Highwater Commandery. The Dongyan Mountains.
This was the headquarters of the Dongyan clan. Outsiders were completely forbidden from entering. An enormous, awe-inspiring warship was in the azure skies of the mountains, flying through them.
“I’m back.” Ninelotus looked at the distant, familiar mountains. This was her homeland.
“Little Yun, let’s go. Go meet the Forefather,” Immortal Norshok said. Ninelotus nodded obediently.
Immediately, a cloud suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Immortal Norshok, controlling and riding upon the cloud, took Ninelotus directly into the forbidden lands of the Dongyan Mountains.
“Is the Forefather truly going to stop me?” Ninelotus mused silently to herself. Even when she was a child, the Forefather had doted on her; in turn, she absolutely worshipped the Forefather, and was extremely obedient towards him.
They continued to fly forward through one forbidden region after another of the Dongyan clan. The guards of these locations, upon seeing Immortal Norshok and Ninelotus, did not move to stop them.
After flying for a period of time, they arrived at a secluded, ordinary-looking gorge. Within the gorge, a small river was flowing, and by the sides of the river, there was a man dressed in plain blue clothes. The man sat there, fishing calmly.
“Forefather.” Immortal Norshok landed, then called out to him respect. Ninelotus looked towards the blue-robed man, veneration in her eyes as she, too, called out gently, “Forefather.”
“Norshok, you can go for now. Little Yun, stay with me.” The blue-robed continued to fish, not even turning to look at them.
“Yes.” Immortal Norshok respectfully departed.
Only the blue-robed man and Ninelotus were left within the gorge. Ninelotus was very familiar with this gorge, because she had spent her childhood here. Because of the Forefather’s support…she had been selected as the next clan leader without any disputes or struggles at all.
“Little Yun.” The blue-robed man turned to look at her, the faintest hint of a smile on his face. It made him look very friendly and amiable. He sat there, fishing, as though he were an ordinary commoner; he didn’t have the aura of a cultivator at all. But in front of this man, the entire Dongyan clan would be respectful and subservient, not daring to offend him at all.
“Forefather.” Ninelotus instantly grew nervous.
“I hear you chose a Dao-companion,” the blue-robed man said with a laugh. “Named Ji Ning?”
“Yes.” Ninelotus nodded.
“For now, you should forget about him,” the blue-robe man instructed.
Ninelotus grew frantic. “Forefather, you chose me to be the next leader of the clan; can it be that I can’t even choose a Dao-companion for myself? I know that our Dongyan clan needs to grow stronger, and that my choice for a Dao-companion would ideally be a member of the royal Xia clan or one of the main lineage descendents of a marquisdom, but…even if I do choose one of them to be my Dao-companion, the benefit it would bring to our Dongyan clan would be limited. Are you truly going to force me, Forefather?”
“Do you think I would force you?” The blue-robed man looked at her. Ninelotus was stunned.
“Even if a prince of the Grand Xia Empire became your Dao-companion, he would only bring a limited degree of benefit to our Dongyan clan. Would I really force you over something like this?” The blue-robed man shook his head. “Ninelotus, you truly are too young.”
“But Forefather, you, you told me to forget about junior apprentice-brother Ji Ning…” Ninelotus was frantic.
The blue-robed man suddenly asked, “Do you know what it means to be Dao-companions?”
Ninelotus hesitated for a moment. Dao-companions?
“Dao-companions…those who will traverse the pitfalls of the Immortal path together for a thousand years, for ten thousand years, for eternity; companions who will never leave each other. Right?” Ninelotus responded softly.
The blue-robed man let out a sigh. “Anyone can say the words. But Dao-companions who truly support each other and never leave or abandon each other…this is incomparably rare. In my life, I have seen far too many ‘Dao-companions’ betray each other, kill each other, abandon each other…far, far too many. Nothing in this world is absolute.”
Ninelotus was stunned upon hearing this.
“You are too young.” The blue-robed man shook his head. “That Ji Ning, he’s too young as well. Are the two of you certain…that you truly understand what it means to become Dao-companions? Do you truly know what becoming Dao-companions means?”
