“The Dusk River Sacrament?!” Lu Yun and Qing Han exclaimed at the same time. Seven days later precisely marked the beginning of the ritual. According to Miao, all of the life energy from the ritual’s sacrifices would be diverted to the bronze outer-coffin.
“Everyone finds the Sacrament strange, but it’s hard to imagine it’s all for the sake of the creature inside the coffin,” Qing Han said, a solemn ring to his voice. “There’s definitely foul play at work here!”
“But in that case….” Lu Yun frowned. “The ritual was first established because of the upheaval from that ancient tomb. In that case, is the coffin related to that ancient Dusk tomb?”
“That’s….” That illuminated new paths of potential for Qing Han.
During the outbreak of the ancient Dusk tomb, specters and ghouls had poured out en masse into the Dusk River and shattered the oceanic stronghold on the northern border. As a result, a legion of North Sea monsters invaded the province and caused untold misery.
The river god had then made a personal appearance and used its formidable powers to seal off the ancient tomb. Before departing the world, it had also left behind instructions for the Dusk River Sacrament. From then on, the Sacrament had become an integral part of the province, its inhabitants unfailingly carrying out the ritual every hundred years.
However, it was now plain to see that matters weren’t as they seemed. From the very start, the life essence collected through the ritual was meant as an offering for whatever was inside the bronze outer-coffin.
“What on earth is going on?” Qing Han murmured. He could feel the onset of a pounding headache. If the Sacrament was a dark scheme, then what about the tomb’s uprising, or the river god? Were they all part of a plot hatched by the tomb’s undead residents?
But if so, why had creatures from ancient Dusk tomb come to this burial mound?
“There truly are too many unfathomable mysteries in the immortal world,” sighed Lu Yun. “We have to stop the ritual, in any case. As for this bronze outer-coffin… it belongs to me now!” A smile floated onto his lips. “Whether you’re a dragon, or something else, you’re mine as long as you’re dead!”
“You people stay put.” He slowly squatted down and lowered Qing Han to the ground.
Miao stepped forward, ready to help the envoy.
“Don’t touch me!” the latter cried urgently the moment he saw Miao’s hand draw near.
Miao froze, then awkwardly retracted his hand and mumbled, “Can that be aversion I see on the ugly eyesore’s face? Am I still lacking in beauty?”
“Come and help me up,” Qing Han spoke to Yuying. He sighed with relief when Miao stepped back.
“I already warned you, don’t even think of coveting our Yuying!” Lu Yun snarled.
“I-I just don’t want that guy to touch me!” the boneless Qing Han explained.
“Fine.” Lu Yun shrugged. He’s probably not into animal spirits.
With a nod, Yuying approached Qing Han’s side and gently helped the imperial envoy up.
“If you really want to marry her… hmmmmm, you need to prepare a hefty bridal gift.” The urge to say this suddenly struck Lu Yun for some reason.
His skin immediately prickled from the heat of four pairs of murderous eyes.
“I mean, you can also skip that, if you want.” He ran away with his tail between his legs.
Qing Han sighed softly with relief.
“I will never be wed to you!” Yuying retorted with complete seriousness.
“...” Qing Han rolled his eyes, but offered no response. What was he supposed to say to that?
Standing at the root of the tongue, Lu Yun studied the floating summit in earnest. The peak itself is a resurrection layout, a complete grand influence. Its structure is in stark contrast to the rest of the tomb. It was most likely added afterwards.
There had originally been another resurrection layout in the tomb, one designed to revive Yueshen. But it was later altered, resulting in a transformation into an immortal ghost.
Unless he was mistaken, Miao was the one who’d stolen her opportunity for rebirth. This floating peak had come into existence because of the fox spirit, and its resurrection layout had brought the fox back to life.
However, rather than waking up to a second chance at life, he’d fallen into a deep slumber and encompassed the entire burial mound in his dream world. This was a form of self-preservation. The dream protected his physical body and prevented intruders from approaching the summit, so that his body had ample time to recover.
But one day, everything changed. Five thousand years ago, the arrival of a bronze outer-coffin had pushed him out of the resurrection layout, extending his sleep for another five thousand years.
It seems that whatever’s buried inside the coffin is responsible for the destruction of Truewater City. It sacrificed every living soul as blood offerings. Many conjectures whirled in his mind. The Truewater city lord placed the Portrait of Emptiness on the altar to suppress it and prevent it from activating.
The altar had stirred to life the second he’d taken the painting away, consuming all of the undead hags in the ruins. But these hags were half-dead monsters with no life essence whatsoever, so they were worthless offerings.
