In response to Lin Shouxi’s reply, the Taoist’s right eye, which had been closed this entire time, twitched as if yearning to open. 

Lin Shouxi felt uneasy, as if he were on the verge of being exposed.
He had a premonition that if that eye were to open, all of his secrets would be laid bare.

Thankfully, it appeared that prying open the eye would exact a hefty toll, causing the Taoist to pause briefly before abstaining from any further action.

With no more words spoken, Lin Shouxi silently made his way back to his seat.
The demonic Taoist sat in the eerie silence of the flickering candles, the scent of decay filling the room as the storm outside raged on.
The grotesque imp outside looked in with a wicked grin, relishing in their torment.

In this surreal reality, only three other individuals remained with Lin Shouxi: Xiao He, the snow-haired maiden who had come to fetch him, Wang Erguan, the bawling tubby man who seemed to be related to Wang Ji, and a cold-faced young man whose name eluded him as the Taoist had examined him before he entered the room.

Out of the ten young men and women who had initially been present, only these four had survived.
The Taoist, the mastermind behind the chaos, regarded their survival with indifference.

“You are all fortunate,” he said, his one eye sweeping over the remaining four in a tone as gentle as a spring breeze.

Everyone held their breath, no one daring to respond.

“I’m sure you’re all wondering why you’re here and where you’re going next, right?” the Taoist said with a slight smile.
Despite his previous killing spree, he spoke to the selected youths as if they were precious treasures.

“I am the chief priest of the Wu family and I once practiced at Yunkong Mountain.
You can call me… Perfected Yun.”

After the introduction, Perfected Yun began to explain the situation.

“You find yourselves at Wuzhu Lake, where my family worships an ancient and slumbering deity known as the God of Protection, or the Lord Protector, who rests in the depths below.”

“Lord Protector was one of the few great deities to survive the ancient god wars,” he explained.
“When my family’s first head made a pact with it at the shores of this lake, few in the world knew of its existence.
Even now, few still do.
But from that day forth, my family has lived on this contaminated land, watching over it for two hundred and ninety-nine years.”

“As for the pact itself,” Perfected Yun continued, “it was simple.
Lord Protector would grant my family a powerful bloodline, and in return, we, as its inheritors, would guard its shores and enter its divine residence upon its passing to carry on its legacy.”

“Furthermore,” he added, “at the time the pact was made, Lord Protector predicted that its life would endure for three hundred more years… until next year.
But,” he paused for emphasis, the smile on his face evaporating like blood on a shattered mirror, “ten days ago, Lord Protector was killed.”


Wang Erguan and Xiao He exchanged a surprised look.
They had no idea what kind of deity the God of Protection was, but in their understanding, gods were legendary beings of ancient and immense power.
It was said that a primordial god once bellowed from atop a mountain, “Who, besides boundless time and I, can bring about my demise?”

“How could a god be killed?” Xiao He shook her head gently, her voice soft.

“Yeah… how could that be…” Wang Erguan echoed in agreement, his eyes widening.

Perfected Yun’s face turned cold as ice, his Taoist robe rhythmically swaying with the candlelight around him.

“I can hardly believe it myself,” he said.
“Even though Lord Protector slept at the bottom of the lake, its idol has always stood at the cliff, its golden eyes shining year-round as a symbol of its presence.
But just ten days ago, a storm raged and lightning pierced the sky, and the lake water began to evaporate, creating an unprecedented fog that blanketed the area for miles.”

“When the fog finally cleared, the eldest son of my family ascended the cliff to pay homage to the idol.
As he approached, he was struck by a shocking sight.
Two deep gashes, as if from a sword, marred the idol’s surface, which even heavenly lightning couldn’t harm.
Its once-burning eyes had lost their light, and the idol lay in ruins, shattered into countless shards that tumbled into the depths of Wuzhu Lake below.
In the wake of this destruction, the lake water began to evaporate rapidly, exposing the divine path hidden beneath its surface….”

Perfected Yun trailed off, leaving the rest unsaid.

But Lin Shouxi understood the implication – the destruction of the idol represented the god’s death, a prediction that had arrived a year early.

