In the end, Guild Leader Meng did not pay the fifty concentrated high-tier spirit stones. After all, there was no way he could fork out that much money. After promising to bring Zhang Xuan around the Painter Guild, he quickly snatched the book back and hid it in his storage ring.

Zhang Xuan could not help but lament how the noble values of the past were gradually eroding with time.

"Zhang shi, we didn't contribute much to the unsealing of the painting, so we won't be accepting any of the high-tier spirit stones here," Guild Leader Mu said as he passed over a storage ring filled with the high-tier spirit stones that the copper-masked figure had left behind.

He had gathered everyone here today in hopes of combining the wits of the masses to decipher the secret of the painting, but they had ended up contributed nothing at all. The case ended up being resolved by the sole efforts of the young man before him. While the high-tier spirit stones were the compensation that the copper-masked figure had offered to all of them, they were too embarrassed to accept any.

"Alright then."

Zhang Xuan initially refused it, but seeing that the crowd was unwilling to accept the high-tier spirit stones, he could only reluctantly take it.

Actually, these spirit stones were not of much value to him. However, considering that he could possibly exchange them for concentrated high-tier spirit stones in the future, he chose to take them.

At this point, Guild Leader Mu suddenly stepped forward and remarked, "Zhang shi's capability in appraising is truly exceptional. If I'm not mistaken, you are an appraiser, right?"

Considering how the other party had been able to sharply determine the year in which the painting had been created and deduce the solution to deciphering the seal through analyzing its creation method, there was no doubt that he was a skilled appraiser as well.

Zhang Xuan nodded. "That's right. I'm a 5-star appraiser at the moment. Actually, I was intending to pay the Appraiser Hall a visit to take the 7-star examination, but I haven't yet found the time to do so."

"With eyes as sharp as yours, there's no need to for you to take the examination. I'll apply for a 7-star appraiser emblem on your behalf straight afterward," Guild Leader Mu replied with a smile.

At this point, he could see why even a prestigious figure like Wu shi would regard the other party as his brother.

With the other party's capability, it was clear that he would clear the examination perfectly, so there was no need to waste their time on such formalities.

Guild Leader Meng also hurriedly stepped forward and said, "I'll apply for a 7-star painter emblem on your behalf as well."

Judging just from the Suspended Imagery that the other party had performed earlier, it was apparent that the other party's proficiency in painting was far above his. Even 7-star pinnacle painters would struggle to be a match for him! Naturally, he was more than qualified to be promoted straight to 7-star.

"Thank you!" Zhang Xuan heaved a sigh of relief.

It seemed like his trip here was not wasted. Not only did he manage to bring his painting up to the level of 7-star pinnacle, he had even managed to obtain two 7-star emblems simultaneously.

With this, he had finally gathered the supporting occupations required for his promotion to 7-star master teacher. Once all the emblems arrived, he would be qualified to apply for the nomination slot to the Sanctum of Sages!

"Guild Leader Mu, may I know where the library of the Appraiser Hall is located?" Zhang Xuan asked with a polite smile. "If it's possible, I would like to take a look at your books."

Since he had already come to the Appraiser Hall, it would be good to take this opportunity to collect all their books into the Library of Heaven's Path as well.

"Of course, of course." Guild Leader Mu nodded. "That isn't a problem at all!"

He was just about to lead the way forward when a conflicted voice sounded. "Teacher, Zhang shi… May I trouble the both of you to help resolve this thing first?"

It was only upon hearing the voice that the duo suddenly recalled that there was still a certain figure whose head was blooming durians.

Over the past hour, Zhang Jiuxiao had flourished well. Another nine durians, along with a dense congregation of lush leaves, had sprouted on his head, and the tail behind him had grown longer and more bulky, reminiscent of a valiant tiger…

"Give me a moment." Zhang Xuan pondered briefly before whipping out a brush and penning down a prescription. He passed the prescription over and said, "Concoct the medicine according to the way I have stated and consume it—it should be able to destroy the spirit within your body. The process will be a little painful, but you must endure it."

Since the other party was unwilling to bare his soul open to him, Zhang Xuan could only resort to poison in order to deal with the spirit.

It was fortunate that he had gotten a close glimpse of the spirit earlier when he entered the painting, so he knew what kind of poison had to be concocted in order to kill it.

