Over two thousand!

Upon hearing this, the expressions of everyone froze slightly. Xie Lian glanced at Hua Cheng and said, “It seems that choosing the west was indeed the right decision.”

The trembling skull said, “Sigh! It’s wrong no matter which side you choose. There’s simply no way to go!”

Indeed, for ordinary ghosts like them, it was a disaster no matter which side they chose. Whether it was the east or the west, they could easily crush them; no matter which path they took, their fate would be reduced to ashes and used as nourishment. After howling a few times, the ghostly fire in the skull’s eyes gradually extinguished as well.

Xie Lian gently placed it by the side of the road and said, “Sanlang, do you know what is on the east side?”

Hua Cheng said, “We can’t be sure for now, but it’s coming this way. Considering the current situation, it’s not advisable to engage in a direct confrontation. This one on the west side is slightly easier to deal with.”

Xie Lian nodded and said, “Okay. Let’s continue westward.”

The group hurriedly passed through the field of corpses and pressed on. They traveled overnight without encountering the black-clothed man mentioned by the skull or finding any trace of Rain Master. Xie Lian couldn’t help but worry.

As they walked, the buildings on either side of the road became more and more numerous. They formed clusters, and Xie Lian could even distinguish between the homes of the poor, the theaters for leisure, the shops selling groceries, and the courtyards of the wealthy. The road they were walking on was also artificially constructed, and faint traces of decorative tiles could be seen. It resembled a prosperous town, but it was devoid of people, exceptionally desolate.

They saw an ancient well by the roadside, and when they drew water from it, the water appeared relatively clear. They rested there for a moment. Xie Lian and Pei Su drank some water and washed their faces. When they raised their heads, they saw Ban Yue walking over.

Ban Yue had been waiting for a while, still holding the black pottery jar. She said, “General Hua, Brother Pei Su, have something to eat.”

Pei Su said, “Thank you for your hard work.”

Xie Lian also said, “Everyone has worked hard. Let’s all try it.”

So, everyone gathered around. However, the moment Ban Yue opened the jar, many people’s expressions froze.

Although “odor” was something invisible and colorless, when Ban Yue lifted the lid, it seemed as if some mysterious substance distorted the air around the jar.

Everyone stared at the scene inside the jar for a long time. Each person’s pupils reflected an endless darkness, as if it could pull people into an abyss, containing emotions that couldn’t be expressed in words. After a while, Xie Lian patted Ban Yue’s shoulder and gave a thumbs-up. “Well done. It’s your first time, and it’s perfect.”

Pei Ming looked at them in disbelief and said, “It’s her first time, and it’s also your first time, Your Highness? If I remember correctly, you made her follow your instructions entirely, and you were more involved than she was. No wonder I always felt that something was off about what you two were doing. It wasn’t just my imagination.”

However, Hua Cheng said, “Is that so? Since it’s done by my brother, then I really have to give it a try.”

Upon hearing this, Pei Ming and Pei Su raised their eyes and looked at him, their gazes filled with astonishment, horror, admiration, and various other emotions. Hua Cheng said, “Brother, what is this called?”

Xie Lian coughed lightly and said, “‘Overturning Phoenix.’”

Hua Cheng sincerely said, “Good name.”

After speaking, he reached into the bottomless black jar. Pei Ming and Pei Su watched him with a nervousness as if they were afraid that he would be swallowed by the jar. However, Hua Cheng calmly took out a small charred piece of flesh and sent it into his mouth.

Pei Ming asked, “How is it?”

Hua Cheng replied, “As the name suggests.”

Pei Ming looked at Pei Su, whose expression was complicated, and said, “It’s made for you. You decide.”

Pei Su: “…”

He took the jar from Ban Yue’s hand and, with an expressionless face, reached his hand inside.

Xie Lian splashed his face with cold water, tidied his hair, turned around, and stopped looking at them. He surveyed his surroundings while asking, “Why are there so many traces of people in this isolated place? Can people still live in Copper Furnace Mountain?”

