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Chapter 12

Little dumplings, like clusters of small white clouds, floated in the milky white beef bone broth. A layer of vibrant green scallions was sprinkled on top, emitting an enticing aroma.

The shop owner still wore an angry expression. He didn’t show Yuan Zhong any kindness, placing the dumplings heavily on the table.

Then he turned to Tan Yin with a pleasant demeanor and said, “You know that immortal? A good girl like Miss Ji shouldn’t be led astray by such a bastard immortal!”

Yuan Zhong pretended to be deaf and dumb. He was famished and grabbed a bowl, placing it in front of himself. As he fished out the dumplings, he asked in a low voice, “The owner here seems to know you well?”

Earlier, while walking to the dumpling shop with her, many small food vendors along the way greeted Tanyin with smiles. Why didn’t he know that this strange woman was so popular?

Tanyin shook her head and said, “Not very well, but I made some ‘fraud-detecting mirrors’ and sold them to them. They seem to like them a lot.”

Fraud-detecting mirrors… Yuan Zhong suddenly felt a bitterness in his mouth, and the delicious dumplings became hard to swallow. So… it was her who made those little mirrors! He should have guessed it earlier; such a hateful and vicious tool could only have been created by this detestable woman.

“One day, you’ll get ambushed and beaten up in a sack…” Yuan Zhong muttered angrily. Seeing through his illusions so easily, this was too vicious. He had lost face for the Fox clan today.

“They all run small businesses.”

Tanyin noticed him wolfing down a bowl of dumplings and eyeing the dumplings on the side of the bird of paradise. She quickly pushed the untouched bowl in front of her over to him. “They get tricked with illusions and fake silver every now and then. How can they make money to support their families?”

“Only you would be so kind.”

Yuan Zhong swallowed the dumpling in one gulp and got up to leave without any courtesy. Tanyin hurriedly followed him. After a few steps, he suddenly stopped and turned around, glaring at her fiercely. “Why are you following me?”

She fell silent again, a troubled expression appearing on her pretty face.

Her dark, lively eyes darted around, but she couldn’t come up with a convincing excuse.

Yuan Zhong found her demeanor both annoying and frustrating.

Idiot… idiot that can’t even come up with a decent excuse. Others who didn’t know the situation might think he had done something heartless and unfaithful, seeing them like this.

“Is your name really Ji Tanyin? Are you a craftsman?” He recalled how Lord Meishan had spent ten days flipping through the celestial book without finding any results.

“Yes.” Tanyin nodded straightforwardly.

“This body of yours, did you take it from someone else?”

Yuan Zhong turned and continued walking.

His tone was light and casual, but his words made her slightly startled: “…How did you know?”

Yuan Zhong laughed mockingly, “Because I’m not an idiot. You’re borrowing someone else’s body. Aren’t you afraid of divine retribution?”

Tanyin silently shook her head.

Alright, regardless of who she was—enemy or whatever other nonsense—such a foolish and naive woman couldn’t possibly achieve anything significant.

“If you’re going to follow me, know that I have a big appetite.”

Yuan Zhong walked with his hands behind his back, exuding the demeanor of a young master from the Fox clan. “Luxurious clothes, exquisite food, and beauty are all indispensable. If you can’t afford to support me, I’ll run away.”

Tanyin quickly opened her money pouch.

The “fraud-detecting mirrors” she had sold in recent days were quite popular, earning her a good amount of money.

Although she wasn’t sure how much his “luxurious clothes, exquisite food, and beauties” would cost, as a member of the Ji family, a family of craftsmen, they were never short of money. As long as she had her hands, she wouldn’t starve.

“I have fifty taels,” she reported honestly.

Yuan Zhong grabbed it, weighed it in his hand, and stuffed it into his pocket, laughing sarcastically. “This amount of money isn’t even enough to feed my mount.”

“Well… I can continue making things to sell. They’re quite popular.”

She was confident in her craftsmanship.

Yuan Zhong was both amused and irritated by her serious demeanor.

“Then let’s go.”

He quickened his pace, almost as if he were gliding.

