The chief seemed unaware of the girl’s thoughts. After explaining the puppet’s purpose, he instructed her to try cultivating the fields.
The puppet fetched water from the Bailu Pond with a bucket and went to water the fields.
Clearly, the puppet’s movements were not smooth enough, and DiYiqiu was pondering ways to improve it, occasionally noticing crumpled paper on the ground.
Finally, he picked up one of them casually and opened it. The wrinkled paper read, “Since the last time I met Miss Ah Rang, I can’t eat or sleep, thoughts of her drive me crazy…”
“…It’s a love letter!” Di Yiqiu felt a tinge of sourness as he read on.
When Huang Rang looked up and saw him, she hurriedly explained, “The junior disciples from the outer sect are just playing around.”
“Mm,” Di Yiqiu calmly recrumpled the paper and threw it aside.
Then he opened the puppet’s chest, took out its core, and pondered for a while, making some minor modifications.
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Ylydobkzl, Twydt Sydt yde Pk Zkikw olal prldekdt vblka vkxl yv Ckzw Mlaaynl, yde Dkl Fbysnbsdt yde Dkl Tsdtnbld bye yaakhle yv vbl Yyavkyz Gavp Qaswde.
Mbl ldsaxswp rwrrlv’p nblpv oyp pvkzz srld, yde xydu ekpnkrzlp olal scplahkdt. Dkl Tsdtnbld tzydnle yaswde cwv eked’v pll Pk Zkikw, ps bl vwadle vs Dkl Fbysnbsdt yde ypjle, “Eblal kp vbl nbklq?”
Mbl svbla ekpnkrzlp iwknjzu alrzkle, “Mbl nbklq caswtbv y qyaxkdt rwrrlv yde vssj Ykpp Gb Sydt vs vbl Ckzw Mlaaynl vs vau kv swv.”
Brsd blyakdt vbkp, Dkl Fbysnbsdt dsvknle y pzktbv nalypl clvolld Dkl Tsdtnbld’p lulcasop.
Tl bwaaklezu pyke, “Ykpp Gb Sydt kp vbl Twydt qyxkzu’p ryvakyanb, ps kv’p dsv pvaydtl qsa bla vs cl kdvlalpvle kd y qyaxkdt rwrrlv. R’zz ts vs vbl Ckzw Mlaaynl yde vyjl y zssj.”
Tsolhla, Dkl Tsdtnbld pyke, “Ls dlle.”
Ekvb vbyv, bl oldv yblye yde blyele vs vbl Ckzw Mlaaynl bkxplzq.
Dkl Fbysnbsdt qszzsole clbkde bkx, qllzkdt y ckv rwggzle. Gzvbswtb Twydt Sydt oyp y osxyd, vbl plnv’p alpvaknvksdp sd alzyvksdpbkrp clvolld xld yde osxld olal dsv yp pvaknv yp kd vbl xsavyz osaze. Fbl oyp Dkl Tsdtnbld’p ekpnkrzl, yde pbl osajle byae kd bla nwzvkhyvksd, pbsokdt tsse vyzldv.
She would likely become an outstanding figure in the sect sooner or later.
For such a person, it didn’t really matter whether she was a man or a woman.
There was no need for special treatment.
But Xie Hongchen seemed overly protective of her.
He often had her practice in the Yeyun Hall, and she practically had exclusive use of the Martial Arts Ground there. Now, she was simply going to the Qilu Terrace with Di Yiqiu to try out the puppet, so why was he so nervous?
Although Xie Shaochong thought this way, he naturally wouldn’t say anything.
He followed Xie Hongchen all the way to Qilu Terrace. For some reason, this winding mountain path felt somewhat familiar to him.
Xie Hongchen quickly arrived at the edge of the farmland. There, he saw Huang Rang sitting on a stone by the Bailu Pond, holding a paper bag, and leisurely eating snacks.
Meanwhile, Di Yiqiu was trying out the puppet for farming.
There was nothing wrong with this scene, but Xie Hongchen found it irritating.
He said coldly, “Chief, what are you doing?”
Upon hearing his voice, Huang Rang quickly stood up and paid her respects, “Master.”
Xie Hongchen nodded, instinctively walking up to Huang Rang. When Di Yiqiu saw him, he stopped the puppet and put it aside, getting his hands covered in mud. He then walked leisurely towards Bailu Pond.
He washed his hands first and then turned around, paying his respects, and said, “Master Xie, long time no see. How have you been?”
Xie Hongchen snorted and glanced at the paper bag in Huang Rang’s hand, seeing that it was filled with candied fruits. He couldn’t help but say, “Ah Rang, the chief came from afar, yet you let him work while you relaxed on the side; isn’t that impolite?”
