Nian Hong Fang didn’t wait for Shen Qiang’s reply and just started. “I was pretty young when I was taken in by my Master. He always said it was because I have coordinated assorted spirit veins with wood, water, and earth spirit veins but, frankly, I think he pitied me a bit. So from the moment he took me in, he cared for me as if I was his family. He taught me everything he knew whether it was about cultivating herbs, refining pills or whatever he felt I needed in life.
“Unfortunately, my Master has only ever lived for pill refinement. Some parts of life weren’t important to him at all. So when I was sent to a mission in a demonic sect, I was not prepared for what was to come.”
Nian Hong Fang smiled when he thought back to those days. His Master had sat him down, showing him all those poisonous plants that he seldom let him experiment with and urged him to learn as much as possible. He had thought that it was better he learned it from him than letting somebody from the demonic side teach him and maybe make him stray. It was a bit cute. Unfortunately, that hadn’t been what made him stray at all.
He sighed and looked back at Shen Qiang while reaching over to open the basket and take out the food that he had come to deliver. “I managed to infiltrate the sect just as I was supposed to. I pretended to have been a disciple of a righteous sect but because I asked some uncomfortable questions, they deemed me unworthy of teaching me any further and threw me out, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to continue with learning how to refine pills as a wandering cultivator. I guess they found it funny that the righteous sects would throw somebody like me out who was perfectly equipped to become a pill refiner.”
He shook his head with a smile and pushed the food over to Shen Qiang. “I managed to make a bit of a name for myself as a conscientious and hard-working person. The Elder that was in charge of me was very happy with me and tried to guide me more, hoping that he could cultivate me into a valuable asset of their sect.
“I was terrified half the time, always afraid that I would slip up. It really wasn’t easy pretending to be interested in harmful potions and pills. It was something I had never even dared to think of before. The only thing keeping me going was the thought that I did not want to disappoint my Master and that maybe if I studied this, I might be able to help come up with remedies for these things.
“Slowly, but surely, I managed to fit into my role better and better. That was when we met.”
His smile grew lighter but then he sighed. “Zhi Wu was …” He shook his head. “I can’t even describe it. There was a light to him that was hard to resist. He would laugh boisterously and when there was something he liked, he would go after it.”
Shen Qiang’s expression changed. “Your lover … was a demonic practitioner?” How could Nian Hong Fang say with a straight face that he was a good person then?
Nian Hong Fang gave him an enigmatic smile. “That’s what I thought, yes. Back then, I was scared even more. Because somehow, Ma Zhi Wu had decided that of all the people there, he liked me.” He closed his eyes, once again feeling the pain that had accompanied him back then. “At first, it was easy. How could I ever fall in love with a demonic practitioner? But then, he started to follow me around. When I went to gather herbs, he would be hanging around, keeping the beasts in the vicinity away, scaring off whichever person dared to try and disturb me.
“I had no valid reason to push him away since he was doing me a favor. So with time, we grew a little closer. And the closer we got, the more I felt that my heart was not as unperturbed as I had thought.
“I liked how daring he was, challenging whoever dared to oppose him. I liked how openly he spoke about things, not too afraid to throw around words of love and hate at a heartbeat. I liked how … caring he could be if he wanted to. I also liked it when I slowly unraveled that beneath that appearance of a muscular guy that would only care about fights and power, he was actually quite smart. I also can’t deny that his handsomeness was seductive.”
Shen Qiang lightly furrowed his brows. Even he wasn’t quite sure if it was because that was something demons often used to make somebody fall for them or if it simply was because his crush was currently praising another man. He just felt unwell hearing these words.
Nian Hong Fang ignored his expression and sighed. “We both fell in love, slowly but surely. For a while, I thought I could enter this relationship and use it for my mission but then walk away. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
“The longer I stayed, the more I noticed that I already lost my heart to Zhi Wu. When I woke up, I would first check if he was still lying next to me. When I went out to the herb gardens, I would look around for him and my heart would only settle down when I saw him nearby. And in the evening, my feet would take me over to him before I had even consciously thought about it.
“His love … was too passionate to pull myself out of it and I felt like I was slowly drowning, unable to form a clear thought or concentrate on my mission. At that time, I was even wondering if … if for this man, I might leave the Yun Zou Sect behind and truly become a demonic sect member.”