It was with uncertainty and open confusion that Li Qinghou said Xiaochun. At the moment, he wasn’t sure whether or not he was dreaming. After being taken captive to the Dao River Court, he hadn’t been tortured, but rather, been left to wallow in misery.
Although he didn’t care too much about whether he himself lived or died, he hated the idea of himself being used as a trap to lure out Bruiser. In the end, he had been powerless to change the outcome. He hadn’t even been able to kill himself.
He could only watch as Bruiser was ambushed. Afterward, his guilt began to consume him.
Thankfully, during the half year which had passed, Patriarch Dao River had never succeeded in getting his hands on Bruiser. However, the sword wound which had been inflicted on Bruiser’s neck was something that Li Qinghou blamed himself for constantly. At the same time, his hatred of the Dao River Court grew more intense.
Although he had become nothing but a worthless prisoner rotting away in a dungeon, his hatred kept him going. As long as the Dao River Court stood, he could not allow himself to die!
He had gritted his teeth and endured the strange powers of the dungeon, which sucked away at his cultivation base and life force. He had grown weaker and weaker, and yet continued to hang on.
Thankfully, he cultivated a special technique based on the power of plants and vegetation, which offered him special protection. In this most critical of times, his complete focus kept him going, as did his hatred of the Dao River Court. And… Bai Xiaochun!
He had often thought about that young boy he had picked up from that mountain all those years ago. Although Bai Xiaochun had been gone for a long time, he wanted to see him again. He wanted to protect him! He was worried that, unless he was there to look out for him, the boy would cause disasters the likes of which could never be resolved.
That became part of his focus, and therefore, despite the pain he faced, he endured.
Now, when he heard deafening booming sounds outside, he opened his eyes, and wondered if he was seeing things when he saw Bai Xiaochun right there in front of him.
As for Bai Xiaochun, when he heard Xiaochun, a tremor ran through him, and tears welled up in his eyes. Li Qinghou’s voice was weak, but filled with a warmth and kindness that caused Bai Xiaochun's heart to leap in his chest.
“Uncle Li!!” he said, tears flowing down his cheeks. Although he had battle prowess that could crush devas, as well as the highest of statuses, when he was with Li Qinghou, he became the same Bai Xiaochun he had been back on Mount Hood, so afraid of lightning that he had lit a stick of incense thirteen times.
He reached forward and pulled Li Qinghou into an embrace. Weeping, he sent cultivation base power pouring into him, healing some of his injuries. At the same time, he realized how weak Li Qinghou had become, and his tears flowed even harder.
There were white hairs on Li Qinghou’s head now, and he had wrinkles on his face, making him look middle-aged. Obviously, the half year of confinement had taken its toll.
He no longer looked like Bai Xiaochun remembered him, elegant and refined, a legacy echelon cultivator, the proud and unyielding peak lord of Fragrant Cloud Peak!
Li Qinghou was still a bit confused as he pulled back and looked at Bai Xiaochun. Ignoring his own weakness and injury, he reached out and… gently put his hand onto Bai Xiaochun’s cheek.
“Is it really you…? You’ve grown up, kid. Alright, no crying now….” He wiped the tears off of Bai Xiaochun’s face, fully convinced that this was the same young boy he had brought back to the sect from Mount Hood.
“It's me, Uncle Li…. I'm back!” Bai Xiaochun dried his eyes and helped Li Qinghou to his feet.
Thanks to Bai Xiaochun’s help, Li Qinghou was already getting back some energy. He grinned.
“As long as you’re back, that’s all that matters….” Within his smile was approval, happiness, and kindness. He was a Nascent Soul cultivator, so despite the emotions which surged inside of him, he kept himself in control, and simply smiled at Bai Xiaochun.
Before he had a chance to ask Bai Xiaochun any questions about what he had been up to all these years, he looked out at the crater which surrounded them. With Bai Xiaochun’s help, they climbed out… whereupon Li Qinghou saw the crumbled ruins of the seven mountain peaks that made up the former Dao River Court, and the terrified Dao River Court disciples who were still fleeing off into the distance.
At that point, Li Qinghou couldn’t contain his excitement. Continuing to peer around, he said, “Did one of the patriarchs finally break through? Where is he?”
His first reaction was to assume that one of the patriarchs had finally reached the Deva Realm and come to break him out of the Dao River Court’s dungeon.
