Meng Hao’s eyes glittered as he looked off toward the huge black city covered by white vegetation. Then he looked at the spark hovering above it, and his eyes gleamed with determination.
“No matter what, I’m going to get that spark!” he murmured. That was his goal in coming here; he wouldn’t be content with merely replenishing his current Divine Flame. Although there was a lot of the stuff here, the amount he had acquired last time had been limited.
It was a mere strand of Essence. Even if he replenished it, the amount he would end up with in the end would still be limited, just as before. If he wanted more, he would need more of the Essence itself. That Essence… was located deeper in than his current location. It was located where the cities were located, and especially within those flame sparks.
Meng Hao flashed into motion as he headed deeper in. He stopped at the nearest pagoda, where he sat down cross-legged, unleashed the power of his cultivation base, and began to absorb more of the Divine Flame into the Essence which he already had.
Soon, he was completely engulfed in fire. However, the power of his cultivation base was far beyond what it had been last time he had been here. His facial expression didn’t even change in the face of the Divine Flame, which he quickly absorbed.
After enough time went by for an incense stick to burn, he rose to his feet and proceeded to the next pagoda. Time passed in this fashion, and as he continuously absorbed more and more Divine Flame, the Essence of Divine Flame inside of him grew larger and more powerful.
So far, he was merely replenishing the Divine Flame, not gaining more overall Essence. It was a process which he couldn’t continue indefinitely. However, he wanted to proceed cautiously, and was using this method to get closer to the black-colored city, in order to observe the flame spark which floated above it.
It didn’t take long for half a month to go by. Meng Hao had passed through thousands of pagodas, continuously absorbing flames until his Divine Flame was now ten times larger than it had been when he had entered the place.
He could tell that the next time he unleashed the Essence of Divine Flame, its power would vastly exceed the last time he had done so, to a terrifying degree. Eventually he reached the point where he couldn’t absorb any more. Inwardly, he sighed.
He knew that he was at his limit, and if he wanted to break through to a higher level, he couldn’t just absorb the Divine Flame in the surroundings. He needed to get in deeper, and absorb the Essence itself.
“Those flame sparks seem strangely dangerous….” he thought as he sat there atop one of the pagodas, gazing at the black city off in the distance. There were still tens of thousands of pagodas in between him and the city. After a bit of thought, he proceeded onward, shooting along with such speed that he left behind afterimages. His determination was such that he ignored any feelings of crisis and charged ahead.
Divine Flame swirled around him, and even the sky was a sea of flames. However, Meng Hao flew through the fire at top speed, kicking up a huge wind as he passed, which in turn set the flames dancing. Soon he had passed more than 5,000 pagodas. Although the temperature of the flames continued to grow hotter, he didn’t slow down at all.
8,000. 10,000. 15,000. 20,000. 30,000….
Meng Hao sailed madly through the air, throwing the whole world of Divine Flame into chaos. Flames danced madly, and soon only 10,000 pagodas remained between him and the black city.
By now, the temperature was so high that sweat was dripping down his forehead, and he was panting slightly. Azure light sprang up around him as the power of an Allheaven Dao Immortal exploded out. He pressed onward, passing the final 10,000 pagodas to appear directly outside the black city!
Being this close up allowed Meng Hao to clearly sense its might and majesty. When he looked at the white vegetation which covered the walls, it filled him with a strange and odd sensation.
He took a deep breath, flashing through the air to appear atop the city wall. When he looked down into the city itself, his pupils constricted.
Instead of seeing residential buildings, he saw an enormous, sprawling structure that resembled an Imperial palace.
In the very center of the Imperial palace, in the very center of the city itself, was a collapsed temple. Shockingly, a huge golden throne could be seen in the rubble of that temple, upon which was lying… a pile of human skin!!
The skin was intact, and seemed to have belonged to an ancient old man. Apparently he had been skinned alive, and then that skin had been draped over the throne. It was a bizarre sight, and even more bizarre was that, hovering 3,000 meters directly above the throne, was none other than the flame spark!
Meng Hao’s eyes went wide. More vigilant than ever, he sped forward, leaving afterimages behind. In the exact moment in which he left, a hand suddenly reached out of the flames and closed around the afterimage he had left behind, as if it had been attempting to rip his heart out of his body.
Meng Hao’s eyes flickered with killing intent as he looked back at the hand of flame, which instantly began to retract back into the flames. However, Meng Hao stretched out his hand and made a grasping motion.
“Get out here!” he said, snorting coldly. The flames behind the hand suddenly trembled, and a figure was dragged out. It was a body composed entirely of fire, without facial features. Although it was shaped like a person, it was clearly no cultivator.
“Flame spirit!” he thought, eyes narrowing. The flame spirit screamed shrilly, causing the surrounding sea of flames to churn. Suddenly, hundreds upon hundreds of flame spirits appeared, brimming with brutality and rage.
