“Why is she here? How did she know which path we’d take?!” Miao cried out in shock. The titanic undead was obviously lying in wait.
Cornered, Qing Hongchen and Formation Thirteenth trembled together in a fearful bundle. Using the young man as a shield, the formation master seemed to be etching formation lines into the floor with a spirit stone.
“This is her corpse coffin!” Lu Yun explained gravely. “Her consciousness has been incorporated into the coffin, which makes her omnipresent in this space. We can’t escape her senses, no matter where we go.”
He hauled his feet out of the water and stared straight at the undead hag. Fleeing wasn’t an option. The monster suddenly sprang into motion and an enormous palm the size of a small mountain grabbed ferociously at Lu Yun.
Yuying swiftly unfolded the Panorama of Clarity, manifesting a landscape that blocked the giant hand.
Face spontaneously paling, she threw up a mouthful of blood as a tremendous force knocked her back.
“You, you blasted thing! I’m the prefect of Duskwater Prefecture. I’m not going to lose to a woman!” Li Youcai made a move as well, not because of a command from Yueshen, but of his own accord. The enormous Seal of Mountains and Rivers scattered beams of golden light all around as it summoned vast amounts of mighty energy from the earth.
The seal slammed ruthlessly into the undead hag’s palm. A shrill scream rang out as she stumbled backward, jelly-like flesh splattering away from its hand.
Li Youcai flew into the pond behind him, his face likewise drained of color. It was difficult to tell if he was still alive.
The undead hag shrieked again and again in quick succession, thoroughly enraged by the fatty’s attack. Mouth gaping open and emanating an undefinable odor, she charged at Lu Yun.
The monster’s head was enormous, even bigger than the empty clearing they were standing in. Yet strangely enough, she was still able to occupy the space, thoroughly unconcerned by the limited space. Nevertheless, there was no time for Lu Yun to dwell on this.
Muscles tense with concentration, he made a series of peculiar steps, imitating the form of a leopard. The movement took him out of the immediate area, avoiding the undead hag’s bite by a hair.
This was a technique of Feinie’s that had surfaced in Lu Yun’s mind. Although he had yet to master it, his initial attempt was still enough to evade a fatal attack.
“Qing Hongchen, Formation Thirteenth!” Lu Yun yelled at the two men hiding in the corner. “If you refuse to step in, you’ll die after I do!”
Qing Hongchen blanched and shuddered, his mind too shot with fear to say anything. Formation Thirteenth, on the other hand, was unusually calm. “Alright, you draw the monster’s attention and I’ll set up a formation to kill it!” he called out as he continued drawing lines onto the floor.
“You’re etching a fecking single-use transportation formation!!” Lu Yun roared furiously. He rushed toward the formation master with Qing Han on his back. The formation master’s face clouded over as he saw Lu Yun grasp his plan and lead the undead hag his way.
“He’s not Formation Thirteenth,” Qing Han said weakly.
“I know,” Lu Yun whispered as he ran. The man was obviously either possessed, or another soul had replaced the original.
“It’s someone from the Exalted Immortal Sect.” Qing Han had recovered some of his strength. He assessed the formation master with a critical eye and murmured, “It’s weird, though. Why would someone from the Exalted Immortal Sect be here, and why would they take over Formation Thirteenth’s body?”
“What?!” Lu Yun shuddered. “The Exalted Immortal Sect?” He remembered their people back in Yuying’s tomb.
The sect had set Yuying up to die under her heavenly tribulation in order to acquire the Panorama of Clarity, but Wayfarer had collected the treasure and buried it with his love. Those from the sect refused to give up, though, and had plotted for another seven hundred years in Yuying’s tomb.
And now, here they were again.
Formation Thirteenth’s disappearance must have had something to do with the sect! His soul had most likely been replaced by another!
Yuying launched a series of attacks at the undead hag with her painting. She hadn’t paid much attention to the formation master, and therefore hadn’t recognized him as someone from the Exalted Immortal Sect. Her continuous attacks kept the hag down, preventing Lu Yun’s demise.
