In the study room, after Li Lu and Bao Wu left, it became quiet. Huang Rang felt the wheelchair turn, and she found herself facing the window again.
Di Yiqiu was still sitting behind the desk, focused on sewing rabbit fur.
At some point, snowflakes began to fall from the sky, lightly and delicately, like powder or salt, resembling fine rain.
Huang Rang stared out the window, thinking about what Bao Wu had just said—Xie Hongchen had sent someone to inquire about the whereabouts of her sister. It was undoubtedly a search for her, but Xie Hongchen was always concerned about the reputation of their sect.
He wouldn’t publicize the fact that his wife had disappeared.
As the snow fell outside the window, Huang Rang started daydreaming, as if she could see the first snow on the Qilu Terrace. Every year, around this time, the White Dew Pond would start to freeze. She would often gather some pieces of ice and prepare delicate snacks for Xie Hongchen.
But Xie Hongchen rarely came by. Sometimes, she would send the snacks to his location at Emerald Peak. Most of the time, she would distribute them among the disciples below. At that time, the disciples of the Yuhu Immortal Sect loved winter.
They would offer various ingredients for the master’s wife to study and create pastries and dishes.
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Huang Rang had seen Li Lu bring them in earlier but didn’t know what they were. Now, as Di Yiqiu opened them, she smelled the fragrance and realized that this pile of things was actually rouge and face powder!
Di Yiqiu brought over a chair and sat opposite her. Huang Rang watched him open the powder box and then take a teacup, adding some water to mix the powder.
“???” Huang Rang was filled with question marks.
Then, Di Yiqiu applied the mixed powder to her face.
“What are you doing?!” Huang Rang’s pupils shook—that rice powder wasn’t meant to be used like that! Stop! You’re making a mess!
However, Master Qiu continued with great seriousness.
So when he had applied all the colors from the powder box to Huang Rang’s face, he examined it for a moment and suddenly shook his body. Then he had someone bring hot water. When the servant entered with the hot water and saw Huang Rang, they were also taken aback.
Fortunately, they were well trained, and the basin of water didn’t spill onto the floor.
Di Yiqiu twisted a wet silk handkerchief and carefully washed Huang Rang’s face.
After washing, Master Qiu continued to paint her face with makeup.
Huang Rang’s heart was trembling, but she couldn’t do anything about it! Di Yiqiu usually used his fingertips to pat on the powder, but he probably found it inconvenient and picked up the brush on the table. The brush had both thick and thin bristles, and he tried each one.
This is my face! !!! Huang Rang was furious, and her hands and feet turned cold.
Master Qiu completed another masterpiece, set aside the lipstick, stood up, and solemnly examined Huang Rang’s face.
Huang Rang dared to bet that she saw a slight smirk at the corner of Di Yiqiu’s mouth—this wretched person was laughing!
Though the nearby servant kept his head bowed, his curiosity couldn’t be completely hidden. He glanced at Huang Rang and immediately lowered his head, shaking his shoulders. Huang Rang had no way to deal with it.
Outside, the snow was getting heavier, and the ground was turning white.
The room was heated by a stove, and Di Yiqiu washed Huang Rang’s face again before applying rouge to her cheeks. Finally, when there was no other choice, Master Qiu dipped the tip of a brush in lipstick and drew a three-stroke mustache at the corner of Huang Rang’s mouth.
To salvage his dignity.
“I have an old friend who has suffered a similar loss as you. Now, the grass on his tomb is five Zhang tall.” Huang Rang could only curse inwardly.
Indeed, Di Yiqiu sat by the window to do her makeup. After working diligently for the entire afternoon, he called the servant girl who had done Huang Rang’s hair last time.
The servant girl twitched the corner of her mouth and redid Huang Rang’s hair. Di Yiqiu held a cup of hot tea and sat by the side to observe. Huang Rang felt that this person was quite boring, really.
In the capital, within the inner city -Duke Zhongguo’s Residence.
Lord Zhongguo was an esteemed veteran in the imperial court, faithfully following Emperor Shi Wenyu in their quests for dominance. In the present, as Emperor Shi Wenyu became obsessed with longevity techniques, he showed great concern for Lord Zhongguo. Thus, despite being 120 years old, he appeared no older than his sixties.
Having experienced the battlefield firsthand, Lord Zhongguo maintained a proud bearing despite having shed his armor many years ago.
He practiced a set of martial arts forms in the courtyard, still displaying formidable prowess. Lord Zhongguo was pleased with his performance.
Suddenly, a dizzying sensation swept over him, and before he knew it, someone stood before him.
This person donned white garments as ethereal as clouds, with a water-blue collar and a jade-adorned waistband. He nodded slightly to Lord Zhongguo and spoke in a gentle tone, “Lord Zhongguo, I hope you are well.”
“You…” Lord Zhongguo was momentarily dazzled, taking a step back before realizing, “Xie Hongchen!”
Indeed, the person before him was Xie Hongchen, the sect master of the Yuhu Immortal Sect!
When Lord Zhongguo served as a protector of Emperor Shi Wenyu, he had visited the Yuhu Immortal Sect in the past.
His heart sank, and his instinct urged him to alert the guards. However, he quickly dismissed the thought. Standing before him was Xie Hongchen, and what use were his guards? Lord Zhongguo decided to inquire instead: “Master Xie, as an esteemed immortal outside the mortal realm, what brings you to my humble abode? I am eager to receive your guidance.”
As he spoke, he carefully observed this prominent figure of the Immortal Sect. The last time they met was forty years ago. Despite four decades of rain, snow, wind, and frost, Xie Hongchen showed no signs of aging. He still possessed the charm and grace of a man in his twenties or thirties.
It was said that those in the realm of immortality often lived for several hundred or even a thousand years. No wonder the Emperor harbored such fascination and obsession. Lord Zhongguo silently pondered.
“Do not be alarmed, Lord Zhongguo.” Xie Hongchen’s eyes exuded a gentle and serene gaze, yet they carried a penetrating power. He offered reassurance, saying, “I have come today with no ill intentions. I merely wish to trouble you for a moment without causing a disturbance to your household.”
Xie Hongchen, revered within the Immortal Sect, commanded respect not only due to his illustrious lineage and profound cultivation but also because of his self-discipline, humility, and tactfulness.
– Despite their differing positions, he would never trouble an ordinary mortal like Lord Zhongguo.
Lord Zhongguo, who had always held himself in high regard, experienced an unexpected feeling of self-doubt, akin to a firefly in the presence of a radiant moon. His posture softened, and he clasped his hands in a gesture of respect, saying, “Master Xie, please come inside and partake in tea.”
Surprisingly, Xie Hongchen did not refuse. He followed Lord Zhongguo into the residence.
A person of his status didn’t need to exchange pleasantries with someone like Duke Zhongguo. But he did so anyway. He accepted the fragrant tea offered by the servant, took a sip, and said, “This is the new tea from Chuwu Mountain, named ‘One Petal Heart.'”
“Ah?” Duke Zhongguo was taken aback, thinking that Xie Hongchen’s visit was merely a formality. He didn’t expect him to actually sit down and share tea. He became somewhat flustered and said, “Indeed. Master Xie, your vast knowledge and experience are admirable.”
He instinctively flattered him, but Xie Hongchen suddenly said, “This tea is a variation cultivated by my wife sixty years ago. We have been tasting it together all this time, so I remember it.”
“Ah,” Duke Zhongguo suddenly realized. Yes, Xie Hongchen’s wife was known for her skill in cultivating excellent tea varieties, and this “One Petal Heart” was also created by her. He smiled and said, “It is indeed like showing off one’s skills in front of an expert. Please pardon my ignorance, Master Xie.”
With that, he relaxed a bit. Xie Hongchen took another sip of tea and said, “In recent years, there has been little interaction between the immortal sect and the court, inevitably leading to some oversight. However, the immortal sect has always been concerned about the affairs of the current Emperor.”
He always spoke with confidence and sincerity, giving people a sense of honesty and straightforwardness. There was neither the overbearing dominance of Xie Lingbi nor the mysterious and unpredictable nature of Emperor Shi Wenyu. It was quite likeable.
Duke Zhongguo hurriedly cupped his hands and said, “Master Xie, your concerns for the world are truly benevolent and righteous.”
Finally, Xie Hongchen got to the point. He said, “I dare not claim righteousness, but the Emperor has been taking the longevity pills for many years. I became curious and once asked a friend to find the formula.”
—Goodness. Duke Zhongguo was secretly shocked. The formula for the longevity pill was highly confidential. Yet you casually asked a friend and obtained it. It seemed as if you were looking for a recipe for a simple herbal remedy.
“The formula is excellent. Although it requires time and effort, it has remarkable effects. Everyone in the immortal sect wishes for the Emperor’s longevity and eternal prosperity.” His voice rose and fell, clear and pleasant to the ear. Duke Zhongguo knew that the crucial part was coming. He eagerly listened.
Sure enough, Xie Hongchen’s expression slightly darkened as he continued, “However, when I observed the aura of this year’s longevity pill from a distance, it was significantly different. As it is inconvenient to inquire with the Celestial Court, I couldn’t help but worry, so I had to ask Duke Zhongguo to relay this to the Emperor.”
“What… What?!” Duke Zhongguo was stunned—what did it mean for the aura of the pill to be different? He frowned and said, “The formula for the longevity pill hasn’t been altered.”
Xie Hongchen said, “If there haven’t been any alterations, then it becomes even more suspicious. However, since it concerns the court and the Emperor, I, Xie Hongchen, cannot meddle too much. Duke Zhongguo should be cautious and attentive.” After speaking, he stood up, politely cupped his hands, and said, “I can only say so much. The formula for the pill is not like any other, especially when it relates to the Emperor’s well-being. Duke Zhongguo should pay close attention. If necessary, the Yuhu immortal sect is willing to verify the pill for the Emperor.”
Afterwards, he added, “Today, I am grateful for Duke Zhongguo’s hospitality and the cup of fragrant tea. It’s a pity that my wife is ill. Once she recovers, I will invite Duke Zhongguo to taste the new tea again.”
With that, he gave a shallow bow. Duke Zhongguo felt as if the clear light in front of him had shattered. When he regained his senses, it was snowing heavily.
It was snowing, yet he remained standing in the courtyard, maintaining the posture of his martial arts. Where was Xie Hongchen?!
“Master? master?” The lady under the eaves called out for a long time before he finally came back to his senses. However, the recent events were vividly etched in his mind—how could they be false?
Duke Zhongguo couldn’t believe it—he had just had a dream?!
He returned to the main hall, still in a dazed state. However, when he looked at the table, he immediately froze.
There were two tea cups placed in the main hall: one on the main table and one on the guest table. Duke Zhongguo tentatively touched the cup with his finger, and the tea inside was still warm. He turned to his wife and asked, “Have you ever heard of ‘One Petal Heart’?”
Madam Zhongguo approached and brushed off the snow from his body, complaining, “One Petal Heart from Chuwu Mountain is a famous tea. It produces only two kilograms of tea per year, making it extremely rare. How could you forget about it?”
Duke Zhongguo asked, “Who cultivated this One Petal Heart?”
His wife casually replied, “It was the wife of Xie Hongchen, the Master of the Yuhu immortal sect. Her name was Huang Rang. Before she got married, she was renowned for cultivating variations. After marrying into the immortal sect, she no longer personally tended the fields. The One Petal Heart was said to have been bred by her own hands because the Master had a love for tea. Due to it being intended only for her husband’s consumption, the yield was not a consideration. Later, because the tea became famous, someone took a seedling, and it ended up in the hands of the common people.”
Duke Zhongguo maintained a calm expression but asked further, “Is Madam Xie unwell?”
“How did you know, master?” His wife looked puzzled. “Indeed, Madam Xie is currently unwell. It has been several years since she received any visitors.”
As Duke Zhongguo listened to his wife’s words, he felt a hidden shock in his heart.
It wasn’t a dream. Xie Hongchen had truly visited! It wasn’t uncommon for people in their sect to have the ability to communicate through dreams. Moreover, since the longevity pill was refined by the Celestial Court, it would be difficult for Xie Hongchen to personally come forward.
But… Could it be possible that the longevity pill was actually fake?
“It’s impossible,” he murmured to himself. Di Yiqiu, who was the Emperor’s biological son, oversaw the production of the pill. How could the pill he personally crafted be fake?!
However, he soon became greatly alarmed. Even if it was just a fleeting dream, he was convinced—Xie Hongchen, as the Master of the Yuhu immortal sect, wouldn’t have informed him without being extremely certain.
This is a major issue… A major issue indeed. Duke Zhongguo covered his chest, contemplating countermeasures.