Chapter 229 – A Startling Strike
The masked man formed a seal with his hand to control the sword. His eyes were filled with icy-cold fury. He was no longer careless now. Although the enemy had struck when he was careless, he could not afford to treat him like a fourth layer Qi Practitioner with how he managed to land a blow on him.
However, he was not worried either. A person would always be slaughtered if they used a close range weapon against a flying sword unless an absolute difference in strength existed.
Li Qingshan understood this too. He shook the Whale’s Ingestion of Water and the crystal blade suddenly turned into an ice shield. With a series of clang, the flying sword darted about and struck the shield several dozen times. Not only did it fail to destroy the ice shield, but it even developed a layer of frost instead, making it more sluggish.
The flying sword shuddered, and its speed returned. It flew around like a bird, constantly searching for a weak point in Li Qingshan’s defence.
However, the Whale’s Ingestion of Water had been filled with Ice Condensate water, so the ice shield was half a foot thick, and it covered most of Li Qingshan. Although the flying sword was extremely nimble, it struggled to make any progress.
“A high grade spiritual artifact!” The masked man’s eyes grew even colder and brighter. He had heard from the woman that even the daemon core had originated from him. This was a blessing in disguise. If he managed to kill this kid, it would be quite the harvest for him.
He took out a painting scroll from his hundred treasures pouch and unfurled it with a shake. The strokes on there were intricate and sharp, criss-crossed with sword qi. It was another fragment of the Cursive Sword Calligraphy!
All of Li Qingshan’s hairs stood on end. A great sense of danger flooded his mind, like he faced a catastrophe.
Several dozen strands of sword qi cut through the raging wind and sliced through the drifting snow towards Li Qingshan.
The vertical stroke was the fastest. It arrived in the blink of an eye, immediately filling Li Qingshan’s field of vision and stabbing deeply into the ice shield.
The horizontal stroke was the slowest, but it was the grandest and heaviest. The power it contained seemed to be able to sever all life. It left behind a deep gash in the ice shield, causing ice to fly everywhere.
The ascending and descending strokes followed a lethal trajectory. They actually looped around Li Qingshan, flying directly towards his unguarded back. They basically arrived at the same time as the horizontal and vertical strokes.
However, the most deadly one seemed to be the hook. It would suddenly flick towards the sky, and then towards the ground. It was impossible to gauge its trajectory. It suddenly plunged into the black, frozen ground, and Li Qingshan felt an icy-cold killing intent pierce his feet, wanting to hook onto his life and soul and drag it away from him.
The flying sword did not halt at all, constantly searching for a weak point.
Li Qingshan roared out, and the Whale’s Ingestion of Ice completely spat out all of its Ice Condensate water, forming an ice ball that protected every inch of his body. It was similar to the Spirit Turtle’s Profound Shell.
It was stabbed at, struck heavily, sliced at, and torn apart. The ice ball that was supposed to be as tough as steel became as fragile as a bubble under the barrage of sword qi. It produced a series of splitting sounds, riddling the entire ball with cracks.
Li Qingshan gasped. This was the first time he had witnessed the true strength of the Cursive Sword Calligraphy as someone on the receiving end. The true qi of an eighth layer Qi Practitioner bestowed the Cursive Sword Calligraphy with absolute destructive and lethal power.
If Li Qingshan had not used Ice Condensate water, but regular spring water or spiritual water, he would have never managed to block that attack.
At a closer glance, the Cursive Sword Calligraphy in the masked man’s hands paled in comparison to his own in both size and glow. It should have only been equivalent to a high grade spiritual artifact.
The masked man was slightly surprised as well. Who knows how many Qi Practitioners much stronger than him had he already killed with this Sword Calligraphy, but he actually failed to breach the defences of a weaker Qi Practitioner today.
The flying sword hovered in the air quietly. The masked man said, “Where did you get your high quality spiritual artifact from? How is it able to block my sword qi?”
“No wonder you’re so determined to get your hands on the Sword Qi Calligraphy. Turns out you really do have another fragment in your possession. Though, killing me won’t be that easy.” Li Qingshan shook the Whale’s Ingestion of Water, and the ice ball turned back into an ice blade without any cracks at all. However, his true qi was significantly depleted. He took out a spiritual stone to recover.
The masked man suddenly laughed aloud.
Li Qingshan asked, “What’re you laughing at?”
The masked man said, “The more good things you possess, the happier I am, as all of it will belong to me in the end.”
