The three individuals, upturned by the lid of the ice coffin, landed in separate locations, their gazes fixated on that spot.
Five distinctly bone fingers gripped the ice coffin, struggling to rise. A white skull soon materialized before them. Aside from the solitary ice coffin, the others remained as silent as ever, devoid of anomalies.
“Hmm.” Qian Wanyu held a lightning whip in her hand, speculating that it might be too late to adjust the formation. The black energy engendered by this formation had already coalesced. Furthermore, given the structure of the formation, the ice coffin at the center must hold a significant figure. “Kill it.”
“Minghui, there are minuscule wisps of black mist contained in this frost, hold your breath quickly!” As Little Color hollered, he severed several vines, for no reason other than to avert turning into a frozen magical plant.
“Little Color, stop moving around.” Dongfang Minghui noticed another layer of frost coating the vine branches, so she opted to use a silk umbrella to support the ice coffin, promptly walking towards Little Color, “No wonder no grass grows in this place. I’ll carry you on my back later.”
Little Color was fatigued, now realizing that not just fire-type Spiritual Masters were bothersome, but the ice-types were equally exasperating.
After swallowing a potion, Little Color’s condition slightly improved. Before it could lodge a complaint to its small friend, it saw the skeleton emerging from the ice coffin. The black markings on its body had entirely disappeared, now the bones resembled jade and appeared remarkably serene.
The skeleton immediately lunged over to them thinking they were a soft persimmon to pinch.
Among the trio, Little Color, having lost its seal, was the weakest, and given its current state as an ailing magical plant, it naturally became the skeleton’s primary target.
Qian Wanyu was also slightly taken aback. The skeleton bypassed her, veering towards Ninth Sister and Little Color. She soon realized that the skeleton was targeting Little Color, and she swiftly followed. When the whip’s tip swept over the skeleton’s body, it produced a loud ringing noise, “Everyone, be cautious, this skeleton is sentient.”
“Why is it pursuing me specifically?” Little Color, having just regained a bit of vitality, darted around the field. Before a portion of the vines could retract, it was gripped firmly by the skeleton’s five claws, instantaneously turning from green to a dark gray color. This terrified Little Color, prompting it to flee even more rapidly, “It’s trying to kill me.”
Qian Wanyu and Dongfang Minghui chased it, but the skeleton demonstrated a particularly strong recovery ability. It was a tad shaky when it first clambered out of the ice coffin, but now it was remarkably agile. The two pursued, attempting to distract it from Little Color, but to no avail. Instead, they knocked the lids off many other ice coffins.
What was once an orderly location for keeping the corpses had devolved into chaos.
“Little Color, climb onto my back.”
With a lunge, Dongfang Minghui was nearly flung directly into the ice coffin due to the impact on her back, “How did you get so heavy?”
“Stop rambling, it’s catching up.” Little Color wrapped itself around Dongfang Minghui like an octopus, urging her, “Run.”
Feeling a sudden gust of cold wind behind her, Dongfang Minghui ducked her head and bolted away.
The white skeleton leaped atop the ice coffin. Qian Wanyu unexpectedly appeared behind the Ninth Sister and unleashed a thunderbolt. The purple thunder and lightning struck forward.
“Did it die?”
Apart from the white bones being scorched by the blast, the fragile bones seemed invincible, completely undamaged. After a moment’s resistance and subsequent daze, it started leaping around and rushed toward Dongfang Minghui with bared teeth and claws.
“This is not sustainable.” The vine leaves on Little Color’s head were so irritating that they were about to fall off.
“Quickly devise a plan.”
Dongfang Minghui missed Toothless dearly. When Toothless was by her side, just spitting out two flames might have destroyed everything in this place. Ice was also weakest to fire, “Seventh sister, is there a way to burn this place down?”
After a moment of pondering, Qian Wanyu responded, “Yes, but we need to cooperate.”
As soon as the trio convened, they divided the tasks and worked together. Little Color and Pig Immortal Grass snuck out the man eating grass. The three plants seemed oblivious to their purpose. The lid was lifted, exposing the bones lying inside.
