When Li Yundong stumbled into Apartment 20A, he saw Ruan Hongling lounging comfortably on his couch, clearly making herself at home .
"What is she doing here?" Li Yundong looked towards Zi Yuan, who had just walked through the front door .
Zi Yuan closed the door gently and moved past Li Yundong without answering the question .
"You didn't run into any problems, I hope?" Zi Yuan said .
Ruan Hongling stood up from the couch and greeted Zi Yuan with a bow . "No Elder Sister . They're both fully intact and ready for you inside the Tianyi Pond . "
"Good . "
Yeah . Very good . Just fantastic . By all means, ignore a man inside his own home, treat him like he's invisible, coz that's such a polite thing to do .
Li Yundong trudged along the doorway and set down his travel backpack on the floor beside the couch . He didn't put it on the couch; that thing looked so raggedly and dirty that he'd had qualms about bringing it into the apartment in the first place .
He pulled out the Fan of Seven Treasures from the backpack and lay it beside the backpack .
To his surprise, Ruan Hongling suddenly ran over and yanked up his backpack by its straps .
Then, she tossed it out onto the balcony .
Ruan Hongling shut the sliding door and walked back towards the couch . The girl's face was scrunched up like she had just opened a bag of rotten fish .
"What?" Ruan Hongling gritted out .
"Why'd you put the bag outside?" Li Yundong pointed at the balcony .
Ruan Hongling rolled her eyes . "I just cleaned the apartment two days ago . That thing is just gonna make the floor dirty again . "
Li Yundong stared at the girl for a moment, then turned to look at Zi Yuan .
"I asked Hongling to stop by from time to time for some upkeep . " Zi Yuan smiled, then turned towards Ruan Hongling . "Thank you, Hongling . "
Ruan Hongling snorted . "Well . I'm happy to do it as long as Elder Sister Zi Yuan is the one who asked . " Ruan Hongling gave Li Yundong a sidelong glance . "And as long as somebody doesn't go off the deep end and start telling me to stay out of his business . "
Li Yundong flinched at the jab, but then he remembered the reason he'd said those words to Ruan Hongling—she had picked up his phone without his permission and pranked Su Chan .
That memory eased the guilt a little .
"Hongling…" Zi Yuan's warning tone pulled him out of his thoughts . "We just got back . So be nice and don't start a fight . "
Ruan Hongling stuck out her tongue at Zi Yuan, then plopped down on the couch .
Li Yundong sighed and glanced around the living room .
He had to admit that Ruan Hongling had done a superb job in keeping the apartment clean . He'd been away for two months, yet the place didn't seem dusty at all . The floor had clearly been mopped . While Zi Yuan and Ruan Hongling were having a whispered conversation, Li Yundong padded towards the kitchen .
He stopped in front of the fridge and opened it . The fridge had been restocked with fresh fruits and vegetables . He closed the fridge's door and opened the freezer on top . Stacks of frozen meat—poultry, fish, and beef—filled the shelves .
The conversation in the living room halted the moment Li Yundong walked out of the kitchen . Li Yundong stepped over the Fan of Seven Treasures' bulky form and went around the couch to stand in front of the coffee table .
The two women from the Zhengyi School stared at him curiously .
Li Yundong focused his gaze on Ruan Hongling .
"Thank you for cleaning the apartment . " He jerked his head towards the kitchen . "And for restocking the fridge . " He cleared his throat . "I really appreciate it . "
Li Yundong nearly smirked when he saw Ruan Hongling's jaw slackening . He stole a glance at Zi Yuan, who seemed rather amused at their exchange .
Li Yundong returned his eyes to Ruan Hongling, who appeared to be struggling with her words . This time, Li Yundong really did smirk: there's my olive branch, take it or leave it .
After what felt like forever, Ruan Hongling cleared her throat . "Y- You're welcome . "
From the corner of his eyes, Li Yundong could make out a satisfied smile spreading across Zi Yuan's features .
Suddenly, a devious glint formed in Ruan Hongling's eyes .
"Why don't you could cook for us again?" Ruan Hongling said triumphantly . "To repay me for all this . " She waved a hand across the room .
Zi Yuan's smile instantly turned into a glare .
"Well!" Li Yundong released a loud chuckle . "That's not gonna be a problem . " He himself had to eat anyway . It wouldn't be that much harder to cook for three .
My princess… Wherever you are, I hope you're eating well…
"You know… You might be obnoxious, annoying and—Oww!"
"Hongling…" Zi Yuan said . "Be nice . "
Li Yundong regarded Ruan Hongling with a raised brow .
Ruan Hongling cleared her throat . "But I have to admit that you're a decent cook . "
Li Yundong smirked .
"Still not as good as Elder Zi Yuan though…"
Li Yundong burst out laughing . "Okay, okay . I get it . " He stopped laughing and shook his head . Truly, this girl sucked at giving compliments . "Thanks again . " He looked straight at Ruan Hongling, then waved a hand across the apartment . "I can't even imagine the mess I'd come home to if you hadn't helped me keep the place clean . "
Ruan Hongling shrugged dismissively .
Whatever . He'd take that as a win .
