Chapter 219 – Treaty of Kings
Li Qingshan ignored the curious gazes of the Qi Practitioners. All he asked was, “What are you looking for? Please let me know!”
The rosy-cheeked man was clever enough to not ask too much. He waved his hand in a generous manner. “Here’s not a place to talk. Let’s go to a teahouse instead!”
“Drinking tea is boring. Is there any place where we can drink alcohol? I’ll play the host today.” Li Qingshan happened to be in a good mood, having just resolved a few matters on his mind.
The rosy-cheeked man smiled. “I prefer alcohol more as well. There’s the Hundred Flavours restaurant just up ahead, though you mustn’t try competing with me over who plays the host today.”
Li Qingshan held the jade slip to the Book of All and an assortment of information regarding the Hundred Flavours restaurant immediately filled his head. This was an extremely renowned restaurant within the cultivation world of the Clear River province. Even the chefs were Qi Practitioners. They made food similar to how Lu Ziyu brewed tea. They all used techniques that only Qi Practitioners could use to create food that regular people would never be able to taste.
Li Qingshan smiled. This sure was useful. It was like several dozen encyclopedias all gathered in a thin jade slip. It was exactly what he needed as an independent cultivator who had just begun cultivating.
However, while it was not exactly rare for independent cultivators to be willing to spend almost a hundred spiritual stones for this, it was still extremely uncommon. Disciples from sects, on the other hand, all had masters who taught them the common knowledge regarding the cultivation world, so there was even less of a need for them to spend so much money on such items.
They sat down around a long table by the window in the Hundred Flavours restaurant. The rosy-cheeked man said, “I’m Han Xiong. These are my friends.” He introduced them to Li Qingshan one by one, and the Qi Practitioners all greeted him.
Li Qingshan nodded to return the gesture. He gave a self-introduction, “I’m Niu Juxia. May I ask why fellow Han has invited me here?” He had thought about it too and found that calling himself Niu’er was a little inappropriate, so he just went with what Yu Zijian had said. He called himself Niu Juxia.
“Are you sir perhaps that Niu Juxia who defeated the inner disciple Song Ming of the Pheasant’s Grace mountain in a single strike?” Han Xiong became stern and could not help but refer to him with an honorific.
Li Qingshan had never thought that he would have already made a name for himself. He said modestly, “It was pure luck.”
The three other Qi Practitioners became rather surprised and puzzled instead. They were not as well-informed as Han Xiong. They asked, “Brother Xiong, what’s this all about? Are you talking about the Golden Pheasant playboy, Song Ming?”
Li Qingshan almost broke into laughter. What Golden Pheasant playboy? That’s even worse than the Descended Tiger.
Han Xin explained the matter for his companions.
It was inappropriate for Li Qingshan to chip in, so he studied the restaurant. The restaurant was similar to the other structures in the small town, completely built out of wood. It gave off a fragrance that only timber possessed.
The decor was not extravagant. Instead, it was extremely simple. There was not a single painting or piece of calligraphy, which made Li Qingshan feel like he had only come here to eat and drink. Clearly, this restaurant placed absolute confidence in its culinary arts.
At this moment, a waiter walked past with a serving plate. He wore a square hat on his head with a white towel over his shoulder as he placed down a jug of alcohol and various exquisite dishes that went with the drinking. His voice was filled with enthusiasm, introducing the names and origins of these dishes. His movements and speech were perfect, but they were rather mechanical.
Only with a closer glance did Li Qingshan discover that there were no waiters here at all. They were all just puppets, but they were designed to great detail, and they wore the clothing of waiters. Their exposed skin had been painted by some kind of dye. As such, it seemed exactly the same as real skin. Clearly, they were not a model used for combat.
Evidently, it was because this market did not allow the entry of regular people, but Qi Practitioners would never be willing to work as waiters, so they had to specially order these waiter puppets from mohists.
By now, Han Xiong had finished explaining Li Qingshan’s glorious achievements in battle. The Qi Practitioners all looked at Li Qingshan with respect as well. Among them, the strongest was Han Xiong, who was only a fifth layer Qi Practitioner. Even if they worked together, they were not the opponent of any inner disciple of the three mountains. They originally thought that Li Qingshan was a little Qi Practitioner who had only just begun his path of cultivation, but never did they imagine that he would be such a powerful figure.
Han Xiong stood up and poured alcohol for Li Qingshan.
Li Qingshan sat right where he was. He lifted his cup and nodded at Han Xiong before drinking all of it. He smiled, “You can tell me what you’re looking for now, right, fellow Han?”
Han Xiong drank his alcohol in a hurry. “We’re all members of the Truth-seeking society. We sincerely invite you to join us, fellow Niu!”
Was the Truth-seeking society a sect? Li Qingshan checked the Book of All in a hurry, but he found nothing.
Han Xiong said, “Don’t worry too much, fellow Niu. The Truth-seeking society is just an association created by independent cultivators. It’s not some major sect, so the Book of All won’t have any records of it.”
“An association of independent cultivators?” This was the first time Li Qingshan had heard of an organisation like that. He asked curiously, “Actually, I’ve never really understood what counts as an independent cultivator.”
“Now that’s something you might not know, fellow Niu. Independent cultivators don’t just refer to cultivators who move about independently. As long as you don’t come from a clan or sect, you’re an independent cultivator.”
Li Qingshan said, “With your cultivation at the fifth layer, fellow Han, it’s more than enough for you to create your own clan or sect.”
Han Xiong smiled bitterly. “Without my own heritage and legacies, how can I claim to lead a clan or sect? Normally, if a clan or sect doesn’t have a Foundation Establishment cultivator, they’re still independent cultivators even if they have countless Qi Practitioners gathered together. You won’t be recognised by the cultivation world. To be honest, my Han family is basically like the local king in the Smooth Sailing city two hundred and fifty kilometers north-east of here.”
“However, they’re nothing in the cultivation world. They’re often pushed aside and harassed by disciples of sects. That’s why we created this association; it is so that we can protect one another.”
Li Qingshan asked, “With your strength at the fifth layer, can’t you join a sect?” He pointed at the towering mountain outside the window. “Such as the Green Vine mountain.”
Han xiong sighed, “I’m old, and I’m not as talented as brother Niu, so which sect would accept me? I can only rely on myself to fumble around and hopefully make some progress. So how is it? Would you like to check out our Truth-seeking society, Niu Juxia?”
It made sense to Li Qingshan. All of the sect disciples he had seen so far were young and around the fifth or sixth layer in strength. In comparison, Han Xiong seemed to be in his forties or fifties at the very least. His talent definitely was not fantastic.
Suddenly, he remembered what Zhou Wenbin had said in the past. Sects usually only recruited young disciples who would grow up in the mountains under the guidance of their master and with the care and concern of their seniors. These various ties would result in a sense of recognition and belonging. That was the foundation of a sect’s existence.
Li Qingshan deliberated over Han Xiong’s invitation. “I’m afraid I don’t have the time. And, I might also join a sect in the future…”
Seeing how Li Qingshan did not openly turn him down, Han Xiong became even more enthusiastic. “The Truth-seeking society is not a sect. You don’t have to do anything for the society at all. All we do is gather from time to time and discuss our understanding of cultivation or exchange some resources. It definitely won’t take up any time at all.”
The three Qi Practitioners by his side added, “Yeah, yeah. Everyone just talks and drinks when we’re together. It’s fantastic!”
“Last year, we even organised a group to enter the Boundless mountains, and we came across a few hundred kilograms of black iron essence.”
Li Qingshan gained a deeper understanding towards the nature of this Truth-seeking society.
Han Xiong said, “How about this? We have a gathering in Quiet Spring valley coming up. You can come along with us. If you don’t like it, we won’t force you into anything.”
“I’ll consider it!” Li Qingshan lifted his cup and said nothing more. Han Xiong looked at his companions and none of them said anything more either. “Come, let’s drink!”
Li Qingshan looked out of the window, at the streets blazing with lanterns and the Qi Practitioners who flowed endlessly. He asked in wonder, “Is it always so lively here?”
Han Xiong said, “How would that be possible? It’s all because the once-a-decade Herb Gathering ceremony of the three mountains is drawing near, which is why so many Qi Practitioners have been drawn here. They’re all preparing for that!”
Li Qingshan was puzzled. “The Herb Gathering ceremony of the three mountains? What’s it got to do with independent cultivators?”
Han Xiong said, “The disciples of the three mountains are stronger. When they go out to pick herbs, they can draw the attention of daemonic beasts, and we independent cultivators might be able to take advantage of the situation and get lucky.”
“Aren’t we just being used by the three mountains to serve as bait for the daemonic beasts as well?”
Li Qingshan turned around. He saw the speaker, the fourth layer Qi Practitioner Zhou Wei, sneer from ear to ear.
Han Xiong said, “Anyways, it’s always safer if there are more people.”
“Safer? I don’t think so. Countless Qi Practitioners die underground at every gathering. How many of them die to the mouths of daemonic beasts?”
