Currently, the master had not fallen into madness, and the disciple remained sane.
Shi Jingzhi held back his anger, even as they entered the dark forbidden area, refusing to even touch Yin Ci's hand.
Yin Ci remained vigilant, but found Shi Jingzhi's excessive caution amusing.
He no longer cared about the origins of his cheap master, but was more curious about what kind of creature he was.
The two of them stood there, tense and silent, one step apart from each other.
The forbidden area was pitch black at night, even darker than a tomb. The stone steps were covered in moss, making them incredibly slippery.
Yin Ci had obtained a lantern from the villagers and was walking with extreme caution. It was hard to imagine how a small child like Yin Deng could walk blindly in such a pitch-dark place.
To put on a good show, Yin Ci took one step at a time, stopping to examine each stone chamber on the cave wall.
Most of the small chambers were empty, with only remnants of clothing or perhaps some gold and silver jewelry. They didn't even see any bones, let alone corpses.
During the last funeral procession, there were too many people, so they couldn't observe carefully. But now that they looked, even a place like the paperman street was infested with bugs and rodents, yet this forbidden place was strangely devoid of them.
Perhaps it wasn't connected to the outside world, or the real action wasn't happening here. The entire deep pit was cold and silent, like a thin layer of ice newly formed on the water's surface, with the air completely frozen.
They couldn't find any trace of Yin Deng anywhere.
The two of them wandered around and finally reached the end of the stone steps. The end of the steps was especially cold, with a thin layer of ice forming on the surface of the stones, making it even more difficult to walk.
Yin Ci took a special look at Aunt Liu's stone chamber, which was indeed empty with only a few clothes haphazardly piled together, giving off a sense of sadness and coldness.
"Both Yin Deng and Bai Wei are not up here," Shi Jingzhi said with a clear voice. "The situation below is strange. Follow me first... huh?!"
Suddenly, the last few stone slabs sank down and disappeared into thin air. The two of them felt a chill and fell straight down.
Yin Ci was closer to the rock wall, so he grabbed Shi Jingzhi's wrist with one hand and reached for the edge of the stone chamber with the other. He didn't care about his own life, but he didn't want Shi Jingzhi to fall and turn into a pile of minced fox meat.
Yin Ci may be seeking death, but he didn't want to drag someone else along with him on the road to the underworld.
Besides, he wasn't sure if he would die.
Yin Ci held onto the stone platform tightly, trying to regain his balance, when suddenly he felt a strange touch on the back of his hand. Something was rubbing against his hand.
Yin Ci suddenly lifted his head and squinted his eyes. The lantern he had dropped not far above still had a faint flame, allowing him to barely make out what was happening - a hand was reaching out from the stone chamber.
...They had just searched and confirmed that all the chambers were empty.
But that hand was undeniably there. It was extremely withered, resembling a mummy, and its shape was quite peculiar, with fingers that were more than twice as long as an ordinary person's.
Its touch was icy cold and dry, without a hint of warmth.
The hand extended from deep within the chamber, like the thin legs of a spider. It bent at an angle that was not in line with human structure, gently prying open his fingers.
Yin Ci remained silent, quietly sliding down. He was afraid that Shi Jingzhi would see this thing and be scared out of his wits, making it even more troublesome to rescue him.
Shi Jingzhi thought that Yin Ci wouldn't be able to hold his weight for long. He adjusted his movements and inserted the silver bamboo pole covered with Yang fire into the stone wall like stabbing tofu.
The two of them fell for a while and hung in mid-air awkwardly. They had an intimate encounter with the white-clothed monster hanging on the wall. As they got closer, the smell of blood and flesh became more apparent. The white clothed monster remained motionless, but had the body temperature of a living person, making them very uncomfortable.
Shi Jingzhi's expression changed rapidly, as if he wanted to let go and fall to his death.
Yin Ci simply grabbed the chain and hung together with the white-clothed monster.
"Shizun, what should we do?"