Why does she keep following me? So when she chased after Qing Hongchen… that was on purpose! She couldn’t get to me when I was behind the dragonseal stone. I was only accessible after I left the annex room. Comprehension dawned on Lu Yun. That’s it! She’s after the layout of resurrection!
The layout had kept the undead hag in the bottomless abyss. Naturally, she’d witnessed Lu Yun collect the floating summit, which was why she was doggedly chasing after the Dusk governor.
The layout of resurrection was composed of a pole of life and a pole of death. The latter sealed the undead hag, while the former had a chance of resurrecting it.
“So you’ve seen through my plan!” Formation Thirteenth tightened his jaw as Lu Yun led the undead hag his way. “Big deal, I’ve already completed the formation!” He grabbed Qing Hongchen and hurled the young man at Lu Yun.
“Formation Thirteenth!” Qing Hongchen yelled in panic, his expression crumbling. The undead hag was right behind Lu Yun. If he smashed into the Dusk governor, both of them—and Qing Han—would be devoured.
A shadowy figure suddenly materialized next to Lu Yun and punted Qing Hongchen back. The young man landed squarely in the single-use transportation formation.
The formation activated, and Qing Hongchen vanished in the next instant.
“No!!” howled Formation Thirteenth. He’d been trapped here for a thousand years and was so close to getting out, but his chance had been stripped away by another right before his eyes!
Lu Xuan landed beside Lu Yun; his foot had been the tool that sent Qing Hongchen away. With the sheer force that Formation Thirteenth had used to throw the young man, the collision would’ve crushed Lu Yun.
“Stop the hag!” Lu Yun summoned Lu Huang as well. The two were terror-stricken by the undead hag, but they didn’t dare disobey Lu Yun’s orders and had no choice but to step up.
Infernum were an incompetent bunch that could only bully the weak. An undead hag was far too much for them to handle, and the two were decimated in only three breaths.
Are Infernum naturally weak, or were Lu Yuanhou’s four followers that useless? Lu Yun’s stomach dropped as the undead hag began chasing after him again.
“You’re its target. I’ll take my leave then.” Formation Thirteenth noticed that the monster’s white eyes had been fixed on Lu Yun this entire time. He shifted his body out of the way and fled in another direction.
“In your dreams! I’m taking you with me if it’s the last thing I do!” Lu Yun threw Qing Han out of the hag’s attack range and lunged at Formation Thirteenth.
“Get away from me!!” The formation master flew into a rage. His aura rose explosively and sent Lu Yun flying with terrifying force. He was an immortal to begin with, and his body now was occupied by an even more powerful immortal. Although the soul was still adjusting to its new body, the strength of an immortal was still something that Lu Yun couldn’t handle.
Lu Yun’s body set a trajectory straight at the undead hag. Formation Thirteenth disappeared in thin air, his cackles lingering in the air.
“Am I going to die again?” A wry smile tugged at Lu Yun’s lips. He’d only just gotten used to the world of immortals. Would he reincarnate into another world this time, or would his soul scatter for real?
What I wouldn’t give to see that beautiful girl before my death. He couldn’t help but think of the girl on his back in the layout of certain death. The fleeting glimpse he’d caught was enough for her beauty to imprint itself onto Lu Yun’s heart.
Though she’d been an illusion born of the layout, all illusions were based on reality. Since her image had appeared there, it meant there must be someone like her in the real world.
“Hey now, this isn’t the time to think about a woman, is it?” He laughed wryly at himself. A soft whisper floated into his ear while a white haze illuminated the space.
Whether it was Yuying, relentlessly attacking the undead hag; or Miao, hiding in the corner trying to come up with a strategy, all parties gaped. The undead hag seemed to have been paralyzed as well.
A beautiful figure strolled gracefully out of the light, injecting a breath of life into the bleak burial mound. She looked around seventeen years old. Dressed in a downy-yellow, chiffon dress, her hair flowed softly like the clouds and her skin was fairer than snow.
