Under their feet, a huge array unfolded like a slowly ignited beacon, and a sigh seemed to come from nowhere.

Cheng Qian was taken aback. “This seems to be the same as the one Han Yuan drew outside Fuyao Mountain that day.”

“Shh…” Yan Zhengming raised his hand to cover Cheng Qian’s eyes. “Listen carefully.”

The demonic cultivator who set up the formation said that it was called the “Listening Mountain Formation.” What could be heard?

From the depths of darkness, there were faint insect chirps, followed by indistinct sounds of water. The wind blew through the grass, and it seemed like someone nearby turned over…

Yan Zhengming whispered, “It sounds like the back mountain.”

On the grass by the secluded pool in the back mountain, several youths were waiting for their master with a creature that couldn’t be distinguished as human or demon. Exhausted and hungry, they fell asleep without realizing it. In their dazed state, they opened their eyes once, and the sound that entered their ears was just like this.

Then came the sound of the wind blowing through the bamboo forest. A delicate fragrance of bamboo leaves seemed about to emerge. There was the sound of a thin bamboo pen tapping on a stone table, producing a crisp and slightly reverberating sound. In the next moment, there was a “whoosh,” as if a piece of paper was lifted by the wind, but it didn’t blow away. It seemed to be held down by something, continuously rustling.

This was Qing’an Residence.

Both of them remained silent, quietly listening for a while. It felt as if they had circled around Fuyao Mountain until the light on the formation dimmed, and the last trace of radiance dissipated into the darkness.

So, that day, Han Yuan secretly came to the foot of Fuyao Mountain and set up what seemed to be a dangerous formation just to listen to the sounds of Fuyao Mountain?

Cheng Qian couldn’t describe the feeling in his heart at the moment.

At this moment, the hand covering his eyes suddenly let go. Yan Zhengming gathered the glowing imprint stone into his palm, and the surroundings immediately turned dark. In the darkness, a white figure abruptly emerged, holding a wooden sword and performing an arrogant salute not far away. He raised his hand and executed the starting pose of the Fuyao Wooden Sword.

What does this mean?

That person started demonstrating the Fuyao Wooden Sword as if there was no one else present.

At first, he was a young man dressed in plain white clothes. As the Fuyao Wooden Sword progressed, his appearance gradually changed into that of an adult, and the wooden sword transformed into a resplendent rainbow sword. The plain clothes turned into an elegant brocade robe.

Every sword move he performed was identical to what their master had taught, yet there seemed to be subtle differences.

After completing a long set of sword techniques, the person wielding the sword had already turned into an old man. The brocade robe returned to plain white clothes, and the precious sword turned back into a blunt wooden sword. He lowered his sword and closed his eyes, exuding a tranquil aura of seeing through the mundane world.

This set of sword techniques flowed smoothly like clouds and flowing water. Both of them were skilled in swordsmanship, especially Yan Zhengming, who was a sword cultivator. Naturally, they could discern the depth. For a moment, they were both shocked and didn’t say a word.

In the next moment, the white-haired old man suddenly looked up, and his sword thrust forward.

Cheng Qian pushed Yan Zhengming away, creating a three-foot distance between them. The wooden sword passed through the middle, severing a strand of Cheng Qian’s messy hair hanging by his shoulder.

Then, the old man disappeared in an instant. In the next moment, two white-haired old men appeared in the arena, seemingly floating without touching the ground, instantly separating the two of them.

When Yan Zhengming evaded, he disappeared into the darkness, and in an instant, he was gone.

Cheng Qian was shocked. “Senior Brother!”

His true essence was firmly suppressed in his dantian, making him no different from an ordinary person. The Frostblade, which used to respond to his thoughts, instantly became extremely sluggish. Cheng Qian struggled to block with his sword, feeling as if the old man’s wooden sword carried the force of Mount Tai crashing down on his shoulder. His wrist tingled, and coupled with the strange situation, Cheng Qian instinctively retreated.

But as he retreated, the Frostblade showed signs of backlash. This unruly and unfamiliar sword had caused trouble after being dormant for many years. Cheng Qian almost forgot its temperament.

The old man’s second sword had already arrived, so Cheng Qian gritted his teeth and, without giving an inch, prepared to receive the blow.

The pressure on his hands grew stronger, as if the sky was collapsing on his shoulders.

Finally, Cheng Qian was pushed to his limit. The Unrelenting Sword didn’t allow him to retreat half a step, and his arms began to tremble. The wrist that was held there made a slight “crack” sound, as if a tendon had twisted. He forcefully attacked the true essence sealed in his dantian, repeatedly assaulting his inner dantian. Cheng Qian’s eyes flickered with frost again and again, and each time, they were suppressed back by an even stronger force.

