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    Chapter 85

    The master and disciple of Taicang Sect were lamenting for a long time, but those around them couldn't understand a word.

    The Daoists from Xin Nan hesitated for a while before asking, "Excuse me, could you tell us what Daoist Wei is talking about?"

    The Daoists from the Capital Daoist Association also fell silent, their hearts heavy. They really didn't want to admit that this was their teammate. "…He's talking nonsense."

    The Daoists from Xin Nan were confused. "???"

    Wei Xi glanced at them upon hearing this, shaking his head inwardly. These fellow Daoists had simple lives, with most of the staff in their temples being monks who didn't have to worry about marriage. How could they understand his struggles?

    As the leader of a sect with over seven hundred employees, he knew all too well about the current social phenomenon. News often mentioned the gender imbalance, but few realized that the situation was even worse in the Netherworld. Otherwise, how could it force Black Impermanence, a high-ranking official, to come to the mortal world from Fengdu to do his work?

    With so few female ghosts in the Netherworld, those lingering in the mortal realm were even rarer, like a single red dot among countless green leaves. How scarce were they? Even visitors to the haunted house suggested adding more female ghosts to scare people, as red-clothed female ghosts held an indispensable position in traditional Chinese culture.

    Moreover, there were the bachelors in the sect. Since they started having formal jobs and solving their basic needs, they began seeking spiritual fulfillment and were always thirsty for it. A while ago, Shen Shu, the HR manager who had also been single for decades, hinted at this issue. He showed Wei Xi a news article about an electronics company hiring many beautiful women to motivate their single male programmers, indirectly suggesting that such methods indeed boosted employee morale.

    Wei Xi would love to do that! But what could he do if he couldn't find any female ghosts? Frankly, he now regretted devouring Fengyangxian in Fengyang Town. Although he had forgotten what Fengyangxian looked like, he remembered the long, luscious black hair that should have been appealing to the male employees. It was truly a pity to have consumed it.

    This was indeed one of the rare instances in his life where he felt regret. Sigh, talking about it only brought more tears.

    Thus, to cultivators from the capital and Xin Nan, the believers of the Self-Cultivation Sect rushing up the mountain with their urns were akin to a devastating flood or a fierce beast. To Wei Xi, however, they were an unexpected delight from beyond the heavens.

    He quickened his pace and hurried up the mountain, calling out, "Fellow cultivators, hurry up!"

    The local Daoist masters from Xin Nan were perplexed—why had he suddenly become so agitated?

    Nonetheless, Wei Xi had already sped up, reaching a pace that left them struggling to keep up.

    As he rushed, he didn't forget to remind his disciple, "Quickly give the company a call and tell them to spruce up and prepare! This is a great opportunity for a blind date! There's no time to lose!"

    *************

    The Self-Cultivation Sect's temple was situated halfway up the mountain, grand in scale and bustling with devout followers who had all come bearing the ashes of their loved ones.

    The scene was somewhat peculiar, but regardless of whether the believers' expressions were filled with joy or sorrow, they all engaged in lively discussions.

    "Who is this young lady from your family?"

    "Sigh, my daughter, such a tragedy. She went out to work and met with an accident. And you, sir...?"

    "Oh, my younger brother-in-law. He passed away from a brain hemorrhage the year before last, not even thirty yet. He didn't have the chance to get married."

    Wei Xi stood by nonchalantly with his disciple, eavesdropping on their conversation. Upon hearing that they were here for a lady, he gave them a more attentive look.

    He was handsome, followed by an even more handsome senior disciple, and then there was the muscular and dashing Unity Yi. This immediately drew the attention of countless uncles and aunts.

    The uncles and aunts, seeing the group of hurried Taoist priests behind them, were quite wary. They were loyal believers who understood the hardships their religion faced from other faiths. At first, they regarded the Taicang Sect members with suspicion. "What brings you here?"

