Meng Hao silently clasped hands and bowed deeply to the Grand Elder, who looked on with a kind smile as Meng Hao left.
Finally, the Grand Elder was the only one who remained in the temple. Gradually, the kind look faded away, to be replaced by a tranquil calm. However, deep within his eyes, a sinister coldness flickered, something no one would be able to detect.
He turned, and headed deeper into the temple.
A cold voice suddenly echoed out within the temple, causing the Grand Elder to stop in his tracks for a moment.
“I’m not helping you,” the Grand Elder replied, “I’m just following the clan rules. Everything… is for the clan!”
Meng Hao sped through the ancestral mansion in a bright beam of light until he reached his Immortal’s cave. As soon as he set foot into the courtyard, he saw Fang Xi sitting there quietly in front of the meat jelly and parrot.
Considering how mentally preoccupied he was, Meng Hao walked past them and sat down cross-legged in his residence. Eyes glittering, he pulled out the box containing the Nirvana Fruits and looked down at it.
“Contrary to expectation… the Grand Elder really did hand it over to me….
“Nothing he said in the temple seemed fake, but I still can’t shake the feeling… that there was more to what he was saying than what was on the surface.”
Meng Hao wasn’t acting paranoid. After stepping into the cultivation world, things had not always gone as he had expected. He knew that if he wasn’t constantly on the alert, he could easily have ended up perishing on multiple occasions.
He was also aware that he was in danger here in the Fang Clan. If he wasn’t cautious in everything, he could easily find himself in a deadly situation.
“There must be something wrong with the Nirvana Fruits themselves!” he thought, his eyes glittering. He was still sticking to his original judgement of the Grand Elder; none of the things the old man had said could change that. Finally, he looked down at the box and slowly opened it up.
A faint pressure began to emanate from within the box as Meng Hao looked in thoughtful silence at the two withered fruits inside. Each of them was about the size of an infant’s fist.
The blood in his veins surged, a bloodline connection to the fruits that caused Meng Hao to suddenly feel a twinge of doubt regarding his judgement.
“These truly are Nirvana Fruits, and they’re definitely stimulating my blood. It seems like… they really are the Nirvana Fruits I produced all those years ago.
“Don’t tell me that I really was thinking too much into things?” He sighed and then slowly picked one of the Nirvana Fruits up. As soon as he touched it, the reaction from his blood was even stronger, as if it longed to assimilate the fruit. He placed it directly in front of his face and looked at it closely.
“I need a lot of Spirit Extract to return these Nirvana Fruits to their original state. At that point, I can absorb them….” He sighed again and then began to place the Nirvana Fruit back into its box. It was at this point that, all of a sudden, his hand stopped in place, and a bright gleam appeared in his eyes.
“Wait, something’s off. The aura of Time on these Nirvana Fruits… is not that of only a few hundred years!!” Panting, he slowly lifted the Nirvana Fruit back up and stared at it closely. After a long moment, a grim expression filled his face.
Meng Hao had cultivated the magic of Time in the past, and had used Time-based divine abilities. Therefore, there were few people who could accurately judge matters of Time the way he could. Although the auras of the Nirvana Fruits were incredibly weak, they had been perfectly preserved inside the jade box. Because of that, the aura of Time was still there, and even though it was almost impossible to detect, Meng Hao… could sense it!
This was something that nobody, not even the Grand Elder, could possibly have predicted.
“It’s time to find out exactly how old these particular Nirvana Fruits are!” He performed an incantation gesture with his right hand, unleashing Time magic. He made a sealing mark, and then the light of augury could be seen in his eyes as he slowly stripped away the layers of mystery that surrounded the fruit.
100 years. 200 years. 300 years….
Two hours passed, after which Meng Hao began to breathe heavily.
“10,000 years already!” By this point, he could determine with absolute certainty that this Nirvana Fruit was not his. A cold light flickered in his eyes, and after taking a deep breath, he continued to utilize Time magic to determine exactly how old the Nirvana Fruit was.
15,000 years. 20,000 years. 25,000 years….
If Meng Hao didn’t possess eighty percent of the power of a true Immortal, and have an Immortal meridian inside of him that was eighty percent complete, then he definitely would not have been able to use Time magic for such an extended length of time. The sun soon set, and the moon rose high into the sky. A tremor ran through Meng Hao; his cultivation base was almost thoroughly exhausted… However, he was finally able to roughly determine the true age of the Nirvana Fruit.
“More than… 100,000 years!!”
Meng Hao panted, and a look of disbelief could be seen on his face. He then glanced over at the second Nirvana Fruit. To his senses, both seemed to be exactly the same.
“They both exceed 100,000 years!
“These aren’t MY Nirvana Fruits! Whose are they?” Meng Hao’s eyes flickered, and as of this moment his faith in his own judgement was stronger than ever. The Grand Elder definitely had some sinister motive in giving him these Nirvana Fruits.
“The problem doesn’t lie with the Spirit Elixir, nor in the words he spoke. Instead… the problem lies in that which I would least suspect… the Nirvana Fruits themselves!” His face darkened.
“Now that I think about it, one of the things he emphasized the most, the part that seemed to be spoken out of care for me, was the part about absorbing the Nirvana Fruits as quickly as possible. That part… is definitely suspicious!” Killing intent flickered in Meng Hao’s eyes. As of now, he was certain that if he tried to absorb the Nirvana Fruits, he would find himself in some sort of deadly crisis.
