It had been far too long!
The sands of time had subjected all material items to heavy deterioration, so the tiniest bit of outside interference was enough to turn it all to dust. Mo Qitian blanched, stumbling a few steps backward.
“I-I didnt mean to….” He nearly wept in dismay.
“Its fine.” Lu Yun gave him an encouraging pat on the shoulder. “All of these books belonged to ancient mortals. Very likely, they were records of the ideas and culture from back then. We wouldnt have had much use for them.”
Mo Qitian gradually recovered his calm, but his expression remained forlorn.
“Any important text in the world of immortals is transcribed in a jade slip,” Qing Han chimed in with a smile. “Lu Yuns right. The broken path of cultivation is most likely laid to rest in this tomb. The funeral objects here must have to do with its contemporaneous civilization.
“After all, books are a symbol of civilization itself. Only civilization can convey recorded history. The books exact contents mean far less than our understanding of the significance of their presence.”
This explanation further pacified Mo Qitian, whose expression finally lightened.
Lu Yun gave his friend a thumbs-up. Qing Han was completely correct: the only funeral goods that made sense for the path of cultivation was its relevant era of civilization. Cultivation, after all, was a product of civilization. Thus, the books to be found here wouldve recorded the civilization of immortals back then. They were mere vessels, evidence of the existence of a greater truth.
Now that all the bookshelves had turned to dust, the room was completely empty. The only thing that remained was the orb, hovering glaringly in midair.
“This chamber doesnt hold much else of interest, the third room is the most important! The third coiled mountain is beneath us.” Lu Yun spoke slowly as he watched the floating orb spin. “This third chamber will be the most treacherous one yet. We might succeed in repairing the broken cultivation path, or we might all die in the chamber below.”
His voice matched his gravely serious expression. “Therefore, I would like one of us to stay outside. If we do end up dying here, he will be able to tell our story to the outside world.” He glanced at his clansman as he said this.
“You want me to stay behind again, dont you” Lu Shenhou bristled, remembering something from earlier. “Why me”
“You told me to stay outside before we entered the tomb, you didnt take me through that bronze door back there, and now youre using this excuse to stop me from going further Tell me, whats the reason for all of this!” His face grew somber. “You dont need to worry about news of the broken path not getting out—Ive already told the ancestor about it. If we really do end up dying here, hell inform the rest of the world. Plus, hes given me three more uses of his power. You neednt worry about my safety.”
Lu Shenhou looked Lu Yun straight in the eyes. “So, whats up with all this Why do you keep preventing me from going into the third chamber”
Qing Han looked at Lu Yun as well. He was the only other one who knew the truth.
The young man who was the object of attention sighed, “May there still be a chance left.”
Lu Yun shook his head, unwilling to divulge any more. Although Lu Shenhou was a brash and nonchalant sort, he was actually quite sharp-witted. Multiple previous attempts at holding him back had tipped him off that something was awry. There was nothing else Lu Yun could do to help his clansman.
“Beardos three uses of arcane dao power should keep him safe, shouldnt they Why do you think hell die” Wu Tulong couldnt think of any other reason for Lu Yuns odd behavior, other than the young governor having calculated that Lu Shenhous death in the third chamber was a given.
Lu Yun quietly approached a hidden door in the center of the chamber without responding. A complex pattern of runes was etched on the door, creating an occult layout that locked it tightly shut.
Anyone else would have to use brute force, which would instantly activate the floating orbs triple-layered certain death layout and render this place a deathtrap. If that happened, even Lu Yun would be completely helpless.
He couldnt do anything about the concealed trap, but he could try to figure out an alternative way to circumvent it. The young man bent down to the door to get a closer look.
“Whats in the third chamber” Mo Qitian whispered into Lu Shenhous ear.
“I dont remember.” Lu Shenhou blinked. He squinted in intense concentration, but nothing at all came to mind. There was a strange conviction that prevented him from accessing those particular memories.
“Again” Mo Qitian snorted. “The ghost outside mustve gotten you good. It takes a bit of your memory away whenever it does that.” Hed forgotten something, too, but itd come back to him if it was important.
Lu Shenhou pressed his lips together. He didnt think that was quite right, but it was the only possible explanation. “Is that why it didnt take an interest in me Because it possessed me once already” he murmured.
Lu Yun had hurt the ghost in the first chamber, causing it to avoid him. Qing Han had warded it off with his treasure. Although Wu Tulong and the others had been gifted instances of dao power as well, theyd been possessed all the same.
Lu Shenhou was the only one whod remained wholly unscathed.
The loud grinding of stone interrupted his train of thought. Lu Yun had decoded the layout upon the trapdoor, causing it to slide open. A sinister breeze brushed past, filling the entire chamber with ghastly air. “Theres a hallway below, and the main tomb should be past that.”
