As the winds rushed past his ears, his body freefell with ever growing velocity. In that moment of danger however, Ning Chen drew out his trusty Ink Sword with a resounding stab, lodged himself onto the sheer cliff face.
As his body halted abruptly, so did the little ape who grabbed onto the teen’s leg in the nick of time.
All around him, the clattering sounds of rocks echoed deafeningly in the darkness. Looking down, he saw a bottomless abyss beneath him.
Now that the way up had been sealed and there was no end in sight below, he was truly caught between a rock and a hard place.
Because of the sudden movements, little Ming Yue had already awoken from her slumber and had also grabbed onto the only support in sight. Looking around, she saw only the consuming darkness and that made her hug the teen even tighter.
“I’m here, don’t worry.” He softly comforted her.
“Mhm.” As she replied, she tightened her grip once more.
“Make sure you hang on tight, I’m heading down.”
As he said that, he dislodged the Ink Sword and promptly freefell once more.
Just like that, Ning Chen would progressively descend down the abyss ten zhang at a time. Because little Ming Yue had his True Qi to protect her, she was relatively safe throughout.
Finally, after countless terrifying descents, the three of them landed on solid ground. Now that they weren’t hanging precariously off a cliff, the little ape obediently found a quiet spot to settle in. As it sat there watching, it didn’t dare to make a sound.
Still shrouded in darkness, Ning Chen took out a fire-inch stick from his garments and after giving it a blow, lit it up and illuminated the surroundings.
There was only one path visible for now so the three of them set off once more. After wandering through the darkness for a while, they finally came upon a glimmer of light in the distance. It was a clear light source but it didn’t come from the sun. Instead, it was the spiritual glow unique to a martial practitioner.
Being a martial practitioner himself, he naturally wasn’t a stranger to it.
And yet this invisible pressure he felt in the distance, it was overwhelmingly stronger than any experts he met so far.
Realizing that, his eyebrows couldn’t help but jump. How could there be such a master in a place like this?
Without a doubt, this person was at the very least at the level of those five Xiantian masters or even greater.
Thankfully, the spiritual energy he felt was extremely peaceful and bore them no ill will at all. It was as if his aura was a calm ocean, boundless and all encompassing.
Ning Chen pressed onwards in a determined fashion. He was curious, exactly who was hiding out in a place like this?
Against a master at that level, they wouldn’t stand a chance at all so distance had no meaning.
A hundred steps later, the surroundings suddenly shimmered with an illusory quality. Immediately, the world began to change and soon he found that even Ming Yue and the little ape had gone missing.
Conspicuously placed in in front of him was a lone purple ancient Qin. Around it, the formless waves of its Grand Dao of Sound radiated gently outwards and stealthily purified the consciousness of those who entered its realm.
“An illusory world.” He said with eyes narrowed.
Back when he went exploring through the Underworld’s main hall, he encountered a similar situation as well. Just like what he faced now, it was an extremely strange sensation that befuddled the senses of those caught within preventing them from distinguishing between what was real and what was fake. At the end, it was the white foal who saved him by swallowing some unknown object.
“The realm of the consciousness, what you see here is all real.” It was then that a youth dressed in purple sauntered out. Seating himself down at ancient qin, he then addressed the teen.
Hearing that, his eyes went wide once more. This was that master he sensed just now. Now that he was so close to him, there actually wasn’t any oppressiveness radiating off him.
“Senior, may I know where this is?” He bowed before respectfully posing his question.
“The belly of the Taotie.” The purple youth halted his qin playing before raising his head to answer the question.
“Taotie.” As those words left Ning Chen’s mouth, he frowned. Wasn’t that a monster from the legends? To think it actually existed.
(TL: One of four evil creatures from ancient chinese mythology. Has a goat’s body, human’s face and hands, fangs of a tiger and an extra eye in its armpits.)
According to legends, it was one of the offsprings of a dragon and was extremely gluttonous. It was said that it could devour everything in the world and only existed in the ancient legends.
