Chapter 1 of Lost You Forever was good, wasn’t it? I was hooked before I knew it by how different Tong Hua chose to delve into what was billed as a majorly epic story. The novel has three volumes and volume 1 alone has 17 chapters so be patient as I try my best on the translations and pray my arms don’t fall off and need physical therapy by the time I’m all done. Another reason I’ve decided to translate Lost You Forever, other than it being fantastic and the fact and I’m pretty much madly in love with one of the male leads while also secretly carrying a torch for the other one, is that this novel is about to start production into a drama. Filming has been pushed back twice now and is currently slated to start in May, so once the casting begins we’ll see if there is any possible way for real actors to live up to the amazing characters in this story. I don’t think reading Once Promised is absolutely necessary to understand and appreciate Lost You Forever but it adds to the richness of the back story for some of the leads. The OTP of Once Promised are the parents to our heroine in Lost You Forever, and Tong Hua had hinted at the end of Once Promised the OTP for her sequel story dealing with their princess daughter.
So when Lost You Forever rolled around, to be honest I was expecting the epic love story of our leading lady Xiao Yao with a certain male lead and Tong Hua totally subverts herself again and I’m pleasantly surprised. Chapter 1 sets up nicely the world of Lost You Forever currently reduced to one rather unassuming town. There’s a little medical clinic run by a crass young man named Xiao Liu, and one day he rescues a tortured man on the verge of death. When Xiao Liu saves the life of Shi Qi, it starts the strings of fate that will bind them together. For now at least, Shi Qi is just Shi Qi in the same way Xiao Liu is just Xiao Liu. Whatever they are both running from, whatever grand destiny they were each born into, right now they don’t need to face it just yet. But Xiao Liu is really just a trouble magnet is how I see it, and he’s about to run smack into another fated meeting that will also lead to some kind of forever. Is it destined to be love? Hate? Misunderstanding? Xiao Liu is a major softy inside even when he acts like he couldn’t care less, so with every connection he starts making as the story takes off, he’s walking towards a world he doesn’t want to acknowledge. I’ll keep using “he” when I talk about Xiao Liu until the time comes when our leading lady finally takes off her male identity and returns to being the princess with the most powerful lineage even within the powerful world of the gods and goddesses. Until Xiao Liu decides he wants to be Xiao Yao, let’s enjoy his adventures and misadventures in little Qing Shui Town with his motley crew of odds and ends.
Chapter 2 – The Road Ahead is Unknown:
Qing Shui Town wasn’t big but it was a very unique place in the vast wilderness. From North to South it was tightly bordered by mountain ranges that were treacherous, creating natural barriers. After the Sheng Nong Kingdom was destroyed, the Sheng Nong Kingdom’s General Gong Gong refused to surrender. He controlled tens of thousands of soldiers stationed in the area to the East of Qing Shui Town and from there he continued to battle the Yellow Emperor.
In addition to having the General Gong Gong army to the East, Qing Shui Town was West of the Xuan Yuan Kingdom and North of the Gao Xing Kingdom. It wasn’t under the control of the Grand Emperor of the Gao Xing Kingdom nor the Yellow Emperor of the Xuan Yuan Kingdom. Gradually Qing Shui Town became an area muddled with all three influences but neither of the three powers could control it.
Inside Qing Shui Town, there was no royal power, no influential families, no rich or poor, and definitely no distinction between gods and demons.
If a person had a skill, whether he be god or demon, previously an official or a bandit, the person could openly seek a living and no one cared about the past. Gradually all sorts of people gathered here.
Due to the nonstop warfare for the past few hundred years, the blood, corpses, and reborn lives forged a lot of blacksmiths and healers. The weapons and medical skills of Qing Shui Town was relatively famous.
If there were blacksmiths and healers, then people would come to buy weapons and seek medical help. When there were men, then there were brothels. When there were women, then there were milliners. If there were men and women, then came the restaurants and tea shops….
Not sure if the chicken or the egg came first, but now Qing Shui Town was bustling with people and it didn’t even seem like a location at the front line of an ongoing war.
Hui Chun Clinic was situated in a small location in the Western part of town. Because the competition was fierce and a clinic was especially hard to run, Ma Zi and Chuan Zi told Ye Shi Qi that people once came to shut them down. But Lao Mu was a deserter from the Xuan Yuan army, and despite being just a lowly god he still had some spiritual power and could handle a few people. Xiao Liu’s medical skills were just average so the other clinics didn’t even bother trying to win any business back. So the business at the Hui Chun Clinic was just so-so, enough the feed and clothe their group of five.
Two years had passed and Shi Qi still looked thin and weak. But his strength was stronger than anyone suspected. Carrying water pails, cutting wood, brewing medicine, grinding herbs, he could do it all. He had an especially keen memory.
Ma Zi and Chuan Zi followed Xiao Liu for over ten years and still couldn’t remember some of the herbs. Shi Qi was different, whatever the herb if he heard it once from Xiao Liu he would remember it.
Gradually Xiao Liu started taking him everywhere, he was strong, had a good memory, very reticent, did anything he was told, he was literally the perfect person to ask to do bad things like murder and mayhem.
