Footsteps were heard outside the Yeyun Hall, but it wasn’t Xie Yuanshu who arrived, but Huang Rang.
Xie Hongchen frowned when he saw her and asked, “What are you here for?”
Today, Huang Rang broke their tacit understanding. She usually never came to Emerald Peak.
Actually, the year before their marriage, Huang Rang had come a few times. But every time she came, Xie Hongchen showed extreme indifference. After several times, she knew Xie Hongchen didn’t like it, so she stopped coming.
But today, she held a bowl of sweet soup in her hand and said, “Today, I said something I shouldn’t have. After thinking about it, I felt uneasy. That’s why I went out to clear my mind. When I reached the outer gate, I saw fresh lotus seeds at the foot of the mountain, so I made this lotus seed soup. But I’m slow, and by the time I finished making it, it was already late. It wouldn’t be convenient to have a disciple bring it to you.”
She lowered her head, her face still carrying a smile, but there was a hint of grievance: “So, I came here myself.”
Her delicate appearance combined with a trace of grievance would make any stone-hearted person waver. However, Xie Hongchen’s expression remained cold as he said, “Put it down and leave.”
Huang Rang took a few steps forward and placed the sweet soup on his desk. Inadvertently, she noticed a jade pendant on the table and couldn’t help but exclaim, “How did this jade pendant end up with you?” She asked softly, but took the opportunity while Xie Hongchen was answering to ladle the sweet soup into a small bowl.
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Xie Hongchen had intended to teach him a lesson, but now that Huang Rang had explained, his anger dissipated. When he saw Xie Yuanshu enter, he couldn’t help but say, “Recently, I came across an incomplete chess game. Big brother, you’re skilled at chess. How about we discuss a few games?”
Xie Yuanshu already had suspicions in his heart! If Xie Hongchen had exploded in anger when he entered, then he could understand that Xie Hongchen only wanted to give him a good scolding. But if Xie Hongchen was being so amiable, it probably meant that he didn’t intend to spare him.
Therefore, Xie Yuanshu gritted his teeth and said, “That’s fine.”
Xie Hongchen extended his arm in invitation and said, “Please, big brother.”
When Xie Yuanshu passed by, he suddenly launched a surprise attack. Xie Hongchen was momentarily startled but managed to block his attack. Just as he was about to inquire further, he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his chest! Xie Yuanshu had planned to take his life, striking directly at his vital points with each move.
Xie Hongchen’s mind was confused, but he didn’t have time to ponder. He had to subdue Xie Yuanshu first.
Xie Yuanshu’s cultivation was truly weak and not worth mentioning.
Even though Xie Hongchen was suffering from severe poisoning, he still managed to control him within fifty moves. But for the time being, he couldn’t kill Xie Yuanshu. After all, Xie Yuanshu was Xie Lingbi’s biological son. No matter what, he should clarify the reasons. So Xie Hongchen struck him against the corner of the wall with a palm and then turned to look at Huang Rang.
“Did you poison the soup?” he asked, his words filled with disbelief.
Huang Rang looked panicked and said, “I didn’t. I didn’t!” She tried to turn and run, but her right wrist had already drawn a tea needle hidden in her sleeve. Now, she tightly held that tea needle, and her palm began to sweat.
She pretended to turn and flee, but Xie Hongchen grabbed her wrist and pulled her back. Huang Rang suddenly swung around, and the sharp object in her hand swiftly passed over his eyes.
After being poisoned, Xie Hongchen’s movements were already sluggish, and he had no suspicion towards Huang Rang; she was just a small earth spirit and not skilled in combat. Her cultivation was insignificant and posed no threat to him.
Moreover, he still couldn’t believe that Huang Rang would actually attack him.
A hundred years of being husband and wife… He knew, to some extent, Huang Rang’s affection for him.
But sharp, intense pain spread, and his vision suddenly lost its light.
In the last glimpse, he saw a nearly transparent tea needle in Huang Rang’s hand.
He had never seen it before.
For a brief moment, there was emptiness in his heart. The harm inflicted by this person made him suddenly forget about the techniques and mental cultivation. He missed the opportunity to strike Huang Rang with a single palm.
How was this possible?
