Chapter 322 – Fate and the Fate of Love
“When do I set off?” Li Qingshan asked.
“The sooner the better. It’s best if you set off tomorrow!”
“Alright, then tomorrow it is!”
“Report to the prefectural city tomorrow. Oh right, when your book gets printed, give me a copy.” Hua Chengzan left behind the uniform and accompanying blade of Scarlet Wolf guards before bidding farewell and leaving.
The next day, Li Qingshan changed into the impressive Scarlet Wolf uniform and arrived at the office of the Hawkwolf guard in the Clear River prefectural city.
He made his way to the highest floor and knocked on Hua Chengzan’s room.
However, the person who opened the door was Han Qiongzhi. As soon as she saw Li Qingshan, she gave him a fierce glare and moved aside in a sulking manner. She ignored him.
Li Qingshan was perplexed. However, this first young miss Han had always been subject to changing moods, so he did not take it seriously either.
Hua Chengzan sat behind the desk with his hands crossed and a smile on his face. No matter when, he always seemed like he was in control of the situation.
He gave a simple explanation of the mission. The murdered Hawkwolf guard was called Zhou Pei. He had once been a Nighthawk and because of his merit from the mission of encircling and suppressing the Truth-seeking society founded by remnants of the White Lotus cult, he had recovered his identity as a regular Hawkwolf guard.
He had been killed in the process of carrying out a mission two days ago. His corpse was delivered back with the word “traitor” engraved on his body. They suspected it to be the handiwork of the remnants of the White Lotus cult.
When Li Qingshan heard “Truth-seeking society”, he suddenly remembered it all. He had seen Zhou Pei before, and he had been personally responsible for the demise of the Truth-seeking society. The suspected murderer happened to be the leader of the society who had slipped away through his fingers, Qiu Ruiliu.
Never did he think that he would end up with this mission again. The coincidences and arrangements of fate in the world were truly unpredictable.
However, it actually was not much of a coincidence at all. There were hundreds of cities within the governance of the Clear River prefecture, and Hua Chengzan was responsible for numerous missions too. However, Li Qingshan originated from the Hawkwolf Guard in Jiaping city, while Zhou Pei’s post had been in Jiaping too. That was why he had specially allocated this mission to Li Qingshan. It was a little like returning home after achieving great success.
The information and documents were placed on the table. Two hands extended towards them simultaneously. Li Qingshan and Han Qiongzhi’s eyes met before they looked at Hua Chengzan together.
“Isn’t this my mission?”
Hua Chengzan said seriously, “Although it’s an investigation mission, it has to do with the White Lotus cult, so we can’t afford to be careless. According to the rules, the mission has to be jointly carried out by at least two people.”
Li Qingshan pulled his hand back. He no longer said anything. Han Qiongzhi was strong enough, even though she was a little ill-tempered. They could reach Jiaping by noon if they flew, and a slight investigation would take a day or two at most. It was nothing he could not put up with. And, she was still a beauty at the end of the day. At least he would not be lonely on the journey.
Han Qiongzhi slammed the desk. “No, I disagree!”
Hua Chengzan said sternly, “This is the order of your commander!” No matter how lax he was usually, the hierarchy was still clearly divided within the Hawkwolf Guard, strictly abiding to the laws. Unless Han Qiongzhi resigned from her post, she was forced to obey.
Han Qiongzhi stared at Hua Chengzan before glancing towards Li Qingshan on the side. Suddenly, she seemed to understand something and blushed.
Watching the two leave, Hua Chengzan leaned back comfortably on the high back of the chair. “Junior sister, this is all your senior brother can do for you.”
Since young, rarely were there any men that Han Qiongzhi appreciated. If this was not rare enough, then it was even more rare for Han Anjun to appreciate the man in question too. As her childhood friend, he obviously had to assist her. Spending time alone with each other was the best way to develop their feelings. If she went back home with Li Qingshan as well, that would only be for the better.
He was helping out a friend too. If Li Qingshan could establish ties with the influential clan that was the Han family, he would benefit endlessly too. At the very least, he could receive help from Han Anjun, and there was even a chance for him to enter the care of Han Anguo. There would be no need for him to worry about running out of cultivation resources anymore. This was basically a match made in heaven. He had never thought his joke from before might actually come true. He could not help but admit that Li Qingshan had been developing rather impressively.
As for Gu Yanying, it would be best if he woke up from that great daydream of his as soon as possible!
Outside, Han Qiongzhi asked, “Was it your idea?”
“Of course not.” Li Qingshan curled his lip. “Even if you can get whatever you want, you first young miss, I, Li Qingshan, would never bother to use tricks like this.”
Han Qiongzhi raised an eyebrow. “What? Am I not worth using tricks for?”
“You are, you are. You most definitely are. Can you wait a moment for me? There’s a place I need to visit first.” Li Qingshan played along casually and looked around.
“That’s more like it. Where are you going? How mysterious. Something bad?”
Li Qingshan said, “Then let’s go together!”
It was inconvenient to use techniques in the city, so they travelled on foot. They arrived outside a small building on one side of the city. The plaque that hung high above the entrance spelled out two words, “Cloudwisp Association”.
