Hey folks!

Jeremy Bai, AKA Deathblade is going to be posting a podcast I did with him soon.  During the discussion, I mentioned an old I Shall Seal The Heavens (ISSTH) fan fiction that I wrote for a contest on Royal Road in early 2016.  The prize money that I won in this contest (I think I came in 2nd or 3rd) was some of the first money that I’d ever earned with my writing.  I ended up publishing Delvers LLC laster that year.  By 2017 I’d gone full time.

In order to make sure the story continues to exist, warts and all, I’m going to post it here.

I’m very, very aware that this is not the best writing I’ve ever done.  First of all, I wrote it to be in the style of ISSTH, and back in 2016, Deathblade said I did a pretty good job of that.  For those that do not know, ISSTH is Xianxia, Chinese fantasy.  The translated-to-English version is on Wuxiaworld.  Some stuff doesn’t translate perfectly well into English.  Second, I’m a vastly better writer now, with 13 published novels and several other novels of editing work under my belt now.

*At the time this was written, my writing was still very, very rough.  Some of my basic grammar was just…wrong.  It hurts to read this again.  Maybe Taran Matharu feels the same way if he reads his old Pokemon fanfics.


So let’s all walk down memory lane a moment, back to when I was still working in IT.

This story takes place roughly between Chapter 96 and 97 of the main story.  It was written in such a way that if it were canon, it would not contradict anything else in the rest of the story.

Chapter 1

Meng Hao wandered for six months, pondering  the events leading up to his journey to the Southern Domain.  He kept searching for an appropriate place to reach Foundation Establishment.  Not any place would do.  This was a critical time in his cultivation!

Meng Hao worried about running into other experts that had already reached Foundation Establishment.  The difference between Qi Condensation and Foundation Establishment experts was simply too great.  Even his 13th level Qi Condensation would be lacking in a duel with a Foundation Establishment expert.

He was able to hold his own before unreliable Patriarch Reliance made his escape, but he could not count on such good fortune again.  Besides, he still almost didn’t survive.  He had to hope he wouldn’t run into any bullies in the Foundation Establishment stage of cultivation or higher!

Luckily, he knew that the Southern Domain was enormous.  As long as he stayed vigilant he didn’t intend to cross paths with any major sects or senior Daoists.  Finding a location rich in spiritual energy to begin his next step in cultivation was the highest priority.  His struggles with the experts from the Cold Wind Sect and Upright Evening Sect made him truly understand his current limitations.

After the first month of wandering, Meng Hao was traveling on a flying sword and saw a village in the distance.  He hopped to the ground and walked the rest of the way to the location on foot.  He was feeling a sense of nostalgia for the villages in the State of Zhao, locations that Patriarch Reliance took with him on his back.

Meng Hao changed his clothing to long scholar robes.  He wanted to explore the village ahead as a scholar, not as an immortal.  Besides, this land was still new to him and it could be wise to be cautious.

He felt a sense of peace as he walked along a cart path, remembering his days before he was taken to the Reliance Sect.  It had only been a few years, but it seemed like a lifetime ago when Elder Sister Xu transported him.  He felt like a completely different person now than he was when he began his life as a servant, practicing cultivation at night.

Trees covered the path, providing shade and the filtered sunlight made shadows dance in the bushes by the trail.  Eventually, the forest opened up, the trail turning into a road as Meng Hao entered the village.  The central street was lined with stores which he examined.

Meng Hao was in no hurry.  The distances in the Southern Domain were vast.  He doubted that spending a day or two exploring villages would impact his journey very much.  As he browsed the merchants’ wares, he discovered that one covered cart even sold immortal treasures and pills!  Of course, everything for sale was very low value and quality, otherwise the merchant would have probably been robbed long ago.

Meng Hao shook his head.  The Southern Domain was truly mysterious!

As he walked toward the other side of the town, three men stepped out of an alley in his path.  The leading man had a long mustache and he played with one end of it while he looked at Meng Hao with a glin in his eye.  The other two men carried well-worn clubs.

Meng Hao was amused.  He was suppressing his cultivation base, but he never imagined that mortal bullies would try to pick on him!  The whole situation was too funny.  He was no longer the small, thin would-be scholar he once was.

