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    Chapter 124: Master's Rebirth

    Amidst the blooming and withering of flowers, the barrier surrounding the Red Lotus Water Pavilion shimmered with delicate radiance day and night. Those inside did not come out, and those outside could not enter.

    Five years passed in the blink of an eye. Life was like a revolving lantern, changing every day and every night, every ten days and every month.

    In teahouses, in history books... those years eventually turned into lines of small text, into segments of storytelling.

    The past was still vivid, looking back...

    During Chu Wanning's first year in seclusion, his disciple Mo Ran descended the mountain, while Xue Meng and Shi Mo remained on the Summit of Life and Death for their own cultivation.

    In this year, Mo Ran's handwriting improved slightly, Xue Meng broke through to the ninth level of the Silent Demise Blade, and Shi Mo visited the Medicine Sect of Solitary Moon Night at the end of the year, greatly benefiting from the exchange.

    In the meantime, Mo Ran traveled to the state of Yi to visit Young Master Chang, a prominent salt merchant, for personal matters. However, he learned that Young Master Chang had recently died unexpectedly. In the Netherworld, Mo Ran discovered that Young Master Chang had been involved with the false Heavenly Viceroy. He had intended to investigate, but the culprit had already silenced all witnesses, leaving no trace behind but ashes.

    The trail went cold.

    In Chu Wanning's second year of seclusion, the Spirit Mountain Congress was held in the cultivation world. Xue Meng emerged as the champion, followed by Mei Hanxue in second place, and Nan Gongsi in third. Shi Mo practiced medicine and provided aid to many in the Lower Realm, while Mo Ran traveled throughout Jiangnan and Beimo, eliminating demons and doing good deeds. Eventually, he returned to the mountains for further cultivation, disappearing from public view.

    In the third year of Chu Wanning's seclusion, it coincided with a Ghost Year, when yin energy was at its peak. The barrier in the old battlefield of Caidie Town had weakened, allowing malevolent spirits to emerge, and wailing ghosts cried through the night. Xue Meng led the disciples of Death's Peak to suppress the unrest. Though the terrifying scene of ghosts obscuring the sky from years past did not reoccur, the Lower Cultivation Realm still suffered greatly, plunged into a year of calamity.

    In the Upper cultivation Realm, with its vast territory and numerous inhabitants, the nine major sects each dispatched a hundred disciples to guard the borders between the upper and lower cultivation realms. They constructed a Wall of Suppression to deter evil spirits and wandering creatures from crossing over to the east.

    The homeless lower-ranking cultivators, destitute and without refuge, were uniformly denied entry beyond the walls—walls that guarded against both ghosts and mortals alike. Thus, within those walls, peace and tranquility reigned like a calm sea and a clear river, while beyond them lay a landscape strewn with corpses. Xue Zhengyong had made numerous appeals to the higher cultivation realm, yet all had proven fruitless. The blood shed by disciples atop the Life-and-Death Summit in Butterfly Town, once so fervent, now flowed in vain.

    At the end of the year, Mo Ran, who had been secluded in the mountains for ascetic practice, received a letter from his uncle, informing him of the chaos in Shu and compelling him to re-enter the mortal world.

    It was Chu Wanning's fourth year in seclusion.

    Mo Ran and Xue Meng fought side by side, leading the aristocrats from Death and Life Peak to purge demons and vanquish villains in the Lower Cultivation Realm. In the end, they staged a climactic battle at Butterfly Town, where Xue Ziming exterminated over a thousand fiends and exorcised countless ghosts, while Mo Weiyu repaired the rift in the heavens and sealed the evil spirits single-handedly.

    Following this battle, the Upper Cultivation Realm withdrew its defenses and allowed the people of the Lower Realm to enter.

    Mo Ran and Xue Meng became renowned, with the former's fame as the young phoenix unparalleled, while the latter, due to his boundary technique resembling Chu Wanning's during the repair of the heaven's rift, was universally hailed as "Grandmaster Mo."

    Time flew by like fleeting white clouds and gray dogs.

    After the battle on Spirit Mountain, although Xue Meng had gained great prestige, he was no longer the conceited and easily satisfied youth of his adolescence. As long as there were no pressing matters, he would dedicate himself to practice and contemplation in the bamboo grove, training through the coldest winters and hottest summers without pause, even when occasionally falling ill.

    He remembered his Master's words: even without divine weapons, a heavenly favored son was still a heavenly favored son, only that he would have to shed more blood and sweat. He was no longer naturally privileged, but diligence could compensate for his shortcomings.

    Sometimes, after executing a set of saber techniques, he landed gracefully from the treetops in the bamboo forest. Amidst the sunbeams filtering through the leaves, he would tilt his head slightly, occasionally feeling a fleeting glimpse of a small figure sitting on a rock, playing a leaf like a flute.

    This inevitably reminded him of that day when Chu Wanning, shrunk in size, watched him practice his saber techniques in the woods. The melody was melodious, guiding him on when to be swift and when to be slow.

    Xue Meng tilted his head, recalling the tune as if it were still ringing in his ears.

    Closing his eyes, he focused and calmed his mind. When he opened them again, a withered bamboo stem gently fell. A sudden flash of blade light flickered in his eyes, accompanied by the resonant roar of a dragon. The saber shadow danced with perfect control, surging eagerly like tidal waves and subsiding softly like snowflakes falling from the sky.

    When the Dragon Formation withdrew, he straightened his posture. The dead leaf had been sliced into countless thin threads, silently settling at the edge of his boots.

    Looking down, he still appeared to be that impetuous young man with an immature face.

    Raising his gaze, his brows were now resolute, and his eyes were clear yet steady, like a turbulent stream finally rushing into a vast ocean, turning tranquil and boundless.

    Five years had passed.

    Xue Meng held his saber, wiping its frosty edge with a white cloth. Just as he was about to sheathe it, hurried footsteps echoed in the distance. A disciple rushed over, repeatedly calling out, "Young Master! Young Master!"

    "What's the matter?" Xue Meng frowned. "You're all flustered and have no composure. What happened?"

    "The Red Lotus Water Pavilion—" The man was out of breath, his face flushed as he gasped for air. "Master Huai Zui, Master Huai Zui has left! Elder Yu—Yu Heng is awake!!"

    With a clatter, Longcheng, the weapon of a hundred battles, slipped from its owner's hands and fell to the ground.

    Xue Meng's fair and handsome face paled instantly, then turned crimson. His lips opened and closed repeatedly, and in the end, he forgot to retrieve his weapon, dashing towards the Southern Peak of Life and Death Summit as if flying. Along the way, he nearly tripped over a stone, stumbling and staggering.

    "Master!!! Master!!!"

    Xue Ziming, who had just scolded someone for lacking composure, lost all semblance of it himself in an instant.

    He rushed outside the Red Lotus Water Pavilion but didn't even make it through the main entrance before seeing Xue Zhengyong stride out. Upon spotting his son rushing in like a madman, Xue Zhengyong beamed and pulled him into an embrace.

    Xue Meng was beside himself with anxiety. "Father!"

    "All right, all right, I know you want to see Yu Heng," Xue Zhengyong said with a smile. "But he's just awakened, and he's still weak. He spoke with me for a bit and then fell asleep. You wouldn't want to disturb your master's rest, would you?"

    Xue Meng froze. "That's true, but…" But five years had been too long to endure. He had so much to say to his master, wanted to rush over and tell him that he'd come first in the Spirit Mountain Gathering, wanted to inform his master that he'd suppressed the hundred ghosts causing mischief, that he…

    "Act your age."

    "…" The words "act your age" were like the vulnerable spot of a snake, and with them spoken, Xue Meng became compliant. He let out a long sigh, stopping in his tracks but stretching his neck forward as if that would allow him to bypass his tall and sturdy father, the slightly ajar door, and directly see the person lying on the bed inside.

    Xue Meng pressed his lips together, somewhat unwilling to give in. "I just want to... take a quick look at my Master. I won't say a word."

    "I know you too well. You'd shout in excitement," Xue Zhengyong scolded him with a glare. "After winning the Spirit Mountain Congress, you put on a cool facade for outsiders, but at home, you rambled on for four or five days about how you kicked Nan Gongsi off a demonic wolf's back. Even Aunt Li from the Naihe Hall can recite your story word for word now. Who would believe you if you said you wouldn't speak?"

    "…Alright then."

    Xue Meng wilted.

    "I deserve your father's reprimand."

    "That's right, when has your father ever been wrong?"

    Xue Meng pouted but couldn't resist his curiosity. "Dad, how is Master doing?"

    "He's doing quite well. Master Huai Zui even managed to remove the remaining poison from the Heart-Stealing Willow."

    "Ahh, does that mean Master won't turn into Little Junior Brother anymore?"

    "Haha, no, he won't."

    Xue Meng scratched his head. Thinking that he would never see Xia Sini again, he felt a tinge of regret.

    "So, is everything else alright? Does he feel unwell in any way?"

    "Don't worry, no, not really. If anything, he looked a bit grim when he found out he'd been asleep for five years." Recalling Chu Wanning's expression, Xue Zhengyong chuckled. "Fortunately, he doesn't have much strength yet, or he would've bombarded me with questions. Ah, right—"

    He suddenly thought of something and said to Xue Meng, "Meng'er, I have a task for you. Your master has been isolated from the world for so long, and he's missed a lot. It'll be exhausting for us to tell him everything. Here's what you do: ask your mother for some silver and go to Impermanence Town at the foot of the mountain to buy some books. There are those chronicle books, right? Get the kind that records everything. He can read them."

    Xue Meng realized that his father, this cunning old fox, was trying to get rid of him by sending him down the mountain to work hard.

    But then he considered that the labor was for his master, which made it... not so difficult to accept. Anyway, Master had fallen back asleep, and he couldn't be sure if he could control himself when he entered the room and not disturb his rest.

    With a sigh, he reluctantly grumbled, "Fine, I'll buy books then."

    "Get plenty, about the Upper cultivation realm and the Lower cultivation realm. Yu Heng loves reading, after all."

    "Oh, okay." Xue Meng left the mountain alone, feeling rather disheartened.

    Xue Meng was not fond of reading, yet he found himself standing before the bookstalls in Impermanence Town. He cast a cursory glance left and right, concluding that the titles on display divulged little in terms of novelty or intrigue. Thus, he bent down to inquire of the stallholder, "Esteemed elder, do you carry any volumes here that detail the recent transformations within the Cultivation World? I would appreciate a few selections."

    Upon recognizing the customer as someone from the Summit of Life and Death, though he didn't personally know that this was the Phoenix Cub, Xue Ziming, the vendor was still highly enthusiastic. He warmly said, "Immortal Lord is looking for books on transformations and changes, right? Of course, I have them. Here, you can find both official and unofficial histories, biographies, chronicles, geographical records, and even catalogs of demon-slaying feats. Not to mention, I have the original manuscripts of the top ten most famous storytellers in the jianghu. Which type would Immortal Lord prefer?"

    Xue Meng's headache intensified upon hearing this, so he waved his hand and said, "Just bring them all over, money is not an issue."

    To a merchant, the sweetest words in the world are not "I love you," "I care for you," or "I want you," but rather "buy," "money is no object," and "one of each, please."

    The vendor's face lit up with delight as he rubbed his hands together in anticipation, promptly agreeing to Xue Meng's request and turning to rummage through the selection of books to find what he wanted. With nothing else to do, Xue Meng casually browsed the stall and suddenly found a thin booklet that piqued his interest. The page he opened displayed:

    List of Wealthy Cultivators:

    1st: Jiang Xi. Title: Leader of Solitary Moon Night on Linling Island.

    2nd: Nan Gongliu. Title: Leader of Confucian Wind Sect in Lin Yi.

    3rd: Ma Yun. Title: Master of Peach Blossom Manor by West Lake.

    ...

    Thus and so, the text was written in minute script, filling up an entire page.

    Xue Meng immediately became enthusiastic. He was particularly eager to know where he stood, so he read through the page back and forth four or five times. His eyes nearly crossed from staring so hard, but he still couldn't find his own name, "Xue Meng."

    He was instantly discouraged, then somewhat angry. After pondering, he felt indignant and turned the page to continue searching. However, he saw only three or four names followed by a sentence:

    "Due to limitations of time and effort, all rankings include only the top hundred. Those ranked below one hundred have been omitted."

    Xue Meng angrily threw the book aside. "Am I that poor?!"

    The vendor jumped in surprise. Upon seeing the booklet Xue Meng had been reading, he hurriedly picked it up and tried to soothe him. "Lord Immortal, please don't be angry. These folk-made ranking booklets are always a mess, and besides, they vary from region to region. If you were to buy books in Lin Yi, the first on the Gentleman's List would undoubtedly be Sect Leader Nan Gong. People just read these for fun; don't take it to heart, don't take it to heart."

    Upon hearing this explanation, Xue Meng felt that there might be some truth to it. Besides, he remained curious about the other contents of the booklet. So, with a huff, he snatched it back from the vendor and flipped through another couple of pages.

    This time, he came across an even more peculiar ranking.

    "The Arrogant Young Masters of Noble Families List"

    Author's Note:

    Ma Yun on the Forbes list and Peach Bud Manor are Easter eggs, hahaha!

    Since Master is awake, we're resuming our daily skits too!

    Rebooted Skit Time!

    Vendors love to hear "buy, buy, buy." So, what phrase do each of the characters long to hear?

    Chu Wanning would most like to hear: Elder Yu Heng is an excellent master.

    Mo Ran 2.0 wishes to hear: You are different from your past life.

    Mo Ran 1.0 hopes to hear: Everyone likes you.

    Mo Ran 0.5 dreams of: Scoundrel, wake up! Stop daydreaming, your saliva is dripping on the desk!

    Xue Meng yearns to hear: Young Lord is number one, the handsomest, and the most beloved by Master!

    What Shi Mo would most like to hear: How could someone as gentle and adorable as Shi Mo be the big boss?

    What Ye Wangxi would most like to hear: Young Master Nan Gong won't have a short life.

    What Nan Gongsi would most like to hear: Your father has stepped down, allowing you to take charge, Young Master; you can make your own decisions now.

    What Song Qiutong would most like to hear: This is a heterosexual romance story.

    What Mei Hanxue would most like to hear: Mei Hanxue, prepare to make your entrance.

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