“What do you see?” Qing Han knew what Lu Yun was capable of. Back in the burial mound, the governor had brought an immortal ghost under his control, and seen the human form that Miao had dreamed up for herself.
Lu Yun shook his head, his eyes fixed on the center of the river. The figure in white had disappeared and a small island was slowly rising out of the vortex instead. The world around him seemed to shift in an instant. An enormous feng shui layout enveloped the premises, its influence covering a ten-kilometer radius with the island as the center.
“The two principles,” he murmured.
A layout of the two principles consisted of anything and everything in the world, deducing heaven and earth, yin and yang, and life and death from it. In such a layout, there was a fine line between heaven and hell. One misstep could lead to death.
Lu Yun had only ever read about the layout, but had never encountered it himself. It was much more opaque and complicated than feng shui influences found in natural landscapes. What a surprise to find one on the banks of the Dusk River!
“We’ve stepped into a formation.”
“Who did you see?” Sensing the change of their surroundings as well, Mo Yi’s face clouded over.
“A figure in white, but they’re gone now,” Lu Yun said quietly. “I’m certain that they’re alive.”
He’d activated his Spectral Eye in time to confirm that it was a living person, rather than a zombie or a ghost. They must’ve gone into hiding in the layout. I was able to see them because I can see through feng shui. Is all this their doing?
The layout was stripped of any extraneous sections, making it impossible for Lu Yun to tell what formation it corresponded to. Not even Feinie, in the Gates of the Abyss, had an idea. There was certainly a formation here, but the two of them lacked the knowledge to identify it.
If Feinie could digest all of the formations within the Formation Orb, she might be able to figure it out. But as it stood, she’d barely scratched the surface of the treasure. A connate-grade treasure that powerful wasn’t something a golden immortal could master.
“Shh.” Lu Yun hurriedly covered Qing Han’s mouth before he could say anything. “Someone’s coming!”
Swallowing his words, Qing Han shot the governor a glare and kept his mouth shut, struggling out of Lu Yun’s grip.
Having picked up on the changes in the air a while ago, Mo Yi looked around warily, but didn’t see anything. She’d only sensed the layout because of her powerful consciousness. All she and Qing Han could see was the island that had appeared in the middle of the river.
“Hahahaha, congratulations, Master Qi!” said a coarse and fawning voice. Lu Yun and the others held their breaths and stilled their tongues.
“His Highness the Crown Prince will reward you handsomely for retrieving the Formation Orb,” the voice said with great envy. “If His Highness grants you an opportunity, you’ll soon ascend to the golden immortal realm, Master Qi!”
“Once the mission is complete, the two of you will share in the merit as well. His Highness will reward you accordingly and you’ll become golden immortals in your own right.” This voice was more feminine. “What a powerful formation! It is indeed the last piece of work left by a great master.
“Today at noon is when yang energy will be the most potent in the past thousand years in Dusk Province. This great formation emerged to protect the pure yin Formation Orb from being contaminated by it. Fortunately, we have the treasure His Highness bestowed to us. We wouldn’t have been able to find our way around here otherwise.”
Lu Yun and the others had left the burial mound in the morning. After various hassles and other minutiae, it was now noon. The blazing sun scaled the sky, marking the peak of purest yang energy beneath the heavens.
The banks of Dusk River, however, were first covered by a layer of black mist, then a mysterious layout of the two principles. Obviously, this had something to do with the Formation Orb the mysterious man had mentioned. But wait, there was another one?
Lu Yun exchanged a glance with his companions and read the same confusion in their eyes. They’d retrieved the Formation Orb buried under Myriad Formation Summit. What was the one that this man was talking about?
And here, there was even a layout to protect this treasure when yang energy was at its peak. The group was baffled, but they didn’t dare do anything reckless.
Three immortals came their way, one of them having remained silent the entire time. Lu Yun could tell that they were all at least august immortals, their cultivation too high for him to pin down any specifics.
Mo Yi wouldn’t fear them, as an august immortal herself, but Lu Yun and Qing Han, on the other hand, were merely cultivators. They wouldn’t be able to withstand an august immortal’s presence.
“You’ve been listening for long enough,” said the feminine voice. “Do you have anything to add, little friends?”
The three men suddenly appeared before the group. The leader of the trio was a beardless, middle-aged man with pale skin and feminine features. He was flanked by a stocky man in cyan armor and an old man in deep-red robes. They approached Lu Yun like they were taking a leisurely stroll through a garden.
Shock flashed through Lu Yun’s eyes. The layout of two principles was extremely dangerous. One misstep meant an instant death, but the three of them were crossing it without any difficulty!
No, it’s not them. It’s whatever they possess that’s protecting them from the layout. He noticed a faint white glow around their bodies.
“Who are you?” the man in armor demanded. “Identify yourselves!”
If there wasn’t a strange formation in their environment that gave him pause, he would’ve crushed these three weaklings. Disguised by her treasure, Mo Yi seemed like an origin core cultivator in the man’s eyes.
“It’s been a while, Master Qi. How are you?” Qing Han scoffed at the feminine man. “I left the capital only a few days ago. Have you forgotten about me already?”
“Qing Han from House Qing! Why are you here? Are Qing Buyi and Chen Xiao here as well?” A trace of fear threw his expression into disarray when he uttered those two names.
Qing Han shrugged without a word.
“No, that’s not right. Those two troublemakers were still arguing with the crown prince in the western palace when I left. They couldn’t have come to Dusk Province.” Realizing something, Qi Shenghui snapped, “Why are you here, Qing Han? Are you looking for the Formation Orb as well?”
There was no need for him to keep his intentions a secret, since Qing Han had heard their earlier conversation. They’d noticed the unwanted ears in the formation a long time ago; they just hadn’t expected one of the eavesdroppers to be Qing Han.
“I am here as a special emissary of His Majesty the Celestial Emperor. I am to oversee the Dusk River Sacrament, and my two companions are the Dusk governor and Duskwater city lord. You tell me why we’re here.
“If you’re looking for the Formation Orb on the crown prince’s behalf, Qi Shenghui, why are you here rather than the ruins of Myriad Formation Summit?”
News of the mountain’s collapse had spread through Nephrite Major in half a day. Since the formations had remained on site, however, many believed the Formation Orb was still there. They simply weren’t bold enough to venture into the ruins.
Qi Shenghui and his companions pulled an odd face at these words.
“I don’t know if the Formation Orb in the mountain is real, but the one in the river certainly is.” Qi Shenghui smiled. “If the three of you can help us acquire it, His Highness will reward you handsomely. Please do us this favor.”
“This great formation is a strange one,” said the old man in red robe. “Even with the treasure His Highness gifted us, I can’t guarantee that we’ll successfully break the formation and reach the island at the center of the river. We certainly stand a better chance with help from our little friends.”
The armored man targeted the three of them with a terrifying aura.
“Dammit, Qi Shenghui wants us dead!” Qing Han thinned his lips. Or, more accurately, the man planned to use them as cannon fodder to test the formation. No matter if he acquired the island’s Formation Orb or not, he would kill the three of them. Otherwise, he and his men wouldn’t be able to return to Nephrite Capital alive.
Qing Han had two powerful protectors. If they knew Qi Shenghui had used Qing Han as cannon fodder, they would destroy him with every tool at their disposal. Not even the crown prince would be able to protect him.
Moreover, if news got out that Qi Shenghui had obtained the Formation Orb, he and his companions would be attacked and killed before they could leave Dusk Province.
The best case scenario was for Lu Yun and his two companions to die in the formation. Even if they survived, Qi Shenghui would still kill them himself.