unsheathed – Chapter 96: Demons in the Mountains and Rivers

Chapter 96: Demons in the Mountains and Rivers

Chapter 96: Demons in the Mountains and Rivers

For whatever reason, the group of demons that had already attained stable souls and were able to manifest human forms had fled in a blind panic, and as a result, the string of Demon Chiming Bells in Zhu He's hand had naturally fallen silent.

However, Zhu He was rather spooked by the fact that these demons dared to show themselves in broad daylight, and he was concerned that they had conjured up some type of confounding illusion, so he convinced A'Liang not to continue in their journey for now.

Instead, he ventured along the river in the downstream direction by himself, raising the string of bells up high as he crossed the river back and forth, wandering around to detect if the demons were lurking in the shadows, waiting for an opportunity to pounce on them.

Hence, after Chen Ping'an and the others had packed up their belongings, all of them remained on the spot, watching Zhu He dart back and forth across the river like a headless chicken. Li Huai found this to be absolutely hilarious, while Lin Shouyi was simply curious about what Zhu He was doing, and Zhu Lu was feeling thoroughly embarrassed.

She was a very prideful young woman, and she wanted nothing more than to drag her father back and stop him from making a further fool of himself.

Chen Ping'an noticed that A'Liang's expression remained unchanged, and he didn't make fun of Zhu He like he normally did. Upon noticing Chen Ping'an's gaze, he removed the gourd from his waist, then smiled as he asked, "Are you sure you don't want a drink?"

Chen Ping'an shook his head in response, and A'Liang turned to Lin Shouyi as he said, "You just saw some demons, and it wasn't just one or two of them, either. That's a very rare experience. How about a drink to soothe your nerves?"

Perhaps it was because of the excitement from seeing some demons for the first time, but for whatever reason, Lin Shouyi was rather tempted by the offer, and for the first time, he nodded as he replied, "I'll have a sip."

A'Liang took a glance at Chen Ping'an out of the corner of his eye, and he reverted back to his joking demeanor as he remarked, "See what a smart boy he is? You're making a big mistake!"

Lin Shouyi accepted the silver gourd from A'Liang, then took a small sip of wine, and his face instantly became bright red. Having had a privileged upbringing, his skin was quite fair, so the red flush on his cheeks was particularly apparent, and he hurriedly clasped a hand over his own mouth so that he didn't reflexively spit out the wine. The wine left a burning trail down his throat, and after it entered his belly, he felt as if all of his organs had been set alight.

His entire body was trembling, and it was clear that his very first drinking experience was proving to be quite a rough one. Li Huai was chortling with mirth at the sight of his sorry display, and the prideful Lin Shouyi didn't want to look bad in front of him, so he gritted his teeth and steeled himself to take another sip, only for A'Liang to grab the gourd out of his hand before pressing his other hand down onto his shoulder as he smiled and said, "Wine is best enjoyed in moderation. I'll give you a sip every day from now on, and I guarantee you all of your woes will melt away."

Li Huai immediately saw through A'Liang's excuse as he scoffed, "If you're too stingy to let Lin Shouyi drink more, then you should just say so."

A'Liang removed his hand from Lin Shouyi's shoulder as he sighed, "How could I not be stingy? This wine is extremely illustrious and expensive, and most importantly, it can't be purchased on the market. Lin Shouyi is extremely blessed to have gotten a taste of this wine."

"Can I have a sip as well?" Li Huai asked.

A'Liang hurriedly strapped the gourd to his waist again, then replied, "You're too young, and your acupoints aren't fully formed yet. If you drink strong wine now, you'll ruin your cultivation aptitude."

Li Huai faltered slightly upon hearing this, then immediately erupted into a fit of rage. "That's bull**! During the Spring Festival Eve meal last year, I was able to sip wine by dipping my chopsticks into the cup! That was the strongest wine in our town, even my father said that I take after him in my alcohol tolerance, and everyone in the town knows that my father can drink more than anyone!

On top of that, starting from last spring, my father made me bathe in a vat full of medicinal wine each month, and I could drink the wine just by lowering my head! You can't fool me with your lies!"

