Li Yundong and Su Chan left the apartment building, dragging a suitcase each. When they stood at the roadside with bags and suitcases around them, they seemed kind of lonely and adrift, like a pair of nomads who had just arrived at a new town with nobody to lean on. Su Chan glanced up at Li Yundong, her eyes unravelling his heartstrings in a thousand ways.

"Where are we going to sleep tonight?" she asked.

His heartstring snapped.

Li Yundong sighed, then went over their options.

"We'll crash at an inn near the campus," he said after a moment. "We'll start looking for a new place tomorrow."

"Oh," Su Chan said, lowering her gaze. Li Yundong had already walked a few steps ahead, so she quickly grabbed the handle of a suitcase and dragged it along the asphalt. She caught up to him in a few steps, then raised her head. "But don't you have classes tomorrow?"

Li Yundong sighed and kept walking. "Screw classes," he said. "I don't have any lectures tomorrow anyway. Just tutorials and stuff. I'll just skip them. Gotta deal with our accommodations first."

"Oh," Su Chan said, then fell silent.

 

***

 

Li Yundong walked up to the reception counter once they'd entered the motel. He slid his ID across the counter.

The receptionist on duty was a woman. She felt an instant jolt of attraction the moment Li Yundong stepped in, then disappointment and shock when she saw Su Chan walking in moments after Li Yundong did. What a beautiful couple... she mused. But the girl is too beautiful to be real... Maybe she's some movie star?

The receptionist picked up the ID from the counter. She frowned, then looked back at the handsome man standing in front of the counter.

"Um, hi. But we require the guest's own ID to book a room."

Li Yundong smiled gently.

"And I've already given it to you," he said, nodding at the ID in the receptionists hand.

When the receptionist gave him a quizzical look, Li Yundong merely shrugged, his grin widening.

"Think I stand a chance to win The Biggest Loser Asia?"

The receptionist's eyes widened in shock.

She glanced at the photo on the ID again, then back at Li Yundong.

There are similarities... she thought. But oh, the difference! Especially in those eyes!

The chubby face in on the ID didn't even come close to being handsome, and those eyes looked dead and soulless. What a far cry from the man standing in front of her right now, whose eyes were sharp and piercing, and whose entire being exuded an air of vitality.

The receptionist compared Li Yundong's face with the photo on the ID a few more times, just for good measure. Eventually, she was satisfied that the two were indeed the same person.

"How long will you be staying?" the receptionist asked, tapping a few keys on her keyboard as she handled Li Yundong's booking.

"Just tonight."

"Single room? Or a twin?"

Li Yundong turned around and looked at Su Chan.

Su Chan blinked back at him innocently.

Yeah right. I'd probably win a Nobel Prize before she could understand the nuances of hotel bookings, Li Yundong thought in amusement.

God, this girl.

If he were an ax murderer looking to kill her and then dispose of her body, she'd probably pick up a shovel and help him dig her own grave!

Admittedly, the idea of sharing a bed with Su Chan did seem a bit appealing.

A bit?

Who was he even kidding.

He wanted that more than he wanted to f*cking breathe!

Then again...

Argh... Never mind... Li Yundong thought.

They had time, after all. If he hadn't read things wrongly, this... thing between him and Su Chan was a long term thing. They were in this for the long haul. It would ruin things if he gave Su Chan the impression that he was taking advantage of her...

Li Yundong cleared his throat.

"I'll take the twin," he said.

Professionalism was the only thing preventing the receptionist from rolling her eyes right then. You're here, in a motel, with a girl, in the middle of the night. Is there even a point in this pretense? Just take the single room!

The receptionist slid Li Yundong's ID back onto the counter along with a keycard.

"Room 205."

"Thanks," Li Yundong said, then turned around and led Su Chan to the elevators.

 

***

 

The door of Room 205 slammed shut behind them.

Li Yundong left his suitcase and bags on the floor, then lay down unceremoniously on the bed and sighed.

"Great. Starting tonight, we're homeless."

Su Chan lay down on the other side of the bed, then began sniffing the covers and sheets.

