Yan Ruhuo didn't catch up to her. Gu Qingyu only heard his sigh, so subtle and resigned. What she has to do now is to find the Spirit Gems. Once she finds all of the Spirit Gems, Xian Di would appear and she would be able to find the others. He mentioned that if she walked westwards for a day, she would reach Xiqian. Then she should just head to Xiqian first, but not knowing their whereabouts still worried her.
She sighed and looked up. The sun was still hanging high in the sky and not a single cloud in sight. She looked down at the grass below. She stared at the sun for a tad too long, and it took a while for her eyes to readjust. By the time she recovered, a small white-coloured thing was in front of her.
"What’s this?" Gu Qingyu knelt down to take a closer look, it was a little white tiger.
The little white tiger actually smiled at her, and then a crisp female voice spoke, "I'm here to help you."
"... Yu'er?" Gu Qingyu said hesitantly.
"Yes." Yu'er nodded, and then dots of light began to appear on her body. She gradually grew bigger and her shape changed.
The light dissipated, and a "Gu Qingyu" in a white dress stood in front of her with a faint smile.
"You..." Gu Qingyu looked at her in surprise. "Why do you look exactly like me?"
"Because I am you." Yu'er smiled happily. "Pleased to meet you, you can call me Yu'er or Rain."
"I am Gu Qingyu." In order to be polite, Gu Qingyu also nodded slightly, temporarily hiding her inner surprise. "Why are you helping me anyway?"
"What why?" Rain was still smiling, "Did you forget? I'm a divine beast, we are divine beasts."
"So?" Maybe she was still getting used to seeing her own face talk back at her, but Gu Qingyu did not have a good feeling about Rain, even if she might be herself in the past. "Why do you sound like you know everything?"
"Because I am a divine beast." Rain replied vaguely. "Well, you'll know soon enough."
"Soon?" Gu Qingyu frowned. "Are you really here to help me?"
"That's right." Yu'er shrugged, "I'm going to change back first, there's a surprise for you soon." As soon as she turned around, she turned back into a little white tiger and ran deeper into the forest.
"Wait!" Gu Qingyu was about to give chase, but someone interrupted her with a light tap on her shoulder.
Gu Qingyu whipped around on reflex and grabbed the person's hand by the wrist. "Who?"
"Brother Zhu, it's me." A cold voice answered with a tinge of surprise.
"Brother Murong?" She finally recognised who that person was and released him immediately. Because of her excessive strength, red grip marks had already appeared on Murong Zuoyu's wrist, but he had not struggled at all, perhaps he was worried that he would hurt her. Gu Qingyu looked at his wrist with an apologetic look. "Brother Murong..."
Murong Zuoyu glanced at her hand and shook his head. "Don't worry, it's barely a scratch."
"Still, it's so great to see you here!" Gu Qingyu exclaimed delightfully.
Murong Zuoyu greeted her with a rare smile as well, "Yes, I did not expect to see you here as well, Brother Zhu."
She then shared the plan with him, he was part of the team after all. "Here's the thing, I want to go check things out at Xiqian first. The next Spirit Gem might be there."
"Alright, I will go with you. I had been looking for you anyway.” Murong Zuoyu nodded, his hand rested on the pommel of his sword out of habit.
The two walked side by side in the woods, chatting occasionally. She felt relaxed around Muron Zuoyu, if she had an older brother, she imagined it would just be like this. When she first met Murong Zuoyu, he was cold and sharp-tongued, and he would tease her every now and then. But after spending more time with him, he turned out to be kind and a little naive actually. And then, she remembered how Murong Zuoyu tried his best to keep a straight face despite his seasickness, and his reaction when he first saw her in that pink dress and behaved like a lady. The way he nearly choked on his tea made her laugh out loud then, and now. Murong Zuoyu tilted back to look at her at the sound of her laugh. "What are you thinking about?"
"Haha, nothing." Gu Qingyu waved her hand, suddenly a little curious. "Speaking of, Brother Murong, can I ask you a question?"
"Yes. That's one." Murong Zuoyu nodded.
Gu Qingyu smiled awkwardly. "Uh, can I ask two?"
"Yes. Two." Murong Zuoyu nodded again.
She paused. "Can I ask four questions then?"
"Yes, go ahead." He looked at her and answered.
"Really?" She was going to proceed with her actual question.
