A number of figures suddenly arose from the lava sea—humans, monster spirits, dragons, and even divines. However, none of them were alive. All of them were living spirits inhabiting the bodies of zombies.
They were all keepers of this tomb.
On Earth, tomb keepers were said to be such loyal followers of the buried dead that they turned into zombies to guard the tomb, lest their master’s resting place be disturbed by tomb raiders.
Unlike zombie kings, who devoured the essence of others to return to life, tomb keepers were merely living souls inhabiting undead bodies. They maintained their own consciousness while gaining the enormous strength of a zombie, whereas zombie kings overflowed with violence and unresolved grievances.
Regardless, both wandered the nebulous zone between life and death, constantly tormented by their inability to either seek an end or achieve rebirth.
Lu Yun had always thought them to be merely a myth. Human souls zombified along with their bodies, turning them into mindless monsters. How was it possible for zombies to guard tombs?
Yet now he was looking at living proof of that myth.
The tomb keepers in the sea of lava were devoid of vitality and radiated presences unique to zombies, but their gazes were clear like that of a living person. Now freed from the lava, the mermaid brought up molten waves with a light flick of her tail. Hundreds of tomb keepers followed her ashore.
“A divine intruding upon the tomb of the phoenix queen? Show yourself!” The mermaid scoffed and directed a ripple of flames at a corner of the air with a casual wave.
A grunt preceded a man’s fall from the air. Clad in gold robes, disbelief shone in his eyes.
“Tomb keepers, tomb keepers… the legends are real!” snarled the man. He’d made it here only through shadowing Lu Yun and Qing Han—the two being none the wiser—but the mermaid had all too easily spotted him. “There really are living souls who volunteer to become zombies!”
Becoming a tomb keeper granted one the great strength of an undead, but at the cost of forever being trapped in their now-zombified body. They didn’t even have a chance to develop into a zombie king and come back to life.
“This is the Sword Barrow!” Gaping, an even more terrible memory surfaced in the man’s mind before he could recover from the shock of encountering tomb keepers. “That Lu Yun kid just said this is an intersection of the Fire and Gold Stars. This is the Sword Barrow, a tomb of tens of thousands of flying swords! No wonder the swords became zombies!” The man in gold backed away.
“Hahaha! What a mistake you all made by burying Huang Qing here! Phoenixes can be reborn after death, but being buried here took that chance away from her! You tomb keepers are waiting for something that’ll never happen!! Hahaha!!” the man roared with mad laughter.
The mermaid and the other tomb keepers stilled, their eyes shining with regret. It had been they who’d buried Huang Qing here. They’d then volunteered to guard her as tomb keepers, awaiting the day of her rebirth.
However, they waited ten thousand years.
Ten thousand years after her burial, Huang Qing’s body still remained dormant, showing no signs of resurrection. It was then that they realized something was wrong. But what was done was done, and couldn’t be undone. Even the tomb keepers couldn’t enter the Sword Barrow to retrieve their mistress’ body.
The Sword Barrow had become one with Huang Qing’s tomb and morphed into a tomb for nobility, a sum far more dangerous than its parts. The mountains trapping Cloudwater Township were the physical manifestation of the tomb.
Likewise, the tomb hadn’t been set up within the volcano, but the volcano had appeared because of it.
“The Sword Barrow?” Lu Yun frowned. Neither he nor his envoys knew anything about sword barrows.
“A resting place for swords,” replied Qing Han. “Legends speak of the Sword Barrow in our world, a tomb for swords built by persons unknown at an undefined time. Every time it emerges in the world, deadly conflicts arise. Actually, Violetgrave came from the Sword Barrow.”
Qing Han didn’t know about sword barrows, but Empress Myrtlestar did. In her own words, she hadn’t even dared venture into the Sword Barrow at her peak. The sword tomb had buried a number of would-be adventurers, even heavyweights at her level.
“There are other swords like Violetgrave there?” Lu Yun’s eyes lit up.
The tomb keepers and the man in gold stared at him dumbly.
“That... I’m not sure.” Qing Han met Lun Yun’s eyes with a wry smile. He knew what the governor was thinking: a sword barrow was still a tomb.
Living creatures were laid to rest in tombs and burial mounds, whereas inanimate objects called barrows their final resting place. Sword and clothing barrows were common examples, the latter being reserved for those whose bodies couldn’t be recovered.
At the end of the day, however, barrows were no different from tombs. As the commandant of the most noble sect of tomb raiders, Lu Yun wasn’t going to back down. This might be the death door of the eight doors, but he could still break out and turn the tide, given enough time!
“You are going to the resting place of the swords?” The mermaid’s eyes blazed as they fixed on Lu Yun. Phoenixes were immortal. Even after their souls were scattered, there was a chance for them to be reborn if they could gather their souls.
Huang Qing was the greatest genius of the phoenix clan. Although she’d been killed by the divine race, she’d still be able to resurrect, once placed in a locale with an abundance of fire element.
Her followers had set up the tomb here to prevent the divines from locating her. Tombs were where the dead were buried, and burials marked the end of a life. Even if the divines were almost omniscient, they’d be blind to Huang Qing while she was hidden in this tomb.
Unfortunately, the tomb keepers hadn’t spotted the terrible Sword Barrow hidden deep within the fire element under the Cloudwater Lake until it was too late. The Sword Barrow’s energy had shredded the power of rebirth and disrupted the phoenix’s resurrection.
“I can enter the Sword Barrow and find your mistress’ body.” Lu Yun proclaimed, his eyes shining with great confidence.
“We will let the two of you live if you can retrieve her body. This divine, however...” The mermaid shifted her gaze to the man in gold, who shuddered violently.
The tomb keepers were all peerless immortals! He himself was a peerless immortal as well, but even lifting his seal wouldn’t save him from the tomb keepers.
“Kill him if you want to,” Lu Yun commented nonchalantly. “Even if you don’t, I’ll somehow get him killed myself.”