A small plane with the words "Wind God" on it landed at Dongchuan Airport, and several people dressed casually got off and drove in a low-key manner into the city.
Among them was a stylish young man with a baby face, chewing gum as he walked and wearing a stopwatch around his neck.
He was Zhang Zhao, the captain of the first team of the Wind God.
The female field agent next to him wore a pair of huge frog glasses and had a pair of eyes that seemed to never wake up. Don't be fooled by her unhealthy appearance, she was also a talented one - the captain of the second team who supported Xuan Ji at Chiyuan Hospital, Gu Yuexi.
These two special agents could excel in any situation, but this time they were playing supporting roles. The leader was a broad-shouldered, bald, bronze-faced man with a cigarette hanging from his mouth.
At first glance, one could immediately think of the word "manly."
He exuded a rugged, off-road vibe.
This man's name was Wang Ze, and he was a water specialist.
He was the current head of the special forces unit "Wind God".
Wang Ze was like a dragon, appearing and disappearing without a trace. He rarely returned to headquarters and spent the whole year traveling around the country.
The leaders of the security department could never catch him, and they were always frustrated. They couldn't even find any dirt on him. Whenever there was a need for "Wind God" support, their team was always the first to arrive on the scene, and they never failed in their duties.
"Ever since Old Xiao got promoted, his face has been getting whiter and his authority has been getting stronger," complained Wang Ze lazily, his cigarette bobbing up and down at the corner of his mouth. "He even ordered me around from afar, despite the fact that my Wind God Special Forces team is not under his command."
Gu Yuexi spoke seriously, "This concerns the Mirror Flower Water Moon Butterfly case. With everyone in the bureau on edge, Director Xiao believes that the fewer people who know about this, the better."
Wang Ze snorted through his nose, "I'm running errands for the corrupt higher-ups, it's rotten to the core. If it weren't for that, I wouldn't bother staying at headquarters... Alright, what's the situation now?"
As soon as Zhang Zhao finished sending the message, he heard a sound and looked up.
"Oh, it's that old man from Dongchuan - Yue De. I don't know if he hasn't saved enough money for cremation or what, but he's crazily making money. He lets his disciples and grandchildren go and set traps for people with evil spirits and demons, and then he acts as the hero to solve the problem. They use tools that seem to have been dug out of an ancient tomb, like the Mirror Flower Water Moon Butterfly Egg. Who knows, maybe the infectious moth came out of there."
Gu Yuexi spoke with a stern expression, "Master Yuede has four disciples in total, but they rarely show up now. The active ones are all from the younger generation. We obtained the driving records of several important figures and their families, and through cross-referencing, we roughly narrowed down the location of the ancient tomb - it should be in the 'Dongbi' mountain area, which coincides with the location provided by the aftermath department."
"Strange, sister," Zhang Zhao said, "how did those useless people from the aftermath department find the location of the ancient tomb?"
"Why are you speaking like that?" Gu Yuexi scolded him, then continued, "The Director of the aftermath department unexpectedly got pulled into the ancient tomb with the suspect. They have a young man who is particularly skilled in 'finding people through objects', and he traced them all the way using Director Xuan's personal belongings."
Zhang Zhao laughed, "Oh my god, this guy is so talented, he could compete in a contest with police dogs."
Gu Yuexi remained expressionless, her stern gaze piercing through him.
"I was wrong," Zhang Zhao made a face and mimicked zipping his mouth shut. "It's in the Dongbi Mountain area, right? Tell the little radishes in the aftermath department to wait patiently and not move around,"
Wang Ze held a cigarette in his mouth, revealing a set of shark-like teeth as he laughed.
"Let's go rescue their Director. Oh, by the way, I heard the new Director of the aftermath department is also a thunder and fire type. Have you met him, Yue'er? What do you think?"
Gu Yuexi paused thoughtfully and cautiously replied, "I can't say for sure."
Wang Ze was taken aback, "Huh?"
Gu Yuexi adjusted her sunglasses and said, "The energy I saw from him was flame-colored. I feel like he belongs to the thunder and fire system, leaning towards fire. But...when we were at Chiyuan Hospital, he also showed a bit of metal ability with his special weapon. However, metal and fire are incompatible, and using a weapon that doesn't match your own attribute will lower your combat power. Generally, people in the thunder and fire system will avoid weapons from the metal and ice water types. Oh, by the way, he also had a sword in his hand, pulled out from his spine. He was able to hold his own against the demons with that sword."
Zhang Zhao exclaimed, "Wow, pulling out a sword from his back sounds so cool! What kind of sword was it?"
Gu Yuexi shook her head, "I couldn't see."
Zhang Zhao, being young and impulsive, said, "The last time your 'X-ray vision' couldn't see through something was..."
