Chapter 557 – Refining the Lake of Dragons and Snakes
In the commandery city of Ruyi, within the great general’s estate, joss paper filled the air. White banners trailed into the distance.
An empty coffin sat on the mourning altar.
Below, the descendants of the Han family were dressed in mourning attire, kneeling on the ground. However, underneath their white clothes was sturdy armour.
The sandalwood incense burned quietly. There was not a single sob. Only the endless sound of autumn rain could be heard from outside.
Outside the mourning hall, armoured soldiers stood in formation with their weapons. The rain fell on their icy-cold armour. All of them were sorrowful.
The Marquis of Ruyi’s funeral was being carried out at the same time. A downcast cloud loomed over the entire city.
“Commander Gu arrives!”
A messenger reported. The soldiers all lifted their weapons as their armour clanked like thunder.
Gu Yanying made her way over down the centre of the path. She stepped into the mourning hall, paid her respects, and offered up incense. She did not say much, turning around and leaving immediately. Her gaze swept past the descendants of the Han family in front of the mourning altar, only to see Han Qiongzhi among them. She glanced past her before flying out the door.
She pierced through the cloud layer and began to drift down gently like a feather. She lay between the white clouds.
She rested her head on her hands and closed her eyes, crossing one leg over the other leisurely as she took a small break.
After lying for a while, she frowned and changed her posture. She laid on her side before flipping over before eventually leaning on the clouds. She tossed and turned a full cycle before returning to her original, flat posure. She recited slowly, “His life is like floating; his death is like resting. He ‘does not dream when he is asleep, does not worry when he is awake.’ Sorrow and joy are perversions of integrity; happiness and anger are transgressions of the Dao; likes and dislikes are failings of the mind.”
TL: This part comes from an ancient Chinese text from the Warring States period, Zhuangzi, written by Zhuang Zhou, from the chapter “Ingrained Opinions” of the outer chapters. I’ve used Victor H. Mair’s translations from his book, Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu, published in 1994. Hopefully it’s clear enough for you to understand what Gu Yanying is saying, why she’s saying it, and who she’s saying it to.
Her voice gradually softened, falling asleep peacefully.
Han Qiongzhi was dressed in full mourning attire. Her eyes were very red as her tears trickled down. She thought of her uncle’s voice and expression when he was still alive and the various forms of care and concern he had shown her. Her heart was a tangled mess. She shoved her fingers into the spacing between the bricks, but she refused to let out a single sob.
This was the rule of the Han family. They were forbidden from showing a weak side and sobbing aloud. The women and children who could not achieve that would all be expelled. They would not be worthy of paying respects in the mourning hall.
Han Anjun stood up and said, “You better all wipe away your tears. The spirit of my departed brother remains. He’s already ventured to the final home of all disciples of the school of the Military to continue battling in the Asura realm. There’s nothing worth crying over!”
He exhaled deeply, turned around, and offered up another stick of incense. However, he was worried inside. He had fallen in battle against the Hungry Ghost realm. If he ended up in the Hungry Ghost realm, it would be bad.
Han Qiongzhi thought, Qingshan, where are you? Have you received my letter? I really want to see you!”
“The moon demon is here!”
The Academy of the Hundred Schools was thrown into a panic.
Hua Chengzan was currently in secluded cultivation. He could hear the disturbances, only to see huge waves reaching towards the sky above the Lake of Dragons and Snakes. A huge figure was crossing through the lake, passing through the mist and making his way towards the academy with heavy footsteps.
His curved horns were like a pair of crescent moons as his scarlet eyes flickered like embers. He gave off a heavy pressure simply by standing there.
He was actually still alive!
Liu Zhangqing had yet to recover from the sorrow of the loss of his dear disciples. Standing on a tall building on Contention island, he lamented at the sky, “Why has my Clear River prefecture been dogged by bad luck?”
The other cultivators were ashen as well. They could only hope the Formation of Dragons and Snakes could halt the moon demon’s advance.
On Cloudwisp island, Liu Chuanfeng called out, “Come with me, everyone!”
The disciples of the school of Novels, both young and old, huddled around him in a hurry. They followed behind him as the disciples asked, “Master, are we going to face the moon demon in a battle to the death?”
“It’s about time for our school of Novels to demonstrate its power.” A young man swung his fist viciously.
Liu Chuanfeng remained silent. He brought the disciples to a dense bamboo forest. His expression was fervent and solemn as he ordered, “Everyone, lie down!”
The disciples were all confused, but they still abided to his order and laid down.
Liu Chuanfeng laid down too and began focusing his attention on the Divine Talisman of Great Creation. Gradually, his figure vanished, replaced by a huge, dead log, and the disciples all turned into logs of various sizes too, strewn across the bamboo forest.
Liu Chuanfeng ordered with his soul sense, “Hide your aura as much as possible. Don’t let the moon demon discover us!”
“Umm, master, aren’t we going to face the moon demon in a battle to the death?”
“You can go. It’s not like I’m stopping you!”
After a moment of silence, someone said, “But master, this is a bamboo forest. Why would there be dead trees?”
“Shut up! Your master has his own brilliant plan… Am I supposed to conjure bamboo this thick?”
Although he no longer worried about any punishment from the Marquis of Ruyi, even the Marquis of Ruyi was dead, so who could still stop the moon demon? Liu Zhangqing completely disregarded his identity and roared at Hua Chengzan, “Chengzan, go find ma’am Gu to slay the daemon!”
He made up his mind. He would never remain in a state of constant alarm and be some prefect anymore. Instead, he would be like Li Qingshan. He would find some remote dwelling to cultivate in seclusion.
“Yes, sir!” Hua Chengzan’s expression was mixed. Perhaps she had seen through Li Qingshan’s identity a long time ago, which was why she paid special attention to him. Why would she come and slay daemons?
