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    Chapter 145 - Master Has a Dining Companion Now

    The forest was tinged with hues of autumn, marking the end of the harvest season.

    The villagers of Jade Cool Village packed numerous bundles, filled with jerky, rice cakes, spices, coarse cloth, and pushed them into Chu Wanning's and Mo Ran's arms.

    Though the Peak of Life and Death lacked for nothing, it would be impolite to refuse such sincere offerings from the villagers. Hence, the two accepted them without hesitation, assisting the village head in filling the bundles.

    Ling'er also arrived, carrying a bamboo basket wrapped with a small blue-and-white cloth. When the cloth was lifted, steamed buns and a dozen boiled green-shelled eggs were revealed.

    She approached Mo Ran's horse, her big, contrasting eyes flickering as she tried to look at him but felt bashful due to her half-drunk confession. After much hesitation, she finally approached and held the basket above her head, addressing the handsome man already mounted on his horse. "Lord Mo, these... I cooked these this morning. Please take them for you and Lord Chu to eat on your journey."

    Mo Ran was unsure of her intentions and thus hesitated, unsure whether to decline or accept.

    Ling'er, however, understood his concerns. She suddenly looked up, her cheeks flushed, her gaze a mix of determination and hurt.

    Though she had poured all her efforts into winning over an impressive Immortal Lord, she wasn't the type of girl who would cling on after being rejected, sacrificing her dignity.

    She said, "Lord Immortal, please don't worry. Ling'er has no other intentions. I just want to express my gratitude for the care you've shown Jade Cool Village over the past half-month."

    Mo Ran finally accepted the basket, sitting on his horse with lowered lashes as he sincerely thanked her, "Thank you, Miss."

    "You're too kind, Immortal Lord."

    Seeing her capable of letting go, Mo Ran was somewhat touched and asked, "What are your plans for the future, Miss?"

    "Why do you ask, Immortal Lord?"

    "I feel that you're not someone content with living in a village for long."

    Ling'er smiled, a hint of determination in her eyes, "I want to see the Upper cultivation realm. I've heard that the Master of the Confucian Wind Sect is benevolent and willing to help those in need across the world. For us Lower cultivators, as long as we can find work in Lin Yi, he won't force us to leave. My embroidery skills are good, and I can cook too. I should be able to make ends meet."

    Of course, she didn't mention the most important part—the Confucian Wind Sect had the largest number of disciples among the Ten Great Sects, with seventy-two cities of varying sizes. Lin Yi was a bustling hub for Immortal Sects, where half the people on the streets were cultivators. It would be easier for her to find a suitable husband there.

    Unaware of her intentions, Chu Wanning frowned upon hearing she planned to go to Lin Yi, "The Confucian Wind Sect is more complicated than you think. If you plan to settle down in the Upper cultivation realm, consider Yangzhou's Linling Island instead."

    "Living in Yangzhou is too expensive, with the cost of food, clothing, and daily necessities," Ling'er said. "Thank you for your kind intentions, Immortal Lord, but Ling'er has her own considerations."

    Since she had made it clear, Chu Wanning knew further persuasion would be futile, so he let the matter rest.

    With their horses laden with provisions, the two rode briskly. Chu Wanning paid special attention to the barrier near Butterfly Town, relieved to find it brimming with spiritual energy and in perfect stability. Thus, they continued their journey without pause until midday, when they finally returned to the Peak of Life and Death.

    Chu Wanning went to report the situation to Xue Zhengyong, while Mo Ran, having nothing better to do, wandered around. By the Bridge of Helplessness, he stumbled upon someone cleaning the stone lions on the pillars.

    Mo Ran assumed it was someone who had committed an offense and was now doing labor as punishment. Usually, those being punished would feel ashamed, so Mo Ran didn't plan on approaching the bridge. Just as he was about to turn away, he heard a voice call out to him from not far away.



    Fixing his gaze, he realized that the one wiping the lions was none other than Shi Mo. Mo Ran was taken aback, feeling a strange sensation in his heart.

    Firstly, it was odd to see Shi Mo, a rule-abiding person, performing such menial labor by the Bridge of Helplessness.

    Secondly, it was the current appearance of Shi Mo that struck him as peculiar.

    It had been a long time since he'd seen Shi Mo fully grown, yet he hadn't become familiar with his present looks. Instead, the passing time had made him feel more estranged, so much so that he failed to recognize him at first sight on the bridge.

