From a few meters away, Wang Ze couldn't bring himself to swim over and check on Yan Qiushan. He let Gu Yuexi push him aside and rushed over in a panic.
Wang Ze stood frozen in the icy cold water of the early morning, suddenly afraid that Yan Qiushan might be dead, but also a little afraid that he might still be alive.
Images of Yan Qiushan's final smile kept flashing through his mind. If he were in Yan Qiushan's position, Wang Ze thought, anyone who dared to carelessly try to rescue him would receive a big slap in the face.
At this moment, Gu Yuexi had already shivered and pushed away the bubbles on her body, wiping away the blood under her eyelids. She stared at Yan Qiushan with her big rabbit eyes, and after a moment, she hooked the bubbles wrapped around him and swam towards the speedboat.
"He has three fractures and internal bleeding. We need to get him to the hospital right away! Captain Wang, why are you just standing there?"
Hearing her words, Wang Ze was stunned for a moment, but then he snapped out of it. He didn't care about his dignity as a water-type expert and quickly swam over, creating waves as he went.
He grabbed the double-layered air bubble and pulled Yan Qiushan onto the boat, shouting, "Back to land, quickly!"
"Wait, he also has a broken rib on his right side."
"Find something to stabilize the broken bone first. There's a first aid kit on the boat!"
"What about these two?" Zhang Zhao pointed to the wooden puppet girl and the blind man not far away - Snake Skin, who was also a water-type ability user, had already escaped during the chaos, and the blind man had fainted. The wooden puppet girl was already injured in the tomb of the Mountain prince, with her limbs disabled and her movements restricted.
At this moment, she was trapped in a bubble, curling up nervously.
"Tie them up and take them away, don't worry about them. Is there anyone who knows first aid or has healing abilities?"
"He's too badly injured. We need to get back to the surface as soon as possible. Find a way to clear the floating corpses in the water, there are too many blocking our way..."
As he was moving, Yan Qiushan was disturbed by voices and blearily opened his eyes. His gaze was empty yet relieved as he looked up at the starry sky, like a bug trapped in a glass jar. His companions were trying to persuade him to stay, but he paid no attention, impatiently staring at the train schedule to another world, holding a ticket that was already three years late.
His heart was set on going.
Sheng Lingyuan was not afraid of falling into the water.
He lightly stepped on the edge of the boat, as if floating in mid-air. The sea breeze swept through his wet hair, making him look like a water spirit. With a cold gaze, he watched the Wind Gods in chaos.
Sheng Lingyuan reached out and brushed his hand, causing the seawater on his body to freeze and then crack with a "crack" as he casually flicked it away.
"Noisy," Sheng Lingyuan looked at Yan Qiushan and thought to himself, "The dead are almost being awakened by the noise."
Although Yan Qiushan may seem foolish, he was not stupid. He had already figured out that there was something suspicious about his broken sword, and he had no intention of simply presiding over the Yin Sacrifice ritual.
However, it was clear that the other side was not completely unprepared for him either. In the end, Yan Qiushan didn't even know who the real heavenly demon among the Mountain people was.
The person behind the scenes may have learned from the lessons of the previous two times and used him as a decoy. So who was the real demon?
Sheng Lingyuan did not inform the busy Wind God - he couldn't be bothered, as these ants were not much help anyway. He silently released his divine sense and delved into the turbulent waters to investigate. The heavenly demon of the Mountain clan was buried in this graveyard for some special reason and had no physical body.
He thought these people had come for his soul, and Yan Qiushan's body, which carried the blood of the Mountain people, was the perfect vessel for the demon to possess. Yan Qiushan's body was decent, but it was far from strong enough to bear the weight of a heavenly demon.
If the demon tried to force itself in, it would be like trying to fit into a pair of small shoes. Sheng Lingyuan had planned to wait until they were done and then come out to kill them both, saving himself the trouble.
But then Xuan Ji and the "Qingping Division" caught up with them, and one mishap led to another. Now, Wei Yun'a tomb had been opened, and it seemed that someone else was in charge of the Yin Sacrifice ritual.
Who could it be?
And where would the heavenly demon's soul attach itself?
This was going to be troublesome... Just then, the speedboat hit a floating corpse, causing a jolt that made Xuan Ji sit up like a fake corpse.