Cheng Qian was anxious to find Yan Zhengming. He had no intention of engaging in a mundane fight with this old man. In an instant, he acted recklessly, raising his foot to kick the opponent’s waist.

Little did he know that his kick was empty. The old man himself turned out to be an illusion, only his sword was real.

Cheng Qian missed his kick and lost his strength. The old man’s wooden sword heavily struck his chest, and this time, it was real. If his body wasn’t refined with the Spiritual Jade, this strike would have broken several ribs.

He coughed a few times, feeling as if half of his body had gone numb from the beating. The wound on his back, which had already stopped bleeding, burst open again.

The old man looked at him expressionlessly, his murky eyes filled with a chilling indifference. He leveled his wooden sword and pointed it at Cheng Qian’s chest. In that moment, all that could be heard were Cheng Qian’s slightly heavy breaths.

Suddenly, the old man spoke, “With your restless state of mind, you still want to pursue the ‘human path’?”

Cheng Qian had intended to beat him into a white-faced sack, but his actions abruptly halted at the old man’s words. “Senior, are you…”

“Defend yourself, less talk!” The old man attacked with a horizontal swing of his sword, using the move “Extreme Prosperity” from the phrase “Prosperity at Its Zenith and Decline.” The wooden sword traced a long arc like a full moon.

A single strike like that could probably shatter even the most precious jade.

Cheng Qian neither dared to be careless nor engage in a direct confrontation. Awkwardly, he took a step forward to avoid the blade’s edge and struggled to recall the defensive move he had briefly studied when his cultivation was still weak. In haste, he performed the move “Subtle Elegance” from the same set.

“Subtle Elegance” emphasized that “the wind rises from the faint ripples of green duckweed.” It meant that during the zenith, the seeds of decline were already embedded within. These seeds of decline grew alongside the splendid situation until they became the trigger for the transition from prosperity to decline. This move had numerous variations and was extremely subtle, completely incompatible with Cheng Qian’s accustomed style of the tempestuous and brutal Tideflow Swordsmanship. His rushed execution was already strenuous, causing his actions to be slightly slower.

This slight delay could be described as missing by a hair, yet deviating by a thousand miles. Cheng Qian’s hand numbed, and the Frostblade was “clang” flicked into the air by the wooden sword!

Cheng Qian: “…”

From the age of ten until now, even though he had never swept through the world with his sword, he had never experienced such a humiliating moment.

The white-haired old man looked at him expressionlessly, raised his hand, and with a gesture, the Frostblade flew up from the ground to Cheng Qian’s side. “Again.”

Cheng Qian tightened his grip on the sword.

Then the old man said, “Idiot.”

Cheng Qian’s fingers were on the verge of breaking from his own grip. He grabbed the Frostblade, but in an instant, the old man leaped forward. Suddenly, countless sword shadows flashed past Cheng Qian, as dense as the rain in early spring, unavoidable and undefendable.

This was the true “Subtle Elegance”!

Cheng Qian’s pupils contracted, suddenly realizing that this old man seemed to be teaching him a lesson. He was momentarily stunned, until the wooden sword tore through the endless illusions and approached him directly, stopping right in front of his nose.

“Have you never seriously studied swordsmanship?” the old man asked. “Who is your master?”

Cheng Qian involuntarily hesitated.

Indeed, Woodchun Zhenren had only taught him for a little over a year. He quickly passed on the complete Fuyao Wooden Sword technique in the Forgotten Sorrow Valley, relying on Cheng Qian’s childhood photographic memory. Later, Cheng Qian basically recited the sect’s sword manual from memory, with some corrections made by his senior brother.

Now that he thought about it, what he had haphazardly remembered in his incomplete understanding, was it really correct?

Could his senior brother’s sword technique, which he learned as a child in a haphazard and hasty manner, really correct anything?

Cheng Qian defended himself, “Our master passed away shortly after we entered the sect.”

The old man frowned.

Suppressing his own temperament, Cheng Qian respectfully asked, “Before my master’s passing, he demonstrated the Fuyao Wooden Sword technique with his primordial spirit. Perhaps I didn’t remember some parts clearly in the haste…”

His words were interrupted by a cold snort. Upon hearing this, the old man, for some unknown reason, seemed even more annoyed. He swung his wooden sword and repeatedly patted Cheng Qian’s shoulder, scolding him repeatedly, “Idiot! Idiot!”

Cheng Qian had never been called an idiot so many times in his life, but he couldn’t refute it—who made the other person so much stronger than him?

Facing such a senior from the same sect, even if the other person said that the hat on his head was a seven-hole night flask, Cheng Qian could only listen obediently.

The old man continued to jump around for a while, his figure suddenly changed, transforming into the appearance of a middle-aged man in a silk robe. He executed the move “Extreme Prosperity” once again.

