When the Lightning Cauldron in Meng Hao’s hand began to sparkle with brilliant lights, and then emit a rumbling sound, Sir Jian’s face fell, and a bad feeling welled up in his heart. Without the slightest hesitation, he squeezed down with his hand, planning to stab his fingers into Chen Fan’s head, injuring him as a threat to Meng Hao.
However, the instant his fingers began to move, an incredibly shocking power shot back into his hand. It was as if what he was squeezing was not flesh and blood, but a red-hot iron. The backlash of power made it feel as if needles were stabbing into his palm. Sir Jian was completely shocked.
At the same time, he was astonished to find that, instead of staring at Meng Hao as he had been this whole time, he was now looking at Chen Fan.
Heart pounding, he slowly looked down to see his hand resting on Meng Hao’s head!
His eyes went wide, and his scalp numb. He immediately shot back, spooked out of his mind.
“What divine ability is that!?!?!?” Sir Jian was completely astonished, and also terrified. He bit down on the tip of his tongue and spit out some blood which he used to flee even faster than before.
“Trying to run away?” said Meng Hao, his eyes flickering with killing intent. He pointed out with his left index finger, and his second true self immediately unleashed the Wooden Time Sword. Even if Sir Jian could move faster, it still wouldn’t be enough to escape the Wooden Time Sword.
It was upon him in the blink of an eye, causing everything around it to twist and distort. To his shock, Sir Jian began to wither rapidly. He let out a miserable scream, upon which the Wooden Time Sword stabbed directly through his head.
Slaughtered with a solitary sword!
Tidy and efficient, not the least bit sloppy. Sir Jian’s body was withered, his Nascent Divinity killed. As he fell, it almost seemed as if ten thousand years passed; he quickly turned into nothing more than dust floating in the wind.
There was nothing left to indicate that he had ever been. He was completely and utterly… dead.
The two other Spirit Severing experts of the Solitary Sword Sect, along with the tens of thousands of other disciples, were shocked into complete silence. Their faces were pale white, and barely a moment had passed before one of the Spirit Severing experts gave a start and then dropped to his knees to kowtow.
“Blood Prince, we wish to surrender to the Blood Demon Sect!”
The other disciples immediately dropped to their knees, their hearts pounding and voices trembling as they cried, “Greetings, Blood Prince!”
Despite the fear in their voices, there were tens of thousands of them, and the sound of their cry formed a sound wave that rolled out in all directions.
Meng Hao didn’t respond. Instead, he looked back at Chen Fan. Chen Fan’s face was downcast, filled with an expression that betrayed his lack of interest in life. To him, life was a pain from which he wished to extricate himself.
Meng Hao’s heart twinged with pain as he thought back to the Eldest Brother that existed in his memories. That person didn’t look like this. That person wholeheartedly sought after the Dao and had lofty ambitions. Although at times he could be a bit stuffy and uptight, he was a hero who never hesitated for even a moment to stand in front of Meng Hao and protect him from any danger.
That Chen Fan viewed Meng Hao as a Junior Brother, someone he needed to care for after their sect vanished. He was an Elder Brother who even worried about Meng Hao finding a wife.
“Elder Brother….” said Meng Hao, his voice soft.
Chen Fan was silent for a moment before slowly looking up at Meng Hao. After a moment, he forced a smile onto his face.
“Junior Brother, you’ve grown up…. I can finally stop worrying…. Do you have some time right now? If you do, let’s drink a bit.”
Meng Hao immediately nodded, waving a hand to dismiss the Solitary Sword Sect disciples and the Blood Demon Sect disciples. All of them left the sect and waited outside, cross-legged.
The entire Solitary Sword Sect was quiet. Meng Hao and Chen Fan sat down on the mountain peak, beneath the strange boulder. Chen Fan produced a flagon of alcohol, which he handed over to Meng Hao.
A complex look could be seen in Meng Hao’s eyes, but he wasn’t sure how to even begin to give advice, so he simply accepted the flagon and took a long drink.
The alcohol was strong and burned like fire as it slid down his throat.
Chen Fan looked at the boulder and softly said, “She’s your sister-in-law.”
Meng Hao sat there quietly.
As Chen Fan continued, tears began to stream down his face.
“We promised each other that since the path to Immortality was filled with so many obstacles and unforeseen twists and turns, it would be better spend our lives with each other.
“She’s sleeping now, and might not wake up in this lifetime. But then again, maybe she will…. I’ll stay here to accompany her. That was our agreement.
“I let down my master. I was unworthy of him….” Chen Fan looked like an old man. More and more tears poured down his face.
He rarely wept, not even when he and Shan Ling were captured and brought back to the sect. When Shan Ling made the decision to rest in sleep, there were tears in his heart, but they wouldn’t come out. The first time he truly cried was when his master accepted the punishment for him.
The second time he cried was when his master died.
The third time was here, in front of Meng Hao.
“Elder Brother….” began Meng Hao, but he wasn’t sure what he should say, so he stopped talking. After a moment, a determined look appeared in his eyes. He suddenly raised his right hand, and a drop of blood slowly formed on the tip of his finger.
When the drop of blood appeared, his face went a bit pale. A scintillating, blood-colored glow appeared, and Chen Fan’s eyes went wide. After a moment, his eyes flashed in realization, and he shot to his feet.
