"Aug. 12, year 899 of the Star Ocean Calendar.
"Since this mission dictates that we enter into the depths of Boneyard, Sparkle has to receive tremendous modification in the maintenance base orbiting the planet of Hazy God. Stealth modules for underground engagement and strengthened shell against high temperature and high pressure are going to be added.
"But the most irritating part is that the Sky Dragon, the main gun of Sparkle, is going to be transformed into a super-large optical rock mincer, or a big drill made of mystic rays, if you will.
"Sparkle will dig into the underground with the drill of mystic rays that has been transformed from the main gun.
"Sparkle is the most advanced multipurpose assault warship and entails the possibility of endless modifications. Many warships of the same model have been modified into a mess before. I used to laugh at the comrades on those warships. Never did I expect that I would be a joke myself someday.
"Before, I was an awesome chief main gunner. With a full-strength strike from the Sky Dragon, I can blow a demon emperor into pieces if I'm lucky.
"But today, I have to learn how to maneuver a drill to make the warship wriggle in the underground like an earthworm. I would've rooted for staying in the Phantom Star Constellation if I had seen this coming.
"Aug. 15, year 899 in the Star Ocean Calendar.
"This mission is very urgent. We just finished the modifications and didn't even run a full test yet. But now we have performed a space jump and reached the gravity sphere of Boneyard.
"The great expedition has claimed the best refiners of the imperium. Those left behind are all rookies, who have modified Sparkle into a pile of garbage. The few underground stealth modules that they added are in serious conflict with the space jump system.
"Many crew members are suffering from the sequela of space jump. They are troubled by nausea and diarrhea. More serious patients are even mentally deranged.
"Thankfully, such a sequela is a common disease in a battlefield, and there are standard procedures to treat it. After staying in orbit for half a day, our combat ability has all been restored.
"According to our intelligence, the planet in front of us could be one of the residences of Skeleton Dragon, the top demon in the early years of the Great Dark Age thirty thousand years ago.
"It appears that, since the demon remnants have run into a dead end, they are of a mind to dig out treasures from their ancestor.
"But how can we allow them to do what they want?
"Aug. 16, year 899 in the Star Ocean Calendar.
"We encountered an unprecedented tsunami on Boneyard. A previously unseen terrifying spiritual beast almost a thousand meters long is living inside the ocean. It seems to be a hybrid of a crustacean and a mollusk. Even their huge tentacles are covered by thick armor.
"Our main gun has been transformed into a drill with zero firepower now. The attacks of the secondary cannons were merely scratching the beast.
"The tide out there was too furious. We only had limited members on board. The captain didn't want to release the crystal suits to fight the beast face to face. The big operation later might be jeopardized if several Exos were injured or killed.
"In the end, I figured out a way. The captain steered Sparkle toward the bastard, while I activated the drill of mystic rays the moment of the collision, which dug a giant hole more than fifty meters in diameter on the body of the bastard. Then we fired the secondary guns upon its internal organs. It was put down very quickly.
"Ha. The Sky Dragon is just as dominating as before even if it is now just a drill. Nice!
"We cut off samples of the body tissues of the giant sea beast for analysis. Its cell structure and the flowing route of the demonic energy are quite different from those of the demons nowadays, but similar to those of the ancient demons thirty thousand years ago.
"According to our analysis, it should be an instance of a demon species that Skeleton Dragon brought back to the planet thirty thousand years ago. When Skeleton Dragon perished, its wisdom declined, and it became a spiritual beast with nothing but survival instincts.
"If so, the likelihood that the residence of Skeleton Dragon exists on this planet has greatly increased.
"Aug. 17, year 899 in the Star Ocean Calendar.
"We have found a tremendous relic, in which a gargantuan corpse of a demon beast was bound to countless high pillars that almost reached the sky. It should be an ancient barrier. Perhaps it was the place where Skeleton Dragon's tribe tortured their enemy and traitors.
"Not far away from the relic, there is a great canyon leading to ten thousand meters below the ground. In order to save the spiritual energy, we flew Sparkle to the bottom of the canyon. Then we built a temporary platform on the crags and started digging down in a slope from there.
"The surface of Boneyard is sterile. But the underground world is unimaginably fertile. The spiritual lodes of the planet are mostly in the form of liquid. They formed undercurrents and even oceans in the underground, where countless exotic beasts and Heavenly Materials and Earthly Treasures are flourishing.
"In the afternoon, we were engaged with a demon squad and we captured a fugitive after a brief battle.
