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    Chapter 42 [VIP] The Jianghu Saga (23)

    The next morning, when Xiao Guanxue knocked on Nanyan's door with medicine for her wounds, he realized there was no response from inside.

    He waited a moment, knocked twice more, and upon confirming there was indeed no response, he pushed open the door.

    Upon entering, he found the yard desolate and the house spotlessly clean, lifeless as if no one had ever lived there.

    Xiao Guanxue felt uneasy, a sense of inexplicable panic rising from his chest. For some reason, he'd been feeling restless lately, an ambiguous emotion swirling in his mind, causing a suffocating heaviness in his chest.

    He was not a person without principles or boundaries. The words he spoke yesterday were in anger; he never intended to hurt her. In fact, no matter what she did, he never thought of harming her.

    Xiao Guanxue regretted his actions yesterday. The jade pendant wasn't a gift he gave to Sumo; she had just happened to find it.

    He admitted that the harsh words he said later were meant to provoke her, but she was too impulsive, recklessly rushing to snatch it. He had no idea things would turn out the way they did…

    Seeing Nanyan's indifferent gaze, as if she was a stranger, Xiao Guanxue felt his heart being tightly clenched. That bone-chilling coldness made his chest suffocate, bringing unbearable discomfort.

    He never knew a person's gaze could cause him such distress, even disrupting his breathing.

    Why couldn't she ever soften towards him?

    She had no idea that he was willing to do anything for her, if only she admitted to having even the slightest affection for him. Yet, she was so ruthless!

    Xiao Guanxue harbored resentment towards her for doing anything for Xie Yu and using him entirely.

    Without affection, there would be no resentment. People have higher expectations for those they truly like, wishing for attention, affection, trust. He didn't expect her to treat him like Xie Yu, but her dealings with him were all calculated and retaliatory.

    Clenching his fists, Xiao Guanxue’s mouth spoke of resentment, but deep down he couldn't bear it. So, he came to Nanyan's courtyard early in the morning to clarify things and explain yesterday's incident, only to find the place deserted.

    Xiao Guanxue stood bewildered, unsure of where to look for her.

    Meanwhile, outside the courtyard, a boy around ten years old sat under a tree, joyfully munching on a bag of pine nut candies.

    Spotting Xiao Guanxue entering the courtyard, the boy remembered the pretty lady's instructions and approached with his snacks, asking, "Mister, are you here to look for that beautiful lady?"

    Recognizing the boy as a neighbor he had seen before during consultations, Xiao Guanxue eagerly inquired, "Did you see her? Do you know where she went?"

    The boy, his mouth full of pine nut candies, blinked at him and honestly replied, "Um, that lady... she left."

    Left?

    Xiao Guanxue paused, reconfirming his question, and upon realizing he had heard correctly, felt a tight clenching sensation in his chest. When did she leave, and why didn't she inform him? Did she truly despise him that much?

    He asked further, "When did she leave? Did she leave alone?"

    The boy shook his head and hummed affirmatively, popping another pine nut candy into his mouth, savoring its sweetness.

    "She left last night, in a hurry. That swordsman brother helped my dad get a carriage from the town. He's really nice, even bought me these pine nut candies."

    The boy proudly displayed his pine nut candies, his face beaming with joy from the sweet treat that had significantly boosted his fondness for the man.

    Xiao Guanxue deduced the swordsman must be Xie Yu, but why would they leave so abruptly without a word? Was she intent on cutting ties with him completely?

    This thought brought an overwhelming sense of heaviness and bitterness to his chest. He suppressed the discomfort and urgently asked, "Do you know why they left?"

    The boy scratched his head, looked at Xiao Guanxue, and recalling the lady's words, nodded and continued, "Um... I don't remember clearly."

    "Ah, I remember now!" The little boy suddenly brightened, recalling something happily, "It’s about some marriage."

    "My mom said sister is going back home with brother to get married. Brother said he made a mistake before, but sister has forgiven him. So they are going back home to prepare for the wedding..."

    The child, around ten years old, understood what marriage meant. His face lit up with joy as he popped a pine nut candy into his mouth, "Don’t you know, Divine Doctor Brother?"

    "I’ve seen weddings in the village. Getting married is like my dad and mom – living together and having lots of brothers and sisters. Brother and sister will also have many sisters together..."

    The child babbled on about various things, but Xiao Guanxue felt like he couldn’t absorb a single word.

    Upon hearing that Nanyan was returning to marry Xie Yu, Xiao Guanxue felt a sudden chill stiffen his body.

    The medicine bottle in his hand, crushed inadvertently, sent sharp shards piercing into his palm, a throbbing pain rapidly spreading.

