I paused for a moment and said, “Can’t sleep, just came out to stand for a while.” Tianshu’s bright eyes looked at the wine jar in my hand. I looked down and chuckled, “Ah, this is good wine from the mortal realm. I’m afraid I won’t be able to drink it once I return to the heavenly court, so I try to drink more whenever I have the chance.”

Tianshu silently watched me, seemingly convinced. I placed the wine jar by the rockery, took off my outer robe, and wrapped it around him. “It’s quite chilly. You should go back to your room and sleep.”

Suddenly, Tianshu asked, “Have I… suffered some kind of injury?”

I was taken aback. Could it be that Tianshu was starting to recover? I replied without thinking, “You’re currently in the mortal realm, so it’s just a temporary adjustment. When you return to the heavenly court in a few days, everything will become clear.”

Tianshu nodded agreeably, obediently went back to his room to sleep, and before leaving, he looked at me again and said, “You should get some rest too.” I watched his figure as he walked back into the room. These past few days, I had always seen little Tianshu in the company of Hengwen and hadn’t thought much of it. But tonight, seeing him alone and looking at his figure, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of familiarity, as if… I had seen it many years ago… perhaps it resembled the grown-up Tianshu in some ways that made me feel acquainted.

I picked up the wine jar again and drank it sip by sip until it was empty. The surroundings remained silent, and the night wind was still chilly. I quietly walked to Hengwen’s door and slipped inside.

Sure enough, the fox was sleeping in Hengwen’s bed. Sensing my presence, it immediately crawled out of the bed and jumped to the ground. I snapped my fingers to make it fall asleep, then picked it up and placed it on a chair.

I sat by the bedside, lowered my head, and gazed at Hengwen’s sleeping face. I didn’t know how many more days I would be able to look at him like this. I adjusted his blanket and gently touched his face, unable to resist whispering, “Hengwen, before I ascend to the Immortal Execution Platform, please return to your original form, even if it’s just for one day, one night.”

I put the fox back into Hengwen’s bed, tucked him in tightly, and quietly left the room.

Back in my own room, the lone lamp flickered, filling the space with infinite desolation. I extinguished the lamp and lay on the bed.

The next day, I unintentionally slept in and didn’t wake up until the sun was high in the sky. The houseboy informed me that the young masters had already eaten and were in the courtyard. I replied with an understanding and hurriedly finished my meal before strolling into the courtyard. Hengwen and a group of children were playing dice, seemingly gambling for real. Hengwen had already won a pile of coins, while the other children scratched their heads in frustration. Tianshu, on the other hand, sat at a stone table, guarding a brush, inkstone, and paper, diligently writing something.

As I approached, I saw a book open in front of Tianshu, with a stack of densely written papers beside him. It seemed like he was copying from a book.

Picking up one of the papers and glancing at it, I was astonished. The handwriting on these few pages was all crooked, some with wild strokes, others cramped and small, clearly not the handwriting of a single person. Then I looked at the paper Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help them copy it, I thought. These children think very little of their teacher. The stack of homework will all have the same handwriting, and none of them will have benefited from it.

I absentmindedly picked up the stack of papers, flipped through them, and was taken aback. The handwriting on these papers was messy and inconsistent, clearly not from a single person. Then I looked at the page Tianshu was writing on—it was neat and angular, a completely different style.

Surprised, I asked, “Did you write all of these?”

Tianshu paused and nodded, saying, “Yes, I asked each of them to write a few characters for me to see if they resemble the teacher’s. They said I didn’t need to give them money but asked me to help them with the homework their teacher assigned. The teacher fell ill a few days ago and stopped teaching for a while. They need to hand in the homework when classes resume in two days, so they have to finish it before we can play.”

Then help

But after several rounds, the faces of the children had turned pale green as Hengwen continued to win. There was quite a pile of copper coins in front of him, likely all the secret money these children had saved for snacks. One child lowered his head and slowly put down the dice, saying, “Let’s stop playing.”

Hengwen stretched lazily and said, “If you don’t want to play anymore, then let’s wrap it up.” He picked up the dice and put them back in the bowl, pushing the copper coins in front of him and smiling, “Take your money back quickly, and be careful not to let others take more than they should.”

The children were stunned for a moment, but when they realized what he meant, they showed some backbone and stood still. One of them blushed and stuttered, “A true man accepts defeat gracefully. If we lose to you, then we lose to you.” Hengwen laughed and said, “When we were playing, we didn’t say anything about winning money. We were only counting the copper coins, which should be returned anyway. If you want to talk about winning or losing, how about this: when I start going to school, if I win again, you can help me with my homework, alright?”

The children blinked and nodded, immediately rushing forward happily and putting their own copper coins back into their pockets. After they finished, they hesitated and were unwilling to leave. They mumbled and asked, “Do you want to play something else?”

Hengwen said, “Huh? Didn’t you say you didn’t want to play anymore just now?”

The speaking child blushed and said, “We said we didn’t want to play dice anymore. How about a game of chess?” Hengwen nodded and said, “Alright.”

They set up the chessboard and immersed themselves in another intense game.