“Dao-companions…this means that you are willing to die for him!”
“Dao-companions…this means that if Immortals or Buddhas were to try and separate you, you would slaughter Immortals and annihilate Buddhas in order to bring your Dao-companion back.”
“Dao-companions…this means that if he dies, even if an eternity passes, you would still be unable to forget him; you would feel as though he was still alive and right by your side.”
“Dao-companions…your other half in life! Without him, your life is no longer complete!”
The blue-robed man stared at Ninelotus, a look of unfathomable ancientness in his eyes. “Are you certain…that you would be willing to die for him? Are you certain…that for his sake, you would have the courage to slaughter Immortals and annihilate Buddhas?”
Ninelotus’s mouth opened and closed a few times.
Die for him?
Battle with all the Immortals and the Buddhas of the heavens for him?
“If you are certain of these things, if you feel no hesitation at all in answering this question, then I won’t stop you. I would only support you.” The blue-robed man sighed. “But I can see from your eyes that you are hesitating, that you are pausing…”
“If you aren’t able to treat him as the other half of your life, if you aren’t able to die for him, if you don’t have the courage to battle against all the Immortals and Buddhas of heaven for him…then why must you become Dao-companions?”
“Without that degree of resolve, there’s no need for you to choose a Dao-companion.”
“The path of Immortal cultivation…is a path which defies the heavens.”
“You can traverse it alone. You can also traverse it with a Dao-companion. This is an incomparably difficult path, filled with pitfalls. Thus, if you are to choose a Dao-companion, you absolutely must choose a Dao-companion who will truly share life and death with him; one you would die for, and one who would die for you. Otherwise…you would be better off traversing this path alone.”
The blue-robed man gave Ninelotus a glance. “Ninelotus, what do you think?”
“I, I…” Ninelotus was completely stunned.
Had she been wrong?
“You are too young…and that Ji Ning is even younger than you. The two of you haven’t experienced enough! You two are nowhere near close to the point of selecting Dao-companions, because your hearts are not yet sufficiently resolved; the two of you simply feel a sort of indistinct longing and affection for each other.” The blue-robed man shook his head. “This sort of indistinct longing and affection…it won’t last.”
“I won’t forcibly prevent you from being together with Ji Ning,” the blue-robed man said.
Upon hearing this, a hint of delight instantly appeared in Ninelotus’ eyes.
“But you must have patience. When you become a Primal Daoist, if you still feel that Ji Ning should be your Dao-companion, than you can choose him. For now, however…you will have to endure,” the blue-robed man said.
“Wait until I’m a Primal Daoist?” Ninelotus was stunned. “How long is that going to take?”
“I’ve doted on you too much. Your Dao-heart truly is quite ordinary. Go to the Myriad Lotuses Cave. I’ll set down a formation; only when you can walk out of the Myriad Lotuses Cave will you be permitted to leave the Dongyan Mountains,” the blue-robed man instructed.
Ninelotus said frantically, “The Myriad Lotuses Cave? How am I suppose to break through a formation that you set down, Forefather?”
“This will just be a bewildering formation meant to help illuminate your Dao-heart,” the blue-robed man said, shaking his head. “No need to argue about it. Go.”
“I’m going to send someone to notify Ji Ning.” Ninelotus knew that refusal was not an option, and so she hurriedly switched tacts.
“Go,” the blue-robed man said calmly.
Ninelotus immediately boarded a lotus-shaped magic treasure, immediately departing and making arrangements for a notification to be given to Ning.
The blue-robed man watched Ninelotus leave, then gently shook his head. “She truly is too young. Still…Ruyin, she truly does look just like you. How long has it been…do you remember how the two of us fought, shoulder-to-shoulder, in the ‘Skylight’ major world? That battle…no matter how much time passes, I’ll never forget it. Never…”
And then, he quietly went back to his fishing. His fishing hook attracted quite a number of fish to come circling around it, but the ‘hook’ was straight. It would never catch a fish.[1. This is a reference to the legend of Jiang Ziya, a 'historical' Chinese Immortal who fished without a hook, on the belief that the fish would come to him when they were ready, without need for a hook.]