Sheng Lingyuan remained motionless, tilting his head to look at the carefree man who had walked up to him, stopping just within arm's reach.
The man calmly surveyed everyone around him before taking off his wristwatch - on the back of which was a hidden ancient brass compass.
The compass pointer slowly moved and pointed towards Sheng Lingyuan.
Just as it was about to stop, Sheng Lingyuan raised an eyebrow and the compass seemed to suddenly become frightened, its pointer spinning wildly like a mini fan in a burst of survival instinct.
The man seemed surprised by the compass's reaction, as if he had never seen anything like it before. He looked slightly puzzled when someone nearby called out in a low voice, "Mr. Nian, good morning."
As Mr. Nian turned around, he saw a person behind him wearing a large sun hat, lifting the brim to reveal a pair of fox-like eyes and a crimson tattoo on her forehead.
She was not particularly beautiful, but her eyes had a seductive quality. With a smile, she released a burst of charm towards Mr. Nian.
However, Mr. Nian was not interested in her advances. He coldly put his watch back on and turned around without a word, walking towards the vegetable market.
The woman didn't mind and followed him step by step, emitting a strange fragrance that passed by Sheng Lingyuan's nose.
"Fox clan?" Sheng Lingyuan whispered to himself as he looked at the two people, his gaze falling on the woman's back.
She was clearly of the same ancestry as the people in "Qingping Division," but her blood had been diluted to the point where her body was no different from that of a mortal. However, the demonic energy emanating from her was surprisingly strong, and even from five or six steps away, the fox-like aura surrounding her made Sheng Lingyuan feel a bit of a headache.
Her demonic energy and physique were not in sync. Either she was possessing someone, or... she had used some forbidden technique to refine her own demonic blood.
For three thousand years, the human race had ruled the world, yet there were still people who chose to turn towards the animal side instead of embracing their humanity?
With these two leading the way, the emperor was spared a lot of effort.
Mr. Nian and the vixen walked through the various stalls and headed straight to a garbage dump south of the market. The market itself already had a strong and pungent smell, but this place was like a toxic center. The people handling the garbage hurriedly went around it as much as possible.
"Even though we have the blood of gods and demons flowing through our veins, we are forced to live like this...what a world."
The female fox sighed softly and stood in front of a trash can at the very back. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a key with a silver card about half an inch square on the keychain. She waved it in front of an inconspicuous hole on the trash can, and a red light shot out.
With a "click," a manhole cover suddenly slid open to the side, revealing a set of stone steps below. The smell of decay and faint voices emanated from inside.
"After you, sir?"
The gentleman didn't hesitate and lifted the hem of his long coat, confidently leading the way down the stairs. Through a flight of stairs, they arrived at an underground tunnel. The tunnel was winding with several doors, and as they entered, the stench of the garbage dump was completely blocked out. A few clusters of incense were burning, emitting a cool and refreshing fragrance.
Surprisingly, this underground world was quite spacious, covering an area of about ten acres. There were several narrow paths for people to pass through, with small stalls and compartments on both sides, just like the layout of a ground-level market.
The underground market was only sparsely lit by night lights, illuminating the goods on the stalls. Both buyers and sellers were hidden in the darkness, only revealing their outlines, like a group of sinister and mysterious creatures.
Sheng Lingyuan scanned the area with his eyes. The closest stall to him was selling poorly crafted jade and silver items that still reeked of death, likely just dug up from a grave. Further ahead was a stall selling blood, with bottles and jars labeled "fake ones will be compensated tenfold, 100% virgin blood of boys and girls." Behind the stall were two wooden figurines with needle-filled arms, their poorly crafted expressions resembling a pair of little ghosts demanding the lives of their customers.
Mr. Nian and the female fox walked straight to the corner of a small booth, not looking around.
They stopped in front of it and a hoarse voice from inside asked, "Who's there?"
The female fox laughed and made a strange sound with her mouth.
Sheng Lingyuan narrowed his eyes slightly - it was the official language of the demon clan from three thousand years ago.
But the fox's imitation was stiff and awkward. The human vocal range was limited, and many of the sounds in the language of the demon race were impossible for them to produce, let alone hear. Despite her strong demonic aura, the vixen was still in human form and her attempt at speaking demon language was off-key. Sheng Lingyuan could barely make out the words "true god" and a few numbers.
