Chapter 24: Maze Journey

“These people are incredibly bold and lawless to attack even the Dusk Phalanx!” Li Youcai trembled in fear.

Though the Dusk governor had direct command of the Dusk Phalanx, the army was under the overall jurisdiction of Nephrite’s imperial court. It was charged with guarding the province’s northern borders against the monsters of the North Sea.

Qing Hongchen’s assault wasn’t something major, but neither was it something that could be easily brushed aside. But before the fat official could react, a tremendous force picked him up and threw him at the larger ship.

“Hugaaah!” He instinctively shouted as loudly as he could. A burst of energy exploded from his body, blasting right into Qing Hongchen’s fortress ship.

Boom!

The sparkling golden light upon the fatty made him look like a mountain of treasure, and the impact of his body against the ship was enough to slam it aside.

“You intend to oppose me, Li Youcai?” Qing Hongchen’s cool voice slowly rose from the deck.

Li Youcai shuddered. He froze in midair, breaking into impassioned wails. “I didn’t do anything! Which bastard tossed me out here?! Show yourself, right now!”

Mo Yi stood at Lu Yun’s side, completely unperturbed. However, Lu Yun had clearly picked up on a gust of fragrant wind that had preceded Li Youcai’s flight.

“The Dusk Phalanx’s post at the northern border is very important. You should avoid calling on them if possible.” Her wispy voice made its way into his ears, to which he could only shrug.

“You’re very brave to attack the Dusk Phalanx, fifth brother! Do you intend to rebel?” The youth in black floating in the void paid no heed to Li Youcai’s antics, focused as he was on his brother. “I recorded what you did just now, and we’ll sort things out after we get back to the capital.” He flicked his sleeves in derision, then returned to his own vessel.

“Hahaha! You think you can trip me up with something so minor, Qing Han? You think too little of your fifth brother!” Qing Hongchen addressed the youth in black by name.

“I wouldn’t think so, if you were actually my kinsman. But you’re just an adopted slave who was given our surname! All you have today comes from my father.”

“Shut up!” The youth in black had clearly hit a sore spot. Qing Hongchen’s face contorted in rage and his chest heaved with emotion. He flushed a dangerous purplish-red. “You’re asking to die here, Qing Han.”

Qing Hongchen glared murderous daggers at his brother and his voice was edged with steel.

“Hoi fatty Li Youcai! My fifth brother holds grudges for life and he always repays his debts. You blocking his way here today means that he’ll cut you up and fry you tomorrow, do you hear me?” Qing Han grinned as he looked at the trembling Li Youcai.

The rotund official’s face blanched in fear and frustration. He’d heard of Qing Hongchen before. The boy was famous in the capital, where they’d both come from. After all, Dusk Province didn’t have many native immortals. The youth was renowned for being brutal, petty, and extremely hard to deal with.

“Oh… I’ll get whoever framed me for this!” Li Youcai gnashed his teeth angrily, then allowed his fleshy cheeks to droop down in a cheerful smile. His intensifying aura told a different tale, though—the radiating presence spoke of a peak empyrean immortal.

“Are you threatening me, fatty?” Qing Hongchen snickered.

“No, no, it’s a misunderstanding!” Li Youcai remedied hurriedly with a beaming simper. “We came to Myriad Formation Summit to hunt for treasure, not to fight. Let’s all get rich in peace, shall we?” 

“So you are threatening me, then…” Qing Hongchen repeated his accusation darkly.

The fatty was an empyrean immortal who’d repelled the fortress ship with a single strike, saving the ten thousand Dusk Phalanx soldiers behind him. Despite his prestige, Qing Hongchen wasn’t an immortal yet and was no match for the fat official in his way. It wasn’t a stretch for him to assume that he was being browbeaten into submission.

“We should all just get along! Riches in peace!” Li Youcai was still all smiles.

Qing Hongchen responded with an angry smirk. He was about to say something, but his sprightly old advisor intervened. “Fifth young master, you’ll only create unnecessary trouble by intercepting the seventh young master here. Since he wishes to enter Myriad Formation Summit, you can deal with him inside.” The old man smiled proudly. “If he dares enter the mountain, his life is as good as forfeit.”

The ‘seventh young master’ was Qing Han, of course.

Qing Hongchen’s eyes lit up. He suddenly recalled who the old man was: the thirteenth ranked formation master in Nephrite Major, called Formation Thirteenth by most who knew him. “I will rely on you then, Senior Thirteenth.”  

“We’re leaving!” A wave of Qing Hongchen’s hand signaled his fortress ship to withdraw. The vessel disappeared into the horizon in mere moments, and Yin Xuantian’s troops disappeared soon after.

Color had yet to return to Li Youcai’s face. He looked with doubt and suspicion at those on the ship. He’d definitely been sent flying by someone’s foot just now, but despite being a peak empyrean immortal, he had no idea who the culprit was.

“Was it a ghost?” wondered the fatty with some confusion.     

He was actually quite strong. Though he was only a peak empyrean immortal, he could easily beat most august immortals. The one who’d booted him out was at least a golden immortal. But golden immortals couldn’t possibly come to Dusk Province!  

Aside from a ghost, what else could it be?

“We’re going in.” Qing Hongchen’s sudden appearance dampened Qing Han’s high spirits.

As they grew closer to the mountain, the air grew stiff and sticky, making the ship fly noticeably slower. Formations poked out from the ether from time to time, casting themselves down upon the ship at random.

Qing Han’s vessel was strong enough to shatter them as they approached, breaking them upon a veil of rippling light. Well, no surprise there—the fortress ship had survived a larger ship’s ramming maneuver unscathed. They continued smashing through formation after formation, going deeper and deeper as time passed.

“Stop!” Lu Yun suddenly called out.  

“What is it?” Qing Han frowned a little as he looked over.     

“We’ll never make it into the mountain proper at this rate.” The young governor examined his surroundings, then affirmed his observation. “We’re going in circles around the body of the mountain. This is actually the thirty-fifth loop.”

“What?!” Everyone was collectively stunned.  

“Don’t make things up. The ship is going in a straight line! We couldn’t possibly be going in circles!” loudly rebuked the Skyriver city lord.

“Shut up, stupid!” Lu Yun shot back. He closed his eyes, appraising what the circumstances before them meant.

Ghost Hits Wall? No, there was something more insidious at work.

The feng shui layout here hinted at incredible dangers within. The deception went deeper than just the senses that Ghost Hits Wall would ensnare. It was possible for someone lost within it to suddenly lose their head without rhyme or reason.

If he guessed correctly, the formations the fortress ship had smashed just now were reforming into something stronger that awaited them just ahead.

“Land! Land onto the ground. We need to head inside on foot. If we circle around one more time, we’ll all die.” Cold sweat beaded across Lu Yun’s forehead.

“Take the ship down!” Qing Han furrowed his brow, but gave the command nonetheless.

The fortress ship slowly drifted down to earth.

Boom!

As if on cue, an enormous formation materialized in the sky. Fire and blade painted the firmament red with destruction, consuming everything within its range.

They couldn’t help a collective shudder when they landed.

“What a powerful formation,” Qing Han muttered as he looked at the tear in the air. “My ship wouldn’t have survived it.” Only strength surpassing a golden immortal could tear through space in such a fashion.

Once everyone had alighted from the fortress ship, Qing Han put it away.

“Look!” Ge Long suddenly cried out. “There’s things floating in midair! Why didn’t we see them earlier when we were in the sky?”

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etvolare's Thoughts

"Shut up, stupid!"

Hope y'all are liking the dialogue. The entire team's letting loose and we're having some fun. :D