Chapter 242: Fire of Hope

Chains and shackles!

Every hair on Lu Yun’s body bristled with fear. He shifted out of the bindings’ way just in time, ducking right under the proverbial razor’s edge.

He’d seen these trappings before. When he’d been deceived by the Skandha Extinction Tomb’s certain death layout, an akasha ghost had come. That ghost had used chains and shackles to lock him up; in fact, his soul had nearly been taken away from him. Without Qing Han’s reckless aid, he might’ve died then and there.

If his soul was bound, he would be unable to use death arts or return to hell. He hadn’t expected to see the chains and shackles again so soon, and from the nothingness in the depths of the netherworld itself to boot!

By now, Lu Yun was dodging about as quickly as he could. Alas, the shackles nipped at his heels in hot pursuit like a great black serpent. It didn’t matter how he weaved and bobbed, the chains were relentless. The Tome of Life and Death was unresponsive; it wasn’t blocking the bindings for him! 

He had to face them alone.

“What are these things?” he gasped, pushing himself to go faster still. If those terrifying bindings touched him, he would truly be done for.

The akasha ghost ignored him outright. It diverted its efforts back to permeating hell with resentment; the peculiar summoning ritual continued.

Stroke after stroke of sword aura flooded from the Sugato Sword. The Vast Dragon Seaturner, Peng of Kun, and Starstream Stroke were all unleashed over and over. Alas, the blade aura that should’ve been indomitable melted away upon touching the black chains.

The Sugato Sword failed against them.

Clang!

Violetgrave gleamed in Lu Yun’s hand, slashing out a stroke in amethyst that sent them flying back a short distance.

“Wait, that worked?!” Lu Yun’s eyes lit up excitedly. Though Violetgrave was a ninth-grade immortal sword, there was far more to it than met the eye. A grand mausoleum was hidden within the sword, vast enough to bury an ancient immortal emperor’s corpse.

Rattle!

The repelled chains and shackles shook themselves off before circling back in renewed assault. Lu Yun put away his Sugato Sword, drawing Violetgrave instead.

Hum...

The blade shook, discharging a meteoric shower of sword lights. They enshrouded the youth’s body, turning into piece after piece of violet dragon scales.

Nineteen Cerulean Sword Dragons.

Lu Yun no longer made use of his own sword intent. Instead, he channeled Violetgrave’s intrinsic power with this old technique. The violet dragons soared in hell’s sky, silhouetted by the shadow of a monumental mausoleum.

When the bindings sensed the latter, they retracted into the dark void in a fearful hurry.

“The monster on the other end of those bindings is afraid!” Lu Yun immediately detected the emotion behind the action. “It’s afraid Violetgrave will bury it!”

Violetgrave could ward off the monsters in the depths of hell! 

Sword in hand, he hurtled toward the akasha ghost. The violet dragons aloft lunged at their master’s target, responding instantly to his will. The ghost shrieked, exploding with a storm of resentment to ward off its assailant.

“Violetgrave can deal with that monster in the darkness, but not the akasha ghost,” Lu Yun frowned.

Clink, clank!

The shackles and chains jolted against each other in the darkness, ready for the very moment that Violetgrave’s shadowy mausoleum disappeared.

The akasha ghost was transforming! The girl-turned-vengeful-ghost was no more; its pale, ghastly face a horrible hybrid between grin and grimace. Will-o-wisps burned in its eye sockets and it was at least three times stronger than before. At the same time, Lu Yun detected the faintest sniff of karmic retribution.

“I’ve got it!” he exclaimed. The vengeful ghost the girl had become wasn’t an akasha ghost; it was being possessed by one! The akasha ghost was using the girl as a vessel, making use of her resentment to seal away its own bad karma. She’d been prepared as a ready container.

Could akasha ghosts have been responsible for the end of that civilization?

Were akasha ghosts behind everything in this tomb?

What were they, exactly? Why would they do all this?

All sorts of questions filled Lu Yun’s head.

Fwoom.

A sinister white streamer appeared in the akasha ghost’s hands. When waved, it released a terrifying power that collided with Lu Yun. Violetgrave’s sword intent was nearly shattered by the streamer’s strength.

Lu Yun coughed up a large mouthful of blood, a metallic aftertaste lingering on his tongue.

“Such strength! If we were outside, I would die from its smallest breath!” Hell’s fortitude restored his vitality, healing his injuries.

The akasha ghost had released some more of its full power, and was now superior to Lu Yun. However, it didn’t do more than that. If it went any further, its retribution would manifest, and the Judgment of Life and Death would then send it up in smoke.

“All akasha ghosts really do come from the same place! They remember me and what I can do!” Lu Yun’s heart sank.

The akasha ghost was clearly holding back because it didn’t want to manifest all of its bad karma. It’d given up on summoning the monsters in the darkness, instead focusing on attacking Lu Yun.

There was already a crack in the seal wide enough to let out the chains and shackles. When Violetgrave’s sword aura was disrupted, the monsters waiting in the wings would be able to steal away Lu Yun’s soul without issue.

