The Yuhu Immortal Sect spent forty million spirit stones to acquire this battle puppet.
Although Xie Hongchen didn’t say it aloud, he was not pleased with this decision by the Sect. He ordered Xie Shaochong to move the puppet to the martial arts arena for the disciples’ practice.
Initially, nobody took it seriously.
After all, it was just a puppet—an inanimate object. What use could it have?
Xie Shaochong, Nie Qinglan, Xie Li, and others were not impressed with this large puppet either.
However, since the Sect had spent a considerable sum of money, they couldn’t just dismiss it as a worthless pile of junk.
Xie Shaochong stood in front of the puppet and said to Nie Qinglan, “Give it a try.”
Nie Qinglan took the bronze key and inserted it into the puppet’s ear. They didn’t hold much hope, but other disciples were interested and gathered around to watch.
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—Wsavu xkzzksd prkakv pvsdlp. Ebs byp lhla plld pwnb olyzvb?
Rv oyp kdvlalpvkdt vs okvdlpp.
Lkl Ckdtzyd vkrvsle yde vwadle vbl casdgl jlu. Xdl nkanzl, ds alprsdpl. Mbld bl vwadle kv ytykd yde xyel ydsvbla nkanzl.
“Rp vbkp vbkdt casjld?” Kwpv yp bl pyke vbyv, vbl rwrrlv rwdnble bkx kd vbl aktbv nbllj. Rv oyp ps qypv vbyv bl nswzed’v alynv kd vkxl!
Ekvb y zswe vbwe, Lkl Ckdtzyd qlzv pvyap eydnkdt clqsal bkp lulp. Tl nshlale bkp qynl okvb bkp byde, cwv vbl rwrrlv’p plnsde rwdnb oyp yzalyeu qszzsokdt wr.
Dkl Fbysnbsdt yde Dkl Nk olal vyjld ycynj cu vbl qsanl sq vbl rwdnb yde iwknjzu pvlrrle ypkel.
Gde ps, Lkl Ckdtzyd oyp… rwapwle yde yvvynjle cu vbl rwrrlv.
Gv qkapv, Dkl Fbysnbsdt oyp xlalzu scplahkdt okvb qszele yaxp. Tsolhla, tayewyzzu, bkp lmralppksd pvyavle vs nbydtl.
—This puppet’s attacks are surprisingly precise. It’s not as rigid and mechanical as they had imagined.
After dodging a few times, Nie Qinglan, as Xie Hongchen’s senior disciple, began to counterattack the puppet. To everyone’s surprise, the puppet was able to engage him in a realistic battle.
The surrounding discussions lowered to whispers as other disciples were completely captivated, not saying a word.
Xie Shaochong stared at the martial arts arena, and he gradually realized that the Sect might not have wasted those forty million spirit stones after all.
Meanwhile, in the Yeyun Hall, Huang Rang was receiving personal instruction in cultivation techniques from Xie Hongchen himself.
In the courtyard of Yeyun Hall, there was a small martial arts arena specifically for the Sect Master’s practice or teachings.
Xie Hongchen sat in front of a stone table with a cup of clear tea, flipping through an ancient sword manual.
Huang Rang was practicing her swordsmanship in the arena. Her sword was still dominant and fierce, and the surrounding parasol trees were stirred by her sword aura, causing leaves to flutter.
Occasionally, Xie Hongchen looked up at her, and he saw flying leaves like flowers and a graceful and intense dance with the sword.
He brought a brush and paper, intending to create some sword techniques, but his strokes turned into a sketch.
Huang Rang had always emphasized the beauty of each move and posture in front of him.
The parasol tree leaves and fallen branches were scattered like flying flowers on his paper, but the figure of the sword dancer was missing in the center.
He was, after all, a mentor and role model. Drawing a portrait of a female disciple privately could lead to misunderstandings if it were to be seen by others.
When his brush reached this point, he could no longer continue.
He lifted his head and saw the afternoon sunlight scattered like broken gold, parasol leaves drifting down, and a beautiful woman wielding a sword, graceful and intense like a dance. He took a sip of fragrant tea, savoring this tranquil moment as the best time.
When Xie Shaochong entered, he saw this picturesque scene.
The martial arts arena was small and usually used for duels between two people. There was a lush parasol tree nearby. Under the tree, Huang Rang was practicing with her sword, while Xie Hongchen sat at the side with a tea cup in hand, observing the arena.