He had asked this question yesterday, but no one could answer him at the time. Now they had an answer. Hua Cheng said, “Yes, but it was a long time ago. Copper Furnace Mountain covers a vast area with seven cities. It used to be an ancient country, and all these buildings are remnants of that country’s towns. The closer you get to the center, the more ruins there are, and the more prosperous it becomes.”

Xie Lian didn’t doubt it and said, “I see.”

At this moment, Pei Ming’s voice came from behind, “Little Pei, what are you doing? A man should stand up straight! Get up for me!”

Xie Lian didn’t turn around and asked, “What was the name of that ancient country, Sanlang, do you know?”

Hua Cheng also didn’t turn around, and with his hands behind his back, he said, “Wu Yong Kingdom.”

Pei Ming scolded, “Your Highness? Your Highness, don’t you have any antidote or something? You can’t just kill and bury! And you, how did you cook food for him? What’s wrong with this snake? It can still move after being boiled for so long? Has it become sentient?!”

Ban Yue seemed to be constantly kowtowing and apologizing, saying, “I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m sorry, it has indeed become sentient, I didn’t know how long it should be cooked… I’m sorry…”

Xie Lian rested his chin on his hand, pondered for a while, and said, “I’m ignorant, I’ve never heard of this country’s name before. How ancient is it?”

However, as soon as he finished speaking, he became uncertain again. Wuyong, Wuyong. At first listen, it was indeed unfamiliar. But upon closer thought, it seemed as if he had heard it a very long time ago, from someone’s mouth.

Hua Cheng said, “I’m not sure about the specifics, but it must be older than Xianle Kingdom. At least two thousand years.”

Xie Lian looked around and said, “But judging from these buildings, they don’t seem to have lasted for thousands of years.”

Hua Cheng said, “That’s natural because most of the time, Copper Furnace Mountain is not open to the outside world. It’s like being sealed inside a giant tomb, isolated and naturally well-preserved.”

Xie Lian lowered his head, lost in thought. Meanwhile, Pei Ming finally left Pei Su and came over, saying, “As expected, Your Majesty the Ghost King knows everything. However, these pieces of information you possess are too extraordinary. Can you tell us where they come from? I have never heard even the slightest bit of it being spread outside.”

Hua Cheng didn’t look at him and said, “May I ask General Pei, what kind of person can gather this kind of information inside Copper Furnace Mountain?”

Pei Ming said, “In theory, any ghost can. But considering that the rules of Copper Furnace Mountain lead to countless battles among ghosts, it would take a relatively long time to gather such substantial information, which means that person must be very powerful.”

Hua Cheng said, “After gathering this information, what kind of person can come out of Copper Furnace Mountain?”

Pei Ming said, “Undoubtedly, only the Ghost King in such dire straits as Your Excellency.”

Hua Cheng said, “So, I collected this information myself. As long as I don’t mention it to others, there won’t be any spread.”

Finally, he turned his head, slightly teasingly saying, “Keeping secrets may be more difficult for heavenly officials from the Heavenly Court than crossing the heavenly tribulation, but for me, it’s not.”

“…”

This was true. If any heavenly official of a similar rank were to learn of such weighty information, it wouldn’t take an hour before you would hear everyone excitedly discussing it at every spirit communication array. The fact that Hua Cheng could keep such significant information to himself for so many years without selling it to others or boasting about it was truly remarkable. Pei Ming said, “I understand. It seems that His Highness the Ghost King not only knows everything but also speaks without reservation and holds nothing back.”

Suddenly, Xie Lian said, “That’s not right.”

Everyone turned their heads and asked, “What’s not right?”

Xie Lian had been pondering hard all this time. Now, he finally formed a fist with his right hand and lightly hit the palm of his left hand, saying, “Earlier, I said that I had never heard of the name ‘Wuyong Kingdom,’ but that’s not correct. I have heard this name before!”

Hua Cheng’s expression slightly tightened as he asked, “Brother, where did you hear it?”