After dinner that night the five of them sat together. Under Ma Zi and Chuan Zi’s begging, Xiao Liu counted all of their money and sighed “There are more men in Qing Shui Town than woman. Finding a woman to sleep with a few times mean spending money at the brothel. But marrying a wife to sleep with every night is going to be hard. In the short term, sleeping with a prostitute is a better deal. But for the long term, marrying a wife to sleep with at home is a better bargain.”
Ma Zi and Chuan Zi both stared dumbstruck at Xiao Liu. Lao Mu’s old face was wrinkled like a chrysanthemum while Shi Qi had his head lowered but his lips slightly tilted upward. Xiao Liu asked them “Do you guys want to sleep around a few times now, or hold off and endure a few more years until you save up enough money to find one to sleep with every night?”
Ma Zi said very sternly “Brother Liu, marrying a wife is not to bring home to sleep with every night.”
“You spend big money to marry a woman and you don’t want to sleep with her?” Xiao Liu was about to flip the table.
“Of course not, I meant she’s not ONLY for sleeping with. It’s for eating with and talking to, a companion.”
Xiao Liu huffed “I eat with you and talk with you and keep you company. So why do you still want a wife then?”
“Because my wife can sleep with me and you can’t”
“Then you’re marrying a wife just to sleep with her.”
Ma Zi sat down wearily “Fine, just call it marrying to sleep with.” He grabbed Chuan Zi’s hand “Don’t listen to Brother Liu, be patient and save money. Our own wives are better than prostitutes. It really isn’t just for sleeping with.” Lao Mu laughed and patted Ma Zi “Don’t worry, Brother Liu and I will help you guys save up enough money.”
Ma Zi and Chuan Zi went to sleep and Shi Qi was sent back to his room as well.
Lao Mu said to Xiao Liu “Chuan Zi can wait but Ma Zi’s marriage can’t be delayed any longer. Ma Zi likes the daughter of Butcher Gao and if we don’t put down a marital offer then Ma Zi’s good bride will be taken. I thought about going into the mountains to dig up better herbs, and maybe if I’m lucky to find some spiritual plants…..
Xiao Liu said “The mountains are the territory of the Sheng Nong resistance army. You’re a Xuan Yuan army deserter, going there would be asking to die. Plus you don’t know those herbs. I’ll go.”
Lao Mu replied “The Gong Gong controlled resistance army is fair and principled, they won’t harm innocents and even ordinary humans aren’t scared of running into Sheng Nong soldiers. But that Lieutenant General Xiang Liu is very difficult. Rumors say he is a Nine-headed Demon. He has nine lives and his nickname is Nine Lives. He is vicious and brutal.”
Xiao Liu laughed “I’m not going to scout intelligence, I’m going to get spiritual plants. He may be vicious but he has to follow army rules. Plus I’ll never run into someone as powerful and lofty as General Xiang Liu.”
Lao Mu was thinking the same thing. He was in multiple battles before and forget Nine Lives Xiang Liu, he’s never even run into army officials ranked several ranks above him before.
He felt reassured and reminded Xiao Liu to be careful and not go where not needed and if no spiritual plants are found then to come back and they can think of another way.
Xiao Liu was worried about Ma Zi and Chuan Zi’s stopping him so he prepared and left before sunrise. Humming a small tune and gnawing on a chicken feet, Xiao Liu walked and felt something was off. He turned around and Shi Qi was silently behind him. Xiao Liu waved “Why did you follow me? I’m off to the mountains to gather herbs. You hurry home.”
Xiao Liu kept walking but so did Shi Qi kept following. Xiao Liu put his hands on his hips and raised his voice “Hey! I told you to go home. Didn’t you hear me?”
Shi Qi quietly stood still with his eyes lowered and his silence conveying his determination. Maybe it was that their destiny started with pity so Xiao Liu was quick to soften towards him. He asked “Are you a Shen Nong deserter?” Shi Qi shook his head. “Are you a Xuan Yuan soldier?” Shi Qi shook his head. “Are you a Gao Xing spy?” Shi Qi shook his head. Xiao Liu smiled “Then you can head into the mountains. Follow me.”
Shi Qi took the basket from Xiao Liu’s back and his little bag of snacks. Xiao Liu finished gnawing on the chicken feet and Shi Qi passed him the bag and he grabbed a duck neck. He finished the duck neck and was about to wipe his hands on his robe when a clean cloth was handed to him. Xiao Liu giggled and wiped his hands clean. Shi Qi handed him a jug and Xiao Liu took a swig of plum wine and burped. He felt these days life was sure sweet! The two of them walked the entire day and it was dusk when they entered the mountains.
Xiao Liu found an area near a water supply and used herb powder to sprinkle a circle around them. “There are lots of beasts in the mountains. Don’t step outside the circle at night. I’ll go fetch water and you get some wood. Hurry back before dark.”
Xiao Liu brought the water back along with some wild vegetables. Shi Qi wasn’t back yet and Xiao Liu was about to go find him when Shi Qi returned with wood on his back and a wild chicken in his hand. Xiao Liu was so happy “You start the fire, I’ll cook something delicious for you.”
