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124 The Young Master, His Thoughts

    When Miss Yang fell into the water, Zixu had blinked. All he knew was that one second, she stood on land, admiring the boat, and the next second, she was splashing in the water.

    He looked at her first, slowly dragging his eyes across the scene as he took in what was happening. Looking at everything, time seemed to flow in slow motion. Or, time wasn't flowing in slow motion- it seemed to be his thoughts that were suddenly crawling by at the pace of a slug.

    This was a scene that he had not predicted to occur. And when he was unable to predict the results of something or the events that would pass by, he found himself unable to think as fast as before. What was the right choice for him to make? What had happened to lead up to his scene?

    Zixu found that when he didn't have prepared answers, he was at a complete loss for what to do.

    First, what had happened? He needed time to process the events.

    His eyes scanned over the crowd, taking note of the things that had changed from the moment before he blinked to afterwards, when she was in the water.

    There was a child standing in the outer circle of the crowd that wasn't there before. One individual dressed in light green was standing a little closer to Zixu than earlier on. Another individual in brown robes was one foot off the edge of the bank too, when before, Zixu recalled that no one stood too close to the edge.

    The wave of motion that these three small adjustments to the crowd caused a map of movement to appear in Zixu's head. He realized that because of the three seemingly harmless acts of these people, Miss Yang had fallen into the water. She didn't just jump into there for fun or trip over her own feet.

    Next, Zixu looked back at the girl in the water, noticing how she went under the surface and up a few times.

    He realized that she didn't know how to swim. It wouldn't make sense for young misses to know how to swim either. In fact, even his own younger brother and a few young masters that he knew weren't adept at swimming either. Zixu, for this matter, was only slightly familiar with how to not drown because of a few experiences he had as a child.

    Was he supposed to step in now?

    Zixu's eyes shifted back towards the crowd. They were all watching intently, but no one stepped forward. If he stepped up right now and dived into the water to save her, all of these people would bear witness to so much close contact between a young man and a young woman. That would surely damage his reputation and Miss Yang's. He wasn't that competent at swimming either. He could guarantee that he could save himself through swimming, but bringing another person along with him above water? Zixu was unsure about that.

    His eyes looked down to the package of pastries in his hand. Then, they traveled over to the fallen mung bean pastries that had dropped into the canal as well, right next to the struggling Miss Yang.

    Really, was he supposed to step in? Was he supposed to be a bold and selfless person and just throw apart all of his concerns for a person that he barely knew?

    Perhaps someone like Bo Zhiyuan would've. Or Ye Yunhe.

    But Zixu was not one of them.

    He looked back at Miss Yang, taking a step closer to the water and noticing that she managed to reach the edge of the water. Her hands reached out, tightly gripping onto a piece of stone in the wall.

    Their eyes met, but hers were blurry and his were clear.

    Only a little more than a minute had passed since she fell into the water. During that time, she managed to save herself, which was impressive enough. It also only took a minute for Zixu to come to a conclusion to his thoughts and decisions, though if she struggled in the water for any longer than that time frame, his opinion might've been swayed.

    Now, since she no longer was at the risk of drowning, there was no need for Zixu to think too much about the topic.

    It would not be wrong for him to offer her a hand in this situation. So, Zixu did that, his hand extending out as he inclined himself.

    She reached out with her own trembling hand, her skin red from being in the chilly water for the short period of time. Her frozen fingertips brushed against his palm.

    Then, before he could pull her up, the boat from before had circled around and slammed directly into her.

    He could nearly count the number of seconds that it took for everything to happen.

    First second, the shock that registered in her face. The next second, the boat passing by while the people onboard morphed from their exhilarated expression to confused ones as they felt the obvious bump when they crashed into her. They were still unaware that she had been underneath, in the water, when it happened. The third second, the way that her hand slipped from his before he could grab onto it, and how she fell back into the water.

    Zixu flinched back, watching as the boat slowed down.

    Ten seconds passed.

    When she first fell into the water, she had thrashed her limbs to keep herself afloat, the water sloshing around her too.

    Except now, after the spray of water coming from the collision of the boat, he hadn't seen any movement in the water. It almost seemed like she surrendered to the water, abandoning all hope of saving herself.

    Ten more seconds passed.

    Zixu was at a loss again. He didn't predict this happening. He didn't predict it at all. He didn't predict a single thing that would occur today.

    Miss Yang didn't seem like she was going to surface the water anytime soon either.

    Five more seconds passed.

    For some reason, at this moment, Zixu thought of Noble Rong Yuan. Surely, he was going to be disappointed with Zixu when he found out that the girl he liked had drowned-

    - drowned. Drowned.

    Drowned.

    The word abruptly clicked in his head.

