Xie Lian clenched his fist, his breathing slightly erratic.

One sentence. It sounded so unbelievable, even ridiculous, yet he couldn’t bring himself to laugh.

The Master said, “Besides these monsters, there’s also… Crown Prince, do you remember when you brought that child you saved beneath the city walls to the Huangji Temple? Do you remember how surprised I was?”

“…”

Xie Lian immediately regained his composure and quickly glanced at Huacheng. He asked, “I remember. What happened to that child? Are you saying he is…”

The Master said, “The God of Misfortune!”

He spoke in a solemn voice, “At that time, I felt that the child was too heavily tainted with evil energy, too extraordinary. Later, after confronting the Copper Stove and the other three individuals, I learned that the Copper Stove not only produces monsters but also curses. Just like how you can dissipate your luck, the Copper Stove can also dissipate the misfortunes it stores, and once dissipated, they will roam freely.

“That child’s birth date was already extremely ominous. Either it would bring great fortune or great calamity. Perhaps on the day of his birth, he absorbed all the scattered misfortunes, which made him so terrifying. When he ascended, he nearly burned down the entire Taicang Mountain!”

As Xie Lian listened, he grew increasingly astonished and slowly turned to look at Huacheng. It was clear that they were talking about him, yet Huacheng’s expression remained unchanged. Instead, he smiled at Xie Lian.

The Master continued, “Under normal circumstances, that child would have lost both parents at a young age. If not, his father would have despised his mother, subjecting him to abuse. He would have been better off with both parents dead. Moreover, he would not have lived past eighteen, and those around him would suffer death, dispersal, and misfortune. He would be like a disaster incarnate, a broomstar descending upon his home. That’s why I urged you to quickly send him away and keep your distance…”

Xie Lian couldn’t bear to listen any longer and said, “Master!… Let’s stop talking about it.”

The Master nodded and said, “No more. I was just giving you an example to show you how terrifying the Copper Stove is.”

Xie Lian didn’t know what to say, but Huacheng smiled and said, “Terrifying doesn’t necessarily mean it’s that terrifying. However, the Master’s predictions are quite accurate.”

“…”

Thinking about it, Xie Lian realized that Huacheng probably didn’t live past the age of eighteen, and his hand trembled slightly. At that moment, a hand reached out from below and gently covered his cold hand.

Both their hands were equally cold, but when they touched, warmth was created.

The Master said, “He has been testing you all along. The plague in Xianle Kingdom was the first test. According to his answer, if you had launched the plague against Yong’an at that time, you would have passed the test. He wouldn’t have demoted you but would have helped cover it up, allowing you to truly become his trusted successor and achieve great heights. But you gave the wrong answer.

“During your first demotion, he must have given you another test, and you still didn’t give him a satisfactory answer. That’s why you ascended and were immediately struck down by him.”

Images of a pale smiling face flashed through Xie Lian’s mind. He paused for a moment and whispered, “Actually, it was my own request.”

Huacheng said, “Brother, trust me. Even if you hadn’t asked, he would have had a thousand and one ways to bring you down.”

Xie Lian said, “But he was defeated by Bai Wuxiang.”

Huacheng said, “But he didn’t kill him.”

Xie Lian said, “But why bother with all this?”

The Master said, “Killing you outright as ‘Bai Wuxiang’ wouldn’t achieve his goal. In fact, as I said, he likes you very much and doesn’t want you dead. He only wants you to become what he wants.

Huacheng added, “Killing you wouldn’t fulfill that purpose. If you were to die in that state, you would never change, and he couldn’t bear that. But Bai Wuxiang had no reason to simply let you go. What better way is there for the God of War to descend upon the mortal realm, scatter demons, and save you in your moment of peril? In doing so, you would trust and be grateful to him even more. Since he failed twice, he must be extremely displeased.”

The Master said, “During your second demotion, when you wandered in the mortal realm, he had countless opportunities to ’educate’ you and patiently wait for you to change your mind. From my observations, he had already calmed down. However, this calmness has recently been disrupted.

“The catalyst was your third ascension.

“If you were a pile of mud, it would be one thing, but you have become that way and completely disregarded his plans. You ascended again, and you’re still the same as before, unchanged… I don’t know what he would think when he sees you, but I believe he will test you again.”

Huacheng said, “You’ll know what he did afterward by recalling everything that has happened since your third ascension, Brother.”

Xie Lian quickly entered a contemplative state, pondering for a moment before saying, “The first matter, related to Junshan. Taking down the female ghost Xuan Ji. Initially, I didn’t find the ghost groom, but the Fetal Spirits guided me with nursery rhymes, likely under his instruction. However, I believed that he was helping me in that situation.”

Huacheng said, “He was helping you complete the task. The direct consequence was capturing the female ghost Xuan Ji, but what about the indirect consequences?”

Xie Lian cautiously asked, “Stirring up trouble for General Pei’s former lover, causing him a bit of trouble?”

The Master said, “This can be considered a minor issue. If you knew it would offend Pei Ming, would you have handled the task differently, such as secretly notifying Pei Ming to suppress the situation and allowing Xuan Ji to continue causing trouble in that small area without escalating it?”

