Mu Qing was indeed still in the room. In fact, he hadn’t left since he sent Zhi Guan off, quietly sitting there and pondering what he had said. It wasn’t like he didn’t know those things but he was too deep in to still change anything. And if he opposed his Master, it still wouldn’t change anything. He didn’t have the strength to make a difference, not in front of his Master.
When there was a knock on the door, Mu Qing sighed. “Yes, come in.” No matter what, the disciples of this side were also innocent. They were simply looking for a better life. He couldn’t fault them for that and he wouldn’t treat them badly just because he didn’t agree with what their Elders were doing.
Zhi Guan pushed in the door and then let Liu Bao Ru step in first before pulling the door shut behind them.
Mu Qing’s brows shot up. He opened his mouth to ask what they were doing here but, in the end, he couldn’t even get the question out. Zhi Guan was such an idiot! He had helped him leave under a pretext, even allowing him to take that Yang Wu Huang away but what did he do? He came back! And he even took another disciple along, putting them in danger as well.
Mu Qing turned to her, immediately recognizing her. It might have been years since he left the Teng Yong Sect behind but Liu Bao Ru had been good friends with Xi Ju Hai. Naturally, he could recognize her.
He gulped, his heart suddenly racing. “Why did you come here? Don’t you realize how dangerous this is?”
Zhi Guan didn’t say a word. He simply took out the paper duck, plopped it on the table in front of Mu Qing, and then turned to lean against the wall. He had imbued enough spiritual energy that this should work on its own for a while and if not, Mu Qing could still imbue some himself.
Mu Qing looked at the thing in front of him with an odd expression. He had no idea what this was supposed to be or what it should tell him. He picked it up with a strange feeling, trying to take a closer look. Upon touching it, he realized that there was spiritual energy contained inside. It wasn’t that much but it seemed to continuously be sipped away as if the odd paper construct was using it up.
Mu Qing’s brows furrowed. “This is …?”
On the other side, Xi Ju Hai gulped. She had felt strange the moment she heard Mu Qing’s vague response from what had likely been the other side of a door. When he asked why Zhi Guan and Liu Bao Ru had come back and then even told them how dangerous it was, she even teared up.
She had loved Mu Qing so much. Whether it was before or after him, she had never managed to fall in love again. She wasn’t sure if she could either. She had been deeply disappointed in him though and felt betrayed when she realized what was going on. Now, hearing him show concern for the people of their sect, she felt reminded of the man she had once known. Yes, no matter what had happened, he was still the same Mu Qing.
She took a shaky breath and finally raised the paper duck. “Ah Qing?”
Back in the room with Zhi Guan and Liu Bao Ru, Mu Qing blanked. That voice … he would have recognized it everywhere. His eyes teared up and he had to close them for a moment while taking a deep breath before he trusted his voice enough to respond. “Ah Hai?”
“Mn, it’s me.”
Mu Qing opened his eyes again and stared at the paper duck, his mind drifting. It had been so long. He had wanted to go and see her at least once but his Master had known and had made sure that there was always somebody staring at him. It was only now that the plan had almost come to fruition that he wasn’t paying as much attention to him, probably being busy with his own preparations.
Not hearing a response from Mu Qing, Xi Ju Hai figured she should take the lead. “Ah Qing, you listen to me. You need to help us.” She would have loved to have a private chat with him but there were two additional people over there and there wasn’t time either. Thus, she could only cut right to the chase.
Mu Qing pressed his lips together. He knew what she wanted. He also knew he should do it. Since Zhi Guan left, he hadn’t been thinking about anything else. It was just … “No matter how I help, you won’t be able to stop him.”
On the other end of the palace, Xi Ju Hai’s expression softened unwittingly. What Mu Qing said meant that he was willing to help but simply didn’t think it could work. This was already what she had hoped for. As long as he said what they needed to hear, it would be alright.
She sighed and then continued with a smile. “It doesn’t matter. I just … want you to tell us everything you know. I believe we can figure out a plan based on that. Will you do that for me?”
Mu Qing stared at the paper duck and nodded. He knew she couldn’t see him but he couldn’t get a word out right now. Being able to hear her voice again … actually hearing her say such words to him, meaning that she might not hate him forever … what else could he ask for?
In any case, he had known that he was wrong for a long time. As long as she was the one asking, he could put the last bit of resistance down and tell her. After all, he owed her about as much as he owed his Master. And between them, one had greatly disappointed him and the other was the love of his life. He didn’t have any doubts about which one was the right choice when both of them held expectations of him that conflicted.