The team, which now consisted of Gu Qingyu, Ye Jin, Qi Wan, Qi Yichen, Murong Zuoyu, Xie Zang and Xiao Qi, walked to the riverbank. On the way, Gu Qingyu had been lying in Ye Jin's arms, observing Xiao Qi silently. Xiao Qi trailed behind at the back of the team. Even though she looked devastated, her eyes were still red and puffy, she seemed to be handling the rejection with as much grace as possible. Gu Qingyu was still a little anxious and kept worrying about Xiao Qi, she could not say anything. All she could do was lie in Ye Jin’s arms.
A man in a black robe stood by the river bank with billowing black robes and wind-tossed hair. Xian Di was already there. He saw Ye Jin and the others and scanned the team, and then his gaze settled on the tiny white tiger in Ye Jin's arms.
Gu Qingyu squirmed a little under his watchful eyes and growled, "Hey, what are you staring at? Let's get going already!"
Miraculously, Xian Di did not lash back at her. He chuckled instead, "I don't think you can go like this."
The tiny white tiger bared her teeth and hissed. Xian Di combed back his hair absentmindedly and waved his hand. The world spun before Gu Qingyu's eyes as a familiar sensation washed over her. She was turning back to her human form.
It was not until she recovered completely that Xian Di turned around and walked away. "Let's go." His voice appeared hoarse and cold in the wind.
Gu Qingyu suddenly found herself carried in Ye Jin's arms, both of them stared at each other in surprise. And then she finally reacted and gently nudged him, who dutifully released her. Gu Qingyu was back to her human form, pink dress and all. Her hair draped over her shoulders as the Devouring Lotus settled at the center of her collarbone in full bloom.
"Boss, you're more and more beautiful." Qi Wan praised with a smile that reached the corner of his eyes as they followed Xian Di.
"You think so too?" Gu Qingyu embraced the flattery. "Don't you think that I'm not only more beautiful, but also smarter, kinder and cooler?"
Qi Wan hesitated, "Kind..."
"Huh?" Gu Qingyu stared at him patiently.
"Boss, you are actually very kind! You are too kind!" Qi Wan immediately answered with his hand on his heart.
"Thank you! Thank you! You have a good eye!" Gu Qingyu nodded with conviction.
Qi Yichen turned back and glanced at Qi Wan contemptuously, and then looked at Gu Qingyu and said, "Brother Zhu, in fact, you are more than kind! You are so handsome, so generous, so moving!"
Gu Qingyu nodded with satisfaction. "Qi Yichen, you are becoming more and more pragmatic, not bad."
Xie Zang turned and looked at Qi Yichen with contempt, then said to Gu Qingyu, "Kitten, you are more than kind, handsome, generous, and moving! You don't know how many advantages you have! I have no words to describe your sheer beauty!"
Gu Qingyu looked at Xie Zang with surprise. "When have you become so honest?"
Murong Zuoyu turned to look at the Xie Zang, and the man in red gloated, "What? Do you have something to add?"
Murong Zuoyu simply stared at him in contempt and turned back. He did not have anything to add, but he never intended to contribute to the game.
Ye Jin stroked her head. "Xiao Yu'er, they said everything. All I can say is, I'm glad you're mine." And everyone agreed unanimously that Ye Jin won the game. It cut straight to the point, very fitting of that man.
"Okay, okay, I think we're getting there." Gu Qingyu looked ahead as Xian Di continued to walk ahead of them and kept some distance from them. He was walking up and along the river, perhaps he was looking for the source? Suddenly, he stopped and looked up at the sky.
"What's wrong?" Gu Qingyu followed his gaze and looked up as well. It was still sunny in the morning, but the sky was now overcast with gloomy clouds, it looked as though it was going to rain.
Xian Di shook his head and held out his hand. "Are you ready?"
"Yeah, we're ready." Gu Qingyu nodded, and at the same time, Ye Jin wrapped his hand around hers.
Qi Wan walked to her side, and the others also stood near her. Xian Di laughed lightly, then with a wave of his hand, an overwhelming gust of wind came, and everything in sight turned to pitch dark. Before Gu Qingyu could react, she was pulled into a warm embrace and a familiar scent surrounded her. It was Ye Jin. In the darkness, Ye Jin seemed to be whispering into her ear, his warm breath warmed the shell of her ear.
"Xiao Yu'er, hold on tight. Don't let go."
Boom! Gu Qingyu's eyes snapped open at the roar of thunder and rain poured from the sky. She tried to cover her head with her hands, but the rain had already drenched her from head to toe. She looked around, the scenery was the same as before. She was still in that same forest, next to the same river.
What happened? Did Xian Di fail? She never thought that Xian Di would fail. But where were the others? Were they all sent back in time? Was she the only one left? Why would Xian Di make such a basic mistake and just leave her behind?
