SnCr 25

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Going to a market when it was not some sort of holiday was always a toss-up. All merchants would flock to guaranteed opportunities of high traffic, then only appear sporadically for the rest of the days. The cycling array of curios peddled made these areas a common pastime for the bored, or those looking for goods that couldn’t be acquired elsewhere.

Beishan, being a major city, was less filled with people able to be easily duped, something the wandering con artist would have better luck finding in more remote locations. Not many could remain within more in-demand, connected areas without survival skills, after all — any merchant coming here would either need to have legitimate goods, or else risk getting screamed out of town.

There was a moderate amount of people on the street right now, all milling between stalls or the backs of merchant’s caravans. Beishan had several designated areas for traveling merchants in order to keep them off other streets, lest they clog up foot traffic elsewhere. Not only were there baubles lined up prettily, but anyone selling instruments would have one playing, and anyone selling food would have something cooking, thus luring people over.

It was physically impossible for Chu Ran to be distracted by anything shiny, but it was entirely possible for him to be distracted by anything affecting any of his other senses. Which he was, right now.

At every single stall that was cooking something, his nose would follow the scent much like how a dog’s would follow meat. The stalls that played music would have him stop to listen in appreciation, often for several ticks at a time. If someone was peddling textiles, the first thing he would do was feel said textiles up, then either smile approvingly (this would be followed by Zhu Li shepherding him away), or scrunch his nose up at the texture (this would also be followed by Zhu Li shepherding him away, this time from offended merchants). They were roughly a half-shichen into their journey already, and had failed to even reach the traders that were foreign enough for their goal; some had barley, but none of it was milled, or they didn’t have the sand to roast it with.

Were Zhu Li a less patient man, this constant stop-and-start might have bothered him. Luckily for Chu Ran, his minder was more entertained than upset about his near-childish excitement of soaking everything in.

After about thirty instances of having to redirect Chu Ran away from buying junk he didn’t need, Zhu Li sighed, looking at the clearly excited visage of his companion. “You act like you’ve never been to a market before,” he commented dryly.

“Oh, I have been. The times have simply been few. When I was little, my nanny brought me out to one once, which I failed to appreciate. I had never left the Pavilion of Quiet prior to that, so I wasn’t precisely accustomed to a lack of quiet, as can be imagined.”

Zhu Li raised his brows. “You have a nanny?”

“Had. A year or so after the only time she brought me out, my father became frustrated at my lack of scholarly progress, and decided that a good punishment would be to drag my dear nanny back to his side of the house and beat her to death. Since she had a life contract with him, it was far from illegal of him to do. In fact, I couldn’t even say what happened to her body. Perhaps he ground it up to act as fertilizer for his wretched garden, as is apropos for him… ah, I smell meat baozi again. Might we get some this time, Doctor?”

“…” You still want to eat after you said all of that?

Was it a good or a bad thing that the way this guy spoke was progressively catching him less and less off guard, by the way? Zhu Li couldn’t honestly say. He did, however, stay back and watch as Chu Ran bought himself food he didn’t need because he’d had breakfast.

The other offered him one of his two baozi. He turned it down immediately.

A good outcome of Chu Ran having an appetite was that he no longer looked at anything else, too focused on his snacks.

In due course, they arrived at the westernmost market of Beishan, the closest to the western mountains’ trade route. Zhu Li was quickly greeted with the nostalgic smell of smoked meat, tanned hides, and stinking yaks, bringing him back to the months at a time he would spend with various mountain peoples. While their cultures differed to immense degrees at times, their food sources were generally limited to the same especially hardy, fast-growing crops, and livestock that could live off of sparse vegetation; he knew about five different methods for smoking meat, himself.

He was also greeted with the sight of a disproportionately huge throng of people, one that really caught him off guard. People were marching in a circular motion around the market space, resembling schools of river fish rushing down a fixed current. Individual fish would occasionally break off to peruse some stall, then quickly join the movement again.

What in the world? Was there some sort of holiday going on right now, or did he just not know how Beishan worked? Maybe the goods here were highly sought-after, or something?

A few seconds into his gawking, he felt a certain someone draw as close as he could to him, without actually touching him. He looked down to see Chu Ran scowling in discomfort, his baozi since eaten in full.

“What is it?” Zhu Li asked quietly, projecting still so that he was audible over the hubbub before them.

“There are far too many people here. It’s messing with my senses,” the other answered. “Even Zhongling was never this unbearable… perhaps you should go ahead alone, while I stay here?”

