Dao Tree (Unedited)
A tree, golden leaved and filled with ripe fruits, sat on a hill. The sky was orange and pink, and clouds passed by overhead leaving an ever changing pattern of shadows on the ground. In one moment it would rain, in the next it would snow, and in the next the wind would blow and the leaves and branches would rock and sway and shift in the breeze. Through it all, the tree remained rooted in place.
A single fruit detached itself from its branch, and drifted towards the roots of the tree. One would expect for the fruit to fall quickly, but in this place it merely drifted to the ground as though it were as light as a feather.
It came to rest on the forehead of a 14 year old boy, asleep and un-moving at the roots of the tree. This boy’s eyelids fluttered open, and his hand reached for the fruit. His gaze wandered everywhere, observing this strange and wondrous place. One moment the cold made him shiver, and the next the heat made him sweat.
He was dry, and wet, and young and old all at once. Time held no logical order in this place, but rather this place was time itself manifested.
Pan Gu’s eye’s looked out across the most distant areas of this place, and he saw many hills, each with their own golden tree.
Feeling hungry, he bit into the soft flesh of the fruit in his hand. It was warm, and juicy, and he found that felt much better after eating it.
Looking up, he discovered that the place where his fruit had fallen from had already started budding a new fruit. Soon, another fruit detached itself and drifted over to Pan Gu. As soon as he touched it, he once more felt that hunger, so he ate.
This continued for a long time, though day and night held no sway here, Pan Gu could tell he had been in this place for a very long time.
Finally, the last fruit of the tree had fallen, been eaten, and then been replaced by a new bud.
Pan Gu sat down, momentarily satisfied, only to be interrupted then by a constant hungry ache coming from within his stomach. Setting his sights on the tree once more, he could only sigh in disappointment as the new buds had yet to ripen.
Looking out, he saw another tree nearby, also golden, and full of ripe fruits.
Thinking that those fruits looked just as delicious, he set out towards that tree. On the way, he felt a pair of eyes gazing at him.
When he looked, he saw an old man staring at him from afar, surprise on his face. The old man approached him, and the two stood facing each other. At one moment the old man was ancient, and the next he was young. Much like Pan Gu, this man seemed to change with every moment in this place. However, it seemed that this person was constantly shifting back to appear as an old man. He seemed thin, like he was starving. A wave of pity seemed to hit Pan Gu as he stared at this old man.
“Are you hungry?” Said Pan Gu.
The old man’s eyes stared, confused. “Yes.” He croaked.
“Then come, I will get you something to eat.” Said Pan Gu.
The old man was hesitant at first, then followed after Pan Gu curiously.
Together they arrived at the base of a nearby tree, and Pan Gu held out his hand towards the tree. A fruit dropped itself from the tree, and landed in his hand.
This sight caused the old man to stare at him with his mouth wide open, his heart palpitating in amazement.
Pan Gu handed him the fruit casually, and then turned towards the tree again with his hand outstretched.
The old man immediately ate the fruit, and his complexion became a little better. Before he knew it, another fruit was handed to him by Pan Gu. He ate it, and another appeared. This process continued until the fruit of the tree had been entirely eaten by the old man.
Finally, the old man had to stop, feeling full.
He gazed at Pan Gu with awe, and gratitude in his eyes. “Senior, your kindness will forever be remembered by this Junior. If you ever have any need of me, you can find me at the Dragon’s breath sect in the Yin/Yang continent.”
After he said this, his figure promptly vanished, leaving Pan Gu alone by the tree.
He chuckled wryly. “He thought I was his Senior? How peculiar.”
Feeling the hunger in his stomach once more, he gazed at the tree sadly. All of its fruits had been plucked, and thus was growing new buds. Sighing, he set his sights on another nearby golden tree, and made his way there.
Once there, he ate all of the fruit on the tree. However, it seemed that this was not enough. So he continued, tree by tree, until he had sampled the fruit of every tree in this strange valley, but the tree which he had fed to the old man. Approaching this tree once more, he was delighted to see that each fruit on the tree had fully ripened, so he promptly sat down and began eating every fruit on the tree.
When he had finished, the hungry feeling finally disappeared to be replaced by a feeling of profound fullness. As though he was full to the very core of who he was, full in every aspect and meaning of the word.
