In the vast Eastern Lands was the ancient city of Chang’an.
It was a place that countless scholars in the lands of South Heaven dreamed of. All of them hungered to pay homage to the Great Tang, and to stroll through Chang’an.
The military strength of the Great Tang was incredible, and even possessed garrison states populated entirely by cultivators. There was no location in the mortal worlds of South Heaven in which people did not pay homage to the Great Tang.
It was no surprise that there were great numbers of sects and clans in the Eastern Lands. Their strength and influence exceeded that of any of the powers that existed in the Northern Reaches, Southern Domain or Western Desert. In terms of sects alone, there were nine major ones.
In addition, there were seven great clans with vast numbers of disciples, followers, and clan members. The Eastern Lands were a flourishing place with countless Chosen, many of whom were famous even in the other continents.
Even the Imperial family had its own Daoist teachings and doctrines, which they used to exercise control over the whole continent. Emperor Tang himself possessed a powerful cultivation base, and although he rarely made public appearances, his power held sway over the all the land.
Chang’an was the center of it all, and was encircled by ten defensive fortresses. Of those, eight belonged directly to the Great Tang, with the remaining fortresses belonging to two different clans.
One was the Fang Clan and the other was the Ji Clan!
Just because they occupied the defensive fortresses didn’t mean that these two clans bowed their heads to the power of the Emperor. They were independent, and in fact, above everyone else. It was the other sects and clans who bowed their heads to them!
This was especially true of the Ji Clan. The Heavens themselves belonged to the Ji Clan, so who was there that could possibly surpass them?
As for the Fang Clan, they had vast and powerful resources at their disposal. Although they were only a subdivision of the main clan, they were still deep and immeasurable. Of course, in compliance with their clan rules, they respected the Great Tang, and would protect the Tang Dynasty for all time. After all… the Tang Emperor was surnamed Li! 1
However, despite the fact that these were the circumstances surrounding Meng Hao at the moment, they were far distant from his daily life.
Currently, Meng Hao sat cross-legged in a courtyard in the Fang Clan, underneath an ancient tree. Sitting next to him was a trembling little crocodile who was oh-so-cautiously looking at the man sitting cross-legged in front of Meng Hao.
That man was none other than Meng Hao’s father.
“Hao’er,” he said, “your future path is your own to tread. As to what you do and how you do it, your mother and I can assist from the sidelines, but will not help you directly. The most important thing you should focus on is… Immortal Ascension!
“You’re already halfway into true Immortality, lacking only that final half step. Then you will be in the Immortal Realm.
“The chance to gain true Immortality is something that comes along once every 10,000 years. There are many cultivators of the elder generation, and even current Chosen, who are willing to suppress their own cultivation bases, all for the chance to get that true Immortal destiny.
“During this 10,000 year period, the true Immortal destiny lies in the lands of South Heaven. However, since you weren’t born on South Heaven, it cannot belong to you. The location of your true Immortality is on Planet East Victory.
“The simplest way to achieve true Immortal Ascension is by means of the rarely seen Immortality Illumination Vine. Use that to gain enlightenment regarding the meaning of Immortality, and you can achieve true Immortal Ascension.
“Although Immortality Illumination Vines are rare, it is not impossible to acquire them. In fact, there are enough that, during each 10,000 year period, most powerful sects manage to produce one or two true Immortals. However, the vines are only effective in the 1,000 years after the true Immortal destiny appears.
“The second way to achieve true Immortal Ascension is very difficult, and that is to acquire the Immortal destiny that appears once every 10,000 years, and use it to tread the path to true Immortality. That is the path your master Pill Demon must take.
“Both of these types of Immortals are true Immortals.
“Your master is going about it the most difficult way. If he succeeds, then he will most certainly be taken away by some powerful organization and made a Conclave disciple.
“Therefore, when the time comes for your master’s true Immortal Ascension, the lands of South Heaven are going to be a very lively place. The various Chosen of other sects and clans who have left South Heaven will return to fight for their chance. When that time comes, I will act as Dao Protector for your master.
“As for you, after you help your master transcend his tribulation, then you will go to Planet East Victory. Father has already prepared an Immortality Illumination Vine for you there!
“Initially, using the Immortality Illumination Vine produces a slightly inferior result. However, cultivation isn’t always dependent on the first steps, and using that method can also lead you to great glory.
“So there are only these two ways to achieve true Immortal Ascension?” asked Meng Hao, a bit surprised. “Why could the Resurrection Lily achieve it?”
“People aren’t flowers and flowers aren’t people. The path of the Resurrection Lily can be learned from, but if cultivators try to follow it, they will find it very difficult to realize their Dao.
“There is a third path which is not dependent on any of the planets or any Immortal lands. It is to achieve true Immortality… by your own power!
