Huang Rang had been prepared to spend this snowy night alone when suddenly she heard the shouts of millions of people. The soul-restraining needle on her head seemed to heat up, gradually turning into a glowing red steel needle like a branding iron.
A powerful force pulled at her consciousness, as if it wanted to tear her apart. Huang Rang saw boundless darkness surging forward, within which countless faces were densely packed and faintly discernible.
Huang Rang wanted to scream and struggle, but she couldn’t make any sound, and her body was completely unresponsive. Her soul was rolling within her body, as if trying to break free from the shackles of her flesh.
Pain, a tearing pain, swept over her. The darkness born from the soul-restraining needle was like countless resentful spirits and fierce ghosts. Their eyes were bloodshot, their fangs bared, and their mouths filled with wails of sorrow, resentment, fear, and horror. This tremendous force, like an overwhelming sea, surged towards her.
Huang Rang was engulfed in it, countless voices resonating in her mind.
No, she couldn’t go insane. Why had she persisted for these ten years? She took a deep breath, refusing to merge with the darkness. Xie Lingbi was still alive and well. Xie Lingbi… She repeated the name, maintaining her consciousness in the endless, purgatory-like darkness.
—Xie Lingbi, one day I will repay you with all my pain, resentment, and fear.
I want you to know what kind of person Huang Rang is.
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Mbl okde aytle yde vbl aykd qlzz yaswde bla, cwv bla okzz oyp zkjl y qzknjlakdt nydezl qzyxl.
Twydt Sydt eked’v jdso bso xwnb vkxl bye rypple obld pweeldzu pbl qlzv bla cseu clnsxl zktbv! Tla obszl rlapsd oyp clkdt rwzzle yde ycawrvzu alzlyple qasx bla cseu. Mbl pnldlau kd qasdv sq bla pweeldzu nbydtle; kv oyp ds zsdtla vbl cleassx sq Pk Zkikw.
Fdso nshlale lhlauvbkdt yaswde, yde sd vbl pdso-nshlale taswde pvsse y tszeld vsola, pkzldvzu vsolakdt zkjl y pvlad tkydv, zssjkdt esod yv bla lmralppksdzlppzu. Eblal oyp vbkp? Twydt Sydt nkanzle vbl vsola, pllkdt sdzu fyel pvlrp sd yzz lktbv pkelp sq vbl vsola’p cypl, alynbkdt y blktbv sq dkdl qzssap.
Ebu oyp pbl blal?
Eyp kv y ealyx?
Fvlr cu pvlr, Twydt Sydt oyzjle vs vbl qssv sq vbl vsola. Gv vbl vsr sq vbl vsola, y rlapsd ealpple kd y czynj yde obkvl Pyskpv ascl pvsse kd vbl pdso. Tl oyp vss qya yoyu qsa Twydt Sydt vs pll bkp qynl nzlyazu. Tl tygle yv Twydt Sydt yp kq bl olal y elkvu zssjkdt yv yd ydv.
“G nzlhla nbkze zkjl usw pbswze jdso obyv vs es, aktbv?” Tkp hsknl oyp yp nsze yde zktbv yp vbkp pdsou dktbv. Tl vssj psxlvbkdt qasx bkp pzllhl yde nypwyzzu vbalo kv. Mbl scflnv qlzz kd qasdv sq Twydt Sydt.
Twydt Sydt rknjle kv wr yde qswde vbyv kv oyp yd wdxkpvyjyczl… vly dllezl? Mbl vly dllezl oyp zkjl tzypp, alplxczkdt knl fyel, okvb yd kdvaknyvlzu nyahle bydezl yde y pbyar blye. Rv oyp yd lmnlrvksdyzzu pvwaeu yde lmvaysaekdyau scflnv.
“Treasure your time and do what you want to do.” The person at the top of the tower flicked his robe sleeve. “When the ice melts, the dream should also awaken. Time is precious.”
What does it mean? Huang Rang wanted to speak, but before her stood the formidable and majestic nine-tiered tower, with the figure at its peak resembling a god among mortals. She, a lowly earth spirit, was rendered speechless.
Clutching the ice needle tightly, a sudden thunderbolt struck the towering structure, scattering a radiant light that enveloped Huang Rang. Blinding white flashes filled her vision. The scene abruptly changed!