Feeling at once tired, and satisified, Pan Gu lay down beneath the tree, and closed his eyes to take a nap.
“Pangu! Wake Up, Pangu!” an urgent voice was sounding in his head.
Grumbling unhappily, his eyes opened and looked around him. He was lying on the floor of a long dark corridor.
Groggily, he tried to recollect where he was, and he could only barely remember that he had opened the book of the Dao and then blacked out.
He tried his voice, but it was scratchy and he coughed several times before he was able to say anything.
“Jian Sheng… what the hell happened?”
“Boy, you’ve got a really weird habit of passing out.”
“How long was I out?”
Pan Gu’s stunned silence fills the corridor.
“I noticed your breathing pattern shifted a few minutes ago, and thus I decided to try to wake you once more. I wasn’t sure you would ever wake up. I’m frankly amazed that you aren’t dead. I was going to warn you that reading the Dao Book has its own dangers, and one must specially prepare the mind for it, but before I could you dumbly delved right into it. You need to develop a sense of caution, boy. Or one day you’re going to die, and I won’t stick around to help you in your next life like I did with this life. No need for me to get dragged down with you just because you’re an idiot.”
Pan Gu gives a wry grin as he listens to Jian Sheng’s admonishments.
“Aren’t you going to ask what I learned?”
Jian Sheng’s voice immediately stopped. “What did you learn?”
Pan Gu searches his mind, but other than a strange pressure in the back of his head, he feels no different and can discern no knowledge which he did not grasp before he read the book.
“That’s odd… I can’t sense any new knowledge.”
“What happened after you read the book? Tell me everything.”
Pan Gu’s voice echoed out from the corridor as he narrated the events in that strange world. JIan Sheng’s gasps of awe and amazement echoed from within his mind as he detailed his experiences with the golden trees.
“It seems that those golden trees were Dao Trees. You said you ate all the fruit of every tree within that place? Then I can only assume that you’ve gained an entire major Dao path from reading that book.”
Pan Gu’s excitement reared in his heart, before dimming again as he realized the crux of the issue. “Then why don’t I have access to this knowledge? I read the book, I ate the fruit… Shouldn’t I know the Dao now?”
“You misunderstand, Pangu. To eat a Dao fruit is to gain access to an entire Minor Dao. Just one of these Minor Dao’s is enough to overwhelm and break the mind of a Core Formation cultivator. You absorbed what must be over a few thousand of these Dao fruits. If you suddenly had that much information dumped into your mind at once, then your mind would likely completely shatter. This must be the power of the book, protecting your mind from being overwhelmed by the influence of the Dao.”
“Then how does having this knowledge do me any good?!” Pan Gu’s exasperation finally takes over, and he angrily kicks at the pedestal which previously held the Dao Book, which has mysteriously disappeared.
Sighing deeply, he looked around him, as if noticing for the first time the unique structure of the room around him.
Something seems to click as he observes the tiles on the floor and walls of the room. Jian Sheng observes the changes occurring in Pan Gu’s behavior with curiosity, and does nothing to obstruct his actions.
Pan Gu’s hands trace the tiles and a strange glint comes over his eyes as his fingers pause at a strange, mismatched tile in the wall of the room. Pressing the tile, the pedestal disappears into the floor, accompanied by the sound of whirring gears and cranking levers.
The wall around the mismatched tile suddenly crumbles away to reveal a courtyard, and past the courtyard is what appears to be a small mansion.
Jian Sheng’s surprise at this turn of events is made apparent by his sharp intake of breath.
“How did you do that, boy?”
“I don’t know… I felt like something was calling me… So I just listened to it.”
Pan Gu cautiously walks into the courtyard, staring around in wonder, observing all of the minute details and strange nuances of the mansion courtyard.
In the center of the courtyard sits a prayer mat, on which sits a skeleton. This skeleton is posed as though it was meditating quietly, and it exuded a powerful presence even though it was obviously dead.
As Pan Gu approached the skeleton, he observed that the skeleton had a strange golden ring in its hand.
Tentatively, he reached out and took the ring, causing the skeleton to unbalance itself and collapse into dust.
“Pangu, that’s a storage ring. You haven’t much use for it, but send your consciousness into the ring. He may have left some valuables behind.”
