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    Extra 2: Happy New Year

    New Year's Eve.

    The rush of the Spring Festival migration was drawing to a close. Both cities and rural areas were simultaneously immersed in a peculiar blend of bustling excitement and tranquility.

    Traffic on the streets was scarce, with only a few people still wandering about, mostly those on duty. Inside thousands of homes, however, it was a different story – noisy and lively.

    At the Wei family residence.

    Butler Zhou and the others were merely employees; no matter how hard they worked, they would always return to their hometowns during the Spring Festival. Thus, in previous years, the Weis usually opted for dining out at restaurants for their New Year's Eve feast.

    Yet, there was typically little conversation between them, resulting in an awkward and desolate atmosphere even during these festive times.

    But this year was different. The entire Wei house was illuminated, and it seemed that the family had no intention of leaving the premises.

    Shu Wanrong descended from upstairs. She had carefully applied makeup and dressed up formally. As she walked down, she fussing with her hair, her gaze landing on the father and son sitting in the living room.

    Wei Tianyi and Wei Chengshu were both in casual loungewear, each occupying opposite ends of the sofa, engrossed in their phones. The two didn't speak, seemingly absorbed entirely by their screens. If one overlooked their occasional glances towards the front door, their demeanor was indeed more relaxed than Shu Wanrong's.

    Outside, it was bustling with noise, and fireworks seemed to have been set off, but the three people inside had no interest in joining the revelry. Silence hung heavily over the spacious house, as if everyone lacked anticipation for the upcoming Spring Festival. It wasn't until Wei Xi arrived home with his newly betrothed partner that the atmosphere seemed to shift slightly.

    Of course, this change had nothing to do with Shuo Zong's recognizable face in the business world, nor did it have anything to do with the dazzling diamond on his left hand that shimmered under the indoor lights.

    Wei Tianyi and Wei Chengshu both stood up from the sofa, staring at Wei Xi with utmost seriousness. When they remained silent, Shu Wanrong had no choice but to intervene, exasperated, "Patriarch Wei, is... is he back?"

    At first, Wei Xi was confused, "Who?"

    Wei Tianyi and Wei Chengshu's expressions subtly changed. As Wei Xi turned to look at the man in the black suit standing to his right, he asked, "Why are you hiding there when you finally come back to the sect?"

    The Wei family collectively turned their gaze towards the empty space, and Shu Wanrong was startled, "Who are you talking to?"

    Wei Xi gave them a quizzical glance before realizing, "Oh, I forgot. This isn't the City God Office, so you can't see him."

    With that, he called out, "Brotherhood Unity!"

    Unity, eager to please, stepped forward and affixed a talisman onto each member of the Wei family. Shu Wanrong felt a sudden tightness around her eyes, and then a miraculous scene unfolded before her. An empty spot beside the man in the black suit was now occupied by a familiar face.

    Who else could it be but their stepson?

    Black Impermanence beamed at Wei Xi, proudly reporting, "Director Wei, usually, this time of year is the busiest for the Underworld Bureau, with all the City God and Earth God offices preparing for their annual gatherings. He's just started working this year, so there's no way he could ask for leave and miss it. But, well, your influence speaks for itself."

    The news that the Supreme Being of Taicang Sect had ascended to Heavenly Dao had long spread throughout the Underworld Bureau. This sudden and terrifying change in personnel made even the top official in charge of Fengdu feel uneasy. If the leader was reacting like this, it was needless to say how the lower-ranking staff felt. As the first disciple of Taicang Sect acknowledged by Wei Xi himself, Little Unlucky's status had only risen. Asking for leave on New Year's Eve to have dinner with his family in the mortal world—was that a big deal? Absolutely not!

    Both Black Impermanence and Wei Xi were content with the situation, but the atmosphere within the Wei family was peculiar.

    Upon seeing his family, Little Unlucky didn't look particularly delighted; instead, he seemed more inclined to stay close to Wei Xi.

    With the Eye-Opening Talisman, Wei Tianyi and the others could naturally see him. However, perhaps due to their initial bewilderment at encountering a ghost or some other reason, they didn't immediately greet him.

    Unaware of the odd interactions between his disciples, Wei Xi, after Black Impermanence left for the Fengdu annual lottery, effortlessly took hold of his Dao companion and turned to invite the others, "It's getting late. Are you staying for New Year's?"

    Outside, Mo Luo had led a group from the Demon World, while Xia Shouren's company comprised auspicious beasts from Ning Tian.

    Wei Xi wasn't particularly skilled in sharing, but the demons from the Demon World were now his subordinates. As for Xia Shouren and the others, although they weren't very close, they were Que'er's assistants.

    Que'er was now his Dao companion.

    Rounding it up, Que'er's helpers were essentially the same as his own and Taicang Sect's helpers.

    They were more than qualified to stay for the New Year's Eve dinner.

    Xia Shouren never imagined that there would come a day when Wei Xi would invite him to a meal. He momentarily forgot the shock he had just received from the clumsy couple at the proposal, and looked at his friend in disbelief. "Are we really staying?"

