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Today was the day they would meet the maelstrom of conflicting personalities that were the four… well. Three Zhu sisters.
Their four-person ‘guest’ group was dressed, refreshed, and seated for lunch—it would have been breakfast, but literally none of them had slept well or early enough last night to have been up for that. Even now, Chu Ran was still chugging very dark tea like his continued existence in the mortal realm depended on it.
Maybe my ‘soothing voice’ wasn’t potent enough, Zhu Li thought, smiling where no one could see it.
Ren Nidan had previously gone off to fetch the main event of this meet-and-greet-and-talk-serious-business session. It left them all with a relatively peaceful time period of mentally preparing themselves.
Chu Mei was somewhat ravenously eating a hearty bowl of rice, pickled veggies, and rehydrated meats. The rest of them were picking away at a shared bowl of steamed buns. For whatever reason, neither Zhu Li nor Xin Junyan were that hungry, and Chu Ran was—again—busy filling all the room in his stomach up with tea.
“Ran, that’s your second pot. You need to stop,” Xin Junyan told him around a bun, exasperated.
“I cannot afford to be too fatigued today. After all, I must socialize in some capacity,” he retorted. He sounded lifeless, although his regular diction seemed to be intact.
“If you say so. Just know that you don’t have anyone but yourself to blame if your ‘socialization’ is interrupted by constantly needing to go.”
He just grunted.
Their current location was a corner of the main dining hall, expertly cordoned off with fancy folding screens that were more or less a subtle hint that prying eyes were not welcome. The Zhu Estate did have a ‘formal’ reception area with a lot of pomp, space between tables, and so on, but literally no one here would have wanted or appreciated the gesture. A cozy, medium-sized dining table was just dandy.
Their peaceful time was eventually interrupted by someone deciding to jump over the dividing screens instead of go around them like a normal person.
The sudden sound of feet landing made everyone spring into action.
Xin Junyan immediately got out of her chair and whirled around with a hand on her sword. Chu Mei swallowed her food wrong and started coughing it up. Chu Ran jumped out of his skin at the sudden presence, yet had enough wits about him not to choke. Zhu Li, who was the only one of both angle and ability to see the intruder before she came, merely rose from his feet in response and moved away from the table on learned instinct.
The offending party—a woman in well-coordinated finery, an extremely long ponytail, and silver jewelry that didn’t violate the sect’s color principles—ignored all of this. Her eyes zeroed in on Zhu Li immediately. There was a brief moment where they widened in surprise on an otherwise blank face, and her entire mien soon crumpled up into a crying face that wasn’t anyone’s definition of ‘lovely.’
She then adopted a curious 丫 position with her arms. For a moment, it looked like she wanted a hug from clear across the table, but she soon took it upon herself to bounce clear over it in one go—arms still outstretched, of course—and aim straight for Zhu Li as a landing target.
The fact that she had opened her mouth and was letting out a dramatic “Liliiiiiiiiiiiii!” the entire time was a detail that shouldn’t go unmentioned.
Zhu Li had been prepared to catch this flying projectile from the moment he’d seen her. And so, he did. This surprise attack might have knocked a lesser man off his feet; since he was who he was, he merely steadied himself, then returned the tight embrace.
Arms wrapped around his shoulders, a face buried into his chest, tears stained his lapels, and a rant hit his ears the next moment.
“Lili, I missed you! I missed you so much, my oriole of vermillion, my strong little chestnut, my pretty little pearl!” Zhu Junhe cried out in suitably ostentatious fashion. After that, she quickly changed position so that she could grab his face, tilt his head down, and look him over. “How are you doing, Lili? Are you okay? Have you been doing well all these years? You don’t look unwell, which is good, you’ve always been a tough little bean. You know, now that I’m looking at you, you seem like you’ve gotten handsomer. Did you get handsomer? You were already my cutie little brother, so I didn’t think it was possible, but maybe being outside this stuffy ol’ valley did you good. Did you get stronger, too? What have you been lifting? Boulders? Honestly!”
An older part of Zhu Li felt some fond annoyance at his sister’s theatricality. A newer part of him plain preened at the attention—he knew that as theatrical as she might be, her affections weren’t an act at all.