As soon as she finished speaking, the wooden door of the adjacent room creaked open.
Sheng Lingyuan silently chuckled - the witch's spells that had been hidden by the bustling market suddenly became apparent. There was more than one person in the room who had encountered the human-faced butterfly.
It was all too easy to find them here.
The door of the small room was covered in layers of soundproof and light-avoiding talismans, with a line of blood-red characters written on it: "Those who come uninvited will die."
In the room, right in front of the door, there was a table with a strange beast statue on it - a dragon head, bird wings, snake body, and tiger tail, with its mouth open as if ready to devour someone. The one who opened the door was an old man with shifty eyes and a thieving look.
He peeked at the two and said, "Kneel down and come in."
The vixen didn't hesitate and knelt down, giving a few loud knocks to the "beast statue" on the table.
She almost crawled into the room in a prostrate position. The faint light coming from the room illuminated the doorway, revealing two rows of small spiders on the door frame, each no more than half an inch in size, motionless and clinging there. At first glance, they looked like decorative carvings. The doorway was covered in spider webs, shimmering with an ominous blue light. The spiders were probably a poisonous substance that could kill with a single bite.
Only a space as big as a dog hole was left at the very bottom for people to pass through. Anyone entering or leaving this door must bow and crawl on their knees.
Mr. Nian paused subtly, waiting until the person opening the door had looked at him before taking off his coat and neatly folding it at the entrance. He then removed the metal piece from around his neck and tucked it into his shirt pocket before bowing and kneeling to enter the room. It was unclear how he managed to kneel so gracefully, even with his back straight and without any hint of fear or reverence towards the "god" on the altar.
The old man who opened the door was not pleased with Mr. Nian's posture and let out a cold snort before slamming the door shut as soon as he entered.
Sheng Lingyuan strolled over with interest and noticed the door was engraved with ominous patterns.
"Ah, it's a Necrotic Curse."
The so-called "Necrotic Curse" is actually a very ancient anti-tomb robbery formation. Once the formation is formed, the door can only be opened from the inside, otherwise it will be eroded by the Necrotic Curse. It seems that someone has been taking turns to guard inside since the day it was built.
However, Sheng Lingyuan just laughed and arrogantly ignored the Necrotic Curse. He pushed the door open a little bit and squeezed in.
As soon as he touched the door, a knife wound suddenly appeared on his neck, and in an instant, his head was separated from his body!
Sheng Lingyuan didn't flinch, as if he didn't feel any pain. In the next moment, black mist emerged from the seams of his bones, blocking the blood that hadn't had a chance to spurt out. The mist seamlessly sealed the wound. As for the deadly spider silk at the door, it was no match for the toxicity of the black mist on his body. The spider web was corroded to nothingness upon contact with the mist, leaving two rows of spiders stunned and motionless on the door frame.
Having his head chopped off and then reattached seemed like a mere triviality to Sheng Lingyuan.
In a flash, his illusionary technique remained completely unaffected. To those inside the room, it appeared as if the door had not been closed tightly and was merely blown open by the wind, leaving a small gap. Inside the room, besides the vixen and Mr. Nian, there were three or four other people.
The autumn air was chilly and damp, and these individuals were all wrapped in tattered cloaks. Without any tables or chairs, they knelt on the ground around the altar just like the vixen. Although they were all human, they emitted a strong demonic aura.
Sheng Lingyuan wiped away the remaining blood on his neck and looked at the "deity" on the altar, suddenly revealing a strange expression. This seemingly mixed-up creature was actually an old acquaintance from his past life - the demon king Jiu Xun, who was his archenemy during the great battle of the Nine Provinces.
A group of people awkwardly imitated the language of the demon race and worshipped the ancient demon king who had been dead for three thousand years... What was wrong with them?
Sheng Lingyuan absentmindedly licked the blood off his fingers and glanced at the several people beside the altar.
If it were three thousand years ago, these individuals would have been executed and their families wiped out. The vixen stood up and closed the door she had just opened. A sudden chill ran down her back as she looked around, but she couldn't see anything unusual.
She couldn't help but complain, "Couldn't you prepare some warmers for your guests? It's so cold in here."
The old man who had opened the door for them earlier replied in a hoarse voice, "You're leaving Dongchuan soon anyway, so just make do."