    Marrying? They were going back to get married!

    He suddenly recalled Nanyan’s hesitant demeanor when she visited him yesterday. Had they already decided by then?

    No wonder she was in such a hurry to leave. She was going back to marry.

    These thoughts made Xiao Guanxue feel as if a poisonous needle had sharply pierced his heart. Initially a dull ache, the pain soon intensified, spreading through his chest and engulfing his entire body, making it almost unbearable. Clutching his chest, his breathing became rapid.

    The more it hurt, the clearer his thoughts became. Ironically, he had helped bring the two together.

    Both thoroughly used him; one, a close friend, and the other, the woman he deeply admired. Yet, her approach was solely to avenge her fiancé.

    Xiao Guanxue was filled with resentment. She used him and discarded him, then turned to marry another man, showing she never had any affection for him.

    For a moment, he wanted to kill Xie Yu and take her back, confine her in the Medicine King Valley, make her regret, despair, suffer for life.

    But realizing she had no affection for him made his heart feel torn, pain enveloping his entire being, trembling with the thought of her marrying Xie Yu.

    His mind drifted to the scene on the cliff, where she unhesitatingly jumped with him. What really went through her mind then? Was it all calculated? But if not for revenge, why would she risk her life?

    Did she love Xie Yu that much?

    To the extent of recklessness.

    "...Why can't it be me?"

    Whatever Xie Yu can do for her, I can do too. I can even do it better. Why can't she like me?

    Xiao Guanxue didn't know what he was feeling at the moment – jealousy, anger, resentment. Numerous emotions surged in his heart, but her departure hurt him the most!

    She didn't even bother to tell him, treating him like a plaything, to be called upon or dismissed at will.

    The more Xiao Guanxue thought about it, the more unbearable it became. His mind felt as if it was split in two – one part urging him to hate, to seize, to retaliate.

    The other rational side reminded him that she had no feelings for him; even if he pursued her, he would be nothing but a pathetic figure, a laughingstock. These conflicting voices argued incessantly, intensifying his headache.

    It wasn't until someone called his name from behind that Xiao Guanxue was jolted from his thoughts, as if waking from a nightmare, his forehead slick with cold sweat.

    Su Mo rushed forward, grabbing his hand, “Xiao Guanxue, what are you doing? Your palm is injured, and you don’t even feel it?”

    Seeing the battered state of his palm, Su Mo's eyes reddened with concern, “Are you a fool? No matter how unhappy you are inside, you shouldn’t take it out on yourself like this. What good does it do to torment yourself?”

    She instinctively moved to check his hand.

    But he reflexively slapped her hand away.

    Su Mo was stunned, not expecting Xiao Guanxue to react like this.

    Xiao Guanxue’s fingers momentarily paused, his eyes murky and unfathomable. It wasn’t intentional, just an instinctive rejection of her approach.

    “What’s wrong?” He quickly retracted his hand, turning to look at Su Mo beside him, his expression indifferent, revealing no emotional fluctuations.

    Inside, Su Mo felt a strange, unfamiliar sensation. She had never seen such a cold Xiao Guanxue before, as if she never really knew him at all.

    She had heard what the child said earlier, knowing that Xie Yu was going back to marry Gu Nanyan. She should have understood this long ago; it was made clear during the last encounter at the charity house.

    Yet, deep down, there was always a glimmer of hope. What exactly was she hoping for, even she didn't know?

    It wasn't until she heard about the preparations for Xie Yu and Gu Nanyan's wedding that Sumo finally realized it was over between her and Xie Yu. She had completely lost him, so she absolutely couldn't lose Brother Xiao.

    She knew she was being selfish, but love has always been a selfish affair. She faintly understood that Brother Xiao might have liked her before, but his words that day were partly spurred by his spat with Gu Nanyan. Deep down, he probably cared for Gu Nanyan to some extent.

    A twinge of torment surged in Sumo's heart. She even dared not directly ask him if his words that day were true.

    She feared facing an unbearable truth. She couldn't accept it, truly couldn't. Why did it seem like every person she cared about, every person she liked, had to be taken away the moment Gu Nanyan appeared?

    She wasn't sure what her feelings for Brother Xiao were; there was affection, but more so a dependency. After completely losing Xie Yu, Brother Xiao was the only one she could rely on. Besides, he had some affection for her too, didn’t he?

    If he hadn’t truly liked her at some point, why would he have initially put up with Gu Nanyan, a woman so cunning and manipulative?

    She was confident that as long as Brother Xiao was willing to be with her, she could make him fall for her again.

