V4C42: Darkness and Mystery
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The slightly panicked crowds outside of the Bai Ancestral Hall had thought that the eyes of one of the figures from the ancient tale of their founders might have been strange enough, so none of them had been considering the possibility of this going further.

In their minds, whether this was happening due to the actions of the Patriarch or some outside force that might be hostile to the Bai District, the eyes of a single founder and ancestor were more than sufficient for their purposes, and there hardly seemed to be room for more of the glow that just eight sets of eyes could release. Merely the moonlight from the scythe-wielding ancestor covered the entire district, so if all of the four ancestors were to suddenly flood the district with the light of their energy, or whatever was happening here, it might completely overwhelm the district and force all of them to flee to safety.

So, when that did suddenly occur, with crimson light flooding out of the eyes of the second figure, the glove wielder, everyone’s attention returned to the Bai Ancestral Hall.

“Hm, your western districts sure are far less calm than we had been told,” some of the easterners made their way towards the crowd, with some smirking and the others looking with some concern at the sources of the immense light. One in particular, a man in the fifth realm that held a fan and calmly fanned himself as if this was insignificant to him, said, “What is this supposed to be?”

“None of your business, easterners,” the Bai family figure said, stepping away from the Ancestral Hall as to block the foreigners alongside everyone else from the district, “This is a matter for our Bai family, and none of you need to get involved.”

“Really? These lights seem to contain some form of energy. If they are an attempt to refine the very district according to some demonic ritual, we Daoists are obligated to step in.”

“There will be nothing of the sort! Step back, leave it to us, and, even better, get out of the district if you would prefer to be so nosy! I’m sure the Shun District’s people will be far happier to answer your random questions and endure your poking around, so long as you pay for a servant or two!” the Bai family member said, spitting in their direction and heading back to the doors of the Ancestral Hall, staring at them while trying to get through to anyone or anything on the other side.

 

“How far will you go?” the crimson figure asked, its hands placed together in a similar manner.

This question was more ambiguous to Wei Yi than the last, for that one had a few select answers while this one might refer to anything from random walks in the woods at night to her intentions to free the world of the Great Families. She might not go that far on a walk, since she gets plenty of exercise in other places and at other times, but in terms of the latter goal, there was little that she didn’t believe she’d do.

So, since she was already aware that the figures weren’t going to be particularly cooperative in answering her own questions, she spoke more diplomatically than usual.

“As far as I must.”

Once again, without any other questions, requests for elaboration, or any sign that her answer was even listened to, the figure in crimson bowed to her, going all the way before her body and clothing also exploded into naught, all of the Dao comprehension within the entity soaring towards her just as with the moonlit figure.

Having experienced that sudden overwhelming force, and understanding roughly what it was meant to convey, she was able to take it in far more quickly and effectively, having prepared for it with a number of mental energy books, tomes and scrolls within which to store everything of use to her. It still took a few moments to sort everything out, but by the end, she comprehended that she had obtained something called the Entropy Dao, focused on the destruction and collapse of all matter and energy into a primal force. It aligned well with the Dao of Law, as this was a kind of innate law of the world, although she found it to be rather peculiar.

It was due to the fact that there appeared to be no such force within the world. Matter didn’t decay, energy could remain nearly permanently so long as it was sustained appropriately, and even after a million years, the Kong District had essentially remained as it had been. Sure, there was an element of decay and simplification within the world, but not exactly as the Dao comprehension bestowed by the crimson figure seemed to describe it.

With such a situation, she couldn’t help but consider whether this was the instance of another otherworldly demon appearing in distant history and making a significant impact on the world.

‘Something like that would certainly explain the oddity of the situation, as well as the ability to interfere with my otherworldly gifts to an extent, since the Master of Yi City had also found a way to contend with such things as a result of his own experimentation, but this Dao does not appear to be as mechanical and rigid as the techniques that they often used…’ Wei Yi frowned.

That, like the further deliberation on the Moonlight Dao, needed to wait for her to leave the strange realm she had been forced into, since, just as she expected, the skies quickly changed. The crimson sphere of energy dispersed, and in its place rose countless black tendrils. Appearing from behind the walls of the palace, the edges of the ground and from beneath the staircase up to the courtyard and palace, they rose and enveloped the sky without leaving a single gap, plunging the entire realm into absolute darkness.

