One early morning, a bolt of lightning appeared above the elegant basin, outside one of the buildings.
The roof of this building was long since gone, apparently destroyed. Black ash was visible everywhere. There were roughly a thousand Cultivators here now, and all of them were more or less used to the lightning.
As the parrot soared through the air, it looked up into the sky and gave a sympathetic sigh, then thought about how helpful it had been. After that, it wheeled off with determination to go train the Cultivators in the use of the Celestial spell formation.
“This formation uses people as its base! With hundreds, you can rock Core Formation. With thousands, you can strand Nascent Soul. With tens of thousands, Spirit Severing doesn’t count for a fart! With millions, you can shake Immortals! Back when Lord Fifth swept over the nine great Mountains and Seas, no one refused to bow to him!” A wistful look appeared in its eyes, and it sighed as it seemed to recall its past glory. Then, it redoubled its efforts to train the Cultivators.
Inside the building that had just been struck by lightning, Meng Hao’s face was unsightly. Even more unsightly, however, was the face of the Li Clan Patriarch, who looked as if he were on his last legs.
“You’re my ancestor!” he wailed, his soul embodiment trembling. He seemed to be on the verge of going crazy. “My ancestor, okay?! Just let me go…. I can’t hold on much longer. Just let the lightning rend me in half, okay…?”
Meng Hao didn’t say anything. He put the Li Clan Patriarch’s soul embodiment away, then looked back up at the sky. It seemed clear, completely devoid of any lightning. At this point, he wasn’t quite numb to the situation, but had gotten used to it.
After some practice, he had developed some methods to pull out the Li Clan Patriarch even more quickly. By now, it had developed into a sort of intuition; as soon as a bolt of lightning appeared, the Li Clan Patriarch would be called upon.
Currently, Meng Hao didn’t reach complete success at first. However, the dangerous training method worked, and soon he was able to use the technique almost perfectly each time.
Under these circumstances, Meng Hao’s intuition with the lightning gradually formed into a type of instinct.
At the moment, Meng Hao couldn’t quite keep his face completely calm; it still looked a bit pained, although not as much as the Li Clan Patriarch’s. Meng Hao looked over at the middle-aged man who lay in front of him, body trembling, face pale, seemingly locked in place and unable to move. This man was even worse off than the Li Clan Patriarch.
This Cultivator was not from the Black Lands, but rather the Western Desert. This was the man Meng Hao had knocked out earlier, the one who had three totem tattoos. Meng Hao had taken him here, sealed him to prevent him from moving, and began to study him.
Meng Hao loved studying. Back when he was a scholar, he would study books. After he entered the Cultivation world, he would study magical techniques or contemplate alchemy.
It didn’t matter when, as long as he had some time on his hands, he would take time to study something. This always led to further understanding on his part.
However, this was his first time studying a person.
Meng Hao had already been studying him for three days, inside and out. Whenever he encountered some area he didn’t understand, he would make some cuts and focus further until he understood.
Meng Hao had learned a lot in these three days, which left him very excited. As for the middle-aged man, however, it was a nightmare, as if he were residing in the depths of hell. The feeling was hard to describe. His coldness had turned into misery, cursing and insanity. Eventually, he just began to wail, and to truly believe that Meng Hao was the most fearsome person in the entire Cultivation world.
At the moment, Meng Hao was studying the Cultivator’s blood. He reached out toward the man’s arm, which was covered in wounds and scabs. Some of it was even missing pieces of flesh. Meng Hao made a long scratch and then collected some blood.
He placed the blood into a pill furnace and began to refine it.
The man’s face was ashen, his eyes listless and filled with despair. He didn’t know how much longer this treatment would go on, and his mind was on the verge of collapse. In fact, the previous night when Meng Hao was preparing to study his brain, the fear caused tears to leak out of his eyes.
At that point, Meng Hao had hesitated and then decided not to proceed.
Meng Hao had always been extremely interested in the totem tattoos of Western Desert Cultivators. After much analysis, he had come to the conclusion that they contained a power similar to medicinal pills, a power that came from outside the body of the Cultivator
For example, totems could be used to break through from Qi Condensation to Foundation Establishment, and then to Core Formation. This realization gave Meng Hao quite a bit of enlightenment.
Meng Hao had long since had the feeling that he could break through from the mid Perfect Core Formation stage to the late stage. The feeling only grew more intense. Eventually, he realized that in order to break through to late Core Formation, he would need to allow the Heavenly Tribulation to bear down on him in full. After transcending it, he would then be able to enter late Core Formation.
However, once that happened, he had little confidence regarding the Nascent Soul stage. The Nascent Soul stage was a huge step that few Cultivators were ever actually able to take.
Throughout the years, many Cultivators could reach the late Core Formation stage. However, few were able to break through to Nascent Soul. It might seem like there were a lot of Nascent Soul Cultivators, but that had more to do with their vastly extended lifespan. Few members of any particular generation would ever actually break through.
One of the most critical factors for Meng Hao was the fact that he was missing the section of the Sublime Spirit Scripture that had to do with the Gold Core. Without the proper technique, it would be difficult to achieve a Perfect Nascent Soul.
It wasn’t very likely that he would be able to acquire the manual, either. He had no idea where it was. However, Meng Hao had the strong feeling that the totems of these Western Desert Cultivators would enable him to forge his own path toward the Perfect Nascent Soul.