    Now, she had nothing left. Ever since the assassination attempt, her situation had become clear; even the assassins from the demonic cult didn’t spare her. Her only option was to cling tightly to Brother Xiao.

    As Sumo’s thoughts churned, a clear idea emerged: if Xie Yu could marry someone else, why couldn't she marry Brother Xiao?

    So, she asked, “Brother Xiao, Xie Yu is leaving without a word to marry Miss Gu, right? They... are going back to get married, aren’t they?”

    Xiao Guanxue's eyes turned slightly cold, meeting hers unintentionally, as if trying to see into the depths of her heart, “What are you trying to say?”

    Sumo instinctively clenched her fingers, her palms sweating slightly. She dared not ask him directly, so she resorted to probing with her words.

    “Gu Nanyan has been using you from the start, using you to get back at Xie Yu. You shouldn’t feel guilty about what happened yesterday... Brother Xiao.”

    “So what?” he asked expressionlessly.

    Su Mo took a deep breath, finding it hard as a woman to broach such a topic. Her cheeks reddened slightly, her heart pounding with nervousness.

    "Xiao Guanxue, would you marry me? They are getting married; we can move past our history too."

    Xiao Guanxue remained impassive, his gaze flat as he looked at her. "You no longer like Xie Yu?"

    Su Mo's heart skipped a beat, believing he indeed cared for her, or else he wouldn't mind her past with Xie Yu.

    She shook her head, her voice tinged with a hint of bitterness, "He already has someone he likes. There’s nothing between us, we've always just been friends."

    Xiao Guanxue let out a barely audible scoff, so faint Su Mo thought she imagined it, before hearing his slightly mocking tone.

    "So, since he rejected you, you turn to me?"

    Su Mo's expression stiffened, unsure of his implication, just staring at him blankly.

    Xiao Guanxue's brow furrowed slightly, as if a thought struck him, then his expression cooled before returning to his usual calm indifference.

    "Fine, if that's what you want, I'll marry you."

    Su Mo was momentarily stunned by his response.

    Her insecure, dignity-shedding query was met with such casual agreement. Was it really that simple?

    No deep contemplation, no hesitation or second thoughts, just a carefree acceptance? What did that mean?

    Su Mo couldn't fathom what this really meant.

    Far from elation, she felt awkward and trivialized, as if the issue she so dearly held was nothing but a casual joke to him.

    Was this... because of Nan Yan too?

    Meanwhile, Xie Yu, having traveled most of the day, finally arrived back at Mingyue Mountain Villa.

    Throughout the journey, Nanyan had been in and out of consciousness, waking briefly only to fall asleep again, her body growing weaker.

    When he learned that his daughter's life was in grave danger, Mr. Gu was so furious that he nearly killed Xie Yu with a single blow.

    How did his perfectly fine daughter end up in such a life-threatening situation after just one trip outside? If it wasn't for this young man sneaking her out, how could she have ended up like this?

    How could Mr. Gu not be furious and resentful?

    Were it not for the century-old friendship between the Gu and Xie families, he might have killed Xie Yu on the spot.

    Upon learning of this, the Xie family was even more enraged. Mr. Xie, with a whip in hand, brutally lashed Xie Yu, beating him until he vomited blood. It was only Mrs. Gu who intervened to save him.

    Yet Mr. Xie was still consumed with guilt, wondering how he could have fathered such a scoundrel.

    Always engaging in such utterly foolish acts, it was he who insisted on calling off the engagement, and now he was the one who had brought his sister to the brink of death.

    If anything happened to Yan’er, how could the Xie family ever face the Gu family?

    Regardless of how his parents punished him, Xie Yu endured it all without a word of complaint. After such an ordeal, he was nearly half-dead himself, with his original injuries compounded by new ones, looking even more miserable than Nan Yan.

    But even after being severely injured and vomiting blood, Xie Yu refused to leave Nan Yan's bedside, fiercely resisting anyone who tried to touch him, leaving everyone else both angry and helpless, and eventually letting him be.

    Seeing him in this state, the Gu family's resentment somewhat subsided, realizing that they couldn't actually kill him without deeply hurting their daughter.

    However, no matter how they questioned him, Xie Yu refused to explain the cause of Nan Yan's illness, only admitting it was all his fault. This indeed was true, making him even more disfavored by the Gu family.

    But Xie Yu didn't care. During this time, he stayed devotedly by Nan Yan's side, carefully taking care of her, praying for her swift recovery.

    After being in a coma for three days, Nan Yan finally woke up, but her spirit was even more despondent.

    Seeing her haggard appearance, Xie Yu worried every day that she might never wake up again after falling asleep.

