Chapter 265: Forward Always
Translator: Sparrow Translations Editor: Sparrow Translations
Lin Feng exited the house, strolling under the Black Heavenly Treasure Tree. Kang Nanhua walked three steps after him, wandering together aimlessly.
“Nanhua, aren’t you going to invite me to your abode?” Lin Feng turned to him, smiling.
Kang Nanhua gave a slight nod. “My pleasure. My Lord, please.”
The two seated themselves in Kang Nanhua’s quarters. Lin Feng gazed at Kang Nanhua in silence. “I have no intentions of intruding in others’ privacy, but you give me the feeling that you need a listener.”
Kang Nanhua has a forlorn expression on his face. “Sorry, my Lord.”
He spoke softly. “Seeing those kids, I was reminded of some past happenings and my mental state is rather volatile now.”
Hearing this, Lin Feng’s features became graver.
Kang Nanhua was already a supreme cultivator who had formed his Soul, having overcomed life and death, even the Heavens and the Earth themselves. His mental state was exceptionally solid.
But now, he himself admitted that his mental state was no longer unwavering. You can tell that his mental knot was exceedingly serious, having became an inner demon and undermining the heart of his Tao.
“It was a long while ago, three scores and eleven years ago.” Kang Nanhua said slowly.
“To be precise, three scores and eleven years, three months, and fifteen days.”
“At that time, I have just attained Advanced Foundation Establishment, forming my Class Two Crucible. That was when I was at the peak of boldness and confidence.” Kang Nanhua reminisced.
Lin Feng glanced at him. Kang Nanhua’s Aurous Core was of the highest quality – Purple Pill, which was possible only for those with Class One or Two Crucibles. It was by no means a certainty even for them; the slightest error would result in the inferior Red Pill instead.
Kang Nanhua did not hail from a major Sect – he inherited the Tao of the ancient independent cultivator, the Taoist Liusha, by chance. He did not have the guidance of a Master, nor the resources of a Sect; he could only depend on himself to cultivate through experimentation and exploration.
Furthermore, his first mantra, the Secret Mantra of the Flowing Sand, was only a fragment of the Ancient Mantra of the Flowing Sand of Ganges.
Even in those circumstances, he was able to form a Class Two Crucible. This was definitely an exceedingly improbable event that would put the vast majority of prodigies and geniuses to shame.
It was absolutely impossible solely through his own talent, unless both his Innate Ability and Intelligence were the maximum ten points.
Sensing Lin Feng’s look, Kang Nanhua seemed to preempt his question. “When I was erecting my Spiritual Altar, I managed to get lucky. Or else, I might very well have ended up with a Class Four Spiritual Altar.”
“As expected, Fortune is needed as well.” Lin Feng nodded, silent. Blessed by Lady Fortune and having overcame an immense obstacle in his cultivation; Kang Nanhua then must be most daring and exuberant.
The pain surfaced in Kang Nanhua’s gaze once again as he stared at the ceiling of the cave, but without focus. “Although I have formed a Class Two Crucible, my cultivation has encountered a bottleneck, and I was just unable to form my Aurous Core. The Tao of the Aurous Core seemed so distant from me…”
To an independent cultivator without a Master’s instruction or the support of a Sect, major stage advancements were the most difficult, having to depend on your own foraging and understanding.
“I felt that mediation and reclusion were not bearing fruit, so I decided to go out and travel as I tried to overcome the barrier of Life and Death.” Kang Nanhua spoke slowly. “When I was walking in the mountains, I came across a small village.”
“Although life was hard there, the villagers were warm and welcoming, and they received me enthusiastically. There, everyone, young or old, had to scale the rocks and crevices everyday. They collect a type of spiritual herb, which they sell to outsiders in exchange for basic necessities.”
Through Kang Nanhua’s descriptions, Lin Feng understood that those cliffs were exceedingly precipitous and steep.
Of course, they were nothing to cultivators. Even Qi Disciples, as long as they were Level Three or Four, can walk on them like it was flat ground, not to mention Aurous Core or Foundation Establishment cultivators.
But to ordinary humans, those cliffs were the most dangerous places. No matter how adequate your preparations or how long your experience, it was still like dancing on the edge of a knife every single time.
Villagers frequently fall from those cliffs while collecting herbs, never to see their loved ones again. Still, to the villagers, those herbs were their most precious source of revenue.
“It’s not that they do not fear death, but rather, the pressures and desire to survive overcame the fear of death and danger.” Kang Nanhua shook his head. “Or maybe there’s some belief of luck in there as well?”
“That is how humanity has survived and thrived to this day.” Lin Feng said dispassionately. “You and I, we cultivate, we search for the Tao – isn’t that the same thing?”
“Yes. Watching them toe the line between life and death had a huge impact on me.” Kang Nanhua nodded. “It’s somewhat embarrassing, but before that, although I was devoted to cultivation and the Tao, I had little exposure to this sort of things. This is probably the primary reason I encountered my bottleneck when attempting to form the Aurous Core.”
His gaze became overcome by nostalgia. The pain dissipated as warmth and joy emerged – a rare sight.
“I wanted to experience up close the fear and courage of the villagers as they walk life and death, and so settled down there. In addition, I tried to teach them some Qi cultivation techniques and mantras; although most do not have the talent to cultivate, but they could at least serve to strengthen their physique and help them survive in the wilderness.”
“I, instead, gave up my Mana and powers completely and learned to scale the cliffs and collect the herbs from the villagers. There were quite a few times when I really thought I was going to die.” Kang Nanhua said.
Lin Feng smiled as Kang Nanhua’s lips curved upwards as well. “Almost everyone in the village lack the talent to learn mantras or cultivate. The Qi cultivation ways that I taught them could only be used to nourish the body and the blood.”