Just moments ago, she had cheerfully brought him the sweet soup. For a hundred years, she had remained on the Qilu Terrace, seemingly obedient. Why did it turn out this way?
Xie Hongchen couldn’t comprehend too many things. He slowly retreated, and Xie Yuanshu, in the corner of the wall, suddenly struck him with a palm. He finally spat out a mouthful of blood and staggered, on the verge of collapse. Xie Yuanshu was about to ruthlessly end his life when Huang Rang suddenly spoke, “Shu Lang, hold your hand. Let’s keep this person for now; he will be useful in the future.”
Upon hearing this address, Xie Hongchen spat out another mouthful of blood and angrily exclaimed, “You and him… Are you truly with him…”
Xie Yuanshu struck him with another palm, and Xie Hongchen couldn’t evade it, finally being hit in the back. Injured and poisoned simultaneously, he finally lost consciousness. Xie Yuanshu, still concerned, approached and carefully observed him. Seeing that he was truly unconscious, he said, “Why spare his life? If we don’t eliminate him, I will never find peace.”
If you kill him, how can you help me deal with Xie Lingbi?
Huang Rang patiently explained, “His cultivation is extremely profound. Shu Lang, why don’t you take advantage of him? Killing him like this would be a waste.”
Xie Yuanshu’s eyes brightened, and every subtle expression on his face was filled with greed. “My Ah Rang is indeed clever!”
As he spoke, he pulled out a black chain from his waist, the famous divine artifact of the Immortal Sect—the Eight Wilderness Shackles. He locked Xie Hongchen with it and said, “If I want to absorb his cultivation, I need to make further preparations. It may take two days.”
“I will stay in the Yeyun Hall. Although I don’t usually come here, we are still husband and wife. If I stay here, no one will come to investigate,” Ah Rang reassured him.
Xie Yuanshu felt relieved and said, “Ah Lang, you truly are my pillar of wisdom. You stay by his side, and under no circumstances should you open the Eight Wilderness Shackles. Otherwise, you might not be able to handle the consequences.”
Huang Rang nodded and escorted him to the entrance of the hall. She anxiously added, “Shu Lang, please return as soon as possible.”
Xie Yuanshu was even more anxious than her, so there was no need for her reminder. He responded with a quick “yes” and hurriedly left Yeyun Hall.
After he left, Huang Rang walked slowly to Xie Hongchen’s side.
Xie Hongchen’s body was fully poisoned, but with his cultivation level, most poisons could be healed on their own. He just needed time. Huang Rang helped him up and supported him onto the bed.
The sleeping bed in Yeyun Hall was unfamiliar to Huang Rang. Although they had been married for a hundred years, she had never spent a night here.
She brought water and wiped away the bloodstains from Xie Hongchen’s face.
His eyes were particularly injured, as the tea needle was incredibly sharp and forged with an unknown material. Considering the extent of the injury, his eyes were unlikely to recover. Huang Rang stayed by his side, found some plain silk, and wrapped it around his eyes.
His blood soaked through the silk, and even in his unconscious state, his face displayed the pain he endured.
The Celestial Court, Vermilion Bird Bureau.
Di Yiqiu sat in the study, with piles of documents on the desk.
On the wall behind him, near the ceiling, hung an eye socket. Yes, a tremendously large eye socket. Inside it, there was even an eyeball-shaped bead. Currently, this bead is gently rotating within the eye socket, casting a beam of white light onto the opposite wall.
Smooth snow satin hung on the wall, and the white light cast upon it revealed a clear picture.
If Huang Rang were present, she would surely be amazed.
Because in the picture, she wore a golden gown and stood in a field of wheat. The wheat was ripe, with heavy ears hanging down. This golden field was as warm and radiant as she was. She carefully inspected the growth of the wheat, rubbed a grain between her delicate hands, and the mature wheat rolled like pearls in her palm.
She lowered her head to smell it, and thus, the entire picture revealed her exquisite profile.
—Within this bead-like treasure on the wall, the hidden image was none other than the Xiancha Town from many years ago!
Di Yiqiu buried himself in the official documents, occasionally glancing up.
The room was filled with the occasional sound of pages turning.
Just then, a voice pierced through like an arrow. “Master, your old friend Xie Yuanshu requests an audience.”