His spirit seemed to still be trapped in a nightmare from three thousand years ago, and he blurted out in a panic, "Lingyuan!"
Sheng Lingyuan looked at him with confusion.
Who was this little brat calling out to?
The icy night wind carried a stench of decay and saltiness, hitting Xuan Ji in the face. He was stunned for a moment, struggling to remember where he was.
He looked down at his hands, which were still there, as were his eyes and his pounding heart.
He was a tall and sturdy man, not the little bird that had just been hatched from its shell in his dream. Xuan Ji couldn't tell if the sudden memories flooding his mind were a dream or if he had actually slept for ten years. His mind was in disarray, and he clutched his forehead in confusion.
And then there was the strange vision he had just experienced underwater. He wasn't sure if it was due to lack of oxygen, but he had a vision of Sheng Lingyuan, and that person...
Sheng Lingyuan had been waiting nearby for quite some time, but Xuan Ji seemed lost in his own thoughts and didn't acknowledge him.
After a while, Sheng Lingyuan couldn't help but ask, "What's the matter?"
Suddenly, a gust of sea breeze caught Xuan Ji off guard, causing him to cough and sputter.
Sheng Lingyuan dried off the water and ice on his body, but his clothes were stiff from the cold, making him uncomfortable.
He looked down at Xuan Ji for a moment, pondering to himself: "This little demon is clearly transformed from the bones of the Vermilion Bird. How did he learn the language of the merfolk?"
In theory, even if their so-called "Fire-keepers" had a lineage, the first generation of Fire-keepers would have only emerged after the Vermilion Bird seal had taken shape. At that time, both the mermaids and the Mountain people had long since become historical ashes, and those who could speak the language of the merfolk, this obscure language, had already died out.
Could it be that the bones of the Vermilion Bird still retained memories from its life?
The fact that the bone seals could become spirits was already incredible enough for Sheng Lingyuan, but the idea that the Vermilion Bird bones could retain memories from their past lives was simply unbelievable.
After all, dead things were dead things, and bones were just bones, no different from chicken bones or fish bones that were spat out after a meal. Moreover, when he had chosen the bones from the Vermilion Bird tomb to carve the seals, he had specifically picked out the protruding bones from their chests and bellies for convenience.
A bird couldn't possibly have thirty-six chests, so he had taken a little bit from each member of their entire clan. Even if the Vermilion Bird was a divine bird, how could memories be left on dead bones?
And whose memories would these thirty-six fragments have?
Furthermore, how was this little demon able to break his seal?
Sheng Lingyuan instantly appeared behind Xuan Ji, looking down at him with a lowered gaze.
Xuan Ji was caught off guard and jumped in surprise.
In the next moment, a cold finger pinned him in place and he instinctively held his breath. Sheng Lingyuan lifted his chin, his clear irises slightly drooping at the corners.
When he stared at something, his gaze was both focused and melancholic. As long as he didn't go crazy, even if he was staring at a piece of poop, he could make it seem like he was gazing at something with deep affection.
"What's wrong?" Sheng Lingyuan's finger slid up from Xuan Ji's jawline, brushing past his temple as he squinted. "Do we have any other connections besides this?"
Xuan Ji grabbed his hand that was pressed against his own solar plexus, a burst of flame shooting out from his hand and shattering the black mist that was about to invade his mind.
As he squeezed Sheng Lingyuan's hand, it felt like a block of ice, causing his skin to tingle and his insides to burn, making him tremble uncontrollably.
Sheng Lingyuan felt uneasy at Xuan Ji's inexplicable expression, so he released his hand.
As the fire-keeper, Sheng Lingyuan didn't want to see Xuan Ji constantly risking his life.
He subtly reminded him, "Before you act impulsively in the future, it's better to think twice. What if I wasn't nearby today? How can you be so reckless and not give others peace of mind?"
Xuan Ji remained silent.
Sheng Lingyuan had a way with words, even when it came to farting, he had to package it in a nauseatingly sweet format of "You are my heart and soul, what would I do without you?"
He gave it out for free, indiscriminately, and managed to win over a bunch of fools who were grateful to the point of tears, willing to do anything for their emperor.
From the physical to the spiritual, he was the epitome of a "scumbag" - Xuan Ji knew this, but still couldn't help the tingling sensation on his scalp.
