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Welcome To My Table (Bring Your Hunger)

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You are that space that's in between

Every page, every chord, and every screen

You are the driftwood and the rift

You're the words that I promise I don't mean

~ The Horror and the Wild by The Amazing Devil


Zero

 

Not many people knew that Proud Immortal Demon’s Way started out as something of a  project. Airplane Shooting Towards the Sky had a setting, he had a main character whom he could turn into a worthwhile protagonist, he had the time and the resources to write whatever he wanted.

And he did… at least for a while.

 

It turns out sometimes what one wants to write isn’t necessarily what others want to read.

That was the first lesson he had to learn.

The next was that free time and resources were fickle things.

 

Proud Immortal Demon’s Way back then didn’t become popular after the first few chapters and that wasn’t an issue first. It was a passion project, not something he did out of obligation to pay his bills. That attitude changed when he realized that he needed the income from it to be able to pay his bills and eat for another day.

 

Once upon a time, when he was a teen, he remembered seeing a funny sign of sorts. It had three overlapping circles with the words: time, money, energy on them and the innermost overlap had been scratched out. That was the implication that you could only choose two.

The other three overlaps had been clearly labeled.

Time and energy - kids.

Energy and money - adults.

Money and time - retirees.

 

Well, Airplane-bro knew that there were people out there who could definitely have all of those but sadly, he had never been one of them. It seemed like a good idea to try to monetize his hobby and he thought that he had cracked the code when he started writing and sharing Proud Immortal Demon’s Way.

He imagined that he would gain a large following easily and that he would never have to worry about his bills while doing something he liked.

 

However, things didn’t go according to the plan. One evening, when he looked at his dwindling bank account and then his abysmal viewer count for the latest chapter of his masterpiece, he started browsing different genres to see what the top titles with the largest reader count were like… It was easy to see where he went wrong.

 

So, he went on a short hiatus, trashed a lot of his future plots, and rewrote the already posted chapters, some of them extensively, some of them not so much. And with that Proud Immortal Demon’s Way v2 was officially launched.

 

In a way, it was good that he had so few readers because nobody mourned it when he deleted the original.

 

In the end, Airplane-bro wrote a stallion novel, but the original’s foundations still showed through. More so in the first hundred chapters, but the rest too.

 

The premise was simple.

Luo Binghe was a peerless immortal cultivator who was hiding some big secrets about his origins during the entirety of his centuries-long life. He was a prodigiously strong cultivator, a well-respected Peak Lord from the strongest sect but that meant there were many who envied him. And those people descended on him like vultures the moment one of his secrets was out and Luo Binghe fell from grace.

 

It was supposed to be a story about his disgrace, his humiliation, his suffering... and finally his revenge.

 

After changing the main genre, Airplane-bro wrote thousands of words daily, updated again and again until he was well into the 6000 chapters category. He dragged out plots, he added new and new villains to be defeated and women to the harem the blackened Luo Binghe amassed as he became the Emperor.

 

Not many people remembered the first villain of the novel after the first thousand chapters. And even less cared to know the real reason why Shen Qingqiu did what he did when he betrayed Luo Binghe and led the accusations against him.

 

So, Airplane scrapped his original outline for his first antagonist, and he left Shen Qingqiu as the one-dimensional jealous disciple... and that was one of the many decisions that he never regretted because Proud Immortal Demon’s Way was just a novel.

Nobody would be hurt, right?


 

Shen Yuan came to in the back of a cart, sleeping in a pile of hay, being awakened by the bumpiness of the ride. He shot up from his seat, rubbing his eyes half-awake trying to understand what happened to him. It was clear that he wasn't in his room anymore but in the countryside.

Did he get kidnapped or something?

 

Looking down at his dirty and mish-mashed clothing, Shen Yuan furrowed his brows trying to figure out why he was wearing such things when he suddenly remembered everything.