Xiao Liu cleaned the chicken cleanly then stuffed some mushrooms inside the cavity, salted the outside, splashed it with plum wine, wrapped it around some large leaves, and buried it under the yellow dirt next to the fire. He then made a simple stone top and used it to stew the vegetables with the chicken guts.
Shi Qi quietly watched Xiao Liu busy at work. Xiao Liu stirred the stew and said with a laugh “I lived in the mountains for many years. What is edible and not edible, I’ve eaten it all. Having me around in the mountains, you’re sure to get something tasty.”
When the time was up, Xiao Liu dug out the hard dirt lump and cracked it open. A fragrant smell came wafting out. Xiao Liu split the chicken in thirds, one part went into the food bag, he gave Shi Qi the bigger remaining portion “You must finish, you are too skinny.” Xiao Liu ate his portion and watched Shi Qi. He was still the same, every gesture was elegant and refined, as if he was seated at the most lofty banquet eating the most incredible food. Xiao Liu sighed “Shi Qi, you’ll leave sooner or late.”
Shi Qi glanced at him “I. Won’t.”
Xiao Liu smiled and finished the mushroom stew and went to the creek to wash up.
Xiao Liu woke up in the morning to find Shi Qi had started a fire and boiled hot water. Xiao Liu took the remaining chicken and diced it up and tossed it in the water to make soup. He took a biscuit from the bag and split it with Shi Qi. Once they were done with the soup and put out the fire, they continued up the mountain.
Xiao Liu took Shi Qi and collected only the more precious herbs along the way. After three days of walking, they entered the deepest parts of the mountain. Xiao Liu squatted down and stared at a pile of animal droppings. His brow was furrowed as if deciding something. Shi Qi carried all their belongings and silently watched him.
Xiao Liu stood up and said “You stay here, I need to go find something alone.” Shi Qi didn’t nod, where Xiao Liu went, he also went. Xiao Liu glared “You said you would listen to me. If you don’t listen, I don’t want you anymore.” Shi Qi silently looked at him and the sliver of sunlight through the trees shone on his scar along the hair line and the light sorrow in his eyes.
Xiao Liu softened and stepped forward wanting to grab his arm but remembering that he didn’t like to be touched so he grabbed his sleeve “Shi Qi is the best and most obedient and most capable, I won’t discard you. Not taking you is because its dangerous. That thing is too clever and if it smells something it’ll be scared off and run thousands of miles in an instant. The only way to get close is to smear its poop on the body but there isn’t enough poop here so only I can go. If I can’t catch it I’ll come right back so wait for me here.”
Xiao Liu tilted his head and smiled and finally Shi Qi nodded.
Xiao Liu picked up the poop and stepped away to smear it on his arm “Isn’t it gross? You probably never saw this where you grew up. It’s not really that dirty. A lot of medicine is made with animal poop you know.” Xiao Liu turned and Shi Qi was right next to him already and he paused. Shi Qi fixed his sleeve and said “Be careful.”
Xiao Liu laughed “I lived alone in the mountain for years. When I was hungry, I even stole the egg from under a Thousand Year Snake Demon. Even the most vicious beasts aren’t dangerous to me. To be honest, there are no beasts or animals scarier than people……..” Xiao Liu fixed his waistband and waved “I’m off.”
“I. Wait for you.” Shi Qi stood underneath the tree.
There is no person who will wait for another for an entire lifetime. Xiao Liu smiled and with a hop and a skip disappeared into the trees.
Xiao Liu wanted to catch a Jiu Jiu, a small animal resembling a civet cat. It had a long white tail and can take away people’s sorrow. It was popular with the nobles and could be sold for a pretty penny. It didn’t have any attack power but it was very very clever yet easy to frighten so quick to run away. It was very hard to catch. But Xiao Liu had a way of dealing with it. Jiu Jiu loved listening to a young woman sing. Jiu Jiu would be attracted to the young woman’s sorrowful song and its body would inch closer to help the girl forget her sorrows. Xiao Liu found a suitable spot to set the trap.
He jumped into the water to wash off the poop first, then crawled on a rock and sat down. The rock was warmed by the sun and Xiao Liu sat there fixing his hair and singing. The song was carried by the wind. Xiao Liu sang a song about missing someone forever and never being able to forget.
The voice was melodic and the song sorrowful so the Jiu Jiu was lured out by the song. Initially it was scared so hid in the dark. When it sensed no danger, it could not overcome its natural instinct to help people forget sorrow so it stepped out and started chirping.
Xiao Liu fixed his hair and stared at it. It had large round saucer eyes and was super adorable. It would chirp and shake its large white tail, doing little flips or kicking its legs or thumping its chest. It did all sorts of adorable things to make him laugh.
Xiao Liu sighed loudly and undid the trap “You silly thing, you run off now, I won’t catch you to sell for money.”
Jiu Jiu stared at Xiao Liu quizzically when suddenly a loud whoosh thundered from above and a gold and white condor tried to grab the Jiu Jiu. It had nowhere to hide that it darted into Xiao Liu’s arms.
