The layout back in Lu Yun’s sect had fallen dormant after the thousand-year-old willow died, but he’d still been unable to see through or even just get a clear picture of it. The texts of his sect, however, had recorded everything about it in full detail.
As soon as he’d laid eyes on the giant willow tree in the courtyard, the thought occurred to him of replicating the mysterious layout in the world of immortals. With the blueprints from his memories, he immediately got to work.
The manor may be already encircled by the Frolicking Dragon Quintet, but Lu Yun could easily set up a layout within the layout.
The unknown layout was inordinately complicated to lay down. Even with Feinie’s help, it’d taken Lu Yun seven days to complete it.
Crack crack crack!
The moment the layout was finished, a tremendous noise rang through the manor. The giant tree that had sprouted from Old Willow’s remains spontaneously puffed into ashes, as did the Frolicking Dragon Quintet and its corresponding formation, the Capsizing Dragon Quintet. The impact had demolished the manor again and left only rubble in its wake.
Ge Long struggled out of the ruins with his head in his hands. If his name hadn’t been written in the Tome of Life and Death, he probably would’ve been killed in the destruction of the grand formation.
“What—what happened, milord?” He gaped at Lu Yun with a lost expression.
The governor waved a dismissive hand. “Nothing. I was just testing the formation.”
Thank goodness he’d sent You Tu and the others to Duskwater City to bolster Mo Yi’s forces, or the ninety-nine soldiers would’ve met an untimely demise just now.
Lu Yun flicked out thirty-six soybeans and summoned golden warriors to rebuild the manor.
“Why did that happen?” He frowned. “Because the layout was within another layout? ...no… not because of that. It’s because the willow tree wasn’t sturdy enough! There must be a stronger one somewhere in Dusk Province.”
Northern reaches of Dusk Province.
An earth-shattering roar ripped through the Skandha Range. Every living being froze stock-still and held their breaths.
“Bastard! The Dusk governor destroyed my duplicate! Die, die, die! I want him dead!”
There was a giant, furious willow tree that was tens of thousands of meters tall, its large canopy of dark-violet leaves blotting out the sun. The leaves were exquisitely delicate, like sculpted jade, hanging off branches of the same color.
An enormous human face manifested in the tree trunk and furiously snarled, “Thunderbird!”
A giant bird, dark as night, landed before the willow tree. “Thunderbird is here.”
“Go to Dusk City and bring me the governor’s head.” The human face gradually calmed down and its resonant voice boomed through the entire Skandha Range.
“Understood!” Lightning flashed through Thunderbird’s eyes.
“Wait!” An old turtle ponderously crawled out of a pond. It was enormous at a few meters in radius; the passage of time itself could be found in the marks on its shell.
“Elder Turtle, is there something wrong?” The willow looked at the turtle with deference.
It had been the turtle’s idea to send the willow’s duplicate to Dusk City, so that the Skandha Range could interfere in the ancient lord’s heritage.
“Thunderbird is strong, but not strong enough to rival the zombie under the Dusk governor’s command,” the old turtle spoke as slowly as it moved.
It was known throughout Nephrite Major that the governor’s trump card against the Lu Clan was a powerful zombie. The clan was now the butt of jokes in Nephrite Major, but the incident had also prompted factions around the immortal world to brainstorm a plan to deal with Lu Yun.
Although the young governor wasn’t that strong himself, the strength under his command could upend the current power structure in the province and threaten the various clans and factions of Nephrite Major.
Acquiring the heritage of the ancient lord in the upcoming Dusk competition grew to utmost importance.
“Thunderbird won’t be able to kill the governor even with its seal lifted,” the old turtle said.
“Without the seal, Thunderbird is a golden immortal,” boomed the giant willow. “It can lift the seal and make quick work of the governor before sealing itself again. The province restriction shouldn’t mind.”
“If I’m seeing things properly, the shadowy, crimson zombie the governor commands is a bloodcorpse,” the old turtle sighed. “Even the weakest bloodcorpses are arcane immortals.”
“Arcane immortals… then why did the prohibition in Dusk Tomb spare it?!” The giant human face’s expression flickered uncertainly.
“Zombies are neither alive nor dead.” The old turtle shook its head slightly. “Whatever restriction is in that tomb targets only living things.”
The old willow fumed. It had once reigned supreme over Dusk Province as an independent third party. Even the celestial emperor of Nephrite Major had respected it and tacitly acknowledged its influence as a local lord.
Everything had changed a thousand years ago, however. Something terrible had awakened in the ancient Dusk Tomb, forcing the willow to seal its own cultivation and go into hiding in the Skandha Range.
“What do you propose we do, Elder Turtle?” the willow asked after some deliberation.
“There are two ways for us to acquire the ancient heritage,” the turtle mused slowly. “First, we can befriend the governor and work with him to uncover the heritage together. The second is that we of the Skandha Range can throw our hat in the ring for the governor election and defeat everyone, putting our own in that seat.”
“Neither will work,” the willow rejected gravely. “The Dusk governor is now working with the Qing Clan. With that clan’s ego, they won’t allow anyone else to touch the heritage. As for the second option… only humans are allowed to become the governor, which none of us are.”
“Reporting in!” A crow flew in from outside. “Immortals from the Lu Clan request an audience, Your Lordship.”
“Someone from the Lu Clan still dares set foot in the province?” The old turtle’s calm mask fractured.
The ban on Lu cultivators had been issued with the Dusk seal and was imprinted into the very energies innate to the province. Lu Yun would sense it as soon as someone broke the ban.
“Not cultivators of the Lu Clan, but friends.” A man armored in gold and a goateed old man stepped into the Skandha Range, approaching the giant willow.
“You’re...” Bemusement crossed the giant face on the willow trunk.
“A businessman.” The man in gold smiled.
“You’re the one who discovered the governor’s secret weapon and sold the information,” the old turtle calmly identified.
“That I am,” the man laughed heartily. “I’m here on behalf of the Lu Clan to propose an alliance with the Skandha Range.”
“The Skandha Range is harboring members of the Lu Clan!” A booming voice suddenly rang out, interrupting their conversation. “There will be no mercy for this crime!”
“Dusk Phalanx! Why are they here?!” The giant willow and the old turtle scowled mightily.
“Oh?” The man in gold armor smiled. “Is the famous ‘Dusk Lord’ afraid of the Dusk Phalanx?”
Here we're seeing another aspect of NECRO that I really like -- everything ties back into each other and there are rarely side characters mentioned once and then just forgotten. Lol at the manor being destroyed as soon as it was rebuilt though, and the bean soldiers being used for manual labor. Seriously, I think they were meant to be a private army type of death art... XD