The world is like a fiery hell, and those with deep emotions have sins that cannot be forgiven - Foreword.
Sheng Lingyuan wandered around the downtown area of Dongchuan for a long time.
He followed the square in front of the hotel and walked all the way to the inner river of Dongchuan. In the evening, the boats in the river were crowded together like dumplings, and the ticket windows were still crowded with people. Along the river, there were small bands playing music from time to time.
The evening breeze lifted a strand of Sheng Lingyuan's long hair, damp with the scent of milk tea.
Sheng Lingyuan sat on a bench, gazing at the opposite bank of the river, allowing a few photography enthusiasts to include him in their night scene composition.
Carrying a cup of hot cocoa that he had traded his smile for, he felt like he had gotten the short end of the stick. The drink was sticky and had a strange bittersweet taste, not nearly as good as the bubbly "black water" he had tried before.
But he couldn't bring himself to throw it away and slowly sipped it until the very end. Although the taste was less than desirable, it was filling and could be a lifesaver during times of famine. He had experienced hunger during his childhood, and even though he had been practicing fasting for years, he still couldn't bear to waste food.
At 7:30 pm, several lights illuminated the stage, and the special water performance of the peak tourist season in Dongchuan began. Although traditional opera was considered a "traditional art," the old demon was even more traditional than tradition itself. The water-themed opera performance was too modern for him, so he stared blankly at the long-sleeved water sleeves with the young Westernized youths by the river, feeling foolish and youthful.
The young people clapped and then began editing their photos on the spot. Sheng Lingyuan was lost in thought as he listened to the singing. He remembered that he was picked up by the old chief on the other side of the river many years ago.
Three thousand years ago, the inner river of Dongchuan City was the border of the witch people. The stones under the riverbed were covered with spells, and there were dense forests and mazes with mist. Even insects and beasts would avoid the riverbanks, and there were many creepy legends.
Nowadays, it has become such a lively place. The old chief had a kind heart and often thought of the suffering of his fellow human beings. However, he was bound by ancestral traditions and could not leave the mountain to save the world, so he would always sigh.
If he saw this scene, would he be pleased or would he become as resentful as Aluojin?
Sheng Lingyuan sat by the river, lost in thought until late into the night. As the crowds dispersed and the river lanterns gradually dimmed, he finally learned to imitate the actions of mortals and got up to dispose of his empty paper cup in a nearby trash can.
Then, following the breath of the witchcraft spell he had written himself, he merged into the darkness of the night.
Xiao Zheng lived in a single room. After the lights were turned off, the nurse came in to check on him and inspected the doors and windows before leaving to rest, leaving only the faint ticking of the clock in the ward. After a while, even the voices in the hallway had died down.
Suddenly, Xiao Zheng opened his eyes, wide awake, and reached under his pillow for the "witch people's spell" that Xuan Ji had given him. As soon as Xiao Zheng touched the object, it flashed once and then remained still.
It looked unremarkable, like a mischievous doodle. Xiao Zheng didn't dare to wipe it with his hand, afraid of damaging the faint pencil marks. Just in case, he used the scanning software on his phone to scan the spell - as Xuan Ji, the birdman, had said, the power of the spell was in the writing on it, whether it was written or printed didn't matter.
The "Mirror Flower Water Moon Butterfly" was also a kind of witchcraft, so there was a corresponding "spell" that could accurately detect who had abused the butterfly - in other words, this was a "test paper".
With it, whoever has made use of the illusory butterfly, will be revealed as clearly as a louse on a bald man's head. No need for wild guesses or strenuous internal investigations.
The case of decades of falsified casualty data in the Bureau will become clear as day with just a simple inquiry.
As long as he wants to investigate.
Previously, the investigation into the butterfly incident was slow and secretive, and it could be said that it was to avoid disturbing military morale and causing social panic.
Now...that excuse is gone.
Xuan Ji, the capable "aftermath department Director," was too efficient. In no time, he found the source of the butterfly and even dug up the mysterious witches' tomb.
For a moment, Xiao Zheng almost resented his old friend.
Xuan Ji was being sly, deliberately avoiding eye contact as he handed the paper over, clearly indicating that it was up to the recipient to deal with. He could destroy the paper if he wanted to, pretending that the curse didn't exist, especially since that "witches' tomb" had already been blown to smithereens by disciples of the Yue De Sect.
