Qin Shaoxu had appeared at some point in time, giving Chen Mo’s swordsmanship an evaluation.
Chen Mo swung the Alpha Ursae Majoris Saber, sinking into contemplation.
“Shaoxu, where did you go?” Ting Nanyuan happily ran over. The Wuyang Princess had already completely forgotten her displeasure from a moment prior.
Qin Shaoxu said: “I went to investigate the Unexplored Region.”
“Did you find a way?” Chen Mo stowed his weapon, a bit tired from training.
Qin Shaoxu shook his head. The results of his investigation were not hopeful at all. This place’s Unexplored Regions were very complicated. If there was no local guide, they would waste significant time. Chen Mo already did not have much time left to waste, and that was why.
“So we still must compromise with Great King Mulu?” Chen Mo muttered.
“Why don’t you try together with Miaoling?” Qin Shaoxu said.
Chen Mo was slightly hesitant.
“I feel that she does not have evil intents, there is no need for you to be so heartless.”
“Yeah, two birds with one stone.” Ting Nanyuan echoed.
“When the time comes.” Chen Mo muttered half-heartedly.
Deep in the night, at midnight.
Chen Mo suddenly opened his eyes from a dream. A moth was on the ceiling fluttering its wings. Seeing Chen Mo awaken, the moth deliberately flew out the door.
Chen Mo glanced at Qin Shaoxu dreaming in meditation on a chair. Ever since their ungraceful sleeping posture last night, this beautiful man retained a grudge and refused to sleep on the bed. Chen Mo saw that he was unconscious. Knowing that this moth specifically roused him from sleep, Chen Mo carefull got up, put on a coat, and left.
Outside the tree room, the cold wind was like ice, the shadows of leaves rustling.
That moth flew for a while, arriving at a wide open space. Chen Mo saw a tall woman with a hairbun standing in the night. The moth stopped upon her slender white finger.
“Senior Yeyao, what business have you with me this late at night?” Chen Mo calmly: “Don’t tell me you also want to talk about the Lover Flower?”
Yeyao’s voice was like the night wind, chilling to the heart. “I know you harbor ill-feelings, and I do not want to force you.”
“Miaoling lost her family at a young age and has relied on me since she was a child. I see her as my own daughter. Normally, she is heartless. The entire Miao Village reveres her, but she has no close friends. Ever since I learned that you and she went to the Green Duckweed River together to catch the kingfisher, this has been the first time I’ve ever seen this child so happy.
“I am not surprised that you rejected her, however, to see my daughter so hurt, in my heart as a teacher, I am also unwell. So I want you to give her a chance.”
“I’m afraid that she will be hurt even more.” Chen Mo helplessly said.
“You might as well. As she is the Saintess, nothing was ever going to come out between the two of you, but at the very least, this experience can allow her to mature just a little bit.” Yeyao said.
Chen Mo thought for a moment, but did not seem to have anything to say, “Senior Yeyao, what would you like me to do.”
“I won’t force you. Tomorrow, I will persuade the Great King to allow you and your friends to go to the Unexplored Region. However, tonight, I want you to properly console Miaoling. Being rejected by you has left her depressed. This Master fears that she will return to her shut-in self from long ago.”
“I know.” Since he was the cause of this, Chen Mo would not shift the responsibility.
Miaoling sat at the top of the Tree of God. From here, she could practically look down over the verdant Nan Jiang. Moonlight draped over this forest like silk, and the Milky Way in the sky above flowed like a river, its million stars sparkling.
Each star was so dazzling.
Miaoling hugged her knees as she gazed at this landscape.
A beautiful kingfisher perched on her shoulder pecked at tiny granule spiders.
“Chen Mo, that damned Chen Mo really is too loathsome. Wouldn’t you say, Momo.” Miaoling muttered to herself. “He didn’t give me one bit of face.”
“But you don’t care about me either.” Miaoling saw that the kingfisher was only focused on eating. She became irritated and gently poked it.