His words carried a hint of reproach, making Huang Rang say, “I was wrong, Master; I know my mistake.”
Di Yiqiu remained composed and said, “Since the Master has spoken, then… Miss Ah Rang, why don’t you join me in farming?”
“Huh?” Huang Rang raised an eyebrow. The chief clearly couldn’t discern the true meaning of his words.
Indeed, the chief couldn’t tell and extended his hand, saying, “Miss Ah Rang, please join me.”
Huang Rang glanced at Xie Hongchen and reluctantly went over. The chief adjusted the puppet for her and explained, “To activate it, insert the key into the right ear and give it a twist. It will then water the plants and weed the fields by itself.”
He guided Huang Rang’s hand to operate the key, and they were so close that he could smell the fragrance from her hair.
Seeing the two of them so close, Xie Hongchen’s expression turned somewhat unpleasant.
Xie Shaochong noticed it and found it strange. Xie Hongchen was not someone who displayed his emotions openly.
As Xie Hongchen took a few steps forward, he blocked Huang Rang with his arm and said, “Since the chief is so enthusiastic, this Master will accompany you to try out the puppet.”
The chief maintained a smiling face but spoke with a hint of sarcasm, “Sure, this puppet was originally meant to be a gift for Miss Ah rang to try out. The cost of making it is not high; it is just a small sum. I believe it’s a drop in the ocean for the Master. If you think it’s inappropriate for Miss Ah Rang to accept my goodwill, you can buy it from me. How about that?”
“…,” Huang Rang remained silent.
As expected, Xie Hongchen snorted and didn’t respond to the offer.
He was not foolish to fall into the same trap again and end up paying for the Celestial Court’s expenses.
Fortunately, the chief didn’t insist. He continued to explain the puppet to Xie Hongchen, focusing only on its agricultural uses.
After listening for a while, Xie Hongchen asked, “When we last met, this Master wanted to consult you,chief. If our sect has new sword arrays, can this puppet also practice them?”
Di Yiqiu replied, “Master Xie is brilliant! If your sect has new sword arrays, you can draw the moves on a diagram and send it to the Celestial Court. I will make a new core for the puppet specifically for the new arrays. The price will be absolutely fair.”
Beside them, Xie Shaochong finally understood what kind of trap the sect had fallen into.
But he couldn’t help but ask, “Wouldn’t that mean revealing our sect’s secrets to the Celestial Court?”
The chief had evidently already thought about this question. He said, “I can also provide blank cores. The Master can send a few disciples to learn for half a month, and they can carve the arrays themselves.”
“Indeed, it’s a well-thought-out plan.” Although Xie Hongchen didn’t like the man before him, he knew the proposal was feasible.
Xie Shaochong could only ask, “Then, I wonder how much this core would cost?”
Di Yiqiu glanced at Huang Rang and said, “It depends on who the Master sends to learn. If it’s Miss Ah Rang, then the Celestial Court would naturally not charge much. Perhaps only ten thousand spirit stones for a piece.”
Xie Hongchen coldly snorted, “In that case, the chief can proceed to the Martial Arts Ground to repair the puppet.”
With such a tone, for someone as gentle as Xie Hongchen, it was already a harsh remark.
However, Di Yiqiu didn’t mind. He turned to Huang Rang and said, “Miss Ah Rang, I’ll take my leave now.”
Huang Rang had no choice but to reciprocate, “Please, Chief.”
In her hair, the green-bordered, green-winged emerald butterfly hesitated. It wanted to stay with Huang Rang, but it also feared Xie Hongchen—the aura of the sect’s top sword immortal was not something a small creature like it could withstand.
It thought about it for a moment but decided to fly back to Di Yiqiu’s shoulder. Di Yiqiu allowed it and then stepped down from the Qilu terrace.
Huang Rang watched him disappear down the long staircase. Xie Hongchen said from behind her, “Yuhu Immortal Sect and the Celestial Court have different stances. From now on, you must obey my orders and not meet with Di Yiqiu.”
As soon as he said this, even Xie Shaochong was surprised.
—Yuhu Immortal Sect and the Celestial Court may have some disagreements, but is it necessary to go to this extent?
He secretly glanced at Huang Rang and saw that she was also very puzzled.
Xie Hongchen was well aware that his words were too extreme.
But he simply didn’t like Di Yiqiu and disliked Huang Rang being in contact with him.
Thus, he had no intention of taking back his words. He only said, “After taking care of the good seeds, immediately return to Yeyun Hall for cultivation.”
