The approaching group swiftly arrived at the bottom of the high slope.
Si Qiuying took one look at the approaching party led by the beautiful figure, then she tersely said to Li Luo, "Since you don't agree to my proposal, take it as I said nothing."
She threw him a meaningful look, indicating that he should not mention their discussion in front of Jiang Qing'e.
Li Luo was still smiling, his eyes fixed on the approaching girl.
She arrived on her horse, wearing a short, navy-blue vest and a battle skirt. Her long, white legs and gorgeous body were enough to bring the dead back to life.
The perfect heroine.
She turned her deep, gold eyes to Li Luo and then to Si Qiuying. "Little earthworm, are you interested in my Young Lord? Courting him aggressively?" she asked mildly.
Si Qiuying forced a nervous laugh and pleaded, "I just wanted to see the champion of the Tianshu exams in the flesh."
Jiang Qing'e turned to Li Luo. "Is that so?"
Si Qiuying desperately shot Li Luo looks.
"Miss Si over here asked me to cancel our engagement. She wants to start a new one between you and her brother."
Little girl, how naive! You should have asked Southwind Academy what Li Luo was famous for. It was tattling!
Si Qiuying's smile froze on her face, but her eyes were burning holes into Li Luo.
Jiang Qing'e's face did not change one bit. "Little earthworm, are you trying to burrow out of the ground? You dare worm into my business?"
Si Qiuying shrank away. "No, please let me explain, Sister Qing'e," she said in a small voice.
She ran away.
Jiang Qing'e flicked a finger and sent a pellet of light whistling out. It smacked against Si Qiuying's shoulder with a tiny ring.
Si Qiuying cried, clutching her arm. She turned to Jiang Qing'e, beseeching tearfully. "Sister Qing'e, I was in the wrong! Please don't hit me anymore."
Jiang Qing'e dispelled the light resonance. "I won’t do it again.
"Also, stop trying to tie me up with your brother. He might be excellent, but he’s not my cup of tea."
Si Qiuying was sulky. "Sister Qing'e, my big brother is quite the catch. Even the Astral Sage College mentors say that he has the makings of a Duke!"
Jiang Qing'e scoffed. "That's it?"
Si Qiuying balked. Those words from anyone else would be bragging, but from Jiang Qing'e?
She bit her lip and then looked across at Li Luo, who was enjoying the show. "Maybe he can't compare to Sister Qing'e, but he's definitely better than that one."
Jiang Qing'e smiled. "Maybe not... two months ago, Li Luo had blank palaces. Now he's first in the Tianshu Province. Give him some time, and he might just top the Astral Sage College's newcomers."
"Sister Qing'e, your imagination has to have a limit," Si Qiuying said scathingly.
Although Li Luo's improvements in a mere two months could not be denied, him becoming the best in the new cohort was quite impossible. This was the Astral Sage College! The cream of the Xia Kingdom crop, all gathered in one place. What was Li Luo worth in this group!?
Jiang Qing'e turned away, dismissing her with a flick of her hand.
Si Qiuying had no choice but to get up and put on her shoes. Throwing one last angry look at Li Luo, she turned to leave.
Only after Si Qiuying had slunk off with her retinue did Li Luo speak. "That was harsh. I've just arrived and you've heaped resentment on my plate."
Once Jiang Qing'e's words got out, Li Luo felt that it was going to complicate his life at the Astral Sage College by a big notch.
"I think you might be angry at me, but I’m not really sure."
Jiang Qing'e gave him a puppy-eyed look with her golden eyes, and she cocked her head innocently.
Li Luo was planning to scold her, but the words stuck in his throat. She was so cute. Jiang Qing'e, it must be illegal for you to be so pretty and act so cute.
Regretfully, she soon returned to normal. "Not bad. It would have been enough to get into the Astral Sage College, but to think you took first place too."
"Sheesh. I was forced. I was forced from start to finish." Li Luo shook his head, indicating that he didn't want to elaborate.
She made a small noise of amusement and did not pursue.
Li Luo was aghast. Was she really not going to ask? He had finally gotten hold of something he could talk about to her, and she was not going to bite? Damn, that sucked.
But still, he could only swallow it. He couldn't very well start talking about it. That would be embarrassing.
"Let's go. I want to see Cai Wei and Lingqing, I haven't seen them in a while," Jiang Qing'e said. She took hold of her beasts' reins and draped a long leg over it, heading down the slope.
Li Luo could only follow grumpily.
The two made their way down as the sun began to set. Golden hour cast long shadows on the two, and from afar they seemed to merge into one.
Cai Wei and Yan Lingqing were watching from the carriage. "They look like the perfect match."
Yan Lingqing nodded in agreement. She had never been too concerned with looks, but she had to admit that few could compare to Li Luo in that aspect.
Soon enough, Jiang Qing'e and Li Luo were with them.
"Qing'e, I've missed you to death!" Yan Lingqing joyfully flew forwards to hug Jiang Qing'e. The latter's beautiful but aloof face warmed up considerably as she patted Yan Lingqing's back gently.
Cai Wei's eyes were filled with joy as well. She was not as worked up as Yan Lingqing, but she came forth for a small hug too.
Each of Jiang Qing'e's hands circled a waist. "Sister Cai Wei, Lingqing, thanks for all your hard work."
Behind her, Li Luo was feeling a little extra as he watched the three women hug.
They had been through a lot at Southwind together after all. They were comrades now. He wouldn't mind celebrating together with them.
"Li Luo, come celebrate with us." Yan Lingqing's voice floated over.
Li Luo looked over and was just about to reply when he saw Jiang Qing'e cocking her head at him, a half-smile on her lips. He kept his expression blank. "Girls' celebration, that doesn't interest me," he said indifferently.
He stood there and watched them catch up for what felt like the longest time. Finally, they seemed to come to a pause.
Yan Lingqing and Cai Wei got on the red horses, while Jiang Qing'e got into the carriage.
Li Luo was about to mount up as well, but he saw Jiang Qing'e looking at him with mischief in her golden eyes.
"Aren't you coming in? I still want to hear about your time in the exam."
Li Luo started, then coughed quickly. "Well, there's nothing much to..."
"Forget it, then." She started to close the door.
"Hem. Well, if you insist on hearing about it, I guess I could tell you." Li Luo hurriedly changed directions. In a flash, he was boarding the carriage happily. Jiang Qing'e, you playful little minx.
1. TN: Qiuying's name is written 秋颖, meaning autumn husk. Qing'e is calling her 蚯蚓, meaning earthworm. Both are pronounced Qiuying, with the exact same intonation, so who knows the difference in speech anyway…