In the autumn of that year, the Celestial Court began to lead and oversee the refining of the Elixir of Immortality.
This elixir involved many rare spirit herbs and was incredibly costly to produce. However, the Ministry of Revenue allocated only twenty percent of the requested funds to the Celestial Court.
Minister Zhou from the Ministry of Revenue personally escorted the funds to the Celestial Court, and Bai Qingyun personally handled the handover, hesitating to speak several times.
In fact, the court officials had always been skeptical about the Emperor’s pursuit of immortality. After all, throughout history, seeking immortality has not yielded many positive results and has often been a waste of resources. Moreover, though the matter of the Hui snake’s blood was kept secret, such a huge expense could not remain hidden in the accounts.
Lord Sun and the others witnessed the harm done to the prince and princess and saw an enormous amount of silver flow into the project. How could they not feel worried and indignant? As a result, they held a low opinion of the Celestial Court. In its early days, the Celestial Court had no cultivators, and it was no different from an ordinary bureaucratic office.
What battle prowess could these ordinary officials possess?
If there were truly any demons or evil spirits among the people, sending them out would only send them to their deaths.
Inside and outside the capital, no one held the Celestial Court in high regard.
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—Reporting to the officials was much easier than seeking assistance from immortal sects.
The Celestial Court was at least quick in handling these matters, and it was free of charge.
In the previous years, the common people depended on the immortal sects and even paid taxes to them for protection. Some powerful families with spirit backgrounds didn’t even regard the court highly. For example, the Xi family was always aloof and treated the court with disdain, demanding humble submission and lavish gifts for any interaction.
But now, with the improved strength of the Celestial Court, the people’s trust was gradually returning.
The Celestial Court was slowly making a difference, but time was limited and the expenses were excessive.
The old court officials were naturally anxious and frustrated.
As a result, the Celestial Court was always short on funds. The court officials viewed this enormous and inefficient institution as a burden on the country.
Azure Dragon’s deputy chief, Bai Qingyun, carefully counted this batch of silver. Minister Zhou from the Ministry of Revenue looked at the dazzling silver and sneered, “Your Celestial Court truly is a gold-devouring beast, dealing with both the snake and viper blood and forging combat puppets. It seems you are afraid of the treasury being full and the people prosperous.”
Bai Qingyun continued counting the silver, having grown used to the court officials’ criticism and paying it no mind.
Therefore, he casually said, “Minister Zhou is truly concerned about the country and its people. The last time I heard Minister Zhou speak like this was on the previous occasion.”
Minister Zhou’s anger flared, and he taunted, “All of you in the Celestial Court are cultivators. Aren’t cultivators supposed to be detached from worldly affairs? Yet, today you want money, and tomorrow you’ll seek funding again. There’s no peace with you, people. It seems that even the Celestial Court, despite being cultivators, is still preoccupied with mundane matters like food and money. While others seek the path to immortality, are you trying to become mundane immortals?”
Bai Qingyun, who was known for his good temper, looked at Minister Zhou and said, “Someone, record Minister Zhou’s words verbatim. Tomorrow, along with the progress of the Elixir of Immortality, present it to the Emperor.”
Minister Zhou was taken aback, suddenly realizing that this silver was intended for the Emperor’s elixir.
He quickly shut his mouth, and Bai Qingyun simply smiled and said, “It’s good to let His Majesty know that Minister Zhou is praying for His Majesty to achieve… to achieve what was it again?”
Minister Zhou coughed and changed the subject: “I still have important matters to attend to, Deputy Chief Bai; please count the silver quickly.”
Only after the silver was counted did Bai Qingyun have it transported to the Treasury.
Inside the treasury, the Celestial Court’s leader, Di Yiqiu, was inspecting the account books.
Bai Qingyun’s worried expression finally surfaced, and he said, “Chief.”
Di Yiqiu grunted but remained silent. Bai Qingyun endured and finally said, “The expenses for the Elixir of Immortality are so huge. Chief, you should negotiate with Lord Sun once again. The Celestial Court has been accumulating debt for years, and the Ministry of Revenue is just watching without offering any help. This cannot go on.”
Di Yiqiu flipped through the account book and said, “I know. But the matter of the Hui snake’s blood has already burdened the court greatly. Now they’re going to refine the Elixir of Immortality, so it’s no wonder they’re anxious.”
Bai Qingyun retorted, “Is that Hui snake’s blood something beneficial? The Celestial Court has recorded the expenses, but have they seen a single penny?”
Di Yiqiu replied, “Though that’s true, can you ask them to complain to the Emperor?”
Bai Qingyun sighed heavily and said, “Then, should I allocate the spirit stones previously paid by the Yuhu Immortal Sect and the gift money for the chief’s adopted son, who just turned ten, to the refining of the Elixir of Immortality?”
