Meng Hao’s eyes flashed, and he stood there, silent and unresponsive as he listened to the Three Great Daoist Societies discuss both him and the Echelon with Fang Shoudao. He didn’t mind this. As soon as he had been appointed to the Echelon by that white-robed woman, he had known that the matter would eventually come to be known by others.
Meng Hao was a cautious person, but now that the matter of the Echelon had been discovered by the The Three Great Daoist Societies, trying to conceal the truth would have been pointless. As of now, it made sense for the clan to be made aware of it too; at least then he would have a foundation of protection.
Fang Shoudao didn’t respond at first. After some thought, he finally said, “This is a weighty matter, something I cannot make a decision on by myself. How about this: Fellow Daoists, please return to the hall for now. I’ll discuss the situation with Hao’er privately, and then we’ll give you an answer.”
The representatives from the Three Great Daoist Societies exchanged glances and then nodded. In the blink of an eye, they left the private chamber and reappeared out in the main hall.
After they were gone, Meng Hao glared at Fang Shoudao, who looked back at him, cleared his throat, and then smiled.
From Meng Hao’s perspective, that smile looked far too treacherous, causing him give a loud harrumph.
Fang Shoudao cleared his throat, then eyed Meng Hao and said, “I’ll give you one percent!” He was well aware that he hadn’t brought up the matter of splitting the profits.
“Impossible! I demand fifty percent!” Meng Hao responded immediately.
Fang Shoudao frowned and then said, “All of these gifts are very important to the clan! At the very most, I can give you two percent!”
“Do you know what I’ve done for the clan? I’ve–” Meng Hao was just about to launch into a long explanation when Fang Shoudao interrupted with a loud sigh.
“Hao’er, you’re the Crown Prince of the clan!” he said, looking very disappointed. He sounded pained as he continued, “Don’t you know that as the Crown Prince, you receive special protection from the clan? That shows how much the clan approves of you! How does a piddling profit the likes of which we’re discussing now compare to that?
“This is your home!
“And right now, your home is in a very tight spot! The first generation Patriarch is sleeping, and the planet is weak. Other than the resources spent on the fundamental cultivation needs of the clan, everything else is used on the planet itself.
“Plus, we have to be on guard against the Ji Clan! In addition to all that, we have to keep some resources in reserve in case we need to awaken the first generation Patriarch again. Meng Hao… do you understand what I’m saying?
“Considering all of those things, how could the clan possibly agree to send our magnificent Crown Prince to the Three Great Daoist Societies to practice cultivation?!
“The Fang Clan is your home, and you are one of our family members! You’re even a young lord of the clan! Now is the time for you to forgo a bit of profit to ensure that the clan can have some breathing room. Can you agree to that?
“In the future, everything in the clan will belong to you, right?
“If you think this isn’t fair, then go ahead and just take all the gifts! I don’t want any of it!” With that, Fang Shoudao closed his eyes and sighed.
Meng Hao stood there silently. All of a sudden he felt like he really was putting too much emphasis on wealth, and felt a bit bad. Finally, he nodded his head.
“No, I’m fine,” he said. “Forget about it….”
Fang Shoudao opened his eyes, and the kindness in them was apparent as he patted Meng Hao on the shoulder.
“Good boy….” he said. Then he waved his sleeve, causing both of them to vanish and reappear in the main hall.
The banquet continued, and eventually, it was with much anticipation that the Three Great Daoist Societies listened as Meng Hao announced that he would join their ranks. However, Fang Shoudao, citing Meng Hao’s cultivation base as the reason, said that they would have to return in three months to accept him officially.
Meng Hao was crestfallen. Although he understood that the clan was in a very difficult situation, when he thought about the vast amount of spirit stones pouring in, not a single one of which were going to him, it filled his heart with pain.