Cheng Qian’s scalp tingled. When this senior appeared in the form of an old man, the sword technique of “Prosperity at Its Zenith and Decline” was seasoned, but it leaned more towards “decline,” lacking in momentum. But when he appeared as a middle-aged man, his wooden sword transformed into an unknown treasured sword, perfectly embodying the intention of “prosperity.” Its power was incomparable.

Countless thoughts raced through Cheng Qian’s mind in an instant. He analyzed the “Subtle Elegance” that the old man had disguised from beginning to end, and once again, he gritted his teeth and executed the same sword technique.

He caught it!

But before he could rejoice, the middle-aged man struck again without hesitation. He flipped up from the air, descending from a higher position, and launched an overhead strike—a transformed “Extreme Prosperity”!

Cheng Qian’s pupils contracted, and in the next moment, he realized that the seal on his true essence had been released. His true essence, which had been suppressed for a long time, flowed wildly in his dantian. The Frostblade in his hand emitted a “buzz” sound and instantly split into seven or eight sword shadows. They clashed in close combat—

2 / 2

Cheng Qian didn’t wait for the opponent to change his move; he had already entered the realm of Subtle Elegance. His sword intent, as cold as frost, infiltrated the entire space silently and ubiquitously. The middle-aged man’s third move, Extreme Prosperity, arrived in an instant, and the collision of their true essences created a tremendous deafening sound.

This senior didn’t hold back at all; he continuously executed sixteen moves of Extreme Prosperity, each one more cunning and dangerous than the last.

It was the first time Cheng Qian truly grasped the sword intent of Subtle Elegance. The initially somewhat stiff sword technique gradually became more proficient. The Frostblade brought forth countless sword shadows, spreading fear throughout the entire space, resonating with the Demonslaying Formation.

However, the stronger he became, the stronger his opponent became, and Cheng Qian’s energy was finally depleted.

During the sixteenth move, the Frostblade slipped from his hand once again, tumbling to the ground in a sorry state. Cheng Qian took a deep breath, swayed unsteadily, and unexpectedly fell to the ground, half kneeling, with his arm barely supporting him.

The middle-aged man, looking down from above, placed his treasured sword against Cheng Qian’s neck and said indifferently, “Do you know where you went wrong?”

Cheng Qian’s heart pounded like thunder, rendering him unable to speak.

“The move Subtle Elegance is the most difficult move in the Fuyao Wooden Sword technique. It is elusive and all-pervasive. Despite your initial incompetence, in an instant, you have become adept. With such talent, why do you insist on studying other sword techniques? Impetuous!”

If one were to say that the previous battle was a test of endurance and fierce confrontation, and his state of mind was somewhat restless, Cheng Qian admitted it. However, for so many years, he had put in as much effort as anyone else, with numerous near-death experiences, and he had never been more leisurely than anyone else—leaving aside his natural aptitude, he firmly believed that he was not an impetuous person.

Cheng Qian immediately defended himself, “I…”

The corners of the middle-aged man’s mouth lifted, revealing a stiff smile as he interrupted, “Because you think the Wooden Sword doesn’t suit you, is that it? The Fuyao Wooden Sword follows the ‘human path.’ From birth to death, from youth to old age, countless ordinary people in the world cannot deviate from this path. There is nothing extraordinary about it. But you think you are an exception, different from those ordinary people, right?”

Cheng Qian: “…”

Recalling it now, when others were still young and fearless, waiting for the vast opportunities that lay ahead, he felt that he had matured early, losing the naivety of youth. When others were searching and lost, not knowing their path, he believed that he had a clear goal and was already far ahead. When others struggled and encountered setbacks, he fearlessly dominated the world. He had long ceased to fear anything. When others longed for ascension, unable to obtain what they desired, he willingly chose the “human path.”

Although he had never boasted, the deep-seated self-importance hidden within Cheng Qian prevented him from associating each move of the Fuyao Wooden Sword with himself. All the various sword intents within the wooden sword felt distant to him, as if there was always a barrier between them. It was as if he were mechanically comprehending the life experiences of others, never truly feeling a connection.

The middle-aged man shouted, “You have observed the heavens and the earth, and then you have observed yourself. You have observed others, but you never compare yourself with yourself. Are you not human? Since you have chosen the ‘human path,’ why won’t you let go of your lofty and empty aspirations?”

“Treat people based on their closeness or distance, sympathize with whom, tolerate whom, be close to whom, love whom—have you ever revered anyone? Looked up to anyone? Used anyone as a mirror?”

When the middle-aged man reached this point, he suddenly pressed the tip of his sword downward, the sharp blade scraping Cheng Qian’s neck, causing him pain. “Youth is ignorant and arrogant, restless and self-important. I see that you are not young, and your character has not matured much.”

