Gong Sang Mo and Yun Qian Yu hold hands as they fall. They land underwater.
Turns out there is a pool underneath. The pool is deep to the point where they can’t see the bottom and the water is chilling to the bones.
Lucky both of them know how to swim. Just as they float up above the surface, they find the two giant eagles hovering above, staring at them.
Yun Qian Yu and Gong Sang Mo exchange a look in disbelief. Are the eagles that hell-bent on revenge that they are willing to die for it? They actually followed them here.
But then, the eagles no longer look as murderous as they had been merely seconds ago.
Yun Qian Yu cannot understand why. Did Sang Mo’s strike accidentally tamed the eagle? To the point where they actually voluntarily followed them to receive a beating?
When they are sure the eagles are not going to attack them, they climb out of the pool.
Even though they are out of the water, their clothes are soaked, making them feel cold just the same. They quickly uses their inner power to dry their clothes. No one will be able to do anything productive when they are feeling that cold.
The eagles watch them throughout. Once they are done, the eagles circle around them, screeching loudly.
The two people look at the eagles in confusion, they cannot understand what the eagles are doing.
As though knowing that the two human cannot understand them, the male white eagle stretches out one of his talons.
Yun Qian Yu and Gong Sang Mo look at the scene, puzzled. Is the eagle trying to shake their hands to make peace?
Yun Qian Yu takes a closer look and spots traces of old scars on the eagle’s talon. She turns to Gong Sang Mo, “Did you ever hurt it before?”
“No. But I did save an injured white eagle when I was a kid. I think it was during my second year here,” replies Gong Sang Mo.
After saying that, as though realizing something, Gong Sang Mo takes a closer look at the eagle’s talon, “That was you, wasn’t it? The baby eagle that I saved?”
Upon Gong Sang Mo’s recognition, the eagle flaps it’s wings excitedly.
Yun Qian Yu immediately tries to placate it, “It’s okay to be happy, but do it in moderation. Your size is too big for this place.”
As though understanding her words, the eagle immediately stops and tries to subdue it’s movements.
It’s pair of sharp eyes are looking at Gong Sang Mo warmly.
Gong Sang Mo is rendered speechless for a long time. What a coincidence! He is actually a benefactor to one of the eagles that wanted to attack them!
“She is your mate?” he points at the eagle that he attacked.
The male eagle nods while the female eagle lowers her head shyly.
The corner of Yun Qian Yu’s lips twitches; the eagles sure are magical. They can actually understand human’s language.
Gong Sang Mo helplessly says, “Even so, you two shouldn’t have followed us here. We are here to cultivate. This place is really dangerous. Both of you should leave!”
He points upward. Only then does he realized that the hole that sent them here has disappeared. The hand that is pointing upward freezes. He looks at the eagles that are hovering above them, “The exit is gone. Now, you two can’t leave even if you want to.”
Yun Qian Yu looks around. The entire trial site is dimly lit by luminescent stones littered around. Although the lights are not too bright, they can still see around them clearly.
Seems like the pond is purposely placed there to cushion the fall of the trial-takers.
There is a narrow and long pathway next to the pond, leading to who knows where. Although they don’t know what is waiting for them there, they can tell that it isn’t going to be good judging by the malevolent mist shrouding it.
Gong Sang Mo pulls Yun Qian Yu over and then signals the eagles to follow them.
Just like that, the pair of couples start of the trial of ‘Nine Deaths for One Life’.
The pathway is very long and the harsh terrain is not easy to walk through.
Gong Sang Mo walks in front, holding Yun Qian Yu’s hand tightly behind him. He intends to be the shield should anything happen. If danger awaits them, he will get hit first.
Yun Qian Yu quietly follows him, her heart calm as she is wedged safely in the middle.
After they walk for around one incense stick time, they discover a round hole. Goosebump rises on their bodies.
The round hole forms some sort of a hollow pit, filled with snakes instead of water.
The snakes appear to be able to detect their presence. They stand erect while hissing threateningly.
Just imagine stumbling into a nest of snakes out of nowhere.