Pan Gu attempted to do as instructed, but found his consciousness was blocked by some strange force.
“There seems to be some sort of block preventing me from revealing the contents of the ring.” Said Pan Gu.
Jian Sheng’s grumbling voice could be heard echoing out in Pan Gu’s head.
“Of course it’s got a protective formation placed in it. Nothing is ever simple with you, is it Pangu?”
Pan Gu says nothing, but sends the ring over to Jian Sheng who takes it into his storage space with an unhappy expression.
“Well, search around. We may find some clue as to who this person was when he was alive.”
Pan Gu did just that. He made his way towards the mansion’s large double doors, and forced them open. Their hinges creaked with age.
Inside the mansion was a long hallway, lined with doors. Taking a slow, methodical approach to his exploration, Pan Gu searched every room from bottom to top.
He found several scrolls and old books and furniture, but nothing of extreme value.
Feeling unsatisfied, Pan Gu made his way out of the mansion once again, and stood before the crumbled skeleton of this mansion’s owner.
Feeling a tad sentimental, Pan Gu bowed formally to the skeleton, showing his respect for the deceased.
As he did this, there was an audible sigh which carried on the wind like a whisper.
“You’re a good young man, aren’t you? I would have attempted to possess you had you not shown any respect to me before leaving. Now, I think I shall reward you instead. I do not have much, but I can remove the formation within my storage ring. The contents of the ring should be of service to you, I believe.”
Pan Gu stood frozen, staring into space, unsure of what to do. Jian Sheng however, reacted immediately by producing the ring, and using it to grab Pan Gu’s attention.
Pan Gu started, took the ring, and then bowed once more to the skeleton. “This junior thanks you senior!”
The voice seemed to carry with it a hint of a smile. “There is something you should know. Perhaps it will benefit you. Inside my ring is a map, which I was told detailed the location of a second Dao Book.”
Pan Gu’s heart began thumping heavily.
“This junior would like to ask a question, Senior. Do you perhaps know which of the Dao the Dao book I had previously read was about? The knowledge is locked in my mind, and I have no access to it at the moment. I am not sure where to start with it, and as of right now it is useless to me.”
“You have read the book of the Major Dao of Weapon Smithing. Thus, hidden away in your mind as you have described, are the secrets of all the weapons currently in existence. Swords, spears, knives, bows, arrows, it includes detailed information about how those weapons are made. You now carry within you the knowledge of a Grandmaster Weapons Craftsman. I hope it serves you better than it served me. You could be considered to be the inheritor of my legacy, thus I should consider you my own descendant. My name, in life, was Feng Bingwen. It would please me greatly if you would take on the task of preserving my name.”
Pan Gu was silent for a moment, and then he grinned broadly. “Then from now on, I shall be Feng Pangu. This junior thanks Senior Feng for his generosity, and promises to leave behind Senior’s name to my descendants to carry on your legacy for you.”
And, with a final sigh as gentle as the wind, Feng Bingwen disappeared from this world completely.
“Quickly, look in the ring! I want to know what he left in there!”
Jian Sheng’s urgent voice seemed almost childish with excitement.
Pouring his mind into the ring, Pangu then emptied its contents into the courtyard.
There were many books about the art of weapon smithing, some tools which Pangu was able to surmise were used to craft different weapons, and many, many different kinds of metallic ores.
Jian Sheng sighed dramatically until Pangu procured a sheet of yellowed paper with a crudely drawn map on it.
“It appears that Senior Feng was serious about the map. But I can’t make heads or tails of it. All it shows are landmarks around the area where the book is hidden.” Pangu sighed dramatically, and put away all the items within Jian Sheng’s space.
“Keep the ring, Pangu. It’ll help with appearances, that way people will believe that you’ve stored your items in your ring.”
Nodding his head, Pangu dons the ring and then makes his way out of the courtyard, towards the exit of the cave, and then swims through the water towards his now dilapidated makeshift campsite. “I’ve been away from the world for 6 months. I think it might be time for me to make my appearance once again in the world of cultivators.” Said Pangu, with a thoughtful expression.
Jian Sheng seemed just as excited about this prospect as Pangu, and thus the two of them began their journey to the nearest city.