“Shut your mouth and stop talking!” Sensing that Qing Han was about to speak up, Lu Yun viciously pinched the young man’s butt, turning whatever the envoy was about to say into a yelp.
The undead hag moved... through the two of them and vanished without a trace.
“We’re at the center of the certain death layout. Everything you see or hear is an illusion. The layout will extract your soul the moment you answer anything, so keep quiet if you want to live!
“Listen to me. Just close your eyes and shut your mouth. I don’t want to hear a word out of you, even if you hear your ancestors calling out to you! That includes me talking to you right now. Listen, but don’t you dare reply!” Lu Yun said, his tone brooking no disobedience.
Resting against the Dusk governor’s back, Qing Han nodded in silence and closed his eyes. What he’d experienced inside this burial mound was far beyond his comprehension.
“Damn it, why is your ass like a woman’s!” Lu Yun’s aggressive tone sounded again. Although highly aggrieved, Qing Han kept his lips sealed.
The Dusk governor heaved a long sigh of relief. I pinched his ass just now out of pure instinct… Holy feck! Am I turning gay? he lamented inwardly. No, wait… I didn’t do it because it feels good to the touch. There was no other choice, given the situation. It was the only way to make him shut up. Right.
A little spooked, he repeatedly reassured himself. On his back, Qing Han suddenly weighed like an uncomfortable burden. I definitely don’t swing that way. Nope! Not to mention, Qing Han might not be the most ugly guy out there, but no one would ever call him a looker...
Damn it, what do his looks have to do with me? I don’t swing that way!
Resisting the urge to ditch Qing Han there and then, Lu Yun made his way forward step by step, wading into ever deeper water. Inside this formation, the water was the only thing that didn’t lie.
Just please don’t let it be corpse water from that zombie. Lu Yun’s heart pounded; corpse water would very likely infect him and turn him into one of the undead.
Jabbering from Yueshen and Miao drifted by his ears as they chattered about who knew what, but then he suddenly caught an unfamiliar female voice.
“Wait, why is the starstone losing its effect?” A warm and soft voice echoed quite pleasingly in the air.
Lu Yun seemed to feel Qing Han undergo a change on his back. The stick-thin body gradually turned fleshy, slender, increasingly more pleasant to the touch. Two strange, soft lumps pressed lightly against his back, making his heart quake.
He reflexively tilted his head back. Instead of Qing Han’s overly tanned face, he was greeted by the sight of an extraordinarily beautiful face resting against his shoulder.
Said face even wore an expression of disbelief.
Trying to seduce me? Lu Yun snickered inwardly. It’s not like I don’t know I’m carrying an ugly kid on my back. How is such a cheap trick part of the near death layout?
He kept his eyes trained on the ground and ignored the woman on his back, plodding onward.
Sure enough, the dainty female figure returned to its lanky, male form after a while. It still felt soft, but was miles apart from the slim, yet curvy figure from earlier.
Lu Yun smacked his lips. That illusion just now was actually a nice one. He suddenly halted and lifted his right hand. With a flash of purple sword light, he slashed at a corpsefish that had appeared out of the blue.
The monster flopped back down in two pieces, coloring the clear water a dark red.
Lu Yun sheathed Violetgrave and resumed his journey. Truth and falsehood…
Genuine mortal dangers lurked within the formation. Then again, would he be this nervous if the layout only killed with deception?
After disposing of the fish, he turned around and retraced his steps, circling many times in the water.
I didn’t think I’d lose sight of Yueshen. Are the illusions blocking my senses, or did she die in here? No, she’s an immortal ghost, she wouldn’t die so easily… Fatty Li Youcai is the only one who might. But if he died, where did Yueshen run off to? Lu Yun frowned lightly. He really couldn’t sense the slightest trace of her or Miao. Qing Han and him were now the only ones left inside.
“What happened just now?” Qing Han suddenly murmured to himself. “Why—” he cut his sentence short and clamped his mouth shut.
“Did you feel yourself becoming a woman?” asked Lu Yun.
The earlier warning still fresh on Qing Han’s mind, he merely threw back a ferocious glare and didn’t answer. Even so, his face was bright red.
“It’s alright, we’re almost out of the formation.” One hand supporting Qing Han, Lu Yun held the sword in his other. Fresh blood was still dripping from the weapon’s blade, as he’d killed too many monsters to count.
Truth and lies lay interwoven inside the layout, but either could claim his life. If not for his will having been tempered by a previous brush with death, or if he hadn’t become a cultivator, he’d truly have lost his life in this formation.
Qing Han sighed softly in relief at their deliverance.
“I lied! I’m one of the formation’s ghosts and I’ve come for your life!” Lu Yun’s tone suddenly turned forceful. The eerie, ominous voice made Qing Han blanch. On the verge of tears, he trembled repeatedly.
“Alright alright, I’m just messing with you. A grown man shouldn’t cry like a snotty brat,”Lu Yun said, softening his words with a smile. “Eh? Why do I know you’re crying?” He blinked. “Oh, it’s my consciousness.”
As a cultivator, he possessed a consciousness to match. He’d just never made deliberate use of it before now. But after experiencing many trials inside the burial mound, he’d slowly acclimated to using a cultivator’s methods, mentally transitioning from a tomb-raiding mortal to a tomb-raiding cultivator.
“I was wondering how I spotted a pretty girl on my back with just a sideway glance. Turns out it was my consciousness doing it.” Recalling the details of that peerless face, he couldn’t help but smack his lips again, somewhat regretful.
