Cui Zuojing finally decided to take a gamble and stepped onto the altar. He stood beside the fish-form sage, and under his feet was a clock-like pattern.
He suddenly asked, “Previously, I found the bones of many fishes along the east coast. What happened to them?”
The fish-form sage didn’t tell Cui Zuojing about the links between those bones, the Demon God’s blood, and the British expedition team. Instead, he made up a reason, saying that it happened when the demon energy leaked while the demon seed was being sealed, and Cui Zuojing believed him.
Under the guidance of the fish-form sage, Cui Zuojing stood in the center of the altar, took the black scepter from the fish-form sage’s hand, and held the brass key in his palm.
The fish-form sage retreated to the edge of the altar and chanted a spell in a low voice. As mysterious sounds came from his mouth, the patterns under Cui Zuojing’s feet glowed with an orange light. The hour hand that was pointed to the east slowly rotated. The power of time slowly rose, and the power of body echoed it in Dong Zheng’s inner core.
A black snake swam out from the corner, weaved up to the altar, made a few laps around Cui Zuojing’s feet, and then climbed up his body.
Cui Zuojing frowned as the snake wrapped around his body until it’s triangular head was at his shoulder. The snake hissed, flicking its forked tongue, as if about to lick his face.
He subconsciously shifted his head to the side, wanting to get away from it. “What is this?”
The fish-form sage issued an explanation and Dong Zheng said that it was the secrets of the God of Time, Ion. He raised his head and gazed at the youth on the altar, saying, “And on your body, you carry eternal time.”
The fish-form sage’s hands formed a seal. The clock pattern spun faster, and an illusory Mobius ring spiraled up from it, calling on the time that was trapped within the seal of Cui Zuojing’s body.
The tip of the black scepter glowed orange, and the key became hot, attracting the lightning in the sky. The power of time surged quietly, and Dong Zheng could feel a mysterious energy fluctuating in his body. It was the same energy he’d felt when Cui Zuojing sent him back in time.
The bursting power of time was interfering with him!
At this moment, Cui Zuojing seemed to have sensed something, and he looked at Dong Zheng. But in that second, the snake on his shoulder opened its mouth and sunk its sharp fangs into the youth’s neck.
Cui Zuojing groaned and lost consciousness. A flash of lightning struck down, and the energy contained within Ion’s Mobius ring burst out, breaking through the crumbling first seal on Cui Zuojing’s body. The unprecedented, powerful energy radiated out and slammed into the wall of the Western Temple, directly destroying it.
Only the central altar remained intact. The fish-form sage made the last mark with his hands. Cui Zuojing’s body slowly floated up, and the escaping energy abruptly stopped. Everything stilled.
The pause only lasted for a few seconds as, with a silent sound, the escaping time force surged in from all directions, submerging into the youth’s body!
The light dimmed. As the youth began to fall, Dong Zheng sprinted up to the altar and stretched out steady hands to catch him.
The fish-form sage let out a deep breath and put his hands down. He took out a silver coin engraved with the head of an old man, and said, “This is what those people left behind. Give it to him.”
Dong Zheng took the coin from the sage and then placed Cui Zuojing on the altar. A few minutes later, the youth slowly opened his eyes, and within it, an orange light flashed.
The first thing he saw was Domingo.
Regarding the lifting of his seal, Cui Zuojing didn’t say much. Even so, Dong Zheng knew that his heart must certainly be full of doubts on a number of questions, such as why would he knew about the seal on his body, as well as about the power of time. But as a wise man, Cui Zuojing only said that he wanted to set off. They bid farewell to the fish-form sage and left the Western Temple, heading toward the Sealed Land in the middle of the island.
Cui Zuojing walked in front, making no efforts to talk to Dong Zheng. Meanwhile, Dong Zheng silently watched his back. As long as he could look at him, he would be satisfied.
“You did me a favor. It stood to reason that I should be grateful. But there’s nothing to be done about it, I just don’t want to be bothered with you.” Cui Zuojing moved a branch aside with his sword and said, as if to himself, “Anyway, once we’re out of the box, we won’t meet each other again.”
Dong Zheng laughed silently and whispered, “Yes, once the box ends, we won’t see each other again.”
Once he’d obtained the scepter of time, the amulet, and the Demon God’s blood, he would return back through time and space to save his imprisoned lover.
Cui Zuojing looked back at him, his eyes full of suspicion, but he didn’t say anything.
Their traveling speed was very fast. After dark, they found a cave to rest the night, and the next day, it only took them the morning to reach the center of the island.
Dong Zheng’s crossbow was hung around his waist. Cui Zuojing was obviously curious about it, because he often looked at it. Dong Zheng wanted to put it away, but it would expose the fact that the crossbow was a customized weapon. In the district where Dusk Island was located, there was no good weapons manufacturer, and the pilgrims were still at a level where they wouldn’t be able to customize weapons.
With the guidance of his kernel, the path they traveled was quite smooth. If any beasts approached, they would be driven away by Dong Zheng’s mental power. In the end, Cui Zuojing chose to stop by a water source. If anyone were heading to the Sealed Land, they would definitely stop there to replenish their water supply.
With some effort, Dong Zheng washed himself a little by the edge of the water. He turned his back to Cui Zuojing, but he could still feel Cui Zuojing’s occasional probing gaze. Yet, he didn’t feel embarrassed at all. Sooner or later, he’ll see it anyway.
Heinrich and his party were the first to arrive in the afternoon. As Cui Zuojing chatted with them, Dong Zheng stood to the side, talking as little as possible. Now that he was using the identity of another person, and as someone who’d come from the future, any words or deeds he’d said or done might create a butterfly effect that could cause a chain reaction and needlessly alter the future.
In the evening, with a bonfire burning, more and more pilgrims arrived one after another. The Wonton Insurgency team also arrived. Cui Zuojing felt the past Dong Zheng’s presence and sat up. As he took a few steps in that direction, Dong Zheng also noticed the incoming person. But he still asked, “What’s wrong?”
He didn’t want to give up any opportunities to communicate with Cui Zuojing.
“Someone’s coming.” Cui Zuojing moved aside the leaves that were obstructing his vision, walked around the big tree, raised his gaze, and came face to face with the past Dong Zheng, who was coming toward him.
They looked at each other for a few seconds. The corners of their mouths lifted, and Cui Zuojing said in a deliberate complaint, “So slow.”
“We got delayed on the journey here.”
As Cui Zuojing and his past self spoke, the broken blood contract was once again restored. The past Dong Zheng moved to the side. But when he saw Domingo by the pool of water, his expressions shifted slightly, and he whispered something to Cui Zuojing.
The camp was very lively, and in this atmosphere, another night passed without any damage. By noon of the next day, almost all of the surviving pilgrims had gathered there. They had the complete fragments of the four codexes, and they talked to each other about their own experiences and the props they’d obtained.
After exchanging information, they moved toward the Sealed Land to destroy the demon seed.
As they moved down the rift in the valley, they could vaguely see the buildings in front of them. They passed through a slightly dilapidated hall, walked for nearly a thousand meters, and came face to face with a heat wave rushing toward them.
Everyone took a step back. The path ahead had narrowed, and on its two sides were red, boiling lava that bubbled and popped, emitting such a strong wave of heat that it could scorch the hair on their legs.
There was a creature with a lion and hippo body and a crocodile head sitting on the stone pillar on the other side of it. In front of it was a huge balance.
Amit, who weighs the soul.
Everyone reacted differently. Dong Zheng watched coldly and noticed a lot of details that he missed the first time around, such as the dodging eyes and the cold sweat on the foreheads of Lilian’s “people.” Cui Zuojing’s reaction was very interesting; he merely raised an eyebrow. No one dared to go up until Wang Que volunteered and passed Amit’s test with a perfect score.
After getting along for so long, Dong Zheng knew how good Wang Que was. If there was only one good person here, it must be Wang Que.
With her as an example, other pilgrims who thought that they had a clear conscience also mustered up their courage to step onto the balance scale. In the end, there were only people with little confidence in themselves left, including Cui Zuojing and Dong Zheng.
Dong Zheng didn’t dare.
In the past, he could still be regarded as a good person and could pass the balance scale without any problems. But now, after two years, in order to clear the boxes, he had to do many things that would be considered immoral according to modern standards. Even though everything that was done was for the sake of survival.
When he returned to Dusk Island, he’d also ended up killing an innocent pilgrim.
After a long time, one of them hesitantly stood up. “I…I’ll give it a try.”
He walked up to the balance scale. As everyone watched, the balance slowly but firmly tilted in the direction toward the man. The man also saw this too. With a shout, he drew the sword at his waist and made as if to attack Amit!
But before he could succeed, Amit roared, emitting a gust of wind from his mouth that blew the man away into the pool of hot lava.
The rest of the people gave up trying. No dared to move. Dong Zheng frowned. He had to go, since there was no one else. The only choice left was him.
“I’ll go.” He stepped forward.
Amit looked at him and said slowly, “Your courage is worthy of praise, but a dirty soul will eventually leave you dead with no burial grounds.”
It appeared that this monster also felt that he was burdened with sin.
Dong Zheng ignored it. He raised his foot and stood on the balance. The feathers slowly lifted up, and he gradually reached an equilibrium with it. But the balance did not stop tilting.
Everyone’s breath caught in their throat. In their opinion, the man named Domingo would also join the last man in the pool of magma.
But how could Dong Zheng allow this to happen?
The moment the hands of the balance were even, he raised his head to look at Amit on the stone pillar. His smoky-gray eyes were cold as ice. In a swift blur of movements, he grabbed his crossbow from his waist, notched an arrow, aimed, and shot.
At the same time, Cui Zuojing was ready to go. He leaped high at the edge of the stone passage and slashed at Amit with his sword.
Dong Zheng’s domineering mental power blasted out, and he briefly controlled Amit’s mind, preventing it from moving so that his silver arrow successfully penetrated its head, just as Cui Zuojing’s blade flashed across its neck, directly cutting off its head.
The youth’s figure began to fall, Dong Zheng shot another arrow, using his kernel to precisely calculate where and when to shoot so that the arrow would reach Cui Zuojing’s feet at the right moment. The youth stepped on the arrow and jumped onto the ground without danger.
This wonderful collaboration was quite thrilling. Cui Zuojing slowly got up and looked back at Dong Zheng. After they looked at each other for a few seconds, Cui Zuojing raised an eyebrow. “Not bad.”
Dong Zheng nodded slightly and said, “You’re also pretty good.”
The past Dong Zheng stood on the other side of the passage. The prisoner’s coat of arms flickered slightly. He’d wanted to summon Cui Zuojing back to the prisoner’s space to prevent his fall, but he wasn’t fast enough. Dong Zheng glanced at his angry expression, his eyes teasing and provocative.
Seeing his past self take a deep breath to calm down the vinegar and the anger in his heart, Dong Zheng was inexplicably happy.
Sure enough, messing with his previous self was too amusing.