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    Chapter 136: Master, Relax

    Mo Ran was diligently cutting rice when suddenly a hand tugged at his waistband from behind, sending a chill down his spine.

    He turned around to see Chu Wanning, and almost collapsing Chu Wanning at that, which only added to the horror.

    Abandoning his sickle, Mo Ran hurriedly turned back to support him. But Chu Wanning had stumbled so badly that half his body was about to hit the ground, making it impossible to simply prop him up. He could only embrace him. The faint scent of peach blossoms mingled with the fluttering white robes as they crashed into his arms. Without hesitation, Mo Ran wrapped his arms around him, the rice stalks he had been holding falling to the ground.

    "Master, why are you here?" he asked, still shaken. "You scared me."

    Chu Wanning: "…."

    "The rice paddy is slippery. Be careful," he said.

    The man in his arms kept his head down, too embarrassed to utter a word. Meanwhile, the singing Sichuan girl continued unrelentingly, "I hold onto—my love's waistband—ah—when will you come—"

    Chu Wanning, as if struck by a bolt of cold lightning, abruptly released Mo Ran's belt and regained his balance. He took a deep breath, then forcefully pushed Mo Ran away. Though his expression remained calm, his eyes were shockingly bright, shimmering like ripples on water. It was obvious that he was already flustered, yet he tried desperately to maintain composure.

    "…" Mo Ran suddenly noticed that Chu Wanning's earring had turned red.

    A captivating hue graced his skin, a soft pink akin to a tender peach on a branch. He suddenly recalled the taste of that earring in his mouth from his past life, remembering how Chu Wanning would tremble delicately each time, despite his immense reluctance, ultimately succumbing in Mo Ran's embrace, even his stern bones melting into spring soil.

    Mo Ran's throat convulsed, and his gaze involuntarily grew profound...

    Yet, in the midst of this, Chu Wanning flew into a rage, though it was unclear whom he was angry at. With gritted teeth, he snapped, "What are you looking at?! There's nothing to see!"

    Mo Ran abruptly snapped back to reality, a chill running down his spine.

    Beast!

    What selfish act had he committed in the past that betrayed his Master? With his proud nature, how could Master ever submit willingly? Let alone submission, this man, so aloof and cold, shouldn't even possess desires of affection. How could he entertain such sacrilegious thoughts again?

    Mo Ran shook his head repeatedly, like a rattle-drum.

    Chu Wanning scolded, "Why are you shaking your head like that? Is it entertaining?"

    "..." Mo Ran immediately stopped, but stole a glance at him.

    This person was clearly ashamed, yet habitually donned the mask of anger on his face. Upon closer inspection, it wasn't difficult to discern the hues in his eyes.

    Perhaps he was embarrassed to fall in front of his disciple, especially due to a croaking frog's antics.

    How adorable.

    Mo Ran couldn't help but chuckle.

    Unexpectedly, Chu Wanning became even angrier at his laughter. His dark brows knitted together, and it seemed as if his nose would twist with rage. "What are you laughing at now? It's not funny that I can't farm or plow!"

    "Yes, yes, I agree, not funny at all," Mo Ran soothed, immediately suppressing his smile and adopting a serious demeanor. Though the curve at the corners of his lips disappeared, the mirth in his eyes remained, sparkling with an indescribable radiance.

    After a moment of restraint, it seemed like the matter would pass. But just then, the frog, having successfully hopped to the other side of the ridge, puffed out its cheeks and proudly croaked twice, almost as if taunting them.

    Mo Ran's composure crumbled; he couldn't hold back anymore. Turning his face away, he covered his nose, pretending to cough to hide his laughter.

    But he failed, and a soft "pfft" escaped him.

    "..............." Chu Wanning was furious, almost losing his mind. As he stumbled through the mud to climb the ridge, Mo Ran called out to stop him.

    They were standing very close, and under normal circumstances, Mo Ran would have simply held onto him. But today, he didn't. Chu Wanning's warmth still lingered in his arms, and the scent of peony from his clothes seemed to float around his nostrils.

    He felt his heart melting, wanting to dissolve completely.

    Yet he dared not let it melt. This person before him was so wonderful; he wanted to cherish and revere him like a deity, unwilling to hurt him with his own coarseness even a fraction.

    So he simply called out, "Shifu."

    "Still not done laughing?" Chu Wanning glanced at him sidelong.

    Mo Ran's dimples were charming, filled not with mockery but tenderness. "Want to give it a try? I can teach you. Actually, it's not difficult at all. Shifu is so smart, you'll definitely pick it up quickly."

    As Mo Ran patiently guided him through the process of harvesting rice, Chu Wanning couldn't help but wonder how he had gone from being a secret apprentice to an official one.

