Chapter 424 – An Acquaintance Unchanged
Around noon, Fu Qingjin landed among the remote mountains. The grass grew vibrantly in the surroundings, dyed golden by the sunlight. They waved in the autumn wind, rustling quietly.
Fu Qingjin was more alert than ever. The Soaring Dragon sword had appeared here. In the message, the Divining Elder had been so stern that he dared not be careless, not even in the slightest.
Very soon, he sensed the abnormal activity of the spiritual qi of the world there. Fu Qingjin found a cave. The cave was not very deep, such that he reached the end very soon. There was nothing in there anymore, but he could sense someone had cast down formations here.
A streak of golden light fell from the ceiling, landing in Fu Qingjin’s eyes. Through the crack, he could see the sky outside.
That’s right. It had to be here. The Soaring Dragon sword had not managed to escape, but the sword qi had already pierced the sky.
Fu Qingjin closed his eyes. As the sun shifted overhead, the streak of sunlight vanished before long.
Fu Qingjin snapped his eyes open. First of all, the person was not particularly powerful, below the second heavenly tribulation at the very least. Otherwise, he would have been able to suppress the Soaring Dragon sword before it could emit sword qi. Second of all, the person should have been a Foundation Establishment cultivator. Daemon Generals could not open sumeru rings. Moreover, he should have been rather powerful, as stopping the Soaring Dragon sword was anything but easy.
Only one question remained. Did this person obtain the sumeru ring through a coincidence, or was he connected to the Soaring Dragon Elder’s death?
There were approximately a hundred Foundation Establishment cultivators in the Clear River prefecture. All he had to do was investigate where they were when the Soaring Dragon sword emerged. Then, he could use a process of elimination, and he would definitely be able to find some clues.
There were no absolute hermits among cultivators. Human life was limited and people could be found no matter where they hid, especially with Foundation Establishment cultivators.
Fu Qingjin made his way out of the cave as his eyes flickered with cold light. He had to retrieve the sumeru ring and the Soaring Dragon sword no matter what!
Near the shore of the Lake of Dragons and Snakes, within the ripping reeds, Xiao An opened her hand, and the sumeru ring flashed. She thought about something before tossing the sumeru ring into her mouth and swallowing it with a gulp.
“Is it just you?” At this moment, Qian Rongzhi arrived by striding on the water, looking around.
Xiao An nodded.
“Did he tell you to come find me?”
Xiao An nodded again.
“What’s the matter?” Qian Rongzhi was very confused.
“Gathering corpses.” Xiao An finally spoke. She took out a pile of spiritual stones. “Here’s the remuneration. Don’t let a lot of people find out about this.”
“Why?” Qian Rongzhi crouched down and propped up her cheeks.
Xiao An stopped talking. She thought back to the cave when she parted with Li Qingshan. Li Qingshan had said, “Xiao An, looks like we can’t open this sumeru ring without proper preparation in the near future. I felt that something was amiss earlier. The Sword Collection palace might have discovered our location already from that moment just then.”
“From now onwards, we’ll split up. I’ll go find Ru Xin so that she can refine pills for me, while you… you’ll go find Qian Rongzhi and get her to gather corpses for you so that you can continue forging Skull Prayer Beads. Didn’t you say forging eighteen of them will allow you to cast formations? I think it’ll be up to you to kill Bloodshadow.”
Killing either Strongboulder or Bloodshadow required enough strength to make the battle completely one-sided. Otherwise, once he failed, he would not be able to remain among the daemons anymore. Strongboulder was impregnable, while Bloodshadow was as fast as lightning. Both of them were tough bones to chew. If he wanted to guarantee their deaths, he had to possess strength that completely overwhelmed them.
Among all the people that Li Qingshan knew, basically all of them were more trustworthy than Qian Rongzhi. However, there was no one more suitable for this than her. Only a person as meticulous and secretive as her could guarantee complete secrecy when handling this matter. Even Li Qingshan paled in comparison to her in this regard.
However, her nature of constantly acting in her own interests had instead become a safeguard at a time like this. Although Li Qingshan did not necessarily like this nature of her, their cooperation had always resulted in success.
