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    Chapter 172 - Master Doesn't Eat Children

    The shockwave unleashed by Gun fueled the storm, engulfing nearly half of Lin Yi in the blazing inferno. The cultivators who had initially come for the gathering hastily flew away on their swords, but the flames relentlessly pursued them, consuming countless exhausted cultivators who couldn't keep up with the scorching heat.

    As they flew past villages near the Confucian Wind Sect in the Upper Realm, the residents were oblivious to the chaos. Seeing the raging fire advancing from the sect's direction, they stumbled in a desperate attempt to flee with their families, but how could flesh and blood outrun the molten torrent of calamity?

    "Dad!"

    "Father! Father!"

    Everywhere they passed, wails and cries filled the air. Xue Zhengyong and the others had already expanded their weapons to their maximum capacity, loaded with as many Upper Realm civilians as they could carry.

    Madame Wang tried to soothe them, "Don't cry, everyone, don't cry. Move inward, be careful, hold onto each other tightly, don't fall off..."

    But even with the iron fan expanded to its limits, there were too many people in the towns they passed through to save them all. Kneeling at the front, Xue Zhengyong leaned down to grab another crying child, but the fan couldn't withstand the strain, shaking violently. He had no choice but to let go, watching helplessly as the tear-streaked face, filled with hope, was tossed far below.

    Even the toughest of men couldn't hold back his sobs, "Why? Why? Does one person's grievance warrant the sacrifice of so many innocent lives?" Xue Zhengyong choked back tears that flowed freely, "Isn't the world chaotic enough? Are there not enough lives lost unjustly...?"

    Madame Wang's eyes were also rimmed with red. She held two rescued children tightly to her sides. Their parents had entrusted them to the iron fan but didn't have time to climb aboard themselves, falling victim to the calamitous flames. The children wept, and Madame Wang comforted them, stroking their hair, though she struggled to find the right words to say.

    She looked behind her, where over a dozen cultivators were trailing them. Many had already been caught up by the flames, while others had fled in different directions from the start. Neither Chu Wanning nor Mo Ran was among them. Tears welled up in her eyes as she silently prayed for their safety.

    Not far away, Xue Meng, still unconscious, was being carried by Jiang Xi. The fire illuminated his symmetrical features. Jiang Xi's ornate sword buzzed uneasily beneath his feet, unable to bear the weight.

    Jiang Xi shot a disdainful glance at Xue Meng. More than once, he had considered simply dropping the boy into the flames, but the pleading look on Madame Wang's face as she clung to the iron fan made him frown and bite his lip, reluctant to let go.

    Xue Zhengyong, weeping, attempted to reach for another child who seemed younger and might be lighter, but despite his intentions, the iron fan could no longer bear the burden.

    Releasing yet another hand he had grasped, Xue Zhengyong nearly broke down. He knelt there, curled up in pain, devastated by his own inability to save them all... Just then, a streak of silver-red light flashed, and Jiang Xi waved his sleeve, summoning a brilliant glow that lifted the girl Xue Zhengyong could no longer carry onto his sword, Snow Phoenix.

    The exquisite sword hummed even louder.

    Jiang Xi, with little patience, kicked it and barked, "What are you whining about? If you've got guts, stand still and wait for the fire to burn you."

    Snow Phoenix fell silent, carrying Jiang Xi and the two others forward in silence, but its slender hilt appeared strained, as if it might snap at any moment.

    Jiang Xi flew alongside Xue Zhengyong and glared at him with disgust, "What's there to cry about? If you can save someone, do it. If not, move on. There's no need to put on a show."

    Madame Wang: "Senior Brother..."

    "Did I say something wrong?" Jiang Xi sneered, his handsome face twisted into a cruel and bitter smile, "If you hadn't left with him back then and stayed in Solitary Moon Night, you wouldn't be so powerless now, unable to even control your own sword. By vacating your spot, your husband – this selfless hero – could save another life."

    Madame Wang seemed stung, her face falling as she slowly lowered her eyelids, not uttering another word.

    In the opposite direction, far away, Mo Ran's long sword had also expanded to its limits, filled with ordinary citizens from the Upper Cultivation Realm whom he had rescued, besides Chu Wanning.

    Trembling, they wept uncontrollably, staring blankly at their homes being engulfed by flames and reduced to rubble. Their tears shimmered in the reflection of the fire, and when they closed their eyes, their sobs echoed in unison.

