Su Chan felt a little bad. Just a little. That was why she had offered to clear up the dining table and do the dishes after lunch. Because she felt bad. Not because there might be a small chance she could eat the leftovers from the plates. Nope. Not because of that.
Su Chan dried the last of the dishes and placed them into the cabinet. There were voices outside the kitchen, which meant that Yundong and Zhou Qin were still chatting in the living room. For some unfathomable reason, that thought brought a strange feeling to Su Chan's chest, as though something was squeezing her heart. She wondered what they would both be saying to each other when it was just the two of them—basically when Su Chan wasn't there to be the third wheel.
Third wheel. What a strange term to use. It made the whole thing feel as though Yundong and Zhou Qin were having a torrid love affair with each other. Which, of course, wasn't the case. No idea why she even used that term. She must be getting a bit loopy after stuffing down all that food. Suddenly, her need to listen in to their conversation became dire. Curiosity gnawed at her chest, egging her on.
Curiosity killed the cat, sure. Nobody said it would kill a fox.
The door of the kitchen was still closed, so Su Chan leaned her back against it, then closed her eyes. The muffled voices from the living room turned into distinct words the moment her Qi reached her Shenting. Hah. The Ningshen phase. One of the most useful phases of Cultivation to pass for those who dabble in espionage, infiltration, or just good old eavesdropping.
Through the closed door, Su Chan could now hear the words exchanged between Yundong and Zhou Qin as though she was right there beside them. Ninjas worldwide would be proud.
"... How? How did you do it? I fell from, what, seven floors up? God... That's gotta be a... 20... 30 meter fall? After that you just walked it off..."
"Err... Well... I did some training... Like, joint and bone strengthening stuff. You know how the Karate masters could smash through concrete without cracking their bones? Or... you know how the Shaolin monks could crack ice blocks with their heads and stuff? Yeah. Kinda like those."
Bravo, Yundong! He had done a decent job in keeping things vague. For a moment there, Su Chan wondered if it would be better if she just came clean with him about the Renyuan Jindan. He was, after all, smart enough to come to the conclusion on his own that he'd been given some kind of drug. Well, it wasn't a drug per se, but it was still pretty close.
Su Chan sighed. Admittedly, she'd been careless. She should've prepared for the eventuality that he might figure things out on his own. She should've seen this coming a long time ago. Once he had reached the 4th dan of the Ningshen phase, Yundong's mind would start craving for ways to make sense of things, and he would start seeking answers. She knew this. She herself had experienced this before during the early stages of her own training. Unfortunately, she'd been too caught up in Yundong's quick progress (and the fact that he was a genius) to prepare for it. And she'd paid the price for her negligence this morning when Yundong nearly announced to the entire city that he thought he'd been given a pill. Worse, they were on the balcony when that conversation took place. The balcony, where even a mortal could easily hear them let alone a trained Cultivator with long-range hearing skills such as Eryue.
Su Chan shuddered at that memory.
What happened this morning was a wake-up call. She would have to be extremely careful from now on to ensure that something like that never happened again. The Cultivators in the city were probably on high alert already after Yundong's long roar the other night, one that she had failed (Argh! Stupid, stupid, stupid, Chan'er!) to prevent. The cunning ones might've even traced the source of the roar to their building already! What if Cultivators were actually staking out somewhere in the area, spying on them? If they spoke freely about things like what they'd done on their balcony this morning, any Cultivator with long-range hearing could've easily overheard them!
Yundong would disagree with this, but discretion really wasn't his strong suit at all—he'd nearly blurted it out a few times despite her warnings. Besides, he'd always been a candid person, a man who spoke his mind and held nothing back. Keeping a secret this big would be too hard for him.
Plus, it wasn't like there was a really good reason to tell him everything about the Jindan at this point. For one, his lack of knowledge hadn't hindered his training in any way. He'd been making good progress so far even when he knew nothing of the Jindan's existence. Okay, sure, he might be dying to know the truth and that might affect his focus a teeny bit? But as far as she gathered, it just wasn't a risk worth taking. The people from the Zhengyi Taoist School were most likely still prowling the city in search of the Renyuan Jindan, so it would be unwise to leave everything to chance, which was exactly what she would be doing if she reveal everything to him and then relied on him to be discrete.
Another wave of shudders coursed through Su Chan.
