Chapter 44: The North Sea Reveals the Dao
In the entire expansive Reliance Sect, only Meng Hao remained, standing alone on the East Mountain. He watched the red light fade away, then lowered his head. The formerly bustling Outer Sect was now empty.
Elder Sister Xu had been taken away. Elder Brother Chen had gone to the Southern Domain. Even Fatty was gone. He had no idea when he would see them again. Would it be months? Years?
His status as an Inner Sect disciple, his three years in the Reliance Sect, they all became memories. The twisting autumn wind hit his face and lifted up his hair, blowing away the dust that had settled there.
He quietly sat down on the boulder. A long time passed, and eventually the stars peeked out one by one. Then dawn came. Meng Hao sighed and lifted his head.
“They’re all gone… and here I am, still in the State of Zhao.” Suddenly, Meng Hao missed home. Even though he had gotten rid of his old ancestral house in Yunjie County, he still missed his old bed and dilapidated bowls. Even more so, he missed Mount Daqing. He missed… he missed his kind, smiling mother, and his father, who had always seemed afraid of his mother.
It was all somewhat vague. Meng Hao shook his head, and as the rays of dawn crept out, he stood up. There was no need to search the Reliance Sect. Everything worth taking was long gone, pillaged by the experts from the State of Zhao. It was all was empty.
Meng Hao patted the dust off his clothes, then changed out of his Inner Sect silver robe, back into the scholar’s gown he had worn all those years ago. It was a spacious robe, but as he put it on, it felt a bit small. He stared at the rising sun and let out a sigh. Deep within him, his golden Core Lake seemed to bubble, and within it, the Demonic Core emitted spiritual power that filled and replenished his body.
“I’m not too far from the seventh level of Qi Condensation. I can feel the bottleneck.” He walked forward, slapping his bag of holding. Two flying swords emerged and floated down to his feet. He glided down the mountain and left the Reliance Sect.
Using this technique with the flying swords granted him the ability of flight. But similar to Elder Sister Xu with her Wind Pennant, it was only temporary flight, nothing long term.
Meng Hao moved ever more swiftly, speeding along throughout the mountain forests. Finally, he was able to leave the Reliance Sect region, a place he hadn’t left for three years. He flew throughout the seemingly endless wild mountains, eventually disappearing over the horizon.
Time passed, and maintaining his original speed, Meng Hao eventually emerged from the mountainous region after two days.
“I’m not sure how long it took Elder Sister Xu to bring me to the Sect,” he muttered to himself, looking back at the mountains. “It was a few days, but I was unconscious. In any case, I think her speed at that time would have been similar to my own now.”
To Cultivators, the State of Zhao is not very large. But to mortals, it is actually quite a vast region. In his studies, he had read about its geography, and though he had never personally travelled about in it, he was nevertheless somewhat familiar with the area.
“As of now I’m in the north of the State of Zhao. I shouldn’t be too far from Yunjie County.” Off in the distance, he could see what looked almost like a mirror laying on the flat land. That would be what was referred to as the North Sea.
“Now that I think about it, with a Wind Pennant, and being at the seventh level of Qi Condensation, Elder Sister Xu could fly temporarily, but it would drain her spiritual power relatively quickly. She couldn’t have flown very far away.” Meng Hao’s eyes flickered with longing. He had been away from Yunjie County for three years, and his desire to return was growing stronger. He knew that after crossing the North Sea, he would be about a half-day’s walk from Mount Daqing.
Breathing in deeply, he proceeded onward, eventually arriving at the shore of the North Sea. He looked down, and on the surface of the calm lake, he could see his reflection in the water. He was no longer a youth. He looked to be about 20 years of age. His face appeared steadfast and resolute, completely different from the ignorant, immature Meng Hao of the past.
Amidst the silence, a warm, hearty laugh rang out, breaking Meng Hao’s train of thought.
“Hello, young sir, do you wish to cross the sea?” A small boat slid across the water, guided toward Meng Hao by an old man wearing a woven rush raincoat. His face was covered with the evidence of a life of hardship, but he spoke with a smile.
