Li Yao seemed to have been slapped in the face by the monk. He found it hard to believe. “Food, medicine, and clothes? M—Master, are you trading the demon core for stuff to help the victims?”
Holding an enormous bull’s head in his hand and with a greasy mouth, Master Bitter Cicada smiled and said, “That’s the least I can do.”
Li Yao did not know what to say. With complicated feelings, he pondered for a moment and said solemnly, “Master, I don’t want to waste my time negotiating with you. It doesn’t matter at all even if I offer my demon core to you. However, there is one condition that you must agree to!”
“Oh?” Master Bitter Cicada’s eyes were shining. The pity on his face dispersed for a moment, as if the sunshine was beaming out of the broken, dark clouds. He looked even more handsome and extraordinary than before, for only one moment. Then the next moment, the vague bitterness flowed up again. “What’s your condition, Master Spiritual Vulture?”
“It’s not been very long since I broke out of seclusion, and I’m short of magical equipment and materials.” Li Yao thought hard for a long time to come up with a reasonable excuse so that he could offer his demon core for free. “Gold, silver, copper, steal, agate, emeralds, and such are abundant in the Purple Pole Sword Sect, but rare demon cores and animal bones are less easy to find!
“This overwhelming flood have driven countless ferocious beasts to the plateau, giving us a great chance to collect the cores and bones. You’ll be the one taking advantage this time, Master, but next time we run into a troublesome animal, I’ll need you to help me to hunt it!”
“No problem!” Master Bitter Cicada clapped his hands and said, “That is exactly what this monk does for a living. With a decent price, not just hunting demon beasts and collecting cores and bones, even if you have other needs, Master Spiritual Vulture, such as exploring the residences of the previous dynasties, sweeping the primitive forests, or if you need to build up your power when you establish your sect, or if you need an expert as a bodyguard when you are being chased after by an enemy, I can satisfy all your needs. Also, the prices of my services have been clearly listed. Every Cultivator knows my reputation!”
After saying that, he picked out a thin handkerchief from his pocket and threw it to Li Yao.
Li Yao picked up the handkerchief and looked, only to discover that it was a price list written with tiny, golden characters, listing the prices for hunting demon beasts, fighting as muscle, having a duel as someone’s champion, and a lot of other services.
Once more, Li Yao was dumbfounded. “Shouldn’t a monk be living in seclusion and studying the sutras? How can you consider slaying demon beasts and fighting other people your main business?”
“Living in seclusion and studying the sutras will not save any victims of the disaster even if the buddhas are woken up by the recitals,” Master Bitter Cicada said. “In a mortal world, can you ever get the food in your mouth and the clothes on your body without real money?”
“Even so,” Li Yao said, “appeasing the deceased and holding religious ceremonies are both ways to make money.”
“Buddhism is not popular in the Ancient Sages Sector,” Master Bitter Cicada said. “This world belongs to the Grand Mystery Sect. Appeasing the deceased and holding religious ceremonies are too unrewarding. Also, this monk does not know how to recite sutras but only knows fighting. Hunting demon beasts and fighting on behalf of others are much more straightforward!”
Li Yao was even more surprised. “Isn’t it a creed of the Stupa Sect that all creatures are equal and we must be merciful? Regarding hunting demon beasts as your business, Master, I’m afraid it’s a little bit—”
The pity on Master Bitter Cicada’s face grew even more intense. “In the years of peace and prosperity, this monk naturally values mercy, but right now, people are starving everywhere, and everybody is caught in the abyss of suffering, leaving this monk no choice but to do what I have to do!
“As for the ‘all the creatures are equal’ part, it doesn’t matter whether or not I kill the demon beasts. Take the Multi-Horned Bizarre Dragon for example. Today, this monk was slightly more capable than the animal. So, naturally, it was killed, skinned, and eaten. However, if it had been more ferocious and swallowed this monk whole, this monk wouldn’t have complained at all! Wolves feed on sheep, and sheep feed on grass. You can eat me, and I can eat you. What’s the difference? This is the true meaning of ‘all the creatures are equal’!”
“About that…” Scratching his head, Li Yao still felt that it was weird. “This Multi-Horned Bizarre Dragon was almost a hundred meters long, with three enormous heads. I’m afraid that it was already seven to eight hundred years old and boasted certain wisdom. It was still not similar to grass and trees, was it? Did you not feel guilty at all when you killed it, Master?”
With a smile, Master Bitter Cicada replied, “You are too obsessed, Master Spiritual Vulture.
“Since ‘all the creatures are equal’, then not just seven to eight hundred years, even the great animals that have lurked for seven to eight thousand years are no different from a weed or a dry tree off the road, are they?
“While this monk was on the way here, I saw too many victims who lost their homes. They uprooted weeds and bark on dry trees, devouring them without bothering about the consequences. Yet, they were unable to digest the food and soon died. Quite a lot of lives were lost!
“The victims are lives. The weeds are lives. The trees are lives. The Multi-Horned Bizarre Dragon was a life, too. If this monk had chosen not to kill the Multi-Horned Bizarre Dragon, many lives would have perished where this monk couldn’t see. There would still have been blood on this monk’s hands. What’s the difference?”
