Qinglong Island is a typical overseas immortal mountain, serene and secluded. The visitors are all cultivators, some wearing tall hats and wide belts, others with flowing Dao robes. Throughout the year, the island is adorned with blooming flowers. When viewed from the sea, a thin layer of mist often envelops the island, resembling a floating paradise.

The Island Master of Qinglong Island ranks among the Four Sages, but he usually keeps to seclusion and rarely appears or manages affairs. However, he made a special exception to meet Yan Zhengming and treated him with great kindness, as if facing his own junior. Perhaps knowing that Yan Zhengming was troubled, the Island Master didn’t engage in much conversation. After arranging for them to stay, he generously offered all the resources on Qinglong Island for their use until they found the missing Mu Chun True Immortal and his two missing junior disciples.

The cultivators, of course, couldn’t gossip openly like country bumpkins. They spoke politely and elegantly but harbored a seething undercurrent.

Upon reflection, it made sense. The Island Master of Qinglong Island, whom countless people sought to flatter but rarely saw, couldn’t be bothered to show up even during the once-in-a-decade Immortal Fair. What qualifications and abilities did these unknown junior disciples possess to gain the favor of the esteemed elder?

Moreover, these junior disciples not only had low cultivation but also displayed arrogance. Even on Qinglong Island, they refused to restrain themselves, which made them unimpressive.

Yan Zhengming was oblivious to the seething undercurrents. He simply didn’t have the time or energy to care. The Island Master had requested the birth information of Cheng Qian and Shui Kong and sent numerous cultivators to search. However, three days had passed without any news.

Yan Zhengming didn’t know how he managed to get through those three days.

It wasn’t until the early morning of the fourth day that Xiao Yue’er gently pushed open the door. Carrying a set of hairdressing tools that could make an emperor’s daughter envious, she intended to light some incense and wake her young master up. However, when she peered inside, she discovered that he was no longer in the room.

Xiao Yue’er was taken aback, thinking she had woken up late. She prepared herself to face his displeasure, but when she timidly walked in, she found that the Dao attendant had already tidied up the bed, and the room’s owner was nowhere to be found.

Xiao Yue’er anxiously asked, “Where is the young master?”

The Dao attendant replied, “I heard that they received news from the Sect Leader and left in the middle of the night.”

Xiao Yue’er was stunned. Apart from doting on Yan Zhengming, who was somewhat of a prodigal son, the Yan family upheld good moral conduct and treated their servants fairly. As the legitimate child of the Yan family, and a young girl at that, she had been raised almost like a young lady. Usually, she only had the responsibility of styling her young master’s hair. She didn’t take care of anything else. Even during the battle between the two demons at sea, she remained calmly in the cabin without a drop of seawater touching her. The wind and waves outside could never reach her. This was the first time she felt the anxiety surrounding her.

Clutching the sandalwood box in her arms, she asked in confusion, “Did they say when they’ll be back?”

The Dao attendant turned around and glanced at the naive young girl. His voice involuntarily softened as he said, “No, we still don’t know the situation.”

He then lowered his voice and added, “Let me tell you, don’t tell anyone—last night, I overheard our young master and the second senior uncle talking. Judging from what they said, if something unexpected happens, we might not be able to return to Fuyao Mountain for quite a while. If that happens, remember, everyone on this island is an immortal. Regardless of their character, they have the power to control clouds and rain. Crushing us would be as easy as squashing ants. So you girls mustn’t wander around or offend anyone, understand?”

It seemed that the Island Master had a close connection with Fuyao Sect. He had already thought that the missing Mu Chun True Immortal and the others might be lurking near Forget Worries Valley. Hence, he had dispatched people to wait there. However, for some reason, these cultivators didn’t dare to enter the valley and search.

They had waited for three days before finally encountering Cheng Qian and Shui Kong.

At that time, Cheng Qian’s appearance was truly pitiful. Even the cultivators who had been lying in ambush didn’t expect that Mu Chun True Immortal wouldn’t be with him. He emerged from the valley with a child in tow.

Beasts and little demons were everywhere in the valley. To survive such an environment was truly remarkable. It was uncertain whose heavenly spirit had protected them.

However, the young man they had imagined to be terrified wasn’t as difficult to deal with as expected.

In the evening, when Cheng Qian received a bowl of vegetable porridge from a female cultivator obtained from nearby villagers, he thanked her and tasted it first. Then he set the bowl aside and scooped a spoonful toward Shui Kong’s mouth. Shui Kong, who had suffered for days, immediately opened her mouth wide to eat.

But Cheng Qian abruptly withdrew his hand, leaving her biting at empty air.

Shui Kong looked on the verge of tears, pitifully staring at him.

In a low voice, Cheng Qian said, “Remember what I told you? If you remember, I’ll let you eat.”