"It doesn't smell as nice!"

Li Yundong burst into laughter. He crawled over and pinched Su Chan's nose.

"There isn't gonna be any smell in these sheets, silly," he said. "They change them everyday!"

Su Chan chuckled and turned away from his hand. Then, she grabbed a pillow and bonked Li Yundong's face with it.

"Go away..." she said, giggling. "Don't come any closer. Why do you like to pinch my nose so much? You're so mean!"

"You don't want me to pinch your nose? Fine," Li Yundong said. Then, an evil grin formed on his face. "I'll just have to tickle you instead!"

"Kyaa!!!" Su Chan twisted around, then burst into giggles when Li Yundong's fingers brushed against her waist and armpits.

"Kyaa!!! Hahaha...Stop!" Su Chan slapped Li Yundong's hands away. "Hahaha! Stop! You meanie!"

Sounds of giggles, yelps, and playful growls filled Room 205, a symphony of joy and mirth.

Seconds turned into minutes as they rolled around on the single bed, pawing and slapping at each other. To an outsider, they would have looked like newly-weds on the first night of their honeymoon, not two people who just lost their homes and then got humiliated in the process.

Such was the power of youthful resilience.

 

***

 

Their "bedroom activity" ended once they both became out of breath. Now, they lay side by side, heaving and panting, gazing into each other's eyes, and studying each other's flushed faces.

Li Yundong smiled and pushed away a few strands of dark hair that had fallen over her forehead.

"Guess now we only have each other, huh?" he remarked, looking into Su Chan’s eyes.

Warmth bloomed inside Su Chan's chest, spreading all over her body, culminating in a wide grin on her face. She shifted on the bed, then snuggled up against Li Yundong's side, clinging tightly onto his arm.

"Mm!!" she said, nodding a few times. "I'll be a good girl from now on! I'll listen to everything you say, speak only when you allow me to speak, and only do the things you tell me to! I'll be super obedient! I promise!" Su Chan pulled away to look at Li Yundong. "But you can't abandon me! Or ignore me! A- a- and... " Su Chan blushed, then averted her gaze. "Y- you can't let me starve!"

Li Yundong laughed.

You and your appetite...

Li Yundong knew he must have scared her senseless when he left her alone in the apartment to make the cash withdrawal. He didn't think he would ever be able to forget the way Su Chan had bawled and clung to him as if he was her last lifeline the moment he returned.

Li Yundong stroked Su Chan's hair tenderly.

"Mm," he said. "I'll never abandon you, ignore you, or starve you. And you can speak and do anything you want. You don't have to ask permission for that. I won't abandon you because of that."

Su Chan's eyes widened.

"But why? You've run into trouble every time I opened my mouth. And look how things turned out when I wanted to do something to help you..." Su Chan trailed off, lowering her head.

Li Yundong placed his finger under Su Chan's jaw, then raised her head back up.

"The thing I like the most about you isn't your beauty, but your innocence and straightforwardness," Li Yundong said, staring intently into her eyes. "I like how unpretentious you are, and how you always speak your mind." Li Yundong chuckled. "Some of the stuff you said was actually pretty adorable." Li Yundong stared into her eyes again. "So, I don't want you to change yourself because of what happened today, you hear me? Just be yourself, because that's who I like. You."

A pregnant paused stretched between them.

Li Yundong broke the silence with a chuckle, then gave her a teasing smile.

"Besides I don't find meek and spineless women adorable at all..." Then, he feigned a stern expression. "Do you really want to become that kind of girl? What if I no longer find you adorable and end up liking you less?"

Li Yundong's words brought tears to Su Chan's eyes, not to mention filling her heart with warmth, and turning her insides gooey, among other things.

She didn't understand it.

She didn't understand him.

"Why? Why are you so nice to me?"

Li Yundong laughed, then pinched her nose again.

"Well, right now we only have each other," he said. "Who's going to be nice to you if not me?"

A sob escaped Su Chan's lips. She buried her face into Li Yundong's chest, then began pounding his chest with her fists.

"Why! Why! Why! Why are you so nice to me! I hate you, I hate you!"