Yun Qian Yu shudders and closes her eyes before climbing onto Gong Sang Mo’s back.
Even the eagles are screeching in distaste.
Gong Sang Mo turns around and shush the eagles, effectively quieting them down.
He looks around. There are only mottled walls next to the pit; they have hit the dead end.
He frowns, don’t tell him the passage is underneath these snakes?
He eyes those snakes that by now have gotten restless, slithering towards them. More and more snakes move towards them, piling on top of each other in their quest to reach them. It will not be long before they reach them now.
Gong Sang Mo outstretches his hand, channelling Xue Lian Han Gong. The male eagle eagerly swoops around. This was how Gong Sang Mo saved him back then, just the color of the lotus petals is a little different now. Only one half of each petal is white, the remaining half is gold.
With a wave of his hand, the lotus is flung towards the snakes, causing them to disperse hastily. The floor of the pathway can be seen now.
Gong Sang Mo cannot see anything that indicates the possibility of a route down under
The snakes seem agitated by the attack and are now retaliating even more aggressively.
Gong Sang Mo uses his inner power to dispel them continuously, but the barrage of snakes does not lessen.
Yun Qian Yu can sense the rate in which Gong Sang Mo is using his energy. She opens her eyes and inspects the situation and quickly becomes aware of their current predicament. If this goes on, they will end up becoming food for these snakes.
She frowns before turning to the eagles behind her, “Can one of you take me to flight?”
The female eagle nods.
She stoops low, allowing Yun Qian Yu to climb over her.
Yun Qian Yu, having only expected to be carried around by the talons, did not expect this special treatment.
She clambers behind the eagle while the male eagle screeches at Sang Mo, offering to take him as well.
The female eagle flies slowly, carrying Yun Qian Yu with her. The pathway is not big, having two giant eagles circling around at the same time will make things too tight, so Yun Qian Yu signals Gong Sang Mo to wait below.
She channels her Zi Yu Xin Jing towards the snakes below, dispersing them from their spot. When she sees the ground beneath the snakes, she can tell that something is off.
There is the imprint of a circle at the base of the pit. She hits a random spot on the ground once again using Zi Yu Xin Jing and discovers another circular imprint. After a long and thorough investigation, she discovered 9 circular imprints in total. She memorizes their locations before patting the eagle, signalling her to fly back down.
She drags Gong Sang Mo a couple of meters back to keep them out of the snakes’ sights. When the snakes lost sight of them, they promptly calm down.
She crouches down, intending to draw the positions of the circles on the floor for Gong Sang Mo. However the floor is completely hard and solid.
Gong Sang Mo takes out the dagger that Yun Qian Yu gave him from his boots. He hands it over to her.
“I didn’t expect Ji Shu Liu’s dagger to be so useful,” says Yun Qian Yu as she accepts it.
Gong Sang Mo raises an eyebrow. This is from Ji Shu Liu?
Yun Qian Yu channels her inner power into the dagger as she begins drawing. There are nine circles in total.
Gong Sang Mo looks at the diagram on the floor while frowning contemplatively.
“Yu Er, this could be a matrix formation. There is a passage underneath. Seems like we will need to get rid of the snakes first in order to pass through.”
Yun Qian Yu look at where the snakes are; they can’t possibly kill them all.
Gong Sang Mo did not kill that many snakes, and yet the smell of blood is quite overpowering already.
Even Gong Sang Mo seems to regard the matter in guilt.
He eyes the circles and slides from circle to circle with his finger.
Yun Qian Yu stands up and walks over to the snake pit. How should they get rid of the snakes?
The snakes get agitated again when they see her. Just as they rush to her, she hits them with Zi Yu Xin Jing, blocking their way with a large petal of lotus. They hastily try to find ways to outmaneuver the petal.
That gives Yun Qian Yu an idea.
She begins shooting lotuses one by one, effectively using it to trap the snakes.
She stops for now and turns to Gong Sang Mo happily. When she finds him still concentrating on the map, she does not break his concentration and simply walks over to him quietly.
