The young girl pursed her lips, her face flushed. The words “I’m willing” were stuck in her throat, and, try as she might, she was unable to say them out loud. However, in her heart, she continued repeating, I’m willing! I’m willing!
“Stop dreaming!” That scene too disappeared, replaced by her father’s booming voice. “That Young Master Yun got married today, to both a wife and a concubine! He’s long since forgotten about you!”
“No, that can’t be! He promised that he would marry me…!” the girl murmured, her face buried in her arms.
“What kind of person is he, and what kind of person are you? Stop pining over him and make yourself useful at home!” He walked out the front doors, a padlock in his hand.
The young girl suddenly stood up. “Father, please don’t lock me at home,” she yelled, rushing toward him.
Her father tried to restrain her and push her back into the house, but the girl resisted with all her strength. With a strength that belied her slender frame, she pushed him aside and rushed out the door. Her father stumbled and hit his head against a wall, but the young girl had already run off.
She ran all the way to the Yun manor. By the time she arrived, it was already late in the evening. She was barred by the guards at the front gate, where she begged and pleaded for them to let her in to no avail.
“Our Young Master’s going to be quite busy after the wedding, so please don’t show up here again, Miss Qin. Young Master Yun isn’t going to be willing to see you, and Master and Madam Yun will also be unhappy to have you around…”
The young girl was unable to get past the front gates, and the guards wouldn’t even let her stand by the entrance. She could only skulk by a corner, earnestly watching the Yun manor from a distance, so close yet so far.
The Yun manor was decorated with lanterns and colored banners, and the celebrations brought festive cheer to one and all. Bright red lanterns cast the manor in a fiery glow, as though it were an island on a sea of flames.
The warmth and heat did not reach the young girl. She sat disheartened outside the manor for the entire night, and when she returned home the next day, she found that her father had died, his skull cracked open by his fall against the wall, bloodying his head.
When the girl thought back to what had happened and realized that she had killed her own father, she drew the dagger that he always carried by his waist and held the point against her neck. As she did so, however, she suddenly noticed a worn black manual in his robes.
Curious, the young girl picked up the manual and began flipping through it. It described the sacrificial arts of the shamanic tribe, ones that her father had always forbidden her from practicing. She put down the dagger in her hands and began reading through the manual. The light in her eyes slowly rekindled as she flipped through the pages, slowly at first, then faster and faster.
When she finished the final page of the manual, she slowly put it down and looked at her father’s lifeless corpse, the man who had brought her up but hadn’t given her even a shred of warmth.
The young girl bit her lip as her eyes glinted. She slowly raised the dagger in her hands, closed her eyes, and stabbed her father’s chest, right where his heart was.
“Ah!” Qin Jianmei clutched her face.
As the illusory scene unfolded before their eyes, Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan walked up to her Qin Jianmei, now in the guise of a young girl. “Madam Qin, won’t you give up?” Li Mo’s voice appeared by her ears. “To have sacrificed even your own father’s heart for this demonic puppet… a woman like you deserves to die!”
“I… I…” Qin Jianmei clutched her eyes, her body trembling.
“Li Mo, can we destroy the demonic puppet like this?” Yun Ruoyan murmured.
Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan were both hovering on his sword as they each pointed a finger at the puppet’s temples, infusing spiritual energy into its head. Meanwhile, Yun Moxiao, Yun Lan, and Li Mo’s guards all stood on the ground, craning their heads as they focused on the situation developing above them. Beside Yun Lan lay the corpse of Qin Jianmei, killed by a single strike through her heart.
“My mother told me that demonic puppets are fuelled by the mental energy of those who made them,” Li Mo explained. Different people had different beliefs, different characteristics and natures, and this was reflected in the form that the demonic puppet took. Some people were kind-hearted, others were evil, and most were somewhere in-between.
The base emotion that Qin Jianmei had infused into her puppet was bitter hatred. Though she had died, the demonic puppet had accepted her lifetime’s worth of bitter memories. As long as they didn’t dissipate, the demonic puppet would continue to exist.
In order to fully destroy the puppet, they would have to draw her negative emotions out, then banish them one by one. Otherwise, once Qin Jianmei’s grudges and emotions were digested by the demonic puppet, it would become even more frightening than before.
“Right now, I’m trying to draw out Qin Jianmei’s hatred with my spiritual energy. If they dissipate of their own accord, then all the better; otherwise, we’ll have to expel them with brute force,” Li Mo continued. “Now, focus your energy and use your spiritual energy in conjunction with me to force all her grudges out of the puppet. With luck, we’ll be able to see a memory involving your mother.”
“Yes!” Yun Ruoyan replied, then mimicked Li Mo’s gestures.
Qin Jianmei, who now only existed in the form of her grudges, was completely ensconced by Li Mo and Yun Ruoyan’s spiritual energy. The memories that she was forced to relive caused her to tremble all over, but even though she shut her eyes and covered them up tightly with her palms, they still unfolded before her.