Xie Lian turned around and said, “When I was young, I studied at the Royal Extreme Monastery in Xianle Kingdom. My mentor was a master of Xianle Kingdom. When he first took me as his disciple, he told me a story.”

Actually, it wasn’t really a story. Rather, it was about instilling in Xie Lian the image of a grand and illustrious legend. There was once an ancient country with a crown prince who was extraordinarily talented, young and intelligent, skilled in both literary and martial arts. He was an unparalleled and stunning figure in the world. He loved his people, and his people loved him. Even long after his death, people had not forgotten him.

The national teacher, with a solemn and kind expression, said to Xie Lian, “Child, I hope you can become someone like that.”

At that time, young Xie Lian sat up straight and without hesitation said, “I don’t want to become someone like that. I want to become a god.”

“…”

Xie Lian said, “If what you said about that crown prince being unparalleled is true, why didn’t he become a god?”

“…”

Xie Lian continued, “If people truly haven’t forgotten him, why have I never heard anyone mention this crown prince?”

“…”

Xie Lian swore that when he asked these questions, he had no intention of provocation or rebellion. He was sincerely curious and seeking answers. But the expression on the national teacher’s face after hearing these questions was quite remarkable.

Why was Xie Lian able to recite the Dao De Jing backwards? It was because on this very night, the national teacher made him copy the Dao De Jing one hundred times, calling it “cultivating oneself and nurturing one’s character.” Xie Lian had strong doubts that if he hadn’t been the esteemed crown prince, the national teacher would have made him kneel on a bed of nails while copying it.

In any case, from then on, every word of the Dao De Jing was deeply imprinted in Xie Lian’s mind. By the way, it also left a slight impression of the “Crown Prince of Wuyong Kingdom.”

Xie Lian had always loved reading books and had not come across any relevant records of “Wuyong Kingdom” in ancient texts. Therefore, he thought it was probably just something made up by the national teacher to educate him or that the national teacher had made a mistake while playing around. But he didn’t see the need to expose it, nor did he want to copy the Dao De Jing one hundred more times, so he didn’t take it seriously and didn’t dwell on it.

Pei Ming said, “Your Highness, it seems like this national teacher in Xianle has quite a background and knows a lot. Can I ask what happened to him later?”

After hesitating for a moment, Xie Lian said, “I don’t know. After Xianle Kingdom was destroyed, I never saw many people again to know what happened to them.”

At that moment, he suddenly felt a tightness around his ankle and his expression froze. He exclaimed, “What is this!”

About to step down and break bones, he lowered his head and sighed in relief, saying, “General Xiao Pei, why did you make such a dramatic entrance? It was so dangerous. I almost injured your hand.”

That hand belonged to Pei Su. He was lying on the ground, face buried in the soil, with one hand grabbing Pei Ming and the other grabbing Xie Lian. The two crouched down and asked, “What do you want to say?”

Ban Yue hugged the jar and said, “I don’t know. Earlier, Pei Su brother was crawling around on the ground as if he had discovered something important.”

Pei Ming said, “Oh? You can make discoveries like this? Impressive, Little Pei. So, what did you discover?”

Pei Su let go of the hand he was holding and pointed to the side. Xie Lian followed his gaze and said, “This is…”

Everyone crowded around, studying it for a while, and said, “A cow’s hoof print?”

Finally, Pei Su’s face emerged from the soil, and he said hoarsely, “This… is… the seal left behind by the Rain God’s guardian who sat on a horse.”

Ban Yue said, “Pei Su brother, your punctuation seems to be incorrect.”

Pei Su said, “I… didn’t… it’s nothing. The Rain God, the… the… the…”

He was stuck at the word “the” and couldn’t continue. Xie Lian suspected, “Could it be that he has been poisoned by the venom of a scorpion-tailed snake?”

Ban Yue said, “The venom of a scorpion-tailed snake doesn’t have this effect…”

Hua Cheng said, “Rain God has already encountered this black-clad man from the west and had a battle with him.”