“Get away from the railings! Brace for impact!” The vice-captain appeared on deck and shouted at the top of his lungs. As luck would have it, ahead of them was a sandy beach that he could use to cushion the ship.
Li Yiming held onto the railings as tightly as he could and grabbed Chen Quan’s shoulder with his other hand. He extended his senses toward the island, only to find absolute nothingness. ‘What…? This is impossible…’
The cruise ship plunged into the beach at full speed, but to everyone’s surprise, there was no violent shock, no loud thud, nothing. Instead, it was as if the cruise ship had run into cotton candy.
“Do not panic. We send off a report of our location every five minutes to satellites. Even if it doesn’t go through, it won’t be long before the control tower sends help. This island is a good place to get some rest and avoid being stranded on the sea. I promise you, we’ll be able to return home safely very soon.” The vice-captain was a little bewildered by the way the cruise ship docked into the beach, but remained professional and tried his best to ease everybody’s tension.
The vice-captain had barely stopped speaking when a terrifying spectacle unfolded in front of his very eyes. The sand on the beach suddenly shifted, gathering into a stream of gravel that slowly confluenced and formed a staircase which extended from the deck of the Pandaria to the beach. Witnessing such a bizarre, almost terrifying phenomenon caused quite a stir within the crowd, and some shrieks of horror came from those with a faint heart.
The next instant, beads of green light shone from beneath the sand, and a tapestry of grass suddenly appeared over the sand, forming a long strip of lushness which extended all the way to the center of the island. The clamor had died down, and all had their attention riveted at the green carpet that seemed to welcome them to the island in a way that defied all rationality.
“Welcome to the Island of Eternity. Dear guests, you’ve arrived just in time for the start of a wonderful show. So, what are you waiting for?” An ethereal voice suddenly came from the distance. Whoever was speaking sounded eager at the arrival of his new visitors.
‘This voice…’ Li Yiming frowned. The voice sounded familiar to him, but he decided to wait before making a move.
“It’s getting colder…’ Fang Shui’er suddenly said. A thin layer of frost had materialized on the surface of the deck.
Li Yiming wrapped his fingers around the metal railings and could feel its freezing touch on his skin.
“We should get off of here.” Li Yiming sighed and tapped Chen Quan’s shoulder, jumping down onto the sandy stairs before anyone else. He knew that the freezing temperature was simply a way to push them off of the ship. It would not take long for them to freeze into ice sculptures if they chose to remain.
Chen Quan pulled on his collar, barely able to quell the excitement within him. His face had turned wine-red from the anticipation of finally uncovering the truth had sought for so long. Fang Shui’er followed Li Yiming, but took the time to turn back and glance at Yu Runkai as she jumped onto the stairs made of sand.
As soon as Li Yiming set foot on the island, the icy gusts and freezing cold vanished. The wind became a warm late spring breeze that tickled his face, and Li Yiming took a deep breath before directing his attention toward the center of the island. The thick, ominous layer of cloud was no longer to be seen, uncovering a starry night sky.
“Go! Hurry! We need to get off!” The vice-captain yelled as soon as he saw Li Yiming make it to the beach safely. The quickly falling temperature had already frozen the swimming pool solid, and icicles formed on the metal fences. He had ordered some sailors to gather supplies before abandoning the ship, but he quickly realized that there was no more time for such luxuries.
The rest of the guests on the ship made it to the sandy beach in fear and awe. Just as the last person hopped off the cruise ship and walked onto the soft, grassy carpet, someone let out a cry of shock. The crowd turned back, only to discover that the sandy stairs, along with their cruise ship, had vanished from sight.
By now, the crowd was far too terrified to even panic at the strange phenomenon. Most of the guests remained petrified and sought comfort compacting even more tightly together.
“O, the infinite joys of life. The beautiful spring flowers and the crescent moon of autumn. But the Heavens won’t let me enjoy them!” The aery voice came again, this time singing a song in a rather joyful tone.
As the voice resounded, the sand on the beach suddenly started to shift. A stream of sand merged in an open area in front of Li Yiming until it formed a large stage which was nearly ten meters tall. Li Yiming could see that there was someone standing on top of the newly formed structure.