"After hundreds of years of war, the demons nowadays are far less proud and ruthless than their compatriots living in the peak of the Demon Beast Empire. We elicited a lot of intelligence from their mouth without too much trouble.
"Our analysis is correct. They were the lucky dogs who got away from the battle in the Phantom Moon Constellation. Discovering the residence inside Boneyard by accident, and because all the constellations nearby are stationed with nowhere to run to, they made up their minds to take a chance in this place.
"Aug. 18, year 899 in the Star Ocean Calendar.
"The demon remnants have almost lost all their fighting will. We crushed them very easily. Their last demonic warship was wrecked and sank down, too.
"We also discovered an extremely spacious underground world, and an undersea ocean that boasts limitless spiritual energy!
"The vastness of the underground world is beyond the limits of any tectonic structure. It should've been supported by some sort of ancient secret art.
"The world of Cultivation is indeed intriguing. So many secret arts and technologies from the ancient times are waiting to be excavated by us.
"I kind of like the feeling of driving a huge drill forward in the underground now.
"The den of Skeleton Dragon is in the center of the underground ocean. A vintage town is lying there. The giant cone-shaped building in the middle must be Skeleton Dragon's residence.
"We are voyaging toward it and ready to conduct the most thorough research.
"Aug. 19, year 899 in the Star Ocean Calendar.
"We are totally wrong! This is a trap! A lethal trap!
"Aug. 23, year 899 in the Star Ocean Calendar.
"We are doomed.
"The total damage of Sparkle has increased to 83%. Most of the key components have been worn-out in the fierce battles. Right now, it is no better than an empty shell.
"95% of the mainframe crystal processor has been damaged, 91% for the space jump system, and 93% for the interstellar communication system. 22 of the 24 main power rune arrays have exploded. We are now stranded on a seabed, utterly trapped in the depths of Boneyard.
"We can't even send a signal to the nearest base, let alone shattering the void to perform a space jump.
"Seven crew members have died. The survivors are all seriously wounded, including me. There's no way that we can escape by ourselves without the crystal warship.
"The captain, the chief mate, and the stargazer, three Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators, have all perished.
"Even if we manage to repair the steering system miraculously, no one will be able to fly it without three to six months of training in the 'Tiny Spiritual Ship'.
"The crystal processor is almost destroyed. We've lost the stargazer, too. There's no way that we can locate the star beacons precisely.
"If we repair the space jump system and carry out a space jump aimlessly, God knows where we will be teleported to.
"However, without the sacrifices of the three Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators, I'm afraid we would've been killed long ago, or come to an even more miserable ending.
"Of the survivors, I'm the highest in Cultivation and military rank. According to the rules of the imperial armed forces, I am the acting captain now.
"Thankfully, we made a deal with our base previously that we would communicate with each other every five days. If the base fails to receive our signal twice, new crystal warships will be deployed to search for us.
"The deal somehow makes me less nervous. I sent more men to repair Sparkle and reflected on our adventure.
"There's no doubt now that the so-called residence inside Boneyard is an out-and-out scam. This is not a residence of Skeleton Dragon, but his tomb!
"No. This is the place of his resurrection, a home in which he has been sleeping for tens of thousands of years waiting to be woken up.
"Based on the intelligence we gathered and everything we've been through, the following is the whole story that I have inferred.
"Thirty thousand years ago, in the last years of the Great Dark Age, more than ten top elites of the demon race had fought against each other in order to unite and reign the sea of stars alone. Skeleton Dragon's tribe was among the losers. Skeleton Dragon himself must've been seriously injured and bordering on death.
"He did not wish to die just like that. Therefore, he placed himself into the mors putativa state with his secret art and treated himself with the abundant spiritual energy contained in the underground ocean slowly for tens of thousands of years.
"But it was a long time ago after all. A lot of files are missing, and we are not sure about the details of Skeleton Dragon.
"Maybe he can only be resurrected to revisit the sea of stars by possessing some intelligent creatures.
"Soul possession was a very popular technique in the ancient Cultivation world. Since Skeleton Demon was one of the top experts in that era, he must've been very familiar with the evil art.
"Anyways, he has been locked underground and is unable to break free with his own strength. So, he could only resort to foreign forces to crash the barrier.
"The demon remnants, and we the fools, have all been lured to this place on purpose!
"Although the demon remnants were cleaned up in time, we have fractured the barrier in our idiocy and freed Skeleton Dragon!"
'mors putativa' is the latin, medical term for apparent death.
# Owed Chapter (4/5) #