At the same time, Su Ming's gaze landed on his right little finger, and he noticed that it was gradually withering away. The color of that finger became distinctly different from that of his other fingers, for it was the little finger of an old man.
Su Ming lifted his head after staying silent for some time. His expression was slightly different from before, because it was surrounded by a lifeless presence. It was as if his entire being had instantly gained an ancient air.
There was a light sound of someone sucking in a sharp breath, and it came from Hidden Dragon Sect's Sun Shan, whose breathing had become rapid due to his disbelief. He had breathed out a sigh of relief when Su Ming had failed in understand the spring runic symbol even after spending several days on it and had begun laughing at him coldly in derision once again. But once the events at the winter door caught his attention, he felt as if an invisible hand had just slapped him hard across the face.
It made all his cold laughter freeze in his heart and all his derisive words die in his mouth. With his breathing having become more rapid, Sun Shan looked at Su Ming with a dazed expression.
'The winter runic symbol is the last symbol among the eight runic symbols in Hidden Dragon Sect. It's also the hardest one to understand among them… Yet he… actually managed to understand it in an instant!'
The lifeless and dead presence coming from Su Ming's body also made Sun Shan feel as if he was looking at an illusion. In his eyes, Su Ming seemed to have turned into a big tree, a tree that had withered away and died from winter's biting chill. This sort of tree might just be waiting for spring to arrive, for the instant it would be revived and wake up from its slumber.
Several days passed since Su Ming started trying to understand the autumn runic symbol. Thousand River Valley was by then completely occupied by Evil Spirit Sect, and as they made preparations in secret, the scent of battle became incredibly thick in the air.
But all of these things didn't have anything to with Su Ming at that moment. He stared at the autumn runic symbol, then closed his eyes. When he opened them once again after a moment, he looked towards the summer runic symbol, and finally, his gaze returned to the spring runic symbol.
'I could instantly understand the winter runic symbol due to what I am, but autumn, summer, and spring are each more difficult than the last. With my current abilities, it'll be difficult for me to completely understand them.' There was no hint of dejectedness on Su Ming's face, only tranquility.
'Autumn symbolizes the downfall of death and the appearance of life… Summer is a period where there is a vast amount of life force… and spring… is the time where you open your eyes!' Su Ming had a faint feeling that when the day came when he fully understood the spring runic symbol, then it would mean that he had reversed the seasons, and he had managed to move from winter to spring.
It would mean that the day when he moved from death to life had arrived!
He kept the image of the autumn, summer, and spring runic symbols firmly in his head. He might not be able to understand and fuse them into his body right now, but he could take them away in his memory and understand them in time.
Su Ming stood up and cast a glance at the five chambers that had been opened up in the cave abode. He had been in this place for most of the month without being aware of it. To him, this empty treasure trove itself was a huge treasure.
As he swept his gaze past the area, he looked towards Sun Shan, who was still pinned to the wall. A glint appeared in his eyes. At that moment, he was still within the winter runic symbol's state, and his entire being seemed lifeless, as if he had withered away.
There was not a hint of light in his eyes, and when Sun Shan saw Su Ming's gaze, it made his heart tremble violently. He could not tell what sort of eyes were those. It was a gaze that could not be described with words, only expressed by what he felt. It was a feeling he would get when he looked at a corpse and it opened its eyes to stare back at him.
Those were dead person's eyes!
There was no spirit within them, no light, no life, no emotions. The hint of aloofness within them was also gone. There was only apathetic calmness, and it would give all those who saw it a feeling as if their bodies were rotting away at that moment.
Sun Shan trembled, and his teeth clattered against each other. The feeling he gained from Su Ming at that moment was too strong, so strong that it made his skin crawl, and he was so afraid that his soul practically left his body in fear.
Su Ming looked at Sun Shan and asked flatly after some time, "Are there any other treasure troves in Hidden Dragon Sect?"
Sun Shan nodded without hesitation, but his expression remained nervous. After that, he shook his head.
"There are, but… they're all empty now."
"What is your status in Hidden Dragon Sect?" Su Ming remained calm and threw out another question.
"A ninth generation disciple…" Sun Shan said with a quivering voice.
"Give me a reason why I shouldn't kill you."
Su Ming remained calm. There was not a hint of killing intent in his gaze, but those eyes that seemed like they belonged to a dead man were more terrifying than any sort of killing intent in Sun Shan's eyes.
"If you don't, then I will return your soul to the land of Immortals."
Su Ming lifted his right hand, and when Sun Shan saw the withered little finger, his pupils shrank. He trembled, and the threat of death surged madly into his heart, causing his face to turn stark pale. He immediately spoke up in a shrill voice.
"Senior, I'm only a normal ninth generation disciple in Hidden Dragon Sect, I… I…"
Su Ming was still as calm as ever. Lifeless waves of death aura started seeping out of the hand he had lifted in the air, and he pointed towards Sun Shan. Immediately, a wisp of gray smoke drifted from his little finger towards Sun Shan.
"Still spouting nonsense, I see. You lured the three Evil Spirit Sect members here because you wanted to kill them with the Rune in the cave abode, and you also wanted to open it so that you could hide from being killed in this disaster.
"Even if a normal disciple managed to think about this, he wouldn't be able to do it," Su Ming stated flatly.
When Sun Shan saw that the gray smoke was about to touch his body, anguish appeared on his face. After a moment of hesitation, he spoke up.
"I'm a ninth generation disciple who has the potential to search for the dragon. I… I know the way to break most of the seals under sixth rank in Hidden Dragon Sect!
