In the South Sea, Sheng Lingyuan found a secluded spot and leisurely sat down, using puppetry to attach himself to several fish bodies.
Under the water, through the eyes of those fish, he saw that the eel had indeed taken out the "treasure".
The so-called "water pearl" was milky white, rolled up into a ball, with a surface that flowed with a pearl-like luster. It was soft as silk, but had great toughness, and could unfold layer by layer into a flat piece that was a yard square and as thin as a cicada's wing.
Looking at it, it really did resemble a gill.
Sheng Lingyuan watched with great interest. He had never heard of this thing before, and it seemed to be something made by later generations.
It was quite clever, but for some reason, they had to attach an inexplicable ancient origin to it. He didn't know what they were trying to achieve.
The eel placed his 'fish gill' on top of everyone's head, like a thin veil covering both people and the boat. Then, it 'melted' away.
The people, the various sized boxes, and the boat, all covered by the fish gills, shimmered with a pearly glow. They slid into the water like a colorful and sparkling bubble, only causing a small ripple.
After sinking into the water, they defied the laws of physics - buoyancy seemed to have no effect on them. All the items on the boat remained in place. People could move freely and breathe without any hindrance. The water flowed through the seams of their clothes and shoes like air, but did not wet their clothing.
"Can we still talk?" The wooden puppet girl tentatively asked.
As everyone turned to look at her, she realized that her voice sounded no different from when she was on land, except for the slight interference of the gurgling water in her ears under the water pearl's spell.
The puppet girl was amazed and finally believed that the Kun fish really had gills!
Curious schools of fish gathered around, waiting for her performance like they were an audience. For some reason, the puppet girl felt a little nervous being "watched" by those fish.
She tried to ignore the fish's gaze, gathered her thoughts, and said, "Ahem... We need to enter the tomb of the Mountain prince. The entrance to the tomb is a Five Elements formation. If we want to enter the formation alive, we can't make a single mistake. Old Lady Yu said that this was a seal placed by a great power in ancient times, and even an inch of mistake could be life-threatening. So, you all need to follow me closely."
Sheng Lingyuan chuckled and thought, 'What danger could there be at the entrance? Even if there were, it wouldn't be drawn on the map.'
Out of the corner of her eye, the wooden puppet girl caught sight of the schools of fish swaying in unison towards a certain direction, shaking their heads as if in disapproval.
Their pale eyes shimmered with ripples, all looking at her askance.
What was wrong with these low-intelligence fishes?
The group walked underwater for several hours as if facing a great enemy. From the darkness of night to the brightness of day, they finally arrived at what seemed to be the tomb of the Mountain prince.
During this time, Sheng Lingyuan leisurely enjoyed the sea breeze with his eyes closed. After waking up from a nap, he found that it was already bright outside.
Seeing the others still circling around the entrance of the tomb, he became bored and took out a long bamboo stick and a carving knife from his pocket to start making a flute.
He didn't like the clothes of the people here, but he found the pockets on his own clothes to be very good.
The pockets on both sides of his upper body even had a pair of iron pieces called "zippers," which were very delicate and could be closed by pulling them up.
At first, Sheng Lingyuan thought it was indecent to have so many bags on his body, like a beggar. But after getting used to it for a few days, he found it strangely convenient and he could fit anything inside.
The divers underwater were unaware that they had put the audience to sleep, and their nerves were taut. The entrance formation of the tomb was too complex.
The wooden puppet girl took control of the boat and followed the formation path on the map, not daring to make a mistake. The boat seemed to circle around in place for 180 times, spinning so fast that even the wanted criminals dared not breathe.
It was probably close to noon when they finally reached the surface, and the wooden puppet woman let out a sigh of relief.
The blind man cautiously asked, "Did we make it?"
"We should have already entered," the wooden puppet woman replied. As soon as she finished speaking, the seabed began to shake, and then a huge totem appeared out of nowhere, sinking down to reveal a dark and gloomy passage.
"Look! The tomb passage!" Snake Skin exclaimed excitedly.
For a moment, everyone was excited except for Yan Qiushan, who remained expressionless. After all, this was a tomb that had been sealed for over three thousand years, containing mysterious beings. Although they dared not touch anything inside, it was still worth it to feast their eyes on the treasures within.
Who knows, maybe they would discover the secrets of the Mountain people?
Even if they didn't, just learning a bit about the complex formations inside would be a great gain.