All of a sudden, she whipped around to look at the other three, tears gone. They were all were wearing expressions of utter bafflement; even Chu Ran had gotten up to turn towards them, looking very much concerned at this development.
Zhu Junhe ignored that, for better or for worse.“You must all be my dear little brother’s friends!” she exclaimed, turning fully around to look at Xin Junyan first. “A fashionable young lady, a cute little girl, and a…”
She trailed off once her sights set on Chu Ran.
Zhu Li was momentarily confused as to what had made her pause. Chu Ran was literally just standing there with his hands laced over his sternum, wearing a gray-and-black outfit that shouldn’t offend Zhu Junhe’s aesthetic tastes at all. There was nothing conspicuous about how he looked or what he was doing.
Things were quickly cleared up for him when his sister proceeded to croon, “My, my, my… What do we have here?”
Oh no. Oh shit.
He’d forgotten something very, very crucial about her—she was a terminal maneater that flirted with any man that was even remotely her type.
In the time he’d known her, she’d at least kept it to men who didn’t mind the casual nature and wouldn’t be heartbroken when she eventually tired of them, so, whatever, it wasn’t something Zhu Li himself would ever like, but… she couldn’t be doing the same to the guy he was trying to woo, here!
A sense of crisis swiftly overcame him. When Zhu Junhe left his side to go for Chu Ran, he quickly moved to catch her by the shoulder, only for his fingers to grab around air—unfortunately for them all, if Zhu Junhe was said good at anything, it would definitely be agility.
Several things happened in the span of no more than four seconds.
First, after successfully slipping out of Zhu Li’s reach, Zhu Junhe all but lunged at Chu Ran, her palms aiming for his shoulders so that she could get a good grip on him.
Then, Chu Ran detected the danger flying at him, unlaced his fingers, and dodged to the side at a speed Zhu Li had never previously seen from him.
The man didn’t stop there, though. He used the momentum of his dodge to keep moving forwards, going behind and away from her in an arc, until he slid up right behind Zhu Li himself, latched on to his back, and came to a total stop.
Everything was quiet for a beat.
Zhu Junhe was left where she was, blinking in shock at how desperately she’d just been avoided. Xin Junyan and Chu Mei also seemed surprised. As for Zhu Li, he lowered his arms calmly, looking behind himself towards Chu Ran.
The latter had a placid smile on. Without a word referring to it, he let go of the clothes on Zhu Li’s back, stepped out lightly—yet still very much behind Zhu Li—to the side, and took the crook of his right elbow instead.
“Do excuse me, Miss,” Chu Ran started, sounding fairly airy and unbothered, “but I rather dislike being jumped upon. How about we introduce ourselves from afar? That may be more conducive to this meeting. I am the Xin Sect Head, known under both the Xin and Chu surnames, the given name of Ran, and the cultivational name of Yingliu. Now, may I ask who you are?”
Zhu Junhe, sadly, did not look embarrassed at all, but ponderous. Her gaze honed in on Chu Ran, where it slipped from his face to his hands on Zhu Li’s arm, then went up and over to Zhu Li’s hostile warning glare, which failed to intimidate her. The gears in her brain could practically be seen turning behind those black eyes.
What conclusion she reached was unclear, as her newly-regained smile covered all her calculations up. “Is that so?” she began with. “I am the Vice Head of the Miasma Caves, surname Zhu, given Qin, cultivational Junhe. I’m sorry for my impulsiveness, Sect Head Xin, I just can’t seem to help myself when a cute boy trounces up to me. It’s a curse.”
“Hm. Pardon my unsolicited advice, but it would probably be in your best interest to have that curse removed as soon as time allows,” he shot back, the dryness in his tone capable of starting its own desert.
A huff of surprised laughter threatened to come up Zhu Li’s throat. He managed to prevent it from exploding out, replacing it with a cough.
Zhu Junhe locked eyes with him at the action. She looked suspicious about something. Rather than give her any fuel for the fire, he continued his warning glare—she could take what she wanted from that.
