Yan Zhengming walked out of the bedroom, his face showing no signs of sleepiness. He lifted his hand and pressed it on Cheng Qian’s stiff shoulder, asking, “How did he die? I didn’t sense anything. How could someone as powerful as Shang Wannian die without any movement?”

Yan Zhengming was the true heir of the Sect Master’s seal, and he could sense even the slightest movement on Mount Shouyao. His divine sense could even reach the Demon Valley behind the mountain, far surpassing the power of the Woodchuck True Person who had once resided in the body of a yellow weasel.

“I don’t know,” Li Yun pinched her brow and said, “There’s an unenlightened child in the White Tiger Mountain. He woke up in the middle of the night and saw the light on in Shang Wannian’s room. The shadow cast on the window looked a bit strange. He went to inquire and discovered that the person was already dead. Come, let’s go and take a look.”

Various conspiracy theories flashed through Cheng Qian’s mind, and he stood up with a heavy heart. As soon as he stood up, the hand that held Ting Qiankun suddenly felt like it was burning, but there was no abnormality on the smooth surface of his skin.

Cheng Qian’s hand trembled violently, and then a burning sensation quickly spread from his hand to his arm, enveloping his entire body.

He felt dizzy, and Frostblade, which was hanging at his waist, fell to the ground without any warning, emitting a faint buzzing sound.

While Yan Zhengming and Li Yun were talking, they turned around and saw that Cheng Qian had collapsed to the ground without making a sound. His complexion was as pale as a dead person, frightening Yan Zhengming.

Cheng Qian instinctively reached into the sheath of Frostblade, and the once icy-cold sword now felt warm. Everything around him seemed to be moving away from him. He heard a sound, like the ancient Huangzhong Daliu, with a heavy and powerful sound wave stirring up turmoil in his inner palace. His primordial spirit, which had not yet fully recovered from previous injuries, couldn’t withstand such a heavy blow. It felt like it was about to crack, suffering inexplicable torment.

At this moment, an external force suddenly surged into him, instantly isolating the layers of sound waves and suppressing the turbulence of his true essence.

Cheng Qian swallowed the taste of blood in his chest and focused on his inner palace. He saw that the powerful but not intimidating divine sense had landed as a phantom. It was none other than the legendary Shang Wannian, who was already dead.

Shang Wannian furrowed his brow as he looked at Cheng Qian’s primordial spirit and asked, “What happened to you? How did your primordial spirit get damaged?”

Cheng Qian was momentarily speechless.

Shang Wannian sighed as he looked at him and let his divine sense disperse. He turned into countless stars in place, helping Cheng Qian sort out his chaotic true essence.

Cheng Qian only heard him say, “Your primordial spirit is damaged and can’t withstand the inheritance of Ting Qiankun… Sigh, for now, I can only seal it in your inner palace and wait for later.”

What had been forcefully sold to him?

Shang Wannian continued, “Ting Qiankun has been lost for a long time. After I accepted the inheritance, I searched for it my whole life. It wasn’t until I was about to die that I finally encountered it. Since we have a connection, I originally wanted to pass on the inheritance to you. Who knew that the timing was wrong… It’s fate. I’m definitely unlucky.”

As soon as Shang Wannian finished speaking, Cheng Qian felt something flowing through his body from his arm, passing through his meridians, and finally entering his forehead. The ear that represented Ting Qiankun had been branded in the middle of his inner palace, glowing brightly for a moment before gradually dimming.

Shang Wannian’s divine sense appeared in front of Cheng Qian again, staring at Ting Qiankun with a complex expression. He shook his head and sighed, “Although I can’t see the inheritance, being able to see it once before I die is enough for me to die with no regrets.”

Cheng Qian said, “What exactly…”

Shang Wannian interrupted, “Hmm, I don’t want to tell you now, young friend. When your primordial spirit is completely repaired and you have accepted the inheritance I sealed here, you will understand. There are restrictions in the inheritance, and no one can speak out about the secrets of Ting Qiankun, including the dead.”

He paused for a moment and smiled bitterly, “Including me.”

Cheng Qian couldn’t see any resentment or unwillingness in his face, as if he was just calm. This made Cheng Qian wonder, why did this person seem completely indifferent when everyone else was pursuing enlightenment and ascension?

Standing in front of him with a sense of distance between yin and yang, Shang Wannian said, “I know you all hate Tian Yan. They are despicable and self-righteous, causing the deaths of many people. The current situation of both Tian Yan and the Yanxing Clan is their own fault. With the demonic path and righteous path in Central Plains both losing their leaders, this is the beginning of a disaster for the ‘million wronged souls.’ That’s why I must save Han Yuan’s life.”

