The man's lower body was submerged in seawater, his features relaxed and unremarkable at first glance, but upon closer inspection, he exuded a certain charm that reminded one of a potted plant basking in the afternoon sun.
He seemed to have been carved according to the phrase "warm and jade-like," with his semi-long hair cascading down his neck.
Gu Yuexi remembered that on the day of Zhi Chun's accident, Yan Qiushan had mentioned wanting to give him a haircut... but never got the chance.
This "warm jade" was now surrounded by a large group of ancient corpses, his body covered in dark sacrificial texts. A bolt of lightning illuminated his pale face, making him look like a unearthed artifact.
Yet even so, he still appeared immaculate.
Gu Yuexi was stunned, feeling a sense of familiarity with the man, as if he had just handed her a cup of hot tea yesterday and asked in a gentle voice how the team was doing.
Suddenly, everything around him felt unfamiliar and unreal. Yan Qiushan summoned an incredible burst of energy from somewhere, causing all the metal parts on his body to melt. He seemed to have lost all sense of pain as the molten metal seeped into his wounds, temporarily sealing them and welding his broken bones back together.
He was only half alive, half ghostly, and his remaining life force was rapidly draining away. His face turned a deathly gray, and all the vitality in his body seemed to have retreated into his eyes, giving them a sickly glow.
As he and his sword looked out over the sea of corpses, they met each other's gaze on the eerie and terrifying surface.
"It's definitely not Zhi Chun," Wang Ze immediately denied, "Zhi Chun has been gone for a long time. This fake is a blatant fraud. Yuexi, show these excavated relics your expertise in identifying fakes - just tell them what kind of crap this is!"
Gu Yuexi opened her mouth, but couldn't say anything.
The aura and energy field of this "Zhi Chun" in front of her were all genuine, making her feel like crying.
But the blade was broken, wouldn't the sword spirit be...
Zhang Zhao realized something was wrong and looked at her with suspicion, "Sister?"
Even Sheng Lingyuan, who was confronting the demon shadow, was briefly distracted and glanced at Zhi Chun. He lightly furrowed his brows, showing a rare expression of surprise.
"Wake up, Gu Yuexi! Why are you spacing out now? Say something!" Wang Ze exclaimed.
A blast of icy air hit Wang Ze, making him shiver. He saw that Sheng Lingyuan had somehow landed on the small boat, wrapped in a chilling black mist that resembled a blizzard.
"Sword..." Sheng Lingyuan said one word, then seemed to realize he misspoke.
After a pause, he corrected himself, "There is a connection between the Sword Spirit and the master. This Mr. Yan should be able to tell the real from the fake."
Xuan Ji heard this and approached him, feeling a faint glimmer of hope. However, just as he had finished using his ultimate move, his family emblem was still on his forehead, and he smelled like a vermilion bird.
He landed next to Sheng Lingyuan, and his aura thinned the demonic energy by three inches.
Sheng Lingyuan immediately stepped aside in disgust.
Xuan Ji: "..." What a load of nonsense!
"If he recognises him wrongly, what then? He's struggling to breathe, and when people lack oxygen, they can't even recognize their own mother. That guy is now a 'person with restricted mobility,' what does he know?"
Wang Ze never takes anything seriously, always wearing a silly grin on his face. Over time, people began to suspect that he only had one expression, like it was permanently stuck on his face without ever being washed.
But now, this sudden appearance of "Zhi Chun" has completely infuriated him.
"Zhi Chun was poisoned in order to save people. Although he was a sword, and although...in the end, he had no choice...he is still a hero. His photo is still hanging on the martyr wall in the security department!"
Sheng Lingyuan had never seen a carp with such a loud voice before, and he couldn't help but chuckle at the novelty of it.
"If you speak too loudly, your words may come out before your brain has a chance to catch up. Even the heavens and earth cannot last forever, let alone humans. What was good in the past may not be good now. A fruit left out for just a few days will spoil, and even a villain can become a hero.
"The blade of Zhi Chun has been destroyed, we saw it with our own eyes! Even if someone stole fragments of it, they could not create a complete 'living sword'! We searched through all the available information and found only one phrase: 'blade destroyed, spirit dispersed'. Boss, do you think you're the only one who wants to restore Zhi Chun? The W Zone's protective shield on the 60th underground level hasn't been turned on in three years. That's because they're afraid you'll come back to visit him secretly, and it won't be convenient for you! The administrator charges me three cigarettes every month!"
The Wind Gods on the speedboat were speechless.
