The distant sky was misty white, with dark clouds overhead. Gradually, the sun climbed up, turning the clouds violet, and then bright red.
Eventually, sunlight pierced through the clouds, illuminating the world in a riot of colors. At around that time, an old man and a youngster appeared, walking through the forested mountain.
The old man wore a Daoist robe, and although he kept his cultivation base mostly concealed, from the way his eyes sparkled like lightning, it was obvious that he was in the Core Formation stage. The child who walked with him was a mere Qi Condensation cultivator.
Eventually they entered the town and reached the temple. Outside the entrance, the youngster caught sight of Bai Xiaochun slumped up against the wall. He frowned.
“The world is a bitter place,” the old man said. “Those who fail to understand the great Dao live their lives like insects. Pay him no heed.” Shaking his head, he led the child inside. Some time ago, the temple had caught fire and nearly burned to the ground. It was in terrible shape.
“Master, is this the place?”
The old man nodded. “Yes. Years ago, fire fell from the heavens and landed right here. Immerse yourself in this place, and your Fire Kindling Incantation will rise to the next level.” Looking around at the ruins of the temple, he sighed. “This was once a temple to the Eternal Mother. Before you begin meditating, make sure to pay your respects.”
“The Eternal Mother?” the child said, clearly surprised. He quickly clasped hands and bowed respectfully. Then he looked up at his Master and asked, “Master, the story about the Eternal Sons and the Enemy from Beyond is true, isn’t it? And we can see the Enemy from Beyond when we look up into the sky, right?”
The truth was that the boy already knew the answers to his questions, but he still wanted to hear his omnipotent, omniscient Master explain the answer.
By this point, the conversation between the Master and apprentice had reached Bai Xiaochun’s ears, and he slowly opened his bleary eyes. He was hungover, and his head was pounding. At the moment, he couldn't even see clearly. But that didn’t stop his memories from rising up and filling his heart with pain and confusion.
He thought about how he had been forced to fuse with Du Lingfei, and about how his apprentice had died right in front of him. He thought about all the plots and schemes that had played out, and how the entire world had been destroyed in front of his very eyes.
The things he had experienced were things that most people of his generation could never even imagine happening.
Because of all of that, he now felt confused, bitter, and in pain. He was lost.
Only in his drunken dreams could he once again feel happy and blessed…. But after sobering up, and looking into a sky that was not the sky of the Heavenspan Realm, depression would grip him tight once again.
After his months of wandering in this strange world, he had heard enough from the local inhabitants to know that he was in… the Eternal Lands.
Even the mortals here knew the beautiful legends about this place…. The truth was that they actually resided on a gargantuan flower.
The Eternal Flower was vast beyond imagination, with its five petals forming enormous districts, which were called immortal domains.
People usually referred to the flower as the Eternal Mother, whom they worshipped with pious devotion. Even small, remote towns like this one had temples erected in her honor.
According to the legends, people had lived on the petals of the Eternal Flower for too many years to even count. In fact, it had been this way from the moment life began in this world….
In between the five immortal domains was something called the Eternal Sea…. It was a sea of mists that mortals couldn’t even approach safely. According to the stories… within the depths of the Eternal Sea, there had once existed three enormous statues!
People called the statues the Eternal Sons. In the legends, those three Eternal Sons had once fought a spectacular war with the Enemy from Beyond. In the final battle, the Enemy from Beyond fell into slumber, and the three Eternal Sons became statues.
It was a story that had been told in the Eternal Lands for many years. Oftentimes, stories that get passed down through the ages are eventually forgotten or changed. More commonly… people stop believing them.
And yet… the story of the three Eternal Sons and the Enemy from Beyond had never been forgotten. Even the mortals had full faith that the story was no legend. It was the truth!
Bai Xiaochun put the jug of alcohol to his lips and took a long drink. As he listened to the Master and apprentice talking in the temple, he looked up into the sky. Back when he had first arrived in this world more than half a year ago, he had awoken, looked up and been struck with astonishment.
This sky looked very different from the sky he was used to. Now, as he listened to the Master talking about the history of the Eternal Lands, he gazed up into the sky with that same sense of wonderment.
On each side of this sky… hung five enormous mountains. At the bases of either of the two sets of five mountains were enormous land masses, each of them just as large as one of the immortal domains!
The mountains and the land masses did not rise up from the Eternal Lands, they just hung there… as if they were a part of the heavens!
“Mountains? Landmasses?” Bai Xiaochun murmured. “No… those are obviously two gigantic hands! The hands of… a gargantuan giant!!” That had been his initial reaction months ago upon first looking up into the sky.
The truth was that even the children in the Eternal Lands knew the history of such matters…. After all, in addition to the two enormous hands in the sky, there was also… a face!
The face existed far away in the heavens, but it was still clear for everyone to see. It was awe-inspiring, harsh and cruel, and generally speaking, terrifying!
That face hovered there at all times in the sky above the Eternal Lands!
If it were true that the mountains and land masses were really hands, just as Bai Xiaochun had assumed from the beginning, then it was obvious to conclude that, because of the huge face, there must be a spectacularly unfathomably large giant in the void outside of the Eternal Lands.
The giant was so large that even half of its face would be large enough to fill most of the sky above the Eternal Lands. And its hands… seemed poised to crush the Eternal Lands into dust!
“And he,” said the old man in the temple, “is the Enemy from Beyond who fought the three Eternal Sons.”
According to the legends, the Enemy from Beyond had destroyed the starry sky, but had been stopped outside of the Eternal Lands by the three Eternal Sons. Those three sons had sacrificed themselves in death to seal the Enemy from Beyond in a state of slumber.
The stories said that one day in the future, the giant would awaken, open his eyes, and try to destroy the Eternal Lands.
Bai Xiaochun took another long drink.
He had heard this story numerous times over the past months, and every time he did, it made him think of the mural he had seen on deck 1 of the bone galleon all those years ago. It seemed… like the same story.
“People say… that after the three Eternal Sons sealed the Enemy from Beyond, destructive fluctuations filled the world. Because of that, the Eternal Sons brought all of their people into their own bodies, and then transformed into three enormous statues that stood in the depths of the Eternal Sea.
“It is also said that the Eternal Sons used their last bits of life force to give birth to all the living things that inhabited the worlds formed by their bodies…. Their descendants became the imperial clans. And it was the emperors who led their people, spread knowledge of the world, and imparted the ways of cultivation….
“The legends also speak of how, many years later, the first statue shattered…. People emerged from that world and were the first to lay eyes on the Eternal Lands. When they saw the strange things in the sky, they were not as happy as they had been when they first emerged into the open. However, under the direction of their emperor, they settled down and began to multiply….”
As Bai Xiaochun listened to the story being told in the temple, he wanted to smile, and yet couldn’t. This was not his first time hearing the tale, and yet, every time he did, it shocked him to the core.
Note from the author, Er Gen: There are four main emotions; happiness, anger, sorrow, and joy, and those emotions appear in the stories we read. I’ve seen some people predicting that this story will end as a tragedy. In response, I flick my sleeve and shout, “Who dares to say such a thing! Impossible! I’d stake my handsome good looks that it won’t!”
1. The mural was described in