The palanquin shifted and they began to move. Gu Qingyu sat next to Ye Jin and watched him uneasily. The current Ye Jin felt like a stranger to her, she could not get a read on him at all, just like when they first met by that river.
"Why are you staring at me like that?" He eyed her lazily as he rested his head on his propped arm.
"You...really don't remember me?" She asked carefully. "Are you sure? I'm Gu Qingyu."
To her surprise, Ye Jin did not lose his temper. He pondered for a long while, then replied, "It's vague, but it does ring a bell. Who are you exactly?"
"I'm..." Her eyes were too wet all of a sudden. "I'm your friend."
He stared at her with those piercing blue eyes. "Then why don't I remember you?"
"Technically, you forgot about me." Crushing loneliness hit her when she said that out loud.
Her master Yan Zun, who was always by her side, had forgotten her. Xian Di had also returned to his younger self. Xia Zang too, although he was quite a gentleman in his younger days. Even Ye Jin had become a stranger. If Qi Wan had not been with her, she would have been completely lost and alone in yet another strange, unfamiliar world.
"Forgot? Perhaps I did forget." Something flickered in the young emperor's eyes, but it quickly faded without a trace.
A loud shout interrupted their conversation, "We've been attacked!" The smashing and clang of metal soon followed.
"Xiao Zhezhe!" Gu Qingyu immediately grabbed his hand as the Soul Chain appeared from thin air and surrounded them, waiting to strike.
"Are you trying to protect me?" A smile tugged at the corner of Ye Jin's mouth, then he got up, opened the curtain, and stepped out of the palanquin. "Don't worry, wait here. I at least have enough power to protect my people."
Gu Qingyu stared at his back in a daze, and released the Soul Chain in her distraction until the curtain was lowered.
Ye Jin...No, how can I let you face danger all on your own!
I wanted to get stronger because of you. I have trained and worked this whole time to be able to keep up with you. I want to stand and fight beside you, and not drag you down or hide behind you. You are very powerful, ridiculously powerful. But someday, I want to stand at the top of this world with you. I want to be worthy to stand with you.
Gu Qingyu no longer hesitated and stepped out of the palanquin, only to be greeted by horror.
They were completely surrounded and greatly outnumbered. There were only four other soldiers with her, protecting the palanquin. They had been attacked in a valley by a whole army. The four soldiers were all strong warriors chosen by Ye Jin himself, each of them capable of taking down a battalion on their own. But the terrain and the sheer number of enemies had placed them at a great disadvantage. On the other hand, Ye Jin was fighting on his own, surrounded and separated from the group. Corpses piled around him as he slashed through his foes with a ferocity that rivaled a demon king.
She decided on her course of action. The Soul Chain appeared once again, zipped through the battlefield, and pierced through the enemy behind Ye Jin. He turned around slightly and saw her. "Why did you come out? I told you to wait for me inside."
"I want to fight with you." She carried her voice calmly and clearly, a quiet declaration of her resolve. "Please, trust in my skills." The Soul Chain danced through the army as she spoke, but not the slightest fear coloured her face as the purple chain skewered her foes. Death herself had appeared for a time of harvest.
"Skills?" He smirked. "Very well, show me what you can do."
Gu Qingyu leaped up and jumped out of the protection circle, the chains spun rapidly around her as she took down waves of enemies. The four soldiers took notice and spread out accordingly, focusing their attention on taking down the enemies.
Gu Qingyu stole glances at Ye Jin as she fought.
"Concentrate. You said you wanted to fight." He said nonchalantly.
She flushed and turned away immediately. Piles of bodies had stacked around her. They were not difficult to defeat, but it looked like the enemy was trying to tire them out. Wave after wave kept pouring through the valley. Suddenly, one of them broke through her defenses and rushed straight towards her. In her distraction, the soldier closed in on her. But he fell to the ground right before he could deliver the killing blow. A single leaf was stuck in the soldier's neck. Warmth burst in her chest. She looked towards Ye Jin, only to see him lowering his sword.
"Ye Jin!" She was still held up by one of the soldiers as she blocked his swing with her chains. The blade was a little too close to her arm. But Ye Jin had stopped, he was neither attacking nor defending. Her body moved before she could think as she sprinted towards him. In an instant, the soldier's sword sliced into her arm and left a huge gash. Blood splattered and spilled on the ground as pain ripped through her senses. She shoved that to the back of her brain and rushed to Ye Jin's side. Chains encircled them and encased them in a tight ball.
"Ye Jin? Are you okay? What happened?" Gu Qingyu looked at Ye Jin anxiously and gently shook him.
