If you aren’t already addicted to Lost You Forever, chapter 7 will flip the switch as the best chapter yet. It’s funny, bittersweet, and unexpectedly dreamy all smushed into one chapter. Each of the three male leads gets their moment with Xiao Liu and you’re left feeling like this will be the most amazing romantic journey ahead for her but also that this cannot possible end well. There is only one Xiao Liu, but there are three guys exhibiting signs that “it’s her and no one else.” This novel still masterfully alternates between fast-paced action and quiet reflection with equal aplomb. I enjoy that Xiao Liu really connects with people despite all outward appearances to be an ill-mannered layabout. But the real Xiao Liu really has that personality in her, it’s not all an act insofar as that is also part of who she is. The bits and pieces we’ve seen of her past when she thinks about her Gege (older brother), who all signs point to being Zhuan Xu (Xuan), she’s always been a pretty spirited and saucy little thing even when her life was still rainbows and unicorns and happy times. I love that about her, her fearlessness coupled with intelligence gleaned from survival, paired with a je ne sais quoi attitude.
Now that we’ve met the four leads of this novel, I’ll give a quickie refresher on all the various identities since it can get rather confusing. Xiao Liu is the alter ego of our leading lady and her real name is Gao Xing Jiu Yao (everyone calls her Xiao Yao) and she is the Eldest Princess of the Gao Xing Kingdom. Her devoted silent protector is Tu Shan Jing, scion of one of the Four Great Clans, but in front of her he’s just Ye Shi Qi, the dude she rescued from the brink of death. Wine shop owner Xuan is merely the cover for Prince Zhuan Xu, one of the princes of the Xuan Yuan Kingdom, and he’s also Xiao Yao’s cousin. She calls him Gege or older brother. And finally Nine-lives Xiang Liu, the only non-God entity among the leads, appears to be just Xiang Liu all the time. But expect that to change coming up and he’ll show up in Xiao Yao’s life as someone else as well. It’s not really a spoiler since she’s hardly fooled, but it changes their dynamic completely and adds another layer of complexity for this girl. We have a leading lady who just wants to live the most ordinary of lives, being pulled back into her most complicated of worlds, surrounded by three extraordinary men.
Chapter 7 – People Become Far Away and the Road Becomes Long:
The cold Winter left and the warm Spring arrived. Ma Zi’s second daughter was turning one and Xiao Liu went out to buy some snacks for the family banquet.
He forgot to bring money and was about to borrow some from Xuan when Jing walked over and paid for him.
Xiao Liu shoved the snacks in his arms “You paid for it, you eat it!” He turned and left but Xuan saw them and called out “Xiao Liu, Shi Qi.”
Xiao Liu had no choice but to walk into the wine shop. There was no one there and Xuan was drinking alone and playing with a chess board. Xiao Liu sat down and Jing followed and sat down as well.
Xuan asked “One match?” Xiao Liu recently learned chess from Xuan so he was itching to play.
“I’m not talking to you, I’m asking him.” Xuan pointed at Jing.
Xiao Liu was a lousy chess player, making moves slow and would even renege and take a move back. Xuan played a few times with him and vowed never to do it again.
Xiao Liu was insulted “You’re looking down on me!”
“I am looking down on you!” Xuan didn’t try to hide his disgust towards Xiao Liu’s chess playing but then very courteously asked Shi Qi “What of it? One match? I’ve heard you excel at all the artistic disciplines from painting, chess, books, and music.”
Jing lowered his head and asked Xiao Liu “Shall I play with him?”
“You’re the one playing, what does it have to do with me?” “I listen to you, if you say for me to play, I’ll play. If you say no, then I won’t.” Xiao Liu wanted to get angry but his lips curled upward and he didn’t say anything. Jing stared intently at Xiao Liu.
Xuan rapped the table a few times “Hey, hey….I know you two are close, but…..”
Xiao Liu angrily huffed “Who’s close with him?” while at the same time Jing said “We’re close, and it doesn’t concern you.” Both of them stared at Xuan, with Xiao Liu looking furious while Jing looked very calm.
Xuan laughed at Xiao Liu “Doesn’t matter if you guys are close or not, he listens to you. Have him play with me. I’ve heard of his famous reputation for so long but never had a chance.”
Xiao Liu’s eyes twirled “I want to play, too.” Xuan sighed “Fine, you place the pieces, he calls the moves.”
Xiao Liu picked up a piece and Jing would softly give a move and Xiao Liu would place the piece. Xuan smiled and followed suit. After some time, Xuan understood that Jing’s reputation wasn’t unwarranted.
People came to buy wine but Xuan wasn’t interested. He put a servant at the counter and told no one was to come bother him.
