Chapter 278 – The Watermirror Disc
Li Qingshan said, “I only reached the sixth layer recently.”
Meeting acquaintances in a foreign land should have been a matter of great joy, but Li Long was left with his mouth hanging, unsure as for how to refer to Li Qingshan. The cowherd that no one took seriously in the past could now rival their school master. Their identities were worlds apart now. Directly calling him by name seemed rather rude.
“Oh, this is the master of our Iron Fist school, Tie Zhan.” His voice even bore a countryside accent that Li Qingshan found familiar.
Li Qingshan thought of the past as well, remembering the frustration with the Crouching Ox village, as well as the dangers of Qingyang city. The master of one of the four great organisations of Qingyang city in the past was now standing before him, but a sixth layer Qi Practitioner was already nothing in his eyes. He had no interest in fawning over him, nor did he want to cause any offence, so he handled him casually,
“So it’s school master Tie. Apologies, apologies for failing to recognise you.”
Tie Zhan said, “The Crouching Ox village sure is a place that births great men. When I saw Li Long, I already thought he was a rare talent, but only when I saw brother Qingshan did I realise that there will always be someone greater. The matter of how you beat the Sect of Clouds and Rain in two matches in the Parlour of Clouds and Rain two days ago has already spread throughout the prefectural city. It’s just a pity that I wasn’t able to see it for myself.”
No matter how influential the Iron Fist school was, they could only treat each other as equals as they were both sixth layer Qi Practitioners. Coupled with the fact that Li Qingshan was relatively young and had limitless potential, Tie Zhan even needed to treat him politely so that he could befriend him.
“Are the disciples of your esteemed school taking part in the entrance examination too?” Li Qingshan glanced at Li Long.
Li Long’s face sank, and he lowered his head. Let alone the fact that school master Tie would never agree, but even if he did agree, where was he supposed to obtain the spiritual stones for the school fees? That was a total of one hundred spiritual stones. He did extraordinarily well in the Iron Fist school, so he would obtain a few spiritual stones every now and then, but they were not even enough for buying various pills, so he was in no position to save any money. And, by the time he really managed to save a hundred spiritual stones, who knew how old he would be. He would have missed the optimal period for cultivation. If he fell behind by a single step, he would be behind forever.
“It’s my son. I do hope that you can take good care of him in the future, brother,” Tie Zhan changed the topic. He looked around. “Where’s he? Didn’t I tell you to call him over?”
Why would the Iron Fist school pay such a tremendous price to send the disciples that they had raised after so much effort to the Academy of the Hundred Schools? Once they had broadened their horizons and increased their cultivation, who would still be willing to serve the Iron Fist school? And, even if they did return, they would probably be coming after the entire organisation to replace him.
“The young master said he’s busy,” Yan Song said awkwardly.
“Call him over!”
With just a moment of thought, Li Qingshan understood what was going on. He fell silent.
A while later, Yan Song brought over a young man with a square face and large ears who seemed slightly similar to Tie Zhan. The young man said impatiently, “What is it? I’m busy!” He was busy talking with a few pretty female cultivators, so he was in no mood to meet some man.
“You bastard, why don’t you greet your big brother Li?”
“What big brother Li? Don’t tell me it’s Li Long?” The young man snickered. Seeing how no one played along with him, he arrived beside Tie Zhan’s side and saw Li Qingshan. He leapt in fright. “You’re Li Qingshan!”
He had also been having fun in the Parlour of Clouds and Rain that night. He had a very deep impression of the person before him. He immediately grew stern. “Greetings, elder brother. I hope you can take good care of this little brother in the future. If there’s anything I can help you with, please don’t hold back.” He completely ignored the fact that Li Qingshan was younger than him. He showed great modesty and courtesy, referring to himself as little brother.
Tie Zhan nodded in satisfaction. Although this kid shirked away from his responsibilities sometimes, at least he was not completely ignorant and knew what was what.
