“It’s impossible…” Tang Zhen’s pupils contracted, and he suddenly remembered something. “Wait, how did you break free from the Soul Painting?”

Cheng Qian silently chuckled, a smile that carried an indescribable meaning, as if there was a layer of unfamiliar worldliness on the surface, concealing the suppressed resentment beneath.

Yan Zhengming was startled, but before he could react, the ground beneath his feet violently trembled—right, when the Golden Lotus loses its leaves, the Great Snow Mountain would naturally collapse.

“No wonder,” Cheng Qian held the tiny leaf and whispered, “if a demonic cultivator were to come, this leaf would only recognize the Wanmo Sect, right? No wonder the Wanmo Sect is also called the ‘North Abyss Lord.’ There’s such a meaning behind it. Tang Zhen, have you ever heard of a precedent where a demonic cultivator successfully ascended?”

Tang Zhen wore a smug and mocking smile on his face, saying, “Young friend, where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Only when he said those words, he faintly resembled his appearance from two hundred years ago when he bid farewell to Tong Ru at the foot of Mount Fuyao.

Cheng Qian quietly watched him, and gradually, the anger and coldness on his face faded, replaced by a subtle self-mockery and sorrow. It was as if he was looking at Tang Zhen but also through Tang Zhen at something else.

His eyes were desolate, yet filled with a hint of pity.

Whenever Cheng Qian wrinkled his brows, Yan Zhengming knew he was about to scold someone. However, at this moment, Yan Zhengming couldn’t help but feel that he sensed a trace of despair in Cheng Qian’s gaze.

Indifferently, Cheng Qian picked up the Golden Lotus leaf in his hand and forcefully opened the unopened leaf with his fingertips, showing no pity.

Finally, Tang Zhen’s expression changed. He could no longer maintain his effortless elegance, and his eyes emitted the bloodlust characteristic of a demonic cultivator, appearing somewhat ferocious.

Tang Zhen exclaimed, “Wait, what are you doing?”

Cheng Qian calmly said, “So many things in this world are created out of thin air because of people’s wishful thinking.”

Tang Zhen protested, “No, you can’t…”

Without warning, Cheng Qian suddenly closed his palm, completely without hesitation, and the fragile Golden Lotus leaf instantly shattered in his grasp.

Tang Zhen stood there in disbelief for a while before letting out an inhuman scream and madly lunging towards Cheng Qian.

He no longer bothered to conceal the demonic aura that surged throughout his body. He turned into a mass of black mist.

Yan Zhengming, in fact, wanted to scream as well. That was the Golden Lotus leaf from the Great Snow Mountain, a priceless treasure that many people had never even heard of. This damn wasteful Cheng Qian actually crushed it!

These people who didn’t have to support their families were simply too careless!

However, on one side, the secret realm was collapsing continuously, and in front of them was an unpredictable big demon. Cheng Qian seemed to be extremely unstable in both physical and mental states. Despite Yan Zhengming’s strong desire to make him kneel for a month with a rolling pin, there was no other choice at the moment. He could only pull Cheng Qian behind him, unsheath his sword, and confront Tang Zhen.

A loud noise came from the depths of the Great Snow Mountain, and in the distance, the massive ice layers began to crack extensively.

There was no trace of Tang Zhen’s graceful gentlemanly appearance anymore. His eyes were almost bloodshot, surrounded by dark aura, clearly indicating that he had long been engulfed by demonic energy.

However, right after their first clash, Yan Zhengming’s hand holding the sword was numbed by the impact. Yan Zhengming couldn’t help but be astonished—did Han Yuan lack the qualifications to aspire to the North Abyss because he couldn’t surpass the previous North Abyss Lord, or was it because of Tang Zhen?

And this wasn’t even his true form, just a ghostly apparition!

Several other ghostly apparitions appeared from nowhere, their bodies covered in ice residue from the Snow Mountain, neatly lined up behind Tang Zhen.

Yan Zhengming didn’t dare to be arrogant. He quickly formed a hand seal, fully activating the aura of his original wooden sword. The powerful sword energy disregarded the constantly falling ice layers and relentlessly pressed forward against Tang Zhen.