Shui Kong nodded quickly, at the same time shamelessly clasping her chubby hands together and bowing as if in a formal greeting. Only then did she receive her first mouthful of food in days.

At first glance, this situation seemed like a mischievous junior teasing his junior sister, withholding food until she made a bow—although the bowing part was entirely Water Pit’s own instinctive response.

Upon encountering these strangers, Cheng Qian immediately instructed Water Pit not to reveal her wings in front of anyone, or else she wouldn’t be given any food.

The female cultivator nearby found the chubby little girl quite amusing and casually asked, “Why did your sect accept such a young disciple?”

Cheng Qian smiled without changing his expression and replied, “Once, my junior brother was playing around and picked her up when he found her on the way to the market. These years, times might be tough, and it’s likely that she’s from a family in the village that couldn’t afford to raise her. My junior brother felt sorry for her and brought her back. If you think about it, as cultivators, ten or twenty years pass in the blink of an eye, but it’s enough time for her to grow up from babbling. Being a little younger doesn’t really matter. She’ll grow up quickly.”

The female cultivator couldn’t help but tease him, “You haven’t even passed a single ‘blink of an eye’ yourself, yet you speak like an adult. If you ask me, you should come back with us to recover from your injuries. Even if your senior brothers ride day and night on their flying mounts to come here, it will still take a day or two.”

As Cheng Qian wiped away the traces of porridge at the corner of Water Pit’s mouth, he answered, “I can handle it alone, but it wouldn’t be right to trouble you esteemed seniors with my junior sister. Let’s wait for my senior brothers. With our master absent, I’m supposed to follow my senior brothers’ lead. I don’t have any ideas and wouldn’t dare act on my own.”

The female cultivator: “…”

She completely missed the fact that this little brat lacked no ideas.

Perhaps because of his young age, Cheng Qian wasn’t adept at interacting with people. He seldom spoke first or deliberately tried to establish relationships with others. He was polite and somewhat obedient—everything was fine, except that he didn’t listen to others.

He was covered in wounds, some from being clawed by fierce beasts, others from various injuries sustained during falls. The bandages on his arms were already stuck to his hands due to dried blood.

Logically speaking, coming out of Forget Worries Valley, he should have lost a few layers of skin at the very least. Moreover, he was carrying a young girl who could barely speak. They should have been on the verge of collapse. However, Cheng Qian acted as if nothing had happened, preferring to sleep under the open sky near the valley rather than go with them. He remained tight-lipped about what had occurred in the valley, and no matter how they asked, he only uttered a few fragmented words.

When the moon rose above the willow branches, Yan Zhengming, who had received the news, arrived.

He came alone, without Li Yun and Han Yuan. Not even the Dao attendant accompanied him. As soon as the carriage touched the ground, Yan Zhengming lifted the curtain and jumped down.

After days of worry and fear, Yan Zhengming had built up a belly full of anger. But when he saw Cheng Qian covered in bloodstains and dirt, half of his prepared anger dissipated. Then, when he didn’t see their master, the other half vanished instantly.

Yan Zhengming rushed over in three quick steps, hastily catching Water Pit as she threw herself into his embrace. Then, he grabbed Cheng Qian by the arm and bombarded him with questions, “What happened? How did you end up like this? Where have you been all these days? And where’s our master? How could he leave you two alone?”

Cheng Qian didn’t respond, just stared blankly at him.

Yan Zhengming’s heart raced erratically, his voice trembling as he asked, “Xiao Qian, what happened exactly?”

Cheng Qian remained silent, his gaze slipping from Yan Zhengming’s face to the unfamiliar cultivators around them.

The cultivators of Qinglong Island, being of the same background, could tell that the senior brothers had something to discuss, so they consciously stepped back.

Only then did Cheng Qian gently exhale and reach into his pocket with his uninjured hand. He took out a small seal, barely audible, and handed it to Yan Zhengming, saying, “This is the Sect Master’s seal, eldest senior brother. Master told me to give it to you.”

Yan Zhengming first froze for a moment, then quickly realized what it meant. He stepped back abruptly, and all color drained from his face.

He stared at the seal, held in Cheng Qian’s bloodstained and dusty palm, as if he had seen a monstrous flood. His eyes were filled with an almost fearful expression.

Cheng Qian’s following words sealed off any remaining retreat for him.

“Our master is dead,” Cheng Qian said. “He said that from now on, you will be the Sect Master of Fuyao Sect.”

“No…” Yan Zhengming instinctively shook his head and pushed Cheng Qian away in a panic. Incoherently, he said, “No… You… You take this away! Nonsense! How could our master die?”

Cheng Qian: “I saw him die with my own eyes.”

