returnCH 146(1 / 1)  Estrangedhome

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The man had casually thrown on his outer garments and even kept yawning lazily.

He was so relaxed that he just turned away from the gazes of the disciples of the Zhengrong Mountain Villa and walked away. The disciples glanced at each other and followed him.

“Why won’t you let us check your bed, daoyou?”

The disciples had looked him up before coming here. His name was Sun Wuxia, and he was the most outstanding disciple of the Daoist Temple of the Imperial Palace. Based on the status of his sect, he was almost qualified to be assigned to the Zhen Buildings, but he had arrived alone and alongside Li Muxing and her companions, which lowered his status, so the Zhengrong Mountain Villa had not treated him like an honored guest.

“Ask not about what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety [1]. Daoyous must be familiar with this principal.”

But the more he tried to thwart the inspection, the more suspicious he seemed.

“We have an order from our master, so I have no choice but to ask daoyou to comply with the request. Please excuse me, I’ll only take a look at the bed…”

While saying this, the disciple in charge pulled away the canopy quickly so as not to let Changming stop him.

But as soon as the disciple’s gaze fell upon the bed, his expression changed.

There was a person wrapped in a quilt on the bed. Her shy, delicate face showed behind her loosely hanging hair, and her watery eyes seemed to be on the verge of shedding tears, just like young leaves that were wet with morning dew.

Under the black hair, they could see her trembling white collarbone, which was so dazzling that they had to turn away quickly, as if burnt by the sight. Then, they thought: this woman was obviously not a cultivator, so could it be that this man had taken her from his sect as a plaything to sate his lust at any time?

The disciples of the Zhengrong Mountain Villa had met many people who indulged in wanton extravagance. Such people always had maids accompanying them and serving them in their everyday life. But this Sun Wuxia arrived here yesterday all alone, so, how could a living person appear next to him out of nowhere?

This thought made the disciples very alarmed in an instant.

“Where did this woman come from?”

“Since you’ve already noticed her…”

Changming sighed softly and raised his hand. The door closed by itself even though there was no wind.

The disciples thought that he was about to initiate a confrontation, so they got ready to retaliate, yet the man only took out a piece of paper from his sleeve.

The piece of paper was intricately folded and looked like a small person. Changming tapped on it a few times and blew on it. The figure abruptly grew in size and lightly soared to the floor, turning into a beautiful maiden right in front of their eyes.

The woman had two buns in her hair and was dressed in yellow robes. Her eyes were big, her forehead was high, and she saluted them politely.

“As you see, daoyous, the one in my bed is not a demon, but a trivial cultivation technique. It’s not like we have to suffer alone through the long night, so I used a trick to have some fun.”

“Is this an appearance changing technique?” asked one of the disciples after his words had sunk in.

“Yes, it is called the Art of Transferring Spirit. You have good eyes, daoyou.” Changming smiled and took several pieces of paper out of his sleeve, passing them to everyone. “This is a secret technique of my Daoist Temple of the Imperial Palace, so please, daoyous, don’t talk about it much, or my room would have to host too many interested guests. These are small tokens to show my respect to you and to celebrate our acquaintance.”

“Cultivators pay particular attention to controlling their desires, you, you…”

They protested a lot, but in the end, their actions spoke louder than their words, and they accepted the paper.

Changming looked innocent as he said, “I only let her out to talk to her—what does that have to do with desire? Please, be more careful, if you tear the paper, the girls might turn out crippled.”

After hearing this, they started moving much more gently as they put the pieces of white paper in their sleeves.

“How do we use it?”

“You only have to imagine the appearance before you blow on it, and regardless of whether you wished for a man or for a woman, for a beauty or for a monster, they will appear according to your will. However, don’t forget that this is but a technique to alleviate boredom and would thus only last for a night or so. When the sun rises, it will return to its original form immediately, and the paper will burn up by itself, leaving no traces. Just think about it: the nights are long and lonely, but a girl that accompanies you in your studies makes it much more lively, adding colors to your quiet meditation.”

“Is it single-use?”

“This Sun is incompetent, so the technique will only last one night. Moreover, I did not bring many materials with me on the journey. However, if you wish, you can visit my Daoist Temple of the Imperial Palace after the Qianlin Assembly. My shishu is extremely skilled in this art, and the paper figures he makes are more refined. Not only do they have spirits and can talk, but they can even save their master if something goes wrong.”

He was just saying whatever came to his mind, but the disciples of the Zhengrong Mountain Villa believed him and even looked shocked.

One was partial to those from a person whose gifts one had accepted, and one’s hand would not rise to hit a smiling person. So, they did not doubt him and even felt somewhat cordial with Changming.

“I’ve never heard of an art like this used in the Daoist Temple of the Imperial Palace. Indeed, the world is vast and full of hidden talents. We were ordered to come by today, so don’t take it personally. I hope you win with your first move and gain instant fame tomorrow, daoyou Sun!”

