( T/N: Huang Rang is an earth spirit; I wrongly translated it as an earth fairy before this, so…my bad..anyway.. from now on, I’ll put her as an earth spirit.)
When Di Yiqiu returned to Tortoise Bureau Hall, it was already early in the morning. Since it was close to dawn, he decided not to sleep and instead went to the study to handle official documents.
By the time it was the third quarter of the Mao hour (5 a.m. to 7 a.m.), he came to “attend” Huang Ran as she got up. After Huang Ran got dressed neatly, she noticed that there was a wheelchair for her.
Di Yiqiu put her in the wheelchair, which was particularly suitable for her, as if it had been tailor-made. Huang Ran settled into the chair, and since her hair was not messy, Di Yiqiu didn’t bother to comb it again; it seemed that there were things he was not skilled at as well.
He pushed Huang Ran outside, and the sky had a gloomy face with the snow yet to melt. Students carrying books passed through the courtyard, as usual, still saluting Di Yiqiu.
Occasionally, they passed by pavilions and buildings where study encouragement couplets were displayed.
The atmosphere of learning in Black Tortoise Bureau Hall was very strong.
Di Yiqiu pushed the wheelchair and arrived at a school.
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Di Yiqiu did not linger in these places and went straight to the vegetable market.
Here, people were coming and going, making it very noisy.
Di Yiqiu found a teahouse. The teahouse had an old storefront, but the interior was very clean. As soon as he entered, the shopkeeper immediately approached him and said, “Master, the usual?”
Di Yiqiu nodded and found a seat by the window.
Before long, the shopkeeper not only brought a few snacks but also a cup of clear tea.
Di Yiqiu smelled the familiar aroma of the tea, and indeed, the shopkeeper smiled and said, “This is this year’s new tea called ‘One Petal Heart.’ It is a variant cultivated by Miss Huang Ran herself a hundred years ago. I sent some to black tortoise Hall in the evening for the master to taste.”
Di Yiqiu glanced at the tea and said, “How considerate.”
The shopkeeper immediately beamed with joy and bowed before stepping away. Shortly after, Li Lu also walked in. He went straight to Di Yiqiu and saluted him, saying, “Master.”
Di Yiqiu raised his chin slightly and said, “Sit.”
Li Lu sat opposite him as the noise outside grew. Several officials dragged a person over. They were dressed in black official robes with swords at their waists and command flags inserted in their backs. It was the attire of the Celestial Court.
At this moment, an official wearing a scarlet robe emerged from the crowd. It was Tan Qi, the deputy chief of the White Tiger Bureau.
He announced loudly, “According to the imperial laws and regulations, practitioners from the Immortal Sect entering the inner city of the capital must present a road pass. Yesterday, after verification by the Celestial Court, it was found that this person is a practitioner from the Immortal Sect. His violation of the law is the first crime, and his disregard for the court is the second crime. Today, the White Tiger Bureau of the Celestial Court will execute him publicly, depriving him of his cultivation and giving him one hundred lashes!”
A thunderous sound reverberated around, and immediately a clamor broke out.
In the hearts of the common people, practitioners from the Immortal Sect held a lofty position.
And today, the Celestial Court of the Imperial Court had openly brought him to the vegetable market for punishment. This act was undoubtedly meaningful.
There was no doubt that the person being punished was the undercover agent from the Yuhu Immortal Sect that Li Lu had mentioned yesterday.
After Tan Qi announced the crimes of the prisoner, he waved his hand. The bailiffs brought the undercover agent up and restrained him on a torture bench.
Then, a few bailiffs stripped the prisoner completely in front of everyone. No matter how the prisoner struggled and cursed, they ignored him. The onlookers stepped back, shocked and curious to witness an “Immortal Master” being publicly punished while naked.
Di Yi Qiu sipped his tea and tasted the pastries with a leisurely demeanor.
The sound of the heavy cane striking flesh was particularly dull, and blood was drawn after just three strikes. At first, the prisoner still cursed, but later, his voice faltered.
The shopkeeper also brought tea and snacks for Li Lu, but Li Lu had no appetite. The Celestial Court wouldn’t have it easy after this.
