Gu Qingyu wanted to leave in silence, but word got out and all of the townspeople gathered at the castle gates to send her off. She waved until her arms were sore as she tried to turn down their offerings of food and supplies. It only worked when they realised her rucksack was about to burst. Even the innkeeper chipped in, in the form of a horse. It was drizzling when she and Murong Zuoyu finally managed to convince the townspeople to disperse and allow her to leave. After a short trot, she stopped under a large tree for a short break and to check her map. Maybe there was another way to the capital that did not involve being drenched in the rain. She would hate to get sick again, and she doubt Yan Ruhuo would come to her rescue yet again. Yan Yang City was already out of his domain, let alone this road that leads to the capital.
As she squinted at the map for the third time, a strange movement appeared in the corner of her eye. A familiar figure waved at her from within the woods. His clothes were so green, he almost could camouflage into the trees that surrounded him. Her eyes lit up and she ran to that figure.
“Qi Wan!” She practically pounced onto him. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”
“Hey! Me too, I’ve been looking for you as well. I’ve found everyone else already, they’re just waiting for you in the woods.” It warmed her heart to see her closest friend again, his green eyes was a welcoming sight. Green eyes, had his eyes always been green?
“Really? Then what are we waiting for? Lead the way, my loyal subject!” She exclaimed with an exaggerated grandiose.
“Sure, this way. Just follow me.” He answered flatly, as if he had missed her joke.
They walked deeper into the forest and away from the road. The rain grew heavier as they walked, the rumbles in the distances signaled that this was just the start, a storm was rapidly approaching. Qi Wan led her through the woods in silence. A sense of uneasiness gnawed at her bones as she walked behind him.
“Hey, Qi Wan, are we there yet?”
“Almost, just a bit more.”
The pair arrived at an empty clearing, the ground has become muddy from the rain. Gu Qingyu walked around for a bit, they were deep in the forest and she had gone very far from the beaten path.
“Where is everyone?”
“You’ll see them very soon.” A lady in a white cloak answered as she stepped out from behind the trees. A split reflection of herself. Although, unlike Gu Qingyu, she was dressed in white instead. Her white garb was unnaturally pristine in the heavy rain and muddy clearing. “Thank you for bringing her to me.” Rain said with a smile.
“Don’t thank me, your wish is my command after all.” Qi Wan walked up to her and gently kissed the back of her hand, while Gu Qingyu stared in disbelief. This must be some sort of practical joke. Qi Wan would not be so desperate to go for her copy instead. What was Rain doing here anyway? And where were the others?
“Now, we should proceed with the next phase of our plan.” Rain said plainly as she lunged towards Gu Qingyu. Gu Qingyu summoned the Soul Chain and defended herself, the chains surrounded her and blocked each strike and swipe from Rain. Yet, suddenly, something crushed her defences, slammed into her side and sent her flying. Another shock of pain came when she collided against a tree and fell to the ground.
“What…” Gu Qingyu tried to push herself up, only for a sharp pain to shoot through her shoulder. Her arm took the brunt of the attack just now, and it seem to have hit her shoulder at well. But her injured shoulder was the least of her concerns when she registered just who had attacked her. After all, she would recognise those green ribbons anywhere.
“Good work.” Rain complimented the person that attacked Gu Qingyu as he spun a tight ball of ribbons like a flail, winding up for a next strike.
“Qi Wan, just what are you doing?” She could not believe her eyes. Did Qi Wan really just attack her?
“What, are you so dumb that you can’t tell? No wonder you had to rely on everyone else this whole time.” He chuckled, the laughter void of his usual warmth. Her heart sank and the liquid in her veins turned to ice. It can’t be. She never thought he too, would betray her, just like everyone else.
“Why? Why are you doing this? Why did you betray me?” She screamed as hot tears poured down her cheeks, mixing with the cold rain pelting down on her. He said he loved her, he saved her life. He had stuck by her through thick and thin. He was her closest friend, the only person she could share her former life with. He was the only person that could truly understand her in the strange new world. And now, all of that was ripped out from her. Was all of that just an act to get her to lower her guard? Was that why he had decided to reveal his true colours now, when she was at her weakest, when she was completely alone?
“Don’t take it to heart. It’s nothing personal.” He answered with a grin and sent the flail flying towards her. Gu Qingyu jumped and dodged the attack, but the pain in her arm caused her to lose balance and she stumbled her landing. Rain took that chance to swipe at her face. Gu Qingyu ducked and rolled away, then used the Soul Chain to block another swing from Qi Wan. She hoisted herself up yet again as the chains circled protectively around her.
