With the exception of Zhixiang, all of the Chosen who had come to the Immortal Ancient Daoist Rite Temple were shaken. They were now… starting to feel convinced about Meng Hao.
Some had been skeptical before, but then, one bizarre thing after another appeared. The strange sights, the cold wind, the shocking aura… made it so they had no choice but to believe.
This was especially true when apparently, Meng Hao’s crazed weeping and laughing resonated with his surroundings. It left the onlookers with tingling scalps. The bizarre phenomena in the place, the inky black hair, the swinging vine, the voices rising up from the ground, all of it appeared to them to have been caused by Meng Hao.
Even Zhixiang stared with eyes wide from disbelief. If she didn’t already know Meng Hao, she would have been completely astonished.
If everything went as planned, it might be able to buy Meng Hao some time, but not much. The people here were all extraordinary, and the slightest misstep could arouse their suspicions. All it would take would be for one person to attack him, and the charade would be broken.
In fact, it was at this moment that an elder member of the Ji Clan suddenly moved forward, eyes glittering, clearly with the intent of testing Meng Hao out.
Meng Hao sighed as he realized that these people really weren’t easy to fool. However, it was at this point that the old man from the Ji Clan suddenly stopped in place, and his face filled with astonishment. Everyone else’s expressions also flickered, and not a few people actually gasped.
Meng Hao was taken aback and wondered what he had done to provoke such a reaction.
It was at this point that a cold wind gusted against his back. It almost felt like ice on the nape of his neck. Reflexively, he turned around to see….
A head floating up from the well behind him. It was a head that looked like it had been rotting away in the waters of the well for millions of years!
When Meng Hao turned around, the head floated over toward him, and just when it seemed it would touch him, he blinked. Then he turned back to the crowds and, his voice placid, said, “This is Inky. There’s no need to fear her.”
He cleared his throat and then pointed over to the swinging vine that dripped with black blood. “Over there is Lily. Come on, Lily, say hello to everyone.”
As soon as he spoke, the vine stopped moving. Then the dripping blood began to move, as if an invisible figure were walking over to stand next to Meng Hao.
Even Meng Hao was shocked by this. He looked at the black blood dripping to the ground next to him and could just barely make out the image of a little girl standing there, but it was unclear whether she was staring at the crowds of people, or at him.
Meng Hao wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep this up. Giving a firm look at the crowd of nearly a thousand people, he sat down cross-legged and closed his eyes to meditate.
He was starting to feel that he might have taken things a bit too far….
In the eyes of all the onlookers, Meng Hao, with his tattered robe, placid expression, and ancient air, seemed to be at one with the temple. As he sat there cross-legged, the pale-white head floated behind him, surrounded by drifting strands of inky blackness.
Next to Meng Hao was some invisible being that dripped black blood down onto the ground. Each drop that splashed onto the ground echoed with strange power that filled their hearts with shock.
No one dared to move a muscle, not even Zhao Yifan from the Sublime Flow Sword Grotto, who stood there hesitating. Further off, Fan Dong’er was staring at Meng Hao, a brilliant light flickering in her eyes.
Ji Yin sat cross-legged some distance away, Karma swirling around him in such a way that it was impossible to even see him clearly.
The three Chosen from the Fang Clan all sat down. Occasionally, Fang Yunyi would look over at Zhixiang with a look of adoration. Fang Donghan stared at the temple, his eyes flickering with desire.
Song Luodan sat with the Song Clan, proud and aloof. Occasionally he would look at Meng Hao, and the desire to fight could be seen flickering in his eyes.
As for Li Ling’er, it was impossible to tell what she was thinking. Her head was bowed and she seemed to be studying the earth in front of her. Occasionally she would gently stroke her hand across the surface of the ground, apparently performing some type of augury.
Wang Mu sat there with flickering eyes that made it impossible to read his thoughts.
The Chosen of the other sects, churches and Holy Lands were all lost in thought in the darkness of night. Shockingly, they sat there in front of the Immortal Ancient Daoist Rite Temple for an entire night.
At dawn, the oil lamp winked out. Meng Hao knew that once night ended, the lamp would stop burning. However, only when it was truly extinguished would the trial by fire actually be over.
The instant the sky became bright, Meng Hao opened his eyes. The floating head had vanished, and the dripping blood was gone. Everything returned to its normal state. Many people in the crowd opened their eyes to look at Meng Hao.
Zhao Yifan was the first person to stand up and approach Meng Hao. Fan Dong’er rose to her feet at almost the same time, and approached from a different direction. Li Ling’er looked coldly over at Meng Hao and also moved toward him.
In addition, Ji Yin stood, Karma swirling around him as he began to stride in Meng Hao’s direction.
There were other Chosen who also began to approach Meng Hao, angry looks on their faces.
“Stop right there!” said Meng Hao coolly.