“Ah, it doesn’t matter. The Patriarch was right. I’m a member of the clan, and should act as such.” Consoling himself all the way, Meng Hao said his goodbyes and then stepped out of the hall. Just when he was about to fly away, two bright beams of light whistled through the air toward the main hall.
Members of the Fang Clan flew nearby in escort, and as the beams of light neared, it turned out to be people from the Li Clan. One was Li Ling’er, whose face was grim and unsightly. Next to her was a middle-aged man who had the bearing of a transcendent being. His features were handsome, and his aura was extremely strong with the power of Essence.
When Li Ling’er saw Meng Hao, she gritted her teeth, and her eyes blazed with fury. In contrast, the middle-aged man’s eyes shone brightly, and he laughed heartily.
“Ah, handsome as expected,” he said. “Before, I could only observe with divine sense, but now that I can look upon you in person, kid, I have to say, excellent. Truly excellent!” The man laughed as he walked into the hall.
Li Ling’er walked past Meng Hao, glaring daggers at him. She looked extremely disgruntled, as if her life was so unfair that she were on the verge of completely losing her temper. Meng Hao stared in shock; something definitely seemed off. Instead of leaving, he stopped and looked back. The first thing he noticed was Fang Shoudao rising to his feet, and then… he heard the middle-aged man from the Li Clan laugh and begin to speak.
“Elder Brother Shoudao, after I got your jade slip, I immediately called a clan meeting to discuss the matter. Hao’er is a wonderful kid, and I’ve really taken a liking to him. In fact, the entire Li Clan agrees! We all support Hao’er, and once he becomes the Clan Chief of the Fang Clan in the future, our two clans will have a powerful alliance!
“I have come here today prepared to give a Dao Realm treasure, 100 precious Ancient Realm treasures, 1,000 Immortal treasures, 100,000,000 Immortal jades, 10,000,000,000 spirit stones, as well as numerous other items, as the wedding gift for Hao’er and Ling’er!” Laughing heartily, the man from the Li Clan clasped hands and bowed toward Fang Shoudao.
The way he listed out all the gifts he was enough to cause even the Dao Realm experts to stare in shock. Such extravagant gift-giving was something rarely seen. However, as soon as they heard the word “wedding,” everyone reached an epiphany.
Meng Hao was no longer an ordinary clan member. He was the number one Chosen of the Fang Clan, a famous blazing sun in the Ninth Mountain and Sea, and even a Crown Prince. With a status like that, any organization would offer up lavish gifts to form an alliance.
A broad smile could be seen on Fang Shoudao’s face as he walked forward, laughing.
“Elder Brother Li, you’re far too polite!” he said. “Hao’er and this lass Ling’er have been engaged since childhood! I just decided to speed up the matter a bit, that’s all.” Fang Shoudao looked over kindly at Li Ling’er.
Meng Hao stood just outside the door to the main temple, gaping in shock. His jaw hung open and his eyes were wide. He almost couldn’t believe what was happening, and he felt his mind spinning.
“He sold me off?” he murmured. He suddenly began to tremble, and rage began to burn inside of him. Generally speaking, it would be the woman who received betrothal gifts. But considering that this was the Fang Clan, they were the ones to receive the gifts. What Meng Hao was even more incapable of accepting was that… everything that Fang Shoudao had said moments ago… had clearly been a huge con that he had fallen right into.
In the end, he could accept all of that, for the clan. He could part with all the extravagant gifts, despite the pain it caused him.
However, what was happening now had nothing to do with money!
Meng Hao’s mind suddenly filled with the image of a Red Wedding, of endless slaughter. That wedding had been one of the most painful moments of his life!
He saw himself holding Xu Qing in his arms until she gradually closed her eyes and faded away. Unforgettable stabs of pain once again filled his heart.
Just barely, he felt as if he could see into the cycle of reincarnation, and all of a sudden, he heard a voice which echoed eternally in his ears.
“I’m in the cycle of reincarnation… waiting for you.”
