Hua Lin Yu became Sect Master Fei’s youngest disciple without a problem and got to know his senior martial brothers and sisters while the rest of the Hua family stayed with him for a few more days. Where Xin Lan had gone? Who knew. It was as if after he had walked out of the palace, he left for another place without even looking back.
When things were slowly falling into place in the Jian Yi Sect, things were also progressing over at the Yun Zou Sect. A week had already passed by and the time that Qiu Ling had mentioned had finally arrived.
Nian Hong Fang was standing in front of the building where Shen Qiang was currently being detained, his expression one of nervousness and worry.
His Master put a hand on his shoulder to calm him down. “Don’t worry. Just try what you can. If he doesn’t answer … We will just come up with something else. There will be a way to find out what has happened with Ma Zhi Wu.”
Nian Hong Fang nodded and looked back at the door. Even though he knew that his Master was right, he couldn’t help but be anxious. Ten years. He had waited ten years to find out just where his lover had disappeared to. He longed to find out the truth. If he still couldn’t do so today, he didn’t know if he would be able to live with it.
He took a deep breath and picked up the basket that was standing next to the door, quietly making his way inside.
The Yun Zou Sect wasn’t like the demon-hunting sects and didn’t have an actual dungeon. If there was a need to detain somebody, it was usually just a disciple that had made trouble and needed to be taught a lesson. That type of person would just be put into a house that was protected by an array, making sure that they couldn’t run away and had to stay inside and reflect on themselves.
Even though the matter was different with Shen Qiang, there was nothing the Yun Zou Sect could do about it. They couldn’t build a dungeon just for him, could they? Thus, he had also been put into one of these houses.
When Nian Hong Fang closed the door behind him, he couldn’t help but stand in a daze. This place … It didn’t look much different from the houses where the other disciples lived. There were windows that let light into the room, the usual furniture that the usual single rooms had and somebody had even brought food to him before. He was nothing like a prisoner.
Was it the same for Ma Zhi Wu? Had the people who had held him captive treated him just as well? He couldn’t help but wonder.
Shen Qiang looked up when the person that had just come in stopped behind the door instead of coming in further like the others had done before. Seeing Nian Hong Fang, his expression changed somewhat. “Xiao Fang.” He got up from where he had been sitting on the ground but didn’t dare to step forward.
He still very much remembered their last conversation. He also still remembered Nian Hong Fang’s gaze at the time. Obviously, there had never been a chance for him and Nian Hong Fang was still waiting for his lover to return. He always would. Nothing could ever change that.
Since he was affiliated with the people that had kidnapped and held Ma Zhi Wu captive, he didn’t need to pretend that they could ever be anything but enemies as long as his lover was gone. It just wasn’t possible. So since they stood on opposing sides, what was there to say? Everything he could bring up would sound like ridicule in Nian Hong Fang’s ears. Wasn’t that so?
Nian Hong Fang slightly furrowed his brows and looked at the ground. He knew he should say something but he didn’t even know where to begin. With everything that had happened, things were too strange. There was hate between them because of what had happened with Ma Zhi Wu, but there was also the friendship between them that had formed over the past five years. It was a shaky one but it was there. He couldn’t deny those good feelings he had.
Nian Hong Fang glanced up, his expression torn. “You … How are you holding up?”
Shen Qiang’s gaze softened at that question. So it turned out that Nian Hong Fang didn’t hate him completely. That … was already much more than he had expected. “I’m good. Don’t mention it. What about you?”
Nian Hong Fang finally went forward and put the basket down on the table, sitting down on one side while he looked up at Shen Qiang. “How should I be doing? I am … waiting. I have done nothing but that for the past years. Will anything really change about that?”
Shen Qiang frowned and then went over to sit down at the table as well, studying Nian Hong Fang’s expression. “I’m sorry.”
“If you are sorry, then tell me the truth. Tell me where he is. That is all that I want to know. Is it really that hard? Don’t you think I should be the one making the decision?”
Shen Qiang shook his head. “I’m afraid it would hurt you even further. And then there are the other things that might happen … I can’t do that.”
“Even after you’re already in here? They won’t just let you go. They know that you have something to do with this. I’m sorry, I couldn’t keep it to myself. After all, this isn’t just about Zhi Wu. There are another two of our disciples as well. Of course, the sect wants to know what happened to them. And I … I just want to see him again. I want to know that he’s doing well. So why won’t you tell me? We can end this after that. They’ll let you go. There’s nothing the Yun Zou Sect has against you personally. And I … I won’t hold it against you either.”
Shen Qiang closed his eyes and sighed. He did want to tell him. He had wanted to tell him more than once in these five years. But what could he do? “Even if it’s you, I can’t just betray my sect. I am not that kind of person. I do believe in what they believe in. It wouldn’t be good if you knew.”
Nian Hong Fang looked at him, patiently waiting. Just now, Shen Qiang had already given him a hint. He probably hadn’t done so knowingly but he still had. A sect. So he was part of a sect. That wasn’t a lot but it was better than nothing. After all, it could have been that there was another kind of organization behind him. Going from there, they might be able to slowly figure it out.
Nian Hong Fang watched his expression and then carefully tried to pry further. “Your sect … You wouldn’t be part of a demonic sect, would you?”
Shen Qiang opened his eyes and shook his head. “Quite the contrary. Although it doesn’t really play a role. This isn’t about the conflict between the righteous or the evil side.”
“But it has to be about something. Can you at least tell me what that is?”
Shen Qiang looked at him, battling with himself. That conflict … If he told him, then Nian Hong Fang would know. But then again, there were a lot of demon hunting sects. The Yun Zou Sect probably wouldn’t suspect the Chun Feng Sect among all of them. After all, they were allies. And even then … maybe it would be good if Nian Hong Fang actually knew.
He sighed and then leaned forward, gently taking Nian Hong Fang’s hand. “I will tell you something. But you should be prepared that this isn’t something you want to hear. In fact, hearing this might make you question the time you spend with him. It might make you question everything you thought you knew about your life this far. Are you really prepared for that?”
Nian Hong Fang had no idea what he was speaking about but there was no hesitation whatsoever when he nodded. “I’m prepared for everything. I just want the truth. I want to know what happened. I want to know why the two of us were separated. That is all I want. I do not mind any sacrifice I need to make for that. So please, tell me.”