The gold and white condor stood before Xiao Liu and stared at him, as if saying “Imma going to eat that! If you don’t want to die then scram!” Xiao Liu felt this condor didn’t yet have enough spiritual learning to take the form of a person, but it definitely understand spoken language.
He sighed and bowed respectfully “Master Condor, it isn’t that I want to be disrespectful, you know its hard to catch a Jiu Jiu and if I didn’t lure it out then you wouldn’t even be able to try and eat it.”
The condor flapped its giant wing and a large rock was smashed to smithereens. His fury was palpable. Xiao Liu didn’t want to retreat since that would incite a beast’s natural attack instinct. This condor could think but it’s natural instinct must still be intact.
The Jiu Jiu’s claws dug into Xiao Liu and it tried to make its body as tiny as possible. Xiao Liu held it with one arm and the other tossed out some powder. His eyes held the eyes of the condor and he said in a very sincere and non-threatening way “Master Condor is handsome and powerful. Your wing power is impressive. One look and its clear you are a king among condors, the ruler of the skies. I am very impressed……..but I’m sorry that I can’t let you eat it today.”
The condor wanted to destroy this bastard before him but it felt dizzy all of a sudden like that one time it stolen the wine but he didn’t steal any wine today…… After teetering left and right the condor collapsed.
Xiao Liu was about to escape when a voice came from above “Furball, I told you many times, people are devious. This time you’ll remember it, yeah?”
A white haired man dressed all in white was elegantly sitting on a tree branch smirking in glee at the fallen condor. Xiao Liu silently sighed, the real danger has arrived. He threw the Jiu Jiu towards the tree knowing that with its quickness it could escape. Who know the Jiu Jiu tumbled and stood straight and frozen towards the man. It didn’t even have the courage to run away! If it wasn’t going to run, then Xiao Liu was off!
Xiao Liu tossed powder at the man and then turned to run when the man in white blocked his path.
Xiao Liu tossed another powder but the man furrowed his brow and said “If you keep tossing that useless junk and dirty my clothes, I’ll cut your hands off.”
Xiao Liu stopped immediately, the opponent was so powerful that poison and sleep powder was useless on him. He also couldn’t fight him, so that left only one other choice – get on his knees and beg.
Xiao Liu plopped down on his knees and with a copious amount of tears and snot he begged “My lord, I’m just a little healer from Qing Shui Town come to the mountains to get some herbs to earn some money. My two brothers need it to marry wives…..” The man felt up the condor and said “Antidote.”
Xiao Liu crawled over and handed the antidote to him. The man fed it to the condor and finally looked at Xiao Liu “My condor ride has eaten tens of thousands of poisonous snakes, even the poison made by the court doctors of the Xuan Yuan Kingdom are ineffective to him. It’s interesting to know that even a little healer in Qing Shui Town is this talented.”
Xiao Liu felt a cold breeze fly up his spine and he cursed silently “It’s just getting lucky. I’m not lying, I’m a little healer specializing in infertility. The Hui Chun Clinic in Qing Shui Town. If My lord has a wife who can’t get pregnant………”
A small soldier came running up and bowed respectfully “My lord!”
The man kicked Xiao Liu over and barked “Tie him up!” “Yes, sir!” Xiao Liu was tied up and he breathed a sigh of relief. This was the Sheng Nong resistance army. Even though the Yellow Emperor called them a bunch of villainous traitors, in the last few hundred years they never bothered people and always kept a regimented force.
Xiao Liu knew everything he said was true so once they confirmed it he would be let go. But he knew this man was very dangerous……….he peeked at the white robed man who was intently checking on the condor.
The antidote is real and the condor would be up soon. But that silly Jiu Jiu was still frozen on the ground. Xiao Liu laughed and said “Will my lord please let that Jiu Jiu go.” The man appeared not to hear and continued to stroke the condor’s back. The condor stood up and shook its feathers before flying over and ripping the Jiu Jiu apart.
The scream was gone before it landed. Xiao Liu lowered his eyes and saw a blood stained white fur land on his shoe. The man waited until the condor was done eating before everyone headed back to camp.
Xiao Liu kept his eyes tightly shut refusing to see the route. Based on the sound of voices, this wasn’t a large camp and was likely temporary. Xiao Liu was tossed on the ground and the man’s cold voice entered his ears “A very good set of ears is often more useful than a set of eyes.”
Xiao Liu opened his eyes and from his vantage point could only see the man’s waist. “I’ve lived in Qing Shui Town for over twenty years, a quick check will confirm it.”
The man ignored him as he changed his robe and sat down at his desk to review documents. It was then that Xiao Liu finally saw his face clearly. White hair like the clouds that wasn’t tied into a bun but instead a jade-colored rope was used to tie it neatly back to let it fall behind his head. His face was so beautifully handsome it bordered on surreal. His entire body was so spotlessly clean it was eerie.
At this time he was holding a document in one hand as his eyes were lifted in scorn. He sensed Xiao Liu looking at him and smiled towards Xiao Liu who shivered and immediately shut his eyes. That look he’s only seen once when he was small, it was the way a world renowned giant demon looked at her, it was the look that only someone who had stepped on countless corpses could give off.
