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    Chapter 76: This Seat Has Met That Guy Again

    Chu Wanning had never been the kind of master who patiently guided his disciple. Mo Ran was no longer a naive child of five or six either. He would not bother responding to such playful questions, and simply lowered his gaze, remaining silent and cold.

    The hibiscus flower he had thrown out was imbued with a Gale Spell, quickly sweeping through the entire Peach Blossom Spring. In no time, a golden talisman descended from the sky and landed in his hand.

    "The Ancestral Abyss?"

    The Ancestral Abyss was where furious vultures emerged every day, prompting cultivators to rush over to pluck their feathers. The Feathered people had previously mentioned that beneath the abyss was an endless inferno of true fire. Apart from the vultures that had lived there since ancient times, anyone who fell in would be melted until not even ashes remained.

    Chu Wanning cast a barrier around himself and Mo Ran to conceal their presence from the Feathered people.

    Upon arriving at the Ancestral Abyss, they saw that it was bottomless, emitting eerie red light. The cliffs were densely inhabited by thousands upon thousands of strange birds, all of which were now sleeping with their heads buried under their wings, appearing as countless tiny dots from afar.

    According to Chu Wanning's thoughts, if the Precious Chess Game was set within the abyss, then everything the Feathered people had said about the raging flames and being burned to nothingness must have been made up.

    "But how can we be sure that the fire down there won't burn people to death?" Mo Ran muttered, staring at the lurking glow below. "It looks real no matter how you look at it."

    "Throw something down first."

    "I'll go catch a rabbit then."

    "No need." Chu Wanning rose and soared, his white robes billowing as he vanished into the nearby peach grove. In no time, he drifted back like a celestial being from the ninth heaven, holding a peach blossom in hand.

    Mo Ran understood now. A peach blossom was more delicate than a rabbit, so if it could withstand the so-called "flames," there would be no danger for a living person to enter.

    Chu Wanning's fingers brushed over the peach branch as he muttered incantations. The vibrant peach blossom was instantly enveloped by a gentle, crystalline blue light. He nodded toward the abyss and whispered, "Go."

    The peach blossom fell slowly, one foot, two feet, ten feet, a hundred feet.

    Its shadow had long since disappeared, but Chu Wanning's spell allowed him to sense the blossom's condition. He closed his eyes, then after a moment, his eyelashes fluttered open again.

    "The peach blossom is unscathed. It's safe to proceed."

    With Chu Wanning's assurance, there was nothing more to say. Mo Ran immediately leaped into the air with him, both soaring toward the Ancestral Abyss. Their movements were deft, and they reached the bottom without incident. Despite his mental preparation, Mo Ran still felt a chill when he saw the scene at the bottom of the great abyss.

    He knew what the red glow within the abyss truly was.

    There were thousands of wooden frames packed tightly inside the great abyss, each one suspending a Feathered person. They were all naked, their beautiful bodies dripping with blood. Each of their mouths was stuffed with a Lingchi fruit that glowed with a blinding red light. The thousands of red lights converged together, and from above, it was easy to believe this was the true flame of the crimson abyss.

    Chu Wanning's expression was grim. With his extensive knowledge, he naturally knew that this red fruit was a forbidden fruit feared by all in the cultivation world. Placing it in the mouth of a dying person could prolong their last breath for three hundred and sixty-five days.

    In other words, someone who could have been released from their suffering instantly would now endure an excruciatingly slow death. What would have been a sudden heart failure would become an unending torment, a form of death by a thousand cuts.

    Mo Ran gazed at the layers upon layers of Feathered immortals turned undead and murmured, "…Soul Shackling Array."

    Using living beings as pillars to trap resentment within, not even a wisp of the trapped souls' aura would leak out, no matter how many thousands there were in the precious chessboard game!

    No wonder he had been unable to detect any trace of the resentful energy from the precious chessboard game despite his meticulous investigations.

    Mo Ran felt increasingly chilled. He wondered if the fake Chen Gou he encountered in Jin Chengchi was the same person pulling the strings behind the scenes in Peach Blossom Spring.

