“If I couldn’t even tell that, then the five thousand years really would have been all for nothing.” The Great Banyan Tree King smiled.
“So what if you can tell? Am I supposed to die once I leave you?” Madam Vine sneered.
“This is my fault. You should have gone out for a stroll a long time ago. You’ll discover that the world is so vast that it’s nothing like five thousand years ago. I just happen to be the first tree you encountered.”
“No, it was fate!”
“Destiny? I’m confident that almost no one across the nine provinces can rival me when it comes to divination, but even I find fate to be unpredictable and ungraspable…”
“It’s fate!” Madam Vine said stubbornly, “It’s fate for you to want to kill me, and it’s also fate that I want to leave. I don’t need anyone’s care. I will walk my own path!”
As she said that, Towering city shook violently, and a great rumble rang out from below. The sun vines wrapped around the great banyan tree curled and coiled together, turning into a curvy streak of golden light in the end that entered madam Vine’s body. The sun vine flower on her head suddenly shone with resplendent light like a sun before slowly closing up and vanishing.
Plant daemons were not always incapable of movement. However, it was much more beneficial to cultivation if they remained in one place. After becoming a daemon, sun vines could still thrive even without continuing as parasites. It just came at a cost.
After completing the conversion of her form, madam Vine said resentfully, “Go be your god of the nine provinces, you damned old man!” With that, she shot off into the north as a streak of golden light.
The Great Banyan Tree King gazed into the distance. Only when madam Vine vanished into the horizon completely did he shut his eyes slowly.
Li Qingshan opened his mouth, but he had no idea what to say. He patted the Great Banyan Tree King on the shoulder. It made sense. It was already rare enough that he did not face any retribution after betraying her with such determination, so why would he be forgiven? The Great Banyan Tree King had truly changed his appearance for nothing.
“Please take good care of her.” The Great Banyan Tree King returned to his senses and sighed slightly.
“Don’t worry!” Li Qingshan felt like the Great Banyan Tree King and madam Vine’s positions had switched. On top of that, madam Vine was powerful even among Daemon Kings, so why would she need anyone to care for her? He really was caring too much.
“It’s getting late. You should set off soon.”
Li Qingshan said, “Farewell,” and spread his phoenix wings, flying off into the north under the glow of the setting sun. Xiao An and the little phoenix followed right behind him.
Along the way, Li Qingshan said to Xiao An, “You guessed wrong this time. Sure enough, she hasn’t forgiven him!”
“Do you think he said ‘just go with the flow, no need to be so insistent’ to you?” Xiao An gazed into the distant north.
“You mean…” Li Qingshan was taken aback.
“If I’ve guessed correctly, then madam Vine has travelled up north this time probably to find an opportunity to steal the Green Province cauldron.” Xiao An looked back and smiled.
“Don’t tell me she’s still trying to stop the tree king from becoming a god?” Li Qingshan said in surprise. That seemed to be the only logical explanation, but it also seemed a little strange.
“Since the tree king has already taken this step, he can’t turn back anymore, so how can she stop him?” Xiao An shook her head.
“You mean she’s doing it to help him?”
Li Qingshan found this simply unbelievable. Originally, he thought madam Vine was the staunchest objector to the Great Banyan Tree King becoming a god. How had she suddenly become a supporter after suffering a life-threatening strike from a sword? She was even going as far as to risk great danger to steal the Green Province cauldron.
“Because she still believes that this is fate!” Xiao An’s voice became distant.
“Heh, what fate? I think she’s just been blinded by lies,” Li Qingshan retorted with a snicker.
They travelled north until they arrived at the boundary between the two provinces.
Li Qingshan said quietly, “Green province, I’m back!”
The mountain range wrapped around a small city. The top of the city walls were firmly engraved with the words “Qingyang City”, except it had already become weathered. It seemed rather bleak under the illumination of the setting sun.
A locust landed on the word “City”. The setting sun dyed its unfeeling compound eyes red. It rested there for a while before flapping its wings and flying away again, merging with the swarm of insects in the sky.
“Sir, we better go. If we still don’t go, we’re not going to make it!” The sounds of frantic footsteps filled the district magistrate’s office. The advisor’s calls made everyone shiver.
“What’re you panicking for? It’s just some insects. Are they supposed to eat us?”
A plump figure turned around under the high-hanging plaque, staring at the advisor. He was dressed in a large, red set of official’s robes. He was the district magistrate of Qingyang, Ye Duanchuan. His beard was grizzled, and his face was covered in wrinkles, already quite old. However, through all the years he spent as an official, he had developed an air of prestige around him. He was no longer in a horrible position like when he first took office.
“Sir, please stop showing off. These locusts really do eat people! Ouch!”
A locust flew down from the sky full of insects outside and landed on the advisor’s neck. He let out a yelp and tried to catch it in a hurry, but it crawled onto his face.
Slap! Ye Dachuan swung his chubby hand and smacked the advisor across the face before patting him on the shoulder and wiping his hand on him in the process. “You fool! How could I have not made any arrangements?”
At this moment, a bell rang out somewhere in the city. Ye Duanhai beamed with joy and wrapped his face with a black cloth he had prepared already. He ordered loudly, “Go to the back and invite the madam and young miss over here. Forget about what you can’t carry! Set off immediately!”
