"Yundong... Why does this street seem so familiar...?"
Su Chan came to a halt and started looking from left to right. They were now standing in front of a long avenue lined with dozens of digital advertisement boards on both sides. Soft music drifted in from afar, followed by a woman's voice expounding GUCCI's awesomeness.
Su Chan pressed a finger against her chin and tilted her head slightly. "Hmm… I feel like I've been here before..."
Li Yundong laughed and flicked her forehead. "This is where we bought all your fancy clothes the other day, silly." And also where we went broke...
"Oh!" Su Chan's eyes lit up. Then, she stared longingly down the avenue, where rows of high-end stores stood with their flashy storefronts. Around them, shoppers bustled about, most of them carrying shopping bags filled with luxury items. One of those bags could probably feed thousands.
Su Chan suddenly grabbed Li Yundong's hand and pulled him down the avenue.
"Wow..." Su Chan said when they stopped in front of a clothing store. Su Chan pressed her face against the glass of the display window, her eyes gleaming with delight.
"Hey, Su Chan..." Li Yundong cast a wary glance over his shoulder. "Are you sure Lin Youfa's no longer following us?"
Su Chan turned away from the display window. "Nah. He stopped following us ten minutes ago."
Li Yundong sighed in relief. "Okay..."
Su Chan pressed her face against the display window again.
"What now?" Li Yundong asked.
"Let's hide out here for a while..." Su Chan said without looking away from the window. "It's crowded here. So it's pretty safe..."
Before Li Yundong could open his mouth to remind Su Chan that they couldn't do anything more than window shopping, Su Chan was already pulling him towards another store.
"Look! Look!" Su Chan pointed at a cocktail dress on display. "So pretty..."
A moment later, Su Chan's shoulders sagged. When she turned around, the sparkle in her eyes was gone. Something tugged inside Li Yundong's chest.
"What's the matter?" Li Yundong asked, even though he already had a good guess as to what was bothering her.
"I- I miss buying clothes with you..." Su Chan stared up at Li Yundong, her lips puckering and sticking out into a huge pout. "I had so much fun that day."
Li Yundong pulled Su Chan into a tight hug. "You know I would buy the entire street for you if I could... But…" Li Yundong sighed gently. "I just don't have the money right now. I'm sorry, Su Chan."
"Yundong..." Su Chan mumbled into his chest.
"Am I a horrible person?"
Li Yundong pulled back to look at his beloved princess. "No. I don't think you are. What made you think that?"
Su Chan started rubbing a spot on his shirt. "You went broke because of me..."
A twinge of guilt stabbed through Li Yundong's chest. "Don't say that." He hugged Su Chan again. "If anything, I'm the one at fault for not working hard enough to support us." Li Yundong sighed. "Actually, President Cao gave me an important assignment today." Li Yundong pulled back and stared into Su Chan's eyes. Those eyes had a calming effect. They anchored him somehow. "I'm supposed to guard two high-profile celebrities. But then Lin Youfa showed up and..." Li Yundong waved his hand weakly, then let his hand drop. "Well, you know the rest..." He shook his head. "Damn it."
They stood in the middle of the avenue for a while, ignoring the curious glances from the other shoppers. Li Yundong stared at his feet, willing the heaviness in his heart to go away. They were now in a deep crisis, so he had to pull himself together and start making things happen.
The gentle strokes of Su Chan's fingers on his head pulled him from his thoughts. "It's okay, beloved. We'll get through this." Su Chan's fingers ran past his temple, drawing a sigh from his lips. "You're destined for greatness, Yundong. You'll see."
Li Yundong sniffed, then cleared his throat. "Y- You really have a lot of faith in me, huh?"
Su Chan grinned. "Hehehe!" All of a sudden, Su Chan leaped onto Li Yundong's back and swung her fists in the air. "Yes! I have faith in you! My beloved is the greatest!"
Li Yundong took a ragged breath and willed his tears not to fall. "C- Come on..." His voice came out a little hoarse, so he cleared his throat harshly. "I might not have enough money to buy clothes for you today, but I can still buy you some snacks. I hope you're hungry!"
"Wee!!!" Su Chan cheered. "I'm starving." Then, Su Chan kicked Li Yundong's butt with her feet. "Move! Piggy, piggy!"
Li Yundong chuckled and walked away from the avenue. As he walked, he made no attempts to wipe away the wetness on his cheeks.
"Are they good?" Li Yundong asked, glancing sideways at Su Chan. They were now on the way back towards New Hongsheng District.
"Mmmph! Mmmph! Mmmph!"
Su Chan's cheeks looked puffy. A segment of grilled squid poked out from her pouted lips—he'd bought the squids from a roadside stall earlier.
Li Yundong smiled. Well. Guess that answers the question.
Li Yundong bit off the final piece of grilled squid from the wooden skewer, then placed a hand on her forearm to stop her.
"Mmph? Mmph? Mmph? Wua iff fit?" Su Chan said in between chews.
Li Yundong laughed. "Don't talk with your mouth full. And give me those." Li Yundong took the empty skewers—there were ten of them—from Su Chan's hand and tossed them into a trash can.
"Fanks!" Su Chan grinned.
Li Yundong chuckled and patted her head. "You're welcome. Now let's get going."
