Jun Xiaomo was not thick-skinned by any means. Thus, when she was caught in an embrace with Ye Xiuwen, Jun Xiaomo felt thoroughly embarrassed even though she did nothing wrong.
She immediately released Ye Xiuwen and placed her arms behind her back and lowered her head just like a child that had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Her ears were completely flushed with a red hue.
On the other hand, Ye Xiuwen remained completely cool and composed. He had been bitterly suppressing his feelings for Jun Xiaomo all this while because he was afraid that she would react with disgust and distance herself from him if she found out his feelings for her. But now that everything was out in the open, and they had confirmed their mutual feelings for each other, he didn’t see any reason to keep things under wraps any longer.
Thus, he patted Jun Xiaomo’s head indulgently before lifting his head and explained candidly, “Zilong, the relationship between Xiaomo and I is exactly what you’ve just seen.”
Zhou Zilong furrowed his brows and immediately responded, “But if Martial Brother Ye and Xiaomo are an item, where does that leave Miss Zhang?”
Ye Xiuwen sighed in exasperation, “Why do all of you think that there’s something going on between Miss Zhang and I? Have I done something that would lead to such a misunderstanding?”
Zhou Zilong found himself rather lost for words at Ye Xiuwen’s response.
Indeed, upon closer examination of the matter, Ye Xiuwen’s attitude towards Miss Zhang had never been considered particularly affectionate or endearing. At the very least, it could hardly be considered on the same level as his present attitude with Jun Xiaomo. On the other hand, it was Zhang Shuyue whose feelings for Ye Xiuwen were patently clear.
That said, they had always attributed the relationship between Jun Xiaomo and Ye Xiuwen to nothing more than that between close martial siblings. Furthermore, the fact that Ye Xiuwen generally treated everyone with the same amount of coolness and distance naturally gave rise to the misunderstanding that there was something special in the interaction between him and Zhang Shuyue.
Thus, everyone began to think that Ye Xiuwen and Zhang Shuyue both had feelings for each other. Who would’ve thought that this was merely unrequited love on her part?
After Ye Xiuwen shed light on situation, Zhou Zilong found himself reacting to the situation with ambivalence. Truth be told, the fact that Ye Xiuwen had no feelings for Zhang Shuyue was a good thing for him. After all, he could never bring himself to vie for a same woman as his own Martial Brother Ye to begin with.
However, as soon as he thought about how Miss Zhang would appear completely grief-stricken and hurt when she learned about the truth between Martial Brother Ye and Martial Sister Xiaomo, a stifling, frustrated sensation would burgeon in his heart and stuff up his throat.
Right now, Zhou Zilong found himself caught between a rock and a hard place.
Ye Xiuwen walked towards Zhou Zilong and patted him on the shoulder, “Don’t just stand there completely stunned. There are still quite a number of martial brothers in the main hall who need treatment. Go see what you can do to help them.”
“Oh, alright. I’ll head there right now.” Zhou Zilong scratched his head as he chose to shelf these thoughts for now.
After all, someone with a personality as straightforward as his was simply not suited to delve into the nuances of human interactions.
Zhou Zilong took only two steps before he turned around once more. There, he retrieved some things from his Interspatial Ring and held them up to Jun Xiaomo.
“Martial Sister Xiaomo, these are some things we’d bought for you earlier. They’re beneficial for your recovery. Please take them.”
“Alright. Thank you, Martial Brother Zhou.” Jun Xiaomo received the porcelain bottles that Zhou Zilong had held out with gratitude. Smiling, Zhou Zilong waved his hands and made his way towards the main hall once more.
As Jun Xiaomo stored Zhou Zilong’s gifts back into her Interspatial Ring, she sighed once more.
“Why are you sighing so much at such a young age?” Ye Xiuwen lowered his head and glanced at Jun Xiaomo as he asked with some measure of exasperation.
Jun Xiaomo looked into Ye Xiuwen’s eyes, but she found herself tongue-tied.
Ye Xiuwen patted her head, “It’s fine if you don’t want to talk about it now. Let’s go help the others as well. Zhou Zilong has brought back some herbs and tonics that have restorative purposes. Now would be a good time to use them.”
Jun Xiaomo nodded her head as she walked alongside Ye Xiuwen silently as they made their way towards the main hall.
Whenever she thought about the manner with which Zhou Zilong spoke about Zhang Shuyue, Jun Xiaomo’s heart would feel ill at ease, as though a storm were currently in the brewing in the horizon…
Since Zhang Shuyue had sustained injuries on behalf of Ye Xiuwen and Zhou Zilong, Jun Xiaomo’s plans to leave the valley had to be temporarily shelved for now.
However, the fact that her plans were delayed didn’t mean that she was unable to take other precautions. For instance, now that her body had substantially recovered, she had set aside some time during this period of lull to prepare more talismans for a rainy day. Furthermore, in her remaining free time, she would explore and wander about the rest of the valley, searching for things which she could use in her formation arrays.