He stretched his arms above his head and then ran his hand through his hair—
He grunted when his fingers got tangled up in his hair .
"Goddamn shampoo didn't even work," he mumbled, giving his fingers a few more tugs before they came loose from his messy strands .
Even now, his hair still smelled a little funny .
He looked up to find Zi Yuan and Ruan Hongling studying him . Zi Yuan had a look of amusement on her face, whereas Ruan Hongling looked like she was trying to hold back her laughter .
Li Yundong let his eyes wandered down his body for a moment, wincing at what he saw .
Ruan Hongling burst into laughter right then . "Pfft! Hahaha! You look like you just stepped out of a forest after spending years in it!"
Li Yundong smiled wryly . He couldn't even disagree with Ruan Hongling on that one . He did look like a beast from the wilderness .
Li Yundong sighed . Guess it was time for another shower .
For the first time in two months, Li Yundong allowed himself to really study his own reflection in the mirror .
He looked leaner now . The muscles of his deltoids and abs looked so much more defined than before . Granted, he didn't look like the next Mr . Olympia, but he looked a lot better than he used to—if those six-pack abs were any indication . More importantly, he could feel the explosive strength underneath his skin, like he could actually support the weight of the sky if it ever came crashing down on him .
With a satisfied smile, Li Yundong grabbed his razor blade and spent the next fifteen minutes shaving off the beard that he'd grown during the past two months . Once he was done, he grabbed a clean set of clothes from the shelf beside the counter and got dressed . He had tossed his clothes—the clothes he'd worn back from his Tibetan trip—straight into the trash can before stepping into the shower earlier . Those clothes were ruined, so there was no point in keeping them .
Zi Yuan and Ruan Hongling were still sitting in the living room when he got out .
He stopped beside the couch and studied Zi Yuan for a moment .
"Aren't you going back to freshen up as well?" he asked .
Indeed, it boggled his mind how Zi Yuan still seemed so put together even after their long journey home .
Zi Yuan rose from the couch and smiled . "Later . "
Li Yundong shot her a funny look . "Seriously? After that train ride?" He shuddered at the memory of that dreadful train ride where they had to share space with God knows how many people . China's population size was a force to be reckoned with—a force that could squeeze you until you turn into a flat piece of paper if you let it .
"I really don't get you at all . " Zi Yuan shook her head in amusement . "You could reach Tibet on foot without a single word of complaint, yet you're acting all grumpy after a relatively comfortable train ride . "
Li Yundong grunted in response . It was best not to let Zi Yuan know just how much he had complained and grumbled over the course of his trip to Tibet .
Zi Yuan flicked her hand: a stool near the dining table floated across the room and landed beside the couch .
"Now sit . "
Li Yundong stared at the stool, then at Zi Yuan .
On the other end of the couch, he could hear Ruan Hongling giggling .
Li Yundong narrowed his eyes . "Why?"
"Because you still look like someone who had spent ten years out in the wilderness," Zi Yuan said dryly . "You need a haircut . "
Li Yundong kept staring at Zi Yuan until the implication of her words hit him . "Wait . Are you going to give me a haircut?"
He glanced back and forth between Zi Yuan and Ruan Hongling . The latter had stopped giggling .
"Of course," Zi Yuan said . "Now sit . "
Li Yundong raised his palms . "Oh, no . No thanks . " He shook his head . "I'll just go get one on my own tomorrow . "
Zi Yuan rolled her eyes, then waved her hand once again . Li Yundong yelped when he levitated off the floor .
His butt landed on the stool's surface .
The next thing he knew, Zi Yuan was using an old tablecloth—where did she even find that thing?—as a makeshift barber cape .
Li Yundong turned his head around to look at Zi Yuan . "Hey… You sure you know how to do this?"
Zi Yuan smirked but said nothing .
"Okay, you know what? Let's not do this at all . " Li Yundong reached up to untie the tablecloth around his neck . "I can just—"
His butt hit the surface of the stool once again when Zi Yuan's hand pressed down on his shoulder with a shocking amount of strength .
Goddamn Cultivators .
Oh, wait . He was one too .
"Oh, come on!" Li Yundong yelled .
Ruan Hongling burst into giggles .
"Just sit still," Zi Yuan said . "I'll be done soon . "
Zi Yuan held up her palm . Li Yundong watched in horror as a pair of scissors flew from Ruan Hongling's backpack on the coffee table and landed on her palm .
"B- But what if you mess up my hair and I'm forced to shave it all off?" Li Yundong protested . Yes, it was true that he'd read and understood the Mahamudra Tantra and all . But that didn't mean he wanted to become an actual Buddhist monk . "I haven't gone bald since…" Li Yundong froze . "Hey, come to think of it… I've never been bald in my life!"
Zi Yuan arched a brow . "Oh? Is that the hairstyle you want, then? Hmm . Okay . That can be easily remedied . " Zi Yuan turned towards Ruan Hongling . "Hongling, go get the electric head shaver from—"
"Okay! Okay!" Li Yundong said . "Just…" Li Yundong sighed . "Just cut it short . No shaving . Alright?"
Zi Yuan smirked . "Sit still . "