Chapter 159 – The Aspect of Great Beauty
However, Hua Chenglu was unfazed. She did not back down at all. “So it’s you, the old coot! This ship was mine in the first place. You’re the one who stole the carriage of the Sect of Clouds and Rain and came out to play!”
The West Gate Granny said in displeasure, “You’re so young, yet your mouth is already so foul. When I see your father, I must mention this to him. Right now, I have matters to attend to, so I’m not going to bother with a brat like you!”
Hua Chenglu immediately rebuked her and said, “When I see big brother Chengzan, I’ll mention it to him as well, how an old hag like you is harassing me just because of my young age!”
The West Gate Granny snorted coldly, and the carriage sped off towards the Island of Cherishing Flowers, forming a pair of tracks on the surface of the water.
A boy in red said unhappily in the carriage, “Granny, why won’t you teach that little girl a lesson?”
The West Gate Granny said, “Her father and elder brother are not people to be trifled with. They’re difficult to deal with, or I would have taken her measly life a long time ago. Hmph, there’ll be plenty of times when she’ll cry in the future. If you hadn’t thrown a tantrum for some roasted chestnuts and wasted time, we would have arrived a long time ago and dealt with Li Qingshan already. We wouldn’t have run into this girl.”
If regular second layer Qi Practitioners were bold enough to be so rude to the West Gate Granny, she would have killed them a long time ago. However, since she came from the Hua family, she had to show some respect to her. Hua Chengzhan’s identity as a Scarlet Wolf commander had some weight in the Clear River prefecture.
The teenager in red curled his lips. “It’s not like I was the only person who wanted to eat them. Moreover, it’s not too late right now either. Li Qingshan is definitely still on the island.”
Hua Chenglu watched the carriage glide away from the deck. She snorted coldly as well, but her tender snort was nowhere near as powerful as the West Gate Granny’s. Instead, she seemed more like she was just grumbling. She swung down the small banner, and the Wave Breaker broke through the waves, moving towards the Island of Cherishing Flowers.
Within the smoke, the outline of the island gradually became visible.
The shine of the cocoon of fire grew dimmer and dimmer, like a sun that was about to set. All that was left was a scarlet sphere that rapidly shrank.
Rain fell from the sky, landing on the cocoon and rising up as white steam.
The cocoon was filled with red light. Xiao An laid in there, curled up like he was in his mother’s womb. The flames were no longer like flames, but more like a viscous fluid, like the amniotic fluid of the womb. Moreover, it contained the tremendous energy of life, gradually soaking him completely.
He had already comprehended a sliver of the essential ideas of the Path of White Bone and Great Beauty. Right now, he was going from death to life, entering a realm of neither death or life, transforming white bone into great beauty.
He formed a buddhist hand seal with his bone fingers and something profound seemed to be invoked.
From white bone to flesh, flesh and blood was reconstructed.
Li Qingshan had already begun to hold his breath.
With a great crack, a crevice appeared in the cocoon, spreading in all directions.
Li Qingshan was basically sitting on the edge of his seat now.
A tender hand extended out from the cocoon. It was white with a touch of red, like it was sculpted from blood jade. His blood vessels were almost visible.
Li Qingshan leapt to his feet, but he was afraid of disturbing him. He gritted his teeth, and he suddenly felt his eyes moisten and redden. He had witnessed in person as Xiao An went from being a spirit to a skeleton, and then to a new life with blood and flesh again. He was filled with great joy for some reason. He believed that regardless of how brutal and bloody his path would be, he had more than just murderousness and hatred.
Crack! Crack! With a series of cracks, the cocoon shattered. Flames rose up from inside as a petite figure figure stood among them, reborn amidst fire.
The wondrous smell of sandalwood permeated the surroundings, immediately masking the pungent smell of gunpowder and smoke. It was calming.
Li Qingshan took a step forward. “Xiao An, you’ve finally… huh?”
The flames dispersed. A little girl stood naked at the centre of the flames that seemed like lotus petals. Her hands formed a buddhist seal. Her skin was pale and smooth, like polished jade. There was a red mole between her eyebrows, and her eyes were like two black pearls. There was not a speck of impurity or filth on her from head to toe. She was as pure as a red lotus.
She looked at her own hands in a daze, as if she was unable to believe she had actually recovered her body of flesh. She raised her head and looked at Li Qingshan. She seemed to be rather unfamiliar with moving her face, so she was expressionless. However, her eyes that were like black pearls suddenly erupted with endless joy as she extended her arms towards him.
Li Qingshan was slightly taken aback before rushing over quickly. He embraced her firmly as tears flowed from the corner of his eyes.
He was just like a father who had been waiting outside the delivery room the entire time. Although he had only just found out that the child was not a boy that he had been expecting, this small surprise was not particularly important at all. It was unable to change the joy within him.
Li Qingshan said constantly, “Wonderful!”
A while later, Li Qingshan suddenly felt that his mouth was rather clumsy. He had no idea what to say. He wiped away his tears and said, “Let’s get you dressed first!”
Xiao An nodded obediently in his arms.
Li Qingshan released her and flipped through his hundred treasures pouch. He said in distress, “Though, there are only clothes for boys. Sigh, why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
Xiao An shook her head as if she was saying, I’ve forgotten too. So many years had passed already. Whether she had been a spirit or a skeleton, gender had never mattered.
Li Qingshan was helpless. He thought about how the witch must have dressed her like a boy when she abducted her in order to deceive everyone. As a result, she had been under the impression that she was a boy the entire time.
Li Qingshan checked Xiao An again to confirm that he had not mistaken. However, he discovered that her body was covered in red marks. With her tender skin that was no different from a newborn’s, even silk would scratch and bruise her, let alone his rough hands.
