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    Chapter 147: Master, Let's Talk It Out

    The letter consisted of only a thin sheet of paper with a few brief sentences.

    Mo Ran glanced at it and felt a weight lifted off his chest. He let out a silent sigh of relief, realizing that his clothes were drenched in cold sweat.

    Xue Meng also came over to take a look.

    "What is this?" He frowned upon reading it. "Why would she write about this?"

    "…What else could it be? I've already said we aren't close," Mo Ran chuckled genuinely, placing the letter on the table. "You made it sound so mysterious that you actually scared me."

    Turned out, during his travels over the years, Mo Ran had slain many notorious demons, one of which was a carp spirit that had plagued Yunmeng Lake for years. Due to its high level of power and the remote location of its lair, many cultivators who attempted to challenge it ended up as skeletons decorating its cave.

    Although Yunmeng Lake was filled with demonic aura, an ideal place for spirits to cultivate, carps weren't naturally aggressive creatures. Normally, a demon born from a carp wouldn't have such a violent nature. After eighty rounds of battle, Mo Ran finally strangled it with "See Ghosts" and discovered the reason behind its brutality.

    "That carp spirit had a Wangshu Crystal in its abdomen," Mo Ran said with a smile. "This crystal condensed a thousand years of moonlight and is an exquisite spiritual stone. It's perfect for tempering weapons or cultivating a spirit core."

    Chu Wanning asked, "What use does a Butterfly-Bone Beauty have for this?"

    "It's for her husband, she said. He has an elemental fire spirit core, but his cultivation has been too hasty over the years, putting him at risk of demonic corruption. That's why she's willing to spend a fortune to buy Wanshu Crystal Stones from me as part of her dowry, to suppress the evil within him."

    Xue Meng nodded thoughtfully. "To spend all her wealth for her husband's peace of mind, that's quite a rare sentiment."

    Mo Ran chuckled upon hearing this. "Where did she get the money? From Confucian Wind Sect, no doubt. With her looks and gentle words, which senior brother could resist her? If you were in their shoes, would you be able to say no?"

    Xue Meng's eyes widened. "Don't make it sound like I'd be swayed by beauty."

    "Don't get angry. I was just using an analogy." Mo Ran returned the letter to Xue Meng. At the Summit of Life and Death, unresponded letters typically ended up stored in the Book Collection Pavilion. "File it away."

    Xue Meng was taken aback. "File it away?"

    "Or burn it, if you prefer," Mo Ran suggested.

    "…No," Xue Meng replied, growing anxious. "She's getting married and asked you for a spirit stone as a favor, not demanding it for free. She even said she'd pay any price, showing sincerity. Why won't you sell it to her?"

    "I'm not refusing to sell because I don't want to. The spirit stone serves no purpose for me, but I've already given it to you."

    "Given… to me?"

    "Indeed," Mo Ran smiled and pointed at the Longcheng sword at Xue Meng's waist. "Didn't I send you a crystal years ago to have your Uncle refine Longcheng? Today, Longcheng is not what it used to be. If you use it well, its power is hardly different from divine weapons. Don't you owe that carp spirit a thank you?"

    Xue Meng's mouth gaped wide, leaving him speechless for a long while.

    "..."

    He only knew that during Mo Ran's travels, he had acquired a gemstone, but he had never cared about the true origin of this gem. For Mo Ran, there was always a breath of defiance within his heart. Regardless of whether the person was evil or had reformed, he always harbored a hint of resentment and a sense of exclusion.

    And so, when Father said that the gem Mo Ran had given him could elevate Dragon City, though he was grateful, he also felt a sense of humiliation. He felt as if he had accepted a favor from his rival for no reason, and thus did not wish to inquire further. Instead, he simply asked his father to take Dragon City to Treading Snow Palace for refinement.

    To his surprise, Mo Ran had given him the invaluable "Wangshu Crystal," leaving Xue Meng with a jumble of emotions that he found impossible to articulate.

    After a long moment, he managed to stammer out, "Thank you."

    "Think nothing of it," Mo Ran smiled and waved his hand. "It was merely a coincidence."

