When the handsome and elegant Cultivators, in their fancy clothes, rode their swords out of the splendid floating mountains and looked down upon the emaciated and even stinky folks in whatever clothes they had, it was the most vivid contrast of deities and mortals!
“Ordinary people are ants!”
Li Yao, born and raised in the modern era, found it hard to acknowledge the declaration.
In the modern Cultivation civilization that the Star Glory Federation was, even the most weak ordinary people could be clean and tidy, with a healthy body and high spirits. At first glance, they were not much different from Cultivators.
However, in the world of ancient Cultivators where productivity was low, the difference between deities and mortals did exist. What were the ordinary people struggling in their burrows for if not lambs and ants?
Therefore, the Cultivators that Li Yao observed might not necessarily have had a malicious attitude toward the ordinary people, but their condescension was obvious when they were engaged with ordinary people.
They looked at ordinary people with more ‘indifference’ than ‘contempt’. It seemed to them that the difference between them and ordinary people was natural and self-justified.
It was almost always the case after he passed more than ten sects.
Such a sight sent Li Yao’s thoughts into disarray. He was going to criticize the ancient Cultivators who despised ordinary people with the glorious theory that ‘Cultivators are fish, ordinary people are water, and Cultivators are the sabers of humanity’ from the Star Glory Federation, when the words of some locals of the Ancient Sages Sector slapped him in the face.
It happened when he stopped by a town named Stone Martial Town. Seeing that the headquarters of the Stone Martial Hall was particularly spectacular, and the houses of the ordinary people nearby were more dilapidated than usual, he was quite interested and decided to stop to investigate.
He found an excuse to get Ling Lanyin away before he entered Stone Martial Town disguised as a traveler on the road.
As he expected, the Cultivators in this place was more arrogant than usual and simply viewed ordinary people as nothing.
When he caught the casual conversation of a few customers in a tea shop below the mountain outside of the city, Li Yao could not help but feel infuriated.
As it turned out, the Stone Martial Hall had been acting on its own in the place. Not only was it blocking the food and tax that was supposed to be submitted to the court, they were even demanding servitude in the name of the court!
The households of ordinary people within the Stone Martial Hall’s territory had to provide labor service for the Stone Martial Sect for three to five years, during which time they were paid little to nothing.
The youngest son of this customer was at service in the Stone Martial Hall in the beginning. He had been toiling for three years for the Cultivators and was about to be free to go back home.
But one day, the Stone Martial Hall threw his cold body out, claiming that he had died abruptly because of exhaustion.
Judging from the body, it was indeed skinny, with veins bulging out. He had obviously borne too much work for too long.
More importantly, when the customer was talking about his youngest son’s death, despite his sorrow, there was no dissatisfaction about the Stone Martial Hall at all.
The fellow customers were also merely sighing about the fact that he was unfortunate and that his youngest son must have been fated to a short life. However, they did not dare to complain about the Stone Martial Hall at all. They did not even realize the Stone Martial Hall’s responsibility.
Li Yao could not take it anymore. With all kinds of thoughts rolling in his mind, he could not help but scorn the customers.
But as it turned out, his words raised public fury, and he was lambasted by everyone. Even the customer whose youngest son had passed away due to overworking for the Stone Martial Hall also spat on him.
The attitude of the customers dumbfounded Li Yao at first and then rendered him speechless. Eventually, he blushed in embarrassment.
As it turned out, the area around the Stone Martial Sect was the most mountainous area with the densest forests in the basin of the Sorcerers’ River.
The tiny basin was surrounded by the highest mountains, which were mired in mist all year long.
In many places inside the mountains, there were exceedingly few days with sunshine. The rest of the year was continuous rain.
Such a desolate area was naturally packed with wildlife and demon beasts, which would not only swallow the villagers who accidentally trespassed into the forests but also sweep across the towns below the mountains in hordes, leaving nothing but bones behind.
Despite such a harsh environment, one city, almost ten towns, and dozens of villages had been developed. It was all thanks to the Cultivators of the Stone Martial Hall.
It was because they marched into the forests fearlessly slaying the evil in their way and expanding the safe regions time and time again that the ordinary folks could follow up, burn the trees to the ground, and establish new villages!
“Over the two hundred years since the Stone Martial Hall was founded, they have eliminated the dens of fiends and demon beasts in the forests more than ten times every year. Twenty to fifty deities perish every year!”
“That’s right. In recent decades, to slay the evil, even two leaders of the Stone Martial Hall have sacrificed themselves!”
“Without the deities from the Stone Martial Hall, the settlements within hundreds of square kilometers would’ve been savaged by the monsters. That is exactly why this place is named ‘Stone Martial Town’ in honor of the great help of the deities!”
“You should thank others when gratitude is due. How can you be a guy who forgets what a great favor other people have done you? Even two of their magnificent leaders have passed away. Twenty or so regular disciples are killed every year, too. Almost ten disciples can be killed in a single trial. What’s there to complain about when one individual from our household dies?”