 

He was in Proud Immortal Demon’s Way, the hit novel where Luo Binghe the Peerless Immortal was dragged through dirt and mud by the machinations of his vengeful disciple. The so-called Shen Qingqiu, a demonic cultivator, who hid himself amongst the righteous cultivators of Cang Qiong for years before his evil nature couldn’t be suppressed anymore.

And now Shen Yuan was Shen Qingqiu.

Or at least he thought so?

 

He wasn’t sure, it wasn’t like he met people who could clarify his theory when the name Shen Qingqiu didn’t even exist yet. Shouldn’t even exist yet.

It was the name of Luo Binghe’s head disciple who became his successor after the cultivator’s fall from grace. Not that Shen Yuan knew exactly what happened around that time, the novel pretty much skipped the exact nature of accusations brought against Luo Binghe so far.

Granted, Shen Yuan hadn’t finished reading Proud Immortal Demon’s Way yet, he hadn’t even been a quarter-way through when he… when he died.

 

He couldn’t recall from what.

It might have been one of his many health conditions, it might have been an expired cup of yogurt signing his death warrant. It might have been a rage-induced heart attack when he finished another chapter of Proud Immortal Demon’s Way.

 

He didn’t know how he died, and in the end, it didn’t matter at all. He was dead in his original world and now he was alive in a new one.

Also, he wasn’t a human anymore.


 

[Standby. Sys̵t̷e̴m̴ ̵̧̗̑i̸͓̟͘n̴̨̬̯̓̉i̵̻̟̚͝t̷͇͒̂̄i̸̭̘̅a̶̲̓̑ḷ̴͛̄̈́i̶̩̙̜z̴̧͉̗͗̉͌ï̵̞̺̓ñ̵̥ͅğ̴̫̘.̷̰̎̈̿]

 

It all started when he first woke up in a cave dressed in layers of ancient robes and - what was probably more pressing - in a large puddle of blood. He ached everywhere, his skin itched from the dried blood sticking to his face, hands, and a few other places that should have been protected by all that fabric.

He managed to sit up after a few tries and eventually found himself next to a small stream. It had crystal clear water that almost shined in the darkness around him.

 

[Error Log: Unk̴n̵o̸w̴n̷ ̷e̴r̵r̵o̵r̶ ̵encountered during  ̵̛̳̔͆̐ḅ̶̏ö̸̤̫́̾͐̕ǒ̵̮̣̦̞́̕t̴̔̐͂́ͅ-̶̹̩̫̩̐̒̉͆ų̷̠͙͌̈p̵̥̰̍̇̐  ̶̧̯̰̍s̶͇͉͚̗͆̈́͝e̷̲͗̑̌q̸̱̐͋̈́u̸̬͔̞͋̑͒͛ȇ̴̫͆ṉ̷̳͋c̶͕͒̅̀̔e̴̛̺̥̲.̵̨̩͛̊͌͠]

 

He startled badly at the strange voice, but he was tremendously thirsty, his throat was too raw and parched. However, he knew that he had to wash his hands first before he dared to use them as a cup to drink, no matter how inviting the water looked. He didn’t look down as he dipped his fingers in, giving them a cursory rubbing in his impatience, and within seconds he was gulping down the cool water. He was both trying to fill the void in his stomach and to soothe the pain in his throat. It only barely helped, but it was better than before and he dipped his palms into the stream once again.

 

[S̴̨̩͂͂͒y̷͉̆s̷͓͌̀̎͠t̷̖̮͖͍̾̑͂ě̷̘͙̾͐͊m̶͎͍̊ ̶̝͚̜̦̋ḯ̵̜̬̟͔͊̒̂s̶̻͌̊̎ ̸̥̊̏̄c̴̐́ͅo̶̪̙̐̍͘͝m̵͎̔p̴̮̠̂̕r̸̭͆̒̂o̸̬̠͖̿͛̓m̸̧̻̙͊͌͝ï̴͇͓͍̯̈̊s̵̬̜̯͐͊é̶̺͌d̷̨̃.̵̳̥͎̼̑̀̎͝]

 

He heard the screechy, distorted mechanical voice one more time before it went silent and only left the sounds of the stream and Shen Yuan’s wheezing breath. He had to admit that even to his untrained ears, the noises he was making sounded really bad. 

