Lu Yun instantly noticed Qing Han’s transformation, but he didn’t dare move an inch. In fact, his eyes were still closed. Everything was so real… or perhaps surreal? He was nearly convinced Qing Han and Qing Yu were the same person.
However, he’d been taught a harsh lesson in the Skandha Extinction Tomb. There was no way he would look at Qing Yu this time. Are all certain death layouts interconnected in some way? Just like the Enneawyrm Coffinbearers….
A stray thought popped into his head. Qing Yu wouldn’t come out every time if that weren’t true, right? Surely this was just another attempt to delude him. The akasha ghost this layout summoned was indubitably from the same place.
Qing Yu sighed in relief when she noticed Lu Yun’s closed eyes. Deep down, she was also considerably vexed. She couldn’t understand why these certain death layouts that suppressed star power always crossed her path. Her starstone hid both her actual form and her astral constitution. When its energy was stripped away, she became uncomfortably bare.
The others behind them noticed Qing Han’s peculiar condition as well, but they remembered Lu Yun’s instructions. Their eyes and ears remained focused on blanking out the outside world.
The giant maze suddenly began trembling, as if a monster was trudging out from its depths.
“Back off! That thing is real!” Lu Yun roared, then pulled at Qing Yu to leave. But the girl’s body remained solidly planted in place, her expression of cool nonchalance.
It wasn’t her first brush with a certain death layout, and she knew what tricks they had up their figurative sleeves. If Lu Yun wanted to retreat, he wouldn’t have done anything close to this.
Seeing how Qing Yu remained stationary, the others behind Lu Yun followed her lead. The apparently frenzied ‘Lu Yun’ gradually began to calm down, even as an imperceptible shadow departed from him. The young man’s hand, however, still clung to her shoulder.
Qing Yu strode forward amidst intensifying vibrations. It seemed like there really was a huge monster stomping around within the maze.
Monstrous shadows thickened around the group as they proceeded. Violet often flickered between Lu Yun’s fingers, each flash signifying the death of a particularly dangerous enemy.
Qing Yu turned back into Qing Han and came to a stop before a great stone door after an indeterminate amount of time. A smattering of runes from another time were carved upon the slab of rock, which he lightly pushed open.
As soon as he opened the door, the beguiling mists receded. The whole maze trembled slightly, then swiftly contracted into a black pearl that flew behind the door, taking the certain death layout with it.
The door was entirely open, and Qing Han slowly led the way forward. When the youths made their way to the second stone chamber, Lu Yun gripped and unfurled his fingers. The others behind him finally opened their eyes.
“It’s finally over.” Restoring his senses, Mo Qitian breathed a long sigh of relief. “No one was hurt… Dongfang Hao!” he cried out with incredulous shock.
Third from the back, he had his hand on Dongfang Hao’s shoulder. Alas, the friend before him was now a headless corpse. Dongfang Hao had died in the certain death layout!
Lu Yun shook with trepidation. He turned his head toward Dongfang Hao, opening his Spectral Eye in the process.
“He… he really is dead!” He took a deep breath, disbelief flickering through his eyes. The proud, resolute youth who could cut through the heavens with a single stroke—his erstwhile sparring partner—was dead!
“I saw Dongfang Hao swinging at something with his sword back in the maze, but I thought it was just an illusion…” Lu Shenhou mumbled quietly from the very back.
The company of friends sank into silence with heavy hearts.
“Such is fate,” Wu Tulong spoke in a slightly muffled voice. “Dongfang Hao was destined to die here… the rest of us might not be too far behind.”
“Dongfang Hao’s sword intent was very strong. His will was certainly the greatest of all of us.” frowned Lu Yun. “He wouldn’t have been tricked by the certain death layout. It just doesn’t make sense.”
“That doesn’t change what actually happened. He died here, in the end,” Zi Chen murmured, then took another look at Dongfang Hao’s headless corpse.
Blood briefly sprayed from the neck stump before the corpse keeled over to the ground. A moment later, dust had returned to dust. Only Dongfang Hao’s sword remained. He carried no other treasures with him.
“The path of cultivation was broken before the ancient times. This is the only place where it can be reconnected.” Qing Han’s warning was a splash of cold reason. “Did you really think we’d get to the third chamber that easily?”
The others flinched at his declaration.
“All the dangers we’ve braved so far weren’t designed to protect this place. Whoever set them up wanted to stop us from ever finding the complete path to immortality,” Qing Han whispered hoarsely. “Senior brother Wu is right. We should be ready to face death head on. The path wouldn’t have broken on its own. Someone must have broken it on purpose. The fact that there’s traces here of the primeval path of cultivation… well, as we’ve seen already, it’s certainly accompanied by security of the highest degree.”
“Yeah, Qing Han’s right,” Lu Yun nodded in realization, “the setup here is exceptionally dangerous and forbidding to life. There’s even a mysterious force against immortals, making this tomb very different from all the other tombs. Even the Skandha Extinction Tomb wasn’t so absolute. What’s buried here… is very likely the broken path of cultivation!”
A tomb that buried the path of cultivation?
He could scarcely believe the words coming out of his own mouth.
“Based on customary layouts, the second layer is reserved for the tomb annex chamber….” What Lu Yun meant was obvious: the annex contained the tomb owner’s possessions in life. Through their analysis, it was possible to determine exactly who—or what—was buried here.
The remaining youths refocused, forcing themselves to shake off the despondency of Dongfang Hao’s death. Zi Chen took his fallen friend’s sword as the others began scanning the surroundings.
“A tomb for dao itself… that’s a little far-fetched, isn’t it?” A shiver traveled down Mo Qitian’s spine. He gulped, stuffing his unease into the darkest corners of his heart.
The Door of Demise’s third layer had been a layout of maze and mist. Once the group had left the maze, it was automatically broken. Transformed into an orb, it floated in the middle of the chamber.
The orb was surely a treasure beyond compare, but it was also supremely dangerous. A single wrong move would turn it back into the triple layout that had proved so lethal to Dongfang Hao.
“This place looks like a study,” Mo Qitian remarked in wonder. Row upon row of huge bookshelves lined the walls, neatly stocked with all manner of archaic texts. “The funerary objects buried here... are books?”
There was mass confusion at this. Books were scarce in the world of immortals, and had been since time immemorial. Immortals preferred to store and record knowledge with jade slips, instead. Paper tomes were a rare sight indeed.
Mo Qitian walked forward, reaching for a book with his fingers.
“Don’t!” Lu Yun tried to stop him, but it was already too late.
As soon as Mo Qitian’s fingers made contact, every book and shelf in the room disintegrated.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
MQT you bugger, you just set fire to the Library of Alexandria.
And wow, DFH dead. :( He looked like he would be a decent rival for Lu Yun, or at least a strong enough counterpart to the OP MC.