    From what he experienced in Jin Chengchi, the fake Chen Gou could only use the precious chessboard game to manipulate the underwater spirits rather simply, suggesting that he had only grasped the basics. However, the fake Feathered immortals that filled the outskirts of Peach Blossom Spring were more than just dim-witted; they were nearly identical to the real ones, capable of even casting Feathered immortal spells. The level of mastery over this forbidden technique was clearly advanced. Could the fake Chen Gou have progressed so rapidly?

    Chu Wanning arrived at the center of the Soul Shackling Array, where a stone pillar made of crystal stood tall.

    Tied to the pillar was a Feathered immortal, though she was already deceased. The Ling Chi fruit in her mouth had withered, and her body had begun to decay. Nevertheless, the golden silk phoenix robe adorned with golden threads that draped over her and the star-shaped curse seal on her forehead revealed her previous status.

    "This is…"

    Mo Ran exclaimed, "This is a genuine Feathered Immortal!"

    "That's right," Chu Wanning gazed at the endless column of people and said softly, "There must be at least eight hundred Feathered people trapped here for the Soul Shackling Formation. If the Feathered Immortal were still alive, how could they endure such a deep blood vendetta? Moreover, when I fought with that Immortal outside just now, I sensed that their strength was inferior to the Ghost Conductor in Butterfly Town. If my guess is correct... the Feathered people of Peach Blossom Spring might have been wiped out long ago. Those outside are likely reanimated corpses under the control of the Precious Chess Game."

    "!" Indeed! Chu Wanning had come to the same conclusion as him! Startled, Mo Ran turned around, ready to rush back. Chu Wanning waved his wide sleeves to stop him.

    "Where are you going?"

    "I need to tell Uncle and the others about this. If it's true, it's too dangerous."

    "Don't act rashly," Chu Wanning shook his head. "We're in the open while the enemy remains hidden. There are many cultivators inside Peach Blossom Spring, and we have no idea who's behind all this. Acting impulsively will only make things worse."

    "Ha ha. Long time no see, Master Chu is still so cautious."

    A light laugh, tinged with mischief, echoed through the air like a sudden clap of thunder in the Ancestral Abyss. The two looked up in alarm to see a bloodied Feathered child swinging its legs on a protruding branch of a cliff. When they turned around, the deceased child tilted its head, its bleeding eyeballs rolling around before a bright smile spread across its mouth.

    Mo Ran cried out, "The Precious Chess Game!"

    Chu Wanning cursed inwardly and growled grimly, "Yet another white piece."

    "hee hee hee, yes, it's just a white chess piece," the Feathered child clapped sinisterly. "Did you really think I'd use my true form to guard this place? I'm not that foolish."

    Mo Ran responded, "Sure enough, you're that fake Chongchen from Jin Cheng Lake! You madman, what on earth do you want?"

    "Sss, who are you to question me, just a mere Foundation Building cultivator? Have your master come and ask instead."

    "You —!"

    Chu Wanning casually waved his wide sleeves, extending his slender fingers to press down on the fuming Mo Ran. Lifting his gaze, he asked in a cold voice, "What is it that you are plotting, sir?"

    The Feathered being swung his legs nonchalantly, clearly already deceased but manipulated by a forbidden spell like a puppet performing various antics.

    "It's actually not a significant matter that I'm after," Chu Wanning's voice was colder than ever. "Then why, sir, have you repeatedly attempted to take my disciple's life?"

    "The matter might be insignificant, but coincidentally, your young disciple's spirit core is needed to complete it," the child said with a grin. "All sorts of quirks and oddities, but his spirit core is exceptionally superb. Even better than yours, Grandmaster. I knew at Jin Cheng Lake that he is an exquisite wood spirit essence. Otherwise, I might have preferred you."

    His words were slick and coated in grease, yet delivered in an adult tone despite his childish voice. This made Mo Ran feel immense disgust, and he angrily retorted, "If I'm cursed to fall into your hands, I'll immediately self-destruct my spirit core! Don't even dream of touching me!"

    "I didn't intend to touch you either," the child replied with that infuriatingly sweet tone. "I had no choice but to chase after you. All men in this world love beauty, and your master is more attractive than you. I'd rather lay a finger on him."