“You don’t have to go, but being separated when the both of us have enemies is a bad idea,” Zhu Li calmly pointed out. Who knew what the full consequences of their double kidnapping were?

“That is a fair point. It’s merely that… hff. The smell and the noise will only worsen within the crowd,” Chu Ran replied, wrinkled his nose.

“Remember what I said yesterday? This is when you should give your meridians a break. Your heightened senses, too.”

At Chu Ran’s extremely conflicted look, Zhu Li offered him his elbow. “Here. I’ll guide you around. This’ll keep us from getting separated in the crowd, too.”

The man’s brows shot up in surprise, and he turned to face Zhu Li’s direction, in the middle of cleaning his face off with a handkerchief. His motions paused temporarily, resumed, and were punctuated by him tucking the sullied piece of cloth away, then gingerly — almost shyly — placing his right hand on the crook of Zhu Li’s arm. He never once lost the pensive expression he wore.

“Are you nervous?” Zhu Li asked, watching him carefully. “We aren’t going far, and we won’t be here long.”

“I know, I know. Letting my guard down is a very… novel experience, should I say.”

“What you should just say is that you don’t like it.”

Chu Ran smiled playfully at him. “Alas, Doctor, it is substantially more polite to downplay one’s discomfort than to state it plainly.”

“Who are you being polite to? Me?”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“Effective doctors don’t want discomfort downplayed. You don’t need to do that.”

Chu Ran’s smile became a weird grimace-grin. “Ah… Doctor, this isn’t exactly the same scenario as a medical visit…? I am not precisely a patient.”

Raising a brow in challenge, Zhu Li sniped back, “I’m literally helping you treat your qi strain problem right now. If you’re not a patient, I’m not a doctor.”

The split-second of a red-faced reaction he received was quite welcome. Afterwards, Chu Ran chuckled at himself, then boldly placed his other hand on Zhu Li’s arm, as well. “Very well, very well, you are correct. I’m not comfortable with this at all, but my best will have to be done in powering through, regardless.”

With an approving nod, Zhu Li led him away into the crowd.

It was with great fortune that Zhu Li had previously perfected a certain art form of getting people to stay away from him when he wanted them to. To make a very long story short, he had ample experiences with harsh cultural differences, including certain cultures that had poor or differing concepts of personal space — while he had needed local interpreters to speak verbally for him at those times, he wouldn’t always have them on hand. Hence was why he had also needed to develop an unmistakable, universal sign that everyone in the vicinity should go away as soon as physically possible: the Fiendish Aura of Piss Off, Right Now.

When the Shin people had had an annoying tendency to barge in on him while he was bathing in the river, he had sent them a look so venomous, they would never try again. When the Bodpa had bothered him at night for the sixth night in a row, barging straight into his room, the way he had risen out of his bed like a jiangshi and glared at them like a vengeful ghost had convinced them to only do so for emergencies from then on. When Rulo women had been way too forward with him, hissing out expletives at them had gotten them to keep their hands to themselves, even if they didn’t exactly understand what he had said to him.

Basically boiling down to a mean look and qi that automatically triggered one’s instincts to stay away, the Aura successfully kept people from bumping into either him or Chu Ran on fear of death. A perk of being a cultivator, this was, though they still couldn’t move very fast unless they wanted to bowl over about thirty people at a time.

Something glinting caught Zhu Li’s eye. Upon turning to look at it, he paused briefly, then turned on his heel, towing Chu Ran along with him.

“Are we going towards a food stand?” the latter asked, wrinkling his nose. “Perhaps not edible food. All I smell is metal, and unfortunate body odor.”

Zhu Li decided to ignore that. “Does Chu Mei have a defense hairpin?”

“A what?”

“You heard me. She doesn’t?”

“Well, she certainly does have hairpins in her possession, if that’s what the question is.”

They came to a stop in front of the stall he had sighted. From what he could tell, these were Naji; the hats, muted colors, and unique twist in their robes at the collarbone gave it away. Their caravan sold various small, legal weapons, as well as the materials to make them. What Zhu Li was particularly interested in were the hairpins made of iron, steel, or even whorlsteel. All cast into simple, yet elegant design, the handles consisting of sloping curves that made it impossible for one to poke themselves, should they need to wield them in a pinch.

“Regular ones are fine, but a defense one is sharpened so that it can double as a weapon. All of those Blue Orchid elders have one. Do you?”