    There had been too many Taoist priests and Buddhist monks sent by the government over the years, trying to brainwash them into leaving their religion. These young men might be good-looking, but if they tried to persuade them to stop the ghost marriage, they would not listen! They would immediately report this matter to the administrators within their sect!

    The tallest among the young men, the one who was asked, glanced at the yellow paper with the eight characters in his hand and asked, "Auntie, can we take a look at your daughter's birthdate?"

    The aunt was skeptical. "What do you want it for?"

    Unity Yi smiled. "Just to compare, just to compare."

    "Oh, so you're also here for the Yin Marriage event? In that case, my worries are put to rest. You young men are willing to participate in this too? Whose compatibility are you checking for? Are their Eight Characters compatible?"

    Unity Yi waved his hand and smiled. "Ah, they're company employees. Auntie, don't worry, there are hundreds of them. We're bound to find a suitable match."

    The auntie was puzzled. "Huh...???"

    She hummed in response, still confused. "So many... What organization do you belong to?"

    Unity Yi replied, "A legitimate bureau-level unit, with all our members having proper jobs. It's very reliable."

    The auntie pondered, somewhat lost. Could it be that this is a national institution arranging Yin Marriages for its deceased staff? No wonder people say civil servants have good benefits. The main gate of the Xiu Sheng Sect's temple was finally opened from within, and a stern-faced Taoist dressed in a robe stepped out. Wei Xi focused his gaze and recognized the lanky figure who had fled Beijing!

    Standing on his own turf, the lanky man seemed to feel a sense of support, his cold eyes landing on Unity Yi before sweeping over the panting Taoists climbing up the mountain behind him. A mocking smile slowly spread across his face.

    His gaze swept across the believers who had gathered at the entrance, trusting him completely. The lanky man thought to himself, These outsiders from other sects really think they can invade without being noticed? They won't expect it, but Master already knew about your movements. Although I'm unsure why our informants outside have suddenly gone silent, we were instructed to prepare early on. Putting aside everything else, these ordinary believers can be used as weapons to exhaust you!

    With this in mind, he raised his arms to address the crowd. "Everyone, listen up! The Yin Marriage ceremony requires absolute safety. Let's first control anyone who might cause trouble!"

    He kept a close eye on the unfamiliar faces from Taicang Sect nearby. Logically, these strangers should have provoked public outrage, but to his surprise, his own believers spoke up to explain, "Master Qing, you've misunderstood. They're here to join our event!"

    Tall and Lean: "??"

    The aunt who had been approached by Unity Yi earlier said cheerfully, "Yes! They're all civil servants, excellent prospects. I always wanted my daughter to marry one when she was alive. Such a stable career."

    Tall and Lean: "..............."

    Fuming inwardly at the foolishness of this group who believed such nonsense, he had no choice. He knew that the level of his cult's followers was probably just like this. Considering the image of their sect, he couldn't afford to engage Wei Xi in a fight right then – mainly because he might not win, and being beaten would be a huge embarrassment.

    Resigned, he reluctantly opened the temple gates. "Then come in."

    The other Daoist priests, who had expected a fierce battle before entering the Temple of Self-Cultivation, were speechless.

    A local Daoist from Xin Nan exclaimed, "So Daoist Wei brought his disciple to pave the way? No wonder they claimed to have a need for a ghost marriage. Clever move, indeed!"

    The Daoists from the capital: "....Ah."

    You're wrong; they probably really do have a need.

    *********

    Thus, everyone grew vigilant, clutching their magical artifacts. Apart from a few fellow daoists who accompanied the undercover police to secretly control Little Fatty in a hidden spot, the rest followed the crowd into the Self-Cultivation Sect.

    It was an isolated Taoist temple with thriving incense offerings, yet every detail exuded an eerie aura. Especially to the orthodox Taoist priests, the deities and buddhas enshrined within the sect seemed unusual. The giant statues were partially concealed behind curtains, their smiling faces with strangely distorted curves, as if mocking those who entered.

