His limbs started to contract into what looked like weak claws. The color of his limbs slowly drained, and all his blood seemed to flow towards his abdomen, which turned crimson red. His facial muscles gradually contorted and streaks of blood emerged, quickly turning black and solidifying on his face.
The flickering flame illuminated his face. His facial features were grossly twisted, making him look like a murderous god that walked out of a mural. A soldier beside him who was holding on to the lighter was so shocked at the sight before him that his wrist trembled. The lighter almost fell, but Zhan Beiye caught it in time.
A cold chill crept up Meng Fuyao's spine as she watched the soldier suffering from the convulsions in pain. Watching his body getting bundled up, his weak limbs, and the group of creatures on the ground which had black coats and red bodies… Could it be, could it be…
"Old De, Old De!" Ji Yu shouted as his remaining arm was about to grab that soldier. "Old De!"
"Don't touch him!" ordered Zhan Beiye. At that moment, his face was also scrunched up, resembling the soldier in pain. "He's poisoned!"
Meng Fuyao stared at the soldier and suddenly recognized him as the one who refused to drink the alcohol.
Because of his repentance of the past and his promise to his deceased wife, he did not drink that alcohol in the end. Amongst the group present, he was the only one who was poisoned after stepping into this tomb.
Meng Fuyao felt her heart sink. Was this destiny's arrangement? Was this retribution's punishment? How cruel it was for someone who sincerely wanted to repent!
Everyone stared in shock as the soldier struggled in pain and bit by bit, shrunk to become one of the creatures on the ground.
Those creatures… were humans.
Their companion who has been with them through thick and thin was about to become one of those creatures, becoming an eternal spirit in this sinister and eerie tomb. The Dark Wind Horses, who had walked through this path resiliently and never showed fear, reached their mental breaking point. One of them turned around and flung himself on the wall.
Moments later, sobs emerged from his arms, where he buried his head into.
His sobs echoed in the empty tomb. It was desolate, heartbreaking and sorrowful, filled with strong resentment towards destiny and a sense of helplessness at his inability.
The flame flickered, illuminating the mural before them. On the tall ship, the confident man still had his head raised towards the sky. His eyes determinedly looked at the horizon as he rode the waves and sailed with the wind.
In a daze, Ji Yu looked at the deformed soldier and muttered, "I should have forced him to drink… "
He had yet to complete his sentence when the soldier suddenly let out a sharp cry and with a flip, leaped into the bunch of creatures.
Everyone was stunned.
It was the same black bunch, with the same weak limbs and the same blood-red abdomens - once he entered, no one could distinguish enemies from companions.
How could they attack?
Every move could possibly stab the companion who had accompanied them on this tough journey!
Those creatures started to cheer instead.
They seemed to be delighted with the new "human" addition, and all stopped to form a crowd around him.
These "humans" had been stuck for too long in this mountain. They seemed to have been looking forward to something fresh, and they danced in excitement.
The soldier fell into the group and rolled to the other side of the wall. He crouched in the corner, but in his arms, he hugged a black and round object tightly.
He started to bang against the wall, but the mutation of his limbs was so painful that he had not much strength. However, the new "companions" crawled over in joy and accompanied him to bang the wall.
Everyone could not understand what he was trying to do and looked at him dumbfoundedly. Then, there was a thunderous sound and the wall flipped, revealing a side room that the creatures rushed into.
That soldier was the last to enter. Right before the wall shut, he looked back amongst the crowd. Only his eyeballs still looked slightly human on his deformed face. In those eyes, a wave of emotions flashed by, including nostalgia, farewell, loneliness… and determination.
The wall shut, and he disappeared.
Everyone looked on in a daze, engraving the last expression that they saw of him. He was a handsome and mighty lad who could eat three pounds of meat in a meal and slaughter three heads with one slash of his knife. The bravest and fiercest of them all ended up bidding farewell to the legendary Dark Wind Horses, his identity as a normal human, all his family and friends, and all of nature above ground. He had shrunk into this deformed pile and became one of those creepy creatures that anyone would hate on and kill at the sight of them. He would have to forever live on in this dark and dirty basement of the tomb, never able to see the daylight again.
Just… live on like that?
It's… too cruel.
A thought flashed by everyone's minds as they stood rooted to the ground: … Might as well die…
There was a low sound of an explosion, and the tomb swayed.
Everyone's face turned ashen while Zhan Beiye slowly closed his eyes.
A very slight click sounded, and Meng Fuyao turned her head, shouting, "Watch out!"
The pits had unknowingly been filled up. While they were still stunned at their companion's mutation and devoured in pain over losing him, they had forgotten that his blood had also flowed over to the pits.