Han Qiongzhi was surprised. “Did your school of Novels do this?”
Li Qingshan grinned. He gave no explanation. This was the first time he had come here too. He had obviously come here to take a look at the development of his new book.
Last night, Liu Chuanfeng had personally delivered the draft here.
Sun Fubai and Liu Chuanfeng knew that Li Qingshan would be coming, so they came out to receive him together. However, when they saw Han Qiongzhi, they were slightly surprised.
There were many young masters and young misses from influential clans in Clear River city, but rarely did anyone surpass the one right in front of them. They could not help but wonder when they saw how she accompanied Li Qingshan.
For Li Qingshan’s sake, Han Qiongzhi bowed towards Liu Chuanfeng in an unconcerned manner. “What are you doing here?”
Liu Chuanfeng admired the impressive ability of this dear primary disciple of his even more. In the past when she saw him, she would not even look at him properly.
“You’ll know as soon as you see it.” Sun Fubai invited them in with a chuckle, taking them around the Cloudwisp association on a tour.
The various storytellers were currently reciting Li Qingshan’s novel in the hall upstairs, preparing for their future performances. All of them agreed that Li Qingshan’s novel was extremely fascinating, and it happened to be extremely suited for storytelling too. However, due to the lack of sophisticated poems, it could not be used to target scholars and nobles. It brought the bards to their wits’ end as they tried to write lyrics for it.
Li Qingshan swung his hand in an exaggerated manner. “If you can’t sing it, then you can act it out, right?” He behaved like he was acting it out, which enlightened these people.
In another room, a group of painters and artists created accompanying illustrations for the characters in the novel. This idea originated from Liu Chuanfeng. Ever since he discovered accompanying illustrations, his books of smut sold much better, and it was easier for him to gather the power of belief too.
In the printing press to the back of the association, over a dozen printing machines purchased from the school of Mohism ran at full capacity, humming aloud. They pressed the characters against the white paper one by one. Once the accompanying illustrations were completed, they could repeat the process then bind it all together, and it would become a book.
Li Qingshan looked around and expressed complete satisfaction. “I really can’t spare any extra time, unfortunately, so I must trouble you with the matters here, Fubai.”
Sun Fubai said, “We’re all one family. Saying something like that would be alienating me.”
“When are we going?” Han Qiongzhi asked impatiently. These people from the school of Novels sure were strange. They were cultivators, yet they spent all their time mingling with these regular people. What was so interesting about that?
She had flipped through a stack of printed copies too, but she found it boring from just a single glance. Apart from cultivation methods, she had no interest in anything that contained words at all. All she felt was that compared to fighting the disciples of the school of the Military, he really was not that admirable when he wrote novels instead.
“We’ll go right now.” Li Qingshan could imagine how his name would spread throughout the entire Clear River prefecture before long, so he was in a good mood.
“Let’s go together. It’s faster if you take this.”
Arriving outside, Han Qiongzhi was just about to pull out the flying shuttle, and Li Qingshan agreed with her. Her expression eased up before immediately stiffening again. No matter when, she could never afford to embarrass herself as the first young lady of the Han family. Even if she had a good impression of him, she could not try to coddle or suck up to him. Not to mention that this guy even had the audacity to brush her off back on Benevolence island.
A cloud shot into the air, flying directly towards Jiaping city.
As he travelled back along the same path as before, Li Qingshan felt rather sentimental.
Han Qiongzhi had always been a bold and easygoing person, but when she faced him, she would think about Hua Chengzan’s intentions behind these arrangements. She wanted to get closer with him, but she was also afraid of embarrassing herself. If she acted up whenever she felt like it like before, wouldn’t she just be like those little girls in love? That was even less of her style.
In Li Qingshan’s eyes, her usual behaviour was no different from a little girl’s, yet she just had to act mature right now, which was very awkward for her. For a moment, she was actually unable to say anything to him at all.
Fortunately, Li Qingshan’s sentiment left just as quickly as it had arrived. A while later, he began conversing with Han Qiongzhi, and only then did she ease up slightly, but she remained tense. She did her best to maintain a grasp over her actions. This just happened to be one of her weak points.
As they spoke, all Li Qingshan felt was that this first young miss Han’s personality seemed to have changed suddenly and drastically. She became reserved. Although she lost some of her sharpness, she became slightly less easy going too, which perplexed him. However, they were not exactly close, so it was not like he could get to the bottom of this.
Never did he think that his chaotic battle to vent his gloominess in the school of the Military had touched on her tender feelings.
After travelling for four hours, they saw a lone mountain in the distance, standing beside a great river. A hawk perched on there, watching over the city that stretched into the distance.
The cloud vanished below him, and Li Qingshan landed firmly on the top of the mountain. He looked around. It has been a while, Jiaping.
The Black Hawk commander, Fang Enshang, brought all the Black Wolf guards to receive them. There were quite a few old acquaintances among them. They all saw how a great Scarlet Wolf guard beauty stood beside Li Qingshan, who wore his Scarlet Wolf uniform. Just her composed bearing had surpassed all regular women. They were unable to describe their admiration for her, and they felt a tinge of sour jealousy.
