Xie Lian continued, “I dare to speculate that this He Sheng, his given name alone contains the character ‘Xuan.’ Furthermore, his date of birth is the same as Lord Feng’s.”

To deceive the heavens and swap days requires meeting certain specific conditions.

Based on the three questions the Plain Speaking True Immortal asked when it first captured Master Qingxuan, it remembered two things firmly:

First, the prey’s name contained the character ‘Xuan’; second, the prey’s date of birth. However, it didn’t recognize the prey’s face and needed Master Qingxuan to approach and show it. Because the Shi family took remedial measures early on, it probably didn’t know much else.

So, to find someone to shield Master Qingxuan from disaster, it had to be someone who was born on the exact same day, month, and year as Master Qingxuan and had the character ‘Xuan’ in their name.

Finding such a scapegoat was extremely difficult. But the world is vast, and with enough effort, nothing is impossible. Taking advantage of the power of the Water Immortal, casting a wide net, they actually found such a person, and moreover, someone with the potential to ascend and was on the verge of transcending their tribulation!

How could such a fortunate opportunity be missed? Compared to the hardships of cultivation, it was much more convenient. Opportunities like this shouldn’t be let go of. If not seized, they may never come again!

At this point, Ming Yi seemed to realize something, and his expression gradually became solemn. Master Qingxuan nodded at first but suddenly remembered something and looked towards Hua Cheng, who was leaning against the door. After all, this matter couldn’t be discussed in front of a ghost. However, Hua Cheng crossed his arms and smiled, saying, “Lord Feng, there’s no need to look at me. Your concern should not be me. You should worry about whether anyone in the Heavenly Court has found evidence against Lord Feng.”

Ming Yi said in a deep voice, “So, you do have a spy in the Heavenly Court.”

Hua Cheng shrugged indifferently and said, “Didn’t you already know that?”

Earth Master was sent to the Ghost Market to investigate this matter, but it seemed the spy was deeply embedded, working undercover for more than ten years, and still, they hadn’t discovered who it was. When Hua Cheng said this matter had nothing to do with him, Xie Lian naturally believed him and didn’t dwell on it. But then Hua Cheng mentioned “worrying about other people in the Heavenly Court,” and Xie Lian suddenly remembered something and asked, “Lord Feng, why did you personally open the barrier of the protective formation at the Wine Pouring Platform that night? Was someone calling you out? Who was it?”

Master Qingxuan replied, “Yes, it was the Plain Speaking True Immortal. It just…”

With his hands tucked into his sleeves, Xie Lian interjected, “But how did it know your communication command?”

“…,” Ming Yi’s face darkened, and he said, “It’s all because of this person. He’s always trying to make friends with everyone, talking even when he’s busy! Too talkative!”

Master Qingxuan defended himself, saying, “Ming brother, you can’t say that. I only chatted with the Heavenly Court officials. I never revealed my identity to that thing!”

Xie Lian said, “If the Plain Speaking True Immortal, after lying dormant for many years, could gather such detailed information and even acquire the secrets of the Water Immortal… it wouldn’t be difficult for it to obtain your communication command. Someone must have leaked your communication command, intentionally or unintentionally. We can investigate starting from there.”

Ming Yi added, “So, have you figured out what kind of being it is? What did it do after calling you out?”

Master Qingxuan seemed to have a headache as he replied, “I don’t know what it looks like. It used some sort of curse, and I couldn’t see clearly.”

His response was vague, and he didn’t mention what he saw. Ming Yi’s expression grew stern. Xie Lian speculated that it was probably some gruesome scenes resembling the blood ritual, which were indeed difficult to describe. After a moment, Master Qingxuan sighed and said, “I’m useless. If only I could have ascended on my own, none of these things would have happened.”

In the mortal realm, Master Qingxuan’s original destiny was considered quite good; otherwise, the Plain Speaking True Immortal wouldn’t have targeted him. However, it was likely still far from reaching the level required for ascension. Such individuals were protected by a layer of spiritual energy, making it difficult for non-human entities to act against them. Moreover, which monster or demon would willingly provoke a future heavenly official?

Whether a person can ascend is not solely determined by intelligence. Even with intelligence and effort, success is not guaranteed. It’s also not about spending more resources on rare treasures. Sometimes, it’s just frustrating. Ten years of hard work may not match the natural eloquence of someone born with exceptional intelligence. A hundred years of painstaking effort may be overshadowed by a moment of enlightenment.

Having or not having that kind of destiny is simply a matter of fate. Even if the Water Immortal spent a fortune on his younger brother, if the fate didn’t change, he might have only reached the middle level of the Heavenly Court, at best, becoming a subordinate leading official. To have come this far, basking in limitless glory, it was all because his older brother had stolen something that originally belonged to someone else and placed it upon himself. Anyone with a hint of conscience and self-esteem could imagine the feeling after learning the truth.

If this didn’t happen, what would have become of those who truly possessed the destined opportunity to ascend?

Thinking up to this point, a sudden inspiration flashed through Xie Lian’s mind.

He said, “No. Lord Feng, the one who called you out wasn’t the Plain Speaking True Immortal.”

Master Qingxuan lifted his face and replied, “Ah? It definitely sounded like it. I wouldn’t be mistaken.”

Xie Lian said, “No, no. The voice was from it, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it was the entity itself. Everyone, do you remember: all the prey targeted by the Plain Speaking True Immortal ended up committing suicide. However, there was one exception.”

Pausing for a moment, he continued, “How did He Sheng die? How did it play out in the blood ritual? Was it suicide?”

Master Qingxuan widened his eyes and said, “It wasn’t suicide. It was…”

Ming Yi said, “He died from exhaustion.”

Xie Lian added, “Exactly! Despite being plagued by misfortune, He Sheng never had the thought of ending his own life until the very end.”

