Chapter 196 – Resting Before Fighting
The sun had fallen, and the moon had risen. Moonlight flooded the hole, illuminating the two people drinking together. One was bald with a pink cloak, while the other was like a tower.
Alcohol was the best item for bringing people closer, but it required a lot of it.
Li Qingshan drank a lot of it. As he sat in the grain and smelled the natural fragrance of it, he dropped his guard.
Drinking with the simple-minded Milliped was much more satisfying than any of the banquets he had attended in the past. There was no scheming, no disputes over interests. They ate for the sake of eating and drank for the sake of drinking.
With over a hundred jars of alcohol down, both of their bellies bulged up, while their eyes became hazy from the influence of alcohol.
Milliped’s shiny, bald head became even more dazzling under the moonlight. Li Qingshan could not help but extend his hand over and rub it. “You’re not bad. You have no bad intentions, no, you don’t have any intentions at all.”
Milliped smiled foolishly. “You’re very good too. You coming underground?”
Li Qingshan shook his head in an exaggerated manner. “Nah, nah. I still have things to do. If you want to eat, feel free to look for me. I welcome you to!”
Milliped was originally rather disappointed by his reply, but after hearing Li Qingshan’s words, he agreed profusely. Suddenly, his vision grew hazy, and he fell backwards, producing a thunderous snore.
Li Qingshan cursed jokingly, “All you do is eat and sleep. Nothing else bothers you. What an envious life.” He raised his head and yawned. He settled himself into the golden millet, and the pile collapsed, covering most of his body like a great big blanket. He fell asleep as well.
Xiao An came down and tidied up the leftovers. She crouched at the entrance of the hole to watch the night.
Before he knew it, Li Qingshan discovered that he had turned back into a child. He had a pair of small hands and feet. He wore a garment that had been patched up several times as he ran through the boundless plains, chasing the sun in the sky.
His sweat poured down, but he did not wipe it away. His feet were pierced by sharp stones, but he ignored them. Stumbling, he rolled on the ground before climbing back to his feet. He did not stop. He stared straight at the sun in the sky.
A great green mountain blocked his path. He did not stop, charging right into the mountain, but it was not as tough as he imagined it to be. An extremely large ox’s head extended over from one side of the mountain. It looked at him with its moist, ox eyes and said with a grand voice, “What’re you hurrying for? It’s not like the sun will run away.”
He was surprised. He climbed onto the ox’s back that seemed just like a ridge and looked at the sun near the horizon. Just like he had said, the sun had not run away. He touched his waist, and a flute appeared. It was very crude, but also very familiar. He grabbed it and began playing it.
The moon was replaced by the sun. The warm sun of noon hung in the sky lazily, casting its warm gaze into the hole.
Li Qingshan opened his eyes and yawned. He discovered that Milliped was still sleeping. Who knows when he would wake up. He leapt out of the hole and felt that his mind was particularly clear. The autumn colours of the distant mountains were pleasant. It was a refreshing sight.
He felt like it had been a very long time since he had been so relaxed. Ever since he arrived in the dangerous place of Jiaping, there were enemies and danger around every corner. All he could do was constantly cultivate and breakthrough. Even when he slept, he was thinking about how he could increase his cultivation and deal with his enemies.
His heart had always been tense. Even he himself had failed to realise just how much fatigue it had accumulated. Only after a hearty session of drinking and a good dream did his heart finally loosen up.
He thought about the dream from the night before and smiled. He muttered to himself, “Yeah, what am I hurrying for?” He reached into the depths of his hundred treasures pouch and pulled out his forgotten flute.
The sound of the flute echoed through the autumn mountains. Milliped opened his eyes, while Xiao An listened on quietly.
From that day onwards, Xiao An discovered that Li Qingshan smiled much more, and he played the flute much more. He would even get her to teach him penmanship a lot of the time, or he would take her around on idle strolls in the forests of fallen leaves.
As he strolled, he would suddenly stop and look at Xiao An solemnly. Xiao An would immediately grow nervous. She would ball her fists and think, Here it comes!
Li Qingshan’s lips rapidly opened and closed, “Eating grape without spitting out grape skin. But spitting out grape skin without eating grapes1.”
Xiao An stammered in a hurry, “Eat- not eat grapes without eating grape skin. Spitting out grape skin… without eating grapes.”
This was what Li Qingshan came up with to teach her how to talk. He called it the home education of ‘Qingshan teaches you fluent speech’. But right now, Li Qingshan was completely absorbed by how cute she was with her bright red face as she struggled with the tongue twister.
He extended his hand to pinch her cheek. “Why don’t you keep laughing over my horrible penmanship?”
Xiao An turned her head in a fuming manner, dodging his hand, but she was in an extremely good mood. Although she did not want to interfere with his cultivation, she also desired his care. She did not want him to be distant from her.
In reality, Li Qingshan had never stopped cultivating. He continued to eat pills everyday, but he lost most of his tension. No matter what he did, he focused on staying relaxed. If he spent every single day on the edge, then it would be easy for him to spiral once something actually important came up. It would make him inflexible.
And, his responsibility was not just to protect her.
Unknowingly, over a month had passed.
All of his Qi Gathering pills were gone now, while Li Qingshan’s daemon qi had reached an unprecedented level, but Qian Rongzhi had yet to contact him. However, he was not worried. He began to eat the Hundred Grasses pills.
The first snow of the year arrived very early. When the first flake of snow fell onto Li Qingshan’s nose, he was staring greedily at Milliped, while Milliped stared nervously at Xiao An, or should you say, the dice jar in Xiao An’s hands.
A few alcohol jars were turned upside down, forming a table with bowls of alcohol atop it.