They had all personally witnessed Li Qingshan joining the Hawkwolf guard back then. He was just a kid from the mountains, but little did they think that in just a short year or two, he would have risen to such a level.
Fang Enshang bowed politely. “Greetings from Fang Enshang.”
Li Qingshan returned the gesture to Fang Enshang, while Han Qiongzhi went up and patted his shoulder. “Little Fang, long time no see. Why’re you still at the sixth layer?”
Fang Enshang said, “Your language sure is unforgiving, second senior sister. How can my talent match yours, senior sister, or this fellow Qingshan right here? When I first met him, he was only at the fifth layer.” Because Han Qiongzhi was the secondary disciple of the school of Legalism, she was known as the second senior sister.
“You flatter me. I think it’s commander Fang’s bearing that’s changed the most. You’ve become much more mature.” Li Qingshan felt much of Fang Enshang’s naivety was now replaced with the bearing of a commander.
“You’re two men, yet you sing praises for one another. Don’t you find it embarrassing? So tell me just what is going on.”
Having escaped the awkward situation of being alone with Li Qingshan, Han Qiongzhi turned back to normal and immediately took control of the situation. As she asked for the full story regarding this matter, she requested Fang Enshang to take them to Zhou Pei’s corpse.
Clearly, Han Qiongzhi had a lot of experience with dealing with matters like this. Li Qingshan was willing to follow along with her too, remaining silent and contrasting against her.
In the chilly morgue, Fang Enshang lifted a white cloth and exposed a naked corpse that had turned blue. Sure enough, the word “traitor” was carved into the body.
Li Qingshan had seen plenty of corpses before, so he was mostly unfazed. All he did was furrow his brows in thought. He did not feel like daoist priest Qiu was someone who would do something like this. This was more like a method of revenge used by third-rate figures of the jianghu.
To a very large extent, the Truth-seeking society had not been destroyed by the Hawkwolf guard, but by Niu Juxia, who had killed his way out. Even if they knew Zhou Pei was a spy, their grievances did not run so deep. Just slitting his throat would have been more than enough.
Han Qiongzhi was unafraid too. She studied the naked corpse without any bashfulness that a normal woman would possess. Instead, she became angered. “They’re out of their minds to provoke the Hawkwolf Guard like this. Little Fang, do you have any leads?”
Fang Enshang said, “I was just about to say. We had an informant report yesterday that daoist priest Qiu had appeared in the north-west. He seemed to be travelling in the direction of Ancient Wind city.”
Li Qingshan’s doubts became even heavier. He had experienced daoist priest Qiu’s craftiness first hand. Why would someone like him leave behind traces that regular informants could spot? And, wasn’t Ancient Wind city where the Qian family once stood?
His second trial mission actually pointed there once again. Was this a coincidence, or was there another reason for this?
Han Qiongzhi covered the corpse with the white cloth quickly and said to Li Qingshan, “We’ll go right now!”
Li Qingshan hesitated. “I don’t think this is as simple as it seems.” He stated his doubts.
If this were in the past, Han Qiongzhi would have definitely mocked Li Qingshan as a worrywart. However, after everything he had been through, she knew he was not a coward. However, it would not be in line with her character if she did not charge over to Ancient Wind city immediately, sniff out Qiu Ruiliu, and cut him to pieces.
“Then what do you think we should do?”
Fang Enshang was slightly taken aback. How rare. To think that even his second senior sister would have a moment when she would ask for the opinion of someone else. In the school of Legalism, she never listened to anyone apart from the two commanders.
Li Qingshan considered it for a moment. “Let’s just go with what you said!”
Although he had his doubts about this, he trusted Hua Chengzan’s judgement. They should not encounter any danger in this mission, or Hua Chengzan definitely would have warned them.
Why would an Altar Lord of the White Lotus cult set up such a large trap, even going as far as exposing themselves, just to ambush two Qi Practitioners? If they really did not care about their own safety, they might as well just come to the Hawkwolf Guard and massacre to their hearts’ content. Wouldn’t that be better? Why did they have to lure them to such a remote place like Ancient Wind city?
The most likely possibility would be that Qiu Ruiliu had gathered another group of independent cultivators and had set up a shoddy trap. With his abilities, he could kill whoever came at him as long as they were below Foundation Establishment.
Han Qiongzhi said, “Then why’d you say that?”
Li Qingshan shrugged. “There’s nothing wrong with being more careful.”
“Qingshan’s doubts are very reasonable. Daoist priest Qiu is very crafty. I’ll come with you. An additional person brings additional help.” Fang Enshang could still remember how Wu Gen had failed even with all the Hawkwolf guards accompanying him.
Han Qiongzhi said, “There’s no need. Give this brother a proper burial. If he had family, take good care of them. He won’t die in vain. We will avenge him.”
She saw how Fang Enshang wanted to say something else, so Han Qiongzhi cut him off. “If the two of us work together, there won’t be any problems at all!”
PS: Gotta build up before the battle, gotta think before the twist. The chapter tomorrow morning might be missing. Allow me to think about it carefully.