“Helian Yong is dead? What about us…?”
“Helian Jue and Lu Jin are also dead.”
The crowd exchanged glances, none of them had anticipated that Helian Yong would die so easily at the hands of his own disciple. The process was so rushed it almost didn’t feel real.
“Everyone, please calm down. Even though Helian Yong is dead, the danger is not truly gone,” Deng Fengming spoke up first.
Seeing a disciple from the Xiaoyao Sect take the lead, the others joined in,
“That’s right, Helian Zhu used himself as a core of the formation for an extremely malevolent and sinister technique. Even if he was originally unaware, he cannot be considered innocent.”
“Fellow Daoists, if we don’t execute Helian Zhu here as a warning to others, it may cause great chaos in the cultivation world.”
“Yes! Kill Helian Zhu and then report this matter to the Hundred Sects, and have the Helian family stripped of their sect status!”
Helian Zhu watched the self-righteous assembly of immortal sect disciples with cold eyes. He couldn’t quite describe his feelings as sad or sarcastic.
Yes, how could he be considered innocent? He personally killed forty-seven of his sect brothers, his senior brother, and Miss Lu… Rejoicing over the talents he had seized, how could he ever be innocent?
“Are they going to kill Helian Zhu?” Xie Shuci asked worriedly.
Chu Guiyi fell silent for a moment. “He can’t escape death. Shuci, this matter is now beyond our ability to influence.”
Chu Guiyi was right; with Helian Yong gone, their interference would only align them with someone like Helian Zhu, who now stood utterly alone.
Xie Shuci felt this world was too strange. He didn’t like it here… he wanted to return to his own world, a peaceful world.
At times like this, he instinctively wanted to be near Xie An, almost his only attachment in this world.
But when he turned around, he found that no one was behind him.
Xie Shuci stiffened. “Xie An…”
Helian Zhu withdrew his gaze from the crowd, his breathing steady and heavy, showing no fear for what was to come.
He flicked the Cloud Piercing Spear upwards, using the force to drive its shaft deep into a crevice in the ground.
Immediately, his spiritual power spilled out, forming a formation around the spear. Countless spells fluttered within the formation like catkins, gradually enveloping the entire Cloud Piercing Spear. The formation kept shrinking, concentrating into a single point.
With a shudder, the Cloud Piercing Spear caused the ground to rumble.
Deng Fengming and the others’ faces changed drastically. “Has he sealed the Cloud Piercing Spear with all his cultivation?!”
After doing all this, Helian Zhu calmly looked up, undisturbed as he said, “My life, you may take, but not the Cloud Piercing Spear.”
The Cloud Piercing Spear, like the Avian Nine-Section Whip, was a rare artifact in the cultivation world. Among those clamoring to kill Helian Zhu for the stability of the cultivation world, how many were not eyeing the “spear that cuts across nine provinces”?
“Senior brother, can it wait for the day you return?”
Helian Zhu murmured softly as he looked at the dim spear tip.
“Indeed, he’s a beast practicing evil arts!”
A throng of cultivators surged forward, their sharp blades piercing his body, blood gushing forth.
As they withdrew their swords, the young man’s body fell with a thud, staining the surrounding earth red.
Xie Shuci’s search for Xie An also came to a frozen halt.
Was another person about to disappear forever before his eyes?
A frustrated young cultivator raised his sword to stab Helian Zhu’s body again, only to be blown away by a fierce wind onto the ground.
“What’s going on?”
Beneath Helian Zhu, the soil soaked in his blood began to shine with a blinding white light, wrapping around him in a halo of purity. This light expanded into a transparent column, emanating a powerful surge of spiritual energy that whipped up a howling wind, sending sand and stones flying in all directions.
Suddenly, the sky echoed with the beautiful cry of a bird. A giant bird, formed from concentrated spiritual energy, broke through the clouds high above and swooped down towards Helian Zhu.
“Astonishing Feather Bird…” Chu Guiyi murmured under his breath.
Xie Shuci, witnessing this, was stunned because the formation beneath Helian Zhu was exactly the same as the one he had seen on the demon dog before it died!
The formation was devouring Helian Zhu’s life force. The majestic presence of the Astonishing Feather Bird stirred up a massive tempest, making it impossible for the onlookers to keep their eyes open.
In the chaos, a long sword on the ground was swept up by the fierce wind, darting towards the unsuspecting Deng Fengming with a speed that defied the senses.
The sound of the sword was hidden in the bird’s cry, unnoticed by anyone. In the blink of an eye, Deng Fengming, the disciple of the Xiaoyao Sect, was decapitated.
“Helian Zhu, did you make a deal with someone?!” Xie Shuci pushed through the crowd, his mind in turmoil as if he had caught a glimpse of something significant, yet it vanished too quickly to discern.
Helian Zhu heard Xie Shuci’s voice and saw the redness in his eyes.
Ah, that annoying alchemist…
Is he the last person I’ll see…
But now he doesn’t seem so annoying after all…
Helian Zhu opened his blood-stained lips and silently mouthed two words.
Among the many cultivators present, only Xie Shuci knew what he said.
In that instant, the name overlapped with one from Xie Shuci’s hazy memory.
“Your destiny… how could it be like this?”
“How could you be… Kid, listen carefully. From now on, cultivate diligently and don’t die.
“Find someone named Bixie, he can help you…”
“Remember… you must remember…”
The hazy memories finally cleared, and Xie Shuci remembered the dying words of the demon hound.
Who is Bixie?
Was it he who had struck a deal with the stupid dog? And was it he who had made a deal with Helian Zhu?
What did it mean that he could help him?
What was the meaning of all this?
All of it left Xie Shuci utterly baffled.
As the Astonishing Feather Bird dove towards Helian Zhu at the center of the formation, a final bird cry sounded, and then the bird vanished. Helian Zhu closed his eyes for the last time, his life force drained completely. Inch by inch, his body disintegrated into dust, vanishing within the formation.
When his body was fully consumed, the formation that had suddenly appeared on the ground vanished just as abruptly, taking with it Helian Jue, Lu Jin, and even Helian Yong’s corpses.
These four individuals, as if they had never existed, disappeared forever between heaven and earth.
Xie Shuci stared blankly at the spot where Helian Zhu had vanished. Except for the Cloud Piercing Spear stuck in the ground, it was as if nothing had ever happened.
At that moment, a disciple’s wretched scream cut through the air, “Senior brother!!”
Everyone was jolted back to reality by this cry.
Xie Shuci’s gaze shifted dumbly, first to the blood spurting on the ground, shockingly conspicuous. Just as he was about to look further, a figure suddenly appeared, blocking his view, accompanied by the familiar sound of a bell.
“Xie An?” Xie Shuci looked at Xie An, who had suddenly appeared, their proximity keeping anything else from Xie Shuci’s sight.
Perhaps it was Xie Shuci’s imagination, but it seemed as though the sounds behind Xie An also became muffled, making him forget what he had intended to look at.
“Where did you go? It’s so dangerous, how could you just run off?” Xie Shuci said, still in shock.
Xie An’s lips curved into a smile as he said silently, “I had to return something.”
“Oh…” Xie Shuci nodded, his mind still not fully comprehending.
Chu Guiyi approached the two.
“Let’s go, back to the Manjiang hall.”
Perhaps it was because too much had happened all at once, but Xie Shuci found his mind a mess, unable to decide how to feel about the turmoil. He was almost in a daze as he followed the trio back to the Manjiang Hall.
On the way back, the streets bustled just as they had when they left, no different from before.
Suddenly, Xie Shuci felt as if everything that had happened today had been a nightmare.
But unlike before, none of them spoke to break the silence on their way back.
Compared to the lively streets, they seemed to be isolated in a different space.
Once back at the Manjiang hall, as they prepared to retire to their rooms, Chu Guiyi hesitated, but finally called out to Xie Shuci.
“Shuci, are you alright?”
Xie Shuci appeared somewhat lost, “Me? What could be wrong with me?”
Chu Guiyi looked at him as if he had more to say but stopped short.
Xie Shuci had yet to realize that his normally boisterous demeanor – always ready to argue, laugh, or cry when the moment called for it – had never been as silent as it was now.
“Shuci, we do our best and leave the rest to fate,” Chu Guiyi repeated his words back to him.
Chu Wenfeng was no different from his usual self. He just looked at Xie Shuci with a touch of disdain before turning away to retire to his room with Chu Guiyi.
On a regular day, if Chu Wenfeng had dared to provoke him like this, Xie Shuci would have retorted even if he couldn’t win a fight. But today, he just didn’t have the heart for it and simply took Xie An back to their room.
The hall’s waiter, unaware that his two masters had died, approached them with a smile. “Did the two honored guests go out to do some heroic deed? Why are you covered in blood? Do you need me to call a doctor?”
Xie Shuci paused, remembering Xie An’s injury. He turned and took Xie An’s arm, which had practically healed without a trace after taking the healing pill.
But the bloodstains covering them both indeed made for a disheveled appearance. Despite Xie Shuci feeling utterly exhausted, both his mind and body in dire need of rest, he couldn’t bear the thought of rolling into bed in such a state.
So he said to the hall’s waiter, “Please heat some water for us to bathe and change.”
The waiter nodded, “Just a moment, honored guests!”
Arriving at their room, they pushed the door open and entered.
As they stepped inside, Xie Shuci’s form wavered, and Xie An quickly caught him by the waist from behind.
Xie An’s movements were firm as he turned Xie Shuci to face him.
Xie An’s fingers gently touched Xie Shuci’s cheek, tracing the contours of his face.
Xie Shuci grabbed his wrist, feeling calm only when touching Xie An.
To make himself more comfortable, Xie Shuci snuggled into his embrace, wrapping his arms around Xie An’s waist, unconcerned about the bloodstains and scent clinging to him.
At that moment, he didn’t care about whether it was proper or not, whether Xie An was male or female; none of that mattered. He just wanted to lean on Xie An, to feel utterly at peace.
Even though Xie An appeared as fragile as he was, having him nearby made Xie Shuci feel like there was nothing to fear as if his little blind could protect him.
But Xie An had no cultivation at all.
This thought made Xie Shuci laugh at himself; perhaps this was the so-called power of self-suggestion.
Xie An, as always, let Xie Shuci hold him.
He lowered his gaze, his large palm resting on Xie Shuci’s back, stroking gently and tenderly.