unsheathed – Chapter 97: Bowing to the Mountain

Chapter 97: Bowing to the Mountain

Chapter 97: Bowing to the Mountain

Chen Ping'an's group slowly made their way southward along Dragon Whisker Creek and the Iron Talisman River, able to cover over 30 kilometers per day. Li Baoping and Li Huai both had far more stamina than the average child, and even though Lin Shouyi came from a wealthy clan and had already gone through two pairs of straw sandals, he didn't want to lose to the other two children, so he was persevering through the pain.

In addition to that, Chen Ping'an had taught him a way to apply medicinal herbs to his feet to ease his pain, and that allowed him to keep up to this point. There were also horses and A'Liang's white donkey carrying everyone's belongings, so the going wasn't too arduous.

Chen Ping'an genuinely had a great deal of admiration for the three children, particularly because they were embarking on this journey to seek out an education as scholars.

Dragon Spring County belonged to the Great Li Empire's Eternal Splendor Prefecture. A very long time ago, all of the empires on Eastern Treasured Vial Continent had established a joint rule, stating that no territories were to have the word "dragon" in their name, and that such territories had to have the "dragon" character replaced with something else.

Dragon Spring County had most likely only been granted an exception to this rule thanks to its former status as Jewel Small World. [1]

Compared with the location where Jewel Small World had originally been suspended in the sky above the Great Li Empire, the spot where it had landed was much further south. Hence, if one were to travel along the official roads, it would only take less than two months to get from Dragon Spring County to the Great Li Empire's southern border.

Back in the Li Clan, Zhu He had read through many of the books in the manor's collection, so he knew a lot about the outside world. Whenever Chen Ping'an had some spare time, he would ask Zhu He questions about the world outside the town, and similarly, Zhu He was also quite keen to ask Chen Ping'an questions about traversing through mountains and rivers.

For some reason, A'Liang was beginning to drink more and speak less. Ever since he had taken that sip of wine out of A'Liang's gourd, Lin Shouyi had grown a lot closer to A'Liang, and he would often ask A'Liang questions about various different topics. At the same time, he was displaying signs of becoming an alcoholic himself.

Inside Li Baoping's little bookcase was a colored album released by the Great Li Empire's imperial court, depicting the various landmarks across the empire. Theoretically speaking, this was a resource that should've only been made available to official territorial inspectors. According to the album, they were going to reach a mountain by the name of Go Table Mountain very soon. That stretch of mountain path was over 150 kilometers in length, and it passed through four prefectures, including the Eternal Splendor and White Cloud Prefectures.

While the group was resting at the foot of the mountain, Li Huai was staring at the mountain path with a stunned expression. The path was no wider than Dragon Riding Alley, and after a moment of stunned silence, he swung around with a furious expression as he yelled, "A'Liang, you're telling me this is the official road constructed by the Great Li Empire's imperial court?! This road is barely wider than a chicken's intestines! How is this an official road?"

The official roads connected all of the prefectures and counties of an empire together, and they were much like the system of meridians in the human body. If any blockage were to arise in one's meridians, then their flow of qi and blood would be obstructed. Similarly, any blockage on the official roads would disconnect one part of an empire from the other.

A'Liang was seated on a decaying wooden stump by the side of the road, and he took a sip of wine before chuckling in response. "Even official roads are split up into different grades. From the southern border of the Great Li Empire, there are three official roads leading to the north, and this one running through Go Table Mountain is the smallest one. It's most likely used for transporting porcelain, tea leaves, and salt.

In the past, this used to be a very well-traveled road, but now that Jewel Small World has fallen and blocked the path between the south and the north, this official road has temporarily been abandoned, and many businesses are suffering for it. There are many merchant ships stuck at a port to the south of Go Table Mountain in a place called Red Candle Town.

The escort boats there are mostly small boats that can only fit two or three people, and even at night, the entire place is brightly lit. The girls on the boats are gorgeous, and they sit at either the front or the back of the boat, intentionally revealing their long and fair legs for you to see.

You can order a flagon of wine and a plate of peanuts from one of the wine shops on either bank, and you can watch the girls there for an entire night without having to pay even a single copper coin."

Zhu Lu hurriedly bent down and covered Li Baoping's ears with her hands so that she couldn't listen to the scandalous activities that A'Liang was describing. At the same time, a furious look appeared on her face as she declared, "We're not spending the night at Red Candle Town!"