“Mm… I do have some pincrowns that have pins, though I suppose that’s rather obvious.”

Zhu Li shook his head. “Those won’t work. They’re too short and dull, most of the time. I’ll buy you one, too. Which ones do you think you and her would like?”

“Ah? Um…” Chu Ran furrowed his brows towards the assortment of pins for a few long seconds, but ended it with a headshake. “Sorry, Doctor, I’m afraid I will be of no help. I am not one for aesthetics, clearly.”

“You should know what she likes, at least.”

A faintly bitter smile crossed the other’s face. “Yes, I should.”

No follow-up was given to that, no matter how long Zhu Li waited for it. Even so, the unspoken latter half of that sentence was nearly visible in the air itself: But I don’t.

Sighing, Zhu Li used his free hand to pat him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about whatever you’re worrying about. I’ll pick one out, and you can gift it to her yourself later. This is all your money, anyways.”

“Right, right. My money that I earned through the hard work of blackmail,” Chu Ran answered, now beaming.

“…Should you be saying that in public?”

“Why ever not? No one here knows me, knows if I’m being serious, knows who I’m talking about, or can do a single thing about it. It’s fine.”

Zhu Li waved him off. There was no speaking sense to this guy, sometimes.

He began to peruse the large assortment of hairpins, thinking of what either of the recipients would like. Despite not knowing Chu Mei that well, he was very aware of her hybrid manner of dress; there was little chance of her wanting a completely feminine design, so he gravitated towards something more neutral. The instant his eyes landed upon a steel pin with an ironwood handle carved into the shape of a hornless dragon, its scales embellished with some tiny, lustrous stones, he knew that she would probably like it. Dragons were considered traditionally masculine, while the shine made it prettier to look at.

In contrast, the appearance of Chu Ran’s pin was a mostly irrelevant factor. It should have more functionality than glitz. He quickly decided upon a pin that was pure whorlsteel, the end of which had been heavily engraved into the form of a single wing feather with a short outer vane. It was simple, but its high craftsmanship was evident from a glance, Naji artistry being nothing to scoff at.

With the two pieces purchased using Chu Ran’s questionable funds, Zhu Li handed them over to the man. “Yours is the more simple-feeling feather one, Chu Mei’s is the one shaped like a dragon.”

“Many thanks, Doctor. Did you not get one for yourself?” the other asked, accepting the carefully-wrapped bundle of pointy things.

Zhu Li raised a brow. “How do you know I don’t have one already?”

“If you do, you never wear it. I know what hairpins are like on account of all that nonsense Junyan likes to pile on her head, yet not even one graces yours.”

“I don’t need a self-defense hairpin because my aim is a lot worse than my strength. Also, I have Guhui.”

“Ah, yes, your strength that is more becoming of a brutish warrior than a medical practitioner. Golden Pill will be lucky if his face can be pieced back together. Was it that imperative to be so strong during your travels?”

“Pretty much. It made everything a lot easier to handle, though I only really started working on it after I left home.”

“What things were easier?”

“Flipping over bandit caravans and carrying Guhui out of bad terrain, mostly.”

Chu Ran’s face went blank with surprise. “You… carried Guhui? Your horse?”

“On my shoulders out of a smaller ravine, yeah.”

The other man chewed on that statement for a very, very, very long time — so long, the people around them were starting to wonder what they were doing, standing there doing nothing. At the end, all he could say, very intelligently, was: “Horses are quite heavy.”

“I’m aware. I had to carry one.”

An uneasy smile emerged in response. “My gut instinct to not make you angry was apparently grounded in more reality than I once thought. Goodness…”

“As long as you don’t attack me or answer to someone that wants me dead, I won’t get violent. Who do you take me for?”

“This is true. If you had a habit of showing off how strong you were by, oh, I don’t know, fighting everyone and breaking all of their bones, you would be much more infamous.” While he spoke, the two returned to the stream of people, projecting their voices so that they could hear each other. “And, ah, what was that bit about having Guhui around for self-defense?”

Zhu Li scrutinized his counterpart for a few seconds. “I’ve never killed anyone,” he started, pausing for effect, “but I can’t claim that she hasn’t. Her kicks are no joke.”

Chu Ran looked disturbed again. Talking about his dead nanny was fine, but the threat of a killer horse was too much, it looked like.

The circle turned until it spat them out at a stall peddling foodstuffs, milled barley included, and then turned again to spit them out at a dairy stall, which was complete with yaks for sale and a merchant’s carriage conspicuously carved with the lines of a cooling array.