“Impossible!” Yan Zhengming’s eyes widened, unable to form coherent words. All he could do was repeatedly deny, “Impossible!”

This time, Cheng Qian didn’t respond. He maintained his posture of handing over the Sect Master’s seal, looking deeply at Yan Zhengming, his face filled with a sorrow so heavy that it shouldn’t have appeared on a young man.

“It’s true,” he murmured, “Senior Brother, it’s true…”

Before he could finish his words, Cheng Qian’s head suddenly drooped to the side, and he collapsed without warning.

Yan Zhengming instinctively reached out to support him, but he didn’t know where he touched. A horrifying bloodstain immediately appeared on his snowy white sleeve.

Cheng Qian’s body was icy cold, and Yan Zhengming almost felt like he had no breath left. He frantically turned Cheng Qian over, using two fingers to check for his breath, but his hands were trembling too much. After fumbling for a long time, he failed to find any signs of life.

Water Pit didn’t make much sound normally, but since she couldn’t express herself, all she could do was cry—she had already cried all the tears she had accumulated in her entire life in just these few days.

A buzzing sound rang in Yan Zhengming’s ears, and his mind went blank. He tightly held onto one of Cheng Qian’s hands, feeling the Sect Master’s seal in his palm, which was as cold as ice. No matter how he tried to warm it up, it remained cold. For a moment, he mechanically repeated, “Don’t cry, Water Pit, don’t cry.”

He didn’t know how long he knelt on the ground, completely stiff. It might have been a long time, or it might have been just a blink of an eye. Someone grabbed his shoulder and shook it vigorously. Yan Zhengming dazedly lifted his head and saw an unfamiliar Qinglong Island cultivator looking at him with deep concern.

Yan Zhengming felt that his complexion must be even worse than that of a ghost because he realized that the cultivator had misunderstood something. Instinctively, he did the same thing—reached out to check Cheng Qian’s breath. After a moment, the cultivator let out a sigh of relief, raised his head, and said, “There’s still a breath. I have some pills and healing ointments. Don’t worry, maybe it’s not so serious.”

Yan Zhengming nodded and then fiercely bit his own tongue, feeling the sharp pain and the taste of blood rushing to his forehead. It was only then that he snapped out of the daze, desperately trying to regain his composure. He calmly took the Sect Master’s seal from Cheng Qian’s hand, held it in his own hand, and bent down to pick up Cheng Qian. He then said to Water Pit, “Can you walk by yourself?”

Water Pit cautiously tiptoed and stretched out her arm, grabbing a corner of his clothes.

Yan Zhengming sat in the carriage pulled by the Divine Eagle, and it took a whole day and night to return to Qinglong Island. He was in a daze and almost couldn’t catch his breath. Rationally, he knew that Cheng Qian was probably telling the truth. Their master had always doted on them excessively and was rarely strict. As long as there was a breath, he would never abandon Cheng Qian and Water Pit in such a dangerous place.

Li Yun and Han Yuan had been anxiously waiting on Qinglong Island. As soon as they saw him return, they rushed over.

“What happened to Xiao Qian?”

“Where’s our master?”

“Yes, why didn’t our master come back with you?”

“Where did you find them?”

“I don’t know!” Yan Zhengming pushed past his two junior brothers in big strides, feeling annoyed to the point of wanting to shout, “Don’t ask me, stop bothering me! Let’s talk when he wakes up!”

But Cheng Qian remained unconscious. The injuries were one thing, but after spending three or four days in the Forget Worries Valley, he had definitely been unable to close his eyes.

Yan Zhengming stayed by his side without moving. At first, he eagerly waited for Cheng Qian to wake up, anxious to know what had happened in the Forget Worries Valley. But as time went on, he grew more and more afraid.

Every time he closed his eyes, he would see Cheng Qian, covered in blood and staring deeply at him, telling him that their master was dead. It kept him awake at night.

In the midst of extreme anxiety, a thought naturally arose in Yan Zhengming’s mind. He thought, “Why don’t I just give up and go back home to live as a young master?”

As soon as this thought emerged, it occupied his entire mind.

Yes, anyway, he had plenty of money at home. It would be enough to live a life of wealth and prosperity as a mortal for several decades. Why cultivate as an immortal? Why practice the Dao?

As for his junior brothers, he could just take them home. Those who wanted to continue practicing martial arts could do so, and those who wanted to study could be sent to take the imperial examinations. Wasn’t it just a matter of having a few more family members?

Being the Sect Master—don’t joke around. The only thing he was good at in his life was being a young master!

Yan Zhengming thought to himself that he couldn’t even carve a basic talisman properly, and his foundational sword techniques were sloppy. Not to mention those powerful cultivators, even the lowly Dao servants on Qinglong Island had higher cultivation than him. If he became the Sect Master, what could he possibly achieve?

