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    Chapter 98 - Master, Please Pay Attention to Me

    At the Apex of Life and Death, there stood a peak with an amusing name: "Ah Ah Ah."

    There were many stories in the sect about how it got its name, the most common one being that due to its steep incline, people often slipped and fell, thus resulting in the exclamation "Ah Ah Ah" for its title.

    But Mo Ran knew differently.

    The peak soared into the clouds, too treacherous for even apes to traverse. Snow accumulated on its summit year-round, making it bitterly cold. When someone died at the Apex of Life and Death, their coffin would be placed here, awaiting funeral rites.

    Mo Ran had only been here once in his previous life.

    The circumstances then were not too different from now. After the Abyss of No Return had split open, a bloody battle had claimed countless lives, including Shi Mo's. Unwilling to accept this reality, he had knelt by Shi Mo's coffin, staring at the frozen face inside for days on end...

    "In that year, your father passed away, that's why it's called Ah Ah Ah," Xue Zhengyong had said to him back then, accompanying him in the frigid Shuangtian Temple.

    "I had only one elder brother. We founded the Apex of Life and Death together, but your father... He was much like you, extremely willful. He didn't enjoy peace for long before probably growing bored. In a battle against demonic creatures, he made a mistake and left us."

    Shuangtian Temple was too cold. Xue Zhengyong brought a flask of fiery liquor, took a swig himself, then passed the sheepskin wineskin to Mo Ran.

    "I'll give you some to drink, but don't mention it to your aunt."

    Mo Ran didn't reach for the cup, nor did he move.

    Xue Zhengyong sighed. "This peak is called Ah Ah Ah because during that time, I was in immense pain too, feeling like my heart had been torn out. I stayed on this mountain, guarding your father. Whenever I thought of something sorrowful, I couldn't help but cry loudly. My crying voice was unpleasant, always filled with 'ah ah ah's, hence the name."

    He glanced at Mo Ran and patted his shoulder.

    "Your uncle hasn't had much education, but I know that life is fleeting, like morning dew that vanishes in an instant. Think of Mingjing as having taken a step ahead, to meet you again as brothers in the next life."

    Mo Ran slowly closed his eyes.

    Xue Zhengyong said, "Expressions of condolences are empty words. If you're sad, then cry it out. If you don't want to leave, stay here and keep him company. But remember to eat and drink. Go to the Lady Meng's Hall later to have something to eat before returning. After that, if you want to kneel, I won't stop you."

    The Shuangtian Temple was silent and cold. In the vast, chilly room, the white silk curtains swayed gently, like tender fingers brushing against one's forehead.

    Mo Ran slowly opened his eyes.

    It was still the same ice coffin from his memory, made of Kunlun's mystic snow, its body crystal clear and surrounded by a faint chill.

    Only, the person lying inside had become Chu Wanning.

    Mo Ran never could have imagined that in this cataclysm, the one who would die would be Chu Wanning.

    He was caught off guard, unable to react properly.

    Facing this person's cold corpse, he didn't experience much emotional fluctuation. There was no joy at the death of an enemy, nor sorrow over the passing of his master.

    Almost in confusion, Mo Ran gazed down at Chu Wanning for a long while. The man's face looked colder than usual, now genuinely covered in a layer of frost. Even his closed eyelashes were frozen, and his lips were a pale blue-white. His skin was nearly translucent, revealing faint, bluish veins like delicate cracks on fine porcelain.

    How could it have been him who left?

    Mo Ran raised his hand to touch Chu Wanning's cheek. It was very cold to the touch.

    He traced his way down, across the throat, the neck—there was no pulse.

    Then to the hand.

    He held Chu Wanning's hand, feeling that the joints were already stiff, but the texture was rough.

    Mo Ran found it peculiar. Chu Wanning's fingertips were calloused, but the palm of his hand was always soft and smooth. He couldn't resist examining it closely, only to see cracked and broken scars, though cleaned, they would never heal, with flesh still exposed.

    He recalled what Xue Meng had said.

    "He has exhausted his spiritual energy, making him no different from a mortal. He can no longer use spells or send telepathic messages. All he could do was carry you on his back, climbing up the steps to the Summit of Life and Death, one by one..."

    Unable to hold on, unable to stand, he crawled on the ground, knelt, dragged himself forward, until his fingers bled, his hands soaked in blood.

    Yet he still brought him home.

