Chapter 189 – In Search of a Place for Cultivation
The exit was in a mountainous forest. As it happened to be the middle of autumn, the mountain had become dyed. Red, yellow, and green merged together to form a fluctuating landscape. As the brilliant sunlight landed on his eyes, he blinked, breathing in deeply to take in the fresh air of the surface.
As expected, he was much more suited for living on the surface. The Zombie Daoist’s dwelling was too deep underground, so he could not come out and get a fresh breath of air whenever he wanted. It would be best if he could find a somewhat obscure cave and build a house over it. Afterwards, he would be able to dive into the ground or come out and get some fresh air whenever he wanted. That would be the life!
Of course, it was not like the Zombie Daoist preferred it underground. Instead, he had decided on this after some consideration. If his dwelling was too close to the surface, it would be too easy for the Hawkwolf Guard to storm his base and arrest him. He paid peculiar attention to the location of his dwelling as well. When Li Qingshan cultivated there, he could feel his true qi move about much faster. He could sense that the spiritual qi of the world in the cave was much denser than other places through his Fengchi acupoint.
Spiritual veins riddled the underground. The dwelling must have been located above a certain spiritual vein, abiding to the need of a good environment out of the four crucial elements to cultivation—wealth, companionship, method, and environment. Although it was not on the level of blessed lands mentioned in the legends, it still brought great benefit to cultivation.
However, Li Qingshan had never been walking a path of cultivation where he was supposed to advance steadily, step by step. Instead, he relied on tremendous amounts of pills to forcefully push his cultivation forward. A special place for cultivation did not hold much significance to him. It was not like he would need one until he had finished all the pills he had on him.
Opening the mental map of the Green province, Li Qingshan confirmed his location. He was in a place a hundred kilometers south-east of Jiaping city. It was on the boundary of the region that the Hawkwolf Guard of Jiaping city was responsible for, which was exactly what he wanted.
Fifteen kilometers to the south was a small city called Salt Mountain city, as it was located on a mountain of salt.
The value of salt mines was no less than gold or iron mines. Although they were not enough to attract interest from Qi Practitioners, they were places that people of the jianghu would fight over. Whether it be claiming a salt mine or transporting the salt, it all required the protection of masters. It was a place where the tradition of martial arts was deeply ingrained. All the people on the streets carried blades and swords, moving about however they pleased. They all seemed imposing.
The greatest organisation in the city was the Proud Sword manor. Its disciples amounted to three thousand, while their lord of the manor, Yu Shukuang, was a first-rate master, one of the leading figures in the orthodoxy of the jianghu. He had trained the sword to a level of perfection and had purged the city of evildoers. He was basically the actual person in charge of the city. Even the district magistrate had to bow to him.
However, great hero Yu had his troubles. The troubles of everyone powerful were mostly related to encountering someone even more powerful. He felt helpless.
“Manor lord Yu, I’ll be taking those kids then,” said a middle-aged man. He wore a set of green robes and wielded a sword in a green scabbard. His collar and cuffs were embroidered with green vines. Surprisingly, the aura he gave off was at the third layer. Beside him stood four children around twelve or thirteen years of age. They were all excited but rather reluctant to leave as well.
Yu Shukuang smiled along. “Alright. Feel free to take them, brother Liu. These children will definitely have a better future in the Green Vine mountain.”
These children were all of his most outstanding young disciples. Two of them came from humble origins, so he even went as far as to keep them fed and clothed for several years, just so the Proud Sword sect could gain a few more masters in the future. However, he never thought they would just end up being poached away. These disciples of the Green Vine mountain came over, flapped their gums, and took them away. It was painful.
Cultivation sects required outstanding talents as well as new blood, but with the tiny number of Qi Practitioners that existed in the world, it was impossible for them to go from household to household in search of suitable talent. Instead, they would directly come to these larger sects and gangs of the jianghu, which became an extremely convenient and effective method. Many cultivation sects even created their own gangs and schools, just to expand their influence so that it would be easier to recruit disciples.
“Our Green Vine mountain obviously won’t take advantage of you. Here’s a Qi Gathering pill. It’ll be very beneficial for when you break through to the innate realm.” Liu Fengrui left behind an embroidered box, and all that was inside the box was a pitiful Qi Gathering pill. However, he acted like he had just done Yu Shukuang a great favour.
Yu Shukuang cursed inside. Do you really think I’m an ignorant bumpkin!? With his wealth and how common Qi Gathering pills were among Qi Practitioners, even buying several dozen of them would have been a piece of cake. It brought no benefit to his future attempts at breaking through to the innate realm at all. However, he acted like he was flattered. “That’s far too precious!”
At this moment, a disciple hurried over and reported, “Lord of the manor, someone wishes to see you.”
Yu Shukuang said furiously, “Can’t you see that I’m receiving a valued guest?”
The disciple said pitifully, “But he said he’s your friend, manor lord.”
Liu Fengrui said, “If that’s the case, I’ll take my leave then.”
Yu Shukuang stood up in a hurry to see him off. He constantly nodded and bowed his head along the way, but he sighed inside. Zijian, oh Zijian, don’t disappoint your father. You need to accomplish something with your cultivation so that you can back up your father when you return.
Sending him off at the front entrance, Yu Shukuang glanced from the corner of his eye and saw a figure as robust as an ox sitting on a long bench near the entrance. He wore a great big bamboo hat that obscured his appearance, and he had a large bamboo basket beside him. It was lidded, so it was impossible to tell what it was holding.
The disciple whispered, “Manor lord, that’s him!”
Yu Shukuang was confident that he did not have a friend like that, or he definitely would have remembered such a stature. No, he should say that he had never seen someone with such a figure in his entire life before.
The figure stood up quickly and arrived before Yu Shukuang. “Great hero Yu, long time no see.”