Although Meng Hao often seemed to treat other women flirtatiously, in truth, there was a place deep in his heart where only one woman could enter.
Chu Yuyan could not enter that place, so therefore… how could Li Ling’er possibly do so!?
That was… a place for only one person. It was… a place that belonged only to Xu Qing!
Meng Hao took a deep breath. His eyes shone with coldness, and even as everyone chatted and laughed, he suddenly spoke out, his voice icy, “Patriarch. I am already married!”
As soon as his voice rang out, the entire hall went completely silent. The middle-aged man from the Li Clan turned to glance at Meng Hao, then looked back at Fang Shoudao.
Li Ling’er’s eyes brightened with anticipation.
Fang Shoudao coughed dryly and transmitted his voice to Meng Hao: “I’ll give you twenty percent of the Li Clan’s betrothal gift!”
Meng Hao’s face was extremely calm, and his eyes were icy as he stared back wordlessly at Fang Shoudao.
“You little hoodlum. Fine. Fifty percent, no more. You know that the clan is in a difficult place right now, and I–”
“Patriarch,” Meng Hao interrupted, his voice calm. “I, Meng Hao, love money. However, not everything in the world can be negotiated in terms of money and profit. I said. I’M ALREADY MARRIED!
“I have a wife, and her name is Xu Qing.” He spoke the words earnestly and very clearly.
All eyes in the main hall shifted to look at Meng Hao. With the exception of the Dao Realm Patriarchs, the other members of the Senior generation, as well as all the Chosen Meng Hao had fought with, had strange looks in their eyes. They stared at Meng Hao, their gazes shining.
Li Ling’er was very pretty, and would be the type of beloved partner that any clan would view as favorable. Furthermore, the backing of the Li Clan would enable Meng Hao to achieve future accomplishments with much greater ease, and he could definitely reach greater heights of glory.
Nobody could understand why Meng Hao would flat-out reject such an opportunity.
Li Ling’er had originally looked forward to seeing Meng Hao reject the offer. But for some reason, when she heard his explanation and saw how serious he was, she suddenly realized that he seemed very different from the scoundrel she remembered. In fact, he seemed to be hiding some great pain deep within him, a fact that caused her to tremble slightly.
“Where is she?” asked Fang Shoudao, sounding very stern. “On Planet South Heaven?” He looked at Meng Hao a bit more seriously than he had before, and his tone was very grave.
“She’s not on Planet South Heaven,” Meng Hao replied softly. “She’s in the cycle of reincarnation, waiting for me to go find her.” He could no longer prevent the grief from showing on his face. All of a sudden, he saw the vague image of a simple young woman standing in front of him, wearing a plain robe. She was the one who had taken him into the world of cultivation.
She wasn’t shockingly beautiful, but somehow, she had worked her way into his heart. He had given her a Cosmetic Cultivation Pill, and in the end, they had experienced a Red Wedding together.
She was Xu Qing.
She had sacrificed her longevity for him. She had entered reincarnation for him. As she died, she had forced a smile onto her face… for him.
In Meng Hao’s arms, she had turned from being beautiful and young into a white-haired old woman. She had withered up and closed her eyes. She had attempted to lift her hand up, as if to wipe the tears off of his face, but then that hand had slumped down lifelessly. That was… the image he saw.
“Her name is Xu Qing,” he continued softly. “She’s waiting for me in reincarnation, and we made a promise that I would go find her. She… is my wife. My… one and ONLY wife!” With that, he bowed to Fang Shoudao, then turned and flew off, his expression one of pain, grief, and bleakness.
Back in the main hall, everyone was shaken. They could sense the grief in Meng Hao, and could tell that although he usually seemed happy and frivolous on the outside, he was actually filled with a sea of sorrow and longing.
Li Ling’er shivered as she watched Meng Hao leave. As of this moment, the detestation she felt toward him was not so profound, and in fact, deep in her heart, pity took root.
Note from Er Gen: I miss Xu Qing….