While everyone else was resting, Jing Mingfeng took it upon himself to go around the area and chat with the other soul cultivators. He was extraordinarily friendly for some reason, and soon, he was managing a conversation with each person he came across. After making a complete circle, he came back over to where Bai Yunfei was.
"How about it, what did you find out?"
Bai Yunfei asked in concern when he saw the wrinkled eyebrows of Jing Mingfeng.
"More than half the people here are talking about the same problem."
"Oh? What kind of problem?" Yue Feng asked in curiosity.
"A black shadow and a black light!" Came the hushed response.
Everyone narrowed their eyes. "What did they say?" Bai Yunfei asked, "Does anyone know who that black shadow is?"
"All they know is that he's a young man in black robes." Jing Mingfeng shook his head, "No one's been able to see what he looks like, and no one knows which faction he belongs to…"
He pointed to a person standing relatively far away from them, "He's from the Strange Ground School in the Southward River Province. They used to be a group of four, but two hours ago when they went scouting, three of his members were speared through by a black beam of light and were killed. The beam of light went for him next, but he managed to retreat into a spatial barrier and fled. He said that before he left, he saw that the black beam of light came from a black shadow."
He pointed to another group, this time it was a group of three. "The wandering soul cultivators over there went up an hour ago. They saw three corpses there, one of those corpses extremely fresh even. Like the first guy, he saw a black beam of light follow a black shadow before he disappeared…those guys don't even know about the spatial barriers, so they don't know that the black shadow stepped into a spatial barrier and was transported away."
One by one, Jing Mingfeng talked about what he heard. Most of the stories were of the black shadow indiscriminately killing anyone he saw. It was only because of luck that most were even able to evade the black shadow and be transported out, but the corpses of all those people inside the mist were starting to catch attention now. Everyone knew now that a black shadow was killing Late-stage Soul Exalts as easily as a hot knife through butter in the mist.
Everyone remained quiet as they digested the information they heard from Jing Mingfeng. No one could even believe their ears in what they had just heard.
"Just how scary is this black shadow?! Are we sure he isn't a Soul King?!" Zheng Kai cried in disbelief. "This goes beyond what a Peak Late-stage Soul Exalt should even be capable of! And not to mention that his soulsense is on the level of a Soul King already! I'm having a hard time believing that Soul Exalt could have capabilities like that."
"Only way to find out is by meeting him…" Yue Feng laughed morbidly, "But I'd much rather that we don't come across that reaper while we're in here…"
Knowing that the group was disheartened or feeling off now because of this worrisome black shadow, Bai Yunfei decided to change the topic.
"Alright let's talk about something else, like the maze. If I'm not wrong, we should be more than halfway through the maze. If we keep on going, we should be able to make it to the top on our next run."
"Yunfei's right!" Zheng Kai nodded his head fiercely in agreement. "We were too careless last time and made a mistake. It seems that our perception of the spatial barrier is directly proportional to the amount of mist there. In other words, it gets harder to sense things if we're in a very foggy part of the maze. But if we make it through, the maze should get a lot simpler. Our chances of making it through are pretty big, I feel!"
Everyone started to think happier thoughts now at that. "And if we can get even higher up, then those people who don't even know about the spatial barriers or how to navigate through the place will be left behind. Our chances of coming across the black shadow will be even lower if he's going after the others!"
"We somehow managed to return to the place we came in from before, but if we were to go into the spatial barrier we left from, would we…be able to get back on the same path as before?"
"We could!" Zheng Kai exclaimed in happiness. "If the spatial barriers are fixed, then if we can just find that one spatial barrier we exited from before, we don't need to look any harder. We can just go back to where we messed up! We can simply just start our path from where we messed up last time!"
Even Bai Yunfei looked excited at the prospect, "There we have it then! We'll rest for a bit and then go back up the mountain!"
Everyone nodded their heads and descended back into silence once again as they started to rest.
But moments later, a series of explosions from far away startled them awake…
"Boom!! Boom! Boom!!"
The explosions were popping off one after another. Snapping open his eyes, Jing Mingfeng looked around the place, "What's going on, is someone still fighting out here?"
"No!! It's not from the foot of the mountain!!" Zheng Kai exclaimed, "It's coming from the mountain itself!"
Confused, everyone looked up to stare at the mountain. As Zheng Kai said, there were several explosions coming from the mountain! Several bursts of elemental energy could even be seen from behind the mist!
But this was strange. If people were fighting in the mist, the disturbances shouldn't be strong enough to be seen or heard outside the mountain! With all the spatial barriers, people could travel without even hearing people fighting a few hundred meters away!
Something had changed! But what exactly prompted that change, and why?
Zheng Kai peered into the mist in confusion. "Things aren't looking very good, the mist is starting to change for some rea—"
His words dried up in his throat as something out of the corner caught his eye.
"Ah'Kai, what's wrong?" Noticing the strangeness in Zheng Kai's actions, Bai Yunfei looked over to where Zheng Kai was looking at. He couldn't see anything out of the ordinary.
"Things really are getting bad!! The space in here is….it's destabilizing!"
"Destabilizing? What's that mean?" Jing Mingfeng curiously asked, mostly distracted by the explosions he was hearing.
"The pocket we're in hasn't been very 'stable' to begin with, that's why Soul Kings can't enter. But…I can sense the spatial energy in this pocket starting to grow weaker and weaker. It wasn't like this before, this means…something is changing the pocket for the worse…
"If I had to guess, then those battles in the mist were probably too much for the pocket to withstand. The outflux of elemental energy was too much for the mist to contain, and so the pocket is destabilizing. If this keeps going on, it won't even need a Soul King to risk complete destabilization, this entire pocket will collapse by itself!"
Everyone gasped. "The pocket will collapse?! You're kidding me!" Jing Mingfeng exclaimed, "What will happen to us then?"
"It'll probably be like what happens when a space ring is destroyed. The fabric of space in this pocket will meld with the outside, and we'll be tossed out. But there's also the possibility that if the pocket collapses, we'll be devoured by a crack in space…"
The latter possibility put a grim look on everyone's faces. "Don't be too afraid, that's just the worse case scenario," Zheng Kai reassured everyone, "the pocket won't destabilize that fast. We probably still have a few days before that happens…"
Another explosion rang through the air, this time, the earth trembled softly beneath their feet. Zheng Kai's eyes flew back up to the mountain. "But with that said, if the soul cultivators here keep on fighting, that destabilization process will only get faster and faster…"
"Then there's no time to waste!" Bai Yunfei flew to his feet, "We have to go! We need to make it through the mist and to the top!"