Chapter 106 – The Ten Layers of Qi Practitioners
Li Qingshan gained a better understanding of the structure of the government. This should have been the separation of powers! Although it seemed very rough, the encompassing area they had to govern was simply too large, so it was impossible for them to have any finer methods of governance.
Out of them, the Hawkwolf Guard resembled the imperial guards and two bureaus of the Ming dynasty1. Their authority even seemed slightly greater than that. Li Qingshan could not help but say, “So the Hawkwolf Guard is quite impressive.”
Ye Dachuan said, “Yeah, so don’t hesitate anymore. A great future is awaiting you.”
Yan Song said, “And indulging yourself for free is not even the main point. It’s not like you lack the money to do that. You don’t seem like the person who would indulge in power and influence either, Qingshan. However, the Hawkwolf Guard has many spiritual artifacts, spiritual stones, pills, medicines, and cultivation methods. There’s probably not a single Qi Practitioner who wouldn’t be interested in that.”
Li Qingshan said, “Qi Practitioner? Then what are these innate masters all about?”
Li Qingshan asked with an open mind, and Yan Song gradually eased up. He was willing to serve as a guiding lantern for him. Moreover, these matters were all common knowledge in the first place.
As it turned out, there were extremely few people in this world who could practise true qi right from the beginning. These people were Qi Practitioners. However, the demand for talent to become a Qi Practitioner was extremely high, so most people did not take this path. Instead, there was another path available, which was cultivating inner force. Inner force basically had no strict demands on talent. As long as someone was not an idiot and was willing to put in the effort, basically anyone could develop inner force.
The internal martial arts that ordinary people practised were equivalent to simplified versions of qi practising methods, lowering the need for talent and making it easier to achieve. As a result, basically everyone could practise it. However, the inner force developed through this process would never be as great as true qi. And, as they never truly opened their meridians, the inner force would be restricted to the meridians; it could not nourish the organs or be released externally.
However, as long as they cultivated their inner force to the limit and subsequently broke through, they could convert it into true qi and become a Qi Practitioner, which was commonly known as innate masters.
The path of practising qi was divided into ten layers.
And, it was not as rough as the first-rate, second-rate, and third-rate divisions of the jianghu. Sometimes, it would be very difficult to distinguish if a person was at the first-rate or the second-rate because the martial arts they practised were different, so their abilities would differ drastically. The paths they took differed as well.
However, regardless of the cultivation method, the path of practising qi was about opening the eight extraordinary meridian channels, which were the Yang Heel meridian, the Yin Heel meridian, the Yang Linking meridian, the Yin Linking meridian, the Girdle meridian, the Penetrating meridian, the Conception meridian, and the Governing meridian.
The eight extraordinary meridians did not directly connect to the internal organs, nor did they link the outside with the inside, which was why they were called the extraordinary meridians. Every single one of them covered the entire body, connecting several major acupoints. With each one opened, their true qi would grow slightly stronger, and that was a layer. Completely opening all eight extraordinary meridians would be reaching the ninth layer.
Reaching the tenth layer would be even more difficult. It required the complete opening of the twelve standard meridians, which were the three yin meridians of the arm, the three yang meridians of the arm, the three yin meridians of the leg, and the three yang meridians of the leg. These twelve standard meridians criss-crossed with one another, linking the hands and feet to the internal organs and five elements. It was extremely easy to suffer from qi deviation and injure the organs, but once one broke through, they would be able to reach the tenth layer, the realm of completion, reaching the peak of Qi Practitioners.
However, Li Qingshan had not opened any meridians at all, as he walked the path of a daemon, so there were completely no meridians to consider. There were countless different types of daemons that shared very few characteristics with humans. How could a snake or a bamboo possess meridians?
But when he thought up to this point, he suddenly came up with an idea. After suppressing the ox demon and tiger demon with the Spirit Turtle’s Method of Sea Suppression, he was an actual human. He had recovered his original form, so was he really unable to practise qi? As it seemed, he needed to find a method of practising qi and try it. Unknowingly, he embarked on an even stranger and more unique path with that thought.
Reaching there, Yan Song even grumbled about how their status as people who started off as martial arts practitioners was just too low. After all, by the time he reached the innate realm and could practise qi, he was already quite old. Although he used the true qi he had converted from his dense inner force to open the Yang Heel meridian, breaking through to the second layer, he was unable to take another step forward. He could not open the Yin Heel meridian and break through to the third layer.
Everyone comforted him. Yan Song said, “Body Practitioners are powerful, but it’s still not the orthodox. Qingshan, you’re very young, so you must be able to reach the third layer, or even the fourth or fifth layer. If you can open your Girdle meridian and develop a sea of qi, reaching the sixth layer, you’ll be able to get promoted to a Scarlet Wolf guard and take office in the Clear River city. It’ll all be worth it if that happens.”
Yan Song was sharp-sighted. He could tell that it was impossible for Li Qingshan’s true qi to have reached the second layer. The reason why he was able to defeat him so easily was because he walked the path of a Body Practitioner. From a certain perspective, the external martial arts of the jianghu were a simplified version of Body Practitioner methods. However, Body Practitioners were the same as practitioners of external martial arts in the jianghu. They were powerful at the beginning, but they had no future. It would be very difficult to reach a higher realm, so it was not a favourable path to take.
Li Qingshan said, “Thank you for your warning, protector Yan. I will keep an eye out for it in the future.” But as a daemon, it was basically impossible for him to not be a Body Practitioner.