2 / 2

He glanced at Cheng Qian and added, “But it’s not because I owe any favors to your Shouyao Sect.”

With the chaos of the world, the Nine Saints all dead, only Han Yuan survived. The Southern Wilderness demons were not entirely fragmented… but he might never be able to return to Shouyao Mountain again.

“But the timing of the appearance of the Soul Devouring Lamp is too coincidental,” Shang Wannian said, “I didn’t expect the end to come so soon. I can’t investigate it anymore. Let me tell you a feeling, which may not be accurate—someone knows about Tong Ru’s wish on that ghost stone and has been secretly fueling the flames. Apart from the mastermind, Tian Yan, only the four of us know about this…”

Cheng Qian’s eyes flashed.

“No, it’s not Bian Xu. If he had such calculated thoughts, he wouldn’t be in such a sorry state now,” Shang Wannian said, “Tian Yan is such a big organization, it’s hard to say who accidentally leaked it.”

“That’s the first thing,” Shang Wannian withdrew his divine sense that had been wandering in Cheng Qian’s inner palace and said solemnly, “There’s another thing I need to tell you. Someone has tampered with you. Do you know about it?”

Cheng Qian’s pupils contracted slightly. “What?”

“It’s not your spirit jade body, but your soul. I’m sorry, I’m not proficient in this aspect, so I can’t tell what it is at the moment,” Shang Wannian said, “Has it not acted up yet? Your cultivation may not be invincible in the world, but it’s already enough to be at the top. I can’t figure out who has such great powers to place a curse on you without leaving a trace.”

Tremors ran through Cheng Qian’s fingertips, and his chest felt like it was filled with ice.

Who had mastered this technique over the years? Who had the opportunity to tamper with his soul?

Shang Wannian observed his expression and said, “It seems you already have an idea.”

Cheng Qian nodded reluctantly and asked calmly, “Zhuangzhu, is there any way to resolve it?”

Shang Wannian sighed, “I can’t identify the curse. I’m afraid I can’t help… But don’t worry too much. If it really erupts one day, the Ting Qiankun sealed within your inner palace can provide some protection for you.”

“Thank you,” Cheng Qian said.

Shang Wannian waved his hand, “There’s a predestined arrangement. Ting Qiankun is destined to be in your hands. You don’t need to thank me… I’m leaving, reincarnating.”

After saying that, his final trace of divine sense dissipated, as if he had relieved himself of a heavy burden, disappearing without any attachments.

When Cheng Qian woke up, he was in his own Qing’an Residence. He heard a stranger’s voice saying, “…This senior’s primordial spirit suffered a backlash. I think it may be because he has been using his true essence frequently recently.”

Cheng Qian remained silent.

He was already in a heavy mood, and now there was someone interjecting. Who was this busybody?

Cheng Qian opened his eyes and saw a cultivator dressed in the attire of the White Tiger Mountain Villa, earnestly pressing on his pulse. When their eyes met, Cheng Qian’s cold gaze immediately made the cultivator tremble and release his hand. “S-Senior, you’re awake?”

Cheng Qian looked at him expressionlessly.

Yan Zhengming raised his hand, picked up the young cultivator, and placed him aside, shielding him from Cheng Qian’s murderous gaze. Even from his back, one could tell that the eldest senior brother was already enraged.

“Don’t mind him,” Yan Zhengming gritted his teeth, “Tell me, what happens after the primordial spirit suffers a backlash?”

The white-clad cultivator stuttered, “I-It won’t… nothing will happen. Senior Cheng’s true essence is pure and profound. As long as he rests quietly, it won’t take long for him to repair himself. The Sect Master… doesn’t need to worry.”

Yan Zhengming’s face eased slightly—though it still didn’t look pleasant—and then he issued a dismissal order, “Alright, thank you. You can leave now.”

Li Yun, who was standing at the door, immediately smiled and said, “Please come this way. Don’t be afraid, our Sect Master doesn’t bite.”

Sect Master Yan, who wouldn’t bite, watched them leave with an expression that suggested an approaching storm. Then, he slowly turned his head and prepared to settle accounts with Cheng Qian.

However, Cheng Qian wasn’t in the mood to indulge him. He suddenly leaned back and stared blankly at the canopy above his bed.

This reaction was different from what Yan Zhengming had expected, who had assumed that Cheng Qian would appear guilty and short of breath. Puzzled, he paused, temporarily suspending his plan to demand an explanation, and approached the bedside hesitantly, “Is there something else wrong?”

Cheng Qian didn’t respond. He reached out and patted his own side, gesturing for Yan Zhengming to sit down, then closed his eyes and placed Yan Zhengming’s hand on his chest.

