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    Chapter 201: Master, How Should I Humiliate You?

    With the departure of Biotan Villa, Huang Xiaoyue had no reason to stay behind even if he wanted to.

    He could only head up the mountain.

    Mo Ran hoped for a quick resolution and rushed ahead into the Phoenix Mountain barrier, with the Jiangdong Sect members following closely behind. Upon entering the barrier, Mo Ran was unaffected, but the members of the Jiangdong Sect all let out screams—

    They were surrounded by corpses.

    Dead bodies were everywhere, on the ground and in the trees, hanging lifelessly, littered across the landscape. They wriggled, crawled, and contorted themselves, moving slowly towards every living person.

    Phoenix Mountain had become a mountain of corpses!

    Seeing this, Huang Xiaoyue stepped forward, drawing his whisk and striking fiercely, instantly severing the heads of four or five corpses. Before Mo Ran could react to why the old man had suddenly become so valiant, he heard him scream in agony, collapsing dramatically to the ground with his eyes rolling back, coughing up blood foam.

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

    Jiangdong Sect disciples hurriedly surrounded him. "Senior Huang—"

    "Senior…."

    "It's alright. Though my injuries are severe, I can still lend a hand." Huang Xiaoyue struggled to stand but, after two attempts, his knees gave out, and he fell back to the ground, panting heavily.

    The disciples grew anxious. "Senior, you should rest outside. There are too many malevolent spirits here; it might harm your vital organs."

    "Yes, yes."

    Huang Xiaoyue initially refused persistently. As he did so, he coughed up blood, which was mixed with thick saliva, an unbearable sight. After a few attempts, Huang Xiaoyue, accompanied by most of the Jiangdong Sect disciples, reluctantly left with an expression of utmost regret. The group hurried out of the Phoenix Mountain barrier like a school of fish swimming downstream.

    This barrier hindered entry but not exit. Soon, there were only a few disciples left in the Jiangdong Sect. At that moment, a young man descended from the mountain slope ahead. He had blond hair tinged with gold and deep green eyes, exuding an icy demeanor.

    Both Mo Ran and this young man saw each other and were momentarily stunned.

    Mo Ran was the first to recover. "...Brother Mei?"

    Mei Hanxue nodded, his expression cold and unapproachable.

    Mo Ran urgently inquired, "Did you see my Master and the others?"

    "Right ahead," the answer came. As these words were spoken, a corpse stumbled out from behind Mei Hanxue. Mo Ran was about to warn him when he saw a flash of sword light; Mei Hanxue had already drawn his sword, not even turning back as he struck the corpse through the chest with a swift, devastating blow.

    With a puff, he pulled the sword out, its blade now streaked with black fluid. Mei Hanxue's expression was stern as he wiped the blood clean from the sword. "Go up and keep moving forward. At the first fork in the mountain path, turn left. There are too many corpses; we're clearing the way. Everyone is over there."

    Mo Ran thanked him and prepared to catch up, but Mei Hanxue called out to him again.

    "Wait a moment."

    "Brother Mei, is there something on your mind?"

    "Mm-hmm. The Palace Master and Lady Rong are old acquaintances, and she's worried. She asked me to return and check on the two from the Confucian Wind Sect. Are they still outside?"

    Upon hearing this, Mo Ran felt reassured. "They're still waiting outside. Nan Gongsi put a binding spell on himself. But Huang Xiaoyue has left, and there's a concern that he might cause them more trouble. I hope you can look out for them."

    Mei Hanxue pursed his lips, saying no more. With a tap of his foot, he vanished at the end of the barrier.

    Mo Ran didn't waste any time and hurried to rejoin the main group.

    Strangely, he had expected to see the remains of his own people amidst all those corpses, but there were none. Instead, the landscape was littered with dismembered bodies and decaying flesh. Though repulsive, not a single cultivator's corpse could be found.

