The old boatman took a sip of alcohol and then said, “Going back to the beginning would be an excellent choice. Take your memories with you, and re-live your life. Not only would you not have to worry about that possessed rebel of an apprentice of mine, but you could also rectify many of your regrets.
“People always have regrets, mostly decisions made from youth or inexperience. One always has pain and loss, but by re-living life, you could really make things as perfect as they could be.”
“Definitely a good choice, that one.” The old man sighed, his eyes flickering with reminiscence. It seemed that even he, who had become time itself, still had memories that caused him to sigh.
Bai Xiaochun didn’t say anything in response. He stood there at the prow of the boat, seemingly lost in thought. Perhaps he was weighing the old boatman’s words, and thinking back to everything that had happened in his life.
Eventually, the boatman finished drinking his jug of alcohol. At that point, Bai Xiaochun opened his eyes. Although he didn’t speak, there was a glint deep in his eyes that no observer would ever be able to detect. Turning his head, he looked at the flower on the right.
As soon as he did, images floated up in his mind, until they occupied the entirety of his sea of consciousness.
This time, he was not observing the scene as if from an outside perspective. It was as if he had actually gone back in time, and not to the beginning of the story. The starry sky was dark, but at the same time, filled with starlight. That light came from the ruined worlds that Bai Xiaochun and the Mortal Renegade had fought over.
This was the very moment in time that Holy Extermination had died. This time, he failed in his attempt to open the River of Time and Space. Before the rumbling vortex could completely form, the Essence of the Eternal, in the form of that mysterious energy, completely erased him out of existence!
The only thing that remained was his voice, filled with infinite regret.
“In the very end, I still failed….”
As he was erased, the three great Dao domain treasures that had created the vortex fell down, and the river faded away. The vortex also disappeared.
Although the Eternal Immortal Domains were cracked and damaged to the point where they were about to fall to pieces, they still existed. Everyone was still alive, including Song Junwan, Zhou Zimo, Hou Xiaomei and Gongsun Wan’er. The moment of crisis had passed.
The aura of the Eternal Mother gradually began to spread, and the Eternal Immortal Domains began to recover. As for Bai Xiaochun, he looked just like he had back in those days. He had used so much life force that he was incomparably weak, but he was still smiling as he closed his eyes and began to drop down into the Eternal Immortal Domains.
As he did, a soft light from the Eternal Mother reached out to embrace him, and gently carried him down into Arch-Emperor City.
Even as he lost consciousness, he could hear the voices of his friends, his family, and his children. All of them were cheering.
He also heard the angry cry of the little turtle.
“I hate you, Bai Xiaochun….”
But then the voices faded away… and time began to pass.
Years later, he awoke.
The Eternal Immortal Domains was still the only spot where life existed. However, instead of the black void which had surrounded it in the past, there were now a multitude of stars. They were the ruins that Bai Xiaochun had brought light to, and given enough time, that light and life force would bring new life.
Now that the catastrophe of the Mortal Renegade had passed, life became ordinary again in the Eternal Immortal Domains. The five domains were all repaired, and the Eternal Sea was as majestic as ever. Vegetation and other forms of life flourished on the highest mountains and in the vastest of the plains.
The Saint-Emperor Dynasty still existed. And although the Vile-Emperor Dynasty didn’t have a Vile-Emperor anymore, Bai Xiaochun allowed the empire to survive. The Eternal Immortal Domains continued to have three major powers.
War was a thing of the past. Without the threat of the Mortal Renegade, and the corrosive spirit he brought with him, the Eternal Mother recovered. Whereas the Saint-Emperor had once been doomed to remain as a half-sovereign, he now had hope for reaching a higher level.
The only person to leave the Eternal Immortal Domains was Song Que. He took the treasured fan to the ruins of the Immortal World, where he waited for them to recover, and for life to return. Once the qi flow of the world was restored, he would have his path to the Sovereign Realm.
Dabao became the new Arch-Emperor. Although the Grand Heavenmaster was very old, he still loved the exercise of power, and therefore, he and the Giant Ghost King both assisted Dabao.
Li Qinghou wasn’t interested in the affairs of the world anymore. He and Patriarch Spirit Stream lived out in the lush mountains, far away from the affairs of the dynasty. Despite that, not a person existed in the Eternal Immortal Domains who would ever dare to refuse a request from them.
The Eternal Mother took note of this, and gave Li Qinghou a blessing of abundant life force.