As he spoke, he suddenly realized something and fell silent. Gu Yuexi furrowed her brows, and the car fell into an awkward silence.
Wang Ze's face darkened as he exhaled a puff of smoke, which seemed to have a life of its own as it flew against the wind and hit Zhang Zhao in the face, smearing it with smoke.
"You're the only one who can't keep your mouth shut. You talk too much," he scolded. "Director Xiao sent a message. Let's see what he has to say."
"Oh," Zhang Zhao obediently picked up his phone. "Director Xiao says, 'Yue De may already know that you're in Dongchuan. You're on someone else's turf, so be careful.'"
"Ha! That's a joke. The mountains are here, and so are we. That old zombie wouldn't dare blow us up with a single shot," Wang Ze kicked the gas tank. "Let's go and see."
"Wait, Captain! We just missed the highway exit again!" The location sent by Luo Cuicui was very remote, and although Wang Ze looked like an off-road adventurer, he was actually someone who couldn't tell north from south. No one knew that he was lost and had circled back and forth between the highway and mountain roads eight times before finally overcoming the "difficulties and dangers" and met up with the team from the aftermath department.
"Sorry for being late! It was really hard to find this kind of mysterious ancient tomb. There's usually an unknown magnetic field around it that interferes with navigation," Wang Ze shamelessly made excuses for himself. "Oh...what's going on? Why is there another injured person?"
Yang Chao was lying on the ground, with tears still on his face, gasping for breath.
Since arriving in this mountainous area, he had been crying inexplicably like he was possessed by a ghost, and his tears couldn't stop flowing. Now, he didn't even have the strength to speak.
"I don't know, it just happened suddenly," Luo Cuicui replied anxiously. "Maybe the pressure of the postgraduate entrance exam was too much."
Wang Ze remained silent, having heard that the aftermath department was full ofg weirdos, and they certainly lived up to their reputation.
"Leader, something's not right about this place," Gu Yuexi suddenly spoke up.
"What is it?" Wang Ze asked.
Gu Yuexi pushed her glasses, which she had not taken off even in the middle of the night, up to her forehead. Her pupils shrank into vertical slits as she pointed to the mountain. "Look at that mountain."
This was once the Paradise in Dongchuan, where Emperor Wu's soul was said to have lingered.
The great formation of the witch people had long since disappeared into the annals of time. Although this place had undergone countless wars and geological changes over thousands of years, the natural environment remained exceptionally superior.
It was already past mid-autumn, and the night was chilly. The mountains were still beautiful, with lush greenery near and far. As the water vapor met the cold air, a thin mist like white silk floated around the mountain, slowly flowing with the wind.
"Indeed... something's not right," Wang Ze squinted his eyes in the direction she pointed and slowly blew out a smoke ring - only one mountain had no fog.
The group quickly arrived at the foot of the fogless mountain, and the plant-based Luo Cuicui suddenly exclaimed, "Ah! These trees are fake!"
No wonder there's no fog, paper trees can't breathe!
Wang Ze broke off a leaf and chewed it for a moment before spitting it out and saying, "Illusion. The trees on the mountain are made of paper. Legend has it that the ancestors of the Yue De Sect were in charge of funeral arrangements for people. I don't think it's just a rumor... Follow me closely and don't fall behind."
It seems they've come to the right place.
Wang Ze instructed Ping Qianru to keep in constant contact with Xuan Ji and led the way up the mountain, which was covered in fake trees with heavy artificial markings on the stone path.
Just after they disappeared into the woods, several black cars stopped at the foot of the mountain. A group of people got out of the cars silently, led by an old man dressed in a dark Tang suit.
He moved with such grace and precision that he looked like he was imitating Master Yue De.
"My master ordered me to handle this properly, so I'll take charge," the old man said in a deep voice. "Since the Bureau of Paranormal Control doesn't take us seriously and covets our sect's secrets, we won't hesitate to be ruthless. We'll silence them and then burn the mountain to ensure that there's no evidence left. Do you understand?"
Several disciples carried out boxes from the trunk of the cars. Inside were things that looked like oversized guns, but upon closer inspection, they were not. These "guns" were as big as bowls and engraved with complex spells that glinted coldly in the moonlight.
With a solemn wave of his hand, the old man in a Tang suit ordered his men to enter the dense forest with their weapons.
Among the paper-thin trees, there were several small houses.
"This place isn't abandoned," Wang Ze wiped the table and said, "It's only covered in a thin layer of dust. Someone must have lived here not long ago, but the old fox cleared everything out... And that child, don't sit by the well, or you might fall in later."
