Xie Lian turned his head and saw that the speaker was none other than the “Swift Blade Demon.” He said, “The human scent on you is way too strong.”

The crowd of ghosts said, “He’s a puppeteer… That can be understood. He also has ghostly energy.”

The Swift Blade Demon said, “No, take a closer look, everyone. The ghostly energy on this ‘puppeteer’ is not emanating from within, but rather… it seems to be contaminated from the outside.”

When ghostly energy is contaminated from the outside, it can usually pass through without arousing suspicion. However, once it becomes the focus of attention from the crowd, the details will be magnified. The Swift Blade Demon, who seemed to have a bit of a dull mind when he first appeared, was similar to Heavenly Eye. Xie Lian thought he was an insignificant character, but he turned out to be not so easily fooled. A ghost said, “This person seems to know something. So, do we have any reliable way to determine it? Is there a method?”

The Swift Blade Demon said, “Yes. There is an item that can determine what he really is!”

He took something out from his sleeve. As soon as the ghosts saw it, they immediately backed away, saying, “My goodness! You carry yellow talismans with you?! I bet you’re the divine official who infiltrated!”

The Swift Blade Demon said sinisterly, “Wrong! I just killed a few Taoist priests on my way here and happened to pick up their belongings. This is just an ordinary yellow talisman, only capable of dealing with small ghosts and miscellaneous creatures. Since all of you managed to make it here, this talisman won’t be able to do anything to you. Watch closely!”

After speaking, he “slapped” the yellow talisman onto his own forehead. Sizzling sounds filled the air as the talisman burned into a wisp of black smoke in front of his face, leaving a dark black mark on his forehead. The Swift Blade Demon wiped away the mark and said, “Although this talisman can’t harm me, it can leave a little mark on my face. Does this prove my identity?”

Although talismans were used to deal with demons and monsters, they could also be used to distinguish between humans and non-humans. The Swift Blade Demon pointed at Xie Lian and said, “If you really are a puppeteer, then stick this yellow talisman on your forehead. See if it leaves a mark or not, and the truth will be revealed.”

Xie Lian remained calm, his mind racing, but he heard Hua Cheng’s deep voice say, “No need to worry, Gege.”

Xie Lian understood that he was confident, so he set Hua Cheng down, calmly stepped forward, and took the talisman, sticking it onto his forehead. A series of sizzling sounds followed as the yellow talisman burned into a wisp of black smoke. However, when the smoke dispersed, Xie Lian’s forehead remained smooth and unblemished, without a trace left behind!

This proved that the ghostly energy on him was contaminated from the outside!

Except for the cloaked person with folded arms, hundreds of ghosts instantly surrounded them, shouting and yelling. Many strange weapons were about to strike, but they were all repelled by an invisible barrier. The ghosts were astonished, “Wow, such a high level of cultivation!”

Xie Lian shrugged and said, “I didn’t do anything.”

At this moment, Hua Cheng, standing behind him, spoke up.

He walked up with his hands behind his back and said, “You bunch of country bumpkin ghosts, what are you panicking about?”

“Hey, little ghost boy, have you seen the world?”

“He doesn’t have any ghostly energy indeed. Who are you people exactly? Reveal yourselves quickly!”

Hua Cheng said, “Nonsense, of course he doesn’t have any. Because I am the puppeteer!”

As soon as he finished speaking, an extremely chilling aura swept through, as if freezing the entire area. The ghosts, who were already naturally cold, began trembling and said, “…W-what… is… happening…”

Hua Cheng said, “Just giving you a glimpse of the world.”

After he retracted his aura, the ghosts finally stopped trembling. The Swift Blade Demon, still trembling with fear, said, “Y-you… You’re a puppeteer, and he’s also a puppeteer. So who is who? No, he definitely isn’t, who is he?”

Hua Cheng had yet to answer when Xie Lian smiled and said, “Of course, I am his person.”

The ghosts were confused for a moment but soon understood:

“So, it’s been reversed? He is the master, and you are the puppet doll?!”

The Swift Blade Demon doubted, “Then why did you claim to be the puppeteer earlier? What was your intention behind lying?”

Hua Cheng smiled and said, “Because I found it amusing.”

Xie Lian also smiled and said, “Yes. The master finds it amusing, and that’s the most important reason.”

