It was a corpse—a woman’s corpse.
The long years it’d endured had left behind a rank smell of rot and decay. Bloody maw yawning open, it bit at Lu Yun’s head.
“Ahhh!!” the corpse screamed like it’d been hit hard, and its body disappeared in the next instant.
Hellfire slowly dissipated from Lu Yun’s eyes. The woman had become a ghost, and an extraordinarily vicious one at that. The energy of the Tome of Life and Death wasn’t enough to intimidate it, but hellfire was the bane of all ghosts. That was how he’d injured it.
“Watch out. That thing is thick with grudge energy....” Shock overtook his face. “What the hell?!”
Other than Qing Han, Lu Shenhou, and himself, the other four had all turned into something like the ghost. Ripped open mouths reached their ears, and two bloody sockets were found in place of their eyes. Rotting away, their eyes had fallen out of their heads.
Wobbling, they made their way toward the large bronze door.
“Don’t go. Don’t....” Lu Shenhou stumbled back, the memories he dreaded most surfacing in his mind.
Finally, he remembered what had happened after they’d entered the door. It was a terrifyingly horrible place that turned his friends, brothers, and the woman he loved into monsters, then eventually killed them.
He’d barely escaped with the power that Lu Daoling had gifted him. And now Wu Tulong and the other three had met the same fate!
“Why haven’t the two of you—” Lu Shenhou turned to Lu Yun and Qing Han.
Qing Han’s face was pale. If it weren’t for his Imperial Star and the Scroll of Shepherding Immortals, he would’ve turned as well.
Lu Yun threw a conflicted look at Lu Shenhou, then growled, “Stay here and wait for us to return! Qing Han, come with me!”
He grabbed Qing Han and rushed for the bronze door. Wu Tulong, Zi Chen, and Dongfang Hao had entered the chamber behind the door. So had Mo Qitian, after he’d struggled free of Lu Yun’s talisman.
“I’ll help too,” Lu Shenhou blurted.
“Don’t!” snapped Lu Yun. “Stay here on guard until we return!”
Qing Han turned to look at Lu Shenhou. The Lu scion stood rooted to the spot, lost and helpless.
“Will he be alright?” Qing Han asked worriedly.
Lu Yun nodded and said with certainty, “He’ll be fine as long as he doesn’t enter the third chamber.” He pushed the door open with a loud creak.
“What is this place?” Qing Han looked around with wide eyes, his gaze fearful and stunned.
“I don’t know.” Lu Yun shook his head, his expression matching that of Qing Han’s. Behind the bronze door was a vast, boundless ocean of blood!
Countless black ships drifted about, but they looked like they’d been folded from paper. Within every paper ship was a person. A stark-white lantern hanging at the bow of every ship cast the passenger’s face with ghostly white lumination.
“Is this real,” Qing Han muttered, his face devoid of all color, “or an illusion created by formations?”
Without a word, Lu Yun shielded himself and Qing Han with blazing hellfire. The vicious ghost of the woman stood by the ocean of blood. Her bloody eye sockets glowed a faint crimson as she stared at the two of them.
Four empty paper ships lay by the shore as Wu Tulong and the other three staggered their way toward them.
“This is the real Ten Yins Estuary. Inside the ships are the spirits of those who died here,” Lu Yun muttered to himself as he stared at the endless crimson. “I didn’t expect the Ten Yins Estuary to converge into an ocean of blood!”
“That little girl....” Qing Han suddenly recognized a familiar figure. A girl that looked about five years old sat quietly on a paper ship, holding a long stick of rotten candied hawthorn in her hand.
The sight chilled Qing Han to the bone, like a bucket of ice cold water had doused his head. That was the little girl he’d played with in town, the one eating candied hawthornes with an easy smile. And here she was!
Eyes wide, Qing Han saw not only the girl, but all the other residents of the town as well! Everyone sat in their own paper ship, expressionless.
“They’re all dead?” His voice trembled.
“They are,” Lu Yun said calmly. “Here at the Ten Yins Estuary, there is extreme yin and yang to be found, as well as a mysterious power that envelops the entire area. All the residents have long died, but they don’t know that. They think they’re still alive. That’s how they continue to live in the town, free of care, concerns, or fear of disease and death. They all live eternal lives of blissful ignorance.
“The residents are either mortals from the current or the ancient world of immortals. Well, more likely from even before the ancient times,” Lu Yun said quietly. “They’re alive strictly because they believe they are. If they find out they’re dead, they’ll really die, and the town will disappear.”
That was what Lu Yun had discovered with his luopan, Spectral Eye, and the Tome of Life and Death. He didn’t want to disturb the town’s serenity; even though all the residents were the living dead, he wanted to preserve their haven of peace.
Thanks to that mysterious power, they could lead normal lives just like the living. The only thing that set them apart was the fact that they’d never die.
Qing Han had been through a lot with Lu Yun, but this turn of events still caught him off guard.
“Wait....” His eyes widened. “Isn’t that— ”
“Don’t say it!” Lu Yun interjected. “If we keep quiet, he may still live. If someone says it, he’ll die for real.”
Qing Han clapped hands over his mouth and jerked his head up and down. That explained everything.
“I don’t care who you are, or what you’ve set all this up for.” Hellfire blazed even more intensely around Lu Yun. “I’m taking these four with me.”
The ghost leveled an empty gaze at Lu Yun. After a good while, it rasped in a gravelly and distant voice, “You may... but a life... for... a life.”
Lu Yun nodded. With a wave of his hand, he summoned four Infernum from the netherworld. He’d killed many people back in the Sword Pagoda, and even more when he entered Xiankan. Currently, he had enough ghostly soldiers to form an army.
After becoming Infernum, only a few particularly talented individuals would be of any help. The others were nothing but the lowest of cannon fodder. Moreover, they’d once been Lu Yun’s enemies, becoming his to command only because he’d killed them himself.
He felt no attachment whatsoever to them.
The ghost turned the four Infernum into its kind as soon as it grabbed them. Wu Tulong and the others collapsed before they could board the paper ships, and Lu Yun sighed in relief.
“You… shall not enter again,” said the ghost.Previous Chapter Next Chapter