Dongfang Minghui was racking her brain, trying to think of a way to offer Mo Ce some soul-soothing advice. However, she came up empty, especially when she saw his body enveloped in black mist. Initially, his face was the most affected, with black lines appearing as if something were burrowing through his skin.
Later, similar marks appeared not only on his face but also on his exposed skin.
Dongfang Minghui had a realization: this was a sign that Fake Jing Ke was gaining power. Five hours later, she found Mo Ce entirely engulfed in black mist, resembling a man who had become obsessed and turned into a demon.
As soon as the two conflicting auras on the opponent’s body subsided, Dongfang Minghui quickly stood up, clutching her silk umbrella tightly, and choosing a safer position away from him.
“Little Color, why am I so sad?” she thought, contemplating the possibility that Mo Ce’s soul might be consumed by the other party. She felt an inexplicable sense of regret, an emotion so unfamiliar it was baffling. Taking a deep breath, she tried to hold back her nearly uncontrollable tears.
When Mo Ce opened his eyes, they were pitch black, bottomless. He smiled faintly, appearing pleased, but to Dongfang Minghui, it looked like the grin of a malevolent spirit.
She instinctively pressed the button on her silk umbrella, launching a projectile at Mo Ce.
Mo Ce dodged skillfully, avoiding every round bead with ease. He was faster than before and didn’t even use his curved sword.
Mo Ce stood there, staring at her quietly. “You don’t believe me?”
For some reason, Dongfang Minghui felt he seemed deeply hurt.
Little Color warned her through their soul connection, “Fake Jing Ke is cunning and good at disguises. Don’t let your guard down. The Mo Ce in front of you might have been completely consumed by Fake Jing Ke. He might be pretending to be Mo Ce to deceive you. Remember, he approached you as Jing Ke and stayed with you for a while.”
Taking Little Color’s advice to heart, Dongfang Minghui became more cautious. “How can you prove you’re him?”
Mo Ce simply sat cross-legged, eyes closed, ignoring her.
Dongfang Minghui was alarmed by his complete transformation. She suspected he was searching Mo Ce’s memories to deceive her.
“What’s happening now?” Dongfang Minghui wondered. Mo Ce was already a formidable killer, and now, empowered by Fake Jing Ke’s spiritual energy, he was even stronger. She hesitated, fearing she might kill the wrong person. “I think it’s better to wait for Seventh Sister to decide.”
“Stay away from him,” Little Color advised, losing hope for Mo Ce. “Fake Jing Ke is cunning. Mo Ce was injured before; it’s entirely possible his body has been taken over. Be vigilant and don’t let your sympathy get the best of you. It could be fatal for you, me, and your Seventh Sister.”
These words were grave, but they snapped Dongfang Minghui back to reality. She might be naive and careless about herself, but she deeply cared for Seventh Sister and Little Color.
About an hour later, Mo Ce broke the tense atmosphere. He stood up, holding his curved sword, and walked step-by-step towards Senior Phantom.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Dongfang Minghui called out.
Mo Ce ignored her, his goal unwavering.
The phantoms multiplied from one to two, then to three, blocking his path. Clearly, Senior Phantom saw her as a challenger as well.
Dongfang Minghui didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She felt like she was being set up. The moment they met, Senior Phantom had beaten her so badly she couldn’t get up. Little Color was gloating in her soul, “I told you not to follow me so closely. You just wouldn’t listen.”
“If you’re so capable, why don’t you challenge Senior Phantom yourself instead of making sarcastic comments?” she retorted.
She lay down on the solidified water, stretching her body. She noticed a strong black mist emanating from Mo Ce’s body. He was executing strange sword moves, sharper than before, but each was effortlessly blocked by Senior Phantom. Mo Ce was increasingly on the defensive, while Senior Phantom stood firm, unmovable.
Qian Wanyu opened her eyes to see Mo Ce swinging his sword at Senior Phantom. Each swing was accompanied by a thick mist. After a dozen swings, Mo Ce suddenly withdrew his sword. The black mist enveloped Senior Phantom.
She sprang up, lashing her whip towards him. “What are you trying to do?”
Dongfang Minghui also jumped up, looking warily at Mo Ce. “Seventh Sister, has he been consumed by—?”
Mo Ce grinned malevolently. “The treasure in the Sleeping Dragon Valley is hidden beneath this deep pool. As for this phantom, it’s just a bluff. Considering how cautious you are, I’m going to solve this problem for you. What’s wrong with that?”