Xiao An said nothing, so Qian Rongzhi just stopped asking. She pushed the pile of spiritual stones back. “I’ll find him when it comes to remuneration. What kind of corpse do you need? Corpse Soldiers and Corpse Generals that have already been refined, or will any do?”
“Any will do… but don’t kill mindlessly.”
“Did he tell you this too? Heh, why would I spend all that effort? The last thing I’d need to do with the current circumstances is kill mindlessly.”
“I’ll bring you to a good place.” Qian Rongzhi smiled.
“He doesn’t want me to be with you.” Xiao An lowered her head.
“Fine then. Sometimes I really want to kill him. Don’t glare at me, I’m just kidding. The weather’s perfect!”
The rippling surface of the Lake of Dragons and Snakes reflected their figures, as if they had been gilded with gold. Qian Rongzhi’s smile seemed to become slightly warmer too.
“Let me rest a little. We’ll set off immediately, we’ll set off immediately.” Qian Rongzhi lay down on the dried grass, resting her head on her arms and shutting her eyes. A gorgeous, little snake winded across her face. It was a strange and terrifying sight to behold, but her face was extremely peaceful.
When Li Qingshan saw Ru Xin again, she was healing the sick in a small city by the mountains. Dressed in white clothes, she smiled warmly as she stood among the people. Wherever her hand passed by, the wounds would all heal, and the diseases would be cured. Everyone knelt on the ground and lowered their heads, constantly referring to her as goddess, bodhisattva, or great immortal.
Her expression became even gentler, and she told them all to stand up. Under the setting sun, a halo seemed to appear on her head, which made her seem noble and pure, just like a goddess.
“Oh great benevolent bodhisattva Ru Xin, my chest hurts. Do you have any medicine for it?” Li Qingshan came up with an idea and withdrew his aura, pushing aside the crowd and going up to her.
Ru Xin heard a familiar voice ring out from behind her. Looking back, her eyes flashed brilliantly, and she smiled. “If your chest hurts, that means you have a wicked heart. The only way to heal it is to dig out the heart and cut away the wicked flesh. However, I can tell that your heart has become wicked through and through. Even immortals won’t be able to save you. You are beyond help.”
“Then I’ll dig it all out and give it to you.” Li Qingshan laughed aloud. After three years, this old acquaintance of his had not changed at all, which was truly a joyous matter.
However, he unintentionally infuriated everyone there with that smart comment of his. In particular, the younger men were filled with indignation. “What are you supposed to be? Why have you come to joke around?” “Don’t let him escape! Beat him up!”
An old man rushed over and threw a punch at Li Qingshan, treating Li Qingshan as a rascal. Li Qingshan tilted his head and dodged, but he did not fight back. With his current strength, a slight movement could kill a whole swathe of people.
Ru Xin burst out laughing. Not only did she withhold from explaining, but she even said, “Thank you all for upholding justice and fighting for me.”
“Move side! I’m her husband!” Li Qingshan roared out, immediately stunning the entire crowd. Afterwards, he grabbed Ru Xin and pulled her out.
Ru Xin did not put up a fight. She clasped her hands at everyone with a smile, allowing him to drag her away.
Everyone was stunned. In particular, the younger men were all ashen. Their hearts were broken. She actually had a husband!
It was a small city, but actually it was more like a large town. There were grey tiles and whitewashed walls, with a small stream flowing through the place and leafy neighbourhoods.
Li Qingshan dragged Ru Xin to a quiet pavilion. To one side was the flowing stream and to the other were houses with wisps of smoke rising up slowly from the chimneys. Looking up, the entire city was smoking from its chimneys.
Ru Xin smiled. “My dear husband, it’s time for you to let go!”
“Your dear husband is reluctant to.” Li Qingshan thought of a smart remark and teased her.
“If you’re reluctant to, then break it off with the girl from the Han family. Otherwise, I’d have to explain everything to her.”
“Looks like fate just opposes us being together.” Li Qingshan let go and shrugged.
