Chapter 112 – Setting Foot in the Hawkwolf Guard
On a mountain peak to the north of the city, a hawk forged from black iron unfurled its metal wings that were several dozen meters in width. It stood on a stone altar more than a dozen meters tall, looking over the entire Jiaping city. It was not hidden at all, as if it were boldly broadcasting that the Hawkwolf Guard watched over and protected this city. Whether you were a person of the jianghu or a Qi Practitioner, you were all under the careful gaze of the hawk.
Li Qingshan disembarked from the ship and went straight towards the mountain peak. There were a series of structures below the iron hawk and that was the Hawkwolf Guard. Only after he had left did Diao Fei disembark and follow behind him. His eyes were filled with determination once more. No matter how well Li Qingshan hid his strength, it was not enough to shake Diao Fei’s determination to become a member of the Hawkwolf Guard.
Li Qingshan followed the neat, stone steps. The two sides were filled with dense shrubbery, almost blotting out the sky above. The mountain peak was not very tall, only several hundred meters. It was nowhere close to the height of the great mountains of the Boundless mountains. However, when he looked back at the city below his feet, it gave him quite a lofty sensation.
At the end of the stone steps was a stone archway. The two words, Hawkwolf Guard, were written on it in a bold, obvious fashion. Past the archway was a large square, and at the centre of it was the huge iron hawk. From afar, it did not seem too special; only from up close did he get a feel for the imposing aura of the hawk. In particular, the hawk’s eyes seemed to pierce right through people like it was alive. Below its feet were twelve large words written in a similar fashion, ‘The Hawk Gazes Over the World, the Wolves Watch the Nine Provinces.’
The gazing hawk was obvious. It needed no explanation. They were similar to the bold hawks in the sky, watching over the land. However, watching wolves described a certain posture. Normally, when people were called by their names from behind, they would definitely look back. However, they would only turn their heads and not their bodies. This was the posture of watching wolves, and those who were like that tended to be crafty and suspicious.
Not only were the twelve words teeming with extravagance, but they also described the function of the Hawkwolf Guard perfectly. Li Qingshan did not know calligraphy, but even he could tell that the twelve words here and the two words on the archway were written by the same person. They possessed an irreplicable imposing aura, dominating and sweeping up the world. Compared to the huge hawk statue, it was even more stunning.
Before Li Qingshan could even study it carefully, a young man came up. “You must be here to enlist in the Hawkwolf Guard!”
Li Qingshan did not sense anything from this person that indicated he practised martial arts or qi. He must have only been an envoy or an attendant for receiving people. However, he naturally gave off a feeling that he frequently ordered people around, and as expected, he was like a caretaker. Li Qingshan said, “I am.”
The envoy in black studied Li Qingshan in doubt. Seeing how he remained composed, he said nonchalantly, “Come with me!” He led Li Qingshan to a large hall. “Go in. Everyone is waiting inside. You need to record your name and cultivation once you go in.”
Li Qingshan stepped into the hall, and immediately, many gazes landed on him. Every single one of them were like knives.
Li Qingshan saw over twenty people within the hall. There were men and women, old and young. Some stood in groups of three or five, while others meditated alone. Every single one of them were Qi Practitioners. Most of their gazes at Li Qingshan were hostile. Some mocked him with raised brows, happily pointing and discussing with their companions, while some showed disdain, immediately shifting their gazes. There was also a person or two who showed doubt.
This was the first time Li Qingshan had seen so many Qi Practitioners. He felt rather indescribably excited. He had finally come into contact with the cultivation groups of this world.
In reality, he had already experienced some brutal contact with this world through Xuanyue, but most of those people were monstrously powerful. As such, the only feelings he experienced were admiration and despair. It was far too great of a difference and was surreal as a result. Only when he saw these people now did he treat them as equals or even look down on them.
Li Qingshan saw several dozen wooden tablets hanging on the walls of the hall with a name on each. He glanced past it before arriving in front of a long table in a corner of the hall. An envoy in black leaned on the table and scribbled away. He said without even looking up, “Name, background, master, and cultivation. Remember, don’t hide anything, or once you are caught…”
The envoy did not continue, but the threat was obvious. Only now did Li Qingshan understand why these people remained here. They wanted to learn about their opponents.
Originally, Li Qingshan wanted to take out the Black Wolf tablet and go see the Black Hawk commander Zhuo Zhibo, allowing him to directly join, but he did not see a single proper Hawkwolf guard here at all. There were only a few envoys in black receiving them, so he gave up on that thought. He just happened to be interested in taking a look around. He would come across the person he was searching for in the end anyways. He refused to believe that Zhuo Zhibo would miss such a great event.
“Li Qingshan, first layer Qi Practitioner…” Li Qingshan said.
As soon as Li Qingshan stated his cultivation, he heard a few sniggers.
“Even a first layer Qi Practitioner is trying to enlist in the Hawkwolf Guard. This kid is stupid!”
“Go home and drink milk! You shouldn’t have come.”
“Is he really a first layer Qi Practitioner? He doesn’t seem like it. Don’t tell me he’s lying!?”
“You won’t be far from death if you falsely report your cultivation.”