Meng Hao focused on the blood in the pill furnace as it slowly transformed into a mist. Eventually it dissipated, whereupon a bright glow shone in his eyes. “Interesting. There is no totemic aura within the blood.”
“Skin, muscle, bone and blood. Without exception, they are all completely ordinary!” Meng Hao sat in thought for a while and then looked back up at the man in front of him. The man’s heart trembled, and he was about to open his mouth to beg for his life when Meng Hao’s right hand descended onto the totem tattoo on the man’s arm.
“This totem has faint traces of Demonic Qi, which is also the so-called Essence of the Ninth Mountain and Sea.” As Meng Hao lifted his hand back up, the man let out a shrill wail. The totem tattoo slowly separated from his skin, pulling up until Meng Hao held what looked almost like a patch of skin in his hand. After separating, it rapidly faded away until it was completely gone.
“So once it leaves the body of the Cultivator, the totem vanishes.” He frowned. “Just what is a totem? The manifestation of some great Demon of Heaven and Earth?”
Meng Hao looked outside; it was already evening, and the sky was filling with clouds. A variety of thoughts spun through his head, but no answers.
After a while, Meng Hao waved his hand; the seals binding the middle-aged Cultivator vanished. He rose to his feet, trembling. He immediately clasped hands and bowed to Meng Hao, continuing to shake violently.
“You can go,” said Meng Hao coolly.
To the man, the words seemed like those of a Celestial being. His heart was filled with so much appreciation that he wanted to weep. He immediately left, speeding away as fast as possible to leave this land of nightmares.
More time passed. Meng Hao bowed his head and laughed. “I think I’m getting ahead of myself,” he murmured. “I have the power to bestow Demonic Qi, but to understand totems will require a lot more time. Full enlightenment can’t be gained in a short period of time.” However, determination gleamed in his eyes; he would not give up on his desire to understand totems.
He smacked his bag of holding to produce an earth-yellow band of soft, cloth-like paper with uneven edges.
This was none other than the object which had led to the rise of Patriarch Golden Light, the flag which the parrot had helped Meng Hao to steal from the auction. After waking up, the parrot had helped him to refine it.
“A talisman used by an Immortal, which can help me to gain enlightenment regarding the magical symbols in the Black Lands. This will definitely be a huge help.” He rubbed the paper as he thought about the vastly expanded area within which his followers could search for the Celestial soil now that he was Patriarch Golden Light. Obviously, it was much greater than before.
Vast quantities of Celestial soil were being delivered to him. Now, all he had to do was touch the soil to this talismanic paper, and it would immediately suck in the aura of the soil, leaving the soil completely ordinary in nature.
After sucking in the aura, magical symbols would appear on the paper, which were gradually forming into the shape of a seal.
Meng Hao was sure that after enough time had passed, and enough soil was collected, more magical symbols would appear on the paper. With further enlightenment of the symbols, he would definitely be able to employ some shocking divine ability.
It was in this way that he planned to have completely unique Celestial magic prepared for when he reached the Nascent Soul stage!
The next day at dawn, Meng Hao put away the talismanic paper and then took out the Wooden Time Sword and began to further refine it. He had consistently been working on this particular sword since arriving in the Black Lands, and as of now, it contained three sixty-year cycles of Time.
In addition, he had quite a quantity of Spring and Autumn trees in his bag of holding that contained two sixty-year cycles.
“It’s not very difficult to forge a Time treasure that contains a sixty-year cycle,” he thought. “It only takes a bit of effort. As for two sixty-year cycles, I only have a thirty percent chance of success. Failure means complete loss of all the resources. That’s not really a big deal, though. What’s truly scary is the Time treasures of three sixty-year cycles. There’s only half a percent chance of success. Without the copper mirror, I probably wouldn’t be able to forge even one in my entire life.” He looked at the sword in his hand, which emitted a blinding blue light. Its surface seemed to flow like flowing water, and waving the sword through the air caused ripples to spread out. The ripples caused the surrounding structures to immediately show signs of decay.
Meng Hao was just about to put the sword away when suddenly, he lifted his head up and looked at something far off in the distance. He frowned.
“So, the Dongluo Clan really just can’t hold themselves back,” he muttered. He sent his Spiritual Sense out to find the parrot and impart some instructions. Next, his body began to grow blurry, and ghost images sprang up. Moments later, a second Meng Hao appeared. One was sitting cross-legged, the other slowly sank down into the ground.
Meng Hao waved his right hand, whereupon ten Wooden Time Swords flew out from his subterranean chamber to circulate about in the air overhead.
The tips of the swords faced outward, and as they spun, they began to create a vortex in the shape of a lotus flower. The power emanated by the lotus-shaped sword formation caused the building Meng Hao was in to begin to decay. Soon, it was nothing more than ash. All of the aura in the area soon began to fill with ancientness and decay. The minds and hearts of the thousand Cultivators trembled. They immediately dispersed, looking back wide eyed at Meng Hao, who sat cross-legged, a giant lotus spinning above his head. Around him, everything in the basin was beginning to decay.
It was at this moment that the moon rose. Moonlight cascaded downward onto the swords, causing them to gleam with a silver glow. They looked like a blooming lotus, bizarre and beautiful…. Everyone who observed the spectacle would remember it for the rest of their lives.
As the lotus rippled, the Patriarch beneath it lifted his head and said in a cool, echoing voice: “This is my Time Sword Formation!”
This chapter was sponsored by Esther Oyewole, Keith Spencer, Amranul Haque, and Anon