Chapter 53: Breaking the Layout

Images slowly imprinted themselves upon the scroll. There were natural landscapes, living beings, and all other things between heaven and earth. When combined, the images conveyed a concept of utmost infinity, a notion too much for Lu Yun’s eyes to take in. That was why it’d looked blank, at first.

Even now, he was struggling to come up with the right words to describe it. “The most perfect of art is one with dao?” he muttered.

Eventually, the light emitting from the scroll dissipated, and it sank into Qing Han’s body. For a fleeting moment, Lu Yun seemed to see a familiar sparkle of starlight twinkle from Qing Han’s chest. However, his sole focus was on the young man’s safety, so he dismissed what he saw as a trick of the light. 

Color slowly returned to Qing Han’s pale face.

His skin seems lighter, and the scars less pronounced. He’s easier on the eyes now. The changes made Lu Yun sigh in relief. Qing Han was no longer in a coma, but simply asleep.

“Time to leave!” When he helped the young man up, he realized that the imperial envoy’s body had become softereven more so than Wanfeng’s!

What’s going on here? He can’t be a girl, can he? Lu Yun checked Qing Han’s throat and found an Adam’s apple. After some hesitation, he reached out to feel the envoy’s chest.

“It’s flat.” Lu Yun smiled wryly. What am I thinking?

“Whatwhat are you doing?” Qing Han asked in a weak, panicky voice.

“Nothing.” Lu Yun immediately withdrew his hand to avoid any misunderstandings. He swung Qing Han onto his back and jumped off the floating summit.

“How, how am I alive?” Qing Han’s voice was as quiet as a fly’s, and his face was so red that tomato juice could be wrung from it. Heavens, he was touching my chest just now! Does he know?

He was even more exhausted than before. If Lu Yun hadn’t touched his chest and triggered his natural reflexes, he wouldn’t have regained consciousness. He fell asleep again before Lu Yun could answer.

“This brat” Lu Yun noticed how sweet the imperial envoy’s breath was. Is he really a man?

His mind wandered again and he had to stop himself from reaching for Qing Han’s crotch. It’d be horrifying if he actually felt up a guy’s junk. “I’m not gay!”

Stop being ridiculous. He told himself to snap out of it with a firm mental shake.

“Come on,” Miao urged. “The undead hag will recover if we wait any longer.”

With a nod, Lu Yun put away the floating summit and picked a tunnel to enter. Miao took point while Yuying and Feinie flanked Lu Yun, guarding him. Yueshen followed the rest in Li Youcai’s body.

“The layout of certain death!” Lu Yun stopped in his tracks. The tunnel ahead narrowed and his vision was obscured by a thick veil of mist, a sign that they’d returned to that particular layout.

“Leave through another path, you two,” he whispered. “You won’t be of any help here.”

Yuying and Feinie shared a look, then disappeared with a nod. Their master meant for them to return to the Gates of the Abyss.

“Go ahead with the fatty, Yueshen!” He raised his concentration to the utmost to avoid being tricked again.

He had a theory: what had deceived him the first time was likely the undead hag’s consciousness, which had been sealed in the corpse coffin. It was invisible and omnipresent in the burial mound, capable of exerting power over this strange layout.

Miao had already entered the layout, since, as a master of illusions, the layout was of no threat to him.

Lu Yun took a deep breath and stepped forward, brandishing Violetgrave in his hand. His surroundings suddenly changed. All manner of terrifying monsters lunged at him, some real and some fake. With his previous experiences, he was able to thread his way through much more easily.

“This is it.” He came to a sudden halt after some time. This was the spot where the layout had turned Qing Han into that beautiful girl. “As expected,” Lu Yun spoke to himself placatingly. 

Qing Han had transformed again. 

The young man’s tanned face became fair and his body turned soft. Lu Yun could feel supple breasts pressing against his back. 

Qing Han woke up again when he felt his body undergoing those changes. He began trembling, and his face tensed with panic and uncertainty.

“Don’t worry, it’s all fake. The layout turned you into a girl, but it’s all a surface illusion. You’re still a guy.” Lu Yun gulped, aroused by the softness behind his back.

Qing Han tightened his jaw and made a sound of assent.

His voice got another reaction out of Lu Yun. “This is Qing Han,” he grumbled. “Not that beautiful chick! She must’ve come here before, so her image was recorded by the layout and became part of the trial.

“But how does it know she’s my type? Once I get out of here, I’m going to find her and make her mine!” Lu Yun was running his mouth to distract himself. “However, the layout’s been here for many, many years. What if the beautiful girl is an old hag now?” His voice ended on an uncertain note.

His thoughts were suddenly derailed by a sudden pain shooting from his ear. Qing Han had bitten him again.

The imperial envoy had recovered some of her strength, and the fury that rose at Lu Yun’s words gave her enough energy to deliver a hearty chomp. The Dusk governor’s compliment made her shy, but the mention of being an old hag had sent her into a towering rage.