After a while, Gong Sang Mo suddenly stands up again, “I got it!”
Yun Qian Yu waits for him to continue.
“If I am not mistaken, this formation is called Jiu Long Xi Zhu. Every circle represents a pillar and the dragon pearl is the key to break the formation.”
“I also found the way to stop the snakes, just, it is very energy-consuming.”
“Not surprising, considering that Senior Ancestor created all these obstacles so that his disciples could progress.”
Yun Qian Yu nods. Both of them walk towards the snake pit.
She begins shooting lotuses to keep the snakes at bay. Then, they both ride an eagle to get to the center of the snake-gathering while flinging lotus at the snakes non-stop. Very soon, the nine circles are exposed. They fly lower to get a closer look.
There is still not sign of where the dragon pearl might be. Both of them try their best to keep the formation of the lotuses despite their quickly dwindling inner power.
Gong Sang Mo eyes the circles for a moment before turning to Yun Qian Yu, “Yu Er, stand inside that circle.”
Yun Qian Yu looks at the circle underneath her and jumps off.
At the same time, Gong Sang Mo channels his white lotus at a specific spot on the ground.
A great rumbling shakes the entire trial site and the ground promptly gives way, taking the snakes along with it.
The only structure left are the nine circles, which are now nine really tall pillars. The pillars are also falling but, at a much slower rate. It completely stops sinking once it reach a certain height.
Yun Qian Yu and Gong Sang Mo, each standing on top of their own pillars study the surrounding cautiously.
Yun Qian Yu looks up, there is a great gaping hole at the end of the pathway that they had just been standing at. Down below are empty spaces.
The nine pillars are erected in the middle of an ink-black lake. The snakes fell into the water and completely sinks down without even putting up a fight.
The water is poisoned in what appears to be flesh-eating poison.
The two eagles swoops down after them and lands on the stone pillars, watching the water in alarm.
Upon closer inspection, there appears to be a passage at the banks of the lake. With the help of the fluorescent stones, they can see that the passage is pretty long and deep.
Both of them stands in their own spots; one in pale blue and the other in watery blue. They look very small, standing on top of those imposing pillars. They used up way too much inner power just now, so they are currently taking their time to slowly recuperate.
The eagles simply watch them.
The pillars that they are standing at appears to be around 20 metres away from the banks of the black lake. It will be a precarious effort, considering that they both used up more than half of their inner powers.
The eagles perch around them, offering to carry them to safety, but both of them does not take up the offer. What is the point of going down here if not to cultivate? The only way they will progress is if they push themselves to the limit.
Yun Qian Yu looks at Gong Sang Mo while nodding, signalling that she is ready.
Gong Sang Mo nods back and both of them immediately jumps. Everytime they come close to falling to the dark waters down below, they would conjure their lotuses to serve as their landing pads.
They are losing inner power even more rapidly now.
Just as they are about to touch the banks, Yun Qian Yu loses her footing. She is now too weak to summon another lotus to cushion her fall.
Gong Sang Mo isn’t in that good of a predicament as well, but he has been keeping a close eye on Yun Qian Yu. When he sees what happened, he unhesitantly flips his body around and channels his inner power to push Yun Qian Yu to the banks.
Now, he himself is falling to the water down below. One of the eagles swoop down to save him, but it is too late. Just as he is about to touch the water, something is wrapped around his waist and he could feel himself being pulled away towards the banks.
He lands right next to Yun Qian Yu.
She is holding one end of her ice silk while the other end has been wrapped around Gong Sang Mo’s waist.
The two eagles land right next to them and watch them anxiously.
They look at each other and laugh. Matters of life and death makes people so unpredictable.
They lay there without moving a single muscle.
This feeling of completely exhausting their inner power isn’t the first time for them. They have felt this way before, at Tian En Temple. In fact, Tian En Temple was much more frightening than this.
Gong Sang Mo wants to move to get closer to Yun Qian Yu but does not have the power to do even that. He smiles at her and weakly says, “We must look so weak and pathetic right now.”
