"Yeah." Ye Jin smiled. He was calm, somewhat at ease, there was no trace of worry in his voice.
"Then how are we going to get it? We can go inside the volcano, but it's a live volcano, the surrounding temperature alone could burn us alive. Besides, even if we did manage to somehow get the Spirit Gem, wouldn't that upset the balance of the volcano? What if that causes it to erupt? It would be instant death for all of us and the city above!" Gu Qingyu rambled as she tried to come up with an idea.
"Not quite." He stared at the top of the volcano and smirked. "Xuan Wu, guardian of the Spirit Gem, how have you been?"
Gu Qingyu followed his gaze and looked towards the top of the volcano as well.
The fumes at the volcano's mouth gradually formed a humanoid silhouette, then a monotonous voice replied. "Emperor Ye. Do you have to wake me up like this?"
The person that answered Ye Jin now stood before them. He was dressed in a dark brown robe, a jade vertical flute was attached at his hip.
Ye Jin might have just disturbed his sleep, but the mysterious person did not looked bothered at all. In fact, he wore a blank expression, void of any readable emotion. And his features, though they were beautiful on their own, they seemed unreal.
"You are..." Gu Qingyu frowned.
That person's eyes softened when he saw her. "White Tiger?"
Gu Qingyu stiffened, and she did not know how best to answer him. "Um..."
"As you can see, I am Xuan Wu., the Black Tortoise." He smiled at her. That gentle smile that bloomed across his expressionless face caught her off guard.
Ye Jin pulled Gu Qingyu back and stood in front of her, blocking her completely. "Xuan Wu, you should know why we are here."
"You're here for the Spirit Gem." He answered as he knew all along. "You can take it whenever you wish, Emperor Ye, as according to our agreement."
Ye Jin nodded silently.
Xuan Wu's words piqued Gu Qingyu's curiosity. She tapped Ye Jin's shoulder and tip-toed to whisper in his ear. "What agreement?"
Ye Jin turned back and gave her a side hug. "I'll tell you next time. Go get the Spirit Gem, Xiao Yu'er."
"Okay." She did not continue to pry, but then she laughed nervously. "What about...the volcano..."
"Don't worry. I told you to get it, so I would make sure nothing happens to you. Don't worry, I'm right here." He squeezed her hand. "Now, go."
"Alright." She nodded and was about to head up the volcano, then she caught a whiff of a familiar fragrance, a distinct mix of herbs and medicine. She turned around and scanned around her, but there was nothing.
A resolute gentleness that watches over her from the shadows, day and night. A smile that was reserved for her, only for her as he vowed to never leave her. If he could not live in her heart, then he shall live in her shadow and protect her. As she chased after the light, he would be guarding her back. And should the light fades, he would shield her in the darkness. He would blend in and be her barrier, keeping her from any danger. He did not expect any of his actions to be appreciated or even to be known to her.
You never left, did you? Mo Bai.
They followed Xuan Wu to the foot of the volcano. With a light wave of Xuan Wu's sleeves, a wide ribbon stretched out from the cuff of his sleeve and connected to the top of the volcano, forming a path.
"Please." Xuan Wu bowed slightly.
Ye Jin stepped on the ribbon, and at the same time turned around to look at Gu Qingyu. "Xiao Yu'er, follow me, be careful."
"Alright." She nodded.
Xuan Wu glanced at her with a half-smile. "Well done, Emperor Ye. You actually obtained the White Tiger's heart."
As soon as he said this, Gu Qingyu looked at Xuan Wu with a puzzled frown. "What do you mean?"
"Each one of us holds a treasure, the source of our power, which is why we are known as the Divine Beasts. And you, White Tiger, that would be your heart. “Xuan Wu pointed at his own chest. "This allows you to command all manners of monsters and beast, the real King of the Beasts. It can even reach beyond beasts. So many have come after us to try to obtain such power for themselves."
His explanation reminded her of the mysterious man that brought her to this world. That person had tried to get her heart quite literally. So, was Xuan Wu suggesting that Ye Jin was after her heart as well?
Gu Qingyu smiled, and took Ye Jin's outstretched hand. "No, I gave him my heart."
Xuan Wu flinched a little, then turned away.
"Xiao Yu'er..." Ye Jin squeezed her hand and pursed his lips as he stared into her eyes.
Qi Yichen floated behind Xuan Wu quietly: "Brother Xuan Wu, would you like some snacks?"
"No, I'm a tortoise." Xuan Qu smiled at the scholar at a rare appearance of his humour.
"Well, I'll eat it myself." Qi Yichen took out a handful of melon seeds from his seeds and munched away.
Xuan Wu stole a glance at the melon seeds, then after a moment of hesitation, took a small handful of seeds from Qi Yichen.