The only source of light was the pair of stygian green glowing spots in the distance, emerging from what seemed to be the air itself. With such darkness, it was difficult to make out who the eyes belonged to, but they did light some loose strands of hair a similar green, implying that they were light in colour.

Presumably, aside from the green glow of the eyes, this figure was likely identical to the previous two, wearing something simplistic save for the one item of note upon its body, that being the choker that was almost certainly bound around the figure’s neck. With the aid of the Conqueror’s Eye and the Superior Bright Star abilities, she was just barely able to see the curious object wrapped around the entity’s neck, and found that of all the unique items she had seen so far, this one differed the most from the representation of them upon the sides of the Bai Ancestral Hall. The rest matched such things closely enough, with only the strange missing piece of the scythe catching her attention, but this did not.

Rather than being something made of cloth, fabric, lace or even leather, the thing around the figure’s neck was made of small black tendrils that subtly wriggled on its neck, slick with some kind of clear substance that unfortunately reminded Wei Yi of the Eldritch Hold physique ability.

‘Alright, more tentacles… Is this a worshipper of Primordial Corruption, or are the general themes of the Eldritch Hold and this figure purely coincidental with that Primordial Deity?’ Wei Yi wondered to herself, uncertain of the answer and not even being certain whether it had any relevance while she considered the best approach that she might have against this figure, ‘No other weapon besides the choker, but I doubt that it will be used directly…’

It also didn’t evade her attention that the stygian green was highly reminiscent of the colours of the Abyssal Eye, and that the glove on the hand of the previous figure partly resembled the shape, albeit not the texture of the Monstrous Glove in her possession. The spike that she had bought first from the auction at the Chao District was also not entirely unlike the missing part of the moonlit scythe.

She would have needed to be the most oblivious figure in existence to have failed to notice such coincidences, which she fortunately wasn’t, but there was also something off about the items in her possession when compared to those that she had seen so far.

The Piercing Needle was capable of piercing defences a little like the ash-based attack of the scythe, but they looked very different from one another and did not even seem to share the same element. Her Monstrous Glove acted upon the soul and looked to be made from some kind of flesh-like material, whereas the crimson lightning and the figure that wielded it specialised in the Entropy Dao, consuming energy and reverting it to a more primal state. The stygian colours of the Abyssal Eye did match the darkness of the tentacles she now faced, but one was filled with stone, chitin and bones, whereas this choker was made from fleshy, hot, pulsing tendrils, acting in complete opposition to the Abyssal Eye.

In short, there was a strange series of variances and coincidences all at once, and it made it difficult to judge which ones were more significant.

For that reason, she didn’t try to decipher this without further knowledge of the situation, and instead raised her claws and prepared her energy circulation in order to be able to respond to whatever the figure was able to manifest and use against her. The previous instance of the crimson figure making use of her own Obliteration beam to damage her was obviously still fresh within her mind, and she would rather prefer not to risk something like that again.

Thus, once she was ready, she made an obvious aggressive gesture toward the figure to begin.

Just like the others, it didn’t hesitate to do so, instantly reaching out with a hand and grasping something within the air, raising it forcefully while also bringing it closer to itself. Out of the ground all around them, shattering most of the tiles of the courtyard, rose countless tendrils, with a few strange pillars with green crystals atop them emerging nearest to the densest clusters of tentacles.

Some of the individual tendrils were small, only about as thick as Wei Yi’s toned arm, but many were almost as wide as her whole body, and quickly slammed down onto the ground with an obvious show of force. Their strike, aimed randomly or towards her if she was close enough, was filled with power that caused the entire floating land to shake and tremble, although the tentacles that held onto it and obscured the sky stopped the tremors after a few moments. These strikes exposed other fissures in the terrain, from which numerous eyes rose, all of them glowing with the same stygian green while spreading out and staring at Wei Yi with an unblinking gaze.

Meanwhile, the figure itself stepped back into a round gateway made of black, dripping tendrils that swallowed her whole, shrinking rapidly into a small spherical mass of tentacles wrapped around one another.

‘Someone that fights from a distance? Curious, and annoying, if that sphere is more akin to a gateway or portal than a space in which the figure is able to hide,’ Wei Yi noted, glancing to the nearest tentacle to her, ‘These are highly aggressive, but seem simply enough. Depending on how easy it is for her to create more of these, clearing them out might be a good idea.’