    Drowned meant death. That was undeniable. Before, Miss Yang was only at a risk of drowning. She still managed to bring herself above water. But right now, with the water so still beneath the boat, she. Was. Drowning. By. The. Second.

    Things truly clicked then.

    No one in the crowd was going to do anything about it. Zixu was the one who had walked her to this waterway. If she was going to drown, he was going to be responsible for her death. He was going to be responsible with the fact that he witnessed her sink under the water and didn't do anything about it. He was going to be responsible with the guilt that would follow him for the rest of his life.

    Zixu admitted that he didn't value other human life too much before. He always focused on himself. But right now, knowing that someone was about to die because of him, he comprehended how truly terrifying the value of life was.

    What reputation? When there was death, there was no more need for reputation left.

    Right now, he was the only one who could save her. He was the only one who was willing to save her. He

    needed

    to save her.

    Pulling the strings of the cloak he wore loose, Zixu threw it onto the floor, held his breath, and jumped into the water.

    The ice cold temperature hit him in a jolt. It was startling how much colder the water was than the outside weather. As the water traveled through the folds of his clothing instantaneously, every inch of him was screaming at him to get out of the water, but he continued to force himself to sink down, peeling his shut eyelids open with pure willpower.

    He could barely see underwater. Everything was a murky blue. By straining his eyes as much as he could, he swam lower and lower, seeking for any sign of Miss Yang.

    It was difficult to ignore the cold or the desperation for air that began to rise up in him. The thought that the life and death of an individual now depended on the speed of his actions were what kept Zixu going instead of rising up for a breath of air.

    Finally, Zixu caught a piece of sheer fabric floating in the water, drifting along the slight currents.

    He pushed himself lower, swimming towards the hint of fabric until he came face-to-face with Miss Yang.

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    Her eyes were shut and her pose was relaxed, completely loose as if she wasn't even drowning but taking a light nap within the water. Zixu grabbed onto her arms, shaking her while he made muffled noises with his closed mouth, but she didn't respond. Her eyelids didn't even twitch.

    She couldn't dead. No. She had to be just unconscious, right? That was it, right?

    Since he couldn't get her to wake up, Zixu had to wrap one arm around her. He pulled her close to him while he used his free hand and legs to begin his way up.

    The journey up was considerably more difficult than going down. On land, Miss Yang may have looked so light and thin that any light breeze would sweep her away, but underwater, she was like a boulder strapped to him.

    After what seemed like an eternity of struggling upwards, Zixu eventually saw light and pulled himself out of the water.

    The crowd was still there, watching him with wide eyes and dropped jaws as he dragged Miss Yang out of the water too. Water clung to the both of them, dripping from their clothes and hair. Zixu remained in the same position he was in when he crawled out of the water on his hands. He gently adjusted Miss Yang's position so that she laid on the paved stone floor too.

    There were whispers coming from the crowd that surrounded the two of them.

    Zixu was sure that he looked like a mess, with his hair all messed up and his clothes seeped with water. Never in public had he looked this way. Miss Yang was no better, her delicate features framed with the strands of wet hair sticking to her face. At least under her light colored robes, the inner layer of fabric was a much darker shade of green, preventing the water from turning her clothes see-through and more indecent than it already was for him to save her from drowning.

    At this moment, while he stared at her motionless face, waiting for her eyelashes to flutter upwards, Zixu realized that she still wasn't moving.

    Why? Why was she not moving? She was above water now, wasn't she? She had air to breathe now, didn't she?

    The fear that gnawed at his heart taunted him that he hadn't saved her fast enough. That she had long drowned underwater, and that it was all because he didn't do anything from the start.

    This sort of panic, this sort of guilt, this sort of alarm, was worse than before Zixu made the slightest action to help her out. Perhaps it would've been better if he left her to drown on her own. Perhaps then, he wouldn't be feeling this nerve-wrecking dread pounding in his heart.

    It was all a mistake. He shouldn't have saved her in the first place.

    She was dead now. All because of his terrible attempt at saving her. If he hadn't made a move, who knew what would've happened? Perhaps a kind-hearted stranger who was more competent at saving her would've been able to bring her out of the water quicker.

    Yet because Zixu insisted on taking action, she was dead.

    A young girl had lost her life because of him.

    It really would've been better if he hadn't done a thing.

    Miss Yang coughed.

    The cough was soft, but Zixu heard it. He immediately leaned forward, his heart racing against his chest out of pure fear that he had simply misheard the first time.

    He prayed that he hadn't misheard, and it seemed like the heavens heard his prayers, for she coughed once more.

    She coughed again. And again. Water droplets slid from the corners of her lips. Under the rays of sunlight enveloping the two of them, her eyes opened up gradually beneath her curled eyelashes.

    Zixu had never been more relieved to see a pair of dark irises reflecting back at him.
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