77: Cuddling (Volume 1 End)
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Returning to Westriver, Lin Songmei didn’t have too much to do. She had agreed with Yan Mingqing to take the next few days to recharge, to hangout, and to not take any assignments. After living in the wilderness for a few weeks, they both had almost started crying when they returned to their apartment and laid back down in the actual bed they shared. 

Moreover, she had missed Plum...

Patting Plum and checking him over to make sure nothing had happened to him, Songmei had to pause to wipe a few tears before setting him back down. 

It wasn’t her fault. It was the first time since she had been five that she had ever been away from Plum that long! 

Having already watched the sunset together while just lazing around in bed, Songmei and Mingqing were now cuddled together under the blankets with a screen sitting between them, waiting for Liu Xueli’s press conference to start. 

Of course, laying together in the same bed while cuddling was... a little awkward. Songmei didn’t know how to approach it anymore! 

Like... L-Like... she was pretty sure she had a crush on Mingqing... 

But Mingqing still did it as if it was natural!! What was it? Did Mingqing like her back? Or was it just normal friend stuff... 

Songmei wished she could just ask, but that was never something you could ask without applying a permanent change to the friendship. Either positive or negative. 

Eugh. Why was everything so difficult...

It’s okay! 

Songmei had decided, she’d just cuddle like usual. It was nice anyway, so if she just pretended all was normal, then it was all normal because the world totally worked like that. Of course. 

The scene shifted and Songmei perked up from the embrace she had settled into with Mingqing. The transition screen slid off to the side, revealing Xueli, dressed in the same outfit as before, but now having fixed her hair and makeup a bit. 

Xueli, honestly, seemed to not care too much. Songmei, after knowing Xueli for a while, could kinda tell, there wasn’t that playfulness or cheeriness that seemed to accompany Xueli. Instead, Xueli felt a little detached, as if she would much rather be elsewhere, somewhere like her koi pond.  

“Did you see the threads earlier on the Starlight Lake’s Disciple forums?” Songmei asked, looking over Mingqing while laying back down now that Xueli had appeared. 

“I did, they were crazyyy,” Mingqing nodded, her eyebrows rising a bit as she recalled what she had seen. “I didn’t realize there were so many devout fans of Xueli in the sect. I was also reading on the public forums, ones that can be accessed by any cultivator, and it was just as crazy...” 

Songmei hadn’t read too much on the public forums, so she couldn’t say much about it. But from what she had seen, Songmei was still stunned! Because Xueli had already posted Xiao Feng’s recording about the fight, Songmei had seen link after link posted to edits people had made of it! Each of them had music, dramatic cuts, zooms, and whatever else people did!

Surprisingly too, even with Xiao Feng’s garbage recording position, the recording of Xueli’s fight had been... so smooth! Smooth like Youhong eating his lychee jelly. 

Other than edits of her newest exploits, Songmei had found out that Xueli really was a celebrity. A big shot!! 

There were fanclubs! Like, huge established ones that dwarfed the random small communities that had been formed back when she had gotten into Starlight Lake. Beyond those, Songmei had also seen a crazy amount of just... thirst comments?

Just to list a few notable ones, Songmei had, of course, seen the classics of “Sit on me” and “Step on me” and a few too many people calling Xueli a synonym of dearest mother. But as Songmei scrolled, it was as if the people on the forums had gotten more and more unhinged... 

Scrolling down, Songmei had seen “Omg Xueli’s backkkk, I grew up following her exploits!! Who did she beat up this time?! I bet they deserved it!!” The comment continued on its little euphoric spiel, but Songmei didn’t care too much. 

If she was a betting person or had tons of spare money, she’d say that this person was still young... even if they had “grown up following Xueli’s exploits.” 

Songmei had also seen a few sob stories, some heart wrenching stories about how Xueli saved their town, or how Xueli had changed their life. But what made Songmei close the forums was when they started getting real, real inappropriate. 

After seeing two posts in a row flagged as “Explicit” Songmei had clicked on them just out of curiosity. What greeted her? Scarring material... 

Songmei never again wanted to read fanfiction about Xueil, especially since she knew how Xueli was not in fact the uh... persona... that was presented in the fanfiction. 

It was also twenty-thousand words!!! Where the hell were people finding the time to write these??

Dispelling those thoughts with a shudder, Songmei pulled the blankets over her just a little more as Xueli began to extoll her future plans. 

[I plan on staying in the city for at least the next few days. As you all know, my lovely disciples are in the city right now, training to open their meridians. In fact, I’m quite excited since, you know, they’re quite crazy in terms of cultivation speed. Faster than me! They’re already close to opening their fifth meridian, and how long has it been? A few months? We’re coming up on half a year, so, impressive stuff.]

Squinting a touch, Songmei and Mingqing looked at each other with an exasperated chuckle and unison head shake. 

What the hell was Xueli even talking about? The reporter had asked about Xueli’s plans? How did they come up? And why was Xueli praising them like they were her grandchild-... children?

[Anyway, I’ll also be here to supervise the clean-up operation during its opening stages. Afterward, I’ll be handing it over to Xiao Feng. He’s capable and I’ve known him for a while, so I’ve designated him to be in charge of the task force once I leave.]

“Known for a while” 

Snorting, Songmei swore she could hear Xiao Feng in the distance groaning, even if he wasn’t in Westriver right now. 

As the night deepened though, Songmei and Mingqing laid there, enjoying each other’s warmth as they watched Xueli’s press conference. Xueli hadn’t really mentioned anything they hadn’t heard earlier, but it was still interesting. 

Late in the conference, Songmei herself and Mingqing had begun to come up more often, along with... weird questions prying into Xueli’s personal life. 

Laughing and snorting at the unusual questions that had come up, Songmei and Mingqing had decided to turn it off after a question about a past incident fifty years ago had come up. 

Why was Xueli still there anyway?

Cuddling up, Songmei had wrapped herself around Mingqing under the covers while Mingqing did the same. Then, because it was still sorta early in the night, they decided to just put on a TV show, watching it until they fell asleep in each other’s arms. 

Tomorrow, tomorrow was going to be better, less stressful and less action-packed. 

The near future seemed like they could relax for a while. Enough to just concentrate on cultivating and not concentrate on getting stomped by a crab bigger than a building... 

[~End Of Volume 1~]

damn... end of volume 1...
kinda emotional yeah...
it took me exactly two months to write the entirety of volume one so... kindaaa crazy

uhmmm... so the current plan is to take like... a week off? maybe a little longer, then I'll pick back up with volume two!
But uhmm... because of school, i think i'll lower it down to a chapter every other day...
yeah...
sorry about that... either that or four chapters a week, just every other day but two over the weekend.

Join my discord though for more updates!!
Thanks for reading~!!
Take care reader friends~!!
<3<3 it's been a great time, i hope to see you around!

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