“I do not wish to trouble you, old sir,” said Meng Hao, looking surprised. He hadn’t been called ‘young sir’ for three years now.
“It’s no trouble,” said the old man. “I’ve been ferrying people across the ocean for many years. I really admire young, talented scholars like yourself.” He pushed the boat up next to Meng Hao, who leaped easily onto the deck, offering his thanks.
There was a young girl inside the boat, seven or eight years old, her hair done up in two pigtails. She squatted in front of a little oven, tannings its flames as she boiled water. Steam wafted up.
Inside the pot of water was a bottle of alcohol.
“This is my granddaughter,” said the old man as he turned the boat around. “Too bad she’s a girl. If she were a boy, I would have sent her off to be a scholar. Young sir,” he said with a smile, “where are you from?” The boat headed out toward the center of the lake. As the wind sprang up, the old man sat down next to the oven.
The little girl looked up at Meng Hao, her wide eyes innocent and charming.
“I am a young scholar from Yunjie County,” Meng Hao said with a smile. “Below Mount Daqing.” This type of mortal life caused him to think of his life from before, three years ago.
“Yunjie County, that’s a good place! Great men lend their glory to a location. Many years ago, an auspicious sign appeared there. It even arose the notice of the officials.” The old man picked up the bottle of alcohol. “This weather is turning cold and my body can’t take it. Here, have a drink.” He extended the bottle toward Meng Hao. “Can you drink?”
Meng Hao knew the auspicious sign to which he referred. It had been ten years before, the day before his parents went missing. When he thought of this, his heart grew a bit melancholy. He hesitated for a moment, looking at the bottle. He had never drank alcohol before. Back in Yunjie County, he had lived in poverty, and there had been no alcohol in the Reliance Sect. He lifted up a glass and allowed the man to fill it, then took a drink.
A spicy warmth suddenly filled his heart, then slowly spread out through his body.
“Old sir, your conversation topics are somewhat out of the ordinary. Have you been running a ferry here for a long time?” Meng Hao gazed at the rippling green waves, then took another drink of alcohol. The alcohol burned its way down, and he thought of the Reliance Sect, of Elder Sister Xu, Elder Brother Chen and Fatty.
“Twenty years,” replied the old man with a laugh. “In my life, I’ve ferried many, many people across this North Sea. I’ve seen a lot of things, and of course, I’ve learned a lot about how people tend to have conversations. Please, don’t laugh at me. Who knows how many years this lake has been here? It’s seen a lot of people too. People remember it, and it remembers the people.” The old man lifted his glass and took a drink.
Meng Hao stared at him for a moment. This was the first time he had ever heard someone speak in such a fashion. He looked back at the lake, muttering to himself, seemingly lost in thought.
“This is obviously a lake,” he said suddenly. “Why do people call it the North Sea?”
The old man thought for a moment, then smiled. “Lakes can dry up, grow quiet, and become still. If that happened, no living things would remain. But seas last forever, and can contain the water of countless rivers and lakes. Maybe people just didn’t want the lake to ever go away, so they named it that way. When all is said and done, if you believe it’s a lake, then it’s a lake. If you believe it’s a sea, then it’s a sea.”
When he heard the old man’s words, Meng Hao’s mind suddenly trembled. The hand holding the glass of alcohol began to quiver, and he stared out at the lake water, almost in a trance. He seemed to lose track of time.
Time passed, and the boat reached the shore. Meng Hao pulled out some silver that he had acquired from one of the disciples back at the Reliance sect and paid the fare. He gave the old man a deep bow of respect, then watched as the boat drifted off. His eyes shined with a strange light.
He didn’t leave, but instead sat down cross-legged on the lakeshore, looking out at the waters, and the lone boat disappearing into the distance. He could hear the old man laughing.
“If you believe it’s a lake, then it’s a lake. If you believe it’s a sea, then it’s a sea…” The old man’s voice echoed across the distance. It seemed as if… he were not disappearing into the distance, but rather… merging into it….
Meng Hao sat there in a trance, taking it all in. He sat for three days straight.
He didn’t move at all during that time, instead staring silently at the lake, the old man’s words echoing in his mind.
“Lakes can dry up, grow quiet, become still. If that happened, no living things would remain. But seas last forever, and can contain the water of countless rivers and lakes…” Meng Hao’s eyes suddenly lit up. The golden Core Lake within him seemed boundless, but in his eyes it was still a lake.
“If I believe it’s a lake, then it’s a lake. If I believe it’s a sea, then from now on… let it be a sea!” A thunderous sound filled him, and the Core Lake began to seethe and churn. Without the aid of any medicinal pills whatsoever, it suddenly expanded.
Meng Hao wasn’t aware of any of this. His eyes were closed tightly; he had entered a strange state. The old man’s words filled his mind. He didn’t notice it, but around him, the boundless Spiritual Energy of heaven and earth had begun to gurgle up, surrounding his body and then entering it. Waves broke out across the North Sea, and within its churning arose a massive amount of Spiritual Energy, which rushed forth and surrounded Meng Hao.
The North Sea was revealing the Dao!
If, at this moment, a Core Formation Cultivator could see what was happening, he would be thoroughly shocked.This type of Dao enlightenment was only possible for someone at the Spirit Severing stage. In addition, it required a huge amount of fortune and luck. Yet here was Meng Hao, already reaching out to the threshold!
The reason he could succeed in this was in large part due to the Demonic Core within him. It was the Core of a Flying Rain-Dragon, an ancient beast whose tail could transform into a Demon. Actually, that year in which he had dreamed of the Flying Rain-Dragon, Meng Hao had already reached Dao enlightenment.
Three days passed, and finally Meng Hao opened his eyes. They glowed with a golden light. Within him, his Core Lake had increased by a shocking double. As he examined it, Meng Hao realized that this was no lake. This was a Core sea!
He believed it to be a sea, therefore… it was a sea!
The seawater roared, and waves whipped about. The Demonic Core, as stable as ever in the depths, emitted Spiritual Energy which filled Meng Hao’s entire body. Using the techniques he had learned from the Sublime Spirit Scripture, he circulated the energy. His body began to glow with a golden light, as if something had suddenly broken out within him. The golden light emanated around him for nine meters in every direction.
Amidst the roaring, Meng Hao’s Cultivation base suddenly climbed upwards, breaking through the sixth level bottleneck directly into the seventh level of Qi Condensation.
Even though he had just broken through to the seventh level, his power was the same as if he had already reached its peak. This was because in his dantian region was not a Core Lake, but a Core sea!
Earlier, the Spiritual Energy which had built up in the North Sea for countless years had suddenly surged forth as if to help Meng Hao make his breakthrough.
Gradually, the Spiritual Energy of heaven and earth which surrounded him began to dissipate, as did the North Sea’s Spiritual Energy. Slowly, the golden glow which emanated from Meng Hao also began to fade, and slowly he returned to his usual appearance. He sat there cross-legged. The golden light eventually left his eyes, although they continued to sparkle brightly.
He slowly stood up and looked out at the North Sea. With clasped hands, he saluted the sea deeply. His mind was filled with descriptions he had read about in the Reliance Sect’s Magic Pavilion, of the various Demonic creatures of the Nanshan Continent. Wherever demons existed, there would be demons that appeared as mountains, demons that appeared as rivers, and demons that appeared as plants and animals.
“Today, the North Sea revealed the Dao. One day when my Cultivation base is high enough, I will return here and help you become a sea!” He gazed out at the North Sea. He wasn’t sure whether or not this lake, which desired to be a sea, might be like the descriptions he had read about, something with life, a demonic life.
Regardless, it had helped him make a breakthrough in his Cultivation base, helped him turn his Core Lake into a Core sea. He must repay the kindness. There was only one way: to help this lake become a sea!
After some time passed, Meng Hao turned and strode toward Mount Daqing.