"The lake. It's at the bottom of the lake?" Gu Qingyu frowned. "How do we get there? Do any of you know the legendary water-breathing technique?"
"Legendary?" Qi Yichen struggled to say that. "Xiao Qing Qing, the water-breathing technique is not legendary. As long as your powers reach a certain point and you're not attacked underwater, you can use that skill without trouble."
"Wait, don't tell me all of you know how to do that?"
"Of course. Xiao Qing Qing, don't tell me you don't know how to use that skill?" Qi Yichen asked with a slack jaw.
"Uh, yeah, as you said." She shrugged in defeat. "I guess I'll be dragging the team down then."
"Who said you would drag the team down?" Ye Jin frowned. He walked over and hugged her from behind, and said with a whisper directed at the rest of the team. "I'll get rid of him."
Gu Qingyu tried to neutralise the situation as soon as possible. "Um...Xiao Zhezhe, can you teach me the water-breathing technique?"
"But I'm here, do you still need to learn it?" He asked. His warm breath tickled her ears as he spoke, and her ears turned pink in that instant.
She steadied herself and answered with a hollow laugh. "As the saying goes, keep living as you learn, right?"
"It's 'keep learning as you live', Xiao Qing Qing." Qi Yichen corrected her as he fanned himself
Gu Qingyu glared at him fiercely. "Say that again? I can't hear you over the wind."
Ye Jin also turned to look at Qi Yichen. In that second, the scholar’s laughter turned hollow as well. "Yes, as the saying goes, keep living as you learn. You're absolutely right, Xiao Qing Qing."
Satisfied with this tiny vindication, Gu Qingyu tried to turn around to realise the current position she was in. Her face was inches away from Ye Jin’s chest, she could already feel the heat from his skin. And there was a weight on her shoulder, he was resting his head on her shoulder as he whispered against her ears. Her face instantly reddened again at the sensation. "Then...Xiao Zhezhe... Can we talk in a different position?"
"Yeah, sure." He agreed readily. Then he picked her up and set her on his lap as he sat down in what was her chair. "How's this?"
Gu Qingyu swallowed her protest, it would not work when Ye Jin entered such a mood. Qi Yichen watched them as his mouth opened and closed repeatedly, they had rendered him completely speechless, while Murong Zuoyu calmly sipped his tea.
"By the way, Brother Murong, have you heard that Qi Wan is here in this city?" Gu Qingyu changed the topic of the conversation and looked up to ask Murong Zuoyu.
The general flinched, then shook his head. "I had no idea, how did he get here?"
"Well, it's a bit complicated. Long story short, there's someone here that looks and sounds exactly like me. Her name is Rain and she should be the White Tiger, a divine beast. Someone else is here as well, Cloud, who looks exactly like Qi Wan. He is Rain's protector. Rain seemed to have kidnapped Qi Wan and brought him here, which is why we are here." She explained as briefly as she could.
"Rain?" Murong Zuoyu frowned slightly, "Brother Zhu, that day in the forest. Were you talking to her right before we met?"
His question was a bolt from the blue. Of course, Murong Zuoyu was observant and intelligent. He must have noticed Rain at that time, but he did not ask. She did not mention it, so he did not pry.
"Yes." Gu Qingyu nodded calmly. "Brother Murong, that was Rain."
"I see." Murong Zuoyu also nodded.
"So, where are idiot Qi and that faker?" Qi Yichen pondered as he propped up his chin with a closed fan.
"I know where he is." Gu Qingyu smiled.
The new vocabulary Qi Yichen used made Murong Zuoyu glance at him before he turned his attention back to Gu Qingyu. "Brother Zhu, do you have a clue?"
"No." Gu Qingyu shook her head, then calmly met Murong Zuoyu's purple eyes, and placed her hand over the left side of her chest. "But, I have this."
"A soul connection?" Qi Yichen's eyes widened, "Wow that's awesome!"
She agreed. "I can sense him, vaguely. This should mean some level of connection at least."
Ye Jin's body stiffened a little while holding her, then he relaxed and stroked her hair lovingly. "Xiao Yu'er, take a good rest first. We’ll begin the search tomorrow.”
"No, can we go now?" Her eyes were filled with fear, but not directed at him. "I can feel...a very faint presence... But it's very weak, and it feels like it’s going to disappear soon. What if when I wake up tomorrow, it’s gone? I don’t want to take that risk.” Her head hung low as she shrank into herself.
Ye Jin hesitated a bit, then hugged her tightly. "Then let's go."