“You’ve established a foundation too? Sigh, I originally wanted to show you the power of a Foundation Establishment cultivator and give you a fierce beating so that you cough up your remaining Blue Butterfly flowers. Looks like I won’t be able to do that now.” Ru Xin rubbed her wrist. Her beautiful pupils slanted slightly as she smiled widely.
“I’m very tempted to try that. How’s it? Foundation Establishment feels great, right? You’ll have to thank me for that.” Li Qingshan sat on a bench in the pavilion by the stream.
“That makes two of us.” Ru Xin sat down beside him.
“I heard you’ve been serving as a roaming doctor ever since you emerged from seclusion, healing regular people. To be honest, it’s made me look at you in a new light.”
“I’m just completing the missions from the academy.” Ru Xin smiled slightly, giving an explanation.
As it turned out, the consequences of war were not as simple as daemons massacring cities. Corpses constantly caused plagues. If it were not for the work of the disciples of the school of Medicine, probably even more people would die of disease than to the jaws and claws of daemons.
“And it’s not just that simple. Bandits are running amok right now. Many people are using the chaos to pillage and plunder. They’re even more vicious than daemons. The schools of Confucianism and Legalism have sent out many disciples to maintain stability in the various regions. They’re in even more danger than I am. Creatures like people really love to kill one another!” Ru Xin sighed slightly as her smile faded.
“You seem slightly melancholic?” Li Qingshan studied Ru Xin in interest. He had noticed that her gaze darted about, clearly thinking about something. Even when the Academy of the Hundred Schools was attacked by the White Lotus cult and suffered numerous losses, she had never behaved like that.
“What, have I enchanted you? You better go break it off with the girl from the Han family quickly!” Ru Xin stroked her hair and smiled and spoke just like before.
“Enough joking around. Do you still have time to refine pills?”
Li Qingshan stated his reason for finding her. Just as Ru Xin considered his request, a bare-footed girl with her hair tied up in buns ran over. She shoved an apple into Ru Xin’s hand. “Big sister, I picked this from the mountains. Thank you for curing my dad.”
“Oh, what a good girl. It’s going to rain soon, so you better hurry back and help your mother with the laundry!” Ru Xin smiled and rubbed the girl’s head, biting into the apple with a crisp crunch.
The girl answered her and scuttled off. She called out from afar, “It’s going to rain! Bring the clothes inside!”
Ru Xin spat out the apple flesh in her mouth before casually tossing the apple behind her.
“Why’d you throw it away? That’s someone’s good will after all.” Li Qingshan caught the apple. The bite mark on there was neat, which only demonstrated how perfect her teeth were.
“Obviously because it’s disgusting. I’ve saved the person, I’ve accepted her good will, and I’ve eaten the apple. There’s no need to torture my mouth any further.” Ru Xin suddenly said mischievously, “Don’t tell you saw me take a bite and you wanted to…”
Before Ru Xin could finish, she heard a plop. The apple landed in the water and floated away.
Li Qingshan patted his hands. “How did you know it’s going to rain? Your affinity is wood, if I recall correctly!” There were clouds in the sky, but it was still sunny. He too could sense the gathering and variation of the moisture in the air, but he was still unable to say with certainty that it would rain.
“It’s just an offhand remark. Do you want to gamble a True Spirit pill on it? If I win, we’ll set off immediately. I’ve created a new dwelling, so I’ll take you there and show you around.”
“Can I not gamble?”
However, before long, the sky became shrouded by dark clouds and autumn rain descended. Ru Xin extended her hand craftily, like her scheme had just succeeded.
“Let’s go!” Li Qingshan placed a True Spirit pill in her hand.
The rain became heavier, forming a curtain outside the pavilion.
“There’s something wrong with the rain.” Ru Xin frowned and gazed at the mountains to the west.
“There’s daemon qi!”
Li Qingshan sensed it too. The rolling daemon qi in the distance surged into the clouds. At the same time, a rumble rang out in the distance, growing closer and closer.
The two of them arrived at the top of the mountain and saw a yellow, muddy flow suck up loose rock and branches, howling as it rushed over.
A flash flood!