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The palm struck down like a feather, but it came with a force that felt as heavy as Mount Tai.

The earth element dragon scale shield was activated with full force, as well as the black dragon spirit ring. Scale-shaped golden beams thrust out and formed into a thick layer of energy barrier around Wu Qi, while the ring transformed into a set of black armor on his body. At the same time, with just a brief thought of his mind, the lower-grade spirit defensive outfit given by Patriarch Yuan Hua was activated, turning into wisps of smoke that rose up into the air as they formed a cloud platform that blocked the skinny and withered palm.

The palm came pressing down very slowly, but Wu Qi could not escape from its coverage, even though he had already fused with the true soul of one of the eight heavenly steeds.

Instantly, the scale-shaped golden beams broke apart and dispersed, while the black armor vanished into wisps of dark smoke and was blown away by the breeze. The earth element dragon scale shield and black dragon spirit ring issued a miserable howl at the same time, as a blinding ray burst out from them together and quickly dimmed down. Meanwhile, the cloud platform was turned into nothingness, and Wu Qi's clothes were ripped to shreds. The palm struck right onto his back.

Even as the palm pressed onto his back, Wu Qi gave a muffled snort with two streams of blood shot out of his eyes. His body turned fuzzy abruptly, then transformed into a dazzling beam and fled into a random direction in a twinkle. Even the few Heaven Immortals who came with teleportation divine ability from a distance could not stop him from escaping. They could only watch as a long beam of light streaked across the sky, before disappearing without a trace in an instant.

The skinny, withered palm retracted slowly, and the old, hoarse voice said, "You are lucky to be protected by a few amazing treasures, or I would have killed you on the spot. However, with your cultivation base, my 'Yin Deity Palm' would still bring you an inevitable death. Hmph, remember, the man who killed you is the Left Minister of Zhong Province of the Great Yu, Yu Miao!"

Riding the true soul of the heavenly steed, Wu Qi fled desperately for several tens of thousands of miles, before retracting all his aura and plunging straight into the ground. Then, he activated the innate earth element escape art, transforming himself into a clump of earthy mist, and continued fleeing forward along a few underground energy veins. He paid no heed to what was in front of him, but just kept performing hand incantations and ran in a flurry.

In a trance, he heard Yu Miao's voice, and the name of the Left Minister of Zhong Province of the Great Yu. Undoubtedly, this old man was the Elder from Yu Zong and Yu Que's clan, and a very strong one at that. He made Wu Qi feel a pressure a few times stronger than that of Yu Que.

In fact, the palm strike did not come with a very strong force. It was about the weight of slightly over 50,000 kilograms, and Wu Qi's fleshly body could definitely withstand such force. However, there was a very strange, almost evil force hiding in the palm strike. It smashed into Wu Qi's body like a vast ocean, along with a tremendous evil force that could rip Wu Qi to shreds one hundred times. It was gruesome, evil, and did not possess any life force. Instead, it had an immense aura of death, that was completely opposite to the life force of humans with fleshly bodies.

The aura of death was crazily devouring Wu Qi's energy, his flesh and blood, meridians and bones, everything in his body. He felt like as if he were a little mouse, and someone had just violently injected a ton of acid into his body. He could be turned into nothingness at any time.

Fortunately, the aura of death could do nothing to his innate energy. With effort, using the innate energy stored in the meridians on both arms, Wu Qi barely constructed layers of barrier within his body. With them, he managed to protect his body from being completely disintegrated. Even so, under the constant impact of the enormous aura of death which despaired Wu Qi, there were a few times they nearly barged through the blockade of innate energy, almost rushing into Wu Qi's spiritual ocean, arms, and a few other vital spots inside his body.

With his jaw tightly clenched, Wu Qi kept crazily extracting the innate energy essence from his innate Nascent Souls, turning them into innate energy that circulated in his entire body and barely maintained the balance. Nevertheless, he was clearly aware that once the energy essence within his innate Nascent Souls was depleted, he would perish completely.

