The three rats, without prior agreement, avoided Cheng Qian, who was covered in blood. Two of them went after Yan Zhengming, while the last big rat charged toward Li Yun.

Li Yun seemed like a passerby, but he searched his whole body and realized that he had been restless all day and had forgotten to bring a weapon… Even if he had brought one, it might not have been useful.

In desperation, Li Yun tore off a feather that was pinned to his collar and stood face to face with the rat spirit.

As a powerful being among the monsters, Ziyi True Immortal’s feathers were extraordinary. The rat spirit visibly cowered upon seeing them. It stared with shining eyes and circled around Li Yun, cunningly assessing whether he was bluffing or truly formidable.

Li Yun felt his heart pounding as the rat circled him. Unfortunately, his leg cramped up, but he knew he couldn’t show fear. He had to bear it and wore a face that resembled holding in urine.

Fortunately, Cheng Qian quickly came to his aid with his sharp teeth.

Cheng Qian didn’t need much effort to regain his senses from the killing. He had expected to be shocked and uncomfortable but realized that he wasn’t.

When he held the blood-stained sharp teeth in his hands, he felt as calm as if he had just cut a cabbage. And this calmness on his face made him look almost like a little ghost on a mission.

Cheng Qian soon discovered that it wasn’t him who was afraid of the rat spirit, but the rat spirit that was afraid of him. Whenever he took a step forward, the big rat would retreat, and it showed its teeth menacingly.

Feeling more confident as the enemy weakened, Cheng Qian advanced instead of retreating. On the other hand, when the rat spirit realized its intimidation was ineffective, it immediately judged that the opponent was tough and quickly fled, trembling and urinating.

All things have spirits, and cultivation is not easy. After finally becoming a spirit, who wouldn’t cherish their life?

Seeing one rat flee, the other two, although unsure of what was happening, cautiously followed suit.

This small group of rat spirits scattered in panic, defeated like a mountain collapsing.

Li Yun sat down on the ground, finally finding the opportunity to focus and relax, stretching his cramped muscles.

But just as they defeated the first wave of enemies without releasing their breath, Yan Zhengming suddenly heard strange noises behind him. From a distance, Cheng Qian seemed to have seen something and shouted, “Be careful!”

Instinctively, Yan Zhengming lunged forward and skillfully executed the second move of the “Cycle and Repeat” technique.

He swung his sword forcefully, only to collide with some kind of weapon. Then, a hoarse roar resounded.

Yan Zhengming clumsily held the sword hilt and stepped back. When he turned around and looked closely, he saw a huge lynx lightly landing a few steps away from him. It transformed on the spot into a semi-human form—the monster’s body was tall, almost humanoid except for its sharp claws. It even grinned sinisterly, licking its lips with a crimson tongue.

No wonder the rat spirits ran so fast. They were the mantis hunting the cicada, unaware of the oriole behind them!

Young Master Yan was tender and delicious-looking; the lynx spirit excitedly scraped the ground with its toe. In the next moment, it pounced towards him like lightning. Its powerful front paws were nearly impervious to Yan Zhengming’s sword, meeting the blade without even scratching the fur.

With a press of its sharp claws, it used brute force to push his sword down.

Yan Zhengming’s feet stumbled over something, causing him to stagger and fall backward. The lynx spirit was delighted and, reverting to its original form in mid-air, placed a paw on him and opened its bloodthirsty mouth.

Li Yun and Cheng Qian were far away, unable to intervene in time. In desperation, Li Yun reached into his pocket, not knowing what he pulled out, and hurled it randomly at the lynx spirit.

Cheng Qian caught a glimpse and said, “Second Senior Brother, don’t…”

But it was too late to stop him. The small porcelain bottle accurately hit the lynx’s head, and the remaining contents spilled all over its body. The sleek lynx was instantly transformed into a huge toad in place.

For a moment, even the lynx itself was dumbfounded.

The lynx was a mix of shock and anger, seemingly wanting to roar, but it only emitted a croaking “gua” sound. It even involuntarily stuck out its tongue, forgetting how to retract it.

The tongue hung in front of the toad’s chest, almost touching Young Master Yan’s tender and delicate neck. Overwhelmed by surviving this ordeal, Young Master Yan went mad and let out a roar that didn’t sound human, “Li Yun, I truly admire you!”

Then, he seemed to suddenly possess boundless strength. He kicked the giant toad off himself, disregarding all the “Wood Sword Techniques” and “Iron Sword Techniques,” and behaved like an angry woman ready to pull someone’s hair, attacking the lynx spirit without any order or reason.

The lynx, now transformed into a toad, clearly lost its previous steel-like claws. Before it could learn how to leap and move with the four legs of a toad, Yan Zhengming stabbed it mercilessly, piercing through it. After a frenzy of struggles, the lynx finally regained its original form but remained lifeless.

Young Master Yan himself seemed even more reluctant to live than the dead lynx. Holding his sword, he gestured around his neck several times, almost considering cutting his throat.

Cheng Qian and Li Yun helped “Beggar Han Yuan,” supporting him and knocking off the dried mud from his body. They revealed his mottled naked body covered in dirt. Cheng Qian scanned him up and down, then turned to report his findings to the ashamed and enraged Senior Brother.

“Senior Brother, didn’t you ask Junior Brother if he hasn’t changed his clothes or taken a bath since playing with the toad that day?” Cheng Qian said. “I figured it out. He hasn’t taken a bath.”

Yan Zhengming: “…”

He expressionlessly put away his sword, feeling that Han Yuan should be the one to end his own life.

Han Yuan saw them and was overjoyed, crying, “Senior Brother… Xiao Qian…”

He attempted to rush forward for a reunion hug, but none of his three senior brothers wanted to get close to the dirty and naked beggar. They all dispersed like birds and beasts.

Yan Zhengming, while trying hard to forget the humiliation on his neck, angrily pointed at Han Yuan and said, “If you don’t want to be expelled from the sect, spend your life reciting scriptures!”

Han Yuan didn’t dare to argue. His eyes rolled around, attempting to find an ally. In the end, his plea for help fell on Cheng Qian.

Expressionless, Cheng Qian wiped the blood off his face with the remaining sleeve. He was thirsty and hungry, lacking the energy for pretenses. So, he revealed his true nature and said, “Junior Brother, before cultivation, you should indeed start by treating your mind.”

Han Yuan looked at this “gentle, respectful, thrifty, and yielding” Junior Brother in shock. In a single day, his body and spirit had suffered significant damage. Finally, Li Yun stepped forward to defuse the situation. Li Yun slightly raised the wooden plank in his hand and suggested, “Senior Brother, I think we should go to the Linxian Terrace first.”

Yan Zhengming snorted coldly and took the lead in leaving. Li Yun thought for a moment, took off his outer robe, and gave it to Han Yuan, so as not to leave a reputation for the Feiyao Sect’s disciples disliking clothes.

The Linxian Terrace was not far from the Mirror Illuminating Valley. Soon, a strong smell of blood permeated the air. A black mist, about the height of a person, suddenly rose from the wooden plank in Li Yun’s hand. The rolling black mist outlined a vaguely discernible human form, instantly evoking a forgotten memory in Cheng Qian’s mind.

He had dreamt of this person!

Han Yuan was startled and shouted, “What on earth is this?”

The shadow didn’t answer. It remained upright in mid-air, standing as a solemn silhouette. Although his face couldn’t be seen, Cheng Qian felt as though this person exuded a calm and resolute aura as if preparing for a sacrifice.

Unable to contain himself, Cheng Qian asked, “Senior, are you… the North Sea Lord?”

“North Sea?” The shadow chuckled softly and whispered, “Who is worthy of bearing the name ‘North Sea’? They are nothing more than ignorant mortals being presumptuous.”

Cheng Qian couldn’t help but ponder his words, analyzing the hidden meaning. It was an admission.

But wasn’t the “North Sea Lord” the greatest demon in the legends? How did he end up attached to a wooden plank? Moreover, was he attached to the uneventful plank or the talisman from his master?

