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    Chapter 63: Regrets - Compensation

    In the area where An Zhi was, the light was limited, casting a dim and hazy atmosphere, yet not entirely obscuring visibility; one could discern the general outlines of objects.

    After walking for some time, his legs began to ache. He looked up but the mist concealed the sky, the time, and his location.

    With no other choice, he continued on until he found Ju Lang.

    Suddenly, amidst the boundless darkness, a rustling sound emerged. Then, a beam of white light appeared through the dense fog. The light, softened by the moisture in the mist, had become gentle and diffuse.

    "Ju Lang?" An Zhi hastened his steps to follow the light.

    As he drew closer, Ju Lang's figure became more distinct until he stepped out of the thick fog, clearly reflected in An Zhi's almond-shaped eyes.

    "Ju—" An Zhi intended to call him back, but the words died in his throat.

    Ju Lang had his back turned, yet he could see what was happening on the opposite side.

    —It was a group of fierce ghosts from the Ghost Realm.

    They assembled, as if relishing some delectable feast.

    Then, one of the ghosts at the perimeter, sensing Ju Lang's gaze, turned its head.

    The ghost was utterly revolting.

    Its emaciated, shriveled body, gray eyes, loose, wrinkled skin, and a few wispy hairs fluttering atop its head created a grotesque image.

    Its lips were smeared with blood, and between them was a dainty finger, white as jade.

    It was chewing on that finger.

    An Zhi covered her mouth in disgust.

    In the next moment, Ju Lang materialized a white feather in his hand and threw it forcefully.

    Like a bolt of white light piercing through the mist, the feather sliced through the air with a whistle, hurtling straight towards the ghost and piercing its chest.

    With a "pat," the ghost dissipated, and the finger in its mouth fell to the ground.

    Upon the sound, the assembled ghosts lifted their heads, searching for its source.

    In the dimness, over a thousand ghostly eyes fixated on Ju Lang, blinking intermittently.

    Their gaze locked, the air around them seemed to freeze in an instant.

    After a moment, the multitude of ghosts rose, pouncing towards Ju Lang like a pack of wolves, eager to be first. Their mouths gaped wide, revealing sharp, interlocking fangs, with translucent saliva dripping from their corners, forming thin threads.

    "Don't... don't come any closer!..." Seeing this, An Zhi felt a surge of fear, forgetting that it was just a dream where he couldn't be harmed or feel pain. He instinctively stepped back.

    Just as he retreated, Ju Lang lightly sprang off the ground, stepping on the bald head of one ghost, leaping into the air.

    From his elevated position, he looked down upon the group of ghosts attempting to pull him down, his phoenix-like eyes shimmering with a blade-like cold radiance, exuding a fierce killing intent.

    "Foul beings dare to defile him! Today, I shall cleanse this haunted realm, leaving not a single one alive!!"

    With a roar filled with fury and sorrow, he descended like lightning, landing not far from the swarm of ghosts.

    Lowering his eyelids, his thick, delicate lashes veiled his phoenix eyes. He extended his slender, articulate hand, gently placing it on the ground as he softly chanted, "All deities shall not surpass, living souls hasten to come, departed souls hasten to depart."

    Merely because he had made a sound, the vengeful spirits immediately altered their course and lunged towards Ju Lang in unison.

    "Be careful!" An Zhi's heart leapt to his throat as he couldn't help but warn.

    Perhaps he had heard An Zhi's reminder, Ju Lang suddenly lifted his gaze, his brows knitted slightly. His sword-like brows were sharp, and his eyes fiercely locked onto the vengeful spirits.

    Buzz!

    A shrill buzzing pierced through the dim and tranquil space, akin to a razor-sharp blade slicing through the dark night sky.

    The dense fog around them swiftly converged towards the ground where Ju Lang was pressing down.

    Air currents whirled wildly, surging upwards, sending his hair and black robe fluttering like whispers of the wind.

    It was as if they were in the midst of a hurricane; everything around them swayed violently, drawing all objects towards the eye of the storm.

    But this place was barren, with nothing but scattered boulders. An Zhi watched calmly, unaffected by the hurricane. Some massive rocks headed his way, yet passed through his body as though they were passing through smoke.

    "What is he seeing?" he muttered to himself.

    As she spoke, another faint purple figure flashed from afar and landed precisely beside Ju Lang.