“Can I have a look at the Heavenly Bible within your body?” Said the purple youth, interrupting Ning Chen’s ruminations as he did so.
Ning Chen trembled. How did he know about the Heavenly Bible within his body?
Noticing the apprehension on Ning Chen’s face, the purple youth calmly smiled and said, “There’s no need to be so surprised. A thousand years ago, I used to possess a page from the Heavenly Bible. That is why I’m sensitive to its aura.”
Hearing that, Ning Chen’s eyes narrowed. Thousand years ago…didn’t that mean that this youth had existed for over a thousand years.
“May I know of the senior’s name?” He bowed once more before asking.
“Jiang Wangji.” Answered the youth after pondering for a second. It had been too long since someone asked for his name; he had almost forgotten what it was by now.
“The Dao Principal!”That revelation struck his heart like a sledgehammer; to think that this youth was the head of Daoism one thousand years ago.
It was said that the Daoist School existed long before Confucianism and could even be compared to the Eternal Night Cult. However, it became extinct a thousand years ago and its teachings were lost to time.
In the past, the Scroll of Moon belonged to the Daoist School but after its extinction, the Scroll of Moon disappeared as well. It was only in the last century or so that this heavenly relic resurfaced once more and was reclaimed by the Eternal Night Cult.
Meeting an antique like him, it would be an outright lie to say that he wasn’t shocked. Besides, all lies were pointless before this man’s overwhelming cultivation.
Not doubting the man any further, he activated his cultivation body and circulated the Qi within his Dantian. A moment later, the two broken pages of the Heavenly Bible floated out of his body.
“The Scroll of Life and the Scroll of Earth.” With his extraordinary knowledge, he was able to discern their origins with a mere glance. And yet the youth didn’t seem all that surprised that Ning Chen possessed two of the scrolls within him. After all, everyone had their own fortunes; being able to possess two scrolls meant that this teen had better luck than most people.
Returning the scrolls back to his Dantian, he thought to himself, so that other scroll was called the Scroll of Earth? Sounded a whole lot grander than the name he thought of: the Scroll of Dust…
“Is the Sage still alive?” Jiang Wangji suddenly interjected amidst Ning Chen’s musings.
At that, Ning Chen’s expression froze for a second before promptly recovering. The Dao Principal and the Sage were both people from the same era, for them to know each other wasn’t strange at all.
“Most likely, however this junior doesn’t know for sure.”
Pondering for a second, Jiang Wangji said, “He should be at place called the Ashen Heaven’s Academy. A thousand years ago, he once told me that he wanted to set up a school called that.”
It was that moment that Ning Chen finally confirmed the veracity of his theory. The old sage within the academy had to be the Sage of a thousand years ago!
“If such is the case, then the Sage is still alive. However, this junior has a feeling that the Sage won’t be able to last for another ten years.”
“Sigh…” Hearing that, the youth couldn’t help but sigh lightly, “Even an astonishing genius like the Sage is unable to withstand the ravages of time. These thousand years were truly an eternity for us both.”
Hesitating for a second, Ning Chen finally couldn’t contain the curiosity within him and asked, “Senior, can humans really live for a thousand years?”
“Impossible.” He shook his head before promptly eyeing his surroundings. “Do you know why I willing choose to confine myself to this place?”
“I pray the senior enlightens this junior.”
“Because time flows slower in the belly of the Taotie than the outside world. I can’t compare to the Sage so I have no choice but to employ such a method to withstand those thousand years. As for the Sage’s method, you won’t understand it nor do you need to. However, such immortality all come with a price, no one is exempt from this.”
As he said that, his words echoed with an eternity of weariness that made one fact abundantly clear: even though he was in the stomach of the Taotie, the Dao Principal won’t last much longer either. Those thousand years used up the majority of his lifespan already.
Seeing that, Ning Chen was shocked once more and at same time, he was confused. The senior and the Sage didn’t seem like people who were afraid of dying so why would hang on so ardently to life, even going so far as to spend a thousand years living a life worse than death.
