"Okay." Gu Qingyu nodded softly and put down the teacup.
Murong Zuoyu stood up, the silver moonlight splashed onto his purple robe, adding a icy quality to the fabric.
Gu Qingyu watched him walk out of the room.
She forgot to ask Xie Li where the others were, if only she had more time with her. She laid down on her bed and stared at the ceiling. She was tired, but not sleepy. Normally, she would visit Yan Zun and just train all night, but he was not in the Lifeblood Jewel of Destiny anymore. But she could still meet the Soul Nails and the Soul Chain.
Gu Qingyu closed her eyes and went to the spirit world. Wish arrived as expected, she stood in the middle of a white world and bowed when she arrived. "Master."
"Yeah." Gu Qingyu nodded. "It’s good to see you, Wish." It seemed that every time, either Wish or Abyss would show up. They would never appear together. Aren't they connected? Oh, Abyss did say that they weren't.
Wish straightened and looked at Gu Qingyu with her soulful eyes. "Master, what can I do for you?"
"I just wanted to ask what is the situation right now. Where exactly are we?”
"Master, this is hundreds of millions of years in the past.” Wish answered with a crisp voice.
“You know that’s not what I’m asking about.”
Wish sighed softly. "Master, there are many things in this world that we can only observe but not change. For example, history."
"Who said that?" Gu Qingyu said with a wink, "Do you know that there's a place called schools? The people there change and alter history every day."
"Such a powerful place exists?" Wish was quite surprised. "Why haven't I seen such a thing despite living for so long?"
"Ahahaha, you can't go to that place right now..." Gu Qingyu laughed. "So what are you referring to?”
"All you can do is watch, now that you are in a foreign time." Wish said, with a trace of sadness in her eyes. "It is not so easy to change the true history, Master." She was reminding Gu Qingyu of her plans to defend the city.
"I see. But, have you ever tried to change the future before?"
"No." Wish raised her head to meet Gu Qingyu's gaze.
"That's right. How can you know if you don't try? Even if you know that it's impossible, you have to do your best." Gu Qingyu smiled and shrugged, "Thank you. Next question, do you know where the others are?”
Wish shook her head. "I can't read Xian Di’s magic.”
"Xian Di..." She reminded Gu Qingyu of this, and Gu Qingyu nodded, "Okay, thank you."
"Sorry that I could not be of help..." Wish seemed a little forlorn.
“It’s ok, I’m gonna get some sleep now.” Gu Qingyu dismissed her with a wave and closed her eyes. Very quickly, she fell into a dreamless sleep.
The next day
Gu Qingyu rubbed her eyes, stretched her back and looked out the window. The sky was just turning orange, it was dawn. She straightened her clothes, jumped out of the bed, walked to the mirror and started combing her hair. Looking at her messy hair, Gu Qingyu suddenly thought of Ye Jin. He promised to comb and brush her hair for her every day. Where would he be? He’s looking for her, right? In that moment, a blue robe, his blue robe appeared in the reflection. She whipped around instantly, but there was nothing. Nothing, aside from the open windows. There wasn’t anyone behind her. She sighed softly and returned to brushing her hair.
Gu Qingyu pulled her hair up into a simple ponytail and left her room. Coincidentally, Murong Zuoyu just walked out of his room. They bumped into each other.
"Morning, Brother Leng." Gu Qingyu greeted him with a smile.
"Morning, Brother Zhu." Murong Zuoyu nodded and walked downstairs with Gu Qingyu.
They found a table in the dining area and soon, two bowls of porridge were served. Gu Qingyu stirred her porridge absentmindedly and said, “Brother Leng, now that we know where the Spirit Gem is, I think we’ll need to change our plan. With just the two of us, and no information about the incoming attack, we are woefully ill-prepared for this.”
“Then what do you suggest, Brother Zhu?”
"Find the others.” Gu Qingyu concluded, "The world is only this big after all. We can start our search in this city, then expand the search area as we go. It should be fine as long as we stay in the area."
He looked at her with approval. "Okay."
The two set off as soon as they finished breakfast.
"Brother Murong, let's take a look in this city first." She changed back to calling him "Brother Murong" when there were just two of them.
Murong Zuoyu nodded and looked around. Perhaps because "General Leng" was now in the city, the townspeople were a lot more energetic, even the sound of bargaining at the market was louder. Gu Qingyu looked at such people, then looked at Murong Zuoyu with a nagging thought in her mind. The townspeople regarded him as a savior, a god even, but he was just a normal person. He might be watching over them, but he's just as, if not more afraid and saddened than them. But he has to fight, to protect the people he cares about. None of them started as fighters and killers that steeled their hearts against their enemies.
"What's wrong, Brother Zhu?" He turned back to check on her, maybe he had sensed that her mind was elsewhere. Gu Qingyu shook her head and kept walking.