Even with one of her arms out of commission, Gu Qingyu managed to put up one hell of a fight. She dodged and dashed between Rain and Cloud, striking whenever there was an opening while her chains protected her blind spots. Still, every now and then, Rain’s attacks would slip through the gaps and reach her, chipping away her energy and stamina while Qi Wan’s flail were deadly strikes that literally keeps her on her toes. Gu Qingyu didn’t even know that Qi Wan could wind his ribbons and transform them into a flail, he had always used his ribbons like whips.
Exactly, something was wrong. Qi Wan did not have green eyes, his eyes were golden amber, the same colour as the sunrise they had seen together. Qi Wan always used his ribbons as whips and ropes, never as a flail. If not, she would have seen it before, they had fought alongside each other for so long. And Qi Wan called her boss. Last, but not least, he always, always got her jokes.
“You’re not Qi Wan, are you?” She finally said.
“Oh? What gave it away?”
“He never used the ribbons like a flail. He always called me boss, and it took me a while to remember, but his eyes were amber, not green. Just who the heck are you?”
He stopped his onslaught of attacks. “I’m Cloud, the real guardian of the Divine Beast. That’s all you need to know. Well, that’s all you can know because your time had just run out.” Cloud tilted his head towards Rain. At some point, she had disappeared to the back of the clearing. Orbs of pale light swirled around her as she was clearly charging up for something.
“You’re tougher than I expected. But it doesn’t matter, you won’t be walking away from this. Allow me to show you the strength of a Divine Beast.” Rain transformed in a burst of light. Her nails grew into large claws as her face contorted and lengthened to resemble that of a cat, complete with cat ears and whiskers. A long, fluffy tail swished and flicked behind her impatiently.
The tiger beast roared with deafening strength, Gu Qingyu clasped her hands over her ears as soon as possible, but the few seconds of exposure was enough to make her head spin. Her sensitive hearing had become an exploited weakness. She did not even know that it was possible to channel the divine beast’s power into a partial transformation, let alone how to fight it. Gu Qingyu could only try her best to guard and block Rain’s deadly flurry of swipes and kicks with her chains. Each attack caused the chain to rattle unsettlingly, perhaps the next strike would be the one that would break them.
Gu Qingyu tried to put some distance between them. If she could just get far away enough, she could use the explosion from the Devouring Lotus. But to her horror, ribbons emerged from the ground and pinned her down. Cloud had unraveled the flail while she was occupied. Damn, the two of them work really well together, one of them always kept her busy just enough for the other to set up the next strike. She could only watch as the tiger beast lunged towards her, its sharp large claws about to tear her into shreds. Her eyes squeezed shut against the wind pressure and she braced for impact.
Snap! Something had torn apart the ribbons that pinned her down, a pair of warm arms grabbed her and moved them away just in time. Gu Qingyu opened her eyes and looked up, it was yet another familiar face. But this time, his eyes were amber.
“Qi Wan? Is that really you?” She could not believe her eyes.
“Who else would I be, Boss? Did they hit your head too hard or something?” That nickname and the friendly jab was all the evidence she needed.
“It’s really you!” She cried, much to Qi Wan’s confusion.
“What do you mean it’s really me?” He asked as he turned to her attackers, the half-tiger and… “Hey! Why are you wearing my handsome face? Who the heck are you, you copycat!” Qi Wan yelled, pointing at Cloud.
“Looks like you got reinforcements, lucky you.” Those harsh words were really jarring against Qi Wan’s face and voice.
“Wow, you’ve even copied my voice! Well, I can’t help it if you want to be like me. I am quite dashing after all, right Boss?” Qi Wan quipped back.
“Quit joking, look out!” Gu QIngyu shouted as Rain leaped towards both of them. Qi Wan sent his ribbons flying through the air, wrapped them around Rain and threw her across the clearing. Cloud resumed his attacks with the flail, swinging the heavy weight towards Gu Qingyu. She hopped and dodged a few more times as she reconfigured her chains and formed a makeshift net with them, catching the flail instead. Then she pulled on the connecting ribbon and Cloud stumbled forward, creating the perfect opportunity for Qi Wan to deliver a solid punch to his doppelganger’s face.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
This chapter is meant to bridge the missing details between Chapter 146 and 147. There was a missing chapter in our source, and this point of the story did introduce a fairly important character as well as cover some character development so I’ve decided to pen this part myself. I wanted to stick to the available characterisation as much as possible while keeping things interesting, hence why this took so long, apologies for the delay.