A billow of thin mist drifted towards the balcony of apartment 19A of New Hongsheng District. It slipped through the gaps between the balusters forming the railing and then lingered there for a moment, staying close to the floor the whole time. No light came from inside 19A; the occupants were either out or asleep.
The mist glided along the floor of the balcony, stopping only when it was inches away from the balcony. It rose from the floor and swirled, slowly losing its transparency until it formed an opaque clump.
Seconds later, the clump morphed into the delicate figure of Su Chan.
"Phew…" Su Chan said and leaned herself against the sliding door. The glass trembled under her weight. Idiot, Chan'er! She thought, wincing. Be quiet! Master is still upstairs!
Su Chan knew that Master would get here before she did. For one, Master could fly way faster than Su Chan ever could. Besides, Master had left the corn-door building before Su Chan did.
Corn-door. What a strange name to call a house by. Why would anyone name a building after some crop? Had a farmer constructed that building? Then again, she didn't understand why Mac Doo Nurls was called Mac Doo Nurls either.
Mortals and their strange nomenclature.
Anyway. Su Chan had been flying around—in her mist form—their apartment block ever since she arrived at New Hongsheng District. She hadn't seen Master leave their apartment—20A—yet, so she knew that Master was still in there, waiting for Su Chan to show up.
Speaking of which…
Su Chan had managed to hoodwink the great Ao Wushuang!
Su Chan felt like doing cartwheels and somersaults right then and there, but that was probably a bad idea. Oh, yes. It would be a terrible idea indeed, considering Master was just one floor up.
The plan was pretty straightforward.
If Master arrived at the apartment before Su Chan, she would no doubt hide inside the apartment and wait until Su Chan showed up inside the apartment. So, if Su Chan waited long enough, Master would eventually leave the apartment and look for her elsewhere. Su Chan would then sneak in once she was sure that Master had left the building.
Of course, Master would search through the whole apartment before leaving just to make sure that Su Chan wasn't hiding anywhere inside the apartment—Master had always been meticulous. But still, Master would eventually be convinced that Su Chan wasn't there, because… well, she really wasn't.
Ideally, Master would fly back to Dongwu City after she left the apartment, though Su Chan doubted Master would do that. Master was too clever for that. She would definitely linger in Tiannan City and eventually find a way to track Su Chan down. Even more so considering the huge arsenal of spells Master had at her disposal…
Nevertheless, Su Chan was confident that this little scheme of hers could buy her more time to stay at the apartment. Maybe she could even stay long enough until Yundong came home from his journey…
Su Chan slid down against the glass door until her butt touched the balcony floor. The balcony above was quiet. There were no sounds of the sliding door opening, nor did she hear any footsteps.
Master was still inside apartment 20A.
Su Chan sighed and hugged her knees to her chest. Master would be so mad at her though…
Fear coursed through Su Chan.
Would Master really toss Su Chan aside after this? Su Chan had blatantly defied Master's orders after all. Su Chan wondered what kind of punishment she would receive when she got back. Maybe Master would ground Su Chan for weeks by placing powerful talismans around the corn-door building.
Or maybe Master would unleash her culinary skills on Su Chan…
Su Chan shuddered at the thought.
After a while, Su Chan's fear turned into a niggling sensation of guilt. Master had been working so hard to save Yundong's life. All those long hours she'd spent inside the study, poring through books and scrolls, drawing talismans…
Su Chan didn't think Master slept or rested at all. Well, Master didn't really need sleep or rest, but still…
Su Chan sighed again. She should really stop causing Master so much trouble after this. It wasn't like she wanted to disobey Master. It was just that Master had forbidden any form of contact with Yundong. Not even a phone call. Or a letter…
She missed Yundong so much that her heart ached. She didn't even have a photo or picture of Yundong she could stare at whenever she missed him.
A soft thud sounded on the balcony above. Su Chan rose to her feet and hid herself behind the railing. Was Master leaving already?
Su Chan took a peek from the top of the railing. There was a bright flash, after which a green streak shot into the sky at blinding speed. Wow. Master's speed was amazing as always.
Su Chan rose to her full height and flew upwards until she reached the balcony above. Home sweet home, she thought when her feet touched the floor.
She walked away from the railing and stopped in front of the sliding door. Master had closed it before she left.
Standing in front of the glass door, Su Chan peered into the apartment through the glass. Darkness greeted her eyes.
