Chapter 242 – Enemy of Humans
Deep underground, vicious daemons gathered from all directions.
The vast cavern was lit by moss, but several dozen pairs of eyes shone even brighter. Most of their irises had narrowed into slits, clearly rather unaccustomed to such a bright environment.
Perhaps vicious, perhaps cold, or perhaps arrogant, the gazes clashed and produced sparks in the air.
The sounds of foul breaths rose and fell once after another. They were restless like volcanoes before eruption. From time to time, there would be deep growls or roars, like the thunder in the sky, resounding through the cavern.
Daemon qi gathered in the darkness, constantly entangling and exchanging information with each other. However, they maintained a cautious distance from one another.
The tremendous figures resulted in a series of black shadows, writhing, swaying, and twisting.
In the past, they lived without any contact with each other, but today, they had all been gathered here because of a person.
Suddenly, their gazes gathered in a single location.
Thump! Thump! Thump!
The heavy footsteps caused the ground to shake. It was still very far away, but violent daemon qi had already gushed into the cavern. This was the way daemons greeted one another, but it was filled with arrogance and provocation. Normally, it was enough to lead to a battle.
All of the daemons withdrew their daemon qi and lowered their heads, as if they were subjects awaiting the arrival of their king.
They could all sense that he had grown stronger. He was like a sharpened blade, shining with bloodthirsty light.
A colossal figure appeared at the dark entrance. The entrance was towards the top of the cavern and was several meters wide, but it was still not large enough for him. Simply raising his head would cause his two sharp ox horns to scrape against the ceiling and produce a series of sparks.
The black shadow leapt into the air. Its colossal body was not clumsy at all; instead, it was like a tiger descending from the mountains.
He landed on the ground with a rumble. His scarlet hair danced like fire, while his scarlet pupils glanced past the daemons like a blade. The daemons all lowered their heads even further.
On his shoulders, Xiao An and Milliped stood to the left and right. Xiao An had assumed her skeletal form, with the two Skull Prayer Beads hovering above her head.
Milliped, on the other hand, napped by leaning against Li Qingshan’s head. However, the powerful daemon qi he gave off still slammed against the surroundings wave after wave, scattering the daemon qi from the other daemons.
Li Qingsahn swung his hand, and food ran down like rain, piling at the centre of the cavern. There was food that had been cooked by humans, as well as fresh beef, lamb, and pork. Merging together, they gave off an enticing fragrance.
Basically all of the daemons drooled. Despite how long they had lived, they had never seen so much and so many rich foods.
“This is my promise. Now, let’s eat!” Li Qingshan’s deep voice was like resonating metal, able to penetrate through anything.
His words were like a spark to a room full of explosives. The daemons all lunged forward, each more vicious and powerful than the last. Hunting and eating was an ability that they had been born with.
After a few roars and growls as a test, they naturally assembled themselves into a certain order. The strongest daemons ate first.
The blackwater salamander gulped down a pile of fresh fish. He felt glad. Thankfully, he had come, or he would have missed out on such a great feast.
The boulder viper coiled up and swallowed an entire ox. With a wave of its tail, it ate another goat.
The way the ice frog ate was the strangest. It would open its mouth to a terrifying size and exhale cold air, freezing all the cooked food before sucking hard. Its body would immediately swell up, and all of the frozen food would be sucked into its body, like it was a bottomless pit.
The other daemons paced around restlessly in the surroundings.
This seemed to be an ancient, primal ceremony, like how the ancestors of humans danced around fire, creating human culture.
Milliped caught a whiff of the food and opened his eyes by a crack. Li Qingshan passed the alcohol and food he had already prepared to him. He had a great feast before laying down on Li Qingshan’s shoulder and falling asleep.
Li Qingshan shook his head. Originally, he had brought him to keep up his appearance and say a few words to rile up their morale, but as it seemed, there was no need for that.
He did not take out all the food right at the beginning. Hunger was the main driving force for hunting. When his three strongest daemon soldiers were half way done eating, he ordered them to stop and let the other daemons eat.
However, daemons that were eating also happened to be the most vicious, so why would they listen to Li Qingshan’s command? They ignored him and continued to wolf down the food.