Tanyin trotted behind him, both surprised and delighted, hardly believing that he didn’t escape and actually so obidient. She carefully tugged at his sleeve and asked cautiously, “So… can I follow you now?”

Yuan Zhong grunted, “Aren’t you following me right now?”

“Can I keep following you?”

“That depends on your performance.”

The girl behind him suddenly fell silent, not speaking for a long time. Yuan Zhong turned around to see her face full of gratitude, with tears even glistening in her eyes. He was taken aback by this expression. He had seen various beauties with various expressions—slight anger, annoyance, playful teasing—but he had never seen a beauty so grateful to him.

“Thank you,” Tanyin said sincerely.

Yuan Zhong suddenly felt a bit embarrassed, his face heating up.

He murmured, “Alright, let’s not talk about this. Let’s go to the inn.”

Now that he has money, he wants to use this money to kill that snobbish innkeeper.

Apparently, Yuan Zhong’s previous attempt to deceive the dumpling shop owner with fake silver had spread around the area. The innkeeper, holding a fraud-detecting mirror, scrutinized the silver Yuan Zhong gave him from every angle. After a thorough inspection, he still looked towards Tanyin with some apprehension and asked, “Miss Ji, this fraud-detecting mirror won’t break, right?”

Yuan Zhong’s face turned green with anger, and he wished he could strangle this troublesome girl.

“From now on, don’t make such harmful things!” he commanded unreasonably, snatching Tan Yin’s Qiankun bag as they headed up to their room.

“I’ll keep the bag. Tell me what materials you need.”

In truth, he wanted to see what was inside the Qiankun bag.

Asking Ji Tanyin directly would yield nothing but that annoyingly dumb expression of hers. Unable to investigate her identity, he decided to satisfy his curiosity by taking the bag.

The Qiankun bag appeared on the outside to be an extremely ordinary, worn, gold-embroidered leather sack, something an average person might use to store loose silver and miscellaneous items. However, upon opening the tied cowhide cord, its interior was remarkably different, seemingly containing a miniature world. Such masterful craftsmanship was beyond what a mere mortal could create.

Yuan Zhong began to pull items out one by one. First, there were a few small mechanical birds with holes in their chests, likely the ones he had smashed that night and she hadn’t had time to repair.

Then there were several bundles containing clothes and various everyday items, including bandages and medicine bottles—nothing out of the ordinary. The rest were various materials, and he even pulled out a piece of golden nanmu wood.

Finally, from the deepest part of the bag, he extracted a small, colorful pinwheel and a half-worn silk sachet.

Yuan Zhong picked up the pinwheel and blew on it gently. It spun with a soft whirring sound, similar to those sold by street vendors but smaller.

The handle and the connecting ribbons were not made of bamboo but of very soft white silver. Perhaps it had been handled frequently, as the silver threads had turned black, indicating its considerable age.

He blew on the pinwheel for a while but couldn’t make any sense of it. So he picked up the silk pouch for a closer look.

The silk pouch was somewhat worn but very clean, soft to the touch, and a light blue color reminiscent of early dawn. It was empty inside.

He still couldn’t figure it out.

Ji Tanyin hadn’t put anything in the Qiankun bag that might reveal her identity, which was uncharacteristically cautious for her.

His curiosity about Ji Tanyin had grown uncontrollably, to the point where he wanted to lock her up and torture the truth out of her. But recalling how she had clung to his sleeve, tears in her eyes, gratefully thanking him, his sinister plans felt like they had hit an impenetrable wall. No matter how thick-skinned he was, he couldn’t bring himself to act cruelly.

The door to the guest room was gently knocked twice, and Tanyin’s calm voice came from outside: “Your Highness, may I come in?”

“Come in.”

He quickly stuffed everything back into the Qiankun bag and sat up straight.

“I need three sections of ebony, two sections of poplar, a piece of bronze, and forty rivets…”

Tan Yin listed the materials in the Qiankun bag effortlessly, without pausing for breath. Yuan Zhong fumbled around in the bag, having no idea what ebony and poplar looked like. After a while, he simply handed the Qiankun bag back to her and said, “Take it.”

