Chapter 417 – Circumstances Come and Go with Time
Li Qingshan let out a deep breath like a steam whistle. Fierce gales of wind were kicked up in the large dwelling. He opened his eyes, and they flashed like two stars. The light gradually receded, becoming deep and dark like a pond.
“Xiao An, how long has it been?”
“Around three years.”
“Three years. It has been so long.”
Li Qingshan was rather surprised; to him, it did not feel long at all, brief as a matter of fact.
Three years were enough for the plants to wither and bloom three times, enough for children to become youths. But to him, it had been as brief as a flick of a finger.
There was no concept of time in the mountains and caves. This was the definition of time to cultivators.
He had not spent all three years meditating away. Every now and then, he would talk with Xiao An and fight a little. It definitely had not been boring. Instead, he found it to be surprisingly substantial.
Together, they had not been serious the entire time, talking about cultivation and only cultivation. Often, they talked about things that had nothing to do with cultivation at all. However, they understood what each other was thinking from a single glance and smile. They were fellow cultivators, or perhaps intimate friends.
Ye Liusu seemed to have reported to his underground clone a few times during this period, but the contents had already become blurry. Yet, he could recall every single word from an ordinary conversation with Xiao An from two years ago.
“Have you gained anything today?” Xiao An asked.
“Confusion still exists in my heart.” Li Qingshan shook his head gently and placed his hand on his chest.
Right now, Li Qingshan’s cultivation was not at the ninth layer, but the tenth layer. He had only used half a month to open the Governing meridian with the help of the spiritual qi of the world. Afterwards, he got to work with tidying up the twelve standard meridians, which were the three yang meridians of the arm, the three yang meridians of the leg, the three yin meridians of the arm, and the three yin meridians of the leg.
After two years of absolute focus, he finally tidied through all of it and broke through to the tenth layer. In the final half a year, he had constantly tried to break through to Foundation Establishment and obtain what the black ox had left for him.
In the very beginning, Li Qingshan had been very confident, as he possessed many True Spirit pills. He believed he could reach Foundation Establishment even if he had to forcefully pile his way up with the pills.
But as his cultivation continued, he discovered it was not that simple. The path of human cultivation placed great emphasis on cultivating the mind. If he was shacked down inside, then everything would become much more difficult. It could even become a great obstacle. This was the reason why Hua Chengzan had not been able to break through even after all that time. It was not a lack of talent, nor did the Hua family ever lack True Spirit pills.
“I’ll have to face what I must face in the end. Xiao An…” Li Qingshan murmured to himself.
“Let’s emerge!” Xiao An smiled sweetly with bright eyes and shining teeth.
Three years had passed, but her figure had not changed at all.
Seeing the light of day again, Li Qingshan squinted his eyes and gazed at the landscape of lakes and mountains in the distance. Nothing seemed to have changed much compared to three years ago. However, he could sense that the formation over the academy had become even more profound and powerful.
Xiao An had to pay a visit to the school of Buddhism, while Li Qingshan directly visited the school of Legalism. He arrived before a small, delicate building by the lake. This was where Han Qiongzhi resided in the school of Legalism.
Over the three years, the person that he worried the most about was her. He was afraid something would happen to her in the chaos of war. He had wanted to emerge when he reached the ninth layer, but he soon considered the possibility that she was still in secluded cultivation. Even if he did emerge, she would be under protection with her background, so he stopped worrying. However, he could not help but admit his mental state had already changed compared to when he was deeply in love with her.
Thump! Thump! Thump! Li Qingshan knocked on the door.
Footsteps rang out from behind the door, and Li Qingshan became slightly excited. However, when the door opened, he was a bit stunned.
Because of the formation there, Li Qingshan did not try to sense the aura in the building. However, the person who opened the door right now was not Han Qiongzhi, but a legalist disciple he was somewhat familiar with, Wu Gen.
Seeing Li Qingshan, Wu Gen was taken aback too. He said in a hurry, “You’re looking for senior sister Han, right? Senior sister Han no longer lives here.”
Li Qingshan’s heart sank slightly. This was her residence. How could it be offered to someone else so easily?
“You’ve already reached the tenth layer. Congratula…” Before Wu Gen could even finish talking, Li Qingshan had already flown off on a cloud, travelling straight towards the school of the Military’s Great War island.
At the same time, Xiao An returned to Anāsravāṃ island to see the One Thought master.
“Junior sister Xiao An, you’ve returned.” A disciple of buddhism faltered before bringing her to the One Thought master’s meditation room in the end. As she passed through the familiar monastery and pavilions, she could feel that many of the life forces that once moved about in the Anāsravāṃ temple had vanished.
“Abbot, senior sister Xiao An has emerged from secluded cultivation. She wishes to see you.” The way the monk referred to Xiao An left her slightly puzzled.
A skinny monk, so skinny that he was just a bag of bones, emerged from the meditation room. With a stern expression, he brought his palms together. “Junior sister Xiao An, long time no see.”
“Mind Enlightenment.” If it were not for Xiao An’s ability to sense the life force of others, she would have never been able to connect the person before her right now to the tall, chubby primary disciple of buddhism from back then, Mind Enlightenment.
After being defeated by Xiao An, Mind Enlightenment had punished himself with three years of wall facing and self-reflection in the Cliff Inscription cavern. After a series of arduous cultivation, he finally broke through and successfully established a foundation. He now wore the abbot’s kāṣāya.
