Soon, Shi Jingzhi regained consciousness.
When he came to, Yin Ci was lying next to him, still breathing. He felt relieved and reignited his Yang fire, which shone as brightly as before.
However, he hesitated for a moment and couldn't bear to leave his disciple behind. He lifted Yin Ci up and struggled to move forward. Along the way, everyone else was either unconscious or unable to move.
If the human-shaped coffin were still intact, there would be no survivors. It was probably destroyed by now.
However, if it had been destroyed normally, these experts would not have been completely silent. If they were also knocked out like him... it must have been the work of the person in white.
As Shi Jingzhi felt a chill down his back, he fumbled around Yin Ci's neck for a while and breathed a sigh of relief when he found the Buddha bead still there.
The person in white was probably not interested in the beads, otherwise he would have just taken them during the chaos and killed everyone. His target must be something else.
But Shi Jingzhi didn't care - he had no interest in any other treasures. He and his disciple were still catching their breath, and the bead was still there, which was enough. After dragging Yin Ci for a while, he finally regained consciousness.
He blinked his eyes in confusion and hoarsely called out, "Shizun?"
"I'm here," Shi Jingzhi replied softly. "Ah Ci, can you walk on your own?"
"I feel a bit dizzy... but I can manage. Shizun, did the seniors win?"
"Yes, they did," Shi Jingzhi said, still carefully supporting him. The two walked towards the area with the most injuries and finally found a human-shaped coffin in a corner - the human-shaped coffin was covered in scars, and the gap in the neck was particularly striking.
Shi Jingzhi finally released Yin Ci and took out a small knife used to cut medicinal ingredients and covered it with Yang fire.
The formation was already broken, and the human-shaped coffin was much weaker. Yang fire naturally restrained Yin objects, and the human-shaped coffin was smoothly cut open with the small knife.
There were not many things in the coffin, but each one was extremely precious. In addition to Yan Budu's Soul Whip, there was a long-lost famous sword, and a notorious demon sword. In addition, there were various scrolls, with some old blood stains on them, which should be the secret manuals that the Ling Sect had snatched.
Three Buddhist beads lay quietly among them, and Shi Jingzhi carefully picked them up.
He pondered for a while and said, "Ah Ci, I will light the lamp for you. You go and wake up everyone nearby... Don't forget the people in the Yueshui Bureau."
Yin Ci pretended not to understand, "Isn't it first come, first served in the tomb?"
"'A room full of gold and jade, no one can keep it.'... Our small sect cannot withstand these things," Shi Jingzhi's tone was calm, "Wake them up, the sooner the better."
Yin Ci knew how many people he had knocked out himself. Soon, he woke up several representative figures and dragged two disciples from the Yueshui Bureau.
At the same time, Shi Jingzhi arranged the treasures in the coffin in a row, illuminated by a lantern, and the secret manual was not even flipped.
"Esteemed seniors, these are the treasures in the coffin, plus the three precious Buddhist beads," Shi Jingzhi smiled. "The human-shaped coffin was defeated by all of you. I dare not be presumptuous and only cleaned up the things, without taking anything for myself."
In the face of the priceless treasure, no one dared to bring up the idea of "first come, first served". Even the disciples of Yueshui Bureau remained silent, and the air became tense.
"The human-shaped coffin is not something that this poor monk destroyed, I dare not accept the praise," said Master Juehui, breaking the deadlock.
"The Buddhist teachings emphasize the cycle of life and death, and not to cling to eternal life. I dare to guess that all the masters are here for the lost manuals and Buddhist treasures. When I was sorting through things just now, I saw the 'Woodless Sutra' of Jianchen Temple..."
At this point, Shi Jingzhi's tone changed: "Thanks to the Master for lending me the Infinite Prayer Beads, we were able to successfully battle the human-shaped coffin."
It was obvious that it was him who had snatched them. The monks looked helpless, but they were not foolish enough to argue at such a critical moment.
The "Woodless Sutra" was a priceless treasure of Buddhism. If it hadn't been hidden in a Ghost Tomb by Yan Budu, Jianchen Temple would never have wanted to get involved in this mess.
Master Juehui put his hands together and said, "Amitabha."
"How about returning the Woodless Sutra to Jianchen Temple?" Shi Jingzhi smiled even more politely.
"Just return it quickly, stop talking nonsense," Dark Blood Witch impatiently said while holding her injured arm. "Who cares about the bald donkey's babbling sutra?"
"Thank you, benefactor." Master Juehui took the sutra with both hands and his face relaxed.
"The Soul Whip originally belonged to the Ling Sect. The Guanwu Sword is a Taiheng weapon, the Cuoyuan Sword is a Red Sect treasure, and these secret manuals... all the seniors fought hard for them, so it's better to return them to their original owners."
After speaking, Shi Jingzhi respectfully presented the treasures without waiting for the big shots to react. With the major threat eliminated and no more external enemies, the various sects were now on guard against each other. After weighing their options, everyone quietly accepted the treasures.
Zheng Fengdao took the sword and spoke harshly, "Are you trying to monopolize the Buddhist beads by buying people's hearts like this, young man?"