"Alright, the accomplice in the theft of Zhi Chun has turned himself in," said Sheng Lingyuan with a smile and his hands behind his back. "Well, well, the world is truly vast and full of wonders. I am curious, how did the broken sword 'resurrect' itself? Unless it wasn't your only blade, right?"
"What do you mean?" asked Zhang Zhao. "Can a sword spirit have two blades? Can a person have two heads?"
A member of the Wind God Squad whispered, "Boss, there really is a person with two heads sharing one body."
Zhang Zhao: ...
Sheng Lingyuan waved his hand towards the water, and a piece of floating ice flew into the air, with a sword frozen in the middle.
It turned out that a few child corpses had been swallowed up by Xuan Ji's fire earlier, breaking free from the control of King Wei Yu and becoming ordinary swords.
One of them had just fallen to the side of the boat.
King Wei Yu died without a complete body, so when he was summoned by the Yin Sacrifice ritual, he could only rely on other things to move, but... why did he choose to possess these child corpses in Wei Yun's tomb that were turned into swords?
Sheng Lingyuan touched it with his hand, and the ice melted into black mist and dissipated. The sword fell into his hand, and he gently stroked the blade.
"As they say, there is nothing strange in this world. This is a 'sword without spirit', a half-finished product."
Xuan Ji suddenly felt uneasy and took a few steps forward. He hooked the frozen sword from Sheng Lingyuan's hand with a rough motion.
Sheng Lingyuan thought he just wanted to take a look - after all, this little demon was rude more than once, so he didn't pay much attention.
Zhang Zhao was completely confused.
"Wait a minute, boss, I'm confused. What does 'half-finished product' mean? If it has no spirit, what's the difference between it and an ordinary sword?"
Sheng Lingyuan said, "Ordinary swords and knives are made of ordinary iron, but what the Mountain people call 'divine weapons' are mainly made of living materials. When the weapon spirit 'is born', it autonomously absorbs the surrounding steel and iron to form a weapon. When Wei Yun arrived, these orphans had already been poisoned by King Wei Yu and could not survive. Even if he managed to refine them into weapon spirits, he only had enough time to refine one of them."
To His Majesty, in that situation, saving one life was better than none. If it were him, he would have immediately chosen the one with the best aptitude and left the rest without hesitation.
But Wei Yun was different. He was timid and always hesitant, always striving for perfection. In his eyes, choosing one child to refine into an weapon spirit was not about saving one, but abandoning the other one hundred and seven.
"Master Wei Yun, the 'Tian'er' expert, was greedy and had unrealistic ideas. He couldn't make decisions and planned to forge over a hundred sword spirits in one furnace," said Sheng Lingyuan.
Zhang Zhao asked, "Did he succeed?"
"Of course not," Sheng Lingyuan replied nonchalantly. "At that time, the art of refining by the Mountain people was declining. Those who could barely forge iron were called 'masters.' Wei Yun, the last 'Tian'er,' probably thought too highly of his skills. He couldn't even repair a sword properly, let alone achieve what his predecessors couldn't. However, he was so determined that he swore to sacrifice himself in the furnace. Perhaps the heavens saw his sincerity and gave him some results. He managed to forge over a hundred 'divine weapons' without spirits, which were recorded in the Qingping Division."
Upon hearing this, Xuan Ji's eyes flickered as he carefully examined the sword in his hand. Suddenly, he felt something and turned to Zhi Chun, "This doesn't make sense. If there's a 'divine weapon', then there must be a spirit, otherwise the body of the weapon wouldn't condense."
"You seem to know a lot about this obscure field of refining," Sheng Lingyuan, perhaps tired of speaking Mandarin, suddenly switched to a more ancient tone and casually asked Xuan Ji, "So, did you collect any experience from gathering scrap metal in Chiyuan?"
Xuan Ji was stunned. In that instant, he couldn't even think about how Sheng Lingyuan knew he had adopted weapon spirits in Chiyuan.
This light and airy sentence suddenly shattered his anxious expectations and confirmed his suspicions - in the Emperor's mind, damaged swords and weapons were truly just scrap metal.
Back then, he had slaughtered the Mountain royal family, but it was only because he was a king who had been forced into a corner and had his power tainted by others. It had nothing to do with the sword he wielded.
He had thought that they had grown up together and that there would be a place for him in that person's heart.
But his heart was in turmoil, and Sheng Lingyuan was completely unaware.
The emperor turned to Zhi Chun and said, "Yes, if there is a divine weapon, there must be a spirit. Otherwise, the body of the weapon cannot condense. Back then, Wei Yun refined over a hundred weapon bodies, but only obtained one spirit - the only sword spirit in the world that has multiple weapon bodies."
