Xiao Yuan thought that he was too weak and was hallucinating. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them again, the extra reflection rippled gently with the stream but it did not disappear.
Then, he heard the familiar voice that always made one feel as if a spring breeze touched them: "Ah Yu."
Xiao Yuan slowly turned around and saw the visitor clearly. It was his Shizun – Li Xianting.
He hadn’t seen him for more than half a year. Li Xianting was still the same as he remembered. He was slender and straight-backed. He wore a long azure dress that blended with the green mountains and blue waters around him. His eyebrows were like mountain ridges, his face as gentle as jade.
He looked at Xiao Yuan with a pair of phoenix eyes full of consistent warmth and tenderness, as if nothing had happened, and teased: "Ah Yu, don’t you remember Shizun?"
Xiao Yuan’s smile due to getting rid of Xiao Du gradually disappeared.
Li Xianting looked at Xiao Yuan from top to bottom, as if he couldn’t bear it, "Ah Yu, you have suffered."
Xiao Yuan was so shocked that he coughed violently.
Li Xianting stepped forward, took Xiao Yuan’s wrist and checked his pulse. His face changed slightly, and there was a bit of guilt hidden in his worry. "Your spiritual veins… did Xiao Du do it?"
The warm, delicate touch on his wrist made Xiao Yuan realize that the one standing in front of him was really his Shizun, the one who raised him from the age of five to seventeen, cooked for him, taught him techniques, and gave him Wuguan Fengyue… that Shizun.
Xiao Yuan barely managed to stop coughing. He quietly withdrew his hand and said, "How could Shizun suddenly appear in Dongguan Mountain? Could it be that Shizun leisurely passed by and accidentally saw me, so he decided to say hello?"
Li Xianting was not annoyed when he was mocked. Looking into Xiao Yuan’s eyes, he said softly: "I am here to pick up Ah Yu and return to the Shimen."
Xiao Yuan’s heart felt calm, as quiet as a pool of stagnant water. If he had heard Li Xianting’s words three months ago, he might have been delighted and moved, but now he only felt bored and stuffy, preferring that Li Xianting had never been here.
Xiao Yuan said calmly: "Shizun, don’t you think you are too late?"
"Late, but not too late." Li Xianting coaxed Xiao Yuan like he coaxed him to sleep when he was a child, "Ah Yu, will you go back with Shizun? Shizun will help you repair your spiritual veins and will cook delicious food for you; he will protect you and will never let others bully you again."
Xiao Yuan said with interest: "I am really curious. Each of you pushed me away before, why do you want me to go back one by one now?"
Li Xianting sighed as if he had conceded defeat, "Because I don’t seem to be able to give up Ah Yu."
"Don’t seem?" Xiao Yuan had talked a lot and was already a bit physically exhausted. He didn’t mind getting dirty, so he sat down on a boulder by the stream. "So it took three months for Shizun to realize that he ‘doesn’t seem’ to be able to give up on me?"
Li Xianting avoided answering and said, "Ah Yu, go back with Shizun, your Shidi is also nearby. Isn’t it good for the three of us to go back to Xufu and live like before?"
Xiao Yuan’s eyes flashed slightly, "Shidi…?" It seems that Mu Yingyang didn’t make a mistake of going to Xiao Du directly, but went to Li Xianting first – the stupid Shidi was not that stupid after all.
"Ah Yang found me and said that Xiao Du had infected you and forced you to go to Yunjian Pavilion to steal Qingyan." Li Xianting said, "After that, I went to Yunjian Pavilion with Ah Yang to find you, but I heard that you had fled to escape punishment and had been missing for many days."
Xiao Yuan gave an "oh". The people of Yunjian Pavilion naturally thought that he fled to escape punishment. He was treated as a murderer after giving Lin Wulian so much blood, and Gu Louyin did nothing to clear his name.
"Ah Yang and I were looking for you separately around Yunjian Pavilion. Today I passed by Dongguan Village and heard from hunters that there was a beauty in red clothes living on the mountain, so I guessed it was you." Li Xianting smiled, "Ah Yu has grown so much and still loves to wear bright colours like he did when he was a young child."
Hearing these reminiscences about his childhood, Xiao Yuan remained indifferent and said calmly: "Then please tell Shidi that I am fine, so that he doesn’t have to look for me anymore."
"Your spiritual veins are damaged, and the strange Gu in your body – Ah Yu, you are not fine at all."
"I will be fine soon."
Li Xianting said patiently: "It will only be better if you go back with me."
Go back, go back, go back. The word he heard most today was "go back". Xiao Du wanted to take him back to Xingtian Sect, and Li Xianting wanted to take him back to the Shimen. He was really curious whether the two people who mentioned these two words to him had any shame.
Xiao Yuan closed his eyes and tried his best to keep his mind calm. "Shizun is wrong. Not only are you late, you are also too late."
