Going back in time a little bit...
With gentle snowfall outside, Lin Songmei sat on the ground in her room, folding some of her clothes. Liu Xueli had already left to go pick up the other direct disciple, so Songmei was alone, just hanging out and enjoying life. Songmei had put on some music from her playlist, humming and singing along to it while unpacking.
Songmei, in all honesty, felt a bit like a rat in a treasure vault. She didn’t feel like she belonged, but every gold coin in the vault told Songmei that she was supposed to be there.
Why was everything so confusing?
Putting away the last of her clothes, shoving it into the cabinet like a hitman stuffing a body into a dumpster, Songmei stood up, ready to open up the sealed package on her bed.
Hopefully it wasn’t a bomb.
That’d be really funny but really sad at the same time...
It should be the robes?
Songmei pushed her hair out of her face, if it was a bomb, so be it, she’d die with glory!
Her hand pausing just as she was reaching out to open the package, Songmei stood back up, picking up her feet while calling out to the door. “Come in!”
Xueli came back fast... what time was it? Songmei looked at the clock and saw that it was about 20 minutes before Xueli said she was going to come back.
Songmei wouldn’t complain though, Xueli coming back earlier wasn’t a bad thing.
Hearing some voices outside the door even after she had said that they could come in, Songmei decided to open the door herself. Were they afraid that the doorknob would set off a bomb? Songmei swore that there was no way there could be that many bombs around here...
However, after opening the door, after having prepared herself to make an energetic first impression, Songmei froze as she saw the two people in front of her.
One, someone who she had become quite close with recently, was Xueli. Standing there with a playful smile as always, Xueli was wearing her combat boots, baggy cargo pants and tank top as always.
The second person though, was...
Her jaw losing functionality for some reason, Songmei began to sputter. Taking a deep breath, Songmei choked out, “...Y-... Yan... Mingqing?! You’re here!?”
As the door creaked after Songmei let go of it, the trio of them stood there in silence, with Mingqing and Songmei both staring at each other in silence and shock.
“S... Songmei?” Mingqing murmured, her voice shaky as she dropped the bags that Xueli had just taken out of her ring, “You’re here? ... H-How are you here?”
Her mouth opening and closing a few times, Songmei confessed, “I’m... I’m not sure, it just happened...”
“I’m glad it did then!” Chortled Mingqing, rushing forward and hugging Songmei while apologizing. “I tried to contact you so many times! But... but... my parents said it was too sketchy...”
Hugging Mingqing back, Songmei sank into the second hug she had gotten in the day, happy to reunite with Mingqing.
Songmei was happy... hugs were great, and she got two in one day!
On the other hand, watching her two direct disciples embrace, Lin Songmei, a poor orphan who had never worn good clothes, eaten well, or lived well in general, and Yan Mingqing, the second child and first daughter of one of the greatest clans of cultivators to exist, Liu Xueli was stupefied.
How did the two know each other?
Well, she was glad the two seemed to be getting along.
... but why did she feel so old and so much like a third wheel all of a sudden...
Clearing her throat and getting the attention of her two disciples, breaking up their little reunion in the process, Xueli, with an awkward smile on her face, asked, “So... Do you two know each other?”
Songmei had only seen it once, but Xueli was already quite familiar with Mingqing’s sharp resting facing and menacing aura. Yet, to Xueli’s bewilderment, the moment her abrasive disciple came face to face with Songmei, the ice seemed to melt, being replaced with a warm spring.
Separating from their hug, Songmei and Mingqing stood there, unsure really what to say. Songmei in particular was shifting on her feet, trying to think about what she could and couldn’t say. Was it okay to tell Xueli that Mingqing had snuck out to take her aptitude test?
“You both look like squirming penguins standing there, shifting around,” Xueli surmised while raising an eyebrow.
A long sigh escaping her lips under her breath, Songmei leaned over to Mingqing, whispering that she could say as much as she wanted.
Giving a light nod in return, Mingqing began telling the story, from why she begged her parents for this one favor, all the way up until the present moment.
Her storytelling skills were amazing.
That’s all that bounced around Songmei’s mind, Mingqing added just the right amount of humor, just the right amount of comparisons, and the way she phrased things... perfection. The way Mingqing told it just wove the story out right in front of the listener.
Letting Mingqing tell her story, the three of them, the master and her two direct disciples, moved to the middle of the courtyard, sitting around a small round table under the gentle snowfall.
“I... see.” Xueli noted, as Mingqing wrapped the story up. “Well, I don’t care much that you snuck out, you did your test legitimately and everything. I’m just glad you two get along~”
“As your older sister,” Xueli began, emphasizing the older sister part to a suspicious degree as she stood up, “And your young and hip master, I’ll make sure to take care of you two, but make sure to look out for each other! I know Mingqing is older by a few months, I’ve already seen you two do a few knuckleheaded things.”
Before the two could retort, Xueli clapped a couple of times with a smile, “Chop, chop, though. I’ve decided! We’re all going to get lunch in a bit, so get back to unpacking! Songmei, if you finish early, go help Mingqing, okay~? Think of it as some more disciple-disciple bonding!”
“Where are you going to be then, master?” Mingqing asked, standing up as well, her expression much warmer after having opened up to Xueli.
Fluttering her hand, Xueli shooed the pair of them off, “Your master is going to go feed her koi and drink some tea. Also, call me Xueli! I’ve told you a couple of times Mingqing, I’m hip! I’m young! You can talk to me informally!”
Walking away from the senior citizen with Mingqing, Songmei wasn’t sure what to say... She didn’t have the heart to say it but Xueli really had some old lady hobbies...
Making eye contact with the unimpressed Mingqing, who was standing there with an expression that seemed to say “really?” Songmei couldn’t help but ask, “You hear the irony, right? Xueli has... really old lady hobbies, and no young person would actually say they’re young and hip.”
A small smile on Mingqing’s face, Mingqing offered a hand to Songmei as they began to walk back to their rooms. “Yeah, she’s definitely old. No young person would also be the co-head elder of the Martial Pavilion.”
“You’re right...” Songmei mused with an amused smile, taking Mingqing’s hand for the short amount of time they had before they had to split off to their own rooms. “I just need to open up this package and then I can come help you. So let’s catch up, okay?”
Nodding, Mingqing gave a small murmur of affirmation, squeezing Songmei’s hand one last time before letting go. “I’ll see you then, good luck~”
Songmei, hearing the door close, turned to enter her own room. Closing the door behind her, Songmei was... baffled to say the least.
Having lost her breath for a second after seeing Mingqing’s smile as her dark blue hair blew in the wind with little snowflakes in it, her golden eyes lighting up and curving into happy crescents, Songmei could barely comprehend it.
It was... so different.
Remembering the one time she had seen Mingqing in ice queen mode, second-in-line to the Kunpeng Clan, Songmei felt that they were two totally different people.
It was like the difference between a ball of fluff and a whole-ass tiger.
... Maybe a tiger was putting it lightly.
Like the difference between a ball of fluff and a whole-ass Kunpeng.
Pun definitely intended.