“Why did Qing Han turn into Qin Yu again?” The familiar feeling gave Lu Yun pause, making it difficult to tell if the person in front of him was real or not.
If, if... I talk to her and survive, then she’s real. The thought came to him, unbidden.
“Did I turn into a woman again?” sounded a pleasant, lilting voice. “I’m a guy. I haven’t turned into a woman. I haven’t! Don’t believe it. You’ll die if you believe it! No believing! We’re, we’re going to adventure through the world together and raid all of the ancient tombs...” the voice garbled out a litany of words that almost sounded like an incantation.
Lu Yun chuckled wryly and cold sweat drenched his back. The voice belonged to Qing Yu, but the way it spoke was all Qing Han.
Thank freaking feck Qing Han helped me out. Otherwise.... With the Tome of Life and Death, Lu Yun’s envoys would never die, but the same didn’t apply to their master. He could definitely die in this layout.
Qing Yu opened her bright, expressive eyes and stared at Lu Yun.
Lu Yun met her gaze.
“Can the layout sense my feelings? Is that why it keeps turning you into Qing Yu?” Lu Yun laughed at himself. He kept his mind firmly on the notion that he was talking to Qing Han, not Qing Yu.
“Look into my eyes and find your eyes in mine!” Qing Yu took both of Lu Yun’s hands in hers and stared steadily into the latter’s eyes.
Their eyes would serve as mirrors, and the reflections within wouldn’t lie. Lu Yun saw his own self in Qing Yu’s stunning eyes, and he saw Qing Han within the eyes of his own reflection.
It was Qing Han, not Qing Yu.
The girl in front of him, and her captivating fragrance, were illusions that the layout had created by influencing his thoughts. But Qing Han was still Qing Han, nothing had happened to him. He cleared his throat to mask his embarrassment. He’d almost wavered and fallen for the layout’s tricks!
“What should I do if I meet Qing Yu for real?” Lu Yun asked suddenly.
Qing Han froze, but didn’t say anything. He wasn’t sure if that was the real Lu Yun, or the layout’s illusion.
“I’ve only seen her twice,” Lu Yun murmured when Qing Han didn’t respond. “But she gives such a familiar feeling; it’s like we should know each other. Is this what love at first sight feels like? Or have I developed an unrequited love?
“Didn’t expect myself to pine over someone one day.” He glanced at Qing Yu, whose eyes widened and she immediately turned away, averting her eyes.
They’d obviously reached the point in the layout where the starstone failed. The image reflected in Lu Yun’s eyes now would be Qing Yu instead of Qing Han.
“Strange,” Lu Yun frowned, also noticing that something was amiss. “You suddenly feel different now. Oh, you’re a guy again...”
“Don’t talk to me!!” Qing Yu yelled in panic. With the starstone’s malfunction, she was still Qing Yu! But Lu Yun said she’d turned back into a man, an obvious sign of being cheated by the layout.
“At last, you’ve finally fallen for my trick.” An eerie voice whispered into Lu Yun’s ear. A white ghost face slowly floated to him from some unknown, distant place.
“What the hell?!” Lu Yun’s heart sank from the familiar feeling. This was how he’d felt back when he died in the layout of certain death on Earth!
“Piss off!!” Qing Yu exclaimed.
The starstone on her chest burst into a ball of silver radiance and wound about the Scroll of Shepherding Immortals, guiding it to cover Lu Yun like a shield.
“You defeated me last time, little girl,” the hoarse, sinister voice echoed within the entire layout. “I’m not going to make the same mistake twice.”
The layout exploded into dots of light in the next instant and a pallid, white figure slowly padded out of it.
“Little girl? What’s going on? Is Qing Yu here?” Lu Yun’s thoughts were a jumbled mess. With the layout broken, Qing Yu had turned back into Qing Han. Lu Yun saw him as that familiar young man with delicate features, clad in black robes.
The young man hovered in the air, facing off against the pallid figure while two starstones threw off silver cosmic rays in front of him.
Lu Yun wanted to help, but to his horror, found a pair of black chains manifested over him. The chains weren’t to lock his body, but his soul. Even the perennially active realms of yin and yang failed him in this moment.
Within his dantian, the Tome of Life and Death glowed faintly, fighting the chains along with the Scroll of Shepherding Immortals. Otherwise, the chains would’ve long whisked Lu Yun’s soul away.
Silver starlight thickened around Qing Han, morphing into the patterns of a dragon and a tiger. The two princes physically manifested with the aid of the cosmic rays, bringing with them a power that exceeded that of a peerless immortal.
“The cosmic dao realm! Its power lets us use the strength of a dao immortal!” they roared, seemingly accompanied by tens of thousands of beasts.
“An akasha ghost!” exclaimed the Dragon Prince as a frightening memory resurfaced in its mind. “This kind of formation is set up by an akasha ghost!”
“Come on! It can’t kill us!” Dragon and tiger growled and howled as they lunged at the white figure.
Lu Yun struggled to look up, staring at Qing Han hovering in the air. The young man had his back to the governor and was still wearing a black brocade robe, but his hair had come undone and floated down to his hip in a straight wave. His entire body was bathed in silver starlight.
It’s the starstone’s power. Isn’t that supposed to be on Qing Yu? Oh, right, I gave Qing Han one as well. Having opposing forces tearing at his soul made Lu Yun too dizzy to judge the situation clearly.
“So it’s an akasha ghost!” a clear voice traveled into his ears.
The pallid figure scattered the starlight manifestations of the Tiger and Dragon Prince just as Qing Yu made her identification. Whimpering, they retreated back to the Scroll of Shepherding Immortals and refused to come back out.
“Don’t you dare go near him!” She blocked the akasha ghost’s advance with the starstones.
The vicious ghost made quick work of this new obstacle and only took an eyeblink to severely injure Qing Yu, but she stood resolutely before Lu Yun and refused to back down.
That’s Qing Yu’s voice. Did Qing Han use the forbidden art again? Or am I still under the influence of the layout? And what’s an akashic ghost? Thoughts gnarled into knots in his mind, growing and growing and growing until his brain ached with confusion. He felt as if he’d become a mortal again—deathly sick and wandering between the state of oblivion and wakefulness.
A drop of… blood? Blood... landed on the Scroll of Shepherding Immortals.
Was that... a figure, slowly falling from midair, desolate in its beauty?
Death, despair, despair and death seized the governor’s heart.
The Tome of Life and Death in Lu Yun’s dantian burst into flames. He looked up with two rays of fire shooting from his eyes, subconsciously reaching out to point at the ghost with his right hand.
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Folks, don't forget the giveaway! I'm basically giving something to everyone participating atm~
Btw, akasha is Sanskrit for open space/sky/atmosphere. In Vendantic Hinduism, it's an ethereal fluid imagined as pervading the cosmos, the basis and essence of all things in the material world.