Chapter 684: On Board
The old man didn’t say anything in response. It almost seemed like he didn’t even know who Meng Hao was; he was simply roaming about, and happened to encounter him. Spurred by some distant memories, he had randomly reached out to save him.
“Heaven and Earth… have their end….
“But what about me? Where is my end?” The old man’s murmuring voice was hoarse, and incomparably ancient. He finally sighed and closed his eyes, seemingly slipping into a state of lifelessness. Meng Hao could clearly see the old man sitting there with his back to him, but he couldn’t sense his existence at all. In fact, he couldn’t even sense the existence of the ship.
“Senior?” he said, gaping. Finally, he realized that the old man was immersed in his own world. Meng Hao crossed his legs reticently and then looked off into the distance and began to think.
“My Dao foundation… is gone.” He felt empty inside, and could not sense a cultivation base. It was as if it had vanished like mist or smoke. An intense weakness filled him, and he felt so incredibly old that it seemed that death was just around the corner.
He now had absolutely no cultivation base whatsoever.
Filled with bitterness, Meng Hao tried to begin to practice cultivation, but his entire body was like a sieve. No matter what breathing exercises he did, he couldn’t build up even a bit of spiritual energy.
However, he wouldn’t give in so easily, so he produced a bag of holding. Although he himself had no spiritual energy, bags of holding from Seahold could be opened once without any spiritual energy.
He had bought quite a few such bags in the past. The parrot and the meat jelly were inside the bag, sleeping. It seemed Meng Hao’s weakness had caused them to lose their own vitality.
He took a medicinal pill out from the bag of holding, then consumed it and started meditating. After attempting Qi Condensation techniques for a moment, he trembled, and his face went pale. Once again, he looked listless and dispirited.
“I can’t practice cultivation,” he murmured. “I have no foundation whatsoever to build on.” As of now, Meng Hao was certain that his Dao foundation was completely and utterly gone.
Still not able to accept it, Meng Hao tried again. Time passed, and soon a month had gone by. Meng Hao tried a variety of methods, but none of them formed even the slightest bit of a cultivation base.
It was a complete failure.
He tried over and over again, but his body only continued to grow weaker. After another month, he finally accepted that he was in a hopeless situation.
Bitter laughter rang out, growing louder and louder, breaking the silence of the Milky Way Sea’s Inner Ring as it echoed out from within the ship.
The laughter also contained intense hatred. “10th Wang Clan Patriarch!”
He wasn’t sure if the 10th Wang Clan Patriarch was dead, but as of now, that didn’t matter.
“I have no cultivation base, but I’m still alive…. However, considering my current life force, who knows how many more days I can stay alive….” His bitter laughter gradually grew weaker, and finally, he stared off into the distance, empty and numb.
He wasn’t even sure what he was seeing. His mind was blank. He thought of nothing. He looked at nothing. Eventually, his gaze turned to fall on the armored old man, and hope suddenly flickered in his eyes.
His life had been saved by this old man, and considering how mystical he was, and how bizarre the ancient Underworld Ship was, Meng Hao was confident that if the man did something, his own cultivation base could potentially be restored.
Meng Hao stood, clasped his hands, and bowed deeply.
The old man didn’t speak. He seemed as lifeless as ever.
Meng Hao hesitated for a moment, then walked around to stand in front of the old man. He was just about to bow again, when suddenly his eyes went wide with disbelief.
The old man’s face was filled with boundless ancientness and time. However, when Meng Hao looked at it, his heart and mind trembled. The man’s body was actually not material, but rather, faint and translucent.
Except, Meng Hao clearly remembered that the old man wasn’t like this before.
After a moment of thought, he slowly reached up his right hand and attempted to touch the old man. His hand passed directly through him as if through empty space, and when he tried it a second time, the same thing happened. Finally, he stepped forward, and ended up walking directly through him. He turned his head to look back, and his eyes were filled with a complex expression.
“Was I simply mistaken before? Was he always like this? Is his existence tied into the meaning of the ship’s name? Underworld Ship…. Ship of the Underworld Specter?” Meng Hao laughed bitterly as he began to look around. The ship was broken down, dilapidated, filled with an aura of rot.
Several days later, he finished exploring the ship in its entirety, and never found anything out of the ordinary. Everything he saw and touched was ancient and archaic.
He stood at the prow and looked out as the Underworld Ship slid noiselessly across the water. Everything was quiet; the sea rose and fell, although there were no waves. They never encountered any other living things.
It seemed that wherever this ship went, everything became completely quiet.
“Well, this is fine, too….
“I can spend the last years of my life on an empty ship, all alone.
“I bet nobody knows that I’m about to perish,” he murmured. “At least that way, Master won’t be sad, nor will Xu Qing feel too much grief. Fatty, Elder Brother, and all my other friends… none of them will know.” He sat down cross-legged in the place where he had woken up earlier and looked off into the distance.
As he did, his heart slowly became peaceful. He no longer burned with resentment, nor did he ponder any more mysteries. He was left with only a bit of ruefulness. He regretted not being able to visit his Master ever again. He regretted not holding Xu Qing in his embrace just once. He regretted not returning to the Southern Domain and gathering with the friends of long ago.
Even more so, he regretted never being able to visit the Great Tang in the Eastern Lands. He regretted not being able to see his father and mother again.