“This is a very rare thing. According to the legends, only Patriarch Kṣitigarbha, the Earth Store Bodhisattva of the Fourth Mountain 2, has ever traveled that path. Other than him, no one has ever pulled it off. When he did, it caused all of the Immortal qi in the Mountain and Sea Realm to surge and swirl towards him, such that everyone knew about it.
“As to how to tread that path, even I don’t know.” Meng Hao’s father shook his head. Even though he had a high opinion of Meng Hao, he didn’t think it was possible for him to tread that third path. “For now,” he said, looking at Meng Hao sternly, “focus on my nine sword forms. Make sure you understand them thoroughly.”
Sadly, Meng Hao’s older sister Fang Yu was still unable to emerge from secluded meditation. Meng Hao’s return had caused many in South Heaven’s Fang Clan to act with great caution. They were unfamiliar with him, and didn’t dare to even try to probe him for information.
Word of Meng Hao’s deeds in the Southern Domain had long since spread amongst the cultivators of the vast Eastern Lands.
When it came to the Ji Clan, there quite a few people there who were currently vacillating nervously…. Those people were the Chosen who owed Meng Hao spirit stones from back in the Demon Immortal Sect. There were Chosen from other sects in the Eastern Lands as well, all of whom had mixed feelings about Meng Hao.
As they sat there beneath the tree, Meng Hao’s father waved his hand, causing a scintillating command medallion to fly out toward Meng Hao. It came to rest in front of him, where it floated in the air. It only took a glance for Meng Hao to be able to sense the vast ancientness pulsing off of it.
“This is an Immortal Ancient Dao Medallion,” said Meng Hao’s father.
“In the future, when you leave the lands of South Heaven, you could return home to the clan to continue your cultivation, or you could use this medallion to join the Ninth Mountain’s Immortal Ancient Daoist Rite and cultivate their Daoist magic!
“In the Ninth Mountain and Sea, there are many Immortal Ancient Daoist Rite Temples. Whenever one of those temples opens its doors, it will attract a lot of attention.
“Currently, only the Immortal Ancient Daoist Rite of the Ninth Mountain continues to pass on its legacies. Many cultivators practice cultivation among them, making them one of the most superlative Daoist Societies in the Ninth Mountain. By the time any Daoist rite temple is revealed to the world, it will already long since been left untended and abandoned.
“Only the most powerful of Chosen can join the Immortal Ancient Daoist Rite. Lord Li joined, as did Lord Ji. The Fang Patriarch of that era also joined. Their requirements for accepting disciples are very strict. However, if you possess an Immortal Ancient Dao Medallion, then you can join directly as a Conclave disciple.
“Take good care of this medallion!
“The medallion has another function. I happened to discover an Immortal Ancient Daoist Rite Temple. Although it’s deserted, if you enter it, the temple will automatically come to life….
“Accept the medallion’s guidance, and you can cultivate enlightenment in the temple. It will greatly improve your chances at achieving Immortal Ascension.
“However, after the Immortal Ancient Daoist Rite Temple comes to life, others will detect it. Therefore, Chosen from the sects and clans of the other planets will come to try to seize the luck and good fortune in the temple.
“What they will be most interested in obtaining is the Immortal Ancient Dao Medallion.
“That will be your chance to hone your skills.”
Meng Hao looked closer at the medallion, and inside, he could just barely make out an Immortal Ancient Daoist Rite Temple, filled with countless figures practicing cultivation. There was also a glowing Immortal who was giving a sermon regarding the Dao.
The music of a great Dao floated through the air, which Meng Hao couldn’t hear clearly. However, it caused him to perceive an unusual sensation of being bathed in an celestial radiance, with Immortal qi swirling around him.
After a long moment, he trembled, and recovered his senses. He quickly reached out to take hold of the Immortal Ancient Dao Medallion.
“Keep the Dao medallion safe, and achieve Immortal ascension. Those are my tests for you. If you can’t accomplish these things… then it would be better for you to stay here with me and your mother.
“If you can fight with all your might against the Chosen of the sects and clans of the other planets, if you can protect this medallion, if you can achieve true Immortal Ascension, then… your mother and I will be confident that you are ready to leave us and forge your own glorious future!”
Meng Hao clutched the Immortal Ancient Dao Medallion, looked up at his father, and slowly nodded.
Meng Hao’s father looked back and then smiled. It was a smile full of love and encouragement.
“Go,” he said. “Leave this crocodile here. When you achieve Immortal Ascension, it will be the mount you can use when you leave. Hao’er… you did not have me and your mother at your side in this lifetime. You’ve reached your current stage by relying only on your own efforts!
“Likewise, I believe that in the future… you won’t need help from me or your mother. Your path will lead you much further… and you can do it on your own!”
