Gu Ruohai lifted the teacup to his lips and took a sip. “I’d say, please don’t let this be a repeat of what happened in the bamboo forest.”
“I’m serious.” Su Huaizhu said calmly.
“You’ve seen it?”
“And you’re sure it’s Shizun’s abode?”
“I’m almost positive.”
Su Huaizhu smiled and said, “We’ll know for sure when I bring you all there on Chongyang.”
Gu Ruohai’s eyes almost bugged out of his head. “WHAT? Please say you’re kidding.”
Su Huaizhu smiled and didn’t reply.
Gu Ruohai frowned. “Where is it?”
Neither of them were interested in continuing with the chess game, so Su Huaizhu began to tidy up the pieces. “You’ll see,” he said mysteriously.
Gu Ruohai put away the tea set and extinguished the stove. “Zhu Zhi’er…” he sighed.
Although he’d begun calling Su Huaizhu that in private, there had been once or twice it would subconsciously slip out when they were chatting together with Wang Ke, Luo Yu, and Qin Jianyue. He would blush, and the others would give him a good-natured ribbing about it.
Su Huaizhu approached and pulled him into his arms to give him a light peck on the lips. “You don’t believe me?” He moved to kiss Gu Ruohai’s neck. Gu Ruohai trembled and didn’t say anymore. He felt his whole body warming up, and he subconsciously rubbed against Su Huaizhu.
They began kissing. Tongues curled and danced, thrilling to each other’s tastes and scents. Pleasure mounted, and both their breaths hastened.
They slowly moved to the bed, and Su Huaizhu lowered Gu Ruohai to lie down. He shifted himself on top of Gu Ruohai and continued to kiss him. Gu Ruohai was enjoying these kisses very much when he suddenly felt his shirt being pulled open. Su Huaizhu dropped a kiss onto his collarbone.
Gu Ruohai shuddered in response. “Aah……” he gasped.
Su Huaizhu trailed kisses up and sought Gu Ruohai’s lips to suck on them. Gu Ruohai panted. His soft moans only excited Su Huaizhu more.
Su Huaizhu looked up, his eyes heavy with passion. His lips were red and moist from their kisses. He said huskily, “Hai’er……I can’t stand it anymore…”
Gu Ruohai glanced up at him in trepidation and mumbled, “Zhu Zhi’er—”
Su Huaizhu caressed his cheek and said softly, “I’ll go slow.” He proceeded to kiss down Gu Ruohai’s neck and his Adam’s apple. Then he moved further down to his chest, pushing open his clothing to feel the warm skin beneath. He kissed his lips again and asked almost pleadingly, “Yes?”
Hearing his gentle, coaxing tone made Gu Ruohai’s heart soft. After some time, he tenderly stroked Su Huaizhu’s cheek and whispered back, “Yes.”
He caught sight of Su Huaizhu’s elated expression before he bent down to kiss Gu Ruohai affectionately. Then Su Huaizhu got up, blew out all the candles in the room, and quickly removed his clothing before rejoining Gu Ruohai in bed.
Outside, the wind whistled in an otherwise tranquil night.
The gusts of air stirred up the fallen leaves in Yingyuan courtyard, scattering them this way and that.
The dark sky was resplendent with the silent twinkling of stars, providing the moon with ambience on her nightly journey.
Two people held each other close in the dark room.
Su Huaizhu’s breaths were steady as he dropped a kiss on Gu Ruohai’s forehead. Gu Ruohai was dazedly running his fingers up and down Su Huaizhu’s chest. His mind was awash with everything that had just happened between them. At that moment, it felt somewhat surreal.
“Are you alright?” Su Huaizhu asked in a low voice as he tugged the blanket higher to cover Gu Ruohai’s shoulders.
Gu Ruohai nodded sleepily and nestled his head in Su Huaizhu’s neck. “Are you?” He asked in return.
He heard Su Huaizhu emit a light laugh in the shadows and reply heartwarmingly, “I’m wonderful.”
The corners of Gu Ruohai’s lips curled up a little. He was so exhausted that he couldn’t stop his eyes from closing. It wasn’t long before they both fell into a deep sleep.
“How come you didn’t say anything sooner?” Wang Ke nudged Su Huaizhu with his elbow as they all followed him to the rear area of Lesser Jade House.
“I don’t know why you’re all so insistent on finding Shizun.” Luo Yu chipped in. “No one’s seen her for nearly a hundred years. She’s a recluse; some masters and elders are like that. I wouldn’t like it if strangers came intruding into my home.”