However, with Yan Song’s explanations, he felt everything clear up drastically. He wondered what layer of Qi Practitioners he could take on when he was daemonified. Zhuo Zhibo of Jiaping city was probably around the level of a weaker Scarlet Wolf guard as a Black Hawk commander. His strength was probably around the sixth layer, having developed a sea of qi.
He had no idea which was more powerful, the sea of qi of humans or the daemon core of daemons, but they must have been around the same. Even if the daemon core was weaker, he could just run away. As a result, he made up his mind to visit Jiaping city. Similar to how the government could provide for people, the resources they could offer did interest him.
Li Qingshan then asked, “May I ask if you have any methods of practising qi, protector Yan?”
Yan Song said awkwardly, “The methods of practising qi are usually unique to various sects and schools and are not openly offered to outsiders.”
Li Qingshan also understood that his question was rather abrupt. He had just reconciled with Yan Song, and now, he wanted a method for practising qi. It really did seem rather inappropriate, so he smiled. “I’ve been rude.” He drank a cup of alcohol and no longer said anything more.
Yan Song considered it with some difficulty. “But, if you really do want it, Qingshan, I can try to see what I can do.”
Li Qingshan was overjoyed, and he toasted a few more cups to Yan Song. Ya Dachuan and Liu Hong also congratulated him for his great luck. Li Long showed great admiration and thought about how the world really was ruled with power. Li Qingshan slapped this old man in the face a few times and ended up receiving a method for practising qi in return.
After the meal, in a quiet room, Yan Song passed a method of practising qi to Li Qingshan.
The name of the method was the Innate Method of Practising Qi. There were also nine layers, but reaching the ninth layer was only equivalent to achieving the third layer of Qi Practitioner. It was not some impressive superhuman ability.
Yan Song had also explained this point to him calmly. “The Innate Method of Practising Qi is just for establishing a foundation. With your talent, Qingshan, you’ll definitely be able to find an even better method to practise in the future.”
Methods for practising qi could be described as very valuable, enough to make many people shed blood and lose their lives over one. However, they could also be described as not valuable, with this Innate Method of Practising Qi in particular. Among Qi Practitioners, basically everyone knew about it, and most of those who did not know about it had a better, stronger method for practising qi right from the beginning.
The most valuable part was not the method, but the person who could practise the method. Basically, as long as you possessed the talent to practise qi, countless people in the world would be willing to pass this basic method onto you. As long as Li Qingshan joined the Hawkwolf Guard, he could obviously receive the same method as well. Yan Song could see how Li Qingshan had great future prospects lying ahead of him, so he did not mind doing him this favour that did not cost him anything.
“Thank you, protector Yan!” Li Qingshan’s main objective right now was to see whether he could practise qi or not. The quality of the method was a lesser concern. And, such a basic method might not offer much of an increase in power, but it probably had the unique characteristic of being easy to grasp, so instead, it became the most suitable one for him.
He wondered about other things. Were all abilities and methods divided into nine layers? Currently, all of the abilities and methods he practised followed this standard. He even asked Xiao An, and his Path of White Bone and Great Beauty was the same.
Yan Song bid farewell and went back to picking disciples, leaving Li Qingshan to cultivate in the quiet room.
Calming incense burned in the room. Li Qingshan sat with his legs crossed, and his eyes closed gently as he quietly comprehended the wondrous truths of the Innate Method of Practising Qi.
He had experience with practising qi. He even managed to develop true qi of quite some strength, but it was all for the sake of converting it into daemon qi, turning him into a daemon in the end. It was not a proper method of practising qi.
Only now did he truly come into contact with a human Qi Practitioner’s cultivation method for the first time. After comprehending it slightly, he discovered that it was much easier than the abilities that the black ox had taught him. In particular, the first three layers did not require any meridians at all. It was all about how to gather true qi.
It was just like a high schooler taking the classes of a primary school, completing the exercises of a primary school student’s physical education class. It was extremely easy. In under two hours, Li Qingshan refined a new strand of true qi, which only demonstrated his talent once again. At least he had the right to practise qi. If he was born in Clear River city, he probably would have been accepted as a disciple by someone a long time ago, embarking on the path of a Qi Practitioner.
However, before he could even celebrate, the daemon core sucked in the strand of true qi and converted it into daemon qi.
Li Qingshan could not help but become dumbfounded. Was he wrong? Afterwards, he began practising the Spirit Turtle’s Method of Sea Suppression. With an unwavering mind, he absorbed the spiritual qi of the world, and after six whole hours, the daemon qi in the daemon core approached a state of saturation. Of course, even if he practised for another sixty hours, it was impossible to actually saturate the daemon core with daemon qi.
Li Qingshan practised the Innate Method of Practicing Qi again and condensed true qi. It was swallowed by the daemon core again, converted into daemon qi, but a portion was left behind for him. However, this still made him ravish with joy. It proved that his thoughts and choice were correct. He really could practise qi like a human.
The sky gradually darkened. Li Qingshan persevered with his cultivation, gradually gathering true qi bit by bit through great difficulty. He was like a labourer working under the cruel exploitation of a bourgeoisie, where most of his hard work and fruits of labour would be deprived from him.
Of course, this bourgeoisie was actually Li Qingshan himself. None of his efforts went to waste.
During this time, Li Long had come to knock, inviting him to eat. However, Li Qingshan was completely submerged in this masochistic form of cultivation, possessing no other interests and was unaware of anything else.
1. The imperial guards and the two bureaus were a series of secret police active during the Ming dynasty. They were the Embroidered Uniform Guard, Eastern Bureau, and Western Bureau respectively. The former two managed to grow to great power before collapsing with the Ming dynasty.