 

He was going for a third palmful when a different voice spoke up and scared him enough to slip and fall halfway into the small stream. “As amusing it was to see you drag yourself through your own filth like an insignificant worm...” There was a hand in his hair, grabbing him by the roots causing pinpricks of new pain to shoot through his scalp and then a gleeful voice speaking into his ears. “You should be dead.”

 

He tried to twist out of the hold on him, but it felt like he was railing against solid steel. Nothing he did even remotely affected his captor and Shen Yuan was tiring out fast. He still tried to fight even if felt kitten-weak.

 

He only went lax in the stranglehold when the other person shook him like he was a misbehaving dog and snapped at him. “Settle down!”

Shen Yuan did, his eyes watering from the pain he could feel now properly. It wasn’t just his scalp or his throat, no, it was something in the middle of his body, centered around his abdomen of all places.

 

His captor patted him with their other hand smearing more blood onto his face. There was a strange golden glow coming from their closed-up fist though and aside from the sparkling stream, it was pretty dark in the cave, so, it was quite noticeable. Shen Yuan was mesmerized by it like a moth followed a flame.

 

 “See something familiar, little worm?” His straying attention was noticed by the other too, and their mouth must have widened into even more of a grin. He couldn’t see it but he could guess from the undisguised mirth that he could hear in their voice and the laugh that shook his hurt body. 

 

They opened their hand and a small orb rolled around in their palm, making Shen Yuan feel utter panic at the careless way they handled the small object. He didn’t know why but that little sphere was important to him. His whole body strained once again to get it away from them.

“Oh, yes, you recognize a part of yourself, little worm.” The voice cooed, seemingly ignoring his struggling, but Shen Yuan could feel the grip tightening until he was at a risk to snap his neck if he tried to move. “Such a pretty golden core. So small, so shiny.”

 

Even if he was half-delirious with pain and on the edge of madness from the panic churning in his gut, Shen Yuan could hear every word out of their mouth and he could understand the situation he was in well enough. 

 

The implication that the sphere was part of him, the golden glow… he knew what it was without a doubt no matter how fantastic the idea was. A golden core, the golden core of a cultivator.

And if their words could be believed then it was Shen Yuan’s core.

 

He pushed the thought to the back of his mind, knowing that he couldn’t freak out at that moment. Later, once he was safe, he could and would do it.

 

But he could understand why his body hurt so much and he risked a glance down at the red-soaked robes at his front, spying the frayed edges of the torn material.

Oh, he thought.

 

“So bright…” They said, sounding as enthralled as Shen Yuan had been previously. Shen Yuan watched as they raised the sphere and felt the way they leaned heavily over his shoulders, putting a lot of their weight on him, pushing him down. He could see a fair face at the corner of his eyes before their jaw split open from mouth to ear revealing rows and rows of needle-like teeth. A purple and green tongue flicked out, long and dripping noxious saliva, and wrapped itself around the glowing golden core, hiding it from sight. 

 

There was a phantom pain in Shen Yuan’s abdomen as it was swallowed, that radiant golden light blinking out of his sight.

Gone… no.

Eaten.

 

“Now… What do I do with you little worm?” They asked and Shen Yuan could only feel despair at that moment. He was not in his old world, he transmigrated like many of the protagonists of the novels he had read before… but he was in a quite dangerous situation. And with the golden core gone, he knew that any chances for his survival were gone too and he was just a normal human like he was previously. 

 

Maybe if he woke up earlier, maybe he could have prevented the monster behind him from digging into his body, maybe… if… but he didn’t. He woke up in this situation and he couldn’t have changed a damn thing or done anything differently. He didn’t have the time or the skills. He still didn’t have either, but he would be damned if he just gave up.

