Xu Qingxuan's first and only time getting angry at her master had achieved rather unexpected results. For once, her master had acquiesced. She was surprised, to be sure, but also a little contrite.
"I'm sorry, master. I lost control of my emotions just now." As a fundamentally kind-hearted girl, she decided to apologize after the fact.
The second sectmaster looked bleak. Xu Qingxuan's tirade had seemingly struck a chord. "You can go, Qingxuan."
Xu Qingxuan's heart was filled with uncertainty by her master's display. Not daring to say anything further, she merely nodded and walked out. When she mentioned the incident to her mother, Xu Meng was just as startled as her daughter. She did not believe that the Blue Moon forefather could suddenly have had a change of heart. It was virtually impossible to appeal to her conscience. It's more likely that she was worried about Qingxuan's potential rebelliousness. Xu Meng was deeply prejudiced against the Moon God Sect. This was especially true for the forefather of the Blues, the second sectmaster.
It was scarcely dawn the next day when Xu Meng began to hurriedly put her baggage together. Aware exactly how anxious her mother was, Xu Qingxuan did not delay a single moment. She woke up just as early as her mother had, and led the way down the mountain after a very brief wash-up.
The gatekeeping disciples all showed mild surprise at the supposedly grounded Holy Maiden Xu Meng's departure, but with Holy Maiden Qingxuan as her guide, who dared stop her? The journey out of the Moon God Sect's mountainous domain was surprisingly smooth.
Elsewhere, within the sect's sacred grounds...
The forefather of the Blue Moon faction occupied in a lofty position, looking into the direction that Xu Qingxuan had departed in. Her expression was stoic and impenetrable. It was hard to tell what she was really thinking.
"Forefather, you could've stopped them from leaving if you're not happy about it. I think that Xu Meng is a bad influence on Holy Maiden Qingxuan. In my opinion, we should permanently separate the two. Why let them see each other?" An old woman stood behind the forefather of the Blues, her voice as discordant as a broken cymbal.
Though the forefather of the Blues was named such, she still appeared rather youthful. Despite her age, she'd retained much of her charm. The Blue Moon forefather sighed softly at the old woman's words. "Sure, it's easy enough to physically separate them. But it's much more difficult to cut off their connection in Qingxuan's heart. We've tried to brainwash her for so many years, yet she is still closest to her mother. It's something in her blood, and nothing that a crude barrier will do."
"I'm simply worried that that witch Xu Meng will lead Qingxuan down the wrong path too," the old woman muttered. "Qingxuan is such an innocent girl. For her to be exposed to the karmic ties of the world… it is not good for her cultivation, not good at all."
"Hmph. Qingxuan's own fortunes will decide for her. If she really lacks even the littlest bit of mental fortitude, that means she wasn't the best holy maiden candidate after all." The forefather's words became chilly. She was transparently disgusted with the possibility. Once probability became certainty, she would toss Xu Qingxuan aside without hesitation. There were other holy maidens to pay attention to. The forefather was at the peak of her power and had plenty of time to find a different successor.
"Shall I keep watch and follow them?" The old woman volunteered.
"No need. Unless I go personally, there won't be any results from it." The Blue Moon forefather shook her head, visibly disdaining the suggestion.
The old woman sighed again. "I really do hope that Qingxuan understands what's good for her. She better avoid any self-degradation."
"Granny Ku, don't prattle on about Xu Meng in front of Qingxuan any more. Qingxuan, she… she's becoming more and more rebellious. Honestly, about Xu Meng, about the past… strictly speaking, Xu Meng wasn't entirely at fault. It was the capriciousness of fate."
This was a rare impartial remark.
"Don't blame yourself, forefather," the old woman beseeched promptly. "Even if it was fate, that just means Xu Meng has a bad destiny. It was a result of evils she committed in her past life. So, it doesn't matter. It's still her fault. If she sincerely admits her mistakes and wholeheartedly listens to your arrangements to atone, then she could've become one of the Blues' best assistants to our very own Qingxuan. What a shame that she's given up on herself and wallows in filth. She doesn't think about how to change. How wrong she is!"
The granny had resorted to sophistry. To her, the reasoning of the Blue Moon faction was truth incarnate. That Xu Meng missed her husband and was unwilling to compromise with the Moon God Sect was an original sin.
This was an awfully shameless form of logic and very high-handed. After all, Xu Meng had been lost since childhood. Her life and growth had nothing to do with the Moon God Sect. What sense of commonality and identity could she feel towards it?
Quite the opposite in fact: the appearance of the sect had completely destroyed her life, turning it flatly upside-down. Her freedom was taken away, her marriage and family shattered. Xu Meng was the biggest victim in all this. And yet, the Moon God Sect had made her daughter their holy maiden. They were reaping the fruits of Xu Meng's labor.
Xu Meng couldn't remember how many days she'd not departed the Sacred Blue Moon Mountain. The sight of the cityscape before her was somewhat surreal. She hung tightly onto Xu Qingxuan's arm. "Xuan'er, am I dreaming?"
