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    Chapter 192 - Master Gave Me Life

    On the day Chu Wanning emerged from seclusion, an unexpected guest arrived at the Summit of Life and Death.

    "Knock, knock, knock."

    Very early in the morning, the door to the Red Lotus Water Pavilion was knocked on anxiously.

    Mo Ran was helping Chu Wanning change his clothes. After ten days of meditation, the man had just finished his cultivation and seemed somewhat disoriented. Hearing the knocking, he said coldly, "Enter."

    Mo Ran: "Pfft."

    "... What are you laughing at?"

    "You set up a barrier at the entrance, Master. Who else but me, Xue Meng, and the others could get in?"

    Only then did Chu Wanning recall this and lifted his hand to dissolve the barrier. A disciple, reeking of alcohol and flustered, hurried over to deliver a message, "Elder Yu Heng, it's bad! There's a powerful demon at the entrance of the Heart Devotion Hall!"

    The two exchanged glances and immediately rushed towards the Heart Devotion Hall.

    From afar, Mo Ran spotted a gigantic gourd spinning around the entire square, while a group of elders and disciples looked on in a mix of laughter and tears.

    Mo Ran: "…A monster?"

    Fat Gourd: "Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle, pop!"

    Seeing Chu Wanning and Mo Ran arrive, Xue Zhengyong's eyes lit up as he slapped his thigh. "Ah! Yu Heng! You're awake just in time! There's hope now, there's hope! Quick, come here!"

    Chu Wanning was still somewhat dazed, but his innate cold demeanor made him appear enigmatic even when confused. "Hm?"

    Xue Zhengyong, with a pained expression, said through gritted teeth, yet also found the situation amusing. "It's another monster that escaped from the Golden Drum Tower. It won't leave—Drunk and Lustful Gourd!"

    Chu Wanning lifted his gaze to look at the giant gourd racing madly around the square. Two people tall, it shimmered with a nacre-like luster, periodically spewing out pink smoke and then gushing wine. Indeed, it was the notorious Drunk and Lustful Gourd monster of legend.

    Chu Wanning said, "This monster doesn't harm people."

    "But it's pouring wine down their throats!"

    That was no exaggeration. The Drunk and Lustful Gourd chased a group of junior disciples around the square. Whenever it caught one, it would split open a gap and start squirting wine into their mouths, all the while letting out an incomprehensible "Gurgle, gurgle, pop!"

    Chu Wanning: "…"

    "I've heard it only respects those who can drink more than it," Xue Zhengyong said eagerly. "Yu Heng, look…."

    Feeling a headache coming on, Chu Wanning rubbed his forehead and stepped onto the field. He summoned Tianwen and placed it horizontally in front of the fat wine gourd.

    "Stop running," he said. "I'll have a drink with you."

    Overjoyed, the fat gourd swung back and forth. Its cracked mouth turned upward, and a spurt of wine shot out like an arrow, aiming for Chu Wanning's handsome face. To everyone's surprise, Chu Wanning effortlessly dodged the jet of alcohol. All they saw was a flash of golden light as Tianwen tightly coiled around the fat gourd.

    "Let's try a different way. Do you have a cup?"

    "Gurgle-pop!" From the crack of the fat gourd emerged a small ladle, filled to the brim with clear liquor. "Pop!"

    Under the watchful eyes of the crowd, Chu Wanning sat cross-legged on the ground and began a drinking contest with the wine-colored gourd.

    "Gurgle-pop-pop!"

    "Not bad. Another round."

    "Pop!"

    "Got any White Apricot Blossom wine?"

    "Pop-pop-pop!"

    Xue Zhengyong was astonished. "Yu Heng, it seems you can understand what it's saying."

    "Mm," Chu Wanning replied. "I can generally understand the speech of such magical creatures."

    The Intoxicated Apricot Blossom Gourd: "Pop-pop-pop!"

    Mo Ran smiled. "Shifu, what did it say this time?"

    Chu Wanning: "It was chatting with me, saying that it hasn't basked in the sun for a long time."

