Yan Mingqing had a problem. Well, calling it a problem would be an overstatement, so maybe just a dilemma.
Unlike what Lin Songmei believed, Mingqing was well-aware that Songmei had nothing close to a poker face. Emotions and thoughts were splashed across Songmei’s face like an abstract artist splattering paint on a canvas.
Because of that, and because of the fact that Mingqing was actually not as dense as a brick wall, she had been pretty sure that Songmei liked her.
Like ninety percent...
Then, unlike what Songmei believed, Mingqing found out that Songmei, in fact, did sleep-talk on occasion. It wasn’t unexpected, of course, Mingqing remembered reading somewhere that something like sixty percent of people sleep-talk at some point in their lives.
Songmei wasn’t a serial sleep-talker either, Mingqing had slept with her—not like that—more than a few times. But through this sleep talking, Mingqing had more or less confirmed her suspicions.
There wasn’t a “Oh my god, I love Mingqing so much, she’s so sexy. I wish she could hug me all day and be my girlfriend,” but there were still enough random murmurings about wanting to stay together forever that Mingqing could get the general gist of it.
But now that she knew Songmei had a crush on her, Mingqing didn’t know what to do. She liked Songmei back, of course—how could she not like that cutie—but Mingqing was more sure that Songmei wouldn’t make a move than her family staying at the top of the cultivation food chain.
Just to put that into context, last time Mingqing checked, her family was a dynastic power that lorded on top of the cultivation world with a few other families.
So what was she supposed to do?
Letting out a sigh, Mingqing decided to just keep splashing her face with water. She’d think about it later, breakfast was the more urgent priority—because without food, what was she? A Kunpeng on its way towards malnourishment?
Eating breakfast with Mingqing, Songmei couldn’t help but feel that something was off. There wasn’t much of note, they sat down at their usual corner table, gazed out the window, did a little morning napkin drawing, blazed through their food, before leaving to go to the training hall (all while making some light conversation).
Yet, the whole time, Songmei felt... a little weird. Maybe it was the fabled cultivator’s intuition, maybe it was her heart, or maybe it was just her brain deciding it wanted to play some casual paranoia shenanigans.
Walking down the street, hand-in-hand, with Mingqing, Songmei finally couldn’t resist. “What’s up? I feel like... I feel like something’s off. Is there anything you want to talk about?”
With her voice shaking like how someone might shake before a presentation (aka so much that she thought there was no way it wasn’t causing an earthquake, but that everyone else was saying that she looked so composed), Songmei cleared her throat as she mustered up the courage to add. “Does it have anything to do with the ‘love wondering’ you were doing recently?”
Songmei hoped not...
Well, Songmei hoped that this “love wondering” was Mingqing wondering if she liked Songmei or not, but... that seemed a little like far-fetched dreaming.
Of course, Songmei had no idea that she was actually quite close. Just that... Mingqing was wondering if Songmei liked her back, since Mingqing was already suffering from ambiguous-love-at-first-sight-turned-into-massive-crush syndrome.
Cracking a warm smile (one that Songmei had now idea how few people had seen), Mingqing’s eyes bent into crescents as she laughed. “No, no, nothing really like that. I was just considering what type of things to do today. You know... training plans~”
Her eyes squinting, Songmei felt her doubts climb her throat, but through a herculean effort, she pounded it back down. Mingqing’s carefree response assuaged her worries and eased her feeling of... something-was-offness, so there was no point in asking anymore.
“So... what are your training plans, though?” Songmei asked, giving Mingqing’s hands a squeeze. “My goal is to open up my fifth meridian today, since I made decent progress this morning. But other than that, I don’t really have any uhmm... I don’t have any plans.”
“Hmm... if you’re trying to break through today that means I gotta hurry myself up then,” Mingqing mused, stroking her chin with her other hand. “I’m practically ready to break through too... It might take me another few days, but I’m close.”
Pausing for a second, Mingqing’s face shone as a grin surfaced. A little worried but still amused, Songmei suppressed a laugh as they passed through the double doors to the training facility.
“I was just thinking~ what if~ we did a~ duel~” Mingqing sang, waving to the receptionist while grabbing an “In Use” placard off the wall. “Also, preferably before you open your fifth meridian. I feel like I’d just get whipped after you open your meridian.”
“Ahh... I mean, we’ve done basic qi sparring, so it’d be fun to do some actual sparring...” Songmei murmured, rocking her head side to side while mulling it over. “It does sound kinda fun...”
“Doesn’t it?? We’ll probably do some sparring tomorrow too, so might as well get some practice in today, yeah?” Mingqing nodded with energy beaming out of her eyes. “We’ve mostly been practicing and honing our techniques and fighting styles against wild beasts, but for the next few months I think we’ll be stuck in the walls of Westriver, so some human practice might be good.”
“Yeah...” Songmei trailed off, pressing her lips into a thin line as they walked down the long hall to find an empty training room. “I don’t know what I’ll do about the whole fighting people thing though...”
Killing was a complicated subject in the cultivation world. In the “normal” world, the non-cultivation side of things, killing was obviously frowned upon, but in the cultivation world that line blurred.
Of course, it was frowned upon, they were past the days where people just slapped each other to death—death by skull explosion after getting slapped was never fun.
But what about battles between cultivators and non-cultivators, or instances that really got heated. Cultivators had the power to explode mountains, not to mention each other, so even the smallest thing that went wrong could devolve into a brawl that decimated provinces...
Just look back to the crater in the middle of the Westriver plateau...
Songmei hoped she wouldn’t have to kill someone. She didn’t mind killing non-sentient spiritual beasts, but otherwise... she just felt a bit of a moral quandary when presented with the option. There were plenty of other solutions these days, there were legal systems for heaven’s sake!
Legal system’s were great.
Except for when cultivators got to the level that they could just pummel the legal system itself...
At least it was semi-regulated, semi-maintained, and semi-backed by the dynastic cultivation families...