“I can’t beat it with Violetgrave alone!” The young man’s observation was a little pointless. All of his attention was on maintaining Violetgrave’s sword aura and he had no energy to use the Sugato Sword or manifest his own.

The Yi Wood Cleansing Thunder had long dissipated by now.

“I’m no match for it right now… am I supposed to retreat from hell?” Lu Yun was unwilling to take this last resort.

If he did leave hell, the akasha ghost would be able to summon the monsters from hell’s depths as it wished. When they were released, he’d be the first to die regardless. In fact, the akasha ghost’s ultimate goal was possibly the Tome of Life and Death itself.

Back on Earth, the book had lain well-protected behind a certain death layout.

Hum...

All of hell trembled at this moment. It seemed that a gate to a distant place opened, allowing two colossal entities to descend into hell. Two auras of daunting pressure suffused the air: the Enneawyrm Coffinbearers and the Nine-Phoenix Casket!

These two frightening coffins certainly made an impressive entrance, eliciting incredulous shrieks of disbelief from the akasha ghost.

Opening all nine of its feathery heads, the Nine-Phoenix Casket breathed nine spurts of black-red fire that combined into a fiery river. The akasha ghost was its target!

Rustle rustle rustle.

The chains in the darkness scrabbled heedlessly toward the Nine-Phoenix Casket in a vain effort to imprison it.

At the same time, the Enneawyrm Coffinbearers cracked open its lid, freeing a humongous pair of skeletal arms to reach out in interception. Its bony fingers clasped onto the chains, then dragged them and their owner out from the darkness!

What emerged from the void was a monster that was several kilometers tall. It had two horns, a pair of wings, and was dyed an inky black all over its body. Painfully howling to high heavens the entire way, the aura it emanated struck deep fear into Lu Yun’s heart.

Even though he was on home turf and bolstered by the power of hell, he felt an irresistible force from the monster’s body. It defied his comprehension; the monster was even stronger than the akasha ghost!

Even more surprising was how the chains’ other ends were locked on the monster’s body. It was a prisoner, and the weapons it wielded were the bindings that’d originally been designed to keep it in place! Evidently, the inexorable passage of time had allowed it to struggle free and its former irons were now a fearsome weapon.

The monster shrieked and struggled against the skeletal hands that gripped it so tightly, as well as the remnants of the chains that bound it. Unfortunately, the chains glowed with a residual light that kept it from breaking free.

In the end, the horned and winged monster wailed as it was pulled into the coffin born by the nine dragons.

Crack, snap…

Carnivorous teeth crunching on bone and meat echoed from the Enneawyrm Coffinbearers. Lu Yun shivered involuntarily before turning his head in the other direction. 

The Nine-Phoenix Casket’s reddish-black flames had set the akasha ghost ablaze. It howled and wailed with pain, the retribution on it intensifying, a mark of the greater strength it was releasing. However, it remained powerless to resist the Nine-Phoenix Casket’s terrifying inferno.

“They show up now, of all times? And they’re helping me fight a difficult enemy…?” The young man was incredulous.

He’d felt the Enneawyrm Coffinbearers and Nine-Phoenix Casket disappear into his nascent spirit back in the Sword Barrow. No amount of searching had revealed a single trace of them after the fact, but their reappearance at this juncture proved they hadn’t simply vanished.

After one of the shadowy monsters was eaten by the existence within the Enneawyrm Coffinbearers, its fellows dispersed to whence they came. By this time, the akasha ghost had also been burnt to a crisp.

The girl in white rematerialized before Lu Yun, the infinite resentment wreathed around her dissolved away by the flames. Her new form was delicate and crystalline, almost as if it were made of dream-stuff.

In fact, she was growing more transparent by the second. As the instrument for the akasha ghost’s appearance, she couldn’t persist after its death.

Rrrrrumble!

The Enneawyrm Coffinbearers and Nine-Phoenix Casket crashed onto the ground. All of hell quaked at the impact. Then, the two huge coffins made no further noise, strangely content to rest within their new home.

Around the premises, the envoys and Infernum poked their heads back out.

“Are they… guarding hell?” Lu Yun gasped in understanding. “But why would they do that? The two buried in those coffins are the creators of the blood dragon and phoenix. They want to wreak havoc on all life, so I don’t understand….”

The girl in white remained in place as the final dregs of her existence trickled away. A serene smile flashed across her face and a spark of resolution glowed in her eyes.

Fwoosh!

Her body began to burn away, and the same airy, placid voice sounded once more.

“I am the last of an era, a beacon of hope for an entire aeon… Let my body kindle the fire of hope… that the Dao Flower may bloom once more. All of us… will live on… as part of the Dao Flower….” Looking at Lu Yun, the girl’s smile widened even as fire consumed her.

“Father, mother, my love, my family… I miss all of you so much….” She craned her head toward the sky in melancholic reminiscence. Finally, there was nothing more of her but a handful of ashes. They glowed dimly, remnants of a past era that carried the hopes of a new one.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

etvolare's Thoughts

I know this is a very weighty chapter... and indeed there are many things to be considered... but all I want to say right now is, a beautiful girl who didn't become an envoy?