'Aura of death, this damn aura of death! How could it be so strong? How could it completely oppose the life force of a human?'

Even as he was seized by despair, Wu Qi bellowed suddenly, "Wu Qi, you fool! It is obviously the Yin Deity divine ability which Zi Xuan has taught you previously!"

Immediately, the various divine abilities of Ghost and Deity which Princess Zhang Le inherited from her mother's bloodline flowed across Wu Qi's mind. With his near-insane ability of comprehension, he quickly began to analyze the profound knowledge contained in it, and brought himself an enlightenment on the most important part of the technique. With his teeth gnashed, he continued exercising the earth element escape art while mustering the last bit of available energy, turning it into a bizarre-looking, grayish rune and casting it into his heart.

A deep, muffled, and evil recitation of a spell came out of Wu Qi's mouth. Abruptly, the enormous aura of death in Wu Qi's body halted, like a surging ocean suddenly being frozen. It gave Wu Qi an opportunity to let his almost disintegrated body catch a breath. With that brief moment of halting, the grayish rune took away a small part of the aura of death, transforming it into a stream of energy which Wu Qi could use. The energy was at least three times stronger than the portion of energy which he used previously. Hastily, he performed the incantations and cast three more runes.

The surging and rocking aura of death halted completely. Like some sticky filth, it clogged up Wu Qi's body. Again and again, Wu Qi cast the runes, transforming the aura of death into his own energy essence and energy. The entire process was like walking on a thread, the thread between the life and death. If he were too slow in transforming the aura of death, or if there were any mistakes in the incantation gesture, he would have failed to prevent the aura of death from exploding, eventually being devoured by it and turned into nothingness.

One divine ability of Ghost and Deity after another flowed across Wu Qi's mind. Very quickly, he analyzed the magical effects of these divine abilities,, from which he found some new runes that could join the runes that he cast into his own body, using them to control even greater amount of the aura of death. Gradually, they became a set of runes from a single rune, then formed into a complete set of talisman. Then, the talismans formed a minor talisman array, and finally constructed into a powerful talisman spell. Eventually, they turned into a three-dimensional formation of runes and talismans.

He fled disorderly for half a month, without even taking a single moment to rest or sleep. With the speed of his escape art, he had already traveled millions upon millions of miles. Finally, he trembled and regained his consciousness.

Thirty percent of the aura of death had already been dissolved, while the remaining seventy percent had lost its crazy momentum of invading and devouring his body. By now, it had turned into a strange substance, a half-corporeal energy that was sticky like glue, and piling up inside him. Because of it, nearly all Wu Qi's meridians were completely clogged up. The energy that once flowed ceaselessly could no longer move even a bit, and was being constantly assimilated by the aura of death.

Left with no other alternative, using the technique of Ghost and Deity which he just gained enlightenment of, Wu Qi formed a fist-sized, very complicated rune formation inside his body.

The divine ability of Ghost and Deity did not cultivate Gold Core, Nascent Soul, or Nascent Divinity. It was just a technique of control. The more runes one could master, the stronger a talisman one could form. The more talismans one could master, the stronger a talisman array one could form. And, the more talisman arrays one could master, the stronger a formation of runes and talismans one could form.

The grayish rune formation hovered above Wu Qi's forehead, emitting a faint white light as it kept extracting wisps of the aura of death. Apart from his formidable fleshly body, Wu Qi's current cultivation base was equal to early-stage Gold Core realm due to the damage done to him by the attack. Although he could still use the rest of the fake Nascent Souls and innate Nascent Souls, as all his meridians were clogged up, it would cost him a great deal of effort to just cast a simple fireball spell. He was too lazy to waste his energy to use them.

Before he could fully understand the Dao of Ghost and Deity which Princess Zhang Le taught him, using the technique to transform and digest all the aura of death clogged up in his body, he had no other choice but to maintain the current state for a period of time.

