The instant he stood up, it was as if the whole world grew smaller. Everything was replaced by Meng Hao. His rising up caused a tempest to spring into being. His rise even caused thunderbolts to shoot up to the Heavens.
Meng Hao’s mind reeled and his heart shook. His aura immediately exploded out of him, enveloping the courtyard, causing the entire neo-demon horde to begin to shake and stare at him in fear. They began to whimper and prostrate themselves on the ground, not daring to move a muscle.
Even Big Hairy was shaking and his head was bowed. The Black Bat also shook as it hovered there in mid-air. There was definitely something extraordinary about it, but Meng Hao was in the late Gold Core stage and was also a Demon Sealer. Because of these two things, a simple thought from him could annihilate it and transform it into nothing but floating dust.
For the Black Bat, this made Meng Hao completely different than its previous master.
Currently, lightning was crackling in the air above the courtyard, multiple bolts which danced back and forth. The aura in the courtyard had been thrown into absolute chaos, as if the whole area had been carved away from the world, and now existed on its own, as part of Meng Hao.
Golden light began to emanate out from him. When this happened, there was absolutely no scholarly aura remaining in him, not even a scrap. It was instead replaced by the soaring will of a powerful expert of Heaven and Earth. In this moment, he was no longer a scholar, but an almighty expert of the late Gold Core stage, someone who could stand toe to toe with a Nascent Soul Cultivator.
All of this… could not be seen from the outside world. On the outside, the breeze blew gently and the clouds floated about. Only on the inside of the courtyard, however, was the will of a powerful expert emanating out from Meng Hao.
He gazed fixedly at the trembling Black Bat for a moment, then closed his eyes. It lasted only a moment, though. Then his eyes snapped back open. The lightning disappeared without a trace, and the tempest was gone. Meng Hao’s body returned to normal. No longer was he a stalwart, powerful expert. Instead, he once again looked like a gentle scholar.
“A wooden sword….” he breathed lightly. His right hand reached out into the air, and suddenly the Black Bat began to tremble, unable to resist. It shot toward Meng Hao, who then grabbed ahold of it.
Intense fear floated within the Black Bat, terror of Meng Hao emanating from its eyes. As far as it was concerned, the seemingly Heavenly might, along with Meng Hao’s faint Demonic Qi, transformed into an unmatchable pressure that bore down onto it.
Meng Hao held onto the bat, his eyes thoughtful. After a moment passed, he lifted his left hand and then stabbed it into the body of the Black Bat. The wounded bat began to squirm; its life force was already beginning to slip away. However, at the same time, Demonic Qi began to pour from Meng Hao’s left hand, restoring the very life that the Black Bat was losing as he ripped it apart.
His hand gradually shoved deeper into the bat’s body. Eventually, deep within the blood and flesh, Meng Hao’s hand closed around the hilt of a wooden sword. The instant it did, he wrenched the sword out of the bat’s body.
Blood showered out, and the Black Bat let out a bloodcurdling shriek as it backed up and struggled to fly into the air. Instead, it flopped to the ground, panting, on the verge of death. At the same time, a look of gratitude appeared in its eyes. Although its body was trembling, its majestic life force was now soaring upward.
It seemed that the sword had actually been blocking its life force and obstructing the bat’s cultivation. Now that Meng Hao had removed it, its Cultivation base was immediately restored, and its life force exploded out. This, coupled with the Demonic Qi from Meng Hao, caused the bat’s life force to become even stronger.
It appeared weak at the moment. However, its wound was rapidly healing, and an increasingly powerful aura billowed up from it.
The gratefulness in its eyes gradually faded, replaced with coldness as it stared at Meng Hao.
Meng Hao’s expression was indifferent, and he completely ignored the bat. Apparently its sudden mightiness wasn’t of the least bit interest to him.
Instead, Meng Hao gazed at the wooden sword he had just pulled out from within the bat. He flicked it, causing the blood and gore that had covered it to disappear. The sword now looked as it normally did. It appeared ordinary, as if there were nothing unusual or special about it. However, the spiritual energy in the area suddenly began to suck in toward the sword. The sword quickly became what looked like a vortex of spiritual energy, all of which ended up being consumed by the sword itself.
Meng Hao looked at the sword, a strange expression on his face. He slapped his bag of holding, and instantly, two black beams shot out, which then transformed into two swords identical to the one he was holding in his hand.
Three wooden swords now hovered in front of Meng Hao. His eyes shone with a strange glow.
“I found a wooden sword in the body of the Flying Rain-Dragon all those years ago. Now, I find another wooden sword in the body of this Black Bat. These wooden swords must have some incredible origin….” His gaze passed over the three of them. Unless you knew that one was a duplicate, it would be impossible to tell them apart.
“It’s too bad I spent so many Spirit Stones making this duplicate. Although, if I had enough more, I could use them to create the first form of the Lotus Sword Formation!
“I wonder how powerful such a sword formation would be…. Probably not any weaker than the Time Sword Formation. After all, the wooden swords that absorb spiritual energy cost a vast amount of Spirit Stones to duplicate. This sword… is terrifying!”
His eyes glittered as he waved his right hand, causing the three wooden swords to fly back into his bag of holding. He looked back at the Black Bat.
The Black Bat’s wound was now mostly recovered. Its aura was also much more powerful than before. Now, it was no longer at the late Foundation Establishment stage, but rather the early Core Formation stage. It seemed clear that after some time passed, it would continue to recover and become even stronger.
