Ming Yi’s voice came from behind, “What are you muttering to yourself?”

Shi Qing Xuan’s body stiffened, and he stammered, “I… I… I…”

Xie Lian wanted to speak up for him, but his tongue seemed to disobey. There was nothing he could do—the most trusted friend, unexpectedly turned out to be the thing he feared the most, and had been lurking by his side all along. With no one around, he had no idea what this person intended to do. Who wouldn’t be afraid?

Suddenly, Ming Yi’s five fingers tightened, and Shi Qing Xuan felt a pain in his shoulder as he was pushed down.

At the same time, a pair of pale hands suddenly emerged from the stream, grabbing for Shi Qing Xuan’s throat.

A water ghost!

Ming Yi struck, but the hand missed. He struck again, and a scream came from the water, indicating that the thing had been dispersed. Shi Qing Xuan sat on the ground, and Ming Yi pulled him up, saying, “Are you crazy? Washing your face with water from the Blackwater Ghost Pond.”

“…”

Shi Qing Xuan had used the water that had soaked the water ghost’s body to regain his clarity. Although it was somewhat nauseating, he had no mood to pay attention to such details. His cheeks and hair were dripping with water, making him look like a soaked chicken, lost and dazed. He let “Ming Yi” pull him up and followed him, blankly.

In fact, upon careful consideration, everything related to this “Ming Xiong” revealed a strangeness.

He was the Earth Master, so naturally, all the teleportation formations they had encountered along the way were drawn by him. However, this should have been his expertise, but it frequently encountered issues.

The four of them were mysteriously transported from Pu Ji Temple to Bo Gu Town. The teleportation on Blackwater Island by the Wind Master and Water Master also had issues. Was it because the teleportation hall had fallen into disrepair? Was there something else at work? Was it the manipulation of a behind-the-scenes puppet master?

Why bother thinking too much? The simplest answer was that Ming Yi had tampered with everything!

The Wind Master was taken away for the first time by the “Bai Hua Zhen Xian,” and he was the one who noticed the loss. He was also the first to discover the powerless Wind Master. He had always been by Shi Qing Xuan’s side, instilling fear in him and anticipating his every move. He knew the Wind Master’s password and could use the “Bai Hua Zhen Xian” to threaten him, forcing him to open the protective formation of the Wine Jug Terrace.

At that time, he deliberately destroyed the signboard of the Feng Shui Hall, but remained calm. Perhaps it was because he was unique, or perhaps it was because he had done it on purpose.

To openly destroy the enemy’s signboard in front of the enemy, and have the enemy thank him for it—how audacious and bold.

Xie Lian had never doubted these subtle peculiarities. He had even personally probed them with those three questions. However, he had never expected such audacious and unimaginable events: a ghost disguising itself as a divine official and lurking among them all these years!

Blackwater is sinking, and it’s always been low-key?

Living undercover with another identity all these years, of course, it would be low-key.

The response from “Ming Yi” at the time had no flaws. That was because he had devoured the Bai Hua Zhen Xian and obtained its abilities. He could use it as a minion and, as the King of Desolate Spirits, he naturally surpassed its limitations. He could tell the truth when he wanted to and lie when he wanted to.

The dexterity of the corpse matched the identity of the Earth Master. Why was it offered in the Underworld Water Palace? It was necessary. After all, it was the corpse of a divine official. If it were buried hastily and not treated with the proper respect, it would inevitably cause trouble. Thus, it had to be treated with grandeur and offered in their own temple.

However, what made Xie Lian guess his identity was not only that but also his actions.

When the Water Master asked why the corpse reanimated, Ming Yi eagerly answered, “As long as something can stand up and block our way, it’s important no matter what.” However, the truth was that it probably wasn’t the first part of the answer that disturbed the real Ming Yi, but the four words that followed—“Lord Earth Master”! Because he was the true Earth Master!

And the imposter stood right before them, deliberately leading them astray.

Sometimes, “Ming Yi” deliberately did the opposite, slightly diverting them in the right direction to dispel suspicion. For example, when he said to Hua Cheng, “You indeed have an informant in the Heavenly Court.” But that informant was none other than himself, so Hua Cheng sarcastically replied, “Didn’t you know that already?” It implied, “Why pretend?”

However, the term “informant” was probably inaccurate. There should have been an agreement between the two. For example, an exchange of information.

Two Desolate Spirit Kings cooperating for mutual benefit—wouldn’t that be a win-win situation? Blackwater infiltrated the Heavenly Court, aware of the celestial realm’s every move, while Hua Cheng rooted himself in the mortal world with followers everywhere. Apart from this, whether there was further cooperation remained unknown. Sending the “Earth Master” to infiltrate the Ghost Market was simply like inviting thieves into a treasure vault.

“Ming Yi” has remained hidden for quite some time, encountering only two unexpected incidents. The first was the “Roaring Heaven Dragon” technique.

