While the three people in the dungeon could only wait, Shen Qiang had been busy preparing for the implementation of the Chun Feng Sect’s plan. By now, he had moved into a small hut that was far enough away from the Chun Feng Sect so as to not draw attention to them.
It felt strange not being in the sect where he had lived for so many years but thinking of how he would soon be able to see Nian Hong Fang again, he still felt happy. He took out the scented satchel, his fingers brushing the embroidery. “Nian Hong Fang …”
Maybe he was thinking too much and Nian Hong Dang wouldn’t be able to let go of the memory of that demon but he really hoped that things would work out. Even if it wasn’t with him but with somebody else, that was still good. As long as he could forget about that Ma Zhi Wu, everything was well. Naturally, that didn’t mean that he didn’t have any hopes.
Shen Qiang sighed and put the satchel away, looking out of the window. He was settled in and any traces back to the Chun Feng Sect should already be cold. There was nothing holding him back anymore. So now would be the right moment to go. He couldn’t help but hesitate though.
Yes, he wanted to make this work. Yes, he wanted to find out what he could for the Chun Feng Sect to stop those demons. But … he also felt sorry for Nian Hong Fang and didn’t quite know how to face him. Waiting five years for the man he loved and finally having to realize that he was not a man but a demon instead … It would certainly hurt him. If he could, he would have liked to make this easier for him. Maybe there was an explanation that wouldn’t hurt as much.
He pondered but in the end, he shook his head at himself and left the house, flying toward the Yun Zou Sect. Even if he could find another explanation, it would have been too late after that letter. Nian Hong Fang would suspect anything he said about Ma Zhi Wu now. So the best thing to do would be to not bring him up at all. Even though that might make it more difficult, his chances would be higher in the end.
Shen Qiang reached the gates of the Yun Zou Sect and stopped, cupping his fists and bowing to the two disciples on guard duty. “Greetings. I came to visit the disciple Nian Hong Fang.”
The disciples exchanged a glance and nodded, one of them motioning inside. “Let me bring you over.”
Shen Qiang straightened up and gave an earnest smile. “Thank you.” He looked at the mountains and his heart couldn’t help but leap. In a few moments, he would finally see him again. After these few weeks, he couldn’t help but look forward to that.
The two of them reached the Grandelder’s palace and the disciple knocked on the door before stepping in. “Senior martial brother Nian, somebody came to visit.”
Nian Hong Fang turned around, his heart leaping as well. It couldn’t be that … His gaze was hopeful while waiting but when Shen Qiang stepped into the room, it turned cold.
Shen Qiang smiled and nodded. “Cultivator Nian, I hope I’m not disturbing your work.”
Nian Hong Fang looked at the herbs lying next to him and weakly shook his head. “No … nothing of the like.” He took a deep breath before he turned back to Shen Qiang, reminding him of what Elder Geng had said.
This man was their only chance to ever find out what had happened to Ma Zhi Wu and the other two. And the only one who could bring him to divulge that secret was him. He couldn’t show his disappointment and rejection. If he did … this man might not return anymore. What then?
Nian Hong Fang forced himself to give a small smile. “You wouldn’t have brought me another letter, would you?”
Shen Qiang awkwardly shifted on the spot. “That … I’m sorry. No. I just …”
Nian Hong Fang faced the other way and then motioned at the other side of the table. “Why don’t you have a seat?”
“Ah.” Shen Qiang nodded and went over. The other disciple had already left after announcing him and nobody else was in the room. Right now, they were alone. He couldn’t help but feel nervous. “You … were refining something?” He motioned at the herbs on the table.
Nian Hong Fang looked at them, his gaze growing distant. Ma Zhi Wu had never quite understood alchemy. Regardless of how often he told him about it, he would just look blankly and tell him that it was good as long as it worked in the end. Sometimes, he would even disturb him while at work, hugging him from behind, and quietly whispering to him until he was utterly distracted.
Shen Qiang attentively watched Nian Hong Fang’s face. Seeing his expression, his heart fell. Apparently, this would be even more difficult than he had thought. He lightly cleared his throat. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to bring up anything that would make you sad.”
Nian Hong Fang was pulled out of his thoughts. He looked up and shook his head with a small smile. “There’s nothing to apologize about. That was my fault just now. Actually, I haven’t refined anything in a long time. To be an alchemist, you always need to be concentrated and these years, I haven’t been able to do that very well. I just … I can’t stop thinking of him.” He glanced at Shen Qiang, his gaze subtle. “You … You wouldn’t know anything, would you? How he is doing? Or where he is?”
Shen Qiang lowered his gaze, his lips tightening for a moment. “No. No, I’m afraid … there is nothing I can tell you. I was just … just delivering that letter.”
Nian Hong Fang nodded to himself. “So it’s like that.” Then, it seemed he really wouldn’t get around what he had feared. Well, as long as he was able to get Ma Zhi Wu back, he would be able to live with it even if he hoped that it wouldn’t need to come to this.