Huang Rang was completely confused, carrying the inexplicable artifact she had obtained, and returned to her room.
On the other side, the official in charge of the floor above her was so angry that he couldn’t sleep all night.
The next day, the martial arts competition for the new disciples officially began.
For the sake of fairness, all new disciples used the artifacts prepared by the Yuhu Immortal Sect.
Huang Rang chose a heavy sword. As Xie Hongchen’s direct disciple, she was going to guard the pass.
The heads of various sects had a good view from their grandstands, and everyone took their seats. They pretended to watch the martial arts field in the middle while praising the disciples of other sects.
Huang Rang and the other new disciples stood together. Today, she was wearing a light golden practice dress with bright beads in her hair, shining brightly. As a slender woman carrying a heavy sword, she moved like the wind, attracting the attention of countless people.
“The martial arts competition for this year’s new disciples is officially beginning.” Zhang Shuju and Xie Shaochong were responsible for maintaining order.
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Xie Shaochong was in charge, with Xie Hongchen, Wu Zichou, He Xijin, and Zhang Shuju as witnesses.
Chai Tianrong, the master of the Mi Hua Sect (Enchanting Flower Sect), Lady Xian Die, the master of the Huan Die Sect, and ten others were responsible for grading. They would determine the rankings based on all the disciples who came to compete.
Of course, Huang Rang found it boring.
She just felt a little regretful that Xie Lingbi wasn’t there today.
Otherwise, her fighting spirit would be much higher.
The first round of the competition began. Huang Rang faced Chai Tianrong’s son, Chai Yao.
Chai Yao was quite a handsome young man. He had heard that his father intended to match him with Huang Rang, and now that he saw her in person, he couldn’t help but be captivated by her beauty.
Huang Rang smiled and bowed to him, saying, “Senior Brother Chai, please.”
Chai Yao awkwardly returned the gesture, thinking to himself, “I should go easy on her and not hurt her.”
On the martial arts platform, two people were not pleased at all.
“Useless fool, lust has clouded his judgment!” Xie Hongchen and Di Yiqiu sneered simultaneously.
Chai Yao’s thoughts were all over the place, but Huang Rang didn’t hold back.
She lightly shouted, “Be careful, Senior Brother Chai!”
As soon as the words fell, her sword struck!
If one judged by appearance alone, her swordsmanship was similar to Xie Hongchen’s refined and elegant style. But as soon as she made her move, everyone could sense the difference between her and Xie Hongchen.
Xie Hongchen’s sword was graceful and ethereal, elegant and refined, with a perfect and balanced technique.
But Huang Rang’s sword was overwhelming and dominant, with an imposing aura.
Chai Yao didn’t expect her sword style to be so domineering. After just three exchanges, she had disarmed him.
Xie Shaochong announced the result, but Chai Yao was still in a daze, unable to believe it.
Huang Rang bowed to him with clasped fists, but her face showed no joy.
Everyone praised her for being modest and calm in both favor and humiliation.
But in reality, Huang Rang’s heart was in turmoil. When would she be able to fight Xie Lingbi at this rate?
In her thoughts, her hand unconsciously touched the transparent tea needle on her head.
Huang Rang originally thought that the tea needle was a timekeeping item for this dream.
But now she realizes it’s not the case.
The second dream is obviously much longer than the first, and so far, there are no signs of the tea needle melting.
In the first dream, the tea needle melted because she avenged herself and was injured.
So why did the dream shatter?
Did she die, or did the grudge dissipate?
Huang Rang didn’t know. She was also testing.
She stood in the center of the martial arts platform, surrounded by spectators. She had seen all these people before as the Madam of the Yuhu Immortal Sect.
But now she was here to compete.
At that moment, she felt a sense of time distortion and confusion between reality and illusion.
The second young disciple quickly stepped onto the stage; he was He Xijin’s second son, He Dan.
This young man had solid cultivation and didn’t appear as dazed as Chai Yao did when he stepped on the stage. He came with his sword and initiated a deadly attack towards Huang Rang, a sword strike aimed at blocking her meridians. The move was dangerous, but Huang Rang focused her mind and quickly countered it with the “Crazy Dragon Nods” technique.
The surrounding crowd stopped chatting and focused on the battle.
He Dan’s swordsmanship matched his cultivation, yet Huang Rang showed no fear. Her sword was as swift as the wind, clearly demonstrating the significant progress she had made during these years of diligent practice.
