While the three of them went to talk to the Elders, Nian Hong Fang stared at the herb in his hands in a daze. Several years … Several years had once again gone by. A bit more and Ma Zhi Wu would’ve been gone for a whole decade.
Would he ever see him again? Even if the Grandmaster’s disciple took an interest in this now, there was no guarantee that anything would change. It could be that nothing would happen once again.
Shen Qiang looked at him, his heart hurting. He reached out, his lips parting to comfort him but in the end, his hands fell down once again and he looked at the ground with a pained expression.
He wanted to tell him. For at least the last two years, he had thought about it more and more often. He couldn’t watch him suffer like this. He wanted to make him happy. Obviously, he wasn’t able to do that by himself.
Originally, he had thought that maybe if his lover was gone long enough and if Nian Hong Fang had somebody else that showered him with affection, then his heart would be moved sooner or later. But he had been wrong. He had been completely wrong.
Nian Hong Fang was unwavering in his love for Ma Zhi Wu. Regardless of what happened, he would never give up. Not if he knew that his lover was still alive somewhere. And even though Shen Qiang was of the opinion that a demon had to be kept away from humans to make sure that they couldn’t hurt them, he didn’t think that somebody with mixed blood should just be killed.
It might be in their nature to do misdeeds but they were still living creatures. They didn’t deserve to be slaughtered just like that. If the Chun Feng Sect started to do that, then that would be the difference between them and the demons they were hunting? That was something he wouldn’t be able to condone.
Nian Hong Fang finally put down the herb and turned to Shen Qiang. “Do you really not know anything? Shen Qiang, we’ve known each other for so long now. Can’t you tell me already?”
Shen Qiang looked up, feeling torn once more. If he just told him a bit … But then again, the Sect Master had said that there were several demons in the Yun Zou Sect. If he told Nian Hong Fang, they might find out. And what then? The Chun Feng Sect might be in danger. Nian Hong Fang himself might be in danger. After all, he had spent a lot of time with him. The demons might think that he had tried to do something about them.
Shen Qiang sighed and shook his head. “Don’t ask me that, please. Even if I want to tell you, I can’t.”
Nian Hong Fang’s expression that hadn’t held much hope in the first place fell further. This kind of desperation … Shen Qiang had trouble watching it.
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
Nian Hong Fang shook his head. “You don’t want to hurt me? But I’m already hurting. I … I miss him. Shen Qiang, I miss him so much, my heart hurts every day. If you don’t do anything, nothing changes about that. Can’t you tell me anything? Just a bit so I don’t feel as horrible?” Tears gathered in his eyes, making Shen Qiang awkwardly avert his gaze.
He could not watch this. Nian Hong Fang knew that he was well aware of where his lover was or even if he didn’t know for sure, he at least had a hunch. But even so, he hadn’t said anything. All these years, he just let Nian Hong Fang suffer. And a part of this was because of his own selfish desire. He couldn’t say with a good conscience that all of it was just because he wanted to find out about the demons in the Yun Zou Sect.
He shook his head and then reached out, grabbing Nian Hong Fang by the shoulders and pulling him up against his chest. He brushed through his hair, closing his eyes. “If this was just … Just about me, then I might tell you.” He couldn’t say for sure but he believed that he would. After all, he long understood that he had no chance at ever being with him. “Unfortunately, this doesn’t just concern you and me. The consequences it might have if I told you … I don’t think that either you or I would want to bear them.”
Nian Hong Fang gave pause at these words. This was the most Shen Qiang had ever told him about the situation. If he wanted to find out, then he couldn’t give in now. He had to press on and find out as much as he could. Even if he wasn’t able to understand, maybe the others would.
He reached up, covering Shen Qiang’s hands with his. “So you say but you don’t give me the option to choose for myself. You’ve kept this from me for so long, Shen Qiang. What am I supposed to do?
“I know that you’re in the know. It hurts thinking about it. As long as that is the case, will I ever be able to treat you completely openly? Will you be able to treat me that way? I’m afraid not. So is this really worth it for us?
“And if there would be consequences for telling me, then at least tell me what these consequences would be. That way, I can decide for myself if I would be willing to bear them. Maybe I will decide that you’re right and give up. Have you never thought about that?”
Shen Qiang looked at him, the indecision in his eyes growing. “I’m just afraid that you’ll get into trouble. Also … Maybe this isn’t as simple as it seems. I’m not even sure that you would be able to decide for yourself if I told you. I still think it would be best if you just forgot about it.”
“I cannot forget about my lover. Isn’t that what you always liked about me?”
Shen Qiang closed his eyes. Naturally, Nian Hong Fang had long seen through him. He hadn’t thought that he would be able to keep it unknown for several years either. Nian Hong Fang really would’ve needed to be blind if he did not notice. Anyway, he still felt that he shouldn’t say anything.
Thus he could only shake his head. “Don’t do this to me. I would tell you. I would really tell you if things were different. But I just don’t think it’s a good idea.” He sighed, leaned forward and then kissed Nian Hong Fang’s cheek. “I’m sorry. I would like to help you but I can’t. I’m afraid that’s the way it is. I do understand if you don’t want to see me anymore. So I shouldn’t come by anymore.” He stepped back and took a last look at Nian Hong Fang before he turned around. He couldn’t find out what the Chun Feng Sect wanted and he couldn’t give Nian Hong Fang what he wanted either. In the end, it would be for the best if he just pulled back. Then he wouldn’t stand between these two sides anymore.
Nian Hong Fang shook and then rushed after him. “Shen Qiang! Don’t do this!” If Shen Qiang left now, then everything would be too late. He couldn’t lose that last opportunity to find out more about Ma Zhi Wu’s situation. What he had said before simply wasn’t enough. He needed to know. “Shen Qiang …”
Even though he heard him, Shen Qiang just gritted his teeth and continued to walk away. When he opened the door, he was greeted by the sight of the person that had left just prior to their conversation. He raised his brows and wanted to ask why he had already come back so soon when he was suddenly grabbed by the shoulder.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to come with me.”
With that, Shen Qiang was hurled off his feet and flown over to the Grandmaster’s palace. Before he understood what was going on, he found himself in a small room that was locked down with an array and the door shut behind him. He blinked his eyes and stared at the wood, still unable to comprehend his current situation.
This … It couldn’t be that he had just been imprisoned?