As it descended to the ground, they left the pavilion and greeted Elder Xiang.
"Come with me first, I'll take you back to the beginning and then I'll start searching for Ming Yue."
He turned around and walked back to the ship. Anqing was taken aback before walking up to him.
"Wait you're not going to look for her right now? She might not live long enough to come back!"
Elder Xiang turned around to face her.
"Don't worry about her, she'll survive. According to her badge, she's in the fifth zone but it doesn't look like she's dead yet. Don't bother arguing with me, none of you have the ability to survive in there. Not to mention, I can't guarantee your safety if you're so adamant on saving her now."
He looked at the group of two along with Ming Yue's pets after lecturing them, waiting to hear Anqing or Xukun speak up. However, such a thing did not happen. They could only grit their teeth and clench their fists, accepting that the elder was right.
"Now all of you will do as I say and come back with me to the gates of the garden."
He gestured for the to follow while holding his hand out for Xiao Yin to land on. Perched on his forearm, Xiao Yin stepped towards his shoulder. Her feathers were somewhat ruffled and she couldn't rest on his shoulder, readjusting her position every several seconds.
"Don't worry, we'll get her back", he whispered to the owl, seeing the agitation in the eyes.
Hei Yue had followed Xiao Yin, walking next to Elder Xiang. His head drooped down and Elder XIang took note of that as well.
"Hmm, they really like her, don't they", he thought.
As the ship returned to the skies with everyone, they left the third pavilion without a sound. In the meantime, Ming Yue entered the mansion that was the fourth and final pavilion.
Inside, she was met with a elegant and grandiose hall, one filled with bright. Pillars lined the halls, carved with an assortment of flowers that wrapped around them. Each flower was meticulously made, studded with multi-colored gems. Each pillar had their own unique variety of flowers and resembled that of an exquisite flower arrangement.
That was the first thing she saw, the shine of gems and beautiful architecture. The roof was made of glass, the floor was made of green marble inlaid with gold. It very much suited its position as the final pavilion of the Ninth Flower Garden.
Looking around, Ming Yue noticed that there were six floors including the halls, each with dozens of rooms. With walkways going around, she went up the second floor, casually glancing down at the hall beneath her.
Despite the beauty inside, there was a strange feeling that she got from this. At the same time, there was an almost inaudible sound. A sound that resembled that of a heart, pulsating with power.
She took note of it but only believed it to be part of the mansion's inner workings. Perhaps, the sound of its power source.
Checking every room, she could not help but be more and more confused. Each one was the same as the other, a workshop filled with gardening tools.
"Were these used to care for the garden?" she thought.
Grabbing the equipment, she examined it but found nothing extraordinary about them. They were normal shovels and watering cans. Every room she looked into was the same, they all had the same set of tools. Yet, there were no personal rooms, there were no beds or any sign of people living here. The cottage seemed to be the only one but if that was true, then why were there so many sets of tools?
Stranger even, she saw that each room had a light at the ceiling but now way to turn it on. Each room was not lit and darkened, only brightened by the light of the hall.
As much as she could rack her mind, Ming Yue did not know why the pavilion was set up like this.
As she rose to the higher levels, it was the same for every room but now, the sound of a beating heart had become clearer, distinct.
The sound of the beating heart grew louder and faster.
"Where is that coming from?"
Ming Yue only felt confusion and nervousness as she climbed up to the sixth floor. It was then that her senses seemed to flare up, it was dangerous here. She walked up to the first room, hesitating ot open it. It was the same as all of the other rooms in the past four floors, a simple wooden door coated in a verdant green lacquer.
Was it going to be another set of tools or something else?
She did not know but she was prepared, her hand ready to grab her sword.
Ming Yue opened the door slowly until it was wide enough for her to look in. Within that room, she saw the shadow of a figure, sitting on the floor and laying against the wall. They seemed unconscious with their arms limped to the side.
She opened the door fully and walked in. The light from the hall illuminated the room and revealed the identity of the mystery figure. As her eyes, focused onto the limp person, she was more than shocked.
"What is that? Is it a puppet?"
She couldn't help but say it aloud as this was something she had never seen before.
This "puppet" was featureless, resembling a marionette. Even then, it must've been made with skill for it had all of its limbs, all ten fingers and toes. It was a stone puppet though, she wasn't exactly sure if it was stone. It had a grayish color but was smooth enough to reflect the light from the halls. The stone sparkled with silver and bronze that had been inserted into the puppet like veins.
A puppet like this, she had only read about in the books of the Institution's archive. Not to mention, Heavenly Gate had an elder for puppetry and a sizable division.
Ming Yue had visited their workshop before but only found there to be puppets that resembled animals. There were no human ones, especially not something like this. Even in terms of size, the elder's puppets were half as large as the one before her.
The Dao of Puppetry was difficult after all. It required knowledge of the various bodies of beasts, skill in sculpting and binding, and demanded all sorts of materials. However, a master of puppetry was someone to be feared. They could control multiple puppets to fight and such puppets had no feelings. They would follow the orders of their creator until the end. High quality puppets could contend against experts and dangerous beasts. Their bodies could be made from anything: wood, stone, metal.
With that said, this puppet was made skillfully but the material did not seem as precious as she thought.
Ming Yue slowly approached the puppet and tapped it with her hand. Despite her actions, the puppet did not wake up and she investigated the puppet.
The stone body was sturdy but after exerting some strength, she managed to crack its arm. At the same time, she felt relieved.
"I suppose I was afraid for nothing."
She turned back and walked out of the room but suddenly stopped. The mansion was quiet. The sound of a beating heart was no longer there.
"What happened?" she thought, "Was it because of the door?"
Her relief disappeared and she became tense again. This time, she brought her sword out, pointing it in front of her.
The silence did nothing to soothe her.
It was then that she heard a sound behind her, a strange clinking noise. At the same time, the doors to all of the rooms of the mansion opened up. Each and every room was lit up on their own and revealed they contained.
She turned around to find the puppet having awakened and it charged towards her!
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