Right then, a second person came around the gap in the screens. His features were set in a firm mask of disappointment.
“You were supposed to wait, Junhe,” Ren Nidan said sternly. “You’re much too old to be acting like this. All that jumping around makes you look like a cricket.”
The Certified Cricket Woman looked like her whole existence had been slandered. “Dad! I can’t believe you! You couldn’t have thought of a better metaphor? A more graceful one?”
He looked unimpressed. “How about a cockroach.”
If the world ‘revolted’ could take a human form, Zhu Junhe would embody it right now.
Ren Nidan ignored her and stepped inside. Only then could anyone see that he was being followed by two more figures.
They were, of course, Zhu Wuji and Zhu Canxi, the eldest and youngest Zhu sisters, respectively.
Zhu Wuji was a tall, fairly thin woman with a calm demeanor and a kind air about her. She had gotten more of their father’s looks and personality, yet their mother’s near-obsessive work ethic, organizational skills, and proclivity for tightly-bound hairstyles, oddly enough. A lot of Zhu Li’s memories of her involved her studying, working, doing something that would further her future goals, or somehow managing to juggle one of those things while hanging out with him.
As soon as he saw her, he thought back to the many days where she would carry a child-him in one arm and a stack of books in the other, or would have a book in one hand and a sword in the other while she trained, or would bring paperwork along to yao hunts in his teen years.
(Now, just because she could multitask didn’t mean that it was effective. While she’d been a fine babysitter, her fighting and hunting skills had never been… stellar.)
A wave of happiness hit him square in the heart at the thought. It made him forget to be annoyed at Junhe and remember that this was supposed to be a happy reunion time.
Zhu Canxi had grown a little since he’d last seen her; she was taller than Junhe, but shorter than Wuji. Her own hair hung free and unbound, and her eyes had bags for some reason. More pressingly was the scarlet-banded snake wrapped around her hand; it not only matched the colors of their uniform, but had a little leather muzzle on it to keep it from striking.
The memories cropping up for her, conversely, were along the lines of Zhu Li carrying her all over the place, or bringing her along to the clinic, or chaperoning her to the literal caves full of critters around here. He could never forget how excited she’d been getting her first wolfdog puppy; she’d bounced off the walls like she was a dog herself, all while holding the poor, terrified puppy like it was a sack of rice.
(She’d learned how to treat animals better as she’d grown. Last he’d seen her, she’d been working on growing her own wolfdog pack out of a desire to be the ‘Wolf Goddess of the Woods,’ which was a very thirteen-year-old thing to want to be.)
No sooner had he thought all of this than he was suddenly tackle-hugged for the second instance in not a lot of time. Canxi smelled no different than she had five years ago; she stank pleasantly of tree sap and earth without being dirty.
Even more tears wet his robes. He might as well be a living handkerchief.
He hugged her back gently, feeling somewhat heavy-hearted. Unlike Junhe, she didn’t get distracted by something else two seconds later or launch into a diatribe—she just kept crying into his shoulder, her shoulders shaking.
While he was looking down at her, a hand was unexpectedly placed on top of his head, followed by the familiar scent of camphor. He raised his eyes to meet Zhu Wuji’s exactly; she smiled softly at him, misty-eyed, as she stroked his hair.
In that moment, it seemed like there were a million words floating between them, a million topics to bring up and speak through. Grabbing one to hold on to was not so easy, though, and they were left to hang there for plucking at some later date.
“Ah-Li,” she finally took the initiative to say, “you seem healthy.”
That sentence, in all of its simplicity, was enough to put a small smile on his face. “So do you,” he creatively shot back.
She laughed. “I should hope so. Come, Canxi, let him sit—we all have a lot to talk about.”
And talk they did.
Around tea and snacks, they all were introduced to the guests in proper order, and began to catch each other up on their lives.
Zhu Li went first on account of having far more to tell, from the start of his journey up until the present.
The story of how he acquired Guhui immediately caught Canxi’s attention. “They just gave you a slopenose?” she asked, incredulous.
“Yeah,” he answered, raising a brow at her disproportionate disbelief.
She stared at him for a few seconds in wonder. “Don’t you have any idea how valuable a slopenose is? Especially a mare in her prime?”
