Qiu Ling sighed and shook his head. Why did he bother thinking about these things? It wouldn’t bring him even a single step further. Jing He had pulled him out of that darkness, yes. That gentle smile, that soothing voice, that perfectness that would make people never dare to question him and … the utter fakeness they both showed the world.
They had been similar and at the same time, completely different. His own life had been in shambles early on and to be honest, there had been cracks from the beginning. After all, what else was supposed to happen when both of his parents were in love with somebody else? And if one of those somebodies was hellbent on having his father killed?
On the other hand, Jing He had had everything: A comfortable life in the Nine Heavens and a pair of parents that loved each other and loved him. And still, he was unhappy. Maybe he was unhappy exactly because of those things. That love smothered him. And that security made sure he couldn’t grow.
He hadn’t seen it immediately. Only after knowing Jing He for a while did he realize that, yes, they had more in common than he thought. He didn’t know whether Jing He had realized the same or if he believed that it was his pristine image that had bound them together. Sometimes it was hard to say what Jing He thought.
He sighed again and continued to the teahouse. He wouldn’t sacrifice Jing He. Of course, he wouldn’t. Jing He was his life. But that didn’t mean that he had to sacrifice Jing Yi either. Now wasn’t the time to think about that anyway. He could see what to do after he freed Jing Yi. Yes. Yes, that was what he should do. Now wasn’t the time.
He reminded himself again and again until he finally stood in front of the door to the teahouse. Seeing the bustling street where he had stood and watched Jing Yi talk to the people on the street so often in those first days after the teahouse was opened, he couldn’t help but smile. When he went in there …
He unconsciously took a step forward and walked into the room. As always it was filled to the brim with women and half of them turned around to see who the new guest was. Some of them blushed and hushed whispers sounded, finally drawing Madam Zhong out.
“You … Qiu Ling?” Madam Zhong hurried over and clasped his hands. “What are you doing here? Is Jing’er alright?”
Qiu Ling smiled wryly. How was he supposed to answer that? “Actually … I’m not here because of that. I have to talk to sister Nie.” He pointed at the door to the preparation room. “Is it alright if I took her away for a while?”
“Oh, but of course. Just … Jing’er is alright, isn’t he? You’re not just keeping quiet because you’re afraid I won’t be able to take it, are you?”
“Ah?” Qiu Ling shook his head. “No, it’s … Actually, it’s not that easy to explain but you don’t have to worry. Even though I’m currently not with him, I’ll go over there soon! Nothing will happen to him.” After all, Xin Lan should find out about the fallen god from Qiang Yan, shouldn’t he? Then it was only a question of time until he could rescue his beloved from the clutches of that fallen god!
Madam Zhong observed Qiu Ling’s expression. She wasn’t too sure what was wrong with her son this time. After all, she hadn’t heard any news for a while. But since Qiu Ling said that she didn’t need to worry, then she wouldn’t do so. This man wouldn’t let anything happen to her son. “Alright, come on in then.” She led him to the preparation room and motioned over to where Nie Huang was brewing the tea.
Qiu Ling’s eyes sparkled when he saw her. He had never really paid attention to it but for a human, she was really pretty. His cousin-in-law could count himself happy that he would get to marry such a pretty woman!
He dashed over and sat down at the table, staring at her intently. “Sister Nie!”
“Uh …” Nie Huang raised her brows. This person was … Madam Zhong’s son-in-law? The one who had come here with Jing Yi before? “Hello.”
Qiu Ling prepared to speak up but froze. Uh … What was he supposed to say now? ‘Do you know someone by the name of Bai Mu? I freed him from a righteous sect’s dungeon and he’d like to meet you.’? ‘You probably thought you were already a widow but I actually found the guy you longed for’? ‘I found your fiance’? Somehow, none of that seemed appropriate. And he didn’t want to say too much either. The one to explain this should be Bai Mu himself.
Qiu Ling sighed and got up again. “You know that restaurant that mother-in-law’s cousin has, right?”
Nie Huang wasn’t so sure and looked at Madam Zhong for help who had waited close by.
“Could you mean Zhong Gang’s restaurant? The place where we went when we just arrived in the capital?”
Qiu Ling nodded. “That one!”
“Ah.” Nie Huang nodded. “I do. Is something the matter there? Do they need a tea master?”
“No. But … there’s someone waiting there that would like to meet you. It’s … it’s important and I promise you won’t regret it. So … you should hurry over now.”
“But I’m still working.”
“Ah, forget about that. I’m sure things will work out even without you.” After all, the teahouse would need to do without her anyway if she followed Bai Mu to the dragon realm.
“I’m sorry but this is a teahouse. How could I, as the tea master, just leave?”
Madam Zhong looked at Nie Huang’s face that was filled with determination before she glanced at Qiu Ling. She had always known that the position of tea master was very important to Nie Huang. The relationship with her family had become better but she still hadn’t given up on this work or agreed to marry. Letting her go might feel like an insult to her. On the other hand, she didn’t believe Qiu Ling would ask this kind of thing just like that.
“Qiu Ling, this doesn’t have a little more time? Until we close in the evening, maybe?”
Qiu Ling shook his head like a rattle-drum. “No! And I promise she’ll say the same once she sees him.”
“See him?” Nie Huang’s heart unwittingly beat faster. It couldn’t be … Ah, no, what was she thinking? Bai Mu hadn’t returned all these years. He wouldn’t suddenly turn up here and even if he did, he wouldn’t send someone she barely knew to deliver a message. He was the only one she’d pause her work for though. “I’m afraid you’ll have to tell that person I can’t. My work —”
Qiu Ling didn’t listen and instead turned to tug at Madam Zhong’s sleeve, looking pitiful.
Madam Zhong sighed. “Why don’t you go see if it’s important? It’s only a few minutes until there. I can tell the guests to wait a bit if they want to order. If it’s nothing important, you can return immediately. If it is, tell Zhong Gang to send someone to take over for the rest of the day. You’ve never taken even half an hour off in all these years. This bit of time will be alright.”
“Thank you, Madam Zhong. I’m sorry for making so much trouble.” Nie Huang nodded at her and finally left for the restaurant.