Chapter 594 – Banquet (Four)
E Dan grabbed Li Qingshan’s collar with one hand and threw a punch at his face. If the punch landed, then he would definitely die on the spot with his brains splattering everywhere.
Bang! Fierce winds surged through the surroundings, ruffling everyone’s clothes.
“Qingshan!” Han Qiongzhi cried out.
The fist stopped firmly before Li Qingshan, blasting aside the air.
Li Qingshan showed no fear, and his sneer instead became heavier. E Dan’s fist trembled as veins bulged on his forehead as if he could follow through with the punch at any time.
The scholar with the black feather fan suddenly spoke up. Perhaps this kid was a sacrificial pawn that Gu Yanying had specially found for this. If he actually lost his temper and killed a Hawkwolf guard on the spot, the situation would become extremely disadvantageous.
E Dan slowly let go of Li Qingshan’s collar and said viciously, “Qing Shan. That’s your name. I’ve remembered it!”
“Li Qingshan,” Li Qingshan corrected him with a smile as he thought, If I don’t butcher a mongrel like you in the future, I’ll write my surname backwards.
The Hawkwolf guards all looked at his proud figure. There was both admiration and plenty of pity in their eyes. They no longer felt so dissatisfied with him taking the secondary seat.
Just as E Dan had said, Gu Yanying was strong, but she could not protect a person forever. Especially during clashes among great organisations, a Foundation Establishment cultivator that became involved could be utterly crushed from the slightest carelessness. Provoking the strong like this was not a very clever decision. In the future, if an opportunity presented itself to E Dan, he would kill him in a single strike. As long as he left no evidence behind, no one could do anything to E Dan.
Li Qingshan returned to his seat and nodded at Han Qiongzhi, expressing that she did not have to worry.
He had not decided to do this completely on a whim or to play the hero. Gu Yanying had helped him launder all the resources he had accumulated for free, so he obviously had to pay her back, standing up for her and demonstrating his value.
Si Qing said, “Let’s cut the talk and get down to the business. Yanying, have you chosen your fighters?”
“You can go!” Gu Yanying waved her hand with a smile, and Qiu Haitang bowed to take her leave before glancing at Li Qingshan deeply. She said with her soul sense, “Thank you for your assistance, commander Li. Once we return to the Clear River prefecture, I will definitely properly thank you in the Parlour of Clouds and Rain.”
The rash kid from the country of the past had already become a man of indomitable spirit in the blink of an eye, but he was just the same as before, standing tall and proud, challenging the strong fearlessly.
Li Qingshan nodded with a smile before casting his gaze towards Si Qing. He was curious what he meant by “fighter”. The bitter battle that Gu Yanying had mentioned was about to show itself.
“Of course!” Gu Yanying smiled as she clapped her hands gently. “Qian Rongzhi, Yan Xixin, please come to the front.” She paused before she said, “Li Qingshan, you can wait for now!”
Li Qingshan only heard a noise from behind, and a late Foundation Establishment White Wolf guard stood up and made his way to the front. His cultivation must have been towards the apex among White Wolf guards.
Qian Rongzhi emerged from the corner, but she left everyone astounded. Li Qingshan was still at mid Foundation Establishment after all, but she was only at early Foundation Establishment. Without any impressive identities or backgrounds, it had already been very startling that she had been directly promoted to White Wolf guard, yet she had been specially chosen by Gu Yanying now.
Li Qingshan noticed how the two of them were carrying at least two arcane artifacts on them each. If it were only the White Wolf guard known as Yan Xixin, then so be it, but it was impossible for Qian Rongzhi to be that wealthy. Even if she did possess such wealth, she would never show it considering the type of person she was. They had probably been prepared for them by Gu Yanying too so that they could handle the bitter battle tonight.
As for Si Qing’s side, three people stood forward too. One was an old man with peppered hair in a long gown, one was a bare-chested, burly man riddled in scars, and the last one was a small, short dwarf who resembled a monkey.
The three of them were all at late Foundation Establishment, and they were all geared with arcane artifacts. Although they remained silent, Li Qingshan could sense a faint aura of murderousness coiling around them. He was extremely familiar with this feeling.
Li Qingshan thought, These three people have probably all gone through a myriad of battles and killed countless people. Only by undertaking countless battles to the death can you develop a bearing like that. And, they’re armed with arcane artifacts, so they’re definitely well beyond what regular Foundation Establishment cultivators can handle. However, with how peaceful the world has been, how did they manage to develop something like this?
“The three of them are my fighters. I think I have far too great of an advantage over you. Yanying, were you intending to go easy on me?” Si Qing smiled like victory was within his grasps.
Gu Yanying said, “Cut the nonsense. If you like to speak so much, then why don’t you tell us the rules of this battle? Are we going with the convention of a revolving team battle?”
Si Qing seemed extremely interested. Perhaps due to drinking alcohol, his face glowed red. It was completely opposite to the bored demeanour he had when watching the performance earlier. There was basically a hint of fanaticism.
“Most of the people over there should be from the Green province, so you might not understand the traditions of our Dragon province too well. Allow me to explain. The customs and culture of the Dragon province are oriented towards battle and revere warriors. Even the games played among children involve clashing with wooden swords, and these swords are replaced with real swords when they grow older. Basically everyone practises martials arts, and anyone with some talent will enrol in the Academy of the Hundred Schools and focus on cultivation.”