Serious horse people did tend to gawk at Guhui. Some had even tried to buy or steal her, only to get bitten, kicked, or thrown around for their audacity. So… “I guess she’s worth a lot.”
“Slopenoses aren’t just ‘worth a lot!’ They’re super rare and heavily guarded!” Canxi exclaimed. “Legends say that they used to be prized warhorses, but faced heavy casualties in the Great Wrath. Their numbers went down even further when cultivators made it impossible to start full-scale wars—everyone wanted a draft horse. Now you have to go to either Daoless places or select tribes to get one, and even if you find them, you might not get them because they’re really, really expensive! Even nobles have a hard time getting them, yet you were just… handed one?!”
She almost sounded accusatory. Mad, even. It was like she wanted an explanation for his dumb luck.
At least he kind of had one.
“Guhui was always a problem mare. She couldn’t get along with any other horses. She kept trying to murder stallions that got too close to her, so she wasn’t useful as a breeder, and she didn’t respond well to their attempts to train her. Trading a headache for a child’s life wasn’t that big of a deal, I think.”
Canxi gave a simple, “Oh.”
After a pause, she added, “That might explain why she screamed all night.”
As if sensing his alarm, she quickly waved his worries away. “No, sorry, there’s nothing wrong with her. She was just very unhappy at being in the stables near my courtyards and wanted to tell the world about it. I was wondering why she was so upset, so I guess now I know.”
“Yeah, she… doesn’t like anything her size or bigger. Or strangers. Or being too far away from me,” he explained. He felt slightly awkward at the realization that he hadn’t told anyone about Guhui’s quirks, but it wasn’t like he’d really had a chance to say anything beforehand.
“Oh,” she uttered yet again. “Should I… bring her over here?”
“Where would you put her, Paopao?” Junhe interrupted. “Lili’s Pavilion isn’t clean yet. It won’t be clean for a few days, even—there’s layers of dust and weeds, you know. And those guest quarters are way too small to put a horse in! Just leave her be, the stables were meant for her.”
Inexplicably, Canxi looked apprehensive at that statement.
With that firm no, Zhu Li moved on with the story.
Upon reaching the Han Estate portion, Ren Nidan paid rapt attention to the parts involving Ren Zhuizhun. Zhu Li didn’t sugarcoat any part of what his uncle had said, how he felt, or how he wanted to meet Ren Nidan as soon as possible.
At the end of this piece, Ren Nidan said nothing, but his head was lowered and his eyes were cast down.
The rest went mostly uninterrupted. Wuji was too composed to interrupt, while Junhe kept to only complementary dialogue, occasionally adopting the odd sly look for reasons Zhu Li couldn’t comprehend.
When he reached the tail-end point—where he revealed Masked Wasp’s intention to kill Zhu Longmai, his/her possible identity, and his/her very real abduction of Zhu Heng—everyone went very, very quiet, and the atmosphere got very, very heavy.
What could anyone here say, really? This primarily involved people that weren’t present.
Contentious as all of their relationships were with the former Sect Head, none of them could say that they wished her harm. This was an impossible situation: either compel Zhu Longmai to risk her life going out and giving Masked Wasp the duel he/she so badly wanted, or risk Zhu Heng’s life by not.
On that topic, actually…
“Where’s mom?” he asked.
Some part of him was sourly wondering if she hadn’t deemed him worthy of her presence. Another, more rational part of him registered her lack of appearance in this meeting—and her complete non-mention by the others—as indisputably bizarre.
No matter what, the mother he remembered had a strong sense of duty. If it was expected of or proper for her to do something, she would do it. She showed up to every single meeting, every single event, every single whatever. So… where was she?
His question made the rest of his family shift awkwardly, look away, or otherwise seem like they wanted nothing less than to not answer.
It was Wuji who finally hardened her scalp. “Mom has been… unresponsive lately. We sent word of your arrival to her, but we aren’t sure that she even registered it.”
“She’s probably wanting you to come to her,” Junhe said, the desire to eye-roll written all over her face. “You know how she is.”