The lead man demanded, “You look like you have some money on you.  Give it to us with any valuables you have or we’ll beat you up!”

One of the men holding a club smiled, showing gaps in his teeth.  “Nobody will see you here!  You should not be so careless while walking around a city!  You should listen to Zao Bo!”

The man with the mustache whirled and slapped the big man who was talking, “Don’t say my name, fool!  We can’t let random people know about our Zao clan!”

Then the other man said, “That’s right!  Zao Bo told me to never tell anyone our secret bases isn’t very far out of town!  I say it to myself 1000 times a day so I don’t forget!”  The man with the mustache, Zao bo, started hitting the other man too.

Meng Hao got a strange look on his face.  He had a feeling this comedy scene might become even more silly and he didn’t want to hurt mortals.  He let some of his cultivation base surge out of his body and all three would-be robbers collapsed on the road, unconscious.

With a sigh, he began walking towards the edge of the town again when a scholarly looking youth suddenly stepped out from behind a crate and bowed low.  “Senior, please take me with you!”

What was this new development?  Meng Hao narrowed his eyes.


Chapter 2


The young man in front of Meng Hao was maybe a couple years younger than him.  The clothing of the Southern Domain was different than what Meng Hao was used to, but he could tell the young man was a scholar.

The young man bowed low again, “Senior, please forgive me for my rudeness.  I saw three men who are part of a bad group following you.  I was going to try warning you, but when I caught up, I saw that all three men were knocked out on the ground!  

“You are obviously very strong!  Please help me get to the next village, Senior!  I simply must take a test I have been studying over a year for!”

Meng Hao’s expression didn’t change as he considered the young man.  On one hand, he didn’t want to get involved in local troubles.  Getting involved or standing out would not be smart while he was searching for a place to break through to Foundation Establishment.  On the other hand, the young man in front of him reminded him of himself before he joined the Reliance Sect.  In fact, he could even see small tears and scuff marks in the young man’s clothing.

The young man was probably poor like Meng Hao had been.

When the young man stood up, Meng Hao asked, “What is your name and why are you asking for my help?”

“Apologies for not introducing myself, senior!”  The young man bowed again.  “My name is Zhang Jie.  My father died when I was young and my family is very poor.  My mother used all the money she could save to allow me to study.  I want to make money to help my family’s situation!

I came to this village for a scroll to study before taking my test next week.  However, the test is in the next village, and the local gang knows I am carry money to take the test!  They don’t dare attack me in a village, but while I am travelling I will be in danger.  I have no hope but to ask someone for help, but nobody wants to get involved.  Nobody is strong enough!

Please help me, senior!”  The young man bowed so low he was almost bent double.

Meng Hao was conflicted.  He didn’t want to get involved either, but he had sharp memories of not having any money, of taking loans to move toward his own dream.  Not only that, this young man, Zhang Jie was relatively selfless and seemed to have a good nature.  Meng Hao made up his mind.

“I will help you.”

Zhang Jie looked incredibly relieved but also somewhat guilty.  He seemed to struggle with himself for a moment before finally saying, “Senior, I must tell you of a rumor I heard.  The rumor is that the local gang has a family member who is an immortal.  I heard the immortal may be here for a while but he is very unreliable.  Naturally, If we run into an immortal, we will have no hope.”

Meng Hao’s expression didn’t change, but he nodded and his eyes slightly glittered.  He was wasting time and he should be searching for a place with thick spiritual energy to reach the next stage of his cultivation, but the situation he found himself in was getting interesting.

Any daoist that would act like a petty bandit and even mortals would call “unreliable” would absolutely be no higher than Qi Condensation.  Meng Hao was utterly confident that he could completely outmatch any other cultivator in the Qi Condensation stage due to being at the extraordinary 13th level of Qi Condensation.

“Let’s leave soon,” Meng Hao nodded.  His eyes glittered again and he got a strange expression.  If they could see his expression now, several people that ran into Meng Mao in the past would tremble in their hearts!


Chapter 3


Meng Hao and Zhang Jie began walking to the next village, which would take the rest of the day.  After the first few minutes of the walk, Meng Hao decided he liked Zhang Jie quite a bit.  They had a great deal in common!