What if the Zhengyi people knew spells to make people talk? What if they tried to extort the information from Yundong by threatening the lives of his friends?
"... I'm sorry about today. I was supposed to repay you with a meal, but... That didn't really turn out well, did it? You're the one who had to do all the work in the end..."
"Nah... Don't worry about it."
"I guess I'll have to repay you some other way, then..."
"Or not repay me at all."
Zhou Qin chuckled. "Nope. That's not negotiable. I'm forever in your debt."
"Here's an idea of how you can repay me."
"Really? Do tell."
"You can repay me by..."
"By stopping all this repaying nonsense and just be my friend."
Zhou Qin laughed. "Very funny, Li Yundong. Very funny."
"Err... I suppose you could... I don't know, make yearly donations to charity groups?"
Zhou Qin laughed again. "Who says I haven't been doing that already?"
Yundong laughed. "How am I supposed to know? You're the one with the deep pockets here. You know I'm still trying to wrap my head around how you folks operate."
There was a long silence. Su Chan wondered if she should step outside now.
"Where's Su Chan?" Zhou Qin asked.
"Oh. She offered to take care of the dishes." Yundong chuckled. "I think she feels bad."
"She's... an interesting girl."
Yundong chuckled. "I'll be sure to tell her you said that."
Su Chan held her breath. Oh, no... Is she gonna start asking him questions about my origins? Please, don't. Please, please, please—
"I suppose I should get going, then."
Su Chan heard movement outside.
Zhou Qin was probably standing up.
Su Chan opened the door by a crack and peered outside. Zhou Qin was tidying up her bag, which had a really strange name. Ail Vee. Loowee Veetong. Yup. That was what Yundong had told her. Seriously. Ail Vee. Tee Vee. Mac Doo Nurls. And Hello Kee Dee for a cat? These mortals were so creative when it came to names.
"You know it's still early," Yundong said. "You can stay for longer if you want. It won't be a problem."
Zhou Qin slung the straps of her bag onto her shoulder. Su Chan focused her eyes and zoomed in on Zhou Qin's face. Zhou Qin was frowning a bit now. Was she in pain?
"Nah. I wouldn't want to get in the way of you and Su Chan's... alone time." Zhou Qin was smiling again, though her smile seemed forced. "I mean, I'd hate to cramp your style."
Hmm… Something about Zhou Qin seemed a little off…
Yundong laughed. "Okay, then. I'll see you in class?"
Zhou Qin's frown deepened, and she was biting her lip now. "Mm-hmm..." Zhou Qin moved away from the couch towards the door.
At the door, Zhou Qin picked up her shoes and put them on gracefully.
Why did she look so sad?
Was it because...
Was it because Su Chan had eaten most of the food?
Oh, no… What if Zhou Qin hated them and wanted nothing to do with them anymore? Then...
Then Yundong would lose a valuable ally in his journey to greatness! Hey… now that she thought about it... Zhou Qin would make a great ally. She could support Yundong financially while Yundong focused on his Cultivation training. Yundong might not even have to go to school anymore since he would be financially secure with Zhou Qin's help! If he didn't have to go to school, then he could focus all his time and energy on Cultivation. Just imagine the progress he could make! And in return, maybe Yundong could teach Zhou Qin a bit about Cultivation? Would that be a good idea? Or would that be too risky? Su Chan was against Yundong taking disciples after all. But the financial advantages...
The door of the apartment opened with a loud click. Zhou Qin was now standing at the doorway, facing Yundong.
"Thank you for lunch today. I had an enjoyable meal."
"You're welcome," Yundong said. "And you're welcome here any time."
"Well then, I should..." Zhou Qin backed away a few steps.
Oh no... she looked even sadder now... Say something, Yundong! Say something to cheer her up!
"Bye then. Have a safe trip home."
Zhou Qin cleared her throat. "Bye."
The door slammed shut.
No, no, no... This won't do...
They were about to lose a valuable ally!
Su Chan charged out of the kitchen.
Yundong turned around abruptly and smiled. "Oh, there you are—"
Su Chan didn't wait for him to finish; she grabbed his arm and pulled him down so that she could whisper into his ear. "You should go and send her off..."
"What? What do you mean send her off? I just did, didn't I?"
Su Chan stomped her foot and shook her head. "No, no, no... I mean send her off properly! Walk her to the metal box and then send her off to the gates!"
