Su Ming originally would not believe him so easily, but at that moment, the words the old man had said previously surfaced in his head, and when he looked at his lifeless body, all of these things made him become uncertain about this Art of Life.
‘Life…’ Su Ming closed his eyes, and when he reopened them some time later, he looked towards the black wooden block before him and lifted his right hand swiftly to seize it. A sparkle of surprise appeared in his eyes. At the instant he touched that wooden block, he vaguely saw the sights of all sorts of people going through the cycle of life, of being born, getting old, getting sick, and dying right before his eyes…
The sights of those people going through their cycles of life flashed by his eyes. Those unfamiliar faces and unfamiliar voices all turned into a huge smiling face in the end. However, that smiling face was crying and rushed towards Su Ming abruptly, causing his heart to lurch forward, and at the same time, the dazed look in his eyes disappeared. Everything returned to normal.
Bai Su’s father remained seated cross-legged on the ground. It was still dark all around him, and the sounds of waves crashing on the surface of the sea would occasionally travel into his ears from the distance, fusing with the contrasting silence in the area.
However, Su Ming could not calm down his emotions, because right in the depths of his heart, that instant when the smiling and crying face charged towards him kept repeating itself in his head, along with a faded voice saying the same words again and again.
"What is Life?"
It was a question. The voice did not seem to be seeking for an answer from someone else, but was a question the speaker had asked himself as he was in the process of gaining an epiphany. Due to a special fluctuation of power, that epiphany had filled the black wooden block, and it was precisely because of this epiphany gathering itself on the black piece of wood that it became extraordinary!
Su Ming had asked himself that question when he gained possession of that one thread of presence belonging to Life Cultivation. However, at that time, that question had been brought up with uncertainty and confusion.
Yet now, the faded voice traveling from the black wooden block brought with it insight. It was a question directed to the speaker itself once he gained that epiphany, and within that voice was a hint of nostalgia and sentiment.
The words were the same, but the meaning was largely different.
Su Ming understood, but he forgot the answer. He could not answer that question, because he was even more at a loss.
What is Life…?
Su Ming remained silent. He had a sudden feeling that the epiphany he had gained earlier through some of the thought processes he had went through were rather insignificant, judging by what was happening now.
The three words from the black wooden block sounded like a question directed to the speaker himself, but in truth, the feeling Su Ming obtained from those three words was that the speaker was actually expressing himself after he had come to an understanding of the question and had gained an epiphany.
‘Bai family’s ancestor gained a great epiphany as he trained with this Life Scroll, and he came to understand Heaven Art: Principles of Life… All of this might be because of these three words!’ Su Ming closed his eyes, and those three words kept repeating themselves in his head.
The voice uttering those three words was ancient and gave off a feeling of endless time. It contained a boundless amount of wisdom and sentiment, causing those who heard it to be unable to help themselves but fall into an absent-minded state, and even their minds would sink into that voice.
Su Ming sat just like that on the mountain rock, with his eyes closed and the voice echoing in his head. He did not want to wake up.
Time trickled by. When the second morning arrived, a halo of light spread out from the thick clouds in the distance, causing the sea and the sky to look slightly brighter and the darkness in the area to slowly be hidden away.
Su Ming did not wake up. He continued sitting there to slowly reflect on those words, slowly mulling over them. He forgot about the passage of time.
Hu Zi finally woke up three days later. He yawned as if he was still sleepy. When he opened his eyes, he saw the bald crane and was momentarily stunned. Then he began to let his mind wander.
That bald crane was also looking at Hu Zi. The man and crane stared into each other’s eyes for some time before the bald crane suddenly realized that this man seemed a little dumb…
A twinkle appeared in its eyes before it slowly opened its mouth to speak with a solemn expression on its face.
"You’re finally awake. I’ve been waiting for you for many years. Boy, do you have any idea just how much strength I’ve had to spend so that I could wake you up…?"
The bald crane spoke slowly, with an intimidating air within its voice, but almost the moment that presence appeared, Hu Zi glared over, lifted his hand, and slapped the bald crane. That slap came too suddenly, and the bird absolutely did not notice it. In fact, it had even been deceived by Hu Zi’s expression. When that slap struck its face, its body was instantly flung off to the side with a huge force.
"You little rascal, your Grandpa Hu is the smartest person in the ninth summit, how dare you try and lie to me?!" Hu Zi glared at the crane with his eyes wide open, then stood up while rolling up his sleeves before he started shouting at the bald crane.
"I was wondering why I kept feeling someone scratching an itch on my body, so it’s you, you baldy! I’m going to strangle you!" As Hu Zi spoke, he became fuelled with rage and strode towards the bald crane that was nearly stunned by the blow.
When it saw Hu Zi glaring at it while walking closer with wide steps, as he fumed in rage, the bald crane immediately screamed, and was also overcome by rage. The few remaining feathers immediately stood up, and it even flapped its wings a few times.
"Ah ah ah, how could you do this to me, boy?! If you don’t give me ten thousand crystals for this, I won’t forgive you, even if that boy Su Ming is around!" While screaming, the bald crane started flapping its wings like a chick. By the looks of it, it did not want to get closer to Hu Zi, but wanted to leave his cave abode.
