Yang Chen’s face went bright red as he stuttered, “Erm… Well like I said… I do—don’t like it.”
“Why don’t you like it?” Cai Ning was determined to get an answer from him.
Yang Chen dodged her gaze as he nervously rubbed his hands together. After a moment of silence, he replied, “I felt uncomfortable about it.”
Cai Ning started laughing, as she to turned to a far corner to hide it but it was obvious that her shoulders were shaking from her repressed laughter.
Yang Chen was a little annoyed by her reaction as he teased, “What’s so funny? It’s not like you really wanted to go.”
“I always thought you were a man with no fear; bold and thick-faced. But turns out you actually can feel shy too.” Cai Ning continued, “You finally look like the kid in his twenties you are.”
“Kid?” Yang Chen pouted.
Cai Ning turned her head towards Yang Chen, only to be greeted by his awkward expression. She burst into laughter. “You should be around the same age as Yanyan. Doesn’t that make you younger than me? What’s wrong with calling you a kid?”
Yang Chen was slightly frustrated that he wasn’t born a few years earlier. If he was at least in his thirties, he wouldn’t be teased by this older woman.
The two of them sat silently for a long while, before Cai Ning calmly glanced at him. “Actually, I have felt uncomfortable about some things in the past.”
“What I mean is, when I realized that you always spent time with lots of different women, I would start to feel uncomfortable.” Cai Ning turned red after she made that statement.
Yang Chen cleared his throat. So what should I say, that I’m worried? Frustrated? Afraid? But no, I’m clearly pleased and excited.
Cai Ning played with the tip of her hair as she continued, “You remember that night, when we were at Zhonghai stargazing from a bridge?”
Yang Chen briefly recollected his memories before he nodded. “Yes, that night I was on my way back after having dinner with Mingyu’s family. I saw you at the bridge alone. I remembered it quite well. You were focusing on something and when I reached out to call you, you fell straight off the bridge. Fortunately you utilized lightness skill to hover yourself back up. Then we spent some time together stargazing, during which you weren’t using your cultivation to resist the cold. And I still feel curious about that till this date.”
Cai Ning shyly covered her mouth as she giggled. “Thank you for remembering it so well.”
“Oh, I finally understand now. You were so immersed in stargazing because you knew you were going to be punished when you returned to Beijing, didn’t you?” Yang Chen ultimately connected the dots. That’s why I didn’t hear from her anymore after that day. How could I have missed such obvious details?
Cai Ning shook her head. “That’s okay. Let bygones be bygones.”
“I feel like I owe you something now. But you’re right, let bygones be bygones. If anyone comes to harass you again, I wouldn’t mind making another huge fuss about it,” Yang Chen said in a serious tone.
Cai Ning murmured softly, “Actually, all this while, I would often go out alone at night to stargaze.”
Yang Chen was stunned. “I’m guessing that you did not cultivate all those times too?”
A southern winter was guaranteed to reach below freezing point, especially above the bridge. With enough moisture to further lower the temperature, Yang Chen was clueless as to what she was thinking. Is she asking to die from hypothermia?
Cai Ning held her head low as she mumbled, “I don’t even know what happened to me but since the day you rescued me from the mountains, I’ve been thinking about you all the time. Even if I’m able to stalk you anytime I want, I still can’t help but think of you…”
“I knew this wasn’t right but I just can’t stop myself from it.
“Until one day when I went for a night stroll, I looked up at the night sky and saw the constellations of stars. That was when my heart found peace from everything else in the world.
“I didn’t cultivate to resist the bitter cold, because I wished that at a place like that, I might just be able to numb my heart with the cold…”
It felt like time stood still as Yang Chen processed her words. He had no idea what to feel about this, yet his heart ached as if it was pierced by needles.
The image of the woman before him sitting alone by the bridge every night, amidst the bitter cold of winter, immersing herself in the starry sky above.
Yang Chen knew that emotions are the most unpredictable attribute of a human. They simply can’t be avoided no matter how hard one tries to repress or hide it.
You might one day be able to ignore it, but the pain will always linger around.
Yang Chen recalled the instance when he was told that Cai Ning were to be married to Yong Ye. He vividly remembered the disgust and repulsion he felt. He finally understood that this woman that was originally sent to observe his every move, had meant so much more to himself…
Cai Ning saw that Yang Chen went silent. So she felt the need to continue. As self-loathingly as she could, she chuckled, “Everytime I see you with a different woman, I kept warning myself again and again, that you’re the most despicable man I’ve ever met.”