    He still had no idea what had happened that day. Why had Yan'er collapsed to such an extent? Seeing her like this, how could he trust anyone else with her care, thus never bringing up the topic of annulment.

    In his heart, he hoped that perhaps one day Yan'er would come around and be willing to give him another chance.

    He didn’t get the chance he was waiting for. Instead, he heard another piece of news: the divine healer of Medicine King Valley, Xiao Guanxue, was to be married. The woman he was marrying had a special identity, seemingly linked to the demonic sects.

    Xie Yu knew that the bride was Sumo. He kept this information to himself, fearing Nanyan's reaction upon learning it.

    Lately, she had been coughing incessantly, taking endless medicines, her health in decline. Xie Yu went to great lengths to cheer her up, collecting trinkets and humorous stories from the common folk, sitting in the courtyard every day, reading to her, making her laugh, hoping she would forget her troubles and not be so sad.

    Yet, the happiest day for her was when he handed her the repaired jade pendant. It was the first time in half a month he saw a genuine smile on her face.

    "Thank you, Brother Yu."

    Nanyan smiled at him.

    Xie Yu felt a deep sadness, knowing the outcome yet unable to suppress the ache in his heart.

    Was it truly impossible for anyone but Xiao Guanxue?

    Afterwards, Nanyan seemed to find some interest and started embroidering a small pouch. Initially, Xie Yu thought it was for him, watching the pair of flying geese on the pouch.

    He couldn't resist teasing her, "Nanyan's embroidery skills are getting more exquisite. These ducks are indeed lifelike."

    Nanyan couldn't help but laugh, teasing him for his lack of discernment, and playfully threatened to prick him with her needle, "What ducks? These are clearly a pair of geese."

    Seeing her laugh, Xie Yu also smiled, "Oh, they're geese. Forgive me for my poor eyesight, I really couldn't tell."

    Nanyan glanced at him sideways and actually moved to prick him with the needle. Xie Yu didn't dodge, but when the needle didn't prick him, he looked almost disappointed, thinking his plan to feign injury had failed.

    As they laughed and played, seeing Nanyan's mood improve, Xie Yu couldn't help but ask, "Is that pouch for me?"

    His eyes showed a hint of hope.

    At his words, Nanyan paused, her fingers holding the needle and thread stopped, her eyelashes slightly drooping, and she finally said, "I'm just... embroidering for fun."

    Xie Yu understood her meaning, but the sight of her looking so dejected was the last thing he wanted to see. He touched her head subconsciously, trying to sound casual.

    "Look at you acting so pitifully. Do you really think I'd snatch a pouch from you? If you don't want to give it, that's fine. Don't put on such a sorrowful face, I'm not mad at you."

    Nan Yan paused for a moment, then smiled faintly.

    However, their peaceful time was soon disrupted by the news of Xiao Guanxue's impending marriage.

    Upon hearing this, Nan Yan's needle nearly pierced her finger, a bead of blood quickly forming.

    "You mean, the divine healer of Yaowang Valley, Xiao Guanxue... he's getting married?"

    The young maid, initially speaking in jest, hadn't expected her mistress to take it so seriously. She relayed all the recent gossip she'd heard, "Yes, miss. It's the talk of the jianghu. The divine healer is marrying a woman named Su Mo. Many martial artists are going to congratulate him."

    "He's really getting married..."

    Xie Yu, hearing the commotion, entered to find Nan Yan's face pale and lifeless, staring at him in disbelief, "Did you know about this already?"

    When one is heartbroken to the extreme, they find themselves unable to cry. Xie Yu, seeing her unable to even shed tears, felt a wrenching pain in his heart.

    He enveloped her in his arms, soothingly whispering, "Yan Yan, don't be like this. Cry it out, and then forget him, please don't torture yourself like this..."

    But Nan Yan shook her head, her voice hoarse, "I can't forget. Can you take me to Yaowang Valley? I have some words for him."

    Xie Yu, terrified, remembered her devastated state after her last visit to Xiao Guanxue. She was too fragile now, he couldn't take her there – it might kill her!

    Xie Yu awkwardly turned his head away, refusing her request, "No, I can't take you there..."

    Nan Yan, however, grasped his hand, her voice faint yet resolute, "Brother Yu, take me there. If I don't go, I might never forget him in this lifetime."

    "I just took something of his and want to return it, don't worry, I won't be like before."

    She suddenly whispered, "Brother Yu, I promise, after this, I'll forget him. Can we... start over?"

    Silence hung in the air for a long time...

    It was only after a while that she heard a hoarse voice respond, "…Okay, I agree."

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