A wave of disappointment settled at the pit of her stomach.
Yundong wasn't home yet.
Su Chan opened the sliding door and stepped into the apartment. She stopped at the center of the living room and soaked in the familiarity of her home. Everything looked the same: the couch; the TV box, the shoe rack; her fluffy cartoon slippers; the round table in front of the couch; the rectangular table where they had their meals.
Tears stung Su Chan's eyes. She thought that being here would make her feel better, but it didn't. It actually made her feel worse.
She was such an idiot.
Something wet slid down Su Chan's cheeks, but she did nothing to stop its flow.
It hurt so much. Her chest hurt so much. She missed him so much.
Su Chan's vision blurred. "Yundong…"
"Now do you understand why I keep denying your request to come here?"
Su Chan gasped and turned around. Despite the blurriness in her vision, Su Chan could still make out Master's beautiful figure.
Su Chan's legs moved on their own. Seconds later, Su Chan threw herself into the arms of the woman who had taught her the first ever spell she knew, the woman who had raised her like her own daughter.
"I'm s- sorry, Master…" Su Chan cried. "I'm so sorry!"
Su Chan felt a series of gentle pats on her back.
"Shh… It's okay, Chan'er… It's okay. Just let it out."
Su Chan kept sobbing into Master's chest, not caring at all that she was ruining the front of Master's dress.
"I- I miss him, Master…" said Su Chan after her sobs had turned into snivels.
Master sighed. "I know you do, Chan'er… I know." Master pulled back so that she could look into Su Chan's eyes. "But if you can't even handle a brief separation like this, how are ever you going to survive longer separations in the future?"
The answer was plain. She couldn't.
Su Chan sniffed and looked away.
"That's why you need to learn how to be self-sufficient," Master continued. "Yes, you love him, I get it. But right now, you're acting like a child."
Su Chan's cheeks heated in shame. "I'm sorry…" She lowered her head.
Su Chan felt a gentle pat on her head. Then, she heard Master's chuckle.
"It's okay. You're still so young." Master sighed. "I guess I should've seen this coming."
Su Chan raised her gaze. "Why did you come back here so quickly, Master? Did you leave something behind?"
"Come back?" Master laughed loudly. "I never left!"
Su Chan gaped. "B- But… I saw you fly off— Kyaa!" Su Chan rubbed her head where Master had poked her. "Oww…"
"Oh, Heavens above…" Master said. "Your lovesickness must've really messed with your head if you think you can actually fool me, Chan'er."
Su Chan pouted. "But I did fool you…" she mumbled. "I tricked you the first time back at—"
"Tsk! Such insolence!"
Su Chan made a face at Master, who merely smiled back at her.
After a while, Master's expression turned serious. "You listen to me well, Chan'er…"
Su Chan stood at attention. Master's tone wasn't reprimanding, but Su Chan knew that tone. Whatever Master's next words were, Su Chan had better give Master her full attention.
"Mmm!" Su Chan nodded.
"Do you think your beloved has what it takes to become a great Cultivator?"
"Mmm!" Su Chan bobbed her head up and down. "I have faith in him!"
Master arched a brow. "In that case, shouldn't you be working hard to grow stronger as well?"
There was a pregnant pause.
Master's brow rose even higher. "Surely you want to become a Cultivator worthy of the Heir's affections?"
Su Chan pondered Master's words quietly.
"If you truly love him, then you ought to do what's best for him."
Su Chan fiddled with the hem of her dress.
"And what do you think is the best for him now, hmm?" Master paused. "What do you think he should be focusing on right now?"
Su Chan sneaked a glance at Master.
Master was clearly waiting for an answer.
"S- Surviving his divine punishment?"
There was a snort. "Oh, so you do know what's good for him then…"
Su Chan sneaked another glance at Master. A pair of stern eyes made her look down again.
"Right now he needs to focus on strengthening his meridians and his Vital Orb." Master's sharp tone echoed in the room. "He can't afford to be distracted, do you understand?"
But wouldn't he be distracted too if he missed her? Su Chan could barely concentrate on her own training because she missed Yundong too much. Wait. What if Yundong didn't miss her at all?
"And you need to focus on your own training so you don't become a burden to him in the future," Master said sternly. There was a brief pause, like Master was thinking about something. "Has it ever occurred to you that the Heir might have powerful enemies in the future?"
Su Chan nodded meekly. He had powerful enemies even now.