Alas, this peace was not to last. While they were walking back — Zhu Li carrying the milk and butter, Chu Ran carrying the flour — a sharp, persistent calling came from behind them. They both ignored it at first, taking it for generic background noise, but when he properly registered the words being said, Zhu Li stopped in his tracks, eyes wide.

“—rth Zhu! Fourth Zhu, wait—“

He whirled around in the direction of the voice. On the inside, he was hoping that he had misheard, that it was some other Zhu family that happened to have a fourth child — but once he saw those iconic dark brown robes trimmed in orange, that hope was extinguished beyond rekindling.

The Miasma Caves person finally caught up to them after pushing his way through the crowd, panting slightly, which was more likely from emotions than any sort of exertion. He was young, and someone Zhu Li recognized: Zhu Yaodang, a distant cousin of his, from one of his maternal uncles.

While Zhu Li was well aware that Miasma Caves members were likely in Beishan at present, this being one of their two main trading hubs, he had been under the impression that they would never seek him out, nor would he seek them out, the two sides mutually deciding to ignore each other. Considering that he was no longer a part of the Caves, what could they possibly want?

Zhu Yaodang quickly bowed towards him in deep respect. Zhu Li was not in the frame of mind to reciprocate, but he didn’t seem to mind. “Greetings, Fourth Zhu! Our scout said that you left the Blue Orchid Sect earlier, but it took me this long to locate you. Please forgive us for getting to you on such late notice.”

“And who in the world are you?” Chu Ran’s voice asked from the right, out of Zhu Li’s scope of vision.

The newcomer looked towards Chu Ran in surprise, then bowed to him as well. “You must be the Xin Sect leader, Xin Yingliu! Apologies for not noticing you, I was merely swept up in the moment. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen the Fourth Zhu. My surname is Zhu, cultivational Yaodang, and I am Fourth Lord Zhu Li’s younger cousin, maternal side. I was tasked by the Second Lady with getting into contact with you — there is much to discuss, if you have the time?”

Zhu Li continued to stare at him wordlessly, the weight of his gaze, and the time elapsed, slowly making Zhu Yaodang uncomfortable. Still, the other waited patiently beneath, no matter how discomfited he was.

“We’re guests at the Blue Orchid Sect,” Zhu Li uttered at last, vocal cords stiff-feeling. “Come talk there.”

“Oh, but…” Zhu Yaodang looked conflicted. “The Han family is notorious for not liking what they call ‘dark’ cultivators. We’ve kept away because of that, we may very w—“

“Talk there, or not at all. I’m in the middle of something,” Zhu Li interrupted, giving him a hard stare. Zhu Yaodang cowered under the look.

“Informed enough to know who I am, yet not enough to know that the Blue Orchid Sect has come under new leadership recently,” Chu Ran observed, sounding amused. “Pray tell, what would a Miasma Caveman have to speak to the good Doctor about? I was under the impression that all ties were cut.”

Zhu Li shot him a look, though the other ignored him, then turned back to Zhu Yaodang, who cleared his throat awkwardly. “Yes, about that… well, um… the Caves may be under new leadership soon, too.”

“What?” Zhu Li asked, a sinking feeling in his gut. What? What happened? Did something happen to his mom—

Zhu Yaodang waved his hands. “Oh, it’s nothing serious. The First Zhu is in the process of taking over the sect, citing the Sect Head’s current heart demons. It’s slow-going, but is shifting towards the First’s success, and the Second told us all that you can come home soon.”

Those words rattled in Zhu Li’s skull a few times, then another few times, then a few times some more, echoing into his steadily-emptying mind.

Slowly, he stopped perceiving that there were other people around the three of them, all having conversations, all becoming indistinguishable blurs of muted sounds. Next, the scenery faded from view, turning into a formless void of white, gray, black — and soon, he stopped registering his immediate surroundings.

You can come home. He had waited all these five years to hear someone say that to him. That he was allowed to do so, at all.

He ought to feel excited. Ecstatic, overjoyed, beside himself. He had left to prove a point in the first place. Being invited back meant that his point had been proven, right?

So… why was he not happy at all?

It didn’t take long for him to reach the conclusion that he had previously reached, which had only temporarily eluded him from the shock: This was too little, too late.