Shi Jingzhi ignored him and said vaguely, "There are still some unclaimed items, why not give them to the people from Prince Rong's Manor? After all... cough."
Everyone understood what he meant - for the sake of the court's face, they couldn't let the people from the Prince Rong's Manor leave empty-handed.
Xu Jingming's face turned blue with anger, but unfortunately, he was not the emperor and couldn't really throw a temper. He could only respond with a snort of anger.
"Finally, the Buddhist beads," Shi Jingzhi's voice was calm. "According to the rules, first come, first served..."
Zheng Fengdao exclaimed, "Ha, just as I suspected!"
"...But I want to distribute them. The Taiheng Sect has helped me a lot, while the Jianchen Temple suffered the most damage in order to hold back the human-shaped coffin. As for my Ku Mountain Sect - I used my internal strength to support the net of prayer beads for everyone, and will only take one Buddha bead. Do any of you have any objections?"
As the conversation came to an end, Shi Jingzhi's smile gradually faded, and his words even hinted at a hint of power. Yin Ci listened on the side, amused.
Shi Jingzhi's fox tail hooked onto the Taiheng Sect and the Jianchen Temple. The Ling Sect was left with only one member, and the Red Hook Sect was greatly injured. They could deal with the Ku Mountain Sect, but they couldn't stand up to the two major orthodox sects.
Shi Jingzhi split the three Buddhist beads, giving one to Master Juehui and one to Shi Zhongyu.
Finally, he bowed deeply to the Dark Blood Witch: "Please forgive me, Grandmother. There are not enough Buddhist beads to go around. How about this - my sect will promise never to touch anything in this tomb again."
The Dark Blood Witch fixed her gaze on him for a moment.
After a while, she turned around and asked, "More importantly, who was the hero who destroyed the human-shaped coffin?"
No one answered.
The Dark Blood Witch frowned and stopped asking. She pondered for a long time before finally walking away with her cane.
Yin Ci was enjoying the show so much that he even took out a bag of puffed rice and munched on it loudly. Shi Jingzhi was hungry from watching him eat and pulled Yan Qing out of the crowd. The three of them started a fire and cooked their rice on the spot.
The other sects didn't have time for this leisurely activity - everyone was busy treating injuries and exploring. Only the three members of the Ku Mountain Sect remained in the same spot, eating until their bellies were round.
Yan Qing ate carefully and cautiously, and after he was full, he didn't move at all.
He glanced at Shi Jingzhi, who was trying to stuff himself to the point of bursting, and hesitated before speaking, "Sect Leader Shi, don't you want the Buddhist beads? Are you really just going to give them away like that?"
"I can give them away, so naturally I can also take them back," said Shi Jingzhi happily as he took a bite of the fried bun, his tone casual yet confident.
"...But anything I want, I can get my hands on," he continued, causing Yan Qing to pause in his packing.
"Sect Leader, you're no match for Senior Shi."
"What are you thinking? I'm not going to snatch it from her. Don't worry, I'll make sure she willingly hands it over."
Meanwhile, Yin Ci no longer bothered to hide his smirk.
Keeping this kid around was the right decision
The three members of Ku Mountain Sect took turns keeping watch, wasting two whole days eating and sleeping in the same spot. During this time, all the other sects thoroughly searched the entire Palace of Ease.
The Red Hook Sect found the exit and returned with a triumphant air, but their numbers had been reduced by more than half, with only a dozen or so survivors left. The exit was hidden beneath the bed of the human-shaped coffin, and it took a great deal of effort for the group to pry open the Muyan stone slab. Once the slab was lifted, a narrow staircase leading downwards was revealed.
At the bottom of the stairs was a cramped, barrel-shaped space. The floor was marked with seven lines that intersected at the center, dividing the circular floor into fourteen equal parts. The walls were smooth and impossible to climb, and the top of the room was shrouded in darkness.
Circling the room were fourteen smooth copper rings, each adorned with a fist-sized human head. Each head had an exaggerated, contorted smile and was missing one eye, with the remaining eye the size of a Buddhist bead.
With great caution, Shi Jingzhi prodded one of the heads, and it smoothly slid towards the nearest head with a loud "snap." He was startled and wanted to pry them apart, but the thought of touching them again made his face scrunch up in disgust.
Yin Ci shook his head and stepped forward, easily separating the two heads.
"Yan Budu still refuses to let us go. We must put the Buddhist beads on display so we can snatch them after we leave the tomb... Boys, come over here and stand still," said the Dark Blood Witch.
Once the Red Hook Sect members were in place, she gathered two heads and placed each Buddha bead in its proper spot. As soon as the beads were in place, two stones under her feet lit up.
At the boundary between light and darkness, a reflective, transparent barrier gradually rose. The barrier was as hard as iron, separating the Red Hook Sect members from the rest.
Next was Jianchen Temple, where Master Juehui took out three Buddhist beads and placed them in order. Taiheng Sect and Ling Sect's Zheng Fengdao followed suit.
Xu Jingming took out two Buddhist beads and quickly embedded them, keeping a watchful eye on Shi Jingzhi.