"Really, yes. That's four questions." Murong Zuoyu interrupted her mercilessly. Gu Qingyu gave him a flat look.
And then, he laughed. "Alright, I was messing with you. What did you want to ask?"
Gu Qingyu pouted, then continued, "Brother Murong, why did you come with me?"
She had always wanted to ask that question. In the beginning, he said that he wanted to protect the Lifeblood Jewel of Destiny. But in hindsight, she began to have questions. Murong Zuoyu, a prince and duke loved by his people, who also loved his people even though he kept them at arm's length, an heir to the throne. Why would he come with her to search for the Spirit Gems?
Murong Zuoyu seemed to have anticipated that she wanted to ask this question, smiled, and then began, "I should have mentioned when we first met that I want to protect the Lifeblood Jewel of Destiny and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. It was my destiny, but I'm sure that's not what you wanted to hear."
Gu Qingyu nodded without comment.
Murong Zuoyu looked forward and continued. "When I was a child, the prime minister of Dongxuan said that I was a general that protected the Lifeblood Jewel in the past. I never believed him, until one day, I dreamt of this place."
Gu Qingyu's heart jolted and she looked at him in disbelief. "You dreamt of this place?"
Murong Zuoyu nodded. "At first, I didn't take it seriously, it was a dream after all. But I had the same dream again and again." He sighed. "Perhaps that's just how destiny works, you can't go against it. I saw the same forest in my dreams, Lifeblood Jewel of Destiny was in the center of a river, glowing with a red light and you were standing on the water and stared at it."
"I...?" Gu Qingyu looked up at him, the dreams sounded almost like a vision.
"Yes, that was before I met you. Even though I've seen you a few times in the palace, you seem pretty normal, even obstinate at times." He stole a glance at her, made sure that she was not offended, then carried on, "But, when you showed up in my room, dressed in purple. And the way you avoided my soldiers, and how you calmly defused the situation. That piqued my interest."
"So that was it..." Gu Qingyu smiled, a little guilty. The actual danger was always defused by Ye Jin and Mo Bai, she barely played a role in it. So when Murong Zuoyu said that, it made her feel a little guilty and embarrassed instead.
"Only when I arrived here did I truly believe what the prime minister had said. I walked over based on what I remembered of that dream, and I actually managed to find you." Murong Zuoyu had spoken more than any other conversation they had.
"That's it." Gu Qingyu nodded and turned back to the road, they were about to leave the forest. The trees by their side became fewer and fewer, the sunlight danced through the leaves, leaving golden spots and mottled shadows on the ground.
The sunlight was blinding when they walked out from the woods. But strangely, the weather was cold. Gu Qingyu looked around. They walked into open plains and there was nothing around that warranted a longer stay, aside from the tree with red fruits in the distance. Murong Zuoyu followed her gaze and looked at the tree. "Well, is Brother Zhu hungry?"
"Yep!" She nodded vigorously.
"Wait." The sword in Murong Zuoyu's hand was unsheathed and flew towards the tree.
The sword flew around the tree and brought back a bunch of fruits as a skewer. Murong Zuoyu stretched out his hand and the sword flew to his hand. He removed one of the fruits, wiped it with his sleeve, and handed it to her. Gu Qingyu smiled gratefully at Murong Zuoyu, looking at him as though he had saved her life. Then she took the fruit and ate happily.
She finished it within a few bites and smacked her lips. Only then did she realise that Murong Zuoyu had been watching her eat. She blinked puzzledly. "Brother Murong, are you not hungry?"
"I've already eaten." Murong Zuoyu smiled. "This was where I arrived."
"Oh~ okay." Gu Qingyu nodded. "Do you want to take a break?"
"Are you tired?" Murong Zuoyu returned her question.
"Then let's keep going." Murong Zuoyu walked forward. Gu Qingyu ambled as she followed him.
About three hours later, they arrived at a small village. The people in the village seemed very happy to see Murong Zuoyu, and immediately surrounded them. They called him General Leng, which confused both of them. Wait, according to Murong Zuoyu, his prime minister said that he was a general in the past, does that mean? Murong Zuoyu caught on quickly as well, and he nodded at the villagers, albeit awkwardly.
"General Leng, welcome to this small village! We are honoured to have you here. If you don't mind, please come in!" Someone invited them. From the way he spoke, he should be the village chief, and when he saw Gu Qingyu, the village chief said, "This young miss must be the general's friend, please come in! Come!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter