The final demon had Fang Xing’s essence fused into it, essentially making it one with the Sea of Consciousness and allowing it to use the Qi for its own recovery. Fang Xing couldn’t absorb it completely even with the True Samadhi Fire, and he began to grow agitated.
Fang Xing realized he’d been inside his Sea of Consciousness for too long without knowing what was happening in the outside world, especially since he knew he wasn’t too far away from the Qing-Yun Sect. However, this final demon was unexpectedly difficult, and none of the methods he or the Peng King thought of were working.
At this time, the Sea of Consciousness began to buzz, as though some kind of energy was trying to make its way inside, and the buzzing sound became steadily louder until it formed into a clear voice. "Rebellious pupil Fang Xing. Saving sect brothers and sisters, driving away powerful enemies, helping to seal the beast king, all meritorious acts. Robbing sect brothers and sisters, bullying the weak, breaking sect rules, offending a superior, chasing after an elder to kill them…. Contributions and offenses, the contributions won’t be rewarded and the offenses won’t be punished. Your spirit lantern shall be extinguished, and you will be expelled from Qing-Yun…."
The voice grew louder and louder, repeating nonstop until it was like thunder rumbling throughout the Sea of Consciousness. Fang Xing was completely dumbstruck and relaxed his control over the True Samadhi Fire while looking towards the sky in a daze, completely bewildered by what was happening—normally, outside sounds couldn’t enter the realm of his Sea of Consciousness at all.
Just as Fang Xing stopped trying to refine the demon with the True Samadhi Fire, a curious sight occurred. While the thunderous sounds rang out, that crazed and vicious demon seemed to become twisted as though in extreme pain, and it released silent cries of anger towards the sky. Its body steadily shrank, and the voice turned into symbols that covered the sky and slowly began to seal the demon.
After about a burn of an incense later, the demon that not even the True Samadhi Fire could control had been reduced into a small, unmoving sphere, sealed by the thunderous voice. Afterwards, the voice grew steadily softer until it disappeared completely.
"What happened?" Fang Xing curiously asked the dark-faced Peng King beside him.
The Peng King spat on the ground and angrily replied, "Someone must have helped you. Go and see who it was!"
Feeling curious and seeing that the demon was already tightly sealed and no longer able to stir up trouble, Fang Xing asked the Peng King to keep an eye on the spirit before his True Spirit returned to the altar. He departed from his Sea of Consciousness, and as he gradually returned to the outside world, his eyes opened and his blurred vision slowly cleared until he was able to see a blue-robed middle-aged man with three strands of facial hair hanging off his face. The man had both of his hands folded behind him and was looking at Fang Xing with a calm expression.
"Sect Master?" Fang Xing had never imagined that the person he’d see after opening his eyes would be the Qing-Yun Sect’s sect master, Chen Xuanhua. However, although he was initially surprised, he soon calmed down. The Peng King had said someone must have helped him from the outside, and when he thought on it, the thunderous voice he’d heard did have a resemblance to the sect master’s. Furthermore, there was no one else around; it was not difficult to see the person who helped him had to be the sect master. Fang Xing was still confused, though; he didn’t understand why the sect master would lend him a helping hand.
"Come with me!" Chen Xuanhua calmly commanded, not saying anything more than necessary before—with both of his hands folded behind his back—he walked towards the outside of the cave. Fang Xing was still taken aback, but since there was no hope of escaping this late-stage Foundation Stage sect master, he could only follow behind.
After arriving outside the cave, Chen Xuanhua waved towards a large tree and said, "You too!" This once again surprised Fang Xing, as he didn’t feel anyone there. Just as he was puzzling over this, the branches shook and a sly-looking golden crow flew down from above with a flap of his wings, seeming hesitant on whether he should flee or not. Fang Xing relaxed at the sight, relieved to see this crow had been loyal to him and hadn’t left him behind despite the danger. In fact, when he first woke up and saw the crow wasn’t nearby, he’d thought the crow must have fled by himself to escape.
Chen Xuanhua looked at the golden crow and sighed. "Although your flying speed is incredible, you cannot flee from me. It’s better to just come over!"
The golden crow hesitated slightly, as though trying to come up with a scheme of some sort. After a long while, the crow let out a long sigh and flew over.
Chen Xuanhua guided Fang Xing and himself onto the back of the golden crow before forming a hand seal. His robe began to flutter as though touched by a light breeze, and an invisible force began to spread out to cover the duo. "Let’s go," he softly commanded.
