“Hmph, I’m not buying that,” said An Xiaoning, secretly feeling a sense of happiness despite her words.
Her doubts were understandable, for it was indeed a tall order to find a man who still had his chastity, especially in today’s society.
“Well, it’s the truth. It’s up to you to believe me.”
“If you truly loved a woman wholeheartedly, would you still get together with another woman?” An Xiaoning asked.
“That depends on whether she loves me the same way I do her.”
“And if she did?” An Xiaoning asked hypothetically.
“Well, I would never be that lucky,” said Jin Qingyan, resting his arms behind his head, a pillow sandwiched in between. “Love and marriage are separate matters,” he continued.
Hearing his words, An Xiaoning could not help but feel greatly disappointed. “In my opinion, they don’t necessarily have to be separate,” she said.
He remained silent, despite already having a firm answer in his head.
By saying that love and marriage are separate matters, he must’ve meant that he loves another woman while being married to a different one. The sudden thought crossed her mind as she placed her book onto the desk.
She was overwhelmed by a sudden wave of sadness and irritation. Observing every contour of his face, she said, “Hubby, I’ve studied a few positions earlier tonight. Let’s try them.”
In the blink of an eye, a few days had passed.
An Xiaoning had spent the past few days decorating their home. She replaced all the furniture with the ones she liked, transforming the once-empty-and-spacious house into a warm and comfortable home.
In less than 24 hours, it would be their big day.
An Xiaoning had planned to pay her respects to her late Master at her grave today.
She decided to head out alone, without informing Jin Qingyan, who had gone to the old Mansion first thing in the morning.
Having arrived at the foot of the mountain by bus, she climbed the stone steps and made her way up.
The doorstep of the old temple was covered with dried leaves; the door was tightly shut. There seemed to be a tinge of loneliness in the air. There was not a single soul in sight on the mountain.
An Xiaoning extended her arm to push the door open.
Since there was no one to attend to its upkeep, the place she had grown up in had been greatly reduced to nothing more than just a lonely, dilapidated temple.
Carrying a black bag in her hands, she walked towards the house. Continuing along a substantial number of stairs, she finally arrived at her Master’s grave.
“Master, I’m here.”
A strong, fleeting gust of wind blew towards her the very moment she ended her sentence.
An Xiaoning proceeded to burn some joss paper and gold paper ingots, along with a set of paper clothes. “The last time I came to visit was to tell you that I was getting married. But Master, I had since gotten a divorce, and the purpose of my visit today is to let you know that I’m getting married again, for the second time. It’s a different man this time, though. He’s someone reliable and trustworthy. I came alone and secretly today, because I didn’t think the time was ripe for him to meet you just yet. But I’ll bring him here to see you in the future. I miss you dearly, Master.”
Teary-eyed, she stood up and gave a deep bow before leaving.
On the way down to the foot of the mountain, she was stopped by a suave and dashing man who was dressed casually. “Hey, excuse me, how much further from here is the Temple of Nun Jingxin?” asked the man.[‘Jingxin’ means ‘to calm one’s mind’ in Chinese]
“You… You’re looking for Nun Jingxin?” a surprised An Xiaoning asked.
With a nod, he answered, “Yes.” He seemed rather soft-spoken.
“You don’t have to make a wasted trip. She had passed away for a long time already,” said An Xiaoning as she continued to descend the hill.
“Hold up, may I ask if you knew her personally?” he asked, frantically trying to hold her back.
“I was her disciple, so you can take my word for it.”
“Do you know who Gu Shaochun is?”
Of course she did — Gu Shaochun was a name she would remember until the day she dies, for he was the man who had betrayed and let her Master down. Even on her deathbed, her master still could not let go of him. An Xiaoning was filled with animosity at the mention of Gu Shaochun.
Her master had waited her entire life for that man. She refused to marry anyone else.
The thought of meeting Gu Shaochun, if she managed to find him, had crossed An Xiaoning’s mind multiple times.
