Chapter 336 – Choosing the Future
However, Han Tieyi’s reply brought Li Qingshan disappointment. He did not know the whereabouts of this cultivation method either. Then he recommended the Bone-shattering Fist of Ice to Li Qingshan, which could convert Gui Water true qi into power of the extreme cold. It possessed great destructive power, and it could also clad the user in an armour of ice, offering both offensive and defensive capabilities.
Li Qingshan had already checked through all the jade slips. Gui Water true qi was not suited for destruction, so most of these battle skills focused on triumphing over force with gentleness. The Bone-shattering Fist of Ice could be considered as the strongest among them in terms of offensive power, but it was nothing compared to the Ocean Wielding’s sheer brutal force.
This battle skill from the Ocean sect had completely upheaved the saying that Gui Water true qi was not suited for attacks. With a single stroke, it could unleash tsunami-like waves that were never ending.
Li Qingshan considered it for a while. He opened his eyes. “I choose this one!”
As a result, he stored the Ocean Wielding jade slip away in his hundred treasures pouch. Li Qingshan was not planning on trying his luck with this. If he was unable to power this battle skill with true qi, then what about daemon qi?
His daemon qi was of the water element too, and its sheer brute force went without saying. He would have no issues in wielding this battle skill. The path of daemons was his true foundation, so he obviously made his decision after a moment of consideration.
And, it was not like it would be impossible for him to find the latter half of the Arts of the Boundless Ocean!
Han Tieyi did not try to convince him otherwise. He stowed the other jade slips away and brought Li Qingshan back to the surface.
Han Anjun had finished his talk with the military disciples. Suddenly, he pointed at Li Qingshan and said to them, “Before long, this person will become even stronger. By then, what are you going to do?”
“Defeat him!” said the military disciples with brimming vigour.
Li Qingshan smiled. Let’s see who improves faster!
His Gui Water true qi was extremely refined and pure. Although it was still a little difficult to power Ocean Wielding, it was not impossible. As long as he could unleash even a tenth of its force, his battle prowess would increase drastically.
The next morning, the red sun had emerged from the Lake of Dragons and Snakes when the sound of a bell rang through Anāsravāṃ temple.
The buddhist assembly of dharma that the One Thought master had prepared for so long had finally begun.
The entire island was shrouded in a thin milky-white mist; the faint smell of burning sandalwood incense permeated the air.
The sounds of the striking of wooden fish1 and chanting lingered above the island. The halls and pagoda all seemed more solemn than usual.
A total of nine Foundation Establishment monks had arrived. All of them were dignified. Although this was a matter of the school of Buddhism, it was so important that a few school leaders led by Zhang Lanqing had come to receive them, who then stayed behind to listen along. There were a lot of disciples from other schools present too.
Paths of cultivation were similar. They did not study buddhism, but it would still benefit their cultivation if they could become wiser.
Li Qingshan listened along for a while and soon felt giddy. A swathe of large, shiny, bald heads filled his vision, going on about some allegories or dharma or whatever. He understood none of it.
He only saw Xiao An sitting in the hall in bluish-white robes with her black, seaweed-like hair running down her back. Sometimes, she was thinking, sometimes nodding, and sometimes refuting. She answered them with composure.
Li Qingshan stopped worrying. He silently backed out, returning to Cloudwisp island to focus on cultivation.
As they explained the dharma, Xiao An rarely spoke, but she would often leave the monks speechless when she did. They would need a moment of thought before they could answer her.
The Path of White Bone and Great Beauty was not just an ability or cultivation method. It also recorded a great buddhist monk’s entire life of wisdom and knowledge. Xiao An needed to comprehend the essence within it. Every single question they asked was centred around this supernatural ability, and they would all hit the mark.
She made all the monks rethink everything with a clear mind. Often, they would have to give it some thought before they answered her. These monks were all highly educated in the buddhist dharma, so they could give her an answer most of the time after some thought. However, these answers would differ from monk to monk, which would lead to a new round of disputes.
The monks no longer looked at Xiao An in the same way anymore either. They directly began to suspect whether she was a Reincarnated Celestial too, possibly the reincarnation a great grandmaster at that. If it were not for her innate knowledge, how could a child ask such profound questions? For some questions, even they felt like they were not clever enough, unable to answer them.
Naturally, they could not answer all of Xiao An’s questions, or they would not just be at Foundation Establishment. However, this process had allowed Xiao An to deepen her understanding of the Path of White Bone and Great Beauty yet again.
After comprehending all this, she could relax her control over her cultivation as a Qi Practitioner. On the third day of the dharma assembly, her cultivation reached the ninth layer; she was close to the final step now.
It had directly dumbfounded the eminent monks there. They had never seen a person practise qi as easily as drinking water. If this continued, reaching Foundation Establishment would be a piece of cake for her.
It lightened the One Thought master’s burden slightly, but his original plan fell through. Now, it no longer seemed like the monks guiding Xiao An. Instead, it seemed like she was guiding the monks.
However, this led to another problem.
The monks who had all cast aside their worldly desires all started to grow greedy. They all felt like she had not actually taken the One Thought master on as her master as she was studying in the school of Buddhism. At most, it was like the relationship between a child and a teacher in a private institution. With Xiao An’s talent, she completely deserved a formal master who could support her more.
The school of thought of Buddhism circled around the word “buddhism”, but there were thousands of sects that fell under it. They constantly contended against one another. All of them wanted a disciple like this to continue their legacy and carry on their teachings.
It was too late for the One Thought master to feel regret. From the day the dharma assembly had begun, he did not allow Xiao An to take a single step away from him. At the same time, he secretly penned a letter.