Li Qingshan said, “I can tell with a single glance that you’re very smart with a limitless future, but you don’t have anyone to tend to you once you enter the academy. Why don’t you have Li Long enter the academy as a partner of yours? There’s no need for school master Tie to pay anything either. I’ll cover the fees for him. What do you think, school master?”
“Must you be buried in your place of home? Sufficient are the green mountains overgrown.” Since he had already decided to never return to his hometown again, Li Long was probably the last person from the same village he would be able to see in his life. The one hundred spiritual stones to enter the academy had already become nothing to him. Since it took him nothing, why not help him out?
Li Long beamed in joy when he heard that. He glanced at Li Qingshan in great appreciation before looking at Tie Zhan nervously.
Tie Zhan hesitated before smiling. “Fine then. You’re brothers, so you do have to take care of someone from the same hometown. This is Li Long’s good fortune, as well as our Iron Fist school’s good fortune. I can only celebrate over something like this, so why would I say no? If it were not for the fact that the Iron Fist school is currently experiencing some cash flow issues, you wouldn’t need to pay anything at all.” He could see how Li Qingshan was someone who valued the ties of the past. He needed to get that bastard of a son of his to be more polite to Li Long in the future.
“Then thank you, school master.” Li Qingshan took out a hundred spiritual stones from his hundred treasures pouch and passed it to Li Long.
The young master of the Iron Fist school wrapped his arm around Li Long’s neck. “A’Long, you’re rich!” Even without Tie Zhan’s reminder, he had already begun to treat him more warmly and politely.
Li Long knew that this was all because of the young man standing before him. He said gratefully, “Qingshan, I’ll definitely return this sum of spiritual stones to you.” He knew extremely well that the Academy of the Hundred Schools would release various missions, providing disciples with opportunities to make spiritual stones. It was not impossible for him to make this sum of one hundred spiritual stones; this was the most difficult obstacle. Once he made it past this, there were infinite possibilities.
Li Qingshan said, “If you want to return it, then give me two hundred spiritual stones!”
Li Long was stunned, while the young school master muttered inside, Isn’t this usury? He really could not tell, but sure enough, fellow townsmen would always stab each other in the back when they met.
However, Li Qingshan continued, “I’ll wait until the day when a hundred spiritual stones mean nothing in your eyes.”
“Alright!” Li Long nodded firmly.
Ye Dachuan said, “That’s fantastic. You’ll all be fellow students in the future!”
Li Qingshan smiled. As people from the same home town, this was all that he could do. What happened next would depend on how he cultivated.
At this moment, several large ships cut through the waves and mist.
There was a disturbance on the sandy shoal. Everyone stopped talking and raised their heads. The one who stood out the most happened to be the giant lumberman, Mu Kui.
Hua Chenglu and Yu Zijian stood nearby. They also had a group of young men and women beside them. They did not pay too much attention to Li Qingshan, who they had only met a few times. They did not come to find him either.
Instead, Qian Rongzhi constantly scanned through the crowd. She was standing with a few enforcement disciples of legalism. She had already heard of Li Qingshan’s battle with Wei Zhongyuan, and she had heard how he said he had some confidence in killing Wei Zhongyuan.
In the eyes of the legalist disciples, this was a boastful joke. They all said it was Li Qingshan’s pigheadedness, but she begged to differ. She believed that Li Qingshan had complete confidence in finishing off Wei Zhongyuan. What mattered was how she was supposed to get Li Qingshan to capture Wei Zhongyuan alive and hand him over to her.
“Rongzhi, you’ve met this kid before us all. Has he always liked to boast so much?” Even now, Han Qiongzhi still felt rather unhappy. She noticed Qian Rongzhi’s gaze and became riled up again.
Qian Rongzhi said, “Senior sister Han, I’m not on close terms with him. Unless he possesses a supreme grade talisman, it’s impossible for him to be the opponent of a tenth layer Qi Practitioner.”