“I understand, daoyous, the Zhengrong Mountain Villa must have its own profound reasons for this. I would like to invite you to a dinner after the Qianlin Assembly. It would be nice if you could introduce me to some seniors so that I can report to my sect that I have acted dutifully.”

In fact, there was no need for him to say this. As long as he succeeded in the Qianlin Assembly, the people of the Zhengrong Mountain Villa would search for him themselves.

After the short exchange, the disciples, carrying the paper figures, left satisfied, happy with the trick that had been played on them.

Of course, they would not come back and see the person in Changming’s room, since they were now united by a shared secret.

Changming sent them out. He watched them walk away to another floor to search the rooms there before closing the door and returning to his room.

He flickered his fingers, and the woman in yellow robes in front of the bed abruptly became flat and turned back into a piece of paper.

While on the bed—

Changming reached out to the forehead of the “maiden” on the bed and slowly tore a layer from it.

The “layer of skin” that was ripped off turned into paper too, and Yun Weisi’s face returned to its original appearance.

“Shizun’s Art of Transferring Spirit has long since transcended the limits of the secular world, and now doesn’t even seem like something a human can do.”

At first, Yun Weisi thought that this technique could only be used for creating soldiers by transferring spirits, but Changming had managed to get it up to another level, reaching perfection with this technique that had originally been neglected by others. He was indeed befitting the title of the best cultivator of his generation.

“You’re wounded, just rest here. Don’t get involved in tomorrow’s event.” While talking, Jiufang Changming put the paper he had gotten off Yun Weisi into a basin of water, and the paper melted away without a trace.

Yun Weisi did not answer, but asked instead: “What do you think Luomei will do tomorrow at the Qianlin Assembly?”

This was an important question.

Since “Jiang Li” was arrested and accused of working together with demons under everyone’s eyes, there was no doubt that tomorrow this story would get a continuation, and gain a “final” ending.

Changming said softly: “My guess is that in Luomei’s eyes, we’re not really that much of a threat. He sees Yao Wangnian, this persistent ghost, as the real obstacle. I wager that tomorrow he will try to use Jiang Li to lure Yao Wangnian out.”

Yun Weisi sighed.

That was what he was worried about too.

Luomei had been thoroughly prepared for the battle. Rather than being afraid of Yao Wangnian showing up, he was more afraid of that not happening. He absolutely needed to deliver vital blows to both of his disciples to never have them trouble him again and ruin his ambitious plans.

“That is why I must go. Luomei won’t be able to be in two places at once at the Qianlin Assembly tomorrow, so it will be our best chance to save Jiang Li along with Chi Bijiang. It will be best if you manage to force Luomei to show his true colors, but if you fail, we should let Jiang Li warn others by revealing what he has experienced and testify against Luomei.”

But even if Jiang Li testified against Luomei using himself as evidence, he would not necessarily succeed. Luomei had hundreds of ways to turn the situation against Jiang Li. In the court of public opinion, the master was always right, and their disciples had to bow their heads in submission. Luomei was not only Jiang Li’s shifu, but the master of the Wanjian Immortal Clan. Luomei was sure of his victory on his own chessboard—the other players were but pawns to be carried along with the tide.

The sky was gloomy and obscured by rain clouds. Cultivators claimed to be closer to the Heavenly Dao than the common people, while in truth, the entire chaotic human world was clueless as they went round in circles day in and day out without actually moving forward.

“If… I’m just saying, but if,” Yun Weisi looked at him meaningfully, as if he wanted to see through Jiufang Changming, “today was the last time we saw each other, what would you have told me?”

“This is not the last time we will see each other. But even if it was—I’ve never regretted anything, neither accepting you as a disciple, nor taking you as a daoist partner.” Changming had never been proficient at expressing his feelings, but his thoughtful, frowning expression was cute, and Yun Weisi could not help reaching out to smooth it and then kiss it, so that the frown was melted away by this tenderness, as if this life was free of worries.

“I know that you have always been absorbed in studying the Heavenly Dao, and it is difficult for you to pay particular attention to a person or a thing next to you. I used to think that among your four disciples I was the one who was the least troublesome and rarely gave you a reason to worry, so you neglected me the most.”

But later he realized that whether Changming had neglected him or not had nothing to do with how Yun Weisi was compared to the other disciples. If one liked a person, even if the person was silent all day long and never moved, the person would still be loved. And if one did not like a person, even if they were perfect in every way, they would not be desired.

For Yun Weisi, Jiufang Changming used to be like a high mountain he had looked up to, so Yun Weisi had trained hard to conquer the mountain and stand shoulder to shoulder with Jiufang Changming.

And for Jiufang Changming, he was—

“Ever since you were a child, ever since I’ve seen you for the first time, I knew we were bound by fate. Even if you hadn’t come to the Yuhuang Temple to become my disciple, I’d have sent my shidi to take care of you in the capital. You’ve always been destined to be connected with the Yuhuang Temple.”

In truth, his connection with the Yuhuang Temple was his connection with Jiufang Changming.

