But on the shore, behind them, there was still no one!

Xie Lian had been on guard the whole way, and when he saw this scene, he immediately turned around to strike. The black shadow was clearly hit by him, but it dispersed like ripples in water and disappeared on the spot. Hua Cheng also tilted his head slightly, furrowing his brow as he looked in the direction where the shadow disappeared. Soon, more indistinct human forms appeared in the water’s reflection, their pale faces and hands the only prominent features in the dark night. Xie Lian swung his sword and shouted, “General Pei! Go to the water’s edge and look at the reflection! The water’s reflection can reveal those things!”

If they weren’t in the ghost realm, these little ghosts would never have been able to approach the divines. It was only because Pei Ming couldn’t see the enemy that he was caught off guard. Now, sensing the clues, he stared at the water’s surface and swiftly resolved a group of ghostly figures that surrounded him with two sword strikes. Wudu finally noticed the anomaly in the reflection and knelt by the water’s edge, bowing his head and saying, “Qing Xuan? Are you there?!”

The water was pitch-black, and so was the iron prison. They merged together, making it difficult to perceive, but the only thing that stood out was that pale hand. In an instant, a face suddenly appeared in the middle of the iron bars—it was none other than Shi Qing Xuan!

He seemed unable to see Wudu outside the prison, wearing a chilling expression. He grabbed the iron bars and desperately tried to squeeze his head out, as if shouting for help, but no sound could be heard. After shouting for a while, suddenly five or six withered, skeletal hands appeared, crawling all over his head, face, neck, and shoulders, forcibly dragging him down!

Witnessing this, Wudu cursed and was about to jump into the water, but Pei Ming pulled him back and said, “Water God, you mustn’t! How do we know this isn’t a trap? The waters of the South Sea can’t come to your aid. As a water divine entering someone else’s domain, aren’t you like a fish on a chopping block?”

Wudu patted his shoulder and only said, “Then please watch outside for me.” After speaking, he pushed him away, leaped into the Blackwater Lake!

Once he entered the water, he never resurfaced. Pei Ming exclaimed, “Water God!” but he couldn’t follow him down. He knew very well that there was a “boundary” under the lake. It was like the mechanisms set up in some ancient tombs—outsiders could open the tomb door from the outside, but once they entered, the door would automatically close and couldn’t be opened from the inside. Grave robbers would be trapped and die inside. There was no guarantee that this “boundary” didn’t have a similar mechanism. Xie Lian said, “General Pei! Don’t go down there. You already have a corpse at your feet. Hurry back to the beach and prepare the coffin for our departure. I’ll go down!”

Pei Ming said, “Crown Prince? Are you sure you can handle it?”

Xie Lian replied, “Your powers are already weakened here. We are on equal footing. It’s better for me to go since I have more experience in combat.”

After Pei Ming looked at Hua Cheng by Xie Lian’s side and remembered that he could float on the water’s surface, he realized that these two were no less important here than him. There was no need for further discussion. He picked up the corpse of the little ghost on the ground and rushed out of the woods. Xie Lian turned and said, “Third Brother, lend me a bit of your power… Just a bit, that’s enough!”

Hua Cheng remained silent and lightly patted his lower back. The Sword of Blossoms immediately swept out a pillar-like white light, instantly killing the surrounding ghosts that were approaching. Xie Lian was silent for a moment, then sheathed the sword and said, “I’m going!”

The two of them leaped into the water. However, the bottom of the Blackwater Lake, apart from the unusually cold water, showed no abnormalities. Moreover, unlike the “sink as soon as you enter” characteristic of the Blackwater Ghost Marsh, this water clearly allowed people to float on it, just like ordinary lake water. Xie Lian felt something strange and took the initiative to swim downstream. After a while, he reached the bottom of the lake. Underwater, he didn’t see any peculiar mechanisms or the wind and water deities. Frowning, he swam back upstream. After a moment, Xie Lian emerged from the water, took a few breaths, wiped the lake water off his face, and then realized that the scene on the shore had changed!

By the shore of the Blackwater Lake, another iron prison had appeared, the same one that had been reflected in the water just now.

However, apart from this, the rest of the scenery by the lake remained identical and excessively quiet, giving off an eerie vibe. Wudu had already reached the shore and was brandishing a large stone, smashing the lock on the iron prison in anger. As a water divine, he had entered the territory of other water-based experts and couldn’t summon water from his own domain, just like a fierce beast without fangs or claws. Xie Lian and Hua Cheng arrived, and when Wudu saw Xie Lian, his eyes lit up. He raised his hand and said, “God of War! You’ve come at the right time! Quickly, use your method as the God of War to deal with it!”