The Yuhu Immortal Sect is currently managed by two individuals: the Sect Master, Xie Hongchen, and the Elder Ancestor, Xie Lingbi.
After passing on his position to his disciple Xie Hongchen, although he retired behind the scenes, Elder Ancestor Xie Lingbi did not lose his power.
Li Lu knew all too well how much Elder Ancestor Xie Lingbi cherished his reputation.
Indeed, halfway through the execution, thunderous lightning struck from the sky, exploding in everyone’s ears.
The common people covered their ears and dared not watch the spectacle, hastily seeking shelter.
Clouds gathered in the sky, and in a moment, a beam of white light descended, swiftly enveloping the undercover agent being punished. Just as the white light was about to take the person away, Di Yiqiu tilted his tea cup. A spray of tea shot out of the window, instantly transforming into a golden light.
The white light collided with the golden light, producing a loud bang before dissipating.
The onlookers cautiously peered out from their hiding spots to observe. Tan Qi, knowing that the Master was nearby, remained calm in his heart and continued to command his subordinates, ensuring that one hundred lashes were administered before depriving the undercover agent of his cultivation.
The spy was left half-dead from the beating and had his cultivation stripped away. He lay on the ground, unable to even muster the strength to curse and unable to get up for a long time. Two bailiffs were about to drag him out of the inner city when suddenly, the stone lion at the gate let out a furious roar—it was still alive.
Step by step, it approached the undercover agent, spitting out a stone from its mouth and carrying the agent away slowly. It moved with a heavy gait, crushing the street beneath its feet and causing the pavement to crack. It was like a demonstration.
Everyone knew that the Celestial Court and the Yuhu Immortal Sect had truly become enemies this time.
As Di Yiqiu exited the teahouse, he glanced at the broken stones and said, “Notify the Ministry of Works to repair the streets, and send the bill to the Yuhu Immortal Sect.”
Li Lu responded with a “yes” and said, “Today’s events, I’m afraid Xie Lingbi and Xie Hongchen won’t take it lightly. We must be cautious, Master.”
Di Yiqiu sneered and ignored the remark. The two of them walked together, with Li Lu consciously taking a step back. Li Lu asked, “Bao Wu has returned today. Should the master meet him?”
Bao Wu was another deputy chief of the Celestial Court, and most of the time, he accompanied the disciples of the court on assignments, dealing with monsters and demons for the sake of the common people.
Di Yiqiu made a sound of agreement and suddenly stopped in his tracks.
Startled, Li Lu thought something was wrong, but he saw Di Yiqiu suddenly enter a rouge shop.
A rouge shop?!
Li Lu quickly followed. Di Yiqiu had a grim expression as he looked around. The shopkeeper had already paled upon seeing their official attire.
Her tongue tied, she asked, “T-two officials, this shop has been operating in the capital for over ten years, and we have been conducting legitimate business. Please don’t wrongly accuse innocent people, sirs.”
Li Lu also thoroughly inspected the surroundings, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. He had to ask, “Master, is there anything strange here?”
Di Yiqiu strolled slowly to the shelves and carefully examined the rouge and face powder on top. He picked up a box of goose egg powder, opened it, and sniffed it before suddenly asking, “How much is this?”
“Ah?” The shopkeeper was astonished.
Li Lu was also surprised. After a moment, the shopkeeper was the first to react. She heaved a sigh of relief and quickly put on a smiling face, saying, “Honorable officials, are you interested in buying rouge and face powder for your wives? Ah, it’s rare to find husbands as handsome and caring as you these days!”
Perhaps because the crisis was averted, the surviving shopkeeper felt a fondness for the handsome official in front of her. So she warmly said, “Please have a seat, honorable officials. The story behind this woman’s rouge and face powder is quite long. Let me serve you some fragrant tea, and we can talk slowly.”
Is the Celestial Court really not that busy? Does Master have time to listen to your long stories? Li Lu was about to speak when Di Yiqiu walked over to the counter and sat down.
What can Li Lu do?
He had no choice but to sit next to Di Yiqiu and listen to the shopkeeper’s endless introduction to these rouges and face powders.