“Underground? Isn’t it the Boundless mountains?” Surprised, Li Qingshan placed down his cup.
Han Xiao smiled. “Brother Niu, you really don’t know anything. The spiritual herbs in and around the Boundless mountains have basically all been picked already. If you venture any further, you can easily attract the attention of a Daemon General, which would annihilate any group of Qi Practitioners. Who would be bold enough to venture into the depths?”
Li Qingshan felt a rather ill omen. He continued to ask, “Aren’t there any daemons and Daemon Generals underground?”
Han Xiong said, “Of course there are. Speaking of which, some parts underground are more dangerous than the Boundless mountains. However, travelling east and west when you’re underground will be much safer.”
Isn’t that Milliped’s territory? Li Qingshan asked in a hurry, “How come?” He already had an inkling to the answer of that question.
Han Xiong showed off his knowledge. “If you asked someone else, they might not be able to answer you, but the leader of our association happens to have a friend who is a core disciple of the Burial Mound mountain, which is why I know!”
“If you try gathering herbs elsewhere, killing daemons and collecting their daemon cores, you’ll definitely end up drawing over a Daemon General. You’ll be lucky if even a single person returns alive from a group of ten. However, the Daemon General rarely ever appears in that area, and the Herb Gathering ceremony only truly begins in a month or two. Do you know why?”
“That’s because they have to wait for the coldest time of the year. It’s said that the Daemon General will go into hibernation around that time, so it’s the perfect opportunity for killing daemonic beasts and gathering spiritual herbs. Even if we make a complete mess underground, it won’t matter.”
Li Qingshan suddenly felt speechless. He knew what Milliped loved the most was eating and sleeping. Even if it was not winter, he probably spent most of his time on the stone platform asleep, giving the Qi Practitioners a window of opportunity.
However, why had he only heard Milliped mention the oppression from other Daemon Generals and not the threat from above ground?
“Why do we have to be afraid of Daemon Generals? Aren’t the sect masters of the three mountains all Foundation Establishment cultivators? As long as they work together, they can even kill Daemon Generals!”
Han Xiong’s eyes widened. “Fellow Niu, don’t you even know about the Treaty of Kings?” He had suddenly exclaimed that, which alarmed Qi Practitioners from neighbouring tables. They all looked over at Li Qingshan with surprise and contempt.
It was as if Li Qingshan was not ignorant about the Treaty of Kings, but ignorant about the fact that the sun was round.
Zhou Wei said, “You’ve only just begun cultivation, so there’s nothing strange about being ignorant of it. The Book of All must have an extremely detailed account on this. Why don’t you take a look?”
Li Qingshan held the jade slip and focused on it. Immediately, he obtained all the information on the Treaty of Kings. The information was extremely complicated. If he read through it bit by bit, probably even three days and nights would not be enough for him to go through all of it.
However, he skimmed through it and gained a rough understanding. He understood why these Qi Practitioners had been so surprised. Qi Practitioners who were ignorant of this could truly be considered as still wet behind the ears.
The Treaty of Kings originated from the founding emperor of Great Xia. Legends had it that he possessed the bloodline of daemons, and when he waged war across the world, he only managed to found the Great Xia empire with the assistance of many powerful daemons.
After founding the Great Xia empire, he divided up the world. The most important and most illustrious titles of nobility went to the human kings of the eight provinces and the ten Daemon Kings.
Under the host of the founding empire, the kings converged, and after a hundred days of negotiation, they signed a treaty, dividing the domains of daemons and humans, preventing the two races from ever infringing on one another again.
The thing that prevented Milliped from taking a step above ground was not the Daemon Commander above him. It was not even the Green province’s Dragon King of Ink Sea. Instead, it was this treaty that had lasted for several thousands of years.
However, low level daemonic beasts had limited intelligence, and there were just too many Qi Practitioners, making it difficult to restrain them. As a result, whether it be daemonic beasts rushing onto the surface or Qi Practitioners venturing underground, it was all within the boundaries that could be tolerated and was secretly permitted. Of course, they would just be killed by the other party, so that was no different from seeking death.
The individuals that the treaty truly restricted were humans and daemons that had survived the first heavenly tribulation, whether it be Foundation Establishment cultivators venturing underground to kill daemons, or Daemon Generals coming above ground to kill humans.
The best outcome when the treaty was broken would be both races teaming up to hunt down the violators, while the worst was reigniting the flames of war, sucking in all humans and daemons.
