Chapter 445 – A Battle of Interests
“The technique in this painting is startling. No matter how you divide it, its essence remains complete, just like how a sparrow is complete with organs despite its size. The fact that it can still be used as a spiritual artifact is unbelievable. If I could witness its original form, I can die without any regrets,” Chu Shidao said in both praise and pity.
Li Qingshan asked, “Then is it possible to merge these three fragments into one?”
“If you can split it apart, then you can obviously merge it back together. I’m not particularly talented, but I can try comprehending the divine techniques of this senior and attempt to repair it.”
Li Qingshan was overjoyed. “If senior can help me out, I definitely won’t let senior go to such lengths for nothing.”
“No, you can’t do that. Master, your body’s already in such a state, so how can you waste your energy?” Chu Danqing shoved the Cursive Sword Calligraphy back into Li Qingshan’s hand. “Sorry, senior brother, but this can’t happen. Master should rest now.”
Li Qingshan was unable to say anything more. He could only try seeking another method to go about it.
“Do you just want me to lay in bed and wait to see the king of hell?” Chu Shidao slammed the bed and roared at Chu Danqing, “Give me the painting. Li Qingshan don’t you want an arcane artifact?”
Once Chu Shidao became carried away, no one could stop him. In the end, Li Qingshan left behind the three fragments of the Cursive Sword Calligraphy and took his leave.
A white cloud rose into the air, and the vast ground receded rapidly. The wind whistled, making their clothes ruffle.
Li Qingshan let out a sigh. “They’re basically a family. They’re so devoted and concerned for each other that it’s admirable.”
Ru Xin sat on the cloud with her legs crossed. “As cultivators, becoming overly wrapped up in our feelings might not necessarily be good. Only by forgetting your emotions and becoming impervious to your feelings can you achieve enlightenment and become an immortal.”
“If that’s the case, then I’ll just go without becoming an immortal.”
A strange smile appeared on Ru Xin’s face, like she was looking at a stubborn child. Li Qingshan said, “What, have you been enchanted by my charm?”
“Then you’re too late.”
“Haven’t you ever heard of proximity being an advantage?” Ru Xin huddled towards Li Qingshan. Her breath was ticklish, and she smiled gently. Her water-like gaze was filled with indescribable hints of affection.
It was not like Li Qingshan had just met her, so why would he fall for it again? “Stop messing around. Can you really refine this Water of Oblivion?”
Ru Xin said, “I’ll try! Perhaps I might need it too.”
The most difficult part about forgetting your emotions had always been the “forgetting” part.
They separated in the Chain mountains. Li Qingshan returned to his dwelling only to see Xiao An seated in the centre. Flames scorched above her as the Skull Prayer Beads turned into huge skulls, spitting out flames from their large mouths to make it burn even more vigorously.
Corpses flew into the fire one after another, melting away instantly and merging with the clump of white fluid in the centre of the fire, which scattered in all directions. Sometimes, it fell into the mouths of the skulls; sometimes, it dripped down.
As she continued to forge Skull Prayer Beads, it was not just an increase in number anymore. Her overall strength was rapidly increasing, and the quantity of corpses she needed would increase too. After who knew how many corpses, the white fluid gradually consolidated into a perfectly round bead. Another Skull Prayer Bead had been forged.
Xiao An stood up and smiled sweetly. “I’ve almost completed the first layer of the Path of White Bone and Great Beauty.”
The so-called Foundation Establishment realm was actually about establishing a foundation for her. After all these years of arduous cultivation, she had barely managed to build up sufficient progress with both her mind and body, establishing an adequate foundation for the supernatural ability of another world.
Li Qingshan said, “Am I supposed to praise you for cultivating quickly or criticize you for cultivating slowly? If you reach the first layer, how well would you hold up against Bloodshadow?”
Xiao An said, “He definitely won’t be able to escape. Even if I fight you, I might not necessarily lose!”
“Girl, I’ll show you my power right now!” Li Qingshan lunged over with a smile, and Xiao An fled far away, letting out a series of chime-like giggles.