A'Liang pointed at Chen Ping'an with the tip of his gourd as he said with a sly grin, "It's up to him whether we spend the night there or not. He's the one overseeing our finances."

Zhu Lu's eyes instantly became filled with killing intent, as if she were going to kill Chen Ping'an if he dared to agree to spend the night there.

After a moment of contemplation, Chen Ping'an said with a serious expression, "We'll definitely have to stop at the town to stock up on some supplies. As for whether we're going to spend the night there, that depends on the prices that they charge at the inns there. There are quite a few people in our group, so if their prices are too steep, then we'll have to pass."

Zhu Lu wore a dark expression as she protested, "So you're saying if it's cheap to stay there, then we're going to spend the night at that filthy den filled with prostitutes? Chen Ping'an, Lin Shouyi and our young mistress are both scholars, and they're going to be students at Mountain Cliff Academy! How could they live so close to those filthy women? Even if they don't see disgusting activities taking place, they'll inevitably hear what's going on!"

"We'll make a decision after we arrive at the town," Chen Ping'an decided despite Zhu Lu's objections.

Zhu Lu was absolutely fuming, and Zhu He hurriedly interjected, "Let's do as Ping'an says. We shouldn't just reach any premature conclusions, let's go there to take a look first. It's not like we have to spend the night at Red Candle Town."

Zhu Lu's fury hadn't receded in the slightest as she stabbed a finger in Chen Ping'an's direction and scoffed, "Thank heavens you're not a scholar. Otherwise, you'll be the disgrace of all scholars!"

Along this journey, Chen Ping'an had been learning to read and write from Li Baoping and Zhu He, and Zhu Lu's righteous declaration left him feeling rather deflated and embarrassed.

Meanwhile, as the instigator, A'Liang was thoroughly enjoying watching Chen Ping'an being grilled.

Zhu Lu took a glance at the jade hairpin on Chen Ping'an's head, and she sneered, "A monkey like yourself doesn't deserve to wear such a prized hairpin!"

"Zhu Lu, that's enough!" Zhu He interjected in a stern voice, while both Li Baoping and Lin Shouyi's brows furrowed slightly in unison.

Meanwhile, A'Liang took a lazy sip of wine. No matter how exceptional a certain wine was, one would eventually grow tired of it if that was all they had to drink. The thought of Red Candle Town's spring apricot blossom wine was getting him a little excited, and he was thinking about how he could swindle some silver out of Chen Ping'an so that he could have something new to drink.

Chen Ping'an wanted to say something, but didn't say anything in the end and began to scale the mountain in silence.

Prior to entering the mountain, Chen Ping'an extended three bows, just like he always did.

This was an old tradition passed down to him by Old Man Yao, and even though Old Man Yao had never explained to him the reason for this gesture, he still made sure to uphold this tradition every time without fail.

This gesture was treated with contempt by A'Liang, who also ignored Chen Ping'an's pleas for him to not sit on tree stumps as he pleased. Whenever he was tired, he would sit down on the nearest tree stump, just as he was doing at this very moment.

Chen Ping'an wasn't the type of person who liked to force his habits onto others, so after his advice was ignored by A'Liang on two separate occasions, he didn't try to dissuade A'Liang from sitting on tree stumps any further. In any case, nothing had gone amiss yet, so there was no reason for him to say anything.

The long mountain path mostly consisted of a main road paved with bluestone slabs, but it was quite difficult to traverse.

Even though it was already late spring, the plants in the mountains showed no signs of wilting. Instead, every single flower and blade of grass was still teeming with vitality, and it was as if this year's spring were particularly long.

The winding mountain path spiraled upward, and everyone in Chen Ping'an's group had strapped strips of cotton fabric around their ankles to improve their footing. Furthermore, each of them was holding a wooden cane, and of course, everyone was wearing the straw sandals woven by Chen Ping'an, including Zhu He and Zhu Lu, despite the fact that they had packed many pairs of sturdy boots in their luggage.

Initially, Zhu Lu refused to wear the shoes no matter what, looking down on them for being crude and hideous. However, on a rainy day, the mountain became extremely slick and muddy, and she found herself frequently slipping. As a second tier martial artist, she was never in much peril, but she was still constantly stumbling around, making it very difficult to continue in her journey.