At that moment, Yu Shukuang basically felt his vision darken slightly. However, the sincere voice sounded rather familiar. “You’re?”
Li Qingshan lifted his hat slightly. Although his stature and skin tone had changed tremendously, such that even his face had become rather strange, Yu Shukuang still managed to recognise him with a single glance. He cried out, “It’s you!”
Liu Fengrui completely ignored Yu Shukuang. He directly boarded his carriage and departed. He had never taken great hero Yu seriously the entire time.
Yu Shukuang was no longer in the mood to lose his temper over that. The Tiger Butcher had come knocking, so what good could come out of that? He became temporarily stunned.
“Let’s go in and talk!” Li Qingshan smiled. Originally, he wanted to express some good will through that, but he revealed his long, protruding teeth, which instead made him seem more vicious and up to no good. Yu Shukuang shuddered, following Li Qingshan into the manor at a complete loss. Just what had he done to deserve this?
Li Qingshan had specially selected a city that was slightly larger but without Qi Practitioners from the map, which would bring him convenience to purchase food; this was why he had chosen Salt Mountain city. However, his appetite was just too large, so if he went to buy food himself, it would be too troublesome, and it would raise attention. If he were discovered by an informant of the Hawkwolf Guard, it would be bad. As a result, he needed someone with some influence in the local area to help him handle this matter.
He could vaguely recall that Yu Shukuang had once invited him to Salt Mountain city with great enthusiasm in the restaurant in Lakeside city. As a result, he located the city on the map and came knocking.
Yu Shukuang sent away his disciples tactfully and asked, “Sir Li, what brings you to such a remote place?”
Li Qingshan said, “There are a few matters that I need to trouble you with!” He casually pulled out a wad of silver notes. “That’s around a million taels of silver. That’s the deposit.”
“Sir, I can’t accept that. As long as there’s any place I can be of use, I’ll do anything, no matter the danger or the cost,” Yu Shukuang said in a delightful manner, but what he thought was, Who would be bold enough to accept the Tiger Butcher’s money?
“Take it!” Li Qingshan said indifferently.
“Yes, sir!” Yu Shukuang immediately accepted the money as cold sweat dripped from his forehead. Who was bold enough to turn down the Tiger Butcher’s money?
Li Qingshan said, “There’s a house between the mountains to the south-east of the city. I want to buy it and stay in it for some time. That’s what the money’s for.”
“Yes! I’ll send people to handle this immediately, no, I’ll handle it myself. I guarantee you that you’ll be able to move in by tonight.” Yu Shukuang assured as he patted his chest.
“I don’t want anyone to know that I’m here, including your friends and family, with your daughter in particular. If any news of me makes it out…”
“That won’t happen. If I tell this to anyone else, I’ll let myself be smited by the hea-” Yu Shukuang immediately lifted his right hand to swear an oath.
Li Qingshan interrupted him. “Forget about the oath. It’s not like I’m relying on that either. As long as you’re willing to help me out, I won’t mistreat you. I won’t be like that person earlier who tried paying you off with a single Qi Gathering pill.”
Yu Shukuang felt both ashamed and astounded. Li Qingshan had actually managed to hear the conversation in the main hall several hundred meters away as he sat at the entrance.
Li Qingshan said, “Where’s the Qi Gathering pill?”
Yu Shukuang took out the embroidered box in a hurry and Li Qingshan took it from him. He took out the Qi Gathering pill and tossed it in his mouth. “Quality’s not too bad.”
Yu Shukuang was devastated. Qi Gathering pills were still extremely precious pills to masters of the jianghu who practised internal martial arts like him. They were worth one or two hundred thousand taels of silver elsewhere. He was clearly just stringing him along by saying he would not mistreat him.
Li Qingshan took out a new pill from his hundred treasures pouch and placed it in the box. “Do you recognise this pill?”
Yu Shukuang’s eyes widened immediately. “That’s… a Hundred Grasses pill!” Now that was much rarer and more precious than Qi Gathering pills. It was basically never sold on the market. Even if he spent two hundred thousand taels, he would not be able to get his hands on one. If he could eat one of them, his chances at breaking through to the innate realm would increase.
Li Qingshan returned the box to Yu Shukuang. “That’s a deposit as well. I hope we have a smooth cooperation.” Fear and interest have always been the absolute methods to controlling people. Li Qingshan just happened to lack neither.
An hour later, Li Qingshan obtained the deed to the house. He stood up and bid farewell. “Oh right. Don’t call me by my name in the future.”
“What should I call you then?”
Li Qingshan thought about it. “Just call me Niu’er1.”
Yu Shukuang was experienced, so he could tell from a long time ago that Li Qingshan was purposefully trying to hide his identity. However, he just utterly disagreed with Li Qingshan’s naming sense.
Li Qingshan said, “Oh also, send ten, no, twenty tables of food over everyday.” He had almost lost sensation in his tongue after cultivating underground for all this time.
Li Qingshan stood inside the house between the mountains. The entire place had already been cleaned, and everything had been watered too. Who knows how Yu Shukuang had managed all of that. The mountains and forests in the surroundings complemented one another, forming a very tranquil and beautiful scene. It was secluded, yet also close to Salt Mountain city. It was the exact place Li Qingshan wanted for cultivation.
Li Qingshan placed down his bamboo basket, and Xiao An crawled out from inside. She looked around and seemed very satisfied as well.
Li Qingshan took out the two mental maps of the underground and the Green province and compared them. The underground map indicated that a cave just happened to pass underneath this place. It was just a few meters below the surface, so he could link the house to it with just a little bit of effort.
1. Not a term of endearment this time. Niu’er translates to Ox-two in a literal sense, kind of like Li Er in the past. It’s not a very sophisticated name.