A'Liang took a glance at the furious Li Huai, and it finally became clear to him how the boy was able to keep up with the rest of the group without even developing so much as a single blister on the soles of his feet. His physical constitution was clearly superior even to Lin Shouyi's, and that was most likely attributable to the medicinal wine baths that he had been taking.

An intrigued look appeared in A'Liang's eyes as he began to carefully size up Li Huai. He had never taken a close look at Li Huai before, and now that he did, he was stunned by what he saw. As it turned out, his internal condition had been concealed through the use of an extremely advanced mystical ability.

Of course, now that A'Liang was taking a close look, he was naturally able to see through the concealment, and a profound map of sorts was revealed before his eyes. He could see beyond Li Huai's skin and flesh to his acupoints and the flow of qi and blood throughout his entire body. There was faint purple qi rising up within his body, which resembled a strong and majestic mountain range.

The qi surging through his meridians resembled a turbulent yet stable river that ultimately converged in one of his acupoints, presenting a remarkable sight to behold.

"It seems that this father-in-law that I've randomly picked up is no ordinary person," A'Liang mused with an amazed expression. "Li Huai, what's your father's name? I may have some friends over here who're familiar with him."

Li Huai suddenly fell silent at the mention of his father, then strode away in a glum manner, not wishing to speak to A'Liang any longer.

Lin Shouyi explained in a quiet voice, "Li Huai's father is called Li Er, and he's notorious in the town for being a lazy drunkard who never does anything productive. Back at school, Lin Shouyi was often teased because of his father, and in the beginning, he would argue with those people, and he even got into a few fights.

However, after that, he probably felt like his father really was as useless as everyone else proclaimed, so he stopped caring what other people said about him."

A'Liang was rather amused to hear this. "The little rascal doesn't know how lucky he is."

This was nothing more than an errant remark from A'Liang, but Lin Shouyi was rather intrigued, and he stored this snippet of information away in his memory.

Around an hour later, Zhu He finally returned, and he smiled as he said, "The bells didn't detect anything within a radius of five kilometers, so we should be fine to continue."

"Thank you for your hard work, Uncle Zhu," Li Baoping said with a smile as she handed him a water bottle.

Zhu He accepted the bottle as he casually replied, "I'm just doing my job, Young Mistress."

A dark look appeared in Zhu Lu's eyes upon seeing this, and she turned to look at the turbulent water in the Iron Talisman River as she bit down on her lower lip in silence.

Her thoughts were as fickle and elusive as the wind and the mist.

Meanwhile, Chen Ping'an was inspecting the Demon Chiming Bells in Zhu He's hand with keen interest.

Aside from Ning Yao's flying sword, this was only the second treasure that he had seen up close, so he was particularly intrigued.

Zhu He was quite a generous and easygoing man, and he handed the string of bells to Chen Ping'an as he explained, "This is a treasure that was bestowed upon me by our patriarch before I set off. Our patriarch told me that this treasure isn't of a particularly high caliber, and all it does is chime whenever there are demons in human form nearby.

Its chime can both alert the holder to the presence of such demons, as well as clear the holder's mind so that they aren't fooled by demonic illusions. Our patriarch also claimed that given its ability to improve focus and clear the mind, a courageous cultivator could take advantage of the bell by residing near a demon, thereby allowing them to constantly use its chime to aid them in their cultivation.

Of course, that would only work if they could find a demon with no intention of harming them, and one that can tolerate the constant chiming of the bells. Such formidable yet amicable demons are definitely very hard to find, so this was nothing more than a joke from our patriarch."

Chen Ping'an was carefully holding onto the string of bells, while Zhu He walked along beside him with his horse in tow. "In a larger form, this would be referred to as a gong, while in a smaller form, it's called a bell. Most immortal artifacts of this nature are able to ward off evil spirits, so mortal households like to hang windchimes under the eaves of their houses, more so as decorative pieces, of course.

If one could acquire a set of windchimes from a monastery or a Daoist temple and have the windchimes be blessed by someone of lofty merits and virtues, then those windchimes really will be able to ward off evil and protect the household from sinister forces."