A white thread was seized by Little Color, and encircled the moving skeleton. Shortly, a human-shaped net was pulled taut by Little Color and Pig Fairy Grass, trapping the skeleton which was still reaching out towards Little Color.
Dongfang Minghui watched helplessly as the white skeleton raised its hand. A black mist clung to the white thread, slowly turning the impervious thread black, as the mist consumed it bit by bit.
A white thread broke.
“Quick, quick, this creature is too clever.” Little Color pulled another thread, but soon realized that the speed of pulling couldn’t keep up with the pace at which the bones were dissolving the white silk. “Qian Wanyu use your fire, we can’t hold on any longer!”
It seemed as though Little Color was wrestling with the bones, spinning around and around.
“Ninth Sister, you should stand aside first.”
Qian Wanyu seized the moment when Little Color was circling around. With the aid of the weak fire energy in the moonstone and the crucial strike of thunder and lightning, the flames ignited all at once. However, the fire wasn’t powerful. In this icy cave, it resembled a tiny flame; the fire flickered, then extinguished in their expectant gazes.
“Seventh Sister, use these clothes to fuel the fire, try again.”
The two scavenged some old clothes from the space ring. In a frenzy, Dongfang Minghui even took out all the cloth bags and such and started arranging them.
“Hurry up, this thing seems to have noticed what we are going to do. Look, it’s dissolving the white silk with black mist so rapidly that we can’t hold on!” Little Color saw its speed increasing, as did Pig Fairy Grass. They urged the man-eating plant to spin more silk continuously. The three medicinal plants worked seamlessly together.
After Qian Wanyu shattered another moonstone, a faint flame slowly rose following a lightning strike. The clothes helped the flame to spread, but when it hit the ice, it again became a small fire.
Dongfang Minghui watched anxiously from the side. The climate in this place was too cold, and the covered nature of the cave made sustaining a fire difficult.
“You all stand back.”
“Seventh Sister, what are you planning to do?”
Qian Wanyu wasn’t expecting that igniting a fire would have any effect. “I don’t believe there are human bones that can withstand lightning.”
As she finished her sentence, a sudden purple light appeared. The powerful spiritual force pushed Dongfang Minghui backward, all the way to the cave entrance, “Little Colour, Pig Fairy Grass, retreat quickly.”
Seventh Sister’s lightning was known to be ruthless. If a plant was struck by lightning… it would probably be destroyed.
Little Color ran with an urgent speed, retreating to Dongfang Minghui’s side, and Pig Fairy Grass snuck into the space ring again with the man-eating grass. The skeleton seemed unafraid of Qian Wanyu’s thunder and lightning rushing towards its target. As Dongfang Minghui was about to use her silk umbrella, she saw a shadow darting across her field of vision.
It was like a comet striking earth.
The Tianyin helmet collided hard with the white bone, knocking it from the air to the ground where it lay motionless. The Tianyin helmet trembled proudly, two big flower buds on top of its head seeming rather smug.
“Little bean sprout!”
The Tianyin helmet jumped aggressively onto the back of the skeleton’s head. With every leap, the skeleton that was attempting to rise was forced back down.
Dongfang Minghui: “…”
Little Bean Sprout was visibly thrilled, hopping up and down. When Tianyin’s helmet tilted, it leaped off the back of the bone’s head, and every time the skeleton tried to rise, it leaped up again to slam it back down. Qian Wanyu, Dongfang Minghui, and Little Color all watched, their eyes twitching slightly.
In the meantime, Qian Wanyu shattered the other skeletons in the other ice coffins to pieces. Several of them broke apart inside the ice coffin. “Move aside, Little Bean Sprouts.”
Little Bean Sprout hopped excitedly in front of Dongfang Minghui, its two flower buds lifted up as if expecting praise.
Dongfang Minghui quickly scooped up the little bean sprouts, “Who told you to run out, if you were affected by this black mist, you’ll turn from little bean sprouts into rotten bean sprouts.”
“Ninth Sister, go outside first.”