The young Qin Jianmei began to perform sacrificial rites to her newly crafted Guanyin and Buddha statues, each of which consisted of half her father’s heart. The process had given her new life, and she no longer seemed like the heartsick, forlorn girl she was before.
As a physician, she continued frequenting the major noble families of the capital, including the Yun family. The next time Qin Jianmei saw Yun Lan was two years later, during his wife’s childbirth. How happy he had been! All his attention was focused on his bedridden wife and the baby in his lap, and he had barely given her a single glance.
Qin Jianmei glanced at the woman in bed. She was extremely beautiful, so much so that Qin Jianmei had to admit it despite her own petty jealousy. However, that beautiful woman seemed melancholy, so much so that she had gotten sick from it. Qin Jianmei soon became her go-to physician, and she would often frequent the Yun manor and Lin Yuemei’s cottage.
Eventually, Yun Lan did recognize her. When he brought the matter up, Qin Jianmei responded coolly, as if what had happened between the two of them in the past hadn’t affected her. Somehow, this caused her to gain Yun Lan’s respect.
Because of her deliberate attempts to get close to Lin Yuemei, Qin Jianmei and Lin Yuemei soon became friends. Lin Yuemei didn’t have anyone else in the Yun family to speak to, and she gradually began to open up to Qin Jianmei.
It was only then that Qin Jianmei found out that Lin Yuemei didn’t actually like Yun Lan; her love was someone called Long Yin. Apparently, in order for the Yun family to have a descendant, she had been drugged unknowingly and had spent the night with Yun Lan.
Lin Yuemei didn’t know about Qin Jianmei’s feelings for Yun Lan. How worthless Yun Lan’s feelings were to Lin Yuemei, and yet they were all that Qin Jianmei could dream about!
Why should I have to suffer such misery? As her envious, jealous feelings stewed and intensified, Qin Jianmei decided to poison Lin Yuemei with the carmine embrace. The reason she didn’t kill Lin Yuemei on the spot was because Lin Yuemei was the reason she could enter and leave the Yun manor at will.
The scene blurred. The next memory was of Lin Yuemei telling her that her beloved had returned—allegedly, he had left for an important matter which he couldn’t reveal. Because he had to do so in a hurry, he wasn’t able to say his farewells to her, but he had passed Yun Lan a letter to be handed to her on his behalf. However, Yun Lan had secretly hidden that letter.
When Lin Yuemei found out about the affair, she was so enraged that she had a big fight with Yun Lan, then left her son behind in the Yun manor, never to return. Qin Jianmei knew that Lin Yuemei had surely eloped with that so-called Long Yin, but not exactly where she had gone.
Yun Lan didn’t seek her out anxiously, and neither did he make the matter widely known. As a result, almost no one but Qin Jianmei knew of Lin Yuemei’s disappearance.
After Lin Yuemei’s disappearance, Yun Lan began to seek out Qin Jianmei. She would spend all her effort consoling him, and just when she was sure that Yun Lan was slowly developing feelings for her, Lin Yuemei returned again.
Yun Lan once again flung Qin Jianmei aside, focusing all her attention on Lin Yuemei. Lin Yuemei’s body was strangely weak, and Qin Jianmei was tasked with nourishing her back to health. During a routine inspection of her body, she discovered that Lin Yuemei was two months’ pregnant.
She secretly informed Yun Lan of the affair, who told her to pretend as if nothing was wrong. Qin Jianmei saw how well Yun Lan treated a woman who didn’t like him, who had betrayed him, who had even had someone else’s baby. She compared it to her own treatment at Yun Lan’s hands, and all her envy and jealousy morphed into hatred toward Lin Yuemei.
She began to increase the dosage of poison she would put in her food. Finally, the year after Yun Ruoyan was born, the carmine embrace triggered, taking Yun Ruoyan’s mother away from her. Yun Lan managed to find a physician who was capable of treating the poison, Physician Ceng, but Qin Jianmei made use of him to worsen the poison instead.
Not long after Lin Yuemei’s death, Qin Jianmei finally achieved her goal: to be married to Yun Lan as a concubine. She believed that she had gotten everything she dreamed for, but not long afterwards, Yun Lan took in two more concubines, each bearing some resemblance with Lin Yuemei.
Yun Lan quickly tossed Qin Jianmei aside once more, and it was only then that she realized that Yun Lan’s heart would never belong to her. 
Ever since then, Qin Jianmei had focused all her attention on her sacrificial arts, remaining in her chambers for days at a time. After a decade, almost everyone in the Yun manor had forgotten about her—until Yun Ruoyu was punished with house arrest after having offended Yun Ruoyan.
Because Qin Jianmei’s puppetry was about to reach a new, elevated stage, her ambitions grew and grew. She hoped to give to Yun Ruoyu what she was unable to attain herself. She tutored her in the sacrificial arts that she had mastered, hoping to provide a blueprint for Yun Ruoyu’s success.
Yet all this had been ruined by Yun Ruoyan and Li Mo, and Qin Jianmei herself was in dire straits...
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