After taking a warm bath in the garden and wiping his clothes clean, Li Ao occupied a side room in Chiefs house and sat cross-legged.
There was not much he could do right now except wait, so his attention was back to the system interface. Apart from the three panels, there was an additional Abort button at the bottom. His gaze left it to focus on the notifications.
From killing those wolves and great deer, he had gained 5 Universal Coins, then another 5 from discovering the village. It seemed that as long as he made headway in accomplishing his mission, he would have extra coins.
There was one thing that made him curious, though.
\I got several coins from killing the beasts, but why is that? Because they are the hreat against the Heavens Child, or against me?\
The path of being a Long Aotian always required a some kind of exploit. In that sense, if just killing enemies provided him with coins, then he could just start a massacre in the forest. But Li Ao was not completely retarded yet, so he concluded on a third option.
\They were obstructions to me
eaching my objective?\
That could be right, but he did not test it for now. The sun was about to set, and the children outside had already dispersed into their homes. A few dogs barked towards the three moons shining upon the earth.
\Three moons...why did I not see two suns, actually?\
Senior Dog** had said there were two stars, but he only saw one.
Shaking his head, Li Ao opened the Universal Shop from the interface. In front of him appeared several boxes. One of them read General Store. The others were Alchemy Shop, Refining Shop, Talisman Shop, Cultivation Shop, Martial Arts Shop, and Hiring Station.
All of them explained enough through their names, but the last one intrigued him. Clicking on the box, Li Ao found a large spreadsheet in front of him. There were names of people, their cultivation level, their agent rank, as well as the cost to hire them.
Number one was a fellow named Long Aotian.
\Holy **, he is real!?\
\Long Aotian, Four-Star Ascendant, Second-level Agent, 120.000 coins/h.\
\What kind of realm is Ascendant? Also, there is no agent above Second-level?\
Li Ao only knew five realms—Qi Condensation, Foundation Establishment, Core Formation, Nascent Soul, and Soul Formation. The emperor of Great Wei Dynasty was a being at the top of Soul Formation, and Li Aos grandfather was someone near him, though he had never heard the exact realm.
Curious, Li Ao searched the name Klein but found nothing. Was this Senior Dog** a much more impressive figure than the real flesh and blood Long Aotian?
\Forget it, I am wasting time.\
Li Ao closed the section and skimmed through the shops. In the alchemy shop, he saw that the cheapest medicinal pill was 50 Universal Coins. The lowest available purity in the shop was �. He also found the 0 purity Qi Gathering Pills. A single one was sold for ten Universal Coins, while a bottle of ten was sold for 99 coins.
This system seemed to have a lot of man-made influence over it. After skimming through some more, Li Ao closed the interface and took out the two remaining pills. He had given the other one without much thought. After all, being in his position, Li Ao had seen many sixth and fifth grade pills, let alone a ninth-grade Qi Gathering Pill.
He popped one in his mouth without caring, then suddenly opened his eyes wide.
\Holy **! What is this power!?\
Straightening his back, Li Ao circulated his Qi in a hurry. The pill seemed like a drop of endless dew as it travelled down into his dantian, nourishing wherever it touched with large quantity of Qi. Doing his best to control it, Li Ao absorbed with all his might.
With each cycling of his Qi, he found his body expanding. His flesh and blood pumped with power, and in a few breaths the sound of a rattling chain echoed in his mind. With a bang, he broke through the Sixth Level of Qi Condensation, and still kept climbing.
Thirty minutes later, Li Ao let out a foul breath and wiped the sweat off his forehead.
\This stuff is good! Too good!\
He had greatly underestimated the quality of this pill. If he had let its medicinal power be, he would easily reach the Seventh level of Qi Condensation. But since he had stagnated for so long on the Fifth-Level, advancing quickly could shake his foundation. So he suppressed it in his flesh and blood. Li familys cultivation method enabled him to hide the excess Qi in his limbs and muscles, which also tempered them over time.
Of course, such a tempering was very miniscule even in the long run.
As he did so, a wave of regret washed over Li Ao.
\Why did I give it away to a random fellow? Am I a retard? Am I a monkey?\
Mumbling and cursing, Li Ao closed his eyes again. Since he broke through, he wanted to consolidate his realm further.
He cultivated all night, then woke up when Chu Shu entered Chiefs house with a bright face. There were cuckoos of the chickens outside and the early yawns of the villagefolk. Descending to the main hall, Li Ao noticed a wave of power rolling out of Chu Shus entire being. Wisps of Qi formed around his head.
\Third level of Qi Condensation?\
This fellow was too lucky! Too talented!