Qian Wanyu scrutinized him, finding it hard to determine whether this was the Mo Ce she knew. But one thing was clear: the old Mo Ce wouldn’t act so recklessly, nor would he know about the hidden treasures in the Trapped Dragon Valley.
The so-called treasure was something even they were unaware of. If it was the legendary holy medicine rumored to exist more than 20 years ago, it was unlikely Mo Ce would know about it.
A flash of coldness crossed Qian Wanyu’s eyes, and she lashed her thunder whip at Mo Ce again. He dodged skillfully, grinning sarcastically. “It’s so unfair that you two want to monopolize a treasure we all discovered together. If word gets out, it won’t look good for you, the third young lady of the Qian Family.”
Knowing her identity confirmed for Qian Wanyu that this was not Mo Ce.
“Enough of this” she said.
As Seventh Sister and Mo Ce continued their close combat, Dongfang Minghui noticed the shadow that had just been shrouded in black mist begin to shake. The figure became more transparent as if it would vanish any second. But then, there was a reversal: the three phantoms merged into one and broke free from the black fog. The phantom stood with his hands behind his back, his sleeves billowing. He seemed angry, and a wave of pressure, heavier than before, enveloped them.
“Seventh Sister!” Dongfang Minghui spat out a mouthful of blood, which then strangely disappeared. She felt as if she were being crushed by a mountain, her knees creaking and legs slightly bent. Sweat trickled down her forehead, soaking her clothes. Her body was undergoing unprecedented torture as if her internal organs were being squeezed by a powerful grip. She resisted this force for a while, but when her spiritual power was nearly depleted, she had to ask for help. “Little Color, why has it suddenly become like this? I can’t take it anymore.”
“It’s likely that the black mist just released triggered the phantom’s taboo…” Little Color replied, also releasing its own spiritual power to help her resist the pressure. But it was barely enough. After a few minutes, Little Color felt its spiritual power was about to run out. “Continuing like this is not an option.”
“No kidding,” Dongfang Minghui responded, feeling her neck bones rattling. She feared that if this continued, her bones would crumble, and she would be doomed.
“Try calling Toothless from the depths of your heart,” Little Color suggested. “That phantom seems particularly indulgent towards Toothless.”
Both Qian Wanyu and Mo Ce felt the change. She looked at the phantom and found him standing in the same position, but now he seemed as stable as a mountain, suppressing everything around him. She quickly retracted her whip and distanced herself from Mo Ce. Both chose a temporary truce, standing quietly on opposite sides.
“What an overwhelming sense of pressure, even worse than before. Was all the previous strength just an illusion?” Qing Mo wondered, entering the deep pool. The phantom gave him a powerful feeling, sometimes like a mountain, sometimes like the sky, making him feel insignificant.
The first time Qian Wanyu faced this senior phantom, she felt out of breath. The pressure was like a mountain bearing down on her, inducing a sense of despair. However, as she continued to challenge him repeatedly, she told herself to hold on just a little longer. After persisting, she discovered a problem.
The phantom’s strength didn’t seem as terrifying as the oppressive feeling suggested.
Each of Qian Wanyu’s trials served as a small test, gauging Senior Phantom’s limits and the opponent’s tolerance.
“Could it be because of Toothless?”
The pressure was so overwhelming that everyone was immobilized. As time passed, the pressure intensified. Because their spiritual power was waning, the pressure seemed to multiply. Dongfang Minghui felt it acutely; initially, she had only knelt, but now her entire back was leaning forward. If she hadn’t been holding on with both hands, she would have been pressed flat against the water.
Her body felt soaked with sweat as if she had been submerged in water for an extended period.
The colorful spiritual power emanating from Qian Wanyu acted like a signal, especially vivid in the deep pool. She circulated her spiritual power quickly to counteract the pressure. The black mist from Mo Ce’s body gradually dissipated. With a pop, he knelt on the ground. Looking back at Qian Wanyu, he seemed increasingly relaxed.
Just as everyone was struggling against the pressure, a black shadow emerged from the darkness. It strode confidently, head held high, only to be blocked by the illusory shadow.
Dongfang Minghui raised her head with difficulty, her eyes blurred by sweat. She vaguely saw a familiar figure and managed to mutter, “Yes, Toothless!”
“Go back!” When Senior Phantom faced Toothless, he acted like an elder toward a younger generation—serious and stern. He waved his hand, sending a ripple of powerful spiritual energy through the deep pool. It swayed momentarily before vanishing.