The poison that Zhang Xuan had prescribed was a relatively simple one, such that even ordinary cultivators would be able to concoct it. However, it was extremely damaging to the body, dealing excruciating pain to those who consumed it. Whether Zhang Jiuxiao would be able to endure the pain or not would be dependent on him.

If Zhang Jiuxiao felt that the poison was too dangerous, he could always choose to keep his head of durians. In any case, that would only affect his appearance; it would not make too much of a difference to his physical functions. In fact, his transformation into a plant might even enhance certain functions of his…

Considering the fact that the other party was from the clan of his love rival, there was really no reason for Zhang Xuan to do this for the other party. It was already a great mercy that he had offered this much help in the first place.

"Thank you…" Zhang Jiuxiao took the prescription with a conflicted expression on his face. Nevertheless, he still bowed in gratitude.

After dealing with this matter, Zhang Xuan and Wu shi bade everyone else farewell before following Guild Leader Mu to the library of the Appraiser Hall.

Appraisers were valued for their knowledge. In order to be a good appraiser, one had to have some understanding of everything, be it knowledge on other occupations, history, geography… Investigating the background of an artifact was the foundation to determining the authenticity of a certain artifact. As such, there were several dozen million books within the library of the Appraiser Hall.

Walking between the shelves, it took Zhang Xuan four whole hours before he managed to collect everything. By the time he was done, it was already late at night.

He swiftly compiled the 6-star and 7-star Heaven's Path Appraising Art and internalized them.

Before long, his understanding of appraising had reached the level of 7-star pinnacle. Even without the Library of Heaven's Path or the Eye of Insight, he was able to easily discern most artifacts of Saint intermediate-tier and below without any errors.

Returning from the Library of Heaven's Path, he began reflecting on what had happened earlier.

This was the first time he had come to an Appraisal Convention, and it had truly have been a fruitful trip. Not only had he managed to advance his knowledge to the level of a 7-star appraiser and painter and obtain the 7-star emblems of those two occupations, more importantly, he had learned that Kong shi's silhouette had once appeared on the peak of a mountain. If there was a chance in the future, he should really investigate this matter.

Perhaps, he might be able to uncover something special.

"Zhang shi!"

As soon as Zhang Xuan walked out of the library, he saw Guild Leader Mu walking toward him.

Even though it was the middle of the night, it seemed like the other party had not gone to rest yet.

There was a young man following behind Guild Leader Mu with a slightly conflicted look on his face—Zhang Jiuxiao.

The durian head and tail that had been on Zhang Jiuxiao's body a few hours ago had vanished without a trace, but in place of that, his face and body were slightly swollen. Most likely, that was the aftereffect of consuming the poison. The swelling looked a little glaring, but it would swiftly fade after some rest. 

After trading some pleasantries, Zhang Xuan clasped his fist and took his leave.

A starry night sky welcomed him as he stood outside the Appraiser Hall. It felt as if someone had used a needle to pierce through the night sky, leaving behind innumerable holes for light to pass through.

The bustling streets from a moment ago had become a little cold, with nary a person in sight. Stretching his back lazily, Zhang Xuan began making his way toward the Combat Master Hall.

But before he could get very far, goosebumps suddenly rose all over his body.

He could clearly sense that someone was following him, but regardless of whether he used his Spiritual Perception or his eyes, he was unable to find the other party.


Sensing that the person following him was a dangerous individual, possessing strength far beyond him, he swiftly executed the Heaven's Path Movement Art and dashed forward. In a single breath, he flitted over a distance of ten kilometers. But despite that, he was still unable to shake off the feeling of being 'eyed'.

Anxious, he turned around and saw a black-robed man standing not too far away.

For the other party to be able to catch up even though he had pushed his Heaven's Path Movement Art to its very limit—not to mention the fact that the other party was able to prevent even his Spiritual Perception from noticing the other party—there was no doubt that the black-robed man standing before him was a true expert!

This was the very first time Zhang Xuan had encountered this situation, and it left cold sweat drenching his back.

Nevertheless, he did not panic. He began assessing the figure before him carefully.

It was not possible to see the face beneath the other party's black robe, but his very presence seemed to meld into the essence of the world itself, leaving him with an impression that the other party would vanished at any moment.

Zhang Xuan activated his Eye of Insight to get a closer look of the other party, but he was unable to discern the other party's cultivation at all.

In other words, the other party wielded strength beyond the Leaving Aperture realm Hall Master Xing… or perhaps, beyond the Leaving Aperture realm even!

When did such an expert appear in Qingyuan City?

"There's no need for you to be so wary around me. If I wanted to kill you, you would have long been killed."

It was an extremely deep and resounding voice.

As nervous as Zhang Xuan was, he knew that there was no way he would be able to escape if the other party wanted to kill him. Thus, he clasped his fist politely and replied, "Elder, you were waiting for me?"

It was shortly after leaving the Appraiser Hall that he had sensed that the other party was following him, which meant that the other party had probably been waiting for him.

But instead of answering his question, the black-robed man placed his hands behind his back and said, "To be able to sense me so swiftly even though I only leaked out a hint of an aura, it seems like you are quite a talented individual.

"I have been following you since sunset, and I saw how you managed to decipher the seal on the painting. Despite your young age, you have quite a keen pair of eyes. Not bad."

"You have been here since sunset?" Zhang Xuan narrowed his eyes in alarm.

He had been paying close attention to his surroundings all this while due to the happenings with King Zhongqing earlier in the day, and yet, despite his enhanced wariness, he had still been oblivious to the fact that the other party had been following him.

This was too frightening!

"If I may ask, I would like to inquire why elder has been following me all night."

At the same time, Zhang Xuan secretly activated his Library of Heaven's Path, but no book was compiled.

Until the other party executed a battle technique, he would be unable to discern the other party's background.

"It's nothing much, I just want to know if you have the qualification and capability for what you seek." The black-robed man harrumphed as he finally raised his head, revealing the appearance of an old man in his sixties.

It was a foreign face. Zhang Xuan was certain that he had never seen the other party before.


In the next moment, Zhang Xuan suddenly felt a choking sensation in his chest, as if some kind of force had struck him. At the same time, the space before him suddenly compressed together, as if someone was forcefully denting it, trapping him in place.

As if a caged beast, no matter how he struggled, he was unable to free himself.

"This…" Zhang Xuan's eyes narrowed further and further.

The fact that the Library of Heaven's Path had not compiled a book meant that the other party had not executed a battle technique. And yet, the other party was still able to wield such strength, rendering him completely helpless…

Just how strong could the other party be?

Saint 5-dan pinnacle?


Or was it 7-dan?

In any case, the other party was a figure whom he could not stand a chance against at this moment.

Despite knowing the deep danger he was in, Zhang Xuan knew that the more threatening a situation was, the more he should not panic. Thus, driving his Soul Depth, he began speaking with a unique aura in his voice. "Elder, if you are only seeking me to display your strength, there's really no need for you to do so. I am a mere Saint 2-dan cultivator. I won't understand it no matter what you show me."

The gap between him and the other party was simply too great. The only thing he had that could possibly match the other party was his exceptional Soul Depth. If he could leave the other party in a short trance, he might be able to buy sufficient time to flee from this situation.

However, seeing through Zhang Xuan as if he was transparent, the black-robed elder chuckled softly. "Your Soul Depth is not too bad, but you're still a little lacking to be using Impartation of Heaven's Will on me."

Those words immediately sent chills down Zhang Xuan's spine. With an earnest smile on his face, he swiftly waved his hand and said, "Elder, how could I dare do something as rude as that? It is a misunderstanding, a misunderstanding!"

To be able to see through his Impartation of Heaven's Will, it seemed like the other party's Soul Depth was beyond his as well!

It was fortunate that he had not recklessly forced his way through. Otherwise, the other party's retaliation could very well have cost him his life.

"You do have some wits, but it's meaningless against me," the black-robed elder replied indifferently.

"How could I dare flaunt my little wits before you? Elder, your ability to track me without catching my notice and seal my movements so easily must mean that your Soul Depth has reached a level far beyond my imagination. If I may request, could you display a battle technique for me?"

At this point, Zhang Xuan shook his head and sighed. "I have come from a humble place, and I have never met a person as strong as you. I truly respect experts like you, and if you could just accede to this request of mine, my life would be truly fulfilled!"



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