Inside the room, Sect Master Xian handed the letter to Ma Zhi Wu. The disciple fingered the letter out of the envelope and unfolded it with trembling hands. Seeing the familiar handwriting, tears gathered in his eyes. Five years … Five years had gone by until he was finally able to contact Nian Hong Fang. Now, he had even gotten his response. He didn’t just need to dream about him any longer and could look at the actual words he had pinned down on paper for him.
Ma Zhi Wu closed his eyes and took a deep breath before he started to read.
‘Zhi Wu, it’s already been such a long time. I was afraid that something had happened to you and I would never be able to see you again. Thinking of that, my heart hurt but I never dared to give up hope. Even if it took a long time, I was sure that you would find a way to return to me. You wouldn’t just leave me alone.
‘Thankfully, you’ve managed to write to me now. It’s not quite as good as seeing you in person but this is already soothing my mind. The worries I’ve previously held — that I might just be delusional in holding onto my hope — they are now gone.
‘Even if you’re not doing too well, at the very least, you’re alive. You are and I am as well. One day, we’ll be able to spend our lives together again. I don’t doubt that for even a single moment.’
Ma Zhi Wu gulped, trying to swallow the bitter feeling in his throat. He could imagine how Nian Hong Fang had looked when he wrote these lines. Obviously, these past five years had meant just as much suffering to him as he himself had experienced. They just weren’t meant to be apart from each other for very long. It made both their hearts hurt.
Still, it was good that Nian Hong Fang had been able to hold onto his hope and not give up. That meant that if he someday found a way to flee from this dungeon, he might be able to see him again and return to how things had been. He wouldn’t have to return just to see the person he loved with another man. That was already very good.
Ma Zhi Wu smiled slightly when he thought of that and continued to read.
‘I would tell you about what happened to me in these five years but to be honest, it wasn’t very exciting. I didn’t leave the sect even for once in the hope that I would be able to see you just a second sooner when you returned. I always hoped that if you set foot on the sect grounds again, the first thing you’d do would be to rush over here to take me into your arms. It hasn’t happened yet but since I already admitted that this is what I wish for, you can just do so when you come back.
‘Other than that, you likely want to know how the others are doing. You don’t have to worry in that regard. Your Master is doing very well. He has managed to find some spiritual beasts for his peak that he slowly managed to tame. He said that he was missing your help though and that some things were much more difficult now that you weren’t there.
‘I know exactly what he means. I also feel like I haven’t been able to make as much progress with my alchemy anymore since you’ve left. But maybe it’s just because my heart isn’t calm. It’s difficult to concentrate in that state.
‘Sometimes, I make really stupid mistakes. I’m feeling sorry to my Master for that but there’s nothing I can do. Every so often, my thoughts would just drift to you. What can I do?
‘So you see, you’ll have to return to me as soon as possible. Otherwise, my Master will get really angry. With how old he already is, who knows if his heart will be able to take it? You wouldn’t want to be at fault if something happened to my Master, would you?
‘So please return to me soon. Anyway, my own heart is also pained if you’re not here. I would feel so much better if you could be at my side. Taking care of you when you’re hurt, chatting with you when we don’t have anything else to do, coming over to see you at Elder Geng’s peak and watching you work with the spiritual beasts … I miss all these things. You can’t imagine how much I miss them.’
Ma Zhi Wu looked at these words with a pained expression. Oh, he could imagine. He could imagine it very well. He also wanted to return and do all these things that had once been normal for them every day. Wouldn’t that be great?
Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do right now. Writing this letter and receiving Nian Hong Fang’s response had only been possible because there was something that the people of the Chun Feng Sect wanted from him. It was unlikely that he would get such a good chance again in the future. And even if he did, it wouldn’t be anytime soon.
Unfortunately, he also didn’t know what else he could do to get out of here. The dungeon was made to restrain people like him. It wasn’t as bad for him as it was for a lot of the other prisoners but he still noticed how it sapped his strength. In this environment, it really wasn’t easy to find a chance to escape.
And even if these things weren’t there, there were still the disciples of the Chun Feng Sect and whatever traps they had laid in the dungeon. Getting out of the cell was only the very first step. And while he might be able to somehow take this step, he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to take the following ones.
Thus he could only wait for some kind of opportunity. If only there would be something occupying the attention of the Chun Feng Sect’s people. Maybe then he would be able to use the chance and slip away. Even then it wasn’t for sure but there was at least that opportunity.
Unfortunately, he also knew how unlikely it was for something like that to happen. Even if he prayed to the Heavens every day, he probably wouldn’t get such a chance even in a hundred years.