As Du Lingfei’s words rang in his ears, Bai Xiaochun suddenly went slightly stiff. Turning his head, he looked in the direction in which she had just vanished. Despite the fact that she had used the power of Heavenspan Island to fade away, he could still make out the faint shadow of her figure.
He felt like going after her to ask more questions, but before he could, she entered the depths of the island.
“What did she mean by that…? I'm supposed to be careful of Hou Xiaomei?” The more he thought about it, the more suspicious it seemed. Furthermore, he couldn’t tell if she had been sincere or not.
Either way, his uneasiness at the fact that Hou Xiaomei had become a special guard on Heavenspan Island only grew more intense than it had been before.
“Why do I need to be careful of Hou Xiaomei?” He thought back to when he had seen her earlier that day, and from what he remembered, she hadn’t seemed any different than she had in the past. And the happiness in her eyes when she spotted him had seemed real.
However, he couldn’t stop thinking about what Du Lingfei had just said. As he did, his vexation grew. The truth was that, the entire time he had been on Heavenspan Island so far, he had felt uneasy.
After some more thought, he sighed. The best thing to do would be to find a chance to go talk with Hou Xiaomei. Even as he thought such things, his expression flickered, and he looked up.
Moments later, he saw a beam of light streaking through the darkness toward him.
It came to a stop outside his residence, converging into the form of a person who spoke in a sweet, sentimental voice.
“Big Bro Xiaochun!”
It was none other than Hou Xiaomei! She wore the same long, red garment that she had worn earlier in the day. She was beautiful, her normally fair face flush with joy, and her eyes sparkled with excitement.
Seeing Hou Xiaomei caused the things Du Lingfei had just said, and the suspicions they had aroused in his heart, to vanish for the moment. Hou Xiaomei looked exactly like she had earlier in the day, and the same as he remembered her from the past. This was the very same girl who had stuck so close to him in his early days in the Spirit Stream Sect. She was Xiaomei, and she really was like the perfect girl next door.
In sharp contrast to his somber reaction to seeing Du Lingfei, Bai Xiaochun rose to his feet and excitedly threw his arms wide. Blinking, he smiled mischievously and said, “Long time no see, Xiaomei. Come come, give your Big Bro Xiaochun a hug!”
The light flush of joy which had covered her face instantly transformed into scarlet. Then she glared at him angrily, and yet, at the same time, rushed over and embraced him, burying her face in his neck.
At first, she didn’t hug him very hard, but as the moments ticked by, and she thought back to how lonely she had been since coming to the island, her grip tightened, as though she didn’t wish to let him go.
When he felt how tightly she was hugging him, his mischievous smile faded into one of tender affection. He wrapped his arms around her, stroked her long black hair, and breathed in deeply. She smelled completely different than Du Lingfei.
He suddenly thought back to the first time he had ever laid eyes on Hou Xiaomei. She was the first girl that had ever truly captured his attention, although he had always been confused about how he felt toward her. All he knew was that right now, he was sure that he liked her, even though he didn’t know why.
Throughout the years he had known her, he had seen her act like a hot pepper around other people, but charming to him. That had always made him feel very good about himself.
As he held Hou Xiaomei, he came the conclusion that there was nothing out of the ordinary about her. She had not changed. She was exactly like she had been before.
As she lay nestled in his arms, she murmured, “Big Bro Xiaochun, after all the years that have passed, I wasn’t sure if you would even remember me….”
Already, her mood seemed to be sinking.
Bai Xiaochun quickly sat down with her and started telling her his stories about the Wildlands. He didn’t go into all the details, only some of the most interesting parts. Soon, Hou Xiaomei’s mood improved, and she even started laughing.
Covering her smile with her hand, she said, “Come on. There’s no way that you bossed devas around.”