Both of them had struggled with money, with food, and with the path of a scholar.  Meng Hao was reminded of his chance encounter with the young scholar outside the capital city in the State of Zhao.  During that meeting, Meng Hao said that snow may yearn for Summer, but it is not part of that world.  As a cultivator, Meng Hao yearned for Summer, but could only exist in the cold of winter.

This was still true, and he felt the truth of it deep in his bones.  He knew that his current situation could not last.  Meng Hao was not a part of this world, but neither was any other immortal.  Meng Hao was glad he decided to help Zhang Jie.  Now he could investigate the rumor of a bandit cultivator!

Meng Hao walked with Zhang Jie and indulged in scholarly conversation for some time.  At times, they debated fine points of scholarly debate, becoming so engrossed that they snorted and Meng Hao flicked his sleeve.

Both young men were very engrossed in their conversation, but Meng Hao still noticed when several men were approaching them through the forest.  He didn’t say anything and didn’t alert Zhang Jie.  They continued on for some time until a group of six men stepped onto the road, three in front of them and three behind.  The man leading them was none other than Zao Bo!

Zhang Jie gasped, but Meng Hao’s expression didn’t change.  He watched the men and saw they were out of breath, soaked in sweat.  Zao Bo must have run the entire time to catch up after he woke up from being unconscious.

When Zao Bo saw Meng Hao being quiet, he thought it was from fright.  He let out a cold snort.  “You thought you could get away?  You simply caught us by surprise due to your scholarly appearance.  I was not paying attention and didn’t even see you attack.  But this time, we are all watching you, we have twice as many men, and we all have weapons!

Meng Hao saw every bandit was carrying a club.  His mind raced and he got a slightly bashful expression.  This expression would doubtlessly make several other cultivators cough up great mouthfuls of blood.  He said, “I can give you everything I own now, but you will never learn the secret of where I stashed all my treasure!”  

One of the bandits standing by Zao Bo’s pupils constricted and he got excited.  “Zao Bo, we should find out where this treasure is!”  

Zao Bo thought Meng Hao was too simple.  He must be so scared he gave away his secrets!  He would have been more suspicious if the young man walking with Meng Hao was not so scared and if Meng Hao himself was not making a strange expression.  “Let’s take them back to our secret base!  We will let Wang Lei deal with them!”

Zao Bo smiled coldly and flicked his sleeve.  The bandits all surrounded Meng Hao and Zhang Jie as they escorted them into the forest.  Meng Hao avoided Zhang Jie’s eyes as they walked and hoped the young man would trust him.

As they walked, Zao Bo and the other bandits boasted about their immortal leader, Wang Lei.  They also boasted about their wealth.  When Meng Hao heard this, his eyes glittered and he got even more quiet.

Meng Hao normally got more quiet the more he wanted to kill someone, that was his personality. However, he didn’t feel in any danger and he didn’t know how bad the bandits were yet.

Eventually they came to a small camp.  Meng Hao looked around for an immortal’s cave but didn’t see one.  The camp and the lack of an immortal’s cave made him think any cultivator staying here was obviously shoddy.

They walked deeper into the camp and Meng Hao’s pupils constricted as he saw two bodies.  Both were women and they had obviously been abused.  He became even more silent, and the bandits laughed and joked louder as they believed their captives were even more frightened.

Meng Hao had not entirely decided what to do yet.  He originally began this plan as a scam to obtain more wealth, but he didn’t like what he saw.  He was no longer the naive scholar and was now firmly planted in the world of cultivation, but he still didn’t like the idea of fighting mortals.

He felt no guilt about befriending Zhang Jie.  In this way, he was just visiting from his world of snow.  But to kill several mortals might be crossing a line he did not want to cross.  Meng Hao pondered while they walked through the camp.

Eventually they saw a large tent.  The sound of laughter could be heard from inside.  This must be where the boss of the bandits lived!


Chapter 4


Meng Hao and Zhang Jie were brought before the large tent.  They currently had over ten bandits surrounding them, all of them holding weapons.  Zao Bo bowed low and called out, “Great leader!  We have brought captives to you, one of them knows where some treasure is!”

“Is this important!?  It better be!” could be heard from inside the tent.

“Yes great leader!  You can find out where this smug bastard hid some treasure!”