“What? It’s true.” Zhu Junhe leaned forwards on her elbows, bored. “None of us want to talk to her and she doesn’t want to talk to us, so she’s just—“
“Junhe,” Wuji stressed, leveling her with a stern glare.
The other’s lip curled in distaste. “Fine. That’s true too, though. She doesn’t tell us anything that isn’t official business. If Sect Head Xin here goes and questions her, she’ll probably be a little more accommodating than she would be to any of us.”
A weird feeling hung in the air, settling upon Zhu Li’s psyche. His brows furrowed out of consternation—what in the hell had happened these five years? The Zhu Junhe of five years ago never would have spoken about their mother so brazenly.
He shot a look at Ren Nidan. His father wasn’t doing anything to stop or scold Junhe, either.
He didn’t know what to feel about that.
“Now that I bring up Sect Head Xin…” Junhe continued coyly, “would he be willing to share his story so far? Maybe starting with his family?”
Zhu Li mentally clicked his tongue. Would he ever, he thought. They’ll be as shocked at what he says as I was.
Chu Ran smiled faintly at the question. It didn’t quite curve his eyes the way it should. “Oh, them? I’m afraid we don’t get on. I have nothing to add to the good Doctor’s story, otherwise.”
Nothing followed that.
Which made no sense.
“Is that right?” Junhe said, smiling foxishly. “There’s really nothing you want to share about the Chu’s sordid history?”
“There’s nothing of note that isn’t already wide knowledge.”
That was… that was just a straight-up lie. He was too shocked to tell Junhe to knock it off.
“Junhe, stop being nosy,” Zhu Wuji warned for him. “Sect Head Xin is afforded more consideration than that.”
Junhe sat back in her chair, but her eyes promised trouble.
In turn, Zhu Li was troubled by the behavior coming from his silly, fashion-loving sister.
I don’t remember her being this active in gossip, he thought. Did things really get that bad? Did she adapt because of being the Vice Head or something?
Things had evidently not gotten any better since he’d left the Caves. He understood even less than he’d thought he would.
On that note, he said, “Yingliu’s past isn’t relevant here. It’s your turn; what happened while I was gone?”
Junhe and Wuji exchanged a look that didn’t escape his notice.
Even though their side was much more chaotic owing to four different people telling the differing details of their lives at once, their combined speaking time was less than Zhu Li’s alone, and half of that was spent on the upheaval in the last year. The bad news had definitely put a damper on everyone’s will to converse.
Life in the Caves was slow—minus the occasional yao attack from the border or the unnecessary gossip convoy, naturally. Canxi had (unsurprisingly) become the apprentice of beastminders, Wuji had gotten married and had a son (very surprisingly), and Junhe…
At the end of their discussion, she took a swig of tea, then said nonchalantly, “I didn’t tell you earlier, Lili, but I’m pregnant. The father’s a total joker, so I knew ahead of time that I was going to go it alone, but that’s fine, isn’t it? Those Lins are always so dramatic. You give them one dirty look, and they act like you dug their ancestors up and smacked their bones around.”
Zhu Li, who had also been about to take a drink, paused with his cup in the air. After a few seconds, he set it back down.
He was already feeling too young to be an uncle to one kid, let alone a second one.
At least Canxi wouldn’t be surprising anyone with a baby.
His sisters’ version of the events that had led to Zhu Longmai’s retirement were more or less what Ren Nidan had already told him, except with a few more boring details about who was on whose side. Zhu Li nodded along, but was most likely not going to remember a thing about what they’d said come tomorrow.
One detail was not boring, though: their mother had moved out of the Sect Head’s designated residence and into Wanming Court.
Okay. So, the ‘ghost’ he’d seen last night had been mom. Great.
That was only marginally less weird.
Speaking of ‘weird,’ Chu Ran was distressingly tight-lipped throughout the entire conversation. He made no comments, no snipes, and not even a single peep.
Actually, he hadn’t made a sound during Zhu Li’s portion, either. Not until he’d been spoken to. Even Xin Junyan and Chu Mei, who could be argued to have much less to contribute, had happily given their fabricated and true personal stories alike.