    Could it be that all the sect leaders had brought their finest disciples?

    He didn't have time for further speculation and immediately joined the battle to clear the mountain slope. If he had previously followed a path where others had already fought and weakened the zombies, then this time it felt even more peculiar.

    Too easy.

    It felt as if he wasn't battling vicious spirits at all, but rather slaughtering defenseless ordinary folk.

    This situation stirred unease within him, and a chilling suspicion began to form...

    "Ghahk-kuk!"

    Suddenly, a zombie dropped from a tree overhead, its hair matted and reaching for Mo Ran's neck. Mo Ran swiftly retreated, and the zombie instantly turned its head, nostrils flaring as it grabbed at his shoulder, attempting to bring its grotesque, decaying face closer.

    Mo Ran was nauseated, but he seized the opportunity to observe, then kicked fiercely, sending the zombie tumbling into the surging horde of corpses, toppling several putrid cadavers in the process.

    "Mo Ran!"

    Xue Meng had also rushed over, standing back-to-back with Mo Ran. He was panting, his cheeks stained with black blood, his eyes sharp as lightning as he growled, "What's going on? Are these corpses playing around? Engaging in a human wave tactic? Why are they so weak!"

    Mo Ran's gaze was cold and piercing. As the previous Immortal Trampler, he had delved into countless dark arts, and he already had a vague suspicion. However, without enough evidence, he couldn't be certain.

    Clenching his molars, Mo Ran said, "These aren't the bodies of cultivators transformed into zombies. They're ordinary people."

    "What?!" Xue Meng was startled. He turned his head and asked, "They've been reduced to black ashes, looking like charcoal. How can you still tell if they were cultivators or not? I can't even tell their genders!"

    Mo Ran didn't answer directly but said instead, "If we were fighting, and I couldn't dodge in time, and you grabbed my shoulder, what would you do?"

    "...Why would you expose your shoulder to me? That's a huge taboo in combat. Even disciples at the age of eleven or twelve wouldn't make such a mistake."

    "Why is it a taboo?"

    "The spirit core is close by! Grabbing your shoulder is like getting hold of half your spirit core. With the other hand piercing through your chest, it would instantly determine life or death!"

    Mo Ran said, "Alright, just now, a zombie did exactly that to me—"

    Xue Meng exclaimed, "How could you be so careless? Don't you care about your life?!"

    Mo Ran interrupted him. "It didn't move."

    "Huh?"

    "So close, it never expected another hand to strike at my spirit core. For cultivators, protecting one's own spirit core and attacking others' is an instinct ingrained in their bones, just as you said – even an eleven or twelve-year-old cultivator would do this. Even if they turn into zombies after death, their fighting habits remain unchanged. But this corpse didn't do that."

    Pausing, Mo Ran spoke in a grave tone.

    "Why not? Two possibilities. It couldn't do it, or it didn't think of it."

    Xue Meng: "…"

    Mo Ran continued, "With intact limbs and such a rare opportunity, it was impossible for it not to act. So it must have been that it didn't think of it… These corpses were likely ordinary people in life, and not a match for these elite cultivators even in death. That's why there hasn't been a single injury so far."

    Xue Meng exclaimed, "How could that be? What was Xu Shuanglin doing piling up so many ordinary people on Phoenix Mountain? If he had the energy for this, why didn't he control cultivators instead?"

    Mo Ran replied, "The same two possibilities apply – he couldn't do it, or he didn't think of it."

    "How could he not think of it?!"

    "There's only one possibility left, and it's unattainable." Mo Ran's gaze was heavy; the hellish sparks reflected in his eyes like molten iron plunging into an ocean of night. "Xu Shuanglin's spiritual energy isn't sufficient to control so many cultivators through the Precious Chess Game."

    "So what's the point of controlling these weaklings?" Xue Meng kicked another group of zombies back, unable to decide whether to laugh or cry. "What can they do? Block anything?"