The imposter wouldn’t have bothered with such a spectacle if there wasn’t a reason. Xie Lian leaned towards the idea that the “Roaring Heaven Dragon” technique was unleashed by the real Ming Yi during one of his escapes.

To successfully impersonate someone and infiltrate the Heavenly Court, it was necessary to have a thorough understanding of that person. So, the person being impersonated must be kept alive, gradually extracting details from them, including experiences, skills, and the use of treasures. The fake Ming Yi probably captured the real Ming Yi shortly after he had survived a catastrophe but hadn’t ascended yet. Otherwise, if the real Ming Yi had already interacted with other divine officials, it would be easier to expose the imposter.

That was an unexpected situation, so Hua Cheng had to return to clean up the aftermath upon receiving the news. Coincidentally, Xie Lian had also received a task from Jun Wu: rescuing from the Ghost Market.

At that time, they didn’t think much of it, but in retrospect, they realized that the operation had gone too smoothly. Xie Lian did rescue the “Earth Master” from the dungeons of the Blissful Hall, but how did he discover the location of the dungeon in the first place?

It was because he first saw one of Hua Cheng’s subordinates, a ghost-faced person wearing a curse restraint. Later, he noticed this person sneaking around in the Blissful Hall.

A curse restraint like that was a source of shame, something that ordinary divine officials who were demoted would want to hide away. Why would that ghost-faced person wear it openly on his hand? And why did he later conceal it? Besides “carelessness,” another explanation was that it was intentional, to draw Xie Lian’s attention and lead him to discover the “imprisoned” fake Earth Master. In reality, the real Ming Yi, who sent the distress signal, should have been killed after this. Because it was impossible to destroy the body completely, but leaving the physical remains would leave many clues, so the body was turned into bones.

The second unexpected incident was Shi Qing Xuan seeking help from Xie Lian after being frightened by the Bai Hua Zhen Xian.

Hua Cheng clearly didn’t want Xie Lian to be involved in the matter. Therefore, at that time, “Ming Yi” said, “I didn’t come here willingly.” Later, during their time at the Wine Jug Terrace when Hua Cheng left, he probably went to meet with Ming Yi to question him about what was going on.

Xie Lian didn’t have the chance to explain all of this in detail to Shi Qing Xuan, but Shi Qing Xuan must have figured it out on his own, and his hands trembled slightly, hidden beneath his sleeves.

As the two walked side by side, Xie Lian contemplated where Shi Wu Du had gone.

Shi Wu Du was the first to leave through that formation, and the last one was “Ming Yi.” He shouldn’t have been able to do anything to Shi Wu Du without Shi Qing Xuan’s knowledge. So there were three possibilities: firstly, Shi Wu Du was transported elsewhere; secondly, something was waiting for Shi Wu Du at his destination, and he had already been killed; thirdly, Shi Wu Du left on his own.

If it was the first or second possibility, there was no reason for “Ming Yi” to continue acting in front of Shi Qing Xuan and searching for him together. Thinking about this, suddenly, Xie Lian heard “Ming Yi” say, “Where is your Longevity Lock?”

Shi Qing Xuan didn’t react, but Xie Lian’s heart tightened. Ming Yi asked several times before Shi Qing Xuan said, “Huh?”

“Ming Yi” impatiently said, “Didn’t you say that the two Longevity Gold Locks were forged by brother Jin Jing and that they would resonate if the owner was injured?”

“…”

Shi Qing Xuan didn’t need to explain anything to “Ming Yi.” He naturally understood the purpose of this treasure. The implication was that they would use this gold lock to track down Shi Wu Du!

Shi Qing Xuan said, “But… but my injury has already healed!”

“Ming Yi” coldly replied, “Then it’s simple, isn’t it?” As he spoke, he raised his hand slightly. Xie Lian thought, “Does he want to attack Wind Master with a knife?” Focusing on alertness, little did he know that “Ming Yi” would press on his own arm wound.

The previously healed wound instantly gushed with blood. He said, “Give me the lock.”

“…”

Seeing this, Xie Lian couldn’t help but be amazed.

Even if it was just acting, to such an extent, it was truly impressive. Xie Lian could fully understand why Shi Qing Xuan valued this friend, Ming Yi, so highly.

If this action wasn’t fraught with hidden motives and ill intentions, such a person would be worth befriending!

Shi Qing Xuan hesitated and didn’t dare to move. As long as he handed over the Longevity Lock, the two gold locks would resonate. If Shi Wu Du noticed, he would undoubtedly come looking for them. “Ming Yi” frowned and said, “Are you scared?”

Shi Qing Xuan said, “…No! Actually, this, this lock… didn’t I tell you? It only works when I personally wear it.”

“Ming Yi” doubted, “Is that so?”

Shi Qing Xuan tightly held onto the Longevity Lock and nodded forcefully, “It is!”