They placed all their attention on the creatures and subconsciously avoided the thought that their companion had become one of the creatures; his blood would similarly be a great sacrificial product for the pit.
The pits were fully filled!
Zhan Beiye immediately brought Meng Fuyao in his arms. Almost simultaneously, the pond and the ground beneath them collapsed, revealing a hole as thick as a human's waist. Columns after columns of water shot straight up to the ceiling before splashing in all directions, creating arcs of water that resemble dragons.
In an instant, water had filled up almost half of the room, and everyone was dispersed. The trap activated underwater, and arrows shot out, making whooshing noises in the water. There was a muffled cry, and a pool of blood started to spread.
Zhan Beiye hugged Meng Fuyao tightly and shouted, "This is the Nine Palaces Formation! Follow the Nine Palaces Footwork that I taught all of you before and swim over to the back door!"
The back door was situated on higher ground. More importantly, an exit should be there.
How was it possible for someone to walk out of the formation while carrying another person? Meng Fuyao struggled and said, "Put me down, I know the Nine Palaces Footwork. Let me swim by myself!"
"Fuyao, the current is too strong. I cannot afford to let you and me get separated!" Zhan Beiye refused, holding on to her tightly as he replied. "Ah Hai, you are the best at swimming. I put you in charge of holding on to Commander Ji!"
With Meng Fuyao in his arms, Zhan Beiye dashed against the current while cautiously avoiding the arrows, which itself was already a very difficult movement that required a lot of stamina. Furthermore, Zhan Beiye had suffered internal injuries when he blocked the huge stone in the passageway of the tomb. Halfway through the swim, his face became as pale as a white sheet and water beads gleamed on his forehead, uncertain whether it was because of the water or his perspiration.
Even so, he did not slow down at all. He slightly trembled at one point but immediately recovered and continued his swim.
Meng Fuyao looked down and seeing a streak of blood flowing out from his robes, she exclaimed, "You're injured! Put me down!"
Zhan Beiye gave a powerful kick, and his body shot forward. He reached the back door, but blood streamed out at a faster speed.
Meng Fuyao looked back nervously and saw that the soldiers behind them were swimming over, though most of them were injured. At the back of the group, Ah Hai carried Ji Yu on his back, but he was evidently struggling; his face was flushed, and his moves were heavy. On his back, Ji Yu shouted, "Put me down! I am a useless person, don't let me burden you!"
Zhan Beiye untied his belt quickly, tying one end on Meng Fuyao's hand and the other end on his wrist. "I will fetch them," he hurriedly said, while pushing Meng Fuyao up.
Meng Fuyao climbed up the back door and found a small hole at the top. Knowing that it was the way to open the door, she stuck her hand in it and was about to pry it open.
When her hand reached in, she did not come into contact with any door stopper or an empty space. She felt something cold, thin and as smooth as silk. It was like a human, like the "human" she wrongly thought was Zhan Beiye in the other room!
She could even feel its gentle exhalation on the back of her palm, causing goosebumps to form.
Her heart sank, and she almost fainted. She thought that she was gone for good. As long as this thing moved and chopped off her wrist, no one would be able to reach in the hole and open the door. Everyone would have to die here. With such a thought, she felt as though the sky was crashing down on her. Yet, at the same time, in her desperation, she boiled with anger - after walking through such a difficult path, and after so many people died, they had to encounter this at the last stop. Heaven was f*cking annoying!
Meng Fuyao gritted her teeth, with a fire burning in her eyes. In her anger, she couldn't care less and refused to contract her wrist. Instead, she gave a strong punch.
'No matter what you are - mutated corpse or ghost - and no matter what you want, I will kill anything that blocks my way, starting from you!'
She packed a serious punch, but it landed at an empty spot in the dark. That thing, along with the faint exhale, had disappeared.
Meng Fuyao felt a sense of joy. Without much time to think, she reached for the latch, and with a click, the door opened.
Though the door was unlocked, Meng Fuyao was unable to pluck out her hand as the hole was too small. She gave a mighty pull of her arm, leaving a huge piece of flesh for the owner of the room.
Meng Fuyao had no time to bother about the searing pain on her elbow. In her exhilaration, she quickly looked back, but she was flabbergasted.
The water level surged, reaching the necks of the people in it. Ah Hai, who was carrying Ji Yu, was suddenly sucked by an unknown force when he passed by the lotus pond and was quickly dragged down.
As he started to fall, he hurled Ji Yu with all his might towards Zhan Beiye, who was rapidly swimming towards them.
Zhan Beiye caught Ji Yu in time and was about to reach for Ah Hai, but he missed. The huge suction force of the water pipe sent Ah Hai spiraling downwards.