"Wait here while I go in and have a look." Ye Que's expression was a bit serious. "Unless I call for you, no one is to enter no matter what happens or what strange sight you see. Or else, you'll have to bear the consequences."
"Sir, did you notice something? Will my Elder Sister be alright?" Qian Shuxiao hastily asked. That was his biological sister in the room. Something must be wrong, judging from how serious Ye Que's expression was. In fact, he himself thought there was something off with his sister during this period of time, but he couldn't find the reason. Now, she was likely to have encountered something dirty.
"I'm not sure. I'll only know after checking on her."
"I'll leave it to you and wait here then, Sir. Shout if you have any orders and I'll be right there."
Ye Que placed his hands behind his back. He wasn't nervous. For the next hundred years, there was likely no one in Luoyang, even the whole world, who could truly strike fear and anxiety in him. Since he had a good idea of what was going on, he naturally felt no fear.
However, he felt as if the Demonic Qi in Luoyang had grown stronger overnight. It was like he would meet demons everywhere he went. Wasn't the frequency of the demons' appearance a little too high? Or perhaps, was his luck too good?
When he entered Qian Shuhua's room, he saw a woman about twenty years of age standing squarely in front of the desk. Holding a delicate paintbrush in her hand, she wantonly slid it across the fine writing paper in front of her with rapt attention. The woman didn't have long and black hair like an ordinary lady. Her hair was very short, about shoulder-length. Light peeked out of her black pupils, making her look energetic. Her cheeks were pinkish against her fair skin. Looking at her figure alone, she was definitely an exquisite lady.
Qian Shuhua looked a little too focused at this moment, even a little obsessed.
Sniffling, Ye Que carefully observed the landscape painting hanging near the main door. He snorted when he found a censer with three expensive incenses under the painting. "These small demons are really bold now. They dare to come out and harm people without even understanding what it means to cultivate."
"The green hills stretch 30,000,000 miles; The gate to heaven is cut down with one sword strike. Show your true shape."
Right now, there was a trace of Divine Energy stored in Ye Que's body. He might not be able to use the martial arts techniques of the Celestial World, but he could use some of the techniques of the Cultivation World, especially the spells of the Qingqiu Sword Sect. After all, it was the place where he was once born in and the spells were also his most frequently used techniques. For example, he could activate the rudimentary Seal-breaking Spell just by opening his mouth. He didn't even have to lift a finger.
Following Ye Que's spell, a sealing talisman appeared out of thin air and struck the landscape painting.
It was like throwing boiling water into a pan with boiling oil. The landscape painting seemed to come to life in an instant. Large clusters of fog began to diffuse from the painting. The fog churned back and forth in the air and in a flash, condensed into a ferocious three-eyed demonic beast. It was still inhaling and exhaling the fog as if it was trying to cover the whole room in fog.
"What an audacious and ignorant child to disturb Grandpa's cultivation in isolation! Don't you want to live?" A buzzing voice came from the fog, sounding like an old man who was about to croak after living for hundreds of years.
"Cultivate in isolation?" Ye Que said disdainfully. "What kind of isolated cultivation requires messing people's mind? What a joke!"
Ye Que pointed to Qian Shuhua, who was still painting with all the strength she could muster. "You're just a small painting demon. Do you expect people to light incense for you and worship you?"
The great commotion occurred within a few meters of Qian Shuhua. She was obviously awake but was unmoved as if she was blind to it. She remained traveling in the world of painting.
"I'm a sage on the mountain and a Taoist immortal in the painting. What's wrong with people worshipping and respecting me?" the painting demon retorted haughtily.
"How dare a demon like you call yourself an Immortal," Ye Que shouted.
"You deserve death for defaming Taoist Immortals."
The three-eyed demonic beast that exhaled fog suddenly opened its three bloody eyes and sprayed a burst of fog at Ye Que. The fog that filled the room had just dispersed continued to churn. From a distance, the entire room began to look illusory as if was submerged in water. It was as if the inside of the room had become a different world from the outside.
"You dare to show off in front of an expert with a mere Bewitching Formation?" Ye Que, who was in the thick of the fog, ignored it. An illusion and bewitching fog of this caliber were incapable of affecting his judgment.
"Close by my door are moored boats from Eastern Wu; Sword Qi soars into the clear sky."
Once again, he used his fingers as a sword. Once again, he made the rudimentary sword skill of the Qingqiu Sword Sect. In the blink of an eye, a blast of Sword Qi punctured the thick fog to pierce the landscape painting behind it. Everything he saw was an illusion. The real thing was outside the painting.
The landscape painting was the painting demon's Gate of Vitality. If he kept focusing on the three-eyed demonic beast created out of the fog, he would never win. The beast was obviously an illusion.
In an instant, the fog inside the room began to gather in the direction of the painting and swiftly condensed into a shield made of Qi. However, it was helpless against Ye Que's Sword Qi.
One burst of strength was enough to break tens of thousands of spells.
Compared to Ye Que, the painting demon was still too inexperienced.
"Please spare my life, Immortality Master!"
With the outcome already clear, the painting demon dropped his insolence earlier. He opened his mouth to plead with Ye Que.
"Please let off this small demon, Immortality Master."
"You dare to seek survival after wreaking havoc in the Human World?" Ye Que pointed his right finger to the void and placed his left finger behind his back.
