“Don’t,” Lu Yun blurted out as Yuying trapped Formation Thirteenth with the Panorama of Clarity. “I’ll kill him myself!”
Yuying nodded and unfurled the painting. Formation Thirteenth fell to the ground, his energy constrained. The fear on his face was replaced by surprise when he heard Lu Yun’s words.
“You’re going to kill me yourself?” He cocked his head derisively, despite the lingering fear in his heart. A qi realm cultivator wanting to kill an immortal? Hah!
Lu Yun ignored him and drew out a purple sword that glowed with an indistinct hue.
“Violetgrave!!” Formation Thirteenth cried out, stunned. Various situations up until now had made it plain that this sword was no ordinary ninth-rank weapon.
Lu Yun slashed the man’s body and soul apart, and the soul that’d taken over Formation Thirteenth was devoured by the Gates of the Abyss. With another wave of the Dusk governor’s hand, a young man in his twenties, clad in green robes, reemerged to kneel before Lu Yun.
“Infernum Zhao Dianliang greets milord!” He was an unusually handsome and graceful man, manifesting utter nobility with every movement. His expression, however, held nothing but humility.
“How do I extract the immortal fires from the three paintings?” Lu Yun cut right to the chase. He’d opted to make the man a nether soldier so that the third envoy spot remained open for Qing Han. This was his final option, in case all other attempts failed.
Moreover, Lu Yun couldn’t write Zhao Dianliang down in the Tome of Life and Death without his actual corpse. Given that, Lu Yun couldn’t access his new soldier’s memories and knowledge, so he had to settle for good old fashioned questioning instead.
“Draw the fires out with a more powerful flame!” Zhao Dianliang answered immediately. He was merely an august immortal, but he held a special position in the Exalted Immortal Sect. Thus, highly-regarded, he knew of even the top secrets in the sect.
“A more powerful flame?” Lu Yun frowned.
“There’s an extremely powerful fire in your dantian, sir!” Yuying said.
Lu Yun was reminded of the strange black flame. “That’s right!”
The black fire in his dantian came from the Tome of Life and Death, so it couldn’t be anything but powerful. When he used his death arts, he wasn’t tapping into his own energies, but the black flame instead.
The nine shadowy dragons surrounding the book had disappeared. They’d been crushed by the Tiger Prince earlier, and the pieces left behind were devoured by the black fire. That had fueled Lu Yun’s qi and allowed him to break through in one fell swoop.
His mind made up, Lu Yun entered the Gates of the Abyss with Yuying and Zhao Dianliang. He needed the power of the netherworld to release the fire in his body.
Black flames were suddenly burning furiously in Lu Yun’s hands. Yuying and Zhao Dianliang stumbled backward, too fearful to look at the fire head-on.
The three paintings that exceeded ninth-rank hovered in front of the young man and unfolded in their entirety. The Panorama of Clarity was a traditional ink painting of natural landscapes, the Portrait of Emptiness sketched different walks of life, and the Profile of Harmony depicted a vast blue sky.
Setting his black fire near the three paintings, Lu Yun could sense the three immortal fires within. Emerald Mistfire, Lucent Voidfire, and Daevic Skyfire! They seemed to be sentient and clung to the paintings when they sensed the black flame, refusing to emerge.
“I wouldn’t be able to do anything to you if I was outside, even if I exhausted all of my qi. Here on my home turf, however, my wishes are your command. Come forth!” he growled. Two black flames blazed in his eyes as ripples undulated throughout the netherworld.
Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh!
Palm-sized flames of green, blue, and yellow burrowed out from the paintings and hovered in the air. Lu Yun exhaled lightly. “How long did that take?” he asked with a half-turn.
Yuying made some quick calculations. “Seven days.”
Good thing we’re within the Gates of the Abyss. Seven days had passed by in such a quick moment! With a push of his hand, he sent the three fires to Yuying. “You can have them.”
“Thank you for your generosity, sir!” Yuying said, her eyes glowing.
Emerald Mistfire was why the Panorama of Clarity could be used to refine pills. What mattered to Yuying was the fire, not the painting. There were a great number of treasures in this world that could store living beings and inanimate objects, as well as create an isolated space, but flames were far more rare. She gladly transferred the three fires into herself.
Without the immortal fires sealing the three paintings, they began merging. Mysterious, glorious light radiated from them, illuminating the dark world within the Gates of the Abyss. They overlapped, their images superimposing and blending together.
After an indeterminate period of time, the light dissipated and an empty scroll fell into Lu Yun’s hands. There was nothing but a blank canvas, and the scroll itself looked quite ordinary.
“This is what the three paintings turned into?” Lu Yun stared at it in confusion.
Yuying and Zhao Dianliang were at a loss as well, and neither of them could tell what the newly formed treasure was. Another quick time calculation showed that another month had passed.
Thankfully, five weeks within the gates were still a moment mere outside.
“Screw it,” Lu Yun pressed his lips, “what have we got to lose?” Upon exiting the gates, they immediately ran back to where they came from.
“Shit!” Lu Yun cursed when they approached the clearing. As Miao had predicted, the titanic undead hag was back. She’d completely lost it and repeatedly slammed into the floating summit, desire flooding her eyes.