    The Intoxicated Apricot Blossom Gourd seemed delighted. For some reason, it had also understood Chu Wanning's words and affectionately approached him, eagerly pouring a large scoop of wine.

    "Is it White Apricot Blossom this time?"

    "Pop!"

    "I don't fancy women's wine."

    "Pop..." The wine gourd sloshed its contents out and promptly refilled the cup.

    Everyone was stunned, unable to utter a word.

    As they watched the human and demon drinking from dawn till noon, with the man remaining sober while the demon reveled in delight, the crowd at the entrance of the Danxin Hall grew larger by the minute.

    Xue Meng and Shi Mo also arrived.

    When Mo Ran saw Shi Mo, he recalled their previous misunderstanding, and feeling guilty, he intended to apologize. However, upon catching a glimpse of him, Shi Mo turned and left.

    Xue Meng noticed the situation and nudged Mo Ran with his elbow. "Looks like he's still upset about the misunderstanding last time."

    Mo Ran appeared worried. "What should I do then?"

    "Talk to him. I'm stuck in an awkward position being in the middle of this," Xue Meng said. "Go ahead, you have nothing else to do here anyway."

    Mo Ran glanced at Chu Wanning, who was engaged in a drinking contest with his wine gourd. He found that indeed, nothing would happen anytime soon, so he told Xue Meng, "I'll go find him first. You stay here and keep an eye on Shifu. If anything happens, tell me immediately."

    It didn't take much effort to catch up with Shi Mo. Mo Ran called out to him before the Sword Dancing Field, "Shi Mo!"

    "..."

    "Shi Mo!"

    Shi Mo halted his steps and turned around, looking at him quietly, "Is there something, Ran?"

    "No…" Mo Ran waved his hand, frowning slightly, "I came to tell you that what happened last time was really my fault."

    "Which incident are you referring to?"

    Mo Ran was taken aback and widened his eyes slightly, "What?"

    Shi Mo's expression remained mild and gentle. As the wind blew, he brushed a strand of hair from his temple, "Was it when you misunderstood me at the Red Lotus Water Pavilion, thinking I intended to do something to Shifu? Or when we had dinner together in Jade Cool Village and none of you wanted to sit with me? Or maybe even earlier, when I brought wine for both of you after Shifu woke up, but you barely spoke to me throughout? Which one?"

    Completely unprepared for Shi Mo to bring up such old matters, Mo Ran was momentarily stunned. After a long while, he asked, "You... You were upset with me that early on?"

    Shi Mo shook his head. "I wouldn't say I'm angry, but it does matter to me."

    "..."

    "Aran, ever since Master's rebirth, you've been deliberately distancing yourself from me."

    Mo Ran was speechless. He had indeed been intentionally keeping his distance from Shi Mo. They had once been so close that even Chu Wanning could see it clearly.

    But there was always something missing. Back then, when they were young, the barrier between them remained unbroken. Later, when Mo Ran realized his feelings, he didn't know how to handle his relationship with Shi Mo—

    He had thought about confessing to Shi Mo, but it didn't seem appropriate.

    He had never confessed his love to Shi Mo and wasn't sure what kind of emotions Shi Mo harbored for him. If he suddenly went over to declare they should no longer be close, it would be too abrupt and arrogant.

    So in the end, he decided to let their connection fade gradually.

    Shi Mo gazed at him silently for a moment before saying, "When you first arrived at the Summit of Life and Death, I told you that I have no parents and few friends. From then on, we've been family."

    "Uh-huh."

    "Why did you change, then?"

    Mo Ran was deeply saddened. Suddenly, he felt a sense of confusion within himself, unsure why he had distanced himself from Shi Mo.

    Since returning from the Ghost Realm, had they even exchanged more than a hundred words between them?

    Two people who were once inseparable were now drifting apart, and Mo Ran couldn't help but wonder if he had gone too far.

    He said, "I'm sorry."

    "...There's really no need to apologize." Shi Mo averted his gaze. "Forget it, it's just how things are."

