Chapter 692: A Promise to Keep
Far away in the Great Tang of the Eastern Lands, in a random village, a somewhat sloppily-dressed painter was looking askance at a rich man who fawned over him with endless words.
“Immortal, sir, I beg of you to paint me. I’m willing to pay any price.”
“My paintings are very expensive,” was the response.
The rich man nodded enthusiastically, then waved to his retainers to carry over several large chests.
The old painter glanced at them out of the corner of his eye, then cleared his throat. “Well, it seems that the two of us are connected by destiny. Because of that, I’ll paint something for you.”
He was just about to begin painting when a frown appeared on his face.
“Something just came up,” he said. “I need to take a mental journey. Please wait for a moment.” With that, he sat down cross-legged and closed his eyes.
The rich man didn’t dare to disturb him, and simply stood there off to the side, waiting.
Back in the Southern Domain, in the Rebirth Cave, Da Nu looked off into the nothingness, lost in her memories.
She was a lily that had bloomed with seven colors. On the day of vicissitudes, she had reached Immortal Ascension. However, she mistakenly fell in love with her host. When she reached Immortal Ascension, she severed her goodness and buried it at the bottom of the Milky Way Sea.
On that day, her tears had merged into the Milky Way Sea, and she became… the Dawn Immortal.
As for her goodness, it remained at the bottom of the Milky Way Sea, the same Da Nu as before.
Many years later, she emerged from the coffin and entered into the body of the fish. When she splashed out from the water, she became a roc that flew toward the Rebirth Cave, emanating an intense aura of death. [1. A fish turning into a bird-like creature is a common part of Chinese mythology. I've seen a few comments that I should translate "roc" as "peng." Sorry to say, that would only be partly correct. Er Gen consistently uses the full term "鲲鹏," which combines the fish character "kun" and the bird character "peng." If I were going transliterate it, the most accurate term would be "kunpeng," not simply "peng." Also, in ISSTH, unlike the "kunpung" mythology, it is never described as a "kun" which transforms into a "peng." It's described as a fish "yu" that transforms into a "kunpeng."]
That aura of death came from her dead heart.
In the Rebirth Cave, she had hoped to experience a baptism, a rebirth, to become new. But no matter how she searched, there was no rebirth to be found in the Rebirth Cave. It was then that she understood. The Rebirth Cave was nothing more than a fantasy.
She could not achieve rebirth, so she remained there, submerged in her memories. No one in the world could understand her pain. But then she saw Xu Qing, and when she did, she realized that Xu Qing was just like herself all those years ago.
She sighed. The memories flashing in her mind’s eye seemed to grow more beautiful. In contrast, her body was already more than half withered up, like a dying flower.
The hand that touched Meng Hao’s forehead was visibly draining as her boundless life force poured into his body. He was now completely recovered, and didn't look old at all.
Inside of him, glowing motes of light appeared. They packed together densely, interlocking to form into the shape of an arched bridge.
However… the bridge was incomplete. In the very middle, there was a broken section, making it impossible for the bridge to be whole.
Those motes of light were the life force that Da Nu was sending into Meng Hao, and that bridge was none other than the Bridge of Life!
“I don’t blame you….” murmured Da Nu softly. Her eyes were blank, her mind submerged into memories that no one could see.
Her entire arm was now dried up. The withering spread to her neck. It looked almost like tendrils, climbing up to her forehead, and eventually covering her entire head. When the tendrils reached her eyes, she was thinking about the first time she had met her host.
In that moment, he had looked at her, and she him. It was a moment that seemed as if it would last an eternity.
“I have never blamed you….” When the withering took Da Nu’s eyes, two teardrops fell. They rolled down her withered face and then landed on the ground with a soft patter.
Her eyes grew listless, and she closed them. Then she lifted up the hand that was pushing down onto Meng Hao’s forehead. After a moment, she softly struck his head.
The blow seemed light, but the force hit him like lightning. He trembled violently, and roaring filled his mind.
The countless nodes of light inside of him that formed the Bridge of Life suddenly vibrated and then expanded. In that moment, the two sides of the bridge linked together, and it was whole.
When the Bridge of Life was complete, Meng Hao’s body spasmed in unprecedented fashion. He suddenly breathed again. His previously still heart began to emit a thumping sound.
When his heart started beating, the powder Da Nu had created from the Ninth Mountain and Sea lodestone swept toward his chest and fused into his heart.
His heart continued to beat, and the sound of it echoed throughout the Rebirth Cave. Suddenly, an incredible gravitation force exploded out inside of his heart.
At the same time, his soul, which had been wrapped up by the Eyeless Larva silk, was caught up by the gravitational force. It merged into his heart, and then was superimposed over his body.
In this moment, the Bridge of Life was thoroughly linked and whole. Blinding light shone out to fill the Rebirth Cave, dispelling all of the darkness. The resplendent light was dazzling to the extreme.
Meng Hao’s blood began to flow. His life force was vigorous! His soul was back in place! He had returned to life!
His eyes snapped open.
The first thing he saw was Da Nu. He saw her withered body, and felt his own surging life force. He could immediately sense the connection between it and the woman.
His mind trembled. If by this point he couldn’t understand what had happened, then his over two hundred years of life would have been lived in vain. It was obvious that this woman had given him her own life force.
Da Nu looked at him, and her eyes suddenly flickered open. “I gave you life, not for you, but for her.”
An image suddenly appeared in his mind.
