“Fellow Daoist Han, what exactly do you mean?” replied Meng Hao, his expression the same as ever. Despite his calm exterior, his heart trembled. He turned to look at Han Bei, and their eyes met. She was clearly watching him closely, feeling him out.
If Meng Hao’s expression changed even the slightest bit, Han Bei would have noticed. That, of course, was why she had moved so close to him.
Han Bei was a schemer, which Meng Hao had come to understand very clearly in the Black Sieve Sect’s Blessed Land. In fact, he hadn’t encountered anyone among his peers who could come close to her in terms of plotting.
“Brother Meng,” she said with a charming smile, “there’s no need to ask questions you already know the answer to. Junior Sister Xu was a member of the Reliance Sect in the State of Zhao, and so were you.” Coupled with her men’s clothing, her sweet tone made her even more alluring.
“Oh?” replied Meng Hao, looking at her with a vague smile.
His expression caused her to start momentarily. Then she frowned, and she suddenly began to feel nervous at heart.
“Brother Meng, it was for your sake that I helped out Junior Sister Xu on multiple occasions. Were it not for my interference, she would have fallen under a lot of suspicion. Thankfully, I have a lot of influence in the Sect, so she wasn’t implicated when you took Ultimate Vexation.” She smiled. “So, how do you plan to repay me?”
Her smile was beautiful, but her eyes flickered with craftiness. Despite her charming appearance, Meng Hao knew the profound depth of her scheming nature, which was impossible to tell from her expression. He would never forget how she had repeatedly called out to her “Xie, dear” that day, only to then exterminate him in an instant. The scene played out in Meng Hao’s mind.
She leaned a bit closer to Meng Hao. From the perspective of anyone looking at them, it would definitely seem they were on quite intimate terms.
“Fellow Daoist Han,” he said coolly, “aren’t you worried about being seen so close to me? What if the Black Sieve Sect starts to suspect something? I imagine that they’re looking for me right now. After today, they’ll definitely send people after me.” His words seemed casual, but he was in fact attempting to feel her out.
“Brother Meng, you can just directly ask me what you want to know. There’s no need to try to feel me out.” She chuckled, looking at him. She breathed out slowly, and her breath brushed across him, carrying with it the aroma of orchids. Meng Hao frowned and edged away from her a bit.
Seeing him move away, Han Bei smiled thoughtfully. She moved closer to him yet again. A delicate fragrance wafted off of her.
Meng Hao frowned, and edged away even further. Han Bei let out a soft laugh that carried a bit of derision with it.
“The Black Sieve Sect is indeed looking for you. Don’t worry, though. The other Sects don’t have any idea. The search for you is being done in secret. You do need to be careful though….” She smiled and, finally seeming to think she was a bit too close, to Meng Hao, moved a bit further away. Suddenly, Meng Hao’s hand snaked out and wrapped around her supple waist. He pulled her close to him.
“How exactly did you want me to thank you?” he said. “You tell me.” He was so close to her that she could feel him breathing. They looked into each other’s eyes, and though their expressions both seemed warm, they were clearly locked in a combat of scheming.
Han Bei suddenly looked a bit flustered. She had never anticipated that Meng Hao would do something like this. She recovered her composure quickly, however, and then her eyes shined with an unruly beauty.
“It’s simple,” she said gently. “Give me the jade page you took from within the square cauldron. I want the entire thing. That’s all.” Her body suddenly twisted imperceptibly, and she pulled away from Meng Hao and stood up.
“Brother Meng, think about it carefully,” she said with a smile.
Meng Hao looked back at her with a vague smile. He didn’t say anything, but after a moment lifted his hand to his bag of holding to produce a jade slip. He tossed it toward her.
She frowned. This was just an ordinary jade slip, not the jade page that she wanted. However, she also knew that Meng Hao was deeply skilled in scheming, and wasn’t someone she could easily trifle with. She accepted the jade slip, scanning it with Spiritual Sense. A strange expression flickered across her face before it returned to normal. She gave Meng Hao a deep look, and then a wide smile once again appeared on her face. She nodded, then turned and headed back toward where the Black Sieve Sect was seated.
Meng Hao lifted his glass and took a sip of alcohol. The only thing on the jade slip was an image of her killing Xie Jie, which Meng Hao had secretly recorded that day.
Actually, even if Han Bei hadn’t come looking for him, he would have thought of a way to get in touch with her. He had prepared the jade slip as a way to get information, and also as a bit of insurance.
Fatty watched Han Bei leave, then started peppering Meng Hao with questions. Chen Fan looked at Meng Hao admiringly. He suddenly realized that considering his Junior Brothers skills, there was no need to attempt to arrange a marriage for him.
Some time passed. After a while, the sound of bells rang out, and the multicolored glow appeared once again. From within its midst emerged two people, one a man, the other a woman. The man was handsome, tall and slender, with eyes like lightning. He wore a white robe and had long black hair that gave him a sort of demonic beauty. He smiled toward everyone and raised clasped hands in greeting.
“It’s the Song Clan Dao Child, Song Yunshu!!” 1
“Song Yunshu has an extraordinary Cultivation base. As the Dao Child of the Song Clan, he is the number one figure amongst their Foundation Establishment experts….”
