Chapter 182 – The Mysterious Seventh Floor
Lin Ming restored his mood to tranquility, took out two pure true essence stones, and sat down in meditation as he began to recover his strength while slathering bone recovering medicines on his arms.
A moment ago, he had fractured the bones within his arms that were holding the spear, and they had turned into a bloody mess. This kind of injury would normally be impossible for a martial artist to recuperate from even within half a month. However, Lin Ming’s resilience, recovery rate, and blood vitality had all been greatly enhanced. In addition to the effects of two priceless bone recovery pastes, his arms were completely recovered within two hours.
In the last remaining hour, Lin Ming restored his true essence and physical strength to its optimum condition, and adjusted his mood to be tranquil and serene.
Finally, he began the seventh and last trial.
A light flashed, and the temple disappeared around him. Lin Ming entered into a dazzlingly bright white world filled with luminous light, and countless scenes formed and twisted around him.
“The seventh trial… in 19,000 years, no one has ever set foot here.” Lin Ming clenched his fists, and completely calmed down.
Prior to this, Lin Ming had repeatedly imagined what sort of scenario would play out in the seventh level. However, now that he had truly set foot in the seventh level, what he saw here left him utterly stunned.
Of the first six levels, each world and corresponded to its name. For instance, the first level of Hell had been a blood lake. The second level was Hungry Ghost which corresponded to the Yellow Springs. The third level was Animals which corresponded to the vast wilderness. The fourth Witch Slave level had corresponded to an arena…
Lin Ming believed that since the seventh level was the World of the Sorcerer, the scene he expected to see should have been similar to some land within the Realm of the Gods.
But, he didn’t expect to come to a normal human city. Around Lin Ming, there were lively crowds and peddlers hawking their wares. There were little children playing around, and the faint hint of dust and fragrant flowery perfume mixed in the air. Everything seemed to be an absolute reality.
But none of these had surprised Lin Ming. What had shocked him beyond speech was the place where he now stood.
He stood before a fancy, yet somewhat old restaurant.
The clay tiles were no longer bright, and the red lacquered pillars were faded with time. The old windows sagged, and the roof was tilted. Everything exuded a vague flavor of endless years…
Lin Ming was far too familiar with this restaurant. Since as long as he could remember, he had been running within the lobby, listening to storytellers weave their fantastic tails and roaming bards singing their glorious songs. He had watched as people played chess, and had eaten candy with old and frequent customers.
The covered tea-cups, the sugar-coated candied haws, the towel draped over the shoulder of a waiter, the delicious food that his mother had made… all of these were exactly the same as those within his memories.
This… was his home.
“This is the Lin Family restaurant of Green Mulberry City. I’ve lived here for more than a decade of my life. I… how did I end up here?”
Lin Ming couldn’t help but slowly lift his foot to enter into the restaurant. But just as he passed the threshold, in that moment, he froze. Lin Ming stood where he was, his heart like a billowing unsure wave.
He saw a young man dressed in elegant silk clothing, about 18 or 19 and holding a fan, smile and walk out from the kitchen.
But this person wasn’t some stranger. This person was none other than Lin Ming. To be exact, this was Lin Ming a few years later.
However, looking at this man, Lin Ming could see that he had no hint of cultivation within his body. He had a bookish and scholarly appearance; he had apparently never cultivated martial arts in his life.
Not only that, but the two were completely incompatible in demeanor and temperament.
Even when Lin Ming held his breath, there was still a sharp air that was present between his brows. This air seemed as if it was ready to erupt at any moment and pass through the sky, unstoppable.
But this young man in front of him only held a cynical smile, and in that smile was even a touch of evil. He had the elegance of a scholar’s son.
‘This… is this really me?’
Lin Ming could not believe this.
“Little Lizi, prepare a sedan for me. Miss Su of the Teal Flower Hall is holding a performance tonight. Go reserve a card for me; I shall go down in support.” The young man snapped as he quickly swung his fan.
“This… this is not good…” The small servant named Little Lizi looked embarrassed as he said, “Young Master, the second lady of the Tian Family is holding a feast tonight and personally requested that you attend by name.”
“Attend your face. If she’s holding a feast then she’ll want a chef. What use is there in me going?”
“This…” Little Lizi seemed pained. “The second lad of the Tian Family would like to request that Young Master leave behind a painting at the birthday banquet tonight, with a poem. You are currently the new chosen scholar, your poetry is definitely number one within Mulberry City…”
“Moreover, Young Master, this second lady of the Tian Family is very beautiful and virtuous. The last time Madame saw her, she liked her very much. Perhaps in the future…Young Master, hey, Young Master, don’t go!”