His expression stern, he cried, “Junior Brother! What do you think you’re doing!? Stop this instant!”
“Elder Brother, I can’t do very much to help you. The only thing I can do is help you to restore your cultivation base. That way, your longevity will be increased, and you can… you can have more time to stay with your beloved.” With that, he gestured with his finger. His lifeblood instantly shot forward and merged into Chen Fan’s forehead.
Chen Fan trembled. Years ago, his Nascent Soul had been damaged, cracked; at this moment, however, time seemed to run in reverse. His Nascent Soul absorbed the blood, and the cracks sealed up.
The blood didn’t just contain some of Meng Hao’s life force, it also contained some of the power of his Eternal stratum. It was that power that enabled Chen Fan’s cultivation base to be restored.
Of course, Meng Hao only had a few such drops of lifeblood. If he parted with too many, that which was Eternal within him would be no more.
But Chen Fan was his Elder Brother. The friendship that had formed between the two of them, and everything that had happened since then, made it so that Meng Hao didn’t even hesitate. If he didn’t give his lifeblood to Chen Fan, that would mean… that he wasn’t Meng Hao.
Chen Fan started trembling, and after a moment passed, coughed up a huge mouthful of blood as his Nascent Soul instantly reappeared like new. Now that he had a Nascent Soul again, his cultivation base surged, and his salt-and-pepper hair turned black.
His aged features once again became young and heroic, and he no longer looked like an old man. He was middle-aged and bursting with energy.
Now he looked more like the Chen Fan that Meng Hao remembered.
Official ISSTH Chen Fan artwork
Chen Fan gaped at Meng Hao. “Junior Brother, you….”
“There’s no need to talk about it,” said Meng Hao softly. “You’re my Elder Brother….”
Chen Fan held his tongue, and after a long moment passed, slowly nodded. He picked up the flagon of alcohol, looked at the boulder, and began to drink.
The sky gradually grew dark, and eventually the moon rose. When the dawn sun peeked its head over the horizon, Meng Hao took the initiative to start a conversation. He and Chen Fan began to chat about the Reliance Sect, and all the things that had happened after that in the Southern Domain. They talked about all the wonderful things from the past.
When the sun was high in the sky, Meng Hao rose to his feet.
“Elder Brother, I need to go now…. If you ever grow weary of being here, you can always find me in the Blood Demon Sect.”
Chen Fan didn’t respond at first. He looked at the boulder, and the woman who rested inside with her eyes closed.
“You’ve grown up,” he said softly, “and your Elder Brother has gotten old…. Don’t worry about me. You follow your path…. and I’ll follow mine. I’ll stay here with her until the day I close my eyes for good.
“When that day comes, Junior Brother… can you please bury me here? That way I can watch the sun rise and set with her forever. If there is another life after this one… I’ll find this place again. Life after life… I’ll wait, until the day she wakes up.” He turned to look deep into Meng Hao’s eyes.
“Junior Brother… take care of yourself. Your Elder Brother isn’t good at much, so all I can do… is pray that you find happiness. I hope that your path… leads you to greatness!”
Meng Hao stared at Chen Fan, and his face was filled with a variety of complex emotions. He also had an indescribable feeling in his heart that led him to believe he would never forget that person from the Reliance Sect who was so focused on pursuing the Dao. He would never forget the person standing in front of him to protect him. He would also never be able to forget… the Elder Brother from now, who stood there softly murmuring his story.
“Elder Brother… take care of yourself,” Meng Hao said quietly. He clasped hands and bowed deeply, then turned and left, sighing inwardly.
Chen Fan sat down cross-legged and watched Meng Hao leave.
“Ling’er, he’s my Junior Brother. In my heart, he’s family…. I don’t have much family, just him and Junior Sister Xu. Only those two.
“If you still have some awareness of the outside world, then let’s pray together that they find happiness….”
Meng Hao flew out of the Solitary Sword Sect. As soon as he appeared, the Solitary Sword Sect disciples and the Blood Demon Sect cultivators rose to their feet, their expressions that of deep respect.
Meng Hao looked over the Solitary Sword Sect and then said, “Produce strands from your souls and swear blood oaths. After that, you may remain here and become an auxiliary branch of the Blood Demon Sect. Everything will remain as it did before, although your jade slips, ancient records, and legacy items will all be handed over to the Blood Demon Sect.
“Henceforth, there is no Solitary Sword Sect in the Southern Domain, only an auxiliary branch of the Blood Demon Sect.
“The man who sits beneath the boulder on the mountain top is my Elder Brother Chen Fan. No one is allowed to step even half a pace onto that mountain. No one may disobey him in the slightest.”
The Solitary Sword Sect disciples voiced their agreement. From the moment they had agreed to surrender, they were prepared for something like this to happen. Their soul strands and blood oaths were organized by the Blood Demon Sect, then transformed into a soul slip, which was given to Meng Hao. Next, the magical items and ancient records in their treasure house were removed, as well as their legacy items.
Finally, some Blood Demon Sect disciples were stationed in the sect permanently. After that….
Meng Hao flicked his sleeve, and the Blood Demon Sect took to the skies.
Their next target was… the Golden Frost Sect!
As for his second true self, he had already vanished, sent to a different location by Meng Hao.