OMF V4C74 Always at Your Side

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Jinde felt a pang in his heart at Xin Lan’s words. Right, he hadn’t thought enough about it. He had only thought about himself and his pain upon losing Chun Yin back then. He hadn’t really considered Xin Lan’s feelings even though he had known him for so long.
„I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have kept it from you.“
Xin Lan smiled slightly. „It’s not a problem. I’m just happy that you’re still alive. Whatever was before … it doesn’t matter.“
Jinde nodded and gently stroked Xin Lan’s cheek. „How have you been these years? Jin Ling …“
„I accompanied him as you had wished.“
„Did he make a lot of trouble for you?“
Xin Lan shook his head. How could anything he did at his master’s command ever be trouble to him? Sure, that brat was not that easy to handle but he would gladly endure it as long as that meant honoring his master’s last … no, his master’s wish. „It wasn’t a problem. He didn’t make too much trouble for that Qiu Ling either.“
„Mn, I see.“ Jinde nodded and looked up at the window. „Qiu Ling … He was probably the one who told you about me?“
„Yes.“ Xin Lan wasn’t nice enough to clarify that Qiu Ling hadn’t directly told him and only blurted it out when he thought nobody was listening.
„Well, he probably had trouble finding an ascended deity. It figures that he would go and ask you then. Did you take a look at that array? Were you able to help him?“ He turned back to Xin Lan and a hint of worry crept into his voice.
Unwillingness rose in Xin Lan’s heart. Why was his master so concerned about this? And why … „Did you tell him back then already that you were here?“ Xin Lan lowered his head immediately after blurting out this thought.
He knew it was impossible. He had been the one to get Qiu Ling after his master’s supposed death. And he hadn’t told him anything besides the fact that they needed him in the fight against the demons. He hadn’t even told him that he was supposed to follow onto the throne. There was no way there could have been any hidden message for Qiu Ling that would reveal his master’s whereabouts.
Jinde sighed and stood up. He stepped in front of Xin Lan and gently cupped both his cheeks. „Xin Lan, I am really sorry. This shouldn’t have happened. You shouldn’t have … found out like this. But I can’t change it. You can rest assured though that I didn’t just not tell you. I told nobody. Qiu Ling didn’t know either. He only found out on coincidence when he came here because of his beloved.“
„I see. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.“
Jinde laughed lightly and wanted to bend down. Before he could move any further Xin Lan already got up and pulled him back up.
„You shouldn’t move too much. You’re still hurt. It would be best if you sat down again.“
Jinde smiled wryly. „I’m not that frail.“
„You are.“ Xin Lan just looked at him. He didn’t even dare to use his own energy to probe his master’s true condition. Just thinking about it his heart squeezed painfully. „You might be able to fool those humans and maybe that boy but you can’t fool me. I’ve been at your side for so long and I’ve seen so many dragons come and go. If I still couldn’t see just how bad your condition is, I wouldn’t deserve to even think about guarding you. How much of your soul remains? Will it …“
„No, it won’t. If I hadn’t broken the curse of the soul-devouring dagger, then I definitely would have been dead already. It’s just that … an injury to the soul isn’t that easily healed. Especially not if there is nothing to help with the process.“
„I’ll go and —“
„No.“ Jinde grabbed onto Xin Lan’s hand before he could move. „You haven’t even answered my question yet.“
„Which one?“
„The array. Did you find out anything? Were you … Were you able to open it?“ There was a certain hope in his eyes that made Xin Lan’s heart sink.
„Why is master so concerned with this?“
The corners of Jinde’s mouth lifted in an especially sweet smile. „Well … Since Qiu Ling found you, you certainly know already that his beloved his trapped in there, don’t you?“
„Yes.“
„Well, you see he … he isn’t the only one.“ Jinde’s cheeks slightly flushed, telling Xin Lan everything he had to know.
„So he reincarnated. Congratulations, Master. You’re certainly happy to have finally found him again.“
„Mn.“ Jinde nodded, his expression bashful now that he thought of his lover. He didn’t have any problem displaying this kind of feeling in front of Xin Lan. He already knew, after all.
„Well, it is a little strange. We haven’t seen each other yet. He already spent some years here without me noticing. I only found out when he was already trapped. So … What about the array?“ Jinde reached out and worriedly grabbed onto Xin Lan’s robe, dangerously close to that telltale beating heart. He really couldn’t take it any longer. Why had he still not told him what he found out?
Xin Lan slightly lowered his head to evade his master’s pleading gaze. „I did take a look at the array. It’s a slightly difficult matter since it differs from the ones normally used in the human realms and a special medium is needed to open it. I … I wanted to see you and make sure you were alright first so I left that boy there to think of a solution himself first. If you’re alright, I’ll immediately return and help him free his beloved and … your lover.“ He forced himself to add those words.
He had to remind himself. Just because his master had returned that didn’t change anything between them. He would only ever be the man his master had saved, the loyal follower of all these years that he never commanded and only ever asked if he would be willing to do something. He couldn’t expect more than that.


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