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    Chapter 178: Master Selling Flowers

    The next morning, Chu Wanning woke up with dark circles under his eyes. He hadn't slept well the night before, causing him to appear particularly gloomy. His already aloof face seemed frozen with an icy chill.

    Pushing the door open, he saw Mo Ran washing clothes outside.

    ...Why was he washing clothes so early in the morning?

    Didn't they do that last night?

    Seeing Chu Wanning emerge from the house, Mo Ran appeared a bit awkward. Soap suds splashed across his cheeks as he turned to greet him, "Master."

    "Mm."

    "Sun Sanniang kept her word. After receiving the money, she delivered food to every household this morning. I've placed it on the small stone table in the courtyard. Master, go eat quickly."

    "And you?"

    "I've already eaten." Mo Ran's arms were immersed in the rippling water, their lines strong and clean. "After Master has finished breakfast, we'll head out together to sell butterflies and flowers."

    The food Sun Sanniang provided was rather plain, but the portions were generous, with three steamed buns on his plate.

    He sat in the small courtyard, slowly nibbling on the pastries. As the sun rose in the east, sunlight filtered through the withered vines on the overhead trellis, casting a dappled pattern of shadows on the table.

    He turned his head and gazed at Mo Ran's tall figure, a vague warmth stirring in his heart.

    He took another large bite of the steamed bun.

    The appearance of the golden hibiscus and the red spirit butterfly caused a sensation in the perpetually lethargic market on Flying Flower Island. Fishermen from all around the island flocked to see it, even those who had no intention of visiting the market that day were drawn in by the commotion—

    "There are flowers!"

    "What's so strange about flowers? Haven't you seen them before?"

    "Golden hibiscus! Made with spirit energy! They bloom all year round! And they can even transmit sound!"

    "Wow!! Where is it? Where is it?"

    A throng of people surged forward, clamoring for a look.

    "Butterflies!"

    "But what's so fascinating about them? We can catch plenty during springtime."

    "Red ones! Made from spiritual energy, they can ward off minor evils and demons! They're incredibly beautiful and obedient, never straying too far, just flying around you!"

    "Ahh! Really? Where? Where are they?"

    Another wave of people swarmed in.

    In her mansion, Sun Sanniang was lounging leisurely when she heard the news and couldn't resist taking a few attendants to the marketplace. Before even reaching the entrance, she saw from afar a golden-red glow emanating from the crowd, accompanied by continuous exclamations of amazement.

    Her curiosity was piqued, so she pushed through the onlookers to take a closer look.

    There were the two Immortal Lords she had seen the day before. One had a radiant smile, performing tricks to attract butterflies and customers alike. The other, however, stood expressionless with his arms crossed beneath a tree, silent and aloof.

    "Selling butterflies, selling butterflies—" The handsome man turned to the other, rather unassuming man and said with a smile, "Master, why aren't you calling out to advertise?"

    "Advertise?"

    Chu Wanning scoffed inwardly.

    He didn't even know how to write the word "yell." Should he lower himself and shout, "Selling flowers, selling peach blossoms," just like the uncouth Mo Weiyu in front of everyone's eyes?

    Absolutely not.

    Someone finally mustered the courage to ask, "How much for the butterflies?" Assuming that such divine creatures would be expensive, they had hesitated for a long time before approaching.

    Mo Ran replied, "Ten gold coins each."

    Chu Wanning coughed behind him.

    Mo Ran continued, "...Three copper coins each."

    "So cheap?" Everyone was astonished and rushed forward to make purchases. Mo Ran busily handed out butterflies with one hand and flowers with the other. Suddenly, his gaze fell on a ragged little girl in the distance, her finger in her mouth as she watched the lively scene with longing.

    Mo Ran smiled, then without a word, snapped his fingers to conjure an exquisite peacock butterfly. With a gentle breath, the butterfly floated across the crowd and landed on the girl's braid.

    Startled, the girl wore a look of disbelief. She took a few hesitant steps, paused, then shook her head.

    She had no money...

    Not even a single copper coin, let alone three.

