“You’re casting me aside as soon as you’re done with me!” Li Qingshan said.
“So what if I am? I’m sick of using you anymore. You can piss off!” Han Qiongzhi chewed the Fruit of Wisdom, and she kicked Li Qingshan away rudely, but her actions gradually became powerless. Light shone through her eyes. The Fruit of Wisdom began to take effect.
“So dizzy! I wonder what’ll happen.” Han Qiongzhi sighed with a smile. “I don’t want to see you again when I wake up. This isn’t a place where you should stay. Go, get out of here…” She murmured like that before finally closing her eyes and collapsing in Li Qingshan’s arms.
Li Qingshan hugged her firmly, unwilling to part with her. Quite a long while later, he kissed her gently on the forehead and patiently dressed her, tidying up her hair. He left behind a formation, a few bottles of Virtue Accumulation pills, and a stack of violet talismans beside her. These were all spoils he had obtained from Si Qing’s sumeru ring.
Then he paced through the dwelling a few times before suddenly smiling and shaking his head. He mumbled to himself, “I will be back, no matter how long I’ve been gone for.”
Afterwards, he set foot out of the dwelling, vanishing into the whistling wind and snow alone.
“Yeah, I’ll wait for you.”
Han Qiongzhi murmured inaudibly with her eyes shut.
Li Qingshan remembered how there was still one person he had not seen with his return to the Green province this time. From Liu Changqing, Li Qingshan had heard he had become a recluse many years ago, so Li Qingshan crossed through the wind and snow and arrived in a serene mountainous forest.
Unlike the other places ravaged by the locust plague, the vegetation was still lush, and the lakewater was still tranquil. Within the snow, it seemed particularly neat and beautiful.
“Danqing, are you here?” Li Qingshan called out loudly.
A short while later, the formation opened and revealed a few exquisite huts. A handsome young man stood in front of the huts and said, “Qingshan, you’re back from the Mist province!”
“You’ve undergone the second heavenly tribulation!”
Li Qingshan was slightly surprised. In order to repair the Three Absolutes Calligraphy for him, Chu Danqing’s cultivation had regressed to Qi Practitioner. In the few decades since he last saw him, not only had he completely recovered, but he had even reached new heights. He seemed even more elegant in bearing now.
“You’ve undergone the third heavenly tribulation!”
Chu Danqing was extremely surprised. After refining the demon heart, Li Qingshan no longer intentionally suppressed it with the spirit turtle, so the aura he naturally gave off was clearly of the third heavenly tribulation.
“Looks like neither of us have been wasting any time.” Li Qingshan smiled.
“I really have no idea how on earth you cultivated. It’s unbelievable. Don’t stand in the snow. Come in and take a seat!”
“There’s no point sitting inside. We’re better off admiring the snow here.” Li Qingshan pointed at the lake. There was a simple pavilion there with a rooftop covered in thick thatching. It was a fine place to admire the snow.
“Alright. I just happen to have a jar of fine alcohol. We can drink as we admire the snow!” Chu Danqing was clearly in quite the mood too.
The two of them sat down in the pavilion, and Chu Danqing took out a painting. With a tremble of his hand, the painting unfurled and female servants emerged, either carrying zithers or stoves. In the blink of an eye, the pavilion was properly arranged for their enjoyment.
A few cranes then flew out of the building, dancing about in the snow above the lake. They were natural, without the slightest hint of artificiality, merging with the surrounding scenery perfectly like an impressionistic landscape painting. There was also the thrumming of a zither that seeped into the snow and water, which was refreshing. For a moment, it seemed like paradise.
“Your methods as a painter sure are useful. Even I struggle to tell whether they’re real or fake.” At first glance, Li Qingshan was actually unable to distinguish whether these people were real or not. He sighed in amazement inside, After all these years, Chu Danqing’s painting technique has become more ingenious too.
“It still can’t match the school of Novel’s ability to turn fiction into reality, but looking at your cultivation, it seems unrelated to the school of Novels,” Chu Danqing said modestly.
“The matters of the world are always unpredictable. Oh right, don’t tell me the alcohol you’re inviting me to was painted too?”
“How could it be?” Chu Danqing took out a porcelain jar and opened it as he said that.
Fragrance rushed out of the jar and permeated the chilly air, but it was unlike any regular fragrances of alcohol. Li Qingshan gazed into the jar, only to see a pitch-black liquid rippling inside. Only then did he realise something. “Is this ink? Don’t tell me you’re inviting me to drink ink!”
“This is Alcohol of Vermillion and Black. Normally, even I can’t bring myself to savour it!” Chu Danqing said.
“Don’t tell me it’s made with your blood?” Li Qingshan remembered how Chu Danqing possessed a unique bloodline called the Jade Blood of Vermillion and Black, which made him suspicious. He had already drunk the blood of a friend before. He did not want to drink a second.
