After Failing to Influence the Protagonist Chapter 44

Chapter 44 Underground

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Reluctantly, the villagers followed the tradition and managed Zhuangyuan Temple. Only insiders were allowed, or they would face punishment. A’ru and her brother were living proof.

Pei Jing didn’t care about it during the day.

Chu Junyu’s matter left him confused, affecting his focus.

Yu Qinglian, showing rare honesty, advised him, “Don’t be so direct. It would be hard to accept. Just reject it through actions.”

Pei Jing was amazed. “You understand again?”

Yu Qinglian smirked, “Of course I do. But you look like a mess after one night’s sleep. I suggest you give in.”

He ignored her.

Night arrived. Red lanterns hung from wires, casting a crimson glow. Candles lined the path from the valley entrance to the temple. The candlelight added a hint of blood to the mountain road. Before leaving, the village chief gave him a deep look, and Pei Jing smiled back. It was going to be an uneasy night. Restlessness spread among the mountain beasts, and underground creatures started to bite. The wind blew, making every plant bow down.

The villagers gradually returned to sleep, leaving only the two red lanterns in front of the Zhuangyuan Temple. From a distance, they looked like bleeding heads.

Yu Qinglian said, “Thank goodness Ji Wuduan isn’t here, otherwise, he’d be scared to death.”

Wu Sheng shook his head, “Can’t say for sure.”

Yu Qinglian: “I wonder what the inheritance will be like. I’ve explored many secret places, but never come across something this peculiar.”

Pei Jing: “Enough talk. Let’s go in. It’s not going to be anything good, anyway.”

Yu Qinglian: “You’re so short-tempered.”

Despite her words, she entered the temple with an excited expression.

The temple was no different from daytime. The weary statue stood in the center, with five clean cushions placed in front of it.

Pei Jing: “Do we have to kneel?”

Yu Qinglian raised an eyebrow.

Pei Jing lowered his head and looked at the cushions. Following the local customs, he took the lead and knelt down. Ji Wuyou joined him as the second person. The protagonist probably hadn’t experienced much, as he had been absent-minded all day and seemed even more nervous now. Yu Qinglian said, “Seriously? We have to kneel? Can’t we just move the statue and drag out that ghost?”

Wu Sheng tugged at her sleeve and shook his head, signaling her not to act on it. Yu Qinglian sighed and reluctantly knelt with them.

Once all five cushions were occupied, the lanterns at the temple gate dimmed, and the entire temple plunged into darkness. Only a few faint red lights from the burning incense remained. The monks had excellent vision, even in the dark, but strangely, once the temple turned dark, they couldn’t see anything either. Pei Jing wondered, and then he heard Chu Junyu’s voice, “Close your eyes.”

So he obediently closed his eyes.

A scent of earth permeated the temple, mixed with a decaying, putrid odor. The strong wind howled, and he heard the sound of the temple door being blown open, followed by footsteps. A group of people entered the temple from outside, walking in perfect unison.

No villager would dare to enter on the night of the inheritance, and the way those people walked was odd, bouncing with each step, as if their legs were fused together. Zombies? Pei Jing was contemplating when suddenly two zombies appeared behind him. One person held down his head, while another pressed against his back, forcing him into a criminal’s posture.

Pei Jing was stunned, and then he heard Chu Junyu say, “Don’t move.”

In the darkness, Chu Junyu’s voice was cold, yet it somehow brought a sense of calmness.

There was movement near the statue. Its outer shell peeled away, revealing an eerie presence emerging from the ground.

Pure white light, like falling snow, descended slowly from the head of the God of Literature statue.

A subtle and profound divine consciousness enveloped the entire temple.

Pei Jing was completely stupefied.

Wherever that divine consciousness passed, Pei Jing couldn’t help but approach and revere it, like a child to their mother. The light encompassed all things in the world, evoking a childlike innocence devoid of any distracting thoughts. However, being free from distractions wasn’t necessarily a state of clarity.

Pei Jing felt himself standing up and walking forward alongside the two zombies. Once again, he knelt down, closer to the statue. A cold, decaying hand slowly clasped around his neck, draining something from his body, leaving his soul frail and thin.

Numb chewing sounds surrounded him from all directions.

Pei Jing gradually clenched the hand hidden within his sleeve.

He sensed that something was wrong, but he didn’t dare to alert the enemy.

Ever since that divine consciousness emerged, he knew that the situation had become troublesome.

Soon after, he distinctly heard Chu Junyu’s voice.

From a more distant place, each word reached him, spoken by Chu Junyu, “Open your eyes.”

And so he opened his eyes. He raised his head and met the gaze of the ghostly being feasting on his soul. It was a skeleton crawling out from the ground, concealed beneath a massive black robe. The rigid skull turned, meeting Pei Jing’s gaze, yet devoid of any response.

However, Pei Jing quickly broke free from the skeleton’s grasp, stepping back and standing upright. He drew his sword and swung it forward.

As the Cloud Slayer Sword was unsheathed, its sword energy resounded like the clear cry of a phoenix. Silver radiance bloomed, severing half of the skeleton’s body.

The skull head made no sound. It fell to the ground along with its severed body, its hollow eyes exuding a chilling aura.

In an instant, the black robe was torn apart, and Pei Jing heard countless heart-wrenching screams.

