“How can I not drink if it’s a punishment from your majesty?”
Mister Ram smiled as he drank a cup by himself. He was filled with sighs. Back then in the Feilian hall of the Cloud Sail sect, Li Qingshan had almost been caught up in an encirclement just for his seat, and it was not even that great of a seat. Right now, they had offered him the seat of honour in a perfectly justifiable fashion, giving him the treatment of an honoured guest, where even the master of the sword pavilion and the Wind Gale King sat beneath him, but he did not even show up. The matters of the world sure were unpredictable, with the new replacing the old!
Gong Yuan smiled indifferently, except she felt like her arrangements made perfect sense. She was not trying to fawn over Li Qingshan. Since it was a celebratory banquet, then the order of seating obviously depended on contribution. Let alone everything else he had done, just ordering the Myriad Poison Ancestor to detonate himself earned him something like this.
Then she considered whether she should pay a visit to Fire Melt mountain after the banquet and question him about why he had stood them up, as well as discuss some major matters in the process. However, she dismissed that thought as soon as it occurred to her. If she did that, wouldn’t she be actually fawning over him?
Gong Yuan was not the only one who was conflicted. Seeing the empty seat, the Divine Nun of the South Sea also felt lost. Following the battle on Fire Melt mountain, she had returned to her dwelling to recuperate. Originally, she had been anticipating seeing Xiao An again and taking her to wander the south so that she could properly observe her and see whether she could actually inherit her legacy or not. She wanted to see if Xiao An was worth paying a visit to the Chan Monastery of Deva-Nāga for, but she never expected Xiao An to not show up.
So be it. You can say we’re not destined! However, after considering it a bit more, she thought, Since I can’t get her to come, then I’ll go to her. How can I give up so easily?
As a result, she stood up and took her leave. She thanked and declined them when Gong Yuan and the others urged her to stay, leaving the Crystal palace for Fire Melt mountain.
She followed the trail left behind by the storm. By dusk, she had arrived at Fire Melt mountain yet again. She could still vividly recall the horrific battle. The setting sun enveloped the volcanic chain, turning them extremely red and bright, but also added a hint of tranquility in the process.
Beneath the divine wutong tree, Xiao An suddenly sensed her. She opened her eyes and went up to receive her.
She bowed politely. “Welcome, senior. I’ve failed to welcome you from afar, so please come in and have a seat.”
“Don’t worry about inviting me in. I’ve come this time because I want to ask if you’re willing to wander the South sea with me?” the Divine Nun of the South Sea asked slightly eagerly.
“I am touched by senior’s kindness.” Xiao An glanced at the divine wutong tree in the volcanic crater from the corner of her eye. She was reluctant to leave him, but he had to balance water and fire, break through to the fourth layer of the phoenix, and hatch the phoenix’s embryo during secluded cultivation this time. It would take a decade at the very least for him to complete these three tasks. His cultivation would definitely increase qualitatively, and he might even come close to the realm of Daemon Kings. If she still did not put in some effort, she would actually fall far behind, so she made her decision.
“Alright, let’s set off right now.” The Divine Nun of the South Sea smiled.
“Please wait a moment, senior. I need to return and hand off some matters.” Xiao An returned to the phoenix’s nest, only to see that Li Qingshan was still focusing on balancing fire and water, so she told Feng Xiwu a few things for him to pass onto Li Qingshan. With that, she left Fire Melt mountain and began travelling with the Divine Nun of the South Sea.
The school of vinaya was extensive and profound, on par with the school of chan. It would bring great benefit to the Path of White Bone and Great Beauty, but its essence definitely could not be comprehended in a short amount of time. It was perfect for her to use this opportunity to deepen her studies.
She was not an actual disciple of the nun, and the Divine Nun of the South Sea could not teach the divine arts and secret techniques of her sect to a disciple from the school of chan, but Xiao An had never been interested in these cultivation methods in the first place. Instead, she had been interested in the dharma and classics of the school of vinaya, which obviously was not forbidden knowledge to her. It only left the Divine Nun of the South Sea with an even more favourable impression of her.
At the end of the day, the strong were still revered in the cultivation community. Even buddhist disciples who had spent their childhood as monks might end up placing more focus on cultivation methods, neglecting the vast and extensive buddhist scriptures. In the Divine Nun of the South Sea’s eyes, that was neglecting the essentials and becoming distracted by trifles. On top of that, “One Will” was so talented, yet she was not impulsive and rash at all, which was far too rare.
The two of them wandered everywhere, braving the wind and rain. They spent most of their time in the secular world, learning all about mortal affairs.
Xiao An came to a realisation. It was no wonder that monks liked to wander. The greatest purpose of buddhism was to relieve all creatures of torment. If there were no living creatures, then what was there to relieve? If she spent her time away from the secular world, cultivating and meditating alone, that could only be considered as Hīnayāna, or lesser buddhism. It could not be regarded as Mahāyāna, or greater buddhism. Even the creator of the Path of White Bone and Great Beauty, the White Bone Bodhisattva, had quite an interest in relieving all creatures of torment, except the method used was a little “special”.
Compared to the school of chan’s root of wisdom that allowed one to find their true self, the school of vinaya had a much more grounded spirit, which allowed Xiao An to benefit tremendously. The Divine Nun of the South Sea took an even greater liking towards this “disciple” who was impervious to emotions, never grumbled, and arduously focused on the buddhist dharma.
Gradually, a new legend arose on the shore of the South sea, which had to do with the beautiful heavenly maiden by the Divine Nun of the South Sea’s side…
At the same time, the turmoil of the world was increasing. The scales of battle were rapidly growing, and the flames of war began to set various regions of the nine provinces alight. The Mist province and the Green province already had their swords drawn. It had not devolved into a full-scale war just yet, but the deaths of great cultivators was no longer shocking news. It drew away everyone’s attention, making them forget about Fire Melt mountain.