In the end, she had no choice but to accept the straw sandals from her father and put them on in silence, much to the schadenfreude of Li Huai. Zhu Lu was infuriated by Li Huai's mockery, and she stomped a foot down into the mud with all her might. As a martial artist at the pinnacle of the second tier, a stomp from her naturally packed a great deal of force, and Li Huai's entire body was splattered with mud.

Having grown up in an impoverished household, Li Huai didn't have many sets of spare clothes, so he was absolutely distraught and erupted into tears. Lin Shouyi was exhausted from scaling the mountain, and he wanted nothing to do with this, so he stopped to rest on the side of the path while rolling his eyes in exasperation.

Zhu He was a kind and pure man, and even though he was a fifth tier martial artist, he still made the effort to apologize to Li Huai and promise him that he would buy him a new set of clothes once they reached the next town. However, what truly saddened Li Huai were the impoverished conditions that he had grown up in, and he felt it extremely unfair that Zhu Lu had such a terrible personality, but such a rich father.

Hence, Zhu Lu's kind offer only served to add insult to injury, and he became even more distraught, stomping into the mud over and over again, splattering it all over his own body. After a while, everyone was becoming frustrated with his antics, and Chen Ping'an tried to console him, but he refused to listen.

It didn't take long before Chen Ping'an was also covered in mud, but he had endured all types of hardships before, so he didn't get angry at Li Huai. Instead, he was simply at a loss for what to do.

Zhu Lu immediately pounced on the opportunity to insult Li Huai even further, telling Chen Ping'an that his good intentions were wasted on Li Huai, and that he should just leave the ungrateful boy behind.

Li Huai began to cry even louder, and even the threats from Li Baoping weren't enough to intimidate him into suppressing his tears.

After racking his brains for a while, Chen Ping'an asked, "How about this, Li Huai? I'll make you a little bamboo bookcase."

Li Huai's sobs immediately ceased, and he wiped the tears and snot from his face as he asked with a serious expression. "How big will the bookcase be?"

"It can't be too big," Chen Ping'an replied. "You're too small at the moment, so a bookcase that's too big will weigh you down too much. If you don't want one, then pretend as if I never said anything. You can keep crying, while we keep going, and it's up to you whether you follow us."

A smile broke through Li Huai's tears as he said, "It can be small, but it has to look good! At the very least, it has to look just as good as Li Baoping's bookcase!"

"To think that a boy your age has already learned to put on a pitiful act to extort things out of others," Zhu Lu scoffed. "Like parent, like child, I suppose. I don't even have to see your parents to be able to tell what type of people they are!"

Buoyed by the promise of a bookcase, Li Huai was no longer bothered by Zhu Lu's insults, and he made a provocative face at her, much to her fury and chagrin.

"How about I make you a bookcase as well?" Chen Ping'an asked as he turned to Lin Shouyi.

Lin Shouyi was just about to refuse, when Chen Ping'an continued, "It's not difficult for me anyway."

Lin Shouyi hesitated momentarily upon hearing this, then nodded in response.

The scenery at the pinnacle of Go Table Mountain was extremely peculiar. It resembled a massive grain-sunning ground, the likes of which were a common sight in the town, and it was a very flat and even plateau, as if the mountain peak had been shaved off by a sword slash from an almighty immortal.

All of the children were ecstatic, and even Zhu He was struck by the urge to yell out in exultation as he cast his gaze far into the north.

Chen Ping'an was accustomed to seeing the scenery on mountain peaks. In particular, he had explored many mountains during his last trip into the mountains, so he was the most composed and indifferent of the group.Finnd ew chapters on nve/lbi(.)com

That night, they were going to spend the night on the mountaintop, so Zhu He and Zhu Lu began to set up the tents, while Li Huai and Lin Shouyi rushed away to pick up some flammable firewood. Meanwhile, Chen Ping'an and Li Baoping were crafting a makeshift stove out of rocks for cooking purposes. At this point, everyone had mostly exhausted their supplies of dry rations, so they really did need to replenish their supplies.

For this purpose, Chen Ping'an had picked all of the medicinal herbs that he had spotted along their journey before placing them into his basket. Due to how familiar and efficient he was with traversing mountainous terrains, even if he had to take a slightly longer path to pick the medicinal herb, he would still be able to quickly catch up to the group, so there was no delay.

At this point, he had already accumulated close to half a basket full of precious dried medicinal herbs, which he was hoping to sell for money.

After eating a meal of rice with pickled vegetables, A'Liang began to lead a protest, knocking on their bowls with their chopsticks as they complained about the lack of meat in their meals.

