Zhu Hong trembled as she pointed at Zhanhunshi: “He… he… he is…”

“Shen Wei,” Daqing said. The fat cat inexplicably felt a certain sense of superiority. It glanced at the fallen Zhu Hong, pretending to be calm as it licked its paws, considerately giving the girl some time to restore her worldview.

Shen Wei’s hood fell onto his shoulders, revealing the gentle and refined face of Professor Shen. It seemed oddly out of place in this setting. After a moment, he gently pushed aside Zhao Yunlan, furrowing his brow as he raised the hand that had been scratched by a little ghost. He clenched his fingers tightly around Zhao Yunlan’s wrist, then opened his palm and made a grabbing motion. A thin black line emerged from Zhao Yunlan’s wound and disappeared into the air. The flesh on the back of his hand, which had been a bloody mess, quickly healed.

“Let’s leave this place first,” Shen Wei said, keeping his words as concise as possible.

Just then, a row of ghost messengers hurriedly ran over, followed by a panting judge. The ten court officials had different levels of arrogance, always putting on airs and acting superior. The messengers, laborers, and those doing unpleasant tasks all fell under the control of the old judge.

The judge panted as he directed the messengers to repair the city gate and suppress the little ghosts. A scribe stood beside him, wiping away sweat and counting… just how many different kinds of ghosts in the city had been cut to pieces by the Zhanhunshi.

Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan ignored them simultaneously, lifting their feet and walking away. Zhu Hong and Daqing quickly followed in a disheveled manner. The judge wiped his sweat and shouted from behind, “Sir! Immortal! Please wait!”

Shen Wei remained silent, simply turning his head and raising an eyebrow.

“What… What does it matter whether or not people with crimes or those waiting to be reincarnated can enter and leave the ghost city? And what benefits does the Netherworld gain from them?” Zhao Yunlan asked.

Shen Wei suppressed his smile, lowered his head, and silently pulled up the hand that had been wiped away by a little ghost. He then opened his palm and made a grabbing motion. A faint, black line emerged from the wound on Zhao Yunlan’s hand, briefly appearing before dissipating into the air. The mangled skin on the back of his hand rapidly healed.

“Just leave it,” Shen Wei said in a calm and gentle tone.

At that moment, a row of ghost messengers hurriedly ran towards them, followed by a panting judge. The ten court officials had various degrees of arrogance, always acting high and mighty. The messengers, laborers, and those doing thankless jobs all ended up being scolded by the old judge.

He panted as he commanded the messengers to repair the city gates and suppress the little ghosts, while a scribe stood by, wiping his sweat and taking inventory… how many ghosts of various kinds remained after the Zhanhunshi cut through them.

Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan completely ignored them, raising their feet and walking away. Zhu Hong and Daqing quickly followed suit, disheveled by the wind. The judge wiped his sweat and shouted from behind, “Sir! Immortal! Please wait!”

Shen Wei gave no response. He simply turned his head, lightly raising his eyebrows.

“What… What’s the matter with you deliberately blocking our way with the Shuangmian Gui? And the Netherworld? What benefits do they gain?” Zhao Yunlan asked.

Shen Wei hid his smile, lowered his head, and silently raised the hand that had been wiped by a little ghost. He then opened his palm and made a grabbing motion. A faint, black line emerged from the wound on Zhao Yunlan’s hand, appearing for a moment before dissipating into the air. The mutilated back of his hand quickly healed.

“Just leave it,” Shen Wei said in a calm and gentle voice.

Zhao Yunlan let go of him, stopping in his tracks. Shen Wei, on the other hand, turned away and refused to look back.

Both remained silent for an unknown period of time. Finally, Zhao Yunlan lowered his voice and said, “I won’t die from an illness… Will you come with me?”

Shen Wei remained motionless.

Zhao Yunlan gritted his teeth and angrily said, “Damn it! I almost wish I could handcuff you at home.”