“Come on!” The others were uniformly excited at the news, eagerly jumping down one after another.
As the youths filed through the door, the vaguely luminous orb in midair suddenly brightened. A pale shadow slowly unfurled from the sphere, holding an antiquated longsword in his hand. He wordlessly watched the group move on to the next chamber before speaking aloud.
“Those whose daos differ must walk different paths. My dao is now different from yours, but still... I pray for your success in mending the path of cultivation.” Satisfied, the figure turned to depart.
Ghostly will-o-wisps flared as the six youths landed, lighting up the lamps lining the hallway. A stone door lay at the end of the hall, its panel half ajar.
“I can feel it….” Wu Tulong suddenly trembled with emotion. “The heavenly tribulation so close to me is receding. A new realm lies before me!”
His cultivation had reached peak transformed spirit realm, with only three more years to go before he would undergo his heavenly tribulation and reach immortality. But in that moment, all of that was no longer true. A new step had materialized in front of him out of the looming trial; it was an entirely different realm!
“That realm is broken. We must develop and complete it!” Lu Shenhou shook excitedly. He could clearly sense the existence of that realm as well. “How come I didnt feel this last time”
“You really shouldnt go in.” It was Qing Han who couldnt resist this time.
“No, I absolutely have to go in this time!” A fierce look came over Lu Shenhous face. He ran forward and pushed the door open. Jadeite radiance lit up the chamber behind the door, sparkling in its brilliance.
“Thats the Lu ancestors dao power. Using it already Youre scared of death after all, beardo.” Wu Tulong bit back a smile, then followed closely after.
“That gift of dao power is still here, huh. There goes the last shred of hope I had.” A great sadness overcame Lu Yun when he saw the light.
“What in the world!” The groups eyes widened in unison after they walked in. The main chamber of the tomb wasnt large at all. An outer-coffin rested in the center of a room that was only about three dozen meters wide.
What caught the companys attention was the shimmering jade light. It came from a light curtain thatd been formed by Lu Daolings arcane power, but Lu Shenhou wasnt the source!
A large hole had been torn through the veil, and beyond it was half of a broken corpse. It seemed that something had torn the body in two from between the legs, taking one half with it. The portion left behind bore a fairly intact head upon it. It was still possible to make out who the corpse was.
A bushy-haired, rough-looking man.
His eyes were as wide as dinner plates. Face frozen in the split-second of death, his expression wasnt fearful at all. It was one of excitement and confusion, like hed discovered some great secret he couldnt comprehend!
“Ah, so Im already dead….” Lu Shenhous memories came rushing back when he saw the broken corpse. The force thatd prevented his recall was gone, allowing his mind to access its most dreaded secrets.
“After I escaped the sea of blood, I didnt manage to outrun the monster that lived in it… it killed me here. Before I died, however, I found out a shocking secret: the path of immortals is broken… there are four realms of cultivation, not three. Theres a fourth realm before immortality!
“I want to live on… I need to live on! I need to tell everyone about this and get all the geniuses in the world to come here. We need to figure out what the lost realm is!
“The ancestor… the ancestors invincible! His power will definitely keep me safe… Ill make it out alive! Live… and tell everyone… the secret here…”
My clans ancestor is the mightiest below a celestial emperor. His power will protect and help me safely escape this place! I need to live… and tell everyone about the secrets here!
These thoughts had guidedLu Shenhou out of the tomb and back to the Lu Clan.
“Ive finally told you about the things here, young sovereigns of the world… do not let my obsession down…. Mend the cultivation path…”
Blood streamed out of Lu Shenhous eyes. His body rapidly melted into a sanguine drop that puddled on the ground. The various treasures he carried with him clattered to the ground with the demise of their owner, as if everything had been a dream.
“Lu Yun…” Qing Han called out softly to his friend.
The remaining Lu clansman was thoroughly miserable. “If he hadnt seen his own corpse, he wouldnt know he was already dead. Hed be able to keep on living….”
“You knew the truth before we came in. Thats why you kept trying to stop him, so that he would never find out.” Wu Tulong had finally understood the strangeness earlier. “Then the townsfolk outside....”
“Theyre all dead and unaware, just like Shenhou was,” Lu Yun murmured.
“This doesnt make sense,” Zi Chen interjected. He squatted down before Lu Shenhous corpse, attempting to make something out.
“A monster ripped Shenhou apart with its mouth and foreclaw. The other half mustve been eaten… but why would it leave behind Shenhous head and half a body”
His words struck a fearful chord in everyone elses hearts.
“Unless the monster that killed Shenhou knew that he would return…”-