Now that Xuanxi was an envoy, her true form split from the corpsefish.
“You’re… from the North Sea water spirits?” The flood of her memories and experiences astonished Lu Yun.
North Sea water spirits were very much different from the monster spirits that currently inhabited the sea. The former had long since vanished, their ancestral home taken over by the latter.
He turned to the bronze outer-coffin. Clearly, his new envoy knew who the burial vessel contained. Back in the day, she’d willingly walked into Wayfarer’s scheme in order to pass down instructions for the ritual to revive the one within.
“Yes, master. I am one of the shark spirits of the North Sea. I was the princess’ close subordinate, once upon a time.” The watery envoy quietly lowered her head. “She was the very first Dusk River God, but died in a fight with the terrible restriction that lies in the ancient tomb. I inherited the position from her.”
Gods were not only entities born of sacrifices through ritual, but also represented a position, a title created to fulfill a specific duty. The power of a god was a result of the laws of nature and the wishes of the masses.
Take the first Dusk River God, for example. Born from the sacrifices, prayers, and worship of the people living on the banks, the river god could manipulate the river so that it no longer flooded. Thus, she protected the lives of her worshipers on the banks, as was her born duty.
They wished for her to have that particular power over nature, and so it came to be.
This kind of position could be transferred to another, whether willingly or by force. Regardless, the Dusk River God would always have the ability to control Dusk River.
Xuanxi’s death meant that she no longer held that post. Another river god wouldn’t have been born otherwise. As for the princess she’d once served, occupant of the bronze outer-coffin, this was the one which the large burial mound and a thousand years of rituals wished to return to life.
“Was the disturbance a thousand years ago, the one that caused untold misery and suffering for all of Dusk Province, all to revive this princess of yours?” Lu Yun glanced at the outer-coffin, rather upset.
“No, no,” the watery envoy replied hurriedly. “There must be another reason. The princess was the purest of nobility, but the last heir and had gone into hiding with few troops to her name. She even changed her name… wait!” Xuanxi shrieked with alarm. “What is this?! Why is there the light of blood on Her Highness?!”
Two beams of pale-blue illumination shot from her eyes, a gaze that could peer into the coffin.
“Offerings of grass and dogs fashioned from hay should borrow from the purest of energies in the world. Why does blood shimmer over her?” Xuanxi was deathly pale.
“The sacrificial goods were changed,” Lu Yun intoned in a low voice. “They were substituted for ninety-nine pairs of children, plus more than a thousand cultivators’ bodies and souls. It seems that someone wanted to revive the princess alright, but to create their very own killing machine in the process.”
The ritual would’ve turned out fine if only effigies of straw were used. Once living sacrifices were substituted, it turned much too bloody and cruel, creating a critical mass of bad karma.
Under those circumstances, the princess could only rise again as a mindless, murderous fiend—even more horrifying than the zombie king.
Long ago, Xuanxi had offered up her own life to create a self-sustaining boundary with natural energy. The system didn’t need outside help to perpetuate itself. She’d only passed down the sacrificial rites to revive her princess.
Alas, outside interference had altered her intentions beyond belief, turning the dragon princess into a monster. 
The contingency she’d left in place to ensure that the ritual would proceed as normal had evidently been removed as well. As a result, the centenary rites led to a drastically different result.
Nothing she’d wanted to accomplish had been achieved.
“Master, for the sake of all life, please stop the princess’ revival. Her Highness would never have wanted this either.” Resolution flashed through Xuanxi’s downy-blue eyes. She’d once given up her life to revive her mistress, but now pleaded with Lu Yun to prevent that goal from coming to fruition.
“We’ll have to see. I can’t touch this bronze outer-coffin yet.” Lu Yun shook his head slightly. Though the burial vessel now resided in the Gates of the Abyss, it remained connected to the outside world through a mysterious power. The energies generated by the sacrifices still flowed readily into it. He didn’t dare do anything to it yet.
“What’s up with the brass spear though? Why is it here?” He changed the subject, pointing at the weapon embedded in the corpsefish.
Xuanxi blinked and shook her head. She naturally didn’t know of anything that had happened after her death. While her convictions had recorded some memories during their possession of the corpsefish, they were too faded for Lu Yun to read.
The only thing she remembered was giving the Divinewater Talisman to Lu Yun and telling him how to leave the abyss. As for why a shard of her will had lived on to suppress the palace monster in the first place, she had no idea.
“This brass spear is called Seaward, and it’s one of the most precious treasures of the North Sea water spirits. The princess lived in Dusk River Palace, once upon a time. If my guess is right, the monster beneath it is one of her dragonguards, twisted by the power here.”
Xuanxi tried to sort through her thoughts. Previously, she’d been able to invoke Seaward’s power because she was a strand of conviction representing her old self. Now that she was an Envoy of Samsara, she only had the strength of a true immortal. Seaward was a weapon wielded by dao immortals, so it wasn’t something she could touch now.
The roving corpsefish that’d eaten her had also taken over the position of Dusk River God. At some point, someone had slain the disorderly corpsefish, and its corpse had sunk into the abyss to seal away Dusk River Palace.
But who had wielded the long-lost Seaward to accomplish the deed? It was another mystery to add to the pile.
“Do you have any ideas of how we can get out of here?” asked Lu Yun.
“Yes!” Xuanxi replied with certainty. “If we can capture that Dusk River God under the dragonguard’s control, I’ll be able to take back my position and control of the river. After that, I’ll have the river’s waters send us safely out.
“Although the entire divine race is sealed away in the abyss, I’m not a divine myself. I became the Dusk River God through inheritance, so the abyss doesn’t affect me at all.”
There were two kinds of gods: some were born through sacrifice, while others obtained the title and duty from another.
Yin and yang were by nature separated from each other, and their convergence gave rise to all life. Gods born of sacrifice and worship likewise possessed these characteristics, and their offspring formed the divine race.
A divine was endowed with extraordinary talents. The powers their parents received from their positions were passed down through their bloodlines, from generation to generation.
“Can you subdue that corrupted dragonguard then?” Lu Yun furrowed his brow. If he left now, the unleashed dragonguard would re-emerge and kill him and everyone else.
“Absolutely!” Xuanxi nodded. “I can hold it still for about ten breaths.”
“That’s enough time!” Lu Yun set his jaw in preparation.
The new Dusk River God was both a divine and a god born from the belief and sacrifice of worshippers. That nature meant that Qing Han’s Scroll of Shepherding Immortals would work on it. Ten breaths was more than enough for the scroll to do its work.
Having come to a decision, he promptly stepped out of the gates with his new envoy.
The earth immediately began to tremble, opening up fissure upon fissure across its surface.
“Rauuuugh—" A bestial roar tore through the abyss in terror.
The gathered creatures of darkness were forced to the ground in fear, unable to move an inch. Dusk River Palace crumbled as a giant dragon head appeared in the gloom.
“Halt!” A crisp command cut through the silence, followed by the manifestation of a brilliant azure talisman that lit up the void. It plastered itself to the dragon head as soon as it’d fully materialized.
“Hurry, Qing Han!” Lu Yun bawled “Capture the river god!” Time was ticking down.
1. Lu Yun knew beforehand there’s a dragon inside the coffin.