The woman was picturesque, and the scene had a touch of charm.
Of course, Xie Shaochong had absolute trust in Xie Hongchen’s character. He believed that Xie Hongchen had a mentor-like affection for his only female disciple. He walked in directly and addressed him, “Master.”
Xie Hongchen showed no expression on his face, but a slight ripple appeared in the amber-colored tea in his cup.
He gently put down the teacup and discreetly put away the brush and paper on the table, asking, “What’s the matter?”
Xie Shaochong saluted and said, “Just now, Qinglan and Li tested the combat puppet.”
Xie Hongchen hummed and asked, “What’s the result?”
Xie Shaochong’s expression turned serious as he said, “It’s worth the investment.”
Xie Hongchen raised an eyebrow slightly. Xie Shaochong continued, “This puppet’s combat power is divided into three levels. The A-rank power is suitable for the sword formation, requiring multiple people to control it. The B-rank is suitable for Qinglan and Li to practice with, and the C-rank is suitable for the junior disciples. Based on the mechanisms in it, there are probably many other functions that we need to explore one by one.”
He hesitated for a moment and finally added, “Senior Di is indeed talented. Having such combat puppets, it’s no wonder that the growth of the initial disciples in the Celestial Court has been rapid in recent years.”
Xie Hongchen stood up and casually crumpled the sketch he had just drawn. He opened his five fingers, and the paper turned into powder, scattered by the wind.
“Go and take a look,” he said, leading the way out of Yeyun Hall. However, he didn’t forget to instruct Huang Rang, “Continue your sword practice until I return.”
Huang Rang nodded in response, and Xie Shaochong glanced at her swordsmanship, feeling that Xie Hongchen did indeed show special care for her.
But after all, Huang Rang had taken the top spot in the new disciples’ skill assessment. Xie Hongchen paid more attention to her, which seemed reasonable.
In the martial arts arena, Xie Hongchen personally fought against the puppet.
Although the puppet’s combat power was strong, it couldn’t withstand Xie Hongchen’s cultivation level. Soon, the giant puppet was under his control and couldn’t put up much resistance.
Nie Qinglan said, “Master’s cultivation is profound. This Super Armor Grade puppet from the Celestial Court is really no match for him.”
Other disciples echoed, and for a moment, it seemed that the Celestial Court was not that extraordinary.
While battling the puppet, Xie Hongchen adjusted its combat power level with ease. The puppet had no cultivation and relied solely on its techniques, strength, and speed to adapt, making it seem like a toy in his hands.
The disciples’ earlier shock was now soothed by their Sect Master’s performance.
During the battle, Xie Hongchen turned the key directly, adjusting the difficulty from level C to level B and finally to level A. It was as if he were as light as a cloud covering the moon and as agile as the flowing wind returning snow.
All the disciples of the Yuhu Immortal Sect relaxed, and someone said, “The Celestial Court is nothing special. They dared to show off in front of our Sect Master. It’s really laughable.”
The others joined in agreement.
The puppet’s attacks became faster, but it were still no match for the top swordsman of the Immortal Sect. Xie Hongchen had not drawn his sword yet. He focused his energy, using the palm wind to push the combat puppet to a corner of the arena.
The puppet lost its target and stood there motionless.
Xie Hongchen turned around, one hand behind his back, his white clothes like snow, and his expression cool. He said, “This puppet’s combat power is extraordinary, and there’s nothing laughable about it.”
All the disciples fell silent instantly. Xie Hongchen swept his gaze over them and continued, “Since the establishment of the Yuhu Immortal Sect, we have always emphasized cultivation. The pursuit of enlightenment is stronger than the pursuit of martial arts. Therefore, we do not advocate fighting with puppets. However, the Celestial Court is under the imperial court’s control and operates in the mortal world. Many of their officials are ordinary people without the qualifications for enlightenment. This combat puppet can quickly train their officials, test the sword formations, and improve their basic combat power. The Celestial Court invested a huge sum in creating this puppet, and it is indeed necessary.”
Even when evaluating the opponent, Xie Hongchen spoke openly and impartially: “Different environments require different approaches. When facing clever ideas and extraordinary techniques, you should maintain respect and not underestimate them.”
“The teachings of the Sect Master are engraved in our hearts,” the disciples said solemnly, putting away their smiles.
