It had been hard for them to hold themselves back as they watched their comrades being sent flying by the Leaving Aperture realm intermediate stage Soulless Metal Humanoid one after another. However, they knew that the other party wielded strength far greater than them, and they would only have a chance at victory if they bided their time and waited for a suitable opportunity to strike.

Fortunately, their efforts had paid off, and they had succeeded in incapacitating the latter.


Hall Master Xing and Wu shi got to their feet simultaneously and began clearing up all the Soulless Metal Humanoids in the area.

Having undergone the lightning ordeal, the two of them were already True Leaving Aperture realm experts. On the other hand, these Soulless Metal Humanoids were only at the Primordial Spirit realm, so there was no way they could possibly stand a chance against the duo.

After clearing up the Soulless Metal Humanoids, Wu shi hurriedly rushed up Zhang Jiuxiao, Division Head Wei, and the others, and taking out a gourd of fine wine, he gave everyone of them a mouthful of it.

In a few breaths, the wounded crowd had fully recovered from their injuries, and they rose to their feet.

"Hall Master Xing, Wu shi… What's going on? You…"

The crowd could hardly believe what they were seeing.

The two of them had clearly suffered grievous wounds from their Leaving Aperture Ordeal, making them too frail to even stand properly, so… how in the world did they suddenly recover from their injuries?

"Principal Zhang had us pretend to be injured in order to relax the enemies and make them lower their guard. He told us only to make a move at the crucial moment," Hall Master Xing explained.

It was true that the Leaving Aperture Ordeal had nearly cost him his life, and even though he had successfully cleared it in the end, he had sustained severe injuries.

Under normal circumstances, without months of recuperation, it would have been hard for him to return to his peak. However, the gourd of wine that Zhang Xuan had fed them was simply too potent. Not only did their physical wounds recover, more importantly, even their wounded Primordial Spirits had been nursed back to full health!

Wu shi also nodded in agreement.

He did not drink the wine, but Zhang Xuan had infused his zhenqi straight into his body. As a result, he had already recovered from the injuries as soon as he sustained them.

"Principal Zhang headed over there earlier. Let's go over to take a look as well!"

Having just overcome a near-death experience, everyone was filled with many complex emotions within. Nevertheless, knowing that there was an enemy that they needed to overcome ahead, they decided to head on without wasting any time.

After seeing all of that, Vicious' expression turned livid.

He had planned to trigger Hall Master Xing's lightning ordeal in order to make them lose their strongest fighter, but who would have thought that his efforts would end up bolstering the other party's forces instead?

"You knew that I would dispatch some men to deal with them?" Vicious looked at Zhang Xuan with killing intent in his eyes.

"I didn't, but as the old adage goes—better safe than sorry," Zhang Xuan replied calmly.

He could not have expected that Vicious would attempt to hold Wu shi and the others hostage in order to threaten him, but there was no doubt that Vicious would have attempted to harm them. Regardless of how he planned to go about doing so, it was always best to prepare some cards in advance. That way, they would not be utterly helpless in face of an unexpected situation.

This was especially so given that they were dealing with an old monster with countless years of experience. They might not have won in a direct battle of wits, but the least they could do was win in terms of preparation.

Seeing the fearless look on Zhang Xuan's face, Vicious lashed out furiously. "Very well. Do you really think that I dare not kill you?"

"Of course you want to kill me, but… are you able of doing it in your current state?" Zhang Xuan chuckled softly as he shot a sideward glance at Vicious. "If you are really able to do it, you would have done it long ago. You wouldn't be wasting words with me here."

Prior to meeting the eyes, he had encountered and fought with two other body parts of Vicious.

The first Vicious he had met was the heart. Without any hesitation, the latter had attempted to kill him. It was truly fortunate that he had possessed a golden page, allowing him to seal Vicious and force the heart to submit to him.

The second Vicious he had met was the finger. Similarly, the finger also made a move on him without wasting any breath. Considering that they had come from the same origin, it was likely that they would have the same personality. So, how could the first two Viciouses be so ferocious whereas this one would be so kind as to negotiate terms with him?

Clearly, the other party was all talk. While the other party kept the matter of killing him by his mouth, the fact was that it was probably easier said than done.

Otherwise, he would have long made his move.

Alternatively, it could also have meant that Vicious was intending to use his hand to be freed from his restraints. With that in mind, Vicious had been forced to play along with him, coming up with this entire show to force him to submit.

But regardless of which reason it was, Zhang Xuan had nothing to fear.

"You…" Vicious was taken aback.

