Yujia swore that her heart was about to leap out of her throat.
Out of all the stressful things that have ever happened in her life, perhaps this one was the one that struck her with the most intense physical and mental fear. Adrenaline coursed through her, being the only things that kept her legs pumping, feet thudding against the ground.
Being chased was genuinely, horribly terrifying.
Yufeng was faster than her, running with what seemed like ease. Because of the three-second head start they had, Yujia managed to keep herself from being caught. For now. She wasn't sure for how long she could keep the distance between those servants and her. In fact, she couldn't even spare the energy to think about the probabilities of being caught and what would happen afterwards. All of her strength was directed at the act of running, and running alone.
As the one in the lead, whenever Yufeng took turns, Yujia followed. She wasn't sure where Yufeng was taking her. All senses of direction had flown out of her head by now, but she trusted— or at least, hoped— that Yufeng knew what she was doing.
To Yujia, it was easy to trust Xie Yufeng. The turns that the girl ahead took were all sharp and calculated, without a moment of delay. It seemed like she already knew the route of escape planned out in her head, but surely, that was impossible. Perhaps Yufeng memorized a map of the entire capital city, but that had to be impossible as well. There were so many nooks and crannies in the streets. How could one person possibly know all of that?
Regardless, Yujia ran and ran and ran.
After an eternity of running, Yufeng slowed down ahead, and Yujia followed suit, her legs collapsing under her. Even if there were people behind her right now, Yujia truly couldn't take another step. Her legs felt like lead. Her lungs burnt in her chest. She would take being captured over running now.
However, as Yujia turned her head, looking with worry, she saw no one behind the two of them. No shadows or sounds of footsteps remained.
Somewhere along the way, the two of them had managed to shake off those servants. And Yujia hadn't even noticed.
Yufeng was slightly out of breath now too, but she was in a much better state than Yujia. At this point, a ridiculous thought surfaced in Yujia's mind. She had to start working out as soon as this entire thief-deal was over. It was time to lift weights and begin running exercises.
Glancing over, Yufeng leaned against the wall of the alley the two ran into. "Where now?"
"I—" Yujia panted, "was going to— ask you— that."
"I didn't have a plan after escaping, really," Yufeng said with a shrug, "Probably going to exit the capital. What was that, by the way? Why were those people chasing you?"
"You— wouldn't believe me if I said— that those people were just chasing us— because they didn't want us to escape— right?"
Yufeng smirked. "No. Definitely not. Judging by the way that they had their eyes fixed on you, there was definitely an ulterior motive, no?"
Yujia grimaced. "Okay. Yeah. There are thieves in the villa— I uncovered their plans. And now they want to— hunt me down— so I don't leak their secrets."
"Makes sense." Yufeng didn't question this story at all, or show any signs of surprise, which took Yujia aback. She followed up by asking, "Do you have a place to go?"
The first place that surfaced in Yujia's mind was Lingxin Pavilion. The academy was the closest thing that she had to home, and over the weeks, she had learned to see it as her home as well.
"Yes," she ended up answering. "Do you?"
"Like I said before, I plan to just roam the lands."
"You don't have any money on you?" Yujia knitted her eyebrows together.
"Just a few taels. It'll last me."
At this, Yujia paused. She thought for a long while, before saying, "It's dangerous to travel out of the capital at night, as a lone woman. If you don't mind, I have a place that you can stay at. Take it as a way for me to thank you for everything you've done to help me."
"Is that so?" Yufeng showed a flash of interest, not necessarily at the part where she had a place to go, but more of curiosity towards the kinds of connections Yujia had. "Where is it?"
Yujia rose up now, straightening her back and taking a deep breath.
"My name is not Shen Yuling. I am Yang Yujia, former Fourth Miss of the Yang Family and current direct disciple of Master Yue Ze, founder of Lingxin Pavilion. The academy is my home, and you are welcome to come with me and stay there, if you desire."
Xie Yufeng ended up going with Yujia.
When Yufeng heard Yujia's revelation, she showed a few signs of surprise: a raised eyebrow, a slight tilt in her head, a slight parting of her lips. Yet she didn't seem all too shocked to hear what Yujia had to say— or at least, not as shocked as other people might have been.
Yujia had long arrived at the conclusion that Xie Yufeng was not a normal person with normal responses.
Her theory that Yufeng had somehow managed to memorize the map of the city was further proved. With only a few twists and turns, Yufeng led Yujia out of the alley, down a few streets, and right to the side doors of the academy.
It was so late in the night that the doors were locked, no doorkeeper in sight. Yujia knocked a few times, getting a skeptical look from Yufeng when no one came to answer the door.
Yujia frowned. She knocked loudly a few more times.
From the other side, the sound of someone fumbling over could be heard, opening the door up by just a crack. It was the familiar servant who always guarded the doors, a cheerful man who looked anything but cheerful right now. Who enjoyed being awakened so deep in the night like such?
Yet when he raised a lantern up, seeing Yujia's face through the crack, the expression he wore immediately dropped, replaced by wide eyes and a few blinks of disbelief. He reached up, rubbing an eye.
"Disciple— I didn't expect you!" he exclaimed, pushing the doors open fully. "What are you doing here— in the middle of the night—"
"A lot of things happened," Yujia explained awkwardly. She wasn't sure if it would be a good thing to tell him. "Could you please let us in? This is my… maid. She will be serving me from now on." She gestured at Yufeng.
For a moment, Yujia had debated how she should introduce Yufeng. "Friend" would not work. It would raise too many questions. Neither could she pass Yufeng off as "family"— with Yufeng's sharp and narrow features, the two of them looked nothing alike.
"Maid", in the end, worked best.
"Of course, of course," the doorkeeper stepped aside, letting Yujia and Yufeng walk in. Thankfully, he did not ask for more details.
She exchanged a few more words with the servant before he went back to his room. After that, she led Yufeng to her courtyard, slipping in without alerting a single person. The good thing about sneaking back to Lingxin, so late at night, was probably that no one was awake to see her.
Borrowing the light from a lantern, Yujia lit a few candles in her bedroom. As she did so, she told Yufeng, "Sorry about calling you my 'maid' earlier. I wasn't sure how to introduce you otherwise."
"It works," Yufeng said, nodding, "I don't mind."
"You don't seem all that shocked about my identity." Yujia paused, raising her head.
"We all have our secrets. No one is always exactly who they say they are. Where I come from, secret identities and investigations like what you were doing are more than common," Yufeng stated with a tight-lipped smile.
Yujia couldn't help asking, "Oh? Where is it that you come from?"
Eyes looking at the bed, Yufeng diverted the topic. "Where should I sleep for the night?"
"There's only one bed in the room… and there are no servant beds open." Yujia reached to the side, pulling out a large roll of extra blankets. "Are you okay with sleeping on the floor?"
"Better than sleeping in the forest, with my face pressed up against dirt," Yufeng said with a laugh.
Yujia smiled. "Alright then."
petition to make xie yufeng the ML LOL, zixu whooo
hope yall enjoyed the chapter! pls vote & comment if u do. <33
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