The kingfisher chittered. Now that it had been thoroughly tamed by Miaoling, it could also share the girl’s innermost preoccupations.
Seeing that it was completely carefree, Miaoling murmured: “Momo, tell me, when you were cupped in that man’s palm, wasn’t he so warm and gentle? What was that feeling like?”
The kingfisher abruptly flapped its wings, and a clear and bright voice suddenly answered her.
“The feeling of being cupped in a palm must be very terrible.”
“Ah.” Miaoling was jolted in surprised, immediately putting on a defensive stance. The silver bell on her wrist rang with the night wind, letting out a clear warning.
However, when she saw the interloper clearly, Miaoling itched to find a hole to bury herself in.
“Chen Mo! Y-y-you, when did you get here.” Miaoling’s face was on fire.
“I didn’t mean to peep, but today, there was a girl who suddenly confessed to me. Your Servant’s heart was somewhat immeasurably self-satisfied. I couldn’t sleep and thus came up the Tree of God to view the scenery.” Chen Mo chuckled.
Miaoling resentfully cursed. “You really are shameless.”
“How is me viewing the scenery shameless.” Chen Mo naturally walked over.
“It is shameless, to go so far as to trample over a young girl’s confession. You need to be made into mincemeat.” Miaoling harrumphed.
“Laughter fades into silence, the passionate one is angered by the heartless one.”1 Chen Mo sighed.
Miaoling’s mouth hung open. This poem was so beautiful.
“As if I’d get angry over a mediocre person.” Miaoling was unwilling to concede.
Chen Mo smiled and sat beside her. “Why aren’t you asleep either. Don’t tell me you’re too excited to fall asleep from confessing to a handsome guy, so you came to look at the scenery?”
Miaoling hammered Chen Mo’s shoulder. The girl said in shock: “Heavens, how do you have such thick skin. To think that I like you, I really want to go die.”
“Meaning, that you finally see my true colors clearly? Congratulations.” Chen Mo held her hands, a congratulatory gesture.
“I truly regret letting you drink Master’s wine.” Otherwise, Miaoling absolutely would use the gu arts she was so proud of to ruthlessly take revenge on him and finally quell the resentment in her heart.
“Don’t be so petty.” Chen Mo said. “You tamed this kingfisher.”
“Yeah, and he’s way more obedient than you. Come, Momo, roll.” Miaoling giggled. This Green Duckweed Kingfisher then actually rolled in midair.
“Now peck him.” Miaoling craftily smiled.
The kingfisher divebombed Chen Mo.
Chen Mo pinched his hand together without much thought. His Divine Intent moved, and like last time, the Green Duckweed Kingfisher was gently restrained within his palm. Chen Mo carefully preened its feathers, “Having such a bright bird accompany you will always be better than having heartless me.”
Miaoling’s eyes suddenly heated up. She sniffled, her heart aching to death. “Don’t say this kind of stuff on purpose. I’ve grown up alone since I was little, and I can live well alone in the future.”
Chen Mo released the kingfisher. Momo the kingfisher perched on Miaoling’s shoulder. In Chen Mo’s heart, he was also somewhat conflicted, but what else could he do. In his mind, Miaoling was like a little sister at most, and his goal was not to stay in Nan Jiang or even in this Tail Fire Star Field. He was unwilling to ponder other things.
“Your master spoke to me about your background. If you don’t find it disdainful, I can be your Big Brother.” Chen Mo said.
“It’s disdainful, disdainful to death.” Miaoling did not hesitate at all to decline.
Chen Mo smiled: “I thought so. You aren’t even clear on a single thing about my identity. Maybe I’m an unabashed criminal, or perhaps a professional swindler.”
“You’re mostly there if you aren’t already. I don’t want to enter your pit of hell at all.” Miaoling was confident.
Seeing her slowly wash away her sad mood, Chen Mo was a bit happy. He looked to the starry heavens and said: “The stars in this sky, they seem much brighter when you look from the Great Chong Dynasty compared to anywhere else.”