At that moment, a frosty blade unsheathed with a clang, as if the chilling aura in the entire Great Snow Mountain secret realm had been stirred. Seizing the opportunity while Yan Zhengming kept Tang Zhen busy, Cheng Qian swiftly passed by like a ghost, his swordsmanship enigmatic. His strike, “Subtle Mystery,” seemed to penetrate everything, beheading several ghostly apparitions behind Tang Zhen.

“Youngster, you’ve pushed me too far,” Tang Zhen’s face turned ferocious. His hundred-year preparations had been shattered by Cheng Qian’s palm strike. Tang Zhen was on the verge of madness, and the lingering consequences of his long confinement with the Spirit Lamp erupted without any buffering. “Did you really think that the Wish-Fulfilling Stone on Mount Fuyao was just for show?”

He brushed his sleeve, and his black energy collided with Yan Zhengming’s sword wind. The torn demonic energy seemed to have gained a sharper edge. “Do you really think you can kill me with just the two of you?”

Tang Zhen burst into loud laughter. “The Golden Lotus leaf was destroyed by you, and I can wait for the next one. But can you wait?”

What did he mean by that? Yan Zhengming quickly pondered, but before he could grasp the meaning, the ghostly apparition possessed by Tang Zhen suddenly burst without warning. Its power was no less than that of a cultivator self-exploding their Nascent Soul.

He ran!

The crumbling Great Snow Mountain secret realm collapsed completely, and waves surged into the shattered realm like an earth-shattering tsunami. Tang Zhen’s ghostly apparition disintegrated in the North Abyss water. Yan Zhengming only managed to grab Cheng Qian and barely create a protective barrier of true essence, but they were buried beneath the North Abyss water.

The unimaginable pressure of the most sinister seawater in the world was too much to bear. Yan Zhengming’s breath stalled, and for a moment, he felt as if he was buried alive. Apart from Cheng Qian tightly grasping him, Yan Zhengming seemed to have lost all connection with his surroundings, unable to sense the external manifestation of his primordial spirit sword.

Although submerged in water, they couldn’t float to the surface. The unparalleled pressure of the seawater was like an inescapable palm, pushing them towards the depths of the North Abyss.

Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, Li Yun felt the primordial spirit sword in her hand suddenly become lighter. The shimmering sword aura flickered twice and then dimmed, as if the connection with its owner had been severed.

Li Yun was initially stunned, but then her face turned pale. “Senior Brother is in trouble!”

The bird feathers still covered in ashes hadn’t fallen from her hands yet, and she exclaimed, “Second Senior Brother, what are you saying? Don’t scare me!”

The previously eloquent Li Yun suddenly became incoherent. “This primordial spirit sword… he left it for me. I can sense it, but the connection suddenly broke…”

A sharp explosion in the air interrupted Li Yun’s words. Startled, Li Yun looked up and saw that Han Yuan and Jiang Peng had both stopped their movements simultaneously. The people outside had already formed a formation, and it looked oddly familiar—it was actually a Demon-Slaying Formation, just like the one under Mount Taiyin!

The dark clouds churned in the sky. The disciples of the White Tiger Villa had never seen such a formation and retreated in doubt. Then, a massive blade shadow descended from above, directly targeting Han Yuan. Han Yuan didn’t dodge or avoid it. He looked up at the blade light in the clouds with a smirk on his face, then flew up to meet it.

“This doesn’t make sense!” Li Yun thought anxiously. “Doesn’t Bian Xu know that Tianyan Pavilion used the Demon-Slaying Formation against Han Yuan? Is he being truly clueless? Why is he using the same tactic again?”

Jiang Peng suddenly lost his opponent and looked up at the airborne blade light and sword shadows, but for some unknown reason, he didn’t pursue his advantage.

With a crisp sound, the Demon-Slaying Blade formed by the black clouds collided with the Demon Dragon. The blade wind filled the air, and the nearest mountaintop was instantly leveled. The wind and thunder surged as sparks burst from the scales on the Demon Dragon, spreading like fireworks ignited by a gust of wind.