The small boat adjusted its course and sailed into the tomb, with the enthusiastic gazes of the group fixed upon it.
Suddenly, Yan Qiushan, who had been sitting on the edge of the boat, stood up. Snake Skin turned to look at him, still wearing a look of joy on his face, when suddenly there was a loud "clang" from the depths of the sea.
It was like a huge sword had been unsheathed, cutting through the waves.
Immediately after, indistinct flashes of light and shadows rained down on the people on the boat. The wooden puppet girl still sat on the boat, and Snake Skin flipped directly off the boat and into the water. As soon as he fell into the water, he lost the protection of the water pearl, and the paerly luster on his body disappeared immediately. He swallowed a mouthful of seawater and almost turned into eel paste under the water pressure.
The sword flash passed over his head and headed straight for Yan Qiushan.
"Get out of the way!"
Yan Qiushan didn't move. The next moment, the sword light brushed past him and hit the side of the boat with a "clang", but it didn't leave a mark—it turned out to be just a few realistic illusions.
The silent tomb remained deep underwater, dark and crescent-shaped, like a sly smirk.
"I nearly died of fright! What was that thing?" After a while, Snake Skin crawled back onto the boat, coughing and gasping for breath.
He spat out some saliva and knelt on the deck, checking to see if all his parts were still intact.
"You're amazing, Mr. Nian!" The blind man half-knelt down and felt the intact ship's rail, exclaiming, "No wonder you were once the ace of the Wind God. How did you know it was just an illusion?"
As Yan Qiushan was about to speak, he saw a small fish swim past him. The fish curiously stared at him with its eyes shining with a faint phosphorescence, as if it had a spirit.
For some reason, the moment he met the fish's gaze, he unconsciously tensed his waist and back. Yan Qiushan tightly gripped the dagger at his waist, as if facing a great enemy. He and the small fish stared at each other for a moment, but the fish seemed completely oblivious to any danger and swam around him aimlessly for a few circles before leisurely chewing on some seaweed.
Yan Qiushan relaxed his grip on the dagger, realizing that he may have been a bit too jumpy lately. He felt like he was getting scared even at the sight of a fish.
"By feeling, after all I am a metal-type ability user," he lazily brushed off his "companion" and then glanced back in the direction they came from. "Let's go in," he said calmly.
On the shore, Sheng Lingyuan had already finished making his bamboo flute. He blew off the floating debris on top, wiped it clean with his sleeve, and casually tried a few notes: "Welcome, sorry for the poor hospitality, scared you all a little."
It was originally a beautiful day with calm seas, but suddenly violent waves rose up for no reason, and black gas faintly rose from the sea, shooting straight up into the sky.
The pale waves rushed onto the shore, leaving behind a large group of struggling small fish and shrimp, and then hurriedly retreated. Faint rumbling sounds came from under the sea, almost like the precursor to a tsunami!
"Oh my god..." At this moment, the Wind God group was speeding towards the beach.
From afar, they could see the strange phenomenon in the South China Sea.
Gu Yuexi's hair stood on end, "What did Captain Yan and the others do?"
"Director Xuan," Wang Ze grabbed Xuan Ji's shoulder, "Did your sword spirit go into the sea?"
Xuan Ji: "...How should I answer that?"
"Ugh, your thoughts are even more despicable than mine!" Wang Ze exclaimed. "Try feeling it again, close your eyes and really feel it! Has your sword spirit already gone wild under the water?"
Xuan Ji couldn't feel it, but as they approached the seaside, the palace fragrance that only he could smell was everywhere, so strong that it was almost bitter.
At the same time, there was something inside him that wanted to come out, something that instinctively frightened him and made his hands tremble uncontrollably.
"If they've gone down to the bottom of the sea, how will we find them? I'm telling you, Xuan Ji..." Wang Ze trailed off, turning to look at him.
He noticed Xuan Ji's face was almost translucently pale, with cold sweat on his forehead.
Despite his tired eyes, they shone with an eerie brightness, and his family crest was faintly visible on his forehead.
"Xuan Ji, are you okay? Maybe you should rest for a bit. Are you pushing yourself too hard? Don't overdo it..."
Suddenly, Xuan Ji's ears buzzed.
The sound of the car engine, the faint sound of the waves, and Wang Ze's voice all seemed to peel away from his ears. He was physically in the moving car, but his consciousness seemed to have entered some kind of barrier, briefly out of sync with reality.
