Gradually, the light of dawn filled the air. The door opened, and Patriarch Song walked out. He looked different than before. He didn’t seem like an ancient old man; he was younger, and his eyes flickered with excitement. The injuries he had sustained during the war were now healed, and he looked far more energetic than before.
He subconsciously patted his bag of holding. Inside… was an Immortality Illumination Vine, a gift given to him by Meng Hao which gave him the hope of reaching Immortal Ascension….
A few paces outside of the log cabin, Patriarch Song turned, clasped hands and bowed deeply. Then he looked back up for a moment before leaving. The members of the Song Clan were shocked at the appearance of their Patriarch. They quickly realized that a Heaven-shaking, Earth-toppling transformation must have occurred.
Just as the Song Clan cultivators were about to leave with their Patriarch, a beam of light suddenly shot out from the log cabin toward Song Jia.
Meng Hao’s voice could then be heard once again. “It’s nice to see you, old friend. Please accept this parting gift. Use it to nourish your spirit. It will make cultivation base breakthroughs much smoother.”
Song Jia looked at the light floating in front of her. It was an emerald green magical jade which emanated Immortal qi, and was clearly not an ordinary item.
Then she looked back at the log cabin, a complicated expression on her face. Finally, she took the piece of jade and left with the other Song Clan cultivators.
The Song Clan left, but other Southern Domain cultivators continued to arrive. By noon, there was no room left. Crowds of cultivators blotted out the sky and stretched out in all directions.
Meng Hao was done reminiscing. Sighing, he walked out of the log cabin. As soon as he appeared, the surrounding cultivators excitedly clasped hands and bowed.
“Greetings, Sacred Ancient!!”
“Greetings, Sacred Ancient!!” Their voices echoed out in all directions, reaching other cultivators who couldn’t even see Meng Hao, who in turn bowed, and began to cry out the same thing. The sound of all the voices was like thunder booming everywhere.
One by one, the most powerful experts of the various sects stepped forward to offer excited greetings.
“The Sect Leader of the Violet Fate Sect offers greetings, Sacred Ancient!!”
“The Sect Leader of the Blood Demon Sect offers greetings, Sacred Ancient!!”
Meng Hao looked around at all the cultivators, many of whom he recognized. Smiling, he sat down cross-legged on the stone steps leading up to the log cabin.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Fellow Daoists, welcome to my home. I’m pleased you could come. I haven’t been back for many years, and would like to sincerely thank all of you for your care and concern. You kept this place exactly as I remembered it.
“It is a great kindness shown to me by all cultivators of the Southern Domain. Therefore, I will speak of the Dao here, for seven days. During those seven days, all Southern Domain cultivators are welcome to stay and listen.
“I will explain how my understanding of cultivation has evolved through the various stages, and will explain how I have been enlightened.” With that, he flicked his sleeve, causing the clouds to part, brilliant sunlight to flow down, and an aura of Immortality to spread out. Almost instantly, the entire area seemed like a celestial paradise.
“After careful study,” he began softly, “I have come to find that the Dao of Heaven and Earth, and one’s own Dao, is a willful return to one’s natural state….” He had chosen to bestow some good fortune upon the cultivators of the Southern Domain, both as a means of thanking them for caring for his former residence, and also… for the mere fact that he felt this place to be his home. It was different than Planet East Victory. 1
“Therefore, cultivation is also known as ‘cultivating truth.’ Of the two characters which make up the latter term, the first refers to the method, the second refers to the mental state….” His voice seemed to contain a bizarre power that caused it to spread out in all directions, causing every audience member, regardless of the level of their cultivation base, to slip into a strange, trance-like state. 2
“Simply put, it is very similar to how I once described to someone the different Realms of life.
“In the past, various people have asked me what the Dao is…. My responses have varied depending on the occasion, the circumstances, and the level of my cultivation base. In fact, every single time, I gave a different answer. I’m not even sure what my answer will be the next time someone asks me.
“However, there is one thing that will never change, as far as I can tell. And that is… that I don’t know what the Dao is. There are too many answers to the question. All I know… is that what I am pursuing is freedom and independence. To be free and unconstrained. That is my truth, and that is my Dao!
“In cultivating truth, what we cultivate… is the heart.” Meng Hao’s voice reverberated out as he expounded upon his understanding of the Dao, and the enlightenment he had gained regarding cultivation. The words he spoke were like seeds that became buried in the hearts of the various cultivators.
Perhaps most of them would never feel that seed for the rest of their lives. Or perhaps… some would reach a certain point in their cultivation or receive a sudden epiphany which would allow them to acquire the good fortune contained within the seed planted in them by Meng Hao.
You could say that what Meng Hao was giving them… was not just a chance at enlightenment, but also… a path to follow to Immortal Ascension. Given the right chances, it wouldn’t be impossible for them to follow a similar path to Meng Hao’s, and reach… true Immortality.
But even if they couldn’t, they could gain enlightenment from that seed, and break out of the Spirit Realm to become… false Immortals!
Although it could be said that this Immortal seed which Meng Hao was bestowing upon the cultivators of the Southern Domain was not at all like the Dao seed in the blood of his clan, in any case, it was a benevolence on his part. He simply hoped that the cultivators from his home could become more powerful.
“If your heart is steadfast, it cannot be trampled by Heaven or Earth, nor can it be broken by any living thing. You will never bow your head in acquiescence, and you will be able to advance without hesitation, and you will never stop moving forward. This is the meaning of cultivating the heart and cultivating the truth. It is traveling along the path of cultivation itself.
