Chapter 82: The Demon's Qi Clan
Three cups of green tea, even to receive guests, and the others simply wouldn't think to be discontent. This was because their cultivations were only at the initial stage of Qi Condensation.
Among the two older men before Xu Yangyi, one of them had a square face, buzzed hair, and was wearing a slightly faded long gown with a pair of black cloth shoes. The other was an elderly man with the style of an old farmer. A foot-long beard softly drooped down, the wrinkles on his face appeared to be like the skin of air-dried mandarin oranges, and there was a black birthmark on his left cheek. His entire person seemed not to be any different from the other old farmer.
Yet at this moment, they secretly sighed. Since Xu Yangyi agreed to let them enter, he was likely part of the dove faction. If a middle-stage Qi Condensation cultivator of the hawk faction had come to this little village, they would truly be restless!
"Fellow Daoist Xu, I am Wang Sanshan. Seven years ago, I settled down here." The square-faced Wang Sanshan clasped his hands, looking at Xu Yangyi who had his eyes hung to the tea at his lips, and respectfully took out an exquisite jade box: "Congratulations to the Fellow Daoist for breaking through to the middle stage. This a bit of my good will. I hope Fellow Daoist will kindly accept it."
His attitude was set quite low, and Xu Yangyi didn't move at all. Instead, once Li Zongyuan took it, he used his spiritual sense to sweep over it, discovering approximately twenty low-grade spirit stones. He then smiled: "The Fellow Daoist will bear it to mind."
Wang Sanshan wasn't dissatisfied whatsoever and merely clasped his hands. He sighed gently and laughed as he sat down.
"I am Qi Nan. I have lived here for fifteen years. My congratulations to the Fellow Daoist for his breakthrough to the middle stage. I also have a minor bit of good will. I hope Fellow Daoist won't mind."
It was likewise a jade box. Xu Yangyi swept his spiritual sense over it, yet was faintly dazed. His spiritual sense couldn't pervade this jade box so easily. Evidently, it had underwent special processing. Chiefly, there weren't spirit stones on the inside, but rather a flower petal that carried a burning mark. It was roughly the size of a palm.
The original form of the petal could no longer be seen, however, with a sweep of his spiritual sense, he could feel the tremendous spiritual force possessed by this petal. If this burning petal was transformed into aqua to be ingested, it would even exceed some pill elixirs by far!
In the realm of Qi Condensation, this was already considered a generous gift. At least from what Xu Yangyi could see, he himself would begrudgingly part with it.
"A bit interesting." He opened his mouth for the first time: "This is?"
Qi Nan's gaze suddenly flashed, yet he still clasped his hands respectfully: "I obtained this little trinket by chance. A mere jest before an expert."
If the other wasn't willing to speak, then Xu Yangyi wouldn't force him to, as well. Qi Nan continued and laughed: "Fellow Daoist Xu, are you planning to stay here permanently? In general, a place far from the city is chosen for seclusion. The more natural the ecology, the richer the qi. If the Fellow Daoist is unsatisfied, twenty kilometers away from this village, there is the Dragon Cave nearly beneath Mount Bai. Although the government failed to develop it, there are several middle-stage and late-stage Fellow Daoists sealed in death seclusion yonder."*
This was asking him whether he was a permanent resident or transient visitor. If he was a permanent resident, it couldn't be avoided but to be in frequent contact later on. If he was a passing traveller, there was a possibility this would be their only meeting.
"A passing traveller." Xu Yangyi pursed his tea to his lips and said indifferently: "However, I might stay here for eight or ten years. I can't say for sure."
The three of them chatted for a while, and Wang Sanshan and Qi Nan made to leave and bid farewell. They had already attained their purpose; there wasn't much of anything essential left.
"Master, I'll go buy tickets now. Will we be headed off to the Four Great Joint Pools in a week?"
"Sure." Xu Yangyi nodded, but didn't get up. Instead, he took the jade box with the petal inside that was handed over by Li Zongyuan who had taken it with rapt interest. He began to fiddle around with it his hands.
"Master… Could it be that there is an issue with this petal?" Li Zongyuan asked puzzledly.
Xu Yangyi wordlessly played around with the box and only after several seconds pass did he laugh: "Take the box and open it."