“…”

Xie Lian thought to himself, everyone knows how the God of War operates now, don’t they? Silently, he stepped forward and kicked, causing the large lock to shatter. With another kick, the prison door swung open. Before Wudu could rush inside, a group of people had already rushed out from within, wailing and howling like ghosts, “Aaaahhhh!”

These people were all disheveled, emaciated, with lifeless eyes and tattered clothes that barely covered their bodies. They were so filthy that it seemed like they hadn’t bathed in ten years. Their protruding ribs were visible on their chests, and they scratched and pounded their chests and feet, making it quite horrifying. They howled and screamed like ghosts, a torrent of filthy noise bursting forth. Shi Wudao was simply dumbfounded.

However, these people had only escaped and didn’t engage with them, so Shi Wudao didn’t care after a moment of hesitation and continued to rush forward, calling out, “Qing…!”

He had only taken a few steps when he suddenly stumbled, finding the ground extremely slippery and almost falling. Moreover, there was a indescribable stench emanating from the iron prison. Xie Lian could smell it even before entering and held his breath, while Shi Wudao covered his mouth and nose with his sleeve, continuing to push forward. Finally, he shouted, “Qing Xuan?!”

The prison was pitch-black inside, filled with sobbing cries and strange whispers. After a while, a voice said, “…Brother…”

Sure enough, Shi Qing Xuan was sitting in the deepest part of the iron prison, leaning against a wall. On the wall was the only tall window in the prison, through which moonlight seeped, making him appear extremely pale. Surrounding him were a group of filthy and strange-looking individuals. Some were covered in festering sores, some were imitating pig noises, some were pretending to be chickens pecking at corn, and some were holding Shi Qing Xuan, crying and calling him their baby, all of them behaving like lunatics.

Shi Qing Xuan, after all, used to be a revered divine and had never fallen into such a situation in his life. Shi Wudao rushed forward and shouted, “Get out of here! What kind of ghosts are you all?!”

Although he and Shi Qing Xuan resembled each other in appearance, their auras were completely different. Now that his powers were greatly diminished, his dominance was even more prominent, terrifying the madmen into fleeing with their heads in their hands. Xie Lian couldn’t help but feel pity, and Shi Qing Xuan also said, “Brother, don’t hit them. These are not little ghosts. These… are all living people!”

It was true. Although these people all looked like ghosts, upon closer inspection, they were indeed living human beings. Xie Lian couldn’t help but be taken aback, wondering, “Why would the Blackwater Ghost Lord keep a group of people like this here?”

Shi Wudao, however, didn’t care about this. He raised the Longevity Lock in one hand and grabbed Shi Qing Xuan’s arm with the other, asking, “How did you end up here? Where are you injured?”

Shi Qing Xuan was indeed dirty, with a bit of blood on his leg, but it didn’t seem serious. He replied, “We don’t know how we got here. We were knocked unconscious by a wave and woke up here. I have a minor injury that’s not a big deal! Ming Xiong is more seriously injured.”

Only then did they notice that Ming Yi was lying on the ground nearby, his complexion extremely poor, not due to unhappiness but because his face alternated between green and purple. Xie Lian asked, “Master Di, what happened?”

Shi Qing Xuan said, “It seems like he was bitten by something in the sea. The teeth and spines of those bonefish are toxic! I used all the medicine I had on him, but… sigh.”

Xie Lian crouched down, intending to examine him closely, but he was almost overwhelmed by the foul stench. Looking around, he saw some wooden barrels filled with dirty water, emitting a rotten and putrid odor, as well as the foul stench of festering sores and pus. There was even a terrifying smell that seemed like a chamber pot that hadn’t been emptied for several months.

Shi Wudao couldn’t tolerate it any longer and said, “This disgusting taste is nauseating, and the Blackwater Sinking Ship’s taste is not much better. Qing Xuan, let’s go!”

He pulled Shi Qing Xuan and started dragging him outside. Shi Qing Xuan, however, said, “I’m fine, no need to support me.” He supported Ming Yi and slowly walked out of the iron prison.

But leaving was easier said than done. The passage to leave Blackwater Lake had already closed. After going underwater a few times and resurfacing, the scenery remained unchanged, proving that they were indeed trapped within the Blackwater Lake realm and couldn’t get out.