Di Yiqiu furrowed his brows and said, “I need to keep ten million…” He hesitated for a moment and corrected himself, “Half of that should do.”
Just this sentence was enough to surprise Bai Qingyun.
Di Yiqiu had always been passionate about craftsmanship since he was young.
Besides that, he didn’t care much about wealth or women.
For many years, he didn’t even have a private residence and lived in the official residence for single officials. He never added an extra piece of clothing to his wardrobe. His salary had remained untouched in his account for many years.
So it was strange that he suddenly wanted to keep such a large amount of money.
Bai Qingyun asked, “Should I use the official account?”
Unexpectedly, Di Yiqiu replied, “No, use my personal account.”
This greatly shocked Bai Qingyun.
As time passed, this day arrived when the combat puppets of the Yuhu Immortal Sect needed maintenance.
Xie Shaochong had sent a letter to the Celestial Court in advance; after all, such a puppet with forty million spirit stones needed to be treated with care.
Early in the morning, all the disciples voluntarily came forward to clean the puppets.
After half a year, they had grown accustomed to treating the puppet as a precious artifact.
This giant puppet was like a senior brother. Whenever they turned the key, it would patiently spar and practice with the disciples. Over time, they developed feelings for it.
They even greeted it whenever they saw it.
After cleaning it to a shine, the disciples waited for the personnel from the Celestial Court to come and maintain it.
But no one knew who they were waiting for!
When the chief, dressed in purple official robes with a black cloak on the outside, appeared outside the entrance of the Yuhu Immortal Sect, everyone looked at him strangely.
Xie Shaochong had originally intended to send a disciple to receive him, but upon hearing the news, he hurriedly went to the entrance himself to personally welcome him. As a prestigious sect, proper etiquette had to be observed.
He led Di Yiqiu towards Emerald Peak, and the gazes of the disciples were all very peculiar.
After all, Di Yiqiu had come in person just to maintain a puppet.
“You, Chief, are really moving wherever there’s a need!” Xie Shaochong wanted to ask, but he stopped himself.
But Di Yiqiu had a calm expression on his face. He arrived at the martial arts arena, took out various strange tools from his storage artifact, and opened the shell of the puppet.
This combat puppet was driven by spirit stones and arrays and was extremely complex inside.
The disciples of the sect had spent more than half a year with their “Senior Brother Puppet,” so how could they not be curious about its true appearance?
As a result, a large group of disciples gathered around, wanting to see what was inside.
But even though they were mentally prepared, when they saw the various gears, arrays, and mechanisms inside, they couldn’t help but rub their temples in confusion.
Could something like this really be created by humans?
Everyone surrounded Di Yiqiu while he familiarly examined the puppet’s blueprints.
He dusted the puppet, lubricated the gears, and repaired and replaced some worn-out joints. The giant puppet lowered its head and stood quietly, appearing very respectful and docile.
Beside them, Xie Shaochong felt that the disciples crowding around were not appropriate—they looked like they had never seen the world before.
But he didn’t drive them away—he also wanted to watch.
The disciples had practiced spells and formations for many years and had also learned about crafting artifact tools.
However, this thing clearly surpassed their understanding.
“It’s a sword technique array!” A disciple pointed to a formation inside that was covered in runes.
The other disciples wanted to stick their eyeballs in the formation, and, for a moment, they were all amazed.
This was… a little embarrassing. And a little… shocking. Xie Shaochong sighed.
The other disciples were probably thinking the same way.
Before, whenever they mentioned the Celestial Court, how could they regard it as an immortal sect? They just thought of it as a group of ordinary officials.
Later, when they got the puppet, although they admired its ingenuity, they still saw it as an artifact. But now, seeing the inner workings, they felt like their intellect was being rubbed against the ground.
So these talismans and arrays could be used like this?
A group of immortal sect disciples had opened the door to a new world.
And Di Yiqiu didn’t stop them from watching. While he dismantled the puppet, he said, “Supervising disciple training every day must be exhausting, right?”
“What?” Xie Shaochong took a moment to react. Di Yiqiu was actually talking to him.
At this moment, even Xie Shaochong’s heart was filled with complex feelings. He suddenly thought of Xie Hongchen’s term—”revere.”
But then the chief’s words made him even more awestruck.
He said, “These eyes—I can replace them with the Nine-Curves Spirit Eyes for all of you. Ah, of course, the Yuhu Immortal Sect’s Eye of World Perception will do as well.” He smiled and added, “For just a tiny bit of spirit stone.”
At that moment, Xie Shaochong didn’t realize that this would be a big pit.
He asked, “Directly install the Eye of World Perception into the puppet’s eyes?”
