At that time, a dark-clad messenger arrived at the gates of the Yun Zou Sect, cupped his fists and bowed to the disciples guarding the entrance. “Greetings. I came to deliver a letter to the disciple Nian Hong Fang.” The messenger took out a letter and showed it to the disciples.
The two of them exchanged a glance and then nodded. “Very well, I’ll bring you.” The one on the left waved and the messenger followed him into the sect grounds and to the palace of the Grandelder.
Nian Hong Fang was currently helping the Grandelder process some materials for a pill that he wanted to refine. Sorting the herbs, cutting off what they didn’t need, pressing the berries for their juice, … All these small tasks took a lot of time but were necessary to refine the pill. Very often, they would give them to the younger disciples for them to learn but this time, the Grandelder was attempting a new recipe so they couldn’t allow for any mistakes. That was why he let his own head disciple do this. He didn’t worry that Nian Hong Fang would have trouble doing this.
Even though the Grandelder thought so, Nian Hong Fang’s thoughts weren’t as undisturbed as they probably should be. After the Sect Master promised to take care of the matter with Ma Zhi Wu but then didn’t deliver on that promise, he couldn’t help but think about his lover more often. Especially so when he did something that reminded him of Zhi Wu.
Right now, his thoughts also couldn’t help but drift back to the time more than five years ago. Back then, he had also been doing these kinds of small tasks for his Master every day.
Every other day, the door would open and Zhi Wu would step in with an embarrassed expression. He would rub his neck and then come over and lean against the table next to him. He would watch him for a few minutes before he leaned closer and peered into his face raising his brows. ‘What are you doing?’ would he ask.
Then Nian Hong Fang would smile and say, ‘Just a few tasks for my Master.’
Ma Zhi Wu would nod and fall silent once again. Then he would clear his throat. ‘Is it very important? Like, something that can’t wait?’
Nian Hong Fang would glance at him and then shake his head. ‘If there’s something, just tell me. I’m just preparing some things. Helping somebody else is much more important than that, isn’t it?’ Then he would push away what he had been doing and turn around to Zhi Wu.
Normally, Zhi Wu would show him some kind of injury that he had gotten and that needed to be treated. Well, at the very least, that was what he said. With all the experience Nian Hong Fang already had, he was able to see that most of this was just made up. The injuries were never too bad and with Ma Zhi Wu’s superior body constitution, he wouldn’t have any trouble continuing to train with these injuries. But he would still come over with every little thing for sure.
He was … just searching for an excuse to come and see him. It was so painfully obvious that Nian Hong Fang had never been able to bring himself to tell him. He just let him go on and pretended to earnestly treat his so-called wounds.
Nian Hong Fang sighed and shook his head. Zhi Wu had already been gone for so long. Why did he still insist on waiting for him and thinking of him whenever there was an opportunity? Wouldn’t it be better to let go and move on? It only hurt to think of this time when they had still been happy, seeing each other every day for such simple, made-up reasons. Now, he was all alone and could do nothing but wait. That truly was torturous. He really wanted to end it. But he couldn’t bring himself to do that.
After waiting for five years, he felt that if he gave up now, he would’ve done all of that in vain. Each moment of heartbreak would just turn into him being a lovelorn idiot. So since he had already waited for five years, why not wait for another five? Surely, Zhi Wu would one day return to him. Hadn’t he always done so?
Just when Nian Hong Fang grabbed a flower and wanted to pick the petals for the pill, the door was opened and a disciple walked in, clearing his throat. “Senior martial brother Nian, there is a messenger with a letter for you.”
Nian Hong Fang looked up in surprise, his heart giving the usual thump of hope. He knew it was futile but he still motioned inside. “Send him in then.” Anyway, he had no reason to refuse the person entry. And maybe, just maybe his heart wasn’t thumping in vain this time. Maybe this would be what he had been waiting for.
He sighed to himself at that thought and put away the flower, going to meet the person halfway. Anyway, he hadn’t been very focused. He might as well take a short break and see what this was about before he continued lest he made a mistake and cost his Master precious resources and time.
A man in a dark robe walked in while the other disciple excused himself and left. The man handed the letter to Nian Hong Fang. “Your reply is expected.”
Nian Hong Fang took the letter while glancing at the man but the person’s expression stayed blank. There was no way to glean anything from it. Maybe he didn’t even know anything about the contents. Well, it seemed he would have to see what the letter was about for himself.
Nian Hong Fang opened it and then stared at the paper in a daze when he saw the handwriting inside. The characters were big and a little unruly as if their creator couldn’t be bothered to properly write everything down. As if his hands weren’t made for this kind of delicate task and should instead be used for something that would need strength instead.
This was precisely the handwriting he had waited to see for five years. This letter had been written by Ma Zhi Wu.