“Rose petals rained down like rain, like tears from a romantic, like blood from a heart hopelessly in love, shrouding the heavens and conquering the mountain. Many moons ago, the romantic planted a mountain of roses for the girl of his dreams just because she said she liked roses. She, however, didn’t feel the same way about him. Heartbroken, he abandoned thousands of furious clansmen and disciples, burnt all the roses, left and began the life of a nomad. This was the reason ‘Flower Mountain’ had been barren until more recently.
“This place is Valley of Yearning, a place home to stories of love.” – “Places Couples Must Visit Rankings 3”, Black and White Reflection.
Hong Jiu soundly slept on a long and narrow bed for a full two hours already since forcing himself to scare off Hai Yecha’s group. During that time, Bai Zhiqing was always there to constantly check his pulse in his left wrist, then his right, then back to his left, then to his left foot… until he went to reach for Hong Jiu’s lower back, prompting Master Qi to exclaim, “P-Patriarch Bai!”
Since she didn’t think of what to say first, Master Qi mumbled under her breath, “How… is he?” as she stole a glance at Hong Jiu.
Having heard Hong Jiu’s loud voice, seen his exaggerated mannerisms and seen him in action, Master Qi felt it wasn’t right for him to look so weak, to be out, to be deprived of his impressive energy, even though she disliked him.
Bai Zhiqing shook his head and just looked at Master Qi out of his peripherals.
“Is his condition really bad?”
Bai Zhiqing shook his head. “Are you… his wife?”
“No! Absolutely not!”
“I see. I guess that’s fine.”
Master Qi, confused, looked to Guan Ning, only to see another puzzled face. “By ‘fine’, do you mean he is okay or not okay?”
Bai Zhiqing, with his brows knotted, scanned Master Qi over and over until she felt so uncomfortable. “Are you really not his wife?”
“No! What exactly do you want?!”
“Long legs, narrow waist, she’s Mount Daluo’s type, yet she’s not? She sure had a late growth spurt,” Bai Zhiqing muttered. “Oh, it’s nothing. It’s just that what I’m about to say is reserved only for his wife to hear.”
There were many circumstances where someone had to entrust last words to a relative in the pugilistic world, most of which were times when someone didn’t have much longer to live. Bai Zhiqing’s tone and choice of words had Master Qi going between pale and rosy.
Master Qi: How am I supposed to find his wife all of a sudden? Besides, he… a girl would have to be blind to like him.
Fang Xiaoyu lost his patience and asked, “Is Brother Hong done for? Patriarch Bai, you are a man of great skill and knowledge. Please find a way to save him.”
Even after Guan Ning joined in with Fang Xiaoyu, Bai Zhiqing just shook his head as if he didn’t hear them and questioned, “So who is his wife, then?” as he quickly swept his gaze over them and stopped on Master Qi, again. “Must be you.”
“No!” Master Qi glared at Bai Zhiqing with her eyes as wide as they could go, not that it scared him in the slightest.
“So, you hate him?”
“Based on my experience, women love to say the opposite of how they truly feel. You say you hate him, but you can’t ignore him. Hey, hey, keep your sword sheathed. I can’t beat your sister. Let me ask you this: do you always hate him? Are there never moments where you think he’s quite reliable, quite manly?”
“I…” Whatever came to Master Qi’s mind, it was enough to shut down her retort.
“So there are.”
“What’s it to you?! Just tell us how he’s faring.”
Bai Zhiqing shrugged. “So are you his wife or not?”
“Fine, fine, I am! Now tell us!”
“You would’ve saved everyone a lot of time if you were just honest from the beginning. Give me your ear.” In a voice only the two of them could hear, Bai Zhiqing whispered, “I can tell only you this.”
Master Qi was mentally prepared to hear that Hong Jiu’s condition was so terrible that he’d need to be transported back to Mount Tian for her sister to help.
“I’ve checked carefully. He’s very healthy. His wife is blessed to have a husband so healthy even when he’s been hurt so bad.”
Master Qi went totally red in the face. “What nonsense are you talking about?!”
“Uplifting the sad mood,” replied Bai Zhiqing, with a straight face. “There’s a lot of foreign energy attacking his body. His meridians are damaged. He should relax and avoid vigorous activity for half a month after the spirit of the broadsword attack is expelled if he wants a full recovery. Yet, he forced himself to perform such a powerful palm strike. Logically speaking, his meridians should be dead and injuries incurable; it’d be a waste of herbs to treat him.”