Sulkily, he coughed out a few mouthfuls of blood, then weakly rushed back to the surface at the edge of a small river and fell totteringly to the ground.

With the biggest crisis of having his body exploded now resolved, Wu Qi finally find out at what level had his fleshly body been injured. The condition was almost identical to Yu Que after being smitten by two heavenly thunder. A couple of his ribs towards the back were broken, while a dozen of them near his chest were cracked as well. All his internal organs were invaded by the aura of death, causing them to shrink rapidly and bring him a burning pain.

His meridians, nerves, and blood vessels had suffered a severe damage as well, with a huge amount of the aura of death clogged in them. Although the aura had stopped wreaking havoc, he was like a turtle who had just been repeatedly stepped over by a couple hundred elephants. He did not have the strength to even lift his finger.

Lying on the ground, Wu Qi snorted as he kept coughing out mouthfuls after mouthfuls of blood. This blood was originally his flesh, but turned into gore after being invaded by the aura of death. He sighed, feeling like weeping but having no tears. 'There is crisis everywhere in the realm of cultivators, how true is that!' thought Wu Qi. 'Left Minister of Zhong Province of Great Yu, Yu Miao?' Clenching his teeth, Wu Qi remembered this name by heart.

"Old fellow, just you wait! Once I've my wounds fully healed, even if I can't kill you, I'll steal everything from you!"

Even as Wu Qi was gnashing his teeth and venting his anger, suddenly a pair of legs clad in straw sandals appeared in his line of sight. It shocked him greatly, and with great effort, he raised his head to look up. As his glance moved up, he saw a pair of naked legs, a gray, burlap monk robe, and a naked upper body with a monk outfit draped across the shoulder. There was a large basket strapped behind the man's back, from which, a very strong smell of herbs came wafting out. On top of the basket was placed another basket full of firewood, which looked about 50 kilograms in weight.

He was a young monk who looked in his early twenties. He had an ugly face that was full of scars, so many that they even covered the incense marks on his head.

The monk put his palms together before his chest, bowed to Wu Qi, and said, "For the benevolence of the Buddha, how can I not lend a helping hand when you, Sir, meet with misfortune here? Saving a life is always better than building a seven-storied pagoda. I've built a twenty-one-storied pagoda over the past few months, and I'm sure I can attain the rightful fruit of Arhat in the future! Sādhu! Sādhu!"

Not waiting for Wu Qi to speak, the monk reached out to cup Wu Qi up, holding him before his chest. A faint auspicious cloud rushed out below the monk's feet as he flew along the little river towards a valley further up the stream. Even as he was flying, he asked curiously, "Sir, were you being robbed or sexually harassed? Why aren't you wearing anything? This is really strange. Would someone want to sexually harass a man?"

Blankly and with effort, Wu Qi bowed and saw his fully naked body. He nearly fainted.

Pilgrim Gu He's voice suddenly rang out next to Wu Qi's ears, as if he were still nagging incessantly,

"Little Daoist, there is a fate between you and the Buddha!"

Wu Qi nearly howled hysterically at the top of his voice, "To hell with it! There is no fate between me and your Buddha!"

In the remote valley surrounding by mountains with luxuriant vegetation, there stood a small Buddhist temple with curving eaves.

The ringing of copper bells coupled with knocking of wooden fish[1] filled the atmosphere. The fragrance of sandalwood wafted across the air, and the chanting of monks lingered in one's ears.

The monk carried Wu Qi and flew into this small Buddhist temple which occupied two acres of land. When they passed through the entrance, Wu Qi quickly glanced at the wooden plaque mounted on top of it: 'Temple of Hidden Heart'.

[1] Wooden Fish - A wooden fish, also known as a Chinese temple block, is a wooden percussion instrument. The wooden fish is used by monks and lay people in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. (Source:

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