    "YOU!!!" Mo Ran's fur stood on end. "You, who dare not even show your face, using white chess pieces as puppets – how dare you even think of touching my master?"

    But the child rolled its eyes at him, seemingly not bothering to engage further. It turned back to Chu Wanning.

    "Grandmaster Chu, back at Jin Cheng Lake, I advised you not to pursue this matter. But you refused to listen, which made me so sad."

    "I am already aware of this situation. Even if you do not lay a hand on Mo Ran again, I will see this through to the end and spare no one."

    "Pfft, I knew you'd say that." The child fell silent for a moment before laughing. "Why are all you grandmasters so stubborn? ...Very well, since Grandmaster Chu won't listen to reason, we'll just have to wait and see. I'm curious to find out if your Heaven's Inquiry is mightier or my forbidden techniques are stronger."

    Chu Wanning's sword-like brows knitted together as he growled darkly, "Is this really what you aim for – senselessly slaughtering the innocent?"

    "All people are like the pomegranates of Huainan."

    "What do you mean?"

    "Tangy," the child giggled. "So sour, these dead ghosts and rotten people. They're all so sour it makes me hate them. I wish I could crush them all and stomp them into the ground."

    Mo Ran: "......."

    Chu Wanning's voice was laced with murderous intent. "Are you truly beyond redemption?"

    "I may be deemed hopeless by the Master, but I believe the same can be said for you," the child said with a shake of his head. "Master should consider this a game of chess. You won in the match at Golden Lake, but in this current game in Peach Blossom Land, since you've discovered the Ancestral Abyss and encountered my white pawn, I've exhausted all my tricks. I can no longer get to your young disciple, so naturally, you still come out on top."

    Pausing, he narrowed his eyes, a smile distorting his face as blood seeped from the corners.

    "But you'd better protect him well. I'm curious to see if you can safeguard him for a lifetime, not just a moment."

    "......."

    "As for the secret beneath the Ancestral Abyss, it would be best if the two of you keep it to yourselves." As the child spoke, a golden-red feather appeared between his fingertips.

    Mo Ran was startled. "This is the golden feather used as currency in Peach Blossom Land?"

    "Precisely," he replied with a smile. "These golden feathers can be found throughout Peach Blossom Land. If the two of you keep the secret and leave on your own, everyone in the land will remain unharmed. However, if you're disobedient and reveal my whereabouts, the resentment of the Feathered People bound to these feathers might not take their lives, but they will surely strip them of most of their cultivation."

    Mo Ran raged. "You planned this from the very beginning?!"

    "And what else could there be?" the child wondered. "Do you really think everyone is as foolish and brutal as you?"

    Mo Ran: "..."

    He was truly, truly furious! He admitted he wasn't one to beat around the bush or understand the intricacies of gaining or losing ground, but having this little beast so openly call him out made him want to summon his ghostly weapon to show the creature what true stupidity and brutality looked like.

    "Master Chu, whether or not you speak, your intentions are clear," the child continued. "Even if they learn the truth, with their cultivation greatly diminished, they might not appreciate Master Chu's efforts in ridding the world of evil."

    Chu Wanning replied coldly, "You heard me earlier. I never intended to disturb them now."

    "Now? Haha, it seems the Master planned to reveal it later. But it won't matter then." The child smiled cheekily. "Once these cultivators leave, Peach Blossom Spring will meet the same fate as Jin Cheng Lake. By then, there'll be no proof left, and who would believe you?"

    Chu Wanning's gaze turned icy. "With such actions, how can you still have the face to call Mo Ran ignorant and crude?"

    Unfazed by Chu Wanning's sarcasm, the child stood up and twirled on the spot. Suddenly, a flame appeared beneath its feet, slowly burning away flesh, muscle, and bone.

    "Wait until you catch me before saying that again. Master Chu, I respect you as a gentleman, so let me give you one last piece of advice. Don't intervene any further. If you don't listen, we... will meet again someday..."

    With a loud boom, the flames burst into the air.

    The Feathered child puppet was consumed in flames, and a translucent white chess piece fell from the sky, rolling twice on the ground before coming to a stop.