Some people had already gotten to the bottom of Xiao An and Li Qingshan’s relationship. They sent their disciples to Cloudwisp island to discuss matters with him. They all secretly offered him extremely abundant conditions for Xiao An to switch over and take them as a master instead.
Under the gathering darkness of night, Li Qingshan sent away another visitor. He turned around and passed through the silent, weaving corridors, returning to his room.
A woman was currently in his room, laying down under the light as she read. She seemed like she had recently washed, as her hair was still wet; it was much shorter compared to other women, shoulder-length and rather messy. A few strands on her fringe stood up stubbornly, which gave her a hint of adorable laziness.
Her thin, navy robes hugged her enchanting figure, as if it were wordlessly communicating that she was already a grown woman.
The woman’s face reddened and closed the book like she did not care. She shot a glance at Li Qingshan. “What’re you looking at?”
“Senior sister Han?” Only then was Li Qingshan bold enough to draw a conclusion. Today, Han Qiongzhi differed greatly from her usual appearance of an “older sister”. She seemed more gentle as she read under the light.
“What’s wrong?” Han Qiongzhi was afraid to make direct eye contact with Li Qingshan.
Li Qingshan smiled. “And I had thought the Han family had a second young miss. How come you have the time to come here today?”
Everyone had their own lives. Han Qiongzhi was no different. Now that Hua Chengzan had entered seclusion, his responsibilities as the primary disciple and Scarlet Wolf commander had fallen onto her shoulders. However, she would struggle to complete matters that took Hua Chengzan two hours to complete even if she had ten times as much time, so she faced a truly miserable predicament. Fortunately, she got along relatively well with everyone else, so she could still have some spare time to herself if she forcefully allocated work to others.
In the past, she would spend this time relaxing and having fun to her heart’s content, but she felt rather uneasy recently. A certain figure would frequently cross her mind. Not only had she washed up today, but she had even put on a set of clothes she never wore for some odd reason and came to visit involuntarily. She wanted to see what Li Qingshan was up to.
However, she could not bring herself to ask him that. She avoided it completely. “What brought the monk here?”
Li Qingshan told her the reason, and Han Qiongzhi said, “The Lone Mountain temple is a mid-sized sect, so you can consider it. The Lone Mountain Patriarch is a powerful cultivator who’s condensed a śarīra. He’s renowned even throughout the entire Ruyi commandery. I never thought a disciple of his would be participating in the dharma assembly this time. He does have the right to serve as Xiao An’s master.”
The Lone Mountain temple was not located within the Clear River prefecture. The Foundation Establishment monk who had come this time was the Lone Mountain Patriarch’s direct disciple, and one of the conditions he offered was accepting Xiao An as a disciple on his master’s behalf.
Li Qingshan said, “What’s wrong with staying in the Academy of the Hundred Schools?”
Han Qiongzhi said, “With Xiao An’s cultivation, reaching Foundation Establishment is only a matter of time, so how can she remain in the academy?”
Li Qingshan said, “Isn’t there an academy in the Ruyi commandery too?”
“So you don’t know. The academy in the commandery is just for show.”
Han Qiongzhi gave him a detailed explanation. Only then did Li Qingshan learn that the Academy of the Hundred Schools in the Ruyi commandery was not a larger version of the one in the Clear River prefecture, with hundreds of Foundation Establishment cultivators learning together under the guidance of over a dozen Golden Core cultivators.
Every single Foundation Establishment cultivator was an elite that could reign over an entire region, so why would they still receive the treatment of Qi Practitioners? It was even less likely for Golden Core cultivators to be all cooped up. Instead, they all had their places.
The academies on the level of commanderies existed basically only in name. Their primary function was for management. They did not even possess the function to communicate between the schools.
After all, they could exchange items that covered the basics with one another, but at their level, all cultivation methods and arts would be secrets that would not be passed on so easily among all schools.
Let alone disciples from other schools, but even disciples from their own schools would have to accept a master to learn these cultivation methods or arts. This master-disciple relationship would no longer be as flimsy as the student-teacher relationship in the academy. Instead, it would turn into a traditional familial relationship.
Reaching that step, finding a good master became a critical matter to consider.
“Do I also have to find a master?” Li Qingshan thought. No wonder the monk from earlier had hinted that he could check out the Lone Mountain temple too.
Han Qiongzhi said, “Of course. Who doesn’t want a master to guide them along? The only issue you’ll face is insufficient talent and being too old, making it so that no one wants to accept you.”
Li Qingshan was obviously no exception. It was possible to say that all those who could emerge as Foundation Establishment cultivators under this strange free-charging system of the Academy of the Hundred Thoughts were young talents. They would not be troubled over finding a master.
This was the academy’s special method of inheritance. It was different from cultivation sects, yet somewhat similar at the same time.
Li Qingshan laid out his hands. “Then are there Golden Core cultivators for novelists?” Or should he say “Golden Talisman cultivators”. The Divine Talisman of Great Creation that the school of Novels focused on would turn golden after the second heavenly tribulation.
Actually, apart from Foundation Establishment where cultivators would all be the same, they would all be given different names due to differing cultivation methods if they advanced any higher. For example, śarīra for buddhism, golden talisman for the school of novels, and sword embryo for sword cultivators. They were called Golden Core cultivators due to the habits passed down through history.
Han Qiongzhi lowered her head. “Although you’re a disciple of the school of Novels, you don’t have to find a master from the school of Novels. For example, I’m a disciple of legalism, but if I can establish a foundation, I’ll definitely take my father’s elder brother, my uncle, as my master.”
Han Qiongzhi’s uncle was naturally one of the three major pillars of the Ruyi commandery—great general Han Anguo!
1. I might have mentioned this before, but a wooden fish is a percussive instrument used in Buddhist ceremonies. It’s frequently used to maintain the beat of the chanting. You can read more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wooden_fish