Li Xianting looked extremely uncomfortable, "Ah Yu…"
"In fact, I had been thinking about why I didn’t want to go to Xingtian Sect to reunite with my brother in the first place, yet you had to force me to go, and you kept saying it was good for me. Later, when I was placed under house arrest by Xiao Du and waited for you, I understood." Xiao Yuan said slowly, "You abandoned me a long time ago. How long? Probably from the year you adopted me. You adopted me and raised me up, only for the day to come when you sent me out."
Dark light flashed in Li Xianting’s eyes, and he quickly drowned it in tenderness, "What nonsense is Ah Yu talking about. Why should I do this?"
Xiao Yuan said casually: "I don’t know. Maybe there is some kind of grudge between you and Brother Xiao Du."
Li Xianting smiled slightly, "You are too weak, thus letting your imagination run wild like this."
Xiao Yuan shook his head and said, "Shizun, don’t pretend, I’m tired just watching you."
"Pretend? Ah Yu, tell me, why should I pretend?"
"Why…" Xiao Yuan smiled subtly, "Because you, Shizun, you are practicing the ruthless Dao."
Li Xianting looked at him quietly, his expression still gentle, even indulgent.
"Any kind of master-disciple affection, as well as that of a brother and a father, is all fake." The more Xiao Yuan spoke, the more ridiculous the whole thing felt, "But don’t worry, Shizun, I didn’t tell my Shidi about this. In his heart, you are still his perfect Shizun."
Li Xianting said, "Who told you all this?"
"No one, I guessed it myself." [All Have] vaguely mentioned Li Xianting’s insincere nature to him, and coupled with his observations over the years, he inferred this conclusion. Since then, every time he thought of Li Xianting’s gentle eyes, his heart clenched terribly. Li Xianting was more horrible than Xiao Du, at least Xiao Du never bothered to lie.
Li Xianting did not admit nor deny it. No one ever knew what he was thinking, including his two closest disciples.
Luo Lan’s voice came from a distance. He probably had cooked the meal and called him back to eat. Xiao Yuan focused, got up and said, "Shizun, please go back, I won’t say goodbye to you."
A sudden wave of tiredness overcame him and Xiao Yuan’s body swayed as he was swept into someone’s arms. At the last moment before losing consciousness, he heard Li Xianting’s voice that seemed to come from far away: "Ah Yu, towards you, it may not be all false."
When Xiao Yuan woke up again, he found that there was a soft bed under him and an unfamiliar room around him. It looked like he was in an inn.
The door creaked, and Li Xianting walked in with the food box, smiling warmly at Xiao Yuan’s gaze: "Ah Yu woke up."
Xiao Yuan didn’t understand the reason why Li Xianting had to play a gentle master now. Was it because the mask had been worn for too long and couldn’t be taken off anymore?
"I asked to use the kitchen in the inn, made you a few dishes you love to eat and a little porridge. If you have the appetite…"
Li Xianting said naturally: "Then when you have an appetite, I will make another portion for you."
Li Xianting had been practicing fasting for many years, but he cooked good dishes exclusively for his two disciples. In the eyes of outsiders, there was no better master in the world than him.
Xiao Yuan asked, "Where is this?"
"Why did you bring me here?"
"Ah Yang and I have made an appointment to meet in Huaizhou in two days. When the three of us are reunited, we will return to Xufu together."
"I remember I said I would not go back."
Li Xianting smiled lightly and said, "Ah Yu was talking in anger, it doesn’t count."
Xiao Yuan knew that it was useless to continue, so he said, "I am tired and want to sleep for a while."
"Okay, Shizun is here to guard Ah Yu."
Xiao Yuan closed his eyes and said to [All Have] in his mind: "What can I do about this? As you can see, it’s not that I don’t want to complete the task. I can’t do anything if Li Xianting wants to force me to go back to my Shimen. I can’t beat him."
[All Have]: "Don’t worry."
The words "don’t worry" were very intriguing. Would anyone rescue him? Although Li Xianting was a casual cultivator, his cultivation base was not inferior to those of masters and elders of the major sects. It was not easy to snatch someone away from him, at least… At least Gu Louyin wouldn’t be able to do it right now.
He didn’t know how Gu Louyin would react when he found out that he was missing. He would probably be relieved. He would be lucky not to have to fulfill the marriage contract, so how could he come to rescue him?
On this day, there was Xiao Du first and then there was Li Xianting. Xiao Yuan hadn’t talked so much for a long time. After thinking about so many things, he only felt exhausted physically and mentally, and soon fell asleep again.
He slept extremely restlessly; his chest seemed to be blocked by something and he couldn’t breathe. Half asleep and half awake, he seemed to see Li Xianting’s concerned face. Then, he felt a chill – Li Xianting was wiping his body with a towel soaked in cold water.
He didn’t know how long it took; Xiao Yuan woke up suddenly and saw the full moon outside the window. Only then did he realize that the night of the full moon had arrived. Unexpectedly, the last time of Gu attack before he was free would happen in front of Li Xianting.
