Lu Yun rubbed his nose in embarrassment at Qing Han’s words. Those were the very words he’d said himself in the beginning. Come what may, he was now even more positive about a certain conjecture of his.
The girl called “Qing Yu” must have left a strand of her nascent spirit on Qing Han in order to emerge at critical times to confront powerful threats.
“Do you want her to come out again?” Qing Han grinned and winked at him.
Lu Yun shook his head. “The last time she appeared, it almost cost you your life. And it wasn’t much better this time around.”
Qing Han blinked, a strange sentiment gleaming in his eyes. Outwardly, he seemed to have recovered somewhat, but he’d truly exhausted too much of his energy. If he hadn’t refined the Scroll of Shepherding Immortals, the starstone would’ve already drained his life.
This time, he’d released the power of his nascent spirit to boot, and used it to activate the starstone in order to subdue the black dragon.
“If I ever have the opportunity to visit House Qing, I must meet and thank her in person. Since she told me her name, she must be a little interested in me.” Lu Yun’s expression turned sunny once again, the earlier display of his anxious stammering nowhere to be seen.
“Yes.” Qing Han felt the burn on his cheeks. Thankfully, his skin was dark enough to cover the blush. “Who the heck knows why she did that,” he mumbled almost inaudibly.
Mo Yi and the others caught up to them. The protective formation had shattered when the black dragon burrowed out from the ground, but thankfully, the scroll had already sent the dark creatures packing, giving the group a reprieve.
Fragments of talismans littered the ground, illuminating the area with their cool blue light.
Seeing Qing Han and Xuanxi in a boneless heap on the ground, Mo Yi immediately asked, “What was that just now?”
She smartly avoided asking about Xuanxi’s identity. Given that her appearance was strikingly similar to Dusk River’s river god from earlier, much of it was easy to guess.
“Everything’s settled. We’ll be able to leave in a moment.” Lu Yun sighed with relief when he saw Diexi and Mo Yi appear.
Both Qing Han and Xuanxi were incapacitated, and Lu Yun was only a golden core cultivator. Hellfire was now his only way of self-defense. But Mo Yi and Diexi were both powerful immortals, and even if they couldn’t face the legion of creatures by themselves, they’d easily be able to dispose of one or two stragglers.
“Leave?” The two women beamed. Finally! Freedom from this forsaken place was finally at hand!
“Hmm? Human torso, fish tail, blue hair, and blue eyes... that’s a mermaid!” Qi Shenghui’s eyes gleamed at the sight of Xuanxi. “What a fine mermaid slave, and she’s already a true immortal. She can be sold for a small city at least!”
Xuanxi’s face hardened at his remarks.
Mermaids were beautiful by nature, and their songs moved the soul. In the immortal world, they were outstanding playtoys in certain circles. But they were extremely few in number and protected by the water spirits in the four seas, so mermaid slaves were extraordinarily precious commodities.
“The Formation Orb might be out of reach, but capturing a mermaid slave for the crown prince will make up for our failure!” Near-visible beams of light from his eyes highlighted Qi Shenghui’s desire.
“Qi Shenghui, what kind of nonsense is this?” Qin Xianhuo scowled when he saw Qi Shenghui head for Xuanxi. How could the eunuch think of stirring up trouble at a time like this! He was the reason why everyone had almost lost their lives earlier!
“Mister Qin, this slave that appeared out of nowhere is obviously a creature of the abyss. When I capture her, she’ll belong to me. What, are you people going to stop me?” Qi Shenghui fixed a malevolent look upon the old man.
Qin Xianhuo was about to retort when Situ Yun pulled him aside. Everyone had quietly distanced themselves from the eunuch during the exchange.
“What’s wrong?” The old formation master had finally noticed something amiss.
“A castrated man like him already brims with yin energy. Giving free reign to his wicked desires in such a sinister place…” Lu Yun pressed his lips together. “He’s been possessed.”
And not by an immortal ghost! Lu Yun would’ve been the first to notice that. Moreover, an immortal ghost would be afraid of approaching him. A place permeated with such strong yin energy was certainly populated with many unknown, sinister creatures that’d initially stayed away, intimidated by his hellfire.
