Tang Wanqiu was not your typical delicate young lady from a prominent family. Even before the start of the Scripture Hall, she had been traveling alone for many years and had long heard about the infamous deeds of Bai Ji. This old ghost clan was skilled in the art of controlling beasts and relied on several large loaches they raised to establish a quasi-dominion in the western Taihang region. He shamelessly married countless beautiful female cultivators and had over ten children.

There’s a saying that quality is more important than quantity. None of Bai Ji’s children achieved success. They either died unexpectedly or had insufficient cultivation and depleted lifespans. None of them lived longer than their turtle-like old father, who, in all these years, never extended a helping hand to anyone.

Now, he was crying about his grandson as if it were a real tragedy!

Could it be that he was not relying on his eyes but on his empty eye sockets?

Tang Wanqiu was furious and about to retort, but the Island Master waved his hand to stop her from venting her anger. He calmly said, “The disciples are young and impetuous with their words. Master Bai, as a person of high status, please don’t bother with the younger generation’s impudence. I believe it’s more important to search for your grandson at the moment. All the names of the individuals in the Scripture Hall are recorded in the register. Your grandson, however, is not listed. It is unlikely that he joined the Scripture Hall out of curiosity but then found the teachings on the island unsatisfactory and left on his own accord. Nevertheless, since he has been here, someone must have seen him. If Master Bai has a portrait of your grandson, I can send disciples to inquire about him on the island.”

Upon hearing the Island Master’s accommodating words, Yan Zhengming couldn’t help but admire his broad-mindedness. As the head of the sect, he often acted inappropriately and regretted it afterwards. While holding onto Cheng Qian’s wrist, he listened attentively and casually remarked to Cheng Qian, “If someone stirs up trouble in our mountain’s water pool with a long worm, I definitely wouldn’t reason with them. I would just drive them away. Let alone helping them find someone.”

Cheng Qian seemed to be completely oblivious to Yan Zhengming’s self-reflection and disagreement. Following his words, Cheng Qian said, “They deserve it.”

Yan Zhengming glared at him. Through practicing the circulation of true energy and refining his meridians, Cheng Qian had gained some understanding of pulse signs. Yan Zhengming felt that Cheng Qian had not only suffered superficial injuries but also had inexplicable internal injuries. Angrily, Yan Zhengming delivered a hard slap on Cheng Qian’s back, saying, “Rest and recover! Why so much unnecessary talk?”

Cheng Qian: “…”

Was there no conscience left in him? Yan Zhengming only said two words.

However, before he could retort, a warm current flowed through Yan Zhengming’s hand on his back, spreading through his limbs and body. It gently circulated and caused Cheng Qian to involuntarily narrow his eyes. But due to his youthful nature, he refused to admit that he felt comforted by his senior brother’s continuous care and only mumbled, “Meddlesome.”

That being said, he finally let go of the hand he had been gripping tightly all along and focused on calming his mind, silently reciting the Tranquil Scripture.

They say not to bite the hand that feeds you, especially when it belongs to someone of the Island Master’s level. Regardless of whether Bai Ji truly cared for his grandson or had ulterior motives, it wouldn’t be wise to act too arrogantly in response to his words. Reluctantly, he politely said, “Yes, please forgive me, Island Master. My sons and daughters have all perished, and only this grandson with mediocre aptitude remains… It’s truly…”

The Island Master, with his characteristic troubled smile, shook his head and graciously said, “It’s only human nature. Please bring your grandson’s portrait, and let my disciples inquire more. Master Bai, you might as well stay on the island for the time being. The island is currently evaluating the skills of my disciples, and if Master Bai is willing to take the time to offer guidance, it would be their great fortune.”

Not to mention that Bai Ji was the esteemed West Palace Master. Even if he were a stubborn mule, the Island Master managed to smoothly navigate the conversation in just a few words.

Bai Ji lowered his head, and his eyes anxiously darted around underneath. Because he had involuntarily been led astray by the Island Master’s words, he couldn’t help but feel anxious. The venerable Bai Ji, who had traveled a long distance to the East Sea, was not here solely for the sake of his grandson, whose name he had to think about.