Meng Hao took a deep breath and then bowed to his father.
“Now go. We cultivators don’t focus on the trifles in life. Besides… you’ve grown up.” His father’s smile grew wider. From the look in his eye, you could see that he wished for his son to be a dragon, to truly succeed. It was a look similar to the one Meng Hao had seen in the eyes of Ke Yunhai.
Meng Hao rose to his feet and caught sight of his mother approaching. She walked up to him, adjusted his clothes, and then looked at him lovingly. She clearly did not wish to part with him, and was also worried.
“Mom, I’m fine,” he said with a bashful smile.
When she saw his smile, his mother shook her head.
“That’s the same smile you used to make when you were little,” she said, “whenever you were about to get into mischief.”
Meng Hao’s smile grew even more bashful. He chatted a bit more with his parents, then clasped hands and bowed. Giving them a final deep look, he turned and made his way off into the distance.
They watched him leaving, and Meng Hao’s mother sighed.
“This is how cultivators were meant to practice cultivation,” his father said calmly. “Hao’er is a dragon amongst men. His path… is his own to tread!”
“I’m still worried though…” his mother said.
“It was without our help that he stepped halfway into true Immortality,” his father replied proudly. “He’s grown up, and given his personality, it would be impossible for him to stay with us here for 100,000 years. Since we can’t leave, he needs to temper himself with appropriate challenges. Moreover… in all the Ninth Mountain and Sea, there truly are few who have achieved a cultivation base like his at such an age!”
“I’m just afraid that this Immortal Ancient Daoist Rite Temple that you’ve activated will attract people above the Spirit Realm…” his mother said softly.
Meng Hao’s father laughed coolly. “Fang Xiufeng makes the rules here on Planet South Heaven, and I say… if anyone above the Spirit Realm dares to enter, I’ll just kill them!”
Meng Hao left the Fang Clan, the first time he had done so since arriving. The streets were busy, and as he looked around at the bustle, it was clear that this was a city of mortals. There were cultivators present too, but they didn’t dare to act superior to others. Apparently, cultivators were not permitted to act aggressively in the lands controlled by the Great Tang.
Meng Hao looked up, and off in the distance he could see an enormous city. That was… Chang’an.
At first glance it looked ordinary, but when Meng Hao circulated his Immortal qi, he was shocked to find that there were ninety-five gold dragons spiraling through the air above the city. Occasionally they would let out shocking roars. Of course, it was something that everyone else could not see or hear.
Gradually, the ninety-five dragons merged together into a figure sitting there in midair. When Meng Hao looked at it, the figure seemed to sense his gaze, and then looked back at him.
Suddenly, a majestic voice filled Meng Hao’s mind. “The son of Elder Brother Fang. As expected, you are quite extraordinary. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Allow me to bless you with some qi reserves to incorporate into your body.”
The ninety-five dragons each spit streams of draconic qi, which merged together into an extremely lifelike golden dragon. It turned into a golden beam of light that shot through the air and merged into Meng Hao. As it swirled through his body, an incredibly refreshing feeling filled him.
Cracking sounds could be heard from inside him, and an otherworldly aura seemed to be washing over him, like a baptism. It almost seemed as if he had formed a resonance with the land, and could now see various Daoist magics and natural laws wherever he looked.
Meng Hao’s mind trembled as the figure looked away from him.
“Emperor Tang!” gasped Meng Hao. He was certain that the person just now…. was the Emperor of the Great Tang!
“The lands of South Heaven are filled with hidden dragons and crouching tigers….” he thought. “The Emperor of the Great Tang has an unfathomable cultivation base. Is South Heaven the only place like this, or are the other planets similar? Perhaps only people in the same Realm as father can understand such things.”
Meng Hao clasped hands and bowed toward Chang’an. Then, he transformed into a beam of colorful light as he followed the Immortal Ancient Dao Medallion’s guidance toward the temple. His second true self became the shadow beneath him, following him wherever he went.
Meng Hao had just appeared outside the city, and was about to head off into the distance, when his eyes glittered.
“I heard mom say that the Ji Clan isn’t too far away from here….” A bashful smile appeared on his face and he rubbed his bag of holding. He still had many promissory notes inside, some of which were written by Chosen of the Ji Clan.
“I think it’s time to go settle accounts….” Meng Hao thought with a dry cough. He took out a jade slip which continued a detailed map of the vast Eastern Lands. After examining it for a moment, he headed toward the Ji Clan’s fortress….
The character in the surname of the Tang Emperor is 李, which is a very common name. It’s th same as Lord Li, previous ruler of the Ninth Mountain as well as the Li Clan, which we know exists on Planet North Reed, and whose auxiliary branch was destroyed by Meng Hao ↩
Ksitigarbha was previously mentioned in chapter 702 ↩