Lin Shouxi also understood that even though the deity had been killed, the duties of the Wu family still had to be fulfilled.
Now, with the lake’s waters receding, revealing the divine court below, they had to go to the heart of the lake to receive its inheritance.

Lin Shouxi speculated that he and the others had been summoned for this reason.
It was a guess Perfected Yun confirmed with his next words.

“With Lord Protector’s passing, my family has decided to split its power into three parts which will be given to the first and second young master, and the third young lady respectively.”

“As for you…” he said, “…you were summoned here by Lord Protector before its death.
It used the divine altar to bridge the vast expanse of space, pulling you from thousands of li away, all to ensure the safety of the young masters and young lady as they journey to the divine residence in half a month to claim its inheritance.
If all goes according to plan, you will be rewarded with the position of divine attendant, granting you the chance to ascend to the realm of demigods in the future!”


As soon as the word was uttered, the rain outside quieted down a bit.

Perfected Yun’s voice held a mesmerizing power as he spoke, “You are truly fortunate, it makes me green with envy.” Lin Shouxi observed the rapt expressions of those around them, betraying signs of longing and obsession.
However, with the corpses scattered below the cliff, Lin Shouxi couldn’t help but feel a sense of unease, rather than any luckiness.

Furthermore, based on his vast experience, there was a good chance that this so-called Wu family was a cult, and that they had all been brought here as sacrificial offerings.

“Alright, everyone, get some rest,” Perfected Yun announced, “I’ll be teaching you spells tomorrow, so that you will be ready to accompany the young masters and young lady when they arrive in a few days to choose their companions.”

These were Perfected Yun’s last words.

As the flicker of the candles died out, a chill seeped through the window and Perfected Yun vanished into the night, the malevolent spirit following.

Under the eaves and before the rain curtains, Perfected Yun paused, his thoughts turning to the young man named Lin Shouxi.
“Could he see my heart demon?” he wondered.

With a furrowed brow, Perfected Yun gazed at the grotesque spirit that trailed behind him.
After a moment of contemplation, he shook his head.
“That’s impossible.
My heart demon is not something other people can see.”

Sigh, perhaps he had been thinking too much lately, to have given rise to such an unrealistic thought…

Perfected Yun stepped into the rain and disappeared into the mist.

He wasn’t afraid that the children would escape since the ancient residence was surrounded by cliffs and ruins, making it difficult for them to move.

In the blink of an eye, he arrived at the doorstep of a dark and gloomy mansion.
This was the home of the Wu family.

Amidst the pitter-patter of rain, Perfected Yun encountered a small, aged man who stood waiting at the doorway with an umbrella in hand.

“Is something wrong? Did that crazy old woman prophesize something important again?” Perfected Yun asked casually.

“No,” the dwarf replied with a furrowed brow.
“Today, the grand priest went to inspect the idol and altar.
He found something in the mud at the bottom of the cliff.”

“What was it?” Perfected Yun pressed.

“A sword,” the dwarf answered.

“A sword? Is it a great artifact? Or an object left behind by Lord Protector?”

Perfected Yun hazarded a guess, but the reality proved far beyond his expectations.

“No, it’s not a great artifact.
The sword is in good condition, but there are no divine inscriptions on it either.
It’s just an ordinary sword, but…” The dwarf elder’s voice suddenly trembled.

“But what?”

“But when the grand priest compared it to the markings on Lord Protector’s idol, one of them seemed to match it!” The dwarf elder took a deep breath before delivering the shocking news in a cold voice.
“That sword may very well be the weapon that killed Lord Protector!”

“What do you mean,” Perfected Yun exclaimed in shock.

The old man fell silent.

“A common blade had killed Lord Protector… How is that possible? If a common blade was the murder weapon, what kind of person must the killer be?”

Is the Wu family… in peril?

Perfected Yun stood in the rain, the clothes on his back slowly soaking through.

Meanwhile, in that bloody room, Lin Shouxi leaned against the wall, lost in thought.

Ever since he woke up, he felt as though he had forgotten about something important.
It wasn’t the River Luo Inscription or the black scale, but something else…

What could it be?

He was too exhausted, and his headache was so severe that it made remembering hard.

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