    It was all turned upside down.

    But Mo Ran taught with sincerity and meticulousness. He didn't mock Chu Wanning's clumsy attempts.

    His eyebrows were as dark as ink, deeply etched, and his features, compared to his younger days, carried a sharpness honed by life's trials. His looks were originally handsome with a hint of toughness, yet his gaze was gentle and restrained, as if hiding many secrets, or perhaps revealing them all—simply because his gentleness ran too deep, and the passage of time was too heavy.

    "Just like that, use skillful force. Do you understand?"

    "..."

    Chu Wanning followed his instructions and tried cutting, but he still wasn't very dexterous with it. He was accustomed to working with hard wood, so these soft rice stalks left him at a loss.

    Mo Ran watched for a while before extending his well-defined, muscular arm to adjust the way Chu Wanning held the sickle.

    Their skin touched only briefly, and neither dared to linger. Mo Ran didn't dare to touch Chu Wanning too much, and Chu Wanning didn't dare let him.

    One was a raging torrent without an outlet, and the other a nearly dried-up pond. If they were to merge, their union would be intimate and seamless. The torrent would no longer surge wildly without direction, and the parched pond could be nourished, moistened, and soothed.

    Yet, they deliberately avoided each other.

    Teaching from behind, he said, "Lower your fingers a bit more. Be careful not to cut yourself."

    The other replied with unwavering toughness, "I know."

    "Relax a little more. Don't be so stiff."

    "..."

    "Relax."

    But the more Mo Ran said this, the tenser Chu Wanning's back became, and the stiffer his hands grew.

    How could he not want to relax? But it was easier said than done! Mo Ran was so close, speaking right beside him, his breath fanning against the back of his ear, hot and heavy with the unique wild scent of this man. How was he supposed to relax? !

    His mind wandered inexplicably back to that embarrassing dream.

    In the dream, they had been in a similar position, with Mo Ran's lips almost touching his earlobe as they brushed against his earring.

    He gasped, "Relax... don't hold me so tightly in your mouth..."

    Chu Wanning's face flushed red instantly.

    He struggled to free himself from this bizarre recollection, but just as he shook one thought off, another one surfaced – the rankings of prominent cultivators' sizes during their prime years...

    "..."

    Chu Wanning felt as if his head was about to smoke.

    Mo Ran found it peculiar. "Why are you so tense? Relax—"

    "I am relaxed!" Chu Wanning spun around abruptly, his eyes shimmering with a mix of tenderness and fury. He glared at Mo Ran from such a close distance that he seemed ready to transform into a sword, piercing through Mo Ran's heart.

    Both of their hearts were pounding like drums, yet the noise was contained within them, unheard by even the neighbor unless they drew closer, unless Mo Ran's chest pressed against Chu Wanning's back, unless their hands intertwined, their lips nibbled on each other's earlobe, breathing softly, "Relax, don't be nervous." Only then would they understand each other's feelings.

    But clearly, neither Mo Ran nor Chu Wanning was capable of such intimacy.

    Feeling awkward, Mo Ran retracted his hand and stood up straight, saying, "Well, Shifu, why don't you give it a try?"

    "Mm."

    Mo Ran smiled at him again, picked up his sickle, and started cutting rice not far from Chu Wanning. After a couple of swings, an idea struck him, and he turned his head. "Shifu."

    "What?" Chu Wanning's face darkened.

    Mo Ran pointed at his shoes. "Take off those boots."

    "No," Chu Wanning refused.

    "It's easier to stumble if you don't remove your boots," Mo Ran said sincerely. "Your soles are slippery. Not every time you fall will I be able to catch you in time."

    "... " Chu Wanning thought darkly for a moment but eventually made his way to the edge of the paddy field. There, he removed his shoes and socks, discarding them beside a hay stack, before stepping barefoot back into the waterlogged earth. With his head bowed, he immersed himself in the rhythmic rustling of harvesting rice.

    By midday, Chu Wanning had finally become proficient in using the sickle, his movements fluid and graceful. The rice they had harvested was piled together, forming a small golden mound.

    After cutting through another stretch of the field, Chu Wanning felt somewhat fatigued. He stood up to catch his breath, wiping the sweat from his brow with the corner of his sleeve. A gentle breeze swept through the golden rice paddies, bringing a crisp and refreshing sensation of autumn. He sneezed, and Mo Ran immediately turned around, filled with concern.

    "Are you feeling a bit chilly?"

    "No," Chu Wanning shook his head. "Some plant ash got into my nose."

    Mo Ran smiled and was about to say something when he heard a peasant girl's clear voice echo from afar under a mulberry tree, calling out, "Dinner's ready! Time for lunch!"

    "That must be the girl who was singing earlier," Chu Wanning commented without turning back.

    Mo Ran leaned sideways, shading his eyes as he gazed into the distance. "It is her. You recognized her voice, Shifu?"

    "Mm, nobody else could make an invitation to eat sound so melodious," Chu Wanning remarked. He carried the last basket of straw to the grain pile and, too lazy to put on his shoes since they were already dirty, walked towards the mulberry tree. Mo Ran chuckled and shook his head before promptly retrieving the shoes left behind and catching up with him.

    Rural meals were cooked in large pots, and four or five farmers carried three wooden buckets. Lifting the lids, one bucket held steaming white rice, another contained cabbage braised with meat, and the last was filled with tofu and vegetable soup.

    Actually, life in the Lower Realm wasn't prosperous, and meat was somewhat extravagant for ordinary folk. However, since the Immortal Lords from the Summit of Life and Death had arrived, the village chief couldn't afford to only serve them vegetables. Thus, they had loaded the cabbage and meat dish with ample slices of fatty preserved pork.

    Upon lifting the lids, even the burly villagers couldn't resist swallowing their saliva at the aroma of the meat.

    "The food isn't fancy, so please bear with it, Honorable Immortal Lords," said the village chief's wife, a robust woman in her fifties with a loud voice and a wide grin. "All the meat and vegetables are homemade, so don't disdain it."

    Mo Ran quickly waved his hands. "No, no, we don't mind at all." He served two heaping bowls of rice, first offering one to his Master before taking the other for himself.

    As Chu Wanning looked into the meat bucket, he saw a layer of peppers atop the cabbage and meat, which made him hesitant. Nevertheless, the enthusiastic lady scooped a generous amount of spicy broth and several slices of succulent red meat onto his plate.

    "..." For those accustomed to spicy Sichuan cuisine, it would be incredibly delicious. But for Chu Wanning, this bowl might as well be a death sentence.

    However, it was impolite to reject the villagers' warmth. Just as Chu Wanning was caught in a dilemma, a hand reached out, holding another bowl and passing it to him.

    The bowl was filled with tofu and vegetable soup, which was lighter but more to Chu Wanning's liking.

    "Let's swap," Mo Ran suggested.

    "…It's fine, carry on with your meal." Chu Wanning didn't reach out to take it.

    Seeing this, the woman was taken aback and after a while, she slapped her forehead, exclaiming, "Oh, I suppose this Immortal Lord can't handle spicy food?"

    Not wanting her to feel guilty, Chu Wanning replied, "No, I can handle a bit." With that, he scooped up a spoonful of rice drenched in soup and put it in his mouth.

    "…"

    A moment of silence followed, during which everyone watched as Chu Wanning's face flushed red under their gazes. The lines of tension in his face began to tremble slightly, until finally—

    "…Ah-Choo! Ah-Choo! Ah-Choo!!"

    His coughing echoed loudly.

    Who said that the unbearable things in life were limited to love, poverty, and sneezes?

    There were clearly also chili peppers.

    Chu Wanning had overestimated his tolerance and underestimated the power of the chili peppers. In an instant, he choked, turning beet red and unable to speak. The surrounding farmers were stunned, while the children, not understanding the situation, giggled behind their parents' backs, only to have their heads gently patted by the adults.

    Mo Ran hastily set down his bowl and chopsticks, refilling a bowl of soup for Chu Wanning. After drinking the soup, Chu Wanning felt somewhat better, but the combination of heat and spice only intensified the discomfort on his tongue. He lifted his flushed face, his eyes shimmering with emotion, gazing at Mo Ran with teary eyes. In a hoarse voice, he said, "More."

    "More."

    Chu Wanning had clearly asked for another bowl of soup, but Mo Ran found himself overwhelmed by those eyes and that face, which resembled a blooming peach blossom in slumber. He couldn't help but be diverted by this intense attraction.

    For a moment, he seemed to see the man from his past life lying beneath him, panting under the influence of aphrodisiacs and desire, his unfocused eyes fluttering open, his body trembling slightly. With moist lips slightly parted, he murmured in a husky voice, "Please... more..."

    Author's Note:

    Short Scene: "Things That Everyone Can't Tolerate"

    Chu Wanning: Eating spicy food

    Mo Ran: Watching Chu Wanning eat spicy food

    Shi Mo: Showing off muscles and participating in triathlon

    Xue Meng: Being forced into gay relationships

    Mei Hanxue: Shutting Down the Brothel

    Ye Wangxi: Marrying Song Qiutong

    Nan Gongsi: Losing a Beloved Pet Dog

    Baozi: Working Overtime

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