“Let go, let go! How do you bite so hard in this state?” Lu Yun grimaced in pain and twisted a handful of Qing Han’s ass without thinking.

She let go with a scream, staring at Lu Yun with misty eyes.

It’s so round and soft! Hit with lust, Lu Yun almost developed a spontaneous nosebleed. “No, no, no, it’s all fake! I can’t believe my senses!” He hurriedly calmed himself and brutally strangled his rising desire.

“He’s a guy! Stop being so horny!” He quickly withdrew his hand and hurried forward.

Qing Han stared at Lu Yun without a word, her eyes brimming with tears in a scarlet face.

“What’s with that expression?” Lu Yun snapped when he noticed Qing Han’s face. “Don’t act like a girl. You ain’t one!”

“How do you know the expression you see isn’t an illusion as well?” There was a pleasant lilt to Qing Han’s voice, but it sent a shudder down Lu Yun’s spine.

“That’s right. Nothing is impossible in the layout of certain death. I can’t trust anything I see!” He shut his mouth and eyes, marching forward with his consciousness withdrawn.

A mischievous glint flashed through Qing Han’s bright, round eyes, and faint smile tugged at her lips. The environment here makes the starstone malfunction.

She closed her eyes and checked the stone, her expression grave. Cousin said the stone can create disguises that not even a dao immortal can see through. This place, however, can nullify the stone. No wonder Lu Yun is so wary.

Having passed the eye of the layout and turned back into a man, Qing Han threw the Dusk governor a curious glance. Strange, I sacrificed my life to activate the starstone. I should be dead now. Why am I still alive? Befuddled, he struggled to come up with an explanation.

Did he save me again? He gave Lu Yun a conflicted look. But how?

He was too weak to check on anything but the stone around his neck. The strange painting had entered his body, but he couldn’t sense it just yet.

“Qing Han, why do you think the girl suddenly showed up to save me?” Lu Yun asked.

The question derailed Qing Han’s train of thought, and he floundered for a response. “Maybe you accidentally triggered some power she left there. That’s why—”

“Who are you talking to?!” Lu Yun shouted in panic when he heard Qing Han murmuring.

“Heh heh heh, little girl. You’ve finally fallen for my trick.” An enormous ghost face materialized and flashed Qing Han an eerie smile with a wave. “You’re mine now, come with me.”

Qing Han felt his eyelids grow steadily heavier. He was about to follow the face when an empty scroll emerged from his body with a thrum. A beam of mystical light drove the ghost face away, forcing a piercing scream out of it.

“The Scroll of Shepherding Immortals! Why is it on you?!”

The scroll hummed and the mystical glow bloomed into an explosion of light, sweeping over the entire layout, then the ghost face vanished with a final cry.

“Wait, what the heck happened?!” Lu Yun tensed as, shockingly, the layout was crumbling! “This isn’t fake, it’s real!” he shouted and sprinted away. When something as powerful as this layout fell apart, the wildly rampaging power would tear everything to pieces!

The tunnel—no, the entire burial mound—was trembling. Stones cracked overhead and dropped down; it seemed that the entire burial mound had started collapsing.

“We’re out!” Lu Yun turned around and saw that the layout of certain death was completely destroyed. The mist had dissipated, and a giant head probed out of the passage. Its white eyes were staring straight at him. It was the undead hag. It had recovered and was chasing after them again!

Lu Yun felt strangely lighter, like a weight hanging onto him had been lifted, but the undead hag caught up with him before he could dwell on it further. 

“The ruins of Truewater City are ahead, and the bloodcorpse formation just after it. We can use the maggots inside to deal with the undead hag!” He clenched his teeth and ran.

“You idiot!!” a cantankerous Miao shouted. “The flying restriction has been broken. Fly on your sword! Otherwise, you’ll get crushed by the debris before getting eaten by the undead hag!”

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etvolare's Thoughts

After the first paragraph... I was definitely thinking, "It doesn't look like anything to me." Westworld, anyone?

I like how QH trolled LY there, and dude, LY, stop randomly feeling up private parts. It doesn't matter what orientation you are omgah.

Also want to quickly clear up two parts that I see some confusion over. The time (and ergo how long this friendship has blossomed for): They've known each other for roughly one week (edited from the previous three week estimate after fantastic comment discussion with Draksil!). There was a month left until the ritual, then LY spent 15 days cultivating, then traveled to Duskwater City before they meet in chapter 21.

LY does not think QH is out to kill him, as mentioned in chapter 22 (thank you tomytopy for mentioning it, I'd forgotten!) 

“Be careful of the envoy,” Mo Yi suddenly piped up. “He failed to use me to kill you, so his next attempt might come while we’re on the mountain.”

Lu Yun paused. “Are you sure it was him who set me up?”

Mo Yi nodded. “Everyone from Nephrite Capital wants you dead, including those from your own clan.”

Lu Yun fell silent; there seemed to be something more at play here.