Li Youcai’s soft awe made the others react as well.
“What happened just now? Who was that girl?” Yuying asked as she stared blankly at the gaping hole in the cavern wall. It marked the direction of where the goddess had blasted the undead hag.
“No matter what happened, we must depart without delay!” a fretful Miao interjected. “The undead hag is an undying monster. She’s only been shot through the wall, she’ll be back soon.”
“Right, we need to leave at once!” Lu Yun put all thoughts about the girl out of his mind and crawled up from the ground. The kick from 'Formation Thirteenth' had been hastily delivered and caused him no tangible damage.
“Are you alright?” He reached Qing Han’s side and helped the young man up. After a glance at the Dusk governor, the imperial envoy gently closed his eyes without replying.
“What’s… what’s the matter with you?” Lu Yun jolted in shock when he touched the inside of the young man’s wrist. As a member of a tomb raiding sect with deep roots in ancient Chinese history, he was naturally proficient in traditional medicine.
The imperial envoy’s pulse was so faint that it was a real worry his heart might stop at any second. Each breath seemed to bring him one step closer to his grave. Lu Yun’s heart clenched painfully as a foreboding feeling struck him.
Did I push him too hard earlier and end up hurting him? Or did something invisible infiltrate his body to steal his life force? He swung Qing Han onto his back. “In any case, let’s get out of here first!”
“Leave him here, he isn’t long for this world. He’ll be nothing but a burden if we take him with us,” Miao sighed as he floated to Lu Yun’s side.
“We came together, so we leave together.” Lu Yun shook his head.
Qing Han had saved him twice during their exploration, and it was due to one of those occasions that the imperial envoy was in his current predicament. For Lu Yun, abandoning him simply wasn’t an option. Qing Han was a comrade-in-arms, a friend until death. His very first friend in the immortal world, as a matter of fact.
“I fear he won’t live long at this rate. He probably won’t persist until the exit—” Miao warned again.
“Shut up!” Lu Yun roared like a wounded beast.
“Do you really want to save him?” Miao asked after a moment’s hesitation, gentle in the face of the Dusk governor’s anger.
“Do you know a way?” Lu Yun asked immediately.
“I do, but the cost may be too much for you to bear,” the fox whispered. He looked at the big hole in trepidation, afraid the giant hag would suddenly reappear.
She wouldn’t have been able to harm Miao inside his dream world, but he was no match for the monster after waking up. The only possible outcome was to end up as food in the monster’s stomach.
“Tell me,” Lu Yun urged.
“The Panorama of Clarity, the Portrait of Emptiness, and the Profile of Harmony were all drawn by the same grandmaster a long time ago. The Panorama of Clarity encompasses all of nature’s children, the Portrait of Emptiness represents life in its endless facets, and the Profile of Harmony symbolizes the laws of the world. A complete world can be formed by combining the three of them,” Miao explained in a soft and unhurried voice.
“If you can create this world and let the ugly eyesore refine it, you’ll be able to save his life.” He rubbed his face lightly, somewhat puzzled. “Strange, why does he risk his life for such an ugly creature, but yell at a wondrous being of beauty like me? Humans are truly peculiar creatures. Well, the girl who appeared earlier was really pretty. Aiyaya, she’s still somewhat lacking compared to me though.”
The incessant gabbing made Lu Yun itch to stomp on the fox’s face. “How do I combine them?”
The Profile was in his possession, the Portrait was on Qing Han, and the Panorama was Yuying’s greatest treasure.
Well, correction, Yuying had silently placed the Panorama in his hand. As his envoy, she fully understood the place that Qing Han occupied in her master’s heart.
“The three immortal fires stored within! Everyone believes the Emerald Mistfire, Lucent Voidfire, and the Daevic Skyfire are sealed within their respective scrolls, when in fact it’s the opposite,” explained Miao. “The fires entered the paintings in order to seal them. You need to extract the immortal fires before you can combine the paintings.
“But... there isn’t enough time at the moment. His life will either run its course before you can complete the process, or the hag will return and eat us all. That being said, how do we take out the fires?” The fox sank deep into thought.
Manifesting the realms of yin and yang, Lu Yun and Yuying entered the Gates of the Abyss together.
Time flowed differently beyond the gates. Ten thousand years could pass inside, while only the time it takes for a mere snap of a finger would pass outside. Unfortunately, the ruined world wasn’t a suitable place for the living to cultivate, or Lu Yun would’ve waited until he reached immortality before exiting.
The only ones currently inside were his envoy, Feinie, and the Skyriver city lord, who was still squashed under the bronze outer-coffin.
“How do we separate the fires from the paintings?” Lu Yun asked Yuying and Feinie.
“Extract the fires?” Feinie blinked in surprise, then shook her head. “The Exalted Immortal Sect might know. They fought with me for centuries in order to seize the Portrait of Emptiness, so it stands to reason that they would know the secret of the three paintings.”
“People from the Exalted Immortal Sect…” Lu Yun frowned.
“Sir, there’s one of them inside the burial mound,” reminded Yuying. She’d picked up on someone else having taken over Formation Thirteen’s body.
“But Qing Han probably doesn’t have that long,” Lu Yun replied helplessly. With his particular interest in traditional medicine, he could tell that Qing Han would soon breathe his last. There was no time to waste, which was why he’d rushed into his realm to make further plans.
Yuying apprised Feinie of the situation.
“I see. There’s a formation in the Formation Orb called ‘Nature’s Subsistence’. It can freeze the bodily functions of one who is fated to die for seven days. But if nothing can be done after those seven days, then even the Divine Exalted Immortal himself would be powerless to change the doomed one’s fate,” explained Feinie. She added after a moment, “There is... also the possibility of writing his name in the Tome of Life and Death, milord.”
“The Tome…” Lu Yun smiled ruefully. “Wouldn’t that turn him into my subordinate? Would we still be friends then? But I guess if he really dies, I’ll make him an Envoy of Samsara.”
He was now allowed one additional envoy after reaching the qi transformation realm, but this was an option of last resort that would forever sever the ties of fellowship between them. Even if Lu Yun were to still consider him a friend, Qing Han would see Lu Yun as his master and nothing else.
“There is another way,” Yuying suddenly offered. “Send out the floating peak and use its resurrection layout to prolong Sir Qing Han’s life.”
“That’s right, the resurrection layout!” Lu Yun’s eyes shone as he looked in the peak’s direction.
Qing Han couldn’t enter the Gates of the Abyss, since he was still alive, but Lu Yun could bring the peak to him.
“Feinie… you come out with me as well!” The governor made up his mind with a tightening of his jaw. “Let’s hope Dusk Province’s restrictions are targeted at those displaying a golden immortal’s strength, rather than their cultivation realm.”
“Understood,” Feinie acknowledged, her face serene. She’d once executed thirty-six peerless immortal kings in a row with the help of the Formation Orb. Though her strength had now decayed to true immortal realm, it should be enough to withstand an undead hag. And even if she were killed by the restrictions, the Tome of Life and Death would bring her back.
For Qing Han’s sake, Lu Yun was willing to throw caution to the wind. He’d always been a loyal man, even back on Earth. He could forsake riches and put his own life in danger, but he’d never turn his back on a comrade in need.
Li Youcai and Miao gaped at the floating peak’s reemergence. Thankfully, they were currently standing in a space that was wide enough to accommodate the peak, despite its size.
Lu Yun placed Qing Han at the pole of life in the layout, then floated down the peak’s slopes.
“Feinie, stay here and protect him. Yuying and I will go after Formation Thirteenth.” Seeing Feinie remain safe and sound outside the gates was a relief.
The former Truewater city lord nodded gently. She’d altered her appearance to avoid unnecessary trouble, but the grief on her face was impossible to disguise. Otherwise, she was now impossible to recognize.
“Yet another one suddenly appearing out of nowhere. How many is that altogether?” Miao felt numb when he spotted her. Just like the newcomer, Yuying had also come out of nowhere. In fact, there had also been four other guys, but they were dead now.
Lu Yun handed the Panorama back to Yuying as they raced forward, tracking Formation Thirteenth.
