As he looked down at the six men who trembled in fear like cicadas during winter, Meng Hao for the first time experienced the strength and respect shown to powerful experts in the Cultivation world. It would be more accurate to say respect and fear. Two years ago, these men had been willing to attack him even though he was of the ninth level of Qi Condensation. But now, each and every one of them was shaking in his boots.
“I want you to tell me everything you know about this place,” said Meng Hao coolly. “If you hide anything from me….” He let his words trail off as his gaze swept over them. They trembled as they saw the remnants of the red glow emanating from his eye.
The glow was filled with a Demonic air, and when they saw it, their pupils shrank reflexively. The sight seemed to have been branded onto their spirits. Their expressions changed; they looked terrified to the extreme and would clearly not hide anything from Meng Hao. They told him everything, even taking out the village’s ancient records and giving them to Meng Hao. They showed him maps, ancestral poison recipes… everything.
Several days later, Meng Hao left the valley region, respectfully sent off by the six Cultivators. His bearing was calm and his face expressionless as he sat cross-legged on an enormous green leaf, which transformed into a multicolored beam and shot toward the Southern Domain.
After he left, the six Cultivators relaxed a bit. As for the man who had died, they had long since chosen to forget that. They did not have the slightest shred of a desire to seek vengeance. They simply gazed off in the direction Meng Hao had taken and hoped he would never return.
A few more days passed. It was late at night in the deep valley; there, in a region impossible to see, was the mouth of an ancient cave. Everything was calm.
Within the cave was a red rope, as well as several spirits who looked like seven- or eight-year-old children, squatting there, about twenty-five hundred meters into the cave. Occasionally they would let out a howl or two.
The rope went down into a hole that seemed endless. It stretched down into the earth, deeper and deeper. Soon, a woman’s head could be seen, pierced by the rope. Her face was pure white, her eyes open, gazing frustratedly at the darkness.
Past the head, the hole continued to stretch down, along with the red rope.
Thirty thousand meters, three hundred thousand meters, one million five hundred thousand meters…. There, it began to smell like the sea. In fact, at this point, seawater could be seen. The rope sank into the seawater, continuing on, seemingly without end.
If someone could see that far down, three million meters, they would be gazing upon… a pitch black sea. The rope stretched on into the sea depths to this area; it was impossible to tell exactly how far the sea and the rope stretched. Up ahead was a stone formation that appeared to be thousands and thousands of meters in diameter.
Massive stone boulders had been erected, ring after ring, layer after layer. In the very center of the stone formation was a wooden coffin, onto the surface of which was attached the red rope.
The distance between this location and the mountain valley is difficult to describe. The rope is simply too long, and not completely straight, either. If someone pulled on it with incredible force, perhaps about one thousand five hundred meters, then maybe you could measure it at approximately three million meters.
It seemed the coffin had been in this location for a very, very long time. At this moment, a scraping sound could be heard. Along with the scraping, the lid of the coffin… slowly began to open. It moved upwards about three inches!
A blackness seeped out of the coffin, spreading out into the seawater….
The name of this sea was… the Milky Way.
This sea existed between two great sub-continents of the world. As the blackness spread out into the sea, a school of a hundred fish, each about the size of a palm, swam quickly through the water. The blackness enveloped them.
Time passed, and the blackness slowly shrank down, then disappeared. The school of a hundred fish had been reduced to bones…. Except for one remaining fish. Swishing its tail, it swam out from within the bones. Its body was pitch black, and growing out of its body were two tentacles. The tentacles swiftly grew longer and longer, until they were nearly three hundred meters in length. As it swam upwards through the water, the tentacles writhed, making the fish look terrifying.
It moved upward rapidly, as fast as lightning. As it raced upwards, the Milky Way Sea around it began to churn and roar. Suddenly, it broke through the surface, soaring up into the night sky.
The instant it left the sea, a tremor ran through its body. In the blink of an eye, its body expanded, and it appearance changed. Soon it was thirty meters long, three hundred, three thousand, thirty thousand!
Within the space of a few breaths, it had grown to nearly three hundred thousand meters in length. It was now no longer a fish, but a bird. It appeared to be an enormous roc!
An aura of death roiled off of the roc’s body. It seemed ancient, as if it had just awoken from a deep slumber. Its life force was not strong, and its eyes were dim. It seemed as if its life might flicker out at any moment.
“Rebirth….” The resonant voice sprang out from the roc’s mouth as it flapped its wings and began flying in the direction of the Southern Domain.
Despite its enormous speed, if it wanted to leave the Milky Way Sea and reach the Southern domain, it would need to fly for more than half a year.
Meanwhile, Meng Hao sped along through the sky, sitting cross-legged on the enormous green leaf. Black clouds roiled above him, and lightning crashed down all around him, along with pouring rain.
However, the rain didn’t touch Meng Hao. The leaf emitted a glowing shield which blocked the rainwater. Meng Hao shot through the stormy night, occasionally illuminated by the flashes of lightning.
He lowered his head to look at the jade slip he held in his hand, a look of deep thoughtfulness in his eyes.
“According to the legends, that cave in the valley leads to the Milky Way Sea… The villagers have been watching over that area since ancient times, and every full moon, they pull on that rope. Every time they do, they get rewards of some sort. The whole thing seems a little fishy.” He turned his head, and his eyes glittered as he looked out through the thunderstorm toward the location of the mountain valley. Bits and pieces of some larger story seemed to be coming together. He put the jade slip back into a bag of holding, within which were a large assortment of bottles and jars. They contained various formulas refined by old man toad and the others, as well as a collection of poison pills created by their Clan.
