Chapter 558 – Above the Marsh
The rain fell thick and fast. Li Qingshan gazed at the marsh that was even larger than Moon Court lake in the distance as the bodies of water reflected the dark clouds in the sky.
Overall, it was a little more shallow, but its advantage was its vast area. If he could refine it, then the benefits he would receive might even exceed the Clear river. Perhaps he would be able to accumulate enough power to suppress the ox demon.
“Is this marsh your territory?”
Li Qingshan reeled in his gaze, directing it at the burly Daemon Commander before him. He refused to believe any Daemon Commander was bold enough to move around on the surface. The Ruyi commandery neighboured the Dragon province, which was the nucleus that ruled over the Great Xia empire. It was not a place remote like the Mist province.
The burly Daemon Commander bellowed, giving no explanation. How dare a measly Daemon General question him!
At the same time, he opened his mouth to an unbelievable degree and spat out a half-transparent gas. It rapidly moved through the air, stretching into an oval as it flew towards Li Qingshan.
Li Qingshan raised his hand, spread his fingers, and grabbed the gas. He felt a tremendous force applied to his palm, actually causing it to ache slightly. “You really are a Daemon Commander. All of you are quite capable.”
“That’s impossible!” The Daemon Commander’s eyes popped out all of a sudden. The gas was one of his innate abilities. It was so powerful that even Daemon Commanders dared not receive it directly, yet this Northmoon had managed to block it with a single hand.
He caused Li Qingshan quite the surprise. “There’s no need for you to respond as exaggeratedly as a cartoon character!”
The Daemon Commander had no idea what he was saying. The gas pushed hard, but it refused to budge anymore. He suddenly sneered, and the gas distorted violently.
Li Qingshan felt that an explosive power was about to erupt in his hand. He suppressed it momentarily with the spirit turtle, tossing it behind him casually.
With a great rumble, a huge pit was created in the marsh from the blast. The fierce wind surged like a typhoon, and muddy water shot off like bullets.
A tree became riddled with holes before being uprooted by the fierce wind. It flew into the air, rushing past Li Qingshan.
Li Qingshan patted his hands and continued with the topic from earlier. “Since this territory isn’t yours, it’s mine. Please piss off, alright?”
“I’ve changed my mind. You better stay here so Lolth can offer up a piece of territory to pay off your ransom!”
The Daemon Commander immediately flew into a rage. He leapt up with his two feet, slamming towards Li Qingshan.
No different from before, Li Qingshan simply raised a hand like normal.
The Daemon Commander opened his great mouth and spat out balls of gas again and again, but they all followed different trajectories, flying randomly through the air.
Li Qingshan became completely surrounded by the gas.
Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!
When the gas exploded, the Daemon Commander rushed into the centre of the explosion against the wind with a sneer, only to see Li Qingshan maintaining the same posture as before. His arm was raised and his scarlet hair fluttered about. While his body was riddled with many wounds, it was nothing compared to how tough a daemon’s body was.
After breaking through to the fifth layer of the ox demon, his innate abilities were not the only things that had strengthened. His ox hide had truly become much tougher than before. For the first time, it had surpassed the Spirit Turtle’s Profound Shell, becoming his strongest defence.
The Daemon Commander’s eyes suddenly popped out again. He felt like the battle was going extremely badly. He wanted to halt himself, but there was a flash of scarlet and it arrived before him, only inches away. A hand pressed down on his huge, bald head as an overwhelming and terrifying power was applied down.
“I said to stop behaving like a cartoon character! If you make me laugh while fighting, what am I supposed to do if I ruin the atmosphere?”
Li Qingshan roared. He gripped the Daemon Commander’s bald head and spun around three times in the air before throwing him at the ground.
With a boom, the Daemon Commander was thrown deep into the marsh.
The marsh suddenly swelled. Something seemed to be rapidly growing beneath the marsh, reaching the size of a hill.
A pair of eyes the size of ponds bulged out, lifting up the mud. It opened its fissure-like mouth and let out a thunderous cry.
Li Qingshan exhaled. “Looks like it’s my mistake.”
Within the drizzling rain, a small village sat peacefully between two mountains. The chaotic sound of galloping hooves broke the peace. A group of bandits arrived in the valley and the only one-eyed rider drew his blade and pointed it at the village.
“Brothers, you wanna do this?”
“We do! We do! We do!” the mountain bandits called out together.
“Steal money, steal food, steal women! We’ll kill anyone who blocks our way!” the bandit leader called out as his horse reared.
“Kill them all! Kill them all!”
At this moment, there was a rustle in the bushes. The bandit leader’s ears caught the rustle, and he called out, “Who’s there!” He swung his hand and a caltrop flew out. He was a master of the jianghu who used throwing knives.
Clang! The caltrop seemed to strike something, flying back out of the bush. The mountain bandits huddled over and swung their weapons wildly. The bush collapsed, but no one was there.
“Hmm? What’s this? It seems like a letter!”
A short, small bandit knelt on the ground and blinked his eyes. Sure enough, a letter laid on the grass. They had no idea what kind of paper it was, as it remained dry even in the rain. A series of words, “For Qingshan; Private and Confidential”, were written on it. He extended his hand to grab it and the letter moved, and it moved extremely quickly.
Only then did the mountain bandits notice what was beneath the letter.
A skeleton the size of an index finger held the letter. It seemed rather hideous, but with how small it was, there was nothing frightening about it.
“What is this strange thing!?” the bandits called out.
“It might be a treasure! Capture it!” the bandit leader ordered.
The skeleton turned into a streak of white light and vanished. The short bandits suddenly froze up and a bloody hole appeared on his forehead. What spurted out was neither blood or brains, but white flames.
Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! The white light shot through the bushes and the bandits froze up one by one.
Within the whinnying sound of a horse, the bandit leader held the reins and slowly backed away. He waved his blade around madly, only to see the tiny skeleton stop right before him.
“This one has offended the great immortal! Even death cannot atone my offence! Please punish me, great immortal!”
The bandit leader fell off his horse with a thump. He knelt on the ground and bowed his head constantly.
The skeleton began to swell, becoming a Skeleton Demon several meters tall. It held the bandit leader in its hand with a strange cackle and did not refine him with the Samādhi Flames of White Bone, shoving him into its mouth instead. It chewed with a series of crick-cracks, sputtering blood everywhere.
“Aaaaaaaargh! Aaaaaaaaaaargh!” The shriek alarmed the tiny village between the mountains.
As it was feasting, the Skeleton Demon’s head tilted and fell to the ground heavily as if a huge, invisible hand had flicked its head.
The Skeleton Demon climbed back up. Its head spun around a few times and it rapidly shrank, turning back to the size of an index finger. It picked up the letter and dove into the bushes.
Xiao An gently brought her thumb and middle finger together. Her hand resembled a lotus flower as she sat in the main hall of the Anāsravāṃ temple, gazing at the statue of buddha while listening quietly to the bells. Hidden within her sleeve, the string of shiny, white prayer beads on her wrist was missing a bead.
Once it got too far, it would take her even more effort to control the Skull Prayer Beads. However, with the Skeleton Demon’s strength, delivering a letter was nothing difficult.
After recovering her past memories, her thoughts had become even more nimble. In particular, she understood the codes of conduct much better, but with it came many distracting thoughts and mental afflictions.
In terms of “the ability to comprehend”, she instead paled in comparison to the old Xiao An now. Although she had been rather muddle-headed, the pureness of her thoughts were better for comprehension than her newfound cleverness and sensibility.
She had come before the buddha to purge the cleverness and sensibility and consolidate her will to destroy buddhism.
She did not want to be her past self. She wanted to forget her past name and only be his Xiao An.
However, she was lacking something for the second layer of the Path of White Bone and Great Beauty, preventing her from breaking through. She needed an even deeper comprehension of the buddhist dharma.
Xiao An murmured to herself, “The Chan Monastery of Deva-Nāga.”
A huge bullfrog had flipped over, lying on the marsh with its white belly up as if it were a lone island in the endless swamp.
Li Qingshan laid on the lone island, basking in the sun as he gradually recovered his daemon qi.
The bullfrog Daemon Commander was a little weaker than the Spider Queen, but he did have an innate ability that could reflect foreign powers. It took him quite the effort to deal with him.
The bush rustled, and the Skeleton Demon leapt out, flying over to him.
“Hmm?” Li Qingshan cleared away his messy, scarlet hair to the back of his head and accepted the letter from the Skeleton Demon. Looking at the words, he recognised them. “Qiongzhi!”
He immediately opened and read it carefully. His mood gradually grew heavier.
The letter was not long, but it was written in bits and pieces. There were traces of tears at the bottom. He reached the last sentence.
“Qingshan, I really want to see you!”
Li Qingshan blanked out for a moment. He felt rather ashamed inside. He had underestimated this uncle Han’s position in Han Qiongzhi’s heart.
His parents had died long ago, and he had grown up in loneliness. He had never experienced any so-called “family affection” from his elder brother and sister-in-law. Underestimating the weight of those two words was unavoidable.
He stood up and imagined her teary, sorrowful face. He was tempted to rush to the Ruyi commandery immediately and stand by her side, but when he looked at himself, all he could do was let out a long sigh. Right now, he could not even suppress his daemon qi. Thinking up to there, he suddenly made up his mind. His gaze became resolute.
The Skeleton Demon circled around the huge bullfrog as the fire in its eyes shone brightly. It was very interested in such a large chunk of quality flesh. Finally, it could not help itself anymore and swelled to several meters tall, biting down viciously.
“Croak!” The bullfrog let out a frightful cry and leapt several dozen meters into the air, fleeing into the distance in a panic.
Just when the Skeleton Demon wanted to chase after him, Li Qingshan grabbed its neck and shoved the letter back into its hands.
He gazed into the horizon and said to himself, “I’ll rush over as soon as I can. Wait for me!”
In the Umbral Yin sect, the Dark Queen took out the souls she had captured. She ignored the pleas and curses from the Marquis of Ruyi and everyone else. They had plenty to enjoy later.
This was probably the misfortune of cultivators. If mortals died, their souls would return to saṃsāra, which instead made them almost immortal.
Cultivators seemed to possess lengthy lives, but that was only if they died from old age. If they were killed in battle, their souls might not necessarily have the opportunity to return to saṃsāra.
If their cultivations were higher, then it also meant the cultivations of the cultivators that killed them were higher too. Their souls were basically unable to escape the fate of being captured and killed. This was the so-called true destruction, dooming them eternally.
The Dark Queen was slightly surprised. She noticed that one was missing. She rubbed her forehead and remembered that final spear thrust. “Did his soul escape?”