Tan Yin deftly retrieved the materials, scattering them on the floor, and started selecting what she needed right there.

This was the first time Yuan Zhong had ever seen a craftsman at work.

At first, watching her saw a piece of wood and carve it with a small knife seemed boring. But her hands moved like magic, and before long, she had crafted a small wooden figure, complete with a nose, eyes, and a comically detailed hat, so lifelike that he was entranced.

She then used poplar to make the little figure’s internal organs. How tiny would those organs be for a palm-sized wooden figure?

Yuan Zhong was amazed at her hands, so steady and quick, not even trembling, as a tiny heart gradually took shape in her palm.

As night fell, Yuan Zhong lit a candle and watched as Tanyin dressed the completed wooden figure in a perfectly fitting small white robe of an ancient style—was she making a puppet?

No one answered his question.

Tanyin took a teapot from the table and gently lifted the little figure’s hat, revealing that it was actually a lid covering a tiny hole, just slightly larger than a needle’s eye.

She then took an even smaller funnel, inserted its spout into the hole, and poured half a pot of tea into it.

The little wooden figure suddenly started to move. At first, it only wiggled its arms and legs; its movements were clumsy and comical. Then, all at once, it raised its arms and began to dance; its dance steps were very traditional.

Yuan Zhong watched in astonishment as the figure’s facial features came to life. Its eyes blinked, its lips moved, and then it opened its mouth, emitting a high-pitched, amusingly thin singing voice.

“Be simple, be simple, and you will be able to dance. The sun is in the middle, in front, and above.”

The wooden figure sang and danced, its white robe fluttering gracefully, giving it an air of elegance.

“The majestic warrior is dancing in the public court. He is as powerful as a tiger, and he holds the bridle like a set. He holds the bridle in his left hand and the long-tailed pheasant in his right hand. He is as impressive as an ocher, and he is known as Xijue.”

The poem, originally praising the majestic bearing of dancers, now seemed comically exaggerated by the tiny wooden figure. Its hat tilted one way, then the other, as if it might fall off at any moment.

Suddenly, it placed its hands over its heart in a gesture of longing and admiration: “There are hazels on the mountains, and there is thick ice on the creek. Who is thinking of me? The beauty of the West. That beauty is here, and the people from the West are here.”

The song’s melody gradually faded until it was barely audible. The little wooden figure spun around, bowed respectfully to the high priest, and then stopped moving entirely.

Yuan Zhong felt as if his jaw was about to drop. He picked up the little wooden figure, inspecting its clothes and hat, turning it over and over, unable to fathom how it could sing and dance.

“You…” he stared at Tanyin, unable to find the words. He had never truly understood the phrase “miraculous craftsmanship” until now.

Tanyin looked up at him, the candlelight reflecting in her eyes, making them sparkle.

“Do you like it?” she asked, her voice full of genuine sincerity and anticipation.

He should like it, right? She remembered the first time she made a singing-and-dancing wooden figure for Taihe. Taihe’s eyes had nearly popped out of his head. The high priest’s expression now was exactly the same as Taihe’s had been.

But she waited for a long time, and Yuan Zhong still didn’t speak. He just stared at her, as if seeing her for the first time.

“Do you like it?” Tanyin was a bit worried. The little wooden figure had amused Taihe, so why was this fox showing no reaction?

Yuan Zhong remained silent, continuing to stare at her. He looked at her snow-white face and bright, black eyes, which were filled with pure anticipation. He couldn’t help but recall those eyes on the high platform.

It felt as if thousands of butterflies were fluttering inside his ears.

Feeling a bit embarrassed, he lowered his head.

In this moment, in this situation, he couldn’t bring himself to lie and say he didn’t like it.


He gave a barely audible affirmation, clutching the little wooden figure, unwilling to let go. His thumb kept fidgeting with its hat, moving it back and forth, as he looked both flustered and distracted.

“Then it’s yours.” Tanyin smiled happily for the first time, “Thank you, you are a good person.”


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