Hui Yue had been floating in a sea of blue flames for what seemed like an eternity. He himself was comfortable in a way he had never felt before. He was light and without any worries, just floating around and observing the flickering blue embers that had engulfed him.
He was well aware that he had died. There was no way he could ever return to his previous life, however death did not seem as terrible as he had expected. The blue flames were so calming that he did not even worry about leaving neither Li Fen nor his parents behind. Hui Yue had an unexplainable feeling that everything would be okay.
Suddenly Hui Yue heard a faint mumbling, as if the sound came from far away. He strained his ears trying to pick up the words, however everything had been muffled and no matter how hard he tried, he was still unable to understand what the voices were saying.
The blue flames that were surrounding Hui Yue were slowly dying out while the voices got louder. As the final embers disappeared a suction force started pulling the relaxed Hui Yue towards a black abyss.
Hui Yue felt his consciousness flicker slightly as he was rushing through a dark tunnel, falling towards an unknown location. A hint of fear sneaked into his heart, as he was unaware of what his future might bring, however he calmed himself with the thought that he had already died and with no body he should no longer be able to feel pain.
Hui Yue had focused on suppressing the fear using his rational thoughts, and it took some time before he noticed that he had stopped moving. His surroundings had changed. There was no longer a low mumble, but hurried voices that were yelling right next to him. The darkness had changed from a black abyss to a lighter shade, a shade that Hui Yue was familiar with all too well.
Hui Yue needed a moment to understand what was happening around him and notice that he was no longer just a consciousness but once again was contained within a body. The darkness was from having his eyes closed, however opening them was not an easy task.
Hui Yue tried moving his limbs, and although they were somewhat following his orders he could not help but feel that something was amiss. His body felt very different from what he was used to, however details like those could be focused upon once he reached a safe location. The fact of controlling a body once again left him feeling relieved, and he focused all his energy into forcing his tired and sealed eyes open.
As soon as his eyes opened he instantly screamed.
In front of him was the face of a giant. It was a rough looking man with a bearded face so close that Hui Yue was certain that he would reach it if he stretched out his arm. After containing the scream, Hui Yue dared not make another sound let alone move a muscle. The giant did not seem hostile; however it was still a dangerous situation to be caught in right after waking up in a new body.
“Don’t be that close, you are scaring him dear,” an exhausted but gracious voice sounded from the side, and Hui Yue slowly turned his head to look in the direction that the voice came from. It was hard to move his head or even keep his eyes open but he noticed that he was currently located in a worn out bedroom in a run down shack. The bed was occupied by a woman who should have been beautiful, but right now her face was filled with exhaustion and pain.
The lower part of the bed was smeared in blood and a young girl was washing the injured woman.
Hui Yue was confused. He had been thrown into a situation that he was not currently able to understand, but clearly the giants were not a threat to him. He contemplated for some time, but reached the solution that the easiest way to gain information would be to simply talk to those friendly giants.
“goo goo.. Gah.. Uwhaa!” Hui Yue had tried to say something along the lines of ‘Excuse me, could you explain what is happening here?’ however the words that came out from his mouth made no sense. Hui Yue got quiet and had a strange and rather uncomfortable premonition.
“Listen darling,” the bearded giant said as he reached down and carried Hui Yue towards the fatigued woman, “our son is already trying to speak.” There was tenderness in his voice, and the same tenderness was shown on the woman’s face. The tenderness and care that those two people showed Hui Yue made his heart ache as he was reminded of his parents and the pain he most likely had left behind with his early death.
Lying on his new mother’s bosom, Hui Yue could not help but to take the time to think through everything that had happened to him. He should have believed the old lady when she said that the hairpin was cursed, it truly did seem to have killed him, however he was not certain how he could have gone from death to instant resurrection. Resurrection alone defied all his modern logic.
‘Obviously it was caused by my astonishing power’, a self-satisfied voice drawled somewhere inside of Hui Yue’s mind. The voice seemed faintly familiar.
‘Who are you?’ Hui Yue thought, while trying to remember where he had heard this voice before, however as soon as he had thought that he remembered. It was the voice that he had heard just as he was dying.
‘Well done!’ The voice said, as if he was praising a good dog, ‘I am indeed the blue phoenix hairpin you bought.’
‘You are the one who killed me?’ Hostility filled up Hui Yue’s mind as he roared towards the hidden voice.
‘Nah, I didn’t cause the truck to appear, I just used the opportunity to merge with you,’ the voice sounded bored as it spoke, ‘you should thank me you know. If I hadn’t merged with you, you would not have had the possibility to reincarnate this quickly.’
Hui Yue was filled with doubt as he questioned the self-proclaimed phoenix hairpin. He did not trust it one bit.
‘What do you mean when you say that you caused me to reincarnate? And where am I?”
As soon as Hui Yue had asked those questions he heard a sigh coming from the Phoenix and somehow he understood the feelings that the Phoenix felt. A certain degree of impatience, annoyance but also hope. Hui Yue did not know why the Phoenix would feel like this, however he decided to just wait for the Phoenix to explain.