“Except for one seven-year-old girl. Girls in little villages don’t have proper names – the villagers all called her Mao Ya. Mao Ya was really quick to understand mantras, and she was pretty talented naturally.”
In his subconscious, Lin Feng understood as he sighed. “Looks like this little girl is the source of Kang Nanhua’s mental knot.”
As he thought, at this point, Kang Nanhua became downcast once again. “While I was in the village, I lived in Mao Ya’s house. Mao Ya’s parents both passed away a few years back, but she still lives on, with determination and resolve – it was her who taught me, first-hand, collecting herbs from the cliffs as well.”
“We were teacher and pupil, but we were also friends. I teach her mantras and the Tao, while she instructs me on ascending those steep cliffs without using Mana. We enjoyed each other’s company, for about a year.”
Lin Feng was going to tease that Kang Nanhua has lolicon, but seeing his current mood, decided against the idea.
Besides, he could also tell that the relationship between Kang Nanhua and that little girl was simply friendship, without considerations of age; or even just a man’s avuncular love and care for a child.
“What happened afterwards?” Lin Feng asked quietly.
“Afterwards?” Kang Nanhua’s face turned an even darker shade as he uttered the words. “One day, Mao Ya and I returned from collecting herbs, only to see the village in shambles – a raid by bandits.”
“The leader of those bandits was a Qi Disciple cultivator. They left word that any herbs that the village collects must be offered to them unconditionally; if anyone dared object, they will massacre the entire village.”
“After I heard that, I was going to go off in search of the bandits’ lair immediately.” Kang Nanhua said.
The pain in his gaze was intensifying. “At that time, Mao Ya asked me if anything would happen to the village. She said she’s scared. Very scared.”
“I told her that it’s okay, that nothing would happen to them. That I would protect them, absolutely.”
Lin Feng’s pupils contracted as he stared at Kang Nanhua. Knowing Kang Nanhua, this, for him, was equivalent to a promise made to Mao Ya.
To Kang Nanhua, honoring his promises and pledges was his principle. A red line that would never be compromised or crossed.
And that, was often the source of his pain and suffering as well.
As he thought, Kang Nanhua continued. “I found those bandits and discovered that that was far from the entirety of their crimes – to them, murder and plunder were mundane events. So, I sent them to where they should go.”
“Concerned that they would later take revenge on the villagers, I took care to examine the place thoroughly to ensure that there was none who slipped through the net before returning to the village.”
As he said this, Kang Nanhua abruptly fell into a silence.
Lin Feng did not speak either; seated, they faced each other silently. After a long lull, Kang Nanhua’s faint voice reverberated in the cave, detached and impassive, without the slightest hint of emotion – just a numbness that betrayed the deepest sorrow.
“The village was destroyed. Everyone was dead. Mao Ya was also dead. I looked into her open eyes – I could even see hope in those eyes. I knew, I was that hope. But in the end, I disappointed her.”
The cave fell into a spell of silence once more, with not even the sound of breathing being heard.
Lin Feng was quiet for a while before he said, “This should be an accident. Those who massacred the village are not part of the bandits you sought out – probably, they are completely unrelated parties.”
Kang Nanhua’s body, which had resembled an inanimate statue, finally twitched as he nodded. “Yes, that was what I thought as well.”
Despite the movement, Lin Feng could feel no life in Kang Nanhua, with only his hollow voice in the cave. “But regardless of whether they were related, the end result was still the same. Mao Ya was dead. Everyone in the village was dead.”
“And I did not even know who he was. I could not even avenge them.” Kang Nanhua’s eyes closed once more. “This person, and Zhang Lie – they are both my inner demon.”
Lin Feng, staring at Kang Nanhua, sighed. He knew that the murder of Mao Yao and the rest, and when Zhang Lie used the Covenant of Liefeng as human sacrifices – those were possibly the only two times in Kang Nanhua’s life that he made a promise to someone else, but ultimately failed to honor it.
No wonder when he met Kang Nanhua again at the Hundred Herbs Sect, he found him depressed and despondent.
Presumably, after what happened to Mao Ya and the rest, he vowed that that was the first time, and the last time. The only time.
But the Covenant of Liefeng human sacrifice incident – not only did it rub salt into his wound, it even undermined Kang Nanhua’s faith and convictions.
What’s fortunate was that this time, the target, Zhang Lie, had a clear identity and background. Rage and hatred gave Kang Nanhua a psychological rock – or else Lin Feng suspects that not only would he fail to form his Soul, but even regress in his cultivation.
From some people’s perspective, Kang Nanhua was making a mountain out of a molehill, shouldering a burden that did not belong to him.
But people differ. Every person has his own path, his own convictions, his own principles – we all have beliefs that others would not understand.
Lin Feng stood up, walked over to Kang Nanhua and patted his shoulder lightly. “I will not tell you rubbish like ‘Never look back’. There is nothing wrong with looking back – but don’t restrain yourself or stop in your tracks because of that.”
“Even if you walk backwards, your eyes on the past, your feet must move forward, always. This is to not let the regrets of the past repeat themselves; I believe you understand this simple maxim.”
Kang Nanhua was silent for a moment. He nodded and stood up. “I understand. Sorry to disturb you today, my Lord.”
Lin Feng shook his head, smiling. He smiled in a self-deprecating manner as a thought came across him. “What’s wrong today? Having mental problems one after another – did you guys form a group or something?”
Having said his farewells to Kang Nanhua, Lin Feng left the cave and re-entered the Heavenly Cosmic Ray world. There, Zhu Yi was gazing at the void above vacantly.