In this urgent situation, Shi Jingzhi couldn't stay angry at his disciple. He stabilized his emotions for a moment and ignited the Yang fire all over his body, illuminating the forbidden area above them clearly.
His intention seemed to be to light up the surroundings and see how far they had slid, calculating the distance to climb back up. But as soon as he shone the light, Shi Jingzhi saw the situation above too clearly.
Countless long hands stretched out from various stone chambers, overlapping above the two of them, clearly not intending to let them go up.
Now things were not looking good. Shi Jingzhi was not mentally prepared at all, and he trembled all over, sliding down a section of the bamboo pole and almost falling directly down.
Yin Ci grabbed him and said seriously, "Since we can't go up for now, why not go down and take a look?"
Shi Jingzhi swallowed hard and asked, "Are you serious, Ah Ci?"
The forbidden area was within reach, and Yin Ci was not in the mood to play games or beat around the bush.
He got straight to the point, "The goddess is already wary of us. Even if we manage to escape now, it will be difficult to obtain any other information. Shizun, since we're already here..."
Shi Jingzhi couldn't tell if he was more afraid of the dangerous hand web above them or his disciple's words of "since we're already here."
But Yin Ci was right, they couldn't get the tiger's cub without entering the tiger's den. Shi Jingzhi didn't want to spend the rest of his life in Yuanxian Village.
He looked up at the hand web and took a deep breath, saying, "Lend me the Hanging Shadow Sword."
The two of them clumsily switched positions in mid-air. Shi Jingzhi held the 'Cure All With Medicine' flag in one hand and the Hanging Shadow Sword in the other, alternating between inserting them into the rock wall to descend steadily. Yin Ci hugged his master's neck tightly, keeping a watchful eye on their surroundings.
As they descended further, the number of white-clothed monsters increased. They hung silently at the end of iron chains, varying in size from dozens to over a hundred. As the two ventured deeper, the stench of rotting flesh grew stronger, making them feel nauseous.
He wondered if the Fox Shi's nose could handle it.
After climbing down for who knows how long, the two finally saw a faint glimmer of light.
This bottomless forbidden place had finally come to an end. From afar, they could see countless strange-shaped things growing at the bottom of the pit, resembling huge withered lotus leaves.
A bluish-green liquid flowed out from an unknown source, winding its way down and forming a thin layer of water at the bottom of the forbidden place, reflecting a soft shimmering blue light.
The bottom of the water was covered in dark mud, seemingly mixed with something else, but the two couldn't see clearly from such a distance.
In the midst of the shallow pond surrounded by numerous "withered lotus leaves," there stood a misshapen "lotus pod" made of stone. Its bumps and hollows were opposite to those of a normal lotus pod, and it was like an empty bowl filled with shimmering green liquid.
Several cylindrical stone platforms stood upright in the bowl, varying in size and height above the liquid surface. Looking from top to bottom, they could barely be seen as dark "lotus seeds."
Occasionally, the liquid overflowed from the edge of the stone lotus pod, flowing intermittently like a waterfall and splashing into the water below, creating a gurgling sound.
This was the only lively scene at the bottom of the pit, while everything else was withered and stagnant, giving off a strange sense of tranquility.
Having experienced the man-eating lake on the second level of the Ghost Tomb, Shi Jingzhi didn't want to touch any unknown liquid. He borrowed the flagpole for leverage, stepped on the wall, and rushed towards the outermost stone platform of the "lotus pod".
Compared to when they first met, Shi Jingzhi's movements were more coordinated. He even took the time to change their position and held Yin Ci in his arms.
However, his landing was not ideal.
Rome wasn't built in a day, and although Shi Jingzhi had been practicing his martial arts for a few days, his proficiency was still lacking. If it weren't for his disciple acting as a cushion below, Shi Jingzhi would have almost hit the brakes with his face.
The two of them barely stopped at the edge of the stone platform, which was less than a yard in diameter. They almost tumbled down.