The others said nothing in response, but rather, sped up. Zhao Yifan was the fastest, and he waved his hand as he closed in on Meng Hao, causing a stream of sword qi to appear. The dragon-like sword qi spread out, transforming into nine shocking Sword Dragons. Their roaring caused the air to vibrate as they twirled together to shoot toward Meng Hao.
“Fellow Daoist,” said Zhao Yifan, “I can sense the aura of South Heaven on you! You’re no groundskeeper!”
By the time he finished speaking, the Sword Dragons were almost upon Meng Hao.
“The Dao of the sword exists in the heart, and within one’s will,” continued Zhao Yifan. The nine Sword Dragons had transformed into nine swords that stabbed down toward Meng Hao.
Meng Hao’s eyes flickered as his desire to fight exploded up. As he rose to his feet, his right hand clenched into a fist that punched out toward the nine swords.
As he punched out, a mountain appeared in front of his fist, which rumbled through the air to slam into the nine swords. A huge boom rattled out, and massive ripples spread out in every direction.
“Your Karma is not that of someone from ancient times.” The cold voice belonged to Ji Yin. As it echoed about, his body went blurry, then reappeared behind Meng Hao. His right hand flashed in an incantation gesture and then pushed out toward Meng Hao’s back with lightning speed.
The motion caused Meng Hao’s soul to tremble. All the memories in his life seemed to appear, which transformed into Karma that stirred his mind.
Meng Hao’s expression was calm, and he snorted coldly. Since his act had been seen through, there was no point in continuing with the facade. His left hand flashed in an incantation gesture and he pointed toward Ji Yin.
The Withering Character Incantation erupted out, and the air between Meng Hao and Ji Yin seemed to collapse as a huge black hole appeared. It instantly exerted an incredible gravitational force that rumbled loudly. Meng Hao leapt backward as Li Ling’er appeared in front of him, her beautiful face twisted with the desire to kill.
“The memories of this land say you only got here a month earlier than us!” she said. Her graceful hands performed an incantation, and the willow leaf mark on her forehead flickered. Suddenly, a willow leaf appeared in her hand.
As soon as the willow leaf appeared, a boundless life force exploded out of it. When it reached its pinnacle, it suddenly began to show signs of death. The willow leaf turned black, and then flitted out into the air toward Meng Hao.
“Seal!” said Li Ling’er coolly. The willow leaf emitted a rumbling sound as it exploded. It transformed into a network of black veins that almost looked like a net, which then descended toward Meng Hao.
Seeing that he was about to be sealed, Meng Hao snorted coldly and then stretched out both arms. He lifted his head up and shouted, invoking some Daoist magics he had learned that enabled him to sprout feathers and grow hide. Shockingly, he transformed into a huge black roc, cruel and savage in appearance, that escaped the enveloping black veins.
As soon as he shot into the air, he heard a melodious voice speaking in his ear.
“Daoist Brother, you’re quite exceptional. You almost had Dong’er here fooled.” As the voice was transmitted to him, Meng Hao suddenly felt his hair stand up on end as a profound sense of danger filled him. Without hesitation, he produced the Lightning Cauldron. Lightning covered his body, and he switched places with Li Ling’er.
As soon as he switched places, he looked over at Fan Dong’er and saw that she had a Blue Lotus in her hand. A moment ago, a young boy could be seen standing on the lotus, beckoning to him as if he wanted to turn him into a lotus seed to pop into his mouth.
There was also a rusted black needle that emanated an aura of rot, which had been thrown toward him by one of the old men standing next to Song Luodan of the Song Clan. If that needle had stabbed into him, he would have been transformed into a puddle of blood.
All of these things take some time to describe, but actually happened in the time it takes a spark to fly off of a piece of flint. Meng Hao had just exchanged blows with Zhao Yifan of the Sublime Flow Sword Grotto, one of the Three Great Daoist Societies, Ji Yin of the Ji Clan, Li Ling’er of the Li Clan, and Fan Dong’er of the Nine Seas God World.
It seemed like a simple encounter, but in actuality, it brimmed with killing intent. The slightest misstep, and Meng Hao’s blood would have showered down like rain. Even as the desire to fight burned in his eyes, Li Ling’er’s face fell. The willow leaf mark on her forehead glittered rapidly, and Fan Dong’er made a surprised grunt and held back her attack. Because of that, Li Ling’er was able to avoid the deadly Blue Lotus Magic.
Everyone watching the encounter was completely shocked. Strange gleams appeared in some of the Chosen’s eyes as they flew into the air toward Meng Hao.
“Who is this guy? Zhao Yifan and those others all attacked at the same time, and he still didn’t seem to be in a bad position!”
“He can’t just be some random person! I wonder how long he’s been practicing cultivation. If it’s less than a thousand years, then he’s definitely extraordinary!”
“He just avoided the Blue Lotus Magic of Goddess Fan Dong’er from the Nine Seas God World! That Lightning Cauldron has the power of Form Displacement Transposition!”
“You’re missing the most important part, which is… he got here before us! He must be in possession of the good fortune of the Immortal Ancient Daoist Rite Temple!”