 

This was the hand he was dealt with and he could accept it and die or he could try to do something.

 

“Such a strange little thing you are, I’d have sworn that you were not breathing anymore.” The monster cradled him close and brushed his hair out of his face in a facsimile of caring and Shen Yuan shivered. “But that issue can be remedied very quickly.”

 

Shit, Shen Yuan let out a breathless curse, feeling fingers, and claws root around in his body. So, this is what it feels like being impaled by something, he thought faintly, trying to claw at his belly, not daring to look down.

He knew that he might have fainted if he saw the mess the monster was making of his gut.

 

Shen Yuan whined, feeling every tiny little movement and the warmth from his blood soaking through his clothes again. It cooled quickly in the chill air becoming wet and tacky against his skin. 

He was dying, he realized abruptly when he started losing the feeling in his limbs. He was dying and his window of frame to do anything was rapidly shrinking into nothing and Shen Yuan would be gone from this world as quickly as he arrived.

A small candle that was snuffed out by a careless breath.

 

“You will be the perfect body for me to wear, little worm, I knew it from the moment I first smelled you.” They continued and the juxtaposition between the cheerful tone, the nuzzling, and the hand still deep in his insides was so strong that Shen Yuan felt nothing but growing nausea. “Granted, I should have realized how special you were when you survived the core extraction.”

Their long tongue furled out and he would have marveled over its length if it didn’t immediately try to slither into the gaping hole at his front. So disgusting, he shuddered in revulsion, smelling the stench of the appendage.

 

Shen Yuan had the distinct urge to shout that he didn’t. That he didn’t survive and to leave him alone. He wasn’t special.

No matter who he was before, they were dead and Shen Yuan was shown into their body for some reason. He wasn’t special in any way and he didn’t want to be special either especially when being special made the monster behind him so excited.

 

He gasped in agony as there was a hand squeezing around his heart and the pain became blinding. With growing black spots overcoming his sight, he tried to stave off losing his consciousness knowing that fainting would surely mean his death.

 

But his body didn’t obey him anymore and he could faintly hear a few words before everything went black. “... poisonous blood?!”


 

He returned to the world of the living once again though he was sure that he would not be long for this world. Shen Yuan blinked up at the cave’s ceiling in surprise, noting that things seemed brighter but he dismissed it soon. Maybe dawn came and it had been hours since his untimely deaths.

What deaths? He asked himself and his eyes widened.

First or second?

Did he die?

Again?

 

Belatedly he looked around for the monster that hurt him so much and could only see a slumped-over figure almost blending into their surroundings. Shen Yuan scrambled back trying to keep his ragged robes closed, while he also tried to put enough distance between them in case they were planning to attack him again.

 

Seconds then minutes passed and nothing happened. He struggled to stand up and wobbled his way to the monster, then pressed one booted foot against their clothing. He immediately drew back, losing his balance, once again crab-walking back in a hurry. 

Still nothing.

 

He psyched himself up once again to approach them, it, whatever, and managed to resist running away - hobbling more like - again, only to get spooked when the monster fell over at his slight nudge. 

 

It didn’t move again and that was the only reason that Shen Yuan dared to push it on its back so that he could see its face. Thick purpling and red veins dotted its skin, and its mouth was stretched into a scream. The long tongue that feasted on his bloodied insides flopped out, and the monster’s eyes were filmed over.

(@dameitai)

Dead, it was dead. 

It died and he didn't.

He was alive and it wasn’t.

Shen Yuan let out a sob, only feeling relief at that moment.

He rubbed his nose and his eyes, and then had to squeeze his eyes a bit to ride through the pain he caused himself. He couldn't help but wonder if his skin got more sensitive when he lost his golden core… shouldn’t the opposite be true?