Han Yuan, in the sky, laughed. “There’s more than one place in the world that can sever the connection between a primordial spirit sword and its master. Who knows which rat hole your Senior Brother has crawled into, Li Yun? Why are you so alarmed?”

Li Yun’s eyebrows twitched, and she sensitively heard something from his words.

“A calamity that has lasted for a thousand years. Who in this world can cause more calamity than him?” Han Yuan said, “I think you shouldn’t worry so much.”

Li Yun raised her head. The blade light and sword shadows were too dazzling for her to open her eyes. She wanted to ask the Demon Dragon roiling in the sky, with such a confident tone, did Han Yuan catch a glimpse of something in the Three Lives Secret Realm?

However, before she could speak, a group of people led by Bian Xu approached from outside the Demon-Slaying Formation. The gigantic flag of the Xuanwu Hall fluttered in the wind, and at the center of the formation, Jiang Peng, who had previously been insane, seemed to have undergone a complete transformation. He stood there calmly, his thin face reflecting the intermittent glow of the blade light from the Demon-Slaying Formation. He murmured, “Ah, the Lord of Xuanwu Hall—such broad-mindedness. No wonder, despite his advanced age, the ‘power’ of the world refuses to fall into his hands.”

The Demon Dragon on his shoulder carried the long blade of the Demon-Slaying Formation. He narrowed his eyes slightly and looked at Bian Xu.

The elder of the White Tiger Villa couldn’t wait for him to speak and jumped out to confront Bian Xu, pointing at his nose and scolding, “What do you mean by this? The mighty Xuanwu Hall, leading by example and then turning against it. I think you’re worse than those raggedy demons!”

The Demon Dragon in the sky snorted angrily upon hearing this indiscriminate attack on both friend and foe.

Bian Xu spoke coldly, “That was an oath your White Tiger Villa made with the Feathered Fan Sect. I never agreed to it. Your esteemed Villa changes sides as quickly as turning a page in a book. As soon as your Villa Master learned that his life was coming to an end, he immediately sought a mighty backing. Truly devoted to the Villa… Where is your formidable backer, Master Yan?”

The elder of the White Tiger Villa stomped his feet. “You’ve completely lost your mind!”

Bian Xu’s face remained calm. “My only son died, and my heart stagnated. I can never advance in cultivation for the rest of my life, and my remaining lifespan is no more than twenty years. I am one of the Four Sages, after all… Now that I have nothing left, what is there to fear?”

Han Yuan, in human form with his arms crossed, descended slightly from the sky. “Is it my fault?”

4 / 4

The elder of the White Tiger Villa glared angrily at the Demon Dragon, then continued, “Those who kill should pay with their lives. Bian, this Demon Dragon deserves to be torn apart a thousand times, but he is still needed to resolve the current chaos in the Southern Region. The Xuanwu Hall has always been righteous and noble, even if it’s for the well-being of the people…”

“The well-being of the people…” Bian Xu laughed softly. “When you slaughtered my son, why didn’t you think about the well-being of the Xuanwu Hall, a power in its own right? Why didn’t you mention anyone else’s well-being?”

The elder of the White Tiger Villa was momentarily speechless.

Bian Xu didn’t give him a chance to speak again. He said coldly, “Once I kill the Demon Dragon, I will take care of these demonic cultivators myself!”

As he spoke, he didn’t wait for anyone and charged into the Demon-Slaying Formation with his sword, pouncing toward Han Yuan. Han Yuan, of course, wasn’t an easy target. Just as he was about to retaliate, the blood oath mark on the back of his hand suddenly flashed, and the black clouds in the sky began to churn warningly, indicating that the Demon-Slaying Formation was about to act up.

Han Yuan cursed inwardly and flipped down from the sky. The people from the White Tiger Villa immediately confronted him. Jiang Peng’s momentary clarity from earlier disappeared once again, as if someone had briefly possessed him and then left. Jiang Peng let out a cry, and his eyes were filled with only the words “North Abyss,” as countless ghostly apparitions blocked Han Yuan’s path.

Right at that moment, a faint buzzing sound came from all directions. It seemed that something swiftly passed by the perimeter of the Demon-Slaying Formation, easily drowned out by the commotion. But while others didn’t hear it, Suo Keng did. Although she had no idea what it was, her fur instinctively stood on end.

Suo Keng widened her eyes and saw Han Yuan, unable to bear it any longer, endure the backlash of a heavenly thunderbolt as he struck out with a palm, sending the aged Bian Xu flying.

Bian Xu was sent flying tens of zhang away, spitting out blood on the spot. But something strange happened—the blood oath mark on Han Yuan’s hand didn’t backlash.

What did that mean?

Could it be that in just a short moment, Bian Xu had gone insane, no longer protected by the blood oath?

Han Yuan was momentarily stunned, then looked at Bian Xu with suspicion. “What did you do?”

Bian Xu wiped the corners of his mouth slowly, and his face visibly withered at an alarming speed. Dense wrinkles appeared around his eyes and eyebrows, as if an invisible knife was slashing randomly across his face. Blood flashed in his eyes, and a circle of eerie symbols floated up from his body, like totems.

“What is that?” the elder of the White Tiger Villa murmured.

Han Yuan remained silent but tightened his grip on the heavy sword in his hand.

In the next moment, Bian Xu suddenly spread his arms and raised them, as if masses of white hair were falling like withered flowers. His voice became hoarse as he howled to the sky, “Emperor Heaven—”

As those two words were uttered, Li Yun’s hair stood on end. “Is he going to offer a sacrifice?”

Offering a sacrifice was one of the most insidious curses. Mortals who used this technique could kill others invisibly, and the power of the curse would be passed down through generations. Not to mention Bian Xu, once one of the Four Sages.

Once the technique was complete, his body, soul, descendants, and lifelong achievements would all be destroyed.

The elder of the White Tiger Villa shouted in incomprehension, “Is it necessary for him to offer a sacrifice just for the sake of his useless son?”

No…

The lifespan of a cultivator was long enough, and familial ties were weak. As long as one wished, couldn’t they have more children? As the Master of the Xuanwu Hall, there would be countless people willing to devote themselves to him.

Was he doing this for the glory of his past life and the current decline of the Xuanwu Hall on the Baoxi Mountain?

Once, when he, Bian Xu, spoke, who didn’t admire him? But now, he couldn’t even seek justice for his murdered child.

He was trapped between the past and the present, crushed by the decline that came after reaching the peak.

Was Han Yuan, who had a vendetta with him over his son’s death, truly the person he hated the most?

Or was Han Yuan just his excuse?

At this moment, there was no way to verify any of these.

Han Yuan made a decisive move and rushed toward Bian Xu, attempting to interrupt him before he completed the sacrificial spell.

At that moment, a dark shadow suddenly shot out. Jiang Peng emerged from the devouring soul lamp and blocked Han Yuan’s path. In an instant, the Black Dragon Heavy Sword had clashed with the ghostly apparitions multiple times.

Han Yuan’s expression suddenly changed, and he turned his head to look at Jiang Peng. “You’re not Jiang Peng, who are you?”

A peculiar smile appeared on Jiang Peng’s face.

“Who am I?” “Jiang Peng” laughed. “Even if I killed you, you still wouldn’t be able to guess—”

Bian Xu paid no attention to their actions and performed a bow of worship. “Houtu!”

Li Yun asked in a baffled manner, “What are you all standing around for? Stop him!”

The essence swords formed by You Liang suddenly converged and rushed toward Bian Xu. Suo Keng held the completely grayed-out sparrow feathers in her hand, gritted her teeth, and transformed into her crimson crane form, enveloped in the Samadhi True Fire, sweeping toward the large group of ghostly apparitions to clear a path for the sword light.

“Jiang Peng” laughed softly, a laugh that made Han Yuan’s hair stand on end.