The hurt look on Yundong's expression puzzled Su Chan a little.
Yundong cleared his throat. "First of all, that metal box is called an elevator. And second of all why are you constantly pushing me towards other wo—" He suddenly stopped talking. The hurt look on his face seemed even more pronounced now. Why though? She was doing this for his own good! Having Zhou Qin's support could speed up journey towards greatness. Besides, weren't he and Zhou Qin friends? But Zhou Qin seemed pretty upset just now. Weren't friends supposed to cheer each other up when one of them was upset?
"Okay, okay, fine. Elle Vador. I'll remember that. But you should hurry up and send her off properly." Su Chan pushed Yundong towards the door. "And be sure to say nice things to her. Cheer her up a bit."
"Hey, what the hell is the matter with you tod—"
Su Chan yanked the door open and pushed him out.
"Nothing's wrong with me. But you need to go to her now." Su Chan waved her hand a few times. "She's going to leave the building if you don't hurry."
Yundong stared at her for a few moments. Suddenly, he smiled.
Su Chan did a little cheer inwardly.
"Okay, then. I'll go to her now."
Su Chan bobbed her head up and down, then gave him a few waves.
"I'm really going now, okay. I'm going to send Zhou Qin off, say nice things to her, and then maybe..." Yundong smirked.
Su Chan giggled. "Alright already! Just go now! Shoo! Shoo!" Su Chan shut the door and then leaned her back against it.
Yes. That was the right move. Zhou Qin was an important ally. Yundong's friendship with Zhou Qin would greatly ease his path to greatness.
Su Chan giggled again. Oh, how things had changed! At first, things between Yundong and Zhou Qin were strained to say the least. In fact, Su Chan was pretty sure that Zhou Qin didn't like Yundong very much at the beginning. But now look at them! They had just shared a wonderful meal with each other like they were old friends! Now that they had established some sort of rapport, Yundong should definitely strive to maintain their friendship. Or better yet, improve their friendship.
Su Chan sighed and allowed herself to imagine what would happen if Yundong and Zhou Qin grew closer to each other. Perhaps they would have more conversations, or start spending more time with each other? They would probably start teasing each other too. Or maybe sharing a few hugs? And… Hey... Would they start kissing too? Yundong wouldn't do that right? He would only kiss Su Chan. Zhou Qin was just his friend, a good friend, but still just a friend. Right. Of course Yundong wouldn't kiss Zhou Qin. Friends don't kiss each other, after all.
Besides, why would Yundong prefer Zhou Qin who was beautiful, elegant, and wealthy, over his Chan'er who was a bit of a slob and a troublemaker, who always stole his food, who tended to say the wrong things at the wrong time, who was obedient most of the time... and... and...
Tears slid down Su Chan's cheeks. Images flashed in her mind, images featuring her life without Yundong.
Of course Yundong would pick Zhou Qin. Of course. Zhou Qin was an elegant queen while Su Chan was nothing but a troublemaker. A cheap monk.
Tears pattered against Su Chan's feet. Suddenly, her legs were moving on her own. She wasn't even sure what she was going to do when she yanked the door open and...
Found Yundong standing right outside as though he'd never left. He was smiling at her warmly, and the affection in those eyes was enough to turn her insides to mush.
They stared at each other for what felt like ages. It was as though time had stopped and nothing else existed except for Yundong's beautiful smile. There he was, her Yundong, smiling at her as though she was his everything.
Su Chan released her bottom lip from her between her teeth. The first sound that escaped her lips sounded like a deep wail as she pounced, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Yundong... I'm sorry... I'm sorry... I was wrong... I won't say stupid things anymore. I won't eat like a pig anymore... I'll stop being a cheap monk... I'll be a good girl... Please don't leave me... Please don't toss me away..."
Yundong's gentle touches on her back soothed the tight knot in her chest. The arm wrapped around her waist felt like the touch of the evening sun, warm and comforting. Yundong's gentle voice sounded beside her ear. "I already told you so many times that I'll never abandon you, silly. When will you start believing me, hmm?"
Su Chan didn't answer. She was too busy sobbing. When Yundong started stroking hair, her knees almost gave out. She tightened her arm around his neck and held on for dear life.
"Alright, alright. Stop crying now. People are gonna make fun of you if you keep crying like a baby in public."
