Chapter 888 Contest for Divine Providence
“That’s the prize?! Divine providence?!”
Doubt and disbelief creased the lithe and petite face of the Saintess.
As the teacher and student spoke, another six Deity-Realm Cultivators dashed towards the lake and flew over its surface, driven by their fervent madness to reach the promontory.
But the merciless Lake of Death left no exceptions.
The men tried everything – flying over the lake and using their weapons or magical artifacts to defend themselves – but nothing worked. As if with a sentience of its own, the waters of the lake would rise up like monsters rearing up to punish anyone foolish or brazen enough to test their defenses, and anyone who fell into the water was quickly killed and dissolved into nothing.
Witnessing all those frightful deaths invoked a dreadful and horrendous epiphany.
“Surely this lake is not the accretion of fluids from all the dissolved corpses of anyone who came here?!”
She peered at the lake once more, beholding the beauteous and aqueous ripples of waves that belied the perilous dangers that lurked within its depths like a predatory leviathan waiting for prey.
In the meantime, the man in white was still making his way towards the center of the lake despite tottering unsteadily forward.
Even as the waves never stopped pummeling at him, he managed to remain steadfast.
His progress might be slow and onerous, but it looked like he stood an actual chance of reaching the promontory.
“Go back to the white pathway, Yun’er. At least you’ll be able to resist the temptation there. It’s dangerous here and never come down to the shores. You’ll never survive all this.”
With her wrist still firmly held by her mentor, the Saintess allowed herself to be led back up to the frosted-cobblestoned pathway.
Only now did the Saintess finally understand that the strange but persuasive voice that has been prodding her was not part of her own inherent desires for the prize, but rather, the sinister beckoning of an unseen and dangerous trap.
Hardly a glutton for gain and profit, the Saintess channeled her powers, fighting against incessant and unrelenting titillation while she obeyed her mentor and went back to the pathway with her.
“Wait, how is he able to withstand the lure of the prize?”
She happened to spy Li Mu standing by the shores.
Li Mu appeared rather shabby and disheveled at the moment, to say nothing about the heavily-bloodstained tunic. Even he could not say from whence the blood came from; either himself or his enemies. But right now, there he stood on top of the white sands where the lake’s water lapped, his gaze firmly transfixed on the lake island as if he would never be swayed or distracted by anything else.
Meanwhile, the plump furry dog was scurrying along the length of the beach like it was searching for ways to reach the center, although he would halt and wheel back around whenever he reached the water. Clearly, the dog had sensed how dangerous the water was too.
Which was more than what she could say for the people who had perished, the Saintess realized, that a dog possessed more fortitude and restraint than humans.
Besides Li Mu, she saw another woman. Despite a left hand that was nothing but a bloody and digit-less stump, the lady in yellow retained a divine air of grace and dignity as she gazed albeit coldly at the center of the lake too.
Witnessing the lady in yellow’s stoic and solemn presence left the usually-confident Cloud Light Saintess in doubt of herself.
Lastly, she saw another young man with a suave and clean-cut appearance, standing at the shores, watching the middle-aged man in white’s progress closely. Flailing his arms and gesticulating like a mime, his mouth opened as if to speak but not a sound came out.
More than ten minutes passed and the middle-aged man in white had covered more than two-thirds of the distance.
The promontory at the center of the lake looked no more than three hundred meters away from him.
At the same time, everyone else watching from the white sabulous beach of the lake could barely rein in their desires any longer. With the notable exception of Li Mu, the lady in yellow, the plump furry dog, the pale-faced young man, and Wang Yanyi, every other person had taken off. It did not take long for the Lake of Death to claim more victims, its caustic waters barely leaving any traces of their existence at all.
Every single one of them had stormed to their own deaths like moths to flames.
The Cloud Light Saintess spied the lady in yellow turning to say something o Li Mu. Then she too raced towards the lake and took into the air.
“So much for patience, eh?”
The Saintess thought quietly, but her heart raced with anticipation.
But what she saw next left her wide-eyed with disbelief.
The woman skimmed swiftly over the billowing waters of the lake. Just like the others, freak waves appeared out of nowhere to attack her. Only instead of crashing into the water, she only reeled unsteadily and managed to remain standing on top of the water’s surface like a prophet.
“Who is she?! Is she also a Cultivator very near to achieving the Emperor Realm?”
The Saintess wondered quietly as she tottered with astonishment.
She had never heard of anyone like her before!
“Stop! You gotta come back!”
Li Mu cried with such terror that his hairs were practically standing on end.
Unlike the Saintess, Li Mu saw that although the lady in yellow managed to prevent herself from being devoured by the baneful waters of the Lake, she could barely keep her feet from getting unharmed. The pernicious liquid gnawed at her dermis that despite being very slow, the damage on her foot was very painful and very much permanent.
She could never get across the lake unscathed.
Li Mu felt his heart-wrenching at the onset of the realization.
But the lady in yellow kept pressing forward as if she hardly heard a word.
With each piecemeal step, she maintains a steady pace in pursuit of the white-robed middle-aged man that was none other than Lazulum.
“You seem to not realize that I have spared you once. Do you really have to come seeking death yourself?”
The man spun around as he spoke, firing an energy blast via his palm.
The huge Talismanic Power blast churned up enough water that it created a wave more than ten meters tall, rolling towards the lady in yellow like an incredible stampede.
Unfazed, the lady in yellow watched as the incoming wave rumbled towards her.
She weaved hand seals using her still-remaining hand and summoned the same spell she used just now. Thin golden lines ran through the space around her, forming a circular sigil beneath her feet: the Circle of Imperial Majesty. More lines materialized and bonded together, forming a pair of gigantic hands of gold and the huge hands impaled themselves through the waves and parted the water, allowing the lady in yellow to walk through the opening in the waves easily and unharmed.
Li Mu had been so stricken with worry just now that he could have sworn that his heart nearly jumped out his mouth.
But not all were cheers and applause. The lady in yellow had sunk one inch deeper into the water. More than half her feet were submerged in the water and blood was leaching out at an alarming rate like spreading crimson mists in the water.
Lazulum smirked and continued his mission to reach the center of the lake, but not without sending another wave of corrosive water surging her way.
The lady in yellow employed the same countermeasures to nullify the attack albeit with apparent desperation. That saw her sagging another inch; her entire feet were immersed in the water by now.
The lady in a yellow bit hard, struggling against the lancinating throes of agony from her legs. Still, flames blazed in her eyes. She was not going to give up just yet and she pressed on.
“No! This cannot go on! She’ll be killed!”
Li Mu cried, awash with panic and fear.
Swallowing a gulp of saliva, he stepped into the waters washing up the shore.
The soles of his boots were instantly gone.
Then he felt the excruciating pain shooting up his foot and in the midst of the throbbing pain, he could feel a ghastly-cold presence coming from within the water itself – the cadaverous chill of death stinging him on his feet.
Li Mu recoiled at the jolt of pain and leaped back.
In spite of his excellent physical endurance, he could still not withstand the destructive power of the waters of the Lake of Death.
“Do you wanna have a go?” Li Mu peered at Silly Dog.
“Woof?” Silly Dog gawked at Li Mu with disgusted surprise before the animal bore down on him with fury, “What’s this? Pushing me to death just so that you could save your girlfriend?! How could you, Li Mu!”
Wang Yanyi looked rather shocked to hear that he swiveled around to stare at Li Mu.
“What on Earth is wrong with you?! Where’s the chemistry that we’ve shared after all these years, you idiot? I’m asking you to release that humungous ancient god of yours to act like a bridge!”
“Woof?!” Silly Dog cracked into an asinine grin, “Good idea! Why did I not think of that! You should have come with that right from the start!”
The plump furry husky shoved a paw into its mouth and invoked a gag reflex and spewed out the badly-battered ancient god.
Once reaching its original monstrosity, the ancient god fell face down on the lake.
Li Mu raced forward and leaped on top of the ancient god’s shoulder.
Like a long and huge bridge, the behemothic ancient god had crashed one end into the promontory, with its other end on the white sands of the beach.
“Hey, catch this!”
Li Mu flung his arm and chains created from his powers shot towards the lady in yellow like a lasso.
More freak waves surged up as if the lake was in full wrath.
The waves crashed into the gigantic ancient god like they were trying their best to sink it, although chipping it off bit by bit was all they could do at the moment. At any rate, the ancient god’s physical properties appeared to be noticeably more resistant towards the water’s corrosion.
That bought Li Mu the time he needed.
He did not rush towards the prize waiting on the lake island, instead, he rushed to the lady in yellow’s aid first.
But just when the magically-forged chains could coil around the lady in yellow and deliver her from harm, her arm shot up to seize the chains and she swung the entire length of the links with superhuman strength.
The whole stretch of the chains floundered wildly like an angry serpent thrashing and writhing in its bestial fury.
Li Mu could feel strength and power coming from the other end of the chain – sheer brute strength and eldritch magic that could only be the lady’s – enveloping him whole while the momentum hurled him into the air, flying towards the promontory at the center of the lake.
“Secure the prize! It must not fall into Lazulum’s hands!”
The lady in yellow cried to him.
But on the other hand, the momentum from her side pushed her further deeper into the water. With her waist fully submerged, one could imagine that it was like a thousand piranhas having a feast on her lower body which was now a messy hunk of flesh and blood.
Lazulum was only too angered when he realized what was going on. He cast his magic and propelled himself up into the air, hoping that he was fast and far enough to reach Li Mu who had just swooped past him.
The force of his spell was peculiar yet great enough that he managed to launch himself into the air, effectively extricating himself from the unknown fetters of the waters of the lake that had been trying to hinder his advance.
Meanwhile, a sonorous and disembodied roar erupted from the dark unseen depths of the lake as if something terrible was just stirring from a long slumber. A column of water shot out of the lake. Much of the water fell back into the lake, revealing a cerulean blue giant with three heads and six arms. The giant reached and groped for Lazulum.
At the same time, the giant stomped into the surface of the water, summoning a volley of countless arrows of water that launched at Li Mu who was wheezing towards the lake island.
The lady in yellow cried, the entirety of her attention solely trained on Li Mu. Swallowing the proverbial hard pill, she decided to forsake her own safety and directed the thin golden strands that made up the magical circle defending her to Li Mu’s aid. The tiny gold lines streaked across the air, racing towards Li Mu at breakneck speed and encasing him behind a protective shield.
The barrage of water-forged arrows rained down on the protective cocoon, battering its surface enough that by the time the onslaught ended, several holes, crevices, and craters littered all over the surface because of the caustic liquid.
Li Mu staggered backward at the ambush and reached promontory.
“You…” he cried.
His eyes swelled in their sockets at the extreme rage and anguish.
The lady in yellow was almost no more, save by her head that was still barely above the surface of the water. Garlands of fumes rose from her hair dipping in the water and only Heaven could tell what indescribable pains must she be enduring right now.
Li Mu could have given anything to go to her aid.
In the meantime, the gigantic girth of the ancient god finally vanished, devoured by the merciless waters of the Lake of Death. Silly Dog had wanted to come after Li Mu but the humungous automaton snapped and listed like a sinking ship, tossing him back onto the waves and causing several chemical burns on his back that he looked more like a Dalmation than a Husky.
“Watch the prize!”
The lady in yellow bequeathed her final instruction. She was struggling to keep her head afloat. “Remember your oath to Qin Zhong. Your job is to keep the prize safe. That’s your duty,” she reminded him with her final words and breath as gravity began pulling her deeper into the water.
With that final message, she was gone, sinking down into the dark abyssal depths.
Li Mu howled at the loss. Just when he was still thinking of saving the lady, the promontory which had been still and calm after all the mess gave a gentle tremble. A colossal arm burst out of the water just underneath the island and seized Li Mu by the throat in a vice-like grip.