After the initial shock, the female ghosts put away their sharp claws and tongues that were just probing moments ago and began to circle around Xie Lian, discussing among themselves. However, for some reason, the tone of their discussion about him was completely different from when they were discussing Hua Cheng earlier. It seemed much more uninhibited. For example:

“So, this young man is actually the puppet doll? Oh, I prefer this age group and want one even more! Can’t we place an order?”

Xie Lian said in a gentle voice, “Well… thank you for liking him. But, actually, I’m quite old…”

“Is this material human skin? It’s processed quite well, without the suffocating masculine scent of a living man. Master, how do you take care of him? Do you use perfume?”

Xie Lian said, “It is human skin. I don’t use perfume. Just bathe and drink plenty of water.”

“Wow, this doll seems versatile! Can be used for various purposes. The face and figure are pretty good, right? The skin texture looks nice too. But he seems a bit thin. I wonder if there’s any flesh beneath his clothes, hehehe…”

Xie Lian maintained his modest and polite smile. Seeing a female ghost with shining eyes about to touch his chest, his eyebrow twitched slightly. Hua Cheng raised two fingers and with a slight lift, all the delicate jade hands and withered hands were waved away. Xie Lian quickly squatted behind Hua Cheng to hide. The female ghosts said, “Why? Are you also going to say that he is your doll, with a bad temper and dislikes being touched? I think his temper is quite good!”

Hua Cheng extended his hand and hooked his fingers under Xie Lian’s chin, saying, “Indeed, his temper is very good. But mine isn’t. The things I like, besides him, no one else can touch.”

Xie Lian followed the gesture, obediently raising his face, suppressing his laughter until his stomach ached, but still very cooperative, looked into Hua Cheng’s eyes sincerely and said, “No… Master has a very good temper.”

Hua Cheng also smiled, seeming quite satisfied. As the two harmonized, another ghost interrupted, “I still think the human scent on him is too strong.”

The female ghosts said, “So what do you want to do?”

The ghost said, “I heard that the filling inside the human skin puppet dolls is not flesh and blood, so they won’t bleed if stabbed. Let me try stabbing him and see…” Before the words fell, it was silenced by a threatening gaze.

Hua Cheng said coldly, “Who dares to touch him and see? Do you think I would let you freely meddle with something I cherish?”

The group of ghosts had already been intimidated by his aura earlier, and now with his direct threat, they didn’t dare to make any reckless moves. Unconsciously, a large area had cleared around them. The instigator, the Swift Blade Demon, saw the situation was turning bad and quickly intervened, “Please don’t get angry, Puppeteer. We haven’t entered the territory of Copper Furnace Mountain yet. We can deal with it after we go in. Let’s not start internal strife now.”

Hua Cheng’s gaze swept to the side and he said, “Instead of being entangled with my doll, why not ask why that person over there still refuses to take off the cloak?”

Next to Xie Lian, there had been a cloaked stranger standing the whole time. Despite the commotion, he never removed his cloak and seemed completely detached from the situation. After Hua Cheng singled him out, the focus shifted to him. The Swift Blade Demon took a step forward and said, “Please, friend, also remove your cloak and let us see?”

The cloaked person paused for a long time. Just when Xie Lian suspected that he might be preparing to attack and escape, he suddenly stretched out his hand and swiftly lifted the cloak.

Underneath the cloak was a handsome but ordinary face.

This kind of person, thrown into a crowd, would soon be forgotten and the face wouldn’t be remembered. This caused the group of ghosts, after seeing his true appearance, to feel somewhat disappointed. However, Xie Lian’s vigilance rose.

Hua Cheng said, “Clearly a fake face.”

Only Xie Lian could hear this voice, and he nodded. Sometimes, when certain gods or famous ghosts needed to visit the mortal realm for some reason, they couldn’t use their true forms and would assume a fake face. The key to the transformation was to make it “plain and ordinary,” regardless of whether it was good-looking or not. The more plain, the better, so that even if someone stared at that face for half an hour, they would immediately forget it upon turning around. This cloaked person’s face perfectly met these criteria, so it was highly likely that it wasn’t his real face. However, it was still unknown what his true identity was.

