Chapter 177: Monster in the Water
Nan Xun quickly found every one of the luminous pearls on the south wall, but nothing happened. While he was still puzzling over what to do next, Jun Huang had figured out what the solution was.
With a smile, she looked at the luminous pearls on the wall. One of them stood out to her. Earlier, she had noticed that the Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper was missing one star. The answer came to her readily.
She took off the one luminous pearl from the wall and put it on the ground at the center of the underground palace. The pearl’s glow grew intense, illuminating the whole palace. A blinding light exploded from the ground. Jun Huang and Nan Xun both shut their eyes on reflex. Worried that something might happen to Jun Huang while he couldn’t see, Nan Xun quickly got to her side to pull her close and knelt down.
Slowly, the light died off. Seven rays of light came down from the seven stars on the ceiling and were reflected back by the floor. The luminous pearls blurred into a blanket of light. It was an awe-inspiring scene.
A thud. The wall in the south slowly rose up. Jun Huang and Nan Xun exchanged a nod before going through the door. Inside was a bottomless freezing pond. They could feel the cold radiating from the water.
A good number of wooden poles protruded from the pond. At the center of the pond was a pavilion. It seemed like they would have to make their way to the other side by jumping between the wooden poles.
Jun Huang was about to go ahead when Nan Xun stopped her. She believed that with her training she would be able to safely get to the other side. They had spent half an hour on trying to get the door open. Who knew how much time they would need for the later stages? She had to make it quick and not waste any time.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, turning to Nan Xun.
Without a word, Nan Xun pointed at the water. Jun Huang looked over at the pond with a frown. She hadn’t noticed it before, but she could now see a red creature swishing around underwater. Bubbles came up to the surface as it leisurely moved around. Its legs were lined with suckers attaching itself to the bottom of the pond. The undercurrents in the water were an additional threat. If one fell into the water, he would either be eaten by the beast, or be shredded into pieces by the currents.
Startled by the beast underwater, Jun Huang took a step back reflexively. Nan Xun put an arm around her shoulder and looked calmly at the pond, then at the wooden poles. “We can’t go through the pond directly. Those poles are merely a red herring. If we take that route, we will die immediately.”
Jun Huang tilted her head to face Nan Xun. “Then what should we do?”
“Let me think.” Nan Xun lowered his eyes in contemplation. Suddenly, ripples spread through the originally calm pond. Nan Xun pulled Jun Huang backward, but the door they had entered through was shut. There was no way back. They had to go forward.
Nan Xun and Jun Huang held their breath and kept their eyes on the pond. Nan Xun put a hand around the hilt of his sword, waiting for the creature to surface.
The red beast came out of the water. Its eight tentacles swung in the air, each of which had three suckers. If a prey was caught by the suckers, it wouldn’t be able to escape.
The monster’s two eyes were sunk deep inside its gigantic head. Its tongue slithered out of its mouth every once in a while as it stared at Jun Huang and Nan Xun like they were some delicacies.
“What - what the hell is this?” Jun Huang had never seen anything like the beast. Her words slurred and her heart threatened to jump out of her chest.
Nan Xun had never seen such a creature either. His breath hitched. He shook his head and said, “It must have come out because it smelled my blood. We can no longer escape its attention. We have no choice but to fight it headon.”
Jun Huang looked down at Nan Xun’s hand. His wound had split again. Blood was trickling down his fingers. She took his hand in panic.
Nan Xun smiled a little and let Jun Huang patch him up. He kept his eyes on the beast, wary of any sudden attacks.
The beast climbed onto the land completely when Jun Huang had finished bandaging Nan Xun. Angered by the lost of the smell of blood, it struck at them with a tentacle. Nan Xun tackled Jun Huang to the side. Sparks spluttered in the air when the tentacle hit the floor.
Jun Huang froze. Before she could recover, Nan Xun had drawn his sword to counter the tentacle. He had assumed that the tentacle would be soft, but it was as sturdy as his blade, or even more so.
