Li Chengfeng followed behind Grand Senior Sister, hurrying along cautiously. They passed through a series of complicated, crisscrossing cave tunnels and gradually moved deeper underground. The air grew warmer and he started to sweat. After a while, he found himself in a gigantic cave with him standing at a high point, looking down at a spiral, upside-down cone-shaped cave.
Two paths snaked around on both sides with diagrams carved densely on them to make up a gigantic array. Li Chengfeng felt like he was an ant put in a giant aquarium.
As he travelled down the windy path into the cave, he studied the patterns carved into the walls and wanted to touch them. He had just moved his hand when Grand Senior Sister seemed to have noticed. Without turning her head, she warned coldly, “Don’t touch if you want to live.”
He quickly retracted his hand and studied this giant array, privately in awe. How much human labour and resources were spent to create this array?
But what is this… for?
While the carving patterns varied, they were generally depicted in one direction from top to bottom, just like how this stony path was spiralling downwards.
He looked down but all he could see was a path of orange, like an egg yolk cooking at the bottom of a wok.
The air grew warmer the further down they walked, almost suffocating him. He felt as if his lungs were about to burn up, and that he was no longer exhaling air but flames from his nostrils!
What is this place?
Li Chengfeng was astonished to see that the ends of Grand Senior Sister’s red hair were starting to curl and dry up.
He blurted, “We can’t carry on like this, we’ll die!”
He was startled by his own voice, for it was so hoarse he did not sound like himself. It felt as if a knife had been scraped across his throat.
She turned around and he saw her hair curling and withering at a visible speed. Her eyes were glowing a faint blue and her expression as icy as ever. “If you don’t walk, you’ll die now!”
Li Chengfeng had no reply so he followed behind her, enduring the heatwaves.
After a while, they finally arrived at the bottommost layer of the cave but it was not what he imagined. The bottom of the cave was angry, boiling lava. Deep red molten rock bubbled and rolled in angry waves.
In front of him was a patch of orange stone with arrays and inscriptions carved densely into the ground. These carvings concentrated towards a central point where an empty circle of diameter 2 metres was.
Within this empty spot, the air above twisted as heat radiated out of the centre.
Li Chnegfeng did not dare imagine what was underneath this stony ground to be radiating such terrifying heat!
Grand Senior Sister looked at him and took out her jade token. She gave it to him. “Go insert this in the middle.”
Chengfeng almost leapt in fright. He already felt like he was about to spontaneously combust at the edge, every breath requiring laborious effort. He was going to be cremated on the spot if he went any further!
But looking at her emotionless eyes, he knew that she would kill him on the spot if he refused!
If such a highly ranked figure suddenly agreed to do him a favour, she really must have had her reasons.
There was no such thing as free lunch!
Although he was mentally prepared for the task to be dangerous, he was still terrified!
To go or not to go?
In the face of this dilemma, he finally made a decision anyway! I’ll go!
I have a 10% chance of living if I go. And a 0% chance of living if I don’t!
Grand Senior Sister was an extremely tough opponent, and he had a meagre chance of beating her in a battle. However, his chances were uncertain if he took the risk to insert this jade token in the middle. Perhaps an unknown variable like that made one more optimistic about his chances.
Maybe he’ll survive this?
He clenched his teeth and took the jade token. Her sharp and cold glare softened slightly. “Don’t worry. You must be quick when you run to the middle. Just push the top of the token into the centre of the circle. If you’re fast enough, you’ll live!”
Chengfeng calmed down a little after hearing this. He took a deep breath, the hot air burning his lungs and he felt like his internal organs had burst into flames.
Releasing a hoarse roar, he used up all his strength to sprint towards the empty circle at the centre of the array.
The moment he made his first step, the entire array trembled and rays of yellow light shot out of the array, extending towards Chengfeng.
The light rays twisted in the air like countless tentacles scrambling to catch Li Chengfeng.
When one of the light tentacles brushed past his skin, there was a sizzle and his skin and flesh was gone. A few deep gashes appeared at his tricep.
At this moment, he was fully focused on his target and felt no pain, nor did he see the terrifying tentacles grabbing at him.
His mind was blank. He must live!
“I must go home! For my mother! For Cleansing Moon Sect!”
He chanted a mantra in his head: I must live! I must!
I must reach that spot! I must do it!
If he looked down, his determination might have wavered and disappeared for he had turned into a bloodied mess. The light tentacles and shaved off patches of his skin and his handsome face had turned grotesque.
The skin on his face had been burned off. His hair and eyebrows had been singed off and his eyes were so wide they looked like they were about to fall out of his head.
He didn't look human at all, more like a bloodied zombie!
Grand Senior Sister watched quietly as if this was not a human, nor a life. This was just a pawn she could use in her chess game. As long as the pawn could fulfil its function, sacrificing it was not a bad thing.
Even if it could not fulfil its task, she might not show any other expression either.
Because she was the ‘fiery iceberg’, the famously ruthless Grand Senior Sister!
Li Chengfeng looked like he could no longer run any further when he was just two metres away. A hint of annoyance flashed across her eyes.
So close too!
Who should I get next time?
She was already thinking about her next candidate, turning around to leave when she saw something in her peripheral vision. She turned and her eyes widened. The bloodied man on the brink of death suddenly leapt up as his body touched countless tentacles and then pounced towards the empty spot.
He fell with a heavy thud but his hand fell accurately towards the centre point. It’s getting closer! Closer!
And finally, with a crisp ‘ding’, the jade token in his hand hit the array’s central point.
Grand Senior Sister’s pupil constricted.