The people in the hall were second layer Qi Practitioners at the very least. If people possessed the innate talent to practise qi, most of them would work hard on cultivation. They would only come out after they had broken through to the second layer. As for those who practised internal martial arts and reached the innate realm, they would use their converted true qi to forcefully break through to the second layer. As a result, very few first layer Qi Practitioners wandered the world.
Even the envoy responsible for recording the information raised his head. “Is that true? Non-Qi Practitioners are forbidden from enlisting.” Although he was not a Qi Practitioner, he remained within the Hawkwolf Guard most of the time, so his insight was rather impressive. He could tell that Li Qingshan did not seem like a Qi Practitioner at all.
Suddenly, Li Qingshan understood a bad habit of his. After experiencing the dangers of the Boundless mountains, withdrawing all of his aura with the Spirit Turtle’s Method of Sea Suppression had become almost an instinct of his. Even after developing true qi, he maintained the same habit.
Obviously, he had to firmly suppress his daemon qi, without allowing even a single sliver to leak out. However, there was no need for him to be so cautious with his true qi. Wearing his identity as a Qi Practitioner around could save quite a lot of trouble at times.
As a result, his aura completely changed. His true qi was no longer withdrawn and suppressed, now released naturally. He displayed the strength of a first layer Qi Practitioner.
However, it led to a roar of laughter in the hall. Even the gazes of doubt pulled back, no longer taking Li Qingshan seriously. The unknown was terrifying, which was why a donkey could scare away a tiger. However, once the donkey displayed everything it had, that was when everything would be over.
The envoy placed down his brush and also smiled. “I can see that you’re young. It’s not easy for you to possess this talent, so why don’t you go home and cultivate for a few more years? You can come once you break through to the second layer. The competition this time will be dangerous.”
Li Qingshan ignored the laughter and thanked the person for his kind-hearted warning. Afterwards, he said confidently, “I have confidence in myself!”
The envoy said nothing more, continuing to write.
No clan, no sect, no master. These were Li Qingshan’s details.
In just a short while, the envoy completed the records. He raised his head. “The competition begins in three days. You can go. There will be people who will arrange accommodation for you. You are welcome to stay here as well.”
Another envoy picked up a wooden tablet and hung it at the end of the wall together with everyone else’s names. There obviously was not any particularly complex information on it. On the front, there was his name, while on the back, there was his cultivation.
It amazed Li Qingshan. To a Qi Practitioner, background and masters were both useless. Strength was the only calling card, the only thing that people were wary of.
When he turned around, he instead looked at the Qi Practitioners like they were trash before shaking his head. In particular, he said to the people who mocked him, “Trash.” Arrogance was his nature, while mocking a whole crowd was his talent.
“Who are you talking to?” said a Qi Practitioner angrily. He was the person who told Li Qingshan to go home and drink milk earlier.
“I’m talking to whoever that answers me!” Li Qingshan said. The people who had not badmouthed Li Qingshan obviously would not feel like he was cursing at them.
The Qi Practitioner arrived in front of Li Qingshan in a flash. Suddenly, he raised his head, and true qi gathered. The envoy who recorded their information said, “Those who fight on the mountain will be executed without mercy.”
The Qi Practitioner’s hand trembled a few times before finally putting it back down.
The rules of the Hawkwolf Guard were no joke. In the very beginning, when the Hawkwolf Guard recruited people, they never provided any accommodation to these people. All they had to do was arrive on the day of the competition, but then many people were unable to.
Qi Practitioners stayed in Jiaping city to eliminate rivals, using everything that they had, whether it be poisoning, encircling, or ambushing. Often, it would end before it had even begun. This was why the rules were changed later on, where the people enlisting would all stay on the mountain, and any form of attacks against one another were forbidden. If they fought, they would be executed without mercy.
Li Qingshan said, “Come bite me, you idiot!” Just how did that go again? My discretion is not a reason for you to walk all over me. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. That was the principle he lived by. You know how to curse, but my mouth isn’t dumb either!
The Qi Practitioner laughed out of anger. “In three days’ time, I’ll let you know what being better off dead than alive means.” Some other Qi Practitioners sneered as well.
At this moment, Diao Fei entered the hall. He glanced at Li Qingshan before looking at the wall. He let out a sigh of relief. As it seemed, Li Qingshan really was a first layer Qi Practitioner, only concealing his cultivation using some sort of method. He sure had frightened him. However, it was still a mystery to him as to just how Li Qingshan had killed Qian Rongming. He dared not be careless.
The other people in the hall immediately shifted their attention from Li Qingshan when they saw Diao Fei. A third layer Qi Practitioner was a powerful contender for the competition this time. They needed to observe him carefully. Compared to him, Li Qingshan was just a clown. His death was near, and he deserved no attention.
Li Qingshan did not remain in the hall. He left the hall, and another envoy brought him up the mountain. He walked past the well-tended plants and the wonderful gardens. Having been managed by master gardeners, the scenery would change with every few steps. There were simply far too many beautiful things to take in.
Arriving before a house, the envoy pointed at a room. “That’s your residence. You should already know, but fighting is forbidden on the mountain. You can come to the back hall for your meals. If there’s anything else you need, you can just call us. As long as you don’t go overboard, we will do our best to satisfy your request.” His attitude was nothing special, but the service he offered was definitely thorough.