Shi Qing Xuan asked, “What about General Pei?”

Shi Wudao replied, “I asked General Pei to stay outside. He should also try to find a solution.”

Xie Lian said, “I asked General Pei to prepare a coffin boat and leave as soon as you two get out.”

Shi Wudao said, “If he finishes building the coffin boat, he can go back and report before coming to find us.”

However, Ming Yi was injured, and no matter how strong the toxicity was, it was better to leave as soon as possible. They probably couldn’t wait that long. After contemplating for a moment, Xie Lian said, “Although the Blackwater Ghost Lord lives overseas, he shouldn’t stay inside forever. Is it possible that when he wants to leave, he has to pass through the entire Blackwater Ghost Marsh?”

Shi Wudao said, “Hmm, you’re right. There must be a place on this island where he can use teleportation.”

Originally, Shi Wudao didn’t treat Xie Lian differently, but after experiencing trials together and Xie Lian saving Shi Qing Xuan several times, he naturally held a higher opinion of him. At this moment, Ming Yi raised a hand slightly, and Shi Qing Xuan asked, “Ming Xiong? What do you want to say?”

Seemingly to conserve energy, Ming Yi didn’t speak and simply raised his hand higher. Everyone followed his gesture and looked towards the depths of the forest, where a dark and imposing structure stood.

Ming Yi lowered his hand and said hoarsely, “What is that place? Do you know?”

Xie Lian replied, “We don’t know. We didn’t see this thing when we came over.”

Shi Wudao squinted and said, “That must be the Blackwater Ghost Lord’s Netherwater Mansion.”

According to rumors, the residence of the Blackwater Ghost Lord was called the “Netherwater Mansion.” After making the determination, Shi Wudao said, “Let’s go.”

He was unabashed and went straight towards it. Although it seemed reckless, what else could they do in this situation?

If they were just wandering around in someone else’s yard earlier, now they were going to break into their front door. Xie Lian whispered to Hua Cheng, “San Lang, if you’re not comfortable, you don’t have to come along.”

Hua Cheng, however, had a solemn expression and replied, “Let’s go quickly, gege, and leave as soon as possible.”

Xie Lian nodded and didn’t say anything more. However, he faintly sensed that Hua Cheng seemed to have concerns. And it wasn’t about the owner of this place, but something else.

He couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong and thought about the numerous small doubts that had accumulated over time, feeling slightly uneasy. Before long, the group ignored the crazed and fleeing lunatics, crossed the forest, and arrived in front of the imposing black mansion.

Upon arrival, they discovered that this “Netherwater Mansion” was actually a magnificent palace, comparable in scale to the esteemed Wind Master Hall and Water Master Hall. The palace gate was tightly closed. They climbed a few steps, with Xie Lian standing outside the gate, knocking on it and saying in a loud voice, “Apologies for the disturbance. We come uninvited and truly feel remorseful for the accident.”

There was no response. Xie Lian composed himself and slowly pushed open the door of the palace.

Originally, based on Xie Lian’s many years of experience and past practices, even if there was something inside, it wouldn’t come out to greet them as soon as the door opened. But to his surprise, as soon as the door opened, he saw something horrifying.

Seated in the center of the spacious palace was a person. This person was dressed in black and had a snow-white face—

It was a skeleton!

Xie Lian immediately closed the door with a “clap.”

He thought, “Did I open the door in the wrong way? Normally, they wouldn’t show you something like this right off the bat, would they?”

He intended to give a greeting again and start over, but Shi Wudao stepped over him and pushed open both doors, sneering, “Since we’re here, are we afraid he won’t be hospitable?”

The group slowly entered the palace, approaching the black-clothed skeleton. Xie Lian carefully examined it and asked, “Whose bones are these? Why are they placed here?”

Ming Yi frowned and said, “…General Pei, didn’t he get separated? It couldn’t be him, right?”

There was indeed the possibility, which startled Shi Wudao slightly. After looking at it for a moment, he said, “It shouldn’t be. This skeleton is smaller than General Pei.”

Suddenly, Shi Qing Xuan said, “Wait.”

Everyone looked at him, and Shi Qing Xuan said, “Isn’t this question simple? This is the Netherwater Mansion. The only one who can be placed here is…”

Xie Lian understood his meaning and said, “The Blackwater Ghost Lord?”