“Ming Yi” stared at him for a moment, seemingly abandoning that plan, and lowered his head to look at the wound on his arm, saying nothing. Unexpectedly, at that moment, the Longevity Lock around Shi Qing Xuan’s neck trembled.

Shi Qing Xuan’s face instantly changed, and “Ming Yi” reacted quickly, immediately walking towards the direction the Longevity Lock pointed, saying, “Water Master is over there.”

The resonance of the gold lock indicated that Shi Wu Du was injured. But when he entered that formation, he was unscathed. So what could have caused him to be injured now?

Xie Lian could sense that Shi Qing Xuan was both eager and reluctant to go. They were trapped in the illusion realm of the Blackwater Lake, with no one else on the island. Pei Ming was waiting outside the realm, tirelessly cutting wood and building a boat for their return. Shi Qing Xuan was currently just an ordinary person, and if Shi Wu Du was injured again, it would be a desperate situation with no help from heaven or earth. How could they escape?

After walking for a while in a hurry, Shi Qing Xuan said, “Ming… brother, I feel that there might be a deception here. It’s best not to go!”

“Ming Yi” asked, “What deception?”

Shi Qing Xuan hesitated and said, “How could my brother get injured? The person over there might not be him.”

However, “Ming Yi” had more reasonable arguments. He said, “We are currently in the territory of the Desolate Ghost King, and Water Master may not have the ability to protect himself. Whatever the situation, let’s go and see first.”

Shi Qing Xuan couldn’t think of a reason not to go, and Xie Lian couldn’t either, so they decided to observe the situation. As the resonance of the Longevity Lock grew stronger, they approached closer. They saw Shi Wu Du lying on the ground, in a miserable state, clutching his abdomen, showing signs of extreme pain. Shi Qing Xuan was shocked and shouted, “Brother!” as he rushed towards him, followed by “Ming Yi.”

Unexpectedly, as Shi Qing Xuan approached Shi Wu Du, the latter suddenly jumped up and embraced him, laughing wildly. Shi Qing Xuan was caught off guard, stunned to find that the person had a crooked nose and skewed eyes, not Shi Wu Du at all, but a madman wearing Shi Wu Du’s clothes and the gold lock!

Before he could speak, there was a loud noise. “Ming Yi” suddenly fell to the ground, a black hole the size of an embroidered ball appearing in his chest, blood staining the ground. Then, a figure in white descended from a tree, grabbed him, and ran, shouting, “Let’s go!”

Xie Lian looked closely and realized that this person was Shi Wu Du!

Shi Qing Xuan exclaimed, “Brother?!”

Shi Wu Du shouted, “Don’t speak, hurry and follow me! He’s not a good person!”

In an instant, Xie Lian understood. It turned out that Shi Wu Du wasn’t a pushover either. As soon as he emerged from the formation, he realized that something was wrong when he found himself still in the Netherwater Palace. His thinking was much simpler and sharper than Xie Lian’s. He immediately suspected that Ming Yi was up to something, hiding and observing him to see what he would do. They probably ended up in different places when they were transported, or else he would have hidden together with Shi Qing Xuan. After seeing Ming Yi and Shi Qing Xuan acting together, he brought a crazy person over, dressed him in his own clothes, put the gold lock on him, and then attacked from the side, attracting Ming Yi’s attention. He was quite ruthless, and although there was no substantial evidence to prove that Ming Yi had done something significant, when he made his move, he went straight for the kill!

Shi Qing Xuan couldn’t help but turn around, and this turn revealed a shocking scene. “Ming Yi,” who had been hit and had a hole through his chest, lay on the ground for a moment before sitting up, looking expressionless as he lowered his head to observe the bloody cavity. Slowly, he stood up.

At that moment, Xie Lian felt a chilling sensation deep in his heart. Even for a divine official, how could they continue to act normally after being hit like this? There must be something inhuman about him!

The two brothers ran for a while, and suddenly, Xie Lian’s hair stood on end as he shouted, “Be careful!” He pulled Water Master and a sharp sound of breaking wind came from the air in front of them. If Xie Lian hadn’t pulled Water Master, his throat would have likely been slit.

Those invisible people who could only be seen in the water’s reflection!

Shi Wu Du cursed and took out the Water Master’s fan, swinging it in reverse. Seven or eight slender water arrows shot out from the surface of the fan, forming a protective circle around the two of them. Now, those invisible people couldn’t harm them. The two continued to flee, but Shi Qing Xuan couldn’t help but turn around again. This time, he was horrified and said, “He… is following us!”

Indeed, “Ming Yi” was walking behind them, about twenty zhang away, moving at a leisurely pace. Although it seemed like a “leisurely pace,” with each step he took, the distance between him and the two in front instantly shortened by a large margin. It was as if he could catch up to them in just seven or eight steps!