Han Yuan intercepted the water pit and accurately grabbed the long neck of Tonghe, throwing her behind him. In the next moment, there was a loud noise in the air, and a ghost suddenly exploded. Five or six disciples of the Baihu Mountain Villa around were unable to dodge and were instantly blown apart.

“Jiang Peng” smiled and looked up at Han Yuan, making a “bang” gesture with his mouth.

Han Yuan transformed into a demon dragon. The originally terrifying demonic energy hastily formed a protective layer, enveloping everyone inside.

In the next moment, the airborne ghosts exploded one after another, like thunderous explosions. It was much sharper than the half-hearted Demon Slaying Formation. After a short while, Han Yuan couldn’t sustain his demon dragon form any longer. He transformed back into a human form and fell from the sky.

His dragon robe was dripping with blood, truly becoming the “tattered clothes” described by Elder Baihu.

With a gloomy expression, Han Yuan waved away the hand that wanted to help him and reluctantly supported his body with a heavy sword, standing upright.

Suddenly, the ten thousand mountains of Shuzhong began to tremble restlessly. Bian Xu suddenly rose into the air, shouting loudly, “My flesh—”

His old skin seemed to burst open like a torn sack, and he turned into a blurry skeleton, revealing crimson muscles and eerie white bones, like a flayed blood corpse.

But he remained unaware, “My primordial spirit—”

The remaining flesh and blood body also exploded. A cluster in the air surged like the light ball in a cultivator’s Purple Mansion, with Bian Xu’s primordial spirit sitting within it, surrounded by dense blood energy.

Bian Xu could no longer speak with his voice. A thunderous roar like a ringing bell burst from his exposed inner palace, “Three souls and seven spirits!”

As soon as these words fell, the sacrifice was complete. The phantom of the devouring soul lamp in the air suddenly disappeared, and the numerous ghosts scattered like startled swallows. Bian Xu’s inner palace, suspended in the air, violently contracted into a point and then exploded.

When Gu Yansnow died, the East Sea trembled for a day and night. While Bian Xu was inconspicuous among the Four Saints during his lifetime, his death shook the world more than anyone else.

The entire Shu region became the epicenter. The invisible shock spread rapidly in all directions.

Mountains crumbled, and birds, beasts, insects, and fish had no time to escape. The villages among the mountains seemed to evaporate from the mortal world, sinking into boundless darkness. Fresh resented souls boiled everywhere, and the phantom of the devouring soul lamp appeared and disappeared on the horizon, as if welcoming a feast.

The world seemed devoid of the sun and moon, leaving only that one sinister lamp, incessantly devouring souls from all directions.

Han Yuan’s pupils contracted violently.

He couldn’t deny his indiscriminate killing. Numerous cultivators died at his hands outside the Vermilion Bird Tower. Han Yuan understood that even if he were to be shattered at this moment, it would be a deserved punishment.

But why should the mortals living here suffer such an unjust calamity?

The faces absorbed by the devouring soul lamp flashed before him one by one, and Han Yuan’s pupils shrank to a tiny point.

The cause planted by Tong Ru finally bore such a ferocious result.

Jiang Peng, who had previously intercepted Han Yuan, spread his arms, revealing a smile as if he had achieved his wish. He bathed in indescribable slaughter, opened his arms, and let Bian Xu’s forbidden technique crush him.

Jiang Peng’s body crumbled like a walking corpse, revealing

a ghostly shadow that existed alongside the soul lamp.

Shui Kong covered his mouth and recognized who the ghostly shadow was.

In the next moment, the rolling forbidden technique had already crushed towards them. Han Yuan disregarded everything and pushed Shui Kong away, then transformed back into a dragon form, let out a roaring cry, and his body stretched like a million-mile-long mountain ridge and city walls. He turned around in place, connecting the beginning to the end, attempting to use his flesh and blood to forcibly intercept the forbidden technique left by Bian Xu.

Tang Zhen’s eyes met Han Yuan’s in the devouring soul lamp, and Tang Zhen smiled gently, shaking his head.

Then he extended his hand like a claw, and a claw formed by the ghosts in the air descended, directly piercing the body of the demon dragon.