    Upon entering, Kuang Zhiming was visibly agitated: "I... I feel like I sensed Xu Xiaofeng, but not within this temple!"

    Priest Quan, standing by, studied Xu Xiaofeng's eight characters and said intently, "I can't divine her location – they must have hidden her. She could very well be nearby, perhaps even within this temple. Can you try summoning her?"

    Kuang Zhiming attempted but shook his head hopelessly: "No! No! I'm so useless!"

    The other priests consoled him, "Don't worry. The fact that you can sense her means she's safe, at least for now. When a soul is expelled from the body, it's natural for them to become disoriented. Your inability to summon her is understandable."

    The local priests from Xin Nan knew more, one whispering, "I suspect Fellow Daoist Xu's soul might be in the hands of the Self-Cultivation Sect's leader, Zhang Pang. His Taoist practices are incredibly bizarre; you've probably heard about his past, right?"

    Zhang Pang was notorious and feared in the industry. Mentioning his name instilled a sense of urgency among the Xin Nan priests. However, the group of fellow daoists from the capital fell silent upon hearing this.

    After a moment, someone ventured a question, "Are you referring to his past involvement in pyramid schemes?"

    The Xin Nan priests: "..."

    These fellow Daoists were well-informed indeed, knowing even such secretive information... The Daoist masters from Xin Nan couldn't help but break into a cold sweat. "No, it's because of his past in learning Daoist arts."

    The Daoist masters from the capital shifted their gaze awkwardly. "Oh oh oh! This matter!"

    At this moment, the Daoist masters from Xin Nan no longer felt nervous; instead, they fell silent. "This Zhang Pang... He was taken in as a disciple by the previous leader of the Cultivation Teaching when he was already over thirty. Yet, he possessed astonishing talent and learned all his master's skills in just a few short years. He also collected many secret techniques from other Daoist sects. His path is wide, and he can even command Yin soldiers and Underworld Messengers to retrieve souls. He must have a Soul-Imprisoning artifact that can block Fellow Daoist Kuang's summoning."

    Kuang Zhiming's eyes were reddened as he said, "I wonder if he'll come today..."

    The local Daoists shook their heads without any hope. "Zhang Pang is very cautious. Knowing that we're here, he might not show himself to confront us."

    Everyone stared intently at the thin, tall figure standing on the altar, wanting to make the first move to gain the upper hand. However, they hesitated, afraid of injuring ordinary people present.

    The thin man clearly sensed their apprehension, and the corners of his mouth slowly curled into an eerie smile. In the next second, he suddenly pulled out an ancient wooden plaque from his pocket.

    The Daoist masters immediately cried out in alarm upon seeing the plaque. "Not good! It's a Yin Soldier plaque!"

    The methods of nurturing Yin soldiers differed among different households. Generally, the owner of a Yin soldier could summon them directly with a command. However, many owners would also create tokens to summon their troops and entrust them to trusted subordinates with slightly weaker abilities. The Daoist masters didn't see the old leader of the Cultivation Teaching here, and there were still so many ordinary believers present. They had thought this so-called Yin marriage ritual was just a delaying tactic by the Cultivation Teaching. Who would have thought they would be so reckless, summoning Yin soldiers right in front of their oblivious believers?

    Daoist battles weren't child's play, and Yin soldiers were far from ordinary troops. If the fight became intense and civilians got hurt, what should they do?

    The Daoist priests immediately put aside their concerns and drew out their magical artifacts to stop him. "Hold him back!"

    The ordinary people present didn't understand what was happening and thought he was causing trouble. They immediately protested, a group of elders and aunties shouting as they tried to intervene. "Hey, what are you doing? We're about to hold a Yin wedding! Don't ruin anyone's fate, even if it's a ghostly union!"