Among the crowd, Di Yiqiu gazed at her. In just ten years, her progress was nothing short of astonishing.
At the highest point of the martial arts platform, Xie Hongchen lifted the teacup, took a sip, and kept his eyes on the stage.
When that person made her move, there was a ruthlessness about her that didn’t match her usual gentle and kind character.
Xie Hongchen was already an accomplished sword immortal, and he knew deeply that the path of the sword was intertwined with the path of the heart. But why would someone’s sword and heart have such a significant discrepancy?
He didn’t know.
But at that moment, that person seemed like a golden light, extending and flowing.
Even He Xijin’s son couldn’t defeat her.
The artifact sword in Huang Rang’s hand seemed to respond to her intention, making a soft sound. When He Dan’s sword intent was broken, everyone realized that the Yuhu Immortal Sect might give birth to another sword immortal.
Not one of Xie Hongchen’s disciples, but a true sword immortal, besides Xie Lingbi and Xie Hongchen.
“A, A, A…” He Xijin’s voice was intermittent.
Fortunately, Wu Zichou quickly continued: “Miss Huang Rang is truly outstanding.”
He Xijin wasn’t satisfied with the term “outstanding” and corrected, “T-T-Ten…”
Zhang Shuju said, “Ten out of ten.”
Then He Xijin nodded in satisfaction. Zhang Shuju added, “Master Xie has a keen eye.”
Xie Hongchen casually replied, “Her talent may not be on par with Young Master He Dan, but her diligence compensates for it.”
When he said “diligence,” it sounded like a passing remark. But Huang Rang’s diligence was indeed seizing every bit of time. It was as if she were racing against time, afraid that she might be too late.
If she were passionately devoted to the way of the sword, it would be understandable, but she wasn’t.
She didn’t love martial arts.
Xie Hongchen had seen this long ago.
In contrast, Huang Rang preferred nurturing fine breeds. She was only truly happy on the Qilu Terrace.
So even Xie Hongchen didn’t understand why she was so persistent.
But she seemed to be possessed.
At the beginning of this martial arts competition, as Xie Hongchen’s disciple and one of the hosts, Huang Rang showed courtesy to the guests and defended the stage in the first three matches.
Three matches, three victories.
The Yuhu Immortal Sect had gained face, and Xie Hongchen was praised to the heavens.
In the crowd, Di Yiqiu’s heart became increasingly gloomy.
During these ten years, he not only managed his health but also devoted himself to cultivation. Similar to Huang Rang’s dedication to martial cultivation and breeding, he practiced during the day and crafted various artifact tools at night.
However, Huang Rang’s progress was too rapid, leaving him with no sense of superiority.
He even began to wonder if, if he disregarded physical differences,could he win against Huang Rang in a battle?
Di Yiqiu had no confidence. He Dan, Chai Yao, and others on the stage had failed to bring out Huang Rang’s full strength.
The thought of possibly being defeated by Huang Rang’s sword clouded Di Yiqiu’s heart.
Hard cultivation! He must undergo hard cultivation!
Di Yiqiu fell into the abyss of competitiveness.
Huang Rang had fought three matches, received the cheers of the crowd, bowed to all sides, and then left the stage.
Naturally, Xie Hongchen couldn’t leave, but his gaze slowly shifted to outside the arena. He saw that shallow golden figure leaving like the sun. The entire martial arts arena dimmed.
Xie Hongchen couldn’t leave, but Di Yiqiu could.
He stood up and left, passing through the crowd and quietly following Huang Rang. Huang Rang didn’t wander around either; she went straight back to her inn.
— Why is she leaving? Doesn’t she need to cultivate?
Di Yiqiu wanted to call out to her, but what could he say?
The thought of possibly being weaker than her in battle made Di Yiqiu’s heart turn to ice!
He watched Huang Rang enter her room but stopped in his tracks.
Li Lu closely followed the official; seeing the situation, he hurriedly said, “Master Xie won’t be back for a while. Why not meet Miss Huang Rang, Chief?”
Di Yiqiu’s face darkened, and after a while, he said, “Go back to the room.”
“Huh?” Li Lu was puzzled: “Why? The Chief finally came to Kanyue City, and now Miss Huang Rang is right in front of you…”
The First Autumn coldly glanced at him, turned around, and actually went back to his room.
— As a seven-foot-tall man, how can I not match up to a woman? Hard cultivation! I must undergo non-stop hard cultivation!
Li Lu couldn’t understand. Truly, the heart of a man is as deep as the ocean.