Cheng Qian was cold and aloof, rarely connecting with others. Tang Zhen was the most recent outsider he had gotten close to. Due to having few people in his heart, the emotions assigned to each person were especially pure. This was the first time he had tasted the bitterness of betrayal.

Yan Zhengming’s hand was warmer than his own, more alive.

Cheng Qian took a deep breath and whispered, “Shang Wannian has passed away, his primordial spirit has been reincarnated. I think he left quite happily. No one harmed him.”

Someone has already reported this matter. Yan Zhengming already knows about it, and he exclaimed, “How do you know?”

“I met him,” Cheng Qian said briefly, “He wanted to pass on a heritage to me, but coincidentally, my primordial spirit was damaged and couldn’t bear it… It’s not like what that person said, some nonsense about backlash. Besides foolish people who forcefully raise their cultivation using forbidden techniques, who would suffer a backlash from their own primordial spirit?”

Yan Zhengming: “…”

He suddenly pulled his hand back, “Are you planning to rebel?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Cheng Qian said in a low voice, “Senior Brother, I feel uneasy.”

Upon hearing these words, Yan Zhengming was taken aback. He had seen Cheng Qian covered in injuries from fights, seen Cheng Qian stumbling from a single word, and seen Cheng Qian barely tolerating him. But he had never seen Cheng Qian furrow his brows and say, “I feel uneasy,” in such a manner.

In his impression, Cheng Qian seemed to have a heart of stone, unaffected by anything in the world, unable to be made to submit to anything.

This momentary glimpse of vulnerability sparked a strange excitement in Yan Zhengming’s heart. He bent down, brushed aside a few strands of hair on Cheng Qian’s face, and the more he looked, the more he didn’t know why, he couldn’t help but bend down and place a kiss between Cheng Qian’s slightly furrowed brows, asking, “What’s wrong?”

Cheng Qian remained silent, looking at his face just inches away, feeling exhausted in his heart, thinking, “Will there come a day when he betrays me too?”

Yan Zhengming’s heart itched from being stared at, and he was also worried about Cheng Qian’s well-being. He didn’t dare touch him, so he forced himself to calm down and said, “What are you looking at?”

Cheng Qian swept away all the tenderness in his heart and thought, “Sigh, he’s so bothersome.”

He raised his hand and pushed away Yan Zhengming’s face indifferently, saying, “You don’t have to bother. I have something to take care of. You can sleep peacefully.”

Yan Zhengming: “Wait, you just woke up…”

Cheng Qian had already disappeared with a flash.

Yan Zhengming: “…”

He couldn’t handle the owner of Qing’an Residence, so he decided to clean up the bamboo forest of Qing’an Residence.

Cheng Qian arrived at the guest room where Tang Zhen stayed, but he found that Tang Zhen had already left at some point, leaving only a small box with a note pressed on top: “It’s useless to hold on. Farewell for now. The item in the box is the Soul Binding Thread, which I never had the opportunity to give to you. But it seems you won’t need it now.”

The Soul Binding Thread could temporarily draw out Han Yuan’s soul, allowing them to kill the notorious heart devil without having to worry about facing his full power.

The blood oath mentioned the “Demon Dragon.” If they truly killed the heart devil, could the blame be placed on the heart devil and spare Han Yuan from going to the Southern Wilderness? Would he be spared from enduring a five-hundred-year punishment?

Cheng Qian’s fingers tightened around the note, then he sighed. If he hadn’t doubted, he might have eagerly taken this item and given it to Yan Zhengming by now.

But now he had doubts. Why did Tang Zhen suddenly bring out the Soul Binding Thread? Was his hope for Han Yuan to go to the Southern Wilderness born out of goodwill, or was it just to muddy the waters?

And why did Tang Zhen leave so hastily?

Suddenly, Cheng Qian felt a sense of foreboding and looked up, only to see Han Yuan’s eye-catching dragon robe flipping and fluttering on the low wall outside.

Han Yuan calmly explained, “Shang Wannian, that meddlesome old man, has passed away. They don’t have time to bother with me for now, so I came out on my own… What’s in your hand?”

Cheng Qian hesitated for a moment, then told him the truth.

Han Yuan listened and casually sat on the wall, laughing self-mockingly, “Throw it away, it’s useless. How could our eldest senior brother not open his mouth? Doesn’t he know what the heart devil is…? There’s no such thing as having two souls in one body. It’s not like possession.”

Cheng Qian said, “Oh, now you’re calling him ’eldest senior brother’? Not the ‘respected sect master’ anymore?”

Han Yuan was caught off guard.

Cheng Qian continued, “He just wants to find a way out for you. In case they really do want to kill you, at least you have the excuse of having ’two souls in one body.’”

Han Yuan leaned his arms on the wall behind him, looked up at the vast night sky above Fei Yao Mountain, and after a moment, he said, “There’s no need, Junior Brother. I’ve realized that a person shouldn’t find excuses for themselves.”

Cheng Qian leaned against the courtyard wall of the guest room, imitating his posture, looking up at the night sky together. It seemed like they hadn’t been this close in a long time.

“When the three of you went to rescue me at the Valley of Demons, Second Senior Brother admitted to deceiving me. I thought he looked like a pretty boy, but it turns out he’s quite a man,” Han Yuan stretched his legs, sitting in an unrefined manner. If it weren’t for the majestic dragon robe he wore, he would still seem like a beggar.

“But later, I realized he was just really clever,” Han Yuan said, then he changed the topic and asked, “When I was possessed by the Painted Soul and accidentally killed you, Junior Brother, if we had switched places, what would you have done?”

Cheng Qian didn’t say a word. Without experiencing it firsthand, anyone can talk without feeling the pain.

Han Yuan continued, “You definitely wouldn’t have taken advantage of the frenzy caused by the Painted Soul and jumped into the sea to escape. Once you broke free from the Painted Soul, you would have definitely returned to the sect to confess your mistake. Whether our senior brothers blamed you or not, it would be up to them. You wouldn’t hide.”

Cheng Qian smiled bitterly, “A bag of pine nut candies, was that enough to buy your high opinion of me all these years?”

Han Yuan chuckled softly, and as he laughed, the lines of laughter at the corners of his eyes gradually disappeared, revealing a youthful face, but his eyes suddenly seemed filled with profound experiences.

Han Yuan said, “In fact, I’m not afraid of our senior brothers doing anything to me. I know they won’t harm me. But the guilt weighs on me and tortures me day and night, so I can only turn it into resentment and hatred.”

Cheng Qian said, “You know that none of us blame you.”

Han Yuan replied, “I pretend not to know, but deep down, I know.”

The more he knew, the deeper the guilt became.

No one blamed him, yet he blamed himself even more.

Han Yuan said, “You can escape for a while, but you can’t escape forever. I understand that now… But it’s not too late. I can still have a glimpse of Mount Fuyao.”

The two fell silent, a prolonged silence.

Suddenly, Cheng Qian lifted his hand, and Han Yuan, who was sitting on the low wall, understood the gesture and slightly bent over, letting Cheng Qian pat his hand in his palm.

With a crisp sound, all the betrayals and entanglements, the encounters on the battlefield, all vanished in an instant.

“All right, you’re just scaring people as an older senior brother. Aren’t you going to apologize to Junior Sister Xiaomei?” Cheng Qian said.

“Tomorrow,” Han Yuan said somewhat hesitantly, “It’s too late today. She’s already grown up, going to find her in the middle of the night… sigh, I’m not used to it.”

Cheng Qian deeply understood this aspect, just as he was about to say something, a burst of fireworks-like flames suddenly exploded in the distance in the courtyard. The figure of Tonghe flashed and landed on a large tree, and a sharp voice echoed in the night, “Who are you?”

Cheng Qian’s expression changed, and his frost blade lightly tapped against the low wall. The next moment, he had already disappeared from the spot, with Han Yuan closely following behind.

In the courtyard, there was a person with a pale complexion, gender indistinguishable, dressed in colorful and peculiar attire even more bizarre than the water pond.

Han Yuan emerged from a mass of black mist, his hands crossed in front of his chest, and he frowned as he looked at the person, saying, “A demon cultivator?”

The person, upon seeing Han Yuan, trembled and took a few steps back, only to find their retreat blocked.

Cheng Qian said, “Today is neither the first nor the fifteenth day of the month. Instead of staying obediently in the back mountain’s Demon Valley, you came to Mount Fuyao. Are you tired of living?”

With Cheng Qian in front and Han Yuan behind, the demon cultivator had nowhere to hide. They let out a fearful shriek and transformed into a large bird, soaring up into the sky.

Han Yuan stood in mid-air, and a shadow of a dragon flashed behind him. The oppressive demonic energy descended from above, forcefully suppressing the large bird. Han Yuan flicked his sleeve, and the Eight Trigrams Seal of the blood oath on the back of his hand flashed. Dissatisfied, he said, “They won’t let me take a life.”

The great demon landed and transformed into a human shape, before they could flee, a sword was already pressed against their neck.

The frost on the sword cast a pale blue hue on the demon cultivator’s neck.

Cheng Qian, with a sword in his hand, indifferently pressed them down, saying, “If I were you, I wouldn’t think of running away.”

The demon cultivator’s face contorted with pain. They seemed to have difficulty speaking human language. They knelt on the ground, looking up at the water pond in agony, and spoke with a strange tone, “You are… the Queen…”