He didn’t dare to back down. Jun Huang was right behind him. He would not let this beast hurt her. Tapping into his reserved strength, he fought this giant monster that dwarfed him by many times. He had to fight as hard as he could manage, or he would be killed.
Nan Xun was getting tired. He didn’t expect this monster to be this strong. Jun Huang had been observing the monster, trying to find its weakness. Before she could succeed, however, one of the tentacles slithered toward her.
Nan Xun wasn’t quick enough to stop it. He was grappling with two tentacles himself. He didn’t have the efforts to spare.
The tentacle wrapped around Jun Huang’s waist and was going to throw her into the pond. Panic caused Nan Xun’s movement to grow erratic. One of the tentacles hit him in the back. He grimaced as he was flung into a wall. Pain shot through his body. He couldn’t even straighten his back.
He couldn’t stay down. Jun Huang was still in the monster’s grip. He had to do something. He forced himself to get to his feet, using his sword as a crutch. His head cleared a little after a deep breath. He spat out a mouthful of blood and lunged at the monster’s head.
He had neglected the monster’s head earlier. The head was many creatures’ weakness. Since this one’s body was impenetrable, its head must have been the weakest point. Without hesitation, Nan Xun leaped toward the creature and, before it could react, drove his sword into its head.
He pulled out his sword forcefully. Green liquid shot out of the cut. The smell was foul.
The tentacle around Jun Huang loosened because of the attack. She fell onto the ground.
The creature whined in fear before sinking back into the pond. Nan Xun got to Jun Huang’s side and helped her up.
“Are you alright?” asked Nan Xun.
Jun Huang put on a smile. She felt lightheaded. It took a moment for her to recover as she lay against the wall. She looked over at the pond and asked, “What now?”
“I’ve left a deep cut on it. It wouldn’t dare to make a move on us anytime soon. Beasts like this quiet down after a beating.” Nan Xun led Jun Huang to the edge of the pond. As Nan Xun had said, the monster moved away when it felt their presence, afraid that it would get attacked again.
Jun Huang found it amusing, but she didn’t laugh. She stared at the wooden poles, then at Nan Xun. “Are you in a good enough condition to cross the pond?”
Nan Xun nodded. “I’m fine. This isn’t a difficult task for me. You, though, must be careful with every step. Okay?”
Jun Huang nodded. Nan Xun, however, was still worried. He told Jun Huang to go first. He would be right after her in case something happened.
Without a word, Jun Huang stepped onto the first wooden pole. The second pole wasn’t close enough for her to reach directly. She would have to jump, which would require her to use the light body technique. Fortunately, she had trained in that aspect as well, so it wasn’t too difficult for her.
Nan Xun, on the other hand, had almost exhausted himself. When they reached the pavilion at the center of the pond, he dropped down to the ground in a moment of weakness. Jun Huang hurriedly went up to support him. He waved a hand and said he was alright. He sat on the floor with his legs crossed and slowly closed his eyes.
While Nan Xun was circulating his inner energy, Jun Huang looked over at the other side of the pond. There was no path for them to walk on. Under the water there were a few wooden poles, but they were destroyed by the monster earlier.
Jun Huang stilled. No matter how calm and collected she usually was, she was still a regular person. She couldn’t help being afraid in this situation. Her face went pale. Her hair and back were drenched in sweat.
In no time, Nan Xun had calmed the erratic energy inside his body. He took a deep breath and got to his feet. He too noticed that there was nothing for them to step on. He frowned.
“Is this the door of death?” Jun Huang said after a pause.
Nan Xun fell silent. He stared at the pond, then at the monster underwater. After some hesitation, he said, “No, that’s not true. It’s said that life can lead to death, and death can be the hope for life. The creature isn’t here to stop us. It’s… our way out.”
His eyes lit up. Jun Huang frowned at him.
She stared at the slowly moving creature. This didn’t seem like a safe plan. “Are you sure? This thing is dangerous and wild. How can it be our solution?”
“We’ll tame it,” said Nan Xun. “And it could carry us to the other side.”
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