Before Little Lizi had finished, the youth had already stepped out the door without even a backwards glance. He said, “If my father asks where I went, tell him I went to drink.”
Before the words had finished, he was already gone. Little Lizi’s face was like a bitter eggplant that was squashed. He was simply finished. If the Master or the Madame found out about this, then he would certainly be scolded.
The second lady of the Tian Family had a good impression of the Young Master. Not only that, but the second lady of the Tian Family was kind, beautiful, had a good background, and was a natural fit to the Young Master, who was the chosen scholar.
But Young Master Lin had actually taken a liking towards Miss Su of Teal Flower Hall, it really was impossible to understand his mood.
The truth was, Teal Flower Hall was actually a brothel, but it was a higher class, more elegant brothel. The majority of the prostitutes inside were well groomed and mannered, and sold their skills not their bodies. They had elegant and refined appearances, and were proficient in poetry and painting. These talented ladies could be considered stunning and rare beauties within the world.
And Miss Su was the main attraction of Teal Flower Hall. Although she still maintained her pure body, she was still a prostitute of a brothel. With her cheap origins, how could the Master and Madame possibly allow her to marry into the family?
“I’m dead I’m dead, if the Master becomes aware that the Young Master has gone to Teal Flower Hall, then not only will the Young Master be finished, but I will also suffer bad luck.” Little Lizi had a face of suffering. He didn’t know whether he should honestly report this matter to the Master and Madame, or if he should try to conceal it.
Lin Ming had been silently standing outside of the restaurant, quietly watching the scene unfold. Just now, the young man had brushed past Lin Ming, but hadn’t even glanced at Lin Ming once.
Lin Ming understood. He did not belong to this world; he was simply a passerby. There wasn’t a single person in this world that could see him.
“What’s going on here? Why is there another me?”
“When I was eight years old my parents let me go to school to study. I went to the capital and in order to study for the preliminary examination, I studied and read books for four years until I was 12 years old. At that time, I threw away all my books and whole-heartedly abandoned everything to pursue the martial path. Because of this, I fought a bitter dispute with my parents, before I finally wore them down. The Lin Ming that I became in this world did not abandon his books for martial arts. Instead, he entered into the preliminary exam and turned from a scholar into a candidate of the imperial court.
“Why is there such a world? Is this a true parallel world? Or is this an imaginary world that stems from my mind?”
“If this is the seventh trial, the Sorcerer World, then what does it test? Does it test my heart of martial arts? If it tests my heart of martial arts, then what is considered as passing this trial?”
“Since this is the Sorcerer World, then why did I come to the human world?”
Lin Ming’s mood was complex; he just stood within the lobby of the restaurant. Like this, he stood for several days.
People came and went, and no one saw him. There were even those that passed through his body…
On the streets there were peddlers hawking their wares, street entertainers singing bright and cheerful songs, the rich aroma of food and wine, and there were also even the weathered faces of his parents…
Everything around him seemed so real and yet unreal.
All of the people around him were familiar, and yet they also seemed like strangers…
In this noisy and hectic world, Lin Ming seemed like a gray existence. His shadow was alone, and he was incomparably desolate.
“This world is an illusion, and I am real?”
“Or maybe…This world is real, and I am an illusion?”
“No, this is wrong. This isn’t my world. This is only a demon within my heart!”
Lin Ming’s eyes suddenly flashed open and flourished the Heavy Profound Soft Spear.
Lin Ming could only hear the sounds of countless panes of glass shattering at once. In front of him, the restaurant along with the customers had all completely vanished!
However, Lin Ming did not return to the life and death smelting trial. Instead, he had arrived within a bloody battlefield. Loud war drums sounded in the distance, and glorious flags fluttered in the air!
Lin Ming saw armored cavalry soldiers in front of him. He felt a chill and his heart went cold. He suddenly realized something.
Lin Ming’s soul force was like a tide as it spread out in all directions. In a moment, it had locked onto the form of a youth. Lin Ming furrowed his eyebrows; this was really true!
Lin Ming moved. In a mere moment, he had appeared inside a barracks. Inside, there was a 15 or 16 year old youth wearing a simple suit of armor. He held a plain iron spear in his hands, and his expression was filled with intense fear and fretfulness.
Seeing this youth, Lin Ming gave a complex look before closing his eyes.
It was himself, it was really himself!
Why was this?
At 12 years of age, he had gotten into a dispute with his parents. Finally, he had been allowed to practice martial arts. At this time, Lin Ming said that if he couldn’t achieve the First Stage of Body Transformation before he was 15 years old, then he would join the army, establish himself there and perform countless services, and return home a hero with riches and honor!