In that case, how did the city lord die? Since she’d sealed the altar with the Portrait of Emptiness, that’s proof she was still alive then. But she’s dead now and has become part of the burial goods… is there something even more frightening in here?
A memory struck him all of a sudden. Inside the layout of certain death, something had fooled both him and Yueshen.
For a split second, he’d been confident that he’d unraveled the truth about the tomb, but now he faced another enigma. There was definitely far more here than met the eye.
No matter, first things first! Secure that bronze outer-coffin and the resurrection layout!
With a single thought, a silent rumble echoed across the void as the Gates of the Abyss swung open behind him. A colossal devouring force erupted from within and swallowed the floating peak.
Before momentum took over, an indistinct azure halo pulsed from the coffin’s surface and resisted the force, as if it sensed danger.
“I wouldn’t be able to do anything to you, had you been alive. The merest inkling resistance would’ve stopped me cold.” Two black, ghostly fires ignited in Lu Yun’s irises. “Sadly for you, you’re dead, and the dead are mine to command!”
A loud explosion seemed to rock the tomb’s very foundations. The next moment, the floating peak—and the coffin resting upon it—had vanished without a trace.
A muffled groan sounded out of Lu Yun and there was a trace of blood on the corner of his lips. The coffin itself had presented no great challenge, but taking the resurrection layout with it had been more of an ordeal. The enormous backlash hadn’t left him entirely unharmed.
“What a formidable storage item!” murmured the immobilized Qing Han as he looked upon the scene, leaning against a boulder. It was obvious that Lu Yun had called upon an incredibly strong immortal storage item; there was no other possible explanation.
“Awoooo!” A ringing howl from below suddenly pierced the air. Something seemed to be slowly clawing its way up from the abyss.
“What is that?!” Lu Yun flinched and looked down instinctively. An enormous hand, pale as death, abruptly lurched out of the gloom. “It’s a ginormous undead hag!” He blanched. “We’re leaving right now!”
He reached Qing Han in a single bound, flung the young man onto his shoulder, then turned and ran for dear life.
An undead hag! A titanic undead hag had crawled up from the abyss!
Ghastly, pale eyes full of rancor, its enormous frame brimmed with a terrifying aura of resentment and hatred. Corpse water overflowed from its body, and it reached surface level in no time at all. It slinked up the path through the mouth of the corpse coffin, accessed the body proper, and gave chase to Lu Yun’s group.
This hag wasn’t all that much smaller than the corpse coffin, but strangely enough, it had made its way inside with no issues whatsoever!
The moment it had appeared inside the corpse coffin, its fiendish aura began shredding monsters and living layouts alike. Cracks even started crawling over the surface of the Duality of Dragon and Tiger coiled around the corpse coffin.
“How can there be such an enormous undead hag?!” Qing Han groaned weakly on Lu Yun’s shoulder, struggling to lift his head to observe the creature. He’d previously seen a giant corpsefish, but that was simply dwarfed by this undead hag’s stature.
“An aura of malicious hatred covers it from head to toe. A foul taint born from accumulated grudge and fury... if my guess is right, this was the one originally buried inside Yueshen, the burial mound’s original owner,” Lu Yun explained as he ran.
Having broken through not long ago, his entire being was overflowing with strength. He hurtled forward furiously, wind beneath his feet. The hag would eat him alive if he were too slow.
He hadn’t thought that someone would throw the burial mound’s original owner into that bottomless abyss, turning them into an undead hag!
“I wonder what’s at the bottom; why’s there so much corpse water down there?” he mumbled under his breath. It was plain to see that the corpse water on the hag wasn’t its own, but had come from an outside source.
Where? Logic would dictate that it came from the bottom of the abyss.
“Watch where you’re going so you don’t make a wrong turn!” Miao floated beside him, his tail wrapped around Lu Yun’s arm as he let the governor drag him away. As for Yuying, she brought up their rear.
“Don’t worry, I won’t get lost.” Two spectral rays of light burned in his eyes as he picked up speed and charged back to the location of Truewater’s mistress. With Yuying’s return, he was confident he could handle the malicious ghost that had risen from the city lord this time around.
“We’re clearly inside one of the corpse coffin’s meridians. How can such a gigantic hag fit inside?” wondered Qing Han.
The current tunnel should’ve been too narrow to accommodate the creature, but it moved unobstructed, as if it were perfectly at home.
“We’re inside its coffin in the first place, of course it can come and go as it pleases. Look out, lower your head.” Lu Yun patted Qing Han’s thigh in warning. The next moment, he hunched down on himself and squeezed into an even narrower space.
“Impertinent miscreants, how dare you trespass in the Dragon Prince’s chambers!” exploded a booming roar.