Chapter 34: Fame from 1,000 Years Ago!
Fatty beamed with joy, happy beyond belief, heart pounding. For Meng Hao to become an Inner Sect disciple was almost like he himself had.
Shangguan Xiu stood in the crowd, face grim. After a bit of time passed, he lowered his head, turned, and left. As he left, his face grew darker, but there was really nothing he could do. Now that Meng Hao was a member of the Inner Sect, even his status as an Elder didn’t give him the right to interrogate him. Now, Meng Hao was a true member of the Reliance Sect.
“I reached the seventh level of Qi condensation before I was thirty. I was the number one disciple in the Inner Sect. But now…” Shangguan Xiu sighed. He was loath to give up, but had no choice.
Just then, something happened that no one noticed, neither Shangguan Xiu nor Grand Elder Ouyang. Not even Sect Leader He Luohua. Far away from the Reliance Sect, on the peak of the tree-covered black mountain, standing outside of the empty cave, was a mysterious, powerful figure.
The figure was indistinct, its face unclear. But its body was wreathed in an aura vastly different from the spiritual power of heaven and earth, an aura that actually seemed to have been rejected by the Heavens. The wind around the figure changed, filling with indistinct cracks that circled around him… and yet an onlooker would not be able to see any of this.
“Reliance Sect… what a vulgar name,” the blood-red figure’s voice was hoarse as it spoke, filled with a Demonic air. “The name was intentionally changed one thousand years ago to prevent the Heavens from carrying out the punishment of withholding reincarnation. But it is still… The Demon Sealing Sect! And a disciple of the Demon Sealing sect actually dared to consume the Core of the Flying Rain-Dragon, and accept its Legacy… interesting. It seems it was not in vain that I helped you those two times.” Even as its voice continued to echo out, bolts of red lightning began to fall. The destructive lightning fell over and over again, but it was over three thousand meters away, as if the Heavens had no power to touch the figure.
The red figure seemed to frown, then looked up coldly into the sky. “Sooner or later, you shall be defied, Heavens!” Then it turned toward the Southern Domain and took a step forward.
“My true self has been slumbering, and in my boredom, my divine clone has swept throughout heaven and earth. What I’ve just seen is interesting. Very interesting.” Laughter rang out, and the figure disappeared, gone in the blink of an eye.
The figure’s arrival and departure, the roiling heavens, the approach of the lightning, onlookers could not see any of it!
Time raced by, and soon seven days had passed.
During the seven days, everyone in the Outer Sect was talking about Meng Hao’s ascension to become an Inner Sect disciple.
Even though everyone had seen the event with their own eyes, it had left them shocked to the core. Despite seven days having passed, they would often lift their heads to gaze at the East Mountain, eyes filled with envy.
There were some people who felt sorry for Wang Tengfei, but they didn’t say anything. It was as if after the battle, Wang Tengfei’s name had become a thing of the past.
Disciples who had been Meng Hao’s enemies were even more disturbed than before, filled with dread. But Meng Hao was no longer present in the Outer Sect, so all they could do was find Fatty to fawn over.
Fatty’s prestige exploded in just a few days. He was the new shop owner at the Low-Level Public Zone, having taken over for Meng Hao. He revelled in the attention of his fellow disciples, filing away at his teeth triumphantly. He was even able to move into one of the nicer residences in the Outer Sect.
Meng Hao was quite busy during the seven days. The Reliance Sect might have been in decline, but there were still rules to follow. Meng Hao bathed and donned new clothes. He kowtowed to the image of Patriarch Reliance and the other Patriarchs of the Sect. Of course, there were many complicated procedures and details involved in all of this.
During this time, he didn’t see Elder Sister Xu at all, as she had secluded herself in meditation. However, he did see Elder Brother Chen Fan [1. Chen Fan's name in Chinese is 陈凡 (chén fán) – Chen is a common family name. Fan means “mortal” or “ordinary”], dressed in his silver robe. From his time in the Outer Sect, Meng Hao’s impression of him was that he rarely smiled and was rather old-fashioned. But after getting to know him he found that no matter what question he had, Elder Brother Chen would patiently give a detailed explanation. Meng Hao actually liked him. He thought back to the rumors he’d heard, that Elder Brother Chen Fan cared only about righteousness and the Dao, ignoring matters of the mortal world.
After the seven days had passed, Meng Hao was granted an Inner Sect Immortal’s Cave on the East Mountain. Its Spirit Spring bubbled with thick Spiritual Energy, much more so than his previous Immortal’s Cave.
Unfortunately, his good mood changed a bit the first time he laid hands on the Spirit Stones and medicinal pills available for Inner Sect disciples. He stood there, staring down at them stupidly.