Chen Ping'an gently shook the string of bells, and Zhu He burst into laughter. "The bells won't ring unless there are demons nearby. Otherwise, if it randomly chimes during the day, the holder will constantly have to look over their shoulder in suspicion, and the bells would be more trouble than they're worth."

This made sense to Chen Ping'an, and he was just about to return the precious Demon Chiming Bells to Zhu He when he felt a tug on his sleeve. He looked down to find Li Baoping looking up at him with an expectant expression, and after he was given the nod by Zhu He, he gave the bells to Li Baoping, who accepted them with both hands, then began to turn them back and forth to study them carefully.

She then reached into the bell to tug forcefully on the clapper inside, much to Chen Ping'an's horror, and he hurriedly cautioned her to be careful, lest she pull out the clapper with her insistent tugging.

While keeping an eye on Li Baoping, Chen Ping'an asked in a curious voice, "Uncle Zhu, were those demons that we saw earlier harmless to humans? Are there a lot of them in our Great Li Empire?"Visitt novlbin(.)c/m for the ltest updates

Zhu He wasn't the type of person to make up stories, so he only told Chen Ping'an what he had personally heard from the patriarch of the Li Clan. "Our Eastern Treasured Vial Continent is a vast continent, and there are around a dozen enormous empires on the continent with populations exceeding 10 million.

The continent is also laden with countless tall mountains and large rivers, so it's not that rare for certain demons and spirits to attain human forms through certain fated opportunities, thereby allowing them to embark on the path of cultivation. Having said that, it's definitely not a common sight, either.

Our patriarch told us that the people in the outside world are different from the people in our town. As long as they're not living in extremely secluded parts of Eastern Treasured Vial Continent, they'll have heard stories about such beings. Perhaps not everyone has seen such beings, but there are many stories about them cataloged in unofficial historic chronicles and immortal journals.

As a result, many people firmly believe that in rarely frequented ancient monasteries deep in the mountains, there are alluring fox demonesses waiting to prey on impoverished scholars traveling to the capital to take the imperial examination, or that wherever there are demons wreaking havoc and harming people, all one had to do was send a letter to Mount Longhu, and an enlightened being would arrive atop an auspicious cloud to slay the demons in the area.

In fact, this is such a popular story that children across the entire continent are aware of the phrase: 'where there are demons causing trouble, there must also be enlightened individuals nearby'. Hence, there's no need to be alarmed if we run into more of these beings on our journey, but of course, it's important to be careful as well.

Our patriarch told me that if a demon has truly adopted a human form and isn't just posing as a human through an illusion, then they'll essentially be half a cultivator. The imperial court of the Great Li Empire is quite happy to see this, and not only will they not oppress such beings, they'll even make special exceptions for them and allow them to establish their own sects in the Great Li Empire. All they have to do is submit a registration to the ministry of rites.

However, due to certain rules and traditions, there are no demons serving in the Great Li Empire's imperial court, but I've heard that there are many demonic cultivators who have made significant contributions in battle on the border. Apparently, they live just like we do, and they're completely indistinguishable from humans."

Zhu He's story was very interesting and easy to understand, and Chen Ping'an was listening with keen interest, as were Li Huai and Lin Shouyi.

In contrast, A'Liang was walking along at the forefront of the group, paying no heed to what Zhu He was saying as he gently tapped the hilt of his bamboo saber with his hand while humming a song that was completely out of tune.

Meanwhile, Zhu Lu was trailing along at the very rear of the group, and she was even more disinterested. It seemed that the further from home she was, the more homesick she became.

After the group had traveled for another two hours, a middle-aged woman appeared on the rock cliff atop the waterfall situated on the border of Dragon Whisker Creek and the Iron Talisman River. She sat on the edge of the cliff, and she had a head of dark green hair that was an astonishing 50 to 60 feet in length, spilling all the way down to her feet before extending down into the water below.

Her head was lowered as she stared intently at the turbulent water of the Iron Talisman River, and her eyes were filled with longing and desire. At the same time, her facial features were constantly shifting and changing, as if she still had to wait for some type of catalyst before she could truly stabilize her form.