But... could he really act like nothing had happened?
Could he pretend that he had never seen this curse, that he was a pure and untainted young talent, and that those respected seniors had never touched any forbidden lines?
In the quiet of the night, Xiao Zheng's mind was a mess. Perhaps it was the poor quality of the hotel's notepad, or perhaps it was his subconscious desire to keep something hidden.
As he drifted off, he accidentally tore a small slit in the notepad, right through the middle of the incantation.
The tear destroyed the integrity of the spell, and the mysterious power that had been written on the paper disappeared instantly.
Although he didn't fully understand the principles of the witch's spell, Xiao Zheng's extensive experience as a field agent told him that the incantation was now useless.
He stared at the ruined spell with a complex expression, then hid it under his pillow.
Perhaps... this was fate?
He took out his phone and messaged Xuan Ji, but stopped after typing just one word: "you". He didn't know what else to say.
After a moment, he deleted the draft, turned off his phone, and tried to force himself to sleep. That birdman may be skilled in everything from singing to joking, but when it's time to shut up, he can definitely keep his mouth shut.
Xiao Zheng knew that if he acted like nothing happened, Xuan Ji wouldn't say a word about it.
At most, their relationship would become a little more distant.
A dark cloud drifted lightly over the sky above Dongchuan, covering the frosty stars and moon.
For a moment, the night outside the window became even darker, as if a sinister fog had risen.
Unaware, Xiao Zheng lay in the clean and bright single room of the hospital. In the half-empty space outside the window, a pale hand, like that of a dead person, slowly reached out from the black mist and approached the cold window sill.
A gust of wind slipped through the crack in the window and lifted the curtain slightly.
Just as the hand was about to touch the glass, Xiao Zheng, who had been "asleep," suddenly sat up straight as if possessed, and pulled up the spell he had scanned on his phone. He stared at it with bloodshot eyes for a while, then grabbed the nearby laptop and imported the scan, effortlessly creating a transparent watermark.
In the middle of the night, he logged into the office network and quietly placed the invisible watermark on the clock-in system page - the clock-in system of the Bureau was divided into two types: those who clocked in at the machine and those who were responsible for logging in to the internal network to clock in for completing field tasks. After a successful task, the page would display this information.
After finishing up, Xiao Zheng stared at the page for a while, then quickly edited an email and added the spell watermark to the text before sending it out to a group. These types of group emails are usually administrative notices, including information about salaries, benefits, and even retirees and those who have resigned will receive them.
When the notification of successful email delivery popped up, Xiao Zheng knew he had no room for regret. He took a deep breath and reached for his smuggled cigarette box and lighter, intending to calm down by opening the window. However, out of the corner of his eye, he suddenly caught sight of a black shadow by the window.
A light laughter echoed, followed by a person stepping out of the darkness, silently and without a sound, with a face identical to the demon in Chiyuan.
In an instant, Xiao Zheng's goosebumps rose and adrenaline rushed - a big demon struck by lightning in the middle of the night, appearing like a ghost story...
Moreover, this is the special ward of the Bureau, with closed doors and windows, covered in spells and energy monitors. How did he get in?
But the newcomer just smiled and waved at him, saying, "Don't be afraid."
With a snap of his fingers, the bedside lamp lit up, illuminating the figure in front of Xiao Zheng. The person was dressed in a white tracksuit with "47th Autumn Sports Games of Dongchuan Branch Bureau" written on the chest.
Xiao Zheng sniffed and recognized the scent of hotel shampoo - a familiar smell since his father owned the hotel that had a long-term partnership with the branch bureau, offering them a 30% discount on annual accommodation fees.
Xiao Zheng was initially suspicious, and his guard did not waver as he asked, "Are you... Xuan Ji's' sword spirit?"
The "night attacker" turned out to be Sheng Lingyuan, who gestured kindly towards Xiao Zheng's injured leg and said, "You don't look well, please have a seat and let's talk."
Xiao Zheng was speechless.
He felt that he was a guest who should thank the host for giving him a seat as soon as he entered.
Director Xiao had never encountered such an uninvited guest who was so unassuming.
Xiao Zheng had a talisman in his hand that he had taken out of his hospital gown pocket.
So far, sword spirits were still a rare and unknown existence. They had a high degree of autonomy, with their own way of thinking and behavior. It was said that if the owner's control was not strong enough, the spirit could not only resist orders but also devour the owner.
