Steward Liu said: “He still has to eat.”

Tiger Li said: “Who doesn’t have to eat?”

As they say, people become shrewder when they become old. Village Chief Li wasn’t silly yet and his eyes brightened: “You’re saying?”

“If he wants to eat he has to work. Who can still afford to hire him in this village? If he works under me, won’t he be at our mercy?”

Steward Liu looked at the admiring expression on Village Chief Li’s face and his son’s and felt a burst of pride. Food was the common people’s G.o.d, but it didn’t fall from the sky and grew from the land instead. To control the land was the same as grasping the people’s lifeblood. If he couldn’t eat for three days, even a hero would become a chicken.

Steward Liu had already planned his countermeasures. I don’t need to be ruthless and eradicate him, just beat him and see his att.i.tude. It won’t be too bad if he can be useful to me.

Li Qingshan had no idea about those schemes and calculations when he woke up from his dreams. He only saw a musk deer lying in his courtyard. He laughed a “hehe” and without even thanking the green bull he skinned the deer and cut the meat. This time he’d already prepared salt and he could pickle the meat, so it wouldn’t decay if he couldn’t eat it all.

Done with those preparations, he went besides the brook and briefly washed himself, then started the day’s training.

During those several days of efforts, he always got up from bed before daylight and only went to sleep when the sky was entirely black. He almost didn’t put one step outside of his house, completely cutting off contact with the outside world. He trained every day until exhaustion, but he didn’t feel it difficult or boring.

He was striving hard toward his own dreams. With every step forward, every little bit of progress, it was as if a brand new world was opening in front of him.

After more than ten days, at the same moment when Li Qingshan had just finished the last of the deer meat, Village Chief was already on the verge of breaking. These days he didn’t have a single peaceful sleep, and had to make his two sons stand guard besides his bed every night to barely sleep a little. At such an advanced age, how could he endure this way? He looked like he was going to suffer a serious illness at any moment, and he hurriedly went to consult with Steward Liu.

Steward Liu was also anxious with this wait. Everyday he sent servants to observe outside Li Qingshan’s house. The first servant came back and said that right now Li Qingshan was eating meat and drinking wine day in and day out, and he was even practicing martial arts. He still didn’t believe at first, but after several servants came back and all said the same things, no one dared to go observe anymore.

The demon possession the witch talked about floated in their minds. Li Qingshan’s courtyard was majestically shrouded in a mysterious and frightful atmosphere. Moreover Li Qingshan diligently practiced martial arts, and in some people’s opinion it was precisely in preparation for revenge.

Watching Village Chief Li who seemed almost ready to cry, Steward Liu frowned and made a decision: “Invite him to attend a banquet. If he dares to come then he’s a hero, if he doesn’t dare then he’s a wimp who’s putting up airs.”

An invitation card was delivered to Li Qingshan’s hand. He fiddled around with the crimson invitation. In this small village, whether weddings or funerals, most of the time people came to invite you orally. This kind of formal invite was extremely rare, and he couldn’t help but feel a sense of novelty.

He pondered a while. This was like a Red Wedding, and if he went he could well be walking head-first into a trap. He’d only practiced his technique for a dozen days, and although he obtained quite a lot of results, you still couldn’t ask him to fight a crowd with only his two fists.

But if he didn’t go, the prestige he’d established with much pains would be thrown to the waters. When people mentioned him they would certainly say he didn’t even dare to go to a banquet, and his reputation would be ruined.

The blows would come incessantly if he showed any weakness at this time. This hand of Steward Liu’s contained very deep calculations, forcing him between a rock and a hard place.

The green bull said: “Are you going?”

“It just happens I don’t have anything to eat anymore, why wouldn’t I go if someone invites me? Guan Yunchang went to the meeting with nothing but his blade1, don’t tell me I have to be afraid of eating a village meal.” Li Qingshan laughed loudly, a heroic spirit emerging in his chest.

“Who’s Gun Yunchang?”