    Mo Ran remained silent, his suspicion growing clearer in his mind.

    He watched the zombies fighting with the others, and soon, he noticed an extremely bizarre phenomenon: the corpses whose limbs had been severed and heads lopped off would have tiny vines sprout from their bodies after falling to the ground. These tendrils would pierce directly into their chests, followed by a muffled "pfft" as the flesh and heart were violently squeezed into the earth, vanishing without a trace.

    It was a highly noticeable occurrence, but amidst the chaos, no one had the time to react. The thin vines were difficult to spot unless one stood quietly nearby to observe.

    "Mo Ran?"

    Xue Meng called out to him, but Mo Ran didn't register the sound.

    Suddenly, he leaped forward, seizing a zombie by the neck and drawing a hidden dagger to stab directly at its heart.

    In an instant, black blood splattered across his face!

    Xue Meng's mouth gaped open, taking two steps back in shock, rendered speechless.

    He was convinced that Mo Ran had lost his mind...

    With half of his chiseled face turned, Mo Ran swiftly and fiercely plucked out the zombie's black-gray heart, shattering it to reveal a black chess piece inside.

    This wasn't surprising. The zombies on Phoenix Mountain were clearly under the control of the precious chess game, which was why they were acting as proxies for some sinister purpose. What Mo Ran was looking for wasn't this chess piece—he rummaged through the blood, enduring the overpowering stench.

    Xue Meng couldn't take it anymore; he bent over and vomited.

    "You! Are you insane?... This is too disgusting... Ugh..."

    Mo Ran ignored him, fingers searching through the clots of blood until he found what he was looking for.

    On the back of the chess piece, a tiny vermilion insect was tightly clinging—none other than the Soul Devouring Bug.

    At the same moment, dozens of slender vines shot up from the ground, aiming straight for Mo Ran's bloodied hands! He dodged swiftly, but the vines grew faster, determined to bury the chess piece and the bug beneath the earth.

    Mo Ran now fully understood Xu Shuanglin's intentions and actions.

    Every hair on his body stood on end, his blood running cold—

    For in this world, aside from the previous Heaven-Stepping Lord, no one else could have possibly conceived such an arcane and malevolent technique!

    Just as the Tidal Wave of Ten Thousand Waves was created by Chu Wanning, all these elements before him—the chess piece, the Soul Devouring Bug, the horde of corpses, and these arrangements—pointed to a formation that Mo Ran knew all too well:

    The Shared Heart Formation.

    This was a formation he had personally crafted in his past life!

    If before it was mere speculation, then the reappearance of this formation was like a slap to his face. Its emergence undoubtedly confirmed two things:

    First, apart from himself, there must be another person who has been reborn in this world.

    Second, that reborn individual is undoubtedly familiar with the methods of the previous Heaven-Stepping Imperial Lord.

    Mo Ran's hands trembled slightly, black blood continually dripping from between his fingers as he held the black chess piece and the crimson insect tightly in his palm.

    Dodging the swarming vines, his mind had already descended into chaos.

    Amidst the confusion and terror, memories from his shattered past life suddenly flooded back to him—

    Back then, he was only nineteen years old.

    At that time, the Heavenly Rift in the Ghost Realm had just been sealed, Shi Mo had recently passed away, and for nearly half a year, he had secretly practiced the art of the Jūnglóng Chess Game without any success, repeatedly failing.

    Until that one day.

    Nineteen-year-old Mo Weiyu sat cross-legged, slowly opening his eyes.

    Spreading his hands, two black chess pieces rested in his pale palms — it was the first time in his life that he had refined a Jūnglóng Chess piece.

    Before this, he had attempted thousands upon thousands of methods, all ending in failure. He couldn't understand the cryptic sentences written on the forbidden spell fragments, but he couldn't ask Chu Wanning. In truth, during that period, he had become reluctant to speak with Chu Wanning. Shi Mo's death had created an unbridgeable chasm between them.