He saw himself fall down outside the Rebirth Cave, and he saw Xu Qing arrive. She picked him up and struggled to carry him forward. She had once been beautiful, but now, her hair was white and she was ancient. Purplish-black blood oozed out of the corners of her mouth.
And yet, no regret could be seen in her eyes. She looked at Meng Hao with gentleness and determination.
He watched as Xu Qing used her own life force to sustain him. Every time she delivered her life force to him, it would keep him alive for a bit longer, and make her weaker.
However, her smile never faded.
When he saw these things, Meng Hao trembled. He watched Xu Qing carry him into the Rebirth Cave and sit down cross-legged. He watched her stroke his face.
Xu Qing was ancient, her hair white, and yet she continued to give him her life force, one bit at a time, no matter the consequences to herself.
“You live, I live. You die, I die!”
Tears streamed down Meng Hao’s face. Next, he saw Da Nu appear. She sent Xu Qing away…. And then Fatty came to deliver the medicinal pill.
All of these things struck into his heart and mind like lightning. He trembled violently, and an intense dread suddenly filled him.
“Why… why didn’t Xu Qing bring it herself?” Meng Hao didn’t dare to think about it. He jerked his head up to look at Da Nu.
At the same time, he rose to his feet. Inside, he knew… something bad had happened to Xu Qing!
He had to go find her! He had to find Xu Qing!
However, in the moment that he stood, his face suddenly fell, and he stood there, terror-stricken and motionless. His hands clenched tightly into fists as he realized that he was constrained to the absolute limit.
He shivered ceaselessly as he remembered that he had no cultivation base. He was completely empty….
“There is no such thing as rebirth….” murmured Da Nu to herself. Her body was almost completely withered. She looked at Meng Hao and was just about to deliver the last of her life force to him, and then slip into death, when…
Suddenly, everything began to shake and rumble!
A black mist sprang out from within the depths of the Rebirth Cave. It quickly filled every corner of the cave, as well as the area hundreds of thousands of meters surrounding the cave, turning it all into a world of black mist.
The black mist rose up into the sky, shockingly transforming into an enormous head. The head had black hair, and its facial features were blurry, but it was clearly immeasurably ancient.
“Who said there is no such thing as rebirth!?” growled the voice.
Da Nu looked up, and her eyes filled with a strange light. She had lived inside the Rebirth Cave for many years, and had visited all the areas within, but she had never sensed anything like this black mist.
Even more shocked was Choumen Tai. He could hear the voice from his position deep in the cave, and it filled his mind with roaring. He shot to his feet, his face covered with astonishment. He had also been concealed in the cave for many years, and was very familiar with every inch of the place. However, he was completely unaware that anything like this existed inside!
“Who is this?” he thought with a gasp. He suddenly realized that the Rebirth Cave… was not at all how he had believed it to be.
There were mysteries here… that even he couldn’t detect.
“The Dao of rebirth exists outside of the laws of Heaven and Earth. You can’t feel it, that’s all….
“On this day, you chose death to help this person. That… is true rebirth!
“Rebirth is a death and a life, a cycle. Henceforth, he will represent you on the path of cultivation. You die for him in the cycle of reincarnation. That… is true rebirth!
“If you understand, then you can free yourself from your worldly concerns. If you don’t understand, then… your next life will be one of darkness.”
Da Nu’s body quivered in shock and her breathing grew ragged. She listened to the voice’s words and her eyes gradually flashed with signs of comprehension.
“Rebirth…. Senior, please instruct me.” She slowly closed her eyes, and in that moment, completely withered up, transforming into a Resurrection Lily, right there in the Rebirth Cave.
“Goodness personified, and in the end you still perform good deeds, imbuing your very breath into his body. You are the embodiment of truth and law…. Because of this, I will help you this one time!” Even as the voice echoed about, the black mist contracted. It began to congeal inside of the Rebirth Cave, next to the Resurrection Lily, where it turned into a brush. The brush moved about, seemingly using the air as its canvas to paint an extremely realistic Resurrection Lily.
The brush swished, and the illusory Resurrection Lily settled onto Da Nu’s withered body.
“Sleep for 10,000 years. After that, if you can awaken, then you will be reborn.” As the voice echoed out, the black mist seemed to turn its attention onto Choumen Tai, who was deep in the recesses of the Rebirth Cave.
Choumen Tai’s mind trembled.
“You are a soul who has experienced many years of life, and many reincarnations. You have relied on your persistence to reach this day…. Continue on. I can sense something very familiar about you.”
Choumen Tai began to pant. “Are you….”
Before he could finish speaking, the mist seethed, and Choumen Tai was suddenly swept up. He had no control over his body as he was ejected out of Planet South Heaven and sent out into the starry sky.
“Regardless of whether or not the person you are waiting for is here,” said the voice, “if all you know how to do is use others, then if the time ever comes in which you can bring back to life that person who exists in your heart, well... you will feel only regret. Leave. When the time comes that you understand, you can return here.”
Back in the Rebirth Cave, everything was quiet. The mist spun around and around, and a figure seemed to become visible, looking at Meng Hao.
Trembling, Meng Hao rose to his feet and walked to the mouth of the Rebirth Cave. Although he was merely alive as a mortal now, he still… had a promise to keep.
You live, I live. You die, I die!
In the moment in which Meng Hao was about to step foot out of the Rebirth Cave, the blurry figure behind him coolly said, “Why do you care about the Perfect stratum so much anyway?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter