"Damn it, it's a type of Beguilement Tune…" Zhang Xuan's face darkened.
Just like formations, demonic tunes could be classified into many categories, too. Beguilement Tunes, Illusory Tunes, Heavy Tunes, Cacophonous Tunes… Of them, Beguilement Tunes were the most widely feared due to their ability to control the minds of others.
In a sense, it worked in a similar manner to the Impartation of Heaven's Will. If a cultivator succumbed to it, they might very well end up doing something beyond their control… and this included self-harm and suicide!
There had once been a Zither Demon who used such a demonic tune to massacre an entire city. This was also one of the reasons the occupation was given the prefix of 'demonic'.
As a 7-star demonic tunist, Zhang Xuan naturally understood how fearsome such a demonic tune could be. The tune that was currently being played had a particularly alluring quality to it, making it extremely easy for an individual to lose themself in it.
Once they succumbed to the music, they would be completely oblivious to the happenings around them, making them vulnerable targets. If so, their entire expedition team could very well be wiped out there.
Knowing that there was no time to be wasted, Zhang Xuan swiftly flicked his wrist and whipped out a zither. Driving his zhenqi, his fingers nimbly swiped over the strings.
Dong dong dong!
A powerful sound reminiscent of the chiming of a massive bell or the rumbling of thunder boomed by everyone's ears.
The current situation was different from the one back in the Unbounded World. Zhang Xuan failed to notice the whistling of the wind earlier, and by the time he was aware of the matter, the entire expedition team was already deeply fixated into it. Under those circumstances, given his lacking proficiency in demonic tunes, it was impossible for him to undo its effects with his demonic tunes. If he were to attempt to do so forcefully, it could result in a rebound, inflicting grievous wounds to the others instead.
However, the current situation was that the demonic tune had only started playing a moment ago, and the crowd had not succumbed to it yet. Thus, it was easier for him to deal with it.
As expected, under the loud cacophony, the crowd staggered slightly, and fresh blood spurted from their mouths and noses. They were slightly injured by the rebound between the clash of both tunes, but Zhang Xuan's tune did effectively jolt them back to attention.
"We will die if we remain here. Follow me!" Roaring loudly, Zhang Xuan identified a direction and headed over.
Even though he had no idea where the 172nd Door was located relative to the entire formation, there was one thing certain here. If they remained there, they would only gradually accumulate injuries. Pushed to their limits, they might very well have ended up succumbing like Combat Master Hu Chen earlier, rushing out of the formation in a craze only to be slaughtered by the many bursts of sword qi.
No doubt, the other doors were bound to be dangerous as well, but remaining where they were wasn't an option either. It was a risky gamble, but they had no choice but to take it.
Understanding that as well, the crowd followed closely behind Zhang Xuan. Each grasping a sword tightly in their hands, Wu shi and Guild Leader Han surveyed their surroundings cautiously, ready to retaliate should they be attacked.
The both of them were Saint 4-dan experts who had already forged their Primordial Spirits. With their prowess, they could easily fend off the barrage of sword qi in moments of crisis.
Ding ding ding ding!
While proceeding forward, another burst of sword qi assaulted the crowd. However, with the two experts moving simultaneously to fend off the offense, the crowd managed to overcome it successfully and leave swiftly.
After crossing two wide corridors, Zhang Xuan took a look around him before frowning. A moment later, he abruptly dashed right into the wall ahead of him.
Just as the crowd was bewildered by Zhang Xuan's sudden action, the wall suddenly collapsed to reveal a huge courtyard.
Walking into the courtyard, the sound of the demonic tunes abruptly vanished, as if they had bypassed the demarcated zone of its area of effect. At the same time, the ferocious onslaught of sword qi stopped as well. It was as if the relentless assault against them had never happened at all.
"The onslaught of the sword qi has vanished, and the zither sound has stopped as well."
"Did we manage to flee from the Illusory-Slaughter Formation?"
Wo Tianqiong and the others could not help but ask with a hint of hope in their voices.