However, he probably did not come to the academy to start a slaughter. Hua Chengzan only noticed daemon qi permeating the upper stream of the Lake of Dragons and Snakes before suddenly realising. Yes, he wants to refine the Lake of Dragons and Snakes.
On Benevolence island, Ru Xin crossed her arms in relief. Sure enough, this guy truly would not die so easily.
“Moon demon, didn’t you say you want to coexist with us in peace? Why have you gone back on your word? Don’t you know that the Academy of the Hundred Schools is the foundation of the Great Xia empire? Don’t you know about the consequences of attacking here?”
Liu Zhangqing unleash his talent of eloquence as he questioned loudly while hinting with threats, only in hopes that the moon demon would reconsider his actions.
Li Qingshan was scornful. Didn’t the White Lotus Mother almost do the same with you back then?
In the thick mist, a huge figure swum around. A strange fish lunged over viciously with its mouth filled with horrific teeth, but strangely enough, it did not give off the slightest hint of daemon qi.
Not only was entering the thick mist around the academy like a mortal entering dense, confusing mist, but it could also turn into a powerful mist beast. Even Foundation Establishment cultivators would suffer when they faced it.
Li Qingshan recalled when he first entered the academy, he had once seen this fish’s figure. Back then, he found the strange fish to be so colossal, radiating with a terrifying aura.
Now, he casually gripped the strange fish like he had caught a dog. He allowed the strange fish to struggle as much as it wanted, but it could not break free. Afterwards, he clenched his hand and crushed it.
The monster dispersed as mist before reassembling as a long snake that coiled around him.
Li Qingshan’s body shuddered, unleashing the power of tremors. The Lake of Dragons and Snakes around him seemed to be ripped apart. It surged violently. The snake dispersed and did not condense again. Even the mist that surrounded the academy all year round began to scatter gradually.
He arrived before the Formation of Dragons and Snakes and said with his metallic voice, “Open the formation! I’ll leave as soon as I refine the Lake of Dragons and Snakes!”
“T- that’s impossible, unless you-”
Before Liu Zhangqing could even finish, Li Qingshan had already thrown a punch.
Rings of light surged into the surroundings in the sky, away from Li Qingshan’s fist.
The crucial points on the various islands erupted with light, supporting the Formation of Dragons and Snakes and fending off Li Qingshan’s terrifying power. The formation constantly twisted.
“That’s impossible!” Liu Zhangqiong widened his eyes, filled with fear. Ever since the White Lotus cult infiltrated, the academy had reinforced the Formation of Dragons and Snakes. How could it be pushed so far with brute force alone?
A crack appeared on the Formation of Dragons and Snakes. Liu Zhangqing had already become completely speechless. When he considered the fate awaiting him for rejecting the moon demon once he breached the formation, he could not help but gulp.
“Hold on! Shut up! I can open the formation as long as you promise you won’t harm the disciples of my academy…”
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
Li Qingshan completely ignored him. He threw consecutive punches and the crack constantly widened. The entire formation collapsed.
Hmph, I might not be able to shatter space, but that doesn’t mean I can’t shatter your puny formation!
Li Qingshan strode towards Contention island and glanced at Cloudwisp island in the process. With how sharp his eyesight was, he spotted the contrasting dead logs in a single glance. He could not help but be at a loss as for how to react. This bastard sure was a genius!
He held back his urge to throw a punch that way, turning around instead. He bent over and brought his face up to the tall building, asking Liu Zhangqing, “Is there anything else you want to say?”
Liu Zhangqing shook his head. Li Qingshan left as soon as he refined the Lake of Dragons and Snakes. He had yet to even open the Golden Core cultivators’ hundred treasures pouches he had obtained. The academy truly did not possess anything that could interest him anymore.
However, it was still not enough. If he wanted to suppress the ox demon, he needed even more and even vaster expanses of water.
Li Qingshan directed his gaze to the end of the Clear river.
“Piss off, Northmoon. This is already beyond Lolth’s territory!”
Above the marsh that the waters of the Clear river flowed into, Li Qingshan was constantly devouring and refining water when a bald, naked man leapt out of the marsh. He was sturdy, standing over three meters tall as his entire body rippled with muscles. He was like a bodybuilder.
Daemon qi surged from his body, on par with Lolth’s. He was actually a Daemon Commander too.
Li Qingshan had never thought the ones obstructing his plan to refine water would not be humans, but a daemon, and a powerful Daemon Commander at that.
Within the territory of the Ruyi commandery, Lolth was obviously not alone as a Daemon Commander. Otherwise, with how many Golden Core cultivators there were in the Ruyi commandery, they would have dealt with her a long time ago. The power of the daemons did pale slightly in comparison to the humans, but the difference was limited.
Lolth’s territory roughly spanned the region underneath the fifteen hundred kilometers of the Clear River province. The special characteristic of her territory was that it was not particularly large in area, but it reached very deep into the earth. It was equivalent to more than ten Clear River provinces.
Other regions obviously had other Daemon Commanders, and they also covered a territory more than ten Clear River prefectures.
In reality, because of her identity as a carapaced Daemon General, Lolth’s body was much tougher than regular Daemon Generals, and her three innate abilities covered both offence and defence flawlessly, even propelling her ability to fight and kill to the limit. As a result, her territory was relatively larger.
“You know me?” Li Qingshan was confused.
“I’ve obviously heard about the strongest Daemon General beneath Lolth. However, no matter how powerful a Daemon General is, they’re still a Daemon General. It’s not too late for you to piss off right now, or I’ll teach you a thorough lesson and have you understand what your identity is!”
The Daemon Commander brought his hands together and closed them viciously. His muscles popped even more as he revealed a cruel expression.