Shi Wu Du didn’t turn around. He swung the Water Master’s fan, and dozens of fierce water arrows, condensed from water, shot out, producing a sharp sound as if steel blades were slicing through the air. With each swing, the number of arrows doubled. After a few swings, over a hundred water arrows surrounded “Ming Yi” from all sides. If even one arrow got through, it would pierce through with an icy cold sensation. However, “Ming Yi” unexpectedly caught the first incoming water arrow with his bare hand and pulled on it as if pulling a rope. The Water Master’s fan was actually pulled out of Shi Wu Du’s hand!

As the fan left his hand, the water dragon arrows in the air instantly turned into a drizzle, falling down. Shi Wu Du abruptly stopped and looked incredulously at his hand. This was the first time in over a hundred years that someone had forcibly taken the Water Master’s fan from him. He knew he couldn’t escape, so he looked back, and “Ming Yi” was steadily approaching them with his hands behind his back.

He seemed to be undergoing some subtle changes. With each step, those changes became more pronounced. His originally pale face grew even paler, devoid of any color like Hua Cheng, with sharper brows and more profound contours around his eyes. Of course, it also became more gloomy. The plain black robe he wore quietly revealed intricate water ripple patterns embroidered with fine threads in an inconspicuous corner, shimmering with mysterious silver light. When he stood in front of Wind Master and Water Master, his face still resembled the original one, but he was an entirely different person.

Being an Earth Master didn’t mean being weak in martial arts or lacking in spiritual power, but the person before them clearly didn’t fit these characteristics. Shi Wu Du was on guard and asked, “What exactly are you?”

“Ming Yi” seemed to find it amusing and squinted his eyes, saying, “You’re on my territory, and you still want to ask what I am?”

Shi Wu Du said, “… Blackwater Profound Ghost?”

“Ming Yi” looked at Shi Qing Xuan, who didn’t react. Shi Wu Du continued, “You’ve always been an Earth Master? Or…” He paused, realizing the truth, and said, “I see.”

However, what he realized was only that the Profound Ghost had been lurking in the Heavenly Court all this time. Shi Wu Du said, “We’ve always minded our own business, each ruling our own domain. I didn’t wish to come to your territory this time. Why don’t we both take a step back?”

“Ming Yi” replied, “The water can be fierce too, but apparently, there are times when it dares not be.”

Shi Wu Du was naturally proud, and upon hearing this, a displeased expression flashed across his face. While he had to lower his head with his brother by his side, he didn’t want to diminish his own presence either and said, “If it weren’t for the wrong timing and place, I wouldn’t necessarily be afraid of you.”

But “Ming Yi” took another step forward and said coldly, “Shi Wu Du, take a good look at who I am.”

Shi Wu Du furrowed his brows and looked at him. He had seen this face of the Earth Master several times before but didn’t understand the implications. He said, “Do you want me to say who you are?” He paused, thinking that he was hinting that he shouldn’t reveal his identity, and continued, “It doesn’t matter who you are. In the name of my Water Master, I swear that as long as it doesn’t involve my two brothers, whatever you plan to do has nothing to do with me…”

Before he could finish speaking, “Ming Yi” coolly interrupted, “The water can be fickle indeed. Back then, you turned over the birth dates and registers of countless mortals, and after much effort, you found only me. How is it that you’ve forgotten what I look like after just a few hundred years?”

Upon hearing these words, Shi Wu Du’s face contorted bit by bit.

This “what the hell” expression, typically seen on mortals’ faces, appeared on his face for the first time. Shi Wu Du’s pupils contracted, and he blurted out, “You’re still alive?!”

Hei Xuan replied coldly, “I died!”

After saying these words, he suddenly raised his hand, with four fingers held tightly together, and lifted it upward. Xie Lian felt a sudden intense pain assaulting his head, but it was Shi Qing Xuan who fainted under the influence of his technique.

It was unknown how much time had passed when Xie Lian gradually regained consciousness along with Shi Qing Xuan’s awareness. Before he opened his eyes, he felt something constantly rubbing against him.

Opening his eyes slowly, he found that it was actually seven or eight furry, foul-smelling heads. A group of crazy individuals surrounded him, some grinning foolishly while reaching out to touch and scratch him. Xie Lian remained calm because he judged that his life was not in danger at the moment, and these strange people were dirty but not threatening. Shi Qing Xuan, on the other hand, was shocked. He tried to push them away but heard a clanging sound of iron chains, and his limbs became cold as he couldn’t move. When he looked up, he realized that he was chained to a mossy wall by several large iron chains the thickness of wooden sticks, with his arms suspended high.

Looking at the ground and the ceiling, it seemed that they had returned to the Darkwater River Palace. Xie Lian felt the same throbbing headache and was about to say, “Lord Wind Master, calm down. Let me teach you how to break free from these shackles…” But he suddenly discovered that he couldn’t make a sound!

