Shao Xuan’s eyes were burning, even keeping them open was difficult. It felt as if someone was hammering his brain, everything seemed to boom and it hurt badly. There was a piercing ringing in his ears and he wondered if he was going deaf. Everything was a mess of sounds, as if every animal in the forest cried at the same time, sometimes like a noisy crowd of people talking over each other. Yet it all felt imaginary because covering his ears was useless. The sounds continued to pour into his ears.
He did not know why this was happening either. He was just practising the eight knots and as he became better at them, he suddenly felt his surrounding change and a strong discomfort… like he had entered another world! Shao Xuan could no longer sense Chacha’s presence.
At first, he was unable to see but he switched to his extraordinary vision and finally saw something. There were masses of light in front… no, they were people!
More specifically, there were red and white people-shaped flames. The colour of the Yi family fire seed.
Soon, the discomfort faded and the sounds in his ears faded to nothing. Everything returned to silence. Removing his hands from his ears, he stood up and looked at the light. Switching to his regular vision, everything was similar to what his special vision saw. Just darkness everywhere, infinite darkness.
Only the congregation of light masses stood out here.
“Shao Xuan of Flaming Horn?!”
This voice was filled with shock, refusing to believe that Shao Xuan was really there.
Shao Xuan looked over. As his body quickly got accustomed to the place, he could slowly sense his surroundings, even feeling the speaker’s aura and hearing the voice.
“Yi Qi?” Shao Xuan looked at one of the silhouettes. He could not see its face but recognised him from his voice and aura. He also recognised Yi Cong next to Yi Qi.
“So it indeed is you! How did you come?!” Yi Qi did not understand. How did Shao Xuan follow them here? Didn’t he previously ask them for the method? Neither of them answered his question nor taught him how to enter this space. Shao Xuan was not even a Yi family member!
Did Shao Xuan have Yi blood?
More than one person wondered this, even the three elders wondered for a moment. However, the proof before their eyes confirmed that Shao Xuan did not have a Yi person’s aura on him because there was no Yi fire seed power in him! The flames were of a different colour!
He did not have Yi blood or the Yi fire seed’s power. So how did this tribesman enter this space?
They could not understand! Something impossible had just happened. It was maddening.
“Where did you learn knot divination?” asked Yi Tuan.
Shao Xuan looked at Yi Tuan and the two figures next to him. These three silhouettes were the clearest and most solid among the crowd, unlike other people who would have the occasional flames sprouting out of their silhouette.
“I learned it by chance,” said Shao Xuan. Shao Xuan was very curious too. What was this place? He had managed to enter but understood nothing. Yi Cong and Yi Qi had been gone for several days- he had spent two or three just learning the knots, then another two days learning to tie them consecutively. It was about four to five days by now. But where was the legendary ‘Yi Xiang’? Did they not say there was a war coming? Why hasn’t anything started yet?”
“Nonsense, you must be working with Yi Xiang!” said someone in the crowd. However, Yi Tuan raised a hand and the simmering conversations turned to silence.
“What are your intentions?” asked Yi Tuan.
Shao xaun felt like a long invisible sword was pointing at himself. One mistake and the blade would slice him.
“I’ve always heard about how the Yi family is different so I was curious. I came here by accident too, I was just making knots and then I arrived. Don’t worry, I’m just looking,” said Shao Xuan. He suddenly thought of a problem. He knew how to get in but not out.
I didn’t think this through.
Shoa Xuan did not expect to get in this strange place so quickly, even preparing himself for the possibility of not ever being able to. Yi Cong had said people without Yi blood and fire seed could not anyway.
“Regardless of whether he is speaking the truth, we cannot have an uncontrollable variable during a battle,” said one elder. This meant to kick Shao Xuan out or kill him instantly.
Logically, they should do this to remove any distractions. However, the crack on the tortoiseshell from the reading flashed in his mind.
One chance to live. Would that chance come from an accident? Could that be referring to this person?
Yi Tuan also wanted to know why Shao Xuan was here and privately did not relate Shao Xuan and Yi Xiang together. Shao Xuan current behaviour and the act of covering his ears when he first arrived was similar to when Yi family members entered this realm for the first time. Other than knowing knot divination, there was nothing else related to Yi Xiang on Shao Xuan.