    Their master-disciple relationship was now merely a formality.

    In the final months before he revealed his demonic nature, as he walked down the road, he would occasionally encounter a man in white robes coming from the opposite direction. But every time they met, he pretended not to see him, passing by in silence.

    In fact, there were several times on the Bridge of Helplessness when their paths crossed, and out of the corners of his eyes, he noticed Chu Wanning seemingly wanting to say something to him. Unfortunately, Chu Wanning's pride ultimately prevented him from calling out to his disciple first. And Mo Ran, for his part, wouldn't give him any more time to hesitate, simply walking away without looking back.

    They kept missing each other.

    Alone, Mo Ran struggled for a long time before he could barely grasp the meaning behind the fragments of the forbidden spell and the key point of the Jeno Chess Game:

    All the pieces, whether black or the more powerful white ones that resonated with the caster's emotions, were formed from the caster's spiritual energy.

    Each piece required an astonishing amount of energy to create. The power needed to forge a single black piece was enough for hundreds of high-level techniques, while crafting a white piece would drain the entire spiritual energy of a grandmaster like Chu Wanning in an instant.

    In other words, even if one were incredibly intelligent and had mastered the intricacies of the Jeno Chess Game, it would be meaningless without sufficient spiritual energy. As talented as Mo Ran was, with his abundant spiritual flow, he was still just a young man not yet twenty. After exerting all his effort and suffering multiple failures, he could only manage to refine two black pieces.

    They now lay in the palm of his hand.

    Mo Ran gazed at the two pieces, his eyes shimmering with an unusual luster. The only light in the dim chamber came from a candle on the verge of burning out, illuminating his face.

    He had done it.

    Back then, he didn't care about the number of pieces; he was ecstatic merely to have successfully refined the Jeno black pieces. He had succeeded!

    His handsome features suddenly took on a wild, ferocious look.

    Exiting the dark meditation chamber, he felt dizzy, half from bliss and half because the two pieces had drained him of all his spiritual energy. He was utterly exhausted, and the blinding sunlight outside made him feel dizzy and short of breath.

    His face flushed alternately red and white, his vision blurred as he saw two disciples from the Summit of Life and Death approaching in the distance. The only thing he managed to do was hurriedly conceal the two black stones in his Qiankun Bag before collapsing onto the ground, unconscious.

    Half-awake, half-asleep, he knew he had been brought back to the disciples' quarters and laid down on a narrow bed. He opened his eyes slightly, noticing someone sitting beside him.

    He had a fever, his head throbbed, and he couldn't make out the person's features. Still, he could vaguely sense the gaze directed at him—so concerned, so focused, so gentle, even tinged with remorse.

    "Mas..."

    His lips moved, but his hoarse voice failed to form a complete sentence; tears trickled down his cheeks first.

    The figure in white paused, then Mo Ran felt a warm hand caress his face, wiping away his tears. The person sighed softly, asking, "Why are you crying?"

    "..."

    Shi Mo, have you returned?

    Please don't leave... Don't die... Don't abandon me...

    Since Mother left, no one else in this world has treated me with such warmth and kindness, no one else has accepted me without reservation, wanting to stay by my side consistently...

    Shi Mo, don't go...

    Tears flowed relentlessly, and he felt weak for crying so much. He wept in his dreams and awake, continuously.

    That person sat by his bedside, accompanying him. Later, they held his hand without a word, staying clumsily but steadfastly by his side.

    Mo Ran recalled the two precious chess pieces in his Qiankun Pouch. He knew they were the source of evil, the seeds of a devil.

    Yet, they were also his bargaining chips after he failed to obtain what he desired, to defy the heavens and earth.

    With damp eyelashes, Mo Ran murmured, gazing at Shi Mo's illusory figure, "I'm sorry... if you were still here, I...

    "I wouldn't have wanted to walk down this path either."

    But he lacked the strength to finish his sentence. He fell into another slumber. When he awoke again, the man in white was long gone. Mo Ran believed even more that it was merely a vision from his delirious state. He remembered that there used to be a censer burning incense in the room, something Xue Zhengyong had lit to soothe him. The scent was pleasant, but he disliked it.

    The incense had burned out.

    A long incense stick, not finished burning, was extinguished by someone's hand.

    Who could have visited?

    He sat up, staring blankly at the incense burner. He pondered for a long time but couldn't figure it out thoroughly. In the end, he decided to put the thought aside. He noticed his clothes, accessories, the divine weapon, Mo Dao, and the Qiankun Bag were all neatly placed on the table.

    Regaining his composure, he hastily stepped down barefoot to retrieve his Qiankun Bag.

    Upon opening it, he was relieved to find that the three knots he had deliberately tied before losing consciousness were still intact, untouched by anyone.

    Mo Ran exhaled in relief, rummaging through the bag. There, nestled in a corner, were the two jet-black Jiongshen chess pieces, resembling malevolent ghostly eyes waiting to devour him.

    He gazed at the chessmen in a daze for a moment.

    This was probably fate – had Chu Wanning taken a glance at Mo Ran's Qiankun Pouch back then, everything would have been different.

    But Chu Wanning would never casually go through someone else's belongings, not even casting a second look when pockets were unguarded.

    Mo Ran retrieved the chess pieces. His Adam's apple bobbed, and his heart pounded like a drum.

    What should he do now? How should he utilize these two pawns...

    This was the first weapon he had refined, and he was eager to test it out— but who should he use? A sudden, insane idea flashed across his mind like a bolt of lightning.

    Chu Wanning.

    He wanted to embed the pawns within Chu Wanning's body.

    Once they were inside, would that cold-hearted, hypocritical man obey him without question? Would he never stand when told to kneel?

    Could he make Chu Wanning kneel before him and apologize, make him prostrate at his feet? He could make Chu Wanning call him Master, let him pierce, stab, and bite him!

    His excitement was so intense that Mo Ran's eyes began to glint with distorted light.

    Yes, torment him...

    How could he inflict the most pain and humiliation upon this exalted Immortal Venerable?

    Shame him...

    Mo Ran clutched the two chess pieces tightly, his mouth dry and a growing feverish heat surging within him.

    He was overwhelmed by a fierce excitement and anxiety, licking his chapped lips. He was eager to act, to see Chu Wanning's pale neck tilt down before him, and then reach out to touch it, feeling the fine tremors, and after that...

    Snap his neck? Crush his bones?

    Mo Ran felt unsatisfied.

    For no apparent reason, he felt empty, unfulfilled.

    Killing Chu Wanning was too dull. Even in his imagination, he found no pleasure in it. He wanted to see him cry, to see him crawl, to see him wish he were dead, a mix of shame and despair.

    He felt there must be a more exquisite way to vent his anger.

    Placing one of the chess pieces to his lips, he murmured in a low voice, "You can't stop me now, Chu Wanning. Soon, there will come a day when I'll make you..."

    Make you what?

    He hadn't thought that far ahead yet, unaware that a large part of his surging desire was a thirst to conquer Chu Wanning and an intense sexual attraction.

    Yet he possessed that terrifying masculine instinct.

    He desired to implant the first demon seed he had refined into Chu Wanning's body.

    He wanted to soil him.

    He rose and pushed the door open, stepping outside.

    Author's Note: I've been too busy today to sort through the comments and mentions on Weibo. Let's do it tomorrow, sorry! It's been an incredibly hectic day, QAQ. There won't be a skit today either, I'm utterly exhausted.

    0.5: What skit? This deity is the skit itself.

    2.0: Forget it, you're just a late-night drama skit.

    0.5: I tolerated your calling me illiterate yesterday, but where do you get off calling me a late-night drama skit??

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