    Xue Meng's expression soured even further as he retorted stubbornly, "It's not you I'm thanking, but that carp demon who has gone to meet his maker. I thank him."

    "Ahahaha, well then, you'd better avoid eating carp meat from now on to accumulate virtue for your benefactor."

    "Hmph!"

    After some playful laughter, Mo Ran suddenly thought of something, his dimples deepening as he asked, "Oh right, I was so startled by you just now that I forgot to ask. Who is Song Qiutong getting married to? They're making such a big fuss, and she's just a little junior sister. Yet, she's managed to get the Confucian Wind Sect to send out invitations. Impressive! Is it an alliance with the Jade Lake Villa?"

    "It's not."

    "Not with the Jade Lake Villa? I thought that old villa master looked lecherous, and since the Confucian Wind Sect is on good terms with them, they'd give Song Qiutong to him." Mo Ran chuckled. "Then which family is it? To be able to marry into the Confucian Wind Sect with such grandeur... It can't possibly be the Treading Snow Palace, right?"

    "What are you thinking?" Xue Meng glared at him. "Why does it have to be an alliance?"

    Mo Ran froze for a moment, his smile freezing in place. "Then who else could she be marrying?"

    "South Palace Si! You forgot, didn't you? This untamed young master of the Confucian Wind Sect is of marriageable age. With Song Qiutong being so beautiful, she wouldn't be losing out by marrying him..."

    Before he could finish his muttering, Mo Ran abruptly stood up, astonishment written all over his face. "South Palace Si?!"

    Xue Meng jumped in fright. "What are you doing?"

    "She... How did she end up marrying South Palace Si? How could..." The shock was too great; Mo Ran's heart was tossed about like a tempest, unable to calm down. He muttered to himself, "South Palace Si..."

    No wonder he had such a reaction.

    After all, in his previous life, Nan Gongsi had already died from a severe illness at this time!

    These past years, he had devoted himself to dealing with the chaos of refugees and wars, not paying attention to major events among the righteous sects. The Confucian Wind Sect had little interaction with him, so naturally, he wouldn't be concerned about them. It wasn't until this moment when Xue Meng suddenly announced the engagement of Song Qiutong and Nan Gongsi that he abruptly realized—

    Something was off.

    Everything was wrong. The changes in this world's fate didn't only affect him; even the seemingly unrelated Confucian Wind Sect had transformed.

    Someone who should have been long buried was still alive, and instead of mourning, they were celebrating a wedding, preparing to marry the Empress from his past life...

    The news was rather unsettling, leaving him momentarily speechless and feeling a bit choked.

    Moreover, was Nan Gongsi blind? How could he fancy such a woman?

    Still, celebrations must proceed, and gifts must be given. Since Sect Leader Nan had personally delivered the invitation, there was no reason to decline. The wedding banquet was scheduled for the 15th of this month. Xue Zhengyong arranged all the sect's affairs, delegating them to Elders Greedy Wolf and Xuan Ji, before setting off for Lin Yi.

    Aside from him, according to the etiquette of the cultivation world, Madame Wang, Xue Meng, and Mo Ran were required to attend. Furthermore, Nan Gongsi had specifically invited Chu Wanning, mentioning that he had received guidance from Elder Yu Heng in his youth and hoped the elder would grace the occasion with his presence. Thus, Chu Wanning had to go as well.

    "The Confucian Wind Sect is currently the most prominent sect, and for their young master's wedding, virtually every respected figure in the world would attend to offer congratulations," Xue Zhengyong said. "The Summit of Life and Death usually doesn't pay much attention to details, but in such a grand occasion, one should still adhere to certain rules, lest we become the laughingstock."

    Xue Meng asked, "What rules? I think I'm already quite well-behaved."

    Xue Zhengyong tugged at his hairpin and said, "This hairpin you're wearing is incorrect; it's made of gold."

    "So what if it's gold?"

    Madame Wang smiled gently. "Meng-er, this is your first time attending a wedding banquet, so there are many things you don't understand yet. Let Mother explain them to you. In the Upper cultivation realm, only the groom is allowed to wear golden head ornaments. If you were to wear a golden hairpin, it would be like crashing the wedding, and people would laugh at you."