Xiao Liu guessed who he was, that legendary handsome beyond compare murdering evil devil the Nine-headed Demon – the one with nine-lives Xiang Liu.
Xiao Liu’s arms and legs were tied and he couldn’t move so after some time he was so sore. At night the soldiers brought food and Xiang Liu casually ate. Xiao Liu was thirsty and hungry and seeing that Xiang Liu wasn’t going to feed him then he tried to think of something else.
He thought that Shi Qi must’ve come to look for him but there was no way he could find this place. He probably went back to town. Xiang Liu finished the meal and lazily laid down on the pallet to leisurely read a book.
A soldier came to deliver a document and quickly left. Xiang Liu read it and then stared at Xiao Liu while thinking. Xiao Liu guessed it was a report about him and tried to smile very sincerely “My lord, everything this servant said is true. I have family waiting for me to go home.”
Xiang Liu coldly said “I only trust my own instinct. Who are you?” Xiao Liu rolled his eyes “I am Wen Xiao Liu, a healer at the Hui Chun Clinic.”
Xiang Liu stared at him and tapped his fingers. Xiao Liu started shaking, the primitive instinct of a living being to fear death. Xiao Liu knew that Xiang Liu had no patience to figure out why he seemed suspicious and would used the most efficient and effective way to solve the problem which was to the same fate as the Jiu Jiu.
When the aura of death came hurtling over Xiao Liu tumbled and tried to avoid it while saying “My lord, I really am Wen Xiao Liu. Maybe I’m not ONLY Wen Xiao Liu, but I have no intention to harm the resistance army under General Gong Gong. I don’t belong to the Kingdom of Xuan Yuan, or the Kingdom of Gao Xing, and not to the Kingdom of Sheng Nong. I am just……….”
Xiao Liu paused and thought “Who am I?”
He raised his head and allowed his entire expression to be seen by Xiang Liu “I am just someone who has been discarded. I have no ability to protect myself, I have no one to rely on, I have nowhere to go, so that is why I chose to be Wen Xiao Liu in Qing Shui Town. If my lord will allow, I wish that I could be Wen Xiao Liu for the rest of my life.”
Xiang Liu stared at him and Xiao Liu didn’t dare to move but the beads of cold sweat came down and there where unshed tears in his eyes because the hard protective shell placed in the last tens of years got forcibly peeled open.
After some time, Xiang Liu calmly said “If you want to live, work for me!”
Xiao Liu said nothing. Xiang Liu blew out the lamps “You have a night to think on it.” Xiao Liu’s eyes were open and he stared straight ahead.
Dawn arrived and Xiang Liu dressed and asked “Have you decided?” Xiao Liu lazily said “Still thinking. I’m so thirsty, I want some water first.” Xiang Liu laughed coldly and said “Take him outside.”
Two soldiers dragged Xiao Liu out and Xiang Liu calmly said “Whip him, twenty lashes.”
The army’s whipping can make the most devious demon soldier capitulate that was how painful it was. And the man Nine-lives Xiang Liu sent to whip him had a shockingly strong arm. Once with just one hundred and twenty lashes he killed a demon soldier who was over a thousand years old. The whip was as thick as an oxtail and it came down in snaps as Xiao Liu yelled “I’m done thinking, done thinking…..”
After the twenty lashes was done, Xiang Liu looked at Xiao Liu and asked “What’s your decision?” Xiao Liu gasped “I just have three conditions.”
“Whip him, twenty lashes.”
The whip came down and Xiao Liu yelped “Two conditions, one condition……”
Another twenty lashes was delivered and Xiao Liu’s entire back was covered in blood and he was in excruciating pain. Xiang Liu coldly looked at him and asked “Anymore conditions?”
Xiao Liu was covered in sweat and his mouth was bleeding so he couldn’t say a full sentence “You…….can kill me, but I……..still…….have one condition.” Xiang Liu smiled with a corner of his mouth and said “Say it!”
“I….I won’t leave Qing Shui Town.” Xiao Liu understood that Xiang Liu was interested in his ability to make poison and as long as he didn’t leave Qing Shui Town then Xiang Liu couldn’t send him to kill the Xuan Yuan generals and officers. Nor could he send him to kill Gao Xing nobles and royals. Xiang Liu seemed to understand Xiao Liu’s thinking and just stared at him without any expression.
Xiao Liu had been acting a coward this entire time but this time he didn’t back down and looked at Xiang Liu straight back. The meaning was clear, if he didn’t agree then kill him now. After a moment, Xiang Liu said “Fine!”
Xiao Liu breathed a sigh of relief and then collapsed.
Xiao Liu was dragged by the soldiers into the room and the army doctor removed his clothes and put medicine on his back. Xiang Liu stood at the door of the tent and coldly observed. Xiao Liu laid on a wooden board and docilely allowed the army doctor to minister to him. When the medicine was applied and everyone left, Xiang Liu said to Xiao Liu “Make whatever concoction I ask of you. All other times you can continue being your healer in Qing Shui Town. But when I summon you then you must obey immediately.”
