Chapter 814 – Lost in the Sea of Sand
The endless yellow sand sprawled into the distance. There were absolutely no traces of human activity.
A region of ruins, perhaps an ancient city of the past, already had all of their murals eroded away. All that remained was a monotonous yellow, basically screaming out age.
A few withered poplars twisted and extended their yellow trunks. Their withered branches reached towards the blue, transparent sky, like hands desperately trying to escape from the sea of sand, only to be swallowed by the sand in the end.
Li Qingshan stood on the top of the sand dune with Xiao An, taking all of this in. “This must be the Mirage sea!”
“It should just be an illusion,” said Xiao An.
The rustling wind blew away their voices, drifting into the distance.
Li Qingshan crouched down and scooped up a handful of sand. The grains poured between his fingers, all so realistic. There was even a voice in his head telling him that this was all real.
With the sea chart from the Great Banyan Tree King, it had not taken them a lot of time before they found the legendary Mirage sea. Through Xiao An’s warnings, he had learnt that the Mirage sea was anything but simple, even possibly hiding great danger. However, because of his trust in the Great Banyan Tree King and the divination of the spirit turtle, there should not have been any danger to his life, so he still chose to enter the Mirage sea.
“It really is the Clam King of Mirage Sea after all. This illusion is flawless. Though, while it is very strange for a sea of sand to appear on the sea, she sure is lacking in imagination!” Li Qingshan grinned, revealing his pure-white teeth.
“But if we can’t get through the illusion, how are we supposed to find the Clam King of Mirage Sea?” Xiao An asked.
“Watch me.” Li Qingshan called out, “Clam King of Mirage Sea, I am Li Qingshan. I’ve specially come to the Mirage sea to visit you under the Great Banyan Tree King’s directions. Please show yourself! This is the letter of introduction he’s written!”
A shout that resembled a tiger’s roar echoed into the distance, kicking up ripples in the sea of sand.
But there was no reply. Only the wind moaned softly.
Li Qingshan could not help but be surprised. He reached into his sumeru ring, but the letter of introduction written by the Great Banyan Tree King was actually gone. How was that possible? A sumeru ring was equivalent to an independent space. Was the Clam King of Mirage Sea really that powerful?
“Qingshan!” Xiao An tugged Li Qingshan’s sleeve and pointed towards the distant horizon. At the end of the sea of sand was a huge building that reached into the sky, wavering about in the heat waves. It seemed a little remote.
“C’mon, let’s go take a look!” Li Qingshan was unable to understand how he had lost the letter of introduction, so he downright stopped thinking about it. Since the Clam King of Mirage Sea had already given a reply, then everything would obviously be clear once he saw her.
He did not use the phoenix wings, just flying by Xiao An’s side. They flew at a very low altitude, where the gusts of wind kicked up sand waves and produced a long trail in the sand. Under the illumination of the sun, the sand glimmered like gold. It was extremely beautiful.
Li Qingshan had sworn to travel to all corners of the world and appreciate all the scenery it had to offer. He knew the sea of sand was an illusion, but it was still enough for him to take in and appreciate. Then he looked at Xiao An beside him. Her skin seemed smooth and pale like jade, while her clothes were even whiter than snow. Her black hair flowed with the wind, like a thick, long ribbon. She was a clear contrast of black and white, with just a bit of redness in the lips. As she smiled gently, she was as beautiful as a spirit of nature, or even something that originated from imagination alone.
Perhaps because of the influence of the wonderful illusion, Li Qingshan felt like it was the first time he had seen her, yet also like they had been on close terms for a thousand years already. He could not help himself as his eyes became fixed on her red lips, becoming dazed for a moment. He almost wanted to kiss them, but he suddenly shook his head and tossed this strange thought out of his mind.
Xiao An only stared at him closely, as tranquil as breathing.
Li Qingshan suddenly smiled and thought of a playful idea. He flew away from Xiao An and circled above the sea of sand, using the gusts of air to write two large, crooked words, Xiao An.
Xiao An smiled as well, flying down to write “Li Qingshan”, except it was neat and graceful.
Li Qingshan refused to just accept this. Then he wrote “Nine Heavens”, and at least that was much neater. He could not help but laugh aloud. The bright and clear laughter shook the sand dunes below, making a sheet of golden sand flow.
Xiao An began laughing too. Her laughter was like silver chimes, pure and ethereal like a dream.
They continued onwards. The wind and sand blew behind them, gradually swallowing the words they had written, leaving no trace behind.
They had fun along the way, except the “Clam building”—that was the name that Li Qingshan had given to the building—was even further away than he had imagined. It had only grown slightly larger despite flying for a good half a day.
TL: The Chinese word for “mirage” is actually an idiom, 海市蜃楼. A literal translation of it is “sea markets and clam buildings”. It basically describes just how bizarre a mirage can be, just as a market under the sea and buildings made from clams. This is also the origin of “Clam building” in this case.
Li Qingshan stopped playing around. He stared at the Clam building on the horizon. The Mirage sea definitely was not this large. As it seemed, it was like what Xiao An had said. This trip would not be as simple as he imagined it to be. He hoped this was only a test!
Xiao An remained unfazed, gazing at his back with her tranquil eyes.
Afterwards, they accelerated, flying straight towards the Clam building. Suddenly, Li Qingshan’s heart skipped a beat, and a yellow line rose up in the horizon, even obscuring the Clam building that reached into the sky. The yellow line gradually grew larger.
“It’s a sandstorm!”
If this were only a natural sandstorm, then Li Qingshan obviously would just brush it aside. However, this was an illusion made by the Clam King of Mirage Sea. This sandstorm definitely would not be as simple as it seemed.