Suddenly, the tent opened and a middle aged man walked out.  He had two beautiful girls beside him and another man walking behind him.  The middle aged man was at the 5th level of Qi Condensation.  The man walking behind him that nobody was paying attention to was at the 8th level!  Meng Hao’s face was like always and he didn’t change expression.

However, both men stopped and the middle aged man shouted, “Why did you bring a cultivator here?”

Zao Bo gaped and the rest of the bandits were astonished too.  “A cultivator?”  All the bandits holding weapons were shaking, acting like cicadas in Winter.

“Yes, you idiot!  He has a bag of holding and the air of a cultivator.  Can’t you tell by how relaxed he was in the middle of all of you?!”

Inside, Meng Hao laughed.  It seemed he was not as good of an actor as he thought.  It was good enough to get here, though.  He continued to clamp down on his cultivation base as hard as he could.

The middle age man snorted, “Why would you even bring him here?  You all have killed many other people and never bothered me about it!  You know I just want treasure to buy the cultivation items in the nearby towns.  These towns are protected by a powerful, Core Formation cultivator so I dare not kill or steal in these towns.  Find me wealth and I will protect you and share it.  That is the deal!

“Yes Great One!  We’re sorry Great One!”  Zao Bo suddenly ordered his men, “Attack them!”

Meng Hao’s expression didn’t change, but inside he wondered how stupid some of these bandits were, especially Zao Bo.  As the bandits stepped forward to attack him, the middle aged man opened his mouth to speak.  Zhang Jie tried to dive behind Meng Hao, screaming, “Help me, Senior!”  The cultivator behind the middle aged man’s pupils constricted and he began to back up.  Meng Hao simply let out a small portion of his cultivation base and said, “Screw off!”  All of this takes time to write, but it all happened in time it takes a spark to jump from steel!

When Meng Hao spoke, all the surrounding bandits fell over.  Half were dead and half were still alive.  At this point, Meng Hao didn’t really care if they died or not. He heard they’d been killing other morals.  On one hand, it was not his place to kill them all.  On the other hand, now that he knew how wicked they were, he wouldn’t be bothered by being impolite!

The only people left standing were Meng Hao, Zhang Jie cowering behind him, the two girls, and the two bandit cultivators.  “What is your name?” asked the middle aged man.  He still seemed self confident.  “You may have some power, but you are too young and too weak to challenge me!”  He laughed at Meng Hao.

From behind him, Zhang Jie whispered, “Honored Immoral Meng Hao!  Please watch out!  Those women are bandits too.  One of them killed her own brother and was on the run before joining these bandits!”

Meng Hao’s eyes glittered.  He would not target anyone, but he would not mind being impolite!  “Honored elder, please tell me what you are doing out here. I don’t understand this situation.”

The middle aged man flicked his sleeve, “Allow Zao Mo to explain it to you then, brat!  The cultivation world is harsh.  By coming out here, we can live an easy life and steal gold and silver.  It is almost too easy!  Then we buy cultivation tools and treasures from mortals that will sell them for moral money.  It’s too easy!”

Suddenly Meng Hao understood the entirety of the situation!  Now it was time for him to start his scam!

Meng Hao looked a bit shy, and once again, if many cultivators that had met Meng Hao in the past saw this expression, they would feel as if someone was walking on their grave.  “Honored elder Zao Mo, this is truly a wise plan.  However, if you are gone, couldn’t the bandits here steal your treasure?”

“That is an easy problem to solve!  I just hid the treasure behind the nearby waterfall!  This is an area that morals cannot go!”

“Zao Mo, please watch yourself!  You are giving too much away to this brat!”  The other cultivator shook his head.  “You should not tell him where we hide our treasure!”

Zao Mo laughed, “You worry too much, nephew Zao Qiang!  This guy’s aura is very mysterious but he can’t be very strong or he would have already attacked or run away.  We have nothing to worry about.”  Zao mo snorted.

Zao Qiang’s killing intent grew stronger and he said, “Uncle, please let me kill this man like I’ve killed everyone else these useless bandits have brought here.”

Meng Hao was not done with his scam yet.  He bowed again and looked nervous, “Elders, please, you misunderstand!  I came to join you!” 

“You came to what?  Truly?  Why?”