“Beasts slain by wooden swords such as this couldn’t possibly be ordinary. Take the Flying Rain-Dragon for example…. Given that, one can only imagine how powerful this bat was…. Who knows how many years it was plagued by the sword until it finally fell to its current level. After it recovers and reaches its peak, how powerful will it be….” Meng Hao smiled. It didn’t really matter how powerful the bat became; as long as it had Demonic Qi, Meng Hao would be able to control it.
That was especially true considering… the Demonic Qi Meng Hao had just given it to absorb had been kept intentionally weak. After all, Demonic Qi was his primary method with which to control it.
As Meng Hao studied the Black Bat, it looked back at him with flickering eyes. After a moment, it lowered its head, signalling its compliance. It was impossible to tell how much of this was genuine and how much was false, but as of this moment, it had chosen to capitulate.
A few days passed. News of the Dragoneer duel between Meng Hao and Mo Fang had spread throughout the entire Crow Scout Tribe. In the blink of an eye, Meng Hao’s name had risen to prominence. He was now completely famous within the Tribe.
On one particular evening, the Earth Priest personally came to Meng Hao to deliver him a command medallion. This indicated that Meng Hao was now an official vassal of the Crow Scout Tribe.
In addition to the command medallion, Meng Hao was also to be given a chance to gain enlightenment from the Crow Scout Tribe’s sacred tree. This sacred tree had a name: the Greenwood Tree….
Meng Hao thought about this totemic life force which could create a magical force to protect the entire Tribe. He also thought about the enormous Treant he’d seen. He needed a Wood-type totem, and although any would do… when it came to the five totem tattoos relating to the five elements, obviously, the stronger the totems, the stronger he would be when it came time to concoct his Five-Colored Nascent Soul.
His chance at gaining enlightenment of the holy Greenwood Tree would come in seven days.
During those seven days, the Crow Scout Tribe carried out various grand ceremonies. They were not related to Meng Hao becoming a vassal, but rather, to offer sacrifices to the ancestors and to prepare a Greenwood brand. It was only in this manner that Meng Hao could enter into the enlightenment state.
To any Tribe member, such enlightenment was very important. Every adult Tribe member went through the process, which refined their very life force. Obviously, it was also considered luck for any vassal.
On the seventh day, a whole series of complicated rites were performed. Several thousand Crow Scout Tribe members gathered to sit cross-legged atop the mountain peak. They sat in concentric circles, softly chanting a strange incantation. The sound of it filled Heaven and Earth, and caused roiling layers of clouds to fill the previously clear skies. It felt as if Time itself were passing by. Meng Hao wore a long green robe as he walked up the stairs up the mountain leading to the altar.
The Earth Priest stood there, flanked by an old woman, who was the Crow Scout Tribe’s Sky Priest. They both smiled as Meng Hao approached.
“The Crow Scout Tribe treats people with sincerity,” said the Earth Priest, his voice soft. “In all matters, one must pay a price before receiving gain. Fellow Daoist Meng is not an ordinary person, and can surely sense the good faith of the Crow Scout Tribe.”
“Many thanks,” replied Meng Hao with clasped hands.
“Let’s begin!” said the Sky Priest. The old woman waved her arm; a rumbling sound filled the air and a rift opened up in the middle of the altar. Immediately, a green beam of light shot up into the air, from within which emanated dense Demonic Qi.
The appearance of this Demonic Qi instantly caused Meng Hao’s pupils to constrict. Also within the green light rose up an enormous Treant. Its color was an archaic green, and it stood several dozen meters tall. Wilted leaves covered its body, and it emanated a profound ancientness….
It was as if it had existed within the flow of time for very, very long time. It was as if traces of the passage of time could be seen within its eyes. As it floated up, its body radiated a boundless life force.
The intensity of its life force was such that all Wood-type life forms would instantly prostrate before it and call it ancestor. However… within the flourishing life force, Meng Hao could sense decline and decay. It was as if the life force was reaching the end of its path.
The Treant’s body was also covered with countless scars. It emanated a powerful aura that caused the color of Heaven and Earth to change, the clouds to seethe, and the surrounding forest to sigh.
Its eyes were filled with wisdom as it looked at Meng Hao.
The instant it appeared, the chanting of the surrounding thousands of Tribe Members grew louder, and they began to kneel and bow.
The Earth Priest and the Sky Priest clasped hands and bowed to the Treant.
Meng Hao was unable to take his eyes off of the enormous creature. His heart trembled; he was now certain that this Treant was a great Demon of Heaven and Earth. It was similar to the North Sea; a true Demon!
The giant Treant suddenly began to speak. “Foreigner…. Thou hast received the approval of the Tribe which I protect. Thus, I… shall bestow luck upon thee. I shall take thee to experience some of my memories, from an eternity ago….” The Treant slowly raised its right hand up and placed it in front of Meng Hao.
It held its hand there, waiting for Meng Hao to step into it. Even as this happened, the Demon Sealing Jade within Meng Hao’s bag of holding finally reacted, the first time it had done so in the Western Desert.
The archaic voice of the jade sounded out within Meng Hao’s mind.
"Ancient Dao; Tenacious Desire to Seal the Heavens; Benefaction for All in the Mountains; Dao Tribulation Must Come to the Nine Mountains and Seas; My Fate is the Aeon!" [1. These are the same words from the Demon Sealing Jade that were mentioned previously in chapters 89, 90, 95 and 101. I've significantly changed the translation. This passage is very vague and complex in Chinese, and could have multiple interpretations; I may adjust it in the future. I tried to keep the meaning as (vaguely) close to the Chinese as possible. Many thanks to anonpuffs for working with me on this!]