Xie Lian felt embarrassed and said, “Well… honestly, I only learned about the connection with General Pei later. At that time, the female ghost was seeking revenge, and with so many people present, I had no choice but to take action. I didn’t have time to consider whether I would offend someone.”

Huacheng smiled slightly and said, “Brother, by making that choice, you have already made a decision.”

He continued to analyze, saying, “The second matter, when an empty-shell Daoist arrived at the Puqi Temple and led you to Ban Yue Pass. Let’s set aside who sent that shell for now. What were the consequences of that event?”

Xie Lian said, “Driving away Little General Pei and injuring his arm.”

Huacheng said, “Brother, you see, after these two incidents, you greatly weakened Pei Ming’s power and completely offended him. He didn’t directly intervene, so the enmity is all yours, and yet you feel grateful to him.”

“…”

Huacheng added, “If I’m not mistaken, he has been keeping a close eye on you for the past eight hundred years. You served as the National Teacher in Yong’an, and you taught Lang Qianqiu. I’m afraid he knows about it. Yet, he still sent Lang Qianqiu to accompany you. From my perspective, this is purely malicious.”

The Master exclaimed, “Wait? Your Highness, you served as the National Teacher in Yong’an? You taught Lang Qianqiu?”

Xie Lian said, “Um…”

The Master said, “You’re the Fengxin National Teacher???” Xie Lian replied, “Um… is there a problem?” He briefly recounted the events. The Master said, “If he were to find out about this, he would definitely be very angry with you.”

Huacheng continued, “Regarding the matter of Baihua Zhenxian, you originally planned not to get involved, but in the end, you were still dragged into it, fortunately not deeply. The hundreds of fishermen from Nanhai who were involved in the Reincarnation Realm weren’t stirred up by Hei Shui or Shi Qingxuan, so who else had the ability to do so besides him?”

As Xie Lian sorted through each matter, he realized that every step he had taken since his return was perhaps under the close scrutiny and guidance of Jun Wu.

Huacheng crossed his arms and said, “I guess he’s doing this for two reasons. On one hand, it’s because of that peculiar mentality of his. He keeps presenting you with challenges, testing how you choose and which path you take, hoping that you will follow the path he has laid out for you. On the other hand, I’m afraid it’s also because he wants to use you as a sword to weaken the power of these divine officials.

“The previous generation of divine officials in the Heavenly Court must have left a deep shadow on him. He is extremely vigilant, demanding absolute control over everything, not allowing anyone to threaten his power and position, and preventing other divine officials from catching up to him. And, I think…”

As Xie Lian contemplated, he asked, “What?”

Huacheng said, “Shi Wudou swapping lives with Shi Qingxuan, and Blackwater’s infiltration to investigate, could it be that he really knows nothing about it?”

What Xie Lian was thinking was exactly this.

Could it be that Jun Wu, sitting at the highest position, really knows nothing about it? It seems unlikely.

He had direct access to all the files handled by the Lingwen Hall. If there were any falsifications, wouldn’t he have noticed?

Despite committing such a major offense, the Navy had almost managed to hide it for many years. It was only revealed after Jun Wu began to act prominently in the Heavenly Court. Huacheng said, “Perhaps he had already suspected something from the beginning, but at that time, the Navy’s status didn’t pose a threat to him, so the matter wasn’t exposed. It might not have been good to reveal it early on. If Shi Wudou had been demoted, a new Navy Commander would have taken his place, and the new commander might not have given him such a substantial leverage and potential trouble.”

He continued, “If I were Jun Wu, I would feel quite dissatisfied with Shi Wudou. However, if I wanted to get rid of the Navy, I wouldn’t need to take action myself. I would simply watch him create more chaos, becoming more and more reckless, until I no longer tolerate him, and then I would directly reveal the information about the life swap to Blackwater.”

Blackwater would naturally seek revenge for himself and his deceased loved ones.

Huacheng said, “As for his gathering of ten thousand ghosts in the Tonglu, and his desire to refine the emergence of the Jue, it might be for the purpose of…”

Xie Lian said, “Checks and balances.”

Huacheng said, “Hmm. On one hand, he probably enjoys seeing the emergence of evil causing havoc in the mortal realm. On the other hand, as long as there is something causing trouble in the mortal realm, people will make prayers.”

And as long as there are believers praying, the divine power will become stronger!

The Master sighed and said, “Every time the Tonglu opens, the four of us try to intervene, but we don’t always succeed. This time, it was even… too big.

“He killed a small portion of the Wuyong Resentful Spirits that spewed out of the Tonglu, sent away most of them using his teleportation ability, and dispatched the rest. He stayed behind to inspect and destroy some things. He guessed that I would come to find you, so after dealing with the situation at Tonglu Mountain, he caught me.

“I realized that this couldn’t go on. The Wuyong Nation has already emerged, and with his vigilance, he will probably change representatives for the Heavenly Court again. If you continue without suspecting or noticing anything, sooner or later, you will be buried underground as part of the foundation of the Xianjing. It just so happened that Fengxin brought the Red Mirror, so I risked it all. Originally, his power was growing stronger, and the Red Mirror couldn’t reflect what was on his face anymore. But because he had recently fought the three mountain monsters and his human face had been activated again.

