The formation was still around, and it had not been destroyed, which brought him some relief. As it seemed, his identity still had not been exposed, or it would be impossible for his dwelling to remain in a single piece. Gu Yanying and Hua Chengzan sure were something. They did not divulge his secrets just because they had received news of his death.
As long as they said nothing, no one would disturb his “secluded cultivation”. Even Han Qiongzhi would not. To cultivators, cultivation was the most important. Remaining in seclusion without emerging meant they had reached a critical stage.
Cultivation had always been extremely time-consuming, especially so with higher realms of cultivation. Remaining in secluded cultivation for two or three years was nothing strange. There were also many people who lamented and said that cultivators had a lengthy lifespan, far longer than what mortals possessed, but they did not necessarily have as much time to enjoy life as mortals. However, if the people who said that were to become mortals, they would never accept something like that.
“Xiao An is still not back? Has she undergone the heavenly tribulation yet, or is she currently learning the Chant of Deva-Nāga?”
Then, Li Qingshan visited Ru Xin’s dwelling, except the stone door was firmly closed. He called out a few times, but he received no reply. He was about to leave when he glanced near his feet. He could not help but be surprised. The ground outside the dwelling was covered in moss, which meant that she was either currently in secluded cultivation and had sealed herself off from the outside world, or it had been a very long time since she returned to the dwelling.
People bustled about in Clear River city. It was as lively as before, and the entrance of the Hawkwolf Guard seemed just as quiet and unfrequented as before.
In a room on a higher floor, Hua Chenglu leaned against her arm as she listened quietly to a Scarlet Wolf guard’s report. She used the past few years to consolidate her various comprehensions from the Wisdom Imbuement, adjusting to the status and identity of a Foundation Establishment cultivator. She definitely possessed the solemn bearing of a leader now.
However, when Li Qingshan saw her from outside the window, he could not help but feel a sense of unfamiliarity. Compared to her, he was instead a little closer and more familiar with Xianghua Man who he felt nothing towards. After all, it had been a few years since they last saw each other!
The apathetic and indifferent relationships that existed in the cultivation community were not without reason. If it were not for the fact that cultivators all had very impressive memories, probably some of them would even forget the names of their friends and family when they emerged from secluded cultivation.
This was not an exaggeration. Three years of secluded cultivation was not as simple as three years of separation among mortals. Whenever they entered secluded cultivation, they would cast aside everything apart from themselves and venture deep into the profound world of cultivation. There were rumors that some cultivators who spent a decade in secluded cultivation would even forget their own names. Others would tell them their names, but they would find it very unfamiliar, so they would give themselves a new name.
Being overly close and intimate would affect a cultivator’s free will and their cultivation, which was why “meeting and parting by going with the flow” was a thing. From a certain perspective, the reason why Li Qingshan and Xiao An could remain so close all this time was because Xiao An did not have her own pursuits. She treated following after him as her cultivation objective, taking on his path as her own.
Hua Chenglu seemed to sense something. She glanced out the window, but she saw no one.
When she finished her work and took off, the tender voice of a child suddenly rang out, “Where’s your brother?”