Shen Wei turned around, looking at Zhao Yunlan. After a while, he sighed softly. “I am of the Ghost Clan, Yunlan. Regardless of what Kunlun Jun has given me, regardless… of what you turned me into back then, they were all empty titles and false honors. My essence is that of the Ghost Clan. The Ghost Clan is inherently ill-fated. In the early days of Honghuang, there were even rumors among the common people that if a person saw a member of the Ghost Clan, it was a symbol that they would not die peacefully and would have no resting place.”

Zhao Yunlan looked at him, trying hard to suppress his anxious and restless frustration. He took a deep breath and spoke in a slower tone, “I don’t believe in all that… Anyway, come back with me first. We can slowly solve other problems. Even if we’re not together, at least you’ll be in sight every day. I can feel relieved…”

“In sight,” Shen Wei repeated softly, his thin lips seeming to want to curl up into a smile, but failing midway and turning into a bitter smile instead. After a while, he whispered, “Yunlan, please stop tormenting me.”

“Until now,” Zhao Yunlan heard Shen Wei’s voice, strained and suppressed in his throat, “the thing I regret the most is carelessly provoking you and then failing to control myself, making one mistake after another. Thinking back, it’s probably… because my cultivation is lacking, my mind is weak, and I’m too vulnerable.”

Zhao Yunlan seemed to sense something and immediately pounced forward. But this time, when he reached out, he grabbed nothing but air. Shen Wei faced him and quickly retreated, almost turning into a black shadow.

Zhao Yunlan watched him disappear before his eyes, leaving only the fading sound of his voice, “I’ll leave you here. Leave quickly.”

The words “leave” echoed in the air, pounding against their eardrums, almost like an ominous curse.

Zhu Hong saw it, and for a brief moment, she saw redness in Zhao Yunlan’s eyes. However, in the blink of an eye, he forcibly suppressed it, leaving only bloodshot eyes.

“You go back first.” After a few seconds, Zhao Yunlan stared at the direction Shen Wei had disappeared, speaking to Zhu Hong in a calm tone, “Take Daqing with you—yes, you said you want to leave. Do you have a specific time? If so, let me know in advance, and I’ll ask Wang Zheng to help with the arrangements…”

Zhu Hong interrupted him, “Zhao, what’s going on?”

Zhao Yunlan waved his hand, not wanting to say more, “It’s nothing. You can go.”

“Where should I go? I won’t go anywhere!” Zhu Hong’s voice grew louder. “He… Shen… Zhanhunshi… Ah! Who loves who, what’s the matter? Why did he say that you can’t be together? What medicine did he force you to drink? Why…”

Daqing jumped onto Zhu Hong’s foot, squatting there and looking up at Zhao Yunlan. He suddenly spoke, explaining, “Since ancient times, they say there’s a ‘separate path for humans and ghosts.’ But even after all these years, old cat hasn’t seen someone so separated by Yin and Yang who stubbornly insists on being together. It’s just that, as water flows downhill, people full of deathly qi will absorb the vitality of the living. Perhaps it’s a natural law. Losing vitality as a living person is easy, but gaining it back is not so simple. It requires the other party to willingly offer their spirit. The Ghost King is born capable of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with saints. Perhaps they don’t have things like demon inner cores. It’s probably… only blood from the heart that remains.”

Zhao Yunlan was extroverted but had a deep city in his heart. As long as he didn’t want to, it seemed like no matter how happy or sad he was, it wouldn’t show on his face.

Zhu Hong felt her breath being held up high, but when she turned to look at him, that man remained still, his complexion calm, pale as snow in the embrace of Huangquan, yet showing no signs of weakness or sadness. It even reminded people of the pillar stone that remained unshaken amidst countless catastrophic disasters.

For a moment, Zhu Hong didn’t know what to say. But human hearts are biased, and she had Zhao Yunlan in her heart. His every emotion was connected to her very core. Even though he hadn’t done anything, the more she thought about it, the more suffocated she felt. In the end, she blurted out, “He’s intentionally treating you unjustly!”