Perplexed, Xie Lian hastily examined himself. Indeed, a significant portion of his spiritual power had been depleted. Although his soul could still remain within Shi Qing Xuan’s body, he couldn’t utilize Shi Qing Xuan’s physical body anymore. He couldn’t even speak or give any hints. Could it be that the borrowed power from Hua Cheng had been exhausted?

That was impossible. Xie Lian was well aware of how much spiritual power was needed to perform the Soul Transference Spell. The power borrowed from Hua Cheng should have been more, not less. Moreover, he could feel his spiritual power continuously dwindling, which was both suspicious and worrisome. At that moment, a hoarse voice came from the other side, saying, “Qing Xuan!”

Shi Qing Xuan, with his blurred vision, looked up and saw that it was Shi Wu Du who had called out to him.

Shi Wu Du wasn’t chained up, but he was dressed in dirty white clothes and was kneeling on the ground. Upon seeing Shi Qing Xuan waking up, he showed a relieved expression, seemingly wanting to come over. However, he was immediately kicked down by someone beside him and forced to kneel again. The person standing there with an imposing and gloomy expression, his skin unnaturally pale, was none other than Hei Xuan, or rather, He Xuan.

Behind him stood an altar with four smooth black urns resting calmly on top. Two torn fans, the Wind Master’s fan and the Water Master’s fan, lay on the ground.

Father, mother, sister, fiancee.

He Xuan said, “Kowtow.”

Shi Wu Du’s gaze was fixed on Shi Qing Xuan as he replied, “Yes.”

With that response, Shi Wu Du actually knelt in front of the altar, repeatedly kowtowing with a loud thud against each of the four urns. After finishing, he slightly lifted his head, but He Xuan stepped heavily on his head, coldly saying, “Did I tell you to get up?”

Shi Wu Du was immediately wounded by this stomping, but he gritted his teeth and said, “… No.”

The elder brother who had been too proud to even bow his head was now being stepped on with his face pressed against the ground. Although Shi Wu Du knew full well that the retribution for his actions should be ten times worse than this, blood ties ran deep, and he couldn’t bear it. Shi Qing Xuan said, “Brother…”

Upon hearing the sound, He Xuan swept a chilling gaze over. Even if Shi Wu Du couldn’t lift his head, he knew that it meant trouble. He immediately shouted, “Shut up!”

After pondering for a moment, He Xuan removed his boot from Shi Wu Du’s head. Shi Wu Du trembled in fear, but he couldn’t stand up and quietly said, “Qing Xuan!”

He Xuan slowly walked over. The group of crazy individuals were terrified of him and screeched as they scattered, but they still sneaked glances at Shi Qing Xuan as if coveting something on his body. Shi Qing Xuan, locked against the wall, watched as the face he should have been familiar with approached him slowly, yet it felt incredibly unfamiliar.

He Xuan crouched down in front of him, paused, and asked in a calm voice, “Is the terrifying White-Clothed Immortal really so frightening?”

He asked calmly, but Shi Qing Xuan’s eyes widened, his lips trembled, and he couldn’t utter a word.

The White-Clothed Immortal of the past was already terrifying enough, but the person before him, who had devoured the “White-Clothed Immortal,” was ten times, a hundred times more horrifying than his nightmares as a youth. And this fear was something he should have endured long ago.

Shi Wu Du said, “He Xuan, each person is responsible for their own actions. It was my idea to shield you from disaster. This matter has nothing to do with my younger brother.”

He Xuan sneered, “Nothing to do with him?”

He fixed his gaze on Shi Qing Xuan and said word by word, “Your younger brother, an ordinary mortal with mediocre talent, was able to ascend to the heavens and bask in glory, enjoying the benefits that rightfully belong to me, using my destiny and obtaining my divinity. Tell me, how is that not related to him?”

Every word he spoke felt like a knife piercing the heart. Even though Shi Qing Xuan understood the entire situation, he couldn’t help but lower his head, feeling that he couldn’t lift it for the rest of his life. Shi Wu Du struggled to maintain composure and said, “You… Since you’ve been by his side all this time, you should know I didn’t lie to you. He genuinely didn’t know anything from beginning to end!”

He Xuan sternly said, “That’s precisely why he’s more detestable! Why does he get to know nothing?!”

Shi Qing Xuan’s head lowered even further.

Why was it that he sucked others’ blood and trod upon their bones, ascending to the heavens, while he himself could enjoy all of it without guilt or burden?

He Xuan continued, “Not knowing in the beginning, and still not knowing later?!”

Shi Qing Xuan raised his head, his voice trembling as he said, “Ming Xiong, I…”

He Xuan shouted, “Shut up!”

His face nearly distorted with anger, Shi Qing Xuan took a glance and shivered, falling silent. He Xuan abruptly stood up and paced back and forth in the hall of the Darkwater River Palace, roaring in a low voice, “I gave you a chance!”