    Shuo Zong held Wei Xi's hand, his fingertip tracing the massive diamond on the ring. His mind was still somewhat dazed, but catching a glimpse of Xia Shouren and the others out of the corner of his eye, he displayed the generosity of a gracious host. "It's up to Wei Xi."

    Upon hearing this, the auspicious beasts collectively cheered and rushed into the room. Unbeknownst to them, they had just been enlisted by Wei Xi as part of his workforce to be commanded.

    Innocent Xia Shouren even felt as if he were living in a dream: "My goodness! Pixiu and Taotie are treating me to New Year's Eve dinner! Is the sun rising from the west now? After this meal, I'm going to strike it rich!"

    Their excitement over a New Year's Eve dinner wasn't without reason.

    While it was true that auspicious beasts had incredibly long lifespans, their lives could also be quite challenging in another sense.

    Firstly, they all had strong territorial instincts. Although they would interact for work and seemed to get along well, just like Shuo Zong rarely invited others to his home, their private domains were usually considered sacrosanct and seldom visited by outsiders.

    Secondly, finding a lifelong companion, a Dao Companion, among auspicious beasts was a rare occurrence. Especially after the collapse of Heavenly Dao, their options for choosing a mate had narrowed significantly.

    That was why, despite their complaints about work, most of Ning Tian's spirit beasts preferred staying at the office to work overtime rather than returning home to an empty house. At least at the company, they could chat with each other and avoid feeling too lonely.

    This sense of loneliness was especially poignant during festive occasions like New Year's Eve, when every household celebrated and rejoiced in unity.

    Shuo Zong was already an introverted character, not engaging much with others. Celebrating New Year together was nothing more than a fantasy, given that spirit beasts didn't observe such human traditions anyway.

    As a result, everyone was now ecstatic but somewhat awkward after entering Wei's residence. They stood in the living room, dumbfounded and unsure what to do.

    Xia Shouren also didn't dare bother his friends, fearing he might be asked to leave if he became too intrusive. So, he turned to Tianyi, who was standing beside him, and asked, "Hey, Devil King, what should we be doing for New Year?"

    Tianyi was just as lost. "How would I know?"

    Xia Shouren was stunned. "Didn't you used to be human? You've probably celebrated New Year over twenty times!"

    Tianyi stomped his foot. "Back then, I was begging for food! This is my first time celebrating New Year in a heated house, okay?!"

    A deep cough suddenly interrupted them, drawing both of their attention to the source. They saw Wei Tianyi, with a composed expression, grab the remote control from the coffee table, showing no sign of being overwhelmed by their conversation. "What are you guys blabbering about? During New Year, it's all about watching the Spring Festival Gala and having a feast!"

    The television clicked on, followed by a brief startup sequence. The screen soon filled with vibrant reds and greens, while gentle melodies from the dance and song performances flowed out of the speakers.

    Wei Tianyi put down the remote control, regaining his composure. He turned to his eldest son, standing at a distance and reluctant to approach. After a moment of silence, he spoke, initiating their first exchange upon meeting.

    "What are you standing there for!"

    **********

    Indeed, this year's Wei family was rather different.

    The house was warm with the glow of lights and the heat from the radiator, not as quiet as before. Mythical beasts and Mo Luo crowded in the living room to watch the Spring Festival Gala. If this scene had occurred thousands of years ago, it would have astonishment every deity in both the Eastern and Western heavens.

    But now, they coexisted harmoniously. After all, it was their first time celebrating the New Year.

    They were all inexperienced, so much so that Wei Xi eventually joined them in front of the TV, critiquing the less entertaining segments.

    After a skit that failed to elicit laughter, Wei Xi frowned and asked Shuo Zong, "This is the program everyone on Earth watches during the New Year? What do humans find appealing about it?"

    The other spectators in the living room also shared the same confusion.

    Shuo Zong stood behind Wei Xi, an entity non-human, and similarly found the gala unremarkable.

    At that moment, the little unlucky charm nearby spoke softly in defense of humanity, "Actually, not all humans find the Spring Festival Gala that entertaining."

    Wei Xi inquired, "But I heard from my sworn brother that this show is very popular among humans."

    "The popularity of the Spring Festival Gala isn't about its programs," the unlucky cub explained. "It's about the feeling it gives."

    Both Wei Xi and the other spectators were confused. "What kind of feeling?"

    The little unlucky one pondered for a moment before speaking with a wistful tenderness, "It's like... a sense of family reunion and companionship, right? Actually, for humans, what truly matters isn't the program itself but the people they watch it with, celebrating the New Year together on New Year's Eve."

    Wei Xi nodded, seemingly understanding but not entirely, and subconsciously held onto his second disciple's arm. The other auspicious beasts found the concept even more abstract, prompting them to sigh inwardly. "Humans are really complicated."

    "Not complicated at all?" Shuo Zong placed his hand on Wei Xi's shoulder, his fingers adorned with a dazzling diamond ring. "I got it."

    The auspicious beasts: "......."

    Xia Shouren gritted his teeth and turned away, feeling as if he had already glimpsed the multitude of hardships awaiting them in the future.