They walked along the street in silence until Su Chan finished chewing and swallowed all the grilled squid she'd stuffed into her mouth.
"Yes?" Li Yundong reached over and wiped away a bit of sauce from the corner of Su Chan's lips.
"Why is this cat called a piggy bank?"
The Hello Kitty piggy bank clinked loudly when Su Chan shook it. Su Chan lifted the piggy bank, then peered into the coin slot. "Heeellooo Keedee!"
Li Yundong burst into laughter.
"What?" Su Chan stopped walking and stared at him quizzically.
Li Yundong held his stomach and kept laughing.
Su Chan pouted. "So is this a cat or a pig?" Su Chan held Hello Kitty out in front of her. "It looks more like a cat though..."
Li Yundong regained his composure after a while. "You can call it a money box too," he said. "It's called a piggy bank because it's usually shaped like a pig. This one is just designed to look like Hello Kitty."
"Oh..." Su Chan studied the piggy bank curiously. Suddenly, she tilted it upside down, and shook it again.
"What are you doing?" Li Yundong asked in a tone of amusement.
More clinks sounded. Su Chan stared at the piggy bank with a frown.
"Just wondering if the coins would fall out…"
Li Yundong smiled. "Don't be silly. Just unlock the thing with its key if you wanna take the money out."
"Oh." Su Chan righted the piggy bank. Suddenly, she stopped in her tracks. "Yundong, Yundong!" She jumped a few times. "Look! Look! Mac Doo Nurls!!"
Li Yundong chuckled and pinched her cheek. "What say we get some ice cream, hmm?"
"Yayy!" Su Chan yelled, then started running towards McDonalds.
"Two sundaes, please," Li Yundong told the man behind the counter.
Li Yundong turned around to look at Su Chan, whose head was tilted slightly as she studied the huge McDonald's logo in front of the counter. Li Yundong nudged her.
"What kind of flavor do you want for your ice cream?"
Su Chan tore her gaze away from the logo. "What flavor do they have?"
Li Yundong turned towards the man behind the counter and repeated Su Chan's question.
"We have chocolate, vanilla, and yam."
"So?" Li Yundong smiled at Su Chan. "Which one?"
"Su Chan placed a finger on her chin. "Hmm..." Suddenly, Su Chan's eyes twinkled. "Chili!"
"Err..." The man shot Li Yundong a helpless look.
Li Yundong laughed. "She's just messing with you, just ignore her."
The man forced out a few laughs. "T- Then which flavor would you like, sir?"
"Give us... Give us a chocolate sundae and a vanilla sundae please."
"Right away, sir."
They left McDonald's after Li Yundong paid for their sundaes. "Here," Li Yundong said, handing the loose change to Su Chan.
Su Chan took the coins, then slotted them into her piggy bank.
"Hmm?" Su Chan scooped a huge spoonful of ice cream.
"I wanna try to pass the Zhuji phase when we get back," Li Yundong said.
Su Chan stopped walking, causing Li Yundong to stop too.
"Okay..." Su Chan said after a moment.
"There's been so many distractions lately, you know?" Li Yundong sighed. "Right now, I can't even beat Lin Youfa. And we also have the Zhengyi School to worry about."
Su Chan dug her spoon into her sundae cup. "We need to be careful," she said. "You can't be interrupted or attacked when you're trying to pass the Zhuji phase. It's dangerous."
Li Yundong nodded. "It's a risk. But I don't think we have much time left. The Zhengyi people are coming." He shook his head. "God knows who they're going to send next."
Su Chan stood there quietly with a sad look on her face.
"I'll be fine." Li Yundong reached out and ruffled her hair. "Come on. Finish your ice-cream. And then we'll head back."
"Mmm!" Su Chan took her spoon again.
They sneaked past New Hongsheng District's gates once they were sure that nobody was following them—they had to walk around in circles for that. On the way to their apartment block, Li Yundong stopped by the security booth and asked the security guard on duty whether anyone had spotted someone who matched Lin Youfa's physical description. When the security guard shook his head, Li Yundong thanked the man and left the security booth.
Li Yundong stopped Su Chan below their block. "Hey. I still think it's safer for us to stay at the hotel tonight."
Su Chan looked up their apartment block with longing eyes. She hugged the piggy bank tighter. ”Y- You think so?"
Li Yundong followed Su Chan's gaze, then sighed. "I don't really know to be honest..." Li Yundong shook his head. "As much as I hate to say this, I think we should start moving some of our stuff out of the apartment."
Li Yundong studied Su Chan's expression carefully. A moment later, Su Chan took a breath and nodded. "You're right."
Li Yundong sighed. "We don't have to give up the lease just yet." He wrapped his arm around Su Chan's shoulders. "I'm just saying maybe we should stay away until I'm ready to face them."
Su Chan smiled. "I understand, Yundong."
They rode the elevator to the 20th floor. When Li Yundong opened the door and walked in, nothing in the apartment seemed out of place, except for one thing.
"Hey... Su Chan..." Li Yundong frowned. "I thought we closed the sliding door this morn..." He turned around just in time to see Su Chan pouncing on him.
"Yundong! Look out!"
"Die! Demon witch!"
The living room exploded in a flash of green light.