Shi Qing Xuan closed his eyes and clenched his fist. Xie Lian recalled the furious “Fine, fine!” in Bogu Town and the scene where Shi Qing Xuan was stopped by “Ming Yi” when he wanted to go to the East Sea with Pei Ming.

However, every time, Shi Qing Xuan still chose to help Shi Wu Du.

In a low voice, he said, “… I’m sorry.”

He Xuan froze in his tracks and asked, “What does your apology amount to?”

That row of four urns stood directly in front of Shi Qing Xuan, as if mocking his feeble apology. The pain grew stronger, burning in his heart and liver, as if anything he said would be futile. Shi Qing Xuan said, “… I know it’s useless, but I…”

He Xuan indifferently said, “But what? You know it’s useless, but you still want to make an effort to show sincerity, hoping to move me, hoping that I can let go of my hatred and resolve our grievances, right?”

Shi Qing Xuan hurriedly said, “No! That’s not it! I didn’t mean that! I just… I truly feel very sorry for you. Really. Ming… He… Young Master He. I know my brother and I were both wrong, and now we can’t remedy the situation, so…”

He Xuan listened and said, “So?”

At this moment, no amount of words seemed powerless and pale. Shi Qing Xuan tried hard for a while but couldn’t continue speaking. He Xuan coldly said, “Go on, why aren’t you continuing? So, are you willing to apologize with your life?”

Shi Qing Xuan was taken aback. Unable to bear it any longer, Shi Wu Du said, “He Xuan!!! I am the mastermind, the White-Clothed Immortal, but Qing Xuan himself doesn’t deserve to die. You…”

He Xuan said, “Then, which one of the five members of my family is guilty? Who caused the deaths?”

Shi Wu Du choked up. He Xuan continued to ask, “Tell me. Are you willing?”

“…” Shi Qing Xuan whispered, “I am willing.”

Upon hearing this, He Xuan sneered. Xie Lian couldn’t see Shi Qing Xuan’s expression with his head lowered, and even if he could, he probably wouldn’t be able to understand his thoughts.

In an instant, He Xuan turned and walked away. The group of mad individuals crowded around again, some clutching Shi Qing Xuan’s legs and arms, unwilling to let go, others pulling his hair, and some hooking their fingers around his neck. Their eyes glowed with a green light, as if they wanted to devour him alive. Even Xie Lian, who had lived among beggars, felt a chill in his heart, thinking, “Who are these people? Why does He Xuan gather such a bunch of lunatics here?”

But Shi Qing Xuan silently endured the pushing, pulling, and dragging from these madmen, not daring to utter a sound. He Xuan coldly observed for a while and said, “Do you know who these people are?”

Several bony claws touched Shi Qing Xuan’s face and body, and he dared not even breathe, let alone consider who these people were. He shook his head. He Xuan said, “Wretched lives, despicable lives, lives worse than pigs and dogs, lives that drive people insane.”

“…”

A shiver ran through Xie Lian as he vaguely guessed what he intended to do. Shi Wu Du also understood all of a sudden, his eyes wide open as he said, “… You?!”

He Xuan stood between Shi Wu Du and Shi Qing Xuan, coldly saying, “Now, I’ll give you two choices.”

He first pointed at Shi Wu Du and said, “The first choice. You, pick one from this group of people and exchange your brother’s life for theirs. Then, roll back to the mortal realm on your own.”

Bloodshot veins covered Shi Wu Du’s eyes, and his shoulders trembled. He Xuan said, “Since you like exchanging lives so much, I assume you’re quite skilled at it and don’t need me to teach you.”

This step, if not considering the previous circumstances, was truly malicious. Although Shi Qing Xuan’s original destiny was not enough for him to ascend, it was still a life of great wealth and leisure. But looking at these people, they were either plagued by terrible diseases or driven insane by torment. Clearly, none of them had a good fortune, and they were all facing great calamities and hardships. If he were to exchange with them, wouldn’t Shi Qing Xuan fall into the same miserable state as them? This was a destiny that could drive people insane, and from then on, he would suffer endless pain and torment.

In this calamity, Shi Wu Du had clearly failed in his tribulation, and the exposure of the White-Clothed Immortal’s affair would undoubtedly result in his demotion. After being demoted to a mortal, he would no longer have the ability to exchange for a better life for Shi Qing Xuan. A powerless ordinary person and a wretched life personified, how would they be able to survive?

Shi Wu Du took a breath and gritted his teeth, “And the second choice?”

He Xuan continued, “The second choice is you.”

This time, he stared at Shi Qing Xuan.

He spoke word by word, “I won’t take your life. You, right here, cut off your brother’s head for me!”

With a loud thud, he threw a rusty knife to the ground, and Shi Qing Xuan stared at that knife, his eyes widened. He Xuan said, “Then, never appear before me again. This way, I can pretend you don’t exist in this world.”