“Fine, but it’s like not I will be able to make whatever my lord asks.”
“If you can’t, then you can exchange with your body.”
“Huh?” Xiao Liu never imagined Xiang Liu would like guys and carefully said “My lord is handsome beyond compare. It’s not that I don’t want to service you but……..”
Xiang Liu smirked and lifted his foot and stepped on Xiao Liu’s wound slowly until blood started to seep out “One time you can’t make it, then use a part of your body in exchange. The first time, your ears. The second time, your nose. Without your nose, it is……”
Xiang Liu upped the pressure “Don’t worry, I won’t cut off your hands, you need it to make the concoctions.” Xiao Liu was in so much pain he writhed “I….I understand.”
Xiang Liu pulled his foot back and wiped the blood away on Xiao Liu’s robe “You are as slippery as an eel, one moment of not paying attention and all that is left is mud. But my personality, you should go ask around.”
Xiao Liu snarked “I don’t need to ask around to figure it out.”
A soldier’s voice called out “Sir, someone has stormed the barracks.”
Xiang Liu took off and the noise stopped. Xiao Liu heard a soldier ask “Who are you and why have you stormed the Sheng Nong army base?” A scratchy voice replied “Ye Shi Qi. Xiao Liu.”
It’s Shi Qi! He came? Xiao Liu crawled outside and yelled “My lord Xiang Liu, please don’t harm him. He’s my servant and came to find me.”
Shi Qi ran towards Xiao Liu and his spiritual energy was stronger than expected because he deflected all the soldiers trying to stop him. But these were trained soldiers and if he took down two then four more would step up so Xiao Liu yelled “Shi Qi, stop! My orders.”
Shi Qi stopped and the soldiers encircled him and glared but Shi Qi didn’t even look at him and only stared at Xiang Liu “I. Am taking Xiao Liu.”
Xiao Liu tried to look alluring and yelled “My lord! I am already your person!” Those words…….caused all the soldiers at the base to grimace.
Xiang Liu furrowed his brow but lowered his hand and the soldiers parted. Shi Qi flew to Xiao Liu’s side and half carried half propped him up. His hand gently passed over his back. Perhaps it was mental comfort but Xiao Liu actually felt some pain lessen. Shi Qi knelt down “Let’s go home.”
Xiao Liu crawled on his back and smiled cheekily at Xiang Liu “My lord, I’m going home now.”
Xiang Liu kept staring at Shi Qi and Xiao Liu got nervous and actually grabbed Shi Qi’s face like a child would and yelled “Don’t you get any ideas about him. He’s mine.”
Xiang Liu was startled and was about to smile but stopped himself. He coughed a few times “After investigating and confirming you are a citizen of Qing Shui Town and not a threat to the Sheng Nong army, you are free to leave.”
Xiao Liu continued the charade and said “Thank you my lord, after I return I will be sure to spread word of my lord’s vast kindness.”
The soldiers left and Shi Qi carried Xiao Liu on his back and rushed off. It was only after there was no sound behind them that Xiao Liu wearily said “Shi Qi, I’m thirsty.”
Shi Qi gently put him down and took out a flask for him. Xiao Liu drank a few gulps and let out a long sigh “Let’s hurry before that Xiang Liu changes his mind.”
Shi Qi knelt down and Xiao Liu remembered that he didn’t like to be touched but right now there was no other way so Xiao Liu carefully climbed on his back “I’m sorry, I know you don’t want to carry someone. You can imagine that I’m a rock and rocks don’t make any noise……..Or you can imagined that I am a pig, a pig who speaks. Oh, but do you dislike pigs? Then you can imagine I’m a………”
Shi Qi’s voice was low “I will think that it’s you. I am willing to carry……you.”
Xiao Liu paused and murmured “Fine, then you think that I’m me.” After saying that he realized what he said and laughed a few times and stopped. “Shi Qi, my back hurts, can you talk with me?” “Yes.”
“Shi Qi, how did you find me?” “Trail. Can follow.” “Oh, you are good at tracking then. Did you learn it a long time ago?” Xiao Liu then realized he probably didn’t like to think of the past “Sorry, you don’t have to answer.”
“Shi Qi, that Xiang Liu is very devious, if you see him in the future be careful. Don’t let him discover that you have any use for him. Then he’ll get ideas about you.” “Yes.”
Nnnnnggggg, this time is such a failure! Didn’t earn the money and lost himself. How did I get spotted by that big demon Xiang Liu? How will the days ahead be like?
Shi Qi slowed down and turned to look at Xiao Liu and his lips touched Xiao Liu’s forehead. His hot breath brushed over Xiao Liu’s face and Shi Qi stiffly turned “Don’t be……scared.”
Perhaps it was because he was just tormented by Xiang Liu. Or because his hard shell that was forcibly opened wasn’t fully shut yet. Xiao Liu really craved this feeling of reliance and he closed his eyes and rested his head on Shi Qi’s shoulder and his head was pressed to Shi Qi’s neck. He was like a cat curled up against him “I’m not scared of him. I don’t believe there is a poison in this world that won’t fell him. When I create that poison one day, I will……..”