‘It’s a long story,’ the Phoenix finally said, clearly too lazy to explain too much right away, however Hui Yue had no intention of letting it off with just that.
‘I got nothing but time. I am a baby you know.’ He thought back, while noticing that his new mother had fallen asleep, and he himself also pretended to be asleep so that he could have an undisturbed talk with the voice in his mind. Hui Yue could not help but to wonder if mental patients felt the way he did right now.
‘Okay, I’ll tell you,’ the Phoenix said, ‘but it’s a long story and you better listen because I will only tell it once.’ Hui Yue stayed quiet, he had a feeling that the Phoenix was able to understand everything about him even if they did not directly communicate, unfortunately it did not work both ways.
‘humm,’ the Phoenix grumbled a little before it decided on how to start, ‘this world is quite different from the one you are used to. Here strength is what matters the most, the stronger you are the better prospects you have in life.’ The Phoenix were quiet for a second before continuing, ‘this world was created by the Four Divine Beasts, the Azure Dragon, the White Tiger, The Vermillion Bird and the Black Turtle. These Four Divine Beasts had created multiple worlds prior to this one, however they decided to settle down here. They laid down their bodies as foundation for each of their countries. Their consciousness created new bodies that they used to walk these lands and experience a normal life.’
The Phoenix was quiet once again, ‘thousands of years went by and the Divine Beasts had created their own families within their individual countries. Their descendants were not divine beasts as them, instead they were normal humans.’ Hui Yue felt a nostalgia washing over him as he heard the words, he had no doubt that those were the feelings of the phoenix.
‘Time went by and eventually the Four Divine Beasts decided to enter the eternal sleep. The world had long since buried their original bodies far below surface, and they spend the rest of their energy to create four mountain ranges that were splitting this whole continent into four equal parts with a large castle in the middle. Those four parts represented the locations of their bodies, and each one called their oldest son to the Four Beast Palace in the center of the continent. There they passed down their legacy, together with some of their powers and the right to lead a kingdom. After the right of passage was completed they then re-entered their original slumbering bodies and went into an eternal hibernation.’
Yet another wave of sadness and nostalgia hit Hui Yue. Hui Yue was not a slow person, and he instantly understood that this was the Phoenix’s story. ‘The sons did a good job and many thousands of years passed by in peace, civilisation flourished and humans started cultivating their internal power. However, four thousand years ago a human tricked the descendant of the Azure Dragon and used his powers to seal and banish us four beast clan leaders from this world.’ A mixture of hate, regret and pity flashed across Hui Yue’s mind as he understood part of the reason why the Phoenix had ended up as a hairpin.
‘You got to be the descendant of the Vermillion Bird?’ Hui Yue decided to make sure he was right about his assumption, he had a lot of questions waiting to be answered.
‘That’s right,’ The Phoenix said with a proud voice
‘Then why are we stuck in a baby’s body instead of one matching our age?’ Hui Yue could not help but ask. It was simply too bizarre being a baby with an adult’s mind.
‘Why don’t you try being sealed inside a hairpin for four thousand years?’ The Phoenix snorted, ‘I had the minimum amount of power back then and only a small fraction got released when I merged with you when you were dying. We share a body right now so I am unfortunately limited by this,’ he continued with disdain
‘Hey, don’t complain about the body, it was you who chose it,’ Hui Yue pointed out with a laugh, this Phoenix was incredibly haughty.
‘I didn’t have much to choose from you know’ The Phoenix retorted, ‘you should actually thank me. If I had not helped you with this reincarnation you would have been stuck in the netherworld for god knows how long and there would be no possibility for you to remember anything from your previous life.’
‘It was you who was complaining’
‘Shut up. Do you want me to continue or not?’ hearing that, Hui Yue decided not to argue any further and waited for more information from the proud Phoenix.
‘It was four thousand years since I was last here, so I don’t know how the countries are split up right now, nor do I know about who controls what, but I do know about the cultivation since that is one thing that will never change.’ Hui Yue’s interest was piqued when he heard the word cultivation. Cultivation had been practiced in the past, but he had never found anything that could prove it to be helpful.
‘Everything in this world has an essence and a person has something called a Xia dantian, or a lower dantian, where they are able to refine the essence in the world into Qi and store it within. You can increase your strength by gathering more essence and refining it into Qi, refinement is crucial for achieving best results. The finer the Qi gets, the better the results. There are three different dantians, but you can only gain access to the next two if you are strong enough.’
‘This is confusing, try and make it simpler’ Hui Yue said, trying to follow the explanation.
‘It’s not my fault it is confusing! Okay, people are ranked with ten ranks of strength and every rank is split into nine stars. First rank is Student, then it is Disciple, followed by Practitioner. Those three rely solely on the xia dantian, the lower dantian, and refinement of essence into Qi. If a person has enough of Qi of good enough quality and some cultivating talent it is possible to break into the Master rank. Can you follow so far?’ The phoenix asked with an overbearing voice. Hui Yue was insulted, but chose to just say "Yes."