    Suddenly, a tearing sound echoed from afar. Everyone turned around to find that Shu Wanrong had accidentally slashed open a bag of flour.

    The Wei family's dining table was covered with dough, rolling pins, and numerous pots and pans. It seemed that Shu Wanrong intended to cook the New Year's Eve dinner herself. Unfortunately, she clearly wasn't accustomed to such tasks, and her cooking skills were subpar, turning the dining area into a mess.

    Such a delicate and refined lady as she was, she didn't quite fit in the kitchen, but everyone else present wasn't much better. Wei Xi, unperturbed by the flour scattered across the floor, said warmly, "Wanrong, you truly are the pillar of our Taicang Sect."

    Shu Wanrong: "…"

    With her face covered in flour, making it impossible to discern her original appearance, Shu Wanrong met his gaze with mixed feelings. After a moment's thought, she still managed to say, "Thank you."

    She herself couldn't figure out why she had stayed to prepare the New Year's Eve dinner.

    Despite knowing the truth, not once had any of the Weis, including herself, broached the subject of moving out. Even after Wei Xi had brought back her stepson's body and planned the funeral, they remained where they were.

    Yet, when facing Wei Xi, no matter how complicated her emotions were, she could not find fear or resentment within her.

    Though she was unsure about her husband and son's attitudes, she could still sense something. The house was not a significant issue for the Wei family; apart from this villa, Wei Tianyi owned at least three apartments in the capital city. Neither father nor son seemed intent on leaving.

    Still, changes were noticeable.

    Wei Chengshu was even more withdrawn than before, thankfully no longer seeking out his reckless racing friends. He had been busy lately, seemingly preparing to start a company with some old classmates. When Shu Wanrong inquired, her son had solemnly vowed he would never inherit Wei Tianyi's company, even if it killed him.

    As for Wei Tianyi... he seemed to be the same as always. Upon learning of his youngest son's determination, he had shown disdain. Lately, whenever father and son met, they exchanged nothing but cold silence, as if their silent war would last until the end of time.

    Shu Wanrong, however, knew that the two of them had been secretly searching the entire capital for an ideal cemetery, seemingly intent on finding the most picturesque one.

    The best cemetery in the capital was undoubtedly the Crane Garden, developed by the Swift Racing Group. Nestled against a mountain and adjacent to a body of water, it overlooked a vast expanse of the southern hills, boasting exceptional feng shui. Many high-ranking officials and wealthy individuals had chosen to be laid to rest there. Unfortunately, the Crane Garden had been developed too early, completed when the Swift Racing Group was still just the Swift Real Estate. After more than a decade, it had become a place not accessible solely with money. Nowadays, securing a spot within its grounds would be a headache for these father and son.

    Forget it, no need to think about such things.

    With a subtle glance, Shu Wanrong observed her stepson, who still preferred to stay with their guests instead of standing closer to her. A myriad of emotions stirred within her, yet she found no adequate words to express them.

    Fortunately, Wei Xi understood her plight. As one of the most diligent and advanced disciples of the Taicang Sect, how could Wanrong work alone? Wei Xi prompted the laziest and least proactive member of their sect, who was smoking by the door, "Tianyi, what are you still doing there?"

    Wei Tianyi, with a cigarette dangling from his lips, turned back with a hint of weariness still etched in his fiery gaze, "?????"

    Wei Xi shot a glance at Shu Wanrong, gesturing for him to help.

    Wei Tianyi: "…………………………"

    Shu Wanrong was taken aback, "No, no, no, no need."

    Wei Tianyi wasn't someone who did manual labor! Forget cooking, he wouldn't even bother to right a fallen bottle in his daily life!

    Beside Wei Xi, the young unlucky one noticed his father's menacing expression from the entrance and couldn't help shrinking back, retreating a step towards the group of divine beasts.

    Suddenly, he felt a tangible gaze upon him, and instinctively turned to see his younger brother, Wei Chengshu, frowning and standing at the staircase entrance, staring at him intently.

    This gaze made him even more uneasy, but fortunately, the other party soon withdrew their gaze. However, just as he was about to relax, he heard Wei Chengshu ask, "What filling do you want?"

    Young Unlucky One: "Huh? You're asking me?"

    Wei Chengshu seemed slightly impatient but responded swiftly, "Who else?"

    The young one's voice trembled slightly, "What... what kind of filling?"

    Their brother's voice rose, "Dumplings!"

    Upon hearing this, Unity Yi eagerly interjected, "Do they have mushroom and pork? I want mushroom and pork!"

    Wei Chengshu: "..."

    Who asked you?

    Yet, many were oblivious to this, and the other auspicious beasts soon chimed in excitedly.

    Xia Shouren declared, "Who cares about mushroom pork? It's definitely celery beef!"

    Bi Fang contradicted, "Oh no, oh no! We need scallions! Scallions! And more fatty meat!"

    Wei Xi turned to his second disciple, Que'er, "What kind do you want?"

    Que'er looked at him calmly, "What about you?"

    Wei Xi pondered for a moment, "I'll eat anything."

    Que'er then waved his hand decisively, "Then let's have it all!"

    Wei Chengshu: "...."