Not only did the sandstorm blot out the sky, but it was boundless too.
“Let’s go down and avoid it for now. I refuse to believe it can blow us away!” Li Qingshan said.
Li Qingshan and Xiao An arrived on the ground beneath a stone pillar that was about to be swallowed up by the sand. There were ruins here as well, but only the huge stone pillar jutted out of the sea of sand. It was engraved with a few words that he could not really understand, as well as a few blurry diagrams, but he did find them familiar.
Li Qingshan took a closer look and had no idea how to react. The words were the English he had learnt in his past life, while the diagrams were geometric figures from maths. However, none of these things existed in this world, so was the illusion actually able to project the thoughts in his head?
Before he could think too much about it, the whistling sound travelled closer and grew louder and louder. It was like a sky full of mouths, blowing away at him. In the blink of an eye, the violent sand swallowed them up and brought darkness.
Li Qingshan discovered that his choice of hiding behind the stone pillar was correct. The sandstorm was so violent that even he felt like the world was spinning around him. He instinctively pulled Xiao An into his arms. His visibility had actually been reduced to less than thirty meters.
He sighed inside. What force. If he had remained in the sky, he definitely would have been blown away. The engraved pillar was like a tower of strength, fending off the invasion of the sandstorm.
“I wonder when it’ll pass,” Li Qingshan said to Xiao An in his arms who was as light as a feather, embracing her a little more tightly.
Xiao An said something, but her voice was drowned out by the wind.
“What did you say?” Li Qingshan asked with his soul sense, but before Xiao An could even reply, he suddenly heard a moo, ringing through the sandstorm with great clarity. He found the sound so familiar and close, as if it rang out from his heart.
Li Qingshan stood up and gazed around. In the dim sandstorm, the silhouette of an ox looked back at him.
Li Qingshan widened his eyes, clearly making out a broken horn on the ox’s head. He could not see it exactly, but he was certain it was black. He could not help but shudder inside. This was the greatest secret hidden in his heart, even greater than the fact that he had transmigrated.
Reincarnation and memories of past lives were nothing in the World of the Nine Provinces, but the black ox’s existence far surpassed this world. He was an existence that even superseded the six realms of saṃsāra, standing beyond the Nine Heavens.
However, Xiao An beside him did not seem to see anything at all, leaning against his lap quietly.
Was this also an illusion the Clam King of Mirage Sea created? But it was far too realistic!
The regular black ox gave off an aura that could not be put into words. The sandstorm and even the entire mirage twisted as a result, like it was about to collapse.
“Wait for me!”
Li Qingshan instructed Xiao An and rushed after the black ox. Even if it were an illusion, he wanted to catch another clear glimpse of the big brother that had given him everything yet had been gone for so long!
Xiao An extended her hand to grab the hem of his clothes, but it slid through her grasp helplessly. She watched as he vanished into the sandstorm.
The sandstorm was even more powerful than Li Qingshan imagined it to be. Even with his strength and cultivation, it was rather difficult to make his way through it. A great force pushed against his body, forcing him to hunch his back and stagger towards the black ox.
The black ox waved its tail and turned around, making its way off into the depths of the sandstorm in the same unhurried way as always.
Li Qingshan calls were blown away by the wind and sand. He thought of something and looked back. The sand and wind limited his visibility, such that he could not see the stone pillar or Xiao An anymore. He suddenly felt rather lost, but he did not have the time to think too much about it. He used his full strength to chase after the ox.
The world was a pale yellow. Only that figure was so clear, leading him off into the unknown.
However, no matter how Li Qingshan chased after him, the figure was just beyond reach. It gradually grew further away before completely vanishing in the sand and wind. A moo rang out from the distance.
“Sure enough, it’s just an illusion?” Li Qingshan knelt in the sand, heaving for air. He suddenly spread his arms and called out at the top of his lungs, “I will go there! Beyond the Nine Heavens, I’ll definitely go there!”
The sandstorm gradually subsided, and Li Qingshan found the stone pillar again. It had almost been buried by a sand dune, while the words and diagrams had all been ground away by the sand.
But there was nothing beneath the stone pillar!
“There seems… to be something here…” Li Qingshan was clueless, extending his hand to touch the stone pillar.
The stone pillar crumbled silently, turning into dust that was even finer than the sand and dispersing with the wind.
Li Qingshan stood on the sand dune, left in a daze for a good while. Only the sea of sand spanned as far as the eye could see. He was alone. He felt his heart ache slightly, and his eyes grew rather moist. He shook his head forcefully and gazed at the Clam building on the horizon.
He could still remember. I need to go there and find the Clam King of Mirage Sea!
With a strange sense of reluctance, he continued on his way. He just wanted to turn around and take a look, but he hated looking back the most, so he gritted his teeth and continued on the way. Very soon, he threw the sand dune behind. It was no different from the thousands of other sand dunes.
The wind blew gently. Li Qingshan was stern, constantly advancing towards the Clam building. The surrounding scenery gradually became monotonous. There were no ruins, nor were there any ancient poplars, only sand dunes upon sand dunes like waves in the sea of sand.
However, the sandstorms occurred more and more frequently, so he was forced to give up on flying. After walking for who knew how many days, or perhaps years, the sun continued to loom over his head, radiating with scorching light. It made him feel restless.
Even with the Strength of the Earth, waves of exhaustion attacked. His body was covered in a layer of dust, but he could not stop. The Clam building was still there, growing closer and closer.
Finally, after the passing of another sandstorm, Li Qingshan looked around. There was only a boundless desert. He gazed at the horizon.
“What… is supposed to be there?”
He was lost.