Xiao Zheng cautiously asked, "Did Xuan Ji send you? Where is he?"
Sheng Lingyuan's expression was gentle, but his gaze was like two narrow knives.
Xiao Zheng had the illusion that he had been scrutinized from his flesh to his soul.
Without answering the question, the "sword spirit" asked with curiosity, "What were you doing just now? Did you release the witches' spell?" Sheng Lingyuan spoke Mandarin clearly enough to be understood, but with a strange emphasis and tone.
Xiao Zheng knew that this was an ancient sword and he probably couldn't explain what "clock-in systems" or "emails" were, so he simply nodded and said, "As soon as it gets light, most people in the Bureau system can access this hidden spell. Xuan Ji said that those who have touched the Mirror Flower Water Moon Butterfly will have a mark on their forehead. It's okay if a few slip through the cracks, our bureau's spiritual interrogation technology is very complete, as long as they have internal transactions, we can quickly interrogate them."
Although he had spoken in a simple manner, Mr. "Sword Spirit" still seemed to not understand.
He scrutinized Xiao Zheng for a moment and said something that didn't quite match up: "From your voice and appearance, I can tell that you are hot-headed and full of energy. Your destiny is bright and clear, and your ancestors must have had great blessings. Although you may encounter some obstacles, they will ultimately turn into good fortune."
Xiao Zheng listened in confusion, thinking to himself, 'What a bunch of nonsense! Does this sword have an automatic fortune-telling function?'
Suddenly, his vision blurred and the sword spirit that had been several meters away from him appeared in front of him in an instant. Xiao Zheng didn't have time to react before his wrist, which was holding the talisman, was wrapped in black mist.
Sheng Lingyuan lightly tapped his forehead and Xiao Zheng felt like he had turned into a human bottle. A bunch of cold water poured into his forehead and washed over his entire body, cleansing his internal organs with its icy breath.
He shuddered uncontrollably and a gray lump flew out of his forehead, which Sheng Lingyuan caught in his hand.
Xiao Zheng felt a lightness in his body and a sense that he had been restored to his "factory settings".
Not only had the injuries from possession and lightning disappeared, but years of accumulated pain and hidden wounds had also been cleansed away. He felt healthier than ever before, with boundless energy coursing through his body. He could immediately check out of the hospital and go for a run.
Suddenly, he widened his eyes and exclaimed, "You..."
A small ball of grey had flown out from between Xiao Zheng's eyebrows and trembled in Sheng Lingyuan's palm. He lowered his head and sniffed it lightly, "Hmm? A fishy smell... from a demon?"
Using a refined tone, Xiao Zheng didn't understand and asked, "What?"
Sheng Lingyuan flicked his hand and the grey ball disintegrated into smoke, but there was still a faint scream coming from inside. After finishing, he smiled at Xiao Zheng. He had used some kind of spiritual attack, and Xiao Zheng was momentarily dazed.
In that instant, he had a desire to entrust his life and everything to Sheng Lingyuan.
In a blink of an eye, the 'sword spirit' had vanished into thin air in the hospital room.
Only the scent of hotel shampoo remained. Xiao Zheng shuddered violently and quickly checked the room inside and out three times - all the talismans and magic circles were untouched, the doors and windows were locked, and the energy detector was as quiet as a chicken with all the lights off.
It seemed like he had imagined everything.
Xiao Zheng felt like he was going crazy, "This can't be...this can't be!"
Suddenly, he remembered something - wait! As a Thunder and Fire ability user, he was still in the room, so how could the energy detector be completely off?
He quickly walked to the window and picked up the energy detector, only to discover that the instrument had overloaded and short-circuited!
Xiao Zheng slowly lifted his head. The thick fog outside the window had dissipated, and his shocked face was reflected in the glass window.
When he was a child, he fell and had to get four stitches on his forehead. With a raised eyebrow, a faint, slender scar could be seen... but now, that scar had disappeared.
At the same time, with a "sizzle," black smoke emerged from the laptop on his bedside table, and the screen went black.
Xiao Zheng wiped his face and grabbed the phone, dialing Xuan Ji's number.
As a aftermath department staff, Xuan Ji didn't have the habit of being on call 24/7.