“I’ve almost said everything. Do you have any more questions, Your Highness?”

Lost in thought, Xie Lian asked, “I do. Master, do you still remember the Wuyong language?”

The Master said, “The Wuyong Nation has disappeared, and no one uses its writing or language anymore, so we learned new ones long ago. But I still remember the old ones; we just don’t use them often.” He admitted, “And I don’t really want to use them.”

Xie Lian recalled that when the Master told the mountain monsters that “the Crown Prince is beyond saving” and “is about to awaken,” it wasn’t actually referring to him, but to the part of Bai Wuxiang attached to Lang Yue, who had been killing and absorbing power along the way.

And those flesh-eating rats that spoke human language. At the time, because Xie Lian understood the Wuyong language they were speaking, Huacheng believed that someone had instilled relevant memories into him. Among the several possible candidates listed, they had hit the mark, and both Jun Wu and Bai Wuxiang were involved.

And of course, Bai Wuxiang could easily create the fake skins of Fengxin and Mu Qing. After all, Jun Wu would naturally know them inside out!

Xie Lian said, “He… seems to have always wanted to guide me into believing that I am the true Crown Prince of Wuyong or a part of his soul.”

The Master said, “Of course he wants that. Now that the existence of the Wuyong Nation can no longer be concealed, anyone who sees the Crown Prince of Xianle and the Crown Prince of Wuyong will think they resemble each other. It’s perfect for him to direct it towards you. And as soon as you start doubting yourself, doubting your true nature, actions, and purpose, and having the thought of ‘I am the Crown Prince of Wuyong,’ the possibility of repeating his fate increases.

“He is actively guiding you, wanting you to walk the path he has walked, not your own. The similarities between you are too great for him… he cannot tolerate that you are so alike but taking different paths.”

After a long silence, Huacheng said, “I’ve said it all. You don’t resemble him at all.”

The Master, as if unable to hold it any longer, turned to him and asked, “Young man, what’s the matter with you?”

Huacheng responded, “?” Xie Lian was taken aback, wondering, “What’s going on?”

The Master rolled up his sleeves and said earnestly to Huacheng, “I’ve been wanting to say this for a long time. Young man, why is your smile so insincere? Don’t think that just because you’re the King of Ghosts in dire straits, you can be impolite to me. The King of Ghosts in dire straits is indeed rare, but do you know how old I am? Of course, someone of my age is even rarer!”

“…”

Huacheng raised an eyebrow.

Xie Lian rubbed his temples and said, “Master, Sanlang isn’t impolite. He’s just…” He’s just used to fake smiles with others. The Master made a gesture to Huacheng, indicating that he shouldn’t come over, then pulled Xie Lian to the side and said seriously, “Crown Prince, I’ve seen it.”

Xie Lian asked, “Ah? What did you see?”

The Master said, “Up there, on top of that giant statue.”

That giant statue? What’s wrong with it? Xie Lian thought for a moment, and suddenly, his head buzzed.

He borrowed divine power!

Xie Lian coughed incessantly and said, “No… He just borrowed divine power… No, it’s not just borrowing divine power, it’s… "

The Master became even more serious and said, “Your Highness, what’s the matter with you? Could it be that because I’ve been strict with you and you’ve been cultivating for so long without any romantic relationships, you’ve changed…?”

“…”

Xie Lian frantically waved his hands and said, “It’s not for that reason!”

2 / 2

The Master let out a sigh and said, “Don’t be afraid, Your Highness. I’m not here to criticize you. I won’t teach you something I’m not good at. Besides, you’ve been through so much. Does it even matter to you? It doesn’t matter if it’s men or women, as long as you’re happy.”

Xie Lian rubbed his forehead, which had turned bright red, and whispered, “Um… I am happy.”

But the Master said with frustration, “But you searched for eight hundred years, and you ended up with the King of Ghosts in dire straits?”

Xie Lian was taken aback. The Master continued, “I’m not saying your taste is bad. He’s quite handsome, and all the young ladies must like him. But the King of Ghosts in dire straits is extremely dangerous. Your Highness, think it through. Once you get involved with someone like him, you’ll never be able to shake him off.”

“Um, Master, please wait…”

“No doubt about it. Let me tell you, as soon as I saw this Blood Rain Prodigy, I knew his fate must be twisted and filled with danger. Each peak is taller than the last, and his malevolence is suffocating. He’s simply…”

Huacheng, who was behind them, calmly interjected, “He’s simply the Lone Star of Catastrophe, right?”

Xie Lian had tried his best to stop the Master from continuing, but he couldn’t succeed. He covered his face and silently moved back behind Huacheng.

Huacheng embraced him with a smile, raised an eyebrow, and said, “Indeed, my smile is truly insincere. However, it’s not quite appropriate to say in front of the person that he’s the Lone Star of Catastrophe, the harbinger of disaster, the bringer of misfortune, orphaned at a young age, and won’t live past eighteen, is it?”

“?”

The Master’s eyes gradually widened. “Could it be…?”