"Alright, let's not waste any more time here. I'll be leaving now then." Since he could not be bothered to deal with Vicious any longer, Zhang Xuan drove his Heaven's Path Soul Art.

The area around him blurred, and he suddenly found that he was still standing on the spot. Everything that he had just encountered seemed to have been nothing more than a figment of his imagination.

Seeing that everything was just as he had deduced, Zhang Xuan heaved a sigh of relief.

Previously, back at Chen Zhe's residence, Vicious had made a move on him. From that, it could be seen that Vicious did intend to kill him. Yet, upon arriving at the Ghost Cavern, Vicious had gone to the effort of separating them, triggering Hall Master Xing's Leaving Aperture Ordeal, and putting on this entire act. This had left him rather doubtful.

If Vicious was truly as powerful as he made out to be, surely it would not have mattered how powerful Hall Master Xing was. Interfering with Hall Master Xing's Lightning Aperture Ordeal would truly have been a redundant step.

Furthermore, he had also pummeled the Qingtian Emperor to the point that the latter was on the verge of passing away, and yet, Vicious still did not appear.

Putting all that together, Zhang Xuan had roughly come to a conclusion. However, with many things at stake, he had not dared to act recklessly. Thus, he had sought to verify his conjecture.

After which, when his soul was dragged away by Vicious, he surprisingly found that Vicious did not make a move on him directly. Instead, the latter began negotiating with him, even trying to take Wu shi and the others hostage to force him to submit. This very action affirmed all the conjectures that he had come up with previously.

Vicious really was not as powerful as he had thought. Perhaps, he might even have been weaker than the Qingtian Emperor!

Otherwise, there was no reason for him to keep hiding, controlling the Soulless Metal Humanoid from behind to kill the others.

Without a doubt, this was an attempt to portray himself as an expert, winning the battle by forcing him into submission.

If it had been anyone else, they might have fallen for his ploy. However, Vicious never would have thought that pretending to be an expert… happened to be his field of specialty!

He was one who was able to scare away a real Saint 7-dan expert by acting as Yang shi, so how could he possibly allow others to beguile him with the same tactics?

With a quick step, Zhang Xuan headed to the wall where the Qingtian Emperor had emerged from, and he placed his hand on it.

A moment later, a slight smile surfaced on his lips. Using his finger as a sword, he tapped on the wall seven times.


The whirring of a mechanism echoed loudly, and a passageway leading further down appeared.

It was completely dark within, and just like before, Zhang Xuan found that his Spiritual Perception was unable to penetrate too far ahead.

Zhang Xuan turned around and instructed, "Clone, you take the lead."

His clone was made of the Nine Hearts Lotus, so even if he was ground into meat paste or sliced in two, he would still be able to regenerate to his original form. On the other hand, Zhang Xuan was clearly incapable of pulling that off himself.

Even if Vicious' fighting prowess was not as fearsome as what he had imagined, it would still be wise to proceed carefully. After all, he was a person who had succeeded in winning the Qingtian Emperor's loyalty, so the chances were that he had more tricks up his sleeves.

"Follow behind me closely. Don't worry, I'll cover you. When it comes down to it, I'll just act as if I'm the main body, and you can assume the role of the clone!" Zhang Xuan's clone shot Zhang Xuan a disdainful look before raising his head haughtily and venturing into the passageway.

To think that the main body would not only be weak, he would even be so spineless! It really was a wonder how he had managed to come this far!

Ignoring his narcissistic clone, Zhang Xuan stowed the Golden Origin Cauldron and the Glacier Rain Sword back into his storage ring before closely following his clone into the passageway.

Zhang Xuan's clone harrumphed in displeasure as he walked through the passageway. "Let me tell you, as the main body, you should be daring and decisive. If you keep acting so cowardly, not even daring to walk through a mere passageway yourself, as your clone, I'll be deeply embarrassed!"

"Well, it's always good to be careful."

The more he heard his clone speak, the more awkward Zhang Xuan felt.

He really was the most pathetic main body in the world. To think that the clone that he had forged would end up being a bigger poser than he was. There were really no words he could find to describe the feeling in his heart.

"What's there to be careful about? If you're sufficiently strong, there's no need to hesitate before anything!" Zhang Xuan's clone refuted coldly.

However, halfway through his words, a powerful force suddenly charged at him.


Before he realized what was happening, his head was already smacked flat like a biscuit.

"What the hell! Who in the world assaulted me?" Roaring furiously, Zhang Xuan's clone immediately charged in the direction that the attack had come from, only to realize that he had arrived at the end of the flight of stairs.

Appearing before him was yet another vast hall.