Li Qingshan had heard about it too. In the Dragon province, cultivation methods were extremely widespread. Regular people could come into contact with Qi Practitioner cultivation methods with ease, and the number of cultivators they possessed were much higher than the eight other provinces. Under these circumstances, powerful figures obviously rose up in great numbers.
Centred around the imperial clan of Great Xia, all official positions, whether civil or military, were occupied by cultivators, while esteemed positions like the three ducal ministers, the nine ministers, and the six ministries were all held by great cultivators of the third heavenly tribulation. However, Li Qingshan had no idea why Si Qing was saying all this. Was he showing off the strength of the Great Xia empire?
Si Qing paced around the centre of the hall and said loudly with his voice that was shrill like a jackal’s, “As a person of the Dragon province, do you know what we normally love the most? It’s attending arenas to watch fighters kill each other!”
Basically all the cities in the Dragon province, whether big or small, had arenas. Meanwhile, those who took part in these battles in the arena, also known as duels, were called “fighters”. They could range from regular martial artists pitted against bears and tigers while wielding weapons to cultivators battling it out with arcane or spiritual artifacts.
The arena was always in a great commotion. Under the cheers of thousands of people, people died, and the sand became splattered with blood every moment of the day. Even brothels and facilities of entertainment like the Parlour of Clouds and Rain were unable to rival the popularity of arenas.
Li Qingshan gazed at the three people there and said with his soul sense, “Commander Gu, so this is the bitter battle you speak of!” He felt rather unhappy. Although he was quite battle-hungry, he refused to serve as the pastime of “higher people” like fighting cocks and dogs.
“Do you know how the princes and princesses of the imperial clan come about?” Gu Yanying smiled.
“They were obviously born from the emperor and his consorts.”
“They’re not. The emperor hasn’t even seen most of the present princes and princesses in the very beginning until the day they became princes and princesses.”
“What’s this all about?”
“In the Great Xia empire, any child with the bloodline of the imperial clan has the right to become a prince or princess.”
“Then how many princes and princesses do they have to confer?” Li Qingshan asked in surprise. Great Xia had been around for several millennia, constantly propagating and widening their family tree. There were probably millions or even tens of millions of people with the bloodline of the imperial clan now.
“If they want to become princes or princesses, all they have to do is register, and they will receive the best guidance from the imperial court and be able to use the resources of the imperial clan. They’re arranged to fight in a duel every once in a while. Less than a tenth actually become princes and princesses in the end.”
“Don’t tell me the other ninety percent are…”
“Dead. They either walk out in infinite glory, or they’re carried out. They won’t even have the right to be buried in the imperial tomb. The chances of survival are far too low, so the number of people who register aren’t as high as you imagine it to be, but of course, it’s not low either. The Si family has never lacked geniuses.”
Li Qingshan was astounded. The way they groomed princes and princesses was basically like how they would nurture gu. It was extremely brutal. Only true geniuses would be confident enough to take part in such an elimination, and those who survive in the end would definitely be geniuses among geniuses.
Right from the beginning, he felt Si Qing was much more difficult to deal with than the Marquis of Ruyi Jiang Fu, but he could not help but raise his guard a little more now. He dared not look down on him or be careless at all anymore. And, he also understood what Gu Yanying meant by “Thirteen” and “Eleven” earlier. Clearly, that was not a ranking based on age, but on strength.
Even among the princes and princesses, Si Qing was outstanding. The difficulty in becoming a prince or princess was high, but they would receive the support of the entire imperial clan upon succeeding, so it would not be strange at all if they possessed powerful cultivation methods or even arcane treasures.
His true strength had probably exceeded regular Golden Core cultivators. Even if he was like the Dark Queen, possessing methods to challenge Soul Nascence cultivators, it would not be strange at all. This was also the only way for a Golden Core cultivator to serve him willingly as a caretaker.
Li Qingshan glanced at Si Bao in front of him again. She obviously became a princess in the same manner, and with how she was bold enough to stand up to Si Qing, she must have been extremely powerful as well. He truly had not thought of that.
He also understood what Gu Yanying was saying. Duels were not merely bloody games to serve as pastimes. Even the emperor of Great Xia had probably undertaken countless duels before ascending to the throne.
Gu Yanying said, “In the Dragon province, duels are a rather sacred thing. There are some rules about duels that even exceed the law. Even the emperor cannot change them without good reason. Pay close attention. If you break them, even I will struggle to help you.”
Li Qingshan nodded and listened quietly to Si Qing.
In the cultivation world, duels were not a form of low-level entertainment to numb citizens or comfort nobles who were in search of bloodiness and excitement. At the same time, fighters were not slaves or some kind of special, lowly existence who used their lives to fulfill the deviant interests of higher people either.
Basically every cultivator of the Dragon province had participated in duels with others as fighters. In many places, especially in large clans, the coming-of-age ceremony for their children would often be a duel, inviting all of their friends and family to serve as witnesses.
The children would have to personally kill a powerful wild beast or even a daemonic beast to prove that they had the right to adulthood. If they failed the challenge, then they were not adults. This would continue until they either succeeded or died in battle.
Si Long gave a vivid explanation about some traditions and rules regarding duels, and the Hawkwolf guards were all shocked by the sight he described. They were speechless.
Si Bao’s gaze drifted away. She remembered the foul air and sharp teeth that assaulted her face several years ago and subconsciously rubbed her right arm.
It was a daemonic beast several times larger than her with a smooth and slick hide. It studied her with its deep eyes while chewing her arm. Blood spilled out from the corners of its mouth, landing on the snowy, white ground.