Just as he opened it, Li Zongyuan's gaze glimmered: "This is…"
The inside of the box was astonishingly carved full of talismans. At this moment, an azure talisman emitted rays of light as it flashed.
"This is a formation that isolates spiritual sense." Xu Yangyi finally set down his teacup and muttered to himself briefly: "I recognize a few of the runes in it. Its purpose appears to be as a measuring stick. If its standard is surpassed, the item inside can be clearly seen. If it isn't, the box must be opened to take a look."
"Why would he do this?" Li Zongyuan was stunned: "Although the accumulated amount of this petal's qi is sufficiently high, at most it can be considered a generous gift, not a major one. Isn't this unnecessary?"
Xu Yangyi looked at the entrance with a smile that wasn't a smile: "Yes… This petal can't be considered a major gift, so why did he expend such effort?"
"What do you say? Fellow Daoist Qi?"
Li Zongyuan jumped in fright and immediately lifted his head to look around, yet he didn't see a thing.
"As expected, Fellow Daoist Xu is fierce… How did you know my humble self was still here?"
Followed by a quiet sigh, a crow flew down from the beams of the room. In the wake of a foggy black mist that emitted from each of its feathers, it stood before them as the old farmer of moments ago in less than two seconds and bowed deeply.
"Clan master of the demon's Qi Clan pays respects to the Fellow Daoist. The power of Fellow Daoist's spiritual sense and the remarkability of his strength is something I have not oft seen among middle-stage cultivators."
These words were spoken by him with an exceptional sincerity, and he only stood up again after continuing to bow for no less than five seconds.
"Nonetheless… I am rather curious. How was Fellow Daoist aware that I was still here? Though the cultivations of my Qi Clan is not high, our ancestors passed down a few minor Daos of Talismancy. Even at the middle-stage of Qi Condensation would my traces be nearly incapable of detection."
Xu Yangyi looked at the other with a smile that wasn't yet a smile: "You have no idea from where I come from. It's nothing strange."
"Where we're from, such a crude testing method, if not four or five times, will happen two or three times per week." He casually took the jade box and pushed it forward on the table: "In comparison, Fellow Daoist's probe is child's play."
Qi Nan's face faintly flushed red in embarrassment: "I have underestimated Fellow Daoist."
Silence suddenly arrived, and Qi Nan seemed to steel his resolve. Xu Yangyi didn't rush him. After a full ten minutes passed, Qi Nan lifted his head and looked at Xu Yangyi solemnly.
"Fellow Daoist Xu…" Qi Nan's aged body moved closer and he said respectfully: "In no way do I harbor malice… Before you, I had already used this test on several middle-stage cultivators."
Xu Yangyi nodded, hinting for the other to continue speaking.
"I am unsure, but does Fellow Daoist Xu know of this insect?" Qi Nan took off his conical bamboo hat and caught a black beetle from its surface, the size of pinky fingernail. He coughed lightly and said: "Its name is known as the reaction beetle. It is capable of sensing whether a person designated by the prompter is generally strong or weak. The instant it saw Fellow Daoist, this insect… ceased to make a sound."
His gaze carried a sliver of complexity as he looked towards Xu Yangyi: "I have never encountered such a situation! At the onset, I believed it was a problem with the reaction beetle. It wasn't until I left that I discovered… it had unexpectedly already died!"
"There only exist a single kind of situation where the reaction beetle would die… and that is in when another far surpasses it. I have cultivated for several decades, yet apart from Fellow Daoist, I have never met a single person to this day that was capable of causing my reaction beetle to meet its end." Here onwards, Qi Nan's expression turned from respectful to fiery. He said heavily: "Truth be told, I've already handed over five of those petals. All to indigenous or perhaps permanently residing, locally famous cultivators…"
He paused deliberately, and Xu Yangyi smiled: "You mean to say that there are many of these kinds of petals."
"Correct." Qi Nan inhaled deeply and licked his lips: "Each time I ask if the gift is satisfactory… in case the present can truly be seen, I would naturally have response here. However…"
He narrowed his eyes: "Until this day, only three middle-stage cultivators could genuinely observe it clearly. Fellow Daoist Xu happens to be the third. I am unaware…" He glanced intentionally or otherwise at Li Zongyuan and stopped talking.
"I might as well." Xu Yangyi waved his hand and all the doors and windows immediately seemed to shut tightly with a rattle as if they were closed by large invisible hands.