Lu Yun stared at her profile, dumbfounded. It was the beautiful girl from the layout of certain death!
Why is she here? Has God heard my dying wish? His mind seemed to have short-circuited.
“Goddess?” He fell heavily to the ground, his gaze fixed on the girl.
Her yellow dress perfectly outlined her alluring curves, offsetting a tranquil expression at peace with the world. Her bare feet were as fine as jade, while a gem on her chest scintillated brilliantly, like the most splendid of stars.
“I only have two years left in my life. Even with the Portrait of Emptiness, I can at most live three to five more years,” she murmured in a soft voice that only she could hear. “I might as well discard this useless life to save yours.” She turned her clear, bright eyes on Lu Yun. “Other than big brother and cousin, you’re the only one who’s ever shown true kindness to me.” She recalled Lu Yun sending her to safety before going after Formation Thirteenth.
The girl put her hands together and closed her eyes. The gem on her chest exploded into magnificent grandeur, slamming into the undead hag and knocking the monster out of their view.
Everything quieted down.
“What happened?” Silence stretched on until Miao’s murmur broke it.
“I saw a goddess. A real goddess.” Li Youcai struggled out of the pond, dumbfounded. “What a beautiful goddess...”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Woohoo, the first 50 chapters!
I'd like to address something that's been slightly bothering me, and that's how feng shui is being labelled 'bullshit' and 'crap' in some reviews/comments. Great convos on Discord today helped me understand that mainstream media seems to have portrayed feng shui as some energy-voodoo-high-on-drugs business, so no wonder it's being sniffed at derisively. Here goes a quick primer of something that's a huge part of modern day Chinese culture!
Feng shui: Chinese geomancy, or the philosophy of striking a balance with the natural world in one's living spaces and work environment.
How this translates to day-to-day living: Basically a list of do's and don't's for setting up your home and workspace. I call it fancy common sense, or rules that help people get into a good mental space. From stuff like placement of certain objects to not installing the stove right next to the sink, there's varying degrees of intensity that one can take this to.
When looking for a new apartment rental, I skipped over any with front doors directly in front of another door -- the elevator, emergency exit, trash room, etc. In feng shui, having doors open directly into each other means good fortune will flow out of your house. Or, in practical usage, it's really annoying to have a major egress right in front of your front door. Apartment living doesn't exactly have great soundproofing, or smell-blocking for trash.
One shouldn't have a mirror facing the bed -- sound familiar from one of NECRO's layouts in chapter one? Not only is it bad feng shui, but honestly, I might just scare the bejeezus out of myself getting up at night.
The spot at a 45 degree angle to the front door is where fortune gathers in the house, so generally we should place something that collects wealth in that spot. Or, who wants to see a load of trash/dirty laundry as soon as they come in the front door? Best first impression ever.
Feng shui can also factor into naming -- people might go to a master to get their opinion on what name they should take to best further their career. Similar to how immigrants might change their names upon arrival in their new country, folks want to change their relationship with their surroundings.
If it still seems hokey to you, that's perfectly fine too! It's one of them cultural things, just treat it as any ole power system. To be frank, that's what it is in NECRO. As Lu Yun says in chapter 12, formations and feng shui are two sides of the same coin. Formations are the yang side, and feng shui the yin. To utilize the full potential of a formation, imbuing it with the qi of heaven and earth is necessary. However, there’s no such qi on Earth. That’s why layouts there can only demonstrate the feng shui side of things, but not the power of a formation.
In our world, it's definitely very much a part of Chinese culture, just like avoidance of black cats and the number 13 is in American culture, or the wedding tradition of "something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue' or bridal/baby showers. We can not believe it while respecting that it's important to another culture *fist bump*.
Whew, this was long. TL;DR Feng shui is an integral part of Chinese culture that's been unfortunately portrayed as some wand waving madness. Please don't say it's shitty bullshit. :D Besides, this is a fantasy novel! Let's all suspend our disbelief and enjoy the rolling heads, underworld, and feng shui.