Yanzhi Dian Xue, Zhao Hua Qi Zhi, Mo Jin Yan…
Goodness. Li Lu’s head was spinning from listening.
Di Yiqiu’s face showed no hint of a smile; his gaze was calm and even carried a hint of coldness. But he listened attentively. So, the shopkeeper went all out with a gesture of imparting everything she had.
Half an hour later, the Master bought Xing Zi Dai, Huang Qian Fen, Tao Hua Kou Zhi, Mu Dan Hua Dong…
Li Lu carried these excessively delicate bottles and jars out of the rouge shop, feeling a sense of absurdity in his heart, like, “Who am I? Where am I?”
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, at the Yuhu Immortal Sect, most of the orchids on the mountain had already withered.
Xie Hongchen wore white clothes as if covered in snow, with a water-blue collar tied around his shoulders and a waistband of the same color with jade hanging from it. As the sect master, he didn’t appear too majestic but rather gentle and cultured.
He stood by the flower field, looking at the leaves of these flowers that were slowly withering no matter how they were tended to. It was unimaginable that these flowers were such delicate species. When that person was here, they were as resilient as wild grass.
There were footsteps approaching behind him, and Xie Hongchen knew who it was without looking back. He turned around and saluted, saying, “Master.”
It was Xie Lingbi who had arrived, dressed in a black robe with a white jade ruyi scepter in his hand, his face gloomy as if a storm was brewing.
Seeing Xie Hongchen, he said in a deep voice, “You must already know about today’s incident.”
“Master, are you referring to the Celestial Court publicly flogging our sect’s outer disciples at the vegetable market?” Xie Hongchen’s tone was calm, without much joy or anger.
Xie Lingbi snorted heavily and said, “It’s not just flogging; they made our disciples suffer publicly! Di Yiqiu, this little brat, dares to use such despicable tricks!”
Xie Hongchen looked at the furious Xie Lingbi and suddenly asked, “A few days ago, when the former Patriarch of the Mihua Sect was celebrating his birthday, he invited both me and Master to attend. After Master and I left, four thieves broke into our sect. This disciple wanted to ask, Master, what did they steal?”
Xie Lingbi hesitated for a moment and immediately said angrily, “You should ask them about that!”
“I have personally checked the treasures of our sect, and nothing is missing.” Xie Hongchen had doubts in his heart, not just because of Xie Lingbi’s anger but for another reason as well.
—His wife, Huang Ran, the Lady of the Yuhu Immortal Sect, had been missing for ten years.
For the past ten years, the Yuhu Immortal Sect claimed that she was recuperating due to illness.
However, only a few people knew that she was gone. She disappeared inexplicably.
Xie Hongchen couldn’t openly search for her to save face for the sect. But privately, he had devoted considerable effort. In the past ten years, he had his doubts despite no results. He always felt that no matter what happened, Huang Ran wouldn’t easily leave.
—As long as he remained the Sect Master of the Yuhu Immortal Sect.
If there was any place in the entire sect that he hadn’t searched, it must be Xie Lingbi’s Dark Thunder Peak.
In fact, from the beginning, Xie Lingbi had disagreed with Xie Hongchen marrying Huang Ran. Huang Ran was born in Xiancha Town, the daughter of a destitute earth demon named Huang Shu. Her low status aside, she had cunning and scheming.
Xie Lingbi never looked highly upon her.
However, Xie Hongchen, who had always been obedient to his master, chose to stick to his own opinion in this matter.
Xie Lingbi didn’t want any rifts to arise between them because of a woman, so he ultimately agreed to the marriage. However, there were conditions—Xie Hongchen could only spend one hour a day with Huang Ran.
In essence, it was to restrain his desires and not indulge in worldly passions.
Xie Hongchen didn’t object. He knew Huang Ran wouldn’t object either.
—He actually understood who Huang Ran was.
This woman had been rebellious since childhood.
Even if Xie Hongchen was immersed in the tender affection she wove, he didn’t lose his rationality. He carefully investigated Huang Ran’s life. Huang Ran was born into a family of rural spirits. Her father, Huang Shu, was lecherous and greedy, and the family had many siblings.