    Rolling his eyes, Wei Chengshu finally glanced at his elder brother. Under the urging gaze, the little unlucky one hesitantly replied, "Mush... mushroom pork, I guess?"

    While the auspicious beasts continued arguing over the filling, Wei Chengshu ignored them and headed for the kitchen. Rolling up his sleeves, he asked, "Mom, where did you put the mushrooms?"

    His own son had never set foot in the kitchen since he was young, just like his father. Shu Wanrong was somewhat stunned by this sight. "The... refrigerator..."

    The little unlucky fellow was even more confused. Had his brother undergone a personality change?

    However, before he could finish his surprise, a sudden sound of footsteps echoed. He turned his head and saw that Father Wei Tianyi had somehow already extinguished his cigarette and also stepped over to the dining table.

    *******

    With the entire Wei family working, the guests could no longer sit still. Besides, this year's Spring Festival Gala wasn't particularly appealing. The group of auspicious beasts also stood up voluntarily. "Come on, let's lend a hand!"

    In an instant, the dining table was surrounded by people, and a few Mo Luo had also squeezed into the kitchen to help with mincing the filling. The little unlucky fellow stared blankly at his father, who was rolling dough with his sleeves rolled up, and his brother, who had been pushed out of the kitchen and was now holding a basin, stirring the filling. He had never seen any of his family members doing housework. As far as he could remember, this was the first time the Wei family had collectively made dumplings.

    It was fantastical, like a dream – one without any semblance of logic.

    In the dream, his father suddenly erupted with an explosive irritability that he found all too familiar, causing him to shrink back instinctively.

    Then he heard the man curse, "What the hell is going on with this damn thing! The more I knead, the more it grows!"

    The nearby mystical beasts gathered to watch the spectacle. Unity, after examining it for a while, ventured a guess, "If you add water when the dough is too thick and then add flour when it's too watery, it's no wonder it's getting bigger."

    The unlucky little fellow focused his gaze and realized that the basin in front of his father was now overflowing, at least twice the size it had been when the kneading began.

    Covered in flour from head to toe, Wei Tianyi's intimidating scowl was now comically diminished by his disastrous appearance. No one found his curses as frightening as they should have been.

    Still sulking, Wei Tianyi was startled by a sudden crash in the kitchen. Everyone turned to look, and Wei Chengshu, being the closest, rushed in. He soon emerged, holding a bowl of filling with a mocking expression, and chided Unity Yi, "Your minions have chopped through our kitchen counter while preparing the filling."

    Shu Wanrong gasped, "That's marble!"

    The Mo Luo, realizing their mistake, solemnly carried out the salvaged cutting board and apologized, "We'll chop outside the door from now on."

    Wei Chengshu shot them a disdainful glance, but his stirring of the filling continued uninterrupted.

    At that moment, a faint laugh echoed from the living room. He instantly identified its source and looked over, seeing his usually gloomy and fearful older brother smiling at the group of Mo Luo – a rare display of genuine pleasure.

    Wei Chengshu froze for a moment, then lowered his head silently, stirring even more vigorously.

    *******

    Dumplings simmered downstairs, and with the heating cranked up, the house was sweltering. However, all the clothes in the wardrobe were winter wear. As the owner of the room, the little unlucky soul knew exactly where to find lighter clothing and offered to help Wei Xi.

    Lately, Wei Xi had been spending more time in his second disciple's room and rarely returned to his original quarters in the Wei residence. After finding and changing into appropriate clothes, he stepped out of the bathroom to find the little unlucky soul perusing a bookshelf.

    Normally, ghosts should not be able to touch mortal belongings easily, but official employees of the Underworld Bureau were an exception. Wei Xi was unsurprised and approached to see that the book the little soul was flipping through was indeed the same art album he had discovered during his first visit to the Wei family home.

    The maiden depicted in the sketchbook was rendered with delicate and gentle strokes, while the accompanying text was written in a clear and elegant script. Wei Xi, who had now learned to read numbers, finally grasped the content and asked, "Did you draw this?"

    The young misfortune seemed to have been lost in thought just then. Startled by Wei Xi's voice, he reacted and nodded, "Yes."

    Recalling the ghost officer from the City God Office praising the boy's proficiency in foreign languages, Wei Xi examined the drawing again. Its realism was almost like a photograph, leaving him impressed with his disciple's talent, "You've drawn this very well."

    The young misfortune was taken aback, revealing a hint of bashfulness from the compliment. However, his expression soon turned wistful, "I... I'm not actually very good at drawing. Perhaps it's because I put my heart into it back then..."

    Wei Xi took the sketchbook, feeling a sense of familiarity with the face, "...I feel like I've seen her somewhere before... Who is she?"

    He couldn't recall their chance encounter outside the venue that day. If it were Tan Fu instead, the encounter might have left a deeper impression since the latter, as a member of his Taicang Sect, had brought him considerable profit after being possessed.

    After a moment of silence, the young misfortune replied, "She... was my fiancée."

    Wei Xi: "What?"

    A glimmer of joy flickered in his heart. Another single problem within the sect had been resolved! But then, the boy continued, "But not anymore."

