The woman walked until she reached the shore. The rain fell around her, but didn’t touch her clothing at all. She was beautiful, and had the aura of a cultivator, which gave her an otherworldly grace.
Her face was cold, and she was frowning. A bitter look could be seen in her eyes, and she seemed to be concealing great anxiety and confusion within her heart.
She was Xu Qing.
She had been searching for Meng Hao for many years, but had found nothing…. She was thinner than before, more lean.
She had followed her heart until she found this lake, which was also her former hometown.
When Meng Hao saw her, she also caught sight of aged Meng Hao. There was something strangely familiar about him, so she changed directions and headed over toward the log cabin.
“Are you the boatman here?” she asked, looking him over. Her face was filled with an expression that could cause one’s heart to tremble. Meng Hao lowered his head and sighed inwardly.
Xu Qing’s voice was calm, and just as cold as it had always been. However, Meng Hao’s appearance had changed far too much. Even people very familiar with him would have a hard time recognizing him based on his physical appearance.
After a long moment, Meng Hao nodded.
Xu Qing’s frown deepened. “Have you seen anyone else pass through here?” she asked. She had searched for a hundred years, and had failed repeatedly, yet had never given up. If he was alive, she wanted to see him. If he was dead, she wanted to see the corpse. If she couldn’t find him… then she would just keep on searching.
Her personality was simple, but it was that very simplicity which gave her such determination.
For some reason, she had the feeling that if she couldn’t find Meng Hao, then perhaps…she wouldn’t ever be able to find her way in life again.
“I haven’t seen anyone,” replied Meng Hao levelly, shaking his head. His voice was hoarse, and sounded nothing like it had before. He was happy to be able to see Xu Qing, but he didn’t want her to realize who he was, not when he looked like this.
What was the point? It would just lead to her waiting for him outside once of the Rebirth Cave. Then, if he never came back out, she would become a woman sorrowed because of a lifetime of gloom and listlessness.
Wouldn’t it be better to forget about each other….?
Xu Qing looked around the area, and then sighed inwardly. After scanning Meng Hao with Divine Sense, all she had seen was a mortal man. And yet, she also felt something familiar that made her give him a second look over.
“Have we met before?” she asked.
“No,” he replied with the shake of a head.
She gazed at him for a very long moment, and a complex look appeared in her eyes. The intense complexity turned into sorrow, and a slight tremor ran through her body.
“I’m looking for someone,” she said. “My beloved. If you see him, please pass a message along for me. In this life… if he lives, then I live. If he dies, then I die!”
Bitterly, she turned and began to walk off into the downpour. Surrounded by the rainfall, wearing her white robes, she looked like a white lotus, beautiful, unsurpassed, and yet also poignant and sad.
Meng Hao looked at her walking away, and a gentleness appeared in his eyes. He could see her exhaustion and anxiety, and it made him sigh.
“Some people,” he thought, “chose not to let anything encumber their cultivation, and are thus able to do so with minds and hearts free of obstruction. Others have hearts filled with obsession, which enables them to achieve great Daos of Heaven and Earth.
“She… started out incorruptible. It was me showing up that changed everything…”
Finally, he spoke up, his voice soft. “Hold on.”
Xu Qing stopped in her tracks, surrounded by rain. She turned back to look at him sitting there in the shadows of the wooden eaves, ancient, old, decaying.
He continued, “Is the person you’re looking for a twenty-something scholar, wearing a long green robe…?”
Xu Qing trembled, and after a moment of silence, she nodded.
“I saw someone who looked like that many years ago,” he said, his voice hoarse. “He lived here for about a year, after which… he died and was buried. He said this place was his home.
“Before he died, he gave me a bag. He said that if anyone came looking for him, then I should give them the bag.” With that, he pulled a bag of holding out of his robe and placed it off to the side.
As Xu Qing stood there in the rain, the water began to seep past the invisible barrier and soak her clothes. She stared deeply at Meng Hao, then walked back and looked blankly at the bag of holding. As she picked it up, tears filled her eyes.
Of course, it was impossible to tell how much of the water flowing down her face was rain, and how much was tears.
A bitter smile appeared on her face, and she looked back at Meng Hao. Finally, she turned and headed once again out into the rain, taking the bag of holding with her.
As he watched her leaving, his expression was complex, but he said nothing.
Xu Qing walked about seven steps before she stopped. She didn’t look back, but when she spoke, her voice echoed out in all directions.
“I might be not be very smart, but… I’m not an idiot.”
Meng Hao didn’t say anything for a moment. He knew that his words couldn’t fool Xu Qing. However, sometimes it doesn’t matter what is true and what is false. Sometimes… the result is all that matters.
Meng Hao had hoped that instead of tormenting herself by searching for him through all eternity, she could at least cut him off. After that, she could return to her incorruptible self, simple and pure.
It is better to forget….
He closed his eyes, and his heart filled with pain.
Xu Qing was quiet for a while, but finally, she smiled. It was a smile of determination and resolve that contained no regret….
She lifted her hand, and the glow of a sword flew out. It stabbed into the ground, sharp and powerful, rapidly carving out a deep, rectangular pit.