Before darkness had descended, many sects in the Clear River prefecture did the same thing. They dismantled their formations and stowed away their mechanisms and puppets before glancing back reluctantly and taking off into the sky. They abandoned the sects they had managed for all these years and undertook a large-scale migration.
Because the migrating groups were all composed of Qi Practitioners, they did not move quickly, but whenever they ran into another sect, they would merge and travel towards their destination together.
The sky was darkening, and the setting sun dyed the clouds red. Hua Chengzan stood on a sword and gazed down from above. He saw glimpses of light as cultivators of various sects flew through the red clouds like fireflies.
Then he glanced at the crescent moon that rose up in the distant horizon and said to Han Tieyi beside him, “I never thought a single moon demon would be able to throw Fu Qingjin and the entire Daemon Suppression alliance into such dire circumstances.”
Han Tieyi said, “I’d like to try clashing with him.”
Hua Chengzan said, “I really hope you don’t get the opportunity.”
Before he had even finished speaking, a scarlet figure shot across the sky, arriving above the Rose Clouds sect. His wings of wind were wondrous as his scarlet hair danced about. His ruby-like eyes locked onto Hua Chengzan and Han Tieyi.
Hua Chengzan leapt in fright inside and smiled bitterly. “You’ve actually jinxed it.” Han Tieyi grew stern, poised for battle at any time.
Li Qingshan left his original body in his dwelling to ingest pills and cultivate and sent his clone to investigate the movements of the Daemon Suppression alliance. He planned on leading a few more raids, and if it were possible, destroy a few more sects, which would strengthen the academy’s bargaining position in the upcoming negotiations, allowing him to subdue Fu Qingjin and the Daemon Suppression alliance from various directions.
As a result, he ran into the large-scale migration and arrived here by following them. However, he ended up running into Hua Chengzan and Han Tieyi, who had come to investigate. Seeing how they were basically on the edge of their seats, Li Qingshan smiled inside before lowering his head and looking at the Rose Cloud sect.
Hua Chengzan eased up and dragged the riled-up Han Tieyi with him in a silent retreat. Since he had no intentions of fighting, that would be for the best. Let alone their slim chances at victory, even if they did win, they would not be able to stop him from leaving. Right below was the headquarters of the Daemon Suppression alliance, so surely he would not attack them, right?
The cultivators of the Daemon Suppression alliance sensed Li Qingshan’s existence and spread out fearfully. The Qi Practitioners flew even faster through the rosy clouds while the Foundation Establishment cultivators all served as the vanguard. They raised their heads to study the figure who had forced them into their current circumstances. They felt both hatred and fear. No one stepped forward for a battle. They just stared at one another silently.
Hua Chengzan’s expression changed slightly. Despite being alone, he could deter thousands of cultivators from coming forward and challenging him. Just what kind of might was that? Now this was Northmoon! However, when he saw him in person, he did not find him as vicious or violent as he imagined him to be. His relaxed demeanour gave off an indescribable sense of peace and tranquility.
Before Fu Qingjin entered seclusion to rest, he had ordered everyone to avoid battles and ignore the provocations of the daemons just in case they fell for a scheme. He made everyone stick to this simple principle to cope with whatever situation arose. Fu Qingjin had designated the Rose Cloud sect as the headquarters of the Daemon Suppression alliance in the Clear River prefecture. It was enveloped in countless powerful formations and surrounded by countless mechanical turrets. If Li Qingshan were bold enough to come, he would be throwing himself into the belly of the beast.
“Looks like Fu Qingjin isn’t there.” Li Qingshan muttered to himself and shoved his hands into his sleeves. He embarked on an invisible path paved with stars in the sky and travelled into the distance.
Everyone could not help but ease up.
Hua Chengzan and Han Tieyi exchanged glances and only became sterner. Now an opponent like that would be truly terrifying. Forging an alliance was definitely a matter of great urgency now.