With this in mind, Yan Zhengming stood up immediately and called for a Dao servant who was attending to him, saying, “Zhe Shi, Zhe Shi!”

Dao servant Zhe Shi hurried over, running towards him. “Young Master.”

“Bring me paper and a pen. I want to write a letter to my family.” Yan Zhengming quickly gave instructions. “Pack our belongings, prepare the ship, and as soon as Xiao Qian wakes up, I’ll immediately bid farewell to the Island Master.”

Zhe Shi was taken aback. “Young Master, are we going back to Mount Fuyao?”

Yan Zhengming replied, “Mount Fuyao? We’re going home!”

Yan Zhengming waved his hand. “There is no more Fu Yao Sect. The sect has disbanded, understand? Hurry, just a few days left.”

Zhe Shi ran off in a distressed manner.

When Cheng Qian woke up, it was already two days later. As soon as he moved, a hand rested on his forehead, and a familiar fragrance of orchids rushed over. For some reason, the scent seemed somewhat dimmer. Cheng Qian softly opened his mouth, silently calling, “Senior Brother.”

His voice was too hoarse, and no sound came out.

Yan Zhengming helped him up and wordlessly brought him a bowl of water.

Cheng Qian drank it all in one breath and then, feeling somewhat dazed, asked, “What about Junior Sister?”

Yan Zhengming replied, “She’s with Xiao Yue. The maids are taking care of her.”

Cheng Qian pinched his brow faintly and asked again, “The Sect Master’s seal… Yes, did I give it to you?”

Yan Zhengming took out a string from around his neck, and the small Sect Master’s seal was tied to it.

Cheng Qian’s confused and tense expression finally relaxed a bit, showing some signs of fatigue on his face.

In Fu Yao Sect, chaos reigned every day, with the older ones not knowing how to accommodate the younger ones and the younger ones not knowing how to respect their elders. The quarrel between the two of them seemed like it had happened just yesterday, but now they faced each other in silence as if they were in a different world.

Yan Zhengming sighed, then asked softly, “Are you hungry?”

Cheng Qian shook his head. He leaned against the head of the bed for a moment, then spoke in the quiet room. “Me, Junior Sister, and our master ended up there because we made a mistake with the talisman that day.”

Yan Zhengming didn’t interrupt him. He quietly sat by the side and listened to Cheng Qian explain everything from beginning to end.

Cheng Qian had little strength, and his words came in fragments. It took nearly the time it took for an incense stick to burn for him to explain everything clearly. Yan Zhengming listened but remained silent for a long time.

The candle flame flickered, and the light seemed dazzling. Yan Zhengming snapped back to reality, straightening his back with all his strength. At that moment, he felt as if the Sect Master’s seal on his neck weighed over a thousand pounds and was about to bend his neck.

He stood up, gently placed one hand on Cheng Qian’s head, and spoke in the gentlest tone he had ever used, “Let someone bring you a bowl of porridge. Eat a little, and then we’ll apply medicine.”

Cheng Qian obediently nodded.

Yan Zhengming turned to walk away, telling himself, “Good, now I know what happened, and he has woken up. We can go home tomorrow morning.”

Going home would be nice. Clothes and food readily available, no need to get up early to practice swordsmanship, no need to cultivate at night…

Just as Yan Zhengming was about to walk to the door, Cheng Qian suddenly spoke, “Wait, Senior Brother. Did I lose my books? Can you have someone bring me those sword manuals?”

Yan Zhengming’s hand, which had reached the door, suddenly paused. He stood straight with his back to Cheng Qian, as if frozen.

“What’s wrong?” Cheng Qian was puzzled. “Did I lose them?”

With his back still turned, Yan Zhengming asked in a hoarse voice, “You can’t even get up, why do you need to look at sword manuals?”

“Master said that we have continued the bloodline of Fu Yao Sect,” Cheng Qian said. “Even if I can’t get up, the bloodline is not broken. Moreover, Master said for me to continue practicing the sword.”

Yan Zhengming stood there in a daze for a long time. Suddenly, he turned around and took two steps back, embracing Cheng Qian, who was leaning against the bed.

The Sect Master’s seal pressed against his collarbone, causing him pain. He thought to himself, “To hell with the disbanded sect! I am the Sect Master of Fu Yao Sect, and I’m not dead yet!”

He held him tightly, as if grasping a life-saving straw, and his whole body trembled with tension. For a moment, Cheng Qian even thought he was crying.

However, he waited for a long time and didn’t see the tears he had expected. Instead, he heard a sentence whispered in his ear by his eldest senior brother.

“It’s alright,” Yan Zhengming said. “It’s alright, Xiao Qian. Your senior brother is here.”