    "How did you end up here? Did you do something wrong?" Mo Ran approached him and inquired.

    Shi Mo seemed a bit awkward. "Uh... I was punished along with Young Master."

    "Monmon?" Mo Ran paused, then chuckled.

    That wasn't too surprising. It wasn't uncommon for Xue Meng to make mistakes.

    "What did he drag you into?"

    "He said he wanted to catch some ghosts in the forbidden area at the back of the mountain to practice his skills."


    "As a result, we almost tore open the barrier that Master had sealed before leaving."

    Mo Ran couldn't help but laugh and cry. "Does he think ghosts are like cats and dogs, to be caught and kept as one pleases? And you, why did you follow his nonsense? Why didn't you advise him against it?"

    Shi Mo sighed, his face filled with helplessness. "Of course, I tried to talk him out of it, but it was useless. I was afraid something might happen to him, so I had no choice but to go in with him... Forget it, let's not talk about it. Fortunately, we didn't cause any real trouble. Ah Ran, tell me about you. The other day, you and Master went to help with farm work in Jade Cool Village, right?"


    "How's everything? Smooth sailing?"

    "Mm, everything's going well."

    The two continued their casual conversation for a while. After bidding Shi Mo farewell, Mo Ran walked alone down the shaded path. As he reflected on his feelings, he realized more clearly that his emotions towards Shi Mo were an obsession, a habit, not the love he had believed it to be.

    He used to think that when he looked at Shi Mo's appearance and found it beautiful, stunning, and soothing, that was desire. But in reality, it wasn't.

    People naturally appreciate beauty, and he admired Shi Mo's looks. However, upon closer inspection, this admiration didn't carry any hint of intimacy or lust.

    He liked looking at Shi Mo as much as he enjoyed watching the crimson autumn leaves or the summer lotus blooms. Over the years, he'd rarely entertained inappropriate thoughts.

    He still cherished and cared for Shi Mo, just as before. But now, things were different. Mo Ran finally understood what love truly meant. He was no Liu Xiaohui, whose affection remained chaste. His love should be passionate and possessive, involving physical intimacy, the collision of bodies, and the rush of blood and desire.

    He was a wolfhound who would gently sniff a rose.

    Yet those sharp teeth were menacing; what they devoured wouldn't be flowers and grass but flesh and blood.

    By dinner time, Xue Meng had finally sorted out all the books in the second scripture section of the Book Collection Pavilion. He was exhausted and groaned as he leaned against the Hall of Mother Nai, grumbling even at his usually beloved spicy diced chicken, which failed to cheer him up.

    Lost in boredom, he suddenly spotted Chu Wanning entering the dining hall, and his spirits lifted. He sat up straight and called out, "Master!"

    Chu Wanning glanced at him and nodded in acknowledgment.

    Mo Ran sat beside Xue Meng. The three of them—Mo Ran, Xue Meng, and Shi Mo—usually ate together. But when Chu Wanning entered, Mo Ran shifted all the bowls and plates on the table, creating a large empty space.

    "What are you doing?"

    Mo Ran merely smiled at Xue Meng without answering. He stood up and waved at Chu Wanning. "Master, come sit here."

    Xue Meng: "............"

    Shi Mo: "............"

    Respect was one thing, but sharing a meal was another matter entirely.

    Those who frequently share a table to gnaw on bones are likely not to have an overly formal relationship; at the very least, they must be accustomed to each other's eating habits, able to tolerate unattractive manners, and occasional lapses in composure.

    Looking at Xue Meng and Shi Mo's expressions, although Chu Wanning had always eaten with composure and aloofness, they still weren't used to or accepting of sharing meals with him.

    For them, occasionally dining with their Master was like attending a social function – both parties had to maintain their decorum, be polite, and by the end of the meal, their backs would be stiff from strain, leaving them tasting nothing.

    Chu Wanning understood this well. He glanced at Mo Ran rather surprisingly, shook his head, and still chose to carry a light plate of vegetables to the spot where he used to sit.

    It had been five years since he last ate at the Lady Meng's Hall. As soon as he sat down, Chu Wanning noticed a small, intricately carved copper tag on the corner of the table, which read "Seat for Elder Yu Heng" in tiny, neat characters.


    Is Xue Zhengyong insane??