“Please enter, Ms. An. Turns out you are Jin Qingyan’s new wife, no wonder I found you to be looking rather familiar,” said Gu Dongcheng as he welcomed her in.
“Neither did I expect him to be a member of your family,” she replied.
She walked through the gate and found that there were a few people seated in the living room, including Gu Shaochun, Gu Beichen, as well as the latter’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Gu.
“Grandad, this is Nun Jingxin’s disciple,” Gu Dongcheng introduced An Xiaoning as he stepped forward.
“You must be Gu Shaochun, I suppose?” asked An Xiaoning, staring daggers at him.
“How atrocious of you to be calling your elder by his full name! I see, this is how ill-mannered the daughter-in-law of the Jin Family truly is,” Mrs. Gu snapped as soon as An Xiaoning finished her sentence.
Unfazed by the hostile comment, An Xiaoning retorted fearlessly, “I wasn’t speaking to you. Please shut up.”
“Please take a seat, Ms. An,” Gu Dongcheng said gently, gesturing for An Xiaoning to sit down. A stark contrast to his mother’s animosity.
An Xiaoning could feel Gu Shaochun looking her up and down as she took a seat. Without fear, she glared back at him.
Not expecting her to stare back at him, Gu Shaochun could not avoid eye contact with her quickly enough. With raised eyebrows, his lips curled into a stiff smile.
“Your master…” he began to speak.
“My Master had passed away a few years ago,” said An Xiaoning.
Upon hearing her words, Gu Shaochun turned pale as a sheet at that very instant. Unable to process the shocking piece of news he had just heard, he asked, “Passed away?”
“The purpose of my visit is to ask you a simple question. Old Mr. Gu, just why did you make my Master wait her entire life for you?” An Xiaoning roared with uncontrollable fury. Staring daggers at the elderly man, she continued, “Master was still calling your name, even on her deathbed. But look at you, living well with an abundance of fortune and riches. You even got married and were blessed with so many children, while she spent her entire life practising on the mountains and remained unmarried up until the day she passed on.”
Cupping his face with his hands, the aged Gu Shaochun let out a cry of agony, tears streaming down his face uncontrollably.
A deafening silence filled the room. No one dared to make a single sound. The old Mr. Gu had always been a dignified and awe-inspiring patriarch of the family. He had never lost control of his emotions in front of them before.
His family had known very little about Nun Jingxin previously because he had never mentioned anything about her. As he was losing mobility in his legs, the old Mr. Gu had instructed his grandchild to look for Nun Jingxin and find out about how she was doing.
Several moments passed. Supporting himself with his walking stick, Gu Shaochun struggled to stand on unstable feet and said to An Xiaoning, “I’d like to visit her grave. Please take me there.”
An Xiaoning agreed to his request, thinking that her Master would have liked very much for Gu Shaochun to visit her as well — especially since she was still calling his name repeatedly while grief-stricken on her deathbed.
With much gratitude, Gu Shaochun smiled widely at her. He then quickly entered his room and returned with a bag, all set to go.
Having arrived back on the mountain, Gu Dongcheng and his Mother supported Gu Shaochun to Nun Jingxin’s grave behind the dilapidated house. Squatting at the door, An Xiaoning glared at Gu Beicheng and said aggressively, “What are you staring at me for? Why aren’t you going inside? ”
“You’ve seriously angered my Mother today. Other than my late Grandmother who was at loggerheads with her, no one else has had the nerve to tell my Mother to ‘shut up’,” he answered.
“Are you trying to lecture me out of filial piety?”
“You need to be taught a lesson, indeed,” said Gu Beicheng sternly as he walked closer towards her.
An Xiaoning stood up and took a step back. Staring at him, she yelled, “What are you trying to do, throwing your arms around me in broad daylight? Are you trying to take advantage of a helpless lady?”
“A helpless lady? Let’s see how helpless you really are,” taunted Gu Beicheng with a sneer.