His gaze fell on Sheng Lingyuan's chest, and he thought of the boy and the young bird from his fragmented memories, feeling lost - because his memories were incomplete, like a small piece of a giant puzzle, with no clear direction.
If he really was a sword forged from a young bird, then what about his blade?
Why did he later appear in Chiyuan with a blank mind, unable to remember his own name?
And why... couldn't Sheng Lingyuan recognize him?
"Woah, you finally woke up!" Wang Ze heard some commotion and rushed over, sweating profusely.
Yan Qiushan didn't respond to their calls and his breathing became weaker and weaker. The speedboat was bouncing around among the floating corpses, and they had no idea when they would be able to reach the shore.
"Director Xuan, do you have any strength left? Can you help us cremate these big brothers blocking our way? It's urgent, tell them we'll hold a memorial service for them on the shore. We guarantee there won't be any shortage of wreaths and paper money."
Xuan Ji snapped out of it and realized the speedboat was bouncing around violently.
In just a moment, they had already collided with several floating corpses. When he stood up, he stumbled a bit.
Sheng Lingyuan grabbed his shoulder. "Hold on tight."
Xuan Ji recoiled as if he had been electrocuted, taking two steps back in a panic and almost falling into the water. At the moment, there were severely injured patients beside him who had not yet been rescued, leaving no time for Xuan Ji to dwell on other thoughts.
He had to forcefully suppress them.
Although this new memory surfaced suddenly, and caused him to experience self-awareness issues, it wasn't entirely useless - for example, it brought forth a plethora of miscellaneous knowledge in his mind.
As the coin rolled over Xuan Ji's fingertips, it bounced into the air with a "pop."
A string of incantations naturally spilled out of his mouth, even though he couldn't recall where he had learned them from.
A small flame ignited on the coin, emitting a bright green glow as it hung in mid-air like a firefly.
The floating corpses that had been blocking the speedboat's path suddenly arranged themselves in an orderly fashion, slowly forming a path on either side of the boat.
Xuan Ji gestured to Wang Ze, "Let's go!"
Sheng Lingyuan looked at the coin with interest.
"The Guiding Lamp?"
It was a talisman used by people from the northern frontier, different from the ones used by the central plains cultivators. When the capital fell, many people from the central plains fled to the north, enduring countless hardships along the way.
The north was also a harsh and impoverished place, and many newcomers from the south couldn't adapt to the environment.
In the first few years, they would die in droves under the relentless onslaught of the sharp wind, and the locals couldn't keep up with the number of corpses. So the high priest of the north lit eighty-one Guiding Lamps at the foot of the holy mountain.
This way, the nameless corpses lost in the freezing cold would follow the lanterns and lie down at the foot of the mountain, waiting for a straw mat, instead of being left to rot in the wild and be devoured by hungry beasts.
The large-scale corpse-collecting spell known as the "Guiding Lamp" was such a niche technique that even Sheng Lingyuan had only seen a high priest perform it once in the Northern Plains.
How could this little demon know how to use it?
The boat flew through the sea of floating corpses, leaving the burning coins behind. The corpses no longer tangled with the boat, but instead orderly converged towards the light, resembling a group of pilgrims from afar.
Yan Qiushan, who was half-conscious, was also drawn to the fire with his unfocused gaze. His pupils even faintly reflected a glimmer of light.
Gu Yuexi thought he had regained consciousness and quickly whispered, "Mr. Yan! Mr. Yan, can you hear me?"
"Cover his eyes," Xuan Ji said, "the Guiding Lamp attracts the dead."
Upon hearing this, Gu Yuexi's eyes welled up with tears and she quickly covered Yan Qiushan's eyes with her hands.
Xuan Ji checked Yan Qiushan's condition and felt that it was not optimistic.
They were too far from land and if they wanted to get there quickly, Xuan Ji could only think of flying over or using a space-shrinking technique in the water, but neither of these options were suitable for Yan Qiushan's condition. Furthermore, the injured man seemed to have no will to survive.
Most of the Wind Gods around them were Yan Qiushan's old subordinates. Some were shouting "hold on" or "don't fall asleep," while others were crying and recalling the past, trying to use human memories to hold onto the man's soul.
They were all talking at once, like a group of ducks holding a meeting.
However, their voices seemed to be blocked by something and couldn't reach the man's ears. Yan Qiushan's breath was as light as a thread, and his body temperature was rapidly dropping.
