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    Chapter 152: Master, Look! Mei Hanxue!

    Just as the proprietress was unlocking the door and yawning, lazily stretching herself in preparation for business, she rubbed her sleepy eyes and saw a tall, handsome man standing at the entrance of her shop. He had an aura of grandeur and stood as straight as a pine tree, the sort that should be wielding a sword or a saber, strolling through the marketplace with an aloof demeanor, paying no attention to anyone.

    But this handsome man was smiling, his cheeks dimpling softly, and his thick, gentle eyelashes fluttering.

    In his arms, he held a bamboo basket. Instead of spirit stones, magical materials, or spell scrolls, it was filled with fresh vegetables and fruits. The apples were bright red, the radishes plump, and the lettuce's lush green leaves reached out, their dewdrops glistening.

    They complemented his handsome face.

    The proprietress' half-open yawn froze in place as she stared blankly at this contrasting scene of toughness and tenderness before her. Blinking, she took a while to regain her senses.

    "Proprietress?"

    "Oh, oh, what does Immortal Lord desire?"

    "Just this." Mo Ran picked up a pair of light red crystal pendants. "How much are they?"

    "Sir has good taste. These pendants are made from high-quality Dragon Blood Crystals, carved by artisans from Kunlun Palace. Although the materials aren't expensive, the pendants themselves are rather peculiar. You must know, sir, that the Dragon Blood Crystal will turn red when the wearer's body temperature rises..."

    The proprietress chuckled as she continued, "Since you're looking for a pair, I suppose you want one for each of your cultivation partners, right? Oh my, which lucky fairy maiden will be able to catch your eye? You won't regret buying these pendants. When you both wear them during dual cultivation, it'll surely add a delightful touch."

    Mo Ran had originally intended to buy the pendant solely because dragon's blood crystal was an excellent substance for nurturing cold constitutions. Chu Wanning was always cold in winter, so wearing it would be most beneficial.

    However, upon hearing the proprietress's suggestion, he couldn't help but imagine Chu Wanning wearing the pendant, his mind clouded with desire. The pendant, warmed by its owner's high body temperature, would turn bright red like a trembling drop of blood on the tip of a blade.

    He cleared his throat softly. "I'll take this one. Please wrap it up for me."

    To avoid making Chu Wanning feel uncomfortable, Mo Ran also purchased gifts for Xue Meng, Xue Zhengyong, and Madame Wang. Back at the inn, after setting down all the miscellaneous items, he retrieved the small paper package containing the dragon's blood crystal from his chest. The teardrop-shaped pendant inside had already turned crimson due to his body heat. He chose one to keep and hung the other around his neck...

    Afterward, he straightened his clothing, ensuring the pendant wouldn't be visible. Then, he carefully rewrapped the remaining pendant.

    Feeling his heartbeat quicken as he touched his collar, he found it surprising that he could be so agitated over such a private matter hidden beneath his clothes. In his past life, he had experienced all sorts of debauchery, yet now, this simple secret stirred him.

    "Is this for me?"

    During dinner, Xue Meng held up the sword tassel Mo Ran had given him with a bewildered expression.

    "Why are you giving me this? Are you apologizing for what happened yesterday?"

    Speaking of last night, Mo Ran, unaware that Chu Wanning had been awake, remained rather composed, not betraying any emotion.

    Chu Wanning, on the other hand, found it a bit unbearable. He picked up the teacup in front of him, his throat twitching as he took several sips of cold tea to compose himself.

    Smiling at Xue Meng, Mo Ran said, "What were you thinking? Clearly, you were the one who provoked me first. I found this attractive, so I bought it on a whim for you to wear."

    He paused, then added, "Since we're out together, we should buy something, right? I also got something for Shifu and your parents. Just some trinkets, not worth much."

    Madame Wang seemed surprised. "We have something too?"

    "Your mother's is a sandalwood powder box, and your father's is a fan pendant," Mo Ran said, presenting the gifts. Finally, he handed the dragon blood crystal to Chu Wanning. "And this is for Shifu."

    "...What is it?"

    "A pendant," Mo Ran said, his palm warm and slightly sweaty. "Dragon blood crystals can ward off the cold. Lin Yi is famous for producing these stones. I bought it to warm Shifu up."

    Chu Wanning accepted it. The stone wasn't expensive, but it was practical. "Thank you."

    "No need, Shifu. Why don't you try it on?"

    Chu Wanning glanced at Mo Ran but failed to detect the intimate intentions behind his gesture. He wore the necklace naturally around his neck. The light from the pale red crystal shimmered, catching Xue Meng's attention. He couldn't help but comment, "Beautiful, this one is great, better than my sword tassel. Where did you get it? I want one too."