Hu Zi’s expression was filled with disdain. When he lifted his right hand, a crystal immediately appeared in it and he threw it towards the ground. A clear sound rang in the air when that crystal fell on the ground. Just as the bald crane was about to leave, it heard the sound, and almost instinctively, it pounced on the crystal. There was no hesitation in its actions, it was really just acting on impulse.
Yet the instant it pounced on the crystal, Hu Zi had already lifted his right fist and punched towards it.
"Look at you, I had started playing these sort of tricks when I was three! How dare you try scheme against me?!"
On the third day since Su Ming immersed himself in his absent-minded state to gain his epiphany, Bai Su took away her father’s corpse, as if she knew long ago that this would happen. There was no hint of surprise on her face, only grief and the tears that she could not hide away no matter what she did.
Some of the people who had sought refuge on the ninth summit chose to leave during these few days. Every single one of those who left would cast a respectful glance towards the spot where Su Ming had chosen to isolate himself for his meditation. They left the ninth summit to search for their homes, which might have drowned or might perhaps still exist in the land.
The Berserker Threads within these people’s bodies still had yet to disappear, buried deep in their bodies after they lost their lives. As the people left, they brought the threads with them.
The people who chose to stay on the ninth summit chose to settle themselves at the middle section quietly, with the old man in white as their leader. They no longer had any homes and did not know where to go. This place was their only home.
Once Hu Zi learned of everything that had happened in Heaven Gate over the past few days, the shock in his heart turned into a foolish grin on his face, before it eventually settled into pride.
The ninth summit belonged to Su Ming and Hu Zi. In this place, he was the master, and the others were just guests, and because of Su Ming’s existence, all the people who chose to stay on the ninth summit were extremely polite to Hu Zi. No one dared offend him, including the Lord of Heaven Gate, the old man in white.
As for the bald crane, the two of them would glower at each other every single day, but every time Hu Zi flung away a crystal, it would immediately smile and charge towards that crystal. However…
Once, Hu Zi threw a stone that was gathered together from discarded crystal powder which he’d made many years ago through much research, and the bald crane pounced on that stone. It looked just like a crystal, and even had an incredibly similar presence to a crystal, but was not actually one. Just like always, the bird rushed over and did not even notice that anything was off. A prideful feeling rose in Hu Zi’s heart as he scoffed at that bald crane.
‘What an idiot. As expected, I’m just so smart!’
‘Heh heh, does he really think I don’t know that this is a fake crystal? But even if it’s a fake crystal, I can still use it to trick other people. Why shouldn’t I take it?’
The man and crane continued toying with each other happily on the ninth summit as Su Ming continued immersing himself in his epiphany.
Besides Hu Zi, there was another existence that stood out among all the others on the ninth summit, and that was Bai Su. The matter between her and Su Ming was not a secret for Heaven Gate members. Many people even treated her as some sort of master within the ninth summit.
Time passed. One month went by, and Su Ming still did not wake up. He was immersed in his state to gain his epiphany, still lingering around the tone contained within the three words.
He was trying to search for the person who had Branded these three words on this black wooden Life Scroll as he spoke them, and was trying to find out what sort of epiphany he had gained that would make him say those three words with such sentiment.
Bai family’s ancestor had once walked down the path Su Ming traveled all those years ago, and as he continued understanding the meaning of Life, he managed to possess such great power that he became one of the creators of Freezing Sky Clan.
It was this path that Su Ming was moving through.
However, epiphanies differed for each individual. When different people went on to understand the same sentence and the same tone, they would gain different results.
As Su Ming continued trying to understand the words, as the remaining people who chose to stay behind in the ninth summit continued living their lives peacefully, as Hu Zi and the bald crane continued playing with each other, and as Bai Su stood at the top of the mountain quietly while her black locks were lifted by the wind to reveal her beautiful figure, at that moment, right outside the protective screen of life surrounding the gigantic island where Freezing Sky Clan was located, far from the tranquil scene in the ninth summit…
The Dead Sea roared and raged with waves surging into the sky. Hundreds of gigantic heads emerged from the surface of the sea. Their eyes shone with a cold and detached dark light as they stared at the protective screen of light while continuously closing in on it.
Behind them were Aquatic Dragons that would occasionally reveal their gigantic bodies. As their roars filled the sky… a gigantic ship of a hundred thousand feet long appeared at the furthermost corner of the Dead Sea!!
At the top of the ship was a slender figure. His face could not be seen clearly, only his heartless and prideful eye, which were sparkling like brilliant stars!
There was a woman keeping him company by his side. The woman’s dark locks danced in the sea breeze, and she was an incredibly elegant sight.
She looked at the island behind the protective screen of light and asked softly, "Big brother Beiling1, is this South Morning’s Freezing Sky Clan?"
1. Beiling: Is a major spoiler, holy crap. Remember Bei Ling? From Dark Mountain Tribe? Yeah, their names are written slightly differently. Beiling is written as (北陵) and Bei Ling is written (北凌). If you look at it, only the second word is slightly different, which the part we call the Chinese radicals. Also, due to a wordplay and spoiler later, Beiling has not been translated as North Hill, and neither has Bei Ling been translated as North Icicle, because I can’t do that wordplay later on if I did that. BUT DO THEY HAVE A CONNECTION??!!! (Oh my, I don’t know, look at my innocent eyes OwO)
ALSO, he won’t be the only one.
Su Ming and Destiny, though, is a different matter, despite their names being homophones as well. You know, what with Di Tian treating him like an object instead of a person.