Zhao Yunlan’s gaze finally shifted in her direction, and he furrowed his brows lightly. “What did you say?”

“He’s intentionally treating you unjustly!” Zhu Hong said indignantly. “If he didn’t give you hints from the beginning, would you have chased after him for no reason? If he didn’t half-heartedly reject you, you’re not Li Gang. Would you still forcefully pursue a relationship? The Zhanhunshi has great abilities. If he didn’t want to, could he still be forced into it?”

The black cat tilted its head and slid directly down from her foot, feeling that this girl’s worldview had miraculously healed in a very short time. Her resilience against setbacks was astonishing—she didn’t seem to remember at all that she was talking about the Zhanhunshi, the one who was too scared to even open a letter from him in the past.

Zhu Hong became more and more furious as she spoke, and her heartache grew. She simply wouldn’t let it go. “He’s clearly enticing you on purpose, intentionally leading you on, intentionally stringing you along. If he can’t be with you, why didn’t he say so earlier? He’s clearly forcing you, forcing you…”

Zhao Yunlan took out the last cigarette from his pocket, clicked it open with a sound, lit it, and exhaled a slow puff of white smoke. He asked in a casual tone, “Forcing me to do what?”

Zhu Hong was momentarily speechless. After a moment, she blurted out, “He forces you to be unable to leave him, to not be willing to give him up even if it means going to the ends of the earth or the depths of the underworld, to have only him in your eyes and heart, abandoning everything else! I think he had ill intentions from the very beginning.”

Zhao Yunlan chuckled lightly, patting Zhu Hong’s shoulder and pushing her towards the big pagoda tree. “Enough, you’ve shouted enough. Go quickly.”

Zhu Hong hopped on one foot and said, “Are you even listening to me?”

Zhao Yunlan suppressed his smile, flicked the cigarette ash, and replied, “You silly girl, your emotional intelligence is truly worrying. You’re not good at expressing yourself. Do you know what ‘keeping a distance’ means? He is mine, and any issues between us, whether it’s his fault or mine, are our own business. If someone criticizes him in front of me, it’s no different from slapping my face. That’s just me. I don’t want to argue with you. If it were someone else, they would have gotten angry with you already. Stop talking and go back. Get a good night’s sleep. It’s been tough these past couple of days. I’ll count it as holiday overtime for you.”

Zhu Hong’s voice trembled, “Am I an outsider?”

“Nonsense,” Zhao Yunlan glanced at her, “If someone other than me is number one, it becomes an issue of demeanor.”

Zhu Hong exclaimed, “You jerk!”

Zhao Yunlan spread his hands helplessly, “How am I a jerk?”

Zhu Hong was finally driven to say the classic line, “In your eyes, how am I inferior to him?”

Daqing, who had been observing the entire process, covered his face with a paw, realizing that he had lowered his standards by enjoying this kind of clichéd drama. It was really beneath a cat’s dignity.

Zhao Yunlan sighed, “You’re gentle, kind, pure, and beautiful. You’re also a girl. You’re better than him in every way.”

Zhu Hong asked, “Then why am I not enough?”

After thinking for a moment, Zhao Yunlan revealed two dimples, lowered his head, and smiled gently, “Maybe it’s because I’m more clueless. If that’s the case, you’re not much better either. Look, as a modern-day chain-smoking alcoholic, I’m rude and hot-tempered. I’m not gentle and considerate for more than three and a half days. I’m also quite extravagant. I can’t help with everyday matters, but when it comes to causing trouble, I have quite the skill. Even my own mother couldn’t stand me and kicked me out early. You’re a beautiful woman. What is there to be unhappy about?”

With tears in her eyes, Zhu Hong looked at him and said, “Don’t play the role of a good person with me!”