Xie Hongchen nodded, then looked at the puppet in the corner, still seeking an opponent. Suddenly, he turned to Xie Shaochong and said, “In a few decades, the Celestial Court’s combat power will be quite impressive.”
Xie Shaochong nodded and suggested, “If you’re concerned, we can buy more puppets from them.”
Looking at him, Xie Shaochong said, “It seems that this Senior Di has taken quite a liking to our Ah Rang. If she asks, who knows…”
“No need.” Xie Hongchen coldly rejected the idea.
Confused, Xie Shaochong asked, “Why?”
Xie Hongchen replied, “It’s not appropriate for a female disciple of the distinguished Yuhu Immortal Sect to ask for such favors. You’ve been careless in your thoughts.”
Xie Hongchen didn’t mention the matter again but said, “Since the puppet has been purchased, we should not leave it idle. Gather the disciples and arrange battles. If there are any shortcomings, we should promptly ask the Celestial Court to handle it.” Although he spoke impartially, he couldn’t hide his displeasure deep inside.
Xie Shaochong respectfully said, “Yes.”
These days, Huang Rang hasn’t seen the puppet.
Every day, she stayed in the Yeyun Hall to practice, and whenever Xie Hongchen had time, he would personally instruct her. If it were any other master and disciple, being together like this daily with such a beautiful disciple, rumors might have spread by now.
But not with Xie Hongchen.
From the time Xie Hongchen became Xie Lingbi’s disciple to the present, even as the Sect Master, there have never been any rumors about his character.
A person of such integrity, as pure as the moon, how could he have any ulterior motives?
Therefore, everything in the Yuhu Immortal Sect remained as usual.
Only Xie Hongchen knew that he wanted to see her.
In the evening, Huang Rang would leave.
After she left, the entire Yeyun Hall fell into silence. Xie Hongchen rearranged his brush and paper. After a long time, he looked down and noticed the drawing he had made. It was still parasol tree leaves falling, scattered like flying flowers.
And under the flowers, the beautiful woman was dancing with her sword, elegant and charming.
In the end, he included her in the painting. However, he couldn’t let others know about this idea. He intended to destroy the painting, but after thinking it over for a while, he rolled it up and stored it in his storage artifact.
As Huang Rang left the Yeyun Hall, passing by the martial arts arena outside, she saw the puppet standing in the corner.
By now, the disciples had all dispersed, and the spacious arena was left with only the puppet standing alone.
Although Huang Rang had been practicing her sword in the Yeyun Hall all day, her physique had already improved significantly. Coupled with her background as an Earth Spirit, she wasn’t easily fatigued.
As the top-ranked disciple of the Yuhu Immortal Sect, she couldn’t afford to rest easily.
She came to the puppet, turned the bronze key, drew out the ” Lone Blossom” treasure sword, and continued to spar with it.
On the mountainside of Emerald Peak, Xie Shaochong happened to pass by and couldn’t help but stop and observe—why is this girl so diligent?
He couldn’t understand.
Huang Rang’s actions seemed like those of a martial arts fanatic.
But in reality, she didn’t particularly love martial arts. Every day, she practiced with great pain and determination but never slackened.
It was as if… she was being compelled by some purpose and couldn’t relax.
The Celestial Court.
The Chief was in the capital with forty million spirit stones, but instead of using a teleportation talisman worth three thousand spirit stones, he arrived in the night.
—The Chief was too lazy to use a teleportation talisman when it wasn’t necessary.
At this time, the officials of the Celestial Court had already dispersed, and only the guards were on duty.
The Chief had been busy all day and felt a bit tired. After taking a bath, he wanted to go to bed. Despite his changed physique due to the snake’s blood, his mortal body still had an inexplicable attachment to rest.
Taking a short break occasionally was truly refreshing for his body and mind.
However, the problem lies in the fact that when the Chief was about to go to rest, he glanced at the Nine-Curve Spirit Eyes.
Although it was pitch black in the martial arts arena, the radiance from the artifact “Zhao Shi” provided enough light to see.
—Without this light, Huang Rang probably wouldn’t come.
And now she was sparring with the puppet.
The puppet’s combat power was at the “C” level, and after exploring for some days, she could actually fight with it, displaying proficient techniques.
After watching for a while, the Chief sighed deeply and abandoned the idea of resting.
He changed into his training outfit again, glanced at the Nine-Curve Spirit Eyes, and sighed in resignation. He went to the White Tiger Bureau’s training ground, opened a puppet, and began sparring.