“I know you have your own questions, however, now is not the time to reveal those answers yet otherwise it might cause some unnecessary variables. After hanging on for so long, both the Sage and I won’t allow anymore mistakes in our plans.”
As those words left his mouth, Jiang Wangji stood up and walked up to the teen. Hands outstretched, he gently tapped the area between his brows and almost immediately after that, Ning Chen could sense a chapter of the Daoist School’s techniques embed themselves into his brain.
“I know that the Scroll of Life only has a cultivation technique and no skill to speak of. This technique contains a Daoist secret art that, other than the forbidden skill recorded in the scroll itself, is the skill most suited to the Scroll of Life.”
“I do not have much to ask of you, all I hope is that you live no matter the cost. And then once you’ve guaranteed your survival, I hope that you will do your best to locate the Scroll of Void.”
“Remember, the fact that the Sage and I are alive mustn’t be revealed to anyone else. As for the exit, you simply have to exit the same way you entered. Once you’ve left this world, I’ll bewilder the Taotie into thinking that it is time for another meal. You need to wait for the moment it opens its mouth and then immediately rush out. At that time, I’ll do my best to aid you as well.”
Having said that, the surroundings began to shatter and that purple silhouette faded into ocean of stars above before finally dissipating with the illusion.
By the time he came back to his senses, he found little Ming Yue by his side watching over him with a concerned look on her face. Hands gripped tightly around his hand, she stared unblinkingly at him as if he could disappear into nothingness at any time.
However, given how little time they had, Ning Chen didn’t have the time to explain what had just happened to the little girl. Pulling her into his embrace, he immediately rushed back along the route they took to arrive here.
Seeing that, the little ape roared and promptly followed them.
An instant later, he felt the spiritual energy behind him grow ever brighter like a miniature purple sun. Ning Chen knew right away that it was the senior’s skill at work.
Suddenly, the earth beneath them trembled and a moment later, the horizon of the Qizhou Mountain Range appeared above them once more. Mouth opened wide, the dazzling sunlight immediately banished the darkness around them. From the looks of things, it was dawn.
Ning Chen’s Qi exploded at that instant and swept up the little ape as well as it transformed into a ray of light and rushed for the sky.
At that same moment, a boundless power materialized out of thin air and shoved them out of the Taotie’s belly with a palm strike that was both forceful yet gentle.
Seconds after Ning Chen left the Taotie’s body, the giant rift in the ground swiftly closed up. Within the deepest reaches of the Taotie’s belly, Jiang Wangjie gazed wistfully at the fading sunlight and sighed. It had been far too long since he felt its warm embrace.
However, he was a man from a thousand years ago. He could no longer bask in the sunlight or he would quickly turn to dust; to the heavens, his existence was something that mustn’t be allowed.
It had a been long long thousand years, hopefully they made it in time.
That teenager just now truly wasn’t a bad candidate. After all, not everyone could listen to the Soul Departing Melody of the Daoist School and not be affected. That fact alone showed that his true nature wasn’t bad. It was neither greedy nor arrogant, a person worth entrusting their hopes to.
In these past thousand years, all the people who the Taotie devoured had basically perished. Even if they didn’t die, there had been no one until now who could withstand the test of the Soul Departing Melody. Human nature was as such, greedy, just like the Taotie.
Thankfully, he was able to meet such a person right at the very end before the flames of his life finally run out.
The Scroll of Void was simply too important to this world and had to be found as soon as possible otherwise the impending calamity would turn into a final reckoning.
Only those who bore the Heavenly Bible could pick up on the unique aura of the Heavenly Bible. The Scroll of Void represented the void and destruction at the same time. For the upcoming calamity, it was sure to be a key factor in overcoming it.
The Sage and him were simply too old now and couldn’t stop this calamity. All they hoped for was that a thousand years later, the younger generation would be able to shoulder their burden.
In this world, the Sage’s predictions were unparalleled. Thus, he believed in the Sage’s words: there was always hope for the human world.