    Wei Xi: "..."

    The sect had gained another bachelor...

    As the boss, Wei Xi was deeply troubled. Seeing the dejected look on Little Wei's face, he couldn't help but try to console him. After descending the stairs, he suggested to Wei Tianyi, "Why don't we invite Little Wei's fiancée along?"

    As soon as he spoke, the entire Wei family fell silent for a moment. Wei Tianyi seemed taken aback, while Wei Chengshu's face darkened as he glared at his older brother.

    "You're still thinking about her?!"

    The unlucky fellow met his gaze, fell quiet for a moment, then sighed. "I'm not... It was the Sect Leader who misunderstood."

    Wei Chengshu didn't seem to believe him. With a stomp, he stepped forward and reached out to grab his brother, only for his hand to pass straight through his slender frame.

    He froze, then lowered his head, his long bangs obscuring most of his face. His voice was impossible to read as he said, "I never thought you could be so foolish... Last time, downstairs, you said there was nothing between you and that Ruan person. After you came back, I specifically asked someone to investigate. You know—"

    "It was Yuanyuan, right?" Little Wei interrupted with an unchanged smile. "Yuanyuan and Xing Kai, isn't that right?"

    Wei Chengshu was startled. "...You? How did you know?"

    The other man lowered his eyes and gave a bitter laugh. "After that incident, I went to find Yuanyuan to explain, but she refused to see me or answer my calls. Though she has always been somewhat willful, she's never been like this before. I'm not an idiot..."

    Wei Xi didn't understand a word and turned to his second disciple, "Que'er –"

    Que'er calmly grabbed his arm, leading him out of the Wei family's crowd and toward the kitchen, "Come taste if the dumplings are done."

    Wei Xi's attention was immediately diverted.

    In the kitchen, Wei Xi focused on tasting the dumplings, yet he claimed not to have detected any flavor even after eating several. He ate so quickly that it seemed he wasn't afraid of the heat. Shuo Zong had no choice but to hold a bowl nearby, blowing on the dumplings to cool them down for him.

    Xia Shouren, with flour-covered hands, crouched beside them, watching with envy. Somehow, he sensed that his buddy was in a good mood, and couldn't resist teasing, "Old beast, blow on one for me too."

    Shuo Zong looked at him calmly, silently questioning his intelligence with his gaze.

    The few auspicious beasts nearby whispered to each other,

    "Xia Shouren is seeking punishment again."

    "Does he have a masochistic streak?"

    "I think it's probably an issue with his brain."

    Xia Shouren suffered another severe blow, tears welling up in his heart as he puzzled over the question, "Old bastard, what on earth do you see in Wei Xi?!"

    Upon hearing this, Wei Xi looked at his second disciple with a dumpling in his mouth, "Hm?"

    Shuo Zong gazed at Wei Xi's bulging cheeks and reached out to wipe the corner of his mouth, "Is it tasty?"

    Wei Xi finally tasted the flavor. Swallowing the dumpling, he urged his disciple, "It's delicious. You should have some too."

    Shuo Zong asked, "You're not eating anymore?"

    "I'll save the rest for you." There were only a few dumplings left in the pot. Wei Xi resisted the temptation and instead opened his lunch box, taking a bite of a wonton to satisfy his craving.

    Wonton: "..."

    F*ck your mother.

    Stunned, Xia Shouren watched from behind. Shuo Zong turned to look at him, "Get it now?"

    Xia Shouren: "Uh-huh, I get it now. I see what you fancy about him – the two of you are just here to wreak havoc on society."

    Shuo Zong didn't comment but bit into the dumpling, gazing at Wei Xi, and memories flooded back to a distant moment in the past.

    Why had he taken a fancy to Wei Xi?

    Frankly, even he didn't understand.

    He wasn't even sure when this feeling had arisen within him.

    Perhaps it was the day he sensed the grand array being disturbed, returned to his cave mansion, and saw a small, soot-covered Qilin bolting out of the mountains in a panic.

    Maybe it was when he chased after it, caught the creature, and saw that little Qilin looking up at him with a submissive expression while still hurriedly chewing on tree bark it had snatched from the roadside.

    Or perhaps it was when he followed behind the rumored ferocious creature and noticed how cautious it always was while stealing food.

    Or maybe it was that one day when he went searching and found that the other had suddenly vanished.

    Shuo Zong swallowed the dumpling and reached out to pat Wei Xi's head. Wei Xi turned to look at him. "Is it good?"

    Despite his eyes shining with longing, he hadn't tried to snatch one for himself.

    Shuo Zong held up a cooled dumpling and placed it in Wei Xi's mouth. "It's decent, but I don't particularly like it. You can have it."

    Upon hearing this, Wei Xi immediately swallowed the dumpling with an 'ah' sound, chewing as he mumbled, "If you don't like this filling, let Xia Shouren make you some with chive and egg instead."

    Shuo Zong replied, "Alright."

    Xia Shouren: "…No way."

    Hmph!

    It was truly not a good thing when an old beast found its companion.

    Shuo Zong glanced at him calmly and said, "After the new year, everyone's monthly bonus will increase by fifty... thirty percent."