His lips thinning into a line, Qing Han stayed quiet, but his expression turned increasingly indignant.
After walking for a little while longer, they reached a wide open space. The water at Lu Yun’s feet was much shallower in this place. There, he spotted Miao and Yueshen, as well as Li Youcai’s bulky frame.
“My lord!” In control of Li Youcai, Yueshen flew his way the moment he appeared, sighing in relief when she saw him unharmed.
“How did you two end up here?” Lu Yun asked, a little confused. Miao was invisible, but Yueshen could still sense the spirit’s existence.
“The formation is aimed at the living. I… don’t know what I am, but in any case, I’m not alive. And little Yueshen is an immortal ghost. So of course it has no effect on us. We came here first and waited for you,” explained Miao.
Lu Yun felt his scalp go numb. He’d clearly seen Yueshen behind him in the formation and had been dead certain it was her! So in other words, he’d already fallen for the trap then.
“My lord, before entering the formation, I told you I’d exit first and wait for you on the other side...” Yueshen’s words chilled Lu Yun to the core.
He’d heard nothing of the sort.
So something had enthralled him before he’d even entered the formation! He’d dispelled it only because of his steadfast refusal to believe the fake Miao’s words. It was also around the same time that the Yueshen following him had vanished.
“In that case, did you see me reply to you?” he slowly inquired.
“You nodded, my lord.” Yueshen also seemed to notice something out of place.
“It even fooled an immortal ghost. What can it be?” whispered Lu Yun.
“I told you this place was dangerous. You should’ve listened to me,” Miao grumbled. A thought struck him and alarm was suddenly writ large on his face. “Where’s the girl who was with you? She’s not dead, is she?”
“No, she’s bringing up the rear. She’ll be here soon,” Lu Yun lied casually.
Yuying really had been behind him, but her senses had also been fooled at some point, so she hadn’t heard his warning. That led her to attacking an illusory undead hag, spelling her death inside the layout.
Thankfully, she was an Envoy of Samsara and could come back to life because of the Tome of Life and Death, so she’d appear again after a little while.
“Good. Good. As long as she’s not dead...” repeated Miao.
“You seem very afraid that we’ll die in this place. What’s going on?” Lu Yun frowned.
“I’m not telling you.” Miao threw him an eyeroll.
Blinking, Qing Han hesitantly ventured, “Are you talking to something right now?”
He’d already seen Yueshen. The ghost was controlling Li Youcai at the moment and wasn’t visible, but he could sense her presence all the same. Miao, however… didn’t seem to exist at all. The sight of Lu Yun talking to empty air made Qing Han’s skin crawl.
“Something? I’m no thing, you ugly eyesore, I’m Miao!” retorted the outraged man.
“He said, ‘I’m no thing, you ugly eyesore, I’m Miao,’” repeated Lu Yun.
“Oh, okay,” Qing Han softly acknowledged against his back.
“Aren’t you mad he called you ugly?” Lu Yun paused.
“What’s there to be mad about? I can’t see him, and didn’t he call himself a nothing?” Eyes closed, Qing Han rested against Lu Yun’s shoulder, not even aware that he no longer found the action repulsive.
“...” Miao’s mouth twitched. “We’re at the right spot. Time to dig. The Formation Orb is right below our feet.” He pointed at the damp ground. “Are you sure you want to continue?”
Lu Yun nodded resolutely. “Qing Han, do you have any other immortal swords, flying swords, or anything like that inside your storage ring?” he asked with a glance at Violetgrave in his hand.
“My storage ring?” Qing Han tried to lift his hand, only to give up bonelessly in favor of an annoyed retort, “If I could use it, do you think I’d still be on your back?”
Lu Yun’s gaze fell on Li Youcai. Yueshen unlocked the fatty’s ring and dumped out a pile of very useful, and valuable, bones and stones. Very useful. And valuable.
“Sigh.” Shutting his mouth, Lu Yun took out two soybeans and flung them aloft.
Resplendent golden light blossomed from the two beans, followed by two two-meter-tall armored figures lumbering out of thin air.
“For what reason did thee summon this divine general?” one of them boomed.
“Dig a tunnel over here.” Lu Yun pointed at his feet.
“Dig? Knowest thou not of this noble general’s august status? And thee would have us dig?!” the figure shouted, his eyes wide open.
“Are you two digging or not?” Lu Yun’s expression darkened.
“We will, we will!” The two figures fawned obsequiously as soon as they saw his face. Without further ado, they rolled up their sleeves and, huffing and puffing, dug at the soil.
“Wh-what kind of combat art is that?” Qing Han gawked in sheer disbelief at the two armored giants. Thankfully, the tunnels were wide and spacious, or the two hulking figures might not have fit in the available space.
“It’s a… hmm, summoning art. It only summons puppets. Didn’t you notice? These two fellows aren’t all that bright,” Lu Yun replied.
“Oh, I see.” Qing Han nodded, still somewhat confused.
“We did it, we did it!” One of the golden warriors hollered excitedly before… falling into the hole he’d just dug. Lu Yun wearily rubbed his eyes and dismissed the two soldiers.
“The Formation Orb is right underneath, is it?” His heart pounded furiously.
“It’s... well, there’s still a little way to go. But whether you can reach that place depends on you,” Miao responded after some reflection.
“We’re going in!” Lu Yun tightened his jaw, secured Qing Han on his back, and jumped in without hesitation.