“A hero I heard about.” Li Qingshan stood up, put strength in his two arms and demonstrated the Bull Demon Horn Gore. At once he breathed loudly and spit out his breath. Sounds of moos faintly came from inside his lungs, like a big buffalo waving its two horns and ready to fight.

The green bull nodded with satisfaction. Li Qingshan’s [Bull Demon Strong Fist] was already touching the door of the dao. The progress was really amazingly fast. It wouldn’t be beneficial to his cultivation if he were to go into hiding now because of this small danger.

“By chance I still have grudges with some people that I haven’t been able to cleanly settle yet. It’s not a pleasant feeling in my chest, now’s just the right opportunity.” Since the day he cut off grievances and grudges with Big Couple Li, Li Qingshan’s [Bull Demon Strong Fist] had indeed made a lot of progress, proving that his conjecture wasn’t just an illusion.

The summer was about to pa.s.s but the sun was still as bright as before. Inside Steward Liu’s great courtyard, under the shades of several elm trees, the banquet tables had already been arranged in place.

A group of burly men filled several square tables and swallowed their saliva as they looked at the dishes and wines on the tables. There was only Steward Liu’s home that could afford this kind of feast! But with the craftiness of farmers, they also knew they weren’t gratuitously invited to this feast, and Steward Liu had already explained many things to them.

He said… said that he’d hurl his cup in what signal? Anyway they didn’t really understand, they only knew that once Steward Liu showed hostility they had to wave their fists.

They weren’t too keen on becoming enemy with Li Qingshan, but they were all hired workers on Steward Liu’s farms and they didn’t dare offend this person who their livelihood depended on. Anyway that Li the Second was only fifteen years old, how could he fight against so many people? So every worker who could come already came and filled several tables to the brim.

Even if they somewhat couldn’t bear, they could only use a lighter hand and just pretend, let the Second son kneel and apologize to Steward Liu so he could suffer a little less hards.h.i.+ps.

Cicadas lazily screeched overhead, and everyone was a little impatient. It wasn’t a little ordeal for them to see good food and good wine but not being able to taste them. The sound of their conversation drowned the cicadas:

“It’s about time, he’s scared and didn’t dare to come, let’s hurry to eat!”

“So in his place you wouldn’t be afraid? Not coming is the right choice, only a dumba.s.s would come.”

Steward Liu only smiled faintly as if he didn’t hear, thinking: it’s best if he knows fear, it’s only a little kid after all .

“He’s coming he’s coming!” A young worker trotted into the yard with a face full of sweat: “Li the Second came!”

The people in the yard looked like their necks were being strangled all at the same time. No one made a sound. The cries of cicadas suddenly become louder and clearer.

Li Qingshang stood in front of the Liu house’s gate, his heart likewise fiercely anxious. Things were always easy to say and harder to do. This great Liu house’s courtyard with green bricks and white walls in front of him was just like a small dragon pond or tiger cave. If he were a little careless he could well throw his life away inside.

The idea of turning tails came to him as he remembered that “revenge was a dish best served cold.” With the current speed of his progress, he just needed time, a year, no, half a year, even three months. He could whip his [Bull Demon Strong Fist] into shape, then he wouldn’t need to fear anyone inside the yard anymore.

His spirit suddenly shook, and he asked his own conscience: “Li Qingshan, Li Qingshan, don’t tell me the words you said back then were only farts? In this life you only dare to bare your fangs to people weaker than you? In that case even if you cultivated unrivaled divine powers, you would still merely be nothing more than a coward to your very bones.”

These various s.h.i.+fting moods and thoughts actually only took a few moments. Li Qingshan deeply breathed in, clenched his fists, his expression becoming firm and unwavering as he crossed inside the gate without any hesitation.

1. Guan Yunchang is Guan Yu, a famous character of the Three Kingdoms era and a general under Liu Bei. This particular meeting was between him and Lu Su, a va.s.sal of Sun Quan, to settle a territorial dispute between Liu Bei and Sun Quan over the Jing province. I believe it is the Book of Wu that mentions that Lu Su came with hundreds of soldiers, while Guan Yu went with nothing but his blade.

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