Qi Nan clenched his teeth and breathed in deeply a few times. He then cautiously took out a cell phone, his aged Adam's apple trembling: "Fellow Daoist Xu, before you look at this, I hope Fellow Daoist can pledge a sworn heart devil oath…"
"You jest." Before Qi Nan's voice had fallen, Xu Yangyi pursed his teacup to his mouth with his usual expression: "Has Fellow Daoist Qi misunderstood something?"
Qi Nan stood up at his original position with a complicated expression. He could not advance, yet he could not retreat.
"There are people with the qualifications to take out an item as they please and make me immediately give vow." Xu Yangyi glanced at the other indifferently: "But that does in no way include you."
An initial-stage cultivator, just the master of a clan, could only have come to seek collaboration. According to Xu Yangyi's thoughts, Qi Nan should've already silently sought out many cultivators of the middle stage. Indeed, in this era of cultivation civilization, there wasn't a person in the outside world that would openly commit murder to seize treasures, however, if it was in some old forest that was deep in the mountains… say, the exploration of a secret realm that managed to evade being cleaned out. This illustrated that their clan possessed a method where they needed not to fear middle-stage cultivators.
The disparity between the initial and middle stages was great. Xu Yangyi, who had just broken through, clearly understood this. Such a dangerous person had come visiting and then wanted him to swear an oath?
Besides, just considering the idea, the other was obviously the weaker party. He had come knocking on his door for a collaboration, yet wanted him to swear an oath. This was like an unknown company running to an international monopoly and saying to them: I have an opportunity, but you have to swear a pledge.
There was only one result. Make a pledge? Not a chance, say it or not. No? Get out.
Qi Nan choked a belly full of words in his stomach. After a while, he stood up with his slightly flushed face: "It's quite possible this matter is connected to a secret realm. Since Fellow Daoist is not willing to swear an oath, I will not make things difficult."
Xu Yangyi saw Li Zongyuan give a meaningful look with full effort from the corner of his eyes, yet he simply didn't pay it any heed. He shook his head serenely: "See yourself out."
Qi Nan was completely floored by these words!
He had only tried out Xu Yangyi to give himself space to breath! Who would've thought the other would've washed his hands of the matter and then close the door! Presently, he couldn't move forward, but nor could he pull back. Standing at his original position for ages, he departed with a calm face, not uttering a single word.
From the beginning to end, Xu Yangyi hadn't even glanced at the other.
"Swish!" Li Zongyuan moved forward two steps to the door, watching the other's silhouette irreconcilably.
Not only had Qi Nan not anticipated this, even Li Zongyuan hadn't. Xu Yangyi had unexpectedly truly declined! Moreover, he had declined without a shred of wiggle room!
"Master!" It wasn't until Qi Nan's figure went unseen did Li Zongyuan anxiously turn his head: "You, t-this might be connected with a secret realm! How could you decline it?"
Xu Yangyi's face didn't change. Secret realms, he knew of them. If any industry or domain required an item that could stir the hearts of men, then a secret realm was the cultivation community's most inspiring legend!
So-and-so picked up an arcane effort in some secret realm and achieved Foundation Establishment… So-and-so obtained a high-grade magik artifact in some secret realm and entered the top hundred cultivator rankings… Because so-and-so saved a beauty like a gallant hero, he and that beautiful female cultivator fell in deep love, two trees growing as one… This was just like in the movies and television shows, when the main lead picked up a million bucks on the side of the road.
Were it not for these legends, the most fundamental of desires would not exist. Any industry required these kinds of myths.
A secret realm was perhaps a different world or a large ancient site… After several millenniums of geographical transformations, they had already been buried within the nooks and crannies of the Earth. Only one with great destiny and great willpower could possibly come across them. A majority of secret realms were hidden opportunities that could cause the heart to race.
Thinking of this, Xu Yangyi smiled.
In the modern age, was there any opportunity that could upstage the Eternal Alchemy Canon?
* Real place. Only thing here I am unsure about is Mount Bai. Since this region is actually a mountain chain that borders on North Korea, as well. Although this might be referring to the largest mountain of the entire chain, which is known in korean/manchu/chinese as many things, but in chinese, namely as "the ever-white mountain". Also known as Baekdu/Paektu mountain in Korean.