"Whoa, whoa, whoa... Slow down, princess," Li Yundong said. "What happened?" He opened the sliding door and stepped outside.
Su Chan was still crying on the phone. "Have you r-replaced me already?"
"Replace—" Li Yundong didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. "What are you even talking about, princess?"
Su Chan cried even harder. "You've abandoned me for someone else, haven't you? You were with some... some other women."
Li Yundong sighed. "Don't be silly, princess. Of course I haven't abandoned you. That's not even possible, for God's sake. In fact, I missed you like crazy!" And let's not forget broke down in tears in front of Zi Yuan because I remembered something I told you. Not that he would ever tell Su Chan that.
Su Chan's sobs turned into snivels. "B-But women flock to you, Yundong. Y-You're basically surrounded by beautiful women! What if you become attracted to one of them a-and..."
Li Yundong laughed out loud, relieved to learn the cause of Su Chan's emotional breakdown—unfounded jealousy.
"Never thought I'd see my little princess so jealous..." he said in between laughs.
Su Chan sniffed and then made some kind of whiny sound. "Meanie, meanie, meanie! Stop laughing and answer the question!"
Li Yundong smiled even though he knew Su Chan couldn't see him. "Don't be silly, princess. I told you I only have eyes for you."
"Yes, it's true that I'm surrounded by beautiful women. But..." Li Yundong paused for a few seconds. He couldn't hear Su Chan's breathing over the phone, so he knew she was probably waiting with bated breath for what he was about to say. Li Yundong smiled again. "But none of them were you."
There was a long silence.
Li Yundong frowned. "Why what?"
"Why aren't you falling for those women? They're beautiful... and nice... kind... And I..."
Li Yundong gripped the phone tighter. "You what?"
Su Chan sniffed and blew her nose. "I'm just a cheap monk."
There was a brief pause, after which Li Yundong burst into laughter.
Su Chan made that whiny noise again—something between a grumble and a sob.
Li Yundong stopped laughing. "Why do you keep comparing yourself to other women? I mean, come on. You win hands down. My princess is the best—"
"At least they're human..."
Li Yundong's heart stopped for a second.
"And I..." Su Chan sniffed. "I'm just a fox spirit..."
Li Yundong's gripped the railing with one hand. Moments later, he sighed. "I don't know how to convince you, Su Chan."
Su Chan's persistent sniffs could be heard on the other end of the line.
"You asked me why I chose you," Li Yundong said, then chuckled. "Well, the answer really isn't that complicated." Li Yundong released his grip on the railing and ran his hand through his hair. "I chose you because you chose me first." Li Yundong paused to let his words sink in. "You never abandoned me from the start, even when I was just a useless nobody. So I would never"—He injected as much vehemence as possible into his voice—"ever abandon you. You got that?"
"Mmm..." Su Chan said. "Okay..."
Li Yundong sighed in relief. "So are we good?"
"Um… Can I ask what brought this on?"
A brief silence passed before Su Chan spoke in a grumpy tone.
"I called earlier, but someone else picked up." Another pause. "A woman."
Li Yundong frowned. "What?! But..." The penny dropped. He turned away from the railing and stared into the apartment through the sliding door. Ruan Hongling was staring back at him from the dining table, but then quickly averted her gaze when she saw him watching her.
That little… Li Yundong clenched his jaw tightly.
"I went out to get some groceries earlier," he said, glaring in Ruan Hongling's direction. "And I didn't bring my phone with me."
"But some woman picked up!" Su Chan grumbled.
Li Yundong wondered if she was pouting. She definitely sounded like she was pouting.
"Uh-huh... What did she say?" Li Yundong said, still glaring at Ruan Hongling.
"She didn't say anything. Just laughed."
Anger rose inside Li Yundong. I'll deal with her later...
"You have nothing to worry about, princess. I wasn't even there when my phone rang. Someone else picked up my phone. And I think I know who it is."
"Who?" Su Chan sounded puzzled, though he could still detect a hint of wariness in her voice.
"It was probably Ruan Hongling," Li Yundong said, then chuckled. "I think you totally got pranked, princess."
"Oh." There was a long pause. "Wait! You said you went out to get groceries."
"Yep. I did." Where was she going with this?
"Then... You cooked something for Zi Yuan and Ruan Hongling, didn't you?"
Realization washed over Li Yundong, and he laughed. "Bravo! My princess is so clever! Yep! You've guessed right."
"Hmph! I... I wanna taste your cooking too! I'm soooo hungry!"
Yep. That little chipmunk was definitely pouting.
Li Yundong chuckled. "Don't worry, princess. I'll cook for you every day once all this is over, okay?"
"Really, really, really? Promise?"
Li Yundong smiled. "Yep! I promise."
Li Yundong laughed out loud. "What?"
"Pinky, pinky!!!" Su Chan whined. "Hold out your pinky! Let's make a pinky promise."
Li Yundong gripped the railing with one hand and laughed even harder.