 

And that was when he noticed the way his hands ended in claws. Wickedly curved, sharp-looking claws one that greatly reminded him of a predator bird. Something made to rip, render, and tear open.

No wonder his face hurt from the rubbing he just did. Once again, he used the stream’s clear surface as something like a mirror.

 

It wasn't only his nails that changed and he didn't remember the markings being there previously either. Nor the feathers almost hiding in his long hair or the way his very bone structure looked different too.

He still had some baby fat on his face, but he was already pointier… if that was a good description to describe the sharpness present on his new features.

(Well, mostly new, he recently saw photographs of himself around the same age and whoever he transmigrated into... the two of them looked quite similar to each other.)

 

Shit, he thought and watched as his pupil contracted in a way like no human’s should be able to.

Double shit, he decided as he hastily pressed a trembling hand against his belly where a golden core should have pulsed before he remembered that it was ripped out and eaten right before him.

Almost like his heart was.

 

He was a cultivator based on the golden core he lost. Emphasis on the past tense, because he wasn't a human anymore, so golden core or no golden core, cultivation was out of the running. He picked at his robes, noting that under the blood, the tears, and the wear it looked suspiciously familiar.

 

Maybe there was something about the dark color scheme or the cut? He didn’t know jackshit about the material, whether it was expensive or not. He couldn’t even name what the thing was made of. It could have been cotton, canvas or hemp clothing, or any number of other fabrics for all he knew.

It looked like a uniform, like something a disciple of a cultivation sect might have worn in a xianxia setting for example.

 

If Shen Yuan had to guess the age of the face he saw in his reflection - even with the changes - he would put the boy around 14 or 15. Though he might have been just small for his age, so maybe something closer to 16, 17?

 

And once again his musings didn’t matter, because he was something that was plainly not human wearing what most likely was a cultivation sect's robes while sitting next to the corpse of a monster. It looked bad no matter how he looked at the situation.

 

He couldn’t stay, it was likely that the energy-rich air only covered up things for a while, or the monster did something to avoid detection. Or this might have been even normal in this world.

Like he didn’t even know whether the boy was always nonhuman and hiding or whether it was all Shen Yuan’s fault somehow? 

Did something go wrong while he transmigrated or was this just how things were supposed to be always like?

 

Finally, after a few more minutes of debating and panicking, he stood up and started walking away from the corpse.

 

The conspicuously absent mechanical voice that he faintly remembered was another issue. He thought it was the Transmigration System... which threw a wrench in any plan he might come up with. Without it, he didn’t have an idea of the setting he was in or his role.

Would he get penalties upon penalties if he strayed from the plot? How could he even follow a plot if he had no idea what was going on or where was he?

 

There weren’t any useful signs around, it was just a damp cave with some glowing lichen in some places.

 

He tried calling for the System, but there was no answer even when he actually called out loud with a roughened but still high voice. He mentally revised his estimate of his new body’s age again based on the fact that his voice hadn’t dropped yet. When did his voice drop in his original life? When he was 14, maybe? He remembered his sister making fun of him whenever his voice cracked in the middle of a sentence, but the years kind of blended together.

 

Did it even matter in this case?

Who even knew whether the species he was now even aged in the same way as humans did or had the same development milestones for maturing?

Speaking of which… how did he even know if he was a guy this time?

He tried to loosen his layers so that he could peak at what was between his legs, but he couldn’t quite manage without further shredding his clothing with his claws, so he gave up trying and concentrated on getting out of the cave. System of caves, as he found.

He thought he could feel subtle digs in the stone but he couldn’t make heads or tails of them.

 

Stumbling around in the dark, even with running his hands along the walls he must have got turned around a few times but eventually, he saw a light at the end of a tunnel and it wasn’t just a small crack in the stone. No, it was much bigger, and he guessed that he could easily wiggle his way out though an adult would most likely be unable to do so.

 

Good, he thought with a short nod. If somebody was trying to come after him if the monster wasn’t as dead as he thought, it would make him harder to follow. Or at least in theory.