    Mo Ran replied, "It's gone. There was only one on the entire stall, and I wanted it for myself but couldn't get it."

    Xue Meng was deeply disappointed. He picked up his own sword tassel, comparing it with the dragon blood crystal around Chu Wanning's neck, grumbling, "I don't believe it. These things are abundant in Lin Yi. When we reach the Confucian Wind Sect, I'll ask Nan Gongsi. He must have loads of them, maybe even a pile as tall as a mountain..."

    Mo Ran ignored him and focused on Chu Wanning. Seeing that the pendant was hanging outside Chu Wanning's clothing instead of being tucked inside, he felt a bit restless. After a moment of restraint, he couldn't hold back and said, "Master, this pendant isn't meant to be worn outside."

    "Hmm?"

    "It should be placed inside your clothes," he explained, leaning over to help Chu Wanning adjust it. His proximity and hot breath against Chu Wanning's earlobe made the latter push him away.

    Chu Wanning lowered his gaze, his expression appearing cold and distant. But Mo Ran observed closely and noticed a hint of blush on Chu Wanning's ears, like the delicate pink of a peach blossom. It was both pitiful and endearing, making Mo Ran crave a gentle kiss to hold those quivering petals between his lips.

    Surprised, Mo Ran wondered why Chu Wanning was blushing. He didn't think he had done anything excessively inappropriate. If helping with the pendant was the cause, then that was hardly a big deal...

    After careful consideration, he recalled what he had just said.

    "It needs to be placed inside you."

    Mo Ran was momentarily stunned, his face suddenly flushing red. If not for the fact that his skin was much darker than Chu Wanning's from exposure to the sun, his flush might have been even more noticeable.

    He swore that when he spoke those words, he hadn't intended any double meaning...

    Then he felt surprised. If he himself hadn't thought anything amiss, how could someone as upright as Chu Wanning have possibly misinterpreted it?

    Mo Ran pondered, unable to figure it out. Even as Chu Wanning, with reddened ears and a serious expression, stuffed the pendant into his clothes without a word, he still couldn't make sense of it.

    Last night, a mere three-finger-wide wooden wall had caused Heaven-Stepping Lord to miss out on so many wonderful moments. He'd missed the springtime and innocence, and a flesh-and-blood Chu Wanning who had fallen into the quagmire of desire. He knew nothing of what had transpired on the other side of that wall, so naturally, he couldn't understand that Chu Wanning was still mired in yesterday's mud, his heart pulsing with desire, ashamed by it, and hyper-sensitive because of it.

    All due to that dream, the heated whispers in the bed of dreams, and the secret hope that no one would discover his feelings, he had, unusually, allowed his mind to wander down this twisted path.

    Chu Wanning looked up at him, feeling a warmth in his heart. The flames of lust from the previous day had yet to fully subside, so he reached out his hand—

    But Mo Ran held onto the teapot's handle.

    "Drink less. This tea is cold, it'll hurt your stomach."

    "..." Chu Wanning remained silent, gazing at him with his hand still outstretched, indicating that he did indeed want the iced tea.

    "I'll get you a hot cup instead."

    "No need..."

    But Mo Ran had already approached the shopkeeper. Moments later, he returned with a freshly boiled pot of steaming tea and poured a cup for Chu Wanning. "Master, drink this."

    "Right, Yu Heng, you should have hot tea. Iced tea isn't good for you; it can really harm your body."

    Chu Wanning had no choice but to take the warm cup of tea, blowing on it gently. However, he didn't drink it, setting it aside instead.

    His heart was already burning hot.

    If it got any warmer, he feared that the thin layer of ice in his eyes would melt away. Then, the endless spring waters within him would overflow, and all those unspeakable emotions would be impossible to conceal when their gazes met.

    Where would the face of the Great Immortal of Beidou be then?

    After they finished their breakfast, as they were preparing to leave the inn, a group of people entered from outside.

    The leader of the group was wearing a light blue cloak adorned with intricate curling vine patterns, his face concealed, adopting a low-profile that made him blend seamlessly into the crowd. However, upon entering the inn and catching sight of Xue Zhengyong, he approached proactively and performed a respectful bow.

    "Good day, Uncle Xue."

    "You are..."

    The figure removed their cloak and hat. Upon seeing this, Xue Meng let out an "Ah" and took a large step back. In contrast, Xue Zhengyong chuckled, "Oh my, isn't this Han Xue?"

    Mei Hanxue lifted his face, revealing a strikingly handsome visage: fair skin, a high nose bridge, distinct brow bones, and deep, penetrating eyes that set him apart from others. His complexion was exceptionally fine, emanating a subtle luminosity even in the dimly lit room, perhaps a result of being nurtured in the frigid, icy wilderness of Kunlun since childhood. His brows and eyes seemed imbued with the very essence of frost and snow, exuding an ethereal clarity alongside an air of proud solitude.