"Grr!!! Meanie! Stop laughing and hold out your pinky!"
Li Yundong grinned and held out his pinky in front of him.
God, this was stupid. And yet it felt so right.
Ao Wushuang leaned her back against the wall beside Chan'er's door. Seconds later, Chan'er's giggles sounded through the closed door. Ao Wushuang shook her head wryly. She'd had her suspicions for days. Today, she decided to confirm her suspicions by sneaking in without Chan'er knowing it.
"Fineee... I trust you, Yundong..." Chan'er whined. "Oooh, by the way, you should learn all you can from Zi Yuan... Mmhmm! Mmhmm! Master has a lot of good things to say about her... Yep! Yep! Well, she comes from a prominent Cultivation school, so she can teach you better than I ever could..."
Chan'er giggled again. "Hehehe... But I feel like all I did was cause you more trouble..."
"Well... You got that right," Ao Wushuang muttered under her breath.
"Yundong... I miss you..."
Alright. Enough of that. Ao Wushuang rolled her eyes and pushed herself away the wall. Then, she begun to make a bunch random noises around the hotel suite.
Chan'er's squeak sounded from inside the room.
"Uh-oh! Master's back! Master's back! I have to go, Yundong."
Ao Wushuang rolled her eyes and rapped the door's surface with her knuckles.
"Chan'er?! I'm coming in!"
Ao Wushuang pushed the door open and entered the room.
Chan'er was sitting on the bed, staring back at her with round, innocent eyes. Amusement crept into Ao Wushuang. How stupid does this girl think I am?
Ao Wushuang headed straight towards the bed, then stopped in front of Chan'er.
Chan'er beamed at Ao Wushuang as though she was happy to see her. "Yay!!! Master!!! You're back!" She even threw her hands in the air.
Ao Wushuang smirked and ignored Chan'er's feigned excitement. Instead, she held out her hand with her palm facing upwards.
Chan'er stared up at her quizzically. "Master?"
Uh-huh… Keep pretending, Chan'er…
"Mm-hmm..." Ao Wushuang jerked her palm.
Chan'er tilted her head sideways, then blinked her eyes innocently. "What?"
"Hand it over..." Ao Wushuang jerked her palm again.
Chan'er flinched. "H-Hand what over…?"
"Stop playing dumb, Chan'er," Ao Wushuang said harshly. "The phone! Now!"
A huge pout formed on Chan'er's lips as she crawled from the edge of the bed towards a pillow. Then, from under the pillow, Chan'er removed a sleek, black phone. Where did she even get that thing? Must have gotten it from Li Yundong.
Ao Wushuang snatched the phone from Chan'er's hand. "Not bad," she grumbled. "A few months in the mortal world, and you can even use a cell phone now."
Chan'er lowered her gaze guiltily and began toying with an invisible lint on her sleeve.
Ao Wushuang sighed. "Sometime I wonder if you love him at all, Chan'er..."
Chan'er's head shot up. "What! How could you say that, Master? Of course I love him!"
"Then why do you keep doing things to sabotage his training?" Ao Wushuang snapped. "Do you know what you're doing right now, Chan'er? You're putting his life at risk! No more contact with him. I mean it!"
Chan'er lowered her head again.
"T- Then... When am I allowed to contact him again, Master?"
Ao Wushuang sighed. "At least wait until he survived the divine punishment, okay? If he's as good as you claimed, then it shouldn’t take long."
"Oh." Chan'er lowered her head again. After a while, Ao Wushuang felt a tug on her hand. She glanced down and met Chan'er's piteous eyes.
"But... Master... How am I gonna know that he's survived the punishment if I don't contact him?"
Ao Wushuang felt an urge to pull her own hair. "Oh, for God's sake, Chan'er! You're a three-tailed fox spirit! Why are you acting like some..." Ao Wushuang's face twisted in distaste. "…some clueless newbie Cultivator who asks a bunch of silly questions? Don't you think that everyone in the Cultivation world will know when the divine punishment comes? Honestly, Chan'er. Have you forgotten everything I taught you?"
Chan'er opened her mouth, but Ao Wushuang immediately silenced her with a glare.
For minutes, Ao Wushuang stared at Chan'er and studied her behavior. One thing did strike Ao Wushuang as odd: the way Chan'er's eyes moved about in her sockets like she was thinking hard about something.
Ao Wushuang narrowed her eyes. What are you up to, Chan'er...
After a while, Chan'er seemed to have noticed Ao Wushuang's gaze on her. She looked up and smiled at Ao Wushuang innocently. "What is it, Master?"
Ao Wushuang shook her head. I'll have to keep a closer eye on her to make sure she doesn't do anything silly.
Ao Wushuang produced the train ticket she'd purchased at the station earlier. "Come on, let's go."
Chan'er took the ticket obediently, then glanced at it.
"Hmm?" Chan'er looked up from the ticket and stared quizzically at Ao Wushuang. "Why are we going to Dongwu City, Master?"