He had no idea whether punching through a thick stone wall like this was a possibility or not in this world, but he couldn’t dismiss that it could be.

 

He squinted against the light, his eyes trying to adjust to the sudden brightness after spending a good chunk of time in the caves’ darkness. 

 

When he could keep his eyes open without them watering, he looked around only to see trees and more trees. Some rather rocky terrain too, one which he mostly saw in photos previously. He was never too big on camping in his old world, his health didn’t allow for stuff like that and to be honest Shen Yuan didn’t really want to either. He liked being comfortable a lot more than he would enjoy being out in nature like that. Just one word: mosquitoes.

 

He looked up and saw that he got out from the side of a mountain rather than being underground.  However, that didn’t offer much information either, he could still be anywhere. It wasn’t like the mountain itself had its name helpfully engraved somewhere for lost travelers or it had specific, easily recognized shapes like an eagle or a giant middle finger.

 

He absently pressed a hand against his middle and felt the wet clothing on his skin. He picked at it, looking at it in better light he could see that it was not simply dark; black and red instead. That instantly raised a few red flags in his mind because he knew that the usual color coding said those colors were more of a demonic cultivator thing. 

Then after looking at it a bit longer and from a lot closer, he realized that no, it wasn’t really a pure red either, but a mix between reds, pinks, and browns. Just a white material painted with his blood - old and new.

 

It still hurt and he was still sluggishly bleeding, but it was already closing up at a rate that could be actually seen. In seconds the garish wound was barely a gash. It was almost disconcerting to see his flesh knit together in such a way.

Shen Yuan still released a relieved sigh, happy that he didn’t have to worry about bleeding out at least. Now he only had other concerns like finding food, water, and shelter… maybe civilization just to see whether his not-quite-human features were the norm in this world or not.

 

He drew his somewhat tattered dark over-robes as closed as he could and started walking away in a direction opposite of the mountain he had just crawled out from.


 

After walking for a while, he stumbled on a village but he didn’t dare to approach, especially when he saw that all the people he had seen so far were completely human-looking. 

Not one horn, tail, or wing was in sight. 

Not even a single scale or a claw.

 

So, Shen Yuan most likely couldn’t just waltz in there without possibly causing mass hysteria. Or without being attacked or chased away, he knew how unlikely it was that physical attributes like his would be accepted by humans… That was also a recurring trope.

 

He waited until the sun went down and it got dark enough and then he sneaked in. He didn’t dare to stay too long, he just grabbed something that he could use as a cape to cover himself with a few muttered apologies to its previous owner. This would be the first time he stole something in this world, but it wouldn’t be the last.

 

Then he proceeded to wander along the road, avoiding people as much as he could and trying his hands at foraging with mixed results. He had never been a survivalist to know what he was doing and he had no means to learn other than at his own expense now. When it felt like the hunger settled too deep, he risked going into smaller villages and he nicked food from here and there. Nothing big enough to miss, just some fresh produce.

Sometimes from the fields or trees.

 

He was incredibly lucky that it was some kind of a harvesting season and not like winter because he would have been fucked otherwise. Still, there was always a low level of hunger in his belly, no matter how many raw vegetables or fruits he ate. 

 

And on the way, he heard things which made him conclude that he was in the world of Proud Immortal Demon’s Way, and most likely in a time when the plot had already started because he heard Luo Binghe’s name mentioned once or twice. Always with awe and respect, so whatever happened to tarnish his reputation hasn’t occurred yet.

 

He came from the general direction of the Cang Qiong Sect and he was still wearing the remnants of a tattered black and white uniform edged with red. And there was only one Peak that had that exact color combination if Shen Yuan remembered correctly, and he did remember something like this correctly, so he was most likely a Qing Jing disciple too. Or the original could have stolen a Qing Jing uniform.

