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    Chapter 76: New Player

    An Zhi silently summoned his Life in Hand and held it firmly, backing away in fear.

    Zhe Dan was dressed in a black-red outfit with his hair tied up high, exuding the spirit of youth. However, a dark aura enveloped him, his face pale with dark purple circles under his eyes, a tint of red visible amidst the green, as if he were on the brink of madness.

    The tip of his long sword dragged against the ground, emitting a sound that made one's teeth ache.

    He slowly approached An Zhi with Jiao Lin's blade, his gaze akin to a devil's, staring hungrily like an eagle or a wolf.

    With a soothing voice, as if talking to a child, Zhe Dan said, "Are you scared now? Don't be afraid. Come, stand still obediently. I'll make it quick, I promise you won't feel any pain."

    Slowly, An Zhi leaned against something hard. Turning his head, he realized his back was pressed against the wall of the Joyous God Bureau, leaving him nowhere to retreat.

    Death was imminent.

    Gathering his courage, he raised the Life in Hand fan and swung it fiercely at Zhe Dan, instantly unleashing two fiery dragons that charged towards Zhe Dan.

    The flames embraced Zhe Dan, yet he remained calm, saying, "Killing He Mengfang's entire family wasn't enough for you? Do you want him to die without a complete corpse?"

    As the voice faded, the fire dragon vanished abruptly.

    An Zhi stomped in anger.

    Zhe Dan claimed he was aware of Jing Long's affection for He Mengfang, thus deliberately possessing him.

    In that moment, a chilling flash blinded them momentarily, followed by a gust of wind brushing past their ears. When vision returned, Wen Yan was seen standing before An Zhi, seemingly having woken up at some point.

    Zhe Dan had already raised Jiao Lin's blade, pressing it against Wen Yan's chest just an inch away from his heart. A slight push forward would end the man's life instantly.

    "Scram! I want none but him!" Zhe Dan bellowed fiercely.

    Wen Yan chuckled. "Oh, you're still not resorting to random killings. That's commendable. Yet, don't you see that Jing Long's demise was karma? No matter how many doppelgangers you find to house his soul, attempting to reincarnate him, he will eventually take his own life."

    "You...!" Zhe Dan's hands trembled, gripping the sword tightly. "You... You're lying!... No! It can't be!... Jing Long will never leave me..." Slowly, Zhe Dan lowered the Jiao Lin blade as if his heart had been seared and then pulled out from a boiling oil pot. Clutching his chest, he writhed in pain, yet not a single tear fell from his eyes. He sobbed, "I need him... I need him..."

    Wen Yan continued provoking him. "He doesn't need you. He loves He Mengfang. You entered He Mengfang's body to be with him, but deception is deception. You can hide for a while, but not forever. You can never become the one he truly loves."

    It was said that, upon hearing this, Zhe Dan released his grip, and Jiao Lin's blade crashed to the ground. He crouched down, shrinking into a tiny ball, weeping in agony with his arms wrapped around his head, his shoulders trembling with each sob.

    Seeing this, Wen Yan turned around, his face beaming with triumph. Addressing An Zhi, he said, "Everything is under my control. I promise we'll return to the real world tonight."

    "Really?!" An Zhi was briefly thrilled but then, remembering that he would never see Ju Lang again once they returned, his expression fell.

    Noticing his change in demeanor, Wen Yan wondered, "Why aren't you eager to go back?"

    An Zhi shook his head. "No, it's not that—"

    Wen Yan placed his hands on An Zhi's shoulders, his expression grave and solemn.

    This serious demeanor made An Zhi uneasy, suspecting that Wen Yan had done something behind his back. He stammered anxiously, "Y-You have something to s-say, right? S-Say it quickly."

    With utmost seriousness, Wen Yan declared, "I mentioned before that I would show you a quick but extremely painful way to clear this game. Today, I'll tell you what that method is..."

    Before he could finish, a piercing sound echoed as Jiao Lin's blade pierced through Wen Yan's back and emerged from his chest.

    Without anyone noticing, Zhe Dan had recovered from his pain, raised the Jiao Lin blade, and coldly stabbed Wen Yan.

    The event happened so abruptly that Wen Yan didn't have time to react. He looked down at his chest, then at An Zhi, confusion etched on his face. "What the hell?!" With that, his knees buckled.

    Wen Yan tumbled forward, and An Zhi stepped in, catching him and keeping him upright. "I forgot to tell you, Zhe Dan extracted all those memories. Those words can't affect him anymore."

    He slapped Wen Yan's cheeks forcefully, the crisp slaps echoing throughout the Joyous God Bureau. "You haven't told me the way to clear the game yet! You're not allowed to log out!"

    As he spoke, Wen Yan's eyes closed, and his entire form dissolved into a pool of code, shimmering with a deep blue glow before gradually disappearing, leaving no trace behind.

    "You...!" An Zhi was at a loss, unsure whether to cry or scold. "You irresponsible one, pulling me into this cursed game and not getting me out! You said we'd be home tonight, but what you meant was only you could go back! At least tell me the way to clear the game before leaving!"

    "Shen Yuan—" Zhe Dan approached An Zhi, disdainfully saying, "He risked his life to shield you from the sword, and you don't thank him, but instead, you scold him!"

    An Zhi was on the verge of tears, trying to explain, "It's not like you think."

    Zhe Dan roared, "You truly are an irredeemable villain!"

    An Zhi remained silent. No matter how he explained, it wouldn't make a difference; the more he talked, the more mistakes he'd make, so he decided to keep quiet.

    Suddenly, a beam of white light shot into the Joyous God Bureau from outside, piercing precisely through Zhe Dan's hand that held Jiao Lin's blade.