(The former had definitely been sizing up Canxi, too. Whether she approved was her business and her business alone.)
Maybe he wasn’t comfortable around the Zhu’s? Was it the crowd? Something else?
And here he’d thought he had the man mostly figured out.
Zhu Li remained semi-distracted until the end. By this time, the sun was already setting thanks to winter’s traditional short day cycles, casting everything in a dull glow.
When everyone was getting up from their seats, prepared to go their separate ways for now, a hand on his shoulder snapped him out of his worried daze. He looked to his left to see that Ren Nidan had grabbed him, an unreadable look on his face.
“You and Sect Head Xin should visit your mother before midnight,” he advised in a hushed tone. “To be any later may send the wrong message.”
Zhu Li met his eyes, then nodded. “We’ll go now.”
The warning in his father’s tone did not slip past him.
With a smile, Ren Nidan added, “The days after this will be more peaceful, son. Expect your sisters to all want to spend time with you on their own. I’ll want the same, of course; we can go meditate by the Snake God’s Rock.”
Ah. That was an old activity they shared. Whenever he’d been upset as a child or irrationally moody teenager, his father would bring him out to the Rock to meditate, work through his emotions, and learn the words to verbalize them. Alternatively, they would go out there just to have a nice space to be alone with their thoughts. No layperson could go there due to it being a Zhu heritage site, too.
He nodded at the suggestion. “I’ll see you then, dad.”
Chu Ran and he exited the hall. Xin Junyan and Chu Mei went off to explore the rolling Zhu Estate for both the thrill of adventure and the need to know how to navigate where they’d be staying for however long wringing information out of Zhu Longmai took.
That could be a month. Maybe two.
The thought was simultaneously intimidating and comforting.
Once they were far enough away on their path to Wanming Court, he witnessed tension visibly drain out of Chu Ran’s shoulders, followed by his ever-present smile turning less forced-looking. “Your family is quite interesting, Doctor,” he remarked. “I won’t lie to you, though; I’m surprised that you and the animated one are related.”
Zhu Li quirked a brow. “Who? Junhe?”
“Yes, that’s the one. She’s quite the devious character. Do they, ah, know about my ability to sense emotions, perchance?”
He considered that for a second. “I didn’t say anything. My dad knew your teacher, so he could have. You think she’s devious?”
“Yes. Jaunty, yet sly. People like her have a certain aura to them. A fellow information gatherer, if I had to hazard a guess.”
“You’re probably right. She isn’t how I remember her,” Zhu Li admitted somewhat despondently. That was a subject for a later time, though. “Is that why you were so quiet all that time? You were getting a read on them?”
Chu Ran’s brows jumped up. “Ah?… Oh, no, not really. It was a nice bonus, is all.”
“Then what was the real reason?”
“Well, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that I can put people off when I speak. For the sake of making a good first impression, I decided to remain quiet to ensure that nothing strange falls out of my mouth. It is much better to be considered a shy and quiet man than one that readily spills dirty laundry, I’ve learned.”
Incredulity crept its way up Zhu Li’s spine, washing over him like a wave of muck.
“You… care about leaving a good impression on them,” he repeated blankly, phrasing it much less like a question and more like a statement of fact.
“Yes,” was the answer, which was accompanied by a blithe smile.
“You didn’t care about leaving a good first impression to me.”
The smile went away. Chu Ran finally turned to face him, looking like prey that had just heard the steps of a predator, an official caught in his own snare of lies.
“Ah, well… Circumstances were different at the time,” he managed to say.
“Different in that I didn’t know you that well then, nor did I assume that we would get along. But now I do and we do, so I must make sure that I’m not offensive to the people close to you.”
Zhu Li narrowed his eyes. “Their opinions on you wouldn’t change my mind on anything, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Mm, I’m not. You certainly aren’t the type to be swayed easily. It’s merely a good idea to be on good terms with them, isn’t it?”
“I guess. You shouldn’t put on an act, though. Just be yourself.”
“I feel as though that’s not an optimal idea, Doctor. What makes you say that?”