In the courtyard, there was a well. Yang Chao, feeling a bit dehydrated, sat down by the well and couldn't move anymore. Since entering this fake forest, Yang Chao's nasal allergy had flared up again. He couldn't stop crying and his tears and snot flowed together, making him feel very uncomfortable. Upon hearing Wang Ze's instructions, Yang Chao lifted his head with red-rimmed eyes, looking like a miserable soul. He sniffled and was about to pull out a tissue from his pocket when he accidentally brought out something else - it was Xuan Ji's watch.
Yang Chao quickly reached out to grab it, but due to his tearful ascent up the mountain, he was too weak and lost his balance, tumbling headfirst down the well.
Wang Ze was speechless, while Luo Cuicui exclaimed, "Oh my, why did you have to curse him?"
Everyone rushed to the well to check on Yang Chao and were surprised to find that there was still water in it.
Yang Chao was struggling inside, and Wang Ze rolled up his sleeves and said, "Don't worry, let me handle this. Sweetheart, hold your breath and don't choke on the water."
As the experienced water ability user spoke, he calmly snapped his fingers and the water in the well obediently rushed towards his hand, gently lifting Yang Chao up while the others hurriedly pulled him out.
Suddenly, Wang Ze exclaimed, "Huh!" as if he had sensed something.
He pressed his hand against the edge of the well and said, "There's something in the water."
Luo Cuicui and Zhang Zhao grabbed onto Yang Chao's hands, while Wang Ze let go.
The water was pulled back by gravity and created ripples on the narrow well wall, shaking the ground below. With a loud splash, the water from the witches' tomb altar surged onto the stone platform, splashing onto Sheng Lingyuan's bare ankles.
He thought to himself, "It must be because of this body."
Perhaps it had been destroyed by the Chiyuan fire, then picked up by someone else and tossed around for thousands of years, becoming tattered and torn... or maybe it was never a good thing to begin with.
In any case, wearing this skin made him extremely uncomfortable.
It felt like something was leaking from his chest, blood pouring out while cold air seeped in. The blood fell into his palm, instantly turning as icy as he felt. He sensed that his heart and lungs were empty and weightless, while his limbs and bones sank downward.
It was as if there was a barrier between him and his surroundings, and the intense headache returned, just like in his previous life, relentlessly tormenting him.
Sheng Lingyuan's knees buckled as he knelt beside the bronze coffin, his vision blurred and the face of Aluojin becoming indistinct.
The cool, damp air emanating from the coffin permeated through the tattered shroud woven with the 'Life-Death Flower', evoking a faint longing for rest.
Xuan Ji's heart tightened, and he instinctively walked towards him. After taking two steps, he suddenly realized what he was doing and was startled.
Xuan Ji was not one to waste time on unnecessary emotions, so he usually appeared quite amiable, but he was definitely not an unconditional "saint" who loved everything.
Based on Xuan Ji's understanding of himself, although he was not petty enough to take advantage of the situation and harm others, he was certainly not noble enough to repay evil with kindness - especially since this person had just attempted to murder him twice and almost bound him together with Aluojin.
But when he saw the demon spitting blood, his first reaction was to become illogically and uncharacteristically anxious and distressed.
Xuan Ji bit his tongue, trying to resist the mental infiltration of these demonic creatures, and coldly watched these two ancient demons summoned by the Yin Sacrifice ritual, thinking to himself: if they could bury each other in a coffin, wouldn't the world be at peace?
Sheng Lingyuan had his ears ringing, and for a moment, he almost lost consciousness, his gaze unable to focus, scattered in the void. From Xuan Ji's perspective, he could only see his hair, matted with blood, unable to guess what was beneath this skin.
Xuan Ji couldn't help but lose focus again, thinking to himself: it must take two hours to wash that hair once, right?
With a moment's distraction, he found that his legs seemed to have a mind of their own and, without waiting for instructions from his superiors, he took it upon himself to move towards the coffin.
Sheng Lingyuan was choked by his own blood and coughed, suppressing even the sound of his coughs, holding his breath as if afraid of disturbing something.
Xuan Ji became alert and clasped his own hands tightly - he had just felt a strange impulse to pull the person out of the coffin.
If it weren't for his unique constitution, he would have suspected that he had been possessed by a ghost.
Xuan Ji did his best to ignore the demon's heart-wrenching coughs, tearing his gaze away from the other person.
Inadvertently, he looked down and saw that his phone had a few weak signals. And just then, as if they were in sync, Ping Qianru's call came in.
"Connected, connected! Our director's phone is connected!"
While Wang Ze and the others were studying the well, Ping Qianru had been following Xiao Zheng's instructions and continuously trying to contact Xuan Ji. Her efforts paid off as the phone finally connected.
"Hello, Director Xuan! Can you hear me? We are with the comrades from 'Wind God' and will be there soon..."
Suddenly, Ping Qianru's voice choked up, and her face turned paler and uglier by the second.
Gu Yuexi couldn't help but turn around and ask, "What's wrong?"