When Bai Xiaochun realized that she didn’t believe him, he gave up on being so humble. Glaring at her, he thumped himself on the chest and said, “That was nothing! A demigod gave me his daughter’s hand in marriage! All of the nobility and aristocracy in Arch-Emperor Dynasty were scared of me!”
Hou Xiaomei laughed. “Alright, alright. I believe you. I do, alright? You were definitely awesome! My Big Bro Xiaochun is the most awesome person under heaven!”
When Bai Xiaochun heard her laughter and saw the gleam in her eyes, his heart suddenly began to race, and he realized that he had been mistaken. Hou Xiaomei had changed. Her immaturity was gone, to be replaced by a certain charm and charisma.
“Another vixen!” Bai Xiaochun exclaimed inwardly. “How could I have not seen it before…?” Swallowing hard, he contemplated how Hou Xiaomei might actually end up surpassing Song Junwan….
However, the fact that his heart had begun to race simply because she was looking at him was actually a bit embarrassing. Clearing his throat, he decided to change the subject, and asked Hou Xiaomei about how she had ended up being picked to go to Heavenspan Island.
She immediately gave a snort of irritation.
“What, you think I'm Song Junwan or something? That old crone has been plotting for years to get you, Big Bro Xiaochun. She might have put on a show of taking care of me, but she used her status as the leader of the Blood Stream Division’s Middle Peak to beat me down over and over again!”
“What?” Bai Xiaochun blurted in shock. He couldn’t envision Song Junwan being a person like that, and even opened his mouth to try to explain. However, Hou Xiaomei apparently realized what he was going to do, and continued speaking before he could.
“Big Bro Xiaochun, you really have no idea. That old hag Song Junwan always shows off every chance she can get. I can’t even stand talking with her. As far as she's concerned, I'm just an annoyance!
“Back in the competition to come here, she and I fought a duel in the semi-finals. Her cultivation base was higher than mine, and she had already won several victories. Even if she lost to me, she would still have a chance to go on. But it was my last chance! If I lost, then I would be out. Can you believe that she didn't show the slightest mercy!? I even explained everything to her, and she still beat me.” The more Hou Xiaomei talked, the madder she got.
“Thankfully, the elder in charge from Heavenspan Island saw something special in me, something that makes me suitable to the divine abilities of Heavenspan Island. That was the only reason that in the end, I got chosen, and that old crone didn’t.” As Hou Xiaomei blurted out all her accusations against Song Junwan, Bai Xiaochun’s head started to swell.
From what he could tell, Song Junwan and Hou Xiaomei simply couldn’t see eye to eye on anything….
And apparently, it all stemmed back to the days of the Spirit and Blood Stream Sects, after the war was fought and the two of them helped nurse him back to health….
He suddenly thought back to how both of them would brew medicine for him, and then watch closely to see which one he would pick. Then his heart trembled as he remembered how, on one occasion, they had waited to see which foot he would use to step outside the door….
He quickly changed the topic, worried that a bigger problem could arise if the current conversation continued.
Hou Xiaomei was just happy to see him, so she didn’t mind that he changed the topic. She sat next to him and softly told him about some of the interesting and funny things that had happened while he was gone.
She also told him a few things about Heavenspan Island. Bai Xiaochun smiled, occasionally gasping in praise, and occasionally throwing in a few boasts of his own. Eventually, dawn approached, and Hou Xiaomei reluctantly left.
Soon, the cultivators from the four rivers would go to offer their respects to the Celestial, an important event in which Hou Xiaomei had her own duties to attend to.
After seeing Hou Xiaomei off, Bai Xiaochun took a deep breath and thought back to her visit. No matter how he looked at it, he couldn’t think of anything that had seemed suspicious at all.
In fact, that made him suspect Du Lingfei’s words!
“Why would she tell me to be careful of Hou Xiaomei?” No amount of thought brought any insight. Eventually, the sun rose.
As the first rays of light shone out across the golden Heavenspan Sea, the sound of an ancient bell rang out across the island….