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What Lurks Beneath Lotus Pier

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Jin Guangyao had most of his visitors led to the main receiving room where he greeted them from three steps above the crowd. It was important to maintain authority. But Lan Xichen was his friend, his closest friend. When he was told his friend had arrived, Jin Guangyao walked to the main gates to meet him, pausing for only a moment to wonder when Huan had, in his thoughts, become Xichen. It didn’t matter. Even with all the other changes, in this he had not changed. He still considered Lan Xichen his friend.

Lan Xichen stared at his eyes for a long moment. His smile dropped to a frown. Jin Guangyao did not show his hurt but gestured gracefully. “Would you care to join me for tea by the lotus pond?” Lan Xicen smiled in acceptance but Jin Guangyao could still see the concern in his friend’s eyes.

Jin Guangyao had known Jin Ling would be at the edge of the lotus pool. The child refused to play anywhere else and his attendants, of course, understood. Lan Xichen’s eyes narrowed in thought as he stared at the purple-clad disciples, and Jin Guangyao rushed to explain. “After Jin Ling’s … illness, Jiang Chang insisted he have attendants from Yunmeng. Who am I to argue? He is the boy’s closest living relative.”

Lan Xichen nodded his understanding but continued to look thoughtful for the rest of the day. Jin Guangyao could tell he wouldn’t let this go. His heart sank as his mind reached the inevitable conclusion. He didn’t want to kill his friend, but family came first.