The Jianchen Temple has three beads; the Taiheng Sect, two; the Red Hook Sect, two; of the Ling Sect, Zheng Fengdao has two; in the Prince Rong's Manor, two... a total of eleven beads."
Shi Jingzhi took out two Buddhist beads, and the atmosphere in the room became subtle.
Shi Zhongyu frowned, "One is missing? Can the disciples of the Yueshui Bureau please check the records?"
The disciples of the Yueshui Bureau searched through the records one by one, "From the four 'Parting Sorrow' pillars, only three beads were found. They were found by the Prince Rong's Manor, the Taiheng Sect, and the Ling Sect... one is still missing."
Shi Zhongyu thought for a moment, "The missing one belongs to the group of Young Brother Yin. Sect Leader Shi, do you have any clues?"
Xu Jingming added, "Yes, I heard that Sect Leader Shi was the first one to escape."
Shi Zhongyu felt a bit embarrassed, "No, I didn't mean anything else, just..."
The Dark Blood Witch screeched, "The Prince Rong's Manor and Taiheng Sect have already obtained the Buddhist beads. Zheng Fengdao of the Ling Sect and our sect were in the same room when the Buddhist bead was taken in front of my own eyes. We will certainly not protect our enemies... Sect Leader Shi, if you continue to hide and cover up, we will all be trapped here."
She then laughed maliciously, "If it weren't for Yan Budu leaving this final trick, you would have really fooled us all. This is breaking the rules. Shi Zhongyu and Master Juehui, with your two reputable sects, do you really want to protect this insignificant person?"
Shi Zhongyu frowned, "Grandmother, you are mistaken. Sect Leader Shi was with the Prince Rong's Manor and the Buddhist bead was taken by them. Sect Leader Shi then rescued two people from another room, which I saw with my own eyes - at that time, the Parting Sorrow had already been solved. You should know that this can only be broken from within."
"He rescued Yin Ci and another monk from Jianchen Temple. Previously, these two were held captive with Lu Fengxi. With Elder Lu's skills, they were no match for him."
The monk who was present also spoke up, "I can testify that it was a man in white who broke the Parting Sorrow. At the time, Sect Leader Shi was in another room, so it couldn't have been him."
He took a deep breath and muttered a few words before speaking again, "I saw the face of the man in white very clearly... cough... I can confirm that I have never seen him before."
The Dark Blood Witch narrowed her eyes, "So according to you, there was a skilled person who disguised themselves and infiltrated the group? But wait, I heard that you had already fainted. Perhaps the man in white was this disciple Yin Ci in disguise. Has anyone heard of this master-disciple duo before entering the Ghost Tomb?"
Her gaze was unkind.
"If we take a step back, maybe the person in white didn't take the Buddhist bead and it was just picked up by Sect Leader Shi."
Yin Ci sneered inwardly. It seemed like she was going to kill two birds with one stone tonight - according to the rules of the Golden Jade Gang, hoarding spoils and hiding one's identity were both major taboos.
If Shi Jingzhi had hidden the Buddhist bead, he could be labeled as "breaking the rules". Even before leaving the tomb, the Red Hook Sect could freely seize it. If the person in white had taken the Buddhist bead, there would definitely be some flaws revealed. Similarly, the Red Hook Sect could logically surround and attack that person, to see what rare treasures they had.
The best part was that the first nail that stuck out was a monk, paving a convenient way for their disaster.
Yin Ci looked at Shi Jingzhi beside him. His cheap master maintained a calm demeanor, but his lips were slightly pursed, obviously guessing the intentions of Dark Blood Witch. He must also be able to guess that if the person in white wants to continue hiding their identity, they will find a way to blame the Ku Mountain Sect.
This trip for the Ku Mountain Sect is more dangerous than lucky. Shi Jingzhi is no match for Dark Blood Witch, being a master of her caliber. Zheng Fengdao will not stand idly by either, and may even play a trick behind the scenes.
Yin Ci grabbed Shi Jingzhi's left hand. That hand was trembling slightly, cold as ice. Dark Blood Witch took off the Buddhist beads on the heads, and the barrier slowly disappeared.
She tapped her cane on the ground, step by step: "Sect Leader Shi, have you thought of a good explanation?"
Unfortunately, she picked the wrong opponent. Whether it was the Buddhist beads or Shi Jingzhi, they were all things that caught Yin Ci's attention.
Although the Red Hook Sect was a demon cult, and it wasn't easy for anyone to challenge their authority, the Dark Blood Witch was still too young in his eyes. The Red Hook Sect held the "Su Zhi" in high regard, and he knew its operating rules better than anyone else.
Yin Ci squeezed the hand he was holding.
"Shizun, I've said it before - I have a strong destiny and specialize in defeating demons and evil. People from the demon cults should be considered 'evil,' right?"
His voice was neither loud nor soft, but everyone could hear it clearly.
Yin Ci didn't let go of Shi Jingzhi's hand.
His other hand reached into his pocket, clenched into a fist, and then opened his five fingers.
"The last bead is with me."
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