"I swear to the heaven I've never done anything harmful. All I did was asking for a few incenses for worship. I don't dare to harm people." The painting demon pleaded with a miserable face. Even the fog it produced was a lot weaker.
"Did you really not harm anyone before?" Ye Que asked.
"Absolutely not. Please give me a chance to live, Sir. I'll definitely express my thanks in the future." The painting demon was righteous with his convictions.
"Alright then. Show me your true shape. After I check that you really didn't harm anyone's life, I promise not to destroy the landscape painting," Ye Que said in a somewhat more amicable tone.
"Thank you, Sir."
Immediately, the three-eyed demonic beast and the shield made of Qi disappeared amidst the fog, and an old man with a white beard appeared, prostrating in front of Ye Que. However, at an unseen angle, a flicker of craftiness crossed his eyes.
Before the white-bearded old man even finished speaking, an illusory cyan Spirit Sword abruptly perforated his chest. The Sword Qi that had been lying dormant also made a spin around the room before turning into a fine rain of swords. In the blink of an eye, the old man's pierced body dissipated, leaving no trace of him behind.
"I've said that small demons like you shouldn't come out to harm people when you don't even understand what it means to cultivate."
"If pleading for your life guarantees your life, doesn't that mean demon slayers can all be jobless? You said you didn't harm anyone? Who do you think you're fooling? I can even smell your evil air," Ye Que muttered. Then, he reached out to remove the landscape painting from the wall.
The painting demon's Spiritual Force returned to the painting after it was killed by Ye Que. Generally, demons that cultivated illusions didn't have strong attacks. However, its life's magic treasure was surely imbued with ample Spiritual Force. It was exactly what Ye Que needed right now. He would consider it his reward.
He slowly walked out of the room and waved at Qian Shuxiao. The latter eager walked over to him.
"Is it over, Sir?" Qian Shuxiao and several servants witnessed everything as clear as day. The ferocious three-eyed demonic beast was a complete savage.
"Just a useless small demon. I've subdued it. I suppose this painting is its life's magic treasure?" Ye Que raised the landscape painting, looking as if he was going to return it to Qian Shuxiao. "Do you still want it? From the looks of it, it must cost a fortune."
Everyone, including Qian Shuxiao, took several steps backward as if they were stung by a bee. Qian Shuxiao waved his hand. "Sir, please put that thing away immediately. I don't dare to keep it. This painting kills."
"Don't frighten me anymore. I'm a coward."
"I'll be taking it then." Ye Que conveniently rolled up the landscape painting and placed it behind him. He looked up to check the position of the moon. "It's getting late. Everyone should go back and rest."
He pointed to Qian Shuxiao. "Your sister should be asleep now. Get someone to send her back to her room to rest. She was put under an illusory spell these few days, but she'll recover soon now that the demon is killed. She'll be alright."
After handing Qian Shuxiao the responsibility of dealing with the aftermath, Ye Que returned to his own room.
The decoration of his room was incredibly lavish. From the looks of it, it was indeed the room the Qian family used to accommodate their most honored guests. Ignoring all these, Ye Que took out the landscape painting as soon as he closed the door and began pacing inside the room. Every step he took, he would move his fingers to chant a spell.
Thirty-seven steps later, he had cast thirty-seven spells.
When he completed his last spell, a pagodshaped, spell-based formation took shape. In the middle of the spell-based formation was the landscape painting. Right then, the painting was emanating a milky-white soft radiance. Threads of Spiritual Force swiftly seeped out of the painting.
The spell-based formation was something Ye Que accidentally obtained while breaching a Devil's Sect back then. It was called the Spirit-stealing Formation and was capable of extracting Spiritual Force from its owner's magic treasure for the spell-caster's personal use.
Sitting cross-legged on the bed, Ye Que swiftly entered a state of meditative consciousness. The Spiritual Force seeping out of the Spirit-stealing Formation began encircling him in the air.
The night provoked; stars dotted the whole sky. Tonight was destined to be an unpeaceful night.
After spending an entire night cultivating, the sun rose on the next day as usual.
The landscape painting that was filled with Spiritual Qi yesterday had yellowed after having its Qi absorbed for an entire night. The paper became old and the ink marks that made up the landscape became indistinct. From the looks of it, its Spiritual Force had been exhausted.
The sky had just brightened outside when a screech resounded at the door of the Peony Pavilion, west of the Bridge of Long Life near Yong'an Street.
Soon, one hundred officers of the Court of Judicial Review surrounded the Peony Pavilion so thoroughly that not even a fly could enter.
"Lord He, there are twenty-nine corpses in total from the lobby all the way to the second floor. One owner, three staff, twenty-five guests. None lived."
The man called Lord He was the newly-appointed Right Vice Minister, He Fei. He didn't expect to encounter such a big case on his second day of work. Ignoring his subordinate's report, he entered Peony Pavilion alone and walked from the lobby to the second floor. He examined every corpse that he saw.
"Did everyone here die of a venomous snake bite?" He Fei asked.
"Replying to my Lord: That's what the coroner said."
"Why didn't anyone run out of the place?" He Fei frowned as he looked at the structure of Peony Pavilion.
"Maybe there were too many snakes. The coroner said there must surely be a frightening number of snakes here last night to cause such wounds on the corpses."
"How many can there be?" He Fei asked solemnly.
"Tens of thousands!"