Lu Yun clasped his hands behind his back and stood on the shore of the lake, silently observing the situation for a long moment before responding softly, “You are the lord of Duskwater City, I presume?”
“Indeed. This subordinate is at your service, Your Excellency.” Despite her humble words, there was no trace of deference to be seen in her mien.
“You wish to kill me?” Lu Yun asked without a flicker of change in his expression. Since she was aware of his identity, she was likely involved in today’s events.
However, the girl shook her head with a slight frown. “I wouldn’t need such convoluted ploys if I actually wanted you dead,” she sighed. “I may be the city lord, but I am not the lord of the city.”
“Oh?” Lu Yun turned pensive.
“Duskwater Prefecture is administered by a prefect. He’s the true master here, both in the city and in the prefecture.” Ruefulness flashed on her face. “Today was probably his doing.”
“The prefect, eh?” Lu Yun nodded lightly.
The city lord’s jurisdiction was limited to the city itself, whereas the prefect was an official dispatched by the imperial court to govern the entire prefecture. The position holder also needed to be an immortal. The two conditions combined naturally gave the latter greater authority.
Dusk City also used to be governed by city lords, but one of them was promoted to a provincial governor at some point, unifying the two titles henceforth. Most city lords were mere figureheads, and the real power lay in the hands of the court officials.
Case in point, the girl in front of him.
And indeed, a single finger of hers would suffice to kill him, if she were so inclined. Why go through all the hassle of the previous song and dance?
“How did you learn of my arrival?”
“Milord governor, you carry the provincial seal with you. It can manipulate the energy of heaven and earth within the entire province and command all formations in every city within its borders. Any city lord or local official will immediately sense your presence the moment you set foot inside a city,” the girl explained. “As for today, it was indeed my intention to call upon you, but that ‘Li Youcai’ was one step ahead of me. I didn’t anticipate this plot of his.”
“Li Youcai?” Lu Yun blinked. What an amusing name. The characters literally mean ‘Li has talent’.
“He’s the prefect I mentioned earlier.” With a wave of her hand, the girl summoned a rainbow bridge that ended at Lu Yun’s feet.
In silent wonderment, he set foot on it and quickly arrived beside the girl clad in men’s clothing. This is what a genuine immortal can do. She’s on a completely different level than my four Infernum.
A fresh and elegant scent exuded from her, imparting refreshment and alleviating worries in its wake.
He took a seat across from her and studied her carefully, then asked, “Why were you looking for me?”
“My name is Mo Yi,” she proffered after a moment of silence.
“Mm… that’s a good name.” With an embarrassed cough, Lu Yun squeezed out a few random words after an awkward silence.
“Your Excellency, I want to strike a deal with you.” Mo Yi thought for a moment. “I’ll protect you during the Sacrament and help you survive the trial. In exchange, you’ll help me handle Li Youcai.”
“That’s not much of a deal.” Lu Yun shook his head. “Even without your help, no one will be able to kill me during the ritual.”
Mo Yi fell silent.
“As an official appointed by the imperial court, Li Youcai also answers to me… I have little to gain by clashing with him,” added Lu Yun
“But he wants you dead.” Mo Yi bit her lip.
“So do many others,” Lu Yun chuckled. “What’s one more?”
Mo Yi quietly considered her options. For now, she was a mere figurehead without any real authority to speak of.
“Since you’re the city lord, you must know if there are ancient tombs nearby.” Lu Yun suddenly changed the topic.
“Tombs?” Mo Yi blinked. “The great war a hundred thousand years ago littered the world with many graves, and there is indeed one within the city’s territory.”
Lu Yun’s eyes gleamed with excitement. As things stood, everything he possessed thus far originated from the tombs of immortals. What he needed the most now was an Envoy of Samsara that was eminently accomplished in formations. Creating an envoy out of a living person was nigh impossible, so he could only try his luck with tombs.
“Where is it located?” he inquired anxiously. He’d carefully surveyed the terrain on his way to the city, but hadn’t spotted any tombs other than the one on Mount Carmine Dusk.
“That one’s too dangerous. You better not go.” Mo Yi hesitated for a moment. “However, I know of another place that might benefit you.”
“Another place?” Lu Yun stared blankly at her.
“The Brightstar Snowrend formation in my rear garden is an immortal grade formation derived from the ancient civilization’s Big Dipper Formation. Even an immortal would be hard pressed to emerge unscathed, yet you came out safe and sound despite your cultivation realm only being at qi condensation. It’s proof that you’re a master of formations.
“The place I mentioned is guarded by layers of formations. The treasure inside is yours for the taking as long as you can break them.” Mo Yi earnestly continued.
“Are you talking about the Myriad Formation Summit?” Lu Yun asked with a faint frown.
Inside Duskwater Prefecture was a terrifying mountain called the Myriad Formation Summit. It was guarded by a multitude of formations from its foot all the way to its peak. It was the prefecture’s greatest forbidden ground. Thanks to Yuying’s experience and memories, he was naturally aware of its reputation.
“The mountain was taboo long before the disturbance of Dusk’s great tomb. Even golden immortals would be powerless to escape it. Who are you to gift its treasure to me?” Lu Yun shook his head.
“I’ll accompany you there. Once the relic is in your possession, you’ll help me deal with Li Youcai,” Mo Yi asserted, firmly serious.
“Do you know what sort of relic it is?” Lu Yun was tempted.
Yuying had also explored the mountain in the past, but despite breaking through thirty-six formations with the help of the Panorama of Clarity, she’d been forced to withdraw, her life hanging by a thread. However, Mo Yi seemed to know what lay inside.
“What’s left of the records from a hundred thousand years ago speaks of an immortal artifact born from heaven and earth named the ‘Formation Orb’. It contains boundless knowledge about the way of formations. What the records describe matches Myriad Formation Summit almost perfectly,” Mo Ying replied.
“If my guess is right, the mountain took shape after the ‘Formation Orb’ took up residence there. Combining your skills as a formation master and my own treasures makes obtaining this artifact a possibility.”
Lu Yu looked solemnly into her eyes. “Do you know what they say about trying to strike a deal with the devil?”
Mo Yi started. “If you don’t trust me, I can swear a blood oath.”
Such an oath laid down one’s body and soul as forfeit. Violating it withered one’s very essence, ultimately leading to death.
“Let’s do that, then.” Lu Yun nodded. He was extremely intrigued by this so-called Formation Orb. Formations and feng shui were two sides of the same coin, but the former contained many layouts he’d never seen before.
“City Lord, City Lord! The prefect requests your presence!” shouted a hoarse voice from afar as soon as Lu Yun and Mo Yi completed the pledge.
Mo Yi frowned slightly, a hint of displeasure on her face.
“Are you kept under watch even inside your own house?” Lu Yun immediately empathized with her circumstances.
“Yes.” She nodded gently. “This is Nephrite Major territory, which means I must obey the imperial court’s rules.”
Lu Yun didn’t fully understand her words. Did she have a choice to begin with? Those rules were the very reason he was still alive to this day.
“Your Ladyship, please!” the owner of the hoarse voice shouted once more after a long period of silence. Clearly, he was wary of stepping inside the rear garden. The formation in the garden might be a trifle for Lu Yun, but anyone else would be instantly torn to pieces.
The servant that’d brought Lu Yun inside was obviously a spy who was planted by Li Youcai.
“Li Youcai must be up to no good…. He probably thinks you’re dead inside my manor right now.” Mo Yi remained imperturbable from start to finish.
“I’m also keen to meet this prefect who has the gall to scheme against me. I wonder what his expression will be when he realizes I’m still alive.” Lu Yun smirked coldly. “Let’s go together.”