    With a thud, Chu Wanning set down the wooden tray on the table and sat down, his mood heavy. He had barely taken two bites when someone pulled out the wooden chair opposite him and sat down at the "Elder Yu Heng's Reserved Seat." The tray that was brought over was placed right in front of Chu Wanning's plate, so close that they nearly touched.

    Chu Wanning lifted his gaze. "…Why are you here?"

    "It was too crowded over there," Mo Ran said, picking up his rice bowl with a grin. "I came to have dinner with Shifu."

    Chu Wanning glanced over at Xue Meng and the others, feeling somewhat perplexed. Where was the crowd coming from?

    Not only was he confused, but the other two individuals left behind by Mo Ran also wore complicated expressions as they discreetly watched Chu Wanning and Mo Ran's table.

    Xue Meng muttered, "Could that damn thing have gone mad?"

    Shi Mo: "............"

    But Mo Ran didn't care about any of this. He had already felt uncomfortable watching Chu Wanning serve himself earlier. Chu Wanning was picky with his food, extremely particular in his culinary preferences, often finding something or the other unappetizing or disagreeable. Mo Ran thought it wasn't a good habit and could lead to health issues in old age.

    In the past, he wouldn't have bothered with what Chu Wanning ate, but things were different now. Regardless of whether it was because of his affection or out of respect for his teacher, he needed to take good care of his master's dietary needs.

    However, feeding Chu Wanning was an art, much like feeding a cat. One couldn't simply force food down his throat; he wouldn't want to eat it, and Mo Ran couldn't force him.

    Thus, Mo Ran had a stroke of inspiration. He picked up a slice of braised pork belly with a balance of lean and fatty parts and placed it in Chu Wanning's bowl.

    "Master, try this."

    As expected, Chu Wanning frowned. "I don't like pork belly. Take it away."

    Mo Ran, having prepared for this, chuckled. "I heard it's very sweet, with a Jiangnan flavor."

    Chu Wanning replied, "Cooking meat in Jiangnan is different from this."

    "How would you know if you don't eat it?"

    "I can tell just by looking."

    "But the chef said it's a Jiangnan style," Mo Ran said, casting his net and waiting for the cat to take the bait. He smiled and added, "The chef at Meng Po Hall is an experienced one. How could he be wrong? It must be that Master has been away from home for too long and forgotten what braised pork looks like back home."

    Chu Wanning scoffed. "Nonsense. How could I possibly mistake this?"

    Mo Ran ate a piece himself, seemingly tasting it earnestly. He pleaded sincerely, "I really think it's Master who's mistaken. This meat is quite sweet. Don't believe me? Try it for yourself."

    Unsuspecting of Mo Ran's ulterior motive, Chu Wanning felt indignant. He picked up the braised pork with his chopsticks and put it in his mouth.

    "Well?" Mo Ran suppressed his laughter as he watched the big white cat take the bait.

    With a serious frown, Chu Wanning commented, "No, the star anise flavor is too strong. I'll talk to the chef. Jiangnan-style braised pork isn't made like this."

    "Ah, ah—" Mo Ran promptly held him back, unable to help feeling speechless. Who would have thought this guy would take it so seriously? If he really went to argue with the chef, wouldn't his secret be exposed? He hurriedly said, "Master, there's no need to rush. The chef is busy right now. Since you've tasted it and it wasn't, then it definitely wasn't. I'll talk to him later. Right now, let's focus on finishing our meal."

    Chu Wanning considered this and sat down again, resuming his meal in silence.

    Mo Ran began plotting how to deceive him once more, this time picking up a piece of fish.

    Chu Wanning paused with his chopsticks: "Sailfish?"


    "I don't want it. Take it away."

    "Why not?"

    "I don't like it."

    Mo Ran chuckled. "Is it because of the bones?"


    "But every time Shifu chooses fish without bones or those with large, easy-to-remove ones. Shifu doesn't know how to eat fish with small bones, does he? Hahaha."

    He knew exactly how to exploit Chu Wanning's soft spots, and it worked again. Chu Wanning's face flushed with mild anger. "How ridiculous." He picked up the shad fish that Mo Ran had offered him and ate it, demonstrating by action that he was indeed capable of handling fish with many bones.

    In this way, under Mo Ran's coaxing, Chu Wanning unknowingly consumed far more dishes than usual, sampling almost every kind of vegetable and poultry. A meal that would normally be quick dragged on for over an hour without them finishing.