Amidst everyone's puzzled looks, Ping Qianru slowly put down her phone and pressed the speaker button.
She couldn't hear Xuan Ji's voice on the other end, only static.
Upon closer listening, it was the sound of crying, faint and not just one person...
The sound of crying echoed through the fake forest, hanging on every paper-mache tree. The paper leaves rustled along with the sobs, while outside the forest, dozens of cannon barrels the size of bowls were aimed at the mountain where they were located.
The old man in Tang dynasty clothing spat on the ground and made a gesture. With a command, the mithril cannons all fired at once.
The mithril cannons bombarded the mountain with a fierce storm, causing the ground to crack open and tearing the well in half. The underground water was startled and gushed out.
Quick to react, Luo Cuicui crawled over to the water-type boss Wang Ze, while Yang Chao, who hadn't had time to escape further from the well, was swept away by the sudden violent water.
The rushing water also headed towards Ping Qianru, hitting her head-on.
Nearby, Gu Yuexi and Zhang Zhao both turned pale and rushed to save the aftermath department girl who couldn't react in time, but it was already too late.
The ground was crumbling, but somehow Ping Qianru didn't seem to be affected, whether it was because of her weight or just good luck. For some reason, a piece of rock from Dongchuan happened to jut out, forming a small dead angle that shielded her from the surging water. Zhang Zhao and Gu Yuexi, who had come to save her, also benefited from this lucky break, and the three of them looked at each other in disbelief.
Xuan Ji managed to connect with Ping Qianru's phone, but all he heard was a crackling noise. He held up his phone and spun around in place, unable to find a signal. Just as he was about to hang up, a loud noise suddenly rang out, and Xuan Ji couldn't tell if it was coming from the phone or outside.
What was going on? An earthquake?
Ping Qianru's voice was stuck in her throat, and she let out a loud cough: "You... beep--"
The whole mountain shook, and all the paper-covered plants on the mountain rustled.
A long sigh came from deep within the earth. The stone platform in the middle of the water pool in the altar tilted to one side, and the huge stone on top of the altar rolled down and smashed directly towards the two people next to the coffin.
Xuan Ji didn't have time to think much, and he quickly pulled Sheng Lingyuan away. Sheng Lingyuan was so dizzy that he almost lost his mind--this bastard was pulling his hair!
Sheng Lingyuan hadn't had a chance to speak yet, and the whole altar began to collapse. The huge stones fell one after another, and the bronze coffin lid that Aluojin had just closed was knocked away.
The water in the pool was stirred up, and the water rushed up, carrying the people and the coffin down together. On the stone platform lay the blood of Sheng Lingyuan, and with a splash of water, they were drenched from head to toe. As soon as they touched each other's blood, they were forced to connect through a "brainwave Bluetooth", and their chaotic thoughts exploded in each other's ears.
Sheng Lingyuan heard a string of foul language from Xuan Ji's mind and almost choked on the water.
The current pushed them in one direction, and Xuan Ji struggled to maintain balance while grabbing onto Sheng Lingyuan, who seemed to be sinking like a weight.
Sheng Lingyuan's face was pale, but his expression was calm.
If Xuan Ji hadn't sensed his true state through their connection, he would have thought that Sheng Lingyuan was numb to everything. Then, he heard a distant and blurry song from the other's mind. The melody sounded familiar to Xuan Ji, as if it was a childhood song of the witch tribe he had heard from Aluojin and Sheng Lingyuan. He couldn't explain why, but he felt like he understood the lyrics of the song. The melody repeated itself, swaying back and forth, following the flow of the huge vortex in the pool.
Xuan Ji remembered a historical book he had read about the Martial Emperor. The cover design was unremarkable and didn't catch his attention, but he stopped to open it because of the blurb on the cover. It read:
'Throughout your life, when you're trapped in a difficult situation, is there someone who can watch your back?
'When you reach the end of the road, is there someone who can take care of your wife and children?
'When you're at your wit's end, is there someone who can offer you a warm hearth?
'During festivals and banquets, besides the lanterns and crows on the wall, is there someone who can share a pot of leftover wine with you?'
The lyrics of the song and the words on the book cover seemed to overlap in Xuan Ji's mind, and he couldn't help but feel a sense of melancholy. Sheng Lingyuan clearly heard it, a faint laughter that seemed to find these questions absurd and not worth mentioning.
They didn't know where the water had carried them, along with countless white bones struggling in the water, emitting faint fluorescence before slowly extinguishing, like stars gradually falling silent at dawn.
With a loud splash, Xuan Ji's back hit the mountain rock. He grabbed onto a protruding stone and struggled to the surface, where he saw the moonlight.
The altar of the witch people, which had been sealed for thousands of years, slowly rose to the human world.
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