When he had arrived back then, he had felt the aura of a weapon spirit "emerging" among the corpses.
But after searching for a long time, he found nothing and assumed it was just an illusion caused by the abundance of failed weapon bodies.
No wonder he had never heard of Zhi Chun's divine weapon, which was thousands of years old and still shining like new.
It turned out to be Wei Yun's legacy.
Wei Yun didn't trust him and didn't give him the truly spiritual sword before he died.
But fate is unpredictable, who knew that this treasure sword would end up in his hands again after three thousand years, destiny cannot be stopped.
Following Sheng Lingyuan's gaze, Gu Yuexi's pupils narrowed to a line as she scanned the lifeless child's corpse, then looked at Zhi Chun.
Suddenly, she seemed to understand something and looked up abruptly, "Could it be..."
"So your name is 'Zhi Chun'," Sheng Lingyuan pronounced the gentle name with an even gentler tone, as if singing an ancient mermaid song, "It really is Wei Yun's style - no wonder your sword body is damaged, but the sword spirit is not extinguished."
Gu Yuexi's tired and bloodshot eyes suddenly lit up, "Are you saying that even if the sword body is broken, Zhi Chun can still live on with another body?"
Sheng Lingyuan smiled but said nothing.
"Captain Yan, can you hear me? Captain Yan, you have to be okay, you..."
"The sacrificial text..." At this moment, Zhi Chun from the sea suddenly spoke up. He seemed to have not spoken for a long time, stumbling even more than when Sheng Lingyuan first came to this world, almost saying one word at a time.
"...was written by me." Yan Qiushan's expression was as if he had been stabbed. "The sea poison of the mirage island corroded my blade, the blade shattered, but I found out that I was still alive... but you can't see me, no one can see me, and I can't remember who I am... just a vague consciousness."
Zhi Chun looked at Yan Qiushan with sadness and said with difficulty, "Actually... I've been following you during that time."
With a "plop," Xuan Ji accidentally dropped the sword, frozen solid, into the sea as se heard Zhi Chun say, "No one can see him, and he can't remember who he is."
However, everyone's attention was focused on Zhi Chun, and no one noticed his slip-up.
"It wasn't until recently...that I slowly regained some consciousness and feeling," Zhi Chun continued.
Wang Ze pressed on, "What kind of feeling?"
"My... sword." Zhi Chun said, "It's been far away, sometimes present, sometimes not... I've been chasing after it... and I chased it here. But I can't get in, those swords have been sealed inside the wall with powerful magic. I have no other thoughts in my mind, my memories are jumbled, I only vaguely feel that someone is looking for me, I want to go home... back to him... I run back and forth in those tombs, shouting at them... but no one can hear me, those cold and icy tombs won't let me through even a bit."
Zhi Chun gently closed her eyes: "Those sacrificial texts suddenly appeared in my mind at that time, there was a voice telling me that there are 108 sword bodies sealed inside this wall, as long as I am willing to offer them, I can return to the present world."
Excluded by the world, with only a vague obsession in his heart, a person he couldn't see was like a thorn in his throat, hooking onto his remaining soul.
He wasn't alive, nor was he dead... It was too similar, and Xuan Ji almost had the illusion that someone else had spoken of his experiences.
If the heavenly demon sword spirit, who had no one to rely on back then, had such an opportunity, what would he have done?
Xuan Ji asked himself honestly and felt that he wouldn't hesitate for a second in the face of this temptation. Knowing that his own humanity was fragile, he was especially willing to be tolerant of others' weaknesses.
So he spoke gently, "At that time, your mind wasn't clear, and you didn't really know what the Yin Sacrifice ritual was, right?"
Zhi Chun pursed his lips and didn't say anything - because it sounded like an excuse.
"Those who don't know shouldn't be blamed, and considering your mental state at the time, legally speaking, you were probably 'incapable of action'. I think the person who led you to write the sacrificial text is fully responsible," Xuan Ji said. "Do you remember when you were poisoned by the sea on Mirage Island? It was that incident that ultimately led them to decide to destroy your body. But when I first heard about this, I didn't think the bureau would be so careless, so I believe it was deliberately arranged. The Yin sacrificial text was probably implanted in your consciousness by someone taking advantage of your confused state, and you were also a victim..."
As he was speaking, Sheng Lingyuan next to him became impatient and interrupted him without any sympathy, "There's no need to go on about these useless things. When you wrote the Yin sacrificial text, you used your own hundred weapons as sacrificial offerings, didn't you?"