The snake’s blood was activated by his inner power, and golden snake patterns gradually appeared on his cheeks. The entire training ground was filled with gray poison mist.
The next day, when Li Lu and others arrived at the bureau, they saw the Chief sweating profusely.
He took out a silk handkerchief and wiped his forehead. Li Lu and the others were eager to clean up the snake venom on the training ground.
This snake venom was intolerant to blood, and if it wasn’t cleared, any disciple who got injured and bled during training would likely die on the spot.
The guards from the White Tiger Bureau arrived early. Although they held official positions, they were different from ordinary guards.
The Celestial Court had many small puppets for individual sparring, and the deputy chief from the White Tiger Bureau also arrived early at the training ground, preparing for a day of training.
So, on the martial arts arena, the guards who arrived early started sparring with the puppets.
The puppet’s moves were relatively simple and repetitive, but as Xie Hongchen had said, these ordinary people didn’t have much time to cultivate.
The path of cultivation was too distant for them.
These guards only needed to have some skills and protective artifacts to handle various difficult situations that ordinary people encountered.
So, even though the puppet’s moves were simple and rough, they were very practical.
The Chief stood by the training ground, wiping sweat while watching his subordinates practice.
The deputy chief from the White Tiger Bureau, Tan Qi, went around correcting them one by one, and everything was in good order.
A golden-red glow ignited in the distant sky, and the sun tore through the morning clouds, revealing its radiant face.
Bathed in the glow, the Chief’s mind was far away, thinking about the Yuhu Immortal Sect thousands of miles away.
He didn’t know if she had taken a rest at this moment.
He was lost in thought when someone suddenly said behind him, “Ah, Lord Sun, why did you come here?”
The chief turned around and saw Lord Sun, an esteemed minister of the current court. He was already of advanced age, with white hair, but he was still spirited. He hurried in, and his followers could barely keep up with his footsteps.
“What brings you here in person today, Lord Sun?” Di Yiqiu said it indifferently. Lord Sun had always been against the establishment of the Celestial Court to defend against the immortal sects.
Since Di Yiqiu entered office at the age of nineteen, Lord Sun had always had a bad impression of the Celestial Court.
On weekdays, he frequently reduced the Celestial Court’s funding, and he didn’t get along with the chief.
At this moment, he looked at the guards sweating profusely on the training ground and snorted, saying, “Today, His Majesty is not in court, and the Chief didn’t attend the court meeting either. I have something to discuss with the Chief. Shouldn’t I come in person?”
His words were filled with dissatisfaction because, although the chief was an official of the court, he never attended court meetings.
Di Yiqiu didn’t care. To seek longevity, the Emperor built the Yuanrong Tower and changed the dynasty’s name to Chengyuan.
From the beginning of the Chengyuan era, he had resided in the Yuanrong Tower and rarely attended court meetings.
Although the Celestial Court was officially under the jurisdiction of the court, it resembled more of an immortal sect and had no time to deal with court affairs. Therefore, only the deputy chief of the Azure Dragon Bureau, Bai Qingyun, attended court meetings.
He was also responsible for liaising with various departments of the court on a regular basis.
As a result, Bai Qingyun was cunning and slippery, but very few people in the court were willing to deal with him.
Obviously, Lord Sun was no exception. He continued, “Today, Lord Fu sent a prescription that requires the assistance of the celestial court in refining pills. Bai Qingyun was unwilling to pass on the message, so I came in person to inform the Chief.”
As he spoke, he took out the prescription from his sleeve and handed it to Di Yiqiu.
Taking the prescription, Di Yiqiu furrowed his brows upon examination and instantly understood why Bai Qingyun had declined.
This prescription required considerable resources, and how much silver could the court allocate to the Celestial Court?
Lord Sun’s face was lined with wrinkles, which made him look very dignified as he said, “You are well aware of the financial situation of the court. His Majesty has been practicing immortality for years, and the celestial court has a group of extraordinary people. The state treasury has been empty for years, and only one-fifth of the silver can be allocated for this prescription. The rest, the Celestial Court will have to figure out on its own!”
Before Di Yiqiu could speak, Lord Sun continued, “I heard that the Chief sold a puppet to the Yuhu Immortal Sect for forty million spiritual stones. It can be used to refine pills for His Majesty. I believe that the Chief, as both a court official and a son, should have no objections.”