Li Qingshan and Milliped sat facing each other, while Xiao An sat to the side as the dealer.
Xiao An rolled up her sleeves and revealed her slender arms, lifting the dice jar while smiling.
Li Qingshan smiled. “Fifteen! That’s big! Drink!” He grabbed a handful of peanuts from the piles of food beside him, peeled their shells, and tossed them into his mouth.
Milliped chuckled. He lifted up a bowl and drank it all. Compared to when Li Qingshan first saw him, he was much livelier and slightly plumper.
Xiao An held a long peanut between her fingers and asked Milliped, “Doesn’t it look like you?” Her voice was clear, as pleasant as the gurgling of springs and as touching as the music from a zither. ‘Qingshan teaches you fluent speech’ had achieved some results now.
Milliped looked at himself, and then he looked at the peanut. He nodded. “It does!”
“Here!” Xiao An placed the peanut in Milliped’s palm.
Milliped immediately tossed it into his mouth.
“You’ve eaten yourself!”
Just when Li Qingshan wanted to add something, his face stiffened. Xiao An immediately turned around and looked at him. Bring it on! She was now even faster than Li Qingshan at tongue twisters.
Li Qingshan smiled at her and pulled out the Communication talisman from his bosom. The talisman burned rapidly, turning into ash that dispersed in the wind very soon.
Qian Rongzhi’s signal had finally arrived!
Li Qingshan stood up quickly, and Milliped stood up as well. He opened his mouth in complete surprise.
Li Qingshan pressed down on his shoulder, pressing him back down. “I have some matters to attend to. I’ll be back very soon.”
Li Qingshan did not get Milliped to help him, nor did he have any plans to use him against the Sect of Clouds and Rain. He was an extremely great drinking buddy, but that was all. He obviously had to handle his own matters.
Li Qingshan and Xiao An, one small and one large, vanished from the hole. Xiao An even looked back and waved goodbye to Milliped.
Milliped sat there in a daze. Suddenly, he felt empty inside. Flakes of snow fell into the bowls of alcohol. He ate a mouthful of his favourite rice, but he felt like something was missing. He scratched his bald head in confusion.
Qian Rongzhi sank into her thoughts as she furrowed her brows in the residence. She went through the plan carefully—how to begin, how to deal with the consequences, and how to pull out if it failed. She ensured that there would be no holes in the plan.
Suddenly, she raised one of her arched eyebrows and turned around. “You’re finally here.”
Li Qingshan happened to be standing right behind her. Apart from remaining extremely burly, he had basically returned to how he was before. This was the result of the increased efforts he had placed into practising the Spirit Turtle’s Method of Sea Suppression recently.
He noticed the different Black Wolf uniform on her immediately. “You’ve become the Black Wolf commander?”
Qian Rongzhi stood up and turned around. She showed off. “What do you think of it? It’s pretty good, isn’t it!”
“It’s pretty good.”
“Thank you. It looks like you’ve been well recently too.”
“I’ve been alright.”
They greeted each other like they were old friends, using fake courtesy to maintain the fragile alliance.
Before Li Qingshan could ask, Qian Rongzhi said, “The fish has taken the bait. Just as you had requested, we’re just trying to catch the West Gate Granny.”
Li Qingshan asked in wonder, “How did you achieve it?” Luring out the people of the Sect of Clouds and Rain was easy, but luring out just the West Gate Granny without alarming everyone else was nothing short of difficult.
Qian Rongzhi did not explain. She stroked the Black Wolf tablet on her waist with the tip of her fingers and smiled. “That’s my job. It’s up to you now. If this all falls apart, I might not keep my word.”
“As long as you’ve done your job. You obviously have nothing to worry about regarding my part.” Li Qingshan was absolutely confident. He had adjusted himself to peak condition. He needed a battle. His relaxed heart gradually tensed up again as his interest for battle rose.
Qian Rongzhi changed the topic. “Though, I still need to prepare for the worst. Before you’ve confirmed the number of enemies, I’d advise you to keep your aura hidden.”
Li Qingshan narrowed his eyes. Qian Rongzhi said calmly, “There are no plans that are perfect. Even I can’t remove all factors of uncertainty. There’s no need for me to go into detail with that. You’d better think about how you’ll handle defeat before you start wondering how you’ll celebrate.”
“Naturally.” Even if Qian Rongzhi had not told him that, Li Qingshan would have prepared for the worst anyway. He would never place all of his trust in her. She said this just as a disclaimer, telling him to not come for her if any accidents happened.
Li Qingshan smiled. “You only have one life anyway. You’d better value it!”
“Of course!” Qian Rongzhi smiled as well. She knew that even if she tried to butter up to him, she would not be able to fool Li Qingshan.
However, Li Qingshan never imagined that the place Qian Rongzhi had chosen would actually be here.
He raised the brim of his large, bamboo hat and gazed at the lofty estate of the Qian family.
Choosing a place she was familiar with originally made a lot of sense, but she had caused the deaths of almost a thousand people here. Regular people would avoid it like taboo, but she would not. She made the most optimal choice for everything.
Li Qingshan arrived on the other side of the mountain. He found a cave among the withered grass and fallen leaves and entered. It gradually widened, turning into a huge, natural cavern in the end.
Li Qingshan checked the height of the ceiling. He even tested it by transforming. Afterwards, he began to make his preparations, constantly inspecting the cavern. He stuck seven talismans to a few hidden stalactites on the ceiling first before giving a few talismans to Xiao An.
Even a lion would use its full strength to catch a rabbit. And this time, it would be a vicious beast of great danger.
1. A Chinese tongue twister.