“Why did Qing Han’s condition deteriorate so suddenly? He was fine not long ago,” he suddenly wondered, half talking to himself and half asking Yuying’s opinion. “Could it be related to that girl?”
The possibility suddenly struck him, but he immediately rejected the notion. How could the two of them be connected?
Where did she come from? Who is she, and why did she save me? Numerous thoughts swarmed in his mind. Qing Hang, the young girl…. No matter how hard he tried, it was impossible to associate her beautiful face with the swarthy Qing Han.
Formation Thirteenth hadn’t gone far yet. The thick energy of death pervading the burial mound made it all the easier for Lu Yun’s Spectral Eye to follow the trail of living energy left behind by the man.
In a nearby tunnel, the imposter formation master had begun engraving a new formation. Lu Yun recognized it with ease, given that he’d assimilated Yuying’s memories. It was another means of random transportation.
Transportation usually involved transmission between a starting point and an endpoint. But with no destination formation available, random transportation was the only method for 'Formation Thirteenth' to leave the burial mound.
“Hm?” Suddenly noticing the newcomers, he frowned. “Governor of Dusk, that monster didn’t eat you?”
The imposter knew of Lu Yun’s identity thanks to assimilating the formation master’s memories, and the sight of the governor having successfully tailed him had caught him by surprise.
Yuying nodded. She unfurled the Panorama and let loose her seven swords and Emerald Mistfire on 'Formation Thirteenth'.
“The Panorama of Clarity!” ‘Formation Thirteenth’ stared at the painting, avarice gleaming in his eyes. He laughed heartily. “Great! Wonderful. Fantastic! Who would’ve thought I’d be able to obtain it before returning to the sect. This will be a contribution big enough to erase my previous failures!”
He’d been too preoccupied by the titanic undead hag to take note of Yuying, but she now held his undivided attention. The Panorama of Clarity, Portrait of Emptiness, and Profile of Harmony were utmost treasures that his sect had long dreamed of possessing. One of his objectives in entering the burial mound had precisely been Feinie’s Portrait.
With a hand seal, he unveiled the full force of a true immortal. His own power was even greater, but this was all he could muster while limited by Formation Thirteenth’s body.
An explosion sounded from the formation master’s body as an enormous eagle with golden wings materialized over his head to dive at Yuying.
“The Great Peng Spirit! He’s from the Immortal Exalted Sect alright!” Hatred flashed in Yuying’s eyes. It’d been the machinations of this sect that’d led to her death to her heavenly tribulation. Now that ‘Formation Thirteenth’ had used a signature combat art of the sect, she immediately saw red.
Her seven swords whistled through the air in seven rainbow streaks and assembled into a sword formation, unrelentingly churning at the Great Peng Spirit. The impact instantly shattered the image.
“What?!” 'Formation Thirteenth' flinched. Who would’ve thought this woman’s blades would be this sharp! Although a millennia spent inside the tomb had whittled away at the Great Peng Spirit’s strength, it was still a bonafide august immortal spirit!
In comparison, the woman was merely a true immortal. A true immortal’s weapons destroying an august immortal spirit? No one would believe it if word of this got out.
Yuying was a genius from twelve hundred years ago. On top of refining pills, her strength was also uncommon. How else could she have held the position of Dusk Province’s governor? Moreover, becoming Lu Yun’s envoy had enhanced her abilities.
“I have to run!” After having been trapped inside the burial mound for so long, the august immortal had no other aces left up his sleeve besides his strong spirit and mental will. And the destruction of his bird spirit had left him too afraid to face Yuying head on.
His arms exploded without another word, releasing a highly intense scarlet light. His entire being turned into a blood shadow and vanished from sight in the blink of an eye.
“Do you think I’ll let you get away?” A cold sneer appeared on Yuying’s lips.
The last time, she’d let a member of the Immortal Exalted Sect escape from her own tomb in a moment of distraction. She’d taken the lesson to heart, and it would never happen again. The Panorama of Clarity drew a scene of mountains and rivers that enclosed the surrounding space.
In his panic, 'Formation Thirteenth' rushed headlong into the painting.