“My life has been spent practicing cultivation. I started in the Qi Condensation stage, and now here I am, having experienced numerous twists and turns. I will merge my body, my mind, and my soul into an image which will become like a spirit in your heart. Observe it. Contemplate it. It can become the truth, the path, and the heart which you cultivate!” Meng Hao’s voice seemed profound and ancient. The surrounding cultivators, be they on the island itself or elsewhere in the area, were all shaken and many were instantly enlightened.
Time passed. As Meng Hao sat outside his log cabin speaking of the Dao, more and more Southern Domain cultivators arrived. People even came from the Black Lands. Over the course of the seven days, the island became the complete focus of the entire Southern Domain.
As Meng Hao spoke, it seemed as if every sentence and every word that he uttered originated from nature itself, and contained a great Dao. In fact, there were even some extraordinarily talented listeners who made immediate breakthroughs.
Because of that, the spiritual energy in the area grew stronger, and more Immortal qi built up. Cultivating in that area for one day was like cultivating for a year elsewhere.
The place now truly deserved to be called… a Holy Land!
By the third day, it wasn’t just cultivators who could be seen gathered in the area around the Holy Island. Numerous wild animals appeared. Normally they would be fierce and violent, but right now they were strangely docile. They soon filled the area, and it almost seemed as if they could understand what Meng Hao was saying, and were being enlightened.
Cultivators and wild beasts could both gain Dao enlightenment at the same time; everything was peaceful and calm.
If you looked around, you might see a huge python gaining enlightenment, or an enormous liger prostrating itself in worship. Some of the powerful beasts were rarely seen in the open, but here they were, as if participating in some naturally-occurring rite, gaining enlightenment from Meng Hao’s Dao-filled voice.
Birds circled in the sky overhead, and fish leapt out of the water of the lake as they attempted to hear more clearly. Even the grass and vegetation benefited from the Dao, and began to sway gently and emanate spiritual energy.
The Southern Domain was as shaken as if it had experienced a massive earthquake.
As Meng Hao gave his sermon on the Dao, the Fang Clan cultivators buzzed about in preparation for the Clan Chief coronation ceremony. Preparations were completed first in the vast Eastern Lands, where numerous altars and palaces were set up. Teleportation portals were also erected.
The ceremony was set to begin in three months, and invitations were already being sent out through the teleportation portals to the various sects and clans in the Ninth Mountain and Sea. The entire Ninth Mountain and Sea was abuzz with the news about Fang Xiufeng becoming the Clan Chief.
It wasn’t just an important matter for the Fang Clan. It was a big event for the Ninth Mountain and Sea as a whole. The decision of who was to be the Clan Chief could affect everyone. For example, if the Clan Chief was a person fond of fighting and warfare, then it would be possible to predict that war would soon strike the Ninth Mountain and Sea.
If the Clan Chief was weak and docile person, then other inescapable problems could arise.
However… before Fang Xiufeng was sent to stand guard over Planet South Heaven, he was well-known in the Ninth Mountain and Sea. He had many friends, as well as many enemies.
Virtually all of the sects and clans had interacted with him in the past, and knew him well. He was known as someone who didn’t speak much. However, when he did speak, he always followed through on what he said. He was tough and unyielding, and an old hand when it came to scheming.
He had lots of tricks at his disposal. He fought decisively, and was never sloppy. Back when Meng Hao had been small, certain clan members who coveted his Nirvana Fruit had once looked at him almost as if they wished to eat him. Meng Hao had run to his father in tears to tell him about what had happened.
That night, Fang Xiufeng drew his sword and went on a rampage. That night he killed dozens of subversive clan members, which shocked not only the Fang Clan, but the Ninth Mountain and Sea as a whole.
From that point on, everyone knew that Fang Xiufeng… was a very protective person, protective to an indescribable degree.
With a personality like that, Fang Xiufeng ended up having many friends, and at the same time… many enemies.
It could well be imagined how busy and exciting it would be on the day of the ceremony, when the various sects and clans of the Ninth Mountain and Sea came to pay their respects. It was even likely that some of his enemies would come and challenge him to battle, on the pretense of sharing fighting tips.
That was something that was permitted whenever anyone rose to the rank of Clan Chief or Sect Leader. After all, when the ceremony was over, that person could no longer pursue personal matters, but instead, had to be focused on the clan or sect as a whole.
After that day, all grudges would be dissolved.
Of course, it was only a formality. Unless there was some sort of life-and-death enmity, no one would choose to issue a challenge. Anyone who had become a Clan Chief or Sect Leader had to have an incredibly powerful cultivation base, one powerful enough to support everyone around him. Therefore, such customs also served to allow him to demonstrate his battle prowess and strike awe into the hearts of all onlookers.
In Chinese, he literally uses the word “hometown” to refer to the Southern Domain. That word has a slightly different meaning in Chinese than English, and doesn’t necessarily refer to where you grew up, but rather, your ancestral home. For example, even though Baby Deathblade was born in China, his “hometown” would actually be San Diego, since that is where I am from ↩
In ISSTH, Er Gen usually uses the Chinese word 修行 xiūxíng to describe cultivation, although technically speaking this term emphasizes one’s actions. However, there is another word which is often used in xianxia, 修真 xiūzhēn, which essentially means the same thing and emphasizes truth. Both are “real life” words that can be used to describe real Buddhist or Daoist cultivation practices, although the latter is more associated with the xianxia fantasy world ↩