    Amidst the solemn atmosphere, Mo Ran remained silent. Unlike Xue Zhengyong, he didn't struggle unnecessarily, knowing it was impossible to carry more people. He didn't look down at the villages below, where cries and screams filled the air.

    "The sea is ahead," he said, his eyebrows furrowing slightly, "Master, where do we go?"

    "To Flowerfall Island. Can you manage?"

    Flowerfall Island was the closest small island to Lin Yi in the Upper Cultivation Realm. Mo Ran nodded, "I can handle it, but I'm not familiar with the East Sea. It might take some time to find it. Master, please keep an eye on them and keep them alert. The sword is too crowded; if they fall asleep, they might fall off."

    Chu Wanning replied, "Alright."

    Mo Ran flew on his sword for over an hour. As a thin ray of sunlight emerged from the sea horizon, indicating dawn's arrival, they broke through the clouds, revealing a not-so-large circular island amidst the glistening blue waters.

    At last, they arrived at Drifting Petal Island.

    Though the island was under the jurisdiction of the Confucian Wind Sect, it was remote and sparsely populated, mostly inhabited by scattered fishermen who relied on the sea for their livelihood. There was only one prominent family living there. They had witnessed the raging fire at the Confucian Wind Sect from afar across the turbulent sea, and now, with hearts heavy, they wondered what had transpired. Many residents peered out into their courtyards, fearful that some ominous sign was in the sky, and dared not sleep.

    As dawn broke, no strange occurrences affected them, but a long sword carrying a group of people descended noisily onto the wet shore. Leading them was a tall and extraordinarily handsome man, his cheeks splattered with speckles of blood, indicating that he had just come from a fierce battle.

    Drifting Petal Island had no cultivators; its inhabitants were all ordinary folk. Thus, upon seeing him, they were all somewhat frightened, unsure if he was friend or foe, or why he had come.

    "Oh, look, their faces are all blackened..."

    Someone whispered, eyeing the men, women, and children behind Mo Ran.

    "It seems they escaped from that huge fire... Could they be from Lin Yi?"

    A sturdy fisherman mustered up the courage to approach and ask, "Are... Are you from the Confucian Wind Sect?"

    "Cliff of Life and Death," Mo Ran replied as he passed the child in his arms to Chu Wanning. The child was too young to endure the journey, so to prevent him from being crushed, Mo Ran had held onto him throughout the flight. "Something happened at the Confucian Wind Sect. These... are all residents of Lin Yi. The fire spread too wildly, and the sword could only carry so much weight. I couldn't save many more..."

    Halfway through his explanation, Mo Ran looked up and saw the fishermen's bewildered expressions, realizing he had spoken too hastily.

    These people from Fluttering Flower Island knew nothing about tribulation fires or sword flight techniques, did they?

    He pressed his lips together and said softly, "My apologies. I'll explain later." He glanced back at the dejected and disheveled crowd behind him. "Could you perhaps provide them with some food and water first?"

    A young child, bereaved of both parents, approached Mo Ran timidly, his tiny hand reaching out to tug on the corner of Mo Ran's robe in desperation.

    Mo Ran lowered his gaze, stroking the child's hair. He addressed the fisherman, "I'm truly sorry for the inconvenience."

    The residents of Fluttering Flower Island were mostly kind-hearted, and soon someone brought over tea and snacks for them to eat. Mo Ran briefly recounted the events to the islanders, who stood with their mouths agape, staring blankly at the endless flames on the horizon.

    "Confucian Wind Sect... It's all burned down?" someone asked in disbelief.

    "Did Headmaster Southgarden pass away?"

    Mo Ran replied, "Not exactly. He consumed the Lingchi Fruit and was taken elsewhere."

    "What's the Lingchi Fruit?"

    "It's...

    Chu Wanning stood by, watching Mo Ran slowly and patiently explain to the fishermen, not stepping forward himself.

    His appearance was somewhat aloof, his gaze naturally imbued with frosty detachment. If he were to negotiate with the villagers, the outcome wouldn't be any better than Mo Ran's.

    In his arms, the sleeping child awoke to find himself held by a cold, unfamiliar man. Startled, the child began wailing loudly, no longer as obedient as when in Mo Ran's embrace.