Xiao Liu used his hand to make a fist crushing something “Shi Qi, when we get back, don’t say anything. Don’t let Lao Mu and them know. Lao Mu spent his life fighting against Sheng Nong and he’s pretty scared of that big demon Xiang Liu. But I guess I don’t even need to remind you. Ma Zi and Chuan Zi have been trying to pull information out of you but in the last two years they’ve already told you how many warts they have and still know nothing about you……..”
Shi Qi’s footsteps slowed and Xiao Liu gave his chest a few comforting slaps “I know, you’re Shi Qi. I wish you stayed Shi Qi for the rest of your life. But I know that isn’t possible. But for each day you don’t leave, then you are Shi Qi for an additional day, and you have to listen to me…….” “Mmmm hmmmm.”
“You have to listen to me!”
Xiao Liu was as happy as a mouse stealing oil and he felt her back pain lessen. Sprawled on Shi Qi’s back, he gradually fell asleep.
Shi Qi tried to make Xiao Liu the most comfortable grass bed and turned the cave into their temporary home. The two of them seemed to be living the hunter’s life in the mountain. Everyday, Shi Qi went out and hunted small game. When he came back, Xiao Liu directed and Shi Qi did and together they cooked dinner. Shi Qi clearly never did this before and he was clumsy and constantly made mistakes. Xiao Liu would guffaw happily, but Shi Qi was too smart and in a few tries he mastered it and that lessened some of the mirth in Xiao Liu.
The days and nights in the mountains were very desolate and those who couldn’t move was even lonelier. Xiao Liu grabbed Shi Qi to talk with him – everything under the sky they talked about. A delicious dish, a spectacular sunset…….Shi Qi quietly listened to it all.
Xiao Liu sometimes felt a twinge of guilt “Am I talking too much? I lived alone for twenty some years and during that time I developed a strange quirk. I was afraid to see people and wandered alone. In the beginning I never spoke, but as the days passed one day in the mountains I forgot the name of a fruit. I suddenly became very afraid though I didn’t know what I was afraid of. From then on, I talked to myself, and the most amazing thing I did was I captured a monkey and talked to it for an entire day. That monkey couldn’t take it anymore and actually tried to commit suicide by ramming its head into the cave wall……”
Xiao Liu laughed out loud but Shi Qi just looked at him quietly.
Every day Xiao Liu needed to change his bandages and he brazenly took off his clothes and showed his backside to Shi Qi. Xiao Liu couldn’t see Shi Qi’s expression and teased “I’ve seen your entire body from top to bottom but all you can see if my back. That doesn’t seem fair?” Shi Qi said nothing and Xiao Liu giggled.
Xiao Liu’s injuries were very severe and Shi Qi initially thought they needed to spend a month or two in the mountains but by the 10th day Xiao Liu was up on crutches. Two day later Xiao Liu decided to go home.
When Xiao Liu was collecting the herbs, he found two very rare plants and asked if Shi Qi collected it? Shi Qi nodded “Saw it while hunting. You mentioned before.” During this time, Shi Qi spent with Xiao Liu and his speech was getting better. Xiao Liu was ecstatic and wanting to hug and kiss Shi Qi “That’s great! Ma Zhi and Chuan Zi can get a wives now.”
Shi Qi knelt down to piggyback Xiao Liu but he stepped back “No need, I’ll walk.” Before he had no choice but now that he could walk how could he take advantage of Shi Qi’s politeness. Shi Qi silently stood up and followed behind Xiao Liu.
The two returned to Qing Shui Town and Lao Mu wielded a sword and demanded “Why did you leave for so long? Didn’t I tell you where not to go?”
Xiao Liu happily showed him the rare plants “Of course I didn’t go! Shi Qi didn’t know the mountain topography and we got lost for a few days but we got home safely now, right?”
Lao Mu saw the rare plants and was so happy, taking it to put away carefully. Xiao Liu winked at Shi Qi and then whistled a tune and walked back to his room.
A month later, under Lao Mu’s arrangement, Ma Zhi and the daughter of Butcher Gao got engaged. Everything returned to normal and every day was just like before – it was so calm it was boring, it was so boring it was peaceful, it was so peaceful it was happy.
Other than, occasionally a mall white condor would come find Xiao Liu, bringing something and taking away something. Xiao Liu made the poison for Xiang Liu but always held something back. If the poison was beyond deadly that it fit his requirement, but then it would have an odd color or smell. Whatever the reason, it was impossible to use it to kill those powerful people under tight protection.
Xiao Liu thought that as time passed Xiang Liu would come raise a fuss but Xiang Liu appeared to not care about “color, smell, and taste” and as long as the poison met his specifications he accepted it all.
Xiao Liu used his haphazard medical and poison skills to deduce that Xiang Liu was a very unique being and his power came from using poison to train. All the poison that Xiao Liu produced was likely consumed by him.
After he figured it out, Xiao Liu breathed a sigh of relief, and then proceeded to make the most horrible tasting poison ever.
