It wasn’t surprising that there were corpsefish in the Dusk River. It was a strange, yin river originating from that ancient, beyond-emperor-level tomb at the center of Dusk Province. It was only natural that there would be zombies and other monsters born of the energy and unresolved grievances.
The giant corpsefish didn’t surface, nor did its white tentacles form any trapping formations, which wouldn’t work on the Path of Ingress anyway.
However, the creature itself was so incredibly large—more so than the corpsefish in the burial mound—that it could physically grab hold of the path and slowly drag it into the water with the help of the feng shui layout of one potential.
“What do we do now?” Qi Shenghui panicked. They would be dead if they were dragged into the river along with the path. But if they left the treasure’s range of effect, they might fall victim to the strange formation on the riverbank. One careless move would get them killed either way.
“Impossible!” The old man in red robe paled. “What manner of monster is this? How can it possibly counter the Path of Ingress? The treasure’s power has been boosted tenfold!”
The bodies had stopped climbing ashore and floated about in the river instead, their empty eyes silently staring at the six of them.
“It’s a corpsefish,” said Situ Yun, his eyes filled with fear. “A thousand years ago, I was a general of the Sirius Battalion. My comrades and I travelled to this province to quell the unrest of the Dusk tomb, where I saw a fish monster with a human face. This one remains underwater, but it must be the same monster I encountered back then!
“I recognize these tentacles! General Xu Dingchi of the Sirius Battalion, a golden immortal, was torn to pieces and eaten by such a monster!”
A thousand years ago, at the beginning of the unrest from the Dusk tomb, there had been no restrictions against high-level immortals. Nephrite Major once sent reinforcements of thirty-six golden immortals with a million soldiers under their command.
All of them had died in battle, along with the then governor of Dusk Province.
Legend had it that the terrors from the tomb had feasted upon the immortals, so Dusk Province became a forbidden ground for high-level immortals. Like all tales, it wasn’t entirely accurate, as what had devoured the thirty-six immortals weren’t the terrors, but several giant corpsefish!
The terrors were only responsible for killing the dao immortals.
Situ Yun was reminded of his terrible past by the swarm of white tentacles.
“Take out another formation stone and follow my instructions! Quickly!” Lu Yun turned to yell at the old man in red when the Path of Ingress was mostly submerged in the river.
“Follow your instructions?” Qi Shenghui snapped before the old man could respond. “A qi transformation cultivator like you needs to get out of the way! Qing Han, get into the river and kill the corpsefish! Its tentacles may be powerful, but the monster itself is weak!”
He had recognized the creature by now as well. The calamity of a thousand years ago had shaken all of Nephrite Major. The corpsefish and other unnatural things that’d emerged in Dusk Province were all noted in the imperial record.
Qi Shenghui had done his homework before coming to Dusk River for the Formation Orb and knew what creatures might appear in the river. That was why he’d brought a formation master with him and Situ Yun, who’d fought here before.
He’d failed to recognize the monster at first, because it hadn’t surfaced above the river. Only Qing Han, Situ Yun, and Lu Yun, those who’d seen such a monster before with their own eyes, had recognized it immediately.
“That won’t do!” the old man boomed with a frown, taking out a formation stone. “There’s a defensive formation of corpses within the water. Not even a golden immortal can hurt the corpsefish under these circumstances. We must do as the Dusk governor says.”
Qi Shenghui’s expression darkened after being refuted yet again by the old man. The old man might be highly regarded, but the eunuch was in charge of the mission. He stared at the governor and his two companions, his eyes shining with unbridled murderous intent.
Lu Yun had no time for consideration of Qi Shenghui’s ego. He babbled out instructions, drawing on knowledge of formations he’d learned from Feinie’s memories. Five thousand years ago, she’d been hailed as Formation King. It was a cocksure title that not only showed her confidence, but also her status in the dao of formations.
“What an intricate amplification formation; it can amplify the power of the Path of Ingress by a hundred times!” Shock flashed through the old man’s eyes. He’d never seen such a formation. There weren’t many strokes, but the formation was unusually complicated and delicate. By the time he finished, he was panting and drenched with sweat.
“I set up the formation under his guidance, but can’t remember how I did it at all,” muttered the old man. He looked at Lu Yun like he was seeing the young man for the first time.
The corpsefish was still dragging the treasure replica under with all it had. They were less than three feet from the river! Black water dampened their shoes and they would fall into the river in about a dozen breaths.
