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Chapter 45: A Dream

Necropolis Immortal
     “What are you staring at me for?” Seeing Lu Yun look back in his direction, Miao couldn’t resist caressing his face. “Have you finally been conquered by my unparalleled looks, perhaps?” he said, a little bashful.

    “I’d rather feast my eyes on the pretty girl from the certain death layout,” snorted Lu Yun.

    Qing Han made a moue and blushed once more.

    “You have to be careful, a dragon lies in wait over there,” Miao warned when he saw Lu Yun make his way along the tongue toward the floating summit. “If it comes back to life, it’ll certainly swallow me whole. Well... it’s already tried and failed, I suppose,” he mumbled as he followed behind.

    The peak gradually enlarged in Lu Yun’s field of vision.

    “A resurrection layout, sure enough…. A feng shui grand influence over the world as described by the sect records!” His eyes burned with feverish zeal as he recognized the structure on the peak.

    The classics divided feng shui layouts into four realms: formations, layouts, influences, and grand influences over the world!

    The one in front of him belonged to the highest tier. It commandeered nature’s blessings to invert yin and yang in order to bring back the dead! For a tomb raider and feng shui master, such a grand influence exuded an attraction that was impossible to resist.

    Of course, the four-tiered classification was based on knowledge from Earth, and his perspective was much broader now that he’d arrived in the immortal world. Grand influences were certainly not the be-all and end-all of feng shui.

    There absolutely was greater power to be found.

    “This is…” He abruptly froze. “A bronze outer-coffin!” He squeezed out the words through clenched teeth.

    “Isn’t that the one we saw when we first came in?” asked an equally baffled Qing Han. “Is it real, or illusion?”

    “It’s real.” Lu Yun took a deep breath. Yuying quietly stood by, wielding the Panorama of Clarity and alert against lurking dangers. Her treasure kept the living layouts at bay, ensuring that they were too intimidated to approach.

    ……

    The bronze outer-coffin lay peacefully at the center of the resurrection layout, the sole recipient of its restorative effects.

    “Does that belong to you?” Lu Yun asked, his eyes riveted on the coffin. This metal container was identical to the one Miao had conjured at the entrance. Even the runes on the surface were the same.

    “No.” Miao shook his head, rather aggrieved. “My body is over there.” He pointed at a tiny corner on the summit, outside the layout. Over there rested a small, fluffy thing the size of a human palm. Its figure gently rose and fell in rhythmic fashion.

    “A fox?” Lu Yun gawked and looked at Miao. “Is that what you are, a fox?”

    “A fox? I suppose you could say that.” Miao stared vacantly, then nodded, seemingly unaware of his own species.

    “Also, you’re not dead.” Lu Yun’s Spectral Eye could discern the status of life from the creature.

    “Really?” Miao blinked. “If so, why am I standing here?”

    “You’re asleep.” Lu Yun scrutinized the small fox. Indeed, it was simply resting, its body undulating up and down with its breathing.

    “And you’re dreaming!” The Dusk governor found the notion a little absurd. “This is nothing but a dream!”

    “Nothing but a dream?” Miao repeated, dumbstruck.

    “Correct. Right now, you’re merely a dream, while the rest of us are inside your dream. That’s why no one but me can sense your existence, because... you’re not real,” whispered Lu Yun.

    The fox—or rather, Miao’s soul—hadn’t popped out of his body, and neither was he astral traveling. He was just dreaming, pure and simple.

    The ancient Chinese legends spoke of Wei Zheng slaying a dragon inside his dream. [1]

    As a mere mortal, Wei Zhen possessed no nascent spirit and couldn’t have sent his soul outside his body, yet he’d slain a honest to goodness dragon king merely by dreaming of it.

    Miao’s case was strikingly similar.

    Lu Yun could sense his existence, thanks to the Tome of Life and Death, but the spirit was indiscernible for everyone else, Yuying included. Or rather, he didn’t exist at all for them.

    He could conjure mirages and create illusions to mislead his victims because the entire burial mound had become his dream world.