The Yi family overthought many things, for they knew even trivial matters could end up affecting the big picture. The more crucial the situation was, the more cautious they became. Many people had the impression that the Yi family members were overthinkers and slow decision makers.
Right now, Yi Tuan faced a dilemma.
To kill? Or not to kill?
He had many questions but he did not have time. In the end, he made his decision. “Yi Xiang is coming! We’ll ignore this tribesman for the moment.” Since he did not know what to do with Shao Xuan, might as well toss him to the side first. If Shao Xuan did anything suspicious, he was confident to be able to kill Shao Xuan. They were much more powerful than Shao Xuan here, obvious from the way Shao Xuan’s figure flickered.
The other elder had a different opinion. They had a bad relationship with Flaming Horn, even an old grudge, but he understood Yi Tuan’s decision. They should focus their attention on Yi Xiang first.
After Yi Tuan’s instruction, everyone diverted their attention away from Shao Xuan to focus on the battle. Compared to the first-timer, Shao Xuan, Yi Xiang was worth more of their time.
If you could see their faces, you would see fear and discomfort. AFter all, this enemy was ‘The Unlucky One’, the same enemy their ancestors could not get rid of.
Shao Xuan remembered to keep his distance from the battle. He was only here as a spectator. Even if he wanted to seek revenge on the Yi family, now was not the time. Even if the time was right, he was at a disadvantage in this place. Although this place was different from what he expected, he did not plan to leave. Might as well watch the battle now. He did not want to be dragged into this and deliberately showed himself as a ‘spectator’.
No matter which side won, the remaining side would still have past enmity with Flaming Horn. Shao Xuan would learn more about both sides through this battle to get his tribe prepared in the future. Yi Xiang required special attention too, this was also why he was willing to risk entering this place. His understanding of Yi Xiang was limited to legends and sparse ancestral notes.
On the mainland, Rock Hill City of the desert.
A figure clad in a hooded cloak walked slowly into the underground chamber. Shi Shu followed behind respectfully, also entering the place.
There were no other Rock Hill people inside only figures completely wrapped in linen. There were too few glowing rocks for illumination here too. Faint shadows danced on the walkway walls as they walked.
The hooded figure in front extended a pale hand from a wide sleeve. The hand was as thin as a skeleton wrapped in skin, its joints protruding severely. The hand was lifted with the palm facing inwards. A necklace of sorts was in his hand, made of wooden pieces shaved into different shapes strung together by straw rope through holes in the centre to form a closed ring. Four of his fingers curled inwards, the thumb placed on one of the wooden pieces as big as a fingernail. Every wooden piece was covered in symbols that were not easily decipherable.
There was a round hall in this underground palace. When this hooded figure walked towards the centre of the hall, his thumb would move to the next wooden piece along with each step, neither slowly nor quickly, like an elderly person taking a stroll. When he arrived at the centre of the hall, he lifted his other hand and waved lightly.
Shi Shu, who was following behind him, stopped immediately and bowed, giving the five guards in the hall a look. These five people were also wrapped in cloth so their faces could not be seen, nor did they breathe. Averting his gaze, Shi Shu turned to leave the hall.
When he waved, the hooded figure still did not stop walking, maintaining his initial speed and rigour. During the last step in the centre, his thumb stopped and pressed on the last wooden piece. A ray of fiery light erupted and drew an arc while an orange-red and white fireball burst into flames.
The flames were not tall but gave the entire hall an oppressive aura. All the illuminating rocks shattered immediately. Then, other than the hall with the flames, the entire underground palace plunged into darkness.
The guards outside suddenly felt the weight of a mountain pressing on them, beads of sweat sprouting from their foreheads. The oppression only faded a hundred metres away from the underground palace.
Shi Shu felt exhausted when he was at the entrance of the palace. He had not left the underground palace when the oppression came and was only about ten steps away from the entrance. Yet by the time he covered the ten steps, he was drenched in so much sweat like he was fished out of water or just fought a war.
Waving away the people coming to support him despite the oppression, Shi Shu struggled forward like his feet were weighed by shackles. The weight finally lifted as he distanced himself from the underground palace.
About a hundred metres out of the place, Shi Shu heaved a sigh of relief. He turned to look in the direction of the underground palace.
A stone door blocked the entrance. There was a loud boom and sand from above slid down from the reverberations. In the blink of an eye, the entrance to the underground palace was buried in. It looked just like a sand dune from a distance.