Chapter 686: Homeland
The Soul Divergence Incantation allowed one to cultivate an undying soul. Once that soul appeared, the cycle of reincarnation in Heaven and Earth could not destroy it. Even if you died, your flesh and blood would be reborn years later.
It was not one of the three thousand great Daos of the ancient Demon Immortal Sect, but rather, something that Ke Yunhai had acquired by chance and taken to be a priceless treasure. Because he could not cultivate it successfully, he passed it on to Ke Jiusi.
However, it was too difficult for Ke Jiusi, despite his incredible latent talent. He could not acquire full enlightenment; in the end it had required the precious treasure that Ke Yunhai had forged before his death, coupled with the vast changes Ke Jiusu experienced, in order to comprehend it and form an undying soul that the cycle of reincarnation could not destroy.
“Life and Death,” murmured Meng Hao. “The Soul Divergence Incantation….” He seemed to have gained partial enlightenment, but the matter was still hazy. It was like he had grasped a vague direction, but when he examined it closely, there was nothing there.
Eventually, Meng Hao opened his eyes and looked down at the black and white pearls in his hand. He gazed at them for a long time, until it seemed that his will itself was fusing into the blackness and whiteness.
The black and white seemed to transform into a vortex that could consume everything. As it rotated slowly, a vision appeared in Meng Hao’s mind. In the vision, he stood there, his cultivation base fully active. His right hand stretched up, and the Black White Pearls rotated in his palm.
Indescribable ripples spread out from the two pearls, filling the entire world. Countless living things all prostrated themselves, and Meng Hao could easily decide whether they lived or died. It was as if the two pearls contained a great Dao which could determine and control life and death.
One day, the ship finally stopped moving. Meng Hao was in a bit of a daze as he opened his eyes and caught sight of a familiar body of water. It was the Milky Way Sea. He also saw a familiar land mass, the Southern Domain.
The ship had stopped at the border of the Milky Way Sea and the Southern Domain, and it was at this point that Meng Hao fully regained his senses.
Everything he had experienced seemed like a dream. The dream had been a dream of a journey, or perhaps a search for the Dao.
“The truths of life and death are something that cannot be understood by someone who has not died.”
Meng Hao sat there silently for a long time before finally rising to his feet. He turned to look back at the Milky Way Sea. Its surface was calm, and no waves could be seen. He took a deep breath.
“It seems the time has come for me to leave, and so the ship has delivered me here.
“Through the Soul Divergence Incantation, I could gain enlightenment about the difference between life and death. Yet even now I’m standing outside of the door, pacing back and forth in hesitation.
“Well then, am I willing to pass into death so quietly?
“No! I’m not willing!” His eyes filled with intense determination that burned like a fire. It kindled the flame of life inside of him, incinerating his confusion and a bitterness regarding his future.
“I still have hope. My Dao Foundation may be gone, but I still have hope!
“And my hope… lies in the Rebirth Cave!!” His eyes shined with an intense glow. The Rebirth Cave was where his hope lay, and it was his last resort.
Although he didn’t understand much about the Rebirth Cave, there were many, many legends about the place in the Southern Domain. Most spoke of powerful experts who, when their lives were reaching the end, when they were about to die, would enter the Rebirth Cave, hoping that inside, they would somehow be able to find a way to cause their life force to burn bright once again.
If you likened birth to a starting point and death to a finish line, then life and death form a cycle. As for the Rebirth Cave, according to the legends… it allowed for a second cycle, almost like a second life.
Meng Hao had heard many such legends in the Southern Domain. Actually, he had personally stepped foot into the region of the Rebirth Cave, although only the outer area, not the cave itself.
To experience rebirth, one’s body must first die. Only after death could one have life in defiance of the Heavens!
“According to the legends, not just anyone can enter the Rebirth Cave,” he thought, “only people who have an overwhelming desire to live, people who are pervaded by an aura of death, who have incredible determination and willpower. Only people like that can enter.
“Otherwise, one will automatically perish along the way.” He looked in the direction of the Southern Domain, and the brightness in his eyes grew more and more intense. It was filled with stubborness, with the unwillingness to accept what the future seemed to hold. He took a deep breath.
“I, Meng Hao, will enter the Rebirth Cave! I will see what exists inside, and will find out whether or not I can acquire that second cycle, and live a second life!” He walked across the deck of the ship, then disembarked. When he stepped onto the sandy shore, he looked back to see the ancient Underworld Ship slowly drifting away. Fog spread out over the sea, covering the ship up.
In the moment before it vanished, the armored old man’s eyes suddenly flickered with profundity as he looked at Meng Hao.
Meng Hao looked back, and their gazes met through the fog. What the old man saw was not Meng Hao’s world, and what Meng Hao saw was not the old man’s world.
Gradually the ship disappeared into the fog. Eventually, the fog dissipated. The ancient Underworld Ship was nowhere to be seen.
If the ship did not wish to be seen, then no one would ever be able to see it.
On the border between the Southern Domain and the Milky Way Sea there was a barren beach. Occasionally, the remains of various birds or beasts could be seen, but there was no sign of human habitation.