To give herself more room to attack, and a potential safe area from which to fire out Obliteration beams, she briefly gathered and then instantly unleashed a burst of Eclipse Ire, sending out a burst of energy that cut into and through the black tendrils. Most of them were culled in one go, and even those that survived due to being sufficiently thick were nearly cut apart and barely capable of flailing about. However, the large pillars with the green stones atop them were entirely unharmed, even in places where the tendrils surrounding them were unable to guard with their bodies.

All of the tentacles that were cut in half sunk back into the ground, the gaps through which they came not recovering within moments and quickly telling Wei Yi everything she needed know about them.

‘These things can regenerate and remerge, or else there is something unusual about this figure that the other two did not have, since they were unable to damage the ground. I should focus on the hovering mass of tentacles while the flailing ones are out of the picture for a moment,’ she concluded.

She conjured the Titanic Conqueror again and made it unleash a series of runes onto the ground as to obliterate more of the tentacles and try to damage the great spires as to prevent them from doing whatever it was that they were doing, or that they may begin to do if given the opportunity to do so. One of the other hands formed a series of ice chunks, all of which it then tossed at the mass of tentacles at once, hoping to prevent it from escaping like it might if she shot only one chunk.

Despite that, the figure didn’t even attempt to dodge, but instead a small opening appeared within its centre from which countless black tendrils surged out and all met the chunks of ice, crashing into them and absorbing the impacts. Some of the individual tendrils were frozen solid and broke into nothing, but everything that remained receded and sank back into the overall mass.

‘This does look more like a gateway than just a mass, so I will certainly need to get at whatever is inside of it… Considering the smell around here being even more intense than the corruption and the Eldritch Hold combined, I do not want to experience what will be within for longer than I must… not sure I wish my sense of smell to vanish entirely, as I am missing the ability to actually taste food, but sealing it temporarily might be necessary,’ Wei Yi thought as she raised one of her own hands and manifested several intense points of physique energy above her palm and fingers, ‘Fine. As some say, I’ll fight fire with fire.’

Her Titanic Conqueror put all four hands together and condensed an Obliteration beam that was fired at the floating mass, which she did with less hesitation now that she saw that the usual methods of the tentacle-wielding figure did not involve the same energy manipulation that the previous one used.

While the beam enveloped the mass, she rushed towards it, speeding up the moment that she realised that the entity did not seem to be moving, whether due to being incapable of doing so or for some other reason. Whatever it was, so long as she was able to grab onto it, she might be able to get inside, and if it wanted to make things easier for her, she would naturally not request it to do otherwise. She wasn’t one to ignore something easy if it was effective.

Doing something like that would just be absolutely foolish.

She willed the beam to cease once she was close enough, waiting for just long enough to have already leapt into the air before the blackened crimson faded in the place where it most mattered.

Indeed, the mass of tentacles was still there, and it had also extended a series of tendrils to meet the Obliteration beam just as they had reached out while the chunks of ice were soaring towards it. This was even more perfect for her, as it gave her something to grab onto that originated from inside of the mass.

All of those spots of energy that had appeared above her hand morphed into tendrils, not entirely unlike the ones that surrounded her, although they were far slicker and slimier in appearance due to having been influenced by her encounter with the remnants of Primordial Corruption. They soared out, grabbing onto the tendrils that were receding into the mass of tentacles, and wrapped around them tightly, proceeding to stop extending and grow taut in order to allow their originator, Wei Yi, to be pulled into the open maw of the tentacle mass alongside the receding tendrils.

Once the stygian tendrils felt her grip, they accelerated significantly, and she was thus launched towards the centre of the open tendrils. As she got closer, that smell did get stronger – incredibly so – but she ignored it and flung a Touch of God into the centre of the tentacles mass, forming her planar energy into crystal in order to apply as much force onto the opening as she possibly could.

That energy pierced the tendrils and forced open the tentacled mass in order to permit it to not be obliterated by the beam, not that it would likely suffer quite as much as the beams that emerge from it.

She dispelled her own Eldritch Hold once the tendrils that she had been holding onto were obliterated and made use of the Mortal World’s Echo physique to make up for the insufficient size of the opening and get through it. The momentary phase in and out of the world, was odd, slow, and unusual, making it more likely that there was indeed some spatial gap between this place and the inside of the tentacled mass, although exactly what that gap was and where the other side led to was uncertain, but she was soon able to see just what it was.

On the positive side, there was indeed more light here, and it was more feasible to see her foe here.

That was the only positive for her, however, for the other side of the gateway was absolutely flooded with the same tendrils that had emerged from the ground in the courtyard. It seemed to be the inside of a huge ball of moist tentacles, all of which slithered and shifted slightly with each moment, pulsing with the beat of some unseen heart, although it was most certainly audible at the moment.

Each beat loudly pulsed throughout the interior of the sphere, and it seemed to partially originate from the figure at its centre, who sat on a kind of chair that was made from more of these slithering tendrils, with a few wrapped around one of the entity’s arms and hands.

When she entered, the figure was already looking towards her, and was already in the middle of rising from the chair while the tendrils receded from the figure’s arm. With the full light from the slight gaps within the tentacled surroundings, it was clear that the entity was indeed white haired, and the clothing that it wore was more akin to a typical robe, save for the traces of tendrils continuing to pulsate beneath it, possibly covering most of the figure’s body. In addition to that, while the skin of the previous two entities was fully hidden, one of the hands of this one was revealed, showing a paleness and oddity that differed from that of the Bai.

Whereas the modern family merely had a consistent tendency of albinism, the hand of this figure was entirely inhuman, with dark blood flowing through it, the skin being unnaturally thin and soft.

It also looked notably feminine, whether due to the shape or the particularly soft features that likely came about as a result of whatever had caused the tendrils beneath the entity’s clothing and its whole repertoire of abilities. For this reason, Wei Yi also presumed that this was a woman, not that she intended to permit this figure to do as she wanted for such a reason.

Even if it had a mind somewhere in there that surpassed the kind of thing that she could create with the Brand Alternator inscription, the figure did not appear interested in conversing with her or even attempting to explain what it was that these fights were intended to achieve, if anything at all.

Instead, she re-conjured the Titanic Conqueror, wrapped her claws in Obliteration, Ire and lightning energy, and unleashed her physiques as she charged at the figure, blocking her sense of smell as to avoid the rather unpleasant extremely potent stench that filled the tentacled space in the middle of nowhere. She hastened towards it with every little thing that she could manifest, since her energy recovered between every fight due to the combination of her nascent rift and the space’s innate properties, throwing each of the Conqueror’s physique abilities at the same time.

Runes were set down within the tentacled ground, which was somehow able to act as typical solid ground, chunks of ice were covered from, and made with, poisons and toxins, and banners from the air, being conjured out of energy not far above the ground due to the absence of significant headroom for them to emerge.

While the Conqueror’s Eye itself was unable to work here, or in the courtyard, every aspect that created it seemed to function just as well, thus permitting the banners to empower every other attack, which she then further assisted by her own attacks, barraging this figure with her claws.

“You know, I’d not be particularly lacking in defensive methods here. There’s so much I could do…” the figure suddenly said with a voice that sounded profoundly human. It was still filled with oddities, the voice seeming to be made from inhuman lungs and passing through an unnatural throat and mouth, out of strange lips, but it was still clearly that of a human woman. There was no way that this could be from the same source and creator as the voices of the previous two figures.

“Who are you? What are you?” Wei Yi asked, not freezing, or stopping based on the figure’s words.

“Can’t tell you. Just as I cannot do a thing right now. Still, all of these techniques of yours… Could’ve been nice to have.”

With that, the claws of the Ascendant, as well as the chunks of ice and far more than that, struck the figure, piercing her flesh and clothing, tearing her into pieces and blasting all of her flesh into naught, even though Wei Yi had wished to stop herself after she realised that the entity was not intending to interfere.

She hardly knew why the tentacled entity had done this, nor why it had put up a fight outside of the mass of tentacles but not within, but it was something or someone that could speak with her. It might be aware of something, might understand a number of matters that Wei Yi had wished to receive an answer to, and might be able to inform her of the overall purpose of this domain, but there was unfortunately no chance for her limbs to stop moving after she had invested that much strength into her strike, boosting it with the Draconic Claw technique.

 

The second set of glowing eyes had glowed for a little while, but the Bai family member was unable to get in touch with anyone inside of the Bai Ancestral Hall, having far more trouble in doing so than in any of the previous days.

He could feel the gaze of the easterners upon him, with many smirking once they were able to confirm that the lights didn’t immediately weaken or damage them and that they would likely have the ability to escape quite easily if they certainly needed to. Of all the things that he did know about them, it was that the east had plentiful methods to employ in various kinds of mystical situations. They possessed a great deal of knowledge that differed but did not pale in comparison to the Western Continent, on each of the five great arts, and in some, it seemed that they might have even been superior, like in talismans or arrays.

If the twin lights emerging from the eyes of the ancestors were indeed intended to refine the people of the district, or some part of the district, then the easterners would likely be able to throw out a talisman and endure it for long enough to flee, whereas the westerners would have been unable to do much without having very specific training and techniques.

“The Patriarch better be alright, or else we-” he had begun to say when the situation changed.

The third set of statues, that of the ancestor equipped with a choker that opposed a writhing, monstrous entity, changed as well, their eyes igniting with a green, stygian light that surged with even greater power than that of the other two sets of statues. It overwhelmed them and flooded out more quickly, filling the entire district with their light, piercing even walls and shading everything beneath the covers of the district with its radiance.

It was this that also affected the Ancestral Hall the most. Whereas the previous two occurrences had been strange, they could be dismissed as nothing more than that, perhaps being some kind of odd situation that had simply never been documented before any of this, this one could not be ignored.

The entire Ancestral Hall seemed to ignite with life, cracks of green bursting out all over the abyssal stone surface, with the figures of the ancestors moving and trembling into slightly different positions from before. None of the observers were able to see a reason for such a thing, since none of the movements and changes achieved any particular purpose, but it put both the easterners and the powerful members of the Bai family, as well as the other factions in the district, into a significant degree of alert.

Something was happening in this district, and it was possible that it could lead to the obliteration of it. During the potential chaos, many things could occur.

 

“Not even going to get a question, huh… A set of Dao comprehensions, then?” Wei Yi asked, looking around as she found herself back in the courtyard, the many tentacles receding while the figure itself did not reappear even after a few moments of waiting. She had wanted to try asking it more questions when it returned, but it seemed that she would not meet the figure again.

Fortunately, she did obtain what she was looking for, as the moment that the final tip of a black tendril receded past the edges of the palace and the floating land, a surge of green light rushed towards her, flooding into her body again.

She had attempted to prepare for it once more, but just as the figure itself was unusual, the Dao comprehension that it provided was far more complete than the understanding of the last two figures, flooding her mind and overwhelming her even with the books and scrolls that she had intentionally readied for the Dao that she had anticipated. It had some similarities to her Eldritch Hold physique ability, as well as the entity of Primordial Corruption, although that had seemed to be more incidental, and so she had prepared to place it alongside her understanding of those matters.

Despite that, it appeared almost entirely unique, and the sheer quantity of it far surpassed the Minor Achievement stage of the other two Dao.

It reached all the way to the Great Stride stage, and thus she found her vision morph and twist as the nature of her newly acquired Eldritch Dao imposed itself upon her, combining with the Vision of Law and the Vision of the Absolute to create a most peculiar view of the world. Everything contained just a slight trace of the eldritch nature that the Dao described and focused upon, and thus everything she saw changed just a little bit under her gaze.

The individual stone tiles of the courtyard shifted and pulsed just a little, as if they were pieces of some enormous entity that lived within or beneath them. Every piece of the palace fluctuated, seemingly being composed of countless individual tendrils that kept twisting and moving with each moment.

It was sickening, disgusting, and absolutely horrifying to behold.

‘I had tolerated the previous two Dao, but this… get… out… of MY HEAD!’ Wei Yi exclaimed mentally, forcing that glow of out of the books and tomes of her library, the small circle in her eyes flickering.

To push something that had attempted – and partially succeeded – in partially fusing with mind was difficult, and while she was able to displace a number of entirely foreign thoughts, the rest seemed insistent on remaining, and they would still force her gaze to see things that she had never believed in, nor comprehended on her own. For her, even if this could yield some advantage, this was simply unacceptable, and so she did the next best thing.

With all of her mental strength, she forcefully suppressed all of it, shoving all of the books that she had already filled with the Dao comprehension out of the shelves and into one particular spot of the library, clumping them all together tightly and compressing them as much as she possibly could into a single point so that it wouldn’t disturb the rest of her thinking process.

On top of all of that, she forcefully pressed down upon it with every technique that could be manifested within her mental space, trying not to disturb those who were still within Paragon and going through parts of the content of her library without knowing exactly where the books they were studying came from. It was with all of this effort that the circles finally disappeared from her eyes, returning to there being only two within each pupil, and the Vision of the Eldritch finally faded away from her sight, permitting her to view the world as she thought of it.

Perhaps she would miss out on quite a lot, but before she would do a single thing, she would first comprehend that Dao on her own.

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