“Particularly that one time when you actually left my sister so dejected and discouraged that she participated in the selections among Dragon Group Recruit. At that time, I hated you to my guts! I couldn’t understand why you could be so lenient to the other girls like Mo Qianni and Rose but not to Yanyan. She’s my only sister and you know that.
“Well thankfully nothing happened to her. When the two of you got together, I was genuinely happy for you both. I could see how excited she got every time your name was mentioned. But at the same time, I also felt a little out of place.”
“Actually I…” Yang Chen was about to explain the incident with Cai Yan when he got cut off.
“Wait.” Cai Yan interrupted. “Let me finish.”
Yang Chen nodded in silence.
“I know that you don’t fall for every single pretty girl you meet. All of the women by your side are the ones whom you have shared extraordinary instances with. But it still irks me to think about it nonetheless.
“Even then, I’m just an outsider. So I had always kept it in my heart and told no one.
“But this incident had both my parents worried sick. My mom even went all the way to the Li clan to plead Yong Ye to marry me.
“At that moment I thought, if she wants me to marry him then so be it. Although Yong Ye isn’t half-decent, he can’t really do anything to me. After the marriage, we can still live our own separate lives. Yeah there’s definitely a marriage certificate but that’s about it. It was a chance for me to put my longing for you in the ground where it belongs while keeping my parents from worrying too much.”
Cai Ning took a deep breath as tears began to drip from her eyes. She started to laugh a little. “But now I realised things just don’t work that way.
“Today when I saw the both of you come home together, I felt my heart rip to shreds. I genuinely felt happy for Yanyan, but I couldn’t keep my heart from hurting.
“You know, Yang Chen,” Cai Ning concentrated on Yang Chen as her pupils glimmered, “There’s only us in our family, two daughters. That led to many of my uncles to plan their paths to take my father’s position in the clan. I knew that since I was a child. My father felt immense pressure as a result, which served as a mold to what I am today. Other than my role as the elder sister, I also had to support my father.
“That’s why I tried to be the best that I could, regardless of what the activity may be. Even after I had grown up, I instantly agreed to the opportunity to train at the Tang Sect located within Shushan. I knew for a fact that I wouldn’t get to return home often, but not once had I regretted that decision.
“Because I knew that when I worked my heart out then, and only then, will my family have their place in this world. My sister would be able to pursue what she likes and live like a normal girl. To fall in love, to marry.”
Cai Ning bit on her lips as she continued, “I had always believed that it is also how my life would turn out to be.
“But right then when Yanyan mentioned, that I’ve been living my whole life for others, I asked myself why I have been doing that. Couldn’t I live for myself for once?”
Yang Chen was glued to the ground. He had never seen Cai Ning this vulnerable before.
Cai Ning dried her tears as she tried her best to smile. “That’s why I became rebellious for once. I wanted to live my life the way I wanted for once. What do you think? Is it going to end well?”
Yang Chen said nothing as he strode towards Cai Ning and embraced her between his arms.
“This would only end well. I won’t let there be a second option,” Yang Chen whispered into her ear.
Cai Ning trembled before she lowered her guard as she became accustomed to Yang Chen’s warm embrace. Feeling his breath by her ear, her tears formed pools onto Yang Chen’s shirt.
A loud clunk of pottery shattered the peace of the moment.
Yang Chen and Cai Ning instantly turned towards the noise. They were both completely engrossed in one another that they were unaware of a certain presence within the vicinity.
At that moment, the three individuals met eye to eye. Cai Yan was panicking as she was confused with what she had just walked into. It was too late for her to leave but her presence stood out like a sore thumb.
And the noise of a certain clunk was from the potted plant that she kicked by accident when she was trying to step back from the scene.
“Yanyan…” Cai Ning went pale as she immediately broke free from Yang Chen’s embrace.
Cai Yan forced a smile as she glanced at her sister, and shifted her focus back to Yang Chen. She then said, “Well, it’s fine. I knew you both have loved one another for quite a while now.”
For Yang Chen, he had only dreamt of the both of them being his lovers. How enticing it would have been. But now that it was actually close to happening, he was actually starting to feel genuine emotions for them and not just the pleasure he may get. Even though they were sisters, it was still a complicated matter for him to deal with.
“I’m sorry, I…” Yang Chen exhausted his vocabulary. Regardless of how many affairs he was involved in, everytime he was exposed, he was left with absolute embarrassment.
Cai Yan started choking up as tears gathered in her pupils. It was a mix of happiness and sadness. She held up a faint smile as she shook her head and replied, “No it’s fine, you don’t need to apologise. Because… there’s no need to apologize when it comes to love…”