Of course, parents of a Heavens Child could not be normal as well. If these people were in Great Wei Dynasty, some of the sects would have snatched them in the air. After all, this Chu Shu fellow was already in his thirties, long past the prime age to cultivate. How talented must he be in his younger years to advance three stages in a night?
\Good morning, sir immortal!\
Chu Shu got onto his knees and bowed. Li Ao forced him up and nodded. \You made good progress.\
\It is all thanks to you, sir!\
\Alright, alright, don shout.\ Here he faced the Chief preparing breakfast. \Let us talk over the meal.\
Soon they were on the round ground table facing each other, with many types of cheese, chicken, and plenty of rice for them. Li Ao talked as he ate a little of everything.
\Chu Shu, do you know why I came to protect your child?\
\I told you yesterday?\
\Did you, sir?\
Li Ao cast him a glare, and the man clasped his hands. \Of course you did, sir. Yes, I remember.\
\What do you remember?\
\You came to protect my daughter.\
Chief threw a bowl of rice at Chu Shu.
*Cough* \Little Shu, your daughter is a Heavens Child. It means that she is favoured by the Heavens with great luck, as well as potential.\ Chief started to explain to Chu Shu in Li Aos stead.
\Whenever someone blessed by Heavens is born, it will attract the attention of demons and beasts in a hundred mile radius. A new-born Heavens Child is a great boon for many creatures, after all. Those who eat their flesh can rise a few realms, and those that can devour their soul will have better luck. So we will need to make some preparations before the labour starts.\
Chu Shus face kept paling throughout the explanation, then gave a heavy nod at the end. He turned to Li Ao again, cupped his hand, and let his arms rest on his knees.
\Don worry.\ Li Ao softly said. \I won let her die. That is my whole job.\
\Thank you, sir immortal.\
\Now, now. Don be such a bummer before anything has happened. Are you used to your power yet?\ Li Ao asked.
\I actually broke a few doors coming out...\
\Okay, lets go hunt a few animals.\ Li Ao said. \Chief, take this.\
Li Ao raised his finger in the air and drew a few characters. When his finger rose from the text, the ambient Qi rushed into a vortex around him and condensed into a talisman. Its paper yellow-bronze, it read Flare on its surface.
\Burn this if anything happens. It can also strike down anyone below Third-Level Qi Condensation.\
Of course, compared to Long Aotians, Li Ao was much more careful in his dealings. He didn want to be one of those retarded characters that just left without contingency, came back to destruction, then blamed heavens or some random young master.
After making the arrangements and brushing his teeth, he let Chu Shu lead him to the forest. His other aim was to test his thoughts from yesterday. As they climbed up a slope, from the edge of his vision, Li Ao saw another great deer watching their movement.
Chu Shu had noticed it long before him. Li Ao felt a little ashamed, but the other side was an experienced hunter while he was a spoiled young master. Such differences were normal in the wild world.
\Take care of it.\ He said.
Chu Shu nodded, then drew his bow from his back. He nocked an arrow, not letting the deer out of his sight, and took a deep breath.
His chest expanded, then in a flash the arrow flew in an arc. It pierced right through the three hiding the great deer and penetrated its skull. The animal fell down with a thud, no longer breathing.
\Good skills.\ Li Ao nodded. Instead of gathering the corpse, they left it there to mark their way and to collect when returning. A few minutes later they encountered a wild boar, which Li Ao took the initiative to pierce with his Scarlet Path.
When the flames washed over the charging boar and it fell limp, Li Ao saw no notification. Indeed, killing random animals would not grant him coins.
Such being the case, he was less enthusiastic the following few hours. When Chu Shu felt confident enough in his control, they returned to the village with three great deer and a few boar carcasses. The following few days the entire village ate the meat of these animals.
In the second week, Li Aos schedule remained same. He cultivated most of the time. Now, having a solid aim in front of him incentivized the boy to cultivate harder. Even if this aim still remained a vague thing, just being chosen to a perk made him consider his privilege. Since he had been chosen, then he had to work harder to prove he deserved it.
On his fourteenth day, Chu Shu, Chief, and Li Ao were sitting in the courtyard, enjoying a game of Go when a woman rushed into the house.
\Master Chu, your wife is in labor!\
\What!?\ Chu Shu dropped the cup of wine from his hands. \But it is too soon!\
\Premature birth?\ Chief also stood up, while Li Ao spread out his Divine Sense across the village. It barely reached the edges of the forest. Sensing nothing, he looked at the two man already gone. The door squeaked behind them.
\Holy **, what is this speed?\
He caught up to them and stopped beside a house with a grand crowd.
