Chapter 623 – The Lotus Falls
The brilliant sun shone high in the clear, bright sky.
In the Marquis of Ruyi’s estate, Si Qing stood on a thirty-meter-tall terrace, holding a cup of alcohol in one hand while resting the other hand on the railing, gazing into the distance.
Soaring Dragon ships levitated in the air, shooting over from the horizon as streaks of light.
At the entrance to the estate, there was an immense flow of people, all cultivators from various places in the Ruyi commandery. They had come to congratulate him on becoming the Marquis of Ruyi and to partake or spectate the upcoming Exhibition Matches of the Nine Prefectures.
Si Qing looked back and let out a long laugh with his jackal-like voice. “Thank you all for gathering here! Si Qing will drink a toast of respect!” He drank all of the alcohol in his cup.
A banquet had already been arranged on the terrace, with many cultivators seated. There were men and women, ascetic and secular cultivators. Every single one of them possessed an extraordinary bearing. There were both cultivators from the academy and cultivators from sects. To be seated there, there was only a single standard, which was they had to be Golden Core cultivators who had undergone the second heavenly tribulation.
Gu Yanying was also among them. She lifted up her cup and smiled. Si Bao ignored Si Qing and sat with her, asking about Qian Rongzhi, “How is she doing? Is she taking part in the Exhibition Matches of the Nine Prefectures?”
Everyone raised their cups, congratulating Si Qing once again.
Only then did Gu Yanying answer Si Bao. “Her? She’s currently cultivating!”
At this very moment, Qian Rongzhi rowed a skiff, causing ripples among the sea of flowers in the Waterside Pavilion of Listening Wind. The refreshing breeze in the air had the flowers bob up and down, permeating with fragrance. It seemed like paradise.
However, her face was not relaxed at all. As her gaze searched through the sea of flowers, she utterly cursed Gu Yanying inside.
All of this was because of what Gu Yanying had said before she left. “I want to drink lotus seed soup!”
As a result, Qian Rongzhi was forced to search through the sea of flowers. Originally, it was an extremely easy task with the lotus flowers that spanned as far as the eye could see, but the climate of this space had always been maintained to resemble spring or summer. Lotus flowers frequently bloomed but basically never withered away. Meanwhile, lotus seeds were things that only ripened after the lotus flowers had withered and fallen away during autumn or winter.
And, the sea of flowers was part-real, part-illusionary. Sometimes, when she saw a lotus flower, she would extend her hand over, only to find nothing. As a matter of fact, she could not even fly through the air and search with her soul sense. She was forced to row the boat and look for them slowly.
She had already searched for several hours, but she had not even found a single lotus seed. However, she could not simply give up either. During the past few days she spent in the Waterside Pavilion of Listening Wind, Gu Yanying had not given her any guidance with cultivation at all. Instead, she often ordered her to carry out various miscellaneous tasks such that she could not even carry on with her regular cultivation.
She basically seemed like she was intentionally using her as amusement, wanting to trap her here for the rest of her life as a slave and prevent her from rising up. If that were the case, she had to find a way to get out of here as soon as possible.
However, what Gu Yanying said in the end dismissed this thought of hers. “During the past few days, your behaviour has been satisfactory, so let’s just say this is your last test. If you can complete this task, then I’ll teach you the Illustrations of Naraka. If you can’t, then I’ll expel you, and you’ll be free to go wherever you want!”
As a result, all Qian Rongzhi could do was be patient and continue searching. Her mind gradually settled down, and the heavy smell of flowers seemed to pervade her body. The hell snake fell into a slumber again, no longer gleefully feasting on her pain.
She truly did not feel pain anymore. Not only the pain from the hell snake, but all of her worries, fury, envy, and hatred had settled down too. She had virtually already forgotten living in this world was such a relaxing and joyful matter.
She stood at the front of the boat in frustration and gazed back. The Waterside Pavilion of Listening Wind had already vanished. She had already become completely lost in the sea of flowers.
