Faced with Jin Zi's question, Mu Linger turned back and gave him an answer he'd never forget in his lifetime.
She said, "Jin Zi, you were almost raped by that woman. I thought it over: since you saved me before, I couldn't let others ruin you either."
Jin Zi gaped and didn't know what to say.
Mu Linger wasn't an idiot. She had taken Jin Zi's pulse and knew he was seriously ill. Besides, it was impossible for him to seduce some woman in the short time she was gone. Obviously the female had delivered her into his arms. After running out of the tent, she stood outside and sorted her thoughts very quickly. She had planned to backtrack, but saw the tigers approaching and knew Jin Zi would be fine. Thus, she seized the time to brew a new bowl of medicine.
For someone as sick as Jin Zi, medicine was most important.
By the time she came back, she saw the puddle of blood and bones on the ground. Although she was timid by nature, the scene didn't scare her, nor did she find it cruel. In fact, there was even a trace of satisfaction in her heart. She privately thought that she'd turned pretty bad.
Jin Zi wanted to say many things, but Mu Linger's answer suddenly made him unsure of how to speak. He only felt ashamed and annoyed, but also helpless. At last, all his thoughts and words condensed into two: "Come here."
Mu Linger didn't move. She asked, "How are you supposed to go to the Mysterious Continent after killing that woman? How will you find your home?"
"Come here and I'll tell you," Jin Zi stated.
Mu Linger didn't listen, but went to pick up the medical pouch on the ground and ran out without a word. She stopped by the door and had the cold wind hit her face to clear up her thoughts. Her lips were still swollen from the kiss and a little sore, with his scent still lingering on her. She rubbed them but her heart still raced, even worse than before. What should she do? She knew less and less. She didn't even realize she'd lost her previous decisiveness.
She ended up brewing a new batch of medicine and went back in the tent, only to find that Jin Zi had fallen asleep. Carefully, she stroked his forehead and checked his temperature before taking his pulse again. Once she was sure his condition had improved, her heart settled back in her chest.
"Hey," she pushed him, "Wake up and take medicine."
She thought it'd take him a while to wake up, but his eyes flew open immediately.
He was pretending to be asleep!
She knitted her eyebrows at him, but her tearstained face made her look more like a worried wife instead. This time he wasn't faking it as he strained to sit upright, take the bowl, and gulp down the medicine. Once it was done, he finally asked, "You came back again? I thought you were leaving again."
He didn't even ask why she came back before she answered, "When saving someone, do it to the end. This counts as making us even, right?"
"No," he laugh feebly. "Back then you begged me to help you, but I never forced you to save me today. Our accounts aren't finished."
Actually, she'd just blurted those words out on a whim. She too, knew that he was too shrewd to agree with them. They fell silent while the night reached its coldest point. There was no heater in the tent, so Mu Linger's fingers and toes began to grow cold as she sat inside. She subconsciously started rubbing her palms again.
"I'll lend you this," Jin Zi grabbed his fur robe and tossed it at her. She didn't refuse, but wrapped it firmly around herself. Once again, they sat there silently until daybreak.
They said the darkness before dawn was always unusually long, and Mu Linger agreed. She waited and waited, but time seemed to stretch on without a sign of light. Although she was wrapped in fox furs, she still felt so cold. Icy air floated up from her feet until she shivered.
At last, Jin Zi broke the silence and said, "Mu Linger, I'll give you one last chance. Come here and I'll count this as your one night owed. Otherwise, I'll really include the interest."
Mu Linger looked up with guarded eyes.
Jin Zi only snorted. "If you freeze yourself sick, who's going to make me medicine? You know I can't do a thing right now!"
Mu Linger's heart was heavy until she heard his words. Abruptly, she broke into laughter as well. True, he had no strength to bully her. But in the end, she still gave him a pitiful look. "Then are you still going to marry me?"
This woman asks for a foot after you give her an inch! Jin Zi had brought up marriage so many times, but when had he ever acted on his words? He was afraid he'd lost to her completely this time.
"I won't," he said.
Mu Linger didn't budge, but stuck out her pinky. "Pinky promise. If you lie…if you lie, then you'll lose every gamble you make from now on!"
Jin Zi happily hooked his pinky with hers and swore the venomous oath. Finally assuaged, Mu Linger took off her outer robes and obediently dove into the warmth of the covers with him. She had prepared for the worst tonight but never thought it'd turn out like this. As soon as daylight came, she could clear accounts with him!
Mu Linger laid on her side and allowed Jin Zi to draw close, but it wasn't until they touched that her heart gave a violent jolt! She just remembered that he was shirtless!
Jin Zi muffled her mouth while tightening his arm around her waist. She was truly scared and started to struggle, but he somehow found the strength to keep her caged and locked within his arms. Very soon, his words by her ears quieted her then.