The deep-seated hatred that had settled into his marrow for hundreds of years had finally reached its peak of eruption. Anyone could see the madness burning in his eyes, and anyone could understand that he wasn’t just saying it casually. After a moment of silence, Shi Wu Du hoarsely said, “… I’ll commit suicide. Can I do that?”

He Xuan said, “You don’t have the qualifications to negotiate with me.”

Shi Wu Du looked at Shi Qing Xuan and muttered, “You want our lives…”

Shi Qing Xuan, however, was not as desperate as his brother. He hurriedly said, “Brother! Brother! Let’s choose the first one. The first one.”

After a moment, Shi Wu Du calmed down and said, “No. I choose the second one.”

“…” Shi Qing Xuan was confused and said, “Why choose the second one? Aren’t we both better off alive? Brother, let’s go with the first one. The second one is not an option, I really can’t do it.”

Shi Wu Du angrily said, “Shut up! Don’t you know me? You want me to have nothing and watch you turn into that kind of miserable existence in the mud? Is that okay for me? You might as well kill me with your anger!”

Shi Qing Xuan said, “Brother! Let it go… it’s better to die than to live in vain. Besides, think about it, we… we’ve lived for hundreds of years, and it’s time… it’s time…” as he spoke, he seemed to remember how those hundreds of years of good life had come about, and he felt too ashamed to continue.

He Xuan watched coldly from the side. Shi Wu Du struggled to get up, grabbed the rusty knife, and stumbled to the wall. He grabbed his brother’s shoulder and said in a low, rapid voice, “Go! … Go find General Pei and ask him to take care of you.”

That knife was terrifyingly heavy and covered in rust. It would be difficult to kill even a chicken with it, let alone cut off someone’s head. If such a knife were used to sever someone’s head, both the cutter and the one being cut would undoubtedly suffer excruciating pain. Shi Qing Xuan was too scared to hold it properly and dropped it to the ground, saying, “Forget it, brother. Forget it! Didn’t you tell me before that everyone takes care of themselves in this world? Why would anyone take care of us? We’ve always taken care of ourselves. Don’t give it to me, don’t give it to me!”

Shi Wu Du shouted, “Qing Xuan! Don’t be so pathetic!”

Then he sighed bitterly, “… your brother’s nickname is Water Across the Sky, and you know it. Over the years, I’ve caused quite a stir and made enemies everywhere. If I die, it’s easier to explain. If I die, I’m done with everything, and it won’t matter to you. But if I don’t die and lose everything, that’s worse than death. If I weren’t the Water Master, I wouldn’t be able to take care of you at all. I wouldn’t even be able to protect myself. I’m afraid that we won’t last long as brothers… Take it!”

Shi Qing Xuan was on the verge of tears, saying in a panicked manner, “No! No, no, no! No, brother, I really can’t do it! Don’t force me, don’t give it to me!!! Help, help, help!!!”

At such a moment, he actually screamed for help in desperation. Shi Wu Du said, “It’s okay! Don’t be afraid, Qing Xuan. It’s better to exchange lives and endure pain…”

He Xuan, who had been patiently watching, suddenly kicked out. Caught off guard, Shi Wu Du was kicked and coughed up several mouthfuls of blood, rolling on the ground unable to stand up. Shi Qing Xuan hung on the wall and shouted, “Brother!”

He Xuan said coldly, “Shut up! Stop performing your disgusting brotherly love in front of me. No one here will be moved by it!”

To everyone’s surprise, Shi Wu Du coughed up blood, suddenly flipped over, and stood up, grabbing Shi Qing Xuan’s neck with his bloodstained, empty sleeves. Xie Lian was shocked and felt suffocated, blood rushing to his face. Shi Qing Xuan struggled to say, “…Brother?”

With blood between his teeth, Shi Wu Du said, “Qing Xuan! I can’t rest easy seeing you in your current state! If I die, you definitely won’t be able to survive in this world. We might as well leave together, brother!”

With that, he exerted force, and Shi Qing Xuan’s vision went dark, accompanied by the sound of his dying groans. Xie Lian’s heart was filled with horror, “Is the Water Master really going to strangle the Wind Master?!”

After a short while, the pressure on his throat suddenly eased, and a large amount of air rushed in, causing Shi Qing Xuan to cough repeatedly. It turned out that He Xuan stood beside them, having forcefully broken Shi Wu Du’s grip on his brother’s neck. He said coldly, “Did I give you a third option?”

Shi Wu Du’s arms were both broken, blood gushing out like a fountain, yet he burst into laughter. He Xuan casually discarded his severed arms and said, “What are you laughing at?”

Shi Wu Du, with his bloody, empty sleeves, said, “I’m laughing at you, thinking you have the upper hand! Do you feel satisfied after enduring all these years and finally taking revenge? Isn’t it so gratifying?”