    Mo Ran waved at her and mouthed the words "it's a gift for you." Then he blinked, turned his head with a smile, and returned to his work.

    Sun Sanniang watched as those dazzling spiritual objects were purchased, some fashionable ladies adorning their black hair with the peony flowers, instantly illuminating their tresses with a radiant glow that exuded an indescribable elegance and nobility. She could hardly contain herself.

    "I'll take all of these butterflies and flowers."

    Mo Ran looked up, his smile unwavering. "I knew someone extravagant was behind this; it's Sanniang."

    "How many are left? Count them, I'll take them all back to the manor."

    "That won't do," Mo Ran chuckled. "There has to be order in everything. Others came before you, and they haven't finished purchasing yet. I can't just give the items to you ahead of time."

    Sun Sanniang glanced at the crowd of villagers, suddenly feeling anxious, fearing that everything might sell out. "Then I'll pay more."

    "I can't make that decision," Mo Ran replied. "I'm just helping out; you'll have to ask my master about the prices."

    Sun Sanniang approached the tree where she found Daoist Chu Wanning, the aloof flower seller.

    "Immortal Lord, sell me all those flowers and butterflies. We're both in the business of making deals, so let's negotiate a price," she proposed.

    Chu Wanning replied coolly, "Ten gold coins per butterfly."

    Beside him, Mo Ran couldn't help but chuckle. Turning to meet Chu Wanning's boundless black phoenix eyes, he found the situation amusing yet heartwarming. He grinned, scratching his head, revealing deep dimples that were truly charming.

    Sun Sanniang was incredibly wealthy, so the sum was mere pocket change for her. Swiftly, she instructed her servants to carry away the Night Blossom Begonias and Peacock Butterflies.

    Back at her residence, she eagerly styled her hair into an elaborate updo, adorning it with over fifty shimmering golden flowers. She then commanded the butterflies to dance around her. The servants, amused by her glowing golden head that resembled a melting candle from afar, struggled to hold back their laughter, nearly breaking their ribs to maintain composure.

    Before Sun Sanniang could revel in her new acquisitions for long, a servant reported that the two Immortal Lords had started selling something else at the market. Startled, she rushed out, her radiant hairdo now swarmed with frenzied butterflies.

    " Selling butterflies—selling butterflies—"

    Pushing through the crowd, Sun Sanniang crossed her arms, fuming. "Didn't I just buy them all? How can there be more?"

    Mo Ran blinked innocently. "Freshly made."

    "Since you can make them anew, why did you sell them to me at ten gold coins each earlier?!"

    Mo Ran chuckled. "Think about it. You wake up in the morning and go to a popular pan-fried bun shop where everyone's queuing up. You try to cut in line, and the shopkeeper tells you that you can have them sooner, but only if you pay extra. Is there anything wrong with that?"

    Sun Sanniang fumed. "You... you deceitful merchant! You..."

    Just as she was contemplating how to refute his twisted logic, she noticed the silent Immortal Lord standing nearby approaching them. Chu Wanning's fingers glimmered, and to her astonishment, he formed a twin-blossomed peony.

    Despite her annoyance, Sun Sanniang couldn't help but be intrigued. "What is this? Why is it different from the previous ones?"

    "This peony has an added rejuvenation spell. Placing it by your bedside before bed will ensure you wake up radiant the next day, with the effects lasting around fifteen days," Chu Wanning said nonchalantly, handing the flower to Mo Ran. "Go sell it. One hundred gold coins per bloom."

    "Wait," Sun Sanniang interjected, fearing that they would come up with another rationale for charging extra for cutting in line. Despite her anger, she spoke up. "Don't take it away; I'll buy this one. How many more can you make? I want them all!"

    Chu Wanning replied, "I don't wish to cast the same spell too many times, so only three in total."

    "In that case, I'll give you three hundred gold coins."

    "Mo Ran, collect the payment," Chu Wanning instructed, focusing on the other two flowers while handing them over to Sun Sanniang. He then began crafting the fourth one.