    Xue Meng's face flushed red as he stuttered, "Crash the wedding? No, no, no, I wouldn't do that."

    Mo Ran teased him, "What if they caught you and Miss Song and locked you up in a small room? Would you be scared then?"

    "You're the one who'll get locked up!" Xue Meng was both embarrassed and furious. "I won't wear it, then!"

    Xue Zhengyong said, "It seems you're not very clear about the dress code for wedding guests. How about this—I'll have someone make new outfits for each of you, and you can just wear them on the day."

    Pausing, he looked particularly at Chu Wanning and asked tentatively, "Yu Heng, would that be all right?"

    Xue Zhengyong was not worried about the others, as they might just cause some laughter. But Chu Wanning, who was accustomed to wearing white, might very well show up in all-white attire at someone else's wedding if not reminded. Nan Gongliu would likely be furious enough to spit blood, and that could lead to a feud between the Summit of Life and Death and the Confucian Wind Sect.

    Chu Wanning said, "Sure."

    The night before they were due to depart, the tailor-made wedding banquet clothes that Xue Zhengyong had commissioned for everyone arrived. These clothes were made by a skilled tailor from Lin Yi, with impeccable design, tight stitching, and elegant appearance. Even the picky Xue Meng nodded in approval after receiving his outfit.

    Mo Ran held a stack of clean garments and ascended to the Southern Peak of the Summit of Life and Death, entering the Red Lotus Water Pavilion. He called out loudly, "Master, Father asked me to bring you these clothes."

    He walked to the lotus pond and saw Chu Wanning practicing with a sword.

    He remembered that Chu Wanning's second weapon was also a sword, but it exuded an intense killing aura, capable of destroying the heavens and earth. Chu Wanning never used it lightly. However, a blade must be sharpened to be sharp, and skills needed to be honed through practice. Even though there weren't many opportunities to unsheathe the sword, Chu Wanning would still occasionally practice with other swords.

    Under the cold moonlight, perhaps due to the heat of practice, he had taken off his outer robe, leaving only a white silk inner shirt. The silk fluttered gently in the evening breeze, giving him a graceful and ethereal appearance.

    His hair, usually tied into a high ponytail, was now gathered up into a neat and tidy topknot, making his face look more vibrant and slender. The sword sang as he danced, its blade as sharp as snow. His movements were strong yet delicate, his steps controlled and rhythmic. When he paused, he resembled a lily reflected in water; when he lunged, he was like a dragon soaring through the sky. Mo Ran, standing nearby, found no flaw in his performance.

    Suddenly, Chu Wanning's brows furrowed, and he pointed the sword at the lotus pond. The move was fierce, dividing the water with sword qi, unable to reunite under the pressure of the sword — it was the technique of 'Cutting Water with a Blade'! With a light tap of his toe, he leaped gracefully, soaring over the parted water with open arms. His white sleeves billowed like a deity, landing softly on the pavilion on the opposite side of the pond.

    "Master!"

    Fearful that he might vanish with another leap, Mo Ran hurriedly chased after him and called out to him beneath the pavilion. The bright moon hung high in the sky, casting a cool breeze across the night. Beside the pavilion, a towering crabapple tree shed its gentle, snow-like white petals. Chu Wanning stood on the tip of the pavilion, his robes slightly undone, allowing moonlight to filter through, illuminating his jade-like complexion. Hearing the sound, he lowered his head, his eyes dark and sparkling. He panted, his lips flushed from swordplay, lending him an uncommon radiance.

    "Why are you here?"

    The night wind tousled the loose strands of hair at his temples, causing him to squint.

    "I've brought you some clothes. Try them on and see if they fit."

    Chu Wanning harrumphed softly. Suddenly, he recalled that Mo Ran was now also revered as a grandmaster by the world. Since his resurrection, they had yet to cross swords. His heart stirred, and without a second thought, he descended with his sword, declaring, "Try catching my sword first!"

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