Chapter 6: Fateful Encounter
Written by: IEndWorlds
After waking up, Zhang found himself chained to a solid and sturdy wall with very heavy, thick, strong chains. ( >_> <_< hehe) But to his amazement there were tons of delicious looking foods in front of him. However, this was kept just out of arm's reach due to the chains.
Delicacies that Zhang had never seen before in his life and ones that was very familiar to him were all placed in front of him just a bit out of arm's reach. Just by looking and smelling the food, it would make anyone drool. However there was no point in struggling to get some of it because there was no possible way to reach it.
"If you want some, just condense the energy in the necklace into an object and use that to get some.", the mysterious voice said.
AZhang was able to make a fork out of essence. Luckily, even though the guards had dressed Zhang in a prisoner’s uniform and took away all his belongings, the pendant he always wore was still there. It was not that they didn't take it, it was that the necklace had a will of its own and would always appear again on Zhang's body one way or another.
After having his fill, Zhang fell asleep. Unknown to him, there was someone who was watching him the entire time.
A while later, Zhang woke up and to his amazement there was another person in the cell. An an old man that appeared to be a thousand years of age with a white beard that seemed to be an extension of his white silky hair together with his long droopy eyebrows covering his eyes. was chained to the wall adjacent to him. This startled Zhang because before he fell asleep there was no one in the cell beside him. This old man somehow ended up in the cell with him without even noticing despite being asleep. If someone had entered or opened the cell, Zhang would have at least woken up.
"I see you have woken up. Mind telling this old man how you ended up here?" the old man asked.
Although somewhat surprised that the old man was there, Zhang began telling the old man how he died and how he ended up in the lowest level of hell. The entire time he was in the underworld he had no one to talk to nor anyone who conversed with him besides Yuying and that one man who waited in line with him. So talking to this old man made Zhang feel as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. It made him feel that at least there was someone here willing to listen to him.
After telling the old man his story, Zhang asked how the old man ended up on this floor. “I am called Xin Tao”, as he started to tell his story. When Xin Tao was still alive, he was a cultivator who had luckily stumbled upon a treasure that allowed him to reach sainthood.
Shortly after becoming a saint, he used this opportunity to propel his clan to newer heights of power and influence, to the point of establishing a kingdom. Like the majority of kingdoms in the Wulin continent which had a saint or two as founders and protectors.
Xin Tao eventually became bored with governing his kingdom and left to travel the continent, leaving his descendants to rule in his place as he traveled. Through his travels, he encountered many other saints. A few of these saints were just like him and were exploring the vast continent themselves. Although saints could fly and travel at a faster speed than regular people, the continent was simply too vast and there were many unexplored areas which was enshrouded with mystery.
After sometime, Xin Tao became a part of a group of traveling saints. Being immortal, what these people lacked the most was companion. Some were lucky and had spouses or family members who had attained sainthood. But most of them were not, and after becoming saints, they would have to watch as their loved ones aged and passed on right before their eyes. Despite having many ways to prolong a person's life, there was no other method besides reaching sainthood for them to be an immortal. They say the longer we wait, the harder our hearts will become.
Thus, this group of saints decided to become friends and travel with each other to keep company. They went far and wide and eventually, they stumbled upon an unexplored gorge that leads to a dense forest. The essence within the forest was a staggering ten times higher than which would be normally present in the mortal plane.
Because of this, many demonic beasts gathered there. These demonic beasts fed off the energy coming from the forest and multiplied to huge numbers. However, none of them were a threat to their group. Due to the abundance of demonic beasts inhabiting the forest they decided to name it, “The Beasts’ Nirvana". Due to encountering such an odd place for the first time, the group decided to explore it in its entirety.
While exploring, they found an enormous cavern at the side of a steep mountain. The entrance to the cavern opened on the side of the mountain roughly a hundred feet off the ground. Being a curious group they entered and began exploring. The inside of the cavern was like another world. There was a small, dense forest growing within it inhabited by many odd-looking creatures. As they went deeper and deeper, some of them felt that they were being watched. But when they used their powers to scan the area they did not find anything out of the ordinary and so, they continued.
After some time, they found a small opening in one of the walls of the cavern. To their amazed to see that the small opening lead to a massive room filled with treasure. Small mountains of gold and silver, rivers of jade and precious gems filled the entire room. And if one looked closer there were many unique looking artifacts scattered about and mixed in with the gold and silver.