    The tall, thin man met the skeptical gazes of the believers and gave a cryptic smile. "I am indeed summoning a ghost we've raised, but who says I'm not conducting a Yin marriage? Can't ghosts in our sect get married?"

    With that, he threw something into the air and opened his mouth to call out.

    How could the Daoist priests on the scene let him have his way? They rushed forward without hesitation, brandishing lightning talismans. A few deafening explosions rocked the temple, causing chaos among the Cult of Rebirth's believers, who thought an explosion had occurred and started screaming as they fled outside. Struck by a lightning talisman, the thin man sustained a minor injury. Gritting his teeth, he managed to escape under the protection of the pockmarked man, bolting towards the backyard while still tightly clutching the Yin soldier tablet to summon troops.

    But outnumbered, he was no match for the crowd and soon found himself at a disadvantage, on the verge of being restrained and having the Yin soldier tablet seized.

    Just then, a low growl echoed from the high wall of the backyard. "Where are the Eight Directions? Obey my command!"

    As the voice faded, a chilly gale suddenly swept through, lifting the cloth screens covering the statues and making them flutter eerily in the air.

    No one expected this turn of events. The startled Daoist priests quickly sprang into action, some opening their third eyes, others pasting talismans. To their shock, they discovered one by one, Yin soldiers emerging from the surrounding statues!

    The devout Daoist on the scene immediately flew into a rage: "You dare to raise Yin soldiers right here in our Daoist temple!!"

    The lanky man, having taken a few moves earlier, couldn't help but laugh in delight at his opponent's anger: "Yin soldiers, nourished by the devotion of believers, can increase their power. What's wrong with raising them? Why can't we?"

    He then turned to the newcomer and addressed him respectfully: "Master, why are you here?"

    His master, without a doubt, was Zhang Pang, the leader of the Cultivation Sect. Zhang Pang had an enigmatic gaze and an otherworldly demeanor, descending slowly from a ladder on the high wall, every move radiating the air of a transcendent sage: "If I didn't come, wouldn't you and your junior brothers be at the mercy of these uninvited guests?"

    Junior brothers?!!

    The daoists present were taken aback, looking up to see that indeed, the little fatty from the Cultivation Academy, who should have been guarded outside, was panting as he crawled in behind Zhang Pang. His actions were far more down-to-earth than Zhang Pang's; as he climbed, he anxiously called out, "Master, Master, you have to listen to me..."

    His master raised a hand, silencing him, then composedly placed his hands behind his back and gazed smilingly at the Taoist priests in front of them.

    The Daoist priests stared at him warily. "You're Zhang, the leader of the Cultivation Sect? What have you done to the police and fellow Daoists outside?"

    Zhang Pang smiled faintly, his aura almost transcending the mundane world, just as he was about to speak, an ill-timed voice suddenly pierced through the crowd, "Master, Master, look, the pyramid scheme guy is here!"

    Zhang Pang: "..."

    Tall and Thin: "..."

    The Taoist masters present: "..."

    Indeed, how could they transcend the world when they were actually a master of multi-level marketing? They almost fell for it.

    **************

    Little Fatty was still anxious: "Master, please listen to me..."

    Being pointed out his embarrassing past, Zhang Pang's composed expression twitched slightly, nearly breaking his facade: "...Don't worry, everyone outside is still alive. Unfortunately, that might not be the case for you."

    As he spoke, the Yin soldiers he had summoned had all left the statues they were attached to, standing in formation behind him. The Taoist masters, upon closer inspection, were even more astonished – they had originally thought that the Rejuvenation Sect's Yin soldiers were just a bunch of wild ghosts, but they appeared to be genuine soldiers! These Yin soldiers were clad in old armor and helmets, exuding dense Yin energy, towering and menacing with killing intent! There were at least two hundred of them!

    Seeing everyone's astonishment, Sect Master Zhang was clearly pleased, his smile deepening: "Surprised, aren't you? I stumbled upon this group of Qing dynasty soldiers in the mountains by chance. After subduing them, I have been nurturing them with dedication, along with the offerings from believers and various equipment, which has led to their current state."