While Cheng Qian closed his eyes to recover, he heard everything from beginning to end. He had the ability to seize any trace and contemplate the worst-case scenario. At this moment, his thoughts had gone through several twists and turns. He wondered, “It definitely won’t be resolved that easily. Otherwise, why would the Island Master send someone to escort us away as soon as the situation became chaotic? What does the Island Master really know? And who is that crafty Zhou Han? Are all the masked individuals surnamed Zhou? Why didn’t the Island Master seize the opportunity to kill Zhou Han earlier? Also, why did Tang Wanqiu warn them not to mention the Feathering Sect while they were outside? And what about Xue Qing…”

As Cheng Qian thought of Xue Qing, his heart was thrown into turmoil. Yan Zhengming, who was helping him recover, immediately sensed it. Seeing Cheng Qian suddenly turn pale, with cold sweat dripping down his temples, Yan Zhengming worried that his internal injuries were not normal. He couldn’t maintain a stern expression any longer and hurriedly embraced Cheng Qian, whispering, “Xiao Qian, what’s wrong?”

Cheng Qian felt extremely uncomfortable, but he intuitively sensed that this was not the right time to discuss matters within their sect. He forcibly held back his words and whispered, “I’ll tell you when we get back.”

At this moment, under the Island Master’s urging, Bai Ji had no choice but to raise his hand. From his fingertips, a faint white smoke rose, forming the illusory figure of a young man in mid-air. The youth’s face was blurry, with eyes changing from big to small and not resembling a human. It seemed that Bai Ji could no longer remember the appearance of his “precious grandson.”

Bai Ji’s face was somewhat embarrassed as he reluctantly said, “This is my unworthy grandson. If any of you have seen him before, please inform me.”

The Island Master glanced at Tang Wanqiu, and after examining the young man, she shook her head with a solemn expression.

The Island Master said, “Very well, tomorrow bring Bai Xiaodaoyou’s image to the side of the platform. Whether it’s my disciples or the fellow cultivators of the Scripture Hall, once they see it, they will have something to say. The day is already late; it’s time for our guests to rest.”

As the West Palace’s nighttime attack became an anticlimax, the disciples began to put away their weapons.

However, at this moment, a sudden change occurred.

A figure suddenly rushed out and pounced directly towards Bai Ji. With a sweep of Bai Ji’s formidable true energy, the person was sent flying, crashing into a big tree. The individual was not wearing the white robe of a Qinglong Island disciple, most likely a wandering cultivator. Their cultivation level was not high, and this collision nearly took half of their life. Despite their injuries, they crawled toward Bai Ji step by step, leaving bloodstains along the way, shouting, “Palace Master, save me! Bai Palace Master, I, I recognize Young Master!”

Everyone was taken aback by these words. After all, judging from the portrait Bai Ji provided, even his own mother might not recognize the person, let alone an unrelated individual.

Bai Ji had only used his grandson’s disappearance as an excuse, but upon hearing these words, he was also shocked. He immediately suppressed his imposing aura and instructed his attendants to help the wounded cultivator up. He took a few steps forward, feigning surprise as he grabbed the cultivator’s arm. “What… what did you say? You have seen Yan Li?”

Under the watchful eyes of the crowd, the cultivator, trembling all over, could barely remain standing. He frantically hid himself behind a circle of West Palace disciples, tremblingly saying, “Save me, Palace Master.”

Tang Wanqiu couldn’t bear it any longer and said, “What kind of useless people are you? Even if the Island Master wants to refine souls, do you think you lowly cultivators are worthy? Why don’t you just arrest me instead?”

As soon as these words were spoken, the murmurs in the crowd immediately subsided. Tang Wanqiu had a point. With the abilities of the Qinglong Island Master, capturing a few Nascent Soul cultivators would be effortless. There was no need to involve a group of lowly cultivators who could barely enter the Qi Refinement stage.

Tang Wanqiu may not be good with words, but it didn’t mean she couldn’t think clearly. She continued, “That kid, dare you reveal your name? What’s your surname and who are you? What evidence do you have to claim that there are ghost cultivators on the island? The Scripture Hall convenes every ten days, and there is a fair amount of private exchange among fellow cultivators. Are you saying that no one would know if someone disappeared out of thin air? Who sent you to slander the Island Master? Speak!”

Among those present, the more perceptive individuals had already caught a whiff of a conspiracy.

Cheng Qian had a foreboding feeling. He decisively pushed aside distractions and focused on recovering his energy. He paid no attention to the noise around him. Once he entered a meditative state, he could completely immerse himself. Yan Zhenming could only silently protect him from the side.

As long as Cheng Qian remained uninjured and there was no bloodshed, Yan Zhenming believed that his junior disciple, with his pale face that looked more like jade due to the bloodstains, was invincible. In his heart, he had an illusion that Cheng Qian was made of iron.

The cultivator in hiding cried out, “I’m just a lowly cultivator, forced to a dead end. How dare I conspire against the Qinglong Island Master? Am I not seeking death? You all are naturally formidable, renowned and well-known, each with a background. If any one of you is missing, it will surely cause a stir. But who cares about the lives of us rootless wanderers?”

Tang Wanqiu, who looked as if she wanted to stab him with her sword, spat, “Hmph, your words alone. Where is the evidence?”

The cultivator replied, “Naturally, there is evidence. Bai Xiong mentioned by chance that he saw a ghostly figure being refined near the Island Master’s seclusion. Where there is refining of souls, there must be a Soul Devouring Lamp!”

The crowd immediately erupted in uproar.

This matter was unheard of, and the evidence presented was essentially non-existent.

Regardless of whether there was a Soul Devouring Lamp, the Qinglong Island Master would never allow others to search his seclusion where he cultivated.

He was one of the Four Saints, the preeminent cultivator in the world!

Even if Bai Ji were confused, he wouldn’t dare mention searching the Island Master’s cultivation cave. It was simply unreasonable.

At this moment, someone laughed aloud and said, “Is this friend speaking nonsense? Are you trying to incite everyone to revolt on Qinglong Island?”

Everyone turned around and saw Zhou Hanzheng leading his group of masked individuals approaching. These masked individuals were inconspicuous when flying in the sky, but their movements on the ground revealed a hint—they were an extremely disciplined group, with each person looking almost the same.

Yan Zhenming watched coldly, suddenly recalling the time when Zhou Hanzheng had encouraged Cheng Qian to “join his sect” during the Scripture Hall gathering. He couldn’t help but speculate on the background and origins of this person named Zhou.

Zhou Hanzheng raised his hand, and all the masked individuals behind him immediately stopped in unison, not taking another step forward.

He opened his folding fan and waved it in front of his chest, saying, “Zhou offers his gratitude for the Island Master’s kindness. After serving as the guardian of the island for many years, it is necessary to speak up for our own Island Master’s innocence. To identify a ghost cultivator, one does not necessarily need to witness their Soul Devouring Lamp with their own eyes. Those who practice ghost cultivation have impure souls, and one only needs to borrow a Soul Mirror to see through it. Our Island Master is pure and honorable. How could he be involved with those wicked cultivators?”

Bai Ji looked at Zhou Hanzheng, the troublemaker, but couldn’t determine his background. When the inexplicable cultivator appeared earlier, he already felt the presence of another force on the island. He cautiously said, “To my knowledge, there is only one Soul Mirror in the world, hanging in the palace hall of the imperial palace. Are we supposed to storm the palace together?”

Zhou Hanzheng smiled and said, “White Palace Master, you have been out of touch with worldly matters for too long. During the reign of the former emperor, that Soul Mirror was already bestowed upon Tian Yan Pavilion. Interestingly enough, due to the appearance of a ghostly great demon during the recent Immortal Market, as a precautionary measure, I have been carrying this mirror with me.”