    Xia Shouren sprang up. "Chive and egg, right? Great!"

    As he ran, he pondered what could make such a noble beast endure so much humiliation.

    Was it friendship?

    No.

    It was money.

    How wonderful it is for that old beast to find a partner!

    *******

    Outside the kitchen, Wei Chengshu's phone suddenly rang. He picked up the call, and his face darkened. "Why are you calling me?"

    Without knowing what the caller said, his expression worsened. He hung up without another word and put the phone back in his pocket.

    Seeing that his disciple seemed troubled, Wei Xi came out and asked kindly, "What's wrong?"

    Wei Chengshu shook his head, seemingly unwilling to elaborate. Just then, the doorbell rang, and he hurried forward to cut off the call.

    Confused, Wei Xi heard a weeping voice from outside, "Wei Xi!"

    It sounded like a girl.

    Wei Xi: "She's calling for me?"

    Rising to leave, he was abruptly stopped by Que'er, who gestured for him to look at the young misfortune-bringer.

    Only then did Wei Xi notice the dazed expression on the young misfortune-bringer's face. "Is... is it Wang Yue? Why would she come looking for us?"

    Wei Chengshu's expression had already turned grim, while Wei Tianyi wore a deeply furrowed brow. At that moment, his phone rang, and upon answering, a familiar irate voice immediately filled the air. "Enough! Old Wang, it was your Wang Yue who begged to have the engagement annulled. Now that we've agreed, why are you bringing her here?!?"

    The woman's voice outside grew louder. "Wei Xi!"

    Wei Xi opened his mouth, hastily explaining to his second disciple, "I have nothing to do with her; she wasn't calling me!"

    The young misfortune-bringer, still in a daze, said, "Yes, she must have been calling for me. You... agreed to the annulment?"

    Shu Wanrong, standing nearby, looked slightly uncomfortable. "Originally... logically speaking, your mother was the one who arranged this marriage, so we couldn't make the decision for you. But... given what Chengshu found out and your father's temperament, how could he bear to remain silent and not call off the wedding? He immediately went to the Wangs' to confront Wang Yue's father. On that day, he almost had a heart attack from Wang Yue's antics, saying he no longer had the face to see us."

    Wei Chengshu snorted coldly. "Her father refused to believe it at first, but when we brought Xing Kai and Ruan Shihang over for a confrontation, Wang Yue's wits couldn't hold up under pressure for long. She was still stubborn then, saying she'd be delighted if the engagement were called off. And yet, just a few days later, she's here with her father, choosing New Year's Eve of all days. She really knows how to pick a time."

    Wei Xi pondered for a moment before speaking. "I'll go chase them away."

    Suddenly, the young misfortune-bringer's voice sounded from behind. "Master, let me go instead."

    Wei Chengshu erupted in fury. "Are you trying to court humiliation again?!"

    The young misfortune, surprisingly, stood his ground and ignored Wei Chengshu, stubbornly looking at Wei Xi. "Patriarch, let me go."

    Wei Xi didn't expect this disciple, who seldom worked alongside him, to be so proactive and willing to share his burden. Of course, he didn't decline. Although souls were usually invisible to the naked eye, there were methods to make them visible, albeit more laborious.

    He glanced at his second disciple, who promptly performed a hand gesture without much ado.

    The Wei father and son looked furious, but the young misfortune paid them no heed. After receiving the curse, he calmly walked out.

    Wei Tianyi angrily threw his phone to the ground, while Wei Chengshu seemed ready to follow and stop the other party. However, before he could take a step, his mother grabbed hold of him.

    Shu Wanrong frowned. "Chengshu!"

    Wei Chengshu cursed wearily.

    Wei Xi was clueless about their anger. He began to summon the magical beasts, Mo Luo, to help with making dumplings. Apart from Shu Wanrong, the rest of the Wei family sat on the sofa with grim faces, as if the lively atmosphere didn't reach them.

    Unknown to what she was venting about, Shu Wanrong chattered on while wrapping dumplings. "I really wonder what the Wang family is up to this time. I heard that the Xing family has been struck by terrible luck recently. Their company is plagued with setbacks, and several projects have encountered accidents. Family members are falling ill or getting injured – it's like they've been cursed. It seems like they're heading for bankruptcy next year. The Wangs are their distant relatives, and they're quite close, so they've probably been affected too. That's likely why they thought of coming to us... That foolish child..."

    The father and son in the living room appeared even more dejected.

    Suddenly, a shrill cry echoed from outside:

    "Wei Xi! You bastard!"

    The Wei family was stunned.

    Before long, the unlucky child returned through the door under the watchful gaze of his family of three, his expression unchanged from when he had left.

    Shu Wanrong paused in her dumpling-making, staring blankly at her stepson. "You… Why did you come back?"

    The unlucky child shrugged. "It's so cold outside, where else could I go?"

    Wei Chengshu stood up abruptly. "You… You didn't… You and Wang Yue…"

    Lowering his head, the unlucky child replied calmly, "Yes. I turned her down."

    Without waiting for anyone else to speak, he approached the table with a smile, a previously unseen sense of ease in his demeanor. He addressed Wei Xi and the group of divine beasts. "Are you making dumplings? Count me in too."

    Wei Tianyi and Wei Chengshu exchanged glances, their shock evident. Refuse?! How could that be possible?!

    The little unlucky fellow stood quietly beside Wei Xi, wrapping dumplings. As he worked, his mind drifted, replaying the scene he had just witnessed – an image he had once yearned for a long, long time.

    Unity Yi, standing nearby, whispered, "Bro, what did you say to him when you went out?"

    Realizing he had misaligned a dumpling, the little unlucky one snapped back to reality with a laugh. "Nothing important."

    At this point, the tardy confession held no significance.

    Assuming Wei Xi was heartbroken, Unity Yi tried to console him. "There's plenty of fish in the sea, buddy! Don't take it to heart. Aren't you about to be buried soon? When the time comes, I'll ask my master if we can have a big party on your funeral day! We'll invite all your colleagues and let you have a blast!"

    Wei Xi: "A party?"

    Unity Yi: "Just a gathering, really. A burial is such a rare event, something that only happens once in a lifetime. It would be a shame not to have some fun!"

    Wei Xi: "You have a point."

    The little unlucky fellow: "..."

    ********

    Beyond the Wei family compound, as dusk fell, a figure suddenly appeared on the street.

    It was an elegant old man, though 'old' might not be the right term. Despite his age, he was still quite handsome.

    The few remaining people on the street turned to look at him.

    The old man strolled leisurely, his gaze wandering about. Strangely, he didn't seem like a thief or a tourist visiting the capital, but more like a high-ranking official inspecting his domain.

    A young police officer was on duty by the roadside, shivering in the cold wind. The old man approached him directly. "Young man, you've been working hard. Not even going home for New Year's Eve?"

    The officer rubbed his face and smiled apologetically. "I can't go back on duty, of course. Sir, you should hurry back home. It's freezing out here."

    The old man blinked and asked with a smile, "Why are you on duty on New Year's Eve? Has the world become chaotic lately?"

    The young officer felt that the old man's choice of words was peculiar, but, considering his age, he patiently explained, "No, sir, please don't jump to conclusions. There must always be someone on duty, every day of the year, regardless of whether it's chaotic or not."

    The old man asked, "Is that so? I heard that the capital was quite turbulent recently."

    The police officer chuckled. "That was due to the earthquake and some rumors, but it's all over now. On New Year's Eve, who would have the energy to cause trouble? People are too busy buying New Year's goods. Besides, the weather has been particularly good lately, with much cleaner air. It puts everyone in a good mood; even married couples aren't fighting anymore. What more do you have to worry about? Please, go back home quickly."

    The old man on the other side nodded in satisfaction, leaving the young officer puzzled. Could this attitude really indicate that a high-ranking leader was making an incognito visit?

    The old man raised his hand to pat himself, bidding farewell with a gentle smile. "Well, I'll be on my way then. Have a happy New Year!"

    Automatically, the young officer nodded back. "Happy New Year to you too, and good health."

    The old man strolled away steadily, despite his small frame, moving at a brisk pace. The young officer stood in the night, staring after him, feeling inexplicably that the old man's figure had seemed towering. When he came back to his senses, he suddenly realized something.

    Huh?

    Why wasn't he cold anymore? !

    He looked up at the stars. Beijing used to be plagued by smog, but for some reason, the sky was now so clear that the Milky Way was visible.

    Countless glittering stars shone above, and the young officer let out a long sigh of relief –

    Although it was unlucky to be on duty during New Year's, it was wonderful to witness such a peaceful time and see such a starry sky.

    ******

    In the Wei family, Wei Xi was not skilled at wrapping dumplings. He even wanted to eat the uncooked filling. After a short while, he was chased away by the auspicious beasts.

    In the Wei family's living room, the television was blaring with the sounds of a lively song and dance show. The warm glow of the lights filled the space as he watched, suddenly feeling somewhat displeased.

    "Why isn't Wei Dedao here?"

    His second disciple, who had just washed his hands, joined him, calmly explaining, "The Tao of Heaven doesn't appear so easily."

    Tianyi inquired, "Master, are you thinking about Grandmaster?"

    Wei Xi denied, "Not at all."

    He only wished that Wei Dedao would come help eat some of the numerous dumplings.

    The Weis were skilled at making dumplings, and Tianyi couldn't resist teasing, "I've heard, CEO Wei, that you've been particularly afraid of the dark lately. Is that true?"

    Wei Tianyi scoffed. "Nonsense!"

    Tianyi continued, "So it's not true. I thought you'd be scared of ghosts after learning about them."

    Wei Tianyi harrumphed, pointing at his eldest son. "Do I look afraid of him? What's there to fear about ghosts!"

    He initially thought that Wei Xi was just casually asking, but to his surprise, Unity Yiyi's face lit up with unexpected joy upon hearing the response: "Really? That's fantastic!"

    Wei Tianyi: "......?"

    Suddenly, an ominous premonition washed over Wei Tianyi as he watched Unity Yiyi excitedly pull out his phone and rush to the sofa: "Master, Master! President Wei said he isn't afraid! So let's gather everyone for New Year's! It would be so lonely if we all stayed in our dorms!"