Li Qingshan said, “Really? Then it seems like I should laugh too.”
The masked man squinted his eyes. “You witnessed all of those moves earlier, so do you really think that you can get out of this alive? Misleading the enemy is a good tactic. You almost even managed to fool me. However, those tricks are completely useless before absolute strength.” He rubbed his chest, and the terrifying wound had already begun to close up gradually under the effects of true qi. He was confident it would heal up perfectly before long.
The reason why he had stopped to talk to Li Qingshan was mostly so that he could use the chance to tend to his wounds and purge the freezing coldness from it. His wound had basically closed up, so he no longer bothered to waste any more time. He pointed at Li Qingshan. “Go!”
The flying sword shot off like a bolt of lightning. Li Qingshan also used this opportunity to recover his true qi. He did not transform into his daemon form. He could not afford to release the aura of a daemon here at all. It was very possible that the barren mountains in the surroundings were hiding many Qi Practitioners preparing for the Herb Gathering ceremony. There might have even been prying eyes spying on them right now from the distant mountain peaks.
They had come to kill daemons. Once they sensed daemon qi, maybe even Foundation Establishment cultivators would be alarmed. He could not take the risk.
Regular fourth layer Qi Practitioners obviously could not defeat eighth layer Qi Practitioners, but he was no regular fourth layer Qi practitioner. And, he had yet to use his true trump card!
With a thump, the flying sword stabbed into the shield.
Li Qingshan had pulled out the low grade spiritual artifact shield that he had not used in a very long time, turning it into the size of a table and lifting it before him.
In his other hand, the Whale’s Ingestion of Water had already absorbed all the ice and water into its belly. He pointed it towards the masked man on the tree tops.
Swish, swish, swish, swish. Countless icicles shot out viciously.
The masked man completely ignored them. He raised his sleeve, and a wondrous stream of air formed several meters in front of him. Although it was not particularly powerful, it only needed a slight stir to redirect the icicles.
Cling! Clang! The icicles shot into the dense forest, causing the trees to shake and sway. Snow fell down.
There was a great boom, as if an invisible elephant had barged into the forest. The huge trees collapsed one after another. The icicles penetrated the bark and erupted with coldness, freezing the trees, and the force directly snapped many of the tree trunks.
This only demonstrated the power of the attack. If it were used against a sixth layer Qi Practitioner, it would be a terrifying lethal move, but it was nowhere near enough against eighth layer Qi Practitioners. With the opening of each meridian, their true qi would grow by several fold. And, the masked man did not just possess powerful true qi, but ingenious tricks too.
The masked man seemed to grow impatient, but he only used the flying sword to deal attacks. He refused to take even a step closer to Li Qingshan. Instead, he constantly remained vigilant of his surroundings. He understood the terrifying abilities of Qi Practitioners the most. He would never give him an opportunity to suddenly rush over and injure him again.
He could only place all of his focus onto the flying sword. The flying sword moved faster and faster, such that it was no longer visible. All that remained were countless flashes of light. It formed a net around Li Qingshan.
It kicked up a string of rain-like barrages. Li Qingshan swung the shield left and right, but whenever a flash swept past him, it would always leave behind a deep gash in the shield. In the blink of an eye, the shield had become covered in marks. Its glow dim, already on the edge of falling apart now.
Li Qingshan remained right where he was without moving at all. He knew very well that if he moved, he would definitely reveal an opening, which would give the flying sword an opportunity. And, even if he could draw closer and become embroiled in close combat, he might not necessarily be able to gain the upper hand against an eighth layer Qi Practitioner.
But if he did not move, how was he supposed to win?
He was like a wild beast laying in the grass, silently waiting for an opportunity to present itself. He would not move, but if he did, it would be for a fatal blow.
However, the net pressed closer and closer, and his opportunity instead became less and less likely to appear the longer he waited. He made up his mind. If there was no opportunity, then he would make one. Suddenly, he tossed the shield into the air, knocking the flying sword away. However, his chest was now wide open with that.
A sneer flashed through the masked man’s eyes. The flying sword moved even faster, striking like lightning.
With a ruffle, Li Qingshan unfurled the Cursive Sword Calligraphy and blocked his chest with it, launching several dozen strands of sharp sword qi.
The flying sword collided with a vertical stroke before being sent flying by a horizontal stroke. It was unable to stop the great wave of sword qi.
