Chapter 1488: Little Tiger Shi
After a long moment, the Ninth Sect’s Paragon responded with a sigh. “Back then, I should never have let Fang Mu open the portal to the Transcendence Path. This time... I shall not permit such a thing to happen again!”
The death of Fang Mu had been a devastating blow to the Ninth Sect. In contrast, the Chosen from the other eight sects had breathed sighs of relief.
They no longer felt as if a huge weight were hanging over their heads. But then... not a hundred years later, Yan’er accomplished the same feat as her Master, and placed that weight right back where it had been.
When Yan’er heard the response of the Ninth Sect’s Paragon, she closed her eyes, then prostrated herself on the ground. There she remained, unmoving. Apparently, if she was refused entrance, she would remain in place right there.
She was completely focused. This was her mission in life, and she was not making a request. What she was doing far exceeded a request....
She wanted to seek her Master, to confirm whether or not he had truly perished. That was her obsession, and it would never, ever be wiped away.
One month. Six months. A year. Three years....
Spring. Summer. Autumn. Countless days and nights passed, and Yan’er remained prostrated there the entire time. No matter who came to try to convince her to give up, she remained rooted in place. She was focused, and she was determined. People were shaken, and couldn’t help but think of that other even more stunning figure from the past.
This Master and apprentice were truly alike in many ways.
Five years later, rumbling filled the sky as a huge rift opened, and a staircase descended from up above.
“Thank you, Paragon,” she said. Her face was a bit wan, but she took a deep breath and prepared to begin walking up the stairs. But then, a gentle force poured into her body, wiping away her exhaustion and filling her with more energy than before.
“Make it back... alive,” said the Ninth Sect's Paragon, his voice soft. After the five years which had passed, even he understood the level of Yan’er’s focus, and was left sighing. He wasn’t capable of hindering Fang Mu’s only apprentice.
Rather than just watch her prostrate herself in such a manner and wait for her life force to wither away, he had instead...given in, and let her go.
As the Paragon’s sigh echoed out, Yan’er clasped hands and bowed, then looked up at the rift, her eyes shining with determination, and reminiscence.
“Master, Yan’er is going to come find you,” she said. With that, she burst into motion, flying up the stairs and disappearing into the rift.
The year that Yan’er left, the rest of the Chosen in the Vast Expanse School didn't feel as if a weight had been lifted, but instead, that it had sunk down further.
Master and apprentice had both stepped onto the Transcendence Path, whereas the Chosen... were still fighting over the Vast Expanse Shrine. It struck them as being similar to the difference between mud and the clouds.
Yan’er slowly made her way along the Transcendence Path. She wanted to go quickly, but was not able to. As for Meng Hao, he had been able to pass through the first tribulation in three years. But Yan’er couldn’t match that speed. She needed much more time, and yet, her determination never lessened. In fact, it increased.
“Master, I'm definitely going to find your remains,” she murmured. The intense pressure weighing down on her made progress difficult, yet she trudged on. She was followed by the mastiff, who quietly walked next to her the entire time.
Time passed in a blur. Fifteen years went by.
The boy who had been born more a dozen or so years earlier in the mountainous forests of the seventh continent was now a young man. He had become one of the most outstanding hunters in the village, and although he wasn’t very tall, he was exceptionally agile. At the moment, he was dashing through the trees, a hunting bow in his hand. After enough time passed for half an incense stick to burn, he suddenly stopped in place, then nocked an arrow to his bow with lightning speed.
A thrum could be heard, and the arrow sped through the air to plunge into the head of a black bear, roughly thirty meters away. It pierced in by about four inches, enraging the bear but not killing it. The bear roared and began to charge through the trees toward the young man.
The young man calmly fell back, loosing more arrows into the bear. Blood flowed, causing the animal’s fury to mount as it raced forward. Then, the young man suddenly stopped in place and looked coolly at the beast.
Seeing that the young man had stopped moving, the bear picked up speed. Just when it was almost upon him, the ground suddenly caved in, and a huge hole appeared. The bear fell in, to be impaled upon the countless wooden spikes which had been driven into the ground at the bottom of the pit.
A howl echoed out as the bear died.
The young man took a deep breath, his eyes shining with excitement. He carefully dropped down into the pit, extracted the bear, and then headed back to the village, the carcass slung over his shoulders.
By the time the boy arrived home with the bear, he was soaked with sweat. Sitting in the courtyard was a muscular, middle-aged man with a broad smile on his face. His right leg was bound tightly; a few days before, he had broken it on a hunting expedition. Thankfully, he was in good health, and had visited the doctor immediately after the accident occurred. In the future, he would have some problems with the leg, but nothing too significant.