"Mu Linger, it's best if you don't move. Otherwise…I'll go back on all my promises!"
Mu Linger stilled. Jin Zi tangled his legs with her own as the two of them and their hearts tangled together like dual threads, twisting and turning until they were finally an inseparable whole. When she didn't move, neither did he, but his lips kept murmuring into her ear.
He said, "Linger, I like you. I like you very, very much."
He said, "Linger, why do I like you when you're so stupid?"
He said, "Linger, if I had met you first…would you belong to me?"
He said, "Linger, do you know what it feels to like someone? You don't want to give up even if you die, besides seeing her in pain. Linger, is Gu Qishao living very happily right now? He's not suffering a bit, so…you haven't given up? He must like you a lot, right? Linger, I'll give up. Be happier, don't cry anymore."
He sighed, "Linger, don't be stupid and agree to promises with others like that in the future. You have to cherish yourself, understand?"
He chuckled, "Gu Qishao crossed the border a few months ago to head north. He should be going to the Mysterious Continent. You can leave when it's light, I've already returned all the debt on that gold card. I'll stay in Wintercrow Country. Remember it well, don't find me in the future."
After he finished talking, he loosened his grip and let her go.
And daylight came.
The darkness before dawn was always long, but why did dawn always come in an instant? Without her noticing, the entire tent turned bright. Mu Linger slowly sat up to look outside, only to discover her vision was blurry. She couldn't see the sunshine and wiped her eyes, finally realizing she was crying. Her face was covered in tears.
Jin Zi remained on his side while Mu Linger kept wiping at her eyes. But the more she wiped, the more tears she shed, as if they would never stop. In the end, she buried her face in her knees and sobbed out loud.
Why is it so painful?
I'm free now. We don't owe each other anymore and I can leave. I never have to see him again and I know where Qi gege went, but why aren't I happy at all? Why can't I stop crying?
What does it mean to like someone? To not give up even if I die? To only give up if you see them suffering?
But she still gave up without ever seeing Qi gege suffering or unhappy! She gave up on him two years ago!
She liked Qi gege so much, so how could she give him up? She hated Jin Zi so much, so why was she crying now?
Mu Linger sobbed uncontrollably but didn't leave. Nor did she speak.
Jin Zi creased his brows at her, not knowing what to do. When he forced her to stay, she cried; when he let her go, she still cried. What could he do to make her happier?
At last he shouted, "Mu Linger, stop crying already! Go! Get lost!"
Would she come to her senses after he yelled at her again?
Mu Linger suddenly stood up and asked in a choked voice, "Jin Zi, why did you scheme against me? Why did you bully me? Why force me at all?"
If not for that time at Three-Way Black Market, could she have resented him? Or owe him so much money? If he hadn't bullied her, would she owe him such a huge debt?
"I'll apologize to you, all right?" Jin Zi's heart was in chaos from her tears. "I won't force you, I'll never force you again. Just go."
But Mu Linger's sobs intensified. "Jin Zi, you keep forcing me and forcing me, so why not force me to the end? Why? Why do you want me to suffer so much?"
"Jin Zi, I gave up on Qi gege. I don't want to like anyone anymore. It's too exhausting, too tiring, and I don't want that. I'm fine all alone, so why did you still bully me? Why force me to meet you? Why tell me so much? Why like me at all? Why…" Mu Linger cried her heart out, releasing all her pent-up feelings.
Rather than saying she gave up on Qi gege, it was more accurate that he had abandoned her first. He cast her aside a long, long time ago because he never loved her, but she was too slow to realize it until years later. She was a victim of unrequited love. Although she'd never been loved or shared love, she still experienced all the pains of love.
"Jin Zi, Qi gege isn't suffering a bit, so how…how could I give him up? How could I? How could I abandon him? I've liked him for years and years…how could I…" she sobbed as she looked at Jin Zi, filled with pain yet blaming herself.
Jin Zi was too distraught for words. He never thought this girl would be this much of a fool!
"Why can't you?" he demanded. "Mu Linger, what do you owe him? Why can't you give him up? Liking someone isn't some responsibility, nor is love! True responsibility is when you marry someone! Mu Linger, I regret it! I want to marry you!"
As he spoke, he fiercely pulled Mu Linger into his arms and crushed her beneath his body. Mu Linger was still crying even as he rained frantic kisses on her face…Previous Chapter Next Chapter
love is painful and mu linger is hurting, but i actually like this chapter a lot compared to some of the "suffering because of feelings" ones in PGC's earlier chapters. at the very least, i think the author's handle on relationships feels more mature when trying to depict the complicated (yet genuine? yet lying? yet sincere?) mess that is the Jin Zi x Linger ship. bless them both.
and get ready for *cough* driving next chapter, ahah~