An idea flashed through Han Qiongzhi’s head. She muttered, “Really?” A supreme grade talisman was equivalent to the attack of a Foundation Establishment cultivator. If he really was in possession of one, there really might have been a chance. Of course, it was only a tiny chance at that.
“Come with me!” She immediately could not help herself but pull Qian Rongzhi along with her as she forced her way through the crowd, arriving before Li Qingshan. She grabbed him by the shoulder. “Tell me, do you have a supreme grade talisman?”
“Ma’am Han!” Tie Zhan cried out. Young miss Han was renowned in Clear River city. Her fiery temper had made many people suffer in the past. He never thought Li Qingshan would actually be acquainted with her.
“Weirdo.” Xiao An, who had remained silent on the side the entire time, muttered quietly.
Right? Qian Rongzhi shot a glance at her. Xiao An smiled brightly, like they knew what each other was thinking.
Even Li Qingshan found Han Qiongzhi’s personality to be rather strange. He said, “Lend me your ear.”
Han Qiongzhi stuck her head over in a hurry and heard Li Qingshan whisper, “I have a few.”
Han Qiongzhi was surprised. “Lend me your ear too!”
Li Qingshan shook his head helplessly and leaned in. He heard her whisper, “Really?”
“Whether you believe it is up to you.”
Han Qiongzhi smiled. “Looks like I’ve actually gotten in your way. Fine, I’ll forgive you. Kicking you off the shuttle earlier was my fault, but I still did everything out of good intentions, so you still needed to thank me. We’re fair now.”
With that matter now over, Han Qiongzhi was in a good mood. She saw the strange gazes from everywhere, and only then did she realise the implicative nature of whispering in each other’s ears in public. She growled, “What’re you all looking at? Piss off!”
She shot a glance at Li Qingshan again, If you didn’t want others to hear you, you could’ve just used communication technique instead. Why did you have to do that? You clearly don’t have anything good in mind.
With a snort, she stamped her foot and left. Qian Rongzhi nodded at Xiao An before leaving with her. She would have plenty of time to scheme once she joined the academy. She was lucky that Wei Zhongyuan had not died.
Li Qingshan and Xiao An glanced at one another. What a weirdo.
By now, the ships had already arrived on the side of the sandy shoal. One of the ships extended a gangway to the shoal. A bitter-looking female instructor with protruding cheekbones called out, “Come here, children!”
Li Qingshan clasped his hands to bid farewell to Ye Dachuan before holding Xiao An’s hand and squeezing his way through the crowd towards the ship.
The children around them were all noisy, but none of them cried or threw a tantrum. Under the guidance of their respective leaders, they boarded the ship one by one in an orderly manner. Not only did these regular children recommended to come here have to possess the talent to practise qi, but they also had to possess a suitable mental disposition for cultivation too.
“Go. I’ll see you in a while. If anything happens, use this.”
When Xiao An was about to board the ship, Li Qingshan crouched down and rubbed her head. He threaded a jade thumb ring and hung it around her neck, before wagging his thumb before her, showing her he was wearing another jade ring.
These were a pair of jade thumb rings, which were also a set of interesting spiritual artifacts that Li Qingshan had found from all those hundred treasures pouches. The two formed a pair, which would allow them to talk to one another from a distance.
As he watched Xiao An line up and board the ship with the other kids, Li Qingshan sighed gently. He felt like a parent who was sending their child off to school.
A while later, the surroundings emptied out. The gangway retracted into the ship, and it sailed off once more, vanishing into the misty waters.
Only when the sandy shoal was no longer visible did Xiao An look away.
The children struggled to hide their excitement. For most of them, this was the first time they had ever taken such a large ship. If it were not for the stern gaze of the female instructor, they would have begun running around in joy already.
“Hey. What’s your name?”
A pudgy child, around eleven or twelve years of age, asked Xiao An in an arrogant manner. He was dressed in silks and satins, and he was even surrounded by a group of “little brothers”. They all came from the same place. The pudgy child’s family was rich, and he was both tall and wide, so he became their leader.
Xiao An did not answer him.