Li Yao did not expect that the numb and ignorant victims would say that. He stammered for a while but insisted that, regardless, the Stone Martial Hall should not block the court’s tax or initiate servitude without permission, which was a complete disrespect for the authority of the court. If every sect did what the Stone Martial Hall did, they would be independent kingdoms. Then, what would happen to the Great Qian Dynasty, which was shaking in the storm?
His words raised even merrier laughter.
At this moment, all the customers regarded Li Yao as a pedant who had read too many books and stopped bothering about him.
A civilized-looking local, who appeared to be a teacher, counted his fingers and did the math for him.
First of all, theoretically speaking, the Stone Martial Hall certainly did not have the right to block the food and tax that should have been submitted to the court.
But then again, for ordinary folks, they had to pay taxes either way. If the food and tax was handed over to the court, God knew what they would be spent on. Or rather, they might take a few turns among the high officials in the court, only to be pocketed somewhere in between!
In comparison, if they submitted the food and tax to the Stone Martial Hall, which was a local sect after all, most of the earnings would be devoted to the local area, even if some of it was squandered. So, the local people would rather not give their belongings to people from elsewhere.
Moreover, annihilating the monsters in the forests in order to collect the rare materials and the Heavenly Materials and Earthly Treasures in the forests was greatly beneficial for the Stone Martial Hall itself. It was even the fundamental approach to sustain the Stone Martial Hall’s development.
Without the motivation of the folks, the Stone Martial Hall would still try to slay the monsters. Most of the resources that they demanded from the folks would be dedicated to that end, too.
To some extent, it was also kind of ‘from the people and for the people’.
Therefore, the Stone Martial Hall had the full support of the locals. Every year, when the tax was filed, they would work together with the Stone Martial Hall to block the food and the money.
The same went for servitude.
For most folks, they had to take servitude either way, either in the Stone Martial Hall or for the court.
But serving the Stone Martial Hall had a lot of merits.
First of all, the Stone Martial Hall was a local sect. Even the high and mighty Cultivators were mostly distant family members to them.
Could the Cultivators turn a blind eye to all their family members and even regard their father and mother as ants?
Naturally, it was impossible. At least, for most of the low-level Cultivators, they were not coldhearted enough to ignore their seventy-year-old mother’s begging.
Therefore, to the servants that their seventy-year-old mother introduced, they might be rather indifferent on the surface, but it was unlikely that they would intentionally torture the servants.
So, over the years, some ordinary people did die of exhaustion while serving the Stone Martial Hall, but few of them were killed in torment. Even if some of them were killed on purpose, it was mainly because they had violated the rules of the sect and were used to set an example for others.
Moreover, if they served the Stone Martial Hall and worked harder, the Cultivators of the sect would have more time for training to be stronger, and if the Cultivators were stronger, they would be able to kill more demon beasts. Would the local villages not be more peaceful?
Also, by serving a Cultivation sect, if the folks were smart and lucky enough, they might be able to pick up some fundamental martial arts. With enough luck, they might even become Cultivators some day!
Although the odds were little to none, for the folks who tilled their land throughout their life, it was the only channel to change the life of their children.
Even if the path did not work out, as long as they were dutiful enough and won the favor of a certain deity, they would have a great reliance when they walked among their fellows in the future!
Serving the court, on the other hand, carried none of those benefits.
First of all, servitude of the court often demanded that the folks be moved to a foreign place thousands of kilometers away. It was not unusual for them to be bullied, beaten, and exploited without anyone to turn to.
Honestly speaking, if the folks died in the Stone Martial Hall, their body was at least left intact.
If they joined the army of the court and got killed on a battlefield thousands of kilometers away, it would be a blessing of their ancestors if an urn of their ashes was sent back!
Also, the troops made of ordinary people were the lowliest professions. They had barely any chance to get in touch with the Cultivators, receive their tutelage, or find support.
Lastly, if the young and strong people were drafted too far away, who was going to deal with the monsters in the forests nearby? The deities could not do the chores while slaying the monsters at the same time, right?
What? The court needed troops to fight Ghost Qin?
What the f*ck did Ghost Qin have to do with those citizens? It was not Ghost Qin who caused trouble in the local area but the monsters in the forests!
It was the northerners’ business that the Ghost Qin Knights were trampling on their land. Why should the southerners bleed for them in vain?
“Court? In our place, the court is just sh*it. The Stone Martial Hall is the heaven!” the teacher-like local declared to Li Yao as such both profanely and proudly. “When the monsters go on a rampage, all the deities from the Stone Martial Hall attack them together. Where’s the army of the court? Nowhere!
“But when harvest season comes, they come pretty fast to requisition the grain, only to be beaten back by the deities of the Stone Martial Hall!”