Qian Wanyu planned to bury this place, which seemed better than allowing these creatures to continue their evil deeds. With that resolution, the five strands of spiritual power in her surged wildly, causing thunder, lightning, and a continuous strong wind to gather.
From her spot outside, Dongfang Minghui had a profound understanding of this power. The first thunder and lightning bombardment shook the very ground she was standing on. Subsequent bombardments caused large ice rocks to fall from above, and she felt as if the place was on the verge of collapsing.
Qian Wanyu watched as the large ice blocks fell from above, crushing the ice coffin and the skeletons beneath, “Unless this icy world melts, it’ll keep these things buried here forever.”
“Seventh Sister, the skeleton?”
“I crushed it under several large ice cubes, it shouldn’t be able to move.” Qian Wanyu felt perplexed. After all, the skeleton was human, but despite her efforts, she couldn’t budge it. In her desperation, she realized this was not the way.
Little Color’s vines began to pry at the corner of the wall again. On the first floor, it successfully pried open a gap to see a scene similar to the previous ice cave. Fifteen ice coffins, the central one appeared to contain fewer black silk threads compared to the skeleton before.
“Seventh Sister, should we readjust the position of the ice coffin?”
Qian Wanyu did as she did before, destroying all the bones and ice coffins in the ice cave by burying them. Dongfang Minghui only felt the vibrations were stronger than before, and she started to worry, “Little Colour, do you think this place will collapse?”
She looked up, and saw five or six floors above, all of which resembled the winding paths of the Sleepy Dragon Valley. However, the internal structure of the ice cave wasn’t as complex as the Sleepy Dragon Valley. As they ascended, Dongfang Minghui discerned a pattern.
Each floor contained cells, experimentation areas, and bones in ice coffins.
Along their way, they destroyed as much as they could, annihilating all the creatures in those spaces. But the higher they climbed, the more ominous Dongfang Minghui felt. As they ascended, they also discovered one thing: the strength of the prisoners also increased.
It felt like they were playing a game where the difficulty level increased the higher they climbed.
“Seventh Sister, do we still have to go up?” Dongfang Minghui examined the seemingly endless steps. Initially, there seemed to be only seven or eight floors in the curve, but now they had climbed up to the seventeenth or eighteenth. “Every time I look at it, the level of the curve gives me the same feeling, are we stuck in a loop?”
It felt like they were trapped in a labyrinth, thinking they had made progress when in fact they were just moving in circles.
Qian Wanyu considered for a moment, “There is a way to verify it.”
Dongfang Minghui blinked at her, dumbfounded, “Seventh Sister, are you joking?”
Qian Wanyu stood still and looked down, noticing the steps were gone. The bottom was shrouded by dense fog, and the levels below were no longer visible. The vast expanse of white was beautiful and serene, ignoring the sordid skeletons and bloody things. It felt like they were in a fairyland.
“Are you ready?”
“Wait, Seventh Sister, are we really jumping?” Dongfang Minghui peered into the abyss below, a hint of unease creeping into her voice. She’d jumped off cliffs before, but there was a significant difference between doing so willingly and being forced.
Qian Wanyu gripped the Thunder Whip tightly in her palm, “Of course. Prepare the Shark Bead, and tie Little Color’s vine around your waist.”
With everything in order, the three of them leapt into the void, plunging into the deep unknown.
Splash! All three of them hit the water surface and sank into its depths, the water enveloping them completely.
Dongfang Minghui looked around at the surrounding darkness, realizing they seemed to have returned to the black pool. She was taken aback, “How could this be?”
“We need to consult with Qing Mo. Let’s return to the Sleepy Dragon Valley for now.” Qian Wanyu said, her fingers absently stroking the lightning whip at her waist. She then asked, “Ninth Sister, are you certain that what you saw was a human?”
Dongfang Minghui, who had been quite confident, suddenly faltered when asked this unusual question, “It should have been a human skeleton…”
She was pretty sure she could tell the difference between a human skeleton and one that wasn’t, after all, she was a doctor!