His phone was on silent at night, and when he received a call, the screen only lit up quietly, casting a fluorescent glow on his face. He furrowed his brow and showed no intention of waking up, as if he was trapped in a nightmare.
At the edge of the Chiyuan altar in the remote southwest, where three stone tablets have already been shattered, the fourth stone tablet began to move on its own, and fine sand began to fall.
Lately, Xuan Ji has been having particularly frequent and eerie dreams. He looked down at his flame-colored robe and wondered what kind of fashion statement this "sleepwear" was supposed to be.
How could he possibly sleep in something so dazzling?
Just then, his feet began to move on their own, dragging him in a certain direction.
"Hey, I'm not wearing any shoes!" Xuan Ji exclaimed.
But in his dream, he seemed to be a puppet controlled by some unseen force.
His neon-like body paid no attention to his own will, and he walked barefoot across the cold stone slabs, silently entering a building that looked very much like a palace. Outside the main hall, a servant who looked like a guard was nodding off, but suddenly jolted awake as if he had heard something. He glanced over at Xuan Ji, who was startled, thinking he had been caught.
"Please don't let this 'neon light' be a thief," he thought.
However, the guard seemed to not see him at all, his eyes unfocused as he looked right through Xuan Ji and then around the room before yawning and closing his eyes again. To everyone else, Xuan Ji was invisible.
He paused for a moment, then continued to go deeper into the palace. As he entered the inner hall, it appeared to be a bedroom with a beautifully carved bed buried under layers of silk curtains, exuding an air of luxury and decadence. However, something felt off about the room.
As Xuan Ji followed his body forward, he carefully observed his surroundings. He noticed that the fireplace in the corner of the room had gone out, but no one had come to add more charcoal. He immediately realized that something was wrong. In such a large palace, there was not even half a servant around. It was eerily quiet, and even the braziers were left unattended at night.
He couldn't help but think about the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. Lost in thought, the 'neon light' that Xuan Ji was possessing had already walked to the bedside. Like a ghost, it passed through the gauze curtains and finally stopped, quietly gazing down at the person in the bed.
With the light from his own body, Xuan Ji could see the person on the bed clearly.
He was lying flat, and even in his sleep, he seemed to be frowning anxiously. His handsome features were filled with a menacing aura.
Xuan Ji was shocked - the owner of the palace was actually Sheng Lingyuan... Sheng Xiao!
"So, is this the legendary 'Du Ling Palace'?"
Xuan Ji's curiosity was about to explode, but his body seemed to be stuck in place, staring motionlessly at Sheng Lingyuan. He didn't know how long he had been staring when suddenly he stumbled forward. He seemed to be unable to bear the weight and hunched over, then stumbled and collapsed on the bed, only two fingers away from the bedroom owner, even pressing against a strand of Sheng Lingyuan's hair.
Xuan Ji gasped for breath again. Perhaps because he was too immersed in the situation, he was almost as nervous as this guy who was sneaking around in the middle of the night.
"How can he be so brazen?"
But the next moment, he realized that either the bed was too hard or there was something else going on, as he sat on it without leaving any indentation.
Sheng Lingyuan on the bed didn't react at all. The 'neon light' was like a real ghost, invisible and weightless.
Suddenly, he heard the 'neon light' sigh and speak in a soft and elegant voice, "Today we part ways, and I'm afraid we won't see each other again in this lifetime."
Sheng Lingyuan didn't react, but his brows furrowed even tighter. Xuan Ji noticed that 'he' couldn't control his arm, and a trembling hand emerged from under the fiery red robe.
The hand hung in the air for a while before gently landing on Sheng Lingyuan's cheek, caressing his ghostly face with great care. Xuan Ji shuddered with goosebumps, while Sheng Lingyuan slept like a dead man, unresponsive to the touch.
Xuan Ji was in a state of utter embarrassment, desperately trying to pull his hand back from 'Neon Light's' grasp. His hand refused to listen to him, not only refusing to come back but also tilting his entire body forward.
"Stop leaning forward!" he pleaded.
"Wait! What are you doing?" he exclaimed.
"Lingyuan..." he muttered.
He uttered those two words, lightly pressing down.
Then, to Xuan Ji's dismay, his dream persona lowered his head and, with reverence, gently...pressed his lips against the dry, pale lips of the Emperor.
Xuan Ji couldn't help but exclaim "What the hell?!" in his mind.
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