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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 61

    The old lady Wang was ecstatic upon hearing that her foot odor and her friend's constipation might be cured. She promptly arranged for two small statues of the Heavenly Venerated with Wei Xi, deciding to worship this divine being indefinitely from then on.

    With great enthusiasm, she opened two more packets of incense, lighting them up devoutly. However, it seemed like an illusion, but she felt that today's incense flames were unusually weak. Through the flickering flames, there was an inexplicable sense of vulnerability and helplessness.

    Old Lady Wang pondered for a moment but dismissed the thought, probably attributing it to the recent cold weather.

    Wei Xi, on the other hand, was sweltering. The heat radiating from the jade pendant was almost melting him. He was usually unbothered by pain, yet even through his clothes, the scorching sensation was unbearable. When he made the promise to Old Lady Wang, the pendant unleashed its power, causing a sharp sting in his fingertips, making him involuntarily hiss softly.

    Strangely, the moment he spoke, the temperature of the jade pendant dropped abruptly.

    His second disciple, who was nearby, quickly turned his head upon hearing the sound. "What's wrong?"

    Wei Xi released the jade pendant, and the warmth against his chest had already cooled to a tolerable level. He rubbed his fingers in confusion. "Nothing, just got burned a bit."

    Instantly, his hand was seized by his second disciple, who spread it open to examine it. The slightly reddened fingertips were gently touched, and the disciple frowned, realizing something. He looked at Wei Xi's chest. "Was it that jade pendant?"

    Wei Xi nodded.

    Shuo Zong's frown deepened. He had also experienced the burning sensation from this jade pendant when he was in the mountains, and it had felt very unusual. "The origins of this jade pendant are unclear. Take it off and don't wear it anymore."

    Wei Xi shook his head. "This is the sect leader's token passed down by your grandmaster. It won't harm me."

    Although his tone was calm, his unwavering trust in Wei Dedao was evident, so much so that Shuo Zong couldn't help but feel puzzled.

    How did Wei Xi develop such a personality? What kind of person was his deceased master to have influenced him to become like this?

    After Wei Xi declined his disciple's concern, he immediately felt the pendant's temperature become more comfortable. He said confidently, "See? It's already fine."

    Shuo Zong fell silent for a moment, touching the tip of his finger, but ultimately said nothing.

    *****

    In Liandu Temple, many familiar Daoist priests had already gathered. After Wei Xi arrived with his disciples, he realized that Tan Fu was also there. On a table in front of them lay an amulet that looked familiar.

    Wei Xi glanced at the amulet. "Is this the talisman?"

    "Little Xi!" Tan Fu called out urgently. "Come quick and look at the news! The person who gave me the proxy died!"

    He was a close friend of Wei Tianyi's, so his tone was rather intimate. Wei Xi didn't mind and stepped forward to see that Tan Fu's tablet was playing a news report. It was about a traffic accident on Xin Nan's highway. A speeding sports car had inexplicably swerved and crashed into a tunnel entrance, killing the driver on the spot. After the report, the online media clearly displayed the victim's daily photos, identifying her as the daughter of a well-known wealthy businessman in Xin Nan.

    Tan Fu pointed at the photo with certainty. "It's her, I can't be wrong. The moment I saw the news, I came straight here to find you."

    Wei Xi looked at his second disciple, who solemnly said, "The proxy offering was broken, so her karma returned to her. It seems she indeed invited a fatal disaster upon herself."

    Looking at the gruesome scene of the accident on the news, Tan Fu shuddered at the thought that he had narrowly avoided becoming the main character in the tragedy. "That's terrifying. Thanks to Little Xi, I'm still alive. Otherwise, my old life would've been over."

    After expressing his gratitude, he remembered the Kuang couple who had also performed the ritual and quickly added, "Of course, thank you, Daoist Kuang and Daoist Xu, for your hard work too."

    Recalling the situation, Kuang Zhiming couldn't help but feel ashamed. "It was all thanks to Daoist Wei's efforts. We didn't really do much."

    After his shame, his expression turned serious as he addressed Wei Xi. "Although Mr. Tan's proxy offering issue has been resolved, Daoist Wei should still be cautious. My fellow Daoists and I believe that this proxy offering was the work of the Cultivation Sect. Whoever broke it will likely suffer a backlash, and now a feud has officially started between us. Their methods are very bizarre. Apart from using qigong to gain followers, they can also control ghosts. I've heard they have some connection with the Underworld Messengers."

    Wei Xi: "Underworld Messengers?"

    Since he had left the mountain, he had encountered many wandering spirits but had never come across any Underworld Messengers.