In the phoenix’s nest, Li Qingshan completely forgot about the outside world. In his sea of consciousness, the spirit turtle submerged and the phoenix flew. Their glow melded together, constantly balancing and merging…
After who knew how long, Li Qingshan shuddered, and the two colours of light, red and blue, merged together. He opened his eyes and could not help but exhale deeply. He was overjoyed.
Alright, at least all this time I’ve spent cultivating arduously hasn’t gone to waste. I’ve finally taken another step forward and obtained the third innate ability of the phoenix.
And sure enough, it was still the Phoenix’s Nirvāṇa. In other words, he had the opportunity to be reborn three times. If he used it in battle, he could immediately come back alive twice after being killed.
“Hah, even if I want to die, it won’t be that easy now! Xiao An, Xiao An!” Li Qingshan looked around, but Xiao An was nowhere to be seen.
“Congratulations. Your cultivation has progressed yet again. You can actually balance two powerful bloodlines that are completely opposite in nature? Your secrets sure are deep!” Feng Xiwu’s figure appeared. He had been observing Li Qingshan the entire time, so he obviously could sense the change in his aura.
“My friend Feng, how long did I take? Where is Xiao An?”
“A little over two years. Xiao An has ventured out to wander with the Divine Nun of the South Sea. She returned a few times, but you were cultivating, so she did not disturb you.”
“I see. Cultivation sure kills time!” Li Qingshan nodded. She did like cultivating in seclusion together, but increasing her cultivation was without a doubt a higher priority, which was why he fully supported her decision to go to the Chan Monastery of Deva-Nāga. The environment on Fire Melt mountain was not particularly suitable for her cultivation. It was for the best that she had found a direction she could advance in.
“It’s just two years. What’s that supposed to be? Though, you can focus on hatching the phoenix’s embryo now, can’t you? My friend Li!” Feng Xiwu also made a joke as an extremely rare occasion. His attitude was much gentler too, no longer so unsociable.
“Sure, no problem. Please continue assisting me!” Li Qingshan did feel slightly tired, but he did not waste any time at all. He was not a slow coach like Feng Xiwu. If he did not advance valiantly, how was he supposed to make it in time for his promise beyond the Nine Heavens?
Of course, advancing boldly was not running around rashly. Everything progressed according to the plan he had come up with. After balancing fire and water, he would clear away the next obstacles for his cultivation. He could focus on pushing the Phoenix’s Scripture of Nirvāṇa to the fourth layer.
This process could be carried out with hatching the phoenix’s embryo. By setting each other off, perhaps it would lead to wondrous effects. It was all thanks to the fact that Feng Xiwu was a slow coach, still patient even after two years. That was the only reason why he could maintain such a steady pace.
“Please don’t disappoint me!” Feng Xiwu said sternly.
“Don’t worry, my friend. The time for your efforts to pay off is here!”
Li Qingshan was aware that if he could not uphold his promise and hatch the phoenix’s embryo, then not only would the bit of friendship they built up vanish, but they might even become enemies. No one wanted to face a hysterical Daemon King.
Feng Xiwu said, “Let’s hope so. Even to me, ten thousand years have been just too long!”
Li Qingshan said nothing more. He shut his eyes again and picked up the phoenix’s embryo, circulating the Phoenix’s Scripture of Nirvāṇa as hard as he could, not just inside his own body, but also inside the phoenix’s embryo.
At this moment, the exquisite sound of a zither suddenly rang out by his ear.
Feng Xiwu sat down near him, and a ziter and zither stand appeared before him. The zither music emerged from his fingertips, which was almost divine, something that Li Qingshan had never heard. He was unable to pinpoint its exact wonders, but it did make him feel tranquil at heart, and it did reduce his exhaustion. His cultivation method flowed smoother than ever.
He said in praise, “Nice zither!”
Feng Xiwu said without even looking up, “Don’t talk. Focus. This isn’t for you, or wouldn’t I just be wasting it on you?”
“It’s not for me? Who else can it be for… Alright!” Li Qingshan suddenly realised that the phoenix’s embryo in his arms was the true audience, which made him smile wryly. Was this supposed to be the legendary antenatal training?
“The malice on you is still too strong, and your vulgarity is difficult to eliminate. It’ll probably influence the young phoenix, so it needs to be cleansed by the music first!”
Li Qingshan snickered. He could not be bothered with retorting. Listening to the music, his mind gradually sank deeper.
Time zipped by. The zither music came and went.
During that time, Xiao An had returned several more times, spending a few days with Li Qingshan before setting off again.
One year, two years, three years, four years…
The aura that Li Qingshan gave off became stronger and stronger, and the glow from the phoenix’s embryo became brighter and brighter too. Every single pattern seemed like it had been forged from the sun.
One day, an extremely weak consciousness suddenly appeared in the centre of the phoenix’s embryo, even more scorching than fire and even more resplendent than light.
“I got it! I got it!” Li Qingshan’s cries of joy interrupted the zither music.
Feng Xiwu trembled and almost snapped a string. “You got it?”
“Come and take a look!”
Before he had even finished what he was saying, Feng Xiwu approached him with a flash and placed his hand on the phoenix’s embryo. He also sensed the birth of the consciousness, and his expression immediately became overwhelmed with emotion. He exclaimed thrice in joy.
Although it was still very far away from actually taking shape and hatching, this was without a doubt a milestone. At least it had proven that Li Qingshan was not boasting and lying.
“How’s that? I wasn’t lying to you, was I?” Li Qingshan said.
“Qingshan, you are truly a man of trust! Don’t stop! Keep going! I’ll do everything I can to help you!”
Releases are back to normal. 2 chapters a day.