Chapter 97: The Maze
Hui Yue stood up but did not rush towards the exit to start searching for Wang Ju Long and Sha Yun. Instead, he quietly observed his surroundings with an alert expression on his face.
The cave was as barren as he had expected, but a few types of mushrooms grew in the darkest corners. As soon as Hui Yue activated a light stone, the mushrooms started to disintegrate as though sunlight was toxic.
The light stone was truthfully a low grade storage stone which contained a seed of light. The storage stone was of such poor quality that the interior was exposed, allowing for the rays of sunshine to illuminate everything around it.
The seed of light was not an actual plant. Instead, it was a small pearl refined from the sun’s rays of light. Creating one seed of light required more than a year, and the price was extravagant, as both plant and pearl were very important. Seeds of light were not something just anyone could buy.
That name was given because it could be planted in the ground and a tree of sunshine would grow. A tree would absorb the light shining down upon it, bearing fruit that contained more seeds of light.
Although this sounded like an easy process, it was important that the trees had a constant supply of sunshine while it refined its seeds. If not, the trees would be unable to create seeds. Within all of the Taiyang kingdom only one place lived up to the harsh requirements needed for farming seeds of light.
Hui Yue had only brought two seeds of light on this trip, yet both were with him, so he could not help but feel worried about Wang Ju Long and Sha Yun, who were stuck within the black maze with no light at hand.
The room that the stone lit up was dark and damp. It was completely closed off from the world with no windows and only one pathway they could follow, leaving behind all discussion about which direction to take.
Thinking the situation through, Hui Yue handed over the light stone to Deng Wu before he quickly sat down in meditational position.
Seeing this, Deng Wu furrowed his brows in confusion, as he did not think now was the best time for cultivating, yet he said nothing and just waited patiently for the younger man to finish whatever he was doing.
Hui Yue synced with the earth, yet at the same time he did not have full control over it. Even when perfectly synced, because the young boy still needed to hone his affinity he was not able to command larger masses of earth.
Hui Yue was seated down in meditation, yet, unlike what Deng Wu thought, he was not cultivating; instead, he was manipulating his Earth elemental affinity to scan as much of the entire mountain as his ability would allow him to.
Hui Yue was one with the earth. One with the walls of the maze as it twisted and turned inside the mountain. Unfortunately, Hui Yue’s control over Earth only allowed for him to thoroughly scan up to a few kilometres away from his location, but no matter how he searched, it was impossible for him to find any trace of Sha Yun and Wang Ju Lon.
Frowning, Hui Yue opened his eyes and stood up, patting his robe to remove the dust that had gathered when he was seated on the floor.
“I could not feel the presence of living beings, nor signs of any ever having been here,” Hui Yue said aloud, explaining what he had seen. “The maze continues on for much further than I am able to scan. It goes upwards and downwards and has different levels. It also turns left and right. It is quite complicated. We should expect this maze to fill up quite a large amount of space, so our biggest question is which way we should walk to find the two others.”
Deng Wu nodded. Although he was unable to sync with his element, he was still able to use it, and he quickly found a carving knife after which he engraved an inscription at the front of room they had ended up in.
This was a safety inscription which had multiple benefits. Deng Wu wrote it because he could leave behind a message in the inscription, and he would instantly know if any living being got close to it.
Should Sha Yun and Wang Ju Long happen to stumble upon the inscription, an illusionary Deng Wu would appear, telling them to stay within the room, and at the same time Deng Wu would be informed about the two’s arrival at their previous location.
As an inscriber, there was no range limit for how far away he could be to sense it. As long as the inscription was created by him, it would inform him, even if he were to leave the plane. An inscription was something which one created by pouring their own cultivation base into.
Seeing Deng Wu create an inscription, Hui Yue nodded in approval before he slowly started to make his way down the only path, Deng Wu following behind.
Although these roads were obviously millennia old, it was easy to see that they had been created with perfect attention to detail. The now moldy and damp stone walls had once been dry and adorned with light stones every fifteenth metre.
Such extravagance shocked Hui Yue deeply, as he had personally investigated the size of the maze, since he knew how rare seeds of light were. These seeds had long since withered up, unfortunately, leaving no light on the now deserted hallways, causing Hui Yue to feel slight regret.
Walking through the maze was done ina world of darkness with only a little light from the Light stones. It was impossible for the two men to keep track of the days. When they got hungry they would sit down and eat some rations. When their energy was nearly depleted, they would sit down and cultivate.
