As soon as he ended his sentence, Gu Beicheng rushed forward in an attempt to kiss An Xiaoning. She was quick to evade, though not quick enough: he managed to plant a kiss on her cheek before she could fully get away.
As hard as she could, she wiped the spot which he had kissed. Glaring daggers at him, she hissed, “Why did you kiss me?” Her eyes seethed with exasperation.
“Because I felt like it.”
An Xiaoning glowered at him once more before turning around to enter the courtyard.
After a long while of waiting in the courtyard, Gu Shaochun and the others finally returned. Gu Shaochun seemed to have dealt with a great blow as he appeared to be rather grief-stricken.
“Here, take this. Your Master had left it with me. Though I don’t understand what’s written on it, I know it meant a great deal to her. However, in order to avoid me, she has never asked for it back. I thought you should have it, now that she’s no longer around,” explained the old Mr. Gu. He walked towards An Xiaoning and handed her a book.
“Old Mr. Gu, what exactly happened between you and Master?” she asked before taking even one look at the book.
“I’ll tell you about it in the car,” he said despairingly with a sigh.
She nodded along in agreement.
On the journey back, Gu Shaochun began to talk about the events which happened in the past, between him and Nun Jingxin. The two were a pair of star-crossed lovers who did not earn the approval of Gu Shaochun’s parents, for his father had despised her family background — her parents had passed away when she was young, making her an orphan. His parents had felt that she could not fulfil the rightful duties of a wife, like taking good care of Gu Shaochun or aiding him in his career, since her only interests were practising Buddhism and being vegetarian.
Even though Nun Jingxin had repeatedly expressed her willingness to give up practising Buddhism for Gu Shaochun, her efforts were still futile. His parents were adamant about not changing their mind.
Back in the day, it was extremely rare for one to disobey his parents. Moreover, Nun Jingxin had caught a bad cold during the winter which seemed to be incurable, despite the medical help Gu Shaochun had sought from various physicians to treat her. One fine day, an elderly lady who claimed to be Nun Jingxin’s Master had come forth to treat her disciple, whom she allegedly could sense was ill. The elderly lady added that Nun Jingxin was the Dragon Daughter[an assistant of the Guanyin Goddess, in Buddhism] of the Guanyin Goddess[Guanyin Goddess: a deity worshipped by many who believe in Buddhism] in her past life, who had arrived in the mortal world to be reincarnated, secretly. She then explained that the Guanyin Goddess had found and caught Nun Jingxin, and the latter would have to alter her fate in order to survive.
Upon hearing the elderly lady’s words, he inquired about how Nun Jingxin should go about altering her fate.
The elderly lady then revealed that the only solution was for Nun Jingxin to practise Buddhism on the mountains, while remaining unmarried and childless, in addition to becoming vegetarian and praying frequently. She also had to accumulate merit by doing good deeds for her own salvation, and finally, offer a substitute of herself to the Heavens while gradually becoming a better person, so as to keep her life.
Since Nun Jingxin could no longer marry Gu Shaochun, the latter’s parents had arranged for him to marry the eldest daughter of the Xia family, who was none other than Gu Beicheng’s grandmother.
Alas, Nun Jingxin followed the elderly lady to the mountains to practise Buddhism. In a moment of hurry, as she was leaving, she left the book behind with Gu Shaochun and told him that they shall never meet again in this life.
In fact, Gu Shaochun had been travelling to the mountains to visit her in secret, ever since his younger years. However, Nun Jingxin had not once in her remaining life left the mountains.
“She could not understand what the words written on the book meant, despite having studied it over and over again, countless of times. She said that her master had given it to her. Have you ever met your Grandmaster?” asked Gu Shaochun, turning to look at An Xiaoning.
Shaking her head, she replied, “Grandmaster had already passed on when I first arrived at the temple on the mountain. I’ve only heard from Master that she was one of the rare few in this world who had achieved great sanctity.”