“You turned out to be exceptionally gifted and more astute than the others, someone with a great potential of cultivation. I wanted to teach you, and I paid more attention to you than to the other three.”

Hearing this, Yun Weisi laughed.

“Because I’m your first disciple.”

Changming pondered for a moment and shook his head: “The years when I accepted you as a disciple must have been the least troubled years in my life, so for me, Yun Weisi meant tranquility and peace. No one dislikes comfort, and I am no exception. But cultivators have to endure more than the common people and also have to put in more effort to reach the peak step by step.”

At that time, they would never cross the boundaries between a master and a disciple. One of them was supposed to be teaching and would answer any questions, while the other wished to gain the knowledge as he admired the first. If that had continued, Yun Weisi would have gradually become strong under his shifu’s guidance and left him to pave his own path. Yun Weisi also realized that even without Jiufang Changming, he would be a respected master of a Daoist sect, one of the strongest in the world. Unfortunately, something had derailed this original trajectory, but had also shattered the boundaries between the two of them.

Maybe, it had happened when Yun Weisi agreed to Jiufang Changming’s plan, saying that he would definitely become Changming’s most powerful supporter. Even if he was not able to do that now, one day, he would definitely succeed. Or maybe, it had happened when he was fighting against demons and got poisoned in a moment of carefulness, when many people and events flashed through the sea of his consciousness, but he still walked towards the Yuhuang Temple alone. Or maybe, it had happened when he had arrived at the foot of Yuhuang’s mountains and saw Yun Weisi standing at the gates, as if waiting for Jiufang Changming to return. In the future, Changming knew that Yun Weisi would spend some time under the mountains every day. No one knew who he was waiting for, and Yun Weisi never told anyone. The world slowly changed, but his feelings remained. Changming did not know when he had realized it, but at some point, he could easily recall anything that was related to Yun Weisi.

And this in itself was a very unique thing.

“I should go.”

Without waiting for Changming to remember every detail, Yun Weisi pulled away and stood up, ready to leave.

His wounds had not healed completely, but after spending a night treating them, he felt a lot better.

The sky had brightened, and the Qianlin Assembly was about to begin, so Changming also had to go.

A night of rest was gone in a flash, and now they had to part ways again, each of them heading towards the steepest of cliffs.


Yun Weisi stopped abruptly and turned his head back.

He still called Changming that even after they had become daoist partners, and Changming had never stopped him.

Although it was when they were practicing dual cultivation beneath the bedsheets, the gasp of “Shizun”, falling from the lips of his partner would make Changming overly sensitive as well as make Yun Weisi lose control even more.

But this time, the word was said almost solemnly, not at all intimate or playful.

“If I could start over, I wouldn’t have let you enter that trap. I would rather follow you to the Yellow Springs, so don’t make me leave you ever again.”

Changming froze for a moment. He did not expect Yun Weisi to demand something like this.

For Yun Weisi, that time when they pretended to turn against each other was probably extremely heartbreaking.

In the past, Changming did not understand it, but now he felt a dull pain in his chest and sympathized with Yun Weisi.

“All right.”

Even if fate led him to the Yellow Springs again, he would not run from it.

Yun Weisi left quietly and did not disturb anyone.

He had his own ways of doing so. With his current cultivation level, in the entire Zhengrong Mountain Villa, only Luomei could be his opponent. However, Luomei would not fight against him alone, and the whole sect would set up traps and come up with plans to stop him.

By the time Changming changed his clothes and washed up, Li Muxing had arrived.

“Daoyou Sun, how was your night?”

“Originally, I was sleeping well, but then several people barged in to inspect my room, and I couldn’t fall asleep for the rest of the night and had to meditate.”

Li Muxing sympathized with him and got angry at the villa again.

“I don’t believe they treated the guests in the Zhen Buildings in the same manner!”

Before Changming could answer, they heard a voice outside: “They look down on us even though they’re no better and abuse their position!”

Lin Wenyu still had not calmed down.

“Second shidi!?We are under the eaves—we’ll leave as soon as the Qianlin Assembly comes to an end, so don’t create problems.” Xia Zheng warned him and turned to Changming and Li Muxing, “Daoyous, it’s still very early, we should draw lots now. There are plenty of talented individuals in the sects, and if we stumble upon a formidable opponent in the very first round, that would probably shake our resolve.”

We are under the eaves: …so we must lower our heads: have to obey to those who are more influential

No one objected, and they went together to the place where the Qianlin Assembly would be held, making no stops along the way.


[1] Ask not about what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety: a changed quote from the Analects, Yan Yuan:

Yan Yuan asked about perfect virtue. The Master [Confucius] said, “To subdue one’s self and return to propriety, is perfect virtue. If a man can for one day subdue himself and return to propriety, all under heaven will ascribe perfect virtue to him. Is the practice of perfect virtue from a man himself, or is it from others?” Yan Yuan said, “I beg to ask the steps of that process.” The Master replied, “Look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety.” Yan Yuan then said, “Though I am deficient in intelligence and vigor, I will make it my business to practice this lesson.”