Their embrace came to an end when Su Chan's stomach let out a long growl of protest. And Su Chan would have a few choice words for that accursed organ of hers if it hadn't just caused Yundong to laugh.
God. She missed Yundong's laugh.
She missed Yundong. Period.
Yundong pressed their foreheads together. "Looks like my princess cheap monk is hungry."
Su Chan blushed. "A- A little?" Lies. She was famished.
Yundong smirked. "I bet your stomach disagrees."
Out of fear that her cheeks would suddenly burst into flames, Su Chan buried her face into the warmth of Yundong's chest. "I… I ran out of money."
Yundong kept stroking her hair without saying anything.
Su Chan suddenly pulled away and raised three fingers. "But I was thrifty!"
Yundong just looked back at her with amusement. And the words just kept pouring out of Su Chan's lips. "I knew I didn't have Hello Keedee with me, so I spent my pocket money carefully. I- I- I even…" Su Chan lowered her hand and let her voice dropped into a mumble. "I even divvied up the coins…"
She did more than that though. Drinking water to stave off her hunger. Making sure that she wouldn't pass by any Mac Doo Nurls shops in all her routes. She even considered catching fish in the river, for Heavens' sake. She wondered how long it would take before she finally gave in and let that annoying stalker buy her a meal.
Yundong cupped her cheeks with both hands. "Don't worry, okay? I'm here now." Yundong smiled. "I'll make sure you never starve again."
Su Chan gripped the hands on her cheeks and held on tight. He was here. Yundong was here. She couldn't believe that he was really here.
"Have you… um…?" Su Chan pointed at the sky.
Yundong smiled. "Yes."
Relief coursed through Su Chan, and she threw her arms around his neck. "You did it, Yundong… You really did it." She hugged him tighter and felt the firm pressure of Yundong's hands on her waist. "I'm so glad…"
"I had help."
The word "help" set off a dozen of alarm bells in Su Chan. She ended their embrace and met Yundong's confused eyes. She had to tell him about Master.
"Yundong… I… Master… She—"
Yundong suddenly pressed a finger to her lips. His eyes looked dead serious.
"Not here," he said in a low voice.
Yundong removed his finger after Su Chan nodded.
"Where have you been staying?" he asked.
"Master has a corn-door house in this area," Su Chan answered, trying everything to tamp down her anxiety.
Yundong's eyes just now. It was like he knew something. Had he heard about what happened to Master already?
Yundong glanced around a few times.
Yundong flashed her a smile. "Let's go," he said, moving forward to take her hand.
"Oh." Su Chan blinked a few times. "Where to?"
Yundong looked at her strangely. "To your Master's place." He smiled again. "So that I can feed that noisy stomach of yours."
Su Chan blushed. She thought he was taking them back to Tiannan City. They could fly back pretty quickly if they wanted to.
Su Chan squeaked when her feet suddenly left the ground. They were levitating. Her gaze snapped towards Yundong, who was grinning back at her. She shouldn't even be surprised, really. If he managed to survive the Heavenly Thunder, then he would've reached, at the very least, the advance stages of the Shentong phase by now.
Yundong flew them upwards until they both landed on the granite bridge.
Su Chan stole a glance at Yundong. He was still glancing around as though he was looking for something in their surroundings.
Something about him felt different.
Appearance-wise he was still the same, of course: handsome; fit; a bright and sunny expression.
It was the way he carried himself that felt different. He seemed much calmer and less volatile than she remembered. He also seemed more serious and less playful. Before Master separated them temporarily, Yundong was the very definition of a chaotic power source, like a tempest, or a typhoon. But now, he was like the ocean—calm, yet still possessing the same capacity for power.
Was this the result of his survival of the Heavenly Thunder?
Yundong suddenly closed his eyes. There was a focused look on his face, like he was listening hard for something.
Su Chan waited for him to open his eyes before she did something she hadn't done for a long, long time: tug his sleeve.
Yundong's smiling eyes slid to her face, and for a moment, Su Chan actually forgot what she wanted to say.
"U- Um… Eryue?"
Yundong sighed, then nodded. "Just wanted to make sure that we aren't being followed."
Calm. Careful. Controlled.
This was the new Yundong.
To be honest, she kind of liked this version of him. Though she kind of missed his playful side too.
"Shall we go?" Yundong asked.
Su Chan beamed. "Mm!"
They stared at each other for a moment. Yundong didn't move, and neither did she.
Of course, her traitorous stomach had to interrupt their little moment by growling so loudly that she was pretty sure the whole Dongwu City could hear it.
Yundong burst into laughter. And Su Chan found herself openly staring at him, captivated by the fact that he was here, alive and well.
Yundong stopped laughing and cleared his throat. "You're gonna have to lead the way, you know?"
Su Chan blinked away the remnants of her daze. "Hmm?"
Yundong caressed the side of her cheek. "I don't know the way to your master's place."
"Alright." Yundong's smile broadened. "Let's go."
"P- Piggy, piggy," Su Chan blurted out.
Yundong stopped mid-stride and turned his head around to look at her. He looked far too amused for Su Chan's ability to suppress her blush.
"You want me to give you a piggyback ride?"
Su Chan peeked up at him from under her lashes. Was that okay? Was that too presumptuous?
She nodded meekly, then turned away to hide her blush.
There was shuffling of feet.
"Hop on, milady."
Su Chan glanced down and saw Yundong kneeling in front of her with his back facing her.
When Su Chan didn't move right away, Yundong looked over his shoulder and grinned. "Well? What are you waiting for?" He nudged her calf with his hand. "Hop on."
She did, by throwing her entire weight onto his back.
Yundong yelped. "Hey, hey, hey… Easy, princess. Easy…"
Su Chan giggled. She knew he was just joking; there was no way her measly weight could hurt his Jindan-enhanced body. Plus, she had probably lost a decent amount of weight due to the frugal lifestyle that she had recently adopted.
"Ready to go?" Yundong asked.
Instead of answering, Su Chan kicked her foot on Yundong's butt the same way she would when riding a horse.
Yundong chuckled and started walking.
Su Chan pointed with her finger to indicate the right direction to Master's corn-door, then lay her cheek against Yundong's shoulders. She was so tired, and Yundong's body felt so warm.
"Let's not part with each other again, okay?"
A tear slid down Su Chan's cheek. She bit her lip to stifle a sob, then quickly turned away to prevent her tear from wetting Yundong's neck.
"Mm." Su Chan nodded even though she knew that Yundong couldn't see her. "I won't let you go. I won't."