Huang Rang shielded her eyes from the intense light, and when her sight returned, she found herself standing beside a triangular pavilion. The pavilion displayed a few delicate dishes and pastries. A water pond lay a few steps away, with a dormant plum tree planted by its edge, devoid of flowers and leaves, appearing desolate.
—It was precisely the Nian Jun’an plum tree.
Huang Rang’s heart trembled. She was intimately familiar with this place, as every blade of grass, every stone, and every drop of water were crafted by her own hands. This was the Qilu Terrace of the Yuhu Immortal Sect. She had lived here for a hundred years since marrying Xie Hongchen.
Standing before her was none other than Xie Hongchen. Huang Rang’s consciousness faltered, and amidst the haze, her own voice uttered, “Have you ever thought, husband, to pay attention to the movements of the elders? A few days ago, I discovered something that has been unsettling me. I have a constant feeling that you should go to Dark Thunder Peak alone and investigate.”
No… she shouldn’t say it. He wouldn’t listen.
But those words had already slipped out.
This must be a nightmare, just like the last time she saw Xie Hongchen, ten years ago.
By the time she fully merged with her body, the words had already escaped her. Indeed, standing before her was Xie Hongchen, and Huang Rang’s hands were in the midst of arranging his attire.
He remained as elegant as ever, his clothes white as clouds, with a jade crown adorning his bound hair and a pendant hanging from his waist. The Yuhu Immortal Sect revered jade, and he was the most flawless jade within the entire sect.
Huang Rang stared at him intently while Xie Hongchen furrowed his brows. He brushed away Huang Rang’s hands that were fastening his belt, clearly dissatisfied. His expression turned stern, and his voice carried a reproachful tone: “This is not something you should concern yourself with. As a junior, you should not discuss the actions of your elders behind their backs or sow discord. Is this how Huang Shu taught you?”
He spoke with urgency and severity. Huang Rang had no words in response, overwhelmed by the surreal sensation that engulfed her.
She stared at the Xie Hongchen before her, her eyes unexpectedly welling up with tears. Xie Hongchen did not show any pity or compassion for her pitiful state. Throughout their hundred-year marriage, he remained cautious, never falling into any of her “gentle traps.”
Tears were futile; Huang Rang had long known that. So, after a long separation, she suppressed all her emotions.
Thus, Xie Hongchen turned and left, and it would be a long time before he returned again.
Huang Rang took a few steps forward, silently escorting him to the gate of the Qilu Terrace. He wouldn’t look back. For all these years, he had never shown any lingering attachment or favoritism toward her. Not once.
Huang Rang took a deep breath, and only after his figure disappeared amidst the rugged mountain path did her long eyelashes break a few tears, scattering fragments of the moon and stars.
The Qilu Terrace fell into silence, as if devoid of any sound.
Huang Rang turned back to the triangular pavilion and saw the pastries on the stone table—no one had touched the chopsticks.
After ten years, how could she remember what kind of snacks she had made back then? So these were the few items?
She picked up the chopsticks and took a piece of crystal cake, placing it in her mouth. The pastry was sweet and melted instantly, pleasing her taste buds. She proceeded to eat the snacks one by one, eventually discarding the chopsticks altogether. She grabbed them directly with her hands and stuffed them into her mouth.
No matter how delicious the pastries were, eating them like this made them dry and tasteless. Huang Rao choked, and tears finally streamed down her face.
She covered her mouth with both hands and curled up in a corner of the pavilion, silently crying. Tears overflowed through her fingers, but no sound escaped.
Once she finished crying, Huang Rang stood up and walked to the edge of the Bailu Pool to wash her hands and face.
The Bailu Pool silently reflected her current appearance.
Because Xie Hongchen had come today, she was dressed in cool attire. She wore a white tube top on the inside with a gauze skirt that reached her ankles. Over the gauze skirt was an outer skirt made of black scales. The outer skirt was tied at the waist, but it trailed behind and was not tightly secured, allowing the benefits of the nearly transparent gauze to be revealed.
Huang Rang was beautiful, and with such a dress, it gave the impression that everything below her neck was just legs. Coupled with her excellent maintenance, her figure in recent years even surpassed her unmarried days.