Su Chan sniffed, then wiggled a few times against him. "C- carry me."
Li Yundong chuckled. A moment later, his arm slid downwards to the back of her knees. The temporary weightlessness was a welcomed feeling, as was the steady beating of Yundong's heart against her cheek.
Somehow, it didn't surprise her at all how well their bodies fit together. The groove between the underside of his jaw and his clavicle was just the right size so that her face fit snugly in the gap. So she did just that. She buried her face in that groove and inhaled his scent greedily, causing the heat to spread from her cheeks, down her neck, and to other parts of her body. The ache between her legs was starting to become noticeable.
When her face left the warmth of his chest (not by choice), she realized that Yundong had laid her down on the couch. When did they even enter the apartment? She didn't even remember the door being opened. She squeezed her legs together and raised her head, finally allowing herself to stare into Yundong's eyes. The heat in his eyes lit a fire inside her core, and she felt as though she would combust right then and there if she didn't do something about this burning need to give herself to this man who she adored with all her heart.
"Yundong..." Her voice came out in a husky lilt. Her hand, shaky yet certain, rose to his cheek in a gentle caress. "Kiss me..."
Yundong's eyes darkened instantly, as though the heat in them had grown so intense that they charred everything inside. Su Chan's lips parted in a gasp the moment their lips met. Her gasps turned into moans the moment their tongues met in a tangle of passion. She spread her legs wider, and Yundong responded by sliding his own body through the space between her parted legs. The friction between their bodies felt heavenly, but it was not enough. She needed more. Much, much more.
Emboldened by passion, Su Chan began to reciprocate. She matched the rhythm of his tongue. With every stroke of her tongue, her hips undulated against his body to generate more friction. When one of Yundong's hands slid under her shirt to cup her breast, she thought she was seeing stars. A delicious flick of Yundong's thumb caused her eyes to roll to the back of her head, and she moaned. Loudly.
No... No... We can't...
Su Chan broke their kiss and pushed his hand away from her breast. The delicious contact ended, and her skin suddenly felt cold. Good. This was what she needed. "Stop... Yundong..." she rasped. "Stop..."
Yundong's breaths caressed her ear. When he nipped her earlobe, she couldn't help but moan again. "I want you, Chan'er... I want you so bad that it hurts..."
Yundong traced the shell of her ear with his tongue. Su Chan moaned and arched her back. "Ah... Y- Yun... Dong..." Su Chan pressed her palms against his chest and tried to push him away. But she couldn't. She had no strength left. Her entire body was on fire and it was like the heat had melted her arms, rendering them useless.
A loud and insistent rapping jolted them out of their lust-filled haze. They stared at each other for several seconds, their eyes wide and hazy with lust. The door. Someone was knocking on their door. Neither of them moved.
The knock sounded again. This time, however, it returned the strength to Su Chan's arms. She shoved Yundong away and ran to the security of her bedroom. Yundong didn't try to stop her. She shut the door of her bedroom and leaned her back against it. Calm down, Chan'er. Calm down. Su Chan took a deep breath and pulled out a strand of her hair. The hair became stiff like a needle the moment she pushed her Qi into it. She reached behind her back and jabbed the strand onto her Lingtai, an acupoint between her shoulder blades. Calmness washed over her, and she could finally think again. Oh, God...That was close. She had nearly killed him. Before he passed the Zhuji phase, they could never ever have sex.
Someone was still knocking on their door. Was Yundong going to answer the door at some point? Was... was he mad at her for rejecting him again? What if he asked her for the reason she rejected him? There was no way she could explain everything without revealing her secrets. Another knock sounded. Who could it be? Was it Zhou Qin? Did she forget something? Su Chan mobilized her Qi to her Shenting.
The person was still knocking. Was Yundong planning to ignore them?
"Alright, alright! I'm coming!" Yundong shouted. The rustling sound she heard meant that Yundong had moved away from the couch.
"Goddamned cockblocker..." Yundong mumbled.
Why was Yundong suddenly talking about chickens? Ooh! Was the person at the door supposed to deliver fresh chickens? Would they be having chicken for dinner tonight? That thought brought Su Chan a pleasant distraction.
The door creaked open. Su Chan focused her hearing and listened to the conversation between Yundong and their visitor.
Seconds later, Su Chan felt her knees go weak.
Oh God... Oh God... No... She's here...
They found her.