He Xuan said, “Seeing you in such a wretched state, I’m truly gratified!”

Shi Wu Du said, “Is that so? Let me tell you, I’m also very gratified!”

He grabbed He Xuan’s collar with his blood-gushing severed arms and said, “Because I see you now, so angry, so miserable, so full of hatred that you want to grind your teeth to pieces. But you still can’t save your loved ones, you’re still just a ghost in the gutter. No matter how much you jump around, it’s useless because they’re all dead! And me, my younger brother has lived for so long, served as a Water Master for hundreds of years, even if he can’t continue, even if he can’t survive, he still gained something, and I win! Am I not gratified? Hahaha…”

As the words went on, He Xuan’s pale face gradually changed, as if ghostly flames were igniting on the icy wasteland. Suddenly, the air in the room seemed to grow colder. Shi Qing Xuan was filled with extreme fear and hoarsely pleaded, “Brother, please stop, please. Oh my god, what are you saying? What nonsense…”

He Xuan made a sudden move, grabbing Shi Wu Du’s neck, and said, “You have no remorse at all!”

Shi Wu Du laughed wildly, “Remorse? Hmph, that’s hilarious! You, the Desolate Ghost King, Hei Shui Chen Zhou, talking to me about remorse? Let me tell you, there’s no such thing!”

Shi Qing Xuan let out a miserable scream, and Shi Wu Du raised his head proudly, “Today, everything I’ve obtained, I fought for it myself. If there’s something I don’t have, I fight for it. If there’s a life I don’t have, I change it myself! My life is in my hands, not in the hands of heaven!”

Xie Lian, even with his scalp tingling, was astonished by this explanation of “my life is in my hands, not in the hands of heaven.” It was as if Shi Wu Du’s unapologetic and unrepentant attitude had opened up a new perspective, and He Xuan burst into laughter. As his expression grew more terrifying, Shi Qing Xuan collapsed, saying, “Brother… I beg you, I beg you, please stop, please. Help!”

Shi Wu Du remained arrogant and said, “Qing Xuan, your brother will take a step ahead, waiting for you below. Hahaha…”

Before the words could fully settle, He Xuan placed his hand on Shi Wu Du’s forehead, grabbing his hair. Shi Qing Xuan’s soul shattered, and the iron chains on the wall rattled. He cried, “Ming Xiong! Ming Xiong! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! It’s all our fault, my fault! It’s because of me that my brother became like this, he went mad, can’t you see! I… I… you… you…”

He wanted to beg for mercy, but the words wouldn’t come out. He could only bow his head repeatedly in desperation. He Xuan slowly turned his gaze towards him and, after a moment, seemed to remember something, calming down slightly and stopping his actions.

Seeing this, as if grasping a glimmer of hope, Shi Qing Xuan let out a sigh of relief, and tears finally rolled down his cheeks. However, before the tears could reach the ground, He Xuan’s cold voice rang out, “You’ve got the wrong person.”

With that said, he suddenly lifted his hand and twisted Shi Wu Du’s head off his neck!

“Ahhhhhhh—!!!”

Shi Wu Du’s head separated from his body, and blood spurted out from the jagged stump of his neck, splattering Shi Qing Xuan’s body and face. Shi Qing Xuan couldn’t take it anymore and started screaming like a madman.

Seeing a headless corpse standing upright and refusing to fall, it was quite amusing. The crazy people gathered around, spinning in circles, leaving bloody footprints on the ground, clapping and cheering, “Yo yo yo! He’s dead! He’s dead!”

“He’s dead! Hehehe!”

Shi Qing Xuan screamed for who knows how long until his voice seemed to have flown away. He couldn’t remember when he had finally stopped. When Xie Lian regained consciousness, he found himself sitting on the blood-soaked ground for quite some time.

He Xuan stood not far in front of him, holding Shi Wu Du’s wide-eyed head in his hand, looking down at him from a high vantage point.

After a while, He Xuan said calmly, “Do you have anything to say?”

“…”

Shi Qing Xuan stared blankly ahead at the row of ash urns on the divine platform and the two broken fans on the ground. After a long while, he stuttered, “…I want to die.”

He Xuan coldly responded, “You have a beautiful wish.”

Then, He Xuan reached out his hand towards him, and Shi Qing Xuan closed his eyes.

At the same time, Xie Lian’s soul was suddenly pulled out and thrown high into the air!

As he fell back down, he opened his eyes and found himself limp in the arms of a person in red clothing. Hua Cheng lightly pinched his chin and kissed him deeply. No wonder Xie Lian felt his soul-transferring technique’s spiritual power rapidly declining. It turned out that Hua Cheng had used the most efficient and effective method to absorb all the spiritual power he had just lent to Xie Lian, successfully bringing Xie Lian’s soul back into his body.