Back in her room, Huang Rang didn’t rest. She was tired, but there were more important things to do.
She went to the small kitchen and prepared a few dishes this time.
Xie Hongchen preferred light flavors, and after observing the martial arts competition, he would likely summon his disciples for analysis. At this time, having a few dishes ready would be perfect.
Sure enough, when the first day of competition ended, Xie Hongchen returned with the other three disciples.
He entered the room and smelled the fragrance of the food.
Huang Rang had already laid out the dishes and looked up, saying, “Master and fellow disciples, you must be tired. I came back early, so I prepared a few dishes.”
Xie Hongchen’s footsteps paused slightly, and then he slowly entered.
By now, the sky had turned dark, and candles were lit in the room, casting a soft halo on her. The whole room was filled with a peculiar warmth. Xie Hongchen felt that this kind of day seemed familiar.
Those unfamiliar scenes appeared one by one in his mind.
He slowly sat down at the table, and even the way Huang Rang poured wine for him felt familiar.
How could this be?
He reached out and held Huang Rang’s hand.
Huang Rang was slightly stunned, and Xie Hongchen also reacted suddenly. He felt as if he had been burned and quickly withdrew his hand, pretending as if nothing had happened, and said, “You’ve worked hard today. Why bother with these miscellaneous matters? Go back.”
Huang Rang acknowledged it and stopped there. She couldn’t rush things with this person.
She gave a slight bow and said, “Disciple takes her leave.”
With that, she turned and left, remembering to close the door.
Xie Hongchen still felt the warmth of her hand on his palm. The exquisite dishes on the table were to his liking; he picked up a chopstick full and found the taste unexpectedly fitting his preferences.
It was as if each dish was specially prepared for him.
Xie Hongchen forced himself to push away these distractions, but they lingered.
He put down his chopsticks; he should gather the four disciples and analyze today’s battles to prepare for the second round of competition tomorrow.
But he didn’t want to.
He covered his forehead with both hands, and images of Huang Rang’s fights filled his mind.
Don’t think about her anymore. Don’t think about her. He tried hard to suppress these absurd memories and wanted to get some sleep.
Perhaps he needed rest.
He took off his shoes and lay on the bed, trying to clear his mind with meditation.
However, there was a faint sound of water beyond the wall.
Just one wall away, the sound was surprisingly clear. It was the sound of bathing.
Xie Hongchen had done his best, but he couldn’t control the images in his mind.
Huang Rang hummed a tune, the melody soothing and melodious, like a tired bird returning home or the setting sun over distant mountains.
If Xie Hongchen wanted to, he naturally had a thousand ways to see what was happening next door. But he couldn’t, yet the thought gnawed at his heart like ants, pricking him uncomfortably.
“After a moment, fall asleep immediately.” Xie Hongchen recited a spell to himself.
Finally, he fell asleep.
But even in his dreams, there was no peace.
It was an unfamiliar place.
Outside, there were gray-tiled white walls. Entering through a half-moon arch, one could see a delicate triangular pavilion. Beside the pavilion was a small pool, with a strange plum tree growing nearby.
Huang Rang lay on a reclining chair, sleeping under the plum tree.
The weather was hot, and she only wore a silk robe. The soft and smooth robe spread like water, unable to cover her properly.
Xie Hongchen approached slowly and saw her smooth, flawless legs through the soft silk. Her feet were small and white, with the toenails painted a bright red. He reached out and gently caressed her face.
She felt itchy and turned her head, changing her sleeping position.
He leaned closer and kissed her cheek.
The beauty buried in the silk opened her eyes, first hazy and lazy, then gradually filled with a misty light.
She stretched her arms and wrapped them around his neck like a water snake.
“You’re back. Did you finish refining the pill?” She murmured in his ear.
Refining a pill? What pill was she talking about? There was something surging in his memory, and he couldn’t answer in time before being engulfed in another chaotic dream.
When Xie Hongchen woke up, he was still panting.
His hand gripped the edge of the bed, and he squeezed it tightly until his knuckles turned white. He didn’t dare think about what he had dreamed. But the sweat on his forehead and the wild beating of his heart reminded him.
He slowly got up, and the dishes on the table were now lukewarm.
There was still the second round of competition to be held tomorrow, and as the sect master, he couldn’t slack off. He found clean clothes and changed. Piece by piece, he stripped away the sweaty robes, hoping to strip away those surging desires.
In the end, however, all he revealed was a wretched version of himself.