“I can’t make alcohol like this. Have a taste!” Chu Danqing told the beauties from the painting to pour the alcohol. When it entered the cup, the fragrance became even heavier, resembling both ink and alcohol.
Li Qingshan tried a sip, and his eyes lit up. The strange, perfumy taste spread through his mouth. He felt like his flesh had melted away wherever the alcohol reached. It did not burn, but it seemed to be much more than that. There was extremely pure spiritual qi inside as well, so it definitely was not just for savouring.
He drank the entire cup in a single gulp, and even his organs felt like they had descended into chaos. He shut his eyes and savoured it for a while, refining the cup of alcohol. Only then did he praise, “That’s some fine alcohol!”
“How’s it? I didn’t lie to you, did I?” Chu Danqing savoured the alcohol slowly.
“No wonder you’ve been cultivating so quickly. Where did you get this alcohol from?” Li Qingshan asked in wonder. Even third heavenly tribulation cultivators could not necessarily get their hands on spiritual alcohol like that, and Chu Danqing had said it was not him who brewed it.
“My master gave it to me.” Respect from the bottom of his heart filled Chu Danqing’s face.
“Master Chu left it to you?” Li Qingshan asked. However, Chu Shidao had already passed away, and he was only a Foundation Establishment cultivator.
“No, it’s another master.”
“You’ve taken on another master! I wonder what kind of senior he is!” Li Qingshan was rather surprised. He knew all too well how attached Chu Danqing was to Chu Shidao. He would never take on another master so easily.
“Master will probably come here today. You’ll know when you see him.”
“Then I’d like to see him. Come, cheers!” Li Qingshan held back his curiosity and conversed with Chu Danqing. When he mentioned the various wondrous sights of the Mist province, Chu Danqing became filled with anticipation too. “I’ll definitely have to travel around in the future and paint all the sights that the nine provinces have to offer!”
“Have you been staying here during the recent years?”
“Yeah. Master wants me to focus on cultivation and painting. Even when it comes to those acquaintances from the academy, I can only see them once in a while. They take my paintings to deal with the locust plague.”
“Hasn’t any locusts come to disturb you?” Li Qingshan asked. He was located deep within the mountains and forests, but it was not exactly remote compared to the rest of the Green province, but there were actually no signs of any feeding locusts in the surroundings.
“Probably because the Soaring Locust King hasn’t gotten around to here yet.”
“You sure are fortunate to be able to avoid all of the conflicts and live here in seclusion!” Li Qingshan said.
Suddenly, Li Qingshan sensed something and gazed into the distance. Before he knew it, a figure had appeared on the shore of the lake nearby. He was dressed in black robes that gave off a hint of navy. His long hem and sleeves dragged along the pure-white snow, like a trailing brush on paper.
The wind and snow blurred his appearance. All Li Qingshan could tell was he was a slender man carrying a red, oil-paper umbrella that resembled a maple leaf. He approached them gradually.
“My master is here!” Chu Danqing stood up to receive him.
In the blink of an eye, the man had arrived before the pavilion. Li Qingshan looked at him carefully. His face was thin and of classic elegance. His eyes were sunken, but his nose bridge stood tall and straight. He gently pursed his thin lips as his long, ink-like hair scattered messily near his waist with curls.
For some reason, he reminded Li Qingshan of those despondent scholars mentioned in ancient poems. With a sense of destitution and bleakness, he walked through the winter snow, but what he brought was the entire season of late autumn.
As for his exact cultivation, it was instead easier to neglect. Even if Li Qingshan tried to distinguish it, it was unclear. Compared to the female servants in the pavilion, he seemed more like a person from a painting.
Li Qingshan suddenly noticed that his eyes were completely white, devoid of irises. He thought, Don’t tell me he’s blind? No, with my eyesight, I can even clearly make out a mosquito from five kilometers away. How can his appearance be obscured in my eyes just by some wind and snow?
“Master, this is the Li Qingshan I’ve mentioned.” Chu Danqing introduced him.
“Pleased to meet you.” The man gently shook off the snow on the umbrella as if he was not surprised by Li Qingshan’s cultivation, or perhaps because he was overly dejected and exhausted that he no longer cared about anything in the world.
“May I ask for your name, senior?” Li Qingshan asked with clasped hands. He felt rather puzzled inside. They had clearly never met before, yet why did he give off a bizarre sense of familiarity?
“Mo Wuhen.” The man nodded, keeping talking to a minimum just like before.
TL: The meaning of the name is quite important to the next chapter. The surname, Mo, means ‘ink’, while Wuhen means ‘without a trace’ or ‘traceless’.
“The surname Mo, or ink, isn’t particularly common.”
Li Qingshan had some understanding with regards to the great cultivators of the Green province, but he had never heard of that name before. He shuddered inside, suddenly remembering an enemy also with Mo as a surname, the prince of the Green province daemons, Mo Yu. He could not help but study the man before him closely. Surely he was not…
Releases are back to normal. 2 chapters a day.