    A long silence ensued.

    "…" Mo Ran knew that the mysterious figure's words were true, but he still couldn't accept it. He asked, "Shifu, are we really just leaving like this? Are there any other options?"

    "Caution is key. We should leave Peach Blossom Paradise first," Chu Wanning said with a grim expression. "Since that person went through such trouble to set up a Soul Shackling Array just to prevent others from discovering his manipulation of the JInglong Chess Game, it shows that he doesn't want this matter to become public knowledge for now. I'll send a message to the Venerated One, asking him to find a way to get Xue Meng and Shi Mo out of here as soon as possible without alerting the enemy. As for you..."

    Chu Wanning paused before continuing, "In both incidents at Jin Cheng Lake and Peach Blossom Paradise, he targeted you. By framing you this time, he hopes to isolate you. You don't need to worry about this matter for now. The Venerated One is the head of a sect, so it's best for him to handle the negotiations."

    "What can I do then?" Mo Ran asked. "I can't just push everything onto others and do nothing myself."

    "What use is your bravado now? The mysterious person's goal is clear. After the divine tree fell at Jin Cheng Lake, he's been searching for a substitute spirit essence. As a Wood Spirit essence, you're the most suitable candidate, but if he can't get you, he'll settle for the next best option, seeking other high-quality spirit essences." Chu Wanning paused and said, "If he finds one, there will likely be another bloodbath. We have to stop him."

    "That's true, but Shifu, finding a spirit essence isn't that easy. Even if he wants to look for a substitute, he'd have to..."

    Mo Ran suddenly stopped talking and lifted his head, his soft black eyes staring intently at Chu Wanning. After a moment, he said, "That beast would have to investigate every sect to find out who the spirit essence is. Cultivators don't just reveal their spirit roots for no reason. They only use them to sense weapons or refine stones. So, the easiest way to test for spirit essences is by selling weapons and spiritual stones. If we observe the weapon markets in front of major mountains recently, we might catch a trace of that beast."

    Upon finishing his explanation, Mo Ran saw Chu Wanning looking at him thoughtfully, and he couldn't help feeling guilty.

    "Well... I suppose that's my guess."

    "You're not far off," Chu Wanning said leisurely. After a moment, he suddenly felt that there was more to the story than he knew, and his eyes narrowed as he asked, "Mo Ran, are you hiding something from me?"

    "I couldn't possibly be keeping anything from Master Chu," Mo Ran said, though every hair on the back of his neck stood on end. He felt as if Chu Wanning's limpid, faintly luminous eyes, like those of a rare glass bead, were piercing through his reincarnated flesh to ensnare the quivering essence of his true soul within.

    Fortunately, Chu Wanning fell silent for a moment and didn't say anything further.

    He lowered his gaze gently and said in a deep voice, "Starting from today, you will accompany me to secretly investigate the major sects. We will not return to the Peak of Life and Death for now."

    Author's Note: The Peach Blossom Spring Boss says, "I'm a man who judges by appearance. Your Master is more attractive than you, so I treat him better."

    Mo Ran: Damn it, didn't the author say I'm the most good-looking?

    Meat Bun: Yeah, but here's the thing. First, you're still in your youthful form, not fully developed. Second, even though the Boss is a straight man, if he were gay, his preferences would align with yours. Do you think he'd find you more appealing or your Master?

    Mo Ran: Aren't there any Bosses who are more submissive?

    Meat Bun: There are indeed.

    Meat Bun (turning its head): Xue Mengmeng, your cousin invited you to be the big boss!

    Today's Weibo features a lovely depiction of the blame-taking Shi Mo by a talented artist! You can find it on my Weibo account, Fluffy Overlord Meat Bun, or on the artist's Weibo, Pouring Wine to Conceal Beauty.

    Now, let the main storyline of Master Dog begin!

    For now, there are no immediate heartbreaks, but be cautious when encountering flashbacks – they usually come with two possibilities:

    First, flying daggers.

    Second, high-speed emotional rides.

    No warning will be given for the past life scenes; just brace yourself for these two scenarios when they appear, lol 23333.

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