The masked man shivered inside. As he looked at the Sword Calligraphy that was even slightly stronger than his own, he was stunned, but he really wanted to laugh out crazily afterwards. Never did I think that the reason why this kid spent so much money to buy the Sword Qi Calligraphy was because he possessed another fragment of it.
If regular eighth layer Qi Practitioners faced this sudden wave of sword qi, they would probably have to worry for their own lives. However, this was nothing to him. He shook the Sword Calligraphy in his hand again. Who knows how many times denser his true qi was compared to Li Qingshan’s, so he could use the Sword Calligraphy much more liberally. He did not have to worry about depleting all of his true qi from a single use.
The two waves of sword qi collided in the air, but there was no intense clash, nor did they nullify each other. Instead, they directly merged together, forming a cluster of ink-like black water that varied in shape.
Li Qingshan and the masked man both ravished with joy. This only proved that the two pieces of calligraphy shared the same origin, and that a possibility to merge them existed.
However, this only lasted for a split second. The ball of ink elongated to a certain limit before seemingly losing control over its internal pressure and blowing up again. It formed a ring of sword qi that expanded into the surroundings.
Both of them changed in expression. They did not dare to waste any time at all. Before the sword qi had even arrived, the power had already flooded the surroundings like an avalanche or a tsunami. It had definitely surpassed a supreme grade spiritual artifact in terms of power.
The masked man shot into the sky like a black arrow. It was already too late for Li Qingshan to dodge, so he knelt down on one knee, wielding a shield in his left hand and the Whale’s Ingestion of Water in his right, which condensed an extremely narrow but seven-foot-thick lump of ice even further in front of him.
The wave of sword qi arrived in a flash, expanding to several hundred meters across and destroying all of the surrounding snow and ice. The masked man looked down from above. A black, round figure stood out amidst the white ground. He could not help but gulp as he felt excited for some reason. If he could grasp this power, would there still be any Qi Practitioners that could oppose him?
With a bang, only half of the round shield in Li Qingshan’s hand remained. All of the spiritual qi had dispersed. It was completely destroyed now. As for the lump of ice even further ahead, it had been cut through the centre as easily as a piece of paper.
Li Qingshan was shocked as well. If the sword qi had not shot off in all directions and was under the slight control of the enemy, he would have been a dead man already. Even if he had daemonified, he would still be heavily injured.
Even with that being the case, he had basically destroyed a high grade and low grade spiritual artifact to barely block the sword qi. Fortunately, the weapons of the Whale’s Ingestion of Water were condensed from water and they could self-repair, or it really would have been quite the loss this time.
He raised his head and looked at the masked man in the air. Li Qingshan’s eyes were frigid. The bamboo basket on his back had already vanished.
The masked man watched the bamboo basket whistle over as he felt stunned. He had no idea what trick this was, but he did not dare to lower his guard. Separating his hands, a black strand of qi rushed out and ripped the bamboo basket to shreds.
A speck of cold light flickered like a falling star, ripping through the qi. Before the sword had even arrived, the sword intent seemed to pierce his body. The masked man was astounded as he stiffened up slightly.
Not only had he been stunned by the sword intent, but he was surprised and frightened by it too. The sword intent was clearly the same as the Sword Calligraphy’s. Was there really someone talented enough to comprehend the sword intent within the calligraphy? And, to his disbelief, the wielder was actually a child less than ten years of age.
Li Qingshan was amazed. Since when did this girl’s sword technique reach a level like this? Despite the great distance, he could sense how terrifying the sword intent was. He could not help but wonder just how he would handle it if the sword was directed towards him instead. However, he was unable to come up with a suitable answer.
Of course, he was suited for actual combat and not theory. Only in an actual life-or-death struggle would he be able to unleash all of his potential.
The great threat immediately made the masked man jerk to his senses. He wanted to dodge, but he felt like that was impossible. This was not because he had nothing to push off of. A casual spurt of true qi from an eighth layer Qi Practitioner could blast them ten meters away.
Xiao An wielded the sword with her white, tender hand as she directed the tip at the masked man. The tip was no longer straight. Instead, the edge constantly trembled.
Li Qingshan found this to be extremely familiar. He suddenly remembered how Xiao An laid on the ground in the private box and her hand constantly trembled as she drew in the air.
As it turned out, Xiao An had already patched up a portion of the sword intent from the Cursive Sword Calligraphy after obtaining the Sword Qi Calligraphy. And, when he clashed against the masked man, she had been hiding in the bamboo basket, but she could still see the outside world clearly.