“Old turtle Reliance, from here on out, you’re free….
“Ancestors of the Demon Sealing Sect, it seems that from now, there will be no more League of Demon Sealers.” Meng Hao sighed. He was now slowly growing calmer and feeling less restrained.
Death was something that could not be avoided, so he would not take it to heart too much.
“It’s too bad I have so many Spirit Stones in my bag of holding…. What a pity that I never got to spend them.
“And then there are all those debts people owe. Those people have gotten really lucky…. After the creditor dies, they won’t have to pay back their debts.
“Hmmm, I guess I really don’t have to pay those three silver pieces back to Steward Zhou after all.
“It’s such a pity I still have so many treasures. Well, some little bastard in the future is sure going to get lucky.” When he thought of this, he could only sigh.
“Perhaps my death will spare the world a bit of calamity. To all of you who would have been conned by me in the future, you don’t know how lucky you are!
“So, so lucky!” Meng Hao thought back through his life, to his youth spent studying and participating in the Imperial examinations. Then he ran into Xu Qing and joined the Reliance Sect. He stole Wang Tengfei’s good fortune and became an Inner Sect disciple. Patriarch Reliance conned him, so he conned back. Eventually, he made it to the Southern Domain, where he joined the Violet Fate Sect and then rose to prominence.
“Poor Xu Qing…. She loves me, and I love her. What a pity we won’t be able to get married now…. I’ve never actually even been with a woman….” When he thought of this, Meng Hao suddenly felt especially sad.
“And then there’s Chu Yuyan. She was definitely interested in me….”
Meng Hao continued to sigh and sigh.
He thought of how he had killed the Chosen from the Ji Clan, then escaped to the Western Desert. He recalled everything that happened with the Crow Divinity Tribes, and then couldn’t help think of Han Shan, Demoness Zhixiang, and everything that happened in the Demon Immortal Sect.
“Senior Han Shan, I won’t be able to keep my promise…
“Demoness Zhixiang, don’t worry about that favor you owe me.”
Then there was Ke Jiusi and Ke Yunhai. Meng Hao thought about many things, and eventually started thinking about his First Severing.
“I didn’t even practice cultivation for three hundred years, and yet completed my First Severing. A great Dao descended, and the Resurrection Lily became my Spirit Severing Treasure. For me, Meng Hao, to live a life like this, well… it’s enough for me!
“In all the lands of South Heaven, few people could even come close to comparing to me!” He suddenly felt very proud of himself. The laughter, the bitterness, the fury, and the memories of his entire life became images that flashed through his mind.
More time passed. Another half month went by, during which time Meng Hao continued to look off into the distance, thinking about the past. Finally one day, the illusory, armored old man suddenly caught his attention.
For months, the old man hadn’t moved at all, and seemed completely empty. Now, his right hand raised up, and a sealing mark appeared. He performed an incantation, and gradually, two colors appeared in his hand, black and white.
However, when Meng Hao went over to try to touch the old man, he was as illusory as ever.
As more time passed, Meng Hao began to pay attention to the way in which the old man meditated. He observed his emptiness, and his incantation gestures, along with the blackness and whiteness that they summoned.
Gradually, he focused more and more on the black and white. It seemed to contain something important, although he wasn’t sure what.
The white seemed to contain all of the colors in Heaven and Earth. It seemed to assimilate everything around and transform it into a similar whiteness. As for the black, it was incredibly potent and domineering, as of no colors were qualified to stand in its presence.
Gradually, Meng Hao immersed himself in observing the old man. Without even realizing it, he began to mediate in the same way, including the breathing exercises and the hand gestures.
Eventually, he even decided that he might as well sit in the exact same position as the old man, superimposing with his illusory form. That way, all of his motions would be exactly the same as the old man’s.
He closed his eyes and immersed himself in the process. Time passed. In the blink of an eye, three years had gone by.
During the three years, Meng Hao grew weaker, and his life force gradually withered away. He didn’t care about that, though. The only thing he was interested in was copying the movements of the old man, and finding a way to keep on living.
One day, he suddenly experienced an emptiness in which he found that neither life nor death were important. As he performed an incantation with his right hand, whiteness became visible.
Suddenly, an ancient voice filled his mind: “When you reach the end of your path, then you will have lost yourself.”
Next, blackness appeared in Meng Hao’s palm.
The ancient voice once again echoed in his mind. “When you reach the end of your path, then all you will have left is yourself.” Meng Hao had the faint sensation that he was in the process of grasping enlightenment.
It was an enlightenment of an unimaginably vast and mysterious great Dao.
“White and black are like the daytime and nighttime…. [1. In Chinese, these words for daytime and nighttime also have the characters for white and black in them. Daytime is literally “white day” and night time is literally “black night”]” he muttered. He looked at his right hand and then slowly lifted it up toward the sky. He could sense that if he had a cultivation base, then considering his enlightenment of this Dao, he could turn the sky as dark as night or as bright as day. The interlocking of black and white could unleash a supreme power.
“Too bad I don’t have a cultivation base,” he thought, shaking his head. “Even if I completely understood this Dao, I still couldn’t use it.” He was just about to stand up when suddenly, the ship… stopped moving.
Meng Hao looked up, his eyes wide.
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