Chen Ping'an acknowledged their complaints, telling them that he was going to make a few traps that night to see if he could catch a few wild chickens.

All mountain-dwelling animals left unique tracks behind, and Chen Ping'an was very familiar with those tracks, so through some careful observation, he was able to easily spot a few routes taken by the wild animals to drinking spots. Furthermore, the small boobie traps that he constructed out of branches and rocks weren't very complex, and he had become very skilled at making them.

At around dusk, Chen Ping'an left the plateau at the top of the mountain on his own to try his luck. A short while later, the clouds around the mountaintop began to converge and scatter in a fast and unpredictable manner, much like a naughty child switching between a series of funny faces. However, the wind wasn't particularly strong.

At the same time, the majestic and reinvigorating scenery suddenly began to strike the beholder with a sense of sinister foreboding.

Zhu He was becoming a little uneasy upon sensing these changes, but he didn't want to disturb the three children, who were reciting some book passages together, nor did he want to bother his daughter, who was sitting on her own on the edge of a cliff with a dazed expression. After a moment of contemplation, he made his way to a secluded area, then pulled out a book that was yellow with age.

He then flipped the book open to a certain page, then placed his finger near the term "Soil Molding Technique" and began to carefully read through the tiny red text. He then flipped over a page to reveal a pair of diagrams, one of which was a small mountain, but the foot of the mountain resembled an intertwining mass of bamboo shoots, and beside that was an image of a peculiar hand seal with the annotation "Great Mountain Talisman" inscribed next to it.

There was a look of concentration on Zhu He's face as he recited the passage to himself in silence over and over again in order to fully commit it to memory.

"Take one handful of soil each from the east and the south of the mountain, and it would be best to mold the soil into the '' character, but the '' character will also suffice. Burn a Mountain God Talisman as an offering, then exhale while keeping your feet firmly planted on the earth, and you'll be able to draw upon the power of the land and the mountain god." [2]

Zhu He closed the ancient book, then carefully stowed it away before pulling a sheet of yellow paper out of a stack of yellow talismans in his sleeve. He then followed the instructions that he had just read, grabbing a handful of soil from both the east and the south before molding it into the character.

Right as he was about to ignite the yellow talisman that Patriarch Li had bestowed upon him, he received a massive fright. As it turned out, A'Liang had arrived at some point without Zhu He's detection, and he was squatting right beside him, holding his gourd as he said with a smile, "The talisman that you're holding is quite well inscribed, but the material used is rather ordinary. When it comes to talismans, no compromise can be made in any area, and the material of the paper used is as important to the talisman as cultivation aptitude is to a person.

Hence, it won't be able to bear the weight of the character, so I suggest you mold the character. Otherwise, you run the risk of irking the mountain god, rather than drawing upon their power."

This was the first time that Zhu He was coming into contact with these mystical entities that he had previously only heard of in legends, so he was feeling a little nervous, and he asked in an uneasy voice, "Senior A'Liang, is there really a mountain god residing on Go Table Mountain? If that's the case, then why is there such a pronounced sinister aura in the air?"

A'Liang took a casual sip of wine, then chuckled, "Who told you that mountain gods are guaranteed to be benevolent folks?"

"Is that not the case?" Zhu He asked with a stunned expression.

"I don't know, I was just making an errant remark," A'Liang replied. "Who knows what the personality of the mountain god here is like?"

All of a sudden, an alarming thought occurred to Zhu He, and he exclaimed, "Chen Ping'an has gone off on his own! He could be in danger!"

A'Liang nodded in response.

An urgent look appeared on Zhu He's face as he implored, "Senior A'Liang, can you go find Chen Ping'an while I complete this Soil Molding Technique? I'm only a fifth tier martial artist, and I'm confident in my ability to put up a fight against other martial artists or cultivators, but I have no idea how to deal with these strange entities."

A'Liang smiled as he rose to his feet, then swaggered away as he said, "Alright, then be careful on your own."

1. In ancient China, it was widely believed that an emperor was the son of a dragon, so the use of the word "dragon" was often considered to be taboo in pretty much any context outside of the imperial family.

2. is the traditional form of (both pronounced yue), and strictly speaking, both and (shan) translate to mountain, but according to certain ancient Chinese texts, a is just any natural mound of rocks and soil that's taller than the land around it, while a is considered to be a ruler/leader among mountains, so it naturally holds more weight than the character.