    The person raised an arm towards the ghosts, and a red light shot out from her palm, dispersing the ghosts in an instant.

    The red glow swiftly swept towards An Zhi but did not harm him. He looked at the woman and recognized her as Jiaomiao.

    "Madness!" Jiaomiao reprimanded Ju Lang sharply.

    She was always gentle and ethereal, and this was the first time An Zhi had seen her enraged.

    The swirling winds around them subsided, and the suspended stones fell back to the ground.

    Jiaomiao erected a barrier to shield herself and Ju Lang from the falling rocks. "You're going to overturn the Ghost Realm! Where will these souls find refuge? In the human world? Won't that turn it into chaos!"

    Ju Lang's cheeks bulged with anger, his hatred for her palpable. Slowly rising to his feet, he took a deep breath, appearing calm on the surface, but in the next moment, he fiercely grabbed Jiaomiao's throat. "Ayuan wants them to devour them! ——"

    His knotted veins stood out as his hand dug into Jiaomiao's delicate neck.

    Jiaomiao remained composed, seemingly unconcerned about her safety. Instead, she lectured Ju Lang. "With his status, if these ghosts don't consume him, others will humiliate him. Dying here is far better than perishing in public."

    "You..." Ju Lang's voice was hoarse, filled with the intent to kill.

    Then, a thunderous boom echoed through the sky, followed by a bolt of lightning that flashed past, striking the massive boulder beside Ju Lang. Instantly, the stone shattered into dust.

    "Me?" Jiaomiao retorted with sarcasm-laced menace, "Slaying a god invites heavenly retribution, and that was but a minor warning from the Heavenly Dao. You, a mere Demon Emperor, entertain delusions of protecting him while desiring to slay me. You are not powerful enough; you have not yet earned the right. It would be wiser to preserve your life and see if Shen Yuan will reincarnate."

    The settling dust from the shattered boulders still hung in the air when it was said that Ju Lang released his grip, lowering Jiaomiao gently to the ground.

    He staggered toward the severed finger that the malevolent ghost had once held in its mouth before dropping it on the ground. Bending down, he picked it up and placed it in the palm of his hand. Then, he moved toward one of the icy coffins.

    The ice coffin was scattered with numerous strips of green cloth.

    Tattered green garments and a severed finger lay among them.

    Looking at these, Ju Lang's phoenix eyes shimmered with tears, radiating a soft glow.

    A tear rolled down his cheek, and it seemed that something within the ice coffin reacted, emitting a faint white light on its own.

    An Zhi, along with Ju Lang and Jiaomiao, all turned their heads to look.

    In the ice coffin stood a translucent soul resembling a crystal.

    The faint white glow surrounding the soul illuminated a small patch of the surroundings.

    Dressed in green with white hair, his almond-shaped eyes still radiated brightness — it was Shen Yuan's soul.

    An Zhi felt an icy chill run through his body as a surge of fear and sorrow swelled within his heart. His heart pounded wildly, accompanied by stabs of pain, as if someone were cutting into his heart with a blunt knife.

    Ju Lang stepped forward, his hands trembling as he reached out. He intended to touch Shen Yuan, but before he could, Jiaomiao spoke, "He is different from the others. While they clung to life, he was resolute in leaving. This fragment of his soul is the only remnant of his attachment, fragile and pitiful, not to be touched."

    Upon hearing this, Ju Lang clenched his fists in defiance but eventually lowered them after a struggle.

    "Did you see a little wolf? He was a bit foolish, recklessly pursuing whatever he desired, yet anxious once he obtained it. His condition was perilous, and I was worried about him." Surprisingly, Shen Yuan didn't sound melancholic; instead, there was a hint of childlike innocence in his voice. "That little wolf won't be anxious or force anyone anymore. He's waiting for you at home."

    Ju Lang managed to keep his emotions in check, but his voice still trembled slightly, "Shall I take you to find him?"

    "Really?!" Shen Yuan's face lit up with joy, "That's great! As expected, one can only let go after gaining. Now that he has, I won't disturb him."

    An Zhi noticed Ju Lang hiding his right hand behind his back, gripping it tightly. Absorbed in observing the hand, he suddenly heard Ju Lang ask, "Don't you have any other beloved possessions?"

    Shen Yuan looked around in confusion, then shook his head. "I can't remember."

    Snap—Ju Lang's nails dug deeply into his palm, spilling blood that dripped onto the ground one by one. He persisted, "Aside from that little wolf, were there others you were attached to?"

    Shen Yuan firmly shook his head. "I can't recall."

    "Back then, he was merely a small remnant soul," Jiaomiao reminded Ju Lang.

    Disregarding Jiaomiao, Ju Lang obstinately asked Shen Yuan, "What about your home? Whenever you had a moment to spare, you'd stare blankly at Jiu Li... On Dian Chan He Jingfeng's birthday each year, you would bow towards Jiu Li's direction as a sign of gratitude for raising you..."

    Shen Yuan's head throbbed with annoyance. "I've said I don't remember!"

    Interrupting Ju Lang, Shen Yuan's words faded as Ju Lang swept his sleeve. A gentle breeze passed, and the remnant soul was whisked back into his sleeve.

    Surprisingly, Jiaomiao inquired, "What is this?"

    The ground beneath them trembled as countless malevolent spirits surged from under Ju Lang's feet. They struggled, screamed, and desperately tried to flee the "Mountain of Ghosts," but were unable to escape.

    Jiaomiao lifted her gaze, gazing at Ju Lang from atop the "Mountain of Ghosts."

    Ju Lang declared, "I want to be the Death God, the strongest deity on this land of solid earth. I will bring Ayuan back. One day, I will replace you, Jiaomiao."

    "Ha ha—" Jiaomiao extended a delicate hand to touch a screaming ghost atop the "Ghost Mountain." In that instant, the grand mountain of ghosts vanished, and Ju Lang landed before her.

    She said, "I hope that day comes soon."

    Jiaomiao left, leaving Ju Lang alone.

    The sky was dark and gloomy, exerting an oppressive weight, much like the boundless sorrow in An Zhi's heart.

    Fixating on Ju Lang's retreating figure, his shoulders trembled, a mix of reluctance and tears.

    But all of this was in the past, already occurred. As an outsider, what could An Zhi, a mere observer, change? All he could do was wait for Ju Lang's emotions to subside before rousing him.

    Time flew by swiftly, and in the blink of an eye, much of the mist had dissipated.

    An Zhi looked up, noticing the withered tree canopy above, its branches crisscrossing and burnt dry.

    Surveying his surroundings, he saw a barren landscape, devoid of life and vitality.

    Finally, Ju Lang ceased his weeping. An Zhi stepped forward slowly and circled around to stand in front of him. He bent down, extended his hand, but hesitated, leaving it suspended in mid-air for a long while without making contact.

    He was not skilled in comforting others and didn't know what words to use.

    After a moment of hesitation, he gently patted Ju Lang's shoulder and spoke softly, "Let's go back."

    As soon as he finished speaking, Ju Lang suddenly embraced An Zhi around the waist, burying his face into him.

    A shiver ran through An Zhi's body, and he instinctively tried to push Ju Lang's arm away, but did so gently, wary of causing any injury. "Ju... Ju Lang, you shouldn't be too fixated... Let's... let's leave first... This place is just your..." He searched for the right words before continuing, "This is merely a past regret. It's not like you failed to replace Jiaomiao or save Shen Yuan; it's not that big of a deal."

    With that, Ju Lang released his grip and stood up.

    Ju Lang was about five or six centimeters taller than An Zhi, so An Zhi had to tilt his head slightly to look up at him.

    His eyes were reddened and slightly swollen, with a hint of moisture still glistening in the corners. It was evident that he had just been crying, and such a display was only natural given the circumstances.

    "Can this tragedy be rectified now?" Ju Lang asked in a hoarse voice.

    "I'm not Shen Yuan," An Zhi started, but before he could finish, a soft and cold object pressed against his lips.

    It was gentle, like a dragonfly skimming the water's surface, touching only for an instant before parting.

    "Is it okay?" Ju Lang gazed at him, his phoenix-like eyes fluttering with a pitiful expression, completely unlike his usual stern demeanor.

    His thick eyelashes blinked flirtatiously, stirring emotions in An Zhi, who stood frozen as countless mental sparkles flickered in his mind.

    "In silence, I'll take that as a yes," Ju Lang said, wrapping his arms around An Zhi's waist once more and pulling him forcefully into his embrace.

    An Zhi stumbled forward, finally realizing what was happening, and immediately protested, "No!... Mmm!..."

    But before he could finish, those soft lips overpowered any resistance, launching a relentless assault, conquering new territories, delving deeper and deeper.

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