Cheng Qian broke out in a cold sweat.

“If you truly surpass the ordinary and comprehend the Fuyao Wooden Sword, why can’t you even execute the move Subtle Elegance properly? Stand up!” The middle-aged man shouted angrily. “The sword hasn’t been fully passed down yet. What’s with the pretense of being dead?”

At the beginning, Cheng Qian had an unsettled mind, and each day felt like a year. Although he wasn’t worried about Yan Zhengming, who was in the same place, he began to worry about Li Yun and others who were staying with many demonic cultivators and Tianyan disciples outside. Unexpectedly, the master of this place could discern his distracted state of mind, subjecting him to a storm of abuse, forcing him to dispel his distractions and gradually immerse himself in the Fuyao Wooden Sword.

Cheng Qian had been trapped here for an unknown period of time. Countless times, the unnamed host of this place sealed his true essence and forced him to practice with the Frostblade as if he were an ordinary novice.

However, when the person, who had transformed back into the appearance of an old man, opened another door and let him go, Cheng Qian suddenly felt a strange sensation. It seemed that all these countless days and months had only occurred in the span of a thought or a breath. He stood at the entrance of another door, and looking up, he saw a strand of his own hair that had just fallen to the ground.

Cheng Qian suddenly took a step back, turned around, and asked, “May I ask how to address you, senior?”

The old man answered with his eyes on his nose and his nose on his mouth, “Nameless. I am just a trace of inheritance left for all of you.”

Cheng Qian asked again, “What if we choose the characters ‘heaven’ or ’earth’?”

The old man said, “The Fuyao Sect has always followed the ‘human path’ throughout history. As for the heavens and the earth, I can’t teach them, and no one can. So, I can only send you back to where you came from.”

Upon hearing this, Cheng Qian had a fleeting thought that he couldn’t grasp in time. After a moment of contemplation, he respectfully performed a junior’s salute to the old man before leaving with large strides.

The door of inheritance behind him closed silently, as if it had never existed. Cheng Qian looked up and saw Yan Zhengming standing not far away, holding the wooden sword he had taken from the inner palace, his head slightly lowered in thought.

Seeing him, Cheng Qian couldn’t help but feel delighted, and his footsteps became much lighter. “Senior Brother…”

Unexpectedly, as soon as he spoke, Yan Zhengming cast a cold gaze at him, cutting off his words.

Cheng Qian had grown up with him since childhood. He could distinguish between when Yan Zhengming was simply causing trouble and when he was truly angry. At that moment, he was taken aback and felt slightly puzzled, thinking, “Could it be that he has also been tormented by that old man?”

After giving Cheng Qian a glare, Yan Zhengming remained silent and turned around, walking ahead on his own.

Perplexed, Cheng Qian followed behind him, racking his brain to recall where he had offended this young master. In a helpless tone, he asked, “What’s wrong with you now?”

As soon as the words fell, Cheng Qian suddenly realized it himself. His gaze uncontrollably fell on the wooden sword in Yan Zhengming’s hand, causing his scalp to tingle. He thought, “Wait a minute, why did he take out the wooden sword for no reason?”

That old man in the inheritance was very sharp-eyed. He wouldn’t have noticed that he had said something unnecessary, right?

With this thought, Cheng Qian almost felt guilty. He quietly wiped away a cold sweat and quickly devised a countermeasure in his mind.

After Yan Zhengming heard his question, he immediately sealed his lips, thinking, “Oh, he’s feeling guilty for no reason.”

After waiting for a while, just as Cheng Qian was about to clear his throat and speak, Yan Zhengming unexpectedly said, “Well, have you already come up with some fabricated story about how to explain this wooden sword?”

Cheng Qian: “…”

It was as if the two of them had passed through a narrow passage and quickly reached the end. At the end, there was a faint dawn with soft light that hadn’t fully brightened yet. After asking that question, Yan Zhengming entered without turning his head, his figure flashing through and disappearing.

Cheng Qian hurriedly followed, and in a blink of an eye, he found himself back at the foot of Taiyin Mountain. When he turned around again, the inheritance and the Heart Devil Valley had completely disappeared.

In front of him, there was an angry Senior Brother and many other people. Han Yuan led a group of demonic cultivators on one side, while You Liang led a large number of ordinary cultivators who had gathered here at some point on the other side.

Li Yun, Shui Kong, Nian Dada, and others stood awkwardly in the middle, floating in the sky.

Cheng Qian confirmed that when the Demonslaying Formation was broken, there weren’t so many living cultivators present in this place.

Could it be that they had transferred the originally planned immortal-demon battle on Taihang Mountain to this place?