Chapter end

Chapter 31: Beating Around the Mountain
Chapter 32: Peach Leaf
Chapter 33: White Dragon Disguising as a Fish
Chapter 34: Gathered Together
Chapter 35: Licorice Root
Chapter 36: Ancient Book
Chapter 37: Fist Technique
Chapter 38: Ninth Tier
Chapter 39: Cursing the Locust Tree
Chapter 40: Returning the Courtesy
Chapter 42: Prodigy
Chapter 43: The Young Boy and the Old Dog
Chapter 44: Coming to Light
Chapter 45: Sunlight
Chapter 46: Skirt Dagger
Chapter 47: Going Alone
Chapter 48: The Hunter and the Hunted
Chapter 49: Porcelain Shard
Chapter 50 (1): One Who is Destined for Great Things
Chapter 50 (2): One Who is Destined for Great Things
Chapter 51: Confrontation
Chapter 52: Shudder
Chapter 53: Gift
Chapter 54: Facing the Enemy
Chapter 55: Feeling Proud in the Spring Breeze
Chapter 56: Nodding Bodhisattva
Chapter 57: Sword Nurturing Gourd
Chapter 58: Teacher
Chapter 59: Sleep
Chapter 60: There's a Ghost
Chapter 61: Helpless Pawn
Chapter 62: Falling Tree
Chapter 63 (1): So That's How It Is
Chapter 63 (2): So That's How It Is
Chapter 64: The Three Chens
Chapter 65: Jewel
Chapter 66: Looking Up
Chapter 67 (1): Long Journey
Chapter 67 (2): Long Journey
Chapter 68: Spring Under the Heavens
Chapter 69: Night
Chapter 70: Daylight
Chapter 71 (1): I’ll Like You for a While Longer
Chapter 71 (2): I’ll Like You for a While Longer
Chapter 72: Black Cloud
Chapter 73: Wooden Figure
Chapter 74: The Fire Dragon Roams the Water
Chapter 75: Mountain Selection
Chapter 76: Back to Back
Chapter 77: Entering the Mountains
Chapter 78: Another Dream
Chapter 79: Spring Welcome Seal
Chapter 80: Leaving the Mountains
Chapter 81: Imperial Preceptor
Chapter 82 (1): Master and Student, Senior Brother and Junio
Chapter 82 (2): Master and Student, Senior Brother and Junio
Chapter 83: Dreams
Chapter 84 (1): I Have a Sword
Chapter 84 (2): I Have a Sword
Chapter 85 (1): Conclusion of the Examination
Chapter 85 (2): Conclusion of the Examination
Chapter 86 (1): Walking the Same Path
Chapter 86 (2): Walking the Same Path
Chapter 87 (1): Little Teacher
Chapter 87 (2): Little Teacher
Chapter 88: Grand Entrance
Chapter 89: Two Heads
Chapter 90: Heavy Rain
Chapter 91: Jade Hairpin
Chapter 92 (1): Bamboo Bookcase
Chapter 92 (2): Bamboo Bookcase
Chapter 93 (1): There's a Character on the Wall
Chapter 93 (2): There's a Character on the Wall
Chapter 94: A Feast for the Eyes
Chapter 95: Too Small a Place
Chapter 96: Demons in the Mountains and Rivers
Chapter 97: Bowing to the Mountain
Chapter 98: The Meddlesome Mountain God
Chapter 99: The Mountain God and the Bamboo Saber
Chapter 100 (1): The World Beneath One's Feet
Chapter 100 (2): The World Beneath One's Feet
Chapter 101: Guard the Mountain
Chapter 102: Soaring White Ray
Chapter 103: Bamboo Building
Chapter 104: Sharing the Spoils
Chapter 105: Rootless Duckweed
Chapter 106: People from All Walks of Life
Chapter 107: Fishing Net
Chapter 108: Spring Hunting
Chapter 109: The Young Boy Has Some Words to Say
Chapter 110: All Good Things Must Come to an End
Chapter 111: Bamboo Hat
Chapter 112: Powerful Individual
Chapter 113: Unparalleled Might
Chapter 114: Seeing A'Liang Again
Chapter 115: There's an Old Scholar In the World (1)
Chapter 116: There's an Old Scholar In the World (2)
Chapter 117 (1): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)
Chapter 117 (2): There's an Old Scholar In the World (3)
Chapter 118 (1): There's Righteousness In The World
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