 

If Shen Yuan realized that earlier he might have waited to see the protagonist of Proud Immortal Demon’s Way, just to see the famed Luo Binghe. The peerless immortal whose face was like the first sight of dawn after a long and dark night, the number one stallion of the site Zhongdian Literature.

 

However, there was no mention anywhere in the text about someone resembling his new body meeting Luo Binghe either. To be honest, the only one Shen Yuan could remember being mentioned by name to stay secluded at the spiritual caves for a while was Shen Qingqiu… but that couldn’t be. 

 

Shen Qingqiu was a demonic cultivator, yes, but he had been a human. Not whatever Shen Yuan was.

 

So, Shen Yuan walked and tried to figure out whose role he took over with little success. He didn’t even really know where he was going, he had bare inklings of going towards the border between the Human and Demon Realms but no actual goals or destinations.

 

This was how he ended up hitching a ride on the cart once it started raining as the Sun came up and an old man took pity on his drowned-rat impression.

 

“You awake, boy?” The old man asked when they stopped to water the mules pulling the cart filled with hay and Shen Yuan. He nodded then realized that the old man couldn’t see it from his position at the front. 

 

“Yes!” He clambered over the pile and slid down to stand before the old man bowing quickly before it occurred to him that the rules of etiquette might have been wildly different. But so far, he had seen no signs that things were vastly different here from his old world’s customs and he was suddenly very happy that Airplane Shooting Towards the Sky was lazy enough not to bother with quite a lot of world-building matters. “Thank you for letting me sleep on your cart, Uncle!”

 

The old man looked at him for a few seconds before he nodded with a smile. “Nothing to thank me for, boy.”

 

“Still, thank you, Uncle!” Shen Yuan answered and to his surprise his voice slipped into a higher register, almost sounding like a sharp chirp. He slapped a hand immediately against his mouth.

 

The old man either didn’t notice this slight strangeness or didn’t want to mention it, but he also offered to let Shen Yuan ride the carriage to the nearest village and Shen Yuan agreed.

 

Little did he know that his disappearance made some very large waves back in Cang Qiong.


 

Cang Qiong Sect was the strongest of the sects in their world and one of the four great sects. However, the other three couldn’t hold a candle to them and the only area Huan Hua Palace defeated them was in richness.

In every other thing, Can Qiong stood a head and shoulders above the rest of them.

 

They had Peak Lords who were masters of their chosen fields, disciples who became legends and power beyond belief in both spiritual, political, and physical meaning of the word. So, when one of the alarms started blaring about corruption in the energy of the spiritual caves, Cang Qiong mobilized two entire peaks and their Peak Lords.

 

Liu Mingyan, the Peak Lord of Xian Shu Peak, and Luo Binghe, the Peak Lord of Qing Jing Peak.

 

They quickly and efficiently explored the cave and found the source of the alarm; it was a rotting carcass of a demon who somewhat go through the extensive warding of Cang Qiong and found itself in one of their most secure places. Somehow without raising any other alarm.

There was no way it was an accident.

 

Neither of the Peak Lords thought that was possible without someone powerful planning this out and they would mention their suspicions to Sect Leader Ning who would order an investigation into the matter. Leaving no stones unturned.

They took care of the corpse, took it to Qian Cao Peak, and there they got their second surprise.

 

The autopsy performed showed that the beast had a golden core in its stomach. It didn’t take too long for them to figure out that one of the few disciples serving their punishment in a certain part of the caves most likely met their untimely end at the claws of this beast.

After a quick headcount, they identified that Disciple Shen from Qing Jing was missing… presumed dead.

 

Everyone thought that was it, not noticing Peak Lord Luo’s strange expression at the time. A few hours later, after conferring with Sect Leader Ning, the Peak Lord of Qing Jing hurriedly left Cang Qiong.

 

The rumor mill of Cang Qiong had a lot of theories on his reasons but even the most outlandish of them couldn’t predict that he would be back a few months later with a miraculously still-alive Disciple Shen.