"Look, mother. There's so many people on this street. Some are crying, some are laughing, some are shouting, and some are hawking their wares. Doesn't seem like a dream to me. This is real, right. We're already at Frostmoon City." Xu Qingxuan was a little tense. Her parents' reunion had been a dream of hers since time immemorial, so she couldn't help her anxiety when the time actually came. She wanted to know what her father looked like. However, she was also worried that this was all a deception. She could take it psychologically, but could her mother do the same?
I hope this is real, I really do… mother is such a kind person. The heavens wouldn't toy with her any more than it already has, no way. Xu Qingxuan tried to convince herself.
Before long, Xu Qingxuan and her mother arrived at the gates of the first division. Holy Maiden Qingxuan's descent upon Frostmoon City was a piece of tremendous news. Countless cultivators were mobilized by it from every direction, vying for a closer look. Everyone wanted to know what the so-called foremost holy maiden of the Moon God Sect looked like. How awe-inspiring was her presence, really?
The density of curiosity caused the streets near the first division to become increasingly crowded.
"Wow, it's an immortal beauty in the flesh!"
"Huh? How come there are two of them? And they look so alike, too."
"They look like sisters! Even a single one is exceedingly rare, much less a pair."
"That's their foremost holy maiden, alright. I have no words to describe her with!"
The holy maidens of the Moon God Sect paid great attention to the nurture of their disposition and temperament. When their appearance was added to the mix, the ensemble was positively breathtaking. In the eyes of earthly cultivators, a holy maiden of the Moon God Sect was an otherworldly immortal. The Moon God Sect actively encouraged this kind of perception in order to maintain its veneer of mystery and grandeur.
Xu Qingxuan's unannounced appearance within Frostmoon City heated up the atmosphere. Every observer present thought it was worth their while. As expected, the holy maiden's manner, posture, and demeanor were perfect beyond criticism. A wave of people suddenly rushed out from the first division's gates. At their head was Third Master Jing, who paused momentarily upon seeing Xu Qingxuan.
The third master was the vice head of the first division, but he had only seen the holy maiden once before, in passing. It was the first time he had the chance to take a good look at her. For a moment, he lost his composure.
"Thank you for gracing us with your presence, Holy Maiden Qingxuan. I do apologize for my lack of decorum." Apologizing profusely for his lack of manners, Third Master Jing ushered Xu Meng and Xu Qingxuan inside. There was a wave of disappointed sighing in the street as the young holy maiden exited their vicinity, the crowd's eyes clearly yet unsated.
Xu Qingxuan didn't feel much about the third master's niceties. She cut straight to the chase. "Is Pill King Shao Yuan here or not?"
"Ah, yes, he is." Third Master Jing quickly nodded. Coincidentally, a person came into view at the end of a hallway ahead. It was Jiang Chen.
The young man himself was greeted with a welcome sight. Xu Qingxuan had in tow a woman who looked exactly like her. The only differences were an increase in both maturity and tenderness. His heart shook. Mother?
Still, he kept both his wits and composure. It wasn't the right time for them to reveal to each other their identities. There was too much of a crowd.
"Holy Maiden Qingxuan, I've waited for you awhile."
Xu Qingxuan petted her mother's back very softly, a gesture meant to calm her down. Xu Meng retained her poise, knowing the inconvenience that stemmed from the excessive onlookers. She pushed down the emotions that were welling up within her, and strode in arm-in-arm with her daughter. The strength in her feet waned with each step, and she found it more and more difficult to move. Emotional exertion, rather than physical weakness, sent her into temporary shock.
Jiang Chen was assured all the more by this display that she was indeed his biological mother. He felt both anguish and relief. His mother was evidently just as excited as he was. Like his father, she could hardly contain herself. The span of three decades was not nearly enough to break the bonds of love. Love was an overwhelmingly potent force, the unrelenting drive behind their looming reunification.
Third Master Jing was astute enough to wave and shout in dismissal. "All of you can go now."
The first division's personnel dispersed immediately. The third master looked back at Jiang Chen fawningly. "Brother Shao, I'll take my leave now. Just let me know if you need me."
Jiang Chen didn't oppose Third Master Jing's self-expulsion. There was no need for any outsiders in their vicinity.
After no one remained in their general surroundings, Xu Qingxuan tossed Jiang Chen a slightly resentful glare. "You're the messenger, right? Can you tell us who sent you now?"
Jiang Chen smiled wryly. "Come with me."
Xu Meng couldn't wait any more. "Brother Shao," she asked frantically, "do you… do you know my husband? Are you acquainted with my dear Feng?"
"Er, please." Jiang Chen hastily interrupted. "Really, please don't call me 'brother Shao'."
"What?" Xu Qingxuan was instantly displeased. "You're not happy with an honorific like that? Do you know how much of an unseen advantage you have over me because of it? It's an entire generation's worth, you know?"
"I would, ah…" Jiang Chen laughed helplessly. "Really prefer not to at all, if I can."
The bravest man in the world wouldn't let their mother call them 'brother'. That was too much chaos for any man to handle.