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“A brilliant one.”
Scrutinizing the sword, An Xiaoning asked, “Does it have a name?”
“Shui Yuan,” he answered while placing the sword back inside its sheath. He then put it aside.
Jin Qingyan picked up a bottle of liquor on the table and poured some liquor into three glasses. He then raised his and said, “Here’s a toast to you from Xiaoning and me.”
Xiao Chenyang stared at him and said, “Don’t forget what you had promised me.”
“Of course I won’t.”
The three of them clinked their glasses together and chugged the liquor down in one go.
Resting her chin in her hand, An Xiaoning said, “You said that you would tell me the answer to my question. Can you tell me now?”
Jin Qingyan pointed at Xiao Chenyang and said, “Let him tell you why the 15th of July matters a lot to Xihou Jiaping.”
“The gates of Hell opens on the 15th of July and the Yin energy is especially abundant on that day. As long as he’s in the same city and within a reasonable distance away from me, I’ll be able to detect his scent and find him easily. On top of that, our bodies will be exceptionally frail during the Hungry Ghost Festival and Qingming Festival. Hence, it gave us the chance to defeat him easily.”
“What do you mean frail?” An Xiaoning asked a crucial question.
“It’s better that you don’t know. However, if you’re dying to find out, let your man answer your question,” said Xiao Chenyang, passing the buck to Jin Qingyan.
An Xiaoning turned to look at Jin Qingyan and asked, “What does it mean to be frail?”
Noticing how curious she was, Jin Qingyan pulled her into his arms and whispered into her ear, allowing the warmth of his breath to caress her skin. “I’ll tell you everything when we go upstairs after dinner. It’s hard to explain in words right now. Alright?”
An Xiaoning looked up to see that he was staring at her longingly and affectionately. They held each other’s gaze for a few seconds, and he began moving his lips closer toward her. Feeling a little embarrassed, she nudged him and chided, “What are you doing? There are people here.”
He let go of her and continued standing properly.
Xiao Chenyang poured himself some liquor and glanced at them. He chastised, “How heartless of you two. Fancy you being all lovey-dovey in front of a singleton like me. I really wish I could kill you two.”
Jin Qingyan placed one arm on his thigh and rested his chin in his hand. “Shall I introduce you to a woman, then?”
“Who are you referring to, then? Continue eating,” he said sluggishly.
Jin Qingyan knew that Xiao Chenyang was not interested in An Xiaoning at all. He remarked, “I’m really worried for you. You can only look at the woman you fancy but you can’t touch her or call her yours. How pitiful.”
“She’ll be mine sooner or later. What’s the hurry? I’m going to cultivate her slowly before devouring her when she’s ripe,” he said ambitiously.
“You’re really something…”
“You flatter me.”
After applying some ointment for Jin Yiheng, An Xiaoning lay down beside the two children to console them. Her heart sank after hearing their detailed accounts about the entire kidnapping incident.
“Mommy, it’s such a pity that the wolf died.”
She let out a sigh and said, “It really is… I think it’s a female wolf who decided not to harm you guys since you’re children and pose no threat to her. You two are my precious babies. Yiheng, I’m very proud to have such a sensible son like you. You’ve shouldered the responsibility of being a big brother. Rongyan, I’m also really proud of you for saving Xiaoxi with the medicinal herbs. Well done.”
“Mommy, my front tooth is shaking,” said Jin Rongyan, pointing at the said tooth.
An Xiaoning touched the tooth gently and said, “Your teeth are replacing themselves. Don’t touch it, just let it fall off on its own. It’s normal for your teeth to fall off when you’re between the ages of four to twelve. Alright, babies, let’s go to bed.”
“Mommy, could you keep the lights on? I’m still scared.”
“Alright, we’ll leave the lamp on. Go to bed, I’m going back to my room.”
“Alright, goodnight, my sons.”
An Xiaoning closed the door gently and returned to her bedroom.
Jin Qingyan exited from the bathroom while supporting himself with a walking stick. He had clearly already taken a shower.
She sat in front of the dressing table to remove her makeup before proceeding to wash up. She then lay down beside him on the bed and said, “I’m all ears.”
“I’ve been keeping some things from you, but I’ve decided to come clean with you now. I don’t want there to be any secrets between us. We’ve promised to be honest with each other.”
An Xiaoning’s heart wrenched because there were also things that she had been hiding from him. For example, the fact that she was aware about his dissociative identity disorder.
“Let’s both come clean with each other.”
“Are you hiding something from me too?” he asked eagerly.
“Tell me first before I tell you.”
He nodded and told her everything that he had been keeping from her. He then explained, “The state of being frail that Chenyang had mentioned just now simply means that extraordinary people like us would be exceptionally weak during the ghost festivals. During these periods, our powers will become much less potent than usual. When Xihou Jiaping was at his weakest, it was naturally the same for me and Chenyang. However, we outnumbered him and, hence, there was no way he could defeat the two of us. It took us quite a bit of time to completely subdue him.”
“Do you… have to drink blood regularly from now on…?”
“I don’t.” He turned to look at her and asked, “What have you been hiding from me? Tell me, quick.”
“About your dissociative identity disorder…”
He froze in shock and asked, “You’ve found out about it?”
“Yes, I’ve found out long ago, ever since your relapse in M Nation. I was the one who made Shixin hide it from you. I’ve also told Xiao Chenyang.”
“I’ve always thought that you were still in the dark…”
“I’ve made a bet with Henry.”
“If he falls in love with me, he’ll vanish on his own. If he doesn’t, I’ll have to leave you.”
“Within how long?”
“We didn’t fix a duration since he rarely appears.”
Jin Qingyan guffawed unrestrainedly and said, “You’re definitely going to win.”
An Xiaoning sprawled herself across his body and said with glistening eyes, “Well, there’s still hope for complete recovery.”
He stuck his bony hand into her pajamas subconsciously. Having guessed his intentions, An Xiaoning pulled his hand away and stood up.
She then began undressing herself and stripped down to nothing.
She knelt down beside him and rested her hand on his boxers before moving it down to his knee.
He remained silent and watched as she removed his black underwear and closed her eyes to kiss him.
She could taste the lingering remnants of toothpaste, and his unique scent wafted up to her nose. An Xiaoning continued to press her body against his, feeling an electrifying shiver moving down her spine. She let out a moan of pleasure.
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