With a single glance, she had managed to take in the strokes on the masked man’s copy of the Cursive Sword Calligraphy clearly. And, she even felt the sword qi that it had released up close.
To regular people, all of that had just happened in a split second. They would not have noticed anything. However, to her, a mere glance was already enough.
All geniuses needed was instantaneous comprehension. The three fragments of the Cursive Sword Calligraphy joined together in her mind, condensing into this one strike. It already possessed a sliver of the ancient sword immortal’s sword intent.
In that flash, in the face of a devastating attack, it was already too late for the flying sword to save him, and it was too late for him to pull out a talisman. The masked man extended his hand in a crazed panic, releasing all of his true qi and black qi that swirled and rushed out like a tornado.
Just like in the private box, the tip of the sword suddenly stopped trembling. All of the strokes gathered into a powerful stab.
Xiao An brushed past the masked man and both of them fell out of the sky.
Li Qingshan rushed over in a hurry and caught Xiao An. She was pouring with sweat, and her fragrance of sandalwood grew heavier and heavier. Her eyes were dim, but still clear. She was just exhausted.
The masked man did a flip and landed firmly on the ground. He pointed at Li Qingshan, and then at Xiao An. “You-” The moment he uttered a single word, blood spurted from his throat, almost reaching Li Qingshan.
He trembled a few times before collapsing.
With a great rumble, several hundred trees gradually tilted and collapsed. The thunderous sound reverberated through the valley.
At the same time, Xiao An’s hidden blade turned to dust, dispersing in the wind. The might of the strike earlier was not something a low grade spiritual artifact could withstand. It had sapped all of her energy as well.
However, the result was instantly killing an eighth layer Qi Practitioner.
Xiao An stared at Li Qingshan and raised her chin. “I meant it!”
Li Qingshan stroked her nose with his index finger1. “Alright, whatever you say!”
The flying sword fell out of the sky like a dead snake. With a gust of true qi, it fell into Li Qingshan’s hand. At the same time, he picked up the hundred treasures pouch and fragment of the Cursive Sword Calligraphy from the ground. A stream of fire flew out from the tip of Xiao An’s finger, entering the corpse and destroying all traces of it. She immediately recovered with that.
Li Qingshan said, “People are going to come very soon. We can’t stay here. Let’s go!”
He had managed to kill a powerful enemy without transforming, obtaining a spiritual artifact he could only dream of. However, for some reason, the sense of danger did not disperse. Instead, it continued to loom over him like a dark cloud, which was why he chose to leave immediately.
The two of them disappeared into the messy valley. A while later, a group of Qi Practitioners arrived and stared at the scenery in shock. They all looked at one another. Were there Foundation Establishment cultivators fighting here earlier?
Only the leading Qi Practitioner frowned slightly. He was young and his face was chiseled like jade. Surprisingly, he had already reached the ninth layer. Even though practising qi could delay ageing, it was possible to tell that he could not be too old. With his age, he could be labelled as a genius wherever he went.
He asked indifferently, “Song Ming, are you certain it was this direction?”
He wore the same uniform from the Pheasant’s Grace mountain as Song Ming. However, he had three tail feathers embroidered on his chest, one more than Song Ming. The other Qi Practitioners all gathered around him, and all of them were disciples of the Pheasant’s Grace mountain.
Song Ming stepped forward politely. “Yes, first senior brother. Quite a few people saw it with their own eyes. It can’t be wrong.”
The first senior brother asked, “Then where is he right now?” His voice was very nonchalant, but that originated from his absolute confidence in his own strength.
Song Ming hesitated. “He… must be nearby.”
Before the first senior brother could even say anything, another Qi Practitioner had already spoken, “Junior brother Song, the Herb Gathering ceremony is about to begin. Who has the time to search for someone with you? We’re avenging you right now, so use your head a little.”
Fury surfaced on Song Ming’s face, but he was afraid of losing his temper, as the person who said that to him was also a core disciple of the Pheasant’s Grace mountain, and he was at the seventh layer.
The first senior brother raised his hand, silencing everyone. “Harassing Song Ming is no different from harassing all the disciples of our Pheasant’s Grace mountain. As the first senior brother, I must stand up for you. I must settle this grievance!”
1. I can’t really translate it properly, but Li Qingshan stroked her nose in this context as a form of punishment. He basically used the second joint of his index finger to do it, which can hurt if you do it hard. It’s often used as a punishment for games among friends.