The next day, the Daemon Suppression alliance sent a message that the negotiations about the alliance would be pushed back indefinitely under the reason that Fu Qingjin was healing in secluded cultivation. This was expected. Fu Qingjin would never negotiate with the academy in a feeble state.
But very soon, everyone realised how clever and vicious this move that Fu Qingjin made was. It did not target the daemons, but the academy.
In the Hawkwolf Guard of Clear River city, Wang Pushi and Hua Chengzan were discussing with one another when the door thumped three times.
“Greetings, commanders. Another office has been breached by the daemons today. Seventeen Hawkwolf guards have fallen in battle.” Hua Chenglu was dressed in scarlet clothes. After three years of cultivation, she had finally reached the seventh layer and was promoted to a Scarlet Wolf guard. The neat and tidy Scarlet Wolf uniform originally added a flair of valiance to the people who wore it, but it only made her beautiful figure seem even more graceful.
Wang Pushi slammed the table as he radiated with coldness. The sects could turn a blind eye to everything, but the various schools of the academy had the responsibility of governing over its citizens in place of the emperor. They had to send people to various places constantly to kill the daemons that made trouble. With the sects taking a step back, not only had the Hawkwolf Guard suffered heavy losses recently, but the academy had too.
Hua Chengzan said, “I never thought they’d get us good instead. He wants us to understand the principle that we’re in the same boat. He wants to throw us into a disadvantage when we undertake the negotiations for the alliance.”
Wang Pushi said, “They’re the ones who started it all, turning the entire Clear River prefecture into a hellscape, yet as soon as the situation turns against them, they shrink back. They’ve managed to hold the citizens of the prefecture as hostages against us. How despicable, Fu Qingjin, Sword Collection palace!”
Hua Chengzan raised his head and let out a sigh. “The rock demon and blood demon are massacring people everywhere. They’ll be difficult to stop even if we send over more people. The fortunate thing is that the moon demon hasn’t done anything. Even the night roamers seemed to have withdrawn, or the situation would be even more difficult to deal with. However, that just makes everything more worrying. We can’t hesitate at all when it comes to forming the alliance.”
Wang Pushi frowned. At a time like this, whoever contacted the other side first would be thrown into a disadvantage.
Hua Chengzan said, “Chenglu, has Zijian been well recently?”
Hua Chenglu said rather helplessly, “I’ve tried convincing her to focus on cultivation, but she’s been in a very bad mood. She doesn’t want to remain in the academy. She wants to lend a helping hand. I’ve already gotten her father to try to change her mind.”
In the past three years, Hua Chengzan had been even more protective of Yu Zijian than his own sister, Hua Chenglu. After all, this had to do with the successor of the Violet Clouds sword. If she died in battle, the Sword Collection palace would definitely unleash its wrath, and the situation would become even worse than losing the war. He had even made special arrangements for Yu Shukuang and the people she knew. If it were someone else, they would not even have the time to celebrate, but Yu Zijian was rather different.
Hua Chengzan pondered for a moment. “I’ll allow her to go out for training and toughening up. You better choose some safer missions for her right now!” However, once she left the protection of the formations, were there any missions that were absolutely safe?
This was a battle of interests between two organisations, yet even he felt rather displeased with using such a kind-hearted girl as a bargaining chip. But at a time like this, he had no other choice. As a member of the academy, he had to take the academy’s overall interests into account, just like how he should fight daemons because he was a human.
“This…” Hua Chenglu hesitated. “Fine, but I have to go on the mission with her!”
After Hua Chenglu left, Wang Pushi asked in confusion, “How is Yu Zijian related to all this?”
Hua Chengzan thought about it before deciding to tell him everything.
After hearing it all, Wang Pushi said, “I see. I’ve noticed a long time ago that you seem to care a little too much about this Yu Zijian. You even made me think you’ve moved on. This is a good move. However, we need a Foundation Establishment cultivator to watch over them constantly from the shadows. We need someone we trust who isn’t too weak, and they have to be able to hide themselves.”
Hua Chengzan smiled. “I have the perfect person in mind.”