    These Yin soldiers had been formidable warriors in life, known for their bloodthirstiness. Zhang Pang had always been immensely proud of this trump card. Every piece of armor and every long sword on these Yin soldiers was the result of his meticulous efforts.

    However, just as he finished speaking, that inappropriate voice from the crowd sounded again: "...You went through so much trouble, why didn't you give them guns? Even an air rifle would do. It's the age of firearms now, right? Ghost cultivation should keep up with the times, too."

    Zhang Pang: "..."

    Both Daoist priests: "...."

    Living for so many years, Zhang Pang had never heard such absurd and humiliating words before. His expression turned cold as he asked, "Who keeps babbling?"

    Unity Yi met his gaze, taken aback. "Huh? It's awkward when everyone's quiet and you're the only one talking."

    After a moment of silence, Zhang Pang, seeing that the three young men before him were fearless, his gaze darkened completely. Unfortunately, he was still recovering from the backlash of his summoning and couldn't engage in combat. Scanning the Daoist priests before him, he decided not to waste any more time and addressed the assembled Yin soldiers directly. "I've prepared a wonderful match for you! Capture them, and you'll win the hearts of beauties!"

    Upon hearing this, the Yin soldiers became as excited as a pack of baboons. The Daoist priests instantly realized the method Zhang Pang used to subdue them and the reason behind today's mass Yin wedding – their own disciples' maidens were being offered as incentives!

    Knowing there was a reward at stake, the Yin soldiers indeed prepared for battle. The Daoist priests, watching the polished Yin knives in their hands and their aggressive postures, grew increasingly wary. Unity Yi, however, whispered a complaint from their ranks. "Good grief, they've been ghosts since the Qing Dynasty, so they must be around a hundred years old by now. No wonder they're fighting so hard for girls; they must all be going crazy with pent-up desires."

    The Daoist priests: ".... Can you guys be a little more serious?"

    This was clearly not going to happen. Unity Yi continued to provoke the Yin soldiers. "Don't fall for his tricks. This guy is a fraud, full of nonsense. In our modern society, we value marital freedom. Just because he says he'll give you girls doesn't mean you'll actually get them. What if the girls aren't willing? And besides, there's no guarantee that there are even any girls to begin with."

    The Yin soldiers froze, turning to look at Zhang Pang in unison.

    Zhang Pang, upon witnessing the chaos in the troops, could not endure it. He gritted his teeth and declared, "Watch closely! All of you are elite soldiers and generals of my Daoist sect, so why belittle yourselves?!"

    With that, he, escorted by his disciples, swiftly approached the long table piled with birth date slips submitted by believers.

    "Trouble!" The Daoist masters present stirred again. "He's going to summon spirits!"

    The Yin soldiers seemed to have guessed that he was summoning females, and they all brandished their sharp weapons, howling with excitement. The Daoists dared not let Zhang Pang have his way; they immediately tried to intervene. However, the Yin soldiers were so desperate for the ladies that they didn't wait for Zhang Pang's command before actively blocking the Daoists. A fierce battle between humans and spirits ensued!

    In the midst of the intermittent clashes, Zhang Pang remained composed. He sifted through the box filled with paper strips, lit an incense stick, and began chanting the spirit summoning spell.

    As the smoke from the incense curled around, the air in front of the table started to warp. Moments later, blurry silhouettes gradually materialized into clearer forms.

    Both males and females appeared, but the focus was on the females!

    Females! Female ghosts had arrived!!!

    The Yin soldiers, catching glimpses of them between their battles, instantly became wildly excited without even seeing their faces. They sought to showcase their strength in front of the female ghosts. Their morale soared, catching the initially evenly matched Daoist masters off guard.