These Spirit Stones were clearly better than the ones available in the Outer Sect. They were larger, and were not completely transparent, but rather filled with an indistinct, mist-like substance. Meng Hao’s face grew pale.
“These are mid-grade Spirit Stones?” murmured Meng Hao. “And Inner Sect disciples get one per year… It’s worth one hundred low-grade Spirit Stones from the Outer Sect…” His head spun as he absorbed the information from the ancient piece of jade in front of him, which described the identification methods and differences between the different types of Spirit Stones available to Cultivators engaged in Qi condensation.
“Above mid-grade Spirit Stones are high-grade Spirit Stones…. which don’t even exist in the State of Zhao. One of those is worth at least ten-thousand low-grade Spirit Stones… they’re basically priceless.” Meng Hao’s insides twisted, and he took out the few large Spirit Stones he had left in his bag of holding. His face looked more and more unsightly.
“You can tell the value of a Spirit Stone by looking at its size and its internal composition. High-grade Spirit Stones are the largest, and are at least half-covered inside with thick mist formations… The Spiritual Energy inside won’t leak out, and can only be used by a Cultivator who has reached Foundation Establishment.” Meng Hao looked mutely at the Spirit Stone he held in his hand. It was larger than a mid-grade Spirit Stone by at least three times, and was almost completely filled with mist formations. It was dazzling, and not a drop of Spiritual Energy emerged from it.
“This… this can’t be a high-grade Spirit Stone! I… I squandered two thousand high-grade Spirit Stones!” Meng Hao’s heart dropped, and he tried to comfort himself. He thought about the extraordinary wooden sword and how much Wang Tengfei cared about it. And then he thought about the price he had paid the copper mirror to duplicate it. He simply couldn’t comprehend the price he had paid in Spirit Stones…
“But how come it seems like this Spirit Stone is even bigger than the descriptions of high-grade Spirit Stones, and has even more mist formations inside?” His heart quavered, and he didn’t dare to think about it anymore. His face was pale, and he felt pained to the core.
It took him a while to get control of himself, whereupon he put away the Spirit Stones.
“An insignificant two thousand high-grade Spirit Stones,” muttered Meng Hao. “It was nothing, nothing at all.” But when he said the word ‘insignificant,’ it sounded a bit forced.
More days flew by.
“Junior Brother, I watched your battle. You used a lot of magical items. If you had run out, you would have been in a difficult situation. You should go to the Magic Pavilion more often. There are a thousand years of ancient Reliance Sect records there that you could study from.”
“Junior Brother, I noticed that you’re always hunting small creatures and cooking them for food. That’s not correct. Us Cultivators should breathe in the spiritual energy of heaven and earth and cast off our mortal bodies. If you’re always eating animals, aren’t you wasting your spiritual energy?”
“Junior Brother, you have too many bags of holding on your person. You shouldn’t do it that way. You should have all your items in one bag, that way they are easier to take out.”
As the days passed, Meng Hao forced himself not to think about Spirit Stones. It didn’t take long before he understood Elder Brother Chen Fan a lot better, and soon he spent most of his time with him, being instructed. He soon realized that this Elder Brother was nothing at all like the rumors in the Outer Sect held him out to be. Although he was very focused on the Dao, he wasn’t taciturn at all. In fact, when he he started talking, he would keep going for hours and hours, sometimes even an entire day.
Soon it came to the point that if he didn’t go looking for Chen Fan, then Chen Fan would come looking for him in his Immortal’s Cave, and the discussions would begin.
Meng Hao couldn’t refuse. He could only force a smile and listen. Sometimes he would fall asleep in the middle of it, only to wake up to find Brother Chen Fan still talking. He couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.
“There aren’t enough disciples in the Inner Sect, so Elder Brother Chen doesn’t have anyone to talk to. Therefore, he’s developed this strange tendency…” Meng Hao now understood why Elder Sister Xu went into secluded meditation so often. Even he himself had thought of going into meditation to get a break from Elder Brother Chen.
Whenever he left his Immortal’s Cave, Elder Brother Chen would be there to accompany him.
“I wonder when Elder Sister Xu is going to come out of meditation,” thought Meng Hao with a smile. “I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she sees me.” He now wore a silver robe, and his long hair fluttered behind him as he sat on a mountain crag. He stared at the setting sun, ignoring Elder Brother Chen’s constant yammering.
“Junior Brother must be wondering when Junior Sister Xu will be coming out of meditation,” said Elder Brother Chen with a smile, looking at Meng Hao.
“Yeah… Uh, what?”
Elder Brother Chen’s sudden change of topic left Meng Hao speechless.