    “No wonder! That explains why the dragon never managed to eat me. How can it swallow something without substance?” Miao applauded merrily. Soon enough, his figure began fading, then ultimately vanished from sight.

    “The little fox is about to wake up!” Yuying whispered. “Is it the invisible Miao you spoke to?”

    The possibility stirred Qing Han’s interest as well.

    “Ah…. Too bad,” Lu Yun lamented. “I thought he was dead, but the rascal was just napping”

    Since Miao was alive, Lu Yun couldn’t take him as an envoy. He couldn’t very well kill the little fox, could he? I’d probably get my ass handed to me in a fight anyway.

    “Yaaawn—” The white fox gradually roused from its slumber, its big, sapphire-like eyes looking around in confusion. “Yip yip yip? Yip! Yip yip!” It opened its mouth and barked cutely a few times.

    “I think I was dreaming. In my dream, I met a strange man who told me I was dreaming,” a baby voice echoed out from the little ball of fur.

    “Miao?” Lu Yun called out tentatively.

    The fox froze on the spot and its ears perked up as it hastily turned around.

    “Lu Yun? So you’re not a figment of my imagination, but real? Wait, that means everything in the dream was real?” The fox blurred into a white flash as it pounced on Lu Yun. “So everything was real after all.”

    Curled on Lu Yun’s shoulders, the fox softly rubbed its cheeks with its front paws.

    “I should’ve let you sleep a little longer.” Lu Yun rubbed his forehead. “You’re of no help now.”

    “Says who!” the disgruntled fox protested. It leapt down from Lu Yun’s shoulders and released a dream-like radiance.

    Soon enough, Miao’s peerless beauty made another grand entrance. Only now, there was a fluffy tail swishing behind him. A small mirror in his hand, he admired his features, the very picture of self-conceit. “My nap didn’t mar my beauty at all, thankfully.”

    “I-Is that Miao?” A dumbfounded Qing Han stared at the paragon of beauty.

    “What do you think? Ugly eyesore, are you blinded by my stunning looks?” Miao made a full turn, as narcissistic as ever.

    “You’re nothing but a fox spirit,” Qing Han snickered, unfazed by the spirit’s nickname for him.

    “What about you? Are you so enthralled by my beauty that you can’t look away?” Miao ran over to Yuying and struck what he believed to be a dashing pose.

    “I only have eyes for milord,” she responded quietly after giving him a cursory glance.

    It was no small blow for the crestfallen Miao. “What an insensitive bunch of weirdos. Did the standards of beauty change this much while I was asleep?”

    “Alright, enough of that,” Lu Yun interrupted. “What’s the deal with the bronze outer-coffin? Why is there a coffin here in the first place?”

    Bronze outer-coffins were portents of extreme danger to begin with. Not to mention, this one even housed a dragon, according to the fox spirit.

    “Someone put it here five thousand years ago, the day this burial mound fell from the skies. Ever since then, the dragon has absorbed the vitality of every creature that’s died inside this place, and it won’t be long before it comes back to life.”

    There was a trace of dread in Miao’s voice. “Stranger still, starting every century from a thousand years ago, a tremendously rich bundle of life essence descends from outside. The next instance is in seven days. The dragon wouldn’t resurrect so soon, if it weren’t for all that additional vitality!”


    1. Wei Zheng served as a prime minister for Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty. According to legend, the dragon in charge of rain tampered with a vital rainfall during a severe drought, all for the sake of a bet. The city flooded and people drowned, while the fields still cracked with dryness.

    Furious, the Jade Emperor ordered his public execution. The terrified dragon fled to Emperor Taizong, who granted him a pardon, as the dragon was one of the founding members of the nation. The next day, Wei Zheng was invited to the palace for a game of chess. At the specified time for the execution, Wei Zheng fell asleep and beheaded the dragon while he was dreaming. A bloody dragon head rolling into the palace indicated that the actions had taken place in reality.

    This story was popularized in fantasy form in the classic novel ‘Journey to the West’.