“That’s a nice ring. Let me see!” The pudgy kid snatched at the ring on Xiao An’s chest as soon as he spotted it. It had always been like this for him whenever he wanted something.
Xiao An took a step back and shoved the ring into her clothes. The pudgy child missed.
“How dare you defy me!” The pudgy child shot a glare at her and actually gave off a sense of brutality. He directly reached towards Xiao An’s hair. At home, all the female servants were afraid of this move. He would only let go after they had wept and begged him.
Hmph, I’ll tear out a patch of your hair. I’d like to see whether you’ll still dismiss me after that.
Xiao An threw out a punch. She suddenly remembered that this was not an enemy she had to kill, so she subsequently held back most of her strength.
With a thump, the pudgy child was sent flying. He collided with his group of little brothers before bursting into tears. The children he collided with began crying too.
“Stop crying! What’s happened?” The female instructor immediately walked over.
“She hit me.” The pudgy child covered his face. He had lost quite a few teeth.
The female instructor frowned. “Did you hit him?”
Xiao An said nothing. Apart from Li Qingshan, she had never really conversed with anyone else. She would prefer turning this ship full of people into fire instead.
The pudgy child said pitifully, “I don’t know what’s wrong with her. She just hit me. I even lost a few teeth.”
The female instructor was irritated. She pointed at Xiao An’s forehead. “Tell me, why did you hit him?”
Xiao An suddenly raised her head. A pair of eyes that seemed like black pearls were embedded in her delicate face.
The female instructor looked into the pitch-black, severe eyes and shivered inside for some reason. She was unable to keep pointing at her anymore. Did this kid possess some powerful background? She immediately dismissed that thought. Basically all descendants of influential clans would begin practising qi at a young age. They would be sent to the academy once they developed a certain foundation. Only children chosen from regular people would be on this ship.
As a result, she became even more furious. “Do you even want to hit me too?” She raised her hand, about to beat her with it, but she suddenly thought about how the leaders of the school might be looking over here right now.
As a result, she put her hand back down and thought of something. “Don’t move.” Then she said to the pudgy boy, “Get up. She hit you, so hit her back.”
The boy wiped aside her tears. Having received the instructor’s permission, he seemed to be in pain, but he was complacent inside. Regular children probably would never be able to bring themselves to hit back, but he directly threw a punch as hard as he could. Before he could even celebrate, he felt his stomach ache as he was sent flying again, directly fainting on the ground. Fortunately, his group of little brothers dodged cleverly, so they were not struck by him this time.
There were two, however, who sobbed even harder. “Murder! Murder!”
The female instructor had been paying attention to Xiao An the entire time; she wanted to prevent her from dodging. However, the kick that Xiao An had launched after jumping up was both quick and stealthy, such that even she could not react. She could not help but become enraged as she erupted with curses. “Do you really think a troublesome little animal like you can practise qi and cultivate? I don’t think so! Once we reach the shore, I’ll have you piss off to where you came from…”
She returned to the nose of the ship furiously. She obviously did not have the authority to make the ship turn around, but she had plenty of ways to deal with misbehaving children in the Academy of the Hundred Schools.
In a quiet room within the Academy of the Hundred Schools.
There were heavy curtains in the room, which made the entire place gloomy. Around a dozen or so figures were vaguely visible, sitting in their respective seats.
The various leaders of the schools were all gathered here. The auras they radiated with in the silence was enough to make any Qi Practitioner tremble. Their wills determined everything within the Clear River prefecture that spanned fifteen hundred kilometers.
At the centre of the room was a large, jade disc. The disc was engraved with exquisite glyphs. The name of the disc was the Watermirror disc. It was a strange treasure that allowed them to see anywhere within a range of fifty kilometers.
The true examination had already begun. The leaders witnessed and took note of every single person’s performance.
The Watermirror disc rippled and produced a clear image.
Right now, it depicted the ship.
No matter how the female instructor insulted or threatened her, Xiao An remained calm and unperturbed the entire time, treating the threatening woman like air.