After a year, Lao Mu held a simple wedding ceremony for Ma Zhi and Chun Tao, the daughter of Butcher Gao. Ma Zi was the product of the war, an orphan who was a beggar that believed his fate was one day being a corpse by the side of the road being gnawed on by wild dogs. As the dogs ate him they would howled with happiness, that was the fate of most of the orphans in this period of strife.
But Xiao Liu and Lao Mu changed his fate. Neither Xiao Liu nor Lao Mu were humans. When Ma Zhi was seven years old he was rescued by Xiao Liu and after over ten years had passed he grew to be an 6 ft tall and strong and now Xiao Liu looked younger than him. But Ma Zi always felt Xiao Liu and Lao Mu were his elders. In front of all the guests he took Chun Tao’s hand and knelt down to solidly bow three times to them. Lao Mu was so touched he wiped away tears and even Xiao Liu was uncharacteristically serious and ordered Ma Zi “Sleep more with Chun Tao and have more kids.”
Ma Zi wanted to say more words from the heart but when he heard Xiao Liu say that he didn’t dare say anymore. If Chun Tao knew that he married her so that he could sleep with her every night and it was cheaper than going to a brothel then this wife would surely leave him. He grabbed Chun Tao’s hand and quickly hurried off.
Xiao Liu giggled slyly and Shi Qi smiled at him. Lao Mu was busy sending guests off and Xiao Liu sat in the corner of the yard intently gnawing on a drumstick. Chuan Zi suddenly rushed inside and stammered “A……a guest.” He dragged Xiao Liu outside and there was Xiang Liu, dressed all in white, standing at the front door of the clinic. His tall frame was as spotless as a white lily that has been washed by rain water for three days straight. So clean it made one wanted to run home and immediately take a bath.
Lao Mu didn’t feel right to receive his gift and kept wiping his hands on his robe, afraid that even his sweat would dirty his body. Xiao Liu smirked and walked forward, tossing the drumstick on the ground and used his two oily hands to take the gift from Xiang Liu and even dared to rub his palm on his hand a few times. Xiang Liu’s smile never wavered and merely shot a glance at Chuan Zi standing behind Xiao Liu and immediately Xiao Liu wised up. He handed the gift to Chuan Zi and immediately bowed to Xiang Liu and said saucily “Please come inside for a rest.”
Xiang Liu sat down and there wasn’t a single person daring to get within three feet of him whether it was due to fear or respect. Shi Qi silently came to sit next to Xiao Liu and Xiao Liu shot him a look before turning to Xiang Liu with all smiles “I made all the medicine you asked for. There was no mistakes, right?” Xiang Liu smiled “You did well which is why I came to bring a gift.”
Xiao Liu was speechless – so you came to remind me that you didn’t just have three hostages, you now have four.
In the courtyard a bunch of young wedding guests were playing games to tease Ma Zi and Chun Tao and the sound of laughter would periodically ring out. Children munched on sweets and ran in and out while Lao Mu and the Butcher Gao were drinking and chatting.
Xiang Liu looked at the boisterous common life and asked with scorn “When they are all dead, you will still be the way you are now. Is this amusing for you?”
Xiao Liu answered “I am scared of loneliness. I can’t find a constant forever then a temporary companion is fine.” Xiang Liu looked at Xiao Liu who happily poured some wine for Xiang Liu “Since you are here, have some wedding wine that I made myself.”
Xiang Liu took a sip and casually remarked “Other than the poison there is nothing worth mentioning in this wine.” Xiao Liu asked with concern “Are you poisoned?” Xiang Liu stared at Xiao Liu and he shut up. Xiang Liu asked “Do you really want to poison me to death?”
Xiao Liu answered honestly “I am not a soldier in the Xuan Yuan army, you and I don’t have a blood feud, I just want to whip you 80 to 100 times.”
“Dream on in this lifetime.” Xiang Liu took another drink of the wine and then left.
Xiao Liu said in an angry huff to Shi Qi “One day I’ll find his weakness. If I can’t poison him then I’ll walk backwards.”
Shi Qi had laughter in his eyes and Xiao Liu couldn’t stand the way he always seemed to float above everything so poured him a glass of wine “Drink it!” Shi Qi took it and gulped it down.
Xiao Liu startled “It’s poisoned.”
The laughter in Shi Qi’s eyes never disappeared as his body collapsed softly. Xiao Liu anxiously gave him the antidote and yelled “You idiot!” while his heart felt this indescribable feeling.
After Ma Zi’s wedding, Nine Lives Xiang Liu would occasionally come and sit in the clinic courtyard and drink a few cups of Xiao Liu’s wine and nibble on a few of Xiao Liu’s snacks. When he left his face never even changed expressions and his heartbeat never once skipped a beat. Xiang Liu’s very attitude of not taking Xiao Liu seriously is exactly what pissed Xiao Liu off.
When Xiao Liu entered the medical profession, it all began with the wrong intentions. He wanted to learn to kill someone and not to learn to save someone. Yet here was Xiang Liu eating his poison like candy! Xiao Liu thought and thought and decided to keep on learning, learning how to kill someone. He vowed to keep walking down the wrong path with the goal of poisoning this big demon sooner or later!