Chapter 25: Malicious Diligence

There were items and corpses floating about, all of them in pieces. Even the corpses were more torn limbs and bones than whole bodies.

“Those are left over from people who attempted to enter the mountain by air,” Lu Yun said calmly. “If we’d been a bit slower about landing, we’d be part of them now.”

Qing Han shuddered, then transformed that emotion into a vicious glare at Li Youcai.

“I—I didn’t know that would happen either!” Color drained from the fatty’s face and he wanted to burst into tears. It’d been his idea to travel to the mountain with the fortress ship as their protection. “W—why didn’t we see those things earlier? My consciousness sensed nothing dangerous.”

“Your consciousness was also confused by the layout,” Lu Yun said as he observed the landscape.

“You! It must be you!” accused the Skyriver city lord with a finger in Lu Yun’s face. “No one else can see what’s wrong with this place. How can a qi condensation weakling like you see through everything?

“Milord prefect is an empyrean immortal! Do you understand what that means? He’s an immortal on high, far loftier than all of us! You’re just a bug!”

“You should consider replacing him, Li Youcai.” Lu Yun’s expression darkened. That city lord kept targeting him because he appeared to be close to Mo Yi. Though she was dressed as a man and wore no makeup, she was still stunning enough to topple a city.

The Skyriver city lord considered her as his personal property the moment Li Youcai had decreed the match. Seeing her interacting so closely with another man while giving him the cold shoulder ignited a raging jealousy in his heart, and he could barely stay rational.

“Oh? You want to replace me, eh?” he snarled with a feral grin. “Honored Envoy, everyone wants this kid dead, don’t they? People are only staying their hand out of consideration for imperial dignity. Why don’t I do the dirty deed for the greater good today?” The Skyriver city lord manifested a sword. 

Qing Han didn’t say anything, an indication of silent approval. His first attempt to kill Lu Yun through Mo Yi had failed. He’d only brought the governor along to finish the job.

“Good, very good!” Li Youcai raised both hands in agreement. “This is Myriad Formation Summit. We can kill him and say he died in the mountain due to his weak cultivation. No one will be able to fault us for that.”

Lu Yun had betrothed a male pig to him! With Lu Yun dead, the ridiculous arrangement would be forgotten as well. The prefect raked a murderous gaze over the other city lords, who hurriedly voiced their support.

“Hahahaha!” Laughter rang through the area. Qing Hongchen appeared out of nowhere with his men and crowed with laughter.

“Qing Hongchen!” Qing Han twisted his lips. “So we meet again, seventh brother.”

The Qing genius sneered at Qing Han, then turned to Lu Yun with a smile. “It seems they all want you dead, Governor of Dusk. If you join me now, I promise to keep you alive. They want you dead in order to plant a new puppet here. In my opinion, though, it’s better to use you than to cultivate someone else.”

Qing Han frowned. “He’s a member of the Lu Clan, fifth brother.”

“So what?” Qing Hongchen smiled. “I hear that our governor here threw Lu Yuanhou out of his manor after a good beating. Lu Yuanhou couldn’t have suffered a worse humiliation. That’s enough for me to look kindly on Lu Yun.”

In Nephrite Capital, Qing Hongchen and Lu Yuanhou were considered the two top geniuses beneath immortal realm. However, tensions between their two clans made the two young geniuses bitter enemies. Their clashes were a source of great entertainment in the capital.

Qing Han’s fury was almost a tangible flame.

“Since the fifth young master is offering me protection, then I am the fifth young master’s man.” Lu Yun had little to no shame. That was how he’d survived to this day. There seemed to be no reason to turn down the fifth Qing son.

“Utterly shameless!” Qing Han bit out.

“Recognizing the times he’s in is a sign of wisdom,” Qing Hongchen laughed and turned to Li Youcai. “What about you, fatty? The governor, your superior, has already joined me.”

“I’ll abide by your orders, fifth young master,” Li Youcai hurried out. “If you would please put earlier incidents behind us.”

“Earlier incidents?” Qing Hongchen asked with feigned confusion. “Did something happen earlier?”

Delight seized the fatty, while Qing Han’s livid face clouded over. He hadn’t expected Qing Hongchen to turn things around with only a few choice words.

“I serve the fifth young master, now.” Li Youcai glanced at the other city lords. “What about the rest of you?” What a perfect display of adding insult to injury.

“I” The Skyriver City Lord felt the murderous gaze behind him before he could move. “I’m loyal to the venerable envoy, of course!”

Despite their reluctance, the city lords had to stay on Qing Han’s side. There was no doubt that if they dared betray the envoy, he would make quick work of them. As a spirit realm cultivator, it would be a piece of cake for him to kill a few origin core city lords.

Qing Han calmed slightly, but his eyes remained cold.

“Alright. This is my little brother, so we shouldn’t embarrass him too much,” Qing Hongchen chuckled. “Why don’t we work together to venture into the mountain, seventh brother? Go on then.”

Qing Han shuddered, fear and despair tightly gripped his heart. This elder brother of his wouldn’t hesitate to kill him, if an opportunity presented itself. This was no simple infighting within the clan, but the common wish of the clan majority.