Li Qingshan got to work. He grabbed the boulder viper’s head with his huge claws and pressed it against the ground. The boulder viper wrapped around him a few times instinctively like a thick belt, but it discovered that his body was even tougher than metal. The piercing pain from its head made it return to its senses. Those claws could actually pierce its armour.
The other arm wrapped around the blackwater salamander’s neck. While the blackwater salamander could slide out, it obediently remained still.
The ice frog wanted to eat a few more mouthfuls while he was busy, but a bone sword pointed at him. The flames shone in Xiao An’s eye sockets.
The bone sword had been refined from the skeleton of the first senior brother from the Pheasant’s Grace mountain.
Although a sword did exist within the artifact forging section of the Path of White Bone and Great Beauty called the Buddha Slaying sword, it was not something that Xiao An could forge right now. As a result, this sword had no other uses apart from its toughness.
However, a tough sword was enough for a supreme swordsman.
The ice frog was immediately stunned by the sword intent. It became afraid to move. It felt like as long as it moved by even an inch, it would have to suffer a devastating attack.
With the three strongest daemon soldiers subdued in an instant, the other daemons became afraid to move as well.
Milliped opened his bleary eyes and asked, “They’re being disobedient?”
Li Qingshan smiled. “You’d best ask them!”
The three daemons expressed their allegiance in a hurry, and Li Qingshan released them. He said nothing more apart from expressing that he had the authority to distribute food. The leader would always have to express the authority he possessed to the group and give the rule breakers a tough beating.
The other daemon soldiers immediately became much more orderly as they ate. After all the food had been split among them, the daemons still seemed dissatisfied. They seemed to become even hungrier after having not eaten in a long time.
“The human cultivators have already begun to venture underground!” Li Qingshan finally spoke. He used daemon qi and his voice to convey his message.
All of the daemons raised their heads in alertness. They understood the danger that humans posed.
“They’ve come to kill us, to take the daemon cores in us, to take the spiritual herbs from our caverns. From today onwards, you will listen to my command. You will not fight alone. We must band together and face the enemy together. After this, I will redistribute food among you according to your merit in battle!”
“Now, let’s go and kill all the humans!” Li Qingshan raised his right hand before swinging down viciously.
Various growls and roars resounded through the caverns, causing loose rocks to fall. The daemon army moved out.
Li Qingshan stood at the very back. Only when all the daemons had left the cavern did he mumble to himself extremely softly, “The name of the operation this time will be the Enemy of Humans.”
A strange smile appeared on his face. It seemed like a cruel, vicious smile, like a sorrowful, bitter smile, yet also like a self-deprecating, cold smile. Afterwards, all of it vanished. He recovered his silent composure.
This was the path he had chosen, no hesitation, no regret.
“Alright, go back to sleep!” Li Qingshan placed Milliped down from his shoulder. There would not be Foundation Establishment cultivators venturing underground. With his current strength, he could kill any Qi Practitioner he came across.
“Be careful,” Milliped muttered before wriggling towards his den. His bottom rose and fell as he inched away extremely quickly.
Li Qingshan smiled with ease. He placed his hand over his chest and bowed slightly. “We fight for you!” Afterwards, he nodded to Xiao An. “And for you!”
Afterwards, he straightened himself out and said proudly, “And for me!”
He strode off into the depths of the cavern.
The sounds of countless footsteps advanced at a steady and rapid pace.
The disciples of the three sects had already separated underground. They followed their own markers and advanced along their own paths. Often, the groups would have a Qi Practitioner at the sixth layer or higher leading several weaker Qi Practitioners.
This group happened to be under the lead of Liu Fengrui, but his face was sunken. He ignored his junior brothers’ flattery.
The past few days had been very tough for him on the Green Vine mountain. He never thought that bringing back a girl would cause so much trouble. Not only did his seniors and juniors give him the cold shoulder, but even the Green Vine Elder did not treat him kindly.
He was not afraid of receiving the cold shoulder from his seniors and juniors. However, it would be extremely terrifying once he fell out of favour with his master in a small sect like this. He could not help but utterly resent Yu Zijian. He basically hoped that she would die in the ceremony this time, and if there was the opportunity, he would not mind helping out a little so that this did happen.