Snorting coldly, Meng Hao put the Nirvana Fruits back in the box, then strode out into the courtyard and interrupted the duel between Fang Xi and the parrot and meat jelly.
“Fang Xi,” he said, “have you heard of anyone else in the clan producing Nirvana Fruits?”
Fang Xi looked completely exhausted, although a gleam of stubbornness and even excitement could be seen in his eyes. When he heard Meng Hao’s question, he gaped in shock.
“No, I haven’t,” he replied. “Only Nirvana Flowers, but those are kind of useless. The only person to ever produce Nirvana Fruits is you…. Eee? Wait, now that I think about it, there’s a rumor that the first generation Patriarch produced Nirvana Fruits. Why, what’s wrong?”
Meng Hao’s eyes flickered, and he promptly avoided answering the question. However, more feelings of suspicion rose up in his heart.
“The Nirvana Fruits of the first generation Patriarch,” he thought. “They would definitely be considered a precious treasure. Why would the Grand Elder give them to me? Apparently, these Nirvana Fruits are incredibly ancient, over 100,000 years old….”
Starting the next day, Meng Hao made his way around the ancestral mansion filled with doubts, although no trace of his feelings could be seen on his face. He met quite a few clan members, and went to quite a few different buildings. He did his best to act exactly as a clan member would who had been missing for years, and finally returned to the clan. For example… he thirstily devoured information about the clan’s history.
Everything he did seemed completely normal, and not suspicious in any way. Days passed. About a week later, Meng Hao’s interest in the Clan History Pavilion seemed to grow deeper.
Much of the information about the clan’s history was recorded there, and Meng Hao often showed up to pore through the records, which no one found strange. There were a vast quantity of jade slips filled with information about past events. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much information about clan Patriarchs, usually just a sentence or two, or a brief description.
Half a month passed. Occasionally, the Grand Elder would kindly summon him and remind him to concoct the Spirit Elixir as soon as possible, and then absorb the Nirvana Fruits. In the end, Meng Hao finally managed to piece together a relatively intact story from all of the scattered bits of information he had found.
Currently, he sat cross-legged in his residence, eyes closed as he reviewed all of the information he had gathered in the past days.
“A sixth generation Patriarch, with an exceedingly high cultivation base, went into secluded meditation for a single day… and suddenly died!
“A tenth generation Patriarch was also in secluded meditation… and suddenly died!
“The same thing happened to a thirteenth generation Patriarch and a sixteenth generation Patriarch. Both of them went into secluded meditation and then… suddenly died!
“It wasn’t just them. In the past 100,000 years, there were other Chosen and various clan members who went into secluded meditation and then mysteriously died.”
All of this was information he had discovered in the jade history slips, tiny clues and scraps of knowledge that at first seemed unremarkable.
Although they didn’t seem out of the ordinary when taken alone, Meng Hao, being in the crisis that he was, had discovered all the information and organized all the clues. In the end, an intense desire to kill rose up in his heart.
“Roughly 30,000 years ago, the frequency of the sudden deaths decreased. Nowadays, they rarely occur.” When he opened his eyes, they shone with a bright light.
“After tracking down more information about those ancestors who had died… there was one common factor connecting all of them together. Some of them went directly into the Ancestral Treasure Pagoda, and others traded merit points to acquire rewards from the same pagoda.
“That’s definitely suspicious. Throughout the past 100,000 years, many clan members have earned rewards from the Ancestral Treasure Pagoda. These people were the only ones who died suddenly. It does seem suspicious, but somewhat circumstantial.
“Until….” Meng Hao patted his bag of holding to produce a jade slip. His eyes began to glow coldly.
“Until I found out this bit of information about the last clan member to suddenly die, 30,000 years ago, information recorded in the diary of his son!
“Just before dying, he managed to pass word to his son that he was going to assimilate an object belonging to an ancestor. It was something no one in the past had ever succeeded in doing. Furthermore, anyone else who had attempted to accomplish the same feat had died. However, word had been passed down by one of the ancestors that if someone could successfully absorb it, it would solve the riddle of the Fang Clan bloodline!”
Meng Hao took a deep breath and closed his eyes. After a moment, they opened again, and were extremely calm. There were no waves of shock or astonishment as he looked down at the jade box.
“If my speculations are correct, most, if not all, of those people suddenly died for exactly the same reason. And that reason was none other than these two Nirvana Fruits!
“These Nirvana Fruits… originally belonged to that ancient ancestor!” A cold smile broke out on Meng Hao’s face.
“The Grand Elder is pushing me to absorb them because he wants me to experience that same sudden death!
“The Grand Elder gave me the Nirvana Fruits in front of everyone, so that it would be no secret. All the things he said, even that biased oath, all seemed extremely aboveboard and honest.
“Therefore, if I died while absorbing the Nirvana Fruits, just like everyone else who has attempted to do so, he would have done nothing except lead me in that direction with his words. Any blame for my death would have been placed solely on the Nirvana Fruits.
“Quite a flawless plan. I would die a meaningless death, and the Grand Elder might even hold an incredible funeral service for me….” Meng Hao’s smile became even colder than before.