Yun Qian Yu blinks at him, thinking. Then, she rolls over to him, right into his embrace.
Gong Sang Mo speechlessly looks at Yun Qian Yu who is smiling softly. He tightens his hold on her and leans down to whisper to her ears, “Smart girl.”
The fluorescent stone walls give faint glow inside the cave, giving it an otherworldly air.
The two starts to drift off to sleep in each other’s embrace.
After a while, Yun Qian Yu is woken up by Gong Sang Mo. She sits up, “How long did we slept for?”
Gong Sang Mo shakes his head, “Shouldn’t be more than 8 hours,” estimates Sang Mo.
“We should hurry,” says Yun Qian Yu as she stands up. If they have slept for 8 hours, it means that it is currently in the middle of the night. The night is going to pass really soon.
“Alright,” Gong Sang Mo stands up as well. “Have you regained much of your inner power?”
“Not really, probably only a single layer. How about you?”
“Around the same as well,” replies Gong Sang Mo. The first thing he did when he woke up was to check the level of his inner power.
The two of them helplessly walk on towards the passage they saw earlier, holding hands.
The eagles follow them from behind.
The passage is long and reminds Yun Qian Yu of a ring. The passage keeps bending left.
At last, they reach the exit. They stared at what is ahead of them, stunned.
What lies before them is a passageway made of jade, around 2 metres wide and 100 metres long. There are three human skeletons littered there. The first one is 50 metres into the tunnel. The second one is 70 metres away and the third, 90 metres away. The last one was probably one second away from surviving.
Their bodies are pricked on thin, sharp protruding rocks from both sides of the passage. The protruding rocks are each a foot long and with all sides combined, there is only around a foot worth of space that they can pass through.
Yun Qian Yu looks at Gong Sang Mo.
“These are probably the three Seniors that have entered the last 100 years,” says Gong Sang Mo solemnly.
Yun Qian Yu’s expression is grave as well. The fact that those three people managed to get here means that they were not weaker than her and Gong Sang Mo. Both of them managed to regain only a level of energy after sleeping for so long. What about these people? They ought to recuperate first before heading for this passage, so what really happened that caused them to fail in this seemingly simply trial?
Gong Sang Mo picks up a stone and throws it into the jade passageway. The passageway suddenly moves and the two walls starts moving in before completely clasping together. Then, they move back and returns to their original positions.
Even the two eagles screeches in horror at that sight.
Yun Qian Yu counted the time it took for the walls to converge. They will need to pass the passageway within 9 seconds. Even a spirit cannot do that! Had they been at top shape, it would’ve been easy. However their inner power are close to depletion.
Yun Qian Yu is completely speechless at this turn of event.
Gong Sang Mo looks at the passageway and then, at the two eagles. The eagles won’t be able to spread open their wings. The eagles’ speed when walking is not comparable to their speed while flying, so what happened to the seniors will also happen to them. However, neither he nor Yun Qian Yu plans to leave the eagles behind.
The eagles have grown restless, probably aware of the disadvantages of their built.
“Don’t worry, we will take you with us either way,” Gong Sang Mo pats one of the eagles in the wing. The eagles followed them out of loyalty, how could they possibly leave them here to die.
The eagles’ eyes brighten up once more.
Gong Sang Mo pulls Yun Qian Yu to sit next to him, “Let’s cultivate. We will need two layers of energy to even begin harbouring hope.”
Yun Qian Yu does not waste any time and begins cultivating.
Both of them concentrates on their cultivation, ignoring the time constraint that has been placed on them.
The two eagles on the other hand, helps keeps guard.
Time passes and neither one of the two moves.
More time passes and Gong Sang Mo opens his eyes first. He takes a look at Yun Qian Yu and does not bother her. Instead, he returns to the passageway and begins throwing a couple more stones.
When he returns Yun Qian Yu is already done.
“How is it?” asks Gong Sang Mo.
“Probably regained around two layers,” replies Yun Qian Yu.
Gong Sang Mo nods, “Let’s give it a try first.”
Yun Qian Yu looks at him curiously. Try what?