Big Fatty Zhang, Master God-Diviner and Xu Baocai eventually became celestials, and lived happy lives. Big Fatty Zhang found a Daoist partner, as did Xu Baocai….
There was little need to mention Bruiser. He was soon just as impressive as he had been back in the River-Defying Sect, and sired countless offspring….
Bai Xiaochun’s children all tread their own paths. Xiaoxiao got married, to a rather shy but, at the same time, very earnest cultivator. They lived a very happy life.
Most frustrating of all to Bai Xiaochun was Xiaobao. He had inherited just about every aspect of Bai Xiaochun’s personality, and acted just like he would. In fact, the little turtle seemed to find a kindred spirit in him, and abandoned Bai Xiaochun to spend time with Xiaobao….
“The little turtle has definitely led my son astray….” Bai Xiaochun thought, sighing. Worst of all was that Xiaobao loved to concoct medicine, and had inherited his father’s talents in that regard. He had long since mastered the Aphrodisiac Pill and the Fantasy Pill, and had even improved on them. And he had gone on to create many new pills, much to Bai Xiaochun’s consternation.
In addition to spending time with his Master, Bai Hao had begun to search for his own path to becoming a sovereign. At the same time, he had been tasked with watching over Xiaobao, which involved putting out a lot of fires caused by the disaster-duo of Xiaobao and the little turtle. However… now that everything had settled down, Bai Xiaochun had come to the conclusion that Bai Hao needed to get married and settle down. Unfortunately, Bai Hao wasn’t interested in that, and always used the excuse of having to watch over Xiaobao and the little turtle to push the matter off into the future. After this happened several times, Bai Xiaochun had a very “serious and important” meeting with Xiaobao, who was his true successor, to give him the responsibility of making sure Bai Hao fell in love and got married. Off to the side, the little turtle listened… and his eyes began to sparkle as he realized that he had found a new goal in life.
Peace and serenity reigned. Song Junwan, Hou Xiaomei, Zhou Zimo and Gongsun Wan’er kept Bai Xiaochun very happy. In the end, the cultivation world had become exactly like he had always imagined it could be, free from fighting and killing.
And yet, there was still one last thing he regretted.
On one particular day, Bai Xiaochun was standing in a courtyard on a mountain some distance away from Arch-Emperor City, bathed by the glow of the setting sun. Turning his head, he looked off in a certain direction.
“That should be the place….” he murmured. He took a step forward, and vanished. When he reappeared… he was in one of the distant border regions of the Vile-Emperor Dynasty. There, at the edge of a remote village, was a temple.
It was a small temple, with two maple trees flanking the entrance, their leaves as red as fire. As the leaves slowly dropped from the trees and drifted to the ground, they made a particularly entrancing scene.
It was evening here too, and the fiery red evening cast light onto the tiles and bricks of the temple, making it look like the prayer garment of a monk….
It was very peaceful, and for a long moment, Bai Xiaochun simply stood there in front of the temple with his eyes closed, listening to the sound of scriptures being sung within the temple. The singer was a woman, her voice soft and filled with piety….
As soon as he heard that voice, he thought back to memories of the past.
As he stood there, he seemed to become one with the crimson evening sunlight.
Time slowed as an autumn wind suddenly kicked up, lifting his hair and causing rustling sounds to rise up as the fallen leaves swirled into motion. However, it almost seemed like the leaves and the wind understood that scriptures were being sung in the temple, and did not compete with the woman who was singing them. The scene was perfect.
Bai Xiaochun opened his eyes, sighed, and walked toward the temple. Reaching out, he placed his hand on the red-lacquered door of the temple, then pushed it open. Inside, he saw a statue of the Eternal Mother, illuminated by an oil lamp.
In front of the statue… was a woman, on her knees, head bowed, singing to the statue.
She wore simple, homespun garments, and had long black hair that flowed down her shoulders. She almost seemed to be part of the temple around her….
Bai Xiaochun stood there quietly, listening to her sing. It was a song about a lifetime devoted to religion, a lifetime spent alone in an ancient temple, with only an oil lamp for company.
A moment passed, and the woman suddenly seemed to realize that she wasn’t alone. But she didn’t look over her shoulder. She shivered, and a tear ran down her cheek, landing on the ground in front of the oil lamp, splashing out into the shape… of a flower. A flower filled with emotion and memory.