Chu Shus roar dispersed the most as he charged in. Li Ao didn follow, but kept his attention high. Since the child was attempting to get out this soon, the heavens themselves must have sensed something wrong.
A few voices rose inside, then Li Ao turned to the Chief. \Get Chu Shu to guard his wife. Don let anyone near the edge of the forest!\
Chief nodded, cupped his hands, and started rallying the crowd away. Right after Li Ao rushed out and stood at the bush that led to the forest. With his Divine Sense, he saw two tigers approaching the village. One of them had no tail.
\These two again?\ Li Ao let out a laugh. \Come to your grandpa!\
He rushed at them, not giving the two tigers a chance, and circulated Scarlet Path. Both his fists enveloped in flames, he clapped them towards the startled tigers.
Palm hit the palm. A shockwave spread from the impact and pushed the two tigers back, burning their fur and whiskers. Li Ao followed after and created a lance with Scarlet Path. With a flick of his wrist, the sharp tip pierced the stunned tiger on his left.
Clenching his muscles, he raised the beast in the air and hurled towards the other. A boom echoed, and a huge dent five-meters in diameter appeared on the earth. Li Ao glanced over to see the two beasts unmoving.
He pierced them with his lance to be safe, then saw two notifications.
*Eliminated a Wild Tiger, awarding 2 Universal Coins*
*Eliminated a Wild Tiger, awarding 2 Universal Coins*
Turning back with a wide smile, Li Ao dashed around the village to see if any other creature was attempting to sneak in. He found none, so returned to the village. As he approached the chief, he heard a miserable scream rise from Chu Shus house.
Chief turned to him, looking pale. \The child is too rough. She is bleeding...\
That was no good.
\Sir Immortal, do you—\
\I have nothing that can help.\
Even with the sixteen Universal Coins on him, there was no medicinal pill he could buy.
While they spoke, the screams inside subsided, then rose again. An hour they spent on foot, waiting under the setting sun, but the wails of the mother did not stop.
\Chief, take a rest. I will keep guard.\
The old man seemed haggard from all the waiting. His wrinkled hands rested on his belly as he prayed.
That was not a tradition in Great Wei Dynasty.
\Thank you, young sir. I will be fine...\
Li Ao advised once more, then took a seat in front of the gates to cultivate. By now he had already consolidated his sixth-level Qi Condensation realm cultivation, but with the situation at hand he could not try anything risky. All he did was restore his spent Qi and keep himself at peak state.
The sun set at last, drowning the village in darkness. Faint candle lights illuminated the windows of the few houses close to Chu Shus. Most of the women looked out to the house where screams never ceased, whispering, apt at attention in case of a mishap. A full moon was upon them at that hour, where midnight long passed and roars rose from the forest. A faint smell of blood permeated the vicinity.
Li Ao stood up. His gaze sharp, but shaken inside, he saw a figure fly out of the forest to land on a roof. It was shaped like a man, with bat-like wings and red eyes. Its fingers had claws instead of nails, and across its entire being a baleful aura formed visible to the eye as a scarlet mist.
A slimy, disgusting feeling welled up inside the onlookers, and mostly in Li Ao who received the sneering gaze of the demon.
\Shut off your lights! Close your windows! A demon is here!\
Chiefs shout shook the few awake villagers. With yelps and screams they extinguished their candles and barricaded their windows. In but a few breaths there was no soul left on the open, except Chief and Li Ao.
\If you value your life, leave at once!\
Li Aos shout echoed around the village. The recepient, however, did not seem affected. The demon let out a low, haggard laugh and spoke like he was drowning in water.
\What life? You should be the one leaving, dog!\
What was up with these people and their dogs?
\Don say I haven warned you, son of a dog!\
Tapping his foot on the ground, Li Ao shot upward to land on another roof. Now he faced the demon, and from their bodies rose the aura of a cultivator which clashed like whips up in the air. Quickly, they reached a concensus.
\Sixth-level...same as me.\
Li Ao was quite nervous, unlike the posturing he presented to the villagers. After all, it had been years since he sparred, and not once had he fought without supervision of a stronger cultivator. He was unfamiliar to life and death.
He was afraid of facing a strong enemy.
In that sense, when their cultivation matched, Li Ao felt relieved. The nerves in him calmed quite a big deal, but he was not out of danger yet.
\What is the deal, dog? Are you just going to stand there?\
Li Ao took a deep breath, circulated Scarlet Path and formed a long lance of three meters. Blazing from his palms, the flaming lance lit up half the village with crimson light. Across him, the demon put both its palms on its chest and pushed in.
Blood squeezed out of its claws like slime and expanded, then wrapped around its arm to form a large blade.
\What the **, a two-hander?\
That was so cool!
