Chen Fan arrived at the same time as his words. He landed in front of Meng Hao, glaring up coldly at the man named Li.
The Li man’s expression became somewhat unsightly. He stared at Chen Fan, and his gaze especially seemed to take note of the black flying dagger.
“Do you really think you can protect him forever?” he said with a cold snort. His face filled with disdain as he looked at Meng Hao. “He won’t amount to anything if all he can do is hide behind others. It seems mid Foundation Establishment is the end of the line for him!”
“As long as I’m here, I won’t let you touch a hair on my little Junior Brother’s head!” said Chen Fan, his voice cool, but hard enough to chop nails and slice iron.
Li glared hatefully at Meng Hao, his disdain growing thicker. “If it weren’t for your Elder Brother, I would kill you with the wave of a hand. Let’s see how long you can keep hiding!” He turned, flicking his sleeve and disappearing into the distance.
Meng Hao sighed as he watched the man leave. He had read the man’s expression, of course, but could do nothing about it. Exterminating him would be simple, but twice now, Chen Fan had stood in front of him, making it impossible to proceed with battle.
Chen Fan looked back at Meng Hao, who gave a wry smile.
Chen Fan, of course, misinterpreted Meng Hao’s expression. “Don’t worry, little Junior Brother,” he said comfortingly. “That Li fellow is nothing. With me here, he won’t dare to bully you.” His expression was one of concern, leaving Meng Hao without a word to say. “Unfortunately, Master went into secluded meditation last month, and it seems he won’t emerge for a few more months. I left him a message, though. He’ll get it as soon as he comes out.
“After you and I get back from the Song Clan, you can officially join the Solitary Sword Sect. Then that Li guy won’t dare to mess with you. Although, in the meantime, you need to be a bit more careful. Well, I’ll be here by your side anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”
Chen Fan’s concern made Meng Hao feel warm in his heart. “Many thanks, Elder Brother,” he said, clasping hands and bowing.
“What’s there to thank? Don’t be so polite! Come come. Let’s light some candles and chat all night.” He laughed heartily as he pulled Meng Hao into the house. Once inside, he slapped his bag of holding to produce two jars of alcohol.
“Your Elder Brother doesn’t have much to offer here. But when I went to Master’s I grabbed these two jars of Sword Wine. This stuff is pretty good. I’ve really come to like it over the past few years.” He handed one of the jars to Meng Hao, then opened his own and took a swig.
Meng Hao accepted the jar and took a drink. His face immediately grew a bit red, and his entire body suddenly felt hot and dry. Sweat broke out all over. He took a deep breath, and then slowly let it out.
He felt as if his entire body had just been washed out. Sweating, he continued to breathe in and out. His eyes seemed to glisten a bit more brightly. He looked at Chen Fan.
“What alcohol is this?”
“Master brews it himself. Heh heh. Come on, drink up. This alcohol is really good for Cultivators, especially for the Foundation Establishment stage. It’s comparable to medicinal pills!” He smiled and took another drink. “I drink this stuff all the time. Oh, by the way, little Junior Brother, I see your Cultivation base is at the mid Foundation Establishment level. Don’t forget, we Cultivators are building mountains; you must establish a firm foundation.” His words were earnest, causing Meng Hao to put down his jar of alcohol and listen thoughtfully. Occasionally he nodded in agreement. “Don’t greedily speed through the various stages and ignore your fundamentals.
“Take me, for example. I could have created my fourth Dao Pillar and entered mid Foundation Establishment last year. But Master wouldn’t permit it. He always says that creating Dao Pillars is like turning trees into boats. It can’t be undone. The best thing to do is go with the flow, and exercise caution. Creating a fourth Dao Pillar isn’t as important as refining the third pillar. Once it is full and complete, then the fourth Dao Pillar can be created properly.
“Another thing,” said Chen Fan, sounding extremely serious. “During the course of our Cultivating, we are bound to encounter friction with other Cultivators. But you cannot solve all problems by killing! You need to understand that regardless of whether you’re talking about magical techniques or magical items, they are all just ways to protect the Dao! They are protection, not the Dao itself!
“What is the Dao? My Cultivation base isn’t high enough, so I probably shouldn’t even bring it up. But Master told me that even though he doesn’t quite understand it himself, there’s something that should never be forgotten; killing and magical techniques are all just for protection!
“Don’t let your Dao be overwhelmed by killing. You need to listen to your heart, and follow your principles.” Chen Fan looked Meng Hao over. “You know, you seem to have a fairly strong killing aura.”
Even as the words came out of his mouth, a voice could be heard from within Meng Hao’s bag of the Cosmos.
“That’s right! That’s right! I said this child’s killing aura was too strong. You’re right. You make a lot of sense. Your words are extremely accurate!” The suddenness of the voice’s appearance left Chen Fan dumbfounded.
Meng Hao’s face darkened. Before he could say anything, a flash of colorful light emerged from the bag of the Cosmos which turned into a parrot. It flapped its wings as it flew around the room.