    Sun Sanniang was displeased. "Didn't you say you'd only make three?"

    Chu Wanning said coolly, "This one has the Melodic Sound Spell. When worn, it can make a woman's voice more pleasing to the ear."

    "..." Though Sun Sanniang was greedy for money, she was even greedier for youth and beauty. She watched with envy as the Immortal of Death's Peak conjured one magical peony after another, itching to retaliate but could only say, "Fine, fine, I'll buy it. I'll buy it."

    Later that night, after closing their door, the master and disciple sat at the table to count their earnings. They found it was enough to provide for the entire group until the fire on the opposite shore extinguished. Chu Wanning gave half the silver to Mo Ran and kept the other half, saying, "Before we leave, return the rest to Sun Sanniang."

    Mo Ran was startled. "Why?"

    "Fei Hua Island is far from Lin Yi, and resources there are scarce. It would be inconvenient for us to get by. But have you noticed how the fishermen on the island seem to live comfortably? Isn't that strange?"

    "Uh-huh." As he thought about it, Mo Ran realized Chu Wanning had a point.

    Chu Wanning continued, "A little inquiry will tell you why. While you were packing up today, I went to speak with the village chief and asked him some questions. Actually, Sun Sanniang was originally from the Confucian Wind Sect in Lin Yi. Because she didn't have much talent, her master didn't pay much attention to her. Even after five years as a disciple, she still only knew basic sword techniques."

    Mo Ran was slightly surprised. "She's from the Confucian Wind Sect? Then did Master ever meet—"

    "No," Chu Wanning replied. "The village chief said that when she was seventeen, she accompanied the Confucian Wind Sect cultivators to Fei Hua Island to recruit new disciples. Since the journey was long and the islanders were all mortals who couldn't possibly travel all the way to the sect to complain if they were mistreated, those famous cultivators took advantage of the situation during that time. They ate for free, stole money, and even..."

    "Even...?"

    "Even to the point of exploiting and preying on young boys and girls."

    "..."

    Chu Wanning said, "Sun Sanniang couldn't tolerate this, so she argued with her fellow disciples. Despite her light frame and gentle voice, she had a fiery personality, which led her to offend her peers. Eventually, they plotted against her, and one of her senior brothers stabbed her before pushing her off a cliff by the sea."

    Mo Ran murmured, "So that's how it happened? No wonder when the village chief tried to persuade her earlier, he mentioned that she wasn't from the Confucian Wind Sect. I didn't expect... Ah..."

    "Mm. She was fortunate. The sword missed its vital target. After falling into the sea, she was spotted by fishermen who were out at sea. They already had two daughters, but both had passed away early. So, after rescuing her, they took her in as their adopted daughter, teaching her fishing and trading skills. When her adoptive father passed away, she carried on his legacy and gradually became the wealthiest family on Fluttering Petal Island."

    Chu Wanning paused before continuing.

    "You also heard her say that the harvest on Fluttering Petal Island hasn't been good this year. She's been opening her granaries to help the households in need. Sun Sanniang might be shrewd in business, but she only profits from cultivators and never takes a single coin more from the islanders. In fact, she even provides assistance to those in poverty."

    Mo Ran remained silent, but his mind wandered back to the little girl he had seen at the marketplace that day, longing for a peony flower.

    Her humble attire and filthy appearance clearly indicated that she had lost her parents.

    Yet she was not thin; her cheeks were plump, and her eyes shone with a clear, chilly light. If not for someone's support, how could such a young child have survived solely on begging without becoming emaciated?

    "Sun Sanniang sets out to sea over twenty times a year, each journey lasting seven or eight days. By calculation, most of her life has been spent at sea," Chu Wanning said. "Look at her luxurious residence, her extreme wealth. Why would she, in her fifties, still endure the storms and tides? Year after year, tirelessly transporting goods from the island to Lin Yi to sell for money, then shopping there for supplies to bring back to Feihua Island?"

    "I see now," Mo Ran said, feeling distressed after hearing this. He immediately got up to take the extra money and leave. Chu Wanning called out to him.

