Both Lu Yun and Qing Han were nonplussed by the flying sword wobbling their way. Radiating an energy unique to zombies, it was a zombie sword!
“How is this… even possible?” Befuddled, Lu Yun searched through the memories of all four of his envoys, but found nothing about zombified swords. This was too strange an occurrence.
“Uooahh!” snarled the Black Tortoise, the enormous soundwave destroying the flying sword. Smoke left in the destroyed sword’s wake slowly dissipated.
Lu Yun remained tense, and the Black Tortoise’s two eyes settled somewhere ahead; there was still something there. The sword zombie had been a scout, testing the waters for whatever terrible thing lurked in that far corner. The sacred beast didn’t dare advance without knowing what it was.
Lu Yun and Qing Han looked on with matching solemness. Once again, silver starlight flickered about Qing Han as he channeled the power of starstones.
“Don’t.” Lu Yun stopped his friend. “The thing’s gone.”
Qing Han dismissed his starlight.
“Recall the Black Tortoise,” said Lu Yun. “It won’t be of any help here.”
Qing Han nodded and collected the giant beast into the Scroll of Shepherding Immortals. Too much water-attribute energy was present on the Black Tortoise, which served as a continual irritation to the fire elemental power in the environment. As soon as the divine beast returned to the scroll, the fire ceased its violent surges.
“To seek a dragon of mountains coiled,
Those deathly cliffs with mysteries roiled.
If danger lurks behind doors closed,
Let it remain in yin yang form.”
Lu Yun’s mystical force gathered above his head and collected into a luopan; but this time it radiated starlight like Qing Han.
“Five stars orbit in the skies, five dragon veins course the ground.
Five stars and veins are as one, to which the latter follows the former.
From them emerge five archetypes, to be divided, analyzed, and understood!”
Emitting a continuous hum, the luopan rotated at top speed, attracting an endless stream of starlight that split into five blinding stars over Lu Yun’s head. Three of the stars faded, leaving two that brutally slammed into the luopan over his head.
Lu Yun paled as blood trickled down the corner of his mouth.
“Lu Yun!” Qing Han rushed to his aid, but Lu Yun waved him off and made another seal with both hands. The luopan flickered once before devouring the two stars, and the governor’s face grew even more pale.
“Right, the luopan that the Dragonsearch Invocation creates isn’t a real one, which makes it difficult to use the cosmic feng shui method.” Lu Yun opened his eyes and wiped the blood away.
The cosmic feng shui method was another technique unique to his sect. Through observing the trajectory of the stars were they able to divine the landscape and true layout of a tomb.
Back on Earth, however, the method based its conclusions on the position of the stars. In the world of immortals, it created actual images to facilitate judgment of which star’s influence had reached the tomb. The feng shui of tombs wasn’t just a result of formations influencing the local environment, but the power of the stars was a crucial component as well.
Lu Yun had reasons to believe there was a connection between the sword zombie and the tomb’s feng shui. However, the complicated terrain and endless lava prevented him from getting a clear look.
“Strange, this is an intersection of the Gold and Fire Stars.” Lu Yun dismissed the cosmic feng shui method with a flash with surprise. Instead of the actual celestial bodies, he was referring to the power the stars possessed.
There were three enclosures, four symbols, and twenty-eight mansions found in the celestial sphere.  The celestial bodies had no connection to the five elements while in the sky, but once their light reached the world of immortals, it combined with the five elements and created the five cosmic elemental powers.
Thus emerged the Gold, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth Stars. Wherever their influence touched, corresponding terrain emerged. Although the tomb was covered by the Great Cloudwater Lake, it wasn’t beyond the reach of cosmic power.
“The Fire Star should counter the Gold Star, so how can they coexist here? Strange, how strange.” Lu Yun frowned. In the wheel of the five elements, fire countered gold. The relationship between the five cosmic powers followed the relationship of the five elements.
“Is there possibly a treasure that can balance gold and fire here?” Qing Han posited after some consideration.
“If there’s a treasure that can overrule the relationship of the five elements...”
Qing Han and Lu Yun exchanged a glance and answered in unison, “It must be connate-grade!”
Only a connate-grade treasure would possess such mystical power; Feinie’s Formation Orb was one such treasure. Though stuck deep in the burial mound, its power had still reached beyond the mountain and created a summit of formations that deterred even immortals.
Although Lu Yun’s Sugato Sword could slash through connate-grade treasures, it wasn’t one itself. Its power was tremendous, but it didn’t possess the mystical abilities of a connate-grade treasure.