The flesh cushion Yin Ci was being hugged in Shi Jingzhi's arms and couldn't move. He was crushed solidly. He was so dizzy he could see stars before his eyes, and he didn't want to say anything for a while.
As Shi Jingzhi almost turned his disciple into a dumpling wrapper, his anger dissipated and he awkwardly got up, saying, "Ah Ci, just now, your master was...urgh!"
He didn't finish his sentence and his face changed, turning to vomit.
Yin Ci quickly got up and saw the reason for Shi Jingzhi's vomiting - it was people.
Underneath the jade-like translucent liquid, there were many people lying in the lotus stone bowl, numbering in the dozens, and there were even more in the shallow pond around them, numbering in the hundreds.
No, the word "lying" may not be accurate. These people no longer had the appearance of humans. They were naked, as if molded from the softest colored wax and slowly melted, their bodies mixed into a sticky paste.
Their flesh accumulated underwater, with dark red muscles turning outward and mixing with their internal organs, like some kind of strange red clay.
But they were still alive.
Many eyeballs were still slowly rotating in the crevices of bones, not yet fully melted. Twisted hearts were beating hard above the flesh. Blood was still flowing extremely slowly between the deformed skin.
Yin Ci didn't know if these people were still conscious, he hoped they weren't.
This was not the death he was pursuing.
Shi Jingzhi vomited for a long time before finally recovering. Under the blue light, his complexion was not much different from that of a dead person.
"I smell Aunt Liu," Shi Jingzhi trembled, "I gave her medicine before, I remember the smell of that medicine."
At this moment, Yin Ci didn't have the heart to make fun of him. Shi Jingzhi was only twenty-seven years old, not a twisted psychopath. It was only natural that he couldn't bear to see such a scene.
Even Yin Ci, who had seen and experienced so much, was momentarily horrified.
The Ghost Tomb was full of strange and eerie things, but they all still fell within the realm of good and evil desires of humans. However, what lay before them was different. Whatever it was, it was definitely not made by human hands.
Yin Ci quietly approached, allowing Shi Jingzhi to bury his head in his shoulder. Shi Jingzhi seemed to have found a lifeline and held onto his disciple tightly, taking deep breaths for a while before finally managing to calm down.
Knowing the true identity of the shallow pond's red mud, the stench in the air made people feel even more nauseous.
"Shh." Yin Ci patted his back. "I have a strong destiny and can conquer evil spirits. Do you remember, Shizun?"
"I remember." Shi Jingzhi wiped the corner of his mouth and weakly smiled. "Now I know what the Connected Thoughts Bean was all about. Bai Wei... he might be here."
Neither alive nor dead, the Connected Thoughts Beans could not turn to ashes but could not maintain their original state.
As if their conversation had been overheard, a small sob suddenly came from the chaotic shadows. Shi Jingzhi stiffened and raised his voice uncertainly, "Yin Deng?"
The sob turned into a whimper of grievance, and now both of them could hear it clearly. It was indeed the voice of a little girl. The voice came from the central stone platform, not too far from them.
The master and disciple were standing on a small stone platform at the edge. Shi Jingzhi stood up unsteadily and began to move towards the center of the stone lotus.
The fluorescence was weak, and with just a short distance between them, the shadows could swallow up the appearance of things. From this perspective, there were figures standing on the other stone platforms. Those things were motionless, about nine feet tall, definitely not the size of a little girl.
If they wanted to go to the central stone platform, the two of them could not avoid them.
The master and disciple seemed to have reached a certain understanding and neither dared to act rashly. Shi Jingzhi didn't dare to light the golden Yang fire, afraid of alarming something. The two held their breath and avoided the eerie silhouettes, relying only on the faint glow to tiptoe towards the center of the stone platform.
When they reached the central stone platform and confirmed that it was quiet all around, Shi Jingzhi finally breathed a sigh of relief.
Located in the center of the pit, the glow was slightly brighter, and they finally saw the full appearance of the central stone platform.