Di Yiqiu replied, “Of course. Otherwise, my Celestial Court would need countless assistants. If everyone needs someone to point things out while practicing, I, as the Chief, would need to be split into several pieces to handle it all.”
This statement was really attractive.
Xie Shaochong said, “How many spirit stones?”
The chief raised a finger, and Xie Shaochong exclaimed, “Ten billion?”
“Not that much, not that much.” The Chief hurriedly reassured him, “Just ten million will do.”
Compared to the total cost of the puppet, ten million seemed acceptable.
Xie Shaochong said, “I will report to the Sect Master and Elder Ancestor and let them decide.”
“Of course,” Di Yiqiu didn’t rush him, “I will wait.”
Xie Shaochong knew it wasn’t easy for Di Yiqiu to make this trip, and the proposal was indeed tempting. He had to hastily make his way to Yeyun Hall to consult with Xie Hongchen.
At this moment, Huang Rang was walking down Emerald Peak, heading towards the Qilu terrace.
Her daily routine consisted of staying at her residence, Yeyun Hall, and the Qilu Terrace.
When she passed by the martial arts arena, she saw a large crowd gathered around the puppet from afar.
It had never been so lively in the past. Huang Rang became interested and squeezed her way through the crowd to get a better look.
Soon, she spotted the familiar figure in purple robes.
Huang Rang stood behind the disciples, watching as he used a dust-removing artifact to clean the dust off the puppet’s components.
A warm delight arose within her.
This combat puppet must have been dismantled and reassembled countless times. No matter how complicated those components were, he didn’t even need to look at them.
“Chief, can this sword array be rewritten?” A disciple pointed to the array on the puppet’s chest and asked.
Di Yiqiu didn’t avoid the question and replied, “Of course. Any sword arrays or techniques carved into this chest plate can be practiced by the puppet.” He pointed to that chest plate.
The disciples immediately became more interested, and someone asked, “So, this Senior Brother Puppet can learn new sword techniques?”
Di Yiqiu nodded and said, “That’s right. But the chest plate can only hold twelve pieces at a time. In other words…” He turned his head and suddenly saw someone familiar standing behind the crowd.
Huang Rang was wearing a light golden training attire, her hair neatly tied up. Di Yiqiu noticed her hairband at a glance—it was a string of bright pearls.
Di Yiqiu felt as if he were basking in the sunlight, his heart feeling relieved. He waved and said, “If Miss Ah Rang wants to see, why not come forward?”
Huang Rang squeezed through the disciples and stood beside him. She didn’t want to see the puppet, but she did want to see the person dismantling it.
The conversations between her and Di Yiqiu were actually few, so she rarely saw him talk so calmly and eloquently.
At this moment, he patiently and meticulously explained the puppet’s joint connections, the spirit stone drive, and so on.
Warm and careful, like both a teacher and a friend.
One disciple nearby asked, “Chief, can I touch it?”
“Of course,” the Chief said.
He stood up, making room for others, and his hands were clearly stained with oil. Huang Rang took out a silk cloth and handed it to him, but he didn’t accept it. He looked at her and said softly, “Miss Ah Rang’s silk cloth mustn’t be dirtied. I’ll just…”
He casually grabbed another disciple from the sect and wiped his hands on the person’s clothes.
The disciples began curiously touching the puppet’s internal components, and there were exclamations of astonishment all around.
Meanwhile, Di Yiqiu’s gaze was fixed on Huang Rang before him, as if he were gazing at stars. Huang Rang smiled in response to his gaze, as if she had so much to say, but when it reached her lips, she remained silent.
Under the watchful eyes of the crowd, the two could only maintain a polite distance; even if they wanted to get closer, they couldn’t.
But the chief was, after all, very wise.
He said, “Speaking of which, I have some puppets that can be used for farming. I heard Miss Ah Rang took over the Huang family. Do you need them? I happened to bring one along on this visit.”
As the words fell, he flicked his fingertips. The storage artifact at his waist seemed to be extremely rare.
Following his gesture, another puppet appeared before everyone’s eyes. This puppet was slightly smaller than the Super Armor Grade puppet, roughly the size of an adult.
Di Yiqiu said, “If used for farming, this should make the work much easier.”
Huang Rang understood that he wanted to speak privately and casually replied, “You have something like this? I have a piece of farmland in the Yuhu immortal sect. If the chief doesn’t mind, why not bring it over and try its effectiveness?”
This suggestion suited his intentions, and Di Yiqiu smiled, saying, “Miss Ah Rang spoke up; naturally, I will comply.”
As they talked, he took out a silver key and inserted it into the puppet’s right ear, gently turning it.
The puppet raised its head, as if it had its own consciousness, and followed his movements.
Ah… So this thing can move on its own. Huang Rang instantly thought of how they brought this big guy into her house back then.
The two walked side by side, heading towards the Qilu terrace.
The puppet followed behind, moving incredibly smoothly.
The other disciples were still at the martial arts arena, studying the combat puppet, so no one followed them.
The good seeds on the Qilu terrace were thriving, and the entire farmland was lush and green.
Huang Rang said, “Can it really farm? But don’t expect me to pay tens of millions of spirit stones. I’ve never seen so many in my life…”
As she spoke, she turned around and saw Di Yiqiu extending his palm.
In his palm, a green-bordered, green-winged emerald butterfly fluttered its wings, flying around Huang Rang for a few rounds before settling on her temples.
“What is this?” Huang Rang didn’t understand. She reached out her hand, and the green-winged emerald butterfly landed on her palm, spinning in a circle.
Di Yiqiu said, “Just a few months ago, I held a tenth birthday banquet for it.”
“Your godson!” With such a commotion, Huang Rang had naturally heard about it. After a moment, she suddenly realized it and held the butterfly up to her eyes. “Isn’t this the caterpillar?!”
Di Yiqiu didn’t answer, and Huang Rang became happy. “I thought you had thrown it away.”
The green-winged emerald butterfly heard that and instantly looked sad. It flew back into Di Yiqiu’s palm, spreading its wings and hugging its head, refusing to move.
“It… can understand what we’re saying?” Her last words were spoken in a hushed tone, almost only forming lip movements.
Di Yiqiu nodded.
Huang Rang immediately raised her eyebrows and said, “If you dare to throw it away, I will have to fight you to the death. This caterpillar and I have a connection. When I first saw it, I thought its color was so vibrant and lively. Back then, so many caterpillars were crawling on the trees, but I spotted it at a glance. It was truly one in a million.”
She walked to Di Yiqiu’s side and leaned close to his ear, whispering to the butterfly in his palm, “I really like it. It’s obedient and listens to me. It accompanies me when I read and practice daily…”
The green-winged emerald butterfly slowly spread its wings and joyfully fluttered them, then flew to Huang Rang’s temples, gently rubbing against her.
Indeed, sweet words and flattery worked even on a bug or a butterfly.
Huang Rang extended her fingertip, allowing it to fly and land on her.
“You’re so beautiful… There’s no way I could mistake you for just an insect!” She continued pouring out sweet words like honey, her voice gentle enough to squeeze out sweetness.
The green-winged emerald butterfly snuggled into her embrace vigorously. At this moment, she was the most adorable person in the world.
Indeed, low-intelligence bugs were so easy to deceive.
Huang Rang held it with her fingertip and walked to the edge of the BaiLu Pond, finding a stone to sit on. She spoke gently and softly to the green-winged emerald butterfly.
Di Yiqiu didn’t interrupt her; he simply took out a paper-wrapped package from his storage artifact and handed it over.
“What is this?” Huang Rang took it and opened it, finding it full of a bag of candied fruits.
Di Yiqiu casually said, “There’s a famous candied fruit shop in the capital city. I happened to pass by it today while leaving the capital, so I brought some back.”
Ah… Ah. The smile on Huang Rang’s face gradually disappeared as she took out a piece of candied fruit and gently put it in her mouth.
The sweet taste and fruity fragrance spread on her tongue, and her eyes seemed to be filled with mist.
“Don’t you like it?” Di Yiqiu asked.
Huang Rang shook her head, feeling a lump in her throat, making it hard for her to answer.
Di Yiqiu didn’t mind; he began to introduce his puppet.
“This puppet is a Class C combat puppet,” he explained quickly, afraid that Huang Rang might find it lacking, “but I made some improvements. The chestplate records some moves from Xie Lingbi. If you want to defeat him, it’s necessary to understand his moves.”
He waved his hand, and the puppet came to his side. He continued, “I will send the chestplate to you from time to time. The puppet downstairs in the martial arts arena is seen by many people, and you won’t need it often. You can keep this one on the Qilu Terrace and practice fighting when you have time. It can also do some simple farm work, but it might not be very agile…”
Here, his brows furrowed, feeling somewhat guilty.
Due to the issue of the immortality elixir, he currently has no extra funds to improve this puppet further. This is his limit for now.
“But you don’t have to worry; the chestplate inside should last you about half a year. After six months, I will definitely find a way to…”
He spoke earnestly, but Huang Rang wasn’t really listening.
She took another candied fruit into her mouth, and the green-winged emerald butterfly trembled on her temple like a gem, like a beaded flower. But in her heart and eyes, there was only this man in front of her.
— How could this dog guy be so good?
What should I do? I really want to get him!!!!!!!!