As the robe fell away, the scene beneath was revealed—a multitude of hands emerging from the ground, mottled with corpse-like patches, pale gray in color, densely packed together.

Pei Jing found himself floating in the air. Looking back, he saw that the five cushions were still occupied by kneeling figures. Within the slowly transforming shadow on the cushion where he knelt, the features of the shadow’s face became distinct—it was his own likeness.

Pei Jing: “After devouring people, they use dark arts to fashion new **? What about Yu Qinglian and the others? And Chu Junyu, where is he giving me instructions from?”

However, he didn’t have time to divert his attention to these thoughts as the group of hands had already launched an attack against him.

Stretching indefinitely, their palms revealed gaping, blood-soaked mouths, dripping with sticky, putrid venom, lunging at him to bite.

“Are they the people who were buried alive underground?”

Pei Jing wasn’t afraid of this group of ghosts. With a swift motion, his hand rose, and his sword fell, blood spraying through the air. Hand palms and fingers fell to the ground with a clattering sound.

Then, Pei Jing heard a cold laugh coming from the statue of the God of Literature. Debris and blood accompanied the flickering candlelight, and Pei Jing saw the man whose appearance he had imagined countless times between the lines of text.

With a headband and a high-collared robe, one hand holding a brush and the other gripping a scroll, his brows and eyes exuded a stern, world-weary expression.

Pei Jing remained expressionless and spoke word by word, “Zhang Qingshu.”

Zhang Qingshu’s eyes glanced downward, as if looking at a dead person. “After searching for so long, you’ve come to seek death. Are you happy now that you’ve finally met me?”

Pei Jing smiled. He had never been threatened before in his life. “I’m ecstatic. I’ll be even happier if I can kill you.”

Zhang Qingshu said, “The struggles of an ant before its death.”

Pei Jing’s expression turned cold. “Where did you take them?”

Zhang Qingshu replied, “Don’t worry, they’re not dead yet. They’re waiting for you to join them in hell.”

Pei Jing remained silent.

Zhang Qingshu looked at him for a long time before suddenly saying, “Actually, I don’t want to kill you, and I don’t even dislike you.”

Pei Jing smirked. “What a coincidence, I really want to kill you.”

Zhang Qingshu nodded expressionlessly. “You carry the aura of a powerful Nascent Soul stage cultivator. Daring to confront me means you must have one or two life-saving treasures. Your friends are probably in a similar situation. However, you’ll have to actually use them to be of any use.”

Zhang Qingshu didn’t smile, and his lowered gaze held only weariness, devoid of any meaning.

“You weren’t drawn into the underground by the extraction of spiritual consciousness, so I assume Chu Junyu helped you behind the scenes.”

“However, now he can’t even protect himself. Let’s see who will come to save you,” Zhang Qingshu said.

With a wave of Zhang Qingshu’s hand, the severed limbs and fragments that Pei Jing had cut off instantly began to move, reattaching themselves. Hands emerging from the ground grabbed his ankles and forcefully pulled him down with immense strength.

The ground itself started to become strange, transforming into a marshy swamp and slowly sinking.

Pei Jing had intended to resist, but suddenly he heard Chu Junyu’s voice again. Unlike the previous calm and indifferent tone, this time it carried a hint of suppressed pain, yet as always, it guided him.

“Go underground.”

Go underground.

Pei Jing asked him, “How are you?”

Chu Junyu replied, “I’m fine.”

Pei Jing responded with a simple “Hmm.”

How could he be fine? Pei Jing couldn’t ignore the weakness in Chu Junyu’s voice.

Zhang Qingshu thought Pei Jing had given up and resigned himself to his fate. A smirk formed at the corner of his lips. “Go down now. The person who will determine your destiny is someone you would never even think of.”

Pei Jing cursed him silently in his heart: Fool.

He felt his chin, nose, eyes, and the top of his head gradually being buried under the soil, and then suddenly he was suspended in mid-air, plummeting straight down. Accompanied by those hundreds of arms, he landed underground. It was a place he had thought would be lively when he first entered the top scholar’s temple—an entire village that had been buried alive for hundreds of years.

As he took his final glance, the shadows on the five cushions slowly took shape. People who looked exactly like them, pale-faced and with closed eyes, knelt there, completely replacing them.

Pei Jing thought to himself: If he couldn’t come out of here before tonight, then most likely, he would never come out in this lifetime.

Falling from the sky, he crashed into the muddy ground.

The water and mud here were black, but luckily he was wearing brown clothes, so at most the color appeared a bit darker.

Indeed, if you don’t want to show off, don’t wear white.

Coughing a couple of times due to the noxious odor, Pei Jing crawled along the edge of the field and stood up. The sky here was dark green, devoid of any moon or stars, only a faint glimmer illuminating the surroundings clearly.

He stood in front of the village, where the wooden sign displayed the words “Zhonglian” in red.

A ghostly village filled with nothing but the dead.

“Were they all dragged into this place too?”

However, Pei Jing felt that he would end up in the fields, thanks to Chu Junyu’s intervention. Yu Qinglian and the others were probably brought together.

He walked forward with determined steps. The village, buried under the soil, still retained its appearance from before. In the village of the dead, the colors of red and white were reversed. Now, the liveliest place was at the center of the village.

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