“Aren’t the stars the same everywhere.” Miaoling disagreed.
“Not the same. The higher you stand, the more shocking the heavens you touch.” Chen Mo shook his head.
Miaoling seemed to catch on: “Meaning, the Central Star Field has Maiden Mountain, which is rumored to be higher than even the heavens. No wonder those Star Generals all want to climb Maiden Mountain.”
“You don’t want to go see it?”
Miaoling shook her head: “I’m not a Star General, what would I go see it for. Besides, the Central Star Field is too far away. I don’t even have the qualifications to leave this Star Field.”
“But I want to go see it.” Chen Mo smiled.
“Huh?” Miaoling was endlessly astounded: “What do you want to see? Maiden Mountain”
Chen Mo nodded.
“You’re dreaming. You’re only a warrior, how can you go. Even the Human Sovereign would find it very challenging to break through the Star Field Barrier. Legend says that only a Star General or those cultivators who have refined the spiritual energy of the starry heavens have the qualifications.” Miaoling gave Chen Mo weird look.
“I will definitely go.” Chen Mo did not explain.
Miaoling had wanted tease him, but seeing Chen Mo’s serious expression, she was unable to snicker even a single bit.
After a while, the girl said: “Then I pray that you achieve this wish. When that time comes, I hope that I can glimpse your Star in these heavens.”
Legend said that after ascending Maiden Mountain, one would turn into a star forever engraved into Star World, becoming immortal.
Miaoling happily smiled: “Since your goal is to go to a place that far away, then I won’t accompany you. I feel much better about your rejection.”
Chen Mo laughed.
The two of them sat atop the tree, gazing at the sky as they chatted the night away, “Yesterday, I planned to accompany you guys to the Unexplored Regions.” Miaoling suddenly said.
“Hm? Don’t tell me?”
“Don’t you need to go there? And I wanted to try with just myself. Master said that no matter how uncertain something may be, we must strive our hardest. Maybe I can pick the Lover Flower by myself. This will also mean that I can repay Master for the favor of taking care of me all these years. It had nothing to do with you.” Miaoling was stubborn.
“Good, I’ll help you.” Chen Mo said.
Chen Mo saw that the time was already very late. He said that he would return for now, so Miaoling also prepared to leave. Just when Miaoling stood up, she suddenly felt something prick her neck. The girl brushed it with her hand and was then startled. Her whole body went limp. She watched Chen Mo’s back, reaching out her hand to grab him but unable to, falling from the high treetop.
The Tree of God was more than a thousand meters tall. If Miaoling’s little body fell, she would definitely be disintegrated.
But the girl apparently forgot about this. She watched Chen Mo’s departing figure that was still on the treetop. That silhouette grew smaller and smaller, finally vanishing into the concealment of the dense tree leaves.
Her body rapidly fell. Miaoling knew that there was already no one able to save her now. The girl listened to the night wind’s beautiful sound, watching the starry sky grow further away.
Miaoling, however, did not die.
Just when she was about to hit the ground, just at this moment, a gentle wind supported her body, like a lover’s touch placating her. Her body could not help but be rocked back and forth.
The heavy feeling of the drop did not manifest, and what came thereafter instead was warmth. Miaoling seemed to fall into cotton, her body slowly stopping its fall.
The girl looked. Chen Mo had at some point appeared beside her, catching her with his hands that were like clouds, just like how he cupped the kingfisher in his palm back then.
Unable to escape it, yet it was full of a sense of security.
“Miaoling, how are you so weak?” Chen Mo worriedly said, holding on to her firmly.
Miaoling buried her face into Chen Mo’s arms, not uttering a word. This felt undoubtedly warm, yet she only felt even more lonely.
- 笑漸不聞聲漸悄，多情卻被無情惱. From 蝶恋花, “Butterfly Loves The Flower.” ↩