“No need to be shy, Junior Brother,” bantered Elder Brother Chen with a smile. “Junior Sister Xu Qing [2. Xu Qing's name in Chinese is 许清 (xǔ qīng) – Xu is a family name. However, it has a variety of other meanings as a character including “to praise” and “to allow.” Qing means “pure” or “clear”] is a natural beauty, it’s perfectly normal for you to have a crush on her.” He had a uncomplicated disposition, and was easy to get along with. Meng Hao liked him. As soon as they had met, he had been willing to take Meng Hao on as a Junior Brother.
“Xu Qing?” Meng Hao coughed. He decided to change the topic. “No, no, I never… oh, right. Elder Brother Chen, a while back you were saying something about what happens after a Cultivator completes his Qi Condensation?”
“After Qi Condensation comes Foundation Establishment, the shedding of the mortal body. This is true spiritual cultivation, and truly being a Cultivator.” Elder Brother Chen smiled at Meng Hao, shaking his head. He was no longer bantering, but speaking warmly.
“During the process of establishing the Spiritual Foundation, nine Dao pillars will arise within your Core Lake, deep and bottomless. They will grow within your body, and this is Foundation Establishment. Of course, there are different types of Foundations, based on the various magical methods used to congeal the Dao pillars. If nine cracks appear, it is a Flawless Foundation. If eighteen cracks appear, it is a Cracked Foundation. More than eighteen cracks means it is a Fractured Foundation. Of these, Flawless is the best, Cracked is good. Fractured is the most common.
“The Reliance Sect used to have a manual describing a method to Establishing a Flawless Foundation, acquired by Patriarch Reliance. Because of this, he was famous in all of the State of Zhao. His name was even known in the Southern Domain. Sadly… when the Patriarch went missing, the technique was not handed down.” Chen Fan explained everything slowly and in great detail. This was just his personality, and Meng Hao had gotten used to it over the days.
“After Foundation Establishment is the great path to Core Formation. The Sect Leader is in this stage. After that, when you develop a Nascent Soul, then you can live forever, and be a true Immortal of this land.”
“What about after the Nascent Soul stage?” asked Meng Hao, listening intently and feeling longing in his heart.
“After the Nascent Soul stage is Spirit Severing. That was the stage the Patriarch was at. It is the most difficult stage, where life hangs on a thread. Spirit Severing involves several Severings before complete success. That year, Patriarch Reliance left the Sect to meditate in seclusion, and still hasn’t returned.” Chen Fan spoke calmly throughout his explanation, but his attachment to cultivate was clear from his expression.
“Perhaps one day I, Meng Hao, will have a chance to enter the Spirit Severing stage,” he murmured. “What is after that?”
“The stages after Spirit Severing are too high,” said Chen Fan lightly. “I don’t know the details. You have to go to the Southern Domain to learn about those things. In any case, the whole point is Immortal Ascension.”
The mountain breeze gently lifted the hair of the two disciples, carrying their voices off into the distance.
“Junior Brother, if one day you go out into the world to continue your training, you cannot limit yourself to the State of Zhao.” Elder Brother Chen looked at Meng Hao kindly. “Don’t forget, the State of Zhao is a remote state in the Southern Domain of the lands of South Heaven. The Spiritual Energy here is not abundant, and there are few Cultivators.
“The Southern Domain is the true world of Cultivation. Even though the law of the jungle is brutal and ruthless there, it truly represents the peak of the southern regions of the lands of South Heaven. Heroes abound, as do Chosen. Compared to there, the State of Zhao is quite calm and peaceful. Cultivators of my generation must climb mountains and tread upon piles of bones to succeed.” A strange light filled his eyes, as if he weren’t speaking to Meng Hao, but rather to himself.
Meng Hao felt quite moved by Elder Brother Chen’s words. Before, he had been somewhat ignorant, but having things so clearly explained left his head buzzing, as if a giant map had suddenly been rolled out in front of him. On the map was the Great Tang in the Eastern Lands, and the heroes of the Southern Domain.
“To follow the path of spirituality, one must abandon the mortal world. You are no longer a mortal. You are a Cultivator, destined to defy the Heavens. If you are not strong, then you are not qualified to exist. If you are not strong, you are not qualified to practice Cultivation. If you are not strong, then you are not qualified to stay alive, but only to be trampled over. Are you willing to live this kind of life?” Brother Chen gazed at Meng Hao. As his words entered Meng Hao’s ears and sank into his heart, his eyes began to glitter, and he began to think.
“I am a scholar from Yunjie County. My parents went missing when I was just a child, and my dream was always to be become rich and never again live in poverty, then eventually go see the the Great Tang in the Eastern Lands.” The chill night wind blew at his hair as he lost himself in contemplation, the same way he had that year on the top of Mount Daqing.
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