    When they finally cleared their table and left, Xue Meng and the other disciples from the Hall of Mother Meng had long since departed. Only a few stragglers remained. As Mo Ran accompanied Chu Wanning along the shaded path back to the Red Lotus Water Pavilion, the setting sun bathed the landscape in a golden glow, and dusk settled in.

    The evening breeze blew, and Chu Wanning walked with his arms pillowed behind his head, relaxed and carefree. Suddenly, he smiled.


    "What is it?"

    "Nothing much, just calling your name."

    "...I think you've eaten too much tonight."

    Mo Ran's smile grew warmer. "Yes, I'm quite full. Shifu, can we always have meals together in the future?"

    Despite knowing that Mo Ran had no ulterior motives, Chu Wanning's heartbeat couldn't help but skip a couple of beats. Fortunately, his gaze remained calm and composed.

    "Why did you argue with Xue Meng?"

    "No, we didn't," Mo Ran waved his hand, smiling. "It's just that I haven't had a meal with them in so long. After five years, sitting together again feels awkward. If Master thinks I'm in the way, I'll find another spot to eat alone tomorrow."


    Of course, he couldn't say, "I feel sorry for you eating alone" or "I want to serve you more food." Mo Ran knew these words wouldn't work. He could only show vulnerability, portraying himself as pitiful and in need of company. Given Chu Wanning's benevolence, he wouldn't refuse.

    Mo Ran could almost see the wavering in his eyes, needing just a little more persuasion.

    So he continued, "Actually, I really don't want to eat alone."

    "Why is that?"

    Mo Ran lowered his soft eyelashes, half of his smile genuine, the other half a ploy to coax Chu Wanning. "Doesn't Master think so? Eating alone casually is merely filling one's stomach."

    He paused, pushing aside the stray hairs that had blown across his forehead against the backdrop of a resplendent sunset. His dimples deepened as he gazed intently at Chu Wanning.

    "When two people eat together, chatting and sharing stories, the food tastes better and warms the stomach. That's what it means to truly enjoy a meal."


    "Shifu, can I still join you tomorrow?"

    The puppyish devotion in Mo Ran's words was almost too endearing to resist.

    Mo Ran persisted with a touch of stubbornness that tugged at the heartstrings:

    "Shifu, I've been alone for five years outside. Ever since you woke up, I've eaten with you."

    "I'm not used to eating without you."

    "I won't eat rabbit heads or duck necks anymore." He chuckled as he reached for Chu Wanning's sleeve, acting playfully mischievous. "If you let me share your braised tofu with scallions and osmanthus sugar lotus root, will you agree? Please?"

    His request might have gone well if he hadn't mentioned those particular dishes. The mention of them suddenly stirred up old memories in Chu Wanning, causing his expression to darken. He let out a cold laugh before saying, "Sure, but in the morning, you'll have to eat the same thing as me."

    Mo Ran, still puzzled, agreed without hesitation. "Alright, what's the same thing?"

    "Salty tofu pudding," Chu Wanning said mercilessly. "With seaweed."

    Mo Ran: "..............."

    So it seemed that this grudge was from when they had eaten hotpot together, either during his or Xia Sini's turn!

    Chewing on his teeth, Chu Wanning enunciated each word slowly, "And dried shrimp."

    Author has something to say:

    Mini drama scene: Since there were four panels of sword fights today, then... let's have... "The Sword Three Sects Our Main Characters Might Play." Apologies to those who don't play the game, 23333.

    Mo Ran: I'll play as a Qi Cheng, I've heard that Pure Yang has always had its share of scumbags.

    Chu Wanning: Don't steal my class, person upstairs.

    Mo Ran: Alright, then I'll play as a Jian Cheng.

    Nan Gongsi: My grand Tian Ce has a dog.

    Ye Wangxi: Let's play as the Great Tang City Enforcers then.

    Xue Meng: How about Tangmen Nightclub Fort, Brother Cannon, would you like to know more?

    Mei Hanxue: Mingjiao, why am I not in the game? Because I'm invisible.

    Shi Mo: It seems that Wanhua Sect would be a good choice. I'll play as a Flower Brother.

    Xue Meng: Don't you really consider playing as a Flower Sister? 23333 You can be my bonded romantic companion healer; I won't mind if you have a female character with a male avatar.

    Shi Mo: (Smiles) Young Master, let's compare our heights.~


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