At the same time, mountain crag flew out from the nearby mountainous forest. When it arrived in front of her, she waved her hand, causing it to spin in the air. The sides were then shaved away until the crag turned into a stela.
She then rubbed her hand gently across the surface, causing words to appear.
Grave of Meng Hao and Xu Qing.
A bang rang out as the stone stele sank down into the ground next to the pit. She looked back at Meng Hao, her eyes filled with staunchness and determination.
We met on Mount Daqing.
Because of the Cosmetic Cultivation Pill in the Reliance Sect, and the way you called me Elder Sister, our fate was sealed forever.
That time in the Blessed Land in the Southern Domain, in my moment of despair, even the tears in my eyes could not obscure the image of you and your burning rage.
That time in the Black Sieve Sect, you appeared and helped me when my soul was on the verge of fading away. The way you smiled before we parted made my heart tremble.
That time by the Rebirth Cave, when you turned back to look at me, your image had already long since been imprinted in my heart…. I will never forget you, never!
I looked for you in the Western Desert Violet Sea. I searched for a long time, until finally my teardrop fell into the water. I don’t know if you were able to feel it.
I don’t know if you realized how happy I was when we met again in the Demon Immortal Sect. Those were the happiest days I’ve ever experienced. Life was calm, and we accompanied each other as we practiced cultivation. I was there at your side, you by mine.
Eventually, a day came in which I was incapable of practicing cultivation. My heart was in chaos, and an indescribable unease filled me. That was when… I went to look for you.
“You live, I live. You die, I die!” she said softly.
Meng Hao’s mind trembled, and he suddenly opened his eyes. His eyes were murky, but not murky enough to hide the intensity of his gaze.
He looked at Xu Qing, and he looked at the gravestone. He could see her determination, and he could see her sorrow written on the surface of the gravestone.
You live, I live. You die, I die!
These were not words of endearment, they were a promise….
“I’m a simple person,” she said softly, “but just because a person is simple doesn’t mean they lack determination. When a person has determination… then they will never forget. The path of cultivation is a long one, and I can’t keep going on alone.
“Since that’s the case, let’s go together to the Yellow Springs. What do you say? I can only hope that if there is another life after this one, then we will meet again.” Although her voice was not loud, and the gurgle of rain filled the air, Meng Hao could hear her words clearly.
The trembling of his heart increased, and he stood up. He walked out from under the eaves, allowing the rain to drench him as he walked over to stand in front of Xu Qing.
The ground was slippery, and the wind cold. Meng Hao was freezing, and he looked more elderly than ever.
Xu Qing looked at him. To her, it didn’t matter how much he had changed. To her, he was still that young man from Mount Daqing, her Junior Brother.
Rain fell onto them, and even between them, but it couldn’t stop them from looking into each other’s eyes.
“Take me to the Rebirth Cave!” Meng Hao said. The determination in his eyes grew more intense. He wanted to keep living, and he wanted that second life from the Rebirth Cave.
He was doing it for himself, for the obsession in his heart, for Xu Qing, and for all of his friends and family!
Xu Qing smiled and nodded. She stepped forward and took hold of his hand. Despite Meng Hao’s weakness, her face still flushed when she found herself up against his chest.
Time seemed to slow down for an eternity.
At some point, it stopped raining. A rainbow appeared in the morning sunlight, and it was beneath that rainbow that Xu Qing and Meng Hao transformed into a beam of light that shot off into the distance.
Meng Hao could not fly, but he did have magical flight items. Under the control of Xu Qing, the flying shuttle transformed into what looked like the eighth color of the rainbow.
Time passed by. The flying shuttle was powerful enough that it only took ten days to fly from the State of Zhao to the Rebirth Cave. When they finally landed outside, Meng Hao’s face was even more ashen than before.
The closer they got to the cave itself, the more Meng Hao felt his life force withering away. He was shriveling up, and the death aura that surrounded him only grew stronger.
Things were different than they had been last time he was here. Perhaps then, Choumen Tai’s presence had caused things to change from their normal state, and now that he had entered the Rebirth Cave, everything had returned to normal.
Life was prohibited.
This was the Rebirth Cave.
Living beings were not allowed.
The aura of death in the area made Meng Hao feel even weaker. As it thickened, however, Meng Hao could sense that a trace of opportunity existed within.
To experience rebirth, one’s body must first die. Only after death could one have life in defiance of the Heavens!
Meng Hao took a deep breath and walked forward. Even as he took his first steps forward, Xu Qing reached out to support him. He looked back at her, and she returned the look but didn’t say anything. The determination in her eyes said what thousands and thousands of words could not.
“Living beings cannot enter this place,” he said softly.
She smiled faintly and then led Meng Hao toward the inner region of the Rebirth Cave.
As soon as they entered, Meng Hao became weaker than before. His body withered even faster, as if he were burning with an invisible fire. Every step forward, every step closer to the Rebirth Cave, caused his body, his soul, his everything… to waste away rapidly.
At the same time, more than ten streams of will spread out from within the Rebirth Cave. They looked coldly as Meng Hao and Xu Qing approached.
This chapter was sponsored by Robert Funk, Markus Drabek, Tracy Guirnela, Oluetemiri Okunnuga, Jonathan Valentin, and Xenaca