River god and river guardian. The difference was only a single word, but the disparity in status and power between the two was night and day.

This was the furthest point that she could reach. Any further than this, and she would be stepping out of line. Just like how a human official couldn't leave their post as they pleased, the mountain and water gods that protected the land were also unable to leave their territories at will.

Otherwise, all types of natural disasters would become rampant across the land. Her ascension to godhood was imminent, and she naturally wasn't going to cause trouble for herself at such an important juncture. She had once swam in secret upstream along the creek into the mountains, where she had spotted the chief fengshui master of the Great Li Empire, who was there watching the waterfall.

All it had taken was a casual glance from him, and she felt as if she had almost been destroyed on the spot. From that point onward, she developed a deep sense of respect and fear toward the unfathomable individuals outside of the town.

She had followed Chen Ping'an's group all the way to this point, not because she harbored any sinister intentions, but instead because she had been assigned the task of keeping an eye on A'Liang by Ruan Qiong as a safety precaution. During these past few days, she had watched them day and night, performing her duty to the best of her abilities, not daring to slack off for even a single moment.

She was terrified of that girl with the bracelet that could transform into a fiery dragon, and her fear was only exacerbated by Old Man Yang, who had told her that she could one day be destroyed by the girl to fulfill her Dao attainment catalyst.

After becoming a river guardian, she had developed a series of mystical abilities. For example, she was becoming more youthful in appearance with each passing day, and swimming through the water granted her an immense sense of comfort.

Furthermore, on days with heavy rainfall, she would be able to see the town through the rain or through pockets of groundwater. Throughout all these past days of tireless searching, she had found several prized artifacts on the lakebed, all of which had become a part of her collection.

One of those artifacts was a green jade ring that she was wearing on her finger, and she would admire it whenever she had some spare time, much like a mortal woman inspecting their gold accessories with glee and wonder.

The more she ascended above the average mortal, the more fearful she became of Old Man Yang and Ruan Xiu because those two seemed to be capable of destroying everything that she had right now with ease.

She reined in her wandering thoughts as she inspected her surroundings. At this point, having become a part of the Great Li Empire, the spiritual energy in Jewel Small World had become extremely abundant, making it a prime location for cultivation, just like the 72 blessed lands. As a result, many flying and land-dwelling animals were beginning to be drawn to Jewel Small World.

In particular, the mountain spirits that had developed higher intelligence were instinctively converging toward this place, hoping to arrive before everyone else and claim prized areas for themselves. It was the duty of mountain and river gods to protect the land, and at this point, she had already recruited several carp that had grown dragon whiskers to do her bidding.

Whenever she went out, she was always accompanied by an entourage of many water-dwelling creatures acting as her servants and her guards, and that gave her a lot of satisfaction.

Even though she was unable to swim into the Iron Talisman River for now, she had to station herself at this waterfall to try and earn a toll from those looking to secure passage from the river to the creek. Old Man Yang had already granted her permission to do this, so she was feeling very confident, able to flaunt her power here as she pleased.

However, she was quite wary and careful by nature, and deep down, she was still feeling a little uneasy, terrified of the possibility that an unfathomably powerful figure could pass by someday and inadvertently kill her with a sneeze.


The river guardian's eyes narrowed slightly as she cast her gaze toward the group of five sneaking their way along the Iron Talisman River.

Prior to this, she had been hiding in the water at the top of the waterfall, and she had seen the five of them put on an extremely haughty display, as if they were a group of traveling immortals. As a result, she had almost been intimidated into hiding and cowering away. However, for some reason, the five of them suddenly turned to flee for their lives in a blind panic. Regardless of why they had suddenly begun fleeing for their lives, she no longer feared them.

Instead, she harbored nothing but derision and superiority toward them. Not only was she officially serving Sage Ruan, increasing the yin energy in the water to aid him in the forging of his swords, she had managed to survive an encounter with Ruan Xiu and that fiery dragon of hers! Were those not reasons for her to be proud?