He heard the sharp cries of a child. It wasn't just a typical misbehaving child throwing a tantrum. The young voice was piercing and almost sounded like a dying struggle.
Xuan Ji couldn't catch his breath and was shocked to find himself in a similar state as the snowy night at the Du Ling Palace in his dream. It was as if he was floating and attached to someone else's body.
The crying was coming from "himself". It was broad daylight, and he knew he wasn't sleeping, so how could he be in a dream?
Xuan Ji didn't know why, but this time his perspective seemed to be that of a young child who couldn't speak very well. He couldn't feel his body, only his vision, and everything was pitch black.
The child seemed to be trapped in an oven, and Xuan Ji felt the burning pain all over his body.
"Don't cry," another weak child's voice sounded in his ear, sounding several years older, "don't... cry. If you cry too much, you'll lose your strength and they'll... they'll swallow you up... mmm..."
The child's voice was interrupted by a painful groan, and he paused for a moment, gasping with a hint of tears in his breath, but then he suppressed it himself.
It was astonishing that such a young child knew to slow down his breathing to alleviate the pain, as if he had already become accustomed to it, calmly enough to make one's heart tremble.
Suddenly, Xuan Ji had a feeling - for no reason at all, he just knew - that these two children were sharing the same pain.
What was going on?
Were children being abused in broad daylight?
Had the law on the protection of minors expired?
Xuan Ji tentatively asked, "Hey, little one, where are you? Who are you? What time is it where you are?"
But just like the dream he had in Du Ling Palace, he was still an outsider, and the children couldn't hear his voice.
The child who spoke weakly cried out, "It hurts..."
Xuan Ji rarely interacted with children and didn't particularly like them. He even supported "child-free restaurants" and "child-free cinemas."
However, the boy's voice tugged at his heartstrings... to the point where he didn't react for a moment.
The boy wasn't speaking Mandarin. Then, an older boy tried to suppress his trembling voice and pretended to be calm, saying, "Hang in there, it'll be okay. How about this, Lingyuan gege will tell you some cool stories?"
Xuan Ji: "..."
No, wait! Little kid, who are you? What brother? Xuan Ji almost suspected that his ears were playing tricks on him, until he suddenly realized that the boy was speaking in the language of the Great Qi.
He was stunned... When did he become so fluent in ancient language that it felt like his native tongue?
"Legend has it that there is an area in the North Sea... covered in ice and snow all year round, the sea is so deep that it appears pitch black at a glance... sailing through it is like walking through a dense forest at night, easily losing one's direction. Those who are trapped in the North Sea cannot escape. If their loved ones come to search for them, they must seek the mermaids who guard the North Sea.
"Mermaids may not be intelligent, but they are the most affectionate and kind-hearted. They can communicate with the sea and, by showing them a picture of the lost person and spending three to five days teaching them the name of the lost person, the mermaids can ask the sea for help to find the person... Today, my teacher just taught me a sentence in mermaid language, it's very interesting, let me teach you..."
"Oh no, why is he so hot?" Wang Ze recoiled his hand, which was burned by Xuan Ji's body temperature through his clothes, and exclaimed to Gu Yuexi, who was driving, "He must be over a hundred degrees!"
"Be serious!" Gu Yuexi immediately pulled over to the side of the road and grabbed the walkie-talkie in the car to call her teammates, "Has the team doctor arrived... no? Then send a spiritual-type user over here, quickly!"
At that moment, Wang Ze gasped in shock as he saw a section of skin on Xuan Ji's wrist turn red and shrink as if it had been burned.
"There's no energy fluctuation, it's not an external injury, and he can't hear me speaking. Is it a curse or some kind of illness?" Wang Ze waved his hand and rolled down the car window.
The air in Yuyang was humid and abundant with water vapor. He reached his hand into the air and quickly cooled and condensed the water vapor, forming a cold water ball in his hand that soon turned into ice.
"No, I need to cool him down first..."
Just as he was about to place the ice ball on Xuan Ji's body, Xuan Ji suddenly grabbed his wrist.
Suddenly, Xuan Ji opened his eyes and at the same time, the burns on his body disappeared as if it was just Wang Ze's imagination.
"In mermaid language..." Xuan Ji's eyes were open but not focused, and he spoke in a dreamy voice, "You can search for people underwater using mermaid language."
Yan Qiushan and his team had already entered the tomb passage in the small boat.