Their journey back was much faster than when they’d come, and they returned to Sleepy Dragon Valley in about the time it takes for an incense stick to burn. As soon as they emerged, they saw the dragon seal calling out loudly, “Why have you returned only now?! Someone broke into the Nine Dragon Cave.”
Qing Mo was hovering around, “On the very day you left, someone crawled out of this black pool and led a group of undead toward the Nine Dragon Cave.”
Qian Wanyu noticed large rocks by the side of the black pool, likely fallen from above. Even now, small and large rocks were still rolling down, some sinking straight into the pool. “Did you see what the intruders looked like?”
Dongfang Minghui was trying to process this new information while listening to the conversation between Seventh Sister and Qing Mo. She said to Little Color, “Try to enter my soul sea.”
Little Color was eager to try but was once again blocked by a mixture of golden and emerald green light, “What’s going on? Why can’t I get back in?”
“You said that happened on the first day we were gone… Qing Mo, how long have we been away?” Qian Wanyu asked as she walked.
“Why, what’s wrong?” Qing Mo looked at Qian Wanyu in surprise, “Let me calculate, you’ve been gone for seven days since you entered.”
“Seven days!!!” Dongfang Minghui exclaimed, “But that’s not right, we were in there for less than a day, how did it take so long?”
Qian Wanyu pursed her lips tightly and ventured a guess, “Could it be that the passage of time in Sleepy Dragon Valley is different from outside?”
Sleepy Dragon Seal looked at them, its head tilted in confusion. It didn’t understand what they were talking about, “They are about to find the real Nine Dragon Cave, can you help me stop them?”
Logically, since the cave was closed, it shouldn’t be afraid of these people, but for some reason, Sleepy Dragon Seal felt the group was troublesome. Especially their leader, who seemed to know too much about how Sleepy Dragon Valley worked.
“Alright, go back to Ninth Sister first.”
Sleepy Dragon Seal leaped up and nudged Little Color off Dongfang Minghui’s back. Its slender arms wrapped tightly around her neck, nearly choking her. “No matter what happens, don’t show yourself.”
Sleepy Dragon Yin nodded vehemently. During this time, Qing Mo had already briefed it on many similar topics, “I understand.”
Dongfang Minghui unfolded the silk umbrella on her back, skillfully hiding Sleepy Dragon Seal, “If we come out and Toothless emerges from the deep pool, will he be temporarily confined by the Nine Dragon Cave?”
“He’s not out yet.”
As long as it was in Sleepy Dragon Valley, it had a slight sense of connection with the deep pool, so when Sleepy Dragon Seal said this, it was with certainty.
Dongfang Minghui let out a sigh of relief, but then remembered the purpose of the Sleepy Dragon Seal, “If those people didn’t have the seal to open the stone gate, how could they enter the deep pool? The Sleepy Dragon Seal is with us.”
After she finished speaking, she visibly relaxed.
Qian Wanyu cast a glance at Ninth Sister’s naive demeanor and didn’t have the heart to shatter her comforting illusion at the moment. If the other party were an expert locksmith, given enough time, they might find a way to unlock it.
“Sleepy Dragon Seal, are the nine dragons outside the stone gate awake or asleep?”
As soon as the topic of the nine dragons was brought up, Dongfang Minghui instantly perked up, “Seventh sister, why did those dragons suddenly come to life last time? It scared the life out of me.”
Not only was she terrified, even the false dragon in her space had jumped out of its jar in fright.
“They were always alive, their freedom was just restricted.” Qian Wanyu reasoned. It seemed the individuals who constructed the Sleepy Dragon Valley went to great lengths to seal the nine dragons within the murals to guard the dragon clan’s treasure. If she didn’t know what lay beneath the deep pool, she might have set them free. But the motivations of this new group might not be as noble as saving the dragon race, it’s likely they would also be harboring sinister intentions. “What about the Nine Dragons attack?”
Sleepy Dragon Seal grumbled twice, seemingly a bit reluctant to speak.
Dongfang Minghui had no idea that Seventh Sister had been attacked by the Nine Dragons before. She was bursting with curiosity and eagerly waited for an answer.
Thank you for all the support on ko-fi desu