‘After Master comes Grand Master and Duke. Those three ranks still absorb essence into the lower dantian and refines it to Qi, but they also opens a second dantian, the middle dantian known as Zhong. The Qi travels from the lower to the middle dantian and gets refined even further into spirit power. It is much finer than the usual Qi, and it allows the user to use some higher ranked combat skills amongst it's other uses.’ The Phoenix chose not to explain spirit power too much, as it would be a very long time before Hui Yue would even be able to see a spirit power user.
‘The next three ranks are King, Emperor and Saint. To achieve the rank of King you need to open the final dantian, the higher dantian, known as the Shang. It allows the user to refine the spirit power into Wu Wei. Wu Wei is the ultimate strength, upon achieving it you will be in a completely different league than all other cultivators below this rank, however it requires building some insane basics from the start at the lower dantian and continuing with intense, grueling training throughout the middle dantian. One can only hope to reach the Emperor rank. Because of this they are incredibly rare.’ The Phoenix was quiet for some time while trying to think if it had gotten all the basic information explained.
'That is only nine ranks,' Hui Yue pointed out, 'what is the tenth?'
'It's the rank of a god,' Lan Feng answered swiftly, 'but you don't need to know about that yet. Firstly it is completely different from the ranks that rely on dantians and secondly there has only been four gods as far as I am aware.'
‘What rank were you before you were sealed?’ Hui Yue asked with curiosity, but did not expect to be given an answer, however the phoenix surprised him as it replied ‘I was at Saint rank before, there has only been four gods in all of history and they were the Four Divine Beasts.’
‘If you were a Saint rank then you are really strong aren’t you?’
‘I was before, but right now I can’t use my powers very well. I am trapped within this body with you and if I was stupid enough to use them I can guarantee that this body would both explode and we would both die.’
‘But can’t you just do another instant reincarnation then?’
‘Do you think I am some almighty person? When you die your soul goes to the Netherworld. In the netherworld it will wander around until you lose all your memories from the previous life. Doesn’t matter if it is you or me, we would both forget. I could move us this one time because I used a burst of power, but don’t expect me to be able to do anything for a couple of years.’
‘Then are the four divine beasts turned into other creatures after going to the netherworld?’
‘They never went to the netherworld. They entered something called eternal sleep. They are asleep and will be sleeping forever. Legend says that there is a way to wake them up but no one has ever found it before.’
‘What is your name?’ Hui Yue suddenly asked. He realised that he had been told the whole life story of the Phoenix without knowing something that basic.
‘Lan Feng.’ Said the phoenix, and both Hui Yue and Lan Feng were quiet for a long period of time.
‘So, what do we do now?’ Hui Yue finally sighed, not completely sure what the whole point of this new world was.
‘I need revenge. As soon as we manage to kill the person who was behind tricking the descendant of the Azure Dragon then I should be able to return to my own body. That is the goal.’
‘What rank was that person?’
‘He was an Emperor.’
‘Right.’ Hui Yue said, but then he realised exactly what it was that Lan Feng had said, ‘but if you cannot return to your own body then you are stuck in mine, and you expect me to fight someone that highly ranked expert?’ he started to panic slightly. He was a perfectionist and it was true that he was quite curious about this cultivation, but he was not suicidal.
‘I’ll help you to cultivate.’ Lan Feng assured him, almost as if everything had already been decided and Hui Yue had no say in the matter.
‘Why would I do something that dangerous? Give me a reason.’ Blaming his death on Lan Feng, he had no intention of dying for an unknown person once again.
‘When you reach the rank of a God you can be reunited with that girl from before’ Lan Feng said in a matter-of-fact sort of way, that one sentence removed any hesitation within Hui Yue’s heart.
‘Li Fen?’ he asked breathlessly
‘Was that her name? The one you saved before you died.’
‘Are you certain?’ Hui Yue was sceptical, not knowing for sure if Lan Feng was trying to fool him or not, but in the end, if there was even a slight chance of reuniting with Li Fen, then he did not mind if he had to go through hell to achieve it.
‘Well yes,’ Lan Feng said, but before he could continue he was cut off by Hui Yue,
‘If I reach the rank of God she will most likely already have lived her life and died wont she?’ he said with a depressed voice as reality hit him. Lan Feng sighed and replied, ‘That is why I told you to reach the rank of a God. When you become a God ranked expert you can safely go to the netherworld and find her soul, then you can create a body for her and restore her memories.’ Lan Feng clearly used this knowledge to reel Hui Yue in. Both of them needed each other to gain what they wanted the most.
‘I will help you cultivate to the rank of a God and you will help me get revenge. After returning your lady to you our deal will be done and we can go our separate ways. Do you agree to make a Soul Contract?’ Lan Feng asked, slightly nervous until he noticed the determination in Hui Yue’s soul.
‘Just tell me what to do.’ Hui Yue firmly replied.