So, you also have possessiveness.
Huang Rang sneered inwardly but remained respectful on the surface and replied, “I will follow your orders, Master.”
Only then did Xie Hongchen turn around and leave the Qilu terrace.
Xie Shaochong followed behind him, wanting to say something several times but refraining. After pondering for a while, he found a compromising statement and smiled, “Although Ah Rang is young, she will grow up someday. In the future, the sect’s affairs might rely on her to some extent. Master, why do you need to control her so much?”
This sentence was a probe in itself.
Xie Hongchen, however, did not respond to it. He only said, “If Di Yiqiu comes again, you will personally receive him. He cannot wander around the sect as he pleases.”
—This was quite displeasing. Xie Shaochong hurriedly said, “Yes.”
Emerald Peak, Martial Arts Ground.
Di Yiqiu finished installing the Super Armor Grade and equipped it with the Yuhu Immortal Sect’s Eye of World Perception. Now, Xie Lingbi, Xie Hongchen, Xie Shaochong, and others could observe the disciples training at any time, making it quite convenient.
As he looked around, Di Yiqiu no longer saw Huang Rang.
He felt a sense of melancholy but had no choice but to leave.
On the other hand, Xie Shaochong gradually became more attentive.
He usually didn’t go into Yeyun Hall, but as Xie Hongchen’s junior brother and with their good relationship, the guards at the hall wouldn’t stop him from entering.
On this day, he intentionally didn’t inform anyone and quietly entered the hall.
Inside, he saw Huang Rang practicing swordplay in a small martial arts ground while Xie Hongchen sat by the side on a stone platform. Even though he was reading a book, he occasionally glanced at the training area.
Xie Shaochong couldn’t discern anything unusual from this. After all, Xie Hongchen was a person who concealed his emotions well.
For example, Xie Yuanshu, the son of Xie Lingbi, whom he despised, would still call him “big brother” with his mouth.
If Xie Yuanshu didn’t make any mistakes, Xie Hongchen treated him as if he were a real blood brother.
After thinking it through, Xie Shaochong felt that he might be overthinking it.
After all, Xie Hongchen had seen all sorts of stunning beauties in the mortal world.
Although Huang Rang was extraordinarily beautiful, she was, after all, his personally taught disciple.
The principle of “one day as a teacher, a lifetime as a father” was something he certainly understood.
If he truly had other intentions, he wouldn’t have accepted her as his disciple in the first place; he could have just taken her directly into his chambers.
The Yuhu Immortal Sect also didn’t prohibit the sect leader from taking a wife.
With this thought, Xie Shaochong felt relieved.
—Heaven forbid any improper teacher-disciple relationship in the Immortal Sect, especially involving Xie Hongchen…
Not long after, Xie Hongchen indeed sent disciples to the Celestial Court to learn the carving of puppet chestplates.
He assigned his disciple, Xie Li, and Xie Shaochong’s senior disciple, Xie Jianlan, to the task.
At the Celestial Court,
The Chief instructed Zhu Xiang, the deputy of the vermillion bird bureau, to arrange for the two of them to join the learning process but felt frustrated inside.
It turned out that Huang Rang wasn’t the one who came.
The Deputy Chief, Li Lu, saw through the Chief’s intentions and couldn’t help but advise, “Chief, are you picking a fight with Master Xie again?”
“Hmph.” Di Yiqiu was still disgusted when he mentioned Xie Hongchen.
Li Lu could only offer further advice: “If Chief truly has feelings for Miss Ah Rang, you should understand her situation. Her parents are no longer here, and Elder Xi is her maternal grandfather; you have already offended him to death. Fortunately, Miss Ah Rang doesn’t have any strong emotions towards him.”
Li Lu analyzed carefully: “However, Master Xie is Miss Ah Rang’s legitimate master. She is deeply attached to him in her learning process. If you oppose him at every turn, it’s no wonder Master Xie doesn’t allow you to interact with Miss Ah Rang.”
Although Di Yiqiu was unwilling, he realized the truth in Li Lu’s words.
He said, “According to your opinion, what should I do?”
Li Lu, with his experience, said, “When I was in the lower ranks of the bureau, there were a few fellows who wanted to get married, but their father-in-law didn’t agree. But a good man fears nagging, and a brave man fears trials, you know. The chief should still have some patience and try to please Chief Master Xie. Otherwise, even if Miss Ah Rang becomes skilled, do you think she won’t acknowledge her master after completing her study? If Chief and Master Xie end up at odds, it will make things difficult for her.”
“Indeed,” Di Yiqiu agreed wholeheartedly, saying, “I overlooked this.”
Seeing that he was taking the advice seriously, Li Lu felt gratified. “Fortunately, disciples from the Yuhu Immortal Sect are coming here for exchange, which is a good thing.”
Thanks to his consolation, the Celestial Court didn’t make things difficult for Xie Li and Xie Jianlan.
The two of them were studying at the Vermillion Bird Bureau, and even though they were only learning the carving of chestplates, they gained new insights.
Yuhu Immortal Sect, Yeyun Hall.
When Huang Rang came in, Xie Hongchen was sitting by the desk, drawing a sword array diagram. Huang Rang didn’t greet him; instead, she fetched water and watered the orchids on his desk.
Xie Hongchen didn’t refuse; in fact, he quite liked Huang Rang’s silent intimacy.
After watering the plants, Huang Rang brewed a cup of tea for him.
While it seemed like Xie Hongchen was focused on drawing the sword array, he was actually captivated by her every move. When the fragrant tea was placed within reach, he couldn’t help but pick it up and take a sip.
“You’ve improved in your tea-making skills,” he suddenly said.
“Really?” Huang Rang was surprised.
As a couple beyond a hundred years outside the dream realm, she didn’t know how many cups of tea she had brewed for Xie Hongchen.
Yet he had never praised her before.
“The disciple’s tea-making skills remain the same,” Huang Rang smiled lightly. “It’s the Master’s state of mind that has changed.”
“Is that so?” Without looking at her, Xie Hongchen liked talking to her like this, discussing things beyond cultivation. He said, “Ah Rang, besides breeding, cultivating, tea-making, and cooking, what else can you do?”
Ah, do you want to get to know me better?
Huang Rang curtsied gracefully and said, “Actually, I can occasionally dance a bit. I’m afraid my dancing skills are poor, and it might make Master laugh.”
“Dance?” Xie Hongchen was astonished, then asked, “Sword dance?”
Huang Rang had been practicing swordsmanship for many years, so it wouldn’t be surprising if she knew sword dancing.
Unexpectedly, Huang Rang said, “peach blossom dance.”
“peach blossom Dance?” Xie Hongchen was stunned. The Sword Immortals were the most romantic and flamboyant, and although he was burdened by the sect’s affairs, he was quite knowledgeable in music. Peach Blossom Dance was the most popular piece in the capital, often danced by courtesans with graceful water sleeves and bending waists, exuding a soft charm.
Huang Rang smiled and asked, “Master, would you like to see it?”
Xie Hongchen knew he shouldn’t do this. She was his disciple, and a man and a woman alone in a room couldn’t allow her to dance for him.
However, he heard himself faintly answer, “Alright.”
This word seemed to pierce a festering wound in his heart.
Yet Huang Rang seemed oblivious to it. She said, “But Disciple doesn’t have a suitable dance outfit.” She approached Xie Hongchen, smiling lightly, and said, “Master’s cultivation is astounding. You should be able to find one for Disciple, right?”
Of course, Xie Hongchen could. His illusion skill had already reached mastery.
Upon hearing this, he lowered his head, drew on paper, and then cut it into a dress, handing it to Huang Rang.
As Huang Rang took it, the paper turned into a set of brightly colored attire. She gracefully saluted Xie Hongchen and said, “I’ll change in the inner room.”
As she spoke, she walked into a dark room.
However, as soon as she entered, she realized something was wrong.
She had no knowledge of this inner room.
It was the same place where she hid when Xie Yuanshu injured Xie Hongchen in the first dream and tried to lure Xie Lingbi to attack him.
Sure enough, Xie Hongchen frowned.
This inner room was a place Huang Rang had never been to before. How could she know about it?
But soon, Huang Rang changed into her dance attire and came out from behind the curtain.
She suddenly said, “It’s strange. I’ve never been to the inner rooms of Yeyun Hall, but once I step inside, it feels so familiar, as if… it’s my first encounter with Master again.”
Xie Hongchen, initially captivated by her appearance, froze upon hearing her words.
“You… also find your Master familiar when you see him?” His voice carried hesitation. He had the same feeling when he first met Huang Rang. It was as if they had unfinished karma, entangled for several lifetimes.
Huang Rang, her dance attire resplendent like clouds and rainbows, linked her arm with the silk shawl, looking ethereal. “Familiar at first sight; feeling like a floating duckweed; finding something to rely on.”
Her words were deceptive, but she didn’t know why she remembered her first encounter with him outside the dream realm.
In the town of Xiancha that year, when she first met Xie Hongchen, it was also like this.
But she didn’t dwell on it anymore.
She smiled like a blooming flower and said, “Disciple will dance for the master But without music, it may lose its flavor. I’m afraid I’ll have to trouble Master.”
A piece like peach blossom wouldn’t stump Xie Hongchen.
He took out a flute from the bookshelf while still in a daze, but involuntarily blew the melody of peach blossom.
Huang Rang gracefully tossed her water sleeves and began dancing in the study.
The study’s floor tiles were pitch-black like jade and ink, reflecting light.
Her bare feet stepped on them, and her slender waist was delicate and grip-worthy.
Huang Rang had indeed practiced this dance rigorously. In order to please Xie Hongchen, she sought advice from numerous renowned dancers. As an earth spirit, she was not naturally skilled in dancing, but with her determination, she succeeded after countless failures.
She practiced for a whole year, twisted her ankle in the orchids, and sat on the ground gasping for breath before getting up.
She had also worn an inadequate expression on her face during rehearsals and stopped with a smile while dancing.
She corrected herself countless times, originally planning to dance for him in the summer, but when she finally danced, it was deep into autumn.
At that time, she was dressed much more elegantly and splendidly than this, but Xie Hongchen didn’t say a word.
He sat among the orchids, watching her dance while drinking wine.
Huang Rang didn’t know whether he liked it or not, but in this dream, she still chose to dance “peach blossom dance.”
In the immortal world, after practicing martial arts for so many years, has my figure lost its softness?
It doesn’t matter; after all, this will be the last time I do this dance.
She smiled, appearing like a lotus emerging from the water.
But in her heart, she was once again transported back to the world outside the dream.
Her gaze was intense, fixed on Xie Hongchen, and Xie Hongchen was also gazing at her. The study was dim, with only her graceful figure shining like the morning sun. Xie Hongchen averted his eyes, focusing on playing the flute, but even his thoughts were tinged with her radiance.
When the dance ended, Huang Rang seemed to blush slightly and said, “I’ll go inside to change.”
After speaking, she bunched up her rosy sleeves like clouds and ran into the inner room.
Xie Hongchen slowly put down the flute. He could control his facial expressions, but he couldn’t suppress the palpitations in his heart. In that fleeting moment just now, he wanted to approach her and embrace her.
However, this thought soon gave birth to other desires.
The devilish thoughts entangled him like silk, and he thought of the fine sweat on her snow-white skin and the swaying gauze canopy. He thought of all those things that made him feel dirty.
Yet he couldn’t resist.
Huang Rang changed back into her pale golden disciple’s attire, a clean and practical garment for cultivation. Naturally, it was also very conservative.
As if the boundless splendor from before was just a dream.
In front of the bookcase, Xie Hongchen dared not look up at her. He gripped the tea cup with his right hand but didn’t lift it. After a long pause, he said, “Today, you go back to practice; don’t come to Yeyun Hall anymore.”
Ha, are you still resisting?
However, Huang Rang knew his tone too well, especially the slight hoarseness when he was moved.
She stepped closer, her voice full of genuine concern: “Is Master unwell? Do you need someone from Bai Cao Peak to come and check on you?” As she spoke, she reached out to touch his forehead, as if wanting to feel his temperature.
Yet Xie Hongchen flinched as if she were burning him and pushed her away instantly.
Huang Rang hurriedly said, “I’m sorry, Master. I forgot. Master is the number one sword immortal; how could you have a fever? I’m so foolish.”
“It’s fine.” Xie Hongchen used his arm to keep her at a distance and said, “Master is fine. You can go.”
“But Master seems… worried.” Huang Rang approached him slowly, saying, “Do you really not need your disciple to stay and take care of you?”
Her voice was soft and seemingly full of concern, but Xie Hongchen had grown accustomed to this tone.
Back on the Qilu Terrace, every time she deliberately tempted him, she spoke with such gentle words. It was just that back then, she was in his embrace, and now she was in front of the desk.
“Step back.” He uttered these two words as if it took all his strength.
Huang Rang then said, “Disciple takes her leave. Master… please take care of yourself.”
After saying this, she retreated slowly and turned to leave the study.
It was only when her footsteps faded away that Xie Hongchen hugged his head with both hands and leaned over the desk.
He wanted to keep her, to make her stay in Yeyun Hall or any place only he could reach. To be with him through joy and sorrow, love and hatred.
This was certainly not just a master-disciple relationship; he knew how absurd it was. He understood that master-disciple was like a father-daughter bond, an inviolable ethical code. But he couldn’t control it.
That person seemed as though she was always meant to belong to him.
She was meant to belong to him.