He asked in concern, “Did I hurt you?”
Xiao An shook her head. Compared to the incineration of the blood flames and the pain from the bone smelting of the pale flames, this type of pain was basically happiness.
Li Qingshan carefully dressed her, like he was carrying a great treasure that could easily break.
Xiao An’s eyes widened. She wanted to tell him that she was not that fragile, but she enjoyed his care and concern very much as well.
Li Qingshan could not help but touch her face, which was quite the sensation to his hand. It was so soft that it seemed like it would dissolve in his hands. He brushed past the red mole on her eyebrow and vaguely recalled that this was the mark that the droplet of ginseng juice had left behind. Did it appear on her body of flesh as well?
Xiao An was like a doll, standing there obediently without moving at all, allowing him to touch her. She could feel the warmth from the tip of his fingers as she felt eager.
Li Qingshan rubbed her bald head and smiled, “It’s a pity you don’t have hair. Though, it’ll grow very quickly.”
Xiao An blinked her eyes and suddenly took a step back. She clenched her elegant hands and held her breath, using everything that she had. Soon afterwards, dark hair began to sprout wildly, and before long, it had reached her shoulders and subsequently her waist.
Li Qingshan said in a hurry, “Enough, enough.”
Only then did Xiao An stop. Her hair had already grown down to her knees. It was moist and thick like kelp and naturally curled. It was so dark that it was not glossy at all, making it extremely unique.
She wore a beautiful set of silken garments and seemed just like a little young master with extremely delicate features. Li Qingshan was unable to describe how much he liked it. He was filled to the brim with joy and could not help but laugh aloud. He felt like the future was bright, and there was nothing that he could not achieve.
At this moment, the whinny of a horse rang out from the surface of the lake. Li Qingshan turned around and saw a carriage emerge from the thick fog, approaching him rapidly. Behind it was a great ship.
Li Qingshan frowned. If he had guessed correctly, the cannonfire earlier originated from the great ship, while the carriage seemed to possess a powerful aura. There was also hostility. This did not originate from his abilities as a Qi Practitioner, but as a daemon.
The carriage sped ashore and stopped quietly before Li Qingshan.
All Li Qingshan saw was an old woman in great red robes disembarking from the carriage. She gave off a pressing aura. Even from Zhuo Zhibo, he had never sensed an aura so powerful before. Out of the people he had previously seen, the person closest would be Hua Chengzan, but her aura was much weaker than Hua Chengzan’s.
She was a ninth layer Qi Practitioner.
The West Gate Granny made her way out of the carriage, but her gaze slid away from Li Qingshan, landing on Xiao An beside him. Afterwards, her gaze became fixed. She was filled with shock as she murmured, “Brilliance like the Essence of Spring, Gaze as Smooth as Light, Skin Smooth like Ice and Jade, Powdered Jade Sculpting—how can a person possess so many aspects of beauty? Wait, i- is this the legendary Heavenly Fragrance and Beauty? That’s impossible!”
The West Gate Granny was very knowledgeable, so it was obviously impossible for her to be stunned by just the appearance of a child. The string of phrases she uttered were not just simple praises.
In the Sect of Clouds and Rain, the standards and names for labelling the appearances of people included the Aspect of Floral Fairness and Moon-like Beauty, the Aspect of Natural Bone-deep Beauty, the Aspect of Peach Blossom Beauty, the Aspect of Supple and Tender Beauty, the Aspect of Admirable Beauty1, and so on. They were finely divided into nine tiers, with some better than others. Anyone who possessed an aspect of beauty would find great ease in practising the arts of charm of the Sect of Clouds and Rain, while higher aspects of beauty could easily attain effects akin to transcendency.
The current sect master possessed the Aspect of Peach Blossom Beauty. She was chosen by the previous sect master and accepted as a disciple, which was the reason for her current accomplishments. As for the West Gate Granny, she possessed the ‘Aspect of Red Flight‘ from the Aspect of Colourful Frolicking Beauty, allowing her to stand out and thus allowing her to become one of the four great grannies of the Sect of Clouds and Rain. As for Furong, her appearance was nothing special, but due to her charming, graceful figure, the West Gate Granny had accepted her as a disciple, which made her the courtesan of Jiaping city.
Out of these numerous aspects of beauty, there was one aspect that only existed in the legends—the Aspect of Heavenly Fragrance and Beauty.
The Aspect of Heavenly Fragrance and Beauty fused many aspects of beauty, making it the leader of all fragrances, the champion of all beauty. It made the West Gate Granny name a list of aspects of beauty upon seeing her before finally reaching this unbelievable outcome.
According to the legends, this was an omen to throwing the world into disarray. Although it would not necessarily be accurate, the charm of this aspect of beauty was a source of disaster. It could collapse cities and kingdoms.
The West Gate Granny immediately tossed Li Qingshan aside. She even forgot all about the disappearance of her outstanding disciples, Zhao Liangqing and Furong. She stared right at Xiao An as she walked over. She was basically even more excited than Li Qingshan earlier. “You’re so beautiful! Wonderful!” If she could take her in as a disciple and bring her back to the Sect of Clouds and Rain…
With a swish, Li Qingshan blocked the West Gate Granny and also interrupted her thoughts. He asked, “Who are you? What are you trying to do?”
The West Gate Granny raised her head in displeasure and looked at Li Qingshan, who was much taller than her. However, the arrogance on her face made it seem like she was looking down on him instead. “Oh, you’re Li Qingshan? Who are you to her?”
1. Yes, these are all idioms in Chinese that essentially mean the same thing—extremely beautiful. This is one of the translator’s struggles. ;-;