As if hit by a bat right on the forehead, Li Yao felt his ears humming. He asked respectfully, “Is this the Dharma?”
“Yes.” Solemnly, Master Bitter Cicada nodded slightly. “This is the Dharma. Those who listen to this monk interpreting the Dharma will be charged, too. You have seen the prices, Master Spiritual Vulture. Please!”
Master Bitter Cicada extended his greasy hand over.
When Li Yao returned to the Purple Pole Sword Sect’s temporary camp at a loss, the astonishment on his face had not entirely disappeared.
Dan Fengzi, leader of the Purple Pole Sword Sect, knew exactly what had happened after seeing Li Yao’s face. “Master Spiritual Vulture, did Master Bitter Cicada beg for alms from you?”
Li Yao nodded. “Not exactly alms. I offered the demon core of the Multi-Horned Bizarre Dragon that belonged to me to Master Bitter Cicada for free and agreed to exchange the two demon cores for food, medicine, and clothes. He promised that when I was going to explore residences, relics, and secret treasuries in the future, he would try his best to help me once!”
“It’s a fair deal!” Dan Fengzi smiled. “Although Master Bitter Cicada’s Cultivation has remained stagnated for decades and is even slightly dropping, he is definitely still one of the few top experts in the world. Even Junior Brother Yan might not be able to defeat him. You have definitely profited by trading a tiny demon core for his help once, Master Spiritual Vulture!
“If the disaster were less severe, I’m afraid that Master Bitter Cicada wouldn’t have made such a promise so easily. You must cherish the opportunity, Master Spiritual Vulture, and do not redeem the favor easily.
“As for the food, medicine, and clothes, that will be the least of your concerns, Master Spiritual Vulture. They’re all on me. To show respect for you and Master Bitter Cicada, what you are going to get for the two demon cores will certainly be more than their worth!”
Li Yao nodded. He could not help but remark, “How can there be such a monk?”
“Everybody is baffled,” Dan Fengzi said. “He had a good shot at advancing into the Divinity Transformation Stage with his unusual talents. Yet, he was stalled by the ordinary people in the mortal world. After decades of lingering, he is moving farther and farther away from the Divinity Transformation Stage now and is probably never going to advance into it for the rest of his life. I do wonder why Master Bitter Cicada has been doing all that!”
Rolling his eyes, Li Yao asked, “Master Bitter Cicada also showed me a price list. There are all kinds of services, such as hunting demon beasts or fighting as a champion. Does he always earn money in such a way?”
“Yes. It’s not a big secret among Cultivators. With a decent price, he can take whatever task,” Dan Fengzi said. “It is not unusual for a Cultivator to seek wealth. After all, the resources necessary for our training must be traded with money.
“However, the resources that Master Bitter Cicada earned through hunting demon beasts and exploring relics at the risk of his own life are mostly traded for food for the relief of the victims of disasters everywhere!
“The Ancient Sages Sector is too large a place. Natural disasters never cease. There are countless victims of disasters every year. It is not something that you can help! Are his endeavors any different from a moth darting toward the fire trying to extinguish the burning flames? This is pure idiocy!”
“Moth darting toward the fire…”
In a trance, Li Yao suddenly thought of something. He squinted and said, “Odd. If Master Bitter Cicada is so strong, and he is willing to accept any task with a decent price, how come the Purple Pole Sword Sect or the Grand Mystery Sect did not hire him to help in the Dragon Spring Meeting three months ago?”
“Who says we didn’t hire him?” Dan Fengzi frowned and said, rather angrily, “Master Bitter Cicada came to us, stating that the five major sects including the Grand Mystery Sect and the Thunderstorm Valley paid him a certain amount of money and asked him to threaten the Purple Pole Sword Sect together with them. However, he was still hesitating because he was going somewhere else for disaster relief. Therefore, if the Purple Pole Sword Sect was willing to pay seventy percent of the price, he would not join them!
“What choice did we have except to pay the money obediently?”
Li Yao was amused. “What an interesting monk!”
Right then, on Li Yao’s ‘mercenary observation list’, Master Bitter Cicada had already surpassed ‘Sword Maniac’ Yan Liren and become the one that fitted the Star Glory Federation’s ideology best and deserved to be hired most!
While the two of them were talking, Qi Zhongdao had finally arrived with the reinforcements of the other major sects that had come to relieve the disaster and execute the ghosts.
Dan Fengzi was not wrong.
The reinforcements who came with Qi Zhongdao were sparse, their flags not straight. There were few disciples below every banner, who were not half as magnificent as three months ago when they threatened the Purple Pole Sword Sect.
It appeared that dividing the interests and rescuing people in a disaster were indeed different.
Most of the Cultivation sects that were not headquartered in the southeast showed very little interest in the mission. The few Cultivation sects that had sent their best there were actually planning to fish in the dirty water.
Seeing that the leader, the Sword Maniac, Master Spiritual Vulture, and other elders of the Purple Pole Sword Sect had all arrived in respect for the summoning of the ‘leader of the Great Qian Cultivators’, Qi Zhongdao was somewhat moved. He hurried to descend and meet with everyone.
After some small talk, Dan Fengzi asked about the latest situation in the disaster area.
Qi Zhongdao shook his head. Hoarsely, he replied, “Not good!”