This was where Meng Hao decided to take a gamble.  As he knew from his life, greater risks can bring greater reward!  “I don’t believe that the treasure behind the waterfall is the only treasure you elders are hiding!  I know this is a very dangerous thing to do, so there is no way you would life a life as a bandit despite being a cultivator without a more serious treasure being available!”

The other two cultivators looked at each other for a moment before Zao Mo said, “We could use another person to help us.  These mortal bandits are truly useless.”

Zao Qiang had an expression like he had eaten a rotted plum but he finally responded, “Yes, you are right.”

Meng Hao could tell what they were thinking.  Both men obviously had some scheme, and they could use help but they were wondering if they could trust him.  However, both of them thought they could easily suppress Meng Hao if they needed to.  Meng Hao attempted to make his face look open and honest.

The whole time this was going on, Zhang Jie was being very quiet and staying as still as he could.

Zao Qiang flicked his sleeve and pointed at Zhang Jie. “What about him?” he asked.

Meng Hao cupped his hands and bowed.  “He is with me, elders,” he said.

“Where we are going, he cannot go.”

“That is fine.  Zhang Jie, please make camp nearby and wait for me.  I will definitely be back.”

If Zhang Jie didn’t know Meng Hao, he probably would have pretended to agree and then run away.  However, they had a good relationship at this point.  He trusted Meng Hao.  He slowly nodded and bowed deeply.  “Yes, I will be nearby.”

Seeing this, Zao Mo coldly snorted.  “Are you ready to go?  We have not been able to attain this treasure, but with one more person, we probably can quickly now.”

Meng Hao nodded.  He slapped his bag of holding and began to follow the other two men.  They sped off on flying swords and Meng Hao did the same.  Meng Hao itched in anticipation to discover why these two cultivators had been mucking around in the mortal world for so long!


Chapter 5


Meng Hao followed Zao Mo and Zao Qiang on flying swords.  They didn’t have far to go.  Meng Hao began to understand why these cultivators were acting like bandits.  Other cultivators would probably look down on them and otherwise not pay attention.  They would have no idea that Zao Mo and Zao Quiang were hatching a scheme!

By this point, Meng Hao understood why Zao Mo acted as the elder despite Zao Qiang’s larger cultivation base.  Meng Hao was not entirely sure, but he decided Zao Mo was probably Zao Qiang’s uncle!  What troublesome relationship.

Soon, they landed in front of a cave.  From the outside of the cave, Meng Hao didn’t feel anything but in front of the cave opening, he could feel very strong spiritual energy.  The cave was incredibly mysterious.  When he got close enough, he could see magic symbols flash at the mouth of the cave.

Zao Mo spoke as he lead them into the cave, “I discovered this cave on an ancient manuscript many years ago.  I just found it recently.  This cave only allows Qi Condensation level cultivators to enter.  I have supressed my cultivation base and searched for a very long time to obtain this treasure!

“The treasure I am trying to obtain is a sword in the floor of the cave up ahead.  As soon as the sword is removed, a treasure box will open too! This will be where you and Zao Qiang will obtain your good fortune!”

Meng Hao understood the explanation, but he also caught Zao Qiang’s quick, sideways look.  It was too obvious that these two planned to kill him!  Meng Hao kept his expression open and simple.  He did not want them to know that he understood their plans.

A bit deeper into the cave, Meng Hao saw the sword in the floor.  It was buried in the floor right up to the handle.  Behind it and against the wall stood a large, thick box.  There was writing all around the walls of the room and Meng Hao saw that Zao Mo was telling the truth.

The reason why they needed help was obvious too.  It would require great physical strenghh to remove the sword from the floor.  At least three Qi Condensation cultivators would be needed.

Once they got to the sword, Zao Mo and Zao Qiang revealed why they thought they could get the sword out by themselves before.  They had strength increasing treasures!  Both men put bracelets on their wrists and channeled their cultivation base through them.  The bracelets would not me much good for fighting, but they were perfect for this type of work.

Without much conversation, Meng Hao moved forward to help the other two men pull the sword out of the floor.  At first nothing happened, but then the sword began to move out of the floor very, very slowly.  It kept a great pressure and it was obvious that if they let go, the sword would slam back into the floor.