On the stone platform stood an unfinished, towering statue, and Yin Deng was sobbing at the foot of the statue. She curled up into a small, dark red ball, not daring to move, like a fallen offering on the ground.
Not to mention Yin Deng, even Shi Jingzhi also dared not to move after seeing the statue.
The statue was about thirteen feet tall, quite large and a common size in the Yun Dynasty. They even recognized the shape of the statue, which was also very common - it was the national deity of the Dayun, Divine Emperor Wu.
But it was not an ordinary clay statue.
Its skeleton was not made of iron or wood, but of real human bones. It was constructed with great precision and symmetry, with rows of arm bones and bundles of leg bones. The pelvic bones were neatly fitted together, and the rib bones crossed each other.
Different sizes of skulls were strung together, stacked in an orderly manner. Even human teeth were used as props for the sculpture, densely embedded together.
The bones were covered in a layer of flesh, with veins and tendons tightly bound together, forming the skeleton of the deity. The sticky flesh was then molded and compressed layer by layer, creating the divine body and clothing.
To ensure that the flesh remained in shape, small light green threads were mixed into the flesh, identical to those that had flowed from Aunt Liu's eyes.
Inside the finely crafted skeleton, a large mass of hearts were stirring, beating lightly and slowly. Occasionally, a few deformed eyes would appear in the flesh, all with a vacant gaze, as if lost in a dream.
...It was a living flesh statue of a deity.
Currently, it was only half-formed, with one side vividly fleshed out and the other a skeletal forest. The details were not yet fully carved, clearly a work in progress. Its head had not yet been sculpted with distinct features, only a rough structure with loose flesh and delicate blood vessels visible.
The statue hung its head slightly, its movement evoking a bone-chilling sense of pity, much like the goddess.
Yin Deng fell at the feet of this colossal figure, and her left arm had been deformed by something unknown, revealing a clay-like texture on the flesh.
Shi Jingzhi took two steps forward and attempted to embrace her. Suddenly, a flash of green light appeared, and he unknowingly activated a spell, illuminating the entire forbidden area in an instant. The bright light came from all directions, blinding his eyes.
All shadows vanished into thin air, and the entire forbidden area was revealed before his eyes.
Yin Ci didn't have time to observe the details around him. In the darkness before, they could only see where the fluorescent light shone. Now that everything was visible, it was the final straw that pushed everyone to the brink of collapse.
Behind the statue made of flesh, a truly massive statue was revealed. Embedded in the cave wall, only the huge head and upper body were visible. If the head wasn't mostly embedded in the wall, this statue could have blocked the entire pit.
It was definitely not made by humans - this statue was formed by countless twisted tree roots, without any trace of deliberate intervention. The statue leaned slightly forward, as if observing the crowd, and the bright light illuminated its tree root-formed features.
Divine Emperor Wu had a face that was both masculine and feminine, with a plump and beautiful appearance. However, unlike the other statues of him in the temples, this one had no trace of compassion in its eyes, only a vast indifference. Its long, slender arms hung over the edge of the statue, twisted and contorted like the limbs of a dying ghost spider.
Shi Jingzhi was stunned, his whole body trembling. He managed to stay on his feet, but just barely.
His face was pale as he muttered to himself, "We came too early. We should have let Yan Qing do the divination first. At the very least, we should have brought that goose along."
Yin Ci remained silent.
He stood directly in front of the statue of flesh. From this angle, the two statues complemented each other, creating an eerie and extremely beautiful scene.
In front of them were scattered bones and flesh, while behind them were endless trees and grass. This was the true appearance of all living beings in the world.
For some unknown reason, a subtle sense of familiarity rose in Yin Ci's heart. This place was clearly not where he would meet his end, yet it felt like some kind of destination.
The author has something to say:
Shi Jingzhi: If I am guilty, the law will punish me, not take me on a tour of the underworld _(;з」∠)_
Yin Ci: This master I've chosen is too lucky, but the direction of his luck is a bit off _(:з」∠)_'
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