    "Where are you going?"

    "I'm going to return the extra money I earned from her."

    "Sit down," Chu Wanning said calmly.

    "Why are you so foolish?"

    "Hmm?"

    "You see, someone like Sun Sanniang is strong-willed and fiercely independent. She despises cultivators the most... Do you think she'd just accept the money and let you leave unscathed, or might she chase you out with a barrage of sticks?"

    "..."

    Mo Ran pondered for a moment and felt a twinge of pain in his back. He couldn't help but sigh as he asked, "Then what should we do?"

    "I've told the village chief that we'll give him all the remaining money before we leave, so he can find an opportunity to pass it on to Sun Sanniang," Chu Wanning said. "By then, we'll be gone, and the money will ultimately make life better for those on Fei Hua Island. She won't refuse it."

    Mo Ran lowered his gaze, contemplating for a while, then nodded.

    "Master is right. I'll do as you say."

    Chu Wanning sighed and said, "There are always many things in this world that cannot be judged solely by their surface appearance. Sometimes, even what lies beneath the surface may not be the ultimate truth. I often remind myself to remain calm and cautious when judging people or situations. But at times, I still can't help but succumb."

    These words resonated deeply with Mo Ran.

    Judging someone's worth or the morality of a situation based only on its surface—wasn't that exactly what he had done to Chu Wanning before?

    Most people in the mortal world found it difficult to maintain clear eyes and a cool head in the face of intense emotions, to think and see through the truths hidden beneath layers of dust.

    He had been that way with Chu Wanning, just as Nan Gongsi had been with his own mother. Who among them hadn't been blinded by their emotions, their judgment clouded by superficial appearances, leading to regrettable mistakes that they could never undo?

    Perhaps only someone like Chu Wanning, with his seemingly cold and distant demeanor, would stubbornly reserve a place in his heart for everyone, striving not to interpret every action with the worst intentions. Hence, the more Mo Ran got to know him, the more he realized that this Beidou Immortal Venerable, who appeared more irritable than anyone else, possessed an untainted soul.

    Beneath that proud and indifferent facade lurked a compassionate and forgiving spirit.

    It was because of this spirit that Mo Ran felt an even greater urge to cherish and protect Chu Wanning. Perhaps it was precisely because he had come from the mountains of corpses and seas of blood, his hands stained with the crimson of war, that he understood all the more how precious an innocent heart truly was.

    It was like a qin flute amidst the smoke of battle, a flower in the trench.

    And so, the once-tyrannical Empyrean of Extermination, standing before such a soul, silently pondered—

    Should there come a day when Master requires it, Mo Ran would protect this pristine North Dipper Immortal Venerable, even if it meant being battered and bruised, with tears and blood dried up, even if he ended up lifeless and reduced to ashes, or if it demanded the sacrifice of his own skull and shattered soul.

    "I was just thinking about something," Mo Ran replied with a smile. "Nothing much."

    "Something trivial?"

    Mo Ran pressed his lips together, suddenly recalling that in the morning, while they were at the market, Chu Wanning had mentioned wanting to learn sword-riding techniques. He said, "Master, come with me."

    Author's Note: Mo Ran's Courage: 200/700/800

    Chu Wanning's Mental Preparation: 90/100

    Confession Tomorrow

    My eyes haven't been feeling well these days, so I'm going to the hospital tomorrow. I can't stare at the computer screen or phone for too long, and I still need to write my backlog of chapters, which is why I didn't reply yesterday. Sorry about that! Muah~

    Short Skit: Why Does Mo Ran Wash His Clothes in the Morning?

    Mo Ran: Because I like cleanliness.

    Chu Wanning: Hmm, that's a good habit (nodding innocently)

    Xue Meng: ...I feel like something's off here.

    Shi Mo: Tsk.

    Ye Wangxi: ??? I don't understand the world of men.

    Nan Gongsi: Don't understand, did you get licked by a dog?

    Mei Hanxue: (Slaps thigh and laughs uncontrollably, losing all composure) Hahahahahahahaha! I know! Let me answer this one!

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