The sword in the floor looked like an ordinary sword, but the farther it came out of the floor, the more spiritual energy it unleashed!  Meng Hao got the sense that the sword was leaking hardly any spiritual energy, but the amount it was leaking was enough to make any cultivator lower than the 4th level of Qi Condensation instantly pass out.

All three men gritted their teeth and continued to struggle with the sword.  The cave had been somewhat dark while the sword was in the floor, but now crystals along the ceiling of the cave lit up like the sun!  The crystals were absorbing the spiritual energy!

Meng Hao was very curious about the chamber and the sword.  At this point, he was curious about the sword more than trying to obtain good fortune.  He had never heard of a chamber like this.  The Southern Domain was a truly mysterious land.  Even while he struggled with the sword, Meng Hao felt enlightened.  He knew he would see many more mysterious things in the Southern Domain.

Slowly, the sword moved up from the floor of the cave.  Meng Hao was straining as much as he could while still suppressing his cultivation base.  He had a feeling he might be able to lift this word if he unleashed the full power of his cultivation, but he wasn’t sure.  He kept pulling with the other two men.

The higher the sword rose, the brighter the crystals in the cave shined.  This was truly a strange cave.  The spiritual energy was so think, it made Meng Hao’s skin feel strange.

Zao Mo grunted as he pulled and Zao Qiang breathed heavily and narrowed his eyes.  All three men strained until… finally, the sword was free of the floor! 

After the sword was free, it felt light as a feather.  Meng Hao was prepared to be attacked at this moment and he was curious to see what happened.  However, as soon as the sword was out of the floor, all three men had their hands on it, but then something happened that Meng Hao never could have expected.

Zao Mo said two archaic words and suddenly, a terrifying pressure slammed Meng Hao and Zao Qiang back into the rock of the cave!  Zao Mo stood in the middle of the room and the sword floated before him.  Meng Hao coughed up a mouthful of blood.  The spiritual pressure was increasing!   However, then Zao Mo said another two words and all the spiritual energy in the cave flowed into Zao Mo!

Zao Mo began to glow as Meng Hao and Zao Qiang were held against the cave wall.  Meng Hao tried to unleash the great circle of Qi Condensation, but a mysterious power would not let him!  IT was the same energy held him immobile against the wall.

Meng Hao’s expression got more calm as inside he was more surprised.  Energy was rushing into Zao Mo and… his cultivation base kept growing!  He was currently at eighth level of Qi Condensation!  His cultivation base kept growing and growing.

Meng Hao did not think Zao Mo was a genius but he did say he had been suppressing his cultivation before finding this cave.  Zao Mo obviously knew more about the mysterious sword than anyone else.  Now that sword was rotating in front of him and making his cultivation base rise!  It was astonishing.

Soon, Zao Mo’s cultivation base reached the ninth level of Qi Condensation!   But… it didn’t stop there!  It eventually stopped at… the 10th level of Qi Condensation!  Meng Hao’s pupils dialated as he watched incredible quantities of filth get pushed out of Zao Mo’s pores.  Zao Mo became taller and thinner and his aura was refined.

Zao Mo reached forward and took hold of the sword.  When he did, he shined even brighter.  “Now I have what I have been striving for over 25 years!” he laughed.  A terrifying pressure filled the cave.  Zao Mo walked forward to Zao Qiang who was still pressed against the cave wall.  “I will have to apologize to your father that this other guy betrayed us and killed you!”  

Then he stabbed his nephew through the heart with the Cave Treasure Sword!  Zao Qiang almost instantly died.  Next, Zao Mo looked at Meng Hao.  “You were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Don’t hate me, hate the heavens,” a strong killing intent grew from Zao Mo.  He walked towards Meng Hao.

Meng Hao still couldn’t move yet but the incredible pressure was less strong now.  He needed to stall Zao Mo!  “Why would you kill your own family member? he asked.

Zao Mo seemed to know what Meng Hao was doing but he didn’t care.  He still thought Meng Hao was a low level cultivator!  He replied, “I didn’t hate Zao Qiang but nobody can know I have achieved the 10th level of Qi Condensation or it would cause too many problems!  Such a thing is impossible for thousands of years and will bring harm my way!  Plus, now I can keep all the treasures in the box.”

