The battle in Dusk City had left the Arcane Golden Bell as part of the spoils of war. Dread of Lu Yun ran too high for the Qing Clan to demand the dao immortal-grade treasure back.
The governor handed it to Qing Han after his friend woke up, but Qing Han had merely thrown it into the Scroll of Shepherding Immortals for Empress Myrtlestar to erase the brand and power of the Qing bloodline, then returned the bell to Lu Yun.
In his words, his clan would pressure him into returning the golden bell if it knew the treasure was in his possession. He’d rather bequeath it to Lu Yun than allow his clan the satisfaction.
As for whether or not this would offend the Qing Clan.... Well, Lu Yun had already forced the Qing dao immortal to streak naked in front of the world. It couldn’t get any worse than that. Even if Lu Yun were the one to return the golden bell to the Qing Clan, it still wouldn’t earn him any goodwill.
Meanwhile, peerless immortals Lü Biao and Beigong Yu worked in concert to activate the Arcane Golden Bell. Terrible sound waves hit Feng Wujiang squarely from the Gates of the Abyss.
Blood geysered from all seven of the immortal’s orifices, and the Tempest Bird attached to him immediately scattered on the wind. The bell’s soundwaves left him covered in blood, gradually rendering his body into ash and disintegrating his soul. Yet his eyes still blazed with the determination to kill Lu Yun. Not even his own destruction would stop him.
The golden bell tolled ceaselessly onwards, wearing away at Feng Wujiang’s body and soul even as his sword burst into splendid magnificence.
“Die!” shrieked Feng Wujiang. All of his being was focused on the tip of the blade, which blossomed along with the last of his life force.
Lu Yun lifted his head to face the man and murmured, “You are an outstanding character. If only you could die at my hands. What a pity that I’m not yet powerful enough to take your life.”
Something green rushed out of the Gates of the Abyss and lunged at Feng Wujiang.
“Waughhh!!” it screamed excitedly, maw yawning open to bite down on the human. Green dyed Feng Wujiang’s face as the air of death filled his eyes. His iridescent sword energy and flare of life were instantaneously vanquished.
“Poison… Fiend...” murmured Feng Wujiang.
A breeze scattered the green dust that was left of him. The poison fiend belched in satisfaction and burrowed back into the Gates of the Abyss, returning to the Wheel of Poison in Lü Guhong’s hand.
One of the three Cloudwater wardens was dead at Lu Yun’s hands. The newly defeated Tempest soldiers fell deeper into despair, their morale completely shattered by the loss of their general.
“There will be no Tempest Army from this day forth,” Zhu Yu sighed.
Feng Wujiang had spent the last thousand years recruiting soldiers. Even the Great Tempest Formation was something he’d excavated from an ancient tomb. He was the heart and soul of the army; no one would be able to take over from him. His death had stripped the soldiers of their identity.
“You’ve crossed a line, Governor.” Yue Cheng suddenly broke the silence. “Even though Feng Wujiang and Feng Yin committed high crimes, they were officials of Nephrite Major. The court should’ve passed judgment, not you unilaterally reaching beyond your station. You’re a governor, not His Majesty the Celestial Emperor!”
“Picking a side already?” Zhu Yu glanced at Yue Cheng and wordlessly shook her head. Making the wrong decision between the heavenly court and the future sacred land would start one on the march toward inevitable death.
Although the Yue Clan could rival the Feng and Qing Clans, they would give up Yue Cheng in a heartbeat to protect themselves, should the circumstances call for it. Therefore, the warden needed a strong thigh to latch onto. The Feng Clan and heavenly court were much more reliable than a mere Lu Yun!
Lu Yun looked up at Yue Cheng and shook his head.
“Feng Wujiang of the Feng Clan received what he deserved. As his accomplices, the Tempest Army will be stripped of their duty in Cloudwater and await judgement.” A proclamation rang out in a clear voice. “In the name of His Majesty the Celestial Emperor, I do hereby appoint General Yuchi Hanxing and the Dusk Phalanx to redeploy from the seaside stronghold and defend Cloudwater Township.”
“Understood!” Gone was the giant Black Tortoise image as Yuchi Hanxing and a million soldiers knelt in midair on bended knee.
“Hmph!” Yue Cheng scoffed and left with a flourish of his sleeves. He’d picked his side; naturally he wouldn’t continue to be civil with Lu Yun and his allies. It dawned on the rest that great changes were on the horizon for Dusk Province, and even all of Nephrite Major.
The Dusk soldiers made camp in Cloudwater. This sleepy, picturesque town held more strategic importance than even the seaside stronghold. Losing the stronghold would at most lead to lesser monster spirits invading and killing a few Dusk cultivators.
Cloudwater, on the other hand, was not only a choke point for Dusk Province, but also a transportation hub, with its transportation formation that led to all other seventy-one provinces in the major. Losing control over it would be catastrophic for Nephrite.
Lu Yun settled down in an inn, rather than immediately make his way to Nephrite Capital. The two wardens didn’t show themselves again. Yue Cheng had made his choice, while Zhu Yu wanted nothing to do with Lu Yun, lest she be dragged into the mess.
The moon hung low in the descending night sky, ornamented by the twinkling stars around it. Two figures snuck out of the inn and made their way to the rear of Cloudwater, to the rippling lake that the town was named after. An enormous lake behind the town provided the water and seeded the haze for the town’s signature look.
However, the two mountains sandwiching the lake and town blocked passage from the front, preventing the two from getting a good look until they drew closer. Previously, they’d only seen the shimmering plethora of clouds and reflection of the water, but nothing of the actual lake itself.
“The Great Cloudwater Lake!” Qing Han inhaled deeply and cast a curious glance at the waters. “I’ve long heard about this magical lake, but I’ve never seen it with my own eyes. Do you mean the tomb is in the water?”
The lake spanned roughly fifty kilometers in radius and resembled a magical mirror enveloped by clouds and mist. It was a stunning sight of sumptuous beauty. However, Lu Yun’s face darkened imperceptibly.
“What’s wrong?” Qing Han asked with surprise.
“This is a volcano!” The governor breathed in deeply as he scanned the landscape. “What an investment, setting up the tomb within a volcano. Not only are there mountains blocking the way, there’s also water and fire as natural barriers. This really is piquing my interest in whoever’s buried here.”
“A volcano?” Qing Han was befuddled. “There’s a giant lake here—how can it be a volcano?”
“It hasn’t erupted for many, many years.” Lu Yun pointed at the lake. “This is the mouth of the volcano. The tomb is underneath the lake. Come on, let’s go take a look.” He grabbed Qing Han and leapt into the lake.
“A volcano? The tomb of a noble?” A middle-aged man in golden attire suddenly materialized on the banks of the lake. He looked at the dissipating ripples on the surface with a cold smile tugging at his lips. “Consider this compensation for the treasure slave you took from me.”
The man jumped in as well.