The golden crow was overjoyed when he realized Chen Xuanhua must have used some method to keep people from being able to see them, and he spread his wings out wide without fear. Under Chen Xuanhua’s commands, he flew through the mountains at high speeds for hundreds of miles and several hours, until they finally flew past the trees and escaped from the forest the Qing-Yun disciples were searching. Only then did the crow land.
"Sect Master, why did you… why did you save me?" Fang Xing wasn’t an idiot, and he could tell Chen Xuanhua had purposefully helped them leave the precise area Qin’nyao was searching. It was only because of the sect master’s late Foundation Stage that Fang Xing and the crow weren’t detected by Elder Qin’nyao and were able to leave that forest safely.
Chen Xuanhua focused his gaze on Fang Xing. After a short while, he released a soft sigh. "I actually failed to save you; all I did was give a little help."
Fang Xing looked at him with confusion, surprised by such an answer.
"Elder Xiao used the soul lantern you left with the Qing-Yun Sect as the base of a demonic curse he performed. Although I am the sect master, he has the protection of the Fuyao Palace; I didn’t want to fight with him and so didn’t stop him. However, he wanted to kill you, and I didn’t want to see you lose your life just like that, so I used a secret spell to follow and find out where you were.
"I have confirmed that Elder Xiao used thirty years of his life in exchange for the nine demons, but you have already refined eight—quite unexpected. But this last one incorporates the True Spirit you left inside your soul lantern and has your essence, making it the most difficult one. This is also the most terrifying part of the curse, and not even I can dissipate it; I could only temporarily seal it for you…." Chen Xuanhua paused for a moment before continuing, "I am the sect master of the Qing-Yun Sect, after all, and I have the qualifications to extinguish the soul lantern you left behind. Therefore, I have some power to bind the True Spirit from it as well."
Fang Xing didn’t know why the sect master would explain it so clearly to him, so he blinked and listened carefully without interrupting.
Chen Xuanhua sighed again. "But with my ability, the demonic spirit will only be sealed for half a year or so. In half a year, it will break the seal, and its power will only be greater. It may also start to muddle your Spirit Sense, similar to having a Qi Deviation; if this is not solved in time, your road of cultivation will also end there."
"It’s that powerful?" Fang Xing exclaimed in surprise. He’d thought the problem had already been solved, and it wasn’t until the sect master explained things to him that he realized it had only been suppressed.
Chen Xuanhua sighed once more. "What did you think the soul lantern you left your True Spirit in was for? Within the realm of cultivation, betraying the sect is a huge taboo; you can’t just run away and expect everything is going to be fine. The soul lantern makes it possible for the sect to respond!"
Fang Xing could hear a bit of scolding within the sect master’s tone and began to grin. "I didn’t betray the sect at all. I was just taking a little walk…."
"The Danxia and Shanhe Valleys were blown up because of you, and the entire sect nearly burned down. How is this not considered betraying the sect?"
Fang Xing hastily smiled wider. "Personal grudge, personal grudge. Burning the sect was really just an accident…."
Speechless, Chen Xuanhua gave a dismissive wave of his hand without listening to Fang Xing’s excuses. "You don’t need to explain anymore. If you had truly wanted to destroy the entire Qing-Yun Sect, I would not have come and helped you. I understand—the Xiao uncle-nephew pair pushed you too far. For you to be forced to betray the sect, I as the sect master am also partially responsible. I couldn’t even give you the position of core disciple, which I promised you personally…."
Fang Xing naturally didn’t dare to tell him he’d been scheming how to kill Xiao Jianming before betraying the sect and leaving. Seeing the sect master now blaming himself, Fang Xing immediately tried to egg him on. "Yes, Sect Master, none of those Xiaos are any good. You should hurry and go kill him…."
Chen Xuanhua glared at Fang Xing. "You think I need you to explain things to me? The whole situation is very complicated, and I don’t have the patience to explain it all to you in detail. I want you to understand that although you’re forced to leave the sect and I will announce to the world that you betrayed the sect and fled, to me—the sect master—and your esteemed shifu at Duanzhen Valley, you are still a core disciple of the Qing-Yun Sect…. Do you understand?"
"I understand…. I understand very clearly…" Fang Xing immediately agreed, only to ponder on it for a moment and ask, "What does that actually mean, though?"
Speechless once more, Chen Xuanhua took a short while to answer, "It means that if you manage to live through this trouble and grow up, don’t forget the kindness and favor the Qing-Yun Sect bestowed upon you…."
It finally clicked for Fang Xing. "Not a problem, not a problem at all; I definitely won’t forget it!"