At the pace of an old ox towing a run-down cart, slowness was no help to an urgent situation. If he had heard those words back in jail, he would have cried tears of relief, gone right home, and forgiven the five previous years of being left to fend for himself. Too bad that hadn’t happened.

Why now? Why not earlier? Even if they were scared of the Blue Orchid Sect, why not chance it at least once?

What a bunch of cowards, a toxic part of him sneered.

A light touch on his shoulder snapped him out of his reverie, an episode that had truthfully only lasted for a few beats. He realized, on quite a bit of delay, that his fists were clenched hard, nails digging into his palms, and he was glaring at Zhu Yaodang hard enough to kill him. The latter was visibly shaken at the jaw-clenched, enraged display, having shrunken back and retreated a step away from it.

“Your information source is pretty pick-and-choose, hm?” Chu Ran piped up. It was his hand that was on Zhu Li’s shoulder, patting it tentatively in comfort. “You know well of who I am, yet pretend not to know that the Doctor is not going to be able to go with you anytime soon. If you wish to know why, look into the Twelve-Petaled Lotus and how it relates to us, my good fellow. A street is no place for this talk, so please, take Doctor Zhu’s suggestion; we are rather busy right now. Errands, you know?”

With those rapid-fire words, Chu Ran was now the one to lead Zhu Li away into the crowd. Zhu Yaodang had some tact, mercifully, and didn’t follow them further.

The walk back to the sect was spent in uneventful silence. The energy Chu Ran had before was mollified, turned into a calmness as he walked without assistance beside Zhu Li, who walked automatically, like a thoughtless puppet.

He was in a paradoxical sort of headspace at the moment. A million thoughts were whirring about his mind, yet none were taking shape, leaving his very full brain a void of concrete ideas. By the time Chu Ran and he unthinkingly returned to their quarters, put their bounty away, and sat down, he had finally managed to formulate a singular, bitter, fairly useless sentence.

“I couldn’t have had a half-day of peace, could I.”

Chu Ran chuckled merrily, sipping at his fruity midday tea. “Fate cares not for good times and good places. It controls our life and death, so why should it ever care for our feelings, either? Life in Zhongling is much more peaceful, by compare. The Beishan area is just cursed to hit us all in the face with upsets, perchance?”

“Seems like it,” Zhu Li answered, rubbing his forehead tiredly. “Thanks for cutting him off, by the way.”

The other huffed, waving his hand. “You were upset and caught off guard, so he must come back when you’re more on guard.”

“I’m usually more collected than that. I don’t know why I always get upset when my family is involved.”

“That feeling is somewhat relatable to me. All of my good relatives are dead while my living ones are all scum, my sisters not included; thinking about those cretins always upsets me so much, I long for their upcoming demises to get here sooner. Sadly, I must wait for the perfect opportunity to watch them fall… a decade is not too long of a wait for a nobleman to take revenge, you know, and in my case, a mere decade of waiting is most certainly an understatement. But you do have alive relatives that you appear to not completely hate, else you wouldn’t care so much when they get mentioned, which makes our situations not too similar at all. What were we talking about?”

Zhu Li’s horrible mood ebbed somewhat from that ramble. He looked at Chu Ran suspiciously. “Do you talk like that on purpose?”

The man smiled. “Like what?”

“Like you don’t have a filter.”

“What use is filtering my words? That only serves to falsify reality, and cushion it for people that deserve no gentleness,” Chu Ran answered, his smile gaining an icy edge. “If I dislike someone, I will make it obvious. If I decide a conversation is over, it will be over soon. If someone is flawed and I want them to know it, I will tell them. If something upsets another and that is not my intent, I drop the subject, divert, move on. If I like the one I’m talking to or about, my words are less harsh, and if I don’t, they scour as hard as I can make them. Life is too short to put on a false play of politeness, wouldn’t you say?”

Zhu Li watched him all the while, punctuating the end of the other’s statement with a nod, though on the inside, he was thinking how that hadn’t really been what he was asking.

He was not the egotistical sort, but he acknowledged his own observational skills as being excellent. Recognizing emotions, body language tells, patterns, sudden noises that shouldn’t be there, the whole gamut — he hadn’t survived on his own and become so good at his work by being oblivious, willfully or otherwise. The main problems came whenever he would notice a pattern long before he could name it, or notice one, yet have no idea what the information could mean.

One such pattern he had come to notice was that nearly every time he was upset by a turn of conversation in Chu Ran’s presence, the other would do one of either two things: drop the subject immediately and abruptly, or find a way to say something so off-the-wall, Zhu Li would forget to be upset.