    With a daze, Mo Ran murmured, "Did you carry me back?"


    "Chu Wanning, was it you...?"


    "I won't believe it unless you nod yourself," Mo Ran said to the person in the coffin, his expression strangely calm, as if he firmly believed that this person would really wake up. "Chu Wanning, just nod. If you nod, I'll believe you. I won't hate you anymore... Please nod, okay?"

    Yet Chu Wanning remained lying there, his expression indifferent and his brows cold. It seemed he didn't care whether Mo Ran hated him or not. He had sought only a clear conscience, leaving others to live in unease.

    This person, whether alive or dead, caused more vexation than affection in others.

    Mo Ran suddenly scoffed. "Indeed." He said, "When have you ever listened to me?"

    He looked at Chu Wanning and felt it was all absurd.

    For years, he had hated Chu Wanning for looking down on him, and for not saving Shi Mo back then.

    Through twists and turns, this hatred had persisted for over a decade, until one day, someone told him—

    "Chu Wanning turned away because he didn't want to burden you."

    And then someone else revealed—

    "The Mirror of Reflection is a dual existence. Whatever injury you sustained, he did too."

    His spiritual energy drained, he was unable to protect himself, he...

    Excellent, truly excellent. Everything Chu Wanning does is right, but what about him?

    Blinded like a fool, knowing nothing, manipulated like a clown, baring his teeth and nursing his hatred with all his heart.

    What was the point of it all? !

    Misunderstandings, if fleeting, are like a smudge on a healing wound. If discovered in time, cleansed, and treated anew, they can be no more than a minor inconvenience.

    But if a misunderstanding persists for ten or twenty years, ensnaring the trapped individual in a web of prolonged hatred, care, and bonds, even their very life...

    These emotions have scabbed over, grown into new flesh, and merged completely with the body.

    Suddenly, someone says, "It wasn't like that. Everything was wrong."

    What should one do then? The dirt from those bygone years has long since infiltrated the skin, become part of the blood.

    To reconcile, would one have to tear open the unblemished flesh?

    A year's misunderstanding is still a misunderstanding.

    A decade of misunderstanding is a karmic debt.

    But a lifetime of misunderstandings from birth to death—that is fate.

    Their fates were thin with destiny.

    The massive stone doors of the Shuangtian Temple creaked open slowly.

    Just as in his past life, Xue Zhengyong approached Mo Ran, weighed down by a leather wineskin filled with fiery liquor. He sat down beside him on the ground, their shoulders almost touching.

    "I heard you were here, so Uncle came to keep you company."

    Xue Zhengyong's pair of leopard-like eyes were also rimmed with red, indicating that he had just cried not long ago.

    "I'm here to keep him company as well."

    Without a response from Mo Ran, Xue Zhengyong twisted open the wine flask and gulped down several mouthfuls before abruptly stopping, wiping his face fiercely. He then forced a smile and said, "In the past, Yu Heng would never be happy whenever he saw me drinking. Now... sigh, never mind, I won't talk about it. I'm not that old, but I've bid farewell to friend after friend. Ran'er, do you know how that feels?"


    Mo Ran lowered his gaze.

    In his previous life, Xue Zhengyong had also asked him this question.

    Back then, his vision was filled with Shi Mo's withered flesh, so what did the lives of others matter? He didn't understand, nor did he want to.

    But now, how could he not comprehend?

    Before his rebirth, he had been all alone in the vast Wushan Palace.

    One day, he startled awake from a light slumber, dreaming of his time studying under Yu Heng. Upon waking up, he intended to visit his former residence, but when he pushed the door open, the narrow room for disciples had long been abandoned, its walls covered in dust.

    He saw a small incense burner knocked over on the ground, but had no idea who or when it had been toppled. He picked it up, instinctively wanting to return it to its original place.

    Yet, time had flown by swiftly, and as he held the little furnace, he suddenly froze.

    "Where did this burner originally stand?"

    He couldn't recall.

    His sharp gaze swept over the attendants following in his wake, but their faces were all indistinct, and he couldn't even distinguish who was Zhang San and who was Li Si.

    And they, naturally, had no idea where the emperor had placed that incense burner during his youthful days.

    "Where exactly was this furnace originally placed?"

    He couldn't recall, and those who could remember such trivia were either dead or scattered to the winds.

    How could Mo Ran not understand Xue Zhengyong's feelings at this moment?

    "Sometimes, a joke from my youthful days suddenly crosses my mind, and I utter it without realizing that there is not a single person left who would understand its humor."

    Xue Zhengyong took another sip of wine, lowered his head, and smiled.

    "Your father, back then, his fellow disciples... Your master..."

    With fragments of light cascading around him, he asked, "Ran'er, do you know why this mountain is called Ah Ah Ah?"

    Mo Ran understood what he was trying to say, but he was currently in a turmoil and had no desire to hear Xue Zhengyong talk about his late father again. Thus, he replied, "I know. Uncle has cried here before."

    "Ahh..." Xue Zhengyong froze, blinking slowly as a deep trace of pain flickered across his gaze. "Your aunt told you?"


    Wiping away his tears, Xue Zhengyong took a deep breath. "Good, good. Then you know that your uncle wants to tell you it's okay to cry if you're feeling upset. A man's tears for his loved one are not a shame."

    But Mo Ran did not shed any tears. Perhaps it was because he had lived through two lifetimes, his heart now as hard as iron. Compared to the heart-wrenching grief when Shi Mo had passed away, he was eerily calm in this moment. So calm that he was startled by his own numbness. He hadn't realized how cold-hearted he had become.

    After finishing his drink, he sat in silence for a while. Then, Xue Zhengyong got up, his legs either slightly numb from kneeling for too long or unsteady from having drunk too much.

    His broad hand landed on Mo Ran's shoulder. "Though the heavens have been mended, we have yet to uncover who was pulling the strings behind the scenes. Perhaps this matter will fade away, or perhaps another great battle will soon ensue. Ran'er, it's about time you descended the mountain to have something to eat. Don't let yourself go hungry and weaken your body."

    Saying this, he turned and strode away, leaving behind a trail of elegance and enigma.

    It was the dead of night, and a crescent moon hung high above the Shuangtian Temple, its light illuminating the eternal snow beneath Xue Zhengyong's feet. Carrying a half-jug of muddled wine, he began to sing with his rough, cymbal-like voice, performing a short ballad from Sichuan.

    "I honor my old friend, half turned to a ghost, yet in this drunken bliss we find solace. We hid our childhood brew beneath the fragrant osmanthus tree, faces aged, our hair already graying. Dreams shattered with the dawn, all have journeyed far away, leaving me, an old soul, with teary eyes. I wish for extended years to share with Duke Zhou, allowing you to leave with wine, only to return again."

    Ultimately, it was different from his past life. It was Chu Wanning, not Shi Mo, who had died, thus evoking more profound emotions in Xue Zhengyong.

    With his back to the wide-open gates of Shuangtian Temple, Mo Ran listened to that hoarse voice calling out in a long, mournful melody. The masculinity in the song was tinged with sorrow, like an eagle's cry fading into the distance, eventually swallowed by the winds and snow.

    The world was pure and bright, the moon high and people scarce. Everything seemed to have been washed away, leaving only one refrain echoing endlessly.

    "Abandon my aged self, tears welling... Abandon my aged self, tears welling..."

    After an indeterminate time, Mo Ran descended from Shuangtian Temple at a leisurely pace.

    His uncle had been right. Though the heavens had been mended, the troubles might not have ceased. Chu Wanning was no longer there; should another fierce battle arise, he would be left to fend for himself.

    Arriving at the Meng Po Hall, it was already late, with nobody around except for an old woman boiling midnight snacks.

    Mo Ran ordered a small bowl of noodles and found a corner to savor them slowly. The noodles were spicy and comforting as they slid down his throat. Amidst the swirling steam, the dimly lit Meng Po Hall cast vague shadows.

    He vaguely recalled how, after Shi Mo's death in his previous life, he had been far more willful than now. He refused to leave for three days and nights, not even bothering to eat.

    Eventually, he was persuaded to leave Shuangtian Temple to get some food. But in the kitchen, he caught sight of Chu Wanning's busy figure. The man was clumsily rolling out dough and preparing fillings. The table was covered with flour, water, and neatly arranged rows of wontons.


    The objects on the table were swept aside with a violent rage, the echoes of that voice resonating through the layers of past events. It now made it difficult for Mo Ran to even lift his chopsticks, let alone eat.

    Back then, he had believed Chu Wanning was mocking him, deliberately hurting him with malicious intent.

    But reflecting on it now, perhaps Chu Wanning had genuinely just wanted to cook those wontons again for him, in memory of the deceased Shi Mo.

    "You're nothing! How dare you use what belonged to him? How dare you replicate the dishes he once made? Shi Mo is gone, are you satisfied now? Do you have to push all your disciples to their limits, driving them mad until you're content? Chu Wanning! No one else in this world can ever recreate that bowl of wontons. No matter how much you imitate, you'll never be like him!"

    Each word pierced his heart.

    He didn't want to think about it anymore; he focused on eating his noodles.

    But memories refused to spare him, relentlessly haunting his thoughts.

    He recalled Chu Wanning's face more vividly than ever before, expressionless and devoid of joy or sorrow. He remembered every detail from that moment with unparalleled clarity.

    The slight tremor in the fingertips, the sprinkle of flour on the cheeks.

    The plump, white wontons rolling across the floor.

    Recalling how Chu Wanning lowered his eyes, bending down to meticulously gather the uneatable food before personally discarding it, a certain tenderness stirred within him.

    Personally, I shall pour it out.

    The Wanzha Xiao Mian still had more than half a bowl left.

    Yet Mo Ran could no longer bear to eat. He pushed his noodles away and fled from this place that threatened to drive him mad. He dashed wildly up the Summit of Life and Death, as if trying to leave behind the decade-long misunderstanding, as if striving to reclaim those absurd, fleeting years and catch up with the man who had left the Naihe Hall alone all those years ago.

    Catching up to him, say just one word.

    "I'm sorry, I wronged you with my hatred."

    Mo Ran ran aimlessly in the darkness, running... but everywhere he turned, there were fragments of Chu Wanning's shattered form. On the Platform of Good and Evil, he had taught him to read and wield a sword. At the Bridge of Helplessness, they had shared an umbrella and walked together. In the Azure Heaven Hall, he had endured harsh beatings, forging his path alone.

    His despair grew deeper, his helplessness more profound with each passing night.

    Suddenly, he reached an open space, where he felt the clouds part and the mist clear, revealing a bright moon hanging high in the sky.

    Mo Ran paused, catching his breath.

    The Tower of Heaven...

    It was the place where he had died in his previous life, and where he had first met Chu Wanning.

    His heart pounded like a drum, and his eyes were filled with chaos. Memories rushed at him like a tidal wave, leaving him no room to defend or evade. Ultimately, they forced him here.

    Under the moon's pale light and gentle breeze, their first encounter took place.

    Mo Ran finally stopped running. He knew there was no longer any chance of escape; he was destined to owe Chu Wanning for the rest of his life.

    He walked slowly up the steps, arriving beneath the willful flowering crabapple tree. Extending his hand, he stroked the dry knots on its trunk, hard as the calluses on his heart.

    Three days had nearly passed since Chu Wanning's death.

    Mo Ran looked up, suddenly noticing the tree's tender beauty, still reminiscent of old times. It was only now that a boundless sorrow surged within him. Pressing his forehead against the trunk, he wept uncontrollably, tears falling like rain.

    "Master, Master..." He choked out, muttering those same words he had spoken when they first met, "Pay attention to me, please... Just pay attention to me..."

    But things had changed; before the Tower of Heaven stood only him, alone. No one would heed him, no one would come again.

    Reborn as a youthful form, Mo Ran now housed the thirty-two-year-old soul of Heaven-Stepping Lord within him. He had witnessed countless life and death scenarios, tasted the full spectrum of human emotions. Hence, since his resurrection, his expressions of joy, anger, sorrow, or happiness didn't appear as genuinely vivid; they seemed veiled by a facade.

    Yet at this moment, an inexplicable confusion and pain appeared on his face, raw, innocent, pure, and untainted.

    Only in this moment does he truly resemble a mundane youth bereft of his master, like an abandoned child, like a lone stray with no home to return to, forever lost on its journey back.

    He said, "Pay me some attention."

    Pay me some attention...

    Yet, all that answered him was the swaying branches and lush shadows of the blossoming flowers.

    As for the man with resolute eyes under the flowering crabapple tree back then, he would never, nor could he ever lift his head again to look at him, not even for one last glance.

    The author has something to say:

    Er Gouzi: "qaq"

    Er Gouzi's auxiliary program continued to crash. The big white cat glanced at him, sighed, and took the manuscript from his hand.

    Grateful to those who regularly follow my novel translations! Sending you virtual hugs and kisses, dear readers!


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