    "Rumor has it that they once summoned the Underworld Messengers to take the soul of a police officer investigating them," Kuang Zhiming explained, guessing that Wei Xi hadn't had such an encounter before. He smiled and added, "But each sect is different, and Underworld Messengers rarely interact with us. There isn't much communication between the worlds of the living and the dead. Besides, Liandu Temple is too small. Only major temples, with their unique techniques, usually have connections with the Underworld Messengers, like the local City God Temple and God Immortal Palace. The City God Temple is a given, but for the God Immortal Palace, I've heard that they've maintained good relations with the ghost messengers for generations."

    As he spoke, he turned to the Daoist priest among the group and introduced, "Coincidentally, Daoist Priest Yu from the God Immortal Palace is planning to summon a spirit messenger today to restore a soul."

    *****

    Daoist Priest Yu invited them all to the hospital. The person he needed the spirit messenger's help for was a little girl who was peacefully sleeping in her hospital bed.

    "The devotee was in a car accident earlier. She wasn't physically hurt, but her soul was frightened into wandering off," explained Daoist Priest Yu. "She's young and has a weak life force. I've tried many methods to locate her, but none have worked. I suspect she might have been mistakenly taken away by a spirit messenger along with other wandering souls at the accident scene. That's why I'm trying to summon one to ask for information."

    "Can they even make mistakes like that?" Unity Yi couldn't resist complaining to his master. "The spirit messengers are pretty careless, aren't they?"

    "I can't be certain; it's just a speculation," Daoist Priest Yu said cautiously about the spirit messengers, refraining from joining in the criticism. He smiled and added, "In a large-scale accident scene, there are too many souls to retrieve. If she wandered off unexpectedly, it might not be noticed immediately if she was taken away by mistake."

    After saying this, he laid out the paper money and offerings for the spirit messenger and began chanting. Wei Xi watched his actions as Kuang Zhiming whispered to him, "Master Wei, Daoist Friend Feng and I have discussed recommending your Taicang Sect to the local Taoist Association as soon as possible. However, the religious bureau's scrutiny is quite strict these days, so we can't guarantee that your temple will pass the review smoothly. Hence, we thought it best to inform you in advance."

    The matter concerned the recognition of his sect within the industry, and Wei Xi instantly grew nervous. "What do you mean?"

    "It's mainly because your temple only has... a business license," Kuang Zhiming said, still feeling speechless as it was his first time encountering a temple without a single Daoist certificate. "The association might not acknowledge this. It would be better if you had other credentials."

    Wei Xi couldn't help frowning. "Would a tax payment certificate not suffice?"

    Kuang Zhiming: "I think it's not possible."

    Wei Xi immediately became worried, unable to comprehend why there were so many rules beyond the mountains and certificates needed to establish a sect.

    As they spoke, Daoist Yu, sitting by the sickbed, finally summoned an Underworld Messenger after several attempts. The messenger appeared in the hospital room, wielding chains and exuding an eerie aura, dressed in a long robe. Initially impatient, their expression changed upon recognizing Daoist Yu and the burning ghost money. "Ah, it's you, Daoist Yu. I was just about to come to the hospital to retrieve souls. What brings you to call me?"

    After Daoist Yu finished burning the ghost money, he politely explained the situation with the missing soul of the little girl on the bed. The ghost messenger accepted the offered cash unceremoniously, then took the birth dates and accident location provided by Daoist Yu. After pondering for a moment, they left with a sudden realization.

    Moments later, they reappeared, leading back a dazed and confused soul. "Take a look. Is this her? She's been at the special task force for the major car accident on Mingbei Road for days. I was wondering why her information wasn't in the ledger of souls to be retrieved."

    Upon clear recognition, Daoist Yu replied joyfully, "Thank you very much! It's indeed her!"

    The Underworld Messenger grumbled, "This mischievous child, what was she running around for at the scene of a car accident? There were over thirty souls locked in from that major accident. You guys have your hands full up there, and we're swamped down here too."

    With that, the disoriented soul was unceremoniously tossed onto the bed. "Go, go, go!"

    Kuang Zhiming exclaimed in surprise to Wei Xi, "They actually really grabbed the wrong soul?"

    After the astonishment subsided, he sighed in relief, "Fortunately, Daoist Yu has a good relationship with the Underworld Messengers. Otherwise, if this delay caused the child's family to give up on treatment, the consequences would be dire."

    Fixing his gaze on the Underworld Messenger, Wei Xi inquired, "So these are the Yin-Yang Officers?"

    It doesn't seem like it.

    Behind him, his second disciple explained, "Just an ordinary Soul Collector from the Netherworld. They probably belong to the local Office of the Earth Deity near the God Immortal Palace, hence their good relationship with the palace."

    In short, they are akin to errand runners under the direct command of Heibai Wuchang—the messengers of death. Given the vast expanse of the land, administrative functions are divided meticulously. Most City God Offices and local Earth God Shrines across the realm have comparable positions. The Soul Reapers, much like neighborhood police officers, are assigned to specific regions to carry out their duties.

