In the meantime, Qiu Ling had returned to the hall and sat down next to Jing Yi. He gave Shen An De a short nod to show that he had found the missing fallen god but didn’t explain any further. Instead, he simply pretended to be in the mood for this gathering despite what had happened.
He didn’t even tell Jing Yi anything. No, he owed him to have this gathering be a pleasant memory that wasn’t destroyed by the disastrous news from home. Jing Yi would find out soon enough. After all, just as Jinde had said, with the time difference between their realms, it wouldn’t be long before they returned.
The others indeed thought that Qiu Ling had only gone to clear up the doubts regarding the fallen god and thus didn’t think there was anything else. They all focused on each other, telling stories from their sects and also the times they had met in the past.
With everyone even including Niu Hai being together now, there was a lot to bring up and time passed almost without them noticing. Soon enough, half the night had gone by. The sky outside was pitch black and the rest of the guesthouse was silent but the room was still lit up brightly.
Nian Hong Fang had started to lean closer to his lover, blinking his eyes slowly.
Ma Zhi Wu rubbed his back and couldn’t help but turn to Jing Yi. “I think Xiao Fang and I should retire for now. It’s been a long day.”
Nian Hong Fang had always adhered to a strict schedule because he believed this would allow him to not lose focus as easily which was important as an alchemist. As for him, since the injuries he received from the people of the Chun Feng Sect, he wasn’t as resilient as he had once been. By now, he was also tired.
Jing Yi was startled and looked toward the window, only now realizing how late it had really gotten. He sighed and then nodded. “Of course. Anyway, I guess it’s about time for everyone to go back.” He turned to look at Qiu Ling, silently asking whether they should stay the rest of the night or directly leave.
Usually, Qiu Ling would have said to stay until the next morning so Jing Yi could say goodbye to everyone but even though he had tried not to show it, he was incredibly worried about Jinde’s side. “Well, if you don’t mind, I guess we could leave as well then?”
Jing Yi was a bit surprised but still nodded. “Well, I guess now is as good as ever.” He took a deep breath and then slowly exhaled. Somehow, this farewell to the mortal realm made his impending … loss of soul seem even more real.
He looked at everyone and pushed back the thought of what was to happen in the dragon realm, instead just thinking of how this night had gone. “I guess I’ll just say a few more words then before it’s really time to say goodbye: Thank you for being with me today.
“It meant a lot to me that I was able to see all of you again before I have to leave the mortal realm for good. I hope that in the future, we’ll have the opportunity to see each other again whether that’ll be here or somewhere in the immortal realms, and no matter when that time may come.
“I’m glad that in my time here, I made friends like you. I didn’t do everything right and in hindsight, I would have loved to spend more time with each of you. But nonetheless, you made my time in the mortal realm into what it was. Thank you for that.”
The other disciples echoed his words with their own while Shen An De and Hong Ai simply smiled, feeling that their role in all of this was rather small. In fact, with Shen An De having made trouble for Jing Yi, it was a wonder if he’d call them a positive influence on his life.
Finally, the whole group got up and walked out of the guesthouse. Standing in front of the door, Jing Yi nodded at the others and then turned to look at Qiu Ling. His lover grabbed his hand and the two of them pushed off the ground and returned to the dragon realm while the others could only stand and watch.
Shen An De leaned closer to his wife, putting his arm around her waist. “Eh, ascending together sure has a certain look to it. Maybe in the future, we should give it a try and then go to pay a courtesy call.”
Hong Ai gave him a glance, feeling that her husband was up to no good again, but she didn’t say anything.
Nian Hong Fang glanced in their direction as well and then wrapped his arms around his lover’s waist. Ma Zhi Wu would likely never be able to ascend after the injury he had received but that was alright. Even if they remained in the mortal realm forever, he wouldn’t regret it.
On the other hand, Shao Hai turned to Xiao Dong who hadn’t left yet, and couldn’t help but finally bring up what he had been wondering about the whole time. “So … are you going to follow them?”
Xiao Dong glanced at him in surprise. “Of course, they are going to marry soon.”
“Then … will you return after that?” He clenched his hands when he asked this, his whole body tense. Even though he might not like to admit it, he did miss Xiao Dong. If he could get a yes, he’d be more than happy.
Xiao Dong looked at the others. To be honest, he wasn’t completely indifferent to everyone after living in the mortal realm for years but … his home was still the dragon realm. “I don’t think so, no. Well, maybe I’ll come by for a visit every now and then.”
Shao Hai nodded. “That wouldn’t be too bad.” Anyway, he’d take what he could get.