Jun Xiaomo had never let her guard down around Zhang Shuyue a single time. In fact, her vigilance against Zhang Shuyue had only increased with time.
Yet what was most aggrieving to Jun Xiaomo was the fact that Zhang Shuyue had now earned herself a label as Ye Xiuwen and Zhou Zilong’s benefactor. With that, none of the Heavenly Peak disciples were willing to contemplate the possibility that Zhang Shuyue harboured ulterior motives for what she had done. Even Jun Xiaomo’s attempts to remind them to remain guarded around Zhang Shuyue had fallen on deaf ears.
“Miss Zhang isn’t as bad person. Little Martial Sister, don’t let your mind wander too much.” One of the Heavenly Peak disciples remarked in an attempt to reassure Jun Xiaomo and ask her to be more magnanimous.
“If Miss Zhang truly had ulterior motives, she wouldn’t have stepped in harm’s way and rescued Martial Brothers Ye and Zhou.” Another Heavenly Peak disciple chimed in.
“Little Martial Sister, are you still worried that Miss Zhang will snatch Martial Brother Ye from you? Don’t worry, Martial Brother Ye isn’t the type to have a change of heart like that.” This was what a third Heavenly Peak disciple responded with when she attempted to warn him to remain cautious of Zhang Shuyue.
Jun Xiaomo felt thoroughly aggrieved – what exactly did she have to do to alert her martial brother to Zhang Shuyue’s true colours?
In particular, Jun Xiaomo was rendered completely speechless at the third martial brother’s response, and she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at it. Was she such a petty woman in his eyes? Did he really think she couldn’t accept the fact that Martial Brother Ye would have more than one suitor?
Jun Xiaomo realized that the number of times she had sighed in despondence and desperation had increased manifold after entering these valleys.
That said, it was a fact that Zhang Shuyue had not done anything outrageous during this period of time. Most of her time was spent within her room, recuperating and recovering from her injuries, while all of her needs were attended to by Zhou Zilong. Apart from stepping out of her room from time to time, and feebly and weakly waving at the passing Heavenly Peak disciples before turning back into her room, she did nothing else. Thus, she had Jun Xiaomo completely confuzzled as to what her true intentions were.
From Jun Xiaomo’s understanding of Zhang Shuyue’s character, she knew that Zhang Shuyue would never give up so easily.
At the same time, she had begun to notice how Martial Brother Zhou Zilong would appear to have something to say whenever he crossed paths with Jun Xiaomo, yet end up bottling it up anyway, as though he were unwilling to talk about it.
Finally, Jun Xiaomo could no longer resist the urge to clear the air, so she blocked Zhou Zilong’s path of travel and pressed the issue, “Martial Brother Zhou, do you have something that you want to talk to me about?” Jun Xiaomo asked with a serious tone of voice as she stared straight into Zhou Zilong’s eyes, attempting to glean some information from his gaze and his expressions.
Zhou Zilong looked at Jun Xiaomo and his lips quivered slightly, as though he were about to say something. Then, after a moment’s hesitation, he chuckled dryly, “There’s nothing much. Little Martial Sister, don’t think too much about it.”
In her exasperation, Jun Xiaomo continued, “Martial Brother Zhou, don’t you know that everything is already written all over your face? What you’ve said might passably fool people who don’t know you, but you’re going to need more if you wish to hide something from me. We’ve been martial siblings for such a long time; are there really things you can’t speak to me about? Why must you go about in such a furtive manner…”
As Jun Xiaomo spoke, her voice was increasingly filled with disappointment.
After all, she had always treated her Heavenly Peak martial siblings as her kinsmen, and the last thing she wanted was for a rift to develop between them.
Zhou Zilong scratched his hair and furrowed his brows. After hesitating for several more moments, he finally sighed, “It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it. Rather, it’s more than I don’t know where to begin talking about it. On the one hand, I’m afraid that speaking about it would only strain relations between us as martial siblings; yet on the other hand, if I don’t talk about it, my heart feels stifled and frustrated.”
Jun Xiaomo furrowed her brows. She couldn’t recall when such a rift had ever developed between her and Martial Brother Zhou in her previous life. And now that something like that had happened, the only possibility which Jun Xiaomo could think of was the variable, Zhang Shuyue.
“Is it because of Zhang Shuyue?” Jun Xiaomo looked sternly at Zhou Zilong, “Martial Brother Zhou, are you really going to strain our relationship for an outsider like Zhang Shuyue?”
