An even more dreadful creature emerged from the darkness. The formation should’ve had two hours left, but the giant fist had caused tremendous damage. Still filled with power, the Formation Orb was busily repairing the fissure, but Feinie herself was nearly spent.
“There might be a sliver of hope if I go. We’re all dead otherwise!” Setting his jaw, Qing Han looked at Lu Yun. “Don’t you dare follow me!”
Lu Yun searched Qing Han’s eyes and found staunch determination. He nodded in acquiescence.
A smile formed on Qing Han’s lips as he looked back at the Dusk governor. “Remember my present appearance.”
The imperial envoy wasn’t good looking, by any means. Grimy-looking skin and a centipede-like scar marring what was a passably clean-cut face, there was actually a sinister air to him.
“There’s definitely something fishy going on between them,” Mo Yi muttered under her breath.
As for Lu Yun, his expression was a little unnatural. Qing Han was a friend unto death, a companion he could entrust his life to. But what about his friend himself? Does he actually like guys?
At the same time, Qing Han seemed allergic to other men. Back when everyone still thought Miao was a man, he’d been reluctant to have much contact with the breathtakingly gorgeous fox. What did it all mean?
What’s going through his mind?
Qing Han had already turned and left the formation, his frail figure quickly swallowed by the shadows. Yuying’s demise and subsequent return to the Tome of Life and Death had taken the Emerald Mistfire with her. Meanwhile, the formation was suffering so much from the new assailant’s violent pounding that it dimmed and was only dully clinging on.
Pitch-black despair reigned outside and there was no sign of Qing Han anywhere to be seen.
Lu Yun started shaking. Had he made the right choice? It somehow felt like something very important was departing from him.
“Redeploy the formation!” he suddenly shouted at Feinie. “It’s our only hope of survival, we can’t let it break! Mo Yi, help her.” Then he steeled himself against the darkness and charged out of the formation.
“Alright!” Mo Yi tracked Lu Yun’s departing figure with her eyes before turning toward Qin Xianhuo and the others. “You three lowlifes will help, or I’ll execute you all. I never promised any of you anything. Anyone who wants to self-detonate can get to it. It’s all the same to me whether you die now, or die later!” She glowered viciously at Qi Shenghui. A shudder ran through the eunuch and he followed her orders like a meek lamb.
The endless darkness seemed to swallow everything, light and consciousness alike. Qing Han had no idea what gave him the courage to leave the safe confines of the formation and face the terrifying depths where even gods were buried. Was it merely the Scroll of Shepherding Immortals?
Or was it something else?
The disguised girl herself was perplexed. If I actually like him, why can’t I summon the courage to reveal my true appearance? Doesn’t he also yearn to meet the pretty girl who saved him from the undead hag in the burial mound?
Was it simple reluctance? Or was it... fear?
I don’t have long to live. I won’t be anything but a fleeting interlude in the story of his life. So why not quietly stay by his side and keep him company as a friend? That wouldn’t be so bad either.
The giant monster roared and shrieked as it pummeled the formation again and again. But when it spotted a living being leaving the formation, it threw its head back, loosed an excited howl, and swiped at Qing Han’s tiny figure in an attempt to grab the human.
“A Gandharva.” Qing Han furtively unfurled the Scroll of Shepherding Immortals. The second the giant hand neared his figure, it instantly recoiled and the creature’s lumbering frame beat a hasty retreat.
However, already spread out, the long scroll churned into the dark in close pursuit. The Gandharva howled with terror, but had no way of resisting the painting’s power.
A formless flame set its figure ablaze and instantly reduced it into ashes. The effort drained all color from Qing Han’s face, given that the full power of the scroll was currently beyond his reach.
“This scroll… really shouldn’t be called the Scroll of Shepherding Immortals.” Qing Han sucked in a deep breath of air.
To shepherd was to guide and to oversee. To shepherd immortals meant to control immortals far and wide, to be the master of them. To bestow the painting such a name was proof of the divine race’s ambitions.
But in fact, the three paintings that constituted the scroll themselves symbolized the core origins of the divine race: to wield the will of life in grasping the heaven’s authority, and be born of the plentitude of nature.
Hence, the scroll wasn’t merely a most cherished treasure, but also the antithesis of the divine race, one that could reduce them to their beginnings. Unless a divine could withstand its power, it would be disintegrated and returned to nature as a most primitive form of energy.
In fact, Qing Han now wondered who the ones that sealed the scroll had been. Were they immortals, or were they the divines themselves?
In any case, compared to the formidable painting, he was nothing but a weak nascent spirit cultivator. Killing a single creature had been enough to send him reeling, and the sound of his panting was painfully conspicuous.
All of the monsters here have a divine origin, including the ones Lu Yun calls ghouls. Someone buried their entire race here, then used a peculiar power to erase their sentience and transform them into creatures of the dark. Qing Han had derived some clues from the power of the Gandharva he’d slain. Though it was still a divine, it’d become something else as well.
With a gentle shake, the scroll followed the direction of his finger and turned another creature to ash.
I have enough strength for three uses at most, no more. Mouth set firmly, Qing Han closed his eyes, prompting silver radiance to scatter from the starstone on his chest. Soon after, his figure shifted, transforming from a he to a she.
Good thing he can’t see me. Her original appearance restored, she instinctively checked behind her. There wasn’t a single speck of light to be found within the boundless dark. The glow of the formation had long dimmed to nothing.
She sent her starstone into the scroll to merge with it. Abruptly enlivened, the scroll glided in the air like a noble dragon and eradicated monster upon monster in a wanton killing spree.
But there were too many of them and they had a well defined goal: destroy the formation and devour the living inside. Though they feared the scroll, it didn’t overpower their desire for living flesh.
In fact, the faint hints of carnage born from the scroll’s slaughter sent the monsters into even more of a berserk frenzy. And despite the assistance of the starstone, manipulating the scroll was still a burden on Qing Han.
The starstone wasn’t merely meant to conceal her appearance. More importantly, it also protected her life. Without the stone on her, her life began slipping away anew; not even the scroll could prevent this passage.
“Qing Han, are you alright?” Lu Yun’s voice suddenly sounded by her ears, jolting her strenuous concentration. She bit her lip hard enough to draw blood and forcefully swallowed the words on the tip of her tongue.
Lu Yun followed that familiar feeling and reached her side. He couldn’t help but be worried by her silence, but he didn’t dare draw too close to her. Black fire raged around him, the full power of hellfire working to conceal his vitality as a living thing.
“Why aren’t you saying anything? Are you hurt?” He dismissed the fire from his right hand and tried to grab her, but she shifted slightly and evaded his touch.