“Really, you don’t know,” Zhao Yunlan slowly savored the last cigarette in his hand. “Actually, you don’t know. I’m too lazy to even wash my socks. I buy seven or eight pairs and rotate them. After each rotation, I shake them to determine the intensity of the smell. Then I rotate them again and casually stuff them into the laundry bag. I stuff them in and out, one by one, causing socks to be lost. That’s why, after Shen Wei moved in, I finally started wearing matching socks.”

As he spoke, a faint smile that couldn’t be suppressed appeared on his lips, revealing a touch of profound tenderness. “Sometimes, I really can’t figure out how he can tolerate me. You probably can’t figure out how good he is to me either. If you want to go back to your clan in the future or if you want to come back someday, I’ll welcome you. But let’s agree not to bring up this matter anymore, okay? There are plenty of guys in the world who are better than me. They hang themselves on a crooked tree. What do you say, are you in or out?”

After saying that, he nudged Daqing’s belly with his foot. “You two go back together. Be careful on the way.”

Then Zhao Yunlan walked onto the Naihe Bridge without looking back, directly flipping over the railing and jumping onto a ferry. The ferryman, who had no facial features, was startled by the sudden appearance and Zhao Yunlan patted his shoulder, saying, “Hey, buddy, can you tell me the way to the sealed forbidden place? I want to go there.”

The ferryman’s face turned as white as a blank canvas, trying to make an expression of seeing a ghost, but it was too difficult a task. Without a second word, he jumped off the boat and plunged into the River of Oblivion. Perhaps he didn’t need to breathe, as he didn’t even create a single bubble.

Seeing that his words had scared the ghost into diving, Zhao Yunlan couldn’t help but touch his nose and sat on the ferry, pondering for a moment.

“Huangquan is a thousand feet below, Huangquan is…” Zhao Yunlan stared at the calm waters of the River of Oblivion beneath his feet and neatly folded Shen Wei’s coat, placing it on the ferry.

A faint ghostly figure emerged from the river, tentatively reaching out to touch. Zhao Yunlan didn’t even turn his head as he said, “You dare to touch the clothes of the Lord of the Soul Devourer?”

The ghost was greatly frightened and quickly submerged back into the water.

Zhao Yunlan rolled up his sleeves and pant legs, then boldly jumped into the frigid waters of the River of Oblivion. In the distance, there were screams from a woman and a cat, scaring away a large group of wandering spirits in the water.

The water of the River of Oblivion was bone-chilling cold, everything in the underworld felt like it had just been taken out of the refrigerator. Zhao Yunlan’s wristwatch emitted a soft glow in the water. He glanced down, intending to dive as deep as possible and resurface when he couldn’t hold his breath any longer. However, at that moment, the water pearl hanging around his neck suddenly emitted a white light, forming a large bubble that enveloped his entire body. Zhao Yunlan cautiously released his breath and was pleasantly surprised to find that he could breathe again.

“This is incredible.” Zhao Yunlan marveled as he held the legendary water pearl that could ward off water and fire, then relaxed and boldly continued swimming downwards.

He didn’t know how long he had been descending. The pristine halo emitted by the ferry above had completely disappeared from sight. Above and below, it was pitch-black water. His luminous watch had turned into a flashlight, emitting light but no longer moving its hands, as if time had completely stopped for him.

The wandering spirits around him gradually vanished without a trace. After a while, even the water seemed to freeze and become motionless.

There was no light, no sound, nothing at all. Zhao Yunlan noticed that the sound of his heartbeat had become incredibly loud. Even when he covered his ears, he couldn’t block it out. It was like a drumbeat, the more he focused on it, the more intense it became.

After some time, even the glow of the luminous watch faded away, and the surroundings began to turn pitch-black. In the darkness, Zhao Yunlan didn’t know how long he had been sinking. He almost had a hallucination, as if it wasn’t the absence of light, but rather his eyes going blind once again.