"Didn't you say you're not eating?" Qi Yichen glared at Xuan Wu.
"We should always remain adaptable, for times are ever-changing." He said as he nibbled on the seeds.
"Tch. So, we're here. How are we getting down?" Qi Yichen asked with slight annoyance.
They had reached the volcano's crater. Gu Qingyu peered over the edge of the ribbon. Sizzling hot steam escaped through rocky crevices with hisses, a slight touch and it could scald her. Magma bubbled at the centre of the crater with loud pops. She was already sweating from the heat, then her hands turned clammy at the sight of the magma. Xuan Wu held his hand over the crater, and blasts of cold wind buffeted at the red liquid. The magma ceased its bubbling and receded. Eventually, it vanished.
"Let's go." Xuan Wu jumped down first.
Gu Qingyu did not move. It was at least a 10-meter jump.
Ye Jin looked at her and said, "Xiao Yu'er, are you okay?"
"Don't worry, I can still manage going down on my own." She reassured him, and he jumped down too. Her jaw dropped. Wow, Ye Jin was really confident in his powers to take a literal leap of faith.
Gu Qingyu stretched out her hand, and the Soul Chain shot out from her sleeve and jammed into the bottom of the pit. She hopped onto the chain and slid down.
Qi Yichen tossed his fan and it grew in size and drifted to the edge of his feet. He stepped on the fan and it carried him to the base of the pit.
"Please come with me." Xuan Wu bowed once more and led the way.
Gu Qingyu, Ye Jin and Qi Yichen followed him closely.
Suddenly, Ye Jin's eyes steeled and he pulled Gu QIngyu towards him. Right then, the spot where she was standing exploded with a loud bang!
"This is... what's going on?" Gu Qingyu laid in his arms and tried to calm herself.
"It seems like we have an unexpected guest." Xuan Wu narrowed his eyes slightly and looked up. Gu Qingyu followed his gaze and saw the person that looked exactly like her. It was Rain.
Rain landed in front of them with wide toothy grin. "Oh, did I make it in time for something interesting?"
Gu Qingyu watched her carefully and with hostility. "Where's Qi Wan?"
"Oh~ are you talking about... him?" Rain said and a figure appeared behind her.
It was Cloud. Cloud was holding someone in his arms. That person's robes was covered in splotches of crimson as bits of dark green peeked through the red. The pungent, metallic smell of blood assaulted her senses and made her stomach churn. That person's face was so bloodied that she could not make out their features. But the way those amber eyes looked at her never changed, it was as clear and as loving as before. If not for those dark green robes and those eyes, she would not have been able to recognise him.
"Qi...Qi..." She murmured as her vision blurred in an instant.
She squeezed her eyes close and willed away her tears. She should not cry in front of her enemies, and above that, she should not cry in front of Qi Wan. The Soul Chain slowly appeared, encircling her.
"Yu, pick one. The Lifeblood Jewel of Destiny or Qi Wan." Rain tilted her head, she would look adorable if Gu Qingyu did not know her nature. "Or, should I say, pick one. Yan Ruhuo or Qi Wan."
"What do you mean?" Gu Qingyu stared at her closely.
"If I destroy the Lifeblood Jewel of Destiny, then he would never ever be revived!" She cackled. "He would be sealed forever, crushed forever. He would forever be a weakling, a parasite that clung onto others for strength. And he would suffer for all eternity! Hahaha!"
"Have you lost your mind?" Gu Qingyu scoffed as the Lifeblood Jewel of Destiny appeared in her hand.
"Yeah, I have." Rain answered with ease. "It seems that you have made your choice."
She walked towards Gu Qingyu. Gu Qingyu tossed the blood-red jewel to Rain, the jewel flew through the air in a perfect arch. Rain held out her hands to catch it, but before her fingers could brush against the jewel, Gu Qingyu appeared right before her eyes and grabbed the jewel. Then, she whirled around, her chains zipped through the air and towards Cloud! Cloud flinched, and before he could react, the chains had wrapped around Qi Wan and pulled him away. Gu Qingyu caught Qi Wan and returned to Ye Jin's side.
All of this took place in just a few seconds, her speed surprised everyone. Rain stiffened and narrowed her eyes. "Gu Qingyu, I underestimated you."
Gu Qingyu ignored her. Instead, she kneeled on the ground and rested Qi Wan's head on her lap. Then she removed the water flask at her waist and gently poured the liquid into his mouth. Qi Wan's chapped, bleeding lips quivered as he tried his best to drink a few sips. His adam's apple bobbed slightly as he struggled to swallow.
"Qi Wan..." Gu Qingyu looked at him, her lips trembled, and her tears streamed down her cheeks. She was not crying from fear, but from heartache. It pained her to see him beaten black and blue, covered in blood, all because of her.Previous Chapter Next Chapter