The vixen knelt down at the altar and said, "I miscalculated. I thought that with the appearance of the heavenly demon, Dongchuan would fall into our hands. Who knew that the traitors from the Bureau would bring in outside help and burn the demon summoned by the Yin Sacrifice ritual without even breaking a sweat? I mean, did the ritual go wrong? Are they really heavenly demons if they're that weak?"
One of the cloaked figures by the altar replied, "The offerings and rituals for each Yin Sacrifice ritual were vastly different. After all, this practice has been lost for thousands of years. Although we received a 'divine oracle' and reconstructed the ritual, there may still be discrepancies in our understanding and execution. Moreover, the demon we are summoning this time is said to be a chief from an ancient clan called the 'Witch Clan,' who turned into a demon after his tribe was wiped out. He didn't accomplish much in his life and died unjustly at a young age, so his combat abilities may not be strong.
"Additionally, the sacrificial offering and the summoned demon should come from the same source, but since the Witch Clan has been wiped out, we can only use a subpar product marked with the 'Butterfly Curse' as a substitute. It may not be a successful ceremony, but we can consider it as a learning experience. We'll definitely do better next time...right, Mr. Nian?"
Mr. Nian didn't kneel, nor did he bother to exchange pleasantries with the people in the room. He stood stiffly in the corner, listening intently.
When he heard enough, he didn't bother with small talk and simply extended his hand, demanding, "Enough with the chit-chat, I'm here for the goods. Have you brought them?"
The cloaked figures stared at him with a mixture of scrutiny and malice.
One of them spoke up in a sharp tone, "Well, well, well, look who we have here! A high-class gentleman like you shouldn't be mingling with us rats. So why are you holding your nose and crawling through the sewers?"
Mr. Nian's dark gaze fell upon the provocateur, and the atmosphere grew even more hostile.
The cloaked figure stood up and approached him, spitting out fiercely, "Listen here, gentleman. You better get your head straight. Right now, you're the one who needs us. So who do you think you're trying to intimidate?"
As he spoke, two other daggers at his waist suddenly jumped up. The blades twisted and turned, elongating like two tongues, wrapping around the cloaked figure's own neck. The sharp edge pressed against his jugular vein, and before the cloaked figure could take another breath, the blade had already cut through his skin.
He panicked and held his breath.
Mr. Nian remained calm, slowing down his speech and repeating, "I said, did you bring the thing?"
The room fell silent, and one of the cloaked figures quickly pulled out a small pottery box from his body and pushed it two meters away to Mr. Nian's feet.
Mr. Nian bent down to pick it up. He opened it and glanced inside, nodding without hesitation. "Thank you."
The vixen quickly put on a smile and said, "Mr. Nian, we are all on the same side. If our brother misspoke, please forgive him..."
Mr. Nian's gaze swept over her like a sharp blade, freezing the smile on the vixen's face. Without a word, he turned and opened the door, walking out.
A few cloaked figures jumped up in a panic, carefully holding the blade and freeing the unlucky guy who was entangled by the "knife snake".
One of the cloaked figures muttered under his breath, afraid that Mr. Nian hadn't gone far, "This damn dog! If it weren't for the fact that the sacrificial offering of the Yin Sacrifice ritual and the summoned demon need to be of the same origin, we wouldn't need him. He won't be able to walk out of here today if it weren't for that. Hua Hu, what are you still looking at? Haven't you seen a man before? Can't take your eyes off him this dog person?"
"No..." The vixen, Hua Hu, said in a daze, "Did he just...walk out standing up?"
As she spoke, she carefully opened the door and looked towards the entrance, "Where's the spider web?"
In a corner of the room, Sheng Lingyuan watched coldly with a smirk on his face.
Just as his concealment spell expired, his figure slowly emerged from the darkness.
But before he could step out of the shadows, he suddenly felt something and paused, looking down at the ground.
The next moment, a deafening alarm sounded from the underground secret chamber beneath the market - dozens of undercover Wind God special forces had raided the market, surrounding the area where the Dongchuan underground black market was located, based on the addresses provided by the illegal henchmen of Master Yue De.
Xuan Ji was a regular at the market and felt right at home there. He casually took a drag on his cigarette and strolled past the various stalls, checking out the prices.
