“Holy Maiden, what’s the problem?” Yun Ruoyan asked.
“It’s time.” The holy maiden turned to Yun Ruoyan, and she noticed to her surprise that even the holy maiden’s eyes seemed to turn cold.
A series of footsteps rang out behind them, and the silver dragon elder walked out from behind a set of curtains.
Yun Ruoyan was standing behind the holy maiden, both of them straight and still. The first elder didn’t notice Yun Ruoyan. The reason he had permitted her presence here was at the insistence of the holy maiden; after that precedent, she had always had someone with her to finish the next segment of the rites.
If something were to happen to Yun Ruoyan, he would be able to remove her easily, and it wasn’t anything troublesome to the silver dragon elder.
“Are you ready, Holy Maiden?”
“Yes, Elder.” The holy maiden’s voice seemed so robotic that Yun Ruoyan couldn’t sense a trace of the girl she knew at all.
The silver dragon elder nodded, then walked toward the silver dragons’ ancestral shrine. He touched one of the silver dragon statues by the side of the shrine, then pushed in the statue’s eyes. The shrine vibrated and parted, revealing a doorway just wide enough for them to fit in.
“Enter,” the silver dragon elder told the holy maiden, who walked through the doorway. Yun Ruoyan followed her in. The moment she stepped through the boundary, she noticed a familiar scent in the air, but one that she couldn’t quite place.
The doorway opened into a corridor shining with red light. Their silver robes, catching the reflection of the light, seemed to be dyed in red. As they walked further and further into the corridor, the sense of familiarity grew stronger and stronger, and Yun Ruoyan’s heart began to palpitate—what she was feeling was a resonance coming from her demonic dragon bloodline!
What other reason could there be for the silver dragon temple to have someone else with the demonic dragon bloodline? Her father was undoubtedly imprisoned here!
A dragon’s howl came from deep within the corridor, causing it to shake visibly. In front of Yun Ruoyan, the holy maiden trembled almost imperceptibly. Yun Ruoyan had been confused as to her suddenly cold and wooden appearance, but she now hypothesized that it was an act to calm herself down and to hoodwink the silver dragon elder.
The elder was walking in front of them, and he couldn’t see their expressions. Yun Ruoyan reached out and patted the holy maiden’s back, intending on consoling her. When she did so, the holy maiden jumped, turned to look at her expressionlessly, and continued walking forward.
In ten more paces the crimson light grew blinding, and they stepped out of the corridor and into a wide, cavernous space that seemed to have been carved out of rock. In the center of the space was an equally gigantic pillar, around which hundreds of people were bound. The upper part of their bodies was nude, and they were all thin and emaciated, some barely more than skeletons.
The demonic dragon bloodline! Yun Ruoyan’s heart thumped. These people… they’re all descendants of the demonic dragons…
“Begin, Holy Maiden,” the elder instructed. She unclenched her fists, walked to the silver dragon elder’s side, then past him and onward to the gigantic pillar. She spread her arms open, made an unusual gesture, and then began materializing an arcane formation with her hands. Then, she impressed the formation on the pillar.
The pillar instantly began to glow in an eerie red light, criss-crossed with what seemed like veins, each connected to a bound body.
As the holy maiden began to murmur words in an arcane language that Yun Ruoyan couldn’t understand, the veins grew brighter and brighter, then began to extract the blood of all those bound to the pillar.
The process caused the bound prisoners to cry out in rage, anger, and despair. Some among them screamed so weakly it seemed as though their throats had already gone hoarse, while others cried out as deeply and somberly as a dragon’s howl.
Along with the screams, the bound prisoners began to spasm, as though they were suffering the greatest torture known to man.
Yun Ruoyan widened her eyes as she bore witness to the scene, desperately trying to quell the frothing blood running through her own body. If she were to lose control, she would undoubtedly rush out toward the pillar to prevent the horrific ritual from taking place.
However, her rationality told her that, if she really were to do so, not only would she be unable to rescue anyone present, she would even end up sacrificing herself and her unborn baby. Instead, she tightly clenched her fists, harder and harder until her fingernails drew blood.
Some of the bound prisoners withered into husks.