“Senior brother, up ahead is a daemonic beast’s den. There should be Quartz grass growing in the surroundings, which is a crucial spiritual herb for refining Stone Grain pills.” A disciple of the Green Vine mountain held a small mental map and beamed in joy.
He interrupted Liu Fengrui’s thoughts, who said in displeasure, “Quartz grass isn’t some impressive spiritual herb. We’re still very close to the surface here. If you want good things, we need to venture deeper. A mere daemonic beast hasn’t even condensed a daemon core.”
The disciples were all obsequious to him. If they ventured deeper, then the danger would increase too. Daemons with daemon cores were not that easy to handle. Although daemonic beasts did not have daemon cores, they still possessed hides and bones, which were fantastic materials for forging spiritual artifacts. Their flesh and blood had very great uses too.
“Let’s go and take a look!” Liu Fengrui ordered. He had to gather some additional spiritual herbs in the ceremony this time to save his master’s impression of him.
The cave was utterly pitch-black. The ground advanced quickly. The Brightening talismans limited the impact of the darkness on their vision. With their dexterity, even the twisting caves filled with loose rock failed to stop their advance.
Suddenly, a third layer Qi Practitioner disciple said, “Senior brother, it’s so cold!” He shivered.
Liu Fengrui sensed the coldness in the surroundings as well. Looking back at his junior brothers, all of their faces had paled, and their lips had become blue. Qi Practitioners who possessed innate true qi were immune to the winter cold and summer heat, but at this moment, they felt cold just like regular people.
“This isn’t normal. The records never said it would be so cold here!”
“It wasn’t this cold the last time I was here. The underground caves change often, so maybe something has happened here? Senior brother, should we go somewhere else?’ said an old Qi Practitioner cautiously. He was only at the third layer, so he had to refer to Liu Fengrui as senior brother.
Liu Fengrui looked around. “Master is waiting for us just on the surface. If we retreat before we’ve even run into danger, can we still call ourselves disciples of the Green Vine mountain? Let’s go. It won’t be cold once we move around a bit more. The Quartz grass is right ahead!”
They sprinted through the cave, but the coldness did not decrease at all. Instead, it grew heavier and heavier. Even Liu Fengrui found the cold to be piercing, while the junior brothers behind him found it utterly unbearable. They even slowed down.
“We can’t go on anymore, senior brother. Let’s retreat!”
Just when Liu Fengrui was about to give the order to retreat, the resonant croak of a frog resounded through the cave.
“There’s a daemonic beast!” Everyone responded. Apart from daemonic beasts, there were no other creatures that could live here.
“We’ll leave once we kill this daemonic beast!” Liu Fengrui rejoiced and advanced forwards with his junior brothers.
Cold mist permeated the darkness. A layer of frost had developed over the grey Quartz grass. An ice-blue frog leapt off a rock. “Croak, croak!”
Liu Fengrui could not help but be disappointed by this. The strength of daemonic beasts usually matched their size. The larger they were, the stronger they were, and the more valuable they were. This frog was so small, so it had clearly just turned from a beast into a daemon.
Suddenly, he thought of something. How could a low level daemonic beast give off such coldness?
A few blurry figures appeared in the cold mist. Liu Fengrui’s eyes narrowed, and he raised his hand, producing a palm strike. Killing other Qi Practitioners over spiritual herbs and daemonic beasts had never been a secret. Underground, humans were even more dangerous than daemons.
The most terrifying part about all this was he actually failed to sense their aura. Clearly, they had hidden it on purpose so that they could launch an ambush on his group, which was why he showed no mercy with his attack.
However, the figures did not move at all. They just let the true qi land on them with a crack. The gust of wind from his attack parted the cold mist, revealing the figures.
Liu Fengrui immediately felt like all of his blood had frozen over. He finally understood why he failed to sense their auras; it was because they had already been reduced to ice statues. Dead people obviously would not give off any auras.
They all wore the uniform of the Pheasant’s Grace mountain. One of them had two tail feathers embroidered on their chest, an inner disciple who had reached the sixth layer. However, they were all dead now, still stuck in the same pose the moment before they had died, trying to wield spiritual artifacts or unleash techniques. Their faces were all frozen with fear, and they all looked in one direction, at the ice-blue frog.