"The treasures here have been taken away, but some of them are hidden. I might not know where they are, but if I can return to the main Hidden Dragon Sect, then I could bring all of the treasures to you secretly!
"I swear, I can do it, I can definitely do it!" The terror of death seeped into Sun Shan's voice, and as he looked at Su Ming, a pleading expression appeared on his face.
The gray smoke from Su Ming's little finger stopped three inches before Sun Shan. There might be no killing intent or any sort of sinister chill coming from that gray smoke, but the wisps of lifeless air coming from it made Sun Shan's life force run rampant in his body. It was like if that gray smoke touched his body,the fire that was his life would be immediately extinguished.
"Do you know the Hidden Execution of Justice?" A flicker of light appeared in Su Ming's eyes before he suddenly asked.
Sun Shan was momentarily stunned, and his heart let out a loud thump against his chest. The Hidden Execution of Justice Art was the top secret Art in Hidden Dragon Sect. Few outsiders knew about it, much less the name of the Art itself, but the person before him had just mentioned it.
"I can only perform a fusion up to the fourth Dao, and I can only bring up a bit of its power…" After a moment of hesitation, Sun Shan explained in a low whisper.
"What is Bright Yang Stone?" Su Ming asked again.
Sun Shan's expression changed immediately and he fell silent. He no longer spoke.
Su Ming did not rush him. He simply waited for his answer.
After some time, Sun Shan cast Su Ming a miserable look and sighed in his heart.
"Bright Yang Stone is the source for us Immortals who descended in this land in large quantities to be able to use our power. We gathered our life force together on that stone so that we could descend in Yin Death Region.
"Each sect who descends in this place would need to prepare a Bright Yang Stone by gathering up souls… This stone is also the item we need if we want to leave this place."
"Bright Yang…" Su Ming's expression was calm, but a thought rose in his heart. Once he analyzed Sun Shan's words with the cause of why Shen Dong would want to snatch that stone, he could tell that most of what he said was true, even though he was still hiding something.
'No wonder Evil Spirit Sect wants to get that Bright Yang Stone. It's practically the same existence as a life stone. It is an item that has gathered all the souls of those who descended here from a sect.
'This is Yin Death Region, and beyond this place we have Bright Yang Emptiness. When they came here from that place, this stone must have been able to prevent the power of Yin Death from permeating their bodies. With its protection, the souls of all those who descended can remain in the state of Bright Yang.
'If Evil Spirit Sect gets this Bright Yang Stone and destroys it, then it would mean that they've killed off a large amount of Immortals who descended here…'
Su Ming's gaze landed on Sun Shan. He had chosen to bring this person into the cave abode earlier because he had his guesses as to why he had lured the trio from Evil Spirit Sect to this place. The interrogation just now had allowed Su Ming to get his answers, even if the man's words could not be fully trusted.
'If I was Gu Yuan Hai, who only had his Nascent Soul left and his sect destroyed, all while I had that Bright Yang Stone the Evil Spirit Sect is set on obtaining, I would definitely not bring it with me… I would instead hide it away. Only by doing so could I save myself!
'If Gu Yuan Hai was a person who was afraid of death, then this wouldn't happen. But during the fight, he had had the guts to make his physical body explode. He should be a very loyal member of Hidden Dragon Sect.
'If I was him and could split this Bright Yang Stone in half, then I would take a small half of it and leave this place so that I could make myself into a bait and obtain the chance to hide away the other, larger half of the Bright Yang Stone. Then no one would be able to find it.'
Su Ming's eyes sparkled. He had already considered this when Gu Yuan Hai was fighting against Shen Dong earlier, that was why he had chosen to work with Gu Yuan Hai and help him stall for time, even though he knew that there was a chance that there would be no treasures in the cave abode.
Because not only was this act of stalling for time beneficial to Gu Yuan Hai, it was also beneficial to Su Ming for analysis!
'There were two-tenths of a chance that Gu Yuan Hai was afraid of death and my guess was completely wrong, but even so, I wouldn't have suffered any loss! There are four-tenths of a chance that he would hide the Bright Yang Stone away… and there are similar four-tenths of a chance that he would take a small piece with him, while the bigger piece would be hidden somewhere near this place!'
Su Ming narrowed his eyes, and a brilliant light shone within them.
'The more important this thing is, the more desperate Hidden Dragon Sect would be to hide it. I wouldn't have bothered if Evil Spirit Sect had truly managed to snatch it away, but if my guess is correct, then once Thousand River Valley regains a little form of peace, Hidden Dragon Sect would definitely wonder whether they should send powerful warriors to sneak into this place and take the stone away. After all, this place is now extremely dangerous to them!
'Perhaps I can create this chance for Hidden Dragon Sect.'
A pensive look appeared in Su Ming's eyes, but at the moment these thoughts appeared in his head, Sun Shan looked at him and suddenly gritted his teeth. A determined look appeared on his pale face, and he said, "Senior, if you're determined not to let me go, then how about this? I can give you a huge gift. I can offer up my life and search for the places we keep our treasures in Hidden Dragon Sect!"
1. Hidden Execution of Justice: The Art Hong Luo asked from that old man before he went off to fight Di Tian.
2. Life stone (命石, ming4 shi2): Might possibly be 本命石, which is either a naturally formed stone, or a polished stone that people place their thoughts within. It is used for remembrance in our world. A life stone contains the memories of a person, and because of it, his existence would never fade away.