“Is this the child that Qiu Haitang wants? She truly is quite different,” said a man dressed like a confucian scholar with a square hat1 on his head. He had delicate facial features and only seemed to be around thirty years of age, but he was actually at an advanced age of eighty already. He was Ye Dachuan’s brother-in-law, the prefect of the Clear River prefecture, and the leader of the school of Confucianism, Liu Zhangqing. What happened in the Parlour of Clouds and Rain two nights ago obviously could not escape his ears.
“That girly is unfazed by both harassment and flattery. Her mental fortitude is quite rare.” A bald-headed monk nodded with prayer beads in his hands.
“Zhangqing, who chose this woman to receive the children? She’s so harsh and impatient, without any regard for what’s wrong or right. These children will develop a bad impression of the academy the moment they join it,” said a skinny but energetic old man in coarse clothing with a long, formal hat2.
“If the instructor is too gentle, how are they supposed to keep so many kids under control? And, it’s all her fault for not speaking up and explaining what had happened, or the instructor wouldn’t have blamed her. Who can she blame apart from herself? As for the little fatty, he must be removed from the academy immediately. He already knows how to gang up on people and steal at such a young age, paying no regard to what’s wrong or right. What will he become if he practises qi?” The Scarlet Hawk commander, the leader of the school of Legalism, Wang Pushi, said in an impressive manner.
Liu Zhangqing said, “If that’s the case, then we’ll go with that!” A figure immediately stood up and departed behind the curtain. Many instructors were waiting outside, ensuring that their orders could be carried out at any time.
“Let’s look at the person who brought her here instead!” The image in the Watermirror disc changed, now depicting Li Qingshan. He was currently boarding a ship with other people.
Li Qingshan seemed to sense something, so he looked around. Was someone looking at him?
The people behind him urged, “Hurry up!”
Li Qingshan made his way forward and arrived before a jolly instructor. He took out the one hundred spiritual stones he had prepared, and the instructor stowed them into his hundred treasures pouch. The instructor called out, “Another one!”
He seemed like he was running a business. However, Li Qingshan had estimated that the revenue of the academy would probably approach a hundred thousand spiritual stones from just this intake of disciples.
And, this was just the beginning. The way the academy charged their disciples was very special. It was a hundred spiritual stones for every single person for the first year. If they failed to increase their cultivation by a single layer the next year, the fees would double, becoming two hundred spiritual stones.
Li Qingshan knew with the simple knowledge of mathematics from his past life that just by compounding a few more times, the fees would reach a level that no Qi Practitioner could afford. Joining the Academy of the Hundred Schools was easy. There were so many schools, so there would always be a school willing to accept a particular person. However, wanting to remain in the academy was very difficult. Qi Practitioners at higher cultivations would struggle to increase their cultivation, so they would end up suffering instead.
PS: The releases haven’t been as smooth as I imagined they will be. Perhaps you understand this feeling. The more you want to do something well, the more afraid you become of screwing it up, so you find it difficult. This part of the plot also happens to be the transitional chapters that are most difficult to write, so I really have to put in a lot of effort.
I’m not indulging in myself and having the time of my life when I’m not writing. I don’t know about other authors, but when I have a writing block, it’s even more painful than constipation. I can’t settle down no matter what I do. As a man without a car, a house, or a woman, there doesn’t seem to be any serious business I can do apart from write. I want to make some more money too! Fortunately, I’ve basically made it past the toughest part, so the upcoming releases should slowly stabilise.
Originally, I didn’t want to explain so much. Explaining is covering it up, and covering it up is telling stories, which I suddenly remembered was my career, so I’ll explain!
If you understand, then I thank you for your understanding. If you don’t understand, then I can understand why you don’t understand. Anyway, just try to understand each other. Long live understanding each other. Today’s the last day for double monthly tickets, do you understand?
(From the author)
1. A square hat, as in one depicted in the picture below:
2. A long, formal hat, like the one depicted in the picture below: