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    Chapter 135: Master Stealing Skills

    Yuliang Village was a tiny hamlet, where most of its residents were elderly, with few young people. Thus, during the busy farming seasons, they would invite Immortal Lords from the Summit of Life and Death to lend a hand.

    In other immortal sects, such unrelated requests would never be entertained. But Xue Zhengyong, along with his elder brother, had built their lives from scratch, having endured hardships since childhood and supposedly grown up eating food provided by many families. Hence, he not only could not refuse these requests from the old tenant farmers but also took them seriously every time, dispatching his disciples to fulfill them diligently.

    The village was neither too far nor too close to the Summit of Life and Death. It was a distance that was troublesome to walk but too short for a carriage ride.

    So, Xue Zhengyong prepared two fine horses for them. Chu Wanning descended to the mountain gate and saw Mo Ran standing under a towering maple tree. It was already late autumn, and the trees were gradually turning red. When the wind blew, the maple leaves shimmered like brocade, resembling leaping crimson carp.

    Mo Ran held the reins of a black horse while a white one affectionately nuzzled his cheek. He was amusing them with a bunch of alfalfa flowers. Hearing footsteps, he turned around, just in time to catch a few red leaves falling gently. Mo Ran laughed, looking up amidst the flowers and leaves.

    "Master."

    Chu Wanning's pace slowed down, eventually stopping on the last few steps.

    Sunlight filtered through the lush foliage, drenching the moss-covered stone steps. He gazed at the man not far away. Perhaps because he was going to do farm work, Mo Ran was not wearing the disciple's attire of the Summit of Life and Death or the white robe he had worn when he returned.

    He was dressed in a simple black cloth robe, with wrist guards tied around his wrists. The attire was plain, but his slender waist, long legs, and broad shoulders made him look extremely attractive, especially his chest. As the collar of the cloth robe was low-cut, his firm pectoral muscles were visible, undulating with each breath beneath his honey-colored skin.

    If Xue Meng's shimmering armor-clad appearance could be called overtly flirtatious, like a peacock spreading its feathers, then Mo Ran's look was subtly alluring, an innocent and naive kind of charm — in short, he was saying, "I'm an honest man who never toys with others' emotions; all I know how to do is work hard."

    "..." Chu Wanning looked at him back and forth several times before speaking. "Mo Ran."

    "Hmm? What is it, Master?" The muscular man asked with a smile.

    Chu Wanning's expression remained stoic. "Your collar is so open. Aren't you cold?"

    Mo Ran was slightly taken aback but soon realized that his master was concerned about him. He felt happy and put the purple clover back into the hay basket. After dusting off his hands, he quickly climbed up the stone steps and stood proudly in front of Chu Wanning. Before Chu Wanning could react, he caught hold of Chu Wanning's wrist.

    "I'm not cold. I've been busy all morning, so I'm actually quite warm." He smiled innocently, guiding Chu Wanning's hand to press against his heaving chest. "Master, can't you feel it?"

    It was scorching hot.

    The young man's chest was warmly heated, accompanied by the sound of his pulsating blood and those starry eyes. Chu Wanning felt a tingle run down his spine and hastily pulled away his hand, his face darkening.

    "What kind of behavior is this?"

    "Oh... Am I sweating?" Mo Ran misunderstood, thinking that Chu Wanning disliked men. After all, their entanglement in the past life was due to his irrational coercion. He didn't believe Chu Wanning had any romantic interest in him, so he interpreted his master's displeasure as discomfort with the sweat on his body.

    Considering how much Chu Wanning cherished cleanliness and disliked physical contact with others, Mo Ran felt a little embarrassed. He scratched his head and said, "I was careless for a moment..."

    If he had taken a closer look, he would have noticed the flush beneath Chu Wanning's delicate neck and the hint of emotion shimmering behind his lowered, aloof lashes.

    But he didn't notice in that first instant, and Chu Wanning wouldn't give him another chance. With his pristine shoes treading on the slippery green stones, he walked straight towards the black horse, vaulted onto its back with effortless grace, and settled into the saddle.

    Beneath the sun's all-encompassing rays and amidst the sea of crimson leaves, he sat atop the tall black steed, turning his face to look down at his disciple standing on the ground. His icy jade-like features exuded defiance, still the sharp and incomparably handsome Elder Yu Heng.

    "I'm leaving. Hurry up and follow."

    With that, he tightened his long legs around the horse's belly, sending up a cloud of red dust as he rode off into the distance.

    Mo Ran stood rooted to the spot for a moment, then picked up the half-filled basket of alfalfa and hung it on the back of the white horse. Climbing onto the steed himself, he couldn't help but laugh through his tears. "That black horse was mine! Why did Shifu ride the wrong one... Shifu! Wait for me!"

    In no time at all, they raced through the countryside and reached Jade Cool Village in less than an hour.

    Outside the village lay scores of rice paddies, their golden stalks rippling like waves. Around thirty farmers were hard at work, their numbers too small to justify dividing labor by age. Bent over with rolled-up pants, they wielded sickles with great effort, beads of sweat rolling down their faces.

    Mo Ran promptly sought out the village head and handed him the letter. Without further ado, he exchanged his shoes for a pair of hemp sandals and headed out to the fields. With ample strength and vitality, augmented by his cultivation, cutting wheat was child's play for him. After a few hours of diligent labor, he had already harvested two large sections of the paddy field.

    Golden ears of rice piled up by the paddy field, their fragrance filling the air under the sun's warmth. In the hills and valleys, the sound of farmers' sickles slicing through the earth echoed, accompanied by the leisurely singing of a young maiden perched on a ridge, busily bundling rice stalks as she sang her rural ballad.

    "Amidst the setting sun, red flowers shimmer, the crimson mountains contrast with peonies. With a red fan, I sing love songs, throwing embroidered balls to inquire about my beloved. Holding onto my lover's sash, I wonder when we'll meet. Today, I—have no time, for tomorrow I must chop wood. It's only the day after tomorrow that I'll visit my little sister."

    This gentle melody and bashful lyrics drifted effortlessly from the peasant girl's lips, resonating in the vast expanse between heaven and earth, finding its way into the listener's heart.

    "Today, I—have no time, for tomorrow I must chop wood, it's only the day after tomorrow that I'll visit my little sister."

    Chu Wanning, not having gone to work in the fields, leaned against a tree with a vat of hot water in his arms. Listening to the song, his eyes followed the distant figure of a diligent worker, his emotions ebbing and flowing. As he drank, the water seemed not to reach his stomach but instead flow warmly into his chest.

    "A decadent tune," he commented coldly, finishing his water. He then got up to return the ceramic vat to the village chief.

    The village chief looked at him hesitantly.

    Feeling somewhat irritable, Chu Wanning asked, "What is it?"

    "…Immortal Sir… aren't you going to work in the fields?" The elderly village chief was an honest man. Since Chu Wanning had inquired, he stammered out an answer, his white beard quivering and white brows creased. "Immortal Sir… are you here to supervise?"

    "…"

    For the first time, Chu Wanning felt truly embarrassed.

    Get in the field...

    Didn't Xue Zhengyong tell him that all he needed to do was watch Mo Ran work hard from the side? Did he really have to go down there?

    ...He didn't know how to do it!

    Helplessly, the elderly village chief stared at him with words unsaid, and a few nearby children and elders also looked up, glancing at this well-dressed man.

    Children speak without filters, and one of them, with a topknot, asked brightly, "Granny, Granny, why is this Daoist brother dressed so white? How can he get into the field like that?"

    "He has such wide sleeves..." another child murmured.

    "And his shoes are so clean..."

    Chu Wanning felt prickled by their remarks, extremely uncomfortable. After standing still for a moment, he couldn't bear to remain idle any longer. He picked up a sickle and, without removing his shoes, stepped into the rice paddies. The muddy water immediately clung to his feet, and the cold water reached his ankles. Chu Wanning tried taking a few steps but found the squishy sensation unbearable. He then tried swinging the sickle a couple of times, but his strength wasn't applied correctly, making his cutting clumsy.

    "Ha, this Daoist brother is so clumsy," two children giggled, holding their cheeks as they watched him from under a mulberry tree.

    Chu Wanning: "..."

    His face darkened significantly, and he no longer wished to be too close to these people. With great effort, Chu Wanning maintained an elegant pace in the muddy field, his handsome features set in a composed expression. He strode toward the figure fervently cutting rice in the distance.

    He was going to sneak a peek at how Mo Ran did it.

    Among three, there is always one who can be my teacher; he intended to learn from him.

    Mo Ran was evidently much more proficient in farming than Chu Wanning. Under the scorching sun, he bent down, raised his blade, and with each swing, bundles of golden rice stalks fell obediently into his broad embrace. After collecting them, he initially held them in one arm until he had a full bundle, then tossed them into the bamboo basket behind him.

    As he performed these tasks with great dedication, he didn't notice Chu Wanning's arrival. Instead, he earnestly lowered his soft eyelashes, casting a faint shadow across his high, straight nose. Beads of sweat rolled down his cheeks, exuding a nearly primal aura that was both intense and untamed, solemn yet passionate. Under the sun, his skin shimmered like molten copper, igniting sparks that were astonishingly vivid, as if still steaming from the misty heat of a sword-casting pool. He was so bright, so resplendent.

    Chu Wanning watched from a respectful distance for a while before suddenly realizing what he was doing. He immediately frowned, shook his head, mumbled something under his breath, then resumed walking with a stern expression.

    He was going to secretly learn!

    He wanted to observe how Mo Ran held the sickle, the angle at which it fell, and why these rice stalks, which were as hard as steel wires in his hands, became delicate, boneless maidens in Mo Ran's grasp, willingly swaying into his arms.

    So engrossed was he that Chu Wanning failed to notice a frog croak loudly as it leaped up, hopping frantically towards the embankment.

    Chu Wanning was startled and hurriedly tried to retract his foot to avoid the creature, but the rice paddy was too slippery. Inadvertently, the esteemed Elder Yu Heng ended up stumbling forward dramatically because of that majestic frog!

    "Whoosh!"

    Seeing his face about to bury into the mud, Chu Wanning, in his panic, forgot to cast a spell and instead instinctively reached out to grab the figure working ahead of him.

    The maiden's song grew more alluring: "I hold onto my lover's sash—when will you come, my dear—"

    Just as fate would have it, Chu Wanning yanked on Mo Ran's belt, stumbling forward a few unsteady steps before landing in a broad, warm chest exuding masculine scent. Strong arms wrapped around him.

    Author's Note:

    Female Side Character: My chapter is really up now.

    Mo Ran: ...Uh...was it that frog?

    Female Side Character: Goodbye.

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