The meat jelly parrot had previously been in the blood-colored mask, preaching to the Li Clan Patriarch. Now, it flew a few circles around the room and then landed on Meng Hao’s shoulder.
“What’s that…?” said Chen Fan, still in shock.
“I picked this thing up and found that it can’t be thrown away…” replied Meng Hao. Before he could finish, the meat jelly parrot interrupted him.
“Son, you couldn’t be more correct,” it said, eying Chen Fan energetically. “Meng Hao’s killing aura is too strong. It’s wrong! Immoral! Come come, let’s discuss a few things. I think I’m going to like you.”
Meng Hao took a deep breath and looked at Chen Fan sympathetically. He could only imagine the torture Chen Fan would be dealing with momentarily.
“So you’re my littler Junior Brother’s Spirit creature,” said Chen Fan, looking curiously at the parrot on Meng Hao’s shoulder. “Pleased to meet you, sir. I’m happy to discuss anything with you.”
Seeing the gleam in Chen Fan’s eye, Meng Hao sighed to himself. There was really nothing he could do to save him…. But Meng Hao couldn’t bear to just do nothing.
“Elder brother, this bird….”
“Junior Brother, you misspoke,” said Chen Fan in a serious tone. “This isn’t a bird, it’s a parrot. And it can speak! You can see from the look in its eye that it’s intelligent. It’s a Spirit! You really need to take good care of it.”
The meat jelly seemed to be on the verge of tears after hearing Chen Fan’s words. It seemed to have finally met a kindred spirit.
“You are so correct. You make so much sense. Why couldn’t I have met you first? Aiiii. There’s no need to bring that up. Now, why don’t we discuss the meaning of life?”
“The meaning of life? Okay!” said Chen Fan excitedly. “I’ve always wanted to have a discussion about the meaning of life. But for some reason, my Master is always in secluded meditation. In fact, so are my Junior and Elder brothers. I originally planned to chat with my little Junior Brother tonight, but if you want to join, the please, by all means do.”
“A discussion about the meaning of life needs to be built up to, though. For example… why don’t we talk about this morning’s weather? Only a truly educated person can discuss the weather….”
“Huh? The weather? Well… okay. I think the weather was excellent this morning. But you know, I think it might be more beneficial to discuss the killing aura coming off of my little Junior Brother.”
“Eee? I completely agree with you there. You are so correct. You make so much sense. I always say that if the weather is bad, it can have a negative influence on your mood. I mean, I mean, don’t you agree about that…?”
“Well that’s the first time I’ve heard of such a thing,” said Chen Fan. “But it actually makes a lot of sense. I remember one day a few years ago, it was really overcast outside, and my Cultivation didn’t go very well. I was fidgety all day. Yeah, I think what you said just now makes a lot of sense.”
“A lot of sense? You think I make a lot of sense?! Heavens! Dear heavens! In this life, and the life before that, and the life before that, I’ve never met anyone who said such a thing. You think I make sense….” The meat jelly parrot was shaking in excitement. It flew off of Meng Hao’s shoulder to stand in front of Chen Fan.
Their talking turned into a buzzing that filled Meng Hao’s ears as he watched on in a daze. The eyes of both Chen Fan and the parrot began to shine brightly. They had both met their kindred spirits, and as they talked, it gradually became apparent that a contest of sorts had begun.
Meng Hao suddenly shivered and edged backward.
He moved as far away as possible, to a distant corner of the building, where he sat cross-legged to meditate. He feared that if he continued to listen, he would become far too annoyed. The clamor of the bird by itself was bad enough, but now….
As Meng Hao looked at Chen Fan and the meat jelly parrot, a single thought ran through his mind; “Meeting one’s match, the General meets the Genius….”
Time passed by, and Meng Hao did his best to ignore the sound of their conversation. Two hours passed, and he finally opened his eyes. He had assumed their discussion would be nearing an end, but when he peeked over, he discovered that they were engaged in a lively conversation.
“Right? Tell me, am I right, or not…?”
“Absolutely correct. Actually, that makes me think about one day last year when I….”
“Of course! That’s what I said earlier! Oh right, weren’t we going to talk about the meaning of life? How about this: after we finish talking about this morning’s weather, then we can talk about the noon sunshine….”
“Great idea. Let’s save the meaning of life for the end of the conversation. The best would be to wait until dusk. The best time to talk about life is under the setting sun….”
The sound droned on in Meng Hao’s ears. He stared blankly at Chen Fan’s excited face and the equally enthusiastic meat jelly parrot. One man, one bird, their eyes shining with anticipation…. It caused Meng Hao to shiver and close his eyes again to meditate, fearful of getting dragged into the discussion.
Time, slowly passed….
This chapter was sponsored by Tjandra Johannes, Joshua Jacobs, Aldwin Laylo, Khilmu Arif and Josef Apor