Zao Mo walked forward again but suddenly… Meng Hao could feel his cultivation base again!  “Are you looking to die?”  Meng Hao’s expression was calm.  Zao Mo coldly snorted, he obviously believed Meng Hao was bluffing.  However, then the thirteenth level of Qi Condensation, the great circle of Qi Condensation, erupted within Meng Hao’s body.  Now he was cut off from the spiritual energy of heaven and earth, just like Zao Mo.

A clear sound could be heard as an indescribable pressure filled the cave.  Zao Mo was a middle aged man and his wily mind worked very fast.  He didn’t understand what happened immediately but knew he was in danger and transformed into a multicolored beam of light, shooting out of the cave.

Meng Hao’s expression didn’t change.  He just witnessed Zao Mo kill his own family and he was about to kill him too.  He simply needed to die!  Meng Hao’s expression didn’t change, but killing intent could be felt as he turned into a beam of light and chased after Zao Mo.

Outside the cave, Zao Mo understood he would not be able to outrun Meng Hao.  “How could this happen!  How could the heavens let this brat ruin my 25 years of planning!?  I was supposed to be the first 10th level Qi Condensation cultivator in thousands of years!”

Zao Mo slapped his bag of holding and sent 10 flying swords at Meng Hao.  Meng Hao calmly made a fist and punched the the flying swords, which were utterly destroyed.  Then he slapped his bag of holding and sent 10 flying swords of his own at Zao Mo!  

Zao Mo slapped his bag of holding and sent 40 flying swords at Meng Hao.  The swords met in the air and Meng Hao’s swords completely destroyed Zao Mo’s swords.  He used fewer swords, but his cultivation base was much more profound than Zao Mo.  He also had more practice using the divine sense from his 13th level of Qi Condensation.  Zao Mo was completely new to the 10th level of Qi Condensation!

Zao Mo coughed up five mouthfuls of blood and glared at Meng Hao.  “Fine brat!  Take this!”  Zao Mo used the power of the mysterious cave sword!

Meng Hao could tell the sword was truly mysterious and powerful.  He slapped his bag of holding and produced the two mysterious wooden swords.  He sent them both forward with the full power of his cultivation base.  At first, it seemed like the cave sword would resist, but then it was utterly destroyed!  Both wooden swords continued forward.  One stabbed Zao Mo in the throat, one stabbed his stomach.

Zao Mo coughed up a mouthful of blood and gave Meng Hao one last hateful glare before he died.




Meng Hao went back to search the unlocked box in the mysterious cave.  He was disappointed to discover it only held a few low level cultivation treasures.  He came out of the whole situation with more than he had before, but it wasn’t worth the trouble.

Then he returned to Zhang Jie.  They walked the rest of the way to the village Zhang Ji needed to get to.  They did not talk as they had before Zhang Jie knew Meng Hao was an immortal.  Zhang Jie talked to him with reverence and respect.

Before they parted, Zhang Jie seemed to build his courage and asked, “Meng Hao, how is it that you can be such a great cultivator but still have the air of a scholar?”

“I used to be a scholar before I was a cultivator.”  Meng Hao had a smile in his heart.  He said, “Here, you can have this.”  What he handed over was… a cultivation handbook!

Zhang Jie was shocked down to his soul.  He never before considered before that a scholar could become a cultivator.  He vowed to ponder Meng Hao’s words.  If he failed his test in this village… he would attempt to set foot on the path of cultivation!

Meng Hao slapped his bag of holding, turning into a beam of multicolored light and riding a flying sword.  He decided that his nostalgia had been satisfied.  It was time to search again for an appropriate place to break through to Foundation Establishment!

As Meng Hao traveled, he would never know how deeply his meeting with Zhang Jie’s affected the young man’s heart, nor what adventures he found in the future.  However, everything Zhang Jie did in the future was truly because of Meng Hao’s influence!

So as you can see, it isn’t exactly professional work, but it wasn’t meant to be.

It was kind of fun to dredge this up, especially since I’m working on my own Chinese fantasy-inspired story right now.  The working title is, “Jake’s Story,” but I’ll have a cover reveal and series/title announcement later this year.  Delvers LLC 5 need to launch first.