While Mei Chao Bing and Song Mu came to an agreement, Zhi Guan and the two female disciples arrived in the vicinity of the underground palace. They went into hiding first, observing their surroundings to make sure nobody was currently on patrol and could spot them.
“They patrol the inside of the palace as well so you can’t go there. About here should be as far as the paper duck can reach but I’m not entirely sure.”
Liu Bao Ru furrowed her brows. “Can we check?”
“I suppose so.” Zhi Guan narrowed his eyes while staring at the underground palace and motioned to the other side. “We’ll enter from there and then go to where the disciples of the demonic faction currently are. Let’s stop about halfway there and try out the paper duck. If it connects, we can continue. If not, we’ll have to come back out.”
Xi Ju Hai pursed her lips. “Every additional action poses a risk. Let’s all enter together. We’ve examined this place before so I roughly know a few places with several entrances and exits. I’ll choose one of those, hide there for the duration of the conversation, then leave if I notice anyone coming in my direction. After we’re done …” She hesitated and furrowed her brows. “Well, it’ll depend on Mu Qing. If he is on our side, he’ll help us. If not … we’re in trouble anyway. If I stay on the other side of the building though, I could get away in time. After all, if I hear suspicious sounds from the other side or if the connection suddenly collapses, I’ll know how he decided.”
Zhi Guan thought for a moment but finally nodded. “We’ll only need to be careful while we enter then.” Taking another moment, he pulled out a piece of fabric to cover his face and then motioned to the two women.
“I made up a story about somebody using my second junior martial brother’s invention to put disciples to sleep so everyone is on alert and keeps their faces covered to prevent becoming a victim of that kind of attack. With this, they won’t easily recognize you. If we are stopped along the way, just give a fake identity. They might not care too much.”
Anyway, the demonic disciples seemed alright with inviting his sister to try and sway Mu Qing. If he brought another woman along, would anybody really mind? He didn’t think so.
Xi Ju Hai and Liu Bao Ru nodded and also covered their faces with two veils they found in their spatial bags.
Liu Bao Ru pursed her lips when she finished though. “Right. I’m supposed to be from the Yu She Sect. You gave me a sword but what about the sect’s robe?”
Zhi Guan turned to look at her and then looked down at the robe he himself was wearing. Right, he hadn’t thought about that.
Xi Ju Hai clicked her tongue. “Just play up being a female disciple.” She looked through her spatial bag again and finally pulled out a more elaborate robe. “I’ll change into this. We’re outside our supposed sect anyway and most people don’t care if female disciples dress up apart from official occasions.”
Liu Bao Ru nodded and looked through her spatial bag as well. Unfortunately, she came up empty-handed. She looked at Xi Ju Hai embarrassedly and motioned at her bag. “Do you have another one?”
Xi Ju Hai looked through her spatial bag but had to shake her head. Thinking about it … “Mu Qing got this for me.” If it had been her, she likely wouldn’t have bought it. Her Master had always been worried about expenses so she had started to only ever get what was absolutely necessary. Beautiful clothes, even if she would have liked them, definitely hadn’t been on the list of necessities.
Xi Ju Hai looked at the robe she was wearing with a subtle expression. Mu Qing had always noticed these little things and he had done his utmost to make possible whatever she wanted or give her what she lacked. This robe had just been one of many examples.
Back then, she had been so happy. Life with Mu Qing had seemed perfect. She couldn’t have imagined a better man to spend her life with. But then, he went out on a mission and never returned.
She had been devastated and washed her face with tears for weeks. It had only been thanks to her martial brothers and sisters at the sect who supported her through that time that she had found the will to continue her cultivation and look forward to the rest of her life again. Those weeks before she managed to make her way out of her pain had been the main reason she hated Mu Qing after his Master’s betrayal just as much as she had loved him before.
Sometimes during the years since then, she had even thought it would have been better had he died. Now, looking at the robe he had given her, remembering the good times they had had, and thinking of the news that Zhi Guan had brought back today, she wasn’t sure what to think any longer.
She couldn’t just forgive and forget what had happened. Not just the betrayal of the sect but also his betrayal of her and the promise they had made and all the pain his supposed death had caused her. And yet … if she could have him back, maybe she could look past those things.
It wouldn’t be easy but as long as he told them the full truth today and also helped them prevent his Master from executing his plan, she would be willing to embark on that path with him again. Maybe the wounds from back then could be healed and they could still shape a future together. After all, they had loved each other very much. She just … wanted to believe in that.
Xi Ju Hai closed her eyes and sighed faintly. “Well, just use the one you are currently wearing. We might not run into anyone and if we do, we can make something up.”