    Seeing this, a satisfied smile tugged at Zhang Pang's lips. His gaze shifted forward, indeed focusing on the female ghosts that his valiant Yin soldiers had attracted. With these female ghosts joining his Yin army, his trump card squad would undoubtedly become even more formidable!

    In the meantime, his plump little disciple was scrambling towards him from the battlefield, still shouting, "Master! Master! Please listen to me..."

    Since Zhang Pang rescued him, he had been repeating those words nonstop, but due to the urgency of the situation, he hadn't had time to hear him out. Seeing his disciple's disheveled state, he couldn't help frowning and bellowing, "What exactly do you want to say?! You're covered in dirt, acting all flustered! Stand up straight! You have no manners at all!"

    The little fatty was panic-stricken and, after stopping, he stomped his feet and blurted out, "Master, please send these female ghosts back! Send them back, please!"

    With a confused frown, Zhang Pang asked, "What nonsense are you spouting?"

    As soon as he finished speaking, the same voice that had interrupted him twice before echoed again, "Master!!! Master!!! They're really female ghosts! They're real female ghosts!"

    Zhang Pang was momentarily stunned by the excitement in the voice. Turning around, he saw that it was indeed the group of young people from before. The tall one, who had spotted the female ghosts, seemed even more agitated than his bachelor ghost soldiers who had been around for over a century.

    Puzzled about the reason for his excitement, he watched as the handsome youth with slightly curly hair beside him nodded calmly, "Quickly inform Uncle Shen and ask if they're ready."

    The tall young man nodded hastily, took out his phone, made a call, and then carefully placed it on the ground.

    Staring at the still-connected phone, Zhang Pang was lost.

    The Taoist masters, who were engaged in a fierce battle with the excited ghost soldiers, couldn't help turning their heads and yelling, "Fellow Daoist Wei, what are you doing just standing there?!"

    In the next instant, a blinding light illuminated everyone's vision, like fireworks blossoming, neon lights shimmering, or the sun erupting, leaving them unable to look directly at it for fear of damaging their eyes.

    After a long while, they recovered from the dizziness and looked again, only to be dumbfounded by the sight of yet another batch of ghost soldiers appearing in the already crowded Taoist temple dedicated to cultivation and teaching.

    This new group of ghost soldiers shared an astonishing similarity in attire with Zhang Pang's Qing dynasty troops –

    Black suits, crisp trousers, polished leather shoes, and perfectly styled hair. They stood in neat rows, each holding a delicate paper rose that seemed to exude vitality, creating a scene reminiscent of a romantic drama's lead character's grand entrance, making an even greater impact than the Qing dynasty soldiers. As the Taoist masters watched them, an imposing background music seemed to play spontaneously in their minds. The female ghosts summoned by Zhang Pang had never witnessed such a spectacle and quickly shifted their attention from the Qing soldiers to these unfamiliar male ghosts, their eyes involuntarily wandering with interest.

    Everyone: "………………………???"

    The Qing dynasty ghost soldiers, equally stunned, stood motionless, staring at the mesmerized female ghosts eyeing the suited males. "???"

    Unity and Righteousness, amidst the stunned silence, rallied his troops, shouting, "Brothers! For your eternal happiness, show some backbone!! Charge ahead!!"

    The hundred-year-old bachelor ghost soldiers, in panic, abandoned their weapons and opponents, charging towards the females en masse. This was unacceptable!

    Zhang Pang was utterly bewildered, attempting to intervene but hindered by his internal injuries from the backlash. How could he stop over a hundred ghost soldiers? None of them paid him any attention. With his "wife" about to be taken away, what was the point of fighting? No need to fight at all!

    Amidst the chaos, Little Fatty knelt on the ground with a grim face, looking at his dazed master. "Master, it's over. You wouldn't listen to me earlier just to show off. Look at them, dressed in suits, carrying flowers, and even playing music. Our temple's ghost soldiers are so uncultured, without official positions. How can they compete?!"

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