Piece after piece, Xuan slowly stopped laughing and stared at the chess board. People say its hard to meet a kindred spirit and to meet a true chess playing equal is a very happy occurrence. Xuan’s chess was taught by the Yellow Emperor and the people he practiced with were the great generals of the Xuan Yuan Kingdom. Nowadays when Xuan played chess he usually only put a third of an effort into it. Today he was putting 100% of his effort into this match. Xuan put a piece down and felt it was a good move.
He was excitedly waiting for Jing to make the counter and heard him say something to Xiao Liu. But Xiao Liu shook his head and pointed elsewhere “I think it should be placed here.” Jing smiled and didn’t object “Fine, then place it there.”
Xiao Liu happily placed the piece but Xuan hollered “I allow you to renege on a move. Make a different move!” Xiao Liu replied “I’ve decided, it’s going there.” Xuan pleaded with Jing “Please reconsider.”
Xiao Liu was impatient “You’re so annoying! When I want to renege on a move you won’t let me, and now I don’t want to renege you want me to.”
Xuan felt such pent up frustration, like his greatest excitement at putting on a new outfit only to find the mouse had eaten a hole in it. He placed his move and already knew in how many moves he would win. Jing said something and Xiao Liu placed a piece.
Xuan exhaled as the frustration was lifted, like seeing the hole being in a place that can’t be seen so the outfit was still good. Xuan thought and placed a piece. Jing said something to Xiao Liu but he shook his head “Your idea is bad, I want it there.”
“Fine, that’s a good place.” Jing still smiled and complimented Xiao Liu as if Xiao Liu’s chess skill was exemplary and every move was brilliant, as opposed to completely and utterly crap.
Xiao Liu happily placed the piece and Xuan felt like he found a second mouse eaten hole in his clothes. He said “I highly suggest you change your move.” Xiao Liu glared at him “No!”
Xuan countered and then Jing gave a move and then back and forth, and suddenly Xuan felt like the hole was once again out of sight and he was excited again.
Jing lowered his head but Xiao Liu shook his head and said “There.” “Okay.” Xiao Liu put the piece down and by now Xuan had given up and was only curious to see how Jing continued to transform the worst moves into a save. After an hour the chess match was over and Jing lost. Xuan won but didn’t feel happy whereas Jing lost and was smiling.
Xiao Liu asked Jing “Was it because of my moves that you lost?” “No, your moves were great, it was my moves that were bad.” Xiao Liu happily giggled while Xuan wearily clasped his head.
Xiao Liu saw that it was almost dark and laughed “Winner treats! Heard there was a new roasted meat restaurant in town. Let’s go try it.”
“Sure.” Jing answered so quickly that Xuan wondered if perhaps Jing did not know the word “no” when he was talking to Xiao Liu. Xuan pointed to himself “I didn’t say yes yet.” Jing looked at him “Loser will treat.” Xuan controlled his laugh and glanced at Xiao Liu “Sure!”
The three of them left the shop and walked down the street. It was Xiao Liu and Xuan bickering with each other while Jing listened quietly. Xiao Liu was happy so Jing’s eyes reflected that happiness.
Suddenly there was a holler to move out of the way. A carriage rumbled past with a window decorated oddly – with a golden arrow embroidered on it. Eight tall men followed behind the carriage, all carrying bows and arrows, giving off an imposing presence. Even the most brazen hooligans stood silently staring, everyone on the street quieting down to observe.
The second Jing saw the carriage the laughter disappeared from his eyes. He lowered his eyes and stood frozen in place. Xiao Liu asked “Who was that? That was awesome!” Xuan shot a glance at Jing and said nothing.
Xiao Liu asked “Why was there a bow and arrow embroidered on the window curtain?”
Xuan explained “That is the emblem of the Fang Feng family. The Fang Feng family are all archers, and legend has it their ancestor could shoot down the stars. Not every family member has the right to embroider the emblem, and the size also matters. Based on that, the person in that carriage must be an extraordinary archer.”
Xiao Liu whistled “No wonder everyone stopped and stared in fear.” Xiao Liu thought the Fang Feng name sounded familiar and looked at Jing. The way Jing looked suddenly made Xiao Liu remember the connection. He turned his head away and asked Xuan in a low voice “Was that the Tu Shan family future second daughter-in-law?”
Xuan replied “Probably.” There was the bow and arrow Fang Feng family emblem embroidered on the curtains, and on the corner of the carriage there was the nine-tailed fox emblem that represented the Tu Shan family. Other than the Tu Shan family second son’s fiancee Miss Fang Feng, there was no other possibility.
The carriage passed and people started moving again but the three of them remained standing there. Xiao Liu laughed at Jing “Since your fiancee is here, we won’t bother your reunion. Bye!” Xiao Liu dragged Xuan off, leaving Jing standing there watching them disappear around the corner.
Jing Ye rushed over to Jing “I finally found my lord, please come back. It’s been ten years and Miss Fang Feng must have a lot she wants to say to you.”
Jing eyes reflected his sadness but he wordlessly walked back.