The narrow and deep tomb passage was lit up on both sides by two rows of "mermaid lamps", a specialty of the Mountain people that could burn underwater for thousands of years without extinguishing. The milky white glow flickered coldly in the water, as if illuminating a path to hell.
"Thank goodness we have a map," Snake Skin's voice was low but couldn't hide his excitement. "Otherwise, that thing that flew out of the entrance earlier would have been a real sword and real blade, right? I wonder what the 'last batch of divine weapons' from the Mountain people look like. Do they all have sword spirits and blade spirits? Speaking of which, can artifact spirits choose between male and female? If they can..."
As he spoke, he leered and indulged in his own fantasies. Yan Qiushan's face darkened, revealing a hint of murderous intent.
"Shut up," thankfully, the wooden puppet girl interrupted him. "There's something on the wall, what is it?"
The mermaid lamp illuminated the stone walls on both sides of the tomb passage, and many humanoid figures seemed to appear on the previously pitch-black walls, but they were indistinct and hard to make out.
"Is it...a mural?" Yan Qiushan was a skilled and daring person. With one step, he directly broke off a mermaid lamp from the wall. Amidst the crowd's gasps, he lifted the lamp and shone it around the surroundings.
"No, it's not painted on the surface."
The original walls of the tomb passage were not ordinary stones, but a kind of black crystal that was semi-transparent. In the dark seawater without light, it was pitch black. But when the mermaid lamp shone on it, it revealed a semi-transparent texture, like a huge amber.
Several people simultaneously saw what was on the wall...inside the wall.
Their pupils shrank slightly, and they got goosebumps all over their bodies.
Inside the semi-transparent tomb passage walls, there were many people.
There were people dressed in ancient costumes, modern attire, and even professional diving suits. There were Chinese and foreigners, as well as non-humans with faces covered in fur, half-human and half-beast.
They all looked like insects trapped in amber, frozen in the wall like specimens, with expressions of astonishment on their faces. They were so lifelike, as if they were still alive.
The puppet girl murmured, "Are these people all thieves who have trespassed into the tomb of the Mountain prince?"
The deep tomb passage was endless, and countless pairs of eyes fell from the stone walls on both sides, maliciously staring at them.
Sheng Lingyuan laughed.
When he sealed the tomb, he anticipated that after Wei Yun's death, he would definitely be entangled by those after the Mountain people's so-called 'last batch of missing divine weapons.' If he didn't take precautions, there would be people digging and fertilizing his tomb every year.
Apart from assigning guards to watch over the tomb, there were also traps set up inside. The first line of defense was to prevent outsiders from entering, while the second line was specifically designed to prevent the guards from stealing from the tomb.
The so-called 'tomb map' that was sealed in the Qingping Division was actually a death curse. If any unworthy descendants were to become greedy, they would turn into 'wall paintings' in the tomb, forever hanging on the walls.
The map also recorded a complex 'tomb entrance formation'. If anyone tried to be clever and break the formation according to the map's instructions, they would unknowingly fall into a large maze of confusion - a massive illusion formation.
As they followed the map, thinking they had successfully opened the tomb, a row of sword and blade illusions would suddenly burst out. Those who dared to enter the tomb of the Mountain prince thought highly of themselves and believed they were skilled enough to avoid being killed.
However, they would still be frightened by the illusions. In the era of Sheng Lingyuan, this was called a "soul shock". It referred to the instability of one's soul after being frightened, making it easier for evil spirits to invade their mind.
In reality, after experiencing a strong stimulus, people would realize it was a false alarm and become more relaxed, falling into a trap of illusions.
Holding a map that she only partially understood, the wooden puppet girl led these three headless flies into a spider web. They thought they were following the path of the tomb, shivering at the 'murals' on both sides, and congratulating themselves on being 'well-prepared'.
However, from the perspective of the surrounding fish, they had already been deceived by the illusion and didn't even notice their boat had deviated from its course.
Before them, what they thought was a 'tomb passage' illuminated by mermaid lamps was actually another crystal wall. And that crystal wall had its mouth open, greedily sucking in the small boat and the creatures on board.
Half of the boat had already disappeared into the wall, but the people on board were still unaware.
The scorching sun hung high in the sky, and as they continued westward, they entered a 3000-year-old tomb. On one side was the world of the living, and on the other was the realm of the dead.
Sheng Lingyuan coldly brought the flute to his lips and began playing a recent tune.
'Perfect,' he thought, 'this tomb passage has never before collected such a large boat.'
So, for those who have come, let them make themselves at home.
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