"And what do you think would happen if those powerful enemies decide to use you to get to him?" Master continued.
Su Chan stared quietly at her feet. Somewhere in the living room, the clock chimed. She counted twelve times.
"If you're so weak that you can't even defend yourself," Master continued, "then you'll eventually lead the Heir to his death!"
Su Chan's head snapped up.
Master gave her a stern look. "Make no mistake, Chan'er. That man would gladly give his life to save you."
So would I, Su Chan wanted to say, but she bit her tongue.
"The best way to protect him is to not put him in a position where he has to risk his life for you at all," Master said. "And that means improving your skills so that you can hold your own against his enemies." There was a pause. "You don't have to defeat them, of course. But you need to at least be able to defend yourself when you're up against them. Otherwise, you'll just become his Achilles' heel."
The truth of Master's words echoed inside Su Chan's mind.
"Do you want that, Chan'er? Do you want to end up becoming your beloved's ultimate weakness?"
Su Chan shook her head frantically.
Master arched her brow. "Do you want to become the reason for his downfall? The source of his doom?"
Su Chan shook her head even harder. She thought her neck muscles were about to tear.
"Good." Master nodded. "It seems like we are finally on the same page."
Su Chan stared up at Master, waiting for her next words.
"Now. Are you ready to go back and resume your training?"
Ao Wushuang sent a prayer of gratitude to the Heavens the moment she saw Chan'er's nod. If that little speech wouldn't work, she didn't know what else would. Not even Ao Wushuang's threats of disownment had worked, for Heavens' sake.
"Come. Let's head back." When Ao Wushuang began to step away, she felt a tug on her sleeve.
Ao Wushuang turned around.
There it was again, Chan'er's signature I'm-the-most-pitiful-little-fox-in-the-whole-world eyes.
Heavens give me strength. Ao Wushuang sighed. "Spit it out."
"C- Can I just… um…"
"What," Ao Wushuang snapped. Her tone must have sounded too harsh because Chan'er flinched. She softened her tone. "What is it?"
"Can I check out his bedroom?!" Chan'er spoke in a hurried tone.
Ao Wushuang stared at Chan'er in disbelief.
"Just for a moment! It won't take long! I promise!" Chan'er pressed her palms together. "Please? I…" Chan'er blushed. "I miss his scent…"
Ao Wushuang stared up at the ceiling and shook her head. Heavens save her soul. Scratch that. Not even the Heavens could save her from this torture.
"Fine…" Ao Wushuang waved her hand tiredly. "Go. Do whatever you want."
For the following few seconds, the only thing Ao Wushuang heard was the pitter-patter of Chan'er's footsteps.
"Silly disciple," Ao Wushuang grumbled, then walked over to the couch and sat down.
Fifteen minutes later, Ao Wushuang stood up from the couch in a fit of impatience.
"Chan'er! What's taking you so long?!"
Ao Wushuang had kept Eryue activated, so she knew that Chan'er was still inside the apartment.
Ao Wushuang stood outside the bedroom whose door was closed and waited for Chan'er to come out.
"Chan'er!" Ao Wushuang rapped her knuckles on the door's surface. "Hurry up already, geez!"
Seconds passed in silence, which then turned into a minute.
Ao Wushuang huffed out in frustration, then twisted the door knob. She stormed in.
Ao Wushuang stopped short. Chan'er was sitting on the bed with a blank expression, hugging a… Hello Kitty piggy bank?
Ao Wushuang approached the bed quietly. "What's wrong, Chan'er?"
A grin lit up Chan'er's face, and she raised the piggy bank as if she was trying to show it off to Ao Wushuang. "Hello Keedee…" The piggy bank clinked noisily when Chan'er shook it a few times. "Hello Keedee…"
Ao Wushuang had never felt so confused in her life.
"What are you talking about?"
"My Hello Keedee…" Chan'er said, again with that silly grin on her face.
Maybe a healing spell was required because Chan'er was clearly getting a little loopy here.
"Tsk. It's just a piggy bank," Ao Wushuang said.
Chan'er shook her head. "Yundong bought Hello Keedee for me."
Ao Wushuang sighed heavily. Perhaps Ao Wushuang was the one who would be needing a healing spell after this.
That silly grin returned to Chan'er's face again. "I found it on the bed, Master! Right beside his pillow!"
You'd think Chan'er had just found out she'd become a Shenxian judging by the happy look on her face.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. So he put your piggy bank beside his pillow. How sweet of him," Ao Wushuang said impatiently. "Now are you done?"
"It means he did miss me while we were apart…"
"But he wasn't even here," Ao Wushuang mumbled to herself. The guy was thousands of kilometers away, conquering Tibetan mountains.
"He must've missed me so much that he kept the piggy bank beside his pillow…"
Ao Wushuang wondered if she would be having an aneurysm right about now if she weren't a powerful seven-tailed fox spirit. "Okay…. Fine. He misses you. Are you happy now? Let's go already. I've got a lot of work to do—"
"Master, Master! Can I leave a note?" Chan'er bounced on the bed a few times. "Please, please, please?"
Ao Wushuang stared at her through narrowed eyes.
Chan'er held three fingers beside her temple like she was swearing an oath. "Chan'er will be obedient from now on, Master!"
Ao Wushuang sighed. "Fine."
"But you're not allowed to give him clues about our location," Ao Wushuang said sternly.
Chan'er bobbed her head up and down, then spent the next few minutes running around the bedroom.
"What are you looking for?"
Chan'er closed the wardrobe with a bang. "A backpack… His backpack… The one he always brought to school…"
Chan'er began to crawl on the floor to check under the bed.
Ao Wushuang sighed. "What does it look like?"
Chan'er crawled towards the head of the bed. "It looks like a bag."
Ao Wushuang suddenly felt an urge to burn this whole building down with the Five Thunders Spell. "Of course it looks like a bag, you silly girl. You—" Ao Wushuang took a deep, calming breath. "Tell me its color."
"Black…" Chan'er's voice was muffled. Not a surprise since her head was currently buried somewhere under the bed.
"Should've said so earlier," Ao Wushuang mumbled.
A simple spell from the Water element should do the trick. Ao Wushuang closed her eyes and muttered a quick incantation. Then, she opened her eyes and held out her palm. Seconds later, the water vapor from every corner of the room gathered into a ball of mist above Ao Wushuang's palm.
Ao Wushuang mumbled another incantation.
The mist dispersed and moved out of the bedroom before spreading out to all corners of the apartment.
Ao Wushuang closed her eyes again. This simple spell was merely a variation of the Observer Cloud spell used for long-range surveillance.
Seconds later, Ao Wushuang opened her eyes. "It's on the chair beside the dining table."
Chan'er leaped up from the floor and ran out.
Moments later, Chan'er returned with a notepad and a pen.
Ao Wushuang leaned over Chan'er's shoulder to see what she was writing—just in case the girl had other forms of mischief in mind.
Chan'er wrote down a line: Beloved! I was home! I missed you so much! Do you miss me?
Suddenly, Chan'er stopped writing and stared off into space.
Before Ao Wushuang could say anything, Chan'er tore the page and crumpled the paper.
On a new page, Chan'er wrote: Congratulations, Yundong! You've passed the Zhuji phase. I miss you… I miss you so, so, so, so… so… much.
Chan'er hesitated for a moment, then tore the page again.
Ao Wushuang huffed out in frustration. "Oh, for Heavens' sake. It's just a note! How hard can it be?"
"Sorry! Master! Sorry!" Chan'er looked up at her. "I- I don't think I can write it with you looking over my shoulders, Master…"
Ao Wushuang gave her a stern look. "Remember what I said—"
"I won't reveal our location." Chan'er raised three fingers again. "I swear!"
Ao Wushuang sighed and backed away a few steps. Then, she watched from a few feet away as Chan'er wrote down a few lines and folded the paper into a neat square. After that, Chan'er brought the note to the bed and placed it under the piggy bank.
"You're not worried that he might miss the note if you put it there?"
Chan'er beamed. "He won't miss it."
Ao Wushuang raised a brow. "You're that sure?" Ao Wushuang looked around the room. "Isn't it better to leave the note at a more conspicuous place?"
Chan'er smiled. "If he truly cares about the piggy bank, then he'll find the note, Master."
Ao Wushuang snorted. "And what if he doesn't care at all? Wouldn't that just break your heart?"
Chan'er leaped off the bed and looped her arm through the crook of Ao Wushuang's elbow. "He'll find it, Master. I trust him!" Chan'er patted her own chest. "I trust him with my heart!"
Ao Wushuang chuckled and shook her head wryly.
Young love indeed.