Song Mu sighed, wondering where he should begin. “Actually, there isn’t much to the story. Do you … remember my sister?”
Mei Chao Bing looked up, his brows raising slightly. “You mean the younger one?”
“Xiao Juan, yes. She … and I were close.”
Mei Chao Bing nodded, remembering that part quite well. He actually didn’t know the rest of the Song family, just this one sister. She had been close enough to him that Song Mu had insisted on introducing the two of them to each other.
Back then, they had snuck away while out on a mission and gone to meet up with her. One look had been enough to realize that these two siblings were extremely close. Come to think of it, while he didn’t think that Song Mu was the type to be pressured by his family, Song Juan was the one person that he would do anything for. And that probably included staying away from his best friend.
Mei Chao Bing sighed when he realized that. Most likely, the Song family had pressured him with her, hadn’t they? Because if it was about his sister, he would indeed be willing to do as they said if that was the only way he would have seen out of the predicament. “Well, how is she doing?”
Song Mu turned to look at him, a hint of pain in his gaze. “Well. Quite well, I guess. She’s married by now. And … she’s recently had a child.”
Mei Chao Bing nodded but he wasn’t sure what to say. This matter, he could actually understand. But that didn’t mean that it didn’t hurt. In fact, there was just one thing that he should make sure of. “Was it worth it?”
Song Mu sighed once again. “Was it? Believe me, that’s the same question I have been asking myself for the past five years. And, to be honest, I had my doubts from the very beginning.”
Mei Chao Bing raised his brows, not having expected that. “Between me and your sister, I think that she is the one who is more important. And I’m not … Well, I can’t even be angry. You grew up with her. You feel … responsible for her. Between her and me, she’s the one you would have to take care of.
“So of course, she will come first. Because at the end of the day, you would trust that I could persevere on my own. With her, you wouldn’t.” If he remembered correctly, then the problem with Song Juan had been that she wasn’t very talented as a cultivator. In fact, he seemed to remember that Song Mu said she had been born with some kind of defect that would only allow her to make minimal progress for all her life.
Because of those slim prospects, her status in the Song family had never been high. Song Mu was the only relative she was close to. And she had relied on him a lot. It wasn’t strange for him to put her above anything else at such a time as well.
Song Mu nodded faintly, understanding Mei Chao Bing’s doubt. If it had been him, he probably wouldn’t understand either. Since he and his sister had been close, why should he doubt whether his decision had been right? At first glance, it certainly didn’t make any sense. And yet …
“You know how things were at home. Xiao Juan never had the support she needed. And I couldn’t help but think that if something were to happen to me, she would be all alone.
“Cultivation families aren’t like sects where everyone has a certain amount of talent and relationships are forged over time and through the encounters on the road. No, in those families, if you don’t have any worth, you will get abandoned. Xiao Juan was always … in danger of that. The only thing that had them keep treating her considerably well was her relationship with me.
“But if that hadn’t been, then what? I had always hoped that she would find somebody else to take care of her. That if she would fall in love with somebody — genuinely I mean — who could protect her, somebody who was strong enough to make sure that she would be taken care of no matter what happened in our family, then that would be great.”
Mei Chao Bing nodded. But then, Song Mu had talked about all of that after he had introduced her to him. In fact, he had been wondering once if Song Mu might have hoped that he could be that kind of person for her. He had been a talented cultivator after all, somebody with the prospects of becoming an Elder of the Teng Yong Sect in the future. And even back then, with Elder Feng’s backing, he had been somebody to reckon with.
He absolutely would have had the means to care for Song Juan. And, well, he wouldn’t have minded doing so. Caring for her, that was. He hadn’t been interested in her that way though. After all, he wasn’t interested in women at all. He never had been. And while he hadn’t talked about that particular thing with Song Mu, he had never openly said whether he would or wouldn’t care for her either.
That had just been something that he had pondered by himself for the worst case. As for his own conclusion, he had thought that it was the natural thing to do to take care of a late friend’s family or in this case even just this one person. Convincing his Master would have been a different matter altogether but he hadn’t thought about that too deeply back then.
Song Mu didn’t know of these considerations and just explained further. “Well, she finally found somebody that she liked. It’s just that I’m not sure if I really agree with her choice.”
Mei Chao Bing’s brows shot up at that, not having expected that turn. “He isn’t a good match?”
“No, not that. He is from a cultivation family as well, considerably talented. They also have some affiliation with the Jian Chu Sect so he has quite some backing. It’s a good thing in general.
“I just … I had hoped for somebody who would stand by her no matter what. I hadn’t considered that that kind of identity might come with some strings attached. In this case, he naturally didn’t want to be associated with a traitor.”
Mei Chao Bing looked at him with a wry smile and felt that he already understood. His younger sister had been pressured and with her being in that situation, Song Mu finally hadn’t seen another way out. “You know, you could’ve come to me and told me back then. I would’ve understood.”
Song Mu nodded at that. “I know. But I … I couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I felt …” He shook his head, not even sure how to say it.
Mei Chao Bing gave a hum, not needing to actually hear the words. “You were embarrassed. Because deep down, you thought that you should be stronger than that. That you shouldn’t give up. That you should try to find a way. But then, there was your sister on the other side and she was more important.”
Song Mu didn’t even hesitate and nodded immediately. “Yes, that’s how it was. And I … I’m not sure. I mean, even five years later, she’s with him. And they are having a good life together I guess. She’s taken care of and if this child is healthy and talented, she will be for the rest of her life.
“But that doesn’t change that I had to lose something for that. And the consequences of that are also something that I will carry with me for life. I thought that I could take that. But, you know, I miss the old times.”
Mei Chao Bing nodded slowly, but he didn’t say anything. Yes, he also missed the old times. But he wasn’t sure if they could ever get those back. Actually, he doubted it. As sad as that was.