Suddenly, a bewitching melody filled the streets. Gu Qingyu scanned the surrounding buildings as she tried to find where the music was coming from. They walked down the street and arrived at the source of the music. Women gathered at the door, waving their handkerchiefs. A strange, intoxicating scent wafted through the open door.
"This is...?" Murong Zuoyu was a little confused.
"The brothel." Gu Qingyu added, and looked at Murong Zuoyu, "Places like this should be in every city, and judging the crowd, it's probably the few places people would gather in Yan Yang City. Let's go in and check it out, maybe we'll learn something." Murong Zuoyu nodded.
"Hold on." Gu Qingyu stretched out her hand, her sleeves lightly covered Murong Zuoyu's face, and when her hand dropped to her side, there was already a purple mask on his face. She smiled with satisfaction. "Hm, much better. Or the people might freak out if they find out that General Leng is visiting the brothels in the middle of a crisis."
The masked Murong Zuoyu looked even more mysterious and cold. He nodded. "Let's go."
Gu Qingyu twirled before they walked in and her pink dress turned into a black brocade. Coupled with her simple ponytail, she could easily mix in as one of the male patrons. Ye Jin used to be in charge of disguises. But it looked like she could handle these tasks as well, her power seemed to have grown stronger in this era.
The sound of the music became clearer as they entered the brothel. It was more than bewitching, the plucking and strumming of strings were almost hypnotic, tempting her to stay indefinitely. But the hypnosis was coloured with melancholy.
A young lady at the door greeted them with a smile, "Oh, come inside, Sir!" Murong Zuoyu backed away with visible embarrassment and awkwardness.
"Brother Murong, it's okay." Gu Qingyu tapped his hand with a smile. No one would recognise him anyway, so she returned to calling him by his name. He nodded and walked inside with Gu Qingyu. As they weaved through the drunk patrons, Qi Wan's face popped into her mind. The first time they met was at a brothel as well. And that music quiz! She had never heard a traditional acoustic cover of Little Apple before. It was wild to find someone like her. And the rest, as they say, was history.
She looked upstairs, and a person that looked to be the madam walked up to them. "Please, take a seat. Our lead courtesan would be performing soon, followed by an auction to the courtesan’s first night. Feel free to participate if you are interested."
Murong Zuoyu looked at Gu Qingyu with a little embarrassment, but she nodded and tossed a piece of silver into the madam's hand. Then she sat down and motioned for him to sit next to her as she poured a cup of wine for herself.
"Very well! I will send for someone to accompany you both right away!" The madam grinned at them.
Gu Qingyu shook her head and she said with a smile. "No need, we'll just wait for the lead."
The madam flushed under her gaze. "Very well. I will take my leave then." The music also stopped after the madam left.
Gu Qingyu looked at Murong Zuoyu, she could not see his expression because of the mask. Nonetheless, she reassured him, "Relax, Brother Murong, we're just here to take a look."
He nodded. "Yeah."
"Want some?" Her own cup of wine was already empty. She poured another for herself, and one for Murong Zuoyu.
Murong Zuoyu didn't take the cup. "Brother Zhu, drink less."
"Fine, got it." She put down the cup obediently.
And then the room dimmed, despite it was still early in the morning. Gu Qingyu turned around, the candlelight have all been extinguished, and the windows were all firmly closed as well. But the people around them carried on, unfazed by the sudden change in lighting.
Murong Zuoyu reached for the sword on his waist and grabbed her hand tightly. She didn't fight against his grip. Instead, she gave his hand a squeeze as she turned to the stage with a slight laugh in her voice. "Brother Murong, the performance is about to start."
Murong Zuoyu immediately let go of her hand with some embarrassment. "Sorry."
"No, no need to apologize." Gu Qingyu leaned back in her chair. The candlelight on the stage flickered behind the layers of chiffon that draped across the stage. She could only make out a human-shaped silhouette under the faint light. That person was leaning over something.
Suddenly, the sound of a Guqin echoed through the room and the noise around them was reduced to a hush. The Guqin sounded like a bolt of lightning that danced across the night sky, and of a cloud of birds that escaped their cage, soaring into the skies as they relished in their long-awaited freedom. Gu Qingyu straightened and focused on the performance.
The chiffon curtains were pulled apart, revealing the musician. Ink-coloured hair tumbled over his shoulders as his long slender fingers danced across the strings. His vermillion robe matched his thin, red lips. What shocked her was that the musician and courtesan was a man. Moreover, there is a sense of similarity with Xian Di.
She immediately grabbed a person beside her and asked, "Who is he?"
"You don't know him? Sheesh, you must be new here." The man glanced at her with contempt. "He is the lead courtesan here, Xuan Yi."Previous Chapter Next Chapter