When the two of them reached the top of the mountain, Jing Yi gave a happy smile before he put his sword away. He had already tried inside the realm but with that not being the real world, he still felt that he would need to make sure outside that he was able to do these things for real. Now, he had been able to do just that for the first time. It was a good feeling.
Qiu Ling went over and wrapped an arm around his waist, pulling him closer. “You did really well. Just as expected of my beloved! So, do you want to go inside?”
Jing Yi nodded. He hurriedly caught onto Qiu Ling’s arm to make sure that he couldn’t rush ahead and barge into the palace as he liked to do. Instead, he knocked on the door for him and then slowly opened. Going further inside, he called out lightly and looked around, trying to see where Nian Hong Fang currently was.
The two of them didn’t need long to find him. He was in the preparation room of the Grandelder, dealing with some ingredients. Another man was standing next to him that Jing Yi had need never seen before. But looking at how close they were standing next to each other … This should be his lover?
Jing Yi cleared his throat to get their attention and gave Nian Hong Fang a bright smile when he turned around. “Senior martial brother Nian, I hope we aren’t disturbing you.”
Nian Hong Fang put down the herb he had just picked up and also gave a smile. “Jing Yi, you’re back. How are you doing? Ah!” He turned to Qiu Ling when he remembered that the last time they had seen each other had been when Elder Gongxi from the Yang Huo Sect had antagonized Qiu Ling. After that fight, Qiu Ling hadn’t been doing too well. “And what about you, senior martial brother Qiu?” Looking him over now, he seemed better but one couldn’t know for sure. At the very least, he was calm and seemed collected even though he was hanging onto Jing Yi very closely. But maybe that was just the way things were with them. They were a couple, after all.
When Nian Hong Fang asked about that, Jing Yi also remembered when they had seen each other the last time. He looked at Qiu Ling with some distress when he thought of those hours back then. Things were different now but it really could have ended badly that day.
Qiu Ling just blinked his eyes in confusion. “I’m great. My beloved is also great. We’re great.”
Nian Hong Fang looked at him just as confused. What was the meaning of that? He turned to Jing Yi in the hope of getting an explanation.
Jing Yi laughed and patted Qiu Ling’s arm, pulling him further inside. “We just came back. Originally, we wanted to go on a mission but it seems like that isn’t advisable right now so we thought that maybe we could go and visit everybody we knew instead. How are you? It seems that senior martial brother Ma is back?” He looked over at the person that was still standing next to Nian Hong Fang. He had never seen him before but that should probably be Ma Zhi Wu, shouldn’t it?
The expressions of the two people in front of them turned awkward. Jing Yi looked from one to the other but didn’t get a response so he turned to Qiu Ling for help. He really didn’t know what to do. Had he said something wrong? Could it be that this person wasn’t senior martial brother Ma? But even then, couldn’t they just correct him? It wasn’t that awkward, was it?
Qiu Ling furrowed his brows when he saw that his beloved didn’t know how to continue. “If you aren’t, then why don’t you tell us who you are?”
The man tensed up under Qiu Ling’s glare. “I’m Shen Qiang, a disciple of —” he glanced at Nian Hong Fang next to him and shook his head. “Anyway, I’m not a disciple of the Yun Zou Sect. I just came to visit Nian Hong Fang.”
Nian Hong Fang lowered his head. Just now, he had almost blurted something out. Just why couldn’t it have worked out? Why had he stopped himself right before giving another hint? Just how far would he need to go to finally find out where his lover had gone?
He sighed and then turned to look at Jing Yi again. “Unfortunately, we still don’t know where Ma Zhi Wu is. I’ve only heard of him once a few years ago. That was all.”
Jing Yi bit his lip. Why had he just blurted that out? “I’m sorry.”
Nian Hong Fang shook his head. “You couldn’t have known. Anyway, I probably should have given up hope by now. It’s my own fault for being so stubborn. Right, didn’t you say that you wanted to go visit the people you knew? Who did you go to visit? I’m sure there’s a lot to catch up on.”
Jing Yi felt even more awkward when Nian Hong Fang showed such interest in his matters. “Actually, you’re the first one we came to visit. We were thinking of going to see Shao Hai and Xiao Dong afterward. I’m just not quite sure where they live right now.”
Once again, the situation turned tense.
Qiu Ling furrowed his brows. “So, what is going on this time? Is it really so difficult to just say a sentence when something comes up?” These people were just uselessly taking up their time! They could’ve already returned back to that realm or maybe to his beloved’s bamboo hut and snuggled up. But instead, they were wasting their time with such things. It was maddening!
Nian Hong Fang sighed in response. “You might not have heard yet but three disciples of our Yun Zou Sect are missing. One of them is Ma Zhi Wu while the other two are precisely Shao Hai and Xiao Dong. They went missing on a mission a few years ago. Just like my lover before.”