They had given these gifts in tribute to Meng Hao, as well as a handful of jade slips.
Most of the poisons would be deadly to someone of the Qi Condensation stage, but would have less of an effect on someone at Foundation Establishment. However, there were a few that were special. For example, one was called Delight Pill. It would turn into a mist that, when inhaled, would cause the victim to have sexual hallucinations.
He glanced over the various poison pills, and then retrieved another jade slip. This jade slip contained maps of the area. He noticed one area which would take about half a year to travel to, that contained a teleportation portal.
The teleportation portal was controlled by a Clan of Cultivators, and was the only one in the area. Using it would allow him to teleport to the Southern Domain, which would cut a huge amount of time off of his journey there. After teleporting into the Southern Domain, he would be only about a half month’s travel from the border of the State of Eastern Emergence, one of the Nine States of the Southern Domain.
“The Nine States of the Southern Domain form the center of the Southern Domain. Nine flourishing mortal nations, each one of them much larger than the State of Zhao. With such a huge amount of mortals, the resources available are even greater and thus, the rise of the illustrious Sects and Clans of the Southern Domain.
“Five great Clans and three great Sects. Each exists in its respective nation. As for the ninth nation, its proximity to the Western Desert caused it to become a flourishing trading hub. Eventually, it came to be called the Black Lands.” Meng Hao put the jade slip away. There wasn’t much information. However, it corroborated what he’d learned back in the Reliance Sect. As of now, he could visualize a rough outline of the Southern Domain, although it wasn’t very detailed.
“Once I get to the Southern Domain, I’ll have to acquire a better map, then I’ll understand things better.” He looked up at the rain and lightning, his eyes glowing brightly.
“I have a lot of acquaintances in the Southern Domain; Elder Sister Xu, Elder Brother Chen, Fatty and… Wang Tengfei!” A smile appeared on his face, a smile filled with stubbornness.
“It’s been many years. Meng Hao is coming!”
Several months later, in an endless strip of barren mountains, atop a tall mountain peak, a thunderous boom rang out. It was a beautiful mountain, dotted with various stockade villages. The mountain peak was connected to surrounding mountains by long iron chains, which seemed to form a huge spell formation.
In the sky above, two people were locked in magical combat. Below, crowds of people looked up in awe.
One of the combatants was a burly man who appeared to be over thirty years of age. Bare-chested, a golden-colored centipede was wrapped around his right hand. His left hand flickered in an incantation, and a gigantic sail appeared. It rippled in the wind, emitting a piercing shrieking sound. The other person was Meng Hao.
He was not using the Lightning Flag, nor had the wooden swords appeared. A simple flying sword circled around him which he used to attack. At the same time, he flashed an incantation gesture, and a howling Flame Python flew forth, over sixty meters in length. Next, multiple spinning Wind Blades appeared, amazing the onlookers.
A massive boom echoed out, and the two of them each shot backward. The burly man laughed and clasped his hands in respect toward Meng Hao.
“Brother Meng, your Cultivation base is extraordinary. I, Shan, truly admire you.”
Meng Hao lifted his hand. The flying sword returned to circle around him. He smiled, and returned the salute.
“Brother Shan is being modest. You only attacked with eighty percent of your power, but I had to use all of my power to defend. I am the one to be doing the admiring.” The words seemed casual, but when he heard them, the burly man’s heart shook.
Two days ago, Meng Hao had arrived here and had asked about being able to use their teleportation portal. This place was unlike the mountain valley Meng Hao had just come from. The chiefs of the stockade villages in the area were all Foundation Establishment Cultivators. They welcomed Meng Hao enthusiastically, treating him to a feast and exchanging tips about Cultivation with him. In order to prove the extent of his power, he had agreed to a sparring match with one of the Foundation Establishment Cultivators.
“Brother Meng is the one being modest. You attacked casually, and not with your full strength. I’m really curious how much of your power you used?” The man’s eyes shined; the sparring match had been his idea. But as it had proceeded, he had grown more and more apprehensive. Both of them were at the Foundation Establishment stage, but it seemed as if his opponent were only using about half of his power. Furthermore, Meng Hao had been able to tell how much power he was using.
“When might I be able to use your teleportation portal?” said Meng Hao, sidestepping the question. He smiled, although the smile didn’t touch his eyes. He had actually not even used a third of his full strength.
“Oh, that’s simple. You can use it today.” The burly man nodded, muttering to himself.
Soon after, the spell formation within the mountains activated, and Meng Hao’s body disappeared. As the glow faded, the burly man surnamed Shan frowned.
Next to him were two men of the ninth level of Qi condensation. As Meng Hao disappeared, one of them said, “Chief, that guy…”
“I’m not sure where he came from,” said the burly man, his voice deep. “His magic is strange, as is his Foundation Establishment Cultivation base. I felt him out with some attacks and could tell that he’s an experienced fighter. He came here alone, but seemed completely at ease. He must have some unique and special techniques. Yeah, it’s not worth it to provoke him.”
When he had attempted to feel out Meng Hao, he had failed. Meng Hao kept his power sealed up tight. This caused the man’s fear and suspicion to grow stronger. The teleportation portal couldn’t be used by just anyone; if your power is not sufficient, it could take your life, which happened occasionally. Therefore, he let Meng Hao use the portal, to ensure that no calamity befell his village.