Li Yundong grimaced in pain. "Hey, hey, easy, easy!" He nearly gagged when one of her hits landed on his solar plexus. "Ow... Ugh. Is that what human lungs taste like? Coz I think I just tasted mine..." he said once Su Chan stopped her game of Whack-A-Lung. However, Su Chan never heard him since she was too busy sobbing into his chest.

He pulled away to wipe her tears, then chuckled wryly.

"First, you forbade me from abandoning you, then you beat me up because I'm nice to you?" Li Yundong sighed. "What do you want from me, princess?"

 

***

 

What did she want from him indeed.

Su Chan shifted slightly in Li Yundong's arms, then closed her eyes. Admittedly, she'd been asking herself that same question every day since her arrival in the mortal world. Still, the answer eluded her. In fact, she felt even more confused now.

What in the name of the Tao did she want?

Had she changed her mind about reclaiming the Renyuan Jindan from Li Yundong? When that obnoxious fat woman insulted Li Yundong earlier, Su Chan had vowed to turn Li Yundong into a great Cultivator. Even now, when the heat of the moment had passed and she had the chance to look deep into her soul, Su Chan realized that a part of her was willing to leave the Jindan inside Li Yundong's body to aid him in his journey to greatness.

That realization terrified her to no end.

Ever since its creation, the Renyuan Jindan was the source of rivalry between all the Cultivation schools in the world. Hundreds of people had died in the process of acquiring it. In fact, Su Chan herself would've died back then if her master hadn't distracted her enemies long enough for her to escape.

There had been a time when Su Chan was like every other Cultivator in the world: willing to do anything to obtain the Renyuan Jindan.

But after meeting Li Yundong...

Like it or not, she couldn't deny that she had changed. While the Renyuan Jindan had changed Li Yundong, Li Yundong had changed her. Because of him, the entire fabric of her existence had been altered. Did she still desire the Renyuan Jindan? Yes. But was she willing to sacrifice Li Yundong for it? Not anymore. Not by a long shot.

A huge part of life is about making decisions. One's choices determine the course of one's life. At this stage of Su Chan's life, the choice was: Li Yundong vs the Renyuan Jindan.

What did she really want? Li Yundong? Or the Renyuan Jindan?

Two options, but with seemingly an infinite number of emotions and consequences involved.

She was so tired, so tired of choosing, and of feeling. Her eyelids felt heavy even though they were already closed. She just wanted to sleep.

Su Chan sighed when she felt a gentle hand run through her scalp. It felt so good. Comfortable.

Here she was, finding comfort and falling asleep in the arms of the man who was also the source of her distress.

How ironic.

Li Yundong or the Renyuan Jindan... Li Yundong or the Renyuan Jindan... Li Yundong or the Renyuan Jindan... Li...

 

***

 

Li Yundong pulled his hand away from Su Chan's scalp when he noticed her breathing even out. He'd decided to stroke her hair to comfort her and get her to stop crying. Admittedly, he got a little carried away.

Li Yundong nudged Su Chan's shoulder gently.

"Hey, you shouldn't sleep like this," he said. "You'll catch a cold. Lie down properly!"

Su Chan hummed and rubbed herself against him.

"Lord Almighty..." Li Yundong had to force himself to imagine Director Qian's comb-over, or else he might do something really stupid.

"But it feels so comfortable like this..." Su Chan mumbled. "So warm..."

After squirming around a bit more, one of Su Chan's thighs slid along his legs and brushed across his—

Goddamnit!

"Hey... How am I supposed to sleep if you keep using me as a bolster?" Li Yundong said in a strained voice.

Alas, Li Yundong's plea went completely unheeded by Su Chan, who merely turned her head away. Li Yundong tried to push Su Chan's thigh off his...ahem, but his efforts only caused Su Chan to cling onto him even more tightly. Before Li Yundong could protest, Su Chan started squirming again until she got into a more comfortable position.

Comfortable for her, that is.  

Li Yundong groaned and stared up at the ceiling.

Great, now he had to worry about waking up with a hole in his pants.