Even though his eyes were covered, his head still involuntarily turned towards the direction of the Guiding Lamp.
At this moment, Sheng Lingyuan suddenly interjected amidst this chorus of sounds: "Mr. Yan is a man of honor, even though he has left your organisation, he still upholds righteousness, which is admirable. However, I have a doubt. Why are you willing to risk your life? Is it just to destroy Wei Yun's tomb?"
His voice, which had nothing to do with the matter, was too discordant, and the group fell silent for a moment.
Wang Ze turned his tearful eyes and asked with a choked voice, "What do you mean?"
Sheng Lingyuan gazed at the light from the Guiding Lamp that was getting farther and farther away.
"Wei Yun lived a life without control, he was a pitiful person. Besides the bitter memories in his grave, there was nothing. Who told you that Wei Yun was a demon of the Mountain people?"
Yan Qiushan's face had been covered by Gu Yuexi, but his fingers, which had turned blue, curled slightly. It was the first time he had reacted to the outside world.
Wei Yun of the Mountain clan was a close attendant of the Emperor Wu. When Emperor Wu wiped out the entire Mountain tribe, he singled out this little prince and treated him differently.
Not only did he give him a lavish burial in the Mountain royal tomb, but he also personally sealed his tomb. Suddenly, Xuan Ji's mind recalled this fact.
Wang Ze immediately noticed Yan Qiushan's reaction and realized that this was a topic that could bring Yan Qiushan back to his senses.
He quickly followed up on Sheng Lingyuan's words and asked, "If the demon didn't just die, but also buried a group of young children who never had the chance to grow up as his companions, would that be considered pitiful?"
"These children did not die by his hand," Sheng Lingyuan strolled over to Yan Qiushan and spoke calmly, "The Mountain people are skilled in refining weapons, but not everyone can create a spiritual masterpiece. The 'Tian'er master is a once-in-a-century talent.
"At that time, the mermaids disappeared and the art of weapon refining declined, with many traditions lost. Wei Yun was the last precious 'Tian'er' of the Mountain people, comparable to a national treasure and invaluable. Unfortunately, this treasure had legs and could walk. The Mountain king, Wei Yu, took Wei Yun in as his adopted son to prevent him from falling into the hands of other tribes...
"Later, this precious 'Tian'er was sent as a national gift to the human race. He was named a prince, but in reality, he was just a tool. The children in the tomb were orphans he grew up with, who were brought to the palace by the Mountain king to 'raise' and ensure Wei Yun's obedience. Later, the two races fell out and Wei Yun didn't give a warning in time.
"The Mountain king assumed that Wei Yun had betrayed their clan and locked the group of children in a room filled with poisonous gas that was meant to purify the blood of mermaids. Wei Yun was unable to intervene in time and, devastated by the tragedy, took his own life."
Wei Yun had once been loyal to him, and despite not having a close relationship, seeing how carefully obedient and faultless he was, Sheng Lingyuan decided to collect all the small corpses with nowhere to go and bury them together with Wei Yun, as a way to honor their relationship in life.
Sheng Lingyuan lowered his gaze and removed the ice flowers from his sleeve, calmly saying to Yan Qiushan, "Wei Yun is not a monster. He was a coward by nature and lacked the ability and courage to spill blood. When you were down there, did you not see that his room room wasn't even sealed?"
Yan Qiushan, who was already on the brink of death, struggled to move a little.
Amidst the commotion of the crowd, he miraculously regained some consciousness and broke free from the spell of the guiding lamp, turning his head with great effort towards Sheng Lingyuan.
At that moment, someone's watch chimed the hour, and the boat was suddenly illuminated - it was eleven o'clock, the dead of night. Everyone on board felt something stir within them as the calm sea suddenly erupted into a frenzy.
The starry sky was obscured by thick, dark clouds that seemed to appear out of nowhere. The clear, green light of Xuan Ji's "Guiding Lamp" was whipped around by the wind, causing the flame to flicker and change color. The peaceful atmosphere that had just been present was now gone, replaced by a cluster of ghostly lights.
Gu Yuexi and Zhang Zhao quickly opened their protective gear to shield Yan Qiushan.
Suddenly, the sea began to churn, and something seemed to be rising from the depths below, passing over the corpses and undulating like seaweed.