“H-he’s crippled? He…”
Because of one sentence from Drought Demon, Hong Jiu jumped into the battlefield despite having the advantage already, and in spite of him being surrounded in enemies, he managed to smash through Drought Demon’s true qi armour. He would talk the talk, but he would also walk the walk. He was a man of his word, and he always delivered with a strong impression.
You… seriously must be…
“Hey, hey, don’t jump to your own conclusions. Didn’t I preface it with ‘logically speaking’?”
“Miss Wen, my idol preaches a saying that you ought to remember. When someone in the pugilistic world says ‘logically speaking’, never believe a word that is in the same sentence. If everything in the pugilistic world followed logic, who would bother learning martial arts? They’d pick up books and brushes to debate logic. Believe a blade, not logic. This is an unyielding truth.”
Since he said that, Master Qi drew her sword and thrust it toward Bai Zhiqing’s head.
“Hey, hey, hey, relax! I was just joking! Relax!”
Suddenly, Hong Jiu snored loudly, making Master Qi stop in her tracks. No matter how she reflected on it, she didn’t feel it was the snore of someone hanging on by a thread or still injured.
“He’s resting. I repeat: not recovering. Resting.” Bai Zhiqing dusted himself and sauntered over to Master Qi. “Logically speaking, he should be crippled, but he’s not. As a matter of fact, he’s healing from his injuries. Parts that were supposed to die are healing. By the time he wakes up, he’ll be overflowing with energy again.”
Master Qi heaved a breath of relief and loosened her grip on her sword hilt.
Bai Zhiqing added, “He truly is blessed with immense talent; there’s no way you can reach his level with smarts alone. He’s one in a million. He’s even physically built to excel at martial arts. I genuinely can’t think of a reason to deny him leadership of Mount Daluo.
“Remember how confident he sounded back there? Based on the unyielding truth, he’d fight to be patriarch if nobody gave it to him, and nobody could stop him. Yet, instead of succeeding his teacher or fighting for the seat, he’s willing to be Night Fortress or whatever’s second in command, and he’s happy about it. Hahaha, life sure is full of surprises.”
Staring at Hong Jiu, Master Qi suddenly said, “Because he has acknowledged a certain someone. Someone like him won’t change their mind once they acknowledge someone… He’s a true idiot.”
Master Qi’s gentle tone was totally incongruent with what actually came out of her mouth. She, actually, appreciated that part about Hong Jiu.
As he watched her expression, Bai Zhiqing wiped away his serious face and… officially started revelling in the fun he could have from teasing.
As soon as Hong Jiu opened his eyes, he rolled out of bed and onto the ground in a fighting pose. “I’m back and better than ever!”
“You sure woke up early.”
Hong Jiu turned to the speaker. “Third Master.”
“No more ‘Grandpa’?”
Hong Jiu wagged his hand. “That was to make you look good in public. It is not something you can treat seriously.”
“True. It feels wrong to be your senior when your shifu is my idol. Just call me ‘Third Brother Bai’.”
The two shared a glance, then heartily laughed without any regard for the people sleeping.
“I estimated you’d be back to 50% by tomorrow, but it looks like you’re already 80%-ish better. Have a seat.” Bai Zhiqing opened a jug of wine.
“This is nothing. Just rub some spit on it, and I will be fine.” Hong Jiu heartily took the jug and knocked it back.
Anyone with half an ounce of sensibility would know that consuming alcohol while recovering was a bad idea, so the two of them knew that even better than anyone else. That was the reason Hong Jiu made sure to gulp mouthfuls.
“What injury ails Lady Bai?”
“It’s not an injury.” Bai Zhiqing picked up the jug to have a drink, then continued, “My wife’s martial arts discipline is synchronised. She’s never felt too well ever since she gave birth. Have you met Yumo?”
“Miss Bai? I have once, yes.” Hong Jiu scratched his head, feeling it was pointless to even mention it. “So, Lady Bai…”
“My wife is older than me by six years. She was already an established adept while I was still a bumbling unknown face in the crowd. It’s unfortunate that her skills have regressed as a consequence of not taking care of her properly after giving birth. This year, she’s regressed even more due to becoming pregnant again.”
That explained why Bai Zhiqing was constantly fretting about the slightest thing as long as his wife was involved.