Her memories of the past flooded out in a continuous stream. Her mother washed the clothes nearby and warned. “Be careful!” She completely turned a deaf ear to her mother’s warnings and stared at the tiny fish in the clear, shallow stream, only to miss. Her father walked along the ridge in the fields, making his way home as he carried fish he had caught in the paddies while she skipped behind. The boy next door secretly brought her some crunchy candy for her to eat before even visiting her afterwards with a scrunched-up face of sadness…
Had these things really happened before? Then why had she forgotten about them?
She vaguely understood this was very much related to the sea of flowers, but were these memories all real? Or should she say, were they all merely illusions the strange sea of flowers created? She was uncertain, but her eyes did become slightly moist. She felt a strange sense of grief inside. The feeling was not painful. Instead, it was like the tears of happiness, bitter while sweet.
In a trance, she saw a lotus flower in the distance wither and fall away at a visible rate, turning into a lonely lotus pod in the blink of an eye. Even the verdant-green stalk yellowed and withered away as if it had already used up all of its life force during the lengthy flowering phase. Unable to support the weight of the lotus pod, there was a plop, and the lotus pod fell into the lakewater.
Qian Rongzhi could not afford to think too much anymore. She dove into the water to scoop up the lotus pod. Because of the countless lotus leaves, it was pitch-black in the water, and it was surprisingly deep. Lotus stalks extended throughout the pitch-black depths like an underwater forest.
However, they were unable to obstruct her vision. She saw exactly where the lotus pod had landed. Like a fish, she made her way around the stalks, extending her hand over to scoop it up. However, the moment she touched the mud, her body shuddered, and her pupils dilated.
Lotus stalks wormed out of the mud, extending and growing rapidly. The force was so great that it even lifted her upwards, bursting through the surface of the water and blooming into numerous flowers.
She seemed to understand something. As she sat on the nose of the boat, she closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath, letting the fragrance permeate her lungs.
Beside her, lotus flowers began to wither and fall away. She allowed the lotus pods to fall into the deep, dark water before extending out of the mud and blooming once again, multiplying and multiplying, filling the surface of the lake, clustering around the skiff, piling on top of one another, and completely swallowing her.
Vaguely, the sound of sniffling appeared before turning into hysterical, painful sobbing.
On the terrace, Gu Yanying sensed something, and her lips curled into a faint smile. At this very moment, a great gust of wind arrived on the terrace, making her clothes and long hair flutter. All the cultivators present, even including the buddhist monks, could not help but be touched by her beauty. They all secretly praised that she truly was the daughter of the Hawk God.
Si Qing said, “Yanying, I’ve heard lately that your subordinate, Li Qingshan, accomplished something great yet again. He flaunted his strength by killing three Foundation Establishment cultivators of the school of Painting.”
Gu Yanying nodded. “I’ve heard about it too, but apparently the three of them had arranged an ambush beforehand and wanted to catch him in a deathtrap, but they were not strong enough and were killed by him instead.”
Si Qing said, “Then you might as well have him explain everything clearly. This occurred in the Ruyi commandery. As the Marquis of Ruyi, I can’t just turn a blind eye to something like this.”
Gu Yanying exhaled. “Sure!” Afterwards, she said, “Li Qingshan, get over here! His highness the prince wishes to see you!” Her voice was not very loud, but it moved with the wind, reaching the ears of the cultivators, which made them all look at one another.
A while later, they did not see Li Qingshan appear. Jia Zhan said, “Looks like just the two of you are unable to demand his presence! Speaking of which, if he even refuses to show up on a day like today, that’ll be disrespectful of him.”
E Dan said, “I think he has already fled to avoid punishment because he knows he has already commited a great crime. Commander Gu, you better send out a warrant for his arrest right now!”
Before he could even finish, a streak of blue light shot over. Li Qingshan yelled, “You’re the one who has fled to avoid punishment. Your whole family has fled to avoid punishment!”