He let out a puff of smoke and remarked, "Prices here are lower than in Yong'an. If only I had known earlier, I would have stayed in the south. Sure, there's no heating, but it's still better than having any other problems."
Wang Ze couldn't help but glance at him.
Although Wang Ze usually appeared indifferent, he was actually a careful person. He had noticed early on that Xuan Ji didn't smell like smoke. When arranging accommodations, he had asked if Xuan Ji wanted a smoking room, to which he had replied with a nonchalant "either is fine."
Even when on business trips, Xuan Ji didn't have the habit of bringing enough cigarettes with him. The pack he had on him was one that Wang Ze had seen him buy downstairs at the hotel.
All in all, Wang Ze felt that Xuan Ji belonged to the type of "social smoker" who would strike a pose but didn't have an addiction. He would follow along and smoke just to fit in with others, but in a smoke-free environment, he didn't need that one puff to satisfy his craving.
But today, the journey from Dongchuan branch to the black market scene took less than forty minutes, and he had already smoked three cigarettes. People who don't have a serious addiction to smoking shouldn't be smoking at this frequency.
Wang Ze couldn't help but feel that Xuan Ji's aura was much more melancholic than when they first met a few days ago. Although his style of dealing with people hadn't changed, his gaze was subtly different, and Wang Ze didn't know how to describe it. He just felt that a few days ago, Xuan Ji gave the impression that his attention was always "outside," his gaze following the wind, even if he was silent, he was still observing something with interest.
But recently - especially today - Xuan Ji's outward attention seemed to suddenly turn inward, as if he had something on his mind, and that pensive look gave him a sense of detachment that he couldn't quite put into words.
Wang Ze half-jokingly probed, "Director Xuan, you've been smoking a lot these past few days."
Xuan Ji vaguely exhaled smoke and his eyelids drooped. "Pressure is like a father's love...the mountain is so big. I used to do well in small businesses with ordinary people. Why did I have to think outside the box and come to the Bureau? I've only been working for less than a month and I'm working more overtime than I have in the past six months. I'm almost mentally exhausted...oh, has your second team leader already taken her place in the sky? The X-ray vision is really convenient."
Dealing with the underground world, X-ray vision is like a human scanner. At this moment, Gu Yuexi was flying above them on a plane, implementing strict 'security measures' on the Dongchuan vegetable market. She saw through layers of disguide on the structure of the black market underground and quickly drew a map to pass on to her colleagues on the ground.
With a single gesture from Wang Ze, the Wind God agents darted off in all directions like schools of fish. In less than three minutes, the vanguard members of the Wind God team had placed their special explosive equipment on the focal points of various exits in the black market. After a countdown of three, four or five focal points simultaneously exploded. The light and sound of the explosions were all contained within the barrier, and the unsuspecting people in the vegetable market were completely unaware.
Only the water in the fish market trembled slightly for a moment, and all the live fish instantly gathered in the direction away from the explosion. A fishmonger scooped up an empty net and blinked in confusion.
With a loud explosion, the alarm bells in the underground black market went off, startling all kinds of demons and monsters hidden in the darkness. After coming to their senses, they all scurried away in a panic.
Sheng Lingyuan clicked his tongue in annoyance, not bothering to compete with the descendants of the "Qingping Division" to catch these criminals. He calmly retracted his hand and cast another illusion on himself before leaving with the frightened female fox.
The special agents of the Wind God illuminated the underground black market, their lights passing through Sheng Lingyuan's body without any deviation. As soon as he emerged from the small compartment, he saw Mr. Nian - his body covered in a layer of metal, like a quiet bronze statue standing at the street corner, his breath as still as a dead object.
The Wind God's field agent who came to raid was actually fooled. He thought the "bronze statue" was just a decoration and moved it out as an unimportant contraband, placing it among the pile of blood-filled jars from the 'fake ones will be compensated tenfold' stall. This happened to be when Wang Ze and Xuan Ji were not around.
While the Wind God's field agent was turning his back to guard the contraband, Mr. Nian quickly peeled off the metal skin on his body.
The metal turned into a steel knife and flew back into his boot in the blink of an eye.
Suddenly, the pile of odds and ends was missing a bronze statue.
Mr. Nian blended into the crowd, putting on his coat and pulling out a pair of sunglasses from his pocket.
He calmly walked away from the Wind God's encirclement.
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