Zhang Xuan shook his head. "That's not it; we are still in the formation. It's just that the formation is divided into many smaller ones, and we have escaped from one into another."
Grade-8 formations were not grade-8 formations for nothing. If it was that easy to escape from it, he would not have been so helpless before it in the first place.
Not to mention, there was still a Scarletleaf King camping outside the formation, waiting to prey on them.
After learning of the current situation, the expressions of the crowd tensed.
They thought that they might have finally gotten out of danger, but it seemed like they were being too optimistic.
"There's no need to worry. It seems like we have reached a safe zone for the time being." Noting the low morale among the group, Zhang Xuan consoled them with a smile before turning his gaze toward the surroundings.
The courtyard they were in was larger than the previous one, and there was a door in all four directions: north, south, east, and west.
At this moment, the wall that they had crashed through to enter the courtyard had also mended itself as well. Had they not come through it previously, it would have been impossible for them to tell that there was a path beyond the wall as well.
"Where do we go now?"
In any case, they could not return the way they had come, or else they would be compromising their safety.
But of the four doors… which one should they choose?
The gazes of the crowd naturally gathered upon Zhang Xuan.
Most of the dangers they had been put through had been resolved by the young man before their eyes, and unknowingly, the expedition team had begun to subconsciously look toward him for support.
"I am not too sure either…" Zhang Xuan shook his head.
The formation in the current area they were in had not been activated yet, so he was unable to form a corresponding book on it in the Library of Heaven's Path. As such, he was also unsure about its flaws and where he should head to.
After a moment of hesitation, Zhang Xuan said, "You all wait here for a moment; I will try one of them and see what's on the other side."
For the time being, he should focus his attention on activating the formation so that he could compile a book on it. Just waiting there and praying for something to happen would not work.
"Alright." The crowd nodded.
Zhang Xuan took a deep breath and randomly chose a direction to head to. Just as he was about to head over, 'jiya!', the door before him suddenly began to creak open.
As soon as the door opened, a blade of wind abruptly burst forth, slicing the air in two.
Noticing that something was amiss, Wu shi bellowed quickly, "Everyone, duck!"
"It's just a blade of wind; there's no need to worry. I can deal with it easily…" One of the elders of the Yunxu Master Teacher Academy did not think much of it, and with a casual smile, he whipped out a massive axe and aimed it right at the wind blade.
With incredible force, the massive axe hacked down upon the blade of wind. To the astonishment of the crowd, the massive axe was sliced apart without posing the slightest bit of hindrance to it. Before the elder could even react, his palm along with his body had already been severed into two.
Cold sweat gushed down the bodies of the crowd.
This was especially so for Wo Tianqiong. He nearly fainted on the spot.
Others might have been unaware of it, but he knew full well that the axe wielded by the elder could easily be ranked among the top of Spirit pinnacle weapons. Such a powerful weapon, and yet, it did not even last a split second before the blade of wind.
That was too fearsome!
"The blade of wind doesn't just slice through air, it slices right through space as well," Guild Leader Han exclaimed as he hurriedly ducked down without any hesitation as well.
To the naked eye, it might have seemed like there was nothing special about the blade of wind other than being exceptionally sharp. However, Guild Leader Han had scanned the blade of wind with his Spiritual Perception, and to his shock, he found that his Spiritual Perception was not able to pass through the area where the blade of wind had cut through for a brief instant. In other words, there was a split moment when the space above and below the wind blade had been severed!
The blade of wind flew past everyone's head, and the sharp shrill of the air in the moment that it did so left everyone's body covered in goosebumps. Zhang Xuan's body was also completely stiffened, not daring to move at all.
Even though his body had reached the level of a Saint-tier artifact, he had no doubt that he would be unable to stand his ground against such a bizarre blade of wind. All in all, it would still be wiser for him to remain cautious.
Right after the blade of wind flew past them, everyone heaved a sigh of relief. Just when they thought that they had finally bypassed the danger, the door behind them suddenly creaked open, and another blade of wind swept over at a diagonal angle.
Just one blade of wind had nearly scared their souls out of them. How were they supposed to deal with two simultaneously?
However, it seemed like their nightmare had just barely begun. The two remaining doors also opened, and yet another two blades of wind burst forth from them at differing angles. It was keenly aimed to seal the path of escape of the crowd.
"This won't do. We might still be able to last in the short-term, but at this rate, it will only be a matter of time before we are killed," Wu shi said anxiously.
Even though they could still avoid the blades of wind by dodging, there was no knowing if each door could send out multiple blades of wind at once.
If so, they could be in a very dangerous position… perhaps even more than the area they were in previously!
"Everyone, this way!"
Knowing the danger they were in, Zhang Xuan hurriedly found a flaw and took the lead while beckoning the others along.
The crowd immediately followed him.
Not too long later, they arrived at yet another courtyard.
There was a bizarre formation set up in the courtyard as well. However, it wasn't blades of wind but traps this time around. They finally escaped from it after great difficulty, but unfortunately, another master teacher ended up meeting his end there in the process of doing so.
Proceeding ahead, the crowd entered two more courtyards and suffered another two casualties before finally arriving at a relatively smaller courtyard that didn't seem to have any mechanisms to it for the time being, so they decided to take a momentary breather there. By this point, all of their faces had turned pale, and they were breathing heavily.
It had only been a few minutes since they entered the celestial palace, but four combat masters and four master teachers had already met their ends. This was a casualty greater than what they had suffered from the total of the previous few trials. The crowd could not help but fall silent at that thought.
"It seems like we are only barging from one formation into another. At this rate, we will all die here," Guild Leader Han said with a worried frown.
The crowd nodded in agreement.
There were too many smaller formations within the celestial palace, and the end was nowhere in sight either. At this rate, their numbers would only gradually thin out, and the position they were in would only further worsen.
If each formation they bypassed would result in a death toll of one or two people, considering how there were only twenty-two of them left, their expedition team really could end up being annihilated here.
"What do we do?" the crowd asked worriedly.
"The strength of a formation depends on the person controlling it. Otherwise, the prowess that it can exert will be severely limited. The reason we keep encountering danger is very likely due to the Otherworldly Demon from before pulling strings from the shadows. If we can find the Otherworldly Demon and kill him, we should be able to escape from the formation relatively easier!" Guild Leader Han said.
If there was no one driving the formation, this trial would have been somewhat similar to the Unbounded World and the Black Sandstorm of Oblivion. It would still have been dangerous, but the formations would only have been capable of carrying out routine and predictable tasks. As long as they could get the hang of it, they should have been able to bypass the formations with ease.
"Guild Leader Han is right. What we should aim for at the moment is to slay the Scarletleaf King!" Zhang Xuan nodded in agreement.
Currently, they were in the open, and the enemy was in the dark. It was obvious that the enemy had been tracking them and activating the regional formation of where they were at any given moment to deal with them.
"Scarletleaf King?" the crowd asked with a frown.
"Un. The voice that spoke to us earlier is ranked second among the Ten Great Kings of Qingtian, and he is known as the Scarletleaf King. In terms of fighting prowess, he is above even the Stoneleaf King!" Zhang Xuan explained.
Wu shi frowned. "I have read records on the Qingtian Lineage; it is a faction of the Otherworldly Demonic Tribe. They have quite a few experts who are collectively known as the Ten Great Kings. Of them, there are some bestowed with the title of the Five Upper Kings due to the superior strength they wield, and they are namely the Skyleaf King, Scarletleaf King, Jadeleaf King, Stoneleaf King, and Fireleaf King."
As a master teacher of the Qingyuan Master Teacher Pavilion, he had some understanding of the Otherworldly Demonic Tribe powers in the region. Every single one of the Ten Great Kings of the Qingtian Lineage possessed astounding power, and none of them were figures who could be easily dealt with.
Right after Wu shi said those words, the eerie voice from before sounded in the air once more.
"Not bad, it seems like you still have some self-awareness… Hehehe!"