Zhi Chun felt ashamed and guilty, "Yes, I...I am guilty..."
"No, Your Majesty...Ling..." Reality and chaotic memories mixed together, and Xuan Ji didn't know what to call him for a moment. "Listen to me first, you..."
Before he could finish speaking, a white figure flashed before his eyes.
Sheng Lingyuan had already stepped on the sea water and rushed to him. The sea water he had stepped on immediately froze into thin ice, trapping Zhi Chun inside.
Sheng Lingyuan acted quickly and grabbed Zhi Chun's neck.
Wang Ze and Xuan Ji both spoke up, and Yan Qiushan's five fingers clawed into the deck. At first, Zhi Chun instinctively leaned back, but then he regained his composure.
He probably felt that he deserved his punishment, so he lifted his head without flinching and silently gazed into the Emperor's cold yet passionate eyes, waiting for his fate to be decided.
When Sheng Lingyuan met his gaze, he suddenly paused for no apparent reason, and his fingers loosened.
"It's no use killing you," he said after a moment of silence. "Once the Yin Sacrifice ritual is complete, it's impossible to turn back. It's a shame that Wei Yun's efforts only resulted in creating a single sword spirit like you. You're not living up to your potential."
Zhi Chun had been holding up until this point, but upon hearing these words, he suddenly seemed to collapse and began trembling in the icy seawater.
"Captain Yan!" Gu Yuexi's cry came from the speedboat.
Yan Qiushan's body, which had been propped up by metal, knocked against the deck.
His previous outburst seemed to be a last gasp, and he could no longer continue.
He stared at Zhi Chun with eyes that were almost dilated. Zhi Chun's face turned pale, and he immediately wanted to rush over, but she was pinned in place by countless Yin sacrificial texts.
"Ling..." Xuan Ji quickly came up with an idea and turned to Sheng Lingyuan, switching to a more elegant tone. "Your Majesty, can you freeze him first?"
Unlike the useless ice-water types, which can only make a bowl of shaved ice, Sheng Lingyuan's black mist can freeze a person directly like liquid nitrogen.
At the same time, his powerful repair ability can minimize cell damage during the thawing process - as long as he is willing.
Of course, he usually isn't willing.
Due to the nature of his powers, Sheng Lingyuan found it much easier to destroy things with his black mist than to repair them. He often had to resort to a "transfer" technique, such as sacrificing layers of flowers and trees to restore a hotel room he had demolished.
Xuan Ji quickly added, "I'll give you my power to draw from. He won't make it to shore, you..."
Sheng Lingyuan's gaze shifted, a sly smile on his face as he asked, "But why should I save him?"
Looking down at Yan Qiushan, the man's life force was so weak that it was almost imperceptible.
The metal that had been supporting his body was now attacking him, and blood was seeping from his seven orifices. He was not only going to die, but he was going to die in a painful and gruesome way.
Sheng Lingyuan didn't discriminate based on bloodline. He had personally established the "Super Hybrid Camp" of the Qingping Division. As an ancient heavenly demon who had been buried for many years and forced to return to the scene, he had no fondness or resentment towards his descendants who were separated by thousands of years.
He would save them if it was convenient, and kill a few if they got in his way.
In theory, although Yan Qiushan exuded a strong Mountain aura, he was still a human being, and his talent and appearance were both exceptional.
Since he had not betrayed the "Qingping Division" and his position was quite clear, it was easy for Sheng Lingyuan to spare his life. However, Sheng Lingyuan was simply too lazy to lift a finger.
For some reason, Yan Qiushan always managed to inexplicably provoke his malice.
Sheng Lingyuan couldn't stand the sight of him.
Xuan Ji's temples throbbed with pain from his cold-blooded attitude.
The other Wind Gods couldn't understand their ancient language conversation and continued to futilely try to save Yan Qiushan. Suddenly, the ice floating on the water made an unsettling "crack" sound.
The demon shadow that had stopped moving slowly stretched within the ice, causing all the child corpses to tremble and their teeth to chatter.
Then, the entire boat was almost lifted into the sky. Black water droplets burst out like a long dragon, and the demon shadow trapped in the ice forcibly broke free.
The child corpses controlled by King Wei Yu were corroded by the black mist of Sheng Lingyuan, with some flesh melting away to reveal white, bony skeletons, but he showed no hesitation.
"Your Majesty," the shadowy demon laughed, "It's been three thousand years since we last met. Have you grown old or just weak? Why are your hands so soft?"
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