“Wuzhi, would you like to visit the local market with me?” called out Zhu Jian to the cultivator lazing around on the bed.
Wuzhi, who had originally been planning to take a nap or two, immediately perked up. “Are you asking me out on a date, sect leader?”
He cackled at the scarlet that quickly made its way across the other’s cheeks.
“Just be quick, Wuzhi.”
The local markets were large and extremely crowded. According to Zhu Jian they were this busy every week.
Wuzhi gazed at the stalls with veiled interest. In all his years of running, he was forced to be hidden and so was not able to enjoy the simple things in life such as shopping at a market. There were stalls that sold small gold and silver trinkets and food stalls that advertised steamed buns and other hot foods. Wuzhi could hear many sellers calling out their wares and advertising their cheap prices. It was extremely loud, and one could easily get lost.
Suddenly, Wuzhi felt a slight tug on his sleeve and looked down to find Zhu Jian pointing to a jewellery stall. “Why don’t we go see what they’re selling?” he asked nonchalantly, but Wuzhi could hear the excitement in his undertone.
Wuzhi raised an eyebrow. Zhu Jian didn’t seem like the type to be attracted to jewellery. There was a slight struggle getting to the stall- they had to push hard through the crowd. Finally reaching the jewellery stall, Wuzhi leaned on a nearby wooden pole as he stared at Zhu Jian.
There was a glimmer in the teacher's eye as he scanned the wares. Zhu Jian stared a bit too long at a small, jade hairpiece.
Wuzhi spoke up - “Are you going to buy it?”
The sect leader looked up, surprised. “Ah no, I shouldn’t- it’s quite expensive.” he murmured in a resigned tone. With good reason- it looked of startlingly good quality.
“Why do you limit yourself so much, sect leader? From what I see, you are already quite humble,” remarked Wuzhi casually. “You should spoil yourself more- or are you asking me to spoil you?”
Zhu Jian looked alarmed. “No, I did not mean-”
“I kid, sect leader.”
As soon as Zhu Jian had left to go on to another stall, Wuzhi quickly passed over some coins to the pedlar, pocketing the jade hairpiece.
As they continued to wander through the market, Zhu Jian continued to visit the many jewellery stalls they came across. As he waited for the teacher again, Wuzhi frowned. He turned his head subtly to look behind him. Someone is following us. His heartbeat sped up as he entertained the possibility of it being one of his brother’s spies.
Taking another glance, his shoulders relaxed and he let out a relieved sigh when he saw a small face pop out from behind a large vase. He really did not like Xin Yao that much, but he preferred him over any person from his old sect. He was about to call out to the disciple when- “Wuzhi! I apologise for wandering off on my own.”
Wuzhi almost laughed at the disbelieving look on Xin Yao’s face. Maybe I’ll play around with him a little.
“It is alright, sect leader Zhu. But I think we should hold hands- it is quite crowded here, and I am afraid I might become lost,” commented Wuzhi fake-worriedly, as he grasped Zhu Jian’s left hand tightly. Knowing Zhu Jian’s agreeable personality, he would go along with it easily.
Zhu Jian started, a surprised look on his face. “Eh? Oh, of course…”
Wuzhi tried not to smirk when he glanced over and saw the devastated look on Xin Yao’s face.
They continued to walk through the market like this, their hands intertwined. Zhu Jian had originally let his hand hang loose, most likely unsure of what to do, but he eventually reciprocated Wuzhi’s act of affection, giving Wuzhi’s hand a light squeeze.
Soon after, Wuzhi heard his stomach rumble. “Why don’t we get something to eat, sect leader?” he suggested, dragging Zhu Jian behind him by their joined hands. Everyone stared as they hurried past. They were most likely wondering what their illustrious sect leader was doing holding hands with a mangy dog like himself. But he ignored them. Today was their day, and their day only.
They soon stopped at a food stall selling a large variety of steamed buns. “One steamed meat bun,” he ordered, passing over some coins to the seller. The seller quickly passed over a fresh steamed bun wrapped in thin paper, the smell making Wuzhi’s mouth water.
Zhu Jian frowned. “Wuzhi, I can pay-”
Wuzhi put a finger to the sect leader’s lips, immediately quieting him. “Sect leader, just let yourself relax for once. Here-” Splitting the meat bun in two halves, he laid one in Zhu Jian’s hand. “- for you.”
Zhu Jian blinked in surprise, but the expression soon turned into a shy smile. “Thank you, Wuzhi.”
Wuzhi felt like his heart had been stabbed.
He had long forgotten about all of his worries.
After walking around the market for a little while longer (while still holding hands, Wuzhi would happily like to add) the two finally decided to return to Zhu Jian’s house. As they walked back, Wuzhi affectionately swung their joined hands back and forth, humming a happy tune under his breath. He had not felt this relaxed in such a long time.
It was dark, but the lanterns that people kept in front of their homes lit the way. In addition to that, the moon was full and glowing in the night sky.
Glancing over at Zhu Jian, he suddenly remembered something. “I bought something for you, sect leader,” he remarked casually, retrieving the hairpin from under his outer shirt.
Zhu Jian looked over, his eyes widening at the beautiful jade hairpin glinting under the moonlight.
“You wanted it, right? So I bought it for you. Do you like it?”
Zhu Jian nodded happily. “I love it.”
Wuzhi did a twirling motion with his finger. “Turn around- I’ll put it on for you.”
Zhu Jian quickly did as he asked. Holding the hairpin in one hand, Wuzhi used his other hand to gently stroke Zhu Jian’s hair. As expected, it was soft as silk.
Wuzhi carefully slid the hairpin into Zhu Jian’s bun. It fit him perfectly, the jade complementing his blue-green robes. It was a simple swirling design, yet when paired with the person wearing it made it shine all the brighter.
“...how do I look, Wuzhi?” asked Zhu Jian, a shy smile on his face. His cheeks were rosy with delight.
Wuzhi finally let a genuine smile show on his face. “Beautiful.”