These would be recognized as various magical items. Objects such as spatial rings that could store other items within them, using a small pocket dimension. Swords that were empowered with lightning, water, and fire. There were also many other artifacts with unknown powers laying around.
Even extremely rare materials such as liquid mithril were found in huge pools. Liquid mithril was extremely rare and only appeared naturally. It appeared in a liquid state but if a cultivator used a special method to refine them and then infuse some of their energy in it, the liquid mithril would turn into an extremely hard but light artifact. Cultivators would be able to turn the liquid mithril into any shape they wanted, which meant that they could create a weapon with endless possibilities or a lifesaving object in a dire situation.
Anyone who stumbled upon such treasures would go mad from excitement,even this group of immortal saints. Although there were plenty of treasures laying on the ground, none of them felt the need to contend with each other. The various treasures were all divided up beside the precious metals, precious gems, and liquid mithril.
The saints decided to delve deeper and would divide these items later because carrying these items now would be of no use. Refining the liquid mithril would take too long so they decided to leave it for later.
As they went deeper, there was much more treasure lying about. Soon they stumbled upon an altar and atop the altar was a sword. The blade of the sword was made entirely of some sort of crystal and was nearly transparent. It gave off a blue glow and if one looked closely they'd be able to see that there was an intricate moon etched into the blade.
They had all come to the conclusion that the sword was none other than the legendary "Rising Moon" which was one of the most sought after treasures in the world. These treasures consisted of:
Falling Sun - short sword
Rising Moon - long sword
Star Shooter - bow
Endless Abyss - cape
Heaven's Lost Armor- Armor
Although there were many rare magical items scattered across the continent and many more were created every day. These seven legendary treasures possessed mythical powers that no one had been able to replicate. It was rumored that whoever was able to possess even one of them would have the power to wipe out an entire empire or face an endless armies alone. Simply possessing one would bring an infinite power and influence.
And thus it began, for all of the saints fell into greed. All but Xin Tao, as he did not see the point in honor or power. What was honor and power when one had to fight friends and companions. Being a man of righteousness who sought power to protect his family and friends, he wanted no part in this struggle and so, he decided to simply watch from afar. Believing that his companions would simply compete for the Rising Moon. But once one of them acquired the sword in his possession, the others ganged up and drew the weapons they had acquired a short while ago.
Attacks flew in all direction and without enough time to even bind the sword with his blood the first one who grasped the Rising Moon met his demise. Then, to Xin Tao's disbelief, the others began slaughtering each other. These people had traveled with each other for years and had been through thick and thin together. But now, they were using any means possible to kill one another.
He knew that he had to stop them somehow so Xin Tao joined the fray. He hoped to prevent any more senseless killing between the group. Sadly, they also wanted his life. Luckily Xin Tao was fairly strong and was able to hold his own against the others. He made sure to hold back so that he would not fatally wound anyone. But that would prove to be a fatal error. There was only Xin Tao and another individual left standing while the rest were either dead or on the brink of death due to heavy injuries.
The last individual tossed his weapon to the ground knowing he was no match for Xin Tao and promised he would no longer seek to obtain the Rising Moon. Believing his words Xin Tao began treating his injured companions who were on the brink of life and death. But when his attention was elsewhere, a blade sank into his back and pierced his heart. Then the same blade was pulled out and cut his neck. Xin Tao fell to his knees and onto the ground. Fill with rage, he used all of his power and turned the one who stabbed him into a mist of blood. But the wounds he received were fatal.
But the story did not end there. After dying, Xin Tao ended up in the underworld where he joined the underworld army. Where he found out that there were individuals who had attained a power beyond saints. He too, one day would obtain such power and eventually became a judge in the underworld.
Hundreds of thousands of years soon passed as he stayed in the underworld. Until one day, he ran into one of his descendants, he learned that their entire clan had been massacred by a rival kingdom. No one was spared, not even children. His entire clan of thousands were all killed, the graves of their ancestors were all dug up and all the bodies were hung up on the walls of their kingdom's capital.
That was when Xin Tao decided that he had to get revenge for his clan. He decided that he would use his influence as a judge of the underworld and then use the same method that Zhang was going to use to return to the world of the living. And wipe out the ones that did this to his clan. The only difference was that he would use his own power to reverse the flow of the pool. His plans however did not succeed, he ran into another judge on his way and his path was blocked. Then the other judges came and engaged in battle with him. Although they were called judges, they were all assistants of the ten Diyu and each of them were all powerful individuals. Xin Tao was only a low level judge to begin with and was comparatively weaker than the majority of judges.