Even the flame up above in the air flickered. The flame spirits then charged toward Meng Hao.
Meng Hao frowned as the more than one thousand vicious flame spirits closed in on him. He extended his hand with a cold harrumph, performing an incantation gesture and then waving a finger. Immediately, numerous Immortal mountains appeared, shining with azure light as they crushed down toward the flame spirits. Miserable shrieks rang out as virtually all of the flame spirits were crushed. As they were destroyed, they transformed into Divine Flame which scattered about.
Meng Hao didn’t pause. He kept flying through the air directly toward the flame spark. As he neared it, he extended his hand and made a snatching motion. Immediately, a roar of rage could be heard from the sea of flames in the area.
“This is the Holy Land of the Five Dragons, and we are following the orders of the exalted Dao Fang, to suppress Huoyan Zi! Regardless of thine identity, begone immediately! Stay, and thou shalt be destroyed in body and soul!”
As the voice echoed out, the sea of flames churned, and a huge flame hand formed, which then shot toward Meng Hao. It looked almost like a hand which would appear in a Tribulation.
It bore down on Meng Hao as if to grab him and crush him out of existence. Meng Hao’s eyes flickered with a cold light, and he performed an incantation gesture with his left hand, then pointed out. Immediately, rumbling sounds could be heard, and a rift opened up in front of him. Blood Demon hands appeared, which tore the rift open further, allowing the Blood Demon to charge out toward the flame hand with a powerful roar.
A huge boom rang out as the flame hand and the Blood Demon began to fight. At the same time, Meng Hao’s right hand flashed like lightning, making contact with the flame spark. In that instant, his mind trembled, and cold laughter rang out from the sea of flames up above.
“Ignorant fool. So-called Immortal. Throughout the years, countless imbeciles like yourself have come from the Immortal World attempting to acquire the core Daoist teachings and doctrines of Huoyan Zi.
“In the end, none of them ever succeeded. The only thing they acquired was an early death. And now, nobody will be able to save you, either.”
Even as Meng Hao touched the flame spark, something that looked like a vertical pupil opened up within the flame.
It looked at Meng Hao emotionlessly.
“Do you wish to acquire more Essence?
“Do you wish to acquire eternal life?
“Do you wish to have a Daoist magic that can exterminate the Heavens?
“Dao Fang once said that the Immortal World was doomed to experience tribulation. He said that the Immortal lands would grow old, and that the Immortals would perish. Impossible! I refuse to give in! I refuse to admit defeat!
“I can give you my Essence, I can give you my Daoist magic, and I can give you power. However, you must carry out my deepest desire. You must exterminate Dao Fang!!
“Slay Dao Fang!”
Meng Hao’s mind trembled from the sheer madness of the voice. It contained boundless hatred and obsession, and as it filled Meng Hao’s mind, it also seemed to influence the lands of Divine Flame around him. The fire raged higher up into the sky.
At the same time, the flame spark shrank down into his palm, fusing into his body, boring into him, becoming… a part of him!
Apparently, the flame didn’t care whether or not Meng Hao agreed; it fused into him. If it succeeded, then on some level, Huo Yanzi could be considered to have been reincarnated. Even if that reincarnation was merely as one of Meng Hao’s Essences, he would gladly accept that.
If the process failed… then Meng Hao would die. Then the flame would wait for the next Immortal to come and pass on its legacy. Eventually, someone would come who would be the successor of this Essence!
The world of the Divine Flames churned. Shockingly, innumerable flames suddenly began to surge through the air, shooting directly toward… Meng Hao!
If you could look down at the scene from up above, it would be more clear what was happening. The sea of flames was shrinking, with Meng Hao being the center. All the fire was now being sucked into him.
He was on fire, and a roaring bellow echoed out from his lips. Flames erupted out from inside of him and burned out, and he was wracked with indescribable pain. The feeling of imminent death filled him.
He knew that he had two paths stretching out in front of him now. If he succeeded, then he would be able to truly control this Essence, and would be far more powerful than before. If he failed, then he would be transformed into ash!
There was no third option!
The cold voice once again rang out from the sea of flames: “Throughout all the years, no one has ever succeeded. I’m looking forward to seeing you burned alive.” Apparently, the owner of that voice had seen many cultivators like Meng Hao die while trying to accept the legacy of this Essence.
Meng Hao’s eyes were bright red, and it was impossible to tell what part of that red was blood, and what was flame. His body was withering, his hair burning. Even his bag of holding seemed incapable of standing up to the force, and was starting to crumble. Meng Hao, sensing this, tossed it away from him. Understanding his intention, the mastiff let out an anxious howl and caught the bag.
“Trifling Essence of Divine Flame, you think you can do anything to me?!” Meng Hao’s eyes flickered. He could sense the impending crisis, and yet to him, it was nothing compared to what he had experienced in the Windswept Realm!