Wang Ke turned back to Luo Yu and threw him a look, saying, “You don’t have to follow. We’ll tell you all about it when we get back. Can you imagine if we were the ones who managed to find her and discover her secret?”
Qin Jianyue, who was walking beside Luo Yu, piped up, “If we do discover Shizun, that’ll definitely be something. In the meantime, I just want to explore more of Lesser Jade House with Ah Yu.” He smiled and moved a little closer.
Gu Ruohai saw that Luo Yu was expressionless, but he did glance up quickly at Qin Jianyue before darting his eyes to the path before him.
Gu Ruohai ignored them and turned to address the group, “Alright, say we do find Shizun. What then?”
Su Huaizhu smiled and replied, “We’ll formally pay our respects to her—”
“—Regardless if she’s a fox spirit or not.” Wang Ke said proudly. Luo Yu and Qin Jianyue rolled their eyes.
“What if she gets furious because we’ve sought her out unannounced and punishes us?” Gu Ruohai said uncertainly.
Su Huaizhu took Gu Ruohai’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “If she does, we’ll just suffer the punishment together.”
“That’s not what I meant.” Gu Ruohai grumbled.
Not long after, the group arrived at a cable bridge that linked to a valley.
Su Huaizhu gestured. “Once we cross this bridge, there’s a pavilion built to the mountain wall in the valley. I’ve only seen it from afar, but I suspect that’s it.”
He led the rest of them to traverse the bridge and walk into the valley.
It was nearly mid morning and slightly cloudy today. The valley was lush with trees bearing yellow, orange, and brown leaves. The ground was also carpeted with leaves of every colour, making a vibrant scenery in contrast with the blue sky and scattered wisps of clouds.
After walking a distance, they were able to see the pavilion mentioned earlier by Su Huaizhu. Its architecture and colouring were similar to the buildings in Lesser Jade House. The group approached it cautiously.
“How do we get inside?” Qin Jianyue whispered as he looked around.
Su Huaizhu pointed. “There’s some plank stairs over there.” He whispered back.
“We’re not even inside yet. Why are we whispering?” Wang Ke said in a low voice.
“Shh!” Everyone else said at the same time.
They climbed the plank steps one by one and reached the pavilion platform.
Su Huaizhu cleared his throat and called out as he cupped his fists in the direction of the door: “This disciple, Su Huaizhu, greets Shizun!”
There was no answer from inside the pavilion. They all looked at one another in puzzlement.
Su Huaizhu called out again, but he was greeted with silence.
Wang Ke shouted, “Anyone here?”
Still no answer came.
All of them walked towards the door, and Gu Ruohai warily pushed it open.
The interior was clean and neat, but it was rather dark. They also slowly stepped inside and looked around. Qin Jianyue lit a few of the lamps with a fire stick he found.
The pavilion had two storeys but wasn’t very large. After checking around, they confirmed that there was no one there. However, based on the daily paraphernalia and lack of dust, it was obvious that someone lived there.
At last, Gu Ruohai spoke: “No one’s here.” Wang Ke looked terribly disappointed.
All of a sudden, there was the sound of tiny wings flapping. They all turned and saw a little green bird fly in from the window and perch on the desk. It carried a folded letter in its beak.
Everyone eyed it curiously. Gu Ruohai went over and took the letter. The green bird then hopped up and flew back out the window, to their surprise.
Gu Ruohai opened the letter and read it aloud:
“Greetings, Hai Hai, Zhu Zhu, Ah Yue, Ah Yu, and Xiao Ke,
Congratulations on finding the Veiled Pearl Pavilion.
Unfortunately, I’m not often in my abode and couldn’t meet you all in person this time. Do remember to extinguish the candles before you leave.
Enjoy your Chongyang Festival in Lesser Jade House.
Once he finished reading, there was a stillness in the room.
Qin Jianyue stiffly went to blow out all the lamps that he’d lit, and the whole group slowly exited the pavilion in silence. Su Huaizhu was the last to leave and carefully shut the door behind them.
They all looked at one another with the same bewildered and startled expression. Immediately, everyone released a pent up breath.
“Ng, how did she……?” Qin Jianyue managed to stutter out.
Luo Yu swallowed. “Maybe she’s truly an immortal…”
Gu Ruohai squeezed Su Huaizhu’s hand and said, “I think we should leave now.”
Su Huaizhu nodded.
Wang Ke was still in shock and didn’t say anything.
They all walked down the plank steps and headed back in the direction of the chain bridge.