Chapter 107 – The Sumeru Ring
Liu Hong said, “Qingshan is cultivating. Don’t disturb him!”
Yan Song said, “Little Long, you have to work hard on martial arts as well. Although you don’t have the talent to directly become a Qi Practitioner, you just need to break through to the innate realm, and your inner force can be converted into true qi. You’ll break through to the second layer with great ease. You won’t be worse than anyone else.”
Li Qingshan had finished hall chief Wu, so Liu Hong asked Yan Song to take Li Long to Clear River city. He would head to the main branch of the Iron Fist school to learn martial arts. If it were not for that, Liu Hong would never have gone to such great lengths to suck up to Yan Song.
Li Long said with respect and caution, “Yes, protector!”
The three of them gazed at the door of the quiet room. They were all thinking different things.
With the crow of a rooster, the day lit up again. Only after an entire night did Li Qingshan open his eyes. He silently sensed the true qi flowing through his body as he felt relief. He had finally achieved the first layer of the Innate Method of Practising Qi.
This did not mean he could complete the cultivation method with great ease. Any cultivation method would grow in difficulty as one progressed. The amount of time and energy it would take would increase exponentially.
It was a pity that he had consumed all the unknown spiritual pills Xuanyue gave him back then. Otherwise, he was confident that even a single pill would have been enough for him to complete the first three layers of the Innate Method of Practising Qi. It might even be enough to open the Yang Heel meridian, allowing him to break through to the second layer.
The path of cultivation remained closely attached to the four words of wealth, companionship, method, and environment. Wealth ranked first, but the wealth here was not referring to gold and silver, but spiritual medicines and herbs. Regardless of the ability or cultivation method, they were all basically a process of gathering spiritual qi. If he wanted to practise martial arts, then he needed to be well-fed. If he wanted to cultivate, then he needed to ingest qi. The products of external alchemy would provide essential assistance.
Although a person’s talent and comprehension were very important, it was impossible for one to achieve instantaneous enlightenment and immediately make drastic progress unless they had spent a lot of time building up their foundations beforehand.
However, even the puny true qi was of great importance to him. He took out the Cursive Sword Calligraphy and channeled true qi into it. As expected, the spiritual artifact accepted the true qi. Although it failed to even launch a stroke in the end, it was still great motivation for him.
This meant that he could activate and use the talismans on him. The greatest difference between humans and animals was the ability to create and use tools. Daemons strengthened themselves, while humans relied on tools. They could not directly absorb spiritual qi from the world, so they refined pills and medicines. They did not have powerful bodies, so they created spiritual artifacts and talismans.
This was the formidable aspect of humans. Li Qingshan had to take advantage of this as much as possible. And, if he wanted to open the Soaring Dragon Elder’s sumeru ring, he needed this power as well. He meditated again and recovered his depleted true qi.
He fished out the ring and wore it on his finger, channeling true qi into it. Although he knew it was basically impossible for him to open it, it was still worth a try.
True qi flowed into the ring like water, circling through it before flowing back into Li Qingshan’s body. Obviously, the ring showed no signs of opening. However, to his astonishment, most of the true qi he had produced after so much difficulty vanished in the blink of an eye. It had not been depleted like when he channelled it into the Cursive Sword Calligraphy, which he could still recover. Instead, it had cost him progress.
He had been forced out of the first layer of the Innate Method of Practising Qi again. However, the remaining true qi became extremely pure and clear; it was like a great, muddy river turning into a clear stream. Although the quantity had decreased, the quality had increased significantly. It circulated at a much swifter rate as well.
The more impure one’s true qi was, the more difficult it was to break through. True qi of greater impurity made it very easy to get caught on bottlenecks. Many Qi Practitioners would have to be patient with bottle necks, gradually refining their true qi like they were hammering metal. However, the sumeru ring directly helped him change his crude iron into fine steel, saving some time and effort. This was a treasure that countless Qi Practitioners or even cultivators of higher realms could only dream of.
Li Qingshan had never thought the sumeru ring would have such a use aside from storing items.
But was this good news? Li Qingshan instead smiled bitterly. Had it been easy for him to refine that little bit of true qi? His daemon core would swallow most of the true qi, which the ring would subsequently refine. It was an utter nuisance. He felt like he had laboured for several decades, only to return to the times before the War of Liberation.1
Li Qingshan sighed heavily. He knew that this was the correct choice. If he spent a little more time now, he would be able to save a lot of time later. Most people did not spend most of their time on cultivation; rather, they became stuck at bottlenecks, unable to advance any further.
For example, protector Yan had reached the second layer a long, long time ago, but he could not break through to the third layer no matter what he tried. He was stuck there. Over all these years, he naturally wanted to refine his true qi, but he was helpless. His true qi that had been converted from inner force was just too impure.
Li Qingshan closed his eyes and began cultivating once again. However, he did not remove the ring this time.
Yan Song had already picked the disciples and was ready to leave, but even after waiting till the dead of the night, he did not see Li Qingshan emerge. Even when they knocked a few times, no one answered.
Liu Hong said, “Perhaps something has happened?” However, he was wondering inside whether protector Yan had purposefully given Li Qingshan a method of practising qi with issues that would make him suffer from qi deviation.
Yan Song frowned. He did not know what was happening either. If it were not for Li Qingshan’s extremely long and steady breathing within the room, he basically would have suspected that Li Qingshan had died from qi deviation.
Practising qi was similar to doing anything else. It was about a combination of work and rest, knowing when to cultivate and when to rest. It was not about just wasting away time, or there would be no benefits at all, only detriments.