“It’s…it’s not like that.” Zhou Zilong explicated, “Little Martial Sister, I know you’re a kindhearted person, not sinister or malicious by any means. But what I can’t understand is your attitude towards Miss Zhang. Miss Zhang has told me that she’s always wanted a younger sister since she was young. Unfortunately, to her great frustration and disappointment, she’s the youngest disciple among all of her master’s disciples. She sees your appearance as the prime opportunity to fill the void in her heart, so she’s always been desirous of establishing a good relationship with you. However, you’ve always been treating her with such coldness and distance, so…”
“So, she’s sent Martial Brother Zhou to be her mouthpiece, hasn’t she?” Jun Xiaomo coldly remarked, “Martial Brother Zhou, tell me – can our relationship built on decades of being martial siblings really not compare to your relationship with an outsider? A single remark from her saying that she sincerely wants a younger sister, and you lap it up with such eagerness, wholeheartedly believing it to be the incontrovertible truth. Then, what if I say that she’s a bad person with ulterior motives – will you believe my words in the same fashion?”
“This…Miss Zhang doesn’t have any reason to deceive us, does she?” Zhou Zilong furrowed his brows, “Martial Sister Xiaomo, are you simply being biased against Miss Zhang here? Actually, Miss Zhang is a really good person. In fact, I think that Martial Sister Xiaomo shouldn’t be too harsh on her on account of the fact that she’s saved Martial Brother Ye and I.”
Yet Jun Xiaomo shrugged it off dispassionately, “I think it’s still too early for that conclusion before we even figure out where those masked assailants had come from.”
At this point, Zhou Zilong’s patience had begun to wear thin, “Little Martial Sister, what do you mean by that? Are you suggesting that the masked men had been sent by Miss Zhang to begin with?”
“We can’t discount that possibility, can we?” Jun Xiaomo expounded on her allegation, “Martial Brother Ye and I had planned to leave the valley with everyone on that very day – Zhang Shuyue was fully aware of this. If her intentions were to keep us here, then wouldn’t the best way to do so be to make us owe her a debt of gratitude? Furthermore, why did Miss Zhang have to follow you out to procure medicine to begin with? She wouldn’t have a good impression of me since she’s of the view that I’d snatched Martial Brother Ye from her. And to think that she’s even alleging that it was her dream to have a younger sister – don’t you think that such an excuse is far too contrived?”
Zhou Zilong was unwilling to accept Jun Xiaomo’s explanations in his heart, and he felt that Jun Xiaomo was merely employing sophistry here.
“Xiaomo, Miss Zhang has never blamed you for anything. She’s thought things through over the last few days, and she’s willing to give up on Martial Brother Ye. Why do you have to keep harping on this? Why can’t you just let go?”
“The person who’s harping on this is you, not me!” Jun Xiaomo was at her limits, “Martial Brother Zhou, we’ve already shelved our plans to leave the valley because of her injuries. What else do you want from us? Besides, I’ve never picked on her during this period of time to begin with. Why do you think she’s always displaying such a hurt, pitiable look to everyone?! Martial Brother Zhou, you can’t expect all of us to like her just because you like her yourself!”
Having had his innermost thoughts exposed, Zhou Zilong’s revealed a slightly embarrassed and awkward look on his face. After all, he knew that he was in the wrong to criticize his Little Martial Sister so harshly. However, his heart wrenched in pain whenever he saw Miss Zhang appear so distressed and despondent.
This was the reason why he had decided to confront his Little Martial Sister about all these things.
“Alright, that’s enough.” A cool, stern voice echoed from behind Zhou Zilong. In the next moment, Ye Xiuwen walked past Zhou Zilong towards Jun Xiaomo as he patted her shoulders, consoling her. Then, he turned back to Zhou Zilong and quipped, “Zilong, I don’t care about anything that happens between you and Miss Zhang, but I hope that you don’t get blinded by your feelings and lose your rationality.”
Zhou Zilong furrowed his brows. Isn’t Martial Brother Ye spoiling Martial Sister Xiaomo too much? This was all Martial Sister Xiaomo’s fault to begin with. Why isn’t Martial Brother Ye blaming her?
However, Ye Xiuwen was the oldest martial brother in terms of stature, and Zhou Zilong did not have the authority to say anything more. Thus, with indignation weighing heavily on his heart, he simply turned around and began to make his way towards Zhang Shuyue’s abode.
This was almost a routine for him by now – everyday, he would visit Zhang Shuyue with some delectable delights or fun trinkets to help her kill time and distract her mind from the pain of her injuries.
As she looked at Zhou Zilong depart in a huff, Jun Xiaomo muttered with deep perturbation, “I really hope Martial Brother Zhou doesn’t fall prey to Zhang Shuyue’s schemes.”
Ye Xiuwen patted Jun Xiaomo’s head, reserving any comments he had.
Truth be told, he didn’t quite understand where his Little Martial Sister’s hostility towards Zhang Shuyue had come from. But blood was thicker than water after all, and there was no need for him to grow cold and distant from his Little Martial Sister just for an outsider. Besides, Zhang Shuyue hardly appeared to be completely innocent to begin with. The fact that she would manipulate Zhou Zilong and drive a wedge between Zhou Zilong and Jun Xiaomo was already evidence that her heart was not filled with pure and innocent intentions.
Thus, Ye Xiuwen had chosen to remain silent.Previous Chapter Next Chapter