Having comprehended what she said, Gu Shaochun nodded before continuing, “Ms. An, may I trouble you to tell the fortune of my family members?”
“I’m sorry, but I do not wish to read and know about your family’s fortune,” An Xiaoning rejected.
“Since you’re unwilling to do so, I shall not impose my wishes on you either. Mediums possessing the actual ability to read fortunes are hard to come by these days. How lucky of the Jin’s to have such foresight. It’s a pity you’re already married. Otherwise, I would’ve wished greatly for you to become the daughter-in-law of my family,” said Gu Shaochuan as he heaved a sigh of disappointment.
Shock was written all over the faces of the other members of the Gu Family in the car. On the other hand, An Xiaoning remained calm and composed. She answered, “Thank you for thinking so highly of me, old Mr. Gu. However, I am far inferior in skill compared to Master, for I only have superficial knowledge. I’m afraid I’m not skilled enough to alter the fate of the Gu Family, even if I wasn’t already the daughter-in-law of the Jin Family.”
Impressed by her frankness, Gu Shaochun nodded in approval. “What a candid young lady. My son did not give birth to a daughter. If you’d agree, I would be more than willing to take you as my God-granddaughter.”
It had never occured to An Xiaoning that the old Mr. Gu would want to be related to her in one way or another.
“What would I stand to gain from being your God-granddaughter? Why would I call you ‘Grandfather’ and address the rest of your family as my elders for no apparent reason at all?” An Xiaoning asked rhetorically.
“An Xiaoning, many others are dying for a chance to call me their godmother. Yet here you are, despising the opportunity offered to you,” Mrs. Gu chastised. She gave her the side-eye.
Beckoning his daughter-in-law to stay silent, Gu Shaochun looked at An Xiaoning and answered calmly, “Once you become my God-granddaughter, your name will be included in the historic record of the Gu Family. You will become one of us. You’re free to raise any wishes you may have. I will fulfill them as long as they are within my means. Relatively speaking, there’s only one thing I ask.”
The rest of the Gu Family were robbed of their senses; their jaws dropped in shock.
Is he already senile… they thought to themselves in disbelief of what they had just heard.
How could he offer that stranger, An Xiaoning, such a great advantage? Absolutely ridiculous.
Truth be told, An Xiaoning was tempted by what he had offered her. How could she not be?
Putting aside the strained ties between the Gu Family and the Jin Family, the mere thought of having any wish of hers granted by Gu Shaochun was enough to move her. Besides, this was an issue which would have existed regardless of her marriage with Jin Qingyan.
If she ever has a falling out with Jin Qingyan, she would at least still have the backing and support of the Gu Family.
There was nothing wrong with leaving a way out for herself. After all, prevention is indeed better than cure.
“You said you only have one thing to ask. What is it?” she asked.
“My only request… is for you to lend a helping hand whenever you can, should any member of the Gu Family be faced with an inevitable disaster,” said the elderly patriarch, sweeping an arm across his family members, who were holding their breaths in anxiety.
Quick to interrupt, Mrs. Gu objected, “Father, how are you so sure that we are bound to face an inevitable disaster? Even so, what happens if she’s unable to help us?”
Looking at his daughter-in-law, he questioned sternly, “Do you think I’m spouting nonsense?”
“Of course not…” answered Mrs. Gu, turning meek as a lamb.
An Xiaoning, too, had wanted to know the answer to Mrs. Gu’s question. “Old Mr. Gu, how are you aware of what’s going to happen to the Gu Family in the future?” she asked.
“Your Grandmaster had let me in about it, once. She didn’t reveal much about when and what would eventually happen, other than the fact that it would be extremely disastrous. I’m getting on in years. I’ve previously tried countless times to look for similar Masters, to learn a skill or two, but to no avail. The people who truly possess genuine abilities in this world are few and far in between. I’ve ordered Dongcheng to look for your Master on the mountains today, partly because of this matter. Little did I expect to meet you. Please, agree to my request, will you?” asked a hopeful Gu Shaochun.