He did not warn Li Qingshan about this, as he should have been able to understand such a matter as he cultivated. As time went on, the effects of practising qi would grow weaker and weaker, while his mind should have become more and more exhausted. Moreover, true qi was extracted from the vitality of the human body, which needed replenishing through food and drink. Otherwise, he would be creating something from nothing.
Li Qingshan encountered a similar issue, but he just switched to the Spirit Turtle’s Method of Sea Suppression. Spirit turtles could sink into the depths of the seas and sleep for millennia while absorbing and releasing spiritual qi of the world. To Li Qingshan, meditation was not something that exhausted him. Instead, it was more like sleeping and resting.
With a thought, he switched back to the Innate Method of Practising Qi. In the beginning, the process was extremely difficult, and he would leave his state of meditation with the slightest bit of carelessness, pausing his cultivation of the Spirit Turtle’s Method of Sea Suppression. However, he gradually grasped the trick and made the Spirit Turtle’s Method of Sea Suppression into an automatic behaviour; it became like breathing for a sleeping person. This had nothing to do with Li Qingshan’s intelligence. Instead, the ability was simply too profound, much more than what he could imagine.
Afterwards, he would practise the Innate Method of Practising Qi in this state of semi-consciousness, using both a human and a daemon’s method at the same time.
Li Qingshan discovered that the daemon core would not be as greedy as before under such a state, saving him much more of his fruits of labour.
In this state, his rate of practising the Innate Method of Practising Qi reached an unprecedented high as well. His vitality was extremely powerful. Going several days without food or drink posed no problem to him at all.
For three whole days and nights, Li Qingshan did not sleep, rest, eat, or drink. He was completely submerged in cultivation. Finally, when he opened his eyes again, he had forcefully pushed his way back to the first layer with the Innate Method of Practising Qi.
He exhaled deeply as he felt pangs of hunger. He took out the Cursive Sword Calligraphy again and channeled the extremely pure true qi into it. Before his true qi had even run out, a calligraphy stroke lit up, and a strand of sword qi shot out.
Earlier, his actions were akin to tossing moist, green wood into a furnace. As such, he struggled to even light a fire. However, what he used now was high quality charcoal, which was extremely easy to set alight and could also provide large amounts of heat.
The two disciples of the Iron Fist school that guarded the entrance suddenly felt a chill run down their spines. They looked at each other. “Don’t you feel a bit cold?” “I really do a little. So much for summer.”
Li Qingshan stowed away the Cursive Sword Calligraphy and took off the sumeru ring, hanging it around his neck again before standing up. He opened the door, and the sunlight dazzled him.
“Young hero Li, you’ve finally emerged!” one of the disciples said while the other went to report the news.
Before long, Yan Song and Liu Hong had arrived.
Liu Hong said, “Qingshan, you’ve emerged? I even thought something had happened to you. There were almost a few times when I wanted to burst through the door.”
Li Qingshan smiled. “Apologies. The cultivation method from protector Yan was just too profound. I got carried away with comprehending it, and I forgot about the time.”
Protector Yan said, “Were you really practising qi? What layer did you reach?”
Li Qingshan said, “I just reached the first layer.”
Yan Song said, “That’s not slow at all.” However, it definitely was not fast either. The first layer of the Innate Method of Practising Qi was the easiest. He had personally witnessed talented children complete the first layer within two hours. Obviously, Li Qingshan was not fast.
However, spending three days on practising qi in a single sitting during one’s first time was unheard of.
Li Qingshan said, “I’ve made you all wait. We can set off now!”
Liu Hong took out a wad of silver notes and gave it to Li Qingshan. Li Qingshan had originally come to collect his debt after all.
Li Qingshan said, “School master Liu, you’ll be looking down on me if you do that. Protector Yan has been so generous, so how can I be stingy? Let’s not mention the matter of money again.” He never liked to owe anyone anything. Only when he was debt-free could he find peace. Although the Innate Method of Practising Qi was nothing outstanding, it was extremely important to him. Even just getting his hands on it earlier than usual was better than nothing.
Liu Hong was delighted. Obviously, he could not make Yan Song return the money he had given to him. That was his savings for retirement.
Yan Song developed a good opinion of him as well, turning down a sum of over ten thousand taels of silver casually like it was nothing. It would be nothing surprising if he came from a wealthy clan, but he was a teenager from the mountains, so such an attitude was very rare. This child has been born with extraordinary magnanimity. It’s no wonder that people would appreciate him.
Only after a series of declinations out of courtesy did Li Qingshan accept two thousand taels to cover travelling expenses.
When Li Qingshan arrived outside the Iron Fist school, all he saw and heard were a series of deafening drums and firecrackers where it was normally cold and cheerless. There were even lions and dragon dancers that completely crowded the surroundings of the Iron Fist school.
Four children with red eyes were delivered before Yan Song. They were the children that he had picked. They had the opportunity to leave this tiny Qingyang city and enter an even vaster world, but they would have to leave their homeland and their relatives.
Li Qingshan watched on from one side with folded arms. Suddenly, he heard someone call out his name. Turning around, he saw village head Li and caretaker Liu in the crowd as well. Beside them were the two brothers, Li Hu and Li Bao, and behind them were a few people from the Crouching Ox village.
1. The War of Liberation refers to the Chinese Communist Revolution. In the period before this, there was basically severe inequality in the region, so many people spent their lives toiling about, barely making a living. Meanwhile, the rich only grew richer.