Having said that, he turned and left.
“Lord Sun is really going too far!” Tan Qi couldn’t help but exclaim angrily. “Why doesn’t he question His Majesty’s orders…”
“Enough!” Di Yiqiu interrupted him. “Continue with your training.”
Tan Qi, burning with anger, said, “Over the years, how much silver has the court allocated to the Celestial Court? Now he dares to…”
“It’s enough,” Di Yiqiu said softly.
Lord Sun walked out of the Celestial Court with big strides, and his followers hurriedly caught up, wanting to support him, but he pushed them away.
It was only after he had left the gate of the Celestial Court that Lord Sun let out a long sigh.
His followers quickly called for the sedan chair. Lord Sun was still feeling angry and turned to look at the gate of the Celestial Court, muttering, “A group of people insisted on practicing immortality when they were perfectly fine. In the end, they are neither immortals nor ordinary people. Their futile efforts only bring suffering to the people of this country.”
The follower helped him into the sedan chair and said softly, “Actually,Lord, the Chief has also been facing difficulties these years. The funds allocated by the court have been insufficient to maintain the Four Bureaus. I heard that he doesn’t even have a private residence.”
Lord Sun was angry and said, “You’re speaking up for him!”
The follower smiled and said, “To be honest, my father injured his leg on the battlefield when he was young and couldn’t walk for many years. Over a decade ago, His Majesty sent the Chief to comfort the old soldiers, and after seeing my father’s condition, he made him a pair of artificial legs.”
Lord Sun heard about this for the first time and asked, “Artificial legs?”
The follower said, “That’s right. I was skeptical at first, but later on, my father was able to walk without any hindrance. At that time, the Chief was only fifteen years old. My entire family has always been grateful for his kindness. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of following him closely, and occasionally, I can see some of his good qualities.”
Lord Sun let out a long sigh and said, “To be honest, I have no grudges against him either. The funds allocated by the court over the years were not meant to be withheld intentionally; it’s just that the people are facing many difficulties. Nowadays, the prices of good seeds have skyrocketed, and the common people are struggling. If I don’t tighten my purse strings a little, who will think about them?”
The follower said, “The Lord is truly concerned about the world, and I naturally understand.”
Lord Sun nodded and lifted the sedan curtain, glancing at the Celestial Court once more. He said, “If he really can’t manage it, then reduce the funds for the pill by half.”
The follower praised,” The Lord’s benevolence is admirable.”
However, Di Yiqiu did not approach him again.
Instead, the next day, he sent out invitations in a grand manner, claiming that his son had reached the age of ten and had successfully crossed a calamity. He invited both court officials and friends from the immortal sect.
Upon receiving the invitations, people were confused—this Chief had always lived alone in his official residence. Where did he suddenly get a son?! And a ten-year-old son, crossing what kind of calamity?
Due to this curiosity, everyone still rushed to the banquet on the designated day.
Of course, when guests arrived, the customary gifts of money were inevitable.
The Chief was also not polite; if he found that someone’s gift was meager, he would sarcastically taunt them. Everyone present had a prominent status, how could they endure such treatment?
As a result, everyone quickly caught on, and the gifts became quite generous.
Then, at the banquet, facing the curious gazes of everyone, the Chief finally brought his “son” before the crowd.
And what was it?
A colorful caterpillar.
The caterpillar had been fed well and had grown plump and vibrant.
The Chief, in order to extend its life, fed it some spiritual pills every day. Now it had a chubby figure and a more brilliant color.
Minister Zhou, who was a guest, asked, “Is this… your Chief’s beloved son?” The implication was simple: You’re fucking kidding me; you could give birth to this?
The Chief remained calm and said, “My godson.”
“…” The people cursed in their hearts but dared not say anything aloud.
The Chief held his “godson” in his hands, pampering and feeding it spiritual pills in front of everyone while also collecting gifts on the side.
Everyone could only begrudgingly eat their food with their heads down, having taken this loss.
However, at this moment, Li Lu pointed at the Chief’s palm and said, “Chief, this…”
The Chief lowered his head and saw that the caterpillar in his palm was spinning a cocoon. Soon after, it broke out of the cocoon and transformed into a green-bordered, green-winged emerald butterfly.
The process was slow but gentle.
The Chief gazed down, unconsciously holding his breath.
Ah, the caterpillar she had given him all those years ago was now breaking free from its cocoon and turning into a butterfly.