But among all the siblings, Huang Ran stood out the most. She was gentle, graceful, intelligent, and quiet, and she had always been praised for cultivating good varieties for her father. But these were just superficialities.
Under this beautiful exterior, she privately cultivated good varieties without her father’s knowledge, even selling them secretly outside the family. She pleased her father while excluding and suppressing her siblings. Her siblings were always fierce, but no one in the Huang family dared to provoke her.
Huang Shu was originally a fool, but she manipulated him, and almost all the good varieties in the family were cultivated by her. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that she was the head of the family, just lacking the title.
With such a lowly background, she forcefully obtained the title of “Mysterious Transcendent Fairy,” resounding through both the Immortal Sect and the Imperial Court.
Many talented individuals had shown interest in her, but she treated them with gentle manners, feigning ignorance. She set her trap while patiently waiting for the biggest fish to bite.
Xie Hongchen was that big a fish.
Perhaps bigger than she had imagined.
So, from the beginning, Huang Ran used all means against him. Xie Hongchen had never been swayed by affection, but he still fell into her trap.
Ignoring Xie Lingbi’s opposition, he persisted and married Huang Ran.
Over these years, he tolerated his father-in-law, Huang Shu,’s incompetence and balanced the insatiable greed of Huang Ran’s siblings. He made the biggest concession in terms of his own affections and remained calm and restrained towards Huang Ran. He even intentionally neglected her.
He placed Huang Ran on the Qilu Terrace, which he rarely visited.
Xie Lingbi made an agreement with him, allowing him to go and spend an hour there daily. But in reality, he rarely went.
Even when desires were intertwined and deeply entangled, he could ignore them.
He knew Huang Ran wouldn’t mind.
She acted as if she had no complaints. Whenever he went, she always welcomed him dressed up. She stayed peacefully on the Qilu Terrace, studying fine wines, fragrant teas, and snacks.
Xie Hongchen didn’t like her cultivating good varieties. He thought it was unseemly for the wife of the sect master to frequently visit the farmland. So Huang Ran gave up on those as well.
It all started because Xie Hongchen liked orchids, so she filled the entire Yuhu Immortal Sect with orchids.
In the span of a hundred years, she transformed from the renowned “Mysterious Transcendent Fairy” into the beloved Sect Master’s wife, adored by the disciples of the Yuhu Immortal Sect.
She had exceptional control over her emotions, danced gracefully, and was skilled at winning hearts and gaining fame. Everyone praised her for being gentle, virtuous, and morally upright.
Xie Hongchen felt that he shouldn’t like a woman like her.
This woman was inconsistent, and everything she did had a purpose—she knew exactly what she wanted. In order to achieve her goals, she would stop at nothing, devoid of emotions.
Even someone as resolute as Xie Hongchen could be swayed by her charms and seduction before they were married.
Deep down, Xie Hongchen actually looked down on her. But she dared to do what those noble ladies wouldn’t. The intimate moments that couldn’t be displayed openly were too unforgettable. He remained clear-headed while being enthralled.
Before Huang Ran disappeared, she did something that displeased him.
For the first time in their hundred-year marriage, she said something she shouldn’t have.
She said to him, “Husband, have you ever considered paying attention to the movements of the elder ancestor?” A few days ago, I discovered something that had been troubling me. I always feel that you should go to Dark Thunder Peak alone and take a look.”
Xie Hongchen immediately rebuked her. Knowing that Xie Lingbi had a negative opinion of her, he had been avoiding any interaction between the two of them. Xie Lingbi didn’t visit the Qilu Terrace on regular days, and Huang Ran didn’t go to Dark Thunder Peak.
Although he was infatuated with Huang Ran’s allure, he would never tolerate this woman interfering with his revered teacher. Thus, without saying much more, he left in anger.
Afterward, he didn’t visit the Qilu Terrace for a whole month.
Then Huang Ran disappeared.
He thought she had played some trick to upset him. But in the following ten years, he never saw her again.
That encounter turned out to be their final meeting.