Xin Tao was then captured and sent to where he was now and many years have flown by ever since then. But soon, he would be transferred to another place. There were many places where sinners were kept and the 18 Levels of Hell was only one of these places. The 18 Levels of Hell held weaker prisoners, basically regular sinners. Xin Tao was only imprisoned here because they needed a place to detain him but he was soon going to be transferred to one that held stronger prisoners.
After the story ended the two men sat there in silence. Zhang was somewhat dejected because the solar alignment had ended. Until Xin Tao told Zhang that he had a way to help Zhang escape. He told Zhang that the 18th floor that they were in was very unique. And only the 18th floor was special because there was a treasure hidden here. He had learned while he was still a judge that the Underworld's Heart was hidden here but no one knows where. A sinner who had once been imprisoned on this floor had hidden it after stealing it from the treasury of the underworld.
The Underworld's Heart had the power to manipulate essence in unbelievable ways. It had been a regular gem that had been formed when the planes were created and had absorbed the energy within the underworld for countless years. If one acquired it he would had the power to move mountains and diverge rivers on a whim. He or she would be able create objects by utilizing just from the latent essence within the surroundings. Out of the seven treasures, the Underworlds Heart was one of the most mysterious. As to why the mortals knew about it, no one knows. Perhaps someone who had reincarnated did not completely lose their memories and from that person the Underworld's Heart was introduced into the mortal world.
If Zhang had the Underworld's Heart, he would be able to use it to escape the 18 Levels of Hell and then use it to reverse the flow of the Pool of Regrets. But finding it was easier said than done. Xin Tao had seen that Zhang was able to still use his powers despite being chained which constantly absorbed the essence within his body.
There were no guards stationed on this floor and they would only came down once in awhile. So they two of them had all the time in the world to search. And since Zhang was able to use his powers they would be able to get out of the chains and out of the cell. Xin Tao did not want to rot away in the underworld so he would join Zhang in returning to the world of the living.
The two of them would search every nook and cranny of the 18th floor. When guards came down they would pretend to still be bound by the chains. And when the guards left they would continue their search. After combing the massive 18th floor a few times they decided to rethink their methods. And came to the conclusion of searching the individual cells which they had not searched.
The reason they had not done so before was because if the other prisoners knew that Zhang and Xin Tao were free to roam about they might tell the guards. But the two knew they had to do it or else they might very well not find the Underworld's Heart.
Although the 18th floor was massive there weren't that many people kept within it. Only a few thousand or so people were kept here. Xin Tao had begun teaching Zhang various martial arts, spells, and techniques. Zhang was now able to use his energy to put the other prisoners to sleep so the two could search the cells. Xin Tao, despite not being chained up anymore, could not gather any essence as the very air itself lacked essence. While Zhang had to rely on the essence stored within the necklace.
The two of them had some close encounters with guards, almost leading to their capture when sudden inspections happened. Eventually, they had searched all of the cells but made no progress on finding the Underworld's Heart. With no other means but to continue searching, the two of them pressed on.
Until one day, after searching the entire floor for god knows how many times, in a fit of rage, Zhang smashed his fist into the wall of their cell. To which he heard a thump, which was odd because the wall was supposed to be made of solid stone. And there were no other cells next to his.
Zhang condensed some energy into his fist and once more hit the wall and another thump sounded but the wall was still solid with only a slight indentation. He did not know whether to use more energy or not because on the off-chance that there was a surprise inspection the guards would be able to sense the energy he would be giving off. After conversing with Xin Tao, the two decided to wait until after an inspection happened before attempting again.
Oddly enough, no inspections happened and weeks went by. The longer they waited the more impatient they grew. Thankfully, after two months an inspection happened. And the very day after, Zhang was stood in front of the wall and had drawn a large amount of energy from the Dragon’s Pendant. This time when his fist connected to the wall, a loud bang sounded and cloud of dust scattered throughout the room. When the dust dissipated, a small fist sized hole could be seen.
There was clearly another room behind this wall. But when Zhang peered into the hole it was too dark for him to perceive anything. So he began pounding at the wall again and again until the hole was big enough for a person to climb through.