‘Drop the subject, divert, move on,’ he had just said? That seemed about right.

He kept observing Chu Ran as the man happily sipped his tea. So what if he had recognized a pattern? It didn’t help him understand him any better. What kind of a response was it to notice someone was a bit sad over their family, then tell them that his own bastard father killed cats for fun or something?

Maybe it was his own weird way of being nice. Between his various childish, kind, and devious traits, that made about as much sense as anything else.

“On that same subject, your old sect is phenomenal at ruining moods. Do you still want to make this tsampa today, or would you prefer to do something else?”

Zhu Li shook his head. “It’s fine, cooking’ll distract me. We should get some add-ins from the kitchen, as tsampa dough can be plain on its own. A batch of savory and sweet each would be a good start, with sauces to go with them, if they’re available.”

“That sounds nice. Ah, to have some downtime is rare,” Chu Ran said, rising to his feet again, smiling at whatever thoughts he was having. “I, for one, look forward to doing nothing…”

He trailed off to face the door’s general direction. A mere few ticks later, a knock came from the door.

His face tilted back towards Zhu Li, the smile wiped off of it. His total lack of amusement was self-evident, and shared by the other man himself.

“Forgive me, Doctor. I should not have opened my fat mouth.”

The author says: You want a cute, domestic bonding moment? The ongoing murder mystery and family drama says fu q

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4 thoughts on “SnCr 25

  1. Something just hit me in this chapter, this time reading through it. Zhu Yaodang mentions that the Hans don’t like members of the Miasma Caves. It just hit me to wonder why. The previous Han Sect Head was friends with Zhu Li’s mom. SO much that she had her sister keep an eye out for Miasma Cave members. It’s obvious she still thought of Her friend. I would have thought she would have spoken more kindly of the Caves to her people.

    I now wonder if there was a specific reason she let the rest of the sect be pretty much ‘anti-Caves’ or if it was simply the distrust of ‘dark cultivators’. I look forward to finding out 🙂

    I also wondered about why Zhu Yaodang was out and about since he’s too young to be an Elder, but I’m assuming the change over to the First Zhu is far enough along that the Second Zhu could send him out without repercussions.

    For a long time, Mo Dao Zu Shi was my go-to to read and reread. Seems right now it’s the Snake and the Crane.


  2. Getting distracted by all the stalls is what going to the market is FOR. I love how excited Chu Ran got at the chance to just explore and enjoy the various things on offer.
    (Also picturing Chu Ran and Wen Kexing having fun wandering wildly around a marketplace while Zhu Li and Zhou Zishu half-indulgently/half-exasperatedly try to rein them in.)
    The bit with the too many people sounds overwhelming, poor Chu Ran, and having to shut off his qi sense and rely entirely on another person to help him through a crowded public place would feel really vulnerable. That’s a LOT of trust required there.
    ‘Hence was why he had also needed to develop an unmistakable, universal sign that everyone in the vicinity should go away as soon as physically possible: the Fiendish Aura of Piss Off, Right Now.’ I need to learn how to do this.

    ❤ at Zhu Li deciding Chu Mei and Chu Ran need defense hair pins and buying them some (with Chu Ran’s blackmail money).

    …he carried his horse out of a ravine. I did not see that coming.

    I also did not expect someone from the Miasma Caves to show up, much less with such news. 👀


  3. Dear Author,
    Let. Them. Get. Some. Rest.
    Seriously though, I’m excited to see what the Miasma Caves want from Zhu Li! ^^
    And I love protective!Chu Ran, as well as vulnerable!Chu Ran trusting the Doctor enough to follow him into the marketplace 🙂
    But my favourite part was Chu Ran having a crisis in the middle of the street over Zhu Li’s strength 😀 I totally lost it at the sentence “I am aware. I had to carry one.” xD


  4. The walking arm in arm bit set of the giggling.
    Cultivated Aura of Fuck Off.
    Knife hairpins are an excellent gift. Also Chu Ran is very proud of his blackmail.
    Local doctor is very strong indeed.
    Guhui will stomp people to death with her hooves. Because she is a good girl. Chu Ran is probably reevaluating how close he came to death.
    Fate’s a bitch.
    Given Chu Ran’s background I’m not wholly suprised he ran out of fucks to give years ago. He’s a decent if deeply weird friend.
    I stand corrected. A double bitch.
    (The author is as wonderful and pointy as ever)


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