“Great! The Shi Clan’s little tiger cub can hunt bears now!”
The young man hurried over, smiling. About then, the door opened, and a middle-aged woman appeared. She looked dotingly upon the young man, tousling his hair for a moment before glaring at her husband.
The man shrank back sheepishly from the woman, then, trying to sound manly, chuckled and said, “Heh heh. He’s no baby any more. I think when I was his age I could hunt bears too. It’s only natural that the son of Tiger Hu could do the same.”
The young man smiled. The warmth and love in the house was palpable. This young man was the third life of Meng Hao’s clone. Little Tiger Hu. [1. Remember Dong Hu, one of the four boys taken to the Reliance Sect by Xu Qing in chapter 1? His nickname was Little Tiger]
The warmth and love in the household persisted for two more years. But then one winter, his father went missing on a hunt, and the warmth faded away.
That night, it was as if the boy’s world collapsed. His mother refused to believe that his father, the best hunter in the area, someone who knew the local terrain like the back of his hand, would simply go missing. Therefore, she went out to search for him. Again and again, night after night.
She never found him. A year later, his mother went blind from grief. Two years later... she passed away.
Before dying, she clasped Little Tiger Hu’s hand in her own, and her vacant eyes seemed to stare off into the distance as she whispered, “Litte Tiger, your father couldn’t have just gone missing....”
Little Tiger Hu wept that day, just as he had wept the day his father went missing. From then on, he refused to live in the village, and also refused to marry. He lived out in the mountains, where he searched relentlessly for his father.
Time passed. One year. Another. And another.
He combed all of the local mountains, high and low. For twenty years he searched. One spring day, in a far corner of the mountains, he found a rusty knife. The instant he saw it, his eyes turned red, for he knew that it was his father’s knife.
It was the first clue he had ever found. He diligently began to search the area, and about 300 meters away from the knife, he unearthed a skeleton.
After examining the skeleton, he noticed a place on the right thigh where it had been broken once, whereupon he dropped to his knees and kowtowed. This was his father who had gone missing all those years ago.
His mother never believed that his father would have gone missing, and neither had Little Tiger Hu. He had always believed that his father was too great a hunter. Even if he encountered some dangerous beast, he would have been able to come up with a way to escape with his life. Besides, the most dangerous animals in the mountains were bears.
After examining his father’s remains, he confirmed that there was no evidence that he had been attacked by a wild animal. Instead, what he found was a wound on his father’s spine, the mark of an arrow. Twenty years ago, he had been shot in the back.
Little Tiger Hu was an expert when it came to bows and arrows, so to him, the evidence was clear.
He looked at his father’s skeleton and smiled, a smile both bitter and vicious. Then, he carried his father’s skeleton back to the village and buried it next to his mother. He erected a burial mound over the two of them, which he knelt in front of and murmured, “Dad, I’ll get revenge for you, no matter what price I have to pay....”
A long time passed before he finally rose to his feet, and when he did, he seemed even colder than before. With that, he turned and left.
More time passed. Ten years later, Little Tiger Hu was an old man. He had spent the last decade using every method and means at his disposal to investigate the truth about his father. In the end, he confirmed that the killer was from a clan in another hunting village in the mountains.
The murderer who had killed his father was still alive.
Little Tiger Hu didn’t bother to investigate the details of why the murder had occurred. All he knew was that when you killed someone, you had to pay the price with your own life.
One snowy night, when everything was freezing and cold, he entered the house of the killer. When he emerged, he reeked of blood, and was carrying a severed head. He had killed the old man, and when his children fought back, he killed them too. He had slaughtered the whole family.
He ended up being fatally injured, but still managed to stagger back to his own village, severed head in hand. He threw the head down in front of his parents’ grave, and then sagged to the ground. He began to drink alcohol, and talk softly to his parents in words that no one could hear.
The snow fell harder. The seriousness of his injuries grew worse by the minute. He was like an oil lamp on the verge of sputtering out. As his consciousness faded, he suddenly seemed to catch sight of his parents.
After a while, he closed his eyes and lay down on the burial mound, as if he were reuniting with his parents, and once again feeling the warmth and love that he had as a child.
The snow covered his corpse, but it couldn't cover up the soul which flew out of his forehead. As the soul rose up into the sky, it looked back at the burial mound and sighed. Within the soul, it was possible to see that the third sealing mark was shining with radiant light.
The soul clasped hands and bowed to the corpse, then turned and reentered the cycle of reincarnation.
His third life was over, and the fourth life... was beginning.
It was in that moment that Yan’er entered the second tribulation in the Transcendence Path. The tenfold pressure caused her to grit her teeth, but she continued on. Her cultivation base was now at the peak of the 1-Essence level.
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