The paper crane left the valley where the Yang Huo Sect had been accommodated and then flew to the beast taming mountain, reaching the gate of Elder Geng’s palace. It fluttered around, finally slipping through a crack in the window.
Inside, Nian Hong Fang was sitting at the table with Elder Geng, looking desolate. “You still haven’t heard from him?”
Elder Geng sighed. Ah, if only his disciple would send at least a message. Always having to send Nian Hong Fang away without as much as a word from him really made his head hurt. That child always looked as if the world would collapse at any moment if he still couldn’t find out what happened to Zhi Wu.
With a feeling of having to console his daughter-in-law after his son disappeared, he reached out and held Nian Hong Fang’s hand. “I haven’t heard from him yet. But I talked to the Sect Master about it recently. I’m sure that he will soon try to find out more about what happened. He might be able to ascertain his fate.”
Nian Hong Fang nodded but he couldn’t help but feel sour inwardly. Only now, the Sect Master had found out. If Wu Min Huan had done as he had promised and asked him earlier, then maybe they would already know what had happened to Zhi Wu. Maybe they could’ve even sent somebody to save him from whatever trouble he had gotten into. He might already be back at the sect, enjoying his life again. Now though …
Elder Geng tightened his lips. Ah, he really didn’t know what to do with Nian Hong Fang. Since he didn’t know what had happened to his disciple there was nothing worthwhile to say. He could only offer a few empty words but that would hardly help. In another one or two weeks’ time, Nian Hong Fang would just come back and look at him with sad eyes again, asking whether he had heard from Zhi Wu. Nothing would change.
If only the Sect Master had already started to investigate this. Unfortunately, with the other sects around, he wouldn’t be able to do anything. They had already lost many talents so they didn’t have the manpower to keep these people busy and search for Zhi Wu.
Elder Geng patted Nian Hong Fang’s hand. Even if he couldn’t offer a solution right now, he could at least give him a bit of hope. “Right now, those sects are still here so the Sect Master will have to pay attention to that but as soon as they leave, I’m sure he’ll take care of Zhi Wu’s issue. Just wait until then. I’m sure we’ll hear from him soon.”
Nian Hong Fang nodded but his hopes weren’t too high. If it was that easy to find out what had happened to Zhi Wu, they already would’ve brought him back. Since they hadn’t it meant that the situation was complicated and that Zhi Wu was likely at a place where he couldn’t be easily found or escape from himself. He also understood that. So even if the Sect Master finally paid attention to this case, that didn’t have to mean anything. In the end, Zhi Wu might still not return to him.
Just when the two of them descended into awkward silence, the paper crane fluttered onto the table in-between them, turning to Nian Hong Fang before finally lying still.
Nian Hong Fang raised his brows. His heart couldn’t help but thump. Despite better knowledge, whenever he saw a paper crane arriving like that, he would always wonder if just maybe this was a message from Zhi Wu. He just liked to imagine that wherever he was, Zhi Wu wouldn’t have forgotten about him and think of him just as much as he thought of Zhi Wu. Maybe he would hold out at that place, thinking of what he’d say when they saw each other again or even writing a letter every now and then so that he’d be able to send him one if there ever was an opportunity to at least get a message out.
Even after almost five years, this hope hadn’t died. He knew that this paper crane probably wasn’t from him just like all the others that had reached him over these years but he just couldn’t help but hold onto this tiny hope.
Nian Hong Fang let go of Elder Geng’s hand and reached out for the paper crane, his fingers slightly trembling when he unfolded it. The handwriting that finally greeted him dashed his hopes.
Not his again.
He had never seen this handwriting before. So once again, it wasn’t Zhi Wu reaching out to him. Once again, it was just a message somebody had sent him.
Elder Geng sighed and took back his own hand, examining Nian Hong Fang’s expression. He could only hope that there would soon be good news about his disciple. He really didn’t know how long this boy would be able to take it. Five years were too long.
Nian Hong Fang took a deep breath and read the message. A hint of surprise flashed through his eyes. How coincidental! Just when Elder Geng had told him that they would need to wait for the other sects to leave before the Sect Master would do anything about Zhi Wu’s situation, he actually got a letter asking him to help with getting rid of one of the sects.
He smiled to himself and then got up, tugging the paper crane into his sleeve and bowing to Elder Geng. “Elder, there’s something I have to do. I’ll come back another day.”
Elder Geng nodded and also got up. “You do that then. Don’t worry too much about Zhi Wu. Who knows what happened? Anyway, he’s strong. I’m sure he’ll be alright.”
Nian Hong Fang nodded and then left the Elder’s house, flying over to the valley where Qiu Ling and Jing Yi were waiting. If there was something he could do to make any of these sects leave sooner and thus have somebody look into Zhi Wu’s case earlier, then he would do his best. If he could, he would even make all the sects leave today so that he would finally find out what had happened to that person. Even if he couldn’t get him back, he at least wanted to know what had happened.