Ye Jin stared at her with glassy eyes, blood was pouring from her arm. Light slowly returned to those blue orbs and he pulled her into a tight embrace. "Xiao Yu'er!"
Tears burst forth as Gu Qingyu felt his arms wrap around her, but it left her at a loss. Ye Jin scanned the enemies surrounding them and with a large swing of his sword, felled another wave of them. His sudden burst of power scared some of the enemy soldiers. Gu Qingyu lay quietly in his arms, lest she would distract or disturb him. His familiar smell dulled the sharp taste of iron in her nostrils. Gu Qingyu's chains surround them, as if to bind the lovers together, never to separate again.
The leader of the enemy army noticed the change and yelled that instant, "Retreat!" And he fell to the ground as soon as that word left his lungs. A man, clad in armour, stood behind him. More armoured men arrived, the flame emblem of Ye was etched clearly on their armour.
Gu Qingyu shrank into Ye Jin's arms. The strong smell of blood was too much for her after all, the stench made her stomach lurch. If she had eaten, she would have emptied her guts by now.
"Clean up this mess, leave none alive." Ye Jin commanded.
"Yes!" His troops answered in unison.
"Xiao Yu'er, let's go." Ye Jin tightened his grip and together, they flew further into the valley. She was buried in his arms, the wind rushed and howled in her ears, while Ye Jin flew and brought them away from the blood-drenched battlefield. It felt like freedom, as if a ray of sunlight shot through the overcast, gloomy clouds in her heart. Ye Jin landed after a while, but his arms was still wrapped around her. The only sound between them was the steady heartbeat that pounded against their ribs. The wind passed through the woods without any sound. Tiny, soft green leaves were sprouting from the branches. Spring was finally here.
Ye Jin finally broke the long silence with his usual, magnetic voice. "I missed you, Xiao Yu'er."
"Yes, me too." She pressed her forehead against his. "Xiao Zhezhe, I thought...I thought I would never see you like this." I thought you would never remember me, no matter how hard I tried or what methods I used.
"No, no." His hands moved to cup her face. "I would never forget you."
During the battle, he lowered his sword because he was struggling against his memories. He could not keep her waiting, he had to return to her side. He needed to wake up. And he did, when he saw her, battered and torn yet fighting to protect him. The sight of that crimson splatter brought him back. The sight of her bleeding arm brought him back. Speaking of, her arm was still bleeding. His hand slipped from her face and moved to hold her injured arm.
"Ah." Somehow, she finally noticed that her arm was still injured.
"Idiot, why did you rush over?" He held her hand and lifted the fabric of her sleeve gingerly. The grisly gash ran across the entire length of her arm.
"Uh..." She stared at her arm, at a loss for words. Her getting injured seemed to be the ongoing trend.
"Xiao Yu'er..." Regret and self-blame coated Ye Jin's voice. His fingertips gently brushed against the edge of the gash, blue specks of light began to hover and dance across the wound. It was slowly healing.
Gu Qingyu clasped her other hand over his healing hand. "I'm fine, it's less painful than it looks."
"It's my fault..." He pressed her into his arms again as he solemnly swore. "From this moment on, Xiao Yu'er, I would never let anyone hurt you again! I swear, on the name of Ye!"
Gu Qingyu blinked, and blinked again. Then, she smiled. "Okay."
I believe you, because you are Ye Jin.
"Let's go, Xiao Yu'er. Let's go home." He picked her up again as a pair of black wings spread from his back, matching his black robes. His devilish charm had diminished a little, replaced by a king's maturity.
Gu Qingyu wrapped her arms around his neck and stared at him. She did not care where they were going, because her love has come back to her. And she would follow him, even to the ends of the earth. He remembered her, he finally remembered her. She just wanted to savour that moment and bask in his warmth, as time went by. Till they would reach the time where they had first met. Even then, they would still hold onto each other. This must be what true happiness feels like.
"Xiao Yu'er, we're here." Ye Jin landed outside a pair of castle gates.
The guardsmen had already opened the gates when they spotted Ye JIn from the distance. People filed out and greeted him. "We welcome your return, Emperor Ye!"
"Yes, I have returned with your empress." He informed plainly and entered the castle. Gu Qingyu's cheeks were burning as she covered her face with her hands, her eyes glaring at him from between her fingers.
The people were pleasantly surprised, and they answered, "We welcome your return, Emperor Ye, Empress Ye!"
"Alright, rise." Ye Jin brought her to the central palace, a faint smile tugged at the corner of his lips.Previous Chapter Next Chapter