Yun Ruoyan could hear the silver dragon elder murmur to himself, “These slaves are getting weaker and weaker, and we’ll run out of the demonic dragon bloodline at this rate. We need to find replacements quickly.”
Another dozen prisoners gasped their last.
Yun Ruoyan tried desperately to find Long Yin amidst the prisoners bound to the pillar. Although she had only ever seen him in her dreams, she believed that she would recognize him at a glance. However, there were so many prisoners bound to the pillar that Yun Ruoyan couldn’t glance at them all, and she couldn’t help but worry that she might have come too late.
“That’s enough,” the silver dragon elder finally said, prompting the holy maiden to stop her chanting. She fell to the ground weakly, her body trembling—either because of her fright, or because the formation had been too draining.
The prisoners bound to the pillar stopped spasming, but they had grown visibly thinner. Death would have been a mercy, one that freed them from suffering this fate day after day.
“Long Yin, are you still alive?” the silver dragon elder suddenly called out. “If you are, respond! Otherwise, I’ll have to replace you with your child, haha!”
“Of course I am, you bastard!” From the center of the pillar came the deep, weak voice of a man. When Yun Ruoyan heard the voice, she shook and looked toward its source. The entire pillar had turned a translucent red, as though it had been dyed red with blood. A man’s shadow was visible at the center of the pillar, and it was he who had spoken.
In that case, he had to be Long Yin. Yun Ruoyan widened her eyes as she stared at the man, his face impossible to make out through the pillar. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out.
“Good, good,” the silver dragon elder replied. “I’m lucky to have as potent a descendant as you, or my formation couldn’t have lasted for so many years. If you keep on staying alive, you might be able to reunite with your daughter and grandson.”
“What? My grandson?” Long Yin asked.
“Yes, your grandson. Not only has your daughter gotten married, her husband actually possesses the silver dragon bloodline, and her child has received both such bloodlines. The secret to eternal life that I’ve been searching for all this time might very well be hidden in that child’s body, and I’ll do anything to get my hands on him. In that case, you and your grandson will be reunited, haha!”
“You bastard, come at me if you must, but don’t lay hands on my children!” Long Yin shouted.
“You’re worthless,” the silver dragon replied calmly. “Given the situation, it looks as though you’ll die within two years, just like the rest of them.”
“Silver dragon, I curse you! You’ll suffer retribution for your actions, I swear it!”
“Retribution? Retribution’s only a lie the weak tell themselves, just like you.” The silver dragon pointed at the man in the pillar and began to laugh. “And you, you, all of you prisoners—that’s the curse of being weak, don’t you see? Haha!”
Yun Ruoyan supported the holy maiden as they followed the silver dragon elder out. Before they walked back through the corridor, Yun Ruoyan turned back to see the darkened pillar and promised, Father, wait for me. I’ll come back and rescue you soon!
By the time they had returned to the temple, both Yun Ruoyan and the holy maiden were quaking and barely standing up. The silver dragon elder glanced at the holy maiden, then turned to Yun Ruoyan. “You’re not a bad servant. Follow the holy maiden well. In the future, you’ll accompany her to all the sacrificial rites.”
“Yes, Elder,” Yun Ruoyan replied with some difficulty.
The elder nodded and left, but Yun Ruoyan and the holy maiden stayed in the temple for the rest of the night.
“Holy Maiden, what exactly is that place? Who are those people trapped by the pillar?” Yun Ruoyan asked the holy maiden as she helped her wash up.
The holy maiden originally had her eyes closed, but she instantly opened them when faced with Yun Ruoyan’s question. “This is a secret of the silver dragon clan. If I tell you, you’ll be part of the secret, and you’ll never be free of it.”
“I’m not afraid,” Yun Ruoyan replied. “I was trapped the moment I walked through the corridor and saw that scene.”
“I’m sorry,” the holy maiden apologized. “I was too afraid to go through the rites alone, so I brought you with me, but I’ve also dragged you into this entire mess…”
“There’s no need to apologize,” Yun Ruoyan reassured her. “I simply want to make sure I understand what’s going on. Since we’re on the same boat now, won’t you at least make things clear to me?”
“Alright.” The holy maiden sighed. “I’ll tell you everything I know.”