“Are you a divine obsession?” Qing Yu paled.
“Divine obsession?” Empress Myrtlestar shook her head. “I am not a divine spirit, and neither is my obsession. This tomb is filled with the air of resentment, which my will gathered to create this body.” She sighed again, noticing the girl’s lingering wariness. “Do you still not trust me?”
“Too many burdens have been laid on my shoulders since I was young. I came to Dusk Province for one thing only: freedom,” Qing Yu replied with great sincerity. “I’d rather give my life to Lu Yun than bear the weight of carrying on some bloodline. This life is already too tiring.”
The empress looked at the girl with some confusion. “But he will be sad if you die.”
“No.” The girl smiled back brilliantly. “Time heals all wounds. As long as I erase my body and every other trace of my existence, he’ll forget me in no time. Plus, he doesn’t even know I’m a girl.”
Myrtlestar laughed at the answer. “You are quite like me back in the day. It is a pity I wasn’t nearly as decisive and clear sighted as you. If I had been… if I had refused to take on what I did not need to… my people would not have been snuffed out.
“This Imperial Star contains my full heritage. It is my gift to you, freely given. I don’t need you to revitalize anything or carry on a bloodline. Just live your life well.”
The empress sent the violet starstone into Qing Yu’s forehead with a flick of her fingers.
The girl felt a stream of gentle healing energy coursing through her veins, slowly replenishing the lifeforce that had been fading fast mere moments ago. The compounded rimesnake poison was still present, but it would no longer threaten her life.
Having given her star to Qing Yu, Myrtlestar’s body grew a little undefined.
“You…” Qing Yu stared at the empress, unsure of what to say. “That’s right!” She brightened. “Lu Yun told me that the Skandha Extinction Tomb hasn’t completely extinguished your clan just yet. As long as the tomb’s destroyed, your kin will live on.”
“If the bloodline of an imperial people is to be severed and its descendants slip down to mere mortals… then it would be better to vanish on the wind,” Myrtlestar wistfully shook her head. As if on cue, her body began crumbling into dust.
“Don’t touch the dread corpse zombie inside the coffin. It will bring calamity to the world.
“A leaf from the Fusang Purewood will save his life. Place it in his mouth.
“The akasha ghost persists. You’ve destroyed one of its copies, but it will return. You must be careful.” There was nothing left of the empress now save her echoing voice. “Leave this place, and live well….”
“My head... hurts real bad…” An indeterminate amount of time later, Lu Yun opened his eyes with a start. He leaped to his feet, alertly scanning the surroundings.
“Wait… what’s this I taste?” Smacking his lips, he found a sticky sweetness in his mouth as well as a faint, familiar fragrance.
“You’re awake.” Qing Han sat on the other side. There were a few wounds on his body that he was intently tending to. A number of powerful zombies had defended the tree’s perimeter, and taking them all out had taken quite an effort.
“You alright?” Lu Yun hurried to his friend’s side, looking him up and down. He breathed a sigh of relief when he realized the injuries were only skin deep.
Qing Han fidgeted uncomfortably in response.
“Where are we?” The governor finally had time to examine his surroundings. They seemed to be atop a giant tree. Tendrils of mist obscured vision in every direction, making it impossible to see their surroundings.
“We’ve already left the Skandha Extinction Tomb.” Qing Han bit his lip, nearly blurting out the truth to his friend. Alas, the words still remained stuck in his throat; no matter how much he struggled, he couldn’t get them out.
I’m supposed to be decisive, but I still don’t have the courage to tell him….
“We’re out? What about that thing called an akasha ghost?” Lu Yun stared back blankly.
“You poked it to death,” Qing Han answered with a hint of panic. “Don’t be so reckless next time. You could’ve escaped!”
“Oh yeah. I used the Judgment of Life and Death, I think… that akasha ghost had a lot of bad karma attached, so I pretty much had it in the bag,” Lu Yun reminisced. Sneaking another glance at Qing Han, he felt something about his friend was… very different. He couldn’t quite put his finger on how, but, hmm?
The young man smacked his lips again. The sweetness in his mouth was fading fast.
Qing Han immediately reddened, hastily turning around to hide his face.
The Fusang Purewood’s leaf was like an ember of vital energy. Lu Yun’s mouth had remained stubbornly closed no matter what Qing Han had tried, so he’d had to resort to a more… intimate method of transmission.
His tongue was still a little numb from being sucked on.
“I really didn’t expect this kind of tomb to be that scary. I couldn’t do anything about the north, and almost died in the east…” Lu Yun laughed helplessly.
He’d thought his tomb raiding skills were more than up to par, especially coupled with the Tome of Life and Death. The world should’ve been his oyster—or at least, its tombs. To think he’d fail here today!
“You’ve done really well already. You’re only at the golden core realm, after all,” Qing Han reassured him. “Any faction in the world would’ve had to pour several dao immortals’ lives into an ancient tomb like this one before breaking it apart. And sometimes, they don’t even get anything out of it.”
“Well, it’s not like we got anything out of it either, no?” Lu Yun sighed.
“Who says we didn’t?” Qing Han took out the starstone they’d collected from the rimesnake king. “This starstone contains a Big Dipper Formation that can be used as soon as it’s activated. It’s much more useful than most formation disks!”
He carefully put the starstone made from the energies of the Big Dipper back into his bosom. After all, it was a gift from his friend.
“There’s something else that I don’t want to take out here. A heritage from a senior….”
His hesitation was quite reasonable. If he took out the Imperial Star here, something unexpected could happen. Though the second was also a starstone, it drew its energies from a completely different celestial body.
“The heritage from that imperial coffin?” Lu Yun’s eyes lit up.
“Yes!” Qing Han answered. “When we get somewhere safe, I’ll share it with you, too.”
“Whoa, don’t do that!” Lu Yun jumped back in shock. “This tomb’s definitely existed since primordial times. The emperor inside the eastern tomb was far stronger than the majority of the ancient immortal emperors. You can’t let a single hint about that heritage slip before you’re strong enough to hang onto it. Not to me, not to your cousin… keep it all to yourself!”
Qing Han nodded helplessly.
“Oh yeah, there’s one more thing I want to tell you!” The dark-complexioned youth became startlingly sober for a moment.
“What’s up? Looking at your face, it must be serious,” Lu Yun smiled.
Qing Han bit his lip, then drew a sharp breath. “Q-Qing Yu told m-me that, er, she’s also, uh, started liking you after seeing you a few more times.”
Well, it certainly isn’t love at first sight. I don’t know when I started liking you either.
“Ah… ha… huh?” Lu Yun’s mouth gaped, positively astounded.
“I summoned Qing Yu here during our fight against the akasha ghost. You must’ve noticed, right?” It was Qing Han’s turn to smile.
“Qing Yu… weird.” Lu Yun frowned. “Why did our conversation trigger the layout of certain death? Why did that akasha ghost come?