Qi Yichen turned away and covered his face with his fan, even he could not bear to see Ye Jin like this. "I'm always ready, you know." It must be terrible to know that the woman he loves dearly holds another man in her heart. Worse still, she did not love him as a lover, so he could not even compete with that person. He can only watch as that person remains etched in her heart.
"Brother Murong..." Gu Qingyu raised her head, seeking his input.
"I'll stay to guard the city, you all can focus on finding him." He gave her a reassuring smile.
"Okay." She smiled in return. Her friend who has become like her older brother, who enjoyed teasing her every now and then, had made a solemn promise to her. With him watching her back, she was free to do whatever she needed to do. And she can rest easy knowing that he would always support her with his life, no matter what she does.
Gu Qingyu jumped off Ye Jin’s lap, smoothed out the wrinkles on her dress and made her way to the door. Just as she was about to cross the threshold, a firm voice made her stop. "Brother Zhu."
She waited patiently at the door.
"Come back safely, I will wait for you here." Murong Zuoyu continued after a long pause, his voice slightly hoarse.
"You too, stay safe. I'll come find you as soon as we get back." She kept her back towards him and waved in feigen nonchalance, then she walked out of the house without turning back. Ye Jin and Qi Yichen followed her.
The trio walked back to the main road in silence. Qi Yichen was walking ahead of her while Ye Jin was behind her. She was surprised that Ye Jin had not expressed his jealousy yet, so she turned back and glanced at him for a moment.
"What are you looking at?" Ye Jin asked sullenly, a clear indication of his irritation.
She turned back without saying a word, she got her answer after all. Best not to agitate the wasp’s nest.
"Xiao Yu'er, are you wondering why I'm not jealous? "Ye Jin's voice was soft, mixed with the chill of a midnight breeze, but it warmed the bottom of her heart.
Gu Qingyu nodded involuntarily.
Ye Jin smiled wryly and sighed. "Silly, I understand."
"I know how you feel about him. Whether it's Murong Zuoyu or Qi Wan, or Mo Bai, Qi Yichen, or even Xie Zang." Ye Jin explained. "You always valued your friends, so even if I want to kill them I can only keep it in."
Gu Qingyu's eyes widened. He seemed to have let slip something very important.
Ye Jin seemed to have realised that too, his sleeves gently covered his mouth as he waggled his brows. "Ah, I shouldn't have said that."
His blue eyes shimmered and sparkled as the night sky was reflected in his eyes. Gu Qingyu swallowed. She was about to say something when Qi Yichen, who was in front of them, called out to her. "Xiao Qing Qing~"
"What?" She looked towards him, there was a odd lift in his tone, something was afoot.
"See, Ye Jin is so petty!" He sighed and paused perfectly, adding to the suspense. "Why don't you consider me instead?"
"I think you should take care of yourself instead. She pointed to Ye Jin behind her and reminded him kindly. Qi Yichen was too reckless to say something so incendiary right in front of Ye Jin. That could get him into so much trouble. But then... she laughed, her reminder was already too late. Sure enough, Ye Jin narrowed his eyes slightly and walked towards Qi Yichen. The scholar appeared to have understood the gravity of his words and ran away for his life.
Gu Qingyu smiled as he sprinted down the main road. Has his IQ dropped? It's said that love makes one blind, is he really in love with her? The thought of him joining the fray sent a chill down her spine. But the direction he was running in sent her thoughts back to reality and she immediately ran after them. "Hey! Slow down! That's the wrong way!"
Late at night
The three of them gathered at the lake in the center of the city.
"Moon-view Lake?" Gu Qingyu read out the signage under the moonlight. "Why?" She was confused.
"Perhaps because... it is facing the moon." Qi Yichen answered her query as he stood at the edge of the lake, right under the bright full moon. In that moment, he looked exactly like how she first thought he would be. His white robe turned silver in the light as he stared at the moon in awe. His fan was opened but forgotten at his side. He was poised, but not arrogant, quiet but not indifferent as he travelled the world with just one fan in hand. Her vision blurred in that moment, he could have not subjected himself to all this. He might be happier if he had stayed with his teacher, or remained in his position as the Prime Minister of Xiqian. Yet he came with her on this sprawling adventure that even sent them through time. Would this all be worth it in the end? She can only hope.
Sensing her gaze, Qi Yichen turned around and gave her a faint smile. "What, cat got your tongue?"
"Don't be so narcissistic." She rolled her eyes and replied with a snarky jab as she walked to Ye Jin's side. Still, she had to admit that Qi Yichen did look very dreamy just now, almost elusive.Previous Chapter Next Chapter