    Blood droplets fell relentlessly to the ground, yet his expression remained unperturbed; instead, he hastened his actions, lifting his long sword to strike down at An Zhi's head.

    An Zhi felt despair wash over him. In his heart, he thought, If death is inevitable, so be it.

    He closed his eyes, calmly awaiting the arrival of his end.

    A gentle breeze brushed against his face. It must have been the approach of the sword's aura.

    Moments passed, but the anticipated searing pain did not come. Instead, he heard the sound of the long sword hitting the ground.

    Opening his eyes abruptly, he saw Zhe Dan bound by a golden light, unable to move.

    He recognized that golden glow – it was the Spirit Binding Rope, a tool Wang Pan often used to restrain Shen Yuan.

    Could it be that Wang Pan had rushed to the scene this time?

    An Zhi turned his head towards the door.

    The figure who had traversed the Joyous God Bureau's lotus pond under the moonlight possessed a pair of phoenix eyes, where all his lifetime's thoughts were gathered in the corners, cold as ice yet filled with tenderness. However, the affection exchanged between those glances was visible only to Shen Yuan and himself.

    "You have a Spirit Shackling Rope?!" An Zhi exclaimed in surprise, directing his question to Ju Lang.

    Ju Lang leaped towards An Zhi, inspecting him from left to right. "Where are you hurt?"

    An Zhi redirected the conversation back to his original query. "I asked how you came to possess Wang Pan's item? It belongs to Peng Lai Island and was a gift from Wang Wanhe to Wang Pan. There's only one in the world, and only he can wield it. How is it possible for you to have it?"

    With his phoenix-like eyes lowered, Ju Lang dared not meet An Zhi's gaze. "It... It was Wang Pan who... who gave me the... the Spirit Shackling Rope..."

    "You're lying!" An Zhi was deeply concerned. "Not long ago on Peng Lai, Wang Pan just used the Spirit Shackling Rope on me. How did it end up in your possession so quickly?"

    The crescent moon hung high in the night sky like a bow ready to release an arrow, piercing through all illusions and revealing the truth.

    Ju Lang finally spoke the truth. "After you died, I also sought Chu Yun's help to request the Poisoner's venom."

    "Ju Lang is Wang Pan," An Zhi asked. "Then who was the Wang Pan I saw on Peng Mountain?"

    Ju Lang replied, "It was also me."

    "Why are you playing with me like this?" An Zhi's anger was growing.

    "Not at all," Ju Lang's tone quickened in his urgency. "Wang Pan and Shen Yuan still have so much to do together – the Snow Domain hot springs, the misunderstanding with Xixuan Men. I believe there should be no regrets in any of our lifetimes."

    Upon hearing this, An Zhi felt a sweet warmth in his heart. He found the man quite romantic. With an "oh," he let the matter slide.

    Dian Shan and Jiaomiao had been spectating for quite some time.

    "Dramatic," Dian Shan applauded as Ju Lang made his appearance.

    After the applause, Jiaomiao greeted him, "The Master of the Demon Domain, Ju Lang."

    Out of politeness, Ju Lang returned the gesture with a bow. "Empress Jiaomiao."

    Then, shifting his tone, he pulled An Zhi behind him and declared in a cold voice, "I will protect this person."

    Dian Shan burst into laughter. "Even Lord Scarlet Water couldn't withstand Empress Jiaomiao. With your...?"

    Before he could finish, Dian Shan flew out just like Chi Zi'e, crashing into the wall and losing consciousness even faster.

    "The might of a Heavenly Emperor?!" Jiaomiao was astonished. "You're not Ju Lang."

    "JeLang speaks, 'I am JeLang, but you are not Jiaomiao, merely a construct of electronics.'"

    "Ridiculous nonsense!" Jiaomiao soared towards JeLang.

    JeLang didn't dodge, instead meeting the challenge head-on.

    Their power as Empress and Emperor was evenly matched, their battle so intense that it was beyond An Zhi's mortal perception to clearly see anything beyond two colliding glares of cold light.

    The fight held no interest for him.

    Just as An Zhi was about to seize this opportunity to escape, Zhe Dan suddenly appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.

    He transformed into his primal form, wrapping around An Zhi tightly.

    Over there, JeLang seemed to be venting the pain of their long separation with ruthless moves, determined to defeat Jiaomiao.

    They fought fiercely, leaving no room to spare An Zhi any attention.

    "Je—" An Zhi attempted to call for help, but as soon as his lips parted, Zhe Dan covered his mouth.

    With his golden eyes inches from An Zhi's ear, Zhe Dan said, "I know you're not Shen Yuan. You're An Zhi."

    That couldn't be. This was a game. Apart from Ju Lang and Wen Yan, no one else should know his true identity.

    Unless... Zhe Dan was the fourth player to enter the game besides them?

    That was even more implausible. Zhe Dan was an undying snake gu. Such a concept might make sense in the game, but in reality, it was utter nonsense.

    An Zhi concluded one thing – this Zhe Dan was truly insane!

    He replied, "Player, after you log out of the game, I suggest you visit a psychiatrist."

    Zhe Dan remained unperturbed and said, "If Ju Lang can exist in reality, why can't I? Have you ever considered that you are Shen Yuan? You've been reborn many times, and each time, Ju Lang was the one who ended your life. This lifetime won't be any different."

    An Zhi wasn't swayed by the provocation. "Then why are you in the game?"

    Zhe Dan answered, "For easier access to your body."

    Without explanation, he abruptly released An Zhi. "I'm not lying. Think it through. Don't let Ju Lang's pretended affection deceive you. It was by killing you that he ascended to the throne of God Emperor." With that, he fled into the darkness.



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