“What kind of daemon…” Frightened, a disciple swung a green, glowing staff at the ice frog.
The ice frog opened its mouth and emitted a white cloud of cold air. The disciple was immediately turned into an ice statue.
As the cold air passed by, his senior and junior brothers behind him immediately followed his steps. The cold air was like thousands of tiny, sharp rays that pierced their protective true qi.
Crack! Crack! The sound of freezing filled the air, like notes of death.
Liu Fengrui summoned his flying sword as he roared out before becoming stuck in that posture forever. One last thought flashed through his head. They were facing no daemonic beast, but an actual daemon, and a powerful one among them. But why would daemons appear at such a shallow level?
Just like a tenth layer Qi Practitioner slaughtering a bunch of low level Qi Practitioners, it was a piece of cake.
“Croak, croak! Eleven, croak croak! That’s enough for ten!” The ice frog opened its mouth, and the ice statues all shattered into shards, which it sucked into its mouth. Only their spiritual artifacts and hundred treasures pouches remained undamaged.
“Croak, croak! This is what the leader wants!”
The ice frog gathered all the items and shards and placed them in a cavern nearby. All of them served as evidence when it came to calculating his merit. Meanwhile, a huge daemonic beast that seemed like a rabbit cowered in the cavern and constantly trembled, perhaps out of fear or perhaps due to the cold. It was the Qi Practitioners’ original target.
“Fellow Green Vine, it looks like your disciples couldn’t defeat the daemon there either!” said the Golden Pheasant Elder coldly.
Near the entrance to the ceremony, the three elders sat in a bamboo pavilion and admired the snow while drinking tea, waiting for the results.
Before them was a projection of the underground mental map. There were several specks of light on there, golden, green, or grey in colour, representing the locations of the disciples of the three mountains. It was similar to the pathfinding puppet insects that the disciples of mohism had used in the past.
With the death of Liu Fengrui’s squad, the specks of light that represented them were extinguished. Earlier, the golden specks of light representing the disciples of the Pheasant’s Grace mountain had vanished there too.
The Green Vine Elder said, “There must be a powerful daemon there, but this makes no sense. It’s still very shallow.”
The Lone Grave Elder said, “We’ll know if we keep watching.”
The boulder viper moved through the earth and flickered its forked tongue, constantly sensing the aura of humans in the caves. Suddenly, it emerged from a wall and saw the fearful faces of a few humans. They were all extremely weak.
All the Qi Practitioners saw was a grey shadow move above. Before they could even see the daemon clearly, they were stunned by the terrifying daemon qi.
The leading seventh layer Qi Practitioner bellowed out, “Summon the zombies!” They were disciples of the Burial Mound mountain.
The disciples of the Burial Mound mountain immediately waved the bronze talismans in their hands, and several dozen zombies scattered around them, surrounding them. The seventh Qi Practitioner even summoned two unstoppable Iron Plate corpses that were surrounded by corpse qi. Both of them were much more powerful than the Iron Plate corpse the Zombie Daoist had refined.
The boulder viper turned back. Its long body wrapped around them before suddenly tightening.
The several dozen zombies and the disciples of the Burial Mound mountain were trapped in the low ceiling cave. The disciples were unable to escape. They felt a tremendous power crush them from everywhere, immediately turning them into mince meat. They merged with the zombies they had refined, never to separate again.
The deathly aura on the Lone Grave Elder’s face seemed to grow heavier.
The Green Vine Elder and the Golden Pheasant Elder’s expressions were ugly too.
On the underground mental map, large swathes of light were extinguished. Squads were destroyed underground one after another. In just a while, the number of Qi Practitioners that they had lost had already surpassed the total losses during the Herb Gathering ceremony last time.
However, the ceremony had only just begun right now. The Qi Practitioners had only ventured to the shallow depths. They should not have run into any powerful daemons at all.
“Sect masters, what’s going on?” Hua Chengzan, who had constantly kept an eye out for them, walked into the bamboo pavilion sternly. He understood what the specks of light represented.
The Green Vine Elder said hoarsely, “I don’t know. It’s very abnormal this time. The Green Vine mountain has already lost eighteen disciples.”