And yet, he immediately hesitated. After all, even after making a breakthrough, a single patriarch shouldn’t have been able to reduce the Dao River Court to this condition. At that point, he started to wonder if two patriarchs had broken through to become devas.
However, that seemed even less likely than his original guess.
Bai Xiaochun blinked a few times, then cleared his throat. “Uh… Uncle Li, none of the patriarchs broke through…. Nobody else is here… except for us two.”
Now that he had rescued Li Qinghou, his stress was fading away, and his personality was going back to normal. As such, he held back from sounding a bit pleased with himself.
Li Qinghou’s jaw dropped. He looked around at the ruins, and then back at Bai Xiaochun, and suddenly laughed loud and clear. Slapping him on the shoulder, he said, “Good. Great. Excellent!”
He didn’t ask any details. He didn’t need to. The excitement he felt in his heart was all he needed. The child that he had brought to the sect from Mount Hood had grown up into a shocking figure.
The only disappointment he felt was that the fledgling had left the nest to fly in the endless sky, and that he no longer needed someone else around to take care of him. It was a feeling of both happiness and disappointment mixed together.
Li Qinghou’s reaction got Bai Xiaochun even more excited. Feeling very pleased with himself, he swished his sleeve and said, “This is nothing, Uncle Li. You have no idea how awesome I was back in the Wildlands. I--”
Before he could continue, a whistling sound filled the sky, which was Bruiser, who had only just caught up. As soon as he arrived, he saw the ruins of the Dao River Court, and Li Qinghou.
He didn’t seem surprised at all that Bai Xiaochun could destroy the entire Dao River Court. He excitedly shrank back down to normal size, rushed over to Li Qinghou, and began to rub him with his head.
Li Qinghou’s heart swelled with both warmth and remorse. Softly stroking Bruiser’s head, he looked at the scars covering him, and sighed.
“I'd always hoped I would be able to help you get your revenge, Bruiser, but I guess I don’t need to now. Your dad’s already helped you.” Chuckling, Li Qinghou looked around at the ruins, and then back at Bai Xiaochun, his heart bursting with pride. “Let’s go, Xiaochun. The Dao River Court might be able to survive this somehow, but it will take them a long time to recover. If they ever do!”
“Calm down, Uncle Li, there’s more to do.” After measuring up the scene around them, Bai Xiaochun turned to Bruiser. “Bruiser, there were a bunch of other disciples following us, right? What’s the delay? Why don’t you go back and lead them here?”
Bruiser wasn’t quite sure what he had in mind, but never refused to do what Bai Xiaochun asked him to do. He shot off, then returned a moment later with more than a thousand airships following him. The cultivators piloting the airships soon saw the dismal state of the Dao River Court, and couldn’t help but gasp. Looking over at Bai Xiaochun with reverent gazes, they clasped hands.
“Greetings, Patriarch! Greetings, Elder Li!”
Their words confirmed what Li Qinghou had already suspected. Smile widening, he looked over at Bai Xiaochun, who shook his head and cleared his throat. Feeling a bit embarrassed, he waved his hand.
“Alright, enough of that. Hurry up and clear all this rubble away. The Dao River Court got destroyed too quickly, and everyone ran away. They definitely left some treasures behind. Let’s clean this place out!” By this point, his heart was pounding as he thought back to all of the shakedowns he had performed in the past. However, all of those had been clan shakedowns. This was his first time overseeing a sect shakedown!
In response to his words, the surrounding 1,000 disciples’ eyes glittered. Without any pause, they began to clear away the rubble and search the Dao River Court for treasure.
Li Qinghou’s eyes shone with even deeper praise as he mused about how much this child had grown up. Even he himself had forgotten to loot the routed enemy.
“You’re absolutely right, Xiaochun. The Dao River Court has years of reserves that will be of great help to the River-Defying Sect!”
However, even as the words left Li Qinghou’s mouth, Bai Xiaochun frowned. Looking around at the River-Defying Sect disciples, he said, “You people don’t know how to shake a place down! Aiya! Look, there are more rocks over there than anywhere else. It only takes a single glance to tell that there’s some treasure there. Clear that rubble!
“Look at this! Get over here, people. This boulder is obviously fluctuating with magical power. There’s definitely some kind of valuable treasure buried under it!
“Aiya! Look at you! What do you think you’re doing? Pry up those floor tiles! They’re obviously made from spirit stones!!” It was to Bai Xiaochun’s great frustration that none of these people knew how to shake a place down….