Several kilometers away, in the Iron Fist school.
The Iron Lion, Liu Hong, pulled back his fist. He left a clear imprint on the great bell before him.
His beard was completely grey by now. Although he was already up in years, he only seemed even more energetic and hearty now. His first disciple, Wang Lei, said from behind him, “Your martial arts has improved yet again, master!”
“It’s all just because of the spiritual fruits from your junior brother!” Liu Hong shook his head and glanced at his fist. The innate realm truly was profound, but unfortunately, this was as far as he could go.
“Junior brother is an important figure of the Clear River city. It’s said that even our main school master has to pay respects to him when he sees him. Everything has been arranged already. Once we reach Clear River city, you can enjoy the rest of your years in peace, master.”
“I still have a few years in me. Given the situation of the world, who can still live in peace?”
Just like Wang Lei had said, a great group of men and horses were waiting outside. Every single one of them wrapped their faces with cloth. The eyes of the horses were covered too. Even the ears of the horses were plugged in, just in case the locusts tried to crawl in.
When Liu Hong emerged from the Iron Fist school, the group fell silent. Against Wang Lei’s objections, Liu Hong rode at the very front, and they slowly made their way towards the gates of the city. They stopped outside the government office for a moment, and Ye Duanhai joined them with his family and guards, which made the group even larger. They advanced with difficulty through the swarms of locusts.
Liu Hong looked around, but all he encountered was a black mass of locusts. Even the lush mountains in the surroundings had become barren, let alone the fields and gardens. They had all become the locust’s food. The city’s famine had already lasted for quite some time. When he passed by an alleyway, they saw a few feral dogs tearing away at a starved corpse. He had already witnessed something like this far too many times.
Suddenly, he began to miss the times of the past. Even when there were many dangers from the jianghu and many life-threatening battles, it was not as miserable as right now.
The group’s advance through the city created a stir. The families of the wealthy that had lasted until now in the famine all joined them with their most precious belongings. Even if their stockpile of food could still last them for a very long time, their minds would give way first.
This was not a regular locust plague. The rumors that the locusts ate people had already become widespread before the first locust had even arrived. No one knew when these herbivorous insects would become the man-eating monsters of the legends.
On top of that, many people said they recently saw a colossal locust that specially hunted people at night. Their fear became even more firmly entrenched as a result.
Everyone believed they would only be truly safe if they reached Clear River city, and Liu Hong and Ye Dachuan’s choice gave them the confidence in this.
“Master, what do we do?” Wang Lei caught up with Liu Hong and asked with furrowed brows.
“We’re all from the same hometown, so let them follow us. Your junior brother will make arrangements!” Liu Hong said.
The people that could follow the group still formed a minority after all. The common people who had almost been starved to death and only had a pair of legs would never be able to keep up. However, this would provide them with an opportunity. They could last a little longer through the food left behind by the fleeing families.
The colossal group passed through the city gates and set off for the distant Clear River city.
Abruptly, Liu Hong sensed a threat. He looked back at the sky, but he was unable to make out anything.
“Master, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Let’s get to Downstream town as quickly as possible!”
Unbeknownst to Liu Hong, there was a locust within the swarms staring at him. At first glance, this locust did not seem too different from the regular locusts, but it did not gorge itself everywhere like its fellow insects. Instead, it hovered in the air silently, watching the entire Qingyang city from above. Faint daemon qi wrapped around it.
Actually, given how remote Qingyang city was and how it stood in the outlying ranges of the Boundless mountains, it had not become one of the Soaring Locust King’s targets. The locust plague had reached here much later too.
In the locust plague of Qingyang city, it was this one feeble clone that controlled the entire swarm. Their objective was only to lay enough eggs, providing fresh troops for the entire locust plague. At the same time, they caused great famines and destroyed the fresh troops for the humans.
When it came to strength alone, this clone was not even Liu Hong’s opponent as an innate master. Even dealing with school master Wang Lei would be enough of a struggle.
Clones of Billions was an extremely terrifying innate ability, but it came with many prerequisites. On top of that, a tremendous advantage in numbers guaranteed very little quality for each individual. If it was like Li Qingshan’s Watermirror’s Image where each clone possessed thirty percent of the original body’s strength, then the Soaring Locust King would have become invincible a long time ago. Why would he still hide his original body?
After the group had travelled far away from the city, the locust that was wrapped in faint daemon qi suddenly swelled up, expanding to the size of a calf and swooping down. Down below, there was a group of people trying to break down a door in an attempt to access the food stores left behind by a rich household. A fierce gale of wind struck them, and everyone looked back, crying out in fright, “The huge locust!”
The huge locust swooped down through the crowd before rising into the air again. Its six legs carried a small, thin human whose cries rang through the entire sky. With a bite of his sharp mandible, the cries immediately vanished, replaced by the crackling sounds of chewing. Even the bones were chewed up and swallowed. By the time it had finished eating, the huge locust grew bigger yet again.
The “Soaring Locust King” had found a small delight yet again. He gazed at the group that was traveling away and thought viciously, Not every single one of my clones is so feeble!
Releases are back to normal. 2 chapters a day.