“Activate the formation!” snapped Lu Yun, breaking the old man out of his trance.
The old man hurriedly bit his tongue and spat a mouthful of blood essence on the formation. “Activate!” he yelled.
Like a dragon jerking awake from its slumber, a great tremor spread through the Path of Ingress, sending out shockwaves that broke the tentacles that were clinging to it.
The river was roiling and frothing as dead bodies pointlessly struggled in the currents, unable to climb onto the bank. Amplified by a hundred times, the treasure had managed to suppress the formation of one potential.
The black skull of malice continued shrieking relentlessly, but it couldn’t do anything with the formation suppressed.
Qi Shenghui, Situ Yun, and the old man in red looked back at Lu Yun in shock. How could a qi transformation cultivator know of such a powerful formation??
Didn’t the rumors say that he was an incompetent wastrel?
How could someone like him be questioned for his ability to be governor?
Did Dusk Province have different standards for labelling people as good-for-nothing trash?
“What are you waiting for? Let’s go!” Noting the three immortals staring dumbly at him, Lu Yun prodded them to action. “The formation can hold for only an hour. Then it’ll be destroyed, along with everything in it.”
“That’s enough time!”
The island would stay above water for only about another hour as well. The replica of the Path of Ingress had to be destroyed, since it’d been refined with the actual treasure’s power. If it fell into someone else’s hand, it wouldn’t bode well for the Nephrite court.
It would be best to destroy the replica along with the formation, after they got what they came here for.
Destroy it? Lu Yun snorted inwardly. He wasn’t going to do that. An hour later, the treasure would be teleported into the Gates of the Abyss by the portal he’d hidden in the amplification formation. It would only appear as if it’d been destroyed.
“Take point, you three!” commanded Qi Shenghui.
The old man in red opened his mouth to say something, but stopped short. Both the treasure and the Formation Orb had to be kept a secret. Therefore, the three youths still had to be silenced.
It’s a bit of a pity about the young governor’s impressive knowledge of formations though. Before he dies, I’ll search through his soul to take his memories and acquire all his learning!
Lu Yun shrugged and stepped onto the Path of Ingress.
The river continued slamming into the treasure, but the bridge had become incredibly sturdy, its light keeping both corpsefish and bodies at bay. The three august immortals relaxed when they saw Lu Yun and his two companions cross the river safely, then trailed after the cultivators.
“Halt.” Lu Yun stopped in his tracks as they approached the island. Before Qi Shenghui could say anything, he cast a golden soybean. After an explosion of golden radiance, a soldier in golden armor emerged and stepped onto the island.
“It’s fine,” the soldier said meekly, turning back to face Lu Yun. “There’s no danger—”
Before he could finish, his body deteriorated at great speed. A soybean fell to the ground, dried and shriveled.
“The island can absorb the life essence of the living,” Lu Yun said with a frown, staring at the drained soybean. “Is that a secret of a tomb for the living?”
With his limited cultivation, the soldiers he could summon were only qi transformation cultivators, serving no purpose other than scouting ahead. The soldier’s senses were connected to Lu Yun’s, so he could tell what had happened to it before his death.
“Absorb life essence?” The old man frowned slightly.
The island was protected by the layouts of one potential, two principles, and three essentials, but the Path of Ingress had forged a path through all of them. Nevertheless, there was another layout guarding the island.
Lu Yun recognized it as one that reversed yin and yang. It was derived from the formation of two principles. Again, he didn’t recognize the formation the layout corresponded to.
“Reversal of the two opposites, so that’s how it absorbs life essence.” He spoke to the old man without turning around, “Give me a formation stone.”
“What are you going to do with it?” the old man asked without thinking as he handed Lu Yun the stone.
“Yin and yang are reversed on the island, as are life and death,” Lu Yun responded casually. “I’m going to set up another layout to reverse yin and yang again, countering the life-absorbing power.”
The old man in red paused. He could see neither layouts nor formations. To him and the others, the life-absorbing power on the island must be coming from a terrifying, unknown creature, but Lu Yun said it was a formation.
“Stop daydreaming and help me!” Lu Yun turned to the old man. “We’ll reverse the reversed yin and yang with a layout of the eight trigrams. The eight trigrams are composed of eight opposing forces.” The Dusk governor took out a spirit stone and started etching as he explained, “Heaven and earth, wind and thunder, fire and water, and mountain and pool. Carve them in pairs of two.”
The old man gaped at him, at a complete loss.