Toothless took a small step back.
“Ho ho—” Toothless roared at the illusory shadow, a hint of urgency in its voice. It had a special bond with Dongfang Minghui, having been awakened by her blood. It had sensed her distress and emerged from the darkness.
The shadow looked somewhat desolate, especially when facing Toothless. His expression was as stubborn and unyielding as ever.
Dongfang Minghui couldn’t hold on any longer. She lay on the water, feeling that she might suffocate or suffer internal injuries at any moment. Either outcome would be grim. She wanted to turn her head to look at Toothless, but heard a rattling sound in her neck, as if any movement could be fatal.
“Little Color, we’re probably going to die here,” Dongfang Minghui said to Little Color, somewhat pessimistically.
In the sea of souls, Little Color resembled a withered magical plant. After absorbing the power of the seal, it had grown from a sapling to a towering tree. Now, however, it seemed listless, as if drained of vital nutrients.
“Death is nothing to be ashamed of” Little Color responded, surprisingly calm and accepting of their fate. “Dying at the hands of a Spiritual Saint isn’t the worst way to go.”
“What, that’s a Spiritual Saint?!”
“Such immense pressure that can immobilize even a Spiritual Monarch. Even your Seventh Sister, with her five-element spirit body, is stuck. Who else but a Peak Spiritual Saint, one step away from becoming a Spiritual God, could exert such power?” Little Color explained. It had once witnessed a battle between Spiritual Saints and knew that their pressure could be even more overwhelming.
Dongfang Minghui was stunned. “A Spiritual Saint?”
That was a realm she had never even imagined. If Seventh Sister ever reached that level, would she surpass the Senior Phantom in front of them?
Just as the thought crossed Dongfang Minghui’s mind, the pressure suddenly lifted. A burst of spiritual power flowed into her body, alleviating the internal pressure she had felt.
Pausing for a moment, Dongfang Minghui murmured, “Seventh Sister, you seem to be doing fine?”
Qian Wanyu walked over step by step, struggling with each movement. When she saw Dongfang Minghui lying motionless, she felt an indescribable sense of panic. As her spiritual power circulated faster, the crushing feeling of gravity began to ease. She felt more relaxed compared to Mo Ce, but she was still far from being as composed as Dongfang Minghui had suggested.
Dongfang Minghui felt her other hand gently held by Qian Wanyu, and her spiritual energy gradually synced with her Seventh Sister’s rhythm. Not only did she feel relaxed, but she also felt her consciousness returning.
“How do you feel now?”
“Seventh Sister, it’s much better,” Dongfang Minghui closed her eyes and tried to adapt to her Seventh Sister’s rhythm. Unknowingly, the two began practising together. The after-effects of their earlier ordeal gradually faded, and their spiritual power was restored even more quickly.
Meanwhile, Toothless continued to spit fireballs at the shadow. The light from the fireballs illuminated half the sky. If Dongfang Minghui looked closely, she could see an iron gate in the darkness behind Toothless. Above the gate were four large characters written in a flamboyant style: “Dragon Clan’s Hidden Area.”
Toothless’s fireballs were relentless, surrounding the illusory shadow from all directions. The fire energy emanating from its mouth was particularly potent and golden. At some point, the fireballs formed a large ring of fire.
Qian Wanyu noticed that the phantom seemed somewhat panicked as if it could be burned by Toothless’s fireballs at any moment.
No one saw the smile in the eyes of the illusory figure. With a flick of his finger, his gray clothes lifted in an arc, effortlessly allowing half of Toothless’s hard-earned ring of fire to pass by, while the other half of the flames still appeared precarious.
Toothless darted left and right. Despite his massive size, he was not tired at all; in fact, he seemed more agile than before.
Qian Wanyu watched as Senior Phantom went from standing with his hands behind his back to using one hand, and then eventually using his other hand as well. This was the result of being pushed step by step by Toothless, forcing him to go all out. Even Qian Wanyu couldn’t help but praise Toothless’s rapid progress in her inner thoughts.
None of them could have guaranteed that entrusting this dragon cub to anyone would result in such rapid growth in such a short period. Yet, someone had managed it.
Toothless seemed to have evolved from a naive young dragon into a resourceful one. With newfound wisdom, he not only knew how to deceive but also how to execute diversions and distractions. His successive strategies left Qian Wanyu speechless.