In another room, days before, Sha Yun and Wang Ju Long had woken up, just as Hui Yue and Deng Wu had done, only to find that they had been separated from their friends.
Unlike the calm and collected Hui Yue, Sha Yun was instantly panicked, as she was about to charge out of the stone chamber to look for her master, only to forcefully be held back by Wang Ju Long.
The two women were of quite similar strength, yet currently, Wang Ju Long had the advantage, as she only needed to hold back the former, and even Sha Yun had to give up.
“What do you expect us to do then?” the snake-woman hissed at the girl she was stuck with, hate evident within her eyes. Sha Yun had been unhappy when Wang Ju Long followed along on the trip, but since it was Hui Yue’s wish, she would not oppose. It was however quite certain Sha Yun would do anything in her power to ensure that the other knew that she was unwelcome.
Wang Ju Long was an aloof kind of person. She was the complete opposite of Sha Yun, and although she did feel that Hui Yue was special, she never once paired that emotion with love. Not even when her face was flushed red and her heart beat rapidly. Wang Ju Long was only capable of seeing these symptoms as a sign of lacking food or rest.
Currently, within the room, Sha Yun was fuming with rage, as she had been held back by Wang Ju Long, who was searching through her different storage stones only to finally break into a smile as she fished out two light stones, tossing one to the snake-woman.
Wang Ju Long’s elemental affinity was that of wood. She had a special connection with the seed of light, because she had been using it while practicing her elemental affinity, causing a much brighter light to flash out from within the transparent memory stone.
Looking at the moist stone, which was surrounding them, a frown could be seen on Wang Ju Long’s usually very tranquil face before she turned around, looking at Sha Yun for a moment, clearly deep in thought.
Sha Yun could not help but cross her arms when she noticed Wang Ju Long staring at her, and backed away slightly. She had no idea what the other was thinking, but it seemed to have something to do with her, and that alone caused her to be cautious.
An eerie silence was slowly creeping up on Sha Yun, causing the snake-woman to involuntary shiver, her eyes flickering between the contemplating Wang Ju Long and the black world outside the cave.
Finally, just as Sha Yun thought that she couldn’t take the silence any more, Wang Ju Long opened her mouth, a friendly voice sounding out. “Your affinity is Earth, right?”
Sha Yun was started, yet listening to the question, she nodded her head. She did indeed have an affinity for Earth. An affinity she had lived with since birth, and therefore honed to the best of her ability.
Looking at Sha Yun and Hui Yue, both of them had an affinity with Earth, but, even so, their abilities were quite far from each other. While Hui Yue had perfectly synced with the earthen element previously, he was still improving his affinity. Although he was now capable of becoming one with the earth, it was limited, After all, he could currently only fuse with the earth so much.
Sha Yun, having had the affinity since birth, had a much stronger relationship with the Earth, making her attacks more powerful and allowing her to control a much larger mass of earth.
However, even though Sha Yun had been born with the affinity, she was not truly able to become one with earth. If a magical beast, or human cultivator, truly became one with the earth, or any other element for that matter, then they would lose their original bodies and it would afterwards be impossible for them to return to their former state. Due to this phenomena, the beast core set a limit to how much a magical beast could become one with their affinity.
This was a limit that was not available for humans, and gave them the chance to constantly increase their affinity. That being said, trying to increase one’s affinity as a human was no easy task, and generally only one out of ten thousand would have the talent to increase it to the point where they could completely become one with their element.
“Let’s try and scan the area,” Wang Ju Long said with a sigh, as she gently knocked on the stone wall in front of them, and Sha Yun nodded her head.
Sha Yun sat down and allowed for her body to become one with the stones. Within the silence of the room, creaking sounds could be heard as the stones around Sha Yun seemed to come alive.
The small gravel on the ground started climbing on to her, and within a few moments her entire snaketail was covered by stone. Beneath the gravel, Wang Ju Long saw how the body itself had turned to stone.
Suddenly, Sha Yun opened her eyes, causing Wang Ju Long to become startled as she looked at the snake-woman.
“Those idiots,” she hissed, as she shattered the layer of stone that had condensed on top of her tail before she allowed for a yellow hue to appear on her body. She then started to break every single wall between her and her unknown destination.
Wang Ju Long raised an eyebrow at the sudden action, but she said nothing as she quickly followed the swearing snake-woman.
“Those idiots… Why would they move AWAY from us!” Sha Yun grumbled, as she upped her speed and crashed straight through the maze. An option which Deng Wu and Hui Yue had never even considered.