    "Please don't be angry. When you're upset, I... also feel uncomfortable. You've always been good to me."

    Shi Mo finally gave a faint smile. "I've been good to you, but how about compared to our Master?"

    Mo Ran replied, "It's not the same."

    Looking at the distant, blue-hued mountains, Shi Mo said, "I remember you told me before that my kindness towards you gave you much warmth. What about our Master?"

    Mo Ran said, "He gave me life."

    Shi Mo remained silent for a long while before he finally sighed deeply. "I am no match."

    Seeing Shi Mo like this, Mo Ran felt even worse and said, "There's nothing to compare in the first place. Everyone is unique. You—"

    Shi Mo didn't let him finish his sentence. He turned his face against the wind and gently patted Mo Ran's chest. "That's enough. There's no need for you to say more. I understand your intentions. Actually, I'm not that petty, but when you misunderstood me like that, it really hurt."

    "Mm..."

    "Let's turn the page. No one should dwell on it anymore."

    Mo Ran's dark eyes softened, and after a moment, he nodded gratefully. "Alright."

    With his slender figure leaning against the jade railing of the Sword Dancing Field, Shi Mo gazed at the rustling leaves below. After a while, he said,

    "Let's go back."

    "What did you want to say that year?"

    Almost in unison, Mo Ran faltered, "Which year?"

    Shi Mo remarked, "The year of Heaven's Rift."

    Only then did Mo Ran recall his unsaid confession back in Butterfly Town, when the sky had torn asunder. He froze for a moment.

    Shi Mo said, "Back then, you didn't finish a sentence. I had no idea what you wanted to say. Can I ask you about it now?"

    Mo Ran was about to reply when a sudden, tremendous crash echoed from behind, originating from the Danxin Hall.

    Both Mo Ran and Shi Mo's expressions shifted. Mo Ran said, "It's coming from Master's direction!"

    With no time for leisurely conversation, Shi Mo said, "Hurry back and take a look."

    They both swiftly raced back towards the main palace, and upon arriving at the entrance of the Danxin Hall, they discovered that a second plump gourd had mysteriously appeared in the vast square.

    "Mo Ran exclaimed, "What on earth is this?!"

    Xue Zhengyong covered his face and said, "A wine-colored gourd."

    "Just how many are there?!"

    "There are two, one for wine and one for desire. They're twins, born from the same stem," Xue Zhengyong's head felt like it was about to explode. "The one that challenged Yu Heng to a drinking contest is the younger sibling, while the one here now is the elder."

    Mo Ran's brows twitched, and it took him a moment to understand. "The wine gourd enjoys competing in drinking games with people, then the desire gourd..." His face paled as he turned to look at the plump, peach-colored gourd spinning around merrily.

    Xue Zhengyong said, rather awkwardly, "The desire gourd can fulfill any seductive desires in the world, but it only obeys the commands of the purest-hearted individual."

    Mo Ran turned his head and called out, "Xue Meng!!"

    Shi Mo exclaimed, "Huh? Where's Xue Meng? Why isn't he here?"

    Xue Zhengyong pointed at the colorful gourd. "He's... already inside undergoing the trial. He said he wanted to alleviate Yu Heng's worries."

    Mo Ran let out a sigh of relief. "Then there's nothing to worry about. If even Xue Meng isn't pure, then there would be no one in this world who is."

    Just as he finished speaking, a loud explosion echoed.

    Xue Meng was spat out from the mouth of the gourd, crashing heavily into the middle of the crowd. The commotion was so great that everyone turned to look, even Chu Wanning, who had been drinking from the wine gourd.

    Shi Mo was startled. "What's wrong?"

    Another person exclaimed, "Could it be that even Young Master...?"

    "Ahem, ahem, ahem." Xue Meng's face turned red as he stumbled to his feet. His eyes were filled with both anger and shame as he yelled at the Seductive Gourd, "You-you devil! You-you shameless thing!"

    Mo Ran observed him, noticing that Xue Meng had somehow changed into a golden-red wedding robe. He found the situation amusing and curious. "What's going on here?"

    Xue Zhengyong merely held his forehead, unable to find words.

    Shi Mo explained, "I've heard about this before. The Seductive Gourd isn't actually lustful; it's devoted. It wants to find the purest and most devoted partner in the world to marry. Rumor has it that when someone is absorbed into the gourd, they'll find themselves in a new bridal chamber."

    "...And then what happens?"

    "Then, the gourd's spirit will take on the appearance of either the bride or groom. But no matter which, their face will be covered, waiting for the other person to uncover it."

    Mo Ran asked, "When they uncover it, do they see the Seductive Gourd itself?"

    "Certainly not. What they see depends on the individual. If they have a beloved, they'll see their beloved's face. If they don't have a beloved but are lustful, legend has it that they'll see an...unclad, exceptionally beautiful man or woman." Shi Mo coughed lightly, feeling somewhat awkward. "Only the purest person can see the true form of the Seductive Gourd."

    Mo Ran turned to look at Xue Meng, who was fuming with rage, disbelief etched on his face. "What did Xue Meng see?"

    He simply couldn't believe that Xue Meng could have a crush on someone, but he also refused to accept that Xue Meng would be captivated by a naked beauty or handsome man.

    Yet, Xue Meng had indeed been thrown out by the lustful gourd, and judging from its ecstatic hopping and rolling on the ground, it seemed to have had quite a laugh at Xue Meng's expense.

    Out of pity for Xue Meng, Shi Mo tried to smooth things over. "Perhaps the lustful gourd made a misjudgment..."

    Before he could finish, Xue Meng pulled out Dragon City and pointed at the gourd, roaring in fury, "You son of a b*tch, you actually transformed my own illusion to deceive me! And you made me wear women's clothes in that illusion!! You...you damn gourd! How dare you humiliate me!!"

    Silence fell upon the summit of Life and Death Peak for a moment, including Mo Ran. Everyone tried to hold back their laughter, but failed, bursting into peals of laughter.

    Xue Ziming, the most narcissistic of them all, would undoubtedly have been flattered if he were a peacock spreading its feathers or a narcissus admiring its reflection. The bride that the lustful gourd conjured up turned out to be none other than Xue Meng himself, dolled up in heavy makeup—

    "It's within reason," Mo Ran said, trying hard not to laugh too extravagantly as he nodded in agreement. "Xue Meng would make a pretty girl."

    Before he could revel in the absurdity, Xue Zhengyong exclaimed in exasperation, "Yu Heng, how about you deal with this lustful gourd after you're done with the wine gourd?"

    Author's Note:

    Mini-Theater: "The Gender-Swapped Xue Meng" (OC included, not to be taken seriously)

    Miss Xue Meng's Marriage Proposal Requirements:

    Male, martial prowess must not be inferior to mine, and looks should not fall below my standard. Considering I have the throne of a queen to inherit, I believe it's reasonable for me to be a bit picky. I expect my partner to have a monthly income of at least one million, be able to afford a courtyard house within the second ring road of the imperial capital, sponsor the entire Spirit Cultivation Path of the Confucian Wind Sect for me, and help me get rid of Jiang Xi's head. Also, he should be filial to my parents. Additionally, after marriage, I hope he'll hand over his entire salary to me. During holidays, he must give me a red envelope with 99,999 (excluding Qingming Festival), in cash, for a cool and flashy display on social media to make my cousin Mo Wei Yu envious.

    Most importantly, I wish to find someone honest whom my mother approves of. Thank you.

    Reactions from the main male characters after reading Miss Xue's marriage requirements:

    Mo Ran: So this is how terrifying the straight dating scene has become? Lucky I'm gay.

    Chu Wanning: Lucky I'm gay.

    Shi Mo: Lucky I'm gay.

    Nan Gongsi: Why is that woman who criticized me for being a 'prince charming' back again?

    Ye Wangxi: Lucky I'm female.

    Mei Hanxue: Is... it still possible to engage in same-sex relationships now?

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