Meng Hao’s hair was gray bordering on white, and although he wore the robe of a cultivator, his features were elderly. No matter how you looked at him, he appeared to be nothing more than an ancient, mortal man.
“I wonder how far away I am from the Rebirth Cave….” he thought as he trudged up the beach, his feet sinking into the sand with each step he took. After a time, he reached the end of the beach, where it turned into forested mountains. He glanced around, then continued to walk.
He had not walked on foot through mountainous forests for a very long time. He thought back to the time before he reached Foundation Establishment, when he had often traveled through mountainous forests like this. After Foundation Establishment, however, he had always flown up above in the air.
The mountains were not easy to travel through. There were thorns and thistles everywhere, and the sun was already beginning to set by the time he passed over the top of the first mountain. He gasped for breath the entire time, and his body ached. As evening fell, he sat down cross-legged beneath a tall tree to meditate.
Meditation was something that had become a force of habit. Although he had no cultivation base to rotate, simply meditating left him feeling calm and relaxed.
The sky grew darker, and then black. It was at this point that howling drifted through the trees, along with an acrid odor. Next, a savage three-headed dog appeared in front of him. One of the three heads was withered, another emanated a chilling cold Qi, and the last appeared to be extremely foul-tempered.
Obviously, these mountains were the domain of this creature, and Meng Hao’s incursion caused its eyes to be filled with killing intent.
However, it did not near him, but merely circled around him. Its cultivation base was profound; it was already at the ninth level of Qi Condensation. It had the faint sensation that Meng Hao was filled with boundless danger. Yet, within that sense of danger, it could also sense that he was as weak as a mortal.
The contradiction caused it to hesitate.
However, it could only be so patient. It managed to restrain itself for the time it takes half an incense stick to burn, then let out a vicious howl and transformed into a beam of colorful light that shot toward Meng Hao.
The two non-withered heads opened their vicious mouths, and an acrid odor filled the air as they closed in on Meng Hao. It was at this point that Meng Hao’s eyes opened.
His body was weak, but when his eyes opened, they were filled with a cold gleam.
The cold gleam contained all of Meng Hao’s killing intent. In his years leading the Crow Divinity Tribes in their migration, he had killed countless numbers of cultivators. The killing intent that existed in him was something usually suppressed by his cultivation base. But now, there was no way to suppress it, and it exploded out fully.
“Screw off!” said Meng Hao with a cold snort. Although he was incredibly weak, some of his energy could still turn into a pressure that bore down onto the three-headed wild dog.
The wild dog trembled, and its fur stood on end. It stopped in mid-air, its expression one of terror. When it heard Meng Hao speak, it instantly turned and sped away.
After scaring the wild dog away, Meng Hao stood up. It might be evening, but he still wanted to hurry on his way.
He was exhausted, but within that exhaustion, he found power, despite the weakness of his body. That was the former power of his fleshly body.
Of course, he couldn’t utilize all of that former power. Because his life force was wasting away, he was incapable of supporting the previous level of power.
Even still, that made him like a strong, young man who caught a disease. Although he could only wield ten percent of his previous incredible power, it was still enough to give him hope. Of course, Meng Hao’s situation was far worse than some sort of disease. His life force was wasting away, and he knew that if he allowed the power of his fleshly body to explode out, then he would surely perish.
Traveling took great effort. However, regardless of whether the sun rose or the sun set, he continued onward. The hope he placed in the Rebirth Cave was as strong as ever.
One day, he reached the end of the mountain range. As he stood at the top of one particular mountain peak, he looked out and saw a huge lake. It was at this point that he gaped.
That lake was actually large enough to be called a sea.
It was impossible for Meng Hao to forget that this place… was his former hometown.
This was where the State of Zhao had once existed. When Patriarch Reliance left, it turned into a huge pit. By now, hundreds of years had passed, and it had turned into a lake.
“So, that ship delivered me here….” he murmured. He kept walking until he reached the edge of the lake, where he stood looking out at the water. Finally, he understood.
“I was born here, and this was my starting point….” He sat down cross-legged next to the lake, stared at the water, and thought of home.
There was a boat floating next to the shore, old and dilapidated. There was also a log cabin, ancient in appearance. It didn’t look like anyone had lived in it for a long time.
Dark clouds filled the sky; thunder rumbled and lightning flashed. Rain… began to fall.
Meng Hao walked over to the cabin, sat down under the eaves, and looked out at the rain. His back was stooped, his face ancient. The rain pattered onto the lake and tapped onto the roof of the cabin. Those were the only sounds he could hear.
When evening fell, the sky turned dark. The crescent moon was mostly hidden by the clouds; only a tiny corner was visible. As the sibilant rain continued, a cold wind sprang up, blowing across the lake and causing the old, dilapidated boat to rise up and down. When the wind brushed against Meng Hao, he tightened his robe and looked out over the lake. There, he saw a white-robed woman walking across the water.
The instant he saw her, his eyes went wide. Then, he lowered his head.