“A connate-grade treasure!” Qing Han’s eyes lit up with expectation. Such treasures were fatally attractive to anyone. Even if one couldn’t use it, studying its inherent dao would greatly improve their cultivation and strength.
“Let’s go!” A smile tugged at Lu Yun’s lips. They made their way into the depths of the ancient, lava-filled tomb.
Confusion appeared on Qing Han’s face after some time. “Strange. Are we lost? This is where we entered, isn’t it?”
He looked around and realized that they’d made a full circle. Reptilian inhabitants still crouched in the lava pond behind them, the demonic frog and tadpoles regarding them with thick curiosity now, rather than wary alertness.
A tongue suddenly flickered out and delivered food to the demonic frog.
“What did it just eat?” Qing Han gaped, blinking rapidly.
“A zombie.” Lu Yun scowled. “Just like the sword zombie we encountered earlier. There’s a formation of eight doors here.” He inhaled deeply. “I almost led us into a trap in a moment of carelessness.”
A formation of eight doors was a variant of the eight trigrams, but it was even more strange and unpredictable than the eight trigrams. The eight trigrams followed the rules of nature and represented the evolution of all things in the world, while the formation of eight doors was derived from them.
Placing it here served only the purpose of killing people.
The eight doors were the open door, rest door, life door, harm door, fabrication door, scenery door, death door, and the fright door.
Every door represented a major permutation of the eight trigrams. Although there were only eight doors, their corresponding relationship to the eight trigrams gave rise to endless varieties and possibilities. A formation of eight doors essentially contained eight sets of eight trigrams.
Lu Yun could see through feng shui and solve a formation accordingly, but the eight doors were constantly changing. Even he had trouble identifying the only life door.
It was fortunate that they’d been walking in circles around the scenery door. That door misled and confused, but it wasn’t that dangerous. If they’d set foot into the death door, a baffling death would be their only end.
Lu Yun’s back was drenched in sweat. “Activating the Dragonsearch Invocation is too taxing, and the luopan of mystical force isn’t a real luopan.” The one he’d manifested had almost shattered under the force of two stars.
“Go!” He tossed thirty-six soybeans, summoning thirty-six warriors in golden armor. Using them as scouts might not be the most ingenious idea, but it was his only option.
The nascent spirit realm warriors spread out within the giant ants’ nest of a tomb, disappearing down the various corridors. Some passages were real, some were fake, but all of them fell within the purview of the eight doors.
“Dead. Dead. Dead again.” Lu Yun’s brows knitted together. One after another, the bean soldiers died and returned to the other world. Although they were connected to Lu Yun’s consciousness, their deaths remained a mystery to him.
“Ah, one of them survived.” The governor’s eyes lit up. “Follow me.”
He led Qing Han to that particular soldier’s route, suffering the increasing ambient heat around them. Even the watery ripples protecting them barely held on.
“Wait, no! This is a trap!” Lu Yun’s hackles raised. “The soldier is at my cultivation level and doesn’t have any treasure to protect him. He can’t possibly have survived here. This is the death door! We need to turn back!”
He grabbed Qing Han and turned around, but realized to his shock that the road they’d taken was now an endless ocean of lava.
“Dead again!” Lu Yun narrowed his eyes. The last of the bean soldiers had died at exactly this moment.
“Lalala~ Yiya lala~” A melodious voice sang over the sea of lava, followed by the emergence of a girl. Long, fiery hair floated slowly around a charming face, mimicking her moderate speed out of the molten rock. Her upper body was unclothed, and her lower body was comprised of a fish tail.
A mermaid, just like Xuanxi!
“Barging into the tomb of the phoenix queen and disturbing her slumber? You two pathetic insects are bolder than you should be.” The mermaid paused her melody and flicked a derisive glance at Lu Yun and Qing Han. Ruby-red eyes glinted with thick killing intent.
“She’s half dead. Her body is that of a zombie, but her soul is alive.” Lu Yun frowned. “A living soul inhabiting a zombie body. You’re the tomb keeper!”
“What a surprise that someone knows about tomb keepers in this day and age. You’ve got a bit of knowledge in you.” The mermaid smiled faintly. “Are you also willing to guard this tomb until Her Majesty awakes from her slumber in resurrection?”
1. Ancient Chinese astronomers divided the sky into four regions that corresponded with four symbols, AKA the four sacred beasts. The three enclosures are divisions of the North Celestial Pole and focus on the stars that can be seen year-round. The twenty-eight mansions are part of the Chinese constellations systems and can be considered the equivalent of zodiac constellations in Western astronomy.
I channeled my inner Clementine for the mermaid, but didn't go full out, "Not much of some knowledge on you." That's just how the mermaid reads to me -- any Westworld fans out here?