Questions plagued her mind. She lifted her head with some difficulty, the rain was getting heavier, she had to get out of there first. She grabbed onto a tree and hoisted herself up gingerly. But the moment she straightened, the strength in her body was suddenly sucked out and a pounding headache followed. Was her weakness caused by her injuries, compounded by the rain? Her legs gave out and she slid down along the tree and sat on the muddy ground. The rain grew to a torrent. She could not summon up the strength to move as her breath became more and more shallow. Even keeping her eyes open was a chore.
Was she going to die? Like this? All alone in a forest? She had not even started to look for the last few Spirit Gems! Gu Qingyu forced her eyes open as the rain continued to slide down her face, blurring her vision. She wiped the rain from her eyes and tried to stand up again. Right then, the rain stopped. No, she could still hear the rain, but the downpour turned into a soft pitter-patter as it beat against something. But the water stopped sliding down her skin.
A pair of white boots stopped before her, and she looked up at the person before her. It was a teenager. His normally-clear eyes were clouded with worry as he stared at her.
"Are you alright, Miss?" He frowned slightly, his black hair cascading down to his shoulders. Above them was a white paper umbrella, as pristine as his robes.
If she could, she would let out a loud gasp. She stared wide-eyed at the familiar teenager in front of her. It was Yan Ruhuo! It's him! It's Yan Zun from the past! Then, that meant that she travelled through time again? So Xian Di did send her back in time, but what about the others? Did he leave them behind instead?
She stared at Yan Ruhuo as she tried to process the thoughts that raced through her mind.
"Miss, are you lost?" Yan Ruhuo leaned down gently, and his soft long hair gently swept her cheeks, tickling her. Gu Qingyu nodded blankly. She could no longer feel Yan Zun in the spirit world. What in the world was going on?
Yan Ruhuo furrowed his brows at her silence. Then he held out his hand and gently touched her forehead. Her skin was burning hot, his frown deepened. "Miss, you best come with me. Or else you might not survive this storm."
Gu Qingyu agreed with a faint whisper, "Thank you."
Yan Ruhuo stepped forward and handed the umbrella to Gu Qingyu, then gently carried her and walked forward. She tried to hold up the umbrella, but her arms were too weak. So she rested it against her shoulder instead. Her head was still pounding, and the world was spinning again, she closed her eyes in a flutter. The sound of the rain echoed in her ears.
When she opened her eyes again, she was no longer in that forest. She was staring up at a wooden ceiling, it was simple with a traditional charm. A faint medicinal scent tickled her nostrils, but it was different from Mo Bai. Gu Qingyu frowned slightly and pushed herself up.
"Don't move. You caught a bad cold, and you're still injured." The sound of shuffling footsteps drew closer as a voice advised her. Gu Qingyu turned to follow the voice, only then did she remember that she had met Yan Ruhou in the forest. She met his clear eyes that stared back at her with worry and warm kindness. How did such a pure, kind boy become that evil, bloodthirsty Yan Zun? What did he go through?
"Are you okay? Do you still feel dizzy?" Yan Ruhuo asked.
Gu Qingyu shook her head. "Where is this place?"
"This is my house." Yan Ruhuo smiled softly, "Pleased to meet you, Miss. My name is Yan Ruhuo. You are?"
She smiled. "Gu Qingyu."
"Gu Qingyu?" Yan Ruhuo repeated, "That sounds oddly familiar."
"Have you heard of it before?"
"No, I haven't." He shook his head.
Gu Qingyu looked outside the window. It was still raining but shades of red and orange peeked through the clouds. It was evening already. She did not even manage to find out what happened to Ye Jin and the others. He would be so worried once he realised they were separated. She has to go and find them. She did not like being on her own anyway. Without them, everything felt too quiet, too peaceful. It unsettled her, their absence ate away at her core.
"I'm sorry," She shifted and lifted the covers. "I was separated from my friends. Who knows what would happen to them in such a horrible storm, I have to find them."
Yan Ruhuo immediately stopped her and pulled the covers up."Miss Gu, your body is very weak. You really should not be walking right now. And the surrounding forest is covered by my spell. If there had been anyone, I would have sensed them. You're the only person that I sensed."
She drew in a sharp breath. That meant that Ye Jin and the others were not in this area at all. Were they really left behind? Oh no, how would she get the Spirit Gems all on her own?
"Zoning out again?" Yan Ruhuo looked at her curiously and when he saw that she went silent again, he said softly, "Miss Gu?"
"Huh?" Gu Qingyu came back to her senses and waved her hand, "Then, I would take up your kind offer, sorry for the disturbance. And you can just call me Qingyu."
"Okay, Qingyu." Yan Ruhuo smiled, and shallow dimples appeared on his cheeks.Previous Chapter Next Chapter