He focused his thoughts and said, “Think about it carefully. This person had an exceptionally determined will. Despite facing various hardships and injustices, an ordinary person would have given up or resorted to drastic measures. But he continued to fight, never yielding to any of the challenges. I speculate that perhaps after the Plain Speaking True Immortal targeted him, it never obtained what it wanted—the fear. His death was not due to fear and despair leading to a breakdown and suicide. In fact, the Plain Speaking True Immortal didn’t get the satisfaction it desired; it bit into steel and broke its teeth, losing the battle in the end.”

Listening to this, Master Qingxuan shook his head slowly and sighed sincerely, “I am truly inferior to this person.”

Xie Lian continued, “He died with a soul infused with murderous and resentful energy. I don’t believe that such a tempered soul would rest peacefully. It must be restless and yearning for revenge.”

“Therefore, Lord Feng, I believe that the current ‘Plain Speaking True Immortal’ is very likely not the one that targeted you when you were born. Instead, it is the He Sheng, or rather, He Xuan, who fiercely fought back and eventually turned the tables on the Plain Speaking True Immortal after his death!”

As soon as these words were spoken, both Master Qingxuan and Ming Yi were taken aback. Hua Cheng calmly added, “Ghosts devouring ghosts.”

If eating humans is considered a distasteful remark, at most it would lead to overindulgence; but if ghosts devour other ghosts in the right way, they can assimilate the other’s abilities and powers.

Xie Lian said, “This can also explain why the ‘Plain Speaking True Immortal’ knows so many details about this matter. Originally, such a creature wouldn’t be so cunning. However, the one who has returned to find you all is a…”

He intended to say “combined entity,” but felt it wasn’t quite accurate. At this moment, Hua Cheng interjected, “Enhanced being.”

Xie Lian said, “Exactly. After devouring the Plain Speaking True Immortal, He Sheng’s consciousness completely took control. Now, he not only possesses the power of curses but is also intelligent and holds an endless resentment towards all of you.”

That’s why, although it already knew Lord Feng’s communication command, it didn’t immediately use deadly curses from the beginning. Instead, it tightened the trap step by step, forcing him to close his ears, shut his eyes, and lock himself in an empty room. It was as if a cat caught a mouse and didn’t immediately kill it but played with it until it scared itself to death.

After a while, Ming Yi asked, “Now that things have come to this point, what do you plan to do?”

All eyes turned to Master Qingxuan. Unconsciously, he had messed up his hair and looked lost as he replied, “Don’t look at me like that??? I… I don’t know what to do!!! I’m just… temporarily, I don’t know how to face my brother for now…”

After all, he was his own brother, and it was because of him that he committed such an enormous crime, causing harm and loss of lives. It was understandable that he didn’t know what to do for a moment. Master Qingxuan added, “But for now, I beg you all not to speak of this outside! Just for now, let me think… about what to do. Although I’ve been thinking for several days, I still haven’t come up with a solution. In any case, I need some time to calm down…” By the end of his words, he was incoherent, his eyes vacant.

Master Wu Du had always insisted that he would “cure” Master Qingxuan, but what kind of illness could be cured? It was simply a fall from the divine pedestal, returning to being a mortal. Only by giving him another chance, another ascension, could this “illness” be cured. Although it would be difficult to find another suitable candidate, who knew what kind of dark magic Master Wu Du would employ? No wonder Master Qingxuan was shouting about wanting to be a mortal and not an immortal, in a hurry to leave.

And there was that scroll full of errors and omissions regarding the Plain Speaking True Immortal, likely a misdirection to prevent Master Qingxuan from finding the correct path. Who was responsible for it, Master Wu Du or Ling Wen? But since Master Wu Du needed to find someone who met the specific conditions, it must have required assistance from Ling Wen’s Hall of Lingering Words. Did the Sacred Ling Wen truly know nothing about this matter? If Master Qingxuan, a heavenly official, ascended in this way, could it be that there were other officials who ascended in the same manner, perhaps a second, third, or even more?

If that’s truly the case, it would be terrifying. The world would fall into chaos, and we must treat it with caution. Apart from Hua Cheng, who seemed carefree and relaxed, everyone else inside the small thatched cottage wore serious expressions, as if facing a great enemy. At this moment, a commotion suddenly erupted outside the cottage, with cows mooing angrily and many farmers shouting, “Stop! Stop!”

“What do they think they’re doing with such a murderous intent!”

Xie Lian approached the door and peered through the crack, saying, “It’s General Pei.”

Although Pei Ming had clearly been violently struck by Quan Yizhen with a bed, he now stood outside unscathed. In front of him was a crooked tombstone, and he seemed hesitant to cross that boundary, standing still with his sword. The farmers held hoes and sickles in their hands, their faces filled with unwelcome expressions. The black bull in the field snorted and suddenly transformed into a tall and sturdy man, remarkably handsome, with a small iron nose ring. He smiled and said, “Hey, isn’t this General Pei? What wind has blown you here? Let’s make it clear, your family’s little Pei’s matter is none of our business.”

Xie Lian pondered for a moment. When he saw the field and the black bull earlier, he had a faint impression, and as expected, this was the hometown of Rain Master on Mount Yulong. Back then, it was this bull who lent Xie Lian the Rain Master’s hat for summoning rain. After many years apart, the bull’s appearance remained the same, diligently tilling the land with great strength. Master Qingxuan also squeezed to the door crack and said to Xie Lian, “Rain Master’s bull. A fine bull.”

Pei Ming had suffered a loss from Rain Master before, so naturally, he was courteous and polite now, neither humble nor arrogant. He politely asked, “I dare not presume. General Pei is not here to seek the Rain Master, I suppose. May I ask if Lord Feng has visited your village?”