Mr. K…” Li Yiming was about to call out to the person on the stage before realizing that something was not quite right.
‘This is not Mr. Kong…’ Li Yiming thought to himself as he scrutinized the person on the stage more closely. It was a skinny man with an average stature. He had small eyes, a flat nose, and a smile that made him seem lazy and nonchalant. Although he looked just like Mr. Kong, Li Yiming was convinced that it was a different person.
‘This man… Eden… and that time in Tianshan.’ Li Yiming grew more agitated as he was certain that he had met the man before.
“I can sense fear, confusion, and worry…” The man suddenly said. “No, no. These feelings do not belong here. The Island of Eternity is a place of joy and tranquility.”
“I’ve prepared a show for you, as well as prizes for the winners of the game. Your life will be changed forever. Of course, if you lose…” The man suddenly started to let out a demonic, almost maniacal laugh.
‘Do you know anything about this?’ Li Yiming tried to contain his emotions and asked Bai Ze.
‘Don’t ask me. I don’t know everything about domains, especially when it’s related to Mr. Kong… Be careful.’ Bai Ze sighed.
Fang Shui’er extended her fingers and clenched her fist back slowly. She seemed shocked and went back to staring at Li Yiming.
“It’s not him…” Li Yiming knew what Fang Shui’er was thinking, since the latter had met Mr. Kong back in Ning Village.
“My talent has been sealed off…” Fang Shui’er said in a low voice, revealing her trepidation. She reached out for Li Yiming’s arm and slowly rested her head on his shoulder.
‘Her talents are sealed?’ Li Yiming’s heart skipped a beat. He was aware that the limitation did not apply to him. As he searched for Yu Runkai, he found the latter trying to conceal himself and blend into the crowd.
“Very well. Let us all lighten up and just relax a bit. We’re all here to enjoy ourselves, so no need be so reserved! I want everyone dancing and singing!” The voice of the man on the stage suddenly jumped up a pitch and he raised both arms and waved them frantically.
A loud explosion was heard, and the stars in the sky exploded like fireworks, emitting a blinding flash of light. Li Yiming readied himself for an attack, only to find that the surroundings had transformed once again. The sand had turned into a solid wooden floor, and the stars became illumination light. Li Yiming found himself somewhere he could not be more familiar with: a dance stage.
The abrupt change caused everybody to rush to the center of the stage and use other people’s bodies as their shield.. Li Yiming, who stood at the front, became even more exposed, and the man crossed eyes with him.
“Interesting…” The mysterious man waved, and a luxurious sofa appeared on stage. He sat down with crossed legs and played around with what looked like a conductor’s baton.
“The first scene, dancing hearts and dancing words…” The man smiled and hurled the baton toward the stage. It transformed into a giant silver pillar which stood at the center of the stage.
The wooden floor suddenly split, and a small three by three grid appeared. Li Yiming looked at the formation with a frown. Aside from the middle square, the other square each had an arrow pointing in a different direction. ‘Is this… a dance floor?’
“Are you familiar with this game? Alright, I need a volunteer…” The man rubbed his hands together and looked at the crowd with expectation.
‘This…’ Li Yiming gulped down a mouthful of saliva. He had to stop himself from jumping onto the stage, which was something he had been trained for so long to do. He stayed in place, immobile, just as every other guest from the Pandaria, who were all deadly afraid to attract any kind of attention.
“No one? I’ll have to choose then…” The man suddenly laughed out loud and snapped his fingers.
The lights suddenly switched off, aside from a single projector which shone a bright beam of light. A drumroll was heard as the projector moved around in the crowd.
As the drumbeat slowly came to a halt, the projector stopped on a young model, who was shivering in terror.
“Congratulations to this young lady. She’s the lucky one who will perform for us. Let us anticipate the amazing performance she’ll deliver!” The man snapped his fingers again, and the model was slowly dragged out of the crowd by some sort of invisible force, despite her resisting. The people who surrounded her were also pushed to the side.
“No… no… help!” The girl screeched desperately.
Li Yiming was about to leap forward.
It was Fang Shui’er and Bai Ze, who both advised against an intervention.
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