The Swift Blade Demon handed him a yellow talisman. The cloaked person accepted it and without any hesitation, stuck it onto his forehead. Sizzling sounds followed as the talisman turned into smoke, leaving a mark behind.

It seemed that he was also a ghost, not a human.

After the commotion, the group of ghosts became restless and said, “Is there really a priest who snuck in?”

“Who was the first to mention it? Please don’t tell me we made a mistake?”

Unexpectedly, as he spoke, he let out a scream and fell to the ground. Xie Lian was startled and quickly rushed over to take a look. There was actually a new bloody hole on his body, piercing through his abdomen. And on the wound, there was a faint trace of divine light that only priests would have!

The group of ghosts exclaimed, “Look at his wound! There really is a priest among us!”

The Swift Blade Demon covered the bloody hole, frightened, and said, “Everyone, be careful! He wants to silence us!”

The group of ghosts were thrown into confusion, as if a pot had been stirred. They raised their weapons and confronted each other, shouting, “Who is it?! Who wants to silence us?! Where are they hiding?!”

After the Swift Blade Demon took that blow, Xie Lian’s first thought was, “Indeed, people with flashy names like his tend to be the first ones taken out!” He was briefly stunned before saying, “Everyone saw just now that my master and I were under your constant watch. We didn’t do anything.” As he said that, he glanced at the cloaked stranger. The stranger also slightly raised his hand and lowered his voice, saying, “Same.”

Xie Lian bent down to examine the Swift Blade Demon’s wound and said, “It’s a sword wound. Among those present, there are…” He turned his head and was immediately rendered speechless. Swords were not only the most popular weapons in the mortal realm and the heavenly realm, but they were also prevalent in the ghost realm. Among the four hundred monsters and ghosts, at least three hundred of them used swords, too many to count. Xie Lian cleared his throat and said, “If we had more of those yellow talismans from earlier, we wouldn’t have to worry about not knowing who it is.”

Of course, he was just speaking casually, pretending to be enthusiastic. He didn’t actually want to help expose any fellow priests who might have infiltrated. The Swift Blade Demon also couldn’t possibly have so many yellow talismans on hand. But who knew, right after he finished speaking, the Swift Blade Demon suddenly pulled out a thick stack of yellow talismans and said, “Oh, I have some!”

“…”

Xie Lian couldn’t help but wonder what was behind him. “Where did you pull those out from?”

The Swift Blade Demon said, “That’s not important!”

Xie Lian said, “No, it’s important. Normally, you wouldn’t carry around so many heavy things. They could be used as bricks to smash someone to death… How many priests did you kill on your way here?”

The Swift Blade Demon stared and said, “Around twenty-something.”

…That explains it. Even if each priest only had a few dozen talismans on them, it would add up to several hundred!

Without wasting time, the group of ghosts urgently wanted to find out who among them was the infiltrating priest. They quickly devised a method—pairing up, sticking the yellow talismans onto each other’s foreheads, and then observing if there were any burn marks left. Some of the smaller ghosts were a bit scared when they saw the talismans and said, “Do we really have to stick them on? Will it scatter my soul…”

“No, it won’t. It’s the same as the talismans that were stuck on them earlier. They have weak power, at most leaving a mark.”

“Oh…”

Hua Cheng narrowed his eyes slightly, seeming to sense something. Before long, large sections of foreheads among the four hundred ghosts were covered in those yellow talismans, looking eerie and ridiculous. However, after sticking them on, nothing happened.

The group of ghosts looked at each other, saying, “What’s going on?”

“Hey, Swift Blade Demon, what kind of priests did you kill? These talismans are so ineffective against them?”

Xie Lian had felt something was amiss from the beginning, and now he furrowed his brows even more. Just as he was about to speak, a female ghost beside him pouted and said, “I’m not sticking it on. Tear… huh? What’s going on? Why can’t I tear it off?!”

Several female ghosts suddenly screamed, “Me too! Why can’t I tear it off?!”

Oh no!

At the same time, Hua Cheng said in a deep voice, “Brother, crouch down!”

Xie Lian quickly complied, and Hua Cheng swiftly covered his ears. The cloaked stranger nearby also quickly pulled up his hood and crouched halfway to the ground. Then, “Bang, bang, bang!” There was a burst of loud explosions, echoing through the sky!