With that in mind, she was feeling far more reassured, and she did her best to appear as calm and indifferent as possible, putting on a tranquil facade as she sat on the edge of the cliff and looked coldly at the five demons across the river. Among them was an old man wearing a coir rain cape, looking much like an elderly scholar who was fond of hiking and traveling.

There was also a voluptuous woman dressed in vibrant clothing with a pair of alluring eyes, a small child with a pair of deep-set eyes holding a purple bamboo cane, and a duo consisting of a young boy and a young girl, giving off the most pronounced demonic auras out of everyone in the group, and they were hiding behind the old man in a timid manner, not daring to look directly at anyone.

Demons were supposed to avoid humans and revere gods; this was an unspoken rule that had been passed down since ancient times.

However, in this day and age, it was very difficult to see a deity in the flesh, and they could only be seen in the form of inanimate statues worshipped in temples. Having said that, even young children were aware that there were many immortals residing high up in the mountains.

As for the mountain and river gods officially assigned by the imperial court, even if they weren't the gods of the Five Mountains, they were still unfathomable beings in the eyes of mountain demons and spirits, unless those demons and spirits were far superior in cultivation base to the aforementioned gods. In fact, to them, even a mere river guardian was considered to be a lofty figure that was not to be messed with.

"We are vagrant cultivators previously dwelling on the border of the Great Li Empire, and we've come here to pay our respects to the esteemed river god."

The old man extended a respectful bow toward the river guardian, then continued with a solemn expression, "From times immemorial, famed mountains have always enjoyed the residence of sages. Of course, we wouldn't dare to proclaim ourselves as sages, and we harbor nothing but genuine reverence and admiration toward such sages.

Now that the small world has opened up, all we want is to be able to cultivate in peace under the watchful eye of the Sage here. If we manage to go far on the path of cultivation, we'll be sure to reciprocate this place, so I would like to implore you to grant us passage here."

These demons often referred to themselves as mountain-dwelling cultivators, and it was an expression of modesty that they used in the presence of those superior to them.

The river guardian demanded in a blunt fashion, "Each of you must give me one gift. If your gift is to my liking, then I'll personally take you to the mountain in the western part of the town."

The old man faltered slightly upon hearing this, seemingly taken aback by how direct and forthright the river guardian was.

The child holding the bamboo cane was furious to hear this. "She's nothing more than a lowly river guardian, and we're already affording her the utmost respect by referring to her as a river god! How dare she blatantly extort us for bribes like this? Is she not afraid that the Great Li Empire's imperial court will strip her of her position and reduce her to a wandering spirit?!"

In her previous life, the woman had been a notoriously skilled trash talker on Apricot Blossom Alley. In addition to that, Old Man Yang had informed her of the position that she was in, so she certainly wasn't going to be intimidated by these threats.

Instead, she could tell how desperate these people were, and she became even more confident as she waved a dismissive hand and sneered, "If that's how you're going to speak, then get out of my sight right this instant! If you dare to come within 1,000 feet of Dragon Whisker Creek, then you'll be going against the official jurisdiction of the Great Li Empire! Let's see if you'll be able to bear the repercussions!"

The child became even more furious, and he was just about to rebuke the river guardian when the old man abruptly turned to glare at him. The benevolent look on the old man's face had instantly been replaced with one of murderous ferocity, and the child immediately shuddered in fear as he fell completely silent.

Around 15 minutes later, the five "mountain-dwelling vagrant cultivators" made their way toward Dragon Spring County along the creek.

As for the river guardian, she had added five more items to her collection, one of which was the purple bamboo cane that previously belonged to the small child. The cane was glittering and translucent, and it was filled with abundant spiritual energy.

While the river guardian was gleefully inspecting these items, a sense of sorrow suddenly welled up in her heart.

If only my grandson were still living on Apricot Blossom Alley. I would be able to give all of these things to him.

She didn't know when she was going to be able to see her grandson again, and she had heard that on the path of cultivation, even the slightest misstep could spell one's demise, and prodigies who were able to grow to their full potential were exceedingly rare.

With that in mind, her mood was immediately soured, and she swam down onto the riverbed, where she began to weep in silence.

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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