Ao Wushuang resisted the urge to smack Chan'er upside her head. "Don't you have any desire for self-improvement at all?" Ao Wushuang released a sigh of frustration. Oh, Heavens help me with this child…
Chan'er had the decency to look sheepish. "Hehehe…"
Ao Wushuang rolled her eyes. "How on earth did the Fox Zen School produce a disciple like you?" Ao Wushuang glared at her disciple. "Gosh. You're like the black sheep of our school!"
Chan'er blushed adorably. "S-Sorry, Master..."
Ao Wushuang arched her brows. "Are you going to sit back and watch your lover grow as a Cultivator and abandon your own training? Is that it?" Ao Wushuang shook a finger in front of Chan'er's face. "You mark my words, Chan'er. With your current abilities?" Ao Wushuang snorted. "You're just going to end up as a burden to your lover in the future."
Apparently, that did the trick as Chan'er's head suddenly shot up.
"When do we leave! When do we leave!"
"Tsk! Just check the ticket, dummy!"
"Oh." Chan'er blushed and glanced down at the ticket.
Ao Wushuang chuckled wryly. Love really does make you stupid...
"But why Dongwu City, Master?"
Ao Wushuang sighed. "Well, it's an ancient city with thousands of years of history. And it's got a beautiful view with clear waters and impressive mountain ranges... It's a peaceful place. All in all a good place to Cultivate."
"But why not go back to the mountains..."
Ao Wushuang snorted, then gave Chan'er a dry look. "Yeah. Like that's going to benefit your training."
Chan'er seemed puzzled. "But why not? I've been training inside the mountains since I was young!"
"Uh-huh… But you didn't have a lover back then, did you? If I take you back to the mountains now, you'll just end up moping around and crying like a baby because you miss your beloved too much."
"Might as well take you to Dongwu City, where it's peaceful and quiet. You can rest easy knowing that your beloved isn't too far from you. That way you can focus on your training."
"Mmm! You're so wise, Master!" Chan'er paused. "But... Can I… umm…"
Ao Wushuang rolled her eyes. "Out with it! Geez."
"Can I… tell Yundong where we're going?"
This insolent little... Ao Wushuang glared at Chan'er. However, her anger dissipated instantly when she saw the hopeful look in Chan'er's teary eyes.
Ao Wushuang sighed and rubbed her temples. "Don't worry about that, okay? He'll know where we are once he survived the Heavenly Thunder. I promise."
Ao Wushuang suppressed a groan. She stopped rubbing her temples and stared into Chan'er's puzzled eyes. "What is it this time?"
"W-Why are we using a train... C- Can't we just fly?"
Ao Wushuang pointed out the window towards the sky, where heavy storm clouds swirled. "Are you an idiot? You want to fly in this kind of weather? Do you want to be struck by lightning?"
Chan'er smiled sheepishly, then mumbled, "Hehehe… Right… I forgot..."
Ao Wushuang glared at her for a moment.
"You know what? I'm starting to think that you're trying to piss me off on purpose and then run off to your beloved when I kick you out."
A solid weight rammed into Ao Wushuang's chest as Chan'er threw her arms around her. "Mmmm... Master... Chan'er wouldn't dare..." Chan'er rubbed her face against Ao Wushuang's chest. "Master is the nicest! I'm staying with you!"
Ao Wushuang's heart melted right then and there. She patted Chan'er's head affectionately and felt every ounce of her annoyance melt away. After a while, she sighed and smacked Chan'er's shoulder. "Start packing or we're going to miss the train."
"Yes, Master!" Chan'er leaped off the bed and began scrambling around the room for her things. Suddenly, Chan'er stopped and turned around to face her. "Master... I'm hungry."
Ao Wushuang burst into laughter and walked out of the room. Moments later, Ao Wushuang tossed a plastic bag at Chan'er. "Here. Have some of this."
Chan'er opened the bag and peered inside. Seconds later, Chan'er looked up from the bag. "Shaobing?" Chan'er looked utterly crestfallen. "But they're cold..."
That insolent and ungrateful little…
"Hey! I made that for you!" Ao Wushuang snapped.
The crestfallen look never left Chan'er's face as she kept peering into the bag. She looked like someone who'd been expecting to see diamond but got a bunch of dull pebbles instead.
"Fine!" Ao Wushuang growled. "Give it back then..."
Ao Wushuang reached for the bag, but Chan'er hugged the bag to her chest like it was some kind of prized possession.
Ao Wushuang snorted and lowered her hand. "Now you want it," she muttered.
Chan'er reached into the bag and took out a piece of Shaobing. Then, she took a huge bite.
Ao Wushuang winced when she caught Chan'er rubbing her cheeks as though she had a toothache. In hindsight, she should've warmed up the damn thing. At least that would soften if up a little—
"Yundong's cooking still tastes better..." Chan'er said around a mouthful of Shaobing.
Argh! That does it!
Ao Wushuang growled and reached for the bag. "Stupid, ungrateful disciple!"