    Wei Xi: "He's not afraid? That works too."

    Wei Tianyi: "???"

    Ten minutes later, Wei Tianyi, with his eyes now opened by the Eye-Opening Talisman, stood stiffly beside the dining table with a green face. The hall was packed with over a thousand ghostly spirits, forcing them to float in the air to make space. They darted around the room wildly.

    There were those with only half a head... others drenched in blood... and still more with yin-yang braids...

    As they floated past him, they cheerfully greeted, "Happy New Year!"

    Happy my ass!

    The next moment, there was a rapping on the windowsill. Unity Yiyi went to open it, and a mouse scurried in with a squeak.

    Shu Wanrong: "AAAAHHH!"

    Then, another wild dog! Wait, there's also a weasel!

    The Wei Family: "AAAAAAAAHHHH!"

    Wei Xi greeted the animals with familiarity, "Here you are?"

    Before their very eyes, the creatures stretched and transformed into human shapes in an instant!

    The Wei Family: "AAAAAAAAHHHH!"

    Wei Tianyi was on the verge of fainting. It was a transformation into living creatures! And all of them at once!

    Unexpectedly, Wei Xi looked outside and asked, "Where are the others? Why isn't the boar here?"

    A boar! There was even a boar!!!

    The handsome-looking wild dog who had turned into a person whispered in response, "There was a last-minute change in the program. Brother Pig got invited to the Spring Festival Gala! Has his performance not come up yet?"

    The Wei family: "!!!!!!!!"

    The Wei family: ".................."

    The Wei family: "???????"

    What's going on?

    What did he say?

    Wei Xi gasped and immediately turned to the screen. The group of divine beasts behind him gathered around, each chiming in with their speculations:

    "Damn, they're going to be on the Spring Festival Gala?!"

    "That's way better than what we've accomplished!"

    "I didn't pay attention just now. Did we miss it?"

    "It shouldn't have passed yet. I bet it's scheduled for later."

    Several spirits noticed the numb expressions on the Wei family members' faces and greeted them politely, "Happy New Year!"

    Shu Wanrong stared at their handsome faces, which seemed eerily familiar, resembling a popular idol group that her niece had been obsessing over recently, "…H-Happy… Happy…"

    Wei Tianyi: "…"

    Happy my ass.

    With trembling hands, Wei Tianyi discreetly tore off the talisman on his body, threw it on the floor, and kicked it under the table.

    Unfortunately, he used too much force, causing it to fly right to Unity's feet.

    Wei Tianyi: "…"

    Unity Yi: "Eh?! CEO Wei, your talisman fell!"

    Wei Tianyi tried to remain calm, "Is that so? Perhaps its adhesive has worn off. Such a precious item, it would be a waste to discard it..."

    Unity Yi: "No worries, no worries! This is an assignment from my junior… senior brother. I've drawn hundreds of these!"

    With a wave of his hand, he pulled out a thick stack of talismans from his pocket. "Take your pick, Mr. Wei!"

    Wei Tianyi: "……………………"

    The room was in chaos, with ghosts and monsters swirling about. Wei Xi sat on the back of the sofa, listening to the not-so-enjoyable Spring Festival Gala music on TV.

    The boar demon seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, just as the countdown on TV began.

    The female host's melodious voice rang out clearly and melodiously, counting down the seconds into the new year:

    Ten!

    Nine!

    Eight!

    Seven!

    ...

    Wei Xi turned his head to gaze at the sky outside the window, then silently shifted his gaze back to the television after a moment.

    In the next instant, the normally closed door of the Wei residence burst open with a resounding boom.

    A slender, hunched figure stood on the threshold, braving the chilly wind. With a grin, the figure cast a casual glance inside and jovially exclaimed,

    "Oh my! So lively! Happy New Year, everyone! I'm here for the dumplings!"

    Startled, Wei Xi shot up from his seat, unintentionally tumbling into the arms of his second disciple.

    The female host continued her countdown:

    Six!

    Five!

    Four!

    Three!

    Two!

    One!

    The deafening music soared, seemingly accompanied by the sound of fireworks exploding.

    Beyond the Wei family's residence, ordinary folks gathered around their New Year's Eve dinner tables, smiling and wishing each other a happy new year amidst these sounds.

    In the Wei family home, ghosts, monsters, divine beasts, and Heavenly Dao coexisted harmoniously. Wei Xi stood firm in his second disciple's embrace, gazing into the depths of the other's eyes.

    Pausing for a moment, he said, "Que'er, happy new year."

    His second disciple smiled, his gaze equally gentle. "Happy new year to you too."

    Amidst the cacophony of mutual greetings, Wei Xi felt a strange sensation in the midst of this lively commotion.

    He slowly turned towards the television, where a grand chorus had already begun. The wild boar spirit's face stood out prominently among the humans.

    Was this the feeling that the little unlucky one had described as welcoming the new year?

    Another peaceful year has passed, with everyone intact and accounted for.

    It seems genuinely pleasant, doesn't it?

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