    In short, no one would believe that his elegant demeanor belonged to the notorious playboy Mei Hanxue, whose reputation as a Casanova spread far and wide.

    "I've been occupied with matters in the palace, which is why I've only arrived in Lin Yi today. I never expected to encounter Uncle Xue here." Mei Hanxue's demeanor was chillingly aloof. Though he offered a polite smile, his gaze remained indifferent, a respectful coolness emanating from him. "Nephew has come to pay his respects to Uncle and Aunt."

    "Excellent, excellent, oh my, if only Meng-er had your level of courtesy."

    To his surprise, Xue Meng was far from pleased upon hearing this. He shot Mei Hanxue venomous glares from behind, each one more vicious than the last.

    He thought to himself, What a two-faced brat, this Mei Hanxue! Playing nice in public but sneaky behind closed doors! Clearly a shameless rogue who doesn't discriminate between men and women, he even dared to touch my waist back in the Peach Blossom Spring. Now, standing before elders, he's pretending to be a serious, emotionless monk on the path of enlightenment – what an actor this fellow is!

    Mei Hanxue didn't even spare a glance at his childhood companion. He lowered his eyes and spoke with minimal lip movement, maintaining utmost decorum. "Uncle jests. Young Master Xue is a favored son of heaven, the top champion of the Spirit Mountain Congress. Naturally, he possesses exceptional qualities."

    "Yes, Father, this guy is my defeated opponent—"

    "Mo... Meng..." Madame Wang felt rather awkward as she reached out to pull at Xue Meng, who finally grumbled into silence but still seemed to be simmering with anger through his flared nostrils.

    Mei Hanxue continued, "Is Uncle preparing to set off for the Confucian Wind Sect?"

    "It's about time, and it doesn't hurt to head there earlier. After all, Nan Gongliu isn't short on rooms. Didn't he mention that during the month surrounding the wedding, an entire immortal city will be vacated for guests to stay in?" Xue Zhengyong chuckled. "Let's go take a look first. It'll give our juniors more opportunities to interact with each other."

    Saying this, he glanced at Xue Meng, implying that he was considering a suitable wife for him.

    Xue Meng: "..."

    "Why isn't Han Xue going straight to the Confucian Wind Sect?"

    "The Palace Lord gave me some tasks to complete, requiring the purchase of many spirit stones. Hence, I'll stay in Dai City for a few more days before heading over on the day before the wedding. It's still not too late."

    Xue Meng muttered softly, "You're clearly afraid that if you go too early, those wronged maidens from reputable sects will chase you down and beat you like a dog."

    Mo Ran, with his sharp ears, chuckled and asked, "What did Mengmeng say? What dog?"

    "..."

    Xue Meng harrumphed and crossed his arms. "Nothing. I was just reciting a cultivation technique."

    "Ha! You were probably reciting the Plucking Plum Heart Technique."

    "You stop that!"

    Mei Hanxue, having listened to their banter, finally cast them a glance. His eyes met Xue Meng's, and he suddenly froze in slight surprise.

    Something felt off. This Mei Hanxue seemed odd. The last time they met in Peach Blossom Spring, that brat's eyes had been filled with a rosy glow, and even when he was angry, those eyes seemed to be smiling.

    But now, there wasn't even a ripple in this person's eyes, let alone a rosy hue. They were cold, composed, and abstinent. It was as if this pair of eyes was frowning even when they smiled.

    Xue Meng blinked, paused for a moment, then recalled how Mei Hanxue had led the Treading Snow Palace disciples to assist in the Sky Splitting Battle. Back then, he had put on a serious, well-behaved facade in front of everyone. This made Xue Meng seethe with anger. How could this guy be such a great actor? How could he fake it so well? Truly a wolf in sheep's clothing! A refined scoundrel!

    "Ai, Meng'er, where are you going?"

    "The room is too suffocating! I'll wait for you two outside. Come out when you're done!" Xue Meng declared, striding to the door and dramatically sweeping aside the curtains as he stormed out, feeling deeply wronged despite his princely demeanor.

    He was perplexed. The room reeked of scum, yet why did no one else seem to notice besides him?

    So aggravating!

    Author's Note:

    Xue Mengmeng: Mei Hanxue, why are you being so contradictory?

    Mei Hanxue: Guess, and there's a prize if you get it right.

    Xue Mengmeng: What's the reward?

    Mei Hanxue: A VIP golden membership card for Qinhuai Brothel. All the girls there are skilled in various arts, guaranteed to boost your ego and confidence. You'll be able to hold your head high and stand tall before your cousin from then on.

    Xue Mengmeng: ...Are you f*cking a madam or something?= =

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