Several figures suddenly rushed out from the corners of the hall to block their path. Without a doubt, one of them was the culprit behind the flattened head of Zhang Xuan's clone.

At this moment, Zhang Xuan stroked his chest in relief. If he had not gotten his clone to help lead the way forward, he might have died there and then. Suppressing his shock, he began examining the figures before him closely.

There were four figures in total, and they were roughly around his height. However, they were neither Otherworldly Demons nor Soulless Metal Humanoids.

"These are… celestial designer puppets?" Zhang Xuan's eyebrows shot up.

Upon careful observation, he realized that those figures were actually exquisitely-crafted celestial designer puppets.

The puppets created by celestial designers were vastly different from those crafted by Wu Yangzi using the Otherworldly Demon bodies. These puppets were crafted solely out of spare parts, and the powerful engine behind them granted them incredible fighting prowess.

From how they had flattened Zhang Xuan's clone head with a single strike, their fighting prowess was probably on par with Zhang Xuan—Saint 3-dan realm intermediate stage at the very least.

"Damn it!" Zhang Xuan's clone was so furious that he could have exploded on the spot.

He had been acting like expert before the main body and mocking him, but the next moment, his head had ended up being smashed in. If he could convert his frustration and rage into energy, it could have destroyed the entire world. With a furious bellow, his head popped back up, reverting to its original form, before rushing forward to tear apart the puppet that dared to lay its hands on him previously.

Peng peng peng peng!

In an instant, Zhang Xuan's clone had already traded dozens of blows with one of the puppets, and the powerful shockwave from their collision caused sonic booms to sound in the air. Countless scars were left on the floor and walls, and broken gravel was swept furiously into the air, creating a sight of devastation. Nevertheless, neither of them was willing to back down.

"Strong…" Zhang Xuan's eyebrows shot up in alarm.

Astonishingly, despite its lower cultivation realm, the strength that the puppet displayed was almost on par with the Qingtian Emperor!

To make things worse, there were even three more standing by the side.

If they collaborated with one another, even with his clone and the Golden Origin Cauldron, Zhang Xuan still would not stand a chance.

"How about it? Did you really think that I won't be able to kill you?" Vicious' voice sounded once more.

"Through these puppets, you mean?" Zhang Xuan replied coldly.

"As long as it's effective, does it matter what I use?" Vicious sneered in response.

"So, you are admitting that you are no match for me with your current strength?" Zhang Xuan scoffed.

To first send the Qingtian Emperor after him before bringing out these puppets, it seemed like Vicious was really in a weakened state at the moment.

"Master, I can confirm it now. He's my brain and my eyes!" the Vicious within the Book of Heaven's Path informed Zhang Xuan.

"Your brain and your eyes?"

"Un. The brain is where the memory is stored, so that explains why that fellow was able to retain a greater degree of my memories and recall the matter of trapping Kong shi," the Vicious in the Book of Heaven's Path analyzed.

"The fighting prowess that my brain and my eyes wield is severely limited. Other than casting some basic soul arts, they are effectively useless in battle. As such, they have no choice but to rely on beguiling others to work for them. This is probably why they are resorting to such schemes instead of dealing with you directly!"

"I see!" Hearing Vicious' analysis, Zhang Xuan nodded in realization.

Back then, when he encountered Vicious' finger, the latter had attacked him without any hesitation. On the other hand, this Vicious seemed to be relying on external forces—such as other Otherworldly Demons, Soulless Metal Humanoids, or puppets—to deal with him. This further supported Vicious' conjecture.

"Even so, Master, you still must remain careful! While my brain is lacking in fighting prowess, it's still where most of my memories are kept. It won't be easy to kill and possess it!" the Vicious in the Book of Heaven's Path remarked worriedly.

Even though he had undergone the lightning ordeal and successfully advanced to Leaving Aperture realm advanced stage, he still had no confidence that he would be able to deal with the many means that the other Vicious possessed.

The head was bound to retain most of the memories of the former Vicious, granting it a deep understanding of all kinds of techniques. This would allow it to effectively neutralize most offenses and possession attempts. On this aspect, the Vicious in the Book of Heaven's Path, being just a heart and a finger, was at a critical disadvantage.

"More importantly, the brain is the center of a body, possessing innate authority that grants it near-absolute control over the rest of the body. I fear that… if I get too close to him, I might just unknowingly fall under his control!" the Vicious in the Book of Heaven's Path revealed worriedly.

Putting aside just him, even if the rest of Vicious' body parts were there, they still would have had to obey the commands of the brain. If they rushed at the other Vicious recklessly, not only would he be unable to devour the other Vicious, he might even end up as the other Vicious' puppet!



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