In light of this, it seemed that this was when he would have joined the army!
This was another Lin Ming within another world!
In the barracks, the youth was sitting on a bench. He took out a thin piece of oilcloth and began to silently wipe down his spear. Compared to his size, the spear was much longer than it should be.
“Hey, newbie, is this your first time on the battlefield?” A veteran over thirty years old with a simple face said, as he walked over carrying a bowl of rice.
The youth sheepishly nodded and said, “Ah, yes, I am a new recruit.”
“Haha, new recruits on the battlefield are always so tense and anxious. It’s alright. Since we’re in the same barracks, we will be sent to the same place. Just follow behind me; I will protect you!”
“Good… great…” The youth had a somewhat juvenile and innocent expression. He nervously squeezed out a grateful smile.
When war broke out, tens of thousands of soldiers rushed forwards, their vast and dominating auras even washing away the clouds.
Smoke rose from all directions, fierce combat resounded in every corner, and a spear broke off a halberd.
The youth returned in the triumphant army. However, that simple-faced veteran hadn’t come back…
When soldiers died together, they were also buried together. Without a grave, that youth didn’t even know the veteran’s name…
With each passing day, that youth’s expression became less and less tender, and increasingly filled with a fierce and firm determination.
Slowly, from a recruit he became a corporal. From a corporal he became a captain. And from a captain he became a battalion leader…
His spear skills became more and more refined, his strength increasingly grew, and his military knowledge and appearance became more and more mature.
Gradually, this youth also became a veteran. He would look at every new recruit, and say to them, “It’s all right. When we charge forward, follow behind me; I will protect you!”
That once naïve and innocent boy had harbored a dream to join the army. With each excursion into foreign lands, he saw more and more people become nothing but bleached bones. After having survived through life and death, he had been hardened; he was just like the veteran.
Like this, the days endlessly continued. Each soldier had a dream of being a general. But, they were more likely to follow the steps of their predecessors, dreaming of those that had passed away…
Lin Ming silently watched the world change before his eyes. He finally began to understand. This life was not an illusion, nor was it real.
To the people of this world, he was an illusion. And to him, the world was an illusion.
Life was like a dream. Dream was like life. True or false, real or fake, originally there was never anyone who could tell which was which.
Perhaps the seventh level was not a test. Rather, it was an opportunity, a chance, a feeling, and a profoundly deep understanding into the heart of martial arts.
Realizing this, Lin Ming no longer decided to destroy the world. Instead, he would only follow in its footsteps and look on.
He was merely a passerby. He would observe the changes of time, take a step back, and see the endlessly vast dream that was painted.
Outside the life and deaths melting trial, in a place of darkness, Yan Mo was calmly looking into the endless void, a giant eye that was without an expression.
“He became aware…”
“Extraordinary. It is only the second world, and yet he has already understood the truth. Now it has been one day and one night. This young man’s grasp of the heart of martial arts is simply startling!”
The seventh trial was exactly one that tested one’s heart of martial arts. Although this was a trial, it was also a great fortuitous opportunity!
If one was able to comprehend the original intent behind the trial, then they could experience the endless worlds and temper their mind. The benefit from this was limitless!
Although there had never been anyone who had entered into the final level of the life and death smelting trial for the last 19,000 years, Yan Mo knew the truth. The truth was that the array formation that the Sorcerer left behind could also be found within the Realm of the Gods!
Its name was – Samsara.
Even those favored by the heavens within the Realm of the Gods would often lose themselves after entering into the Samsara.
Most would assume that the worlds were a product of the demon with their hearts, and they would constantly undermine and destroy these worlds. However, when new worlds would emerge endlessly, and they would see countless reflections of themselves, then they would lose their heart and become dazed. In the end, they would not be able to distinguish between what was reality and illusion, and ultimately wouldn’t even know if they were themselves real.
Once they were lost, their heart of martial arts would be damaged and this might even affect their future cultivation.
Even if a heavenly genius was to realize the meaning of the Samsara, they would often have to go through several – or even dozens of worlds as they slowly grasped the truth.
But Lin Ming had been able to see through what was true and what was false in only the second world, and comprehend the meaning behind the Samsara. How could Yan Mo not be surprised by this?
“Unfortunately, Master has probably already passed away. Otherwise, he would certainly be willing to accept this youth as his apprentice. I had thought that his young man’s natural talent was ordinary, and the only reason he was able to have such achievements was because he had a fortuitous encounter. I didn’t think that his perception in the heart of martial arts would be at such a state. He truly is a talent in this aspect!
“I will take a good look at just what he can realize from these 100 Samsaras.”