Qing Hongchen had only spared his younger brother because he needed cannon fodder for the exploration, but he wouldn’t let Qing Han leave the mountain alive. They hadn’t yet entered Myriad Formation Summit proper, and even the fringes swarmed with danger. 

A single misstep could land them in a formation that could get them all killed.

“What intricate formations, as befitting a treasure of the immortals recorded in the ancient texts from this tomb!” Formation Thirteenth muttered in awe as he observed his surroundings. With his guidance, the group made it to the foot of the mountain with no fatalities, despite plenty of narrow scrapes.

“We should stop,” Lu Yun objected suddenly. “If we go further, we’re as good as dead.”

“Oh?” Everyone turned to him questioningly.

Formation Thirteenth was just about to take apart the first formation and scoffed upon hearing those words. “Scared, little junior?”

Lu Yun shook his head. “The name of the mountain is self-explanatory. How many formations do you think you’ll be able to handle if we ascend from the foot of the mountain?”

“Hahaha, you haven’t heard of the old master, have you, Lu Yun?” mocked Li Youcai. “This is Formation Thirteenth, the thirteenth best formation master in all of Nephrite Major!”

Deep pride crossed Formation Thirteenth’s face.

“The thirteenth best of Nephrite Major?” Lu Yun scoffed. “That’s the reason for his arrogance? What about the twelfth, or the top formation master? Are they so mighty that they float instead of walk on the ground?”

Formation Thirteenth’s expression darkened.

Lu Yun couldn’t be bothered to waste his time on the man. He continued, “The mountain has stood in Dusk Province for five thousand years. High-level immortals could still enter the province up to a thousand years ago, yet the mountain stands still.”

He looked up at the shards of treasure, fragments of weapons, and body parts of cultivators and immortals alike silently hovering in the air. His point was clear. Countless formation masters had tried to unravel the mountain over the past five thousand years, but they’d all failed. Some had managed to get out alive, while others had become floating debris outside the mountain.

Formation Thirteenth’s face flushed red, but he didn’t know what to say.

“The governor has a point,” Qing Han nodded, then continued with an impassive expression, “and he was the one who saw through the formation midair and told us to land.”

“Oh?” Qing Hongchen’s eyes lit up. “What do you propose we do, then?”

Formation Thirteenth’s face burned. They’d been following Qing Han’s ship and would’ve died if it wasn’t for their quarry’s sudden landing. He’d thought it was a coincidence, but it turned out the young governor had spotted the trap!

“The mountain is actually a large burial mound, but its core is still underground. To explore the mountain and locate its treasure, we must open a path leading underneath the mountain.” Lu Yun wholly ignored their words. Qing Han wanted to kill him in the mountain, and Qing Hongchen was using him as a pawn. Both were up to no good.

However, he, too, was using them on this trip. He wasn’t powerful enough to explore the mountain on his own, so he needed labor and cannon fodder.

“What?!” Qing Hongchen exlaimed.

Mo Yi had heard these outlandish speculations before, so she wasn’t too surprised. The others, on the other hand, were stunned. A large burial mound?

Myriad Formation Summit, a mountain tall enough to reach the sky, was a large burial mound?

Impossible!

“Nonsense!” Formation Thirteenth yelled. “There’s no burial mound this big! Not even the tombs of the ancient immortal emperors would reach such a scale.”

Lu Yun ignored him in favor of scanning the landscape.

This is the… Duality of Dragon and Tiger! The dragon fights the tiger, while the tiger vies with the dragon. The person who set everything up must bear a deep hatred for the dead buried within! He was gravely shaken.

The Duality of Dragon and Tiger was a malicious feng shui layout. Dragons symbolized emperors, and tigers represented kings; the two plainly couldn’t coexist peacefully with each other. There existed a saying of yore that said how there would always be clashes between dragon and tiger, due to their irreconcilable hostility.

The conflict between the two was never ending. This meant that not only would the dead buried here never enter the wheel of reincarnation, but they also couldn’t even find peace in death. 

More importantly, the layout contained the violent energies of the two beasts, which would amplify the unresolved grievances of the dead. On top of that, there were the countless residents of Truewater who’d died before their time. 

Lu Yun had no idea what great horrors the burial mound could create.

“Eighteen miles to the southeast lies a valley,” he declared confidently after some calculations. “We can dig our way into the graveyard there.”

“A valley eighteen miles away?” After a pause, Qing Hongchen pointed at one of the city lords serving Qing Han. “You there, go and take a look.” He clearly didn’t fully trust Lu Yun.

Qing Han’s face remained impassive.

“I—” The city lord’s heart sank. They’d only safely made their way here because of Formation Thirteenth. It’d be suicide for a mere origin core cultivator like him to go anywhere without the formation master.

“Close your eyes and go straight in that direction for eighteen miles, three yards, six feet, and one inch,” Lu Yun cautioned seriously, locking eyes with the city lord. “No matter what you encounter or hear, don’t open your eyes. And do not, under any circumstances, stop. You’re dead without a doubt if you do.”

The city lord shuddered and bobbed his head vehemently.

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etvolare's Thoughts

So some delicious infighting between the bad guys, huh?