Today, three Foundation Establishment cultivators ventured underground to kill a Daemon General, while tomorrow, it was possible for a Daemon Commander to appear and slaughter all the Qi Practitioners within the Green Vine mountain and this small town.
Even with Li Qingshan’s recklessness, he shivered at that thought.
However, he also relaxed slightly when he heard how Foundation Establishment cultivators would not venture underground. However, he also thought of a multitude of things in the process. As the leader of the daemon soldiers, the daemons and daemonic beasts were all his subordinates, so he could not just let them be slaughtered. And, he was supposed to possess absolute control over the various resources underground. He would never just hand it all over on a silver platter.
If he were purely a daemon, he would obviously return underground immediately and gather the daemons to set up traps so that he could slaughter all the intruders. He would end up with a lot of hundred treasures pouches instead.
However, at the end of the day, he had mutated into a daemon from a human, so the decision was no longer so easy to make. For a moment, he even lost interest in the food.
He forced himself to calm down and asked Han Xiong many things about the Herb Gathering ceremony before bidding farewell and leaving.
Han Xiong could tell that Li Qingshan had lost interest now, so he did not force him to stay. However, he did try to persuade him to come visit the Quiet Spring valley in the future again.
After learning the time and location, he agreed in the end. This was no longer for the sake of broadening his knowledge. The Quiet Spring valley was close to here, and they would converge before the Herb Gathering ceremony. No matter what his decision was, he had to keep an eye out for the situation here constantly.
Arriving downstairs, Li Qingshan ordered another table of dishes and drinks, storing it into his hundred treasures pouch before leaving.
It was late. Li Qingshan found an inn to rest for the night. He spent five spiritual stones for their best room. Under the guidance of the boss, he opened the antiquated door and discovered that the space inside was much larger than he had expected it to be. He knew that they must have used some kind of formation to increase the space inside.
Although it was winter, the room was toasty. A thick thick, silken rug covered the ground. The patterns of the rug did not just seem to be patterns, but some kind of formation as well, making the spiritual qi in the room slightly denser than outside.
A detailed beauty was embroidered on a jade screen as she played a pipa. The boss knocked the screen, and the sound of traditional instruments began to play.
There was a cushion in the room that was said to gather the spiritual qi of the world and was said to be very beneficial to cultivation.
There was even a huge bathing pool in the room. Not only could it gather water by itself, but there were even two glyphs that could be used to control the temperature of the water.
These were all small gadgets that various Qi Practitioners had come up with. Not only had Li Qingshan never seen them before, but he had not even thought of them before. It was not exactly a technological miracle, but it could definitely bring great comfort to people.
Just when the boss was about to leave, he suddenly stopped and revealed a smile that all men understood. “If you feel lonely and find it difficult to fall asleep, I happen to know a few young, pretty female cultivators. All you need is a few spiritual stones…” He treated Li Qingshan as an ignorant but wealthy customer who was liberal with money.
Li Qingshan was immediately left at a loss as for how to react. He felt like he had been put in someone else’s shoes for some reason. He really wondered whether there would be police, no, Hawkwolf guards who would come and inspect the rooms. He waved his hand in a hurry and declined sternly, “No need. I’m going to rest now!”
The boss felt that it was quite the pity. He refused to relent. “There are Communication talismans in the room. If you have any needs, feel free to call me!”
Li Qingshan closed the door and exhaled, placing down the bamboo basket and opening it. “You can come out now!”
Xiao An extended her hands towards him. Li Qingshan asked, “Can’t you get out by yourself?” However, he still lifted her out. He placed the dishes on the table. “Time to eat!”
He sat to one side and watched Xiao An eat as he leaned on his elbow. However, his mind wandered off somewhere. He was not even in the mood to look at the Gui Water Method of Condensing Qi.
Xiao An asked with her childish voice, “Aren’t you eating?”
Li Qingshan said, “I’ve already eaten.” However, Xiao An had already brought a piece of fish to his mouth.
“You really are getting more and more naughty.” Li Qingshan said before eating the fish. “What do you think I should do?”
Xiao An asked in confusion, “What?”
Li Qingshan, “That damned Herb Gathering ceremony obviously.”
Xiao An was astounded. “Aren’t we killing them all?”
Li Qingshan was taken aback. “Since when did I say that. It’s not like I know them, nor are they coming directly for me. It’s not a good idea to massacre everyone like this, right?”
Xiao An lowered her head, “But I don’t know them either!” To her, that reason was enough. No, more correctly, she did not even need a reason. Apart from the man right before her, everyone else could go and die.
Strangely enough, because of each other’s existence, neither of them could become great fiends who did whatever they wanted.