“The girl next to him is Song Jia. She’s the girl the Song Clan is finding a husband for.”
Meng Hao looked up, his gaze sweeping across the man and woman as they walked out from the multi-colored glow. Song Jia was petite and delicate. She had long hair and clear, fair skin. She exuded a gentle femininity, and had beautiful, bright eyes. Her eyes shone, not with the scheming of Han Bei, the admonishment of Li Shiqi, or the coldness of Xu Qing. Her eyes shone with gentleness.
Anyone who looked at Song Jia would be able to sense her purity and gentleness. She seemed like the type of girl who would never lose her temper.
She looked out at the crowd. The instant Meng Hao looked in her direction, their gazes locked for a moment.
Song Tian, who sat in the very front, laughed and called out, “The hour has arrived! From generation to generation, the Song Clan has practiced Cultivation without excessive formalities. We prefer simplicity. Heroes and talented individuals of the various Sects and Clans, welcome to the Song Clan. With the exception of those here to observe, all of you are here for the same reason. I won’t waste time with further explanations.” Even as his voice echoed out, he waved his right hand, and the clouds up ahead began to churn. In the blink of an eye, a massive vortex appeared, beyond which a strange world could be seen.
Within this world was a vast sea, in the middle of which was an enormous tree that rose up into the sky. The colossal tree was taller than even a mountain.
Thick vines wrapped around its trunk, snaking up with it toward the heavens.
The trunk was enormously large. At its top, limbs stretched out to form a shape almost like a mushroom. Vines hung down, some of them even reaching down into the sea. A wild wind whipped across the waters, giving rise to seething waves.
Up above in the sky, black clouds billowed, and lightning crashed. The sound of thunder echoed out.
The banquet of Cultivators was actually located in the clouds above this world.
With a laugh, Song Tian said, “At the top of this tree is the Cubic Pearl. Whoever is the first to acquire the pearl, will be the newest son-in-law of this generation of the Song Clan!” He looked out across the crowd, and then at Song Jia. His eyes glowed with the love of an elder for a junior. Then, his gaze fell upon Meng Hao. Just as quickly, he looked away.
Eccentric Song hadn’t spoken during this entire time. It was impossible to tell what he was thinking.
Han Bei didn’t move, but the Black Sieve Sect disciples who surrounded her seemed itching to go. They had come to the Song Clan for the sole purpose of winning a place as a son-in-law of the Song Clan. Success would mean instant benefit, not for the Sect, but for themselves.
It was hard to say who was first. Multiple figures leaped up and flew toward the cloud vortex and the sea below.
Li Daoyi didn’t make a move. As a Dao Child, he had come only to observe. He obviously couldn’t marry into the Song Clan. The rest of the Li Clansmen around him, though, were different. One by one, they flew toward the vortex.
Wang Tengfei sat there thoughtfully, hesitating. Wang Xifan held out a hand to bar his way. However, he had long since made his decision. He strode forward and then transformed into a colorful beam that shot toward the vortex.
His participation was different from that of the others. Looks of astonishment appeared on the faces of the Violet Fate Sect disciples, especially their Nascent Soul Cultivator. His eyes flickered. Next to him, the Wang Clan Nascent Soul Cultivator frowned.
Fatty gave a dry cough and looked at Meng Hao. Then, he flew up into the air. His Cultivation base wasn’t at the Foundation Establishment stage yet, but he had a host of magical items. The rest of the Golden Frost Sect Cultivators flew up with him. Together, they charged toward the vortex.
As for Chen Fan and the others from the Solitary Sword Sect, they flew up one after another. So did the disciples of the Blood Demon Sect, including Wang Youcai. Li Shiqi sat there, her expression cool.
Meng Hao looked through the cloud vortex at the sprawling sea and the massive tree. His eyes narrowed, and he sat there thoughtfully for a moment. Then he stood, strode forward, and shot toward the vortex.
The invisible woman was still there. She watched Meng Hao disappearing into vortex. The tender love in her eyes grew stronger. Finally, she sighed.
“You must walk your path alone. Perhaps one day, you will find your way to us, and then you’ll understand everything…. If you can’t make it, then mother will wait for you to be reincarnated in the yellow springs of the underworld.” Her voice was soft as she looked at Meng Hao. She closed her eyes, turned, and then disappeared. It was as if she had never been there to begin with.
Monstrous waves rolled across the surface of the sea, propelled by the screaming wind. It threatened to blow away all of the approaching Cultivators, making it incredibly difficult to even reach the gigantic tree.
Compared to the tree, they were like crickets or ants, tiny to the extreme.
Meng Hao looked down at the waters and his eyes narrowed. Beneath the massive waves, dark shadows could be seen swimming to and fro. A sense of danger welled up within him.
“The Song Clan’s search for a son-in-law is a trial by fire,” said the Song Clan Patriarch. “We don’t want a bloody spectacle. If anyone feels the danger has become too extreme, you can forfeit with a single word and be instantly teleported out.” His words echoed out across the sea. At the sound of his words the wind suddenly lessened, as if it didn’t dare to interfere.
Song Yunshu’s name in Chinese is 宋云书 sòng yún shū – Song, of course, is a family name. Yun means “cloud.” Shu means “book” ↩