Di Yiqiu was slightly startled, then stood up and took the eyeball from the wall, placing it in a drawer in the innermost part of the desk. Surprisingly, there was a whole drawer filled with similar items.
Outside the Vermilion Bird Bureau, a figure in a cloak was waiting.
Di Yiqiu recognized him at a glance—wasn’t he Xie Yuanshu?
He had no favorable impression of this person, so his expression was cold. “So it’s Brother Xie. Coming in the middle of the night, could it be that there’s something urgent?”
Xie Yuanshu waved his hand and said, “This time, I have a request for Lord Di Yiqiu.”
Di Yiqiu was not particularly enthusiastic and replied indifferently, “Oh?”
Xie Yuanshu approached him and whispered, “A treasure that can absorb someone’s cultivation. I know Lord Di Yiqiu must have a way.”
“Heh,” Di Yiqiu chuckled lightly, showing little interest. “Of course, there is a way. However, my actions are always based on my mood.”
Xie Yuanshu clearly came prepared and said, “As long as the Lord gives me a price.”
Normally, Di Yiqiu was unwilling to deal with him because Xie Yuanshu was not favored by Xie Lingbi. Although he was the eldest son of the Yuhu Immortal Sect, he had little real power.
However, Xie Yuanshu’s current statement indicates that it must be a significant matter.
Di Yiqiu asked, “Whose power does the eldest son want to absorb?”
Xie Yuanshu didn’t want to reveal this. He whispered, “If I buy a magical tool from the Lord at a high price, why should the Lord concern himself with who I use it on?”
Idiot, it doesn’t matter who you use it on; I’m pleased either way. It would be best if you killed Xie Lingbi. Di Yiqiu sneered inwardly but raised four fingers and named a price. Xie Yuanshu was overjoyed when he saw that Di Yiqiu was willing to make an offer. “Four million spirit stones, deal! As long as the magical tool is effective!”
Di Yiqiu agreed to the deal but couldn’t help but wonder—who is this idiot planning to use such a grand gesture against?
Emerald Peak, Yeyun Hall.
Huang Rang gently stroked Xie Hongchen’s brow, but suddenly her wrist was grabbed. Xie Hongchen held on so tightly that the chains on his wrist rattled.
“You… you…” He tried to speak several times, but blood surged in his throat, causing him to cough.
Huang Rang had to bring him water again to rinse his mouth.
After Xie Hongchen finally calmed his cough, he asked, “Why?”
At this moment, amidst his astonishment, anger, and confusion, his words were not as cold and distant.
Huang Rang sat by his side and, after a long while, said, “Hongchen, we’ve been husband and wife for a hundred years. No matter how much you dislike it, we still have a century of affection. If… if one day I am imprisoned in the Dark Thunder Peak, would you come to find me?”
Her fingertip lightly touched his brow as she softly asked, “Would you risk offending Xie Lingbi and come to search for me?”
“What are you talking about?” Xie Hongchen was completely baffled, his intense pain causing his breath to falter. “How could you be imprisoned in the Dark Thunder Peak?”
Huang Rang surveyed the entire Yeyun Hall and after a moment, she said, “Hongchen, I had a dream. In the dream, I was subjected to the punishment of the Soul-Sealing Bone-Piercing Needle and imprisoned in the deepest chamber of the Dark Thunder Peak. I couldn’t speak or move. All I could do was repeat your name day and night, begging you to come and find me.”
Xie Hongchen looked puzzled and asked, “Just because of a dream?! You’re doing all this just because of a dream?!”
Huang Rang didn’t answer him. She continued, “There are many other people imprisoned with me. They are all as quiet as I am, never making a sound. The place is exceptionally dark, with only occasional flashes of light from the magic array. Just a tiny bit of light. Rats gnaw at us, and centipedes and ants crawl across my face. Their wounds fester, and their noses are filled with maggots.”
She calmly described everything and said, “At first, I held on to hope. I repeatedly recalled our past. I thought that with your temperament, even if a woman you knew disappeared, you would at least search for her. Emerald Peak is just a stone’s throw away from Dark Thunder Peak. I believed that, as the Sect Master, it wouldn’t be too difficult for you to find me. I used the flickering symbol of light to measure time, as you told me. Each flicker represents a breath. I counted them diligently, not daring to make a mistake, and a year passed.”