Could it be that his master’s talisman was not for drawing water or summoning thunder, but for summoning a great demon?

Were there really talismans like this in the world?

Cheng Qian was completely in the dark about the matters of the cultivation world. He realized he knew very little and understood nothing, unable to guess the incredibility of everything before him.

With the North Sea Lord shrouded in the black mist protecting them, the various demons and creatures either couldn’t see them at all or fled at the sight of them. The “dangerous” scene of their battle against the lynx and the real confrontation with the mouse and lynx spirits seemed like a child playing with cats and mice in the eyes of this powerful being.

Perhaps, in the eyes of this senior, there was no difference between the terrified Li Yun with his calf muscle cramp and a real mouse.

The Linxian Terrace was a man-made altar, built by unknown individuals, protruding abruptly from the deepest part of the demon valley.

The Linxian Terrace was empty, and the demonic creatures couldn’t approach it. However, the surrounding valley had turned into a battlefield.

Yan Zhengming and the others had already seen this scene in the Mirror Illuminating Valley. They were somewhat mentally prepared, but Han Yuan was shocked.

Only at this moment did Han Yuan realize the kind of place he had stumbled into and how dangerous the situation was that his senior brothers had entered for his sake. The only reason he had survived until now was that the powerful demons in the Demon Valley were too busy fighting amongst themselves to bother with him!

At this moment, the wooden plank in Li Yun’s hand suddenly cracked open. After a faint glow flowed across the talisman, it returned to silence. The North Sea Lord, shrouded in black mist, suddenly broke free from the constraints of the wooden plank, and his whole figure became clear. He was a tall and thin man dressed in a black robe, with the robe sleeves fluttering like crow feathers in the wind. A pair of pale and slender hands were exposed, and one could barely make out a simple patterned ring on his finger.

Only his face was unclear, hidden within the black mist, revealing only a chin of the same pale color as his hands.

Cheng Qian inexplicably felt a certain indescribable sense of familiarity from him. But before he could see clearly, a dazzling golden light flashed across the man’s body. In the next moment, he turned into a mass of black mist and dashed towards the valley without looking back, leaving only a soft “return as soon as possible” before disappearing completely.

Cheng Qian suddenly had a strange feeling—that he would never return.

“I know!” Li Yun, who was proficient in various esoteric arts, suddenly spoke up. “I know! The golden light on him is a hidden symbol!”

Even Yan Zhengming was somewhat absent-minded as he whispered, “Flowing water and clouds can be used as hidden symbols, but… can they be engraved on a person?”

“He certainly isn’t human,” Li Yun said firmly. “He is a soul. I have seen records of a powerful demonic cultivator in a book of strange tales who was a master of symbols. He could carve invisible hidden symbols on people’s three souls and seven spirits, making it impossible for them to escape his control. The North Sea Lord must have similar methods…”

“Li Yun,” Yan Zhengming finally regained his senses, catching sight of Han Yuan and Cheng Qian, who were completely absorbed in listening to the demonic cultivator’s story. He immediately stopped him and said, “Shut up—we’re leaving.”

The entire Linxian Terrace and its valley were completely shrouded in black mist, isolating this slaughterhouse from the surrounding area. They stood on a mountain top to the side, realizing that they couldn’t sense any of the previous sounds of killing or the scent of blood.

Suddenly, a cluster of fire slowly illuminated a corner of the Linxian Terrace through the pervading black mist, then spread astonishingly fast to one side.

Yan Zhengming’s heart skipped a beat as he shouted, “Close your eyes!”

At this moment, everyone instinctively obeyed his command, but the intense light seemed to scorch their eyeballs even through closed eyelids, as if the whole world had been dragged into a sea of fire.

It took who knows how long for the intense light and raging fire to finally subside, leaving only the boundless black mist lingering over the Linxian Terrace, motionless.

Cheng Qian was the first to tentatively open his eyes. His vision was still a bit blurry, and he had to blink forcefully several times before he could barely see things clearly.

He saw an egg rolling slowly towards them in front of several people…