I really, really want to see their dumbstruck faces when you talk as a form of catharsis, Zhu Li thought, but didn’t say. Instead, he shrugged and said, “They don’t need to be coddled.”
“Well… if you say that I should break the dam, then break it I shall. You’ll surely be on my side if I make a fool of myself, won’t you?”
“You won’t make a fool of yourself.”
“I always could. Especially in this impending meeting; I am fully expecting for Senior Zhu to think me odd.”
Zhu Li pursed his lips together. “Like that’s hard to achieve,” he muttered grumpily.
Chu Ran paused in consideration. Not long after, he squeezed Zhu Li’s arm in support. “All will be fine, Doctor. Perhaps my presence will prevent this meeting from being too daunting.”
As the Court’s tall, darkness-backed form emerged from behind the shadows of other buildings and came into view against the setting sun’s backdrop, lending it a nerve-wracking grandeur.
A simple talk with one’s parent shouldn’t be anything so intimidating, as a layperson might say. Anyone with less reasonable parents would know that speaking with them was more deleterious, more frightening than fighting any manner of horrible monster.
After all, monsters could only cause physical injuries, while parents knew exactly how to pierce one right through their insecurities and into their soft inner heart.
Zhu Longmai was not one for petty insults, granted, but talking to her was… unpredictable. The many unfruitful conversations they’d had about why she hadn’t given him a damn cultivational name were proof enough.
Slowly, Zhu Li placed a hand on Chu Ran’s own, then squeezed back.
May the Dao give him courage. Even being on death row hadn’t made him feel so anxious.
The author says: i had to rewrite this chapter because i didn’t like its vibes 😐 but here it is! i now like it better! the chapter of fairly unexciting but necessary character establishment and buildup!
are you ready for mama zhu? i am 🙂 i been ready :)))
(i’ve officially retconned chu ran having cataracts; i only mentioned them once before, but very quickly grew to disown the idea afterwards. while the online posts still have mention of them, the epub version does not. this is hopefully the only (conscious?) retcon i’ll have to do.)
3 thoughts on “SnCr 47”
Zhu Li’s reunion with his sisters was so good, happy and a little bit sad at the same time.
I loved the whole bit with Zhu Junhe seeing Chu Ran and going “Oooh? A hot guy. Gimme!” and Zhu Li being all “No! This one’s mine. Hands off!” and poor Chu Ran fleeing to Zhu Li for safety and then coolly playing it off like he did no such thing. And she definitely Noticed the way they were interacting with each other. Add that to his dad seeing enough the night before to ask if they wanted separate bedrooms or not, and I feel like Zhu Li is not going to get through this visit without his relationship status being pried into.
Chu Ran is in ‘don’t shock the in-laws’ mode I see, I wonder how long that will last. And I’d wondered if the mysterious figure Zhu Li saw last night was his mother, so it’s nice to have that confirmed. And an intimidating but hopefully interesting (for us) confrontation awaits.
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Ha! I love how Chu Ran got out of the way quickly from Junhe. Quick thinking to get away from the predatory female.
Mom being the person watching Li from that one building I expected – I’m both interested in seeing this woman who seems to have some sort of issues with her son, and also worried for how she will affect Zhu Li. I love that Ran wanted to not scare off Li’s family and Li wanted him to be himself so he could watch their reactions.
So much more to come… How will Longmai react to the Wasp wanting to see her face to face? Not to mention, what was it that caused her to hide in her caves suddenly?
Plus, I have the feeling there’s someone in the Zhu family that Li should not trust. I look forward to seeing how this visit pans out.
Thanks for the update 🙂
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Chu Ran going caffeine. Someone was (is) fretting then.
Well that encounter went well (not sarcasm). I for one am not in the least bit surprised Chu Ran has issues and objections to being suddenly grabbed at.
Junhe is certainly very vibrant. The other two we shall see.
Guhui has been registering her protests then. She is absolutely going to break out.
Look some people don’t have your advantages with decent first impressions Zhu Li. And Chu Ran knows well he is very strange. Even if you enjoy watching other people deal with it.
Time for a Long Dreaded Meeting. At least he brought back up.
I am also ready for Mum Zhu
Thank you for the update!
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