With her X-ray vision, Gu Yuexi was the first to see what it was. Her face suddenly changed, and the searchlight on the speedboat was turned on. They saw that the "shadows" crawling on the bodies were not seaweed or waves, but densely packed Yin Sacrifice texts!
The flame on the Guiding Lamp became weaker and weaker, until it finally turned back into an ordinary coin and fell lifelessly. Xuan Ji picked it up again, and as soon as the coin touched his hand, it sizzled and burned into ashes.
"What's going on?" As a water-type ability agent, Wang Ze, although belonging to the freshwater variety, felt it was his duty to stand in front of everyone. "Didn't our boss blow up the Prince's coffin? Where did this Yin Sacrifice text come from? And, Sword Spirit, are you saying that the Mountain prince is not a heavenly demon? Then who is? Is there something else sealed in this tomb?"
On the edge of the speedboat, the blind man who had been handcuffed by Zhang Zhao woke up at some point. He seemed to have smelled something intoxicating and took a deep breath, laughing, "Hehe."
Zhang Zhao was frightened by his laughter and kicked him, "What are you laughing at?"
"I understand," the blind man's eyebrows danced with excitement, and his pale eyes became even more terrifying. "I understand now!"
"What do you... do you understand now?" The puppet girl was also shackled to the side of the ship, with half of her body submerged in the sea.
At this point, she was starting to feel afraid, sensing that there was something moving beneath her feet. The floating corpses of the children kept surfacing one after another, "swimming" past her with eerie smiles on their once expressionless faces.
"No wonder when I warned the organization several times about Yan Qiushan's duplicity and unwillingness to open up, they wouldn't listen to me. Now I understand. He was just a decoy, and we needed him to be duplicitous. It was perfect to use him to lure out all you small fry and catch you all in one fell swoop," the blind man laughed heartily. "I'm really quite clever!"
Xuan Ji couldn't help but glance at Sheng Lingyuan.
If this was solely aimed at the Bureau, there would be no need to go through so much trouble. Their data is severely lacking, with a history of corrupt personnel.
If it weren't for Yan Qiushan intentionally leaving clues for the Wind Gods, even if they performed a hundred Yin Sacrifice rituals, the Bureau probably wouldn't have noticed.
It would be pointless to expose oneself needlessly. So, they must be targeting someone else...
Sheng Lingyuan lowered his head and chuckled.
Last time in Dongchuan, he used Aluojin as bait and had lightning strike the hidden figure behind the scenes. It seemed that the other party was determined to get revenge.
"There is indeed a heavenly demon among the Mountain people," Sheng Lingyuan said, "It's the former Mountain king... Wei Yu."
As soon as the name was uttered from Sheng Lingyuan's mouth, a corresponding image flashed through Xuan Ji's mind - tall, dressed in luxurious clothing, with a meticulously groomed beard and hair.
At first glance, he exuded an air of nobility.
"Speaking of King Wei Yu, what can I say about him?" Sheng Lingyuan spoke as their speedboat was surrounded by a group of burial child corpses from Wei Yun's tomb.
The sight was enough to send shivers down one's spine, but Sheng Lingyuan nonchalantly dug his hands into his pockets and bent down to examine one of the small corpses that had almost climbed onto the boat.
He whispered, "He wanted too much - he was greedy, foolish, and willing to make a deal with the devil...and he's also old and ugly."
As soon as he finished speaking, all the child corpses in the sea stood up and opened their eyes at the same time!
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Wang Ze was startled and shuddered as a thin wall of water rose up around the speedboat, blocking the body and the boat. "Brother Sword Spirit, we are public officials, let's stick to the facts and not engage in uncivilized personal attacks."
Gu Yuexi nervously asked, "Is Wei Yu also buried in this underwater tomb? Is this a double-layered tomb?"
"He wasn't buried," Sheng Lingyuan said, "I... "
Xuan Ji quickly coughed heavily on the side, covering up Sheng Lingyuan's words.
Sheng Lingyuan seemed to find it amusing and smiled at him, changing his words smoothly, "He was tortured to death by the human race."
"Tortured to death? Then where do we put this heavenly demon hybrid after summoning it out? Didn't our boss say..." Wang Ze didn't finish his sentence, suddenly realizing something. "Holy shit!"
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