    Oh—

    Wei Xi nodded, inadvertently meeting the gaze of the Underworld Messenger sweeping over him. The messenger suddenly froze.

    "Eh," the chain-carrying messenger approached, appraising him from head to toe, "Are you Daoist Wei from Tai Cang Sect?"

    Unfazed, Wei Xi even found the messenger's dense yin energy appealing, thinking it would probably taste delicious, "Do you know me?"

    Shuo Zong's gaze instantly turned sharp as he stared at the messenger. The others in the room were also startled by this turn of events, exchanging anxious glances – could it be that Fellow Daoist Wei's lifespan had come to an end, hence being recognized by the Underworld Messenger?

    The robed messenger, upon hearing this, slapped his forehead and burst into laughter, "It really is you! What a coincidence, I was planning to look for you in a few days, but who would have thought we'd meet here."

    Including Wei Xi, everyone was puzzled.

    Kuang Zhiming was also startled. "In a few days? Is it Daoist Wei's lifespan...?"

    "Ah, not at all!" The messenger in the long robe put away the chains and, with a smile, pulled out a certificate from his robe. "It's like this: our local City God Office recently conducted a census of transient ghosts, and we found several group settlements. We discovered that the Taicang Sect is actually providing jobs to over seven hundred ghosts in the living world. So, we reported this matter. When the Netherworld Department heard about it, they were very pleased and specially issued this certificate for us to deliver to your sect."

    Everyone was speechless.

    Wei Xi: "???"

    *****

    The messenger handed the certificate to Wei Xi and said with a smile, "I've been so busy lately that I haven't had time to visit. Today, I happened to meet you, so Daoist Wei, please accept it for now. We'll hold a formal ceremony later. You see, in recent years, the ghost population has exploded, and there's not enough housing or job opportunities. This has led many waiting ghosts to have nothing to do, making them hard to manage. Your sect providing suitable jobs under these circumstances has truly alleviated our urgent problem. Considering the large number of ghost employees in your company and the fact that they can't be bound by mortal laws, our local ghost administration has specially approved your sect as a pilot complaint cooperation unit, granting you a treatment equivalent to a full department-level position. If you encounter any illegal activities by transient ghosts, Daoist Wei can report to our City God Office at any time using this certificate, and we will handle it seriously."

    Wei Xi opened the certificate in confusion, and indeed, it was stamped with a red seal – the stamp of the Netherworld Department.

    The messenger looked at the seal with a hint of longing. It represented the highest administrative agency of the Netherworld. As a pilot complaint cooperation unit with a full department-level treatment, the department had really gone all out to encourage employment among unemployed ghosts. They even offered such a practical reward; forget about the department-level treatment, he, a messenger who had been fetching souls for years, had worked tirelessly with excellent performance, and yet he was only a minor section chief in the local City God Office. Just the title of pilot complaint cooperation unit alone held the key to the lifelines of all transient spirits in the living world.

    The Netherworld Department had always adopted a policy of 'if the people don't complain, the officials won't investigate' towards ghosts secretly hiding in the living world due to lack of space in the afterlife. However, since few mortals knew they could report ghosts to the City God Office, the messengers rarely received complaints. Sometimes, when the issues weren't too severe, they would just accept some benefits to settle things.

    As a result, Taicang Sect now had the authority to report any infractions, reaching the highest echelons of power. In the future, how could any ghosts or spirits escape their grasp?

    The Underworld Messenger was parched from all the pondering and thus adopted an extremely courteous attitude. His superior had specially emphasized maintaining a good working relationship with this company that provided job opportunities.

    However, regardless of his wild speculations, Wei Xi's mind was preoccupied with only one matter.

    He examined the certificate repeatedly, sensing a similar level of legitimacy as his company's business license. This led him to immediately think of the most pressing issue at hand.

    Holding the certificate before Kuang Zhiming's eyes, he probed, "Master Kuang, if the Taoist Association doesn't recognize our business license, would adding this certificate make it acceptable?"

    Kuang Zhiming: "…."

    Staring blankly at the document spread out in front of him, Kuang Zhiming was utterly confused. What was Taicang Sect trying to convey? What did it mean to be a cooperative unit of the local City God Office? Were they now a public institution or a government agency?

    Wait a moment, this didn't seem like a regular institution either. What category would an organization approved by the Netherworld Department fall under?

    He imagined presenting the document to the association's management and explaining to his fellow Taoists that even though Taicang Sect lacked official approval or Taoist credentials, they were genuinely legitimate and even served as civil servants in the Netherworld Department.

    Lost in his surreal imagination, Kuang Zhiming muttered to himself, "It... It should work, right?"

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