“You don’t have to be confused. I’m the leader of the school of Buddhism now, the abbot of the Anāsravāṃ temple.” As he said that, Mind Enlightenment did not show any pride at all. Instead, irrepressible sorrow surged out. “Master… master has already died.”
“How did he die?”
“He was slain by a daemon!” Mind Enlightenment’s eyes widened, like the furious glare of a guardian king.
Xiao An lowered her head. She had no idea what to say.
“Don’t you feel sad at all? Not even a bit?” Mind Enlightenment questioned loudly.
“I don’t.” Xiao An was emotionless.
“Y- you’re heartless!” Mind Enlightenment pointed at Xiao An as his voice trembled. Clearly, he had been truly angered.
Xiao An did not refute him either.
“As the leader of the school of Buddhism, I don’t think you’re suited for the position of primary disciple anymore!” Mind Enlightenment called out, stunning the entire temple before turning around and leaving furiously.
Xiao An was not angered. She never wanted to be some primary disciple in the first place. She did what she was supposed to do, so it was time to go find Li Qingshan. She turned around quietly and made her way out.
The buddhist disciples who heard the disturbance all made their way out, casting gazes of either surprise or disdain at Xiao An. Xiao An ignored it all, directly making her way into the forest of stūpas. There was a very new stūpa with the dharma name One Thought engraved below. It was basically the final part of him that remained behind to remember him by.
Xiao An was still emotionless. She took out a pearl that seemed to be made out of gold and stared at it for a long time. This was the Guardian King’s pearl that the One Thought master had given her.
Please forgive me. I can’t mourn for you, but if it’s possible, I will avenge you.
In the Main Martial Arts stadium, Han Tieyi stood on a platform with his arms crossed, watching the military disciples train. Through the baptism of war, he had broken through to Foundation Establishment, but he experienced many near-death encounters as the price. Suddenly, he raised his head and saw a cloud fly over. He said gently, “He’s finally here.”
“Tieyi, do you know…” Li Qingshan spotted Han Tieyi too, flying over to him quickly.
Han Tieyi remained as stoic as ever. He did not say anything, not even a greeting. He handed a stack of letters to Li Qingshan.
The letters were clearly labeled, “For Li Qingshan only. Letter from Han Qiongzhi.”
Li Qingshan opened the letters one by one in order. The first letter came from two years ago.
After reading through it, Li Qingshan stopped worrying. As it turned out, Han Qiongzhi had already left the academy two years ago. She had gone to the Ruyi commandery to continue cultivating under her uncle, Han Anguo. Perhaps because she never received a reply, but the letters gradually lessened. The last letter was from three months ago.
After reading through it, Li Qingshan was unable to describe what he felt. There was relief, disappointment, and some ease.
“Don’t blame her. She waited half a year for you. During a mission, she came across a Daemon General and almost lost her life,” Han Tieyi explained for once.
“Why would she carry out such a dangerous mission?” Li Qingshan asked with a frown.
“There are no safe missions now.”
“What about the others?” Li Qingshan looked back at the Main Martial Arts stadium, and pairs of eyes looked over at him too. Through these three years, the military disciples had developed a bleak aura around them, which made him think about the personal army he had faced in the Han family back then. Although it was just training, every single one of them radiated with murderousness, as if they were facing actual enemies.
However, there were only three or four hundred people present, with many unfamiliar and immature faces among them. Their cultivations were not particularly high either. Clearly, they were disciples who had joined recently.
“Some died. Others fled,” Han Tieyi said.
Li Qingshan gazed at the clear, blue sky. In a daze, he seemed to see a colossal monster dwelling above the fifteen hundred kilometers of the Clear River prefecture, silently devouring life. The name of this monster was war. Saying that it was no different from three years ago was his greatest mistake.
Even if he ignored the kind of person Han Anjun was, why would she ever flee from danger with how stubborn she was?
“Do you want to write back?” Han Tieyi asked.
“Not right now.” Li Qingshan considered it before shaking his head gently. He could tell from the later letters that she was doing very well right now. She was also making preparations to establish a foundation. It would be best if he did not bother her mental state and affect her cultivation right now.
Speaking of which, who knew when they would meet again?
Three years, five years, perhaps ten years… Even his mental state right now was different from the past, so let alone many years into the future.
Li Qingshan and Xiao An met up outside Cloudwisp island. Before they could even reach the bamboo loft on the island, a woman’s figure appeared. Li Qingshan could not help but frown when he saw her.
Qian Rongzhi saw Xiao An, and her eyes lit up. She approached her with a flash and crouched down, grabbing Xiao An’s hand. She asked, “Does it hurt?”
Xiao An shook her head.
Qian Rongzhi’s smile became even more resplendent. She wanted to give Xiao An a hug, but she hugged nothing.
“Qian Rongzhi, why have you come?” Li Qingshan pulled Xiao An behind him.
“You’re still the same as before. Take out your Scarlet Wolf tablet. There’s a mission.”
Li Qingshan took out his Scarlet Wolf tablet in doubt. It flashed gently, and sure enough, Hua Chengzan’s voice rang out in a blurred manner,
“Qingshan, I heard you emerged from seclusion, so I have a mission for you. It shouldn’t be dangerous, but I can’t say for sure. Anyway, you should familiarise yourself with the situation first! Qian Rongzhi already knows about the details of the mission. I’ll take you out for dinner once you get back.”
Hua Chengzan seemed to be busy. He just said a few words in a hurry before falling silent.
“Would you like to see it? Our heaven, that is!” Qian Rongzhi smiled like a colourful, venomous snake.