She looked at her reflection in the water and smiled. As a result, the person on the surface of the Bailu Pool smiled back at her.
Huang Rang took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Now was not the time for sadness. The urgent matter at hand was to understand the truth. Why did she inexplicably appear here?
In her memory, after the conversation with Xie Hongchen, the sect’s elder, Xie Lingbi, suddenly attacked her. Without saying a word, he used the soul-locking bone-piercing needle to pierce Huang Rang’s skull and then casually threw her into the deepest chamber of the Dark Thunder Peak.
Since then, Huang Rang has vanished from the mortal realm for ten years.
No one would come looking for her.
Her former friends gradually lost contact with her because she married into the Yuhu Immortal Sect, making it inconvenient to maintain their relationship.
Although the disciples of the Yuhu Immortal Sect respected her, what could they do when Xie Hongchen and Xie Lingbi collaborated to keep things hidden?
As for her siblings, let’s not even mention them. They wished she would die early. Her father would inquire about her, and once he found out she was missing, he would confront Xie Hongchen without holding back.
—I wonder what benefits he gained this time. Huang Rang thought sarcastically.
She entered the room, intending to change into a different dress—she had quite a collection of dresses.
After looking for a while, she found a set in a light golden color, her favorite from her unmarried days. For some reason, it reminded her of the aesthetics of the Di Yiqiu at the Celestial Court. Her lips twitched, so she decided on this set.
She took off her clothes, and suddenly, something fell from the sleeve. Huang Rao lowered her head to see what it was—it was an ice-like tea needle. The tea needle was transparent and held in her hand as if it would melt, which made it appear particularly cold and sharp. Huang Rao held the tea needle in her hand, but there was no sign of it melting. However… she remembered the words of the person on top of the tower: “The ice melts when the dream ends.”
Zhuang Zhou is dreaming of a butterfly, aaah.
Huang Rao put on the new dress. The light golden color was warm and radiant, dignified and graceful, making her as gentle and warm as sunlight. The tea needle was not easy to carry, so she decided to insert it into her hair as a hairpin.
Time is precious and should not be wasted.
Huang Rao found a food container and neatly placed the pastries she had messed up earlier inside, along with the wine on the table.
As she emerged from the Qilu Terrace, various sounds began to emerge from the Yuhu Immortal Sect. When the disciples saw her, they all respectfully saluted. Huang Rang smiled and returned the greeting. Then she encountered another person—Xie Jiu’er.
When Xie Jiu’er saw her, her eyebrows slightly furrowed, but she still greeted her with a bow, saying, “Mother.”
Huang Rao walked slowly to her, coldly smiling inwardly, but extended her hand to lovingly touch her head.
Xie Jiu’er wanted to avoid it but resisted—it would attract unnecessary gossip if people saw them acting this way. So she reluctantly forced a smile and said, “Mother, how did you find the time to come out today? Just now, I saw Father going over and thought you would accompany him.”
Compared to Xie Jiu’er, Huang Rao’s smile was much more genuine. She said, “He’s always busy, as you know.”
Xie Jiu’er forced a smile, feeling uneasy, and said, “Yes, indeed. If there’s anything, Mother, feel free to let me know.”
Huang Rao secretly disgusted her but still touched her head affectionately and said, “Good, my Jiu’er has grown up and become sensible. Since you want to do something for your mother, then help me wash the clothes from the Qilu Terrace.”
There was a momentary look of astonishment on Xie Jiu’er’s face; she clearly did not expect Huang Rang to make such a request. After hesitating for a moment, she stammered, “Oh… oh, okay.”
Huang Rang looked pleased and instructed, “Good child, your mother has many dresses. Some have been stored for a long time and have become dusty.
Your filial piety is commendable, and I can’t stop you. Just be careful when washing them and don’t hurt your hands.”
Xie Jiu’er’s expression suddenly became quite interesting. Reluctantly, she replied and headed towards the Qilu Terrace.
Huang Rang watched her figure and couldn’t help but smile.
Xie Jiu’er was her and Xie Hongchen’s adopted daughter. When Huang Rang married Xie Hongchen, she noticed that he was indifferent towards her. In order to solidify her position, she once proposed to Xie Hongchen that they have a child.
Of course, Xie Hongchen refused.
—Xie Hongchen often rejected her requests. So much so that Huang Rang had gotten used to it. Thus, she settled for an alternative plan.
One day, while casually drinking with Xie Hongchen, Huang Rang caught a golden cicada and opened her palm, showing it to him. “Hongchen, look, this golden cicada is quite beautiful. Since we don’t have a child yet, why don’t we adopt it as our own?”
This was, of course, to deepen the bond between her and him, but it didn’t have any negative consequences. So, Xie Hongchen finally agreed.
Huang Rang was delighted and held Xie Hongchen’s hand, naming the golden cicada “Jiu’er.”
As the adopted child of Xie Hongchen and Huang Rang, Xie Jiu’er was pampered as if she were a precious elixir.
As a result, she awakened her spiritual wisdom at an early age. Seeing that Xie Jiu’er was born as a girl, Huang Rang treated her as a daughter rather than a son. At first, Xie Jiu’er was very close to her, but gradually, the child realized that her mother was not as beloved by her father as she thought.
In fact, due to her closeness to Huang Rang, Xie Hongchen became even more indifferent towards her.
Despite her young age, she was astute. So she began to focus on her cultivation and rarely visited the Qilu Terrace. Even when she saw Huang Rang, she was distant and cold. Indeed, because of the growing distance between her and Huang Rang, Xie Hongchen paid even more attention to her.
Within the Yuhu Immortal Sect, everyone treated her as a little princess.
Huang Rang pondered these thoughts and shook her head gently. This child was still young and not mature enough, unable to hide her thoughts.
Carrying the food container, she continued walking downhill.
She heard familiar footsteps ahead, causing Huang Rang to pause. She looked up and saw a man descending the mountain as well. He was dressed in a purple official robe with a golden fish bag tied around his waist, wearing official boots, and displaying a slender and elegant figure.
It was Di Yiqiu!
Huang Rang unconsciously quickened her pace, but when she approached, she froze.
In fact, she had very little interaction with the person in front of her. If it weren’t for those few days at the Celestial Court, she could even say that she had long forgotten about this person. So now, standing in front of Di Yiqiu, she found herself at a loss for words.
Di Yiqiu halted his steps, clearly sizing her up. When he looked at people, his gaze was sharp, giving a sense of interrogation.
Huang Rang stood stiffly in place, and finally, she forced a smile and said, “Lord chief, I have recently brewed some wine and happened to encounter you. It must be fate. I present a jug to you and hope you won’t dislike it.”
As she spoke, she truly opened the food container and took out the jug of wine, handing it to Di Yiqiu with both hands.
Di Yiqiu coldly stared at the jug of wine in her hands for a while before saying icily, “I do dislike it!”
After speaking, he brushed past her fingertips with a misstep.
—Damn it…, You’re so cold and aloof…humpph!!
Huang Rang gritted her teeth in her mind.
If it weren’t for my precious time… I would bring you down a notch…
Huang Rang watched him walk away. He moved like the wind and soon disappeared from her sight. Although Huang Rang was dissatisfied, she didn’t really care. In the end, the impression left by Di Yiqiu was too faint.
Perhaps the days at the Celestial Court were just a dream? Or maybe he was purely interested in uncovering Xie Lingbi’s secret? Was he still resentful about her marrying Xie Hongchen? Or perhaps he just liked women who couldn’t speak or move?
Who could say for sure?
From her father, Huang Shu, to her siblings, Xie Hongchen, and finally Xie Jiu’er, Huang Rang had never experienced genuine human emotions in her life.
Naturally, she didn’t believe in such things. People around the world were busy pursuing fame and fortune. There was no such thing as enduring storms and remaining true-hearted.
T/N: The famous Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi, also known as Zhuang Zhou, wrote of a dream he once had. He dreamed he was a butterfly flitting through a field of flowers. Grass tips brushed his wings as he floated a lilting path on the breeze. There was wind, sun, field, sky— everything equally large, all of equal importance. When he awoke, he found that he was a man lying flat on his back on a hard bed. Which one was reality and which one was a dream, he wondered? Was he a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was a man?