The room was overflowing with the love fragrance that could make any normal man emotional, but Li Xianting, who cultivated ruthless Dao, was obviously not a normal man.
"Ah Yang told me about the way you looked when your Gu attacked," Li Xianting said softly, "It’s uncomfortable, isn’t it?"
Xiao Yuan bit his lip and didn’t say a word.
"Cry out if you feel uncomfortable, Ah Yu." Li Xianting coaxed him, "When you were injured when you were a child, didn’t you always cry out for your Shizun in pain?"
Xiao Yuan squeezed out a word through his teeth: "Scram…"
Li Xianting covered Xiao Yuan’s forehead with his hand. Xiao Yuan felt its coolness and rubbed against his palm uncontrollably.
Li Xianting opened the quilt, took Xiao Yuan into his arms, released a chill and immersed Xiao Yuan in it.
The heat Xiao Yuan felt was relieved, and his frowning brows smoothed slightly. In a daze, he heard Li Xianting say, "Why is this happening?"
There was a blankness in his voice that Xiao Yuan had never heard before: "Why can’t I let go…"
"Ah Yu, do you know. For as long as you have been gone, your master’s cultivation has been stagnant."
"You have made your master like this, so where do you want to go?"
A steady stream of spiritual power and cold air calmed the pestering Gu. This was the least difficult of the three nights of trouble for Xiao Yuan. Bathed in Li Xianting’s energy, he gradually fell asleep.
Li Xianting put the sleeping Xiao Yuan lightly on the bed. After a few hours of energy consumption, even he felt a little weak, but unfortunately, now was not the time to rest.
He stood up and said with a smile: "After hiding for so long, it’s time to come out."
A dark shadow fell in front of Li Xianting. Li Xianting said, "Who are you?"
The man in black said succinctly: "The one who is taking your disciple."
Li Xianting glanced back at Xiao Yuan and said, "Be quiet, be careful not to wake him up."
The man in black sneered and summoned his sword, "I will try my best."
"Master Xiao, Master Xiao–"
A light breeze brushed over his face and there was a sound of water gurgling. Xiao Yuan opened his eyes and found himself back on Dongguan Mountain. From a distance there was Luo Lan’s voice coming.
Xiao Yuan was dazed for a long time and still didn’t figure out the situation. He clearly remembered that he was taken to Huaizhou by Li Xianting and stayed in an inn. He also had an attack of Acacia Gu. How could he wake up and be back here again? Was it a dream?
Luo Lan’s voice got closer, "Master Xiao? Master Xiao!" When he saw Xiao Yuan, he was so excited that he couldn’t help himself. He turned his head and shouted, "Young Master, I have found Master Xiao!"
After a rapid sound of footsteps, pale-faced Gu Louyin appeared in front of him and gripped his hand.
Xiao Yuan gave out a muffled groan because of the excessive force of this grip, "Hey…"
Gu Louyin paused, then slowly let go of his hand, but his gaze was firmly locked on Xiao Yuan’s body, as if he was about to disappear in the next moment.
Luo Lan was delighted and complained again: "Where the h*ll has Master Xiao gone? We have been looking for you all day and night and we were going crazy."
Xiao Yuan was stunned and asked, "What day is it today?"
"The 16th." Gu Louyin said, "The full moon last night, your Gu…"
Xiao Yuan murmured, "It turned out that it was not a dream." Li Xianting had really been here. Then how did he return to Dongguan Mountain?
Xiao Yuan asked [All Have]: "Was this why you said‘ "Don’t worry’?"
[All Have]: "En."
Xiao Yuan: "Who brought me back?"
"Master Xiao? Master Xiao! "
Xiao Yuan recovered and said, "I’m fine. I just… went to meet an old friend. I came back after seeing him."
"Who was it?"
"It has nothing to do with you."
Luo Lan said anxiously: "No matter who it is, you have to tell us! Don’t you know that young master…"
Gu Louyin interrupted Luo Lan’s words. He looked at Xiao Yuan and said, "It’s fine if you are okay. Let’s go back."
Seeing the familiar farmhouse, Xiao Yuan’s chaotic mood calmed down.
Three days, only the last three days were left.
Gu Louyin’s voice sounded behind him: "Xiao Yuan."
Xiao Yuan turned his head, "Huh?"
"I…" Gu Louyin stopped talking, as if a little ashamed.
Xiao Yuan said, "Hurry up and say what you want to say, I want to go to bed as soon as possible."
Gu Louyin pressed his lips and took out a small, delicate purse from his sleeve.
Xiao Yuan cast a confused glance.
"They say that three days before the wedding, a couple needs to put their hair into a purse so that they can… grow old together."
Xiao Yuan took the purse and saw two lines embroidered on it: Married as husband and wife, there is no doubt about their love.