    Chu Wanning glanced at Mo Ran, who was still surrounded by the villagers and unable to break free. Feeling helpless, he instinctively adopted a stern expression and said to the child, "Don't cry."

    The child's cries grew even louder, and he kept calling out, "Father, Mother... I want Father, I want Mother."

    "Don't cry," Chu Wanning awkwardly tried to soothe him, "You, don't cry."

    "Waaah—Mother... Mother..."

    With no other options, Chu Wanning held the child with one arm while attempting to stroke his hair with the other. However, the child refused to let him touch him, tilting his head back. His tear-streaked, rosy cheeks were also smeared with snot. "I want Mother, I want Father, I want to go home..."

    Chu Wanning was at a loss. He had never comforted a child before and didn't know what to say. He started to ponder how he could offer some solace to this little one, but as he fell into thought, his brows knitted involuntarily, casting a cold, distant air around him like a sealed box of icy black steel.

    The child, caught in the midst of his crying fit, inadvertently caught sight of Chu Wanning's expression and abruptly choked back his sobs, too frightened to utter another word. He bit his lip, tears cascading down his face like a broken string of pearls.

    Chu Wanning suddenly thought of something and, with one hand, unfastened his Qiankun Pouch to fish out a sticky rice candy. He peeled off the wrapper and offered it to the child.

    "…" With tears in his eyes, the child let out a comically choked sob. He looked at Chu Wanning, then at the candy in his hand.

    Since he was young, his mother had told him countless stories to make him behave, including tales of terrifying cultivators who would drug disobedient children and use them as ingredients for immortal pills.

    Tears welled silently in the child's eyes as he stared at Chu Wanning, suddenly struck with extreme fear.

    Chu Wanning didn't understand what the child meant and stared back blankly, still holding out the sweet.

    He had phoenix-shaped eyes, with pupils slightly tilted upward and slender eyelids. While such eyes were attractive, they also conveyed an air of arrogance and scrutiny when he wasn't smiling. Even a gentle smile would add a touch of wildness, like the thorns on a rose, carrying a hint of provocation and pride.

    However, not everyone could appreciate this kind of pride. Thus, despite Chu Wanning's handsome features, he naturally didn't endear himself to strangers or children.

    "Go on, eat it." Chu Wanning had seen Mo Ran calm a few youngsters with candies during their sword flights. He attempted the same, but couldn't understand why it wasn't working this time.

    The child pursed his lips, hesitating and trembling, before slowly shaking his head.

    ...He didn't want to be turned into an immortal pill...

    "You..."

    Before he could finish his sentence, the child's patience reached its limit, and he burst into terrified wails that shook the heavens and earth, drawing the attention of everyone around them.

    Chu Wanning was caught off guard, still holding the glutinous rice candy in a daze. He softly murmured, "It's... quite sweet."

    He had intended to say that the candy was sweet, but the child had interpreted his unfinished "you" as part of the sentence, making it sound like "You're quite sweet." With his little mind spinning, he concluded that this Taoist must be planning to use him for alchemy, turning him into a sweet immortal pill. The realization struck him so hard that he let out a howl, crying with incredible intensity.

    Chu Wanning froze. "......."

    Author's Note:

    Restoring the Mini-drama today~

    "Three Wild Tour Guides"

    Meat Bun: Hello everyone, welcome to the Confession Island dungeon. Now, please welcome our wild tour guide, Xue Mengmeng, to announce the site's safety precautions and friendly reminders!

    Xue Mengmeng: "You damn tour guide."

    Meat Bun: Due to Guide Xue's disrespectful behavior toward the referee, he has been penalized and removed from the scene. Please welcome Guide Number 2, Chu Wanning, to inform us of the precautions and friendly reminders for this attraction.

    Chu Wanning: I refuse to confess my feelings.

    Announcer: Due to Guide Chu's non-cooperation with the referee, he has been penalized and excused from the presentation. Please welcome Guide Mo Ran, number 3, to inform us of the site's precautions and useful tips.

    Mo Ran: Even though this is a confession scenario, the actual confession won't happen right away. If you're eager, you can save it for a few days and read it later~ Haha~ I know some of you think I'm getting off easy, and I agree. Meat Bun promised not to serve me a tragic plot twist right away because, according to the storyline, once the knives start flying, they won't stop. The climax arc is filled with sorrow, so before we dive into that, let's savor some irreversible sweetness while we can.

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