He shook his head at the hag. “An undead hag is a kind of zombie that’s stuck between life and death, abandoned by both heaven and hell. Even if you get the layout of resurrection, you won’t come back to life.”
However, the crazed hag only had eyes for the resurrection layout.
Feinie had set up layers of formations to protect the floating peak. What had seemed like an inert object, the Formation Orb had gained a life of its own in Feinie’s hands and enveloped the summit with its light.
No matter how hard the undead hag tried, she couldn’t break through the orb’s formations.
However, Feinie was also left vulnerable to the hag’s attacks. Her complexion paled and blood trickled down the corner of her mouth. She’d reached the golden immortal realm before her death, but having fallen to true immortal now meant a gap in strength existed, one that was as wide as the status difference between an emperor and a beggar.
“Slug it a good one, fatty!” Lu Yun yelled at Li Youcai.
“I—” In full control of his mental faculties, since Yueshen had left his body, the fatty hesitated at Lu Yun’s words. Slug it a good one?
The Dusk governor wanted him to put all his strength into his attack and fully tap into the Seal of Mountains and Rivers. The seal was a special eighth-rank treasure, and could rival a ninth-rank treasure when used at full power. However, if he deployed it to those depths, he would exhaust all of his strength—just like Qing Han—and wouldn’t be able to move.
“Okay, but you have to cancel my engagement to that male pig!” The fatty was still fretting over that.
“Deal!” Lu Yun agreed immediately. “But you have to leave Mo Yi alone from now on.”
“Deal!” Li Youcai grimaced. “Remember to get me out of here afterward!”
The seal quickly grew into a towering mountain and slammed relentlessly into the undead hag.
The hag’s full attention was on the floating summit, so the sudden impact sent her flying and crashing heavily into the walls of the cavern.
“Break her limbs!” Lu Yun yelled again. The undead hag couldn’t die, but breaking her limbs would at least temporarily immobilize her.
His jaw set, Li Youcai tapped into his reserves of strength and attacked the monster’s arms and legs, breaking them in quick succession. The monster screamed and struggled, the ugly wounds healing at a visible pace.
Blood gushed out of Li Youcai’s mouth, then he toppled to the ground.
“Don’t leave me behind,” he muttered before losing consciousness. The seal automatically returned to him.
“Don’t worry,” Lu Yun said, relieved. “I won’t.”
Yueshen obediently attached herself to Li Youcai’s body and took over.
“This man is a rare talent as well. He somehow manages to preserve his vitality even after being possessed by the ghost of an immortal,” Miao muttered with a shudder. “All of these people are freaks. No wonder they could find my body and rescue me.”
Feinie opened up her formation and allowed Lu Yun to ascend the floating summit. Miao trailed after him.
“What should I do?” Lu Yun turned to Miao with the empty scroll.
“That’s it!” Miao’s eyes lit up when he saw the painting. As a fox spirit who had lived a long, long life, he had more experience than most. “So the legends are real. The most perfect of art is one with dao. This is a depiction of all things between heaven and earth. It’s the supreme division of the universe!” His eyes grew increasingly brighter.
“Cut the crap and tell me what to do with it,” Lu Yun said with furrowed brows. “The painting isn’t going to control Qing Han, is it?”
“It won’t. What possessed the true immortal wasn’t the Portrait of Emptiness itself, but the fire spirit within,” Miao explained. “The fire spirit became the spirit of the painting, but the painting itself wasn’t sentient.”
“Since he’s unconscious, we can only employ the most basic method—use his blood to bind the treasure to him. Cut his wrist and let his blood drip onto the painting. But you have to consider this carefully, kid.” The fox’s gaze at Lu Yun turned serious. “Even when the immortal dao was at its most prosperous a hundred thousand years ago, powerful immortals and daoists fought over this treasure. Are you sure you’re just going to give it to this ugly eyesore?”
“Treasure can be replaced, but a life is forever lost when someone dies.” Lu Yun nodded and cut Qing Han’s wrist with his finger, directing the young man’s blood to drip onto the empty painting. “In my eyes, a friend is much more important than this.
“Humans are sentimental and loyal. We’re the type willing to risk our lives for our friends, it’s why we reign over all beings in the world. Your kind may be intelligent and powerful, but your strength is still below the human race’s,” he sighed.
Both Earth and the world of immortals might be plagued with greed, but people would never lose sight of their humanity—their bond with one another.
With Yuying and Feinie’s memories and experience, he was far from the clueless novice he’d been when he first arrived. He knew there were races other than the human race in this world. The monster spirit race, for example, had always been at odds with the human race, and Miao was one of them.
“Humans are loyal and willing to risk your lives for others?” Confusion clouded Miao’s eyes. “So this willingness to sacrifice yourselves is how humans drove my kind out of the fertile lands?”
Power was the only thing that mattered to his kind. No one would ever consider the safety of the others. They cared only about themselves, and the strong fed on the weak. This is why Miao had continuously failed to understand Lu Yun’s behavior along the way. An injured monster spirit would immediately be abandoned, or perhaps even eaten.
Lu Yun shifted his attention from Miao to Qing Han. A soft glow was wrapped around the young man like a blanket.