This statement was like dropping a bomb, leaving even Tang Wanqiu stunned. “What? You are from Tian Yan Pavilion?”

The Island Master didn’t respond. It was likely that he had already guessed something when Zhou Hanzheng tore off his disguise and turned traitor at the secret code meeting. However, he kept his composure, not allowing the younger generation to see through his thoughts.

Tian Yan Pavilion was a branch of the current Qintian Observatory, responsible for mundane matters related to “immortals.” Although it was imaginable that Tian Yan Pavilion would invite cultivators to serve in official positions, in the minds of most people, it was still seen as a separate world.

Many people might never have seen a living official from Tian Yan Pavilion until their death or ascension.

Zhou Hanzheng casually replied, “Oh, just an insignificant errand runner, with no sect, no faction, and no background. I can’t compare to the illustrious backgrounds and famous names of all of you. I’m just trying to make a living without any roots.”

The scattered cultivator hiding behind the West Court was in a sorry state and bowed to Zhou Hanzheng, saying, “Left Protector is known for his integrity. If he cannot discern right from wrong, then this is my fate.”

He straightened his back as much as he could, and his words carried a hint of tragedy. Zhou Hanzheng glanced at him but said nothing. He raised his hand, and one of the masked individuals immediately stepped forward and presented a small package. Inside was an ancient-looking copper mirror with worn edges and a slightly murky surface.

Zhou Hanzheng performed a hand seal and whispered, “Rise.”

The copper mirror flew up in response, slowly rotating once before landing on top of his head. In the mirror, it seemed as if a beam of moonlight was reflected, shining down on Zhou Hanzheng and casting a long shadow.

It didn’t look any different from an ordinary shadow.

Zhou Hanzheng lowered his head and chuckled. “It seems that I, Zhou, have my three souls intact and my seven spirits well. There shouldn’t be any problem.”

Yan Zhenming’s heart pounded. Although he didn’t know what role Zhou Hanzheng was playing, he knew that this person was openly assisting Qinglong Island while secretly stabbing them in the back.

Among the three thousand demonic paths, ghost cultivation was the cruelest and vilest. Would the Island Master of Qinglong Island actually involve himself in such a thing?

In the past, Yan Zhenming would never have believed it, but since the appearance of that scattered cultivator who made the accusation, he realized that the Island Master hadn’t uttered a single word, leaving him in a state of uncertainty.

When he encountered Jiang Peng, he was too young to make a deep impression, but his revulsion towards practitioners of ghost cultivation came from the depths of his heart. The Island Master had sheltered and protected his sect for so long, so if he truly…

Yan Zhenming glanced at the Island Master, unsure of what to do.

He then turned his gaze to Cheng Qian, who seemed completely indifferent to everything around him, displaying remarkable composure. Yan Zhenming could only helplessly admire him.

The Island Master remained silent for a while, and discussions were already buzzing around them. Yan Zhenming looked up at the Soul Mirror, which seemed to pierce through time, and a thought suddenly emerged in his mind: If the Fuyao Sect always produced extraordinary talents, would there be someone in this generation who accidentally fell into the wrong path?

This thought flashed through his mind but left a subtle impact, leaving him feeling choked up. His gaze swept over Li Yun, Han Yuan, and Shui Keng. Li Yun was clever and cautious, almost timid, not the type to go astray. Han Yuan cared more about cultivating his martial skills and didn’t seem concerned about spiritual cultivation. As for Shui Keng… sigh, although still young, he had already shown signs of being carefree and lighthearted.

Finally, his gaze involuntarily fell on Cheng Qian.

There were still traces of blood on Cheng Qian’s face, yet he appeared incredibly tranquil due to his meditative state.

Yan Zhenming only briefly considered this possibility, but it twisted his heart. He stared at Cheng Qian for a long time, and in the silent depths of his heart, the most uncertain Sect Leader quietly contemplated, “What’s the use of these thoughts? Even if Xiao Qian were to reach that point one day, I will never lay a hand on him, no matter what. I can simply hide him away.”