A eunuch to begin with, Qi Shenghui was teeming with the most yin energy out of all of them. Moreover, his mind was filled with one evil scheme after another. The strange yin creatures had followed the trail of his wicked desires and taken possession of him. They now controlled his thoughts, magnified his most hidden desires a thousandfold, and exposed them for all to see. He wouldn't be so uninhibited otherwise, even if he’d these dark stirrings.
“You can’t kill him!” Seeing Mo Yi about to attack the man, Diexi urgently stopped her. “The stench of blood will attract the dark creatures again.”
“You’re mine! His Highness the Crown Prince will surely reward me handsomely when I bring him such a prize!” Qi Shenghui howled with laughter, his shrill tones reverberating through the abyss with bone-chilling echoes. Seeing that no one dared stop him, his expression turned increasingly self-satisfied.
He made a hand seal and flashed with an abnormal golden luster again. The eunuch was plainly using the threat of detonating his body and spirit to get his way. He stalked toward Xuanxi, the light of madness in his eyes growing ever more feverish.
A dragon roar resounded as an enormous dragon head emerged from the Scroll of Shepherding Immortals and lunged at Qi Shenghui, its mouth wide open.
“What is this!” the eunuch shrieked, his self-detonation art immediately dispelled. He shot backward at an inconceivable speed, narrowly escaping the bite. By now, the timbre of his voice was rough and a strange red glint shone in his eyes.
“Something recognized that Xuanxi is the key to leaving this place. That’s why it’s taken control of Qi Shenghui to seize her,” Qing Han explained as the light of understanding dawned. The scroll flashed black as the dragon head withdrew inside.
“Agreed.” Lu Yun had also discovered this development, but he didn’t dare rush blindly into action when the identity of what’d possessed the eunuch remained unknown.
“It's a divine obsession!” Mo Yi identified solemnly. “When a god dies, convictions that don’t disperse turn into obsessions if they merge with foul yin energy. It’s an incredibly dangerous thing with no form or substance. It’s merely fragments of a thought, so there’s nothing to be done about it.”
“Divine obsession!” Lu Yun suddenly recalled that there was something similar inside the Gates of the Abyss.
A thought fragment belonging to the original master of the burial mound had merged with the corpse coffin, allowing it to control the undead hag. Lu Yun hadn’t fully understood its nature until Mo Yi’s explanation. The thought fragment that’d scuttled inside the gates was a divine obsession.
“No matter what, let’s get rid of that half-man first!” He clenched his teeth. “Feinie!”
“At your service.” At Lu Yun’s command, she waved her hand and released a black light from the Yin Formation Orb. One formation after another emerged above it and moved to quell Qi Shenghui.
“Kekeke—” Strange cackles burst forth from Qi Shenghui. With a sudden shift in his figure, he instantly flashed to Lu Yun. “Die, pathetic bug!”
He aimed a punch at the governor’s chest, deploying the power of an august immortal. The blow would shatter Lu Yun to pieces if it were to land, leaving nothing of him behind.
At that moment, an enormous black dragon head interposed itself between Lu Yun’s chest and the incoming punch. It snagged Qi Shenghui and swallowed him whole with one bite.
“I’ve been waiting for you.” Qing Han stood beside Lu Yun, ashen-faced as he gasped for air.
The killing intent that Qi Shenghui was already harboring toward Lu Yun would’ve been magnified by the divine obsession, so Qing Han had long been prepared for the eunuch to attack Lu Yun. At the exact moment of action, he released the dragon inside the scroll to devour Qi Shenghui.
When the eunuch disappeared into the dragon’s mouth, a black shadow with a streak of red glow fled from the dragon’s mouth and melted into the darkness.
“Kekeke… for destroying my host, all of you will die!” Laughter that raised one’s hackles rang out as a faint, red shadow condensed in front of them. Soon after, the strong stench of blood filled the air.
When the divine obsession detached itself from Qi Shenghui, it’d brought all of the human’s blood with him. The dark creatures that were fleeing in all directions rushed back in at once when they caught wind of that smell. Their minds were foggy and confused. Their fear was instinctual, but a thirst for blood was also part of their very natures.
The divine obsession shrieked and cried out gutturally, its penetrating voice seeming to summon something.
“I’ve finally found you. A divine obsession is nothing but a fragment of thought, and shouldn’t be so self-aware and independent. So what can you be?” a soft whisper sounded.
“Who is that?” Lu Yun’s group froze when they heard the voice and reflexively glanced into the depths of the darkness.