Wait, he should not be admiring his opponent.
Li Ao composed himself for the millionth time and took a step forward.
\Any last words?\
\You are making me cringe.\ The demon replied, then shot forward.
Its wings flapped in the air, and its bloody eyes turned into dots as they flashed towards him. Li Ao leaped forward to meet.
One bloody light, another a crimson flame, two figures collided mid-air and sent quakes across the village. Tiles of the roofs under them turned into dust, while many other flew away. A storm of dust picked up around them as they parted, then leaped forward once more.
Li Ao felt his hands turn numb from the heavy strike. Revolving his lance, he made a quick thrust at the demons neck.
Its large sword rose like a bulwark and blocked with the blade, then slid over the lances flaming body to cut his fingers.
Li Ao let go of the lance, created another with his left hand, and thrust it to gain more distance. He had made a very elementary mistake in the hot of the moment—getting too close to a sword user.
The demon did not let him go easily, however. Sliding over a roof, it let out a shout and the wings behind it exploded into hundreds of blood bats. The swarm let out a terrible screech and rushed over to him.
Li Ao felt his stomach churn at the weird sound. The frequency had a very particular attribute that forced him off balance, and each of the bates grazed his body with their claws. Impatient, panicked, he gathered Scarlet Path on his palms and pushed up.
A large flame roared into being and turned most of the bats into ash. The demon charged through the flames, cleaved down the screen, and struck at Li Aos shoulder.
\Oh god, I **ed up.\
An arrow flashed before his eyes and pierced the demons head. The creature seemed shocked, then unwilling, but alas fell limp on the roof. Its hands still clamped around the great sword, the corpse slid down the roof and thumped on the earth.
\Chu Shu, my good man!\ Li Ao showed a thumbs-up to the guy while reeling in his heart.
\I **ed up, I **ed up big time. If it was not for Chu Shu, I would have lost an arm just now.\
Leaving the mission did not even pass through his mind. This, too, made Li Ao dejected. Since when had he been so amateur, so passive, and so blind?
While he pondered, he heard a cry rise into the sky. The moon itself seemed to tremble, and a faint green aura escaped Chu Shus house. Li Ao felt his heart fall weak, then beat harder than ever. The cry rose again, and a joyous laugh resounded in the air. He noticed Chu Shu long gone into his home.
*Mission Accomplished, consult your superior for post-mission clean-up*
\This is it?\
It had been rather quick?
Li Ao jumped down the roof, patting the ash and flesh off his robes, and approached the house. Going inside, he saw Chu Shu embracing a rather ugly baby, and a fair lady on the bed still trying to gather herself. Chief was beside the lady, watching the scene with glowing eyes.
When they saw Li Ao walk in, Chu Shu and Chief stood up, then bowed. The lady seemed a little scared—after all, neither her husband nor her father had told her anything to not make her stressed out. Now, seeing a bloodied man walk in made her lose her bearing.
\This is Heavens Child?\ Li Ao gazed at the ugly baby. Was this girl really a future Fairy?
\Sir immortal, would you like to hold her?\
Hearing how her husband addressed the bloodied Li Ao, the lady let out a confused yelp.
\Nah, I don like ugly babies.\
The comment made the three stiffen. Chu Shu didn say anything, though his smile seemed too miserable.
Chief raised his hand and received the thing Li Ao threw at him. Opening his wrinkled hands, he saw a sparkling blue pill emanating high-purity Spiritual Qi.
\Do you know how to dilute it?\
Chief shook his head. He had never been a successful cultivator, only a rather knowledgable one.
\Put it into a large jar full of water, change it every seven days. Bathe the child in the water to nourish her skin and bones. It should last a year or two with its effectiveness.\
\Sir immortal,\ Chu Shu bowed at him. \There is no need! There is truly no need, you have done enough!\
\Don speak nonsense, idiot. This is for saving my life, not out of generosity.\ Li Ao snorted. \You think I would share good stuff like this with any Wang or Zhang? Don think highly of yourself!\
Chu Shu did not say anything else, but only kept his bow. Turning to Chief and the lady, Li Ao nodded at them both, then left out the door.
*Are you finished?*
*Don push your luck, dog**. Are you done?*
\Yes.\ Li Ao replied. He moved into the forest for extra insurance, then opened the interface. Before he could push down the Return button, however, he had already vanished from the forest.
Back in his cell, Li Ao let out a gurgling sound from shock.
\You dog! What if I swallowed my tongue?\
*You would be real dog** then.*
Li Ao let out a snort, but did not say anything else. \What now?\
Senior Dog** replied with a cool voice. *Check your rewards, I will show you how to deal with them*