Tears fell from her eyes and dripped onto his hand. Xie Hongchen said weakly, “It was just a dream. You’re here, alive, Huang Rang!”
Huang Rang chuckled lightly and said, “The second year, I lost track of time. Rats ran over my head, and I was too scared to count. At that moment, I gradually realized that you wouldn’t come. Even though we were separated by just one mountain, you wouldn’t come. You wouldn’t offend your master for me. In fact, I shouldn’t hold any resentment. I know you despise me.”
Every word she spoke was genuine. Xie Hongchen couldn’t help but ponder over it all and finally asked in a deep voice, “Have you been possessed by evil?”
Perhaps only being possessed by evil could affect her senses with illusions.
A smile appeared on Huang Rang’s face, but as she gently shook her head, tears continued to fall like raindrops. “I’ve been married to you for a hundred years, basking in the glory of being the Sect Master’s wife. You have given me what I sought. I told myself I shouldn’t hate you. But with you as my only husband, serving you wholeheartedly for a hundred years, I still thought I could rely on you.”
She leaned over the edge of the bed, burying her face in Xie Hongchen’s shoulder, her tears soaking his shoulder. Xie Hongchen had never been moved by her tenderness, no matter how sincere and pitiful she appeared.
But at this moment, he was trapped and blindfolded, in imminent danger. He could only try to calm Huang Rang’s emotions. So, even though he didn’t have any romantic feelings for her, he whispered gently.
So even though he didn’t understand Huang Rang’s words, he still said, “It was just a dream. We are both here, perfectly fine, aren’t we? You are my wife, and if you were missing, how could I not search for you? I will definitely…”
“You’re lying to me!” Huang Rang suddenly stood up and shouted, “You’re still lying to me!”
She cried and said, “If you had really looked for me, you would have seen what I left in the Bai Lu Pool. You never searched for me! You never searched for me.”
After speaking, she covered her head with her hands and slid down to the floor by the edge of the bed.
Xie Hongchen couldn’t see; he didn’t know if Huang Rang was crying.
Even if Huang Rang was crying, she wouldn’t sob loudly. Her crying would be exquisite and just right.
Xie Hongchen wanted to say something, at least to comfort her and release himself from the current peril. But every time he opened his mouth to speak, he couldn’t find the right words. Then he suddenly realized that, in these hundred years, he had never comforted her.
He tried not to be moved by Huang Rang, so he always ignored her emotions. If she didn’t meet his expectations, he would coldly neglect her, even leaving in a huff.
And when he saw her again, she would be gentle and considerate as if nothing had happened.
She was always able to control her emotions well and could accurately gauge his feelings. That’s why Xie Hongchen had never seen Huang Rang angry or upset before.
Except for now, the only time.
Xie Hongchen reached out his hand, groping for Huang Rang, who was leaning by the bed. She covered her face with both hands, tears flowing silently.
And Xie Hongchen remained silent, unable to speak any tender words.
Instead, Huang Rang held his hand and spoke first. She took a deep breath, suppressing all her emotions, and said, “I’m sorry.”
Xie Hongchen was taken aback and asked, “What?”
Even in this moment, she was the one apologizing.
Huang Rang took out a handkerchief, wiped away her tears, and her voice gradually regained its calmness. “Looking back now, it was unreasonable for me to resent you. In fact, you didn’t need to search for me at all.” She let out a deep sigh and regained her rationality. “After all, as a couple like us, one pursuing fame and fortune, the other seeking beauty, We only took what we needed, so what kind of emotions were there? Why should you offend your own mentor for a woman you despised in your heart?”
She reached out her hand and gently stroked Xie Hongchen’s temple. “Actually, I understand all the reasoning. It’s just that I have been trapped for too long, always thinking of you, and you never came. I have been disappointed so many times, so it’s hard for me to let go.”
She pulled the thin blanket over him and covered him gently, saying, “But how could you come? You were just the stars in the distant sky when I fell from the cliff. You were the feather that drifted by when I drowned in deep water. How could you come? Perhaps in these hundred years, I took it too seriously, so I held grudges in my heart.”
Her emotions calmed down again, and every word she spoke was gentle and serene. Xie Hongchen couldn’t even bring himself to deceive her.