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    Chapter 71: This Seat Is Innocent

    Mo Ran's face was ashen with disbelief as he summoned the weapon he had just sheathed. A flame ignited in his palm, and Ghost appeared at his command, lying within his hand.

    Comparing the two, the weapon that had killed Shiyin was nearly identical to Ghost, save for the lack of a hilt. It was as if a segment had been severed from Ghost itself—could there possibly be another Ghost in this world?

    Before he could ponder further, footsteps approached rapidly from afar. Chu Wanning was more composed than Mo Ran; after a moment's hesitation, his gaze sharpened. "Mo Ran, put Ghost away first!"


    It was too late.

    A group of people had already reached the entrance to the Trial Cavern, including Feathered and cultivators from various sects who practiced in Peach Blossom Spring. Among them were even Xue Meng, Ye Xiqun, and Shi Mo… Apparently, someone had sensed something amiss at the Trial Cavern and had gathered almost everyone to come investigate.

    Thus, when they arrived one after another, they saw the lifeless body of Shiyin outside the cave, his neck crushed by the liana. Meanwhile, Mo Ran and a half-grown child were both disheveled, clearly having just engaged in a fierce battle. Mo Ran was covered in blood, holding Ghost, which glowed with a perilous flame…

    Silence fell upon the crowd.

    Someone suddenly shouted, "The m-murderer!"

    The crowd gradually erupted into a cacophony of fear, anger, and hushed whispers that swirled together like a buzzing torrent, resonating through their eardrums. "Murder!" "Culprit!" "What motives?" "Insane!" "Madman!" Shattered phrases echoed repeatedly, and the surging mass of people resembled the river of corpses from the illusory realm, giving Mo Ran the illusion that the nightmare was not yet over.

    The blood shed two hundred years ago in Linan City seemed to still be flowing.

    "It wasn't...," he croaked, taking a step back. "It wasn't me..."

    His retreat was halted as someone tugged at his sleeve. Amidst the chaos, Mo Ran lowered his head and met Chu Wanning's piercing, icy gaze.

    He muttered unconsciously, "It wasn't me..."

    Chu Wanning nodded, instinctively wanting to shield him. But he was just a tiny child; what could he possibly do?

    Just as he was in distress, he suddenly felt Mo Ran take another step forward.

    The cries grew louder, "Grab him! And that child too! Get them! They're the culprits!"

    "We can't let them escape, it's too dangerous! Seize them quickly!"

    Mo Ran reached back to grab Chu Wanning, pulling him behind himself as a shield. Lowering his head for a moment, he gradually calmed down.

    "It wasn't me who killed Miss Eighteen. Please let me explain."

    The faces in the crowd were so indistinct, blending with a past memory he dared not recall. He managed to spot Xue Meng amidst the shadows; his face was filled with disbelief. Then he saw Shi Mo, whose eyes were wide open, his complexion shockingly pale as he shook his head persistently.

    Mo Ran closed his eyes and spoke in a deep voice, "I didn't kill anyone, but I have no intention of fleeing. Before you seize me, shouldn't you at least hear my side of the story?"

    However, despite Mo Ran's plea, nobody was willing to listen. Anxiety and anger permeated the crowd. A female nun shrieked, "Y-You were caught red-handed! What is there left to argue?"


    "Just capture them both! If they're really innocent, we can release them later!"

    "Capture them! Capture them!"

    Xue Meng recovered from his initial shock. Stepping out of the crowd, he faced the furious, contorted faces while turning his back on Mo Ran. He shouted, "Please, everyone, calm down and listen to me."

    "Who are you?"

    "Why should we listen to you?!"

    "Wait, isn't this Feng Huang'er?"

    "Feng Huang'er? The Heavenly Favorite? You mean Xue Meng?"

    "It's him, indeed..."

    Xue Meng's face was ashen, an almost ghastly shade. He took a deep breath and spoke slowly, "Please, everyone, hear me out. These two are my disciples from the Summit of Life and Death. I trust that neither of them would commit such heinous acts against the innocent. I beg of you all to calm down and at least listen to their explanation."


    Then someone shouted, "Why should we believe you? Even if they're from the Summit of Life and Death, does that mean you know everything about them? People's hearts are hidden, how much can you really understand about your fellow disciples?"

    "Exactly, we can never truly know what's in another's heart. How much can you claim to understand, even if you're from the same sect?"

    Xue Meng's expression grew increasingly grim. His lips were pressed tightly together, his fingers unconsciously forming a fist.

    Behind him, Mo Ran stood with Chu Wanning. He had been slightly surprised when Xue Meng stepped forward. In his previous life, there hadn't been any deep bond between him and this cousin; they always seemed to look down on each other. Later, when Mo Ran became the Empyrean Ruler of the Human Realm, indulging in arson, murder, and plunder, he and "Feng Huang'er" found themselves on opposite sides, irreconcilable enemies.

    Thus, he never expected that in such a situation where they were being condemned by all, Xue Meng would actually be facing away from him and toward someone else.

    Mo Ran's heart warmed suddenly. "Xue Meng, you... believe me?"

    "Spit! You dog, who believes you?" Xue Meng turned his face halfway, speaking with disdain. "Look at the mess you've landed yourself in! You're a year older than me, yet I have to clean up after you!"


    After his scolding, he turned to those people and shouted at them with an even more menacing voice. "What now? Why don't I understand them? One is my junior apprentice brother, the other is my cousin! Do you know better or do I?"

    "Xue Meng..."

    "Would it kill you to listen to their explanation? With so many people watching, can they possibly fly away if we delay for a moment?"

    At this point, Shi Mo also stepped forward, but he seemed much less imposing. He appeared delicate and anxious as he said, "Honorable Immortals, I can also vouch for the two of them. Miss Eighteen definitely wasn't harmed by them. Please hear them out, thank you..."

    Surprisingly, Ye Wangxi also came forward. Although he didn't guarantee their innocence, he was much calmer than the others who were creating a commotion.

    Ye Wangxi said, "Even if they need to be temporarily detained, they should still be given a chance to defend themselves. Otherwise, wouldn't the real culprit get off scot-free? What if that person is hiding among us?"

    Upon his words, the others exchanged glances, their eyes now filled with caution.

    "Well then... we'll hear your explanation first!"

    "But the capture will still proceed! Better to be safe than sorry!"

    "Better to apprehend the wrong person than let the guilty slip away!"

    Mo Ran heaved a sigh, placing his hand on his forehead. After a moment's silence, he unexpectedly chuckled.

    "I didn't expect that in such a desperate situation, there would still be people willing to believe me. Alright, alright, even if I am captured, just for the three of you, I won't hold a grudge."

    He briefly recounted his experience in the illusory realm, the events that took place there, and how he discovered Shiyi's murder upon his exit.

    Unfortunately, after the Asura Realm was shattered, anyone who entered afterward would encounter an entirely new illusion. Thus, there was no way to verify the truth of Mo Ran's account. However, if it were a fabrication, constructing such a story in a short amount of time would have been quite challenging.

    By the time he finished speaking, most of the crowd seemed to waver in their conviction.

    A Feathered Man of higher status whispered something to his subordinate before addressing Mo Ran and Xia Sini. "Mo Ran, Xia Sini, although you have your explanations, ultimately, there is no concrete evidence. Until everything is thoroughly investigated for the safety of Peach Blossom Spring, you two will have to endure being imprisoned for a while."

    Mo Ran gave an exasperated smile. "Fine, fine, I knew it would be like this. As long as you provide me with food and shelter, I won't complain."

    "The natural course of action," the Feathered being paused before continuing, "From now on, cultivators within Peach Blossom Paradise must be on high alert to prevent any further incidents. Those who were not present just now will be questioned by my people later to rule out suspicion. In addition, I will inform the leaders of all sects, especially Death's Peak, which is most involved in this matter. If possible, I would like to request an audience with your master."

    "Master?!" Mo Ran's expression changed upon hearing this.

    Chu Wanning remained silent.

    "I don't want Master to come! Can I have my uncle instead?"

    "A disciple's illness should be reported to their master. This has been the rule in the cultivation world since ancient times. Does Death's Peak not follow such customs?"

    "No, it's just that..."

    Frustrated, Mo Ran scratched his head and sighed repeatedly, unsure of what to say.

    It was indeed right for a disciple to report their troubles to their master.

    But recalling Chu Wanning's detached expression and cold, clear gaze, Mo Ran felt that if he came, he would undoubtedly scold him without listening to his side of the story. It would be better not to meet at all.

    But no matter what he said, the situation was already set in stone.

    He was locked away with his junior disciple.

    The secluded place in Peach Blossom Spring was a medium-sized cave, its entrance guarded by ancient thorns that obeyed only the Feathered Folk. The interior was perpetually dim, though there was a fire pit with enchanted flames that never went out.

    Inside the cave, simplicity reigned: a large and rugged stone bed covered with a golden-red cushion woven from feathers, a stone table accompanied by four stone stools, a copper mirror, and a few sets of bowls, dishes, and tea utensils.

    Mo Ran and Chu Wanning were thus confined together in this place.

    Although their fate had yet to be decided, the Feathered Folk in charge of supervising them seemed to be on good terms with Eighteen. Grieving her untimely death, this particular Feathered Folk took out her anger on Mo Ran and Chu Wanning, making their lives difficult when it came to daily necessities.

    On the first night, the Feathered Folk at least sent over some food, though the portions weren't generous but still sufficient. However, on the second day, she simply tossed some raw meat, vegetables, rice, flour, and salt into the cave, claiming she didn't have the time to cater to their dietary needs and that they should fend for themselves.

    "Fine, if we have to cook for ourselves, so be it. Who can't cook?"

    With a huff, Mo Ran squatted down on the ground, starting to pick through the available ingredients.

    "What would you like to eat, Junior Apprentice Brother?"

    "Well... anything will do."

    "Ai, the most challenging dish to prepare in this world is 'anything.' Let me see, there's pork belly, cabbage... tsk, this feathered fellow is quite stingy, giving only tough cabbage. He's provided some flour and japonica rice, quite a substantial amount, but who knows how many days' worth it is." He rattled off the items, then looked up at Chu Wanning. "Do you want rice or noodles?"

    Chu Wanning was resting on a stone bed. Hearing this, he pondered for a moment before answering, "Noodles."

    After a pause, he added, "Pork rib noodles."

    "Ahaha, that's putting me in a difficult position. Where am I supposed to find pork ribs?"

    "Then it doesn't matter, anything will do."

    Mo Ran sat cross-legged on the ground, propping his cheek on his knee as he thought for a moment. "There isn't much here anyway. How about I make you a bowl of dan dan noodles?"

    "Dan dan noodles?"

    "Do you like them?"

    "They're okay. Are they spicy?"

    Mo Ran smiled. "Look, there wasn't even a hint of chili in that bird person's ingredients."

    Since they had agreed on what to eat, Mo Ran started kneading the dough. Chu Wanning was short and not very strong, so he didn't bother pretending to help and instead lay on the bed, lazily watching Mo Ran work the soft white dough. Gradually, his gaze softened.

    Suddenly, he felt that this was nice too. Since Mo Ran didn't know who he was, he could stay by Mo Ran's side like this forever. Asking him what he wanted for meals – it was truly wonderful.

    He even felt a bit uneasy, as if he had taken too much, stolen from a child named Xia Sini.

    Mo Ran finished cooking the noodles and arranged the minced meat on top. The Feathered people's seasonings were scarce, so he couldn't create a dish that looked, smelled, and tasted delicious. But the noodles were chewy and the texture just right. The pork belly, sliced off and fried, sizzled as it was poured over the noodles, making them smell heavenly when mixed together.

    "Junior Apprentice Brother, eat…" He lifted his eyes and saw that Chu Wanning had fallen asleep, still lying on his stomach with his head pillowed on his arm, his face turned sideways. His eyelashes were long, and his expression peaceful.

    "Food's…" He murmured the rest of the sentence, then walked to the bed and stroked Chu Wanning's obsidian-black hair.

    "You really do look quite like Master from this angle. I wonder what connection you and Master have with the Chu family of Lin'an, and who wants to harm us. Sigh… I also don't know what Master is doing right now or if he'll blame me again without understanding the situation once he learns of what happened here."

    At this point, Mo Ran's gaze darkened slightly. Rolling a strand of Chu Wanning's black hair around his finger, he let out a faint sigh.

    "You don't know him – whenever something happens, he always scolds me… He doesn't particularly like me."

    Unfortunately, Chu Wanning was asleep, and the words, like the misunderstandings that had entangled them for decades across lifetimes, dissipated quietly into the still of the night, unanswered.

    Mo Ran waited until the noodles had cooled to a less scorching temperature before rousing Chu Wanning.

    "Junior Apprentice Brother, it's time to eat."

    Chu Wanning yawned, covering his mouth, and stared blankly for a moment with half-open eyes.

    "Oh, right, dinner..."

    Mo Ran brought over the noodles. He enjoyed cooking but disliked washing dishes. To minimize the number of utensils to clean, he had transferred all the noodles into the same wok he had used to stir-fry the meat sauce.

    Chu Wanning was slightly taken aback by this unrefined approach to eating, his eyes widening in disbelief at the large pot of noodles. "How... do we eat this?"

    "We'll eat together," Mo Ran said, handing him a pair of chopsticks. With his own hands clasped together, he grinned. "The Race to Scoop the Most Noodles is about to begin! Who will get more noodles? Let's wait and see!"


    After Mo Ran finished speaking, he squinted, laughing even more happily. Chu Wanning gazed at him for a moment before saying, "You seem particularly... enthusiastic as long as there's food involved."

    "Especially delighted, right?"


    "Haha, food is the foundation of people's lives, after all."

    As Mo Ran spoke, he didn't hesitate to scoop up a large serving of noodles with his chopsticks, slurping noisily until his cheeks bulged. "It may look a bit unappealing, but the taste is actually quite pleasant."

    "..." Chu Wanning's expression was less than pleased. "Eat your meal quietly, don't slurp."

    "Ha-ha-ha!" Mo Ran slapped his thigh in laughter. "You're just like my master, you know that? He always tells me not to slurp too, but guess what? Once when we were eating together, I deliberately flicked a bone into his bowl just to irritate him. He was so furious—hahaha!"

    Chu Wanning ground his teeth. "How dare you be so disrespectful!"

    "Exactly, exactly! That's the reaction I expected. How did you know? Oh, and you mimicked it quite well, Junior Brother. I think you two might be distant relatives, honestly. When Master comes here, you should ask him about it. Hey, hey—don't snatch that half-fried egg from me—"

    The author has something to say:

    Feeding the Fish: Junior Brother, do you want rice or noodles?

    Snowy the Cat: It's cold out, might as well have some dog meat. (chuckles coldly)


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