Jing Ye said “All these years, without news of my lord, everyone wanted Miss Fang Feng to call off the engagement. But she stubbornly refused and has remained at Qing Qiu waiting for my lord. She behaves towards the Grand Madam like a granddaughter-in-law and helps ease her worries. My lord insists on staying in Qing Shui Town and not going back, the Grand Madam is very angry. Miss Fang Feng has been trying to speak up on your behalf and rushed here to see you.”
Jing still said nothing and Jing Ye felt very concerned. The second lord used to be a man of many words, but after being missing for 9 years, he returned a man who rarely says anything. Jing Ye asked around and heard that the second lord lived at Hui Chun Clinic for 6 years, but 3 years remains unaccounted for. The second lord never discussed it and when the Grand Madam wrote asking to find out, he claims he doesn’t remember anymore. He claims to have woken up with no memory and remained a disciple at the clinic. But Jing Ye and everyone else all believe that it was the eldest lord who did it. But if the second lord refuses to speak of it, then no one dared to do anything.
Jing Ye missed the old second lord. He was a great businessman, and in his personal time he was considerate and sweet. Not like now, where he barely seemed to care about anything. Thankfully he was alive and that was all that mattered. They arrived at the residence but Jing stopped outside. Jing Ye could understand since the second lord had never even seen his fiancee despite being engaged. They were like strangers.
Jing Ye whispered “Miss Fang Feng likes archery. My lord used to design weapons. She likes to travel and see the sights, my lord is an exquisite painter of sights, she likes to listen to songs from the North, my lord can play songs from the North on the flute for her. Oh right, she’s also a great chess player and even her older brothers can’t beat her. My lord can play….”
Jing walked in and the servants all came out. A young woman in a red dress robe walked out, she was tall and graceful, with fine features and red lips. She elegantly bowed while Jing kept his head lowered and courteously returned the bow.
Inside the restaurant, Xuan asked Xiao Liu “How did you come to take that one in?” Xiao Liu scoffed “I can’t believe you didn’t already investigate yourself.”
“I did investigate but you trained Chuan Zi and Ma Zi well and they didn’t reveal anything. After getting Chuan Zi drunk, all he said was that he was once gravely injured and you rescued him. What kind of injury he never explained.”
Xiao Liu laughed “It’s not Chuan Zi not wanting to explain, I handled it all myself so Chuan Zi saw nothing.”
“I can hear that his voice is scratchy, was it from that injury?”
“Why do we need to keep talking about him?”
“Because the Tu Shan family’s businesses blanket the entire vast wilderness, and he represents the future of the clan and that will determine whether the Tu Shan clan is my friend or foe.”
“Then you go get chummy with him, why ask me?”
“He listens to you.”
Xiao Liu laughed “You think playing chess and running his entire family business is the same? He listens to me, because I saved him, but he only listens to what he can listen to.”
Xuan sighed and gave up on his idea. Like Xiao Liu said, 6 years of gratitude can let Jing treat Xiao Liu well, but would never let Jing change the position of the Tu Shan clan for Xiao Liu.
Xiao Liu pressed “You hurry up and leave town. Xiang Liu can show up anytime.” Xuan raised a cup of wine with arrogance “You think Xiang Liu is powerful, but don’t think too lowly of me.” Xiao Liu said “Fine, Fine, you’re super powerful!”
Xuan smiled “One on one battle I can’t beat him, I can’t even come close.” Xuan pointed to his head “But I rely on this.”
Xiao Liu almost spit out his meat “That’s just relying on your connections and background.” “But at least I have that, and that takes time to develop connections.”
Xiao Liu said nothing and after some time asked “All these years, it’s been tough, huh?” Xuan glanced at Xiao Liu with some shock and casually replied “It’s been okay.”
The two finished eating and walked home. Xuan went back to the wine shop but Xiao Liu didn’t go back to the clinic. He walked to the river’s edge and stood there for some time before slowly walking into the river.
The Spring water still carried a Winter chill. Xiao Liu let the river carry him downstream until he was shivering deep into his bones. Right up until he almost smashed into a rock, he climbed on the rock and let the cold air further chill him. He said to himself “Do you see? This is what happens when you do what you want. You almost freeze to death.”
Xiao Liu jumped back into the river and swam upstream back to the clinic. He ran inside, took off his clothes, and burrowed under the blankets. He was still cold and tossed and turned but couldn’t sleep. He yelled at himself “Wen Xiao Liu! Don’t be so coddled! Life goes on no matter who leaves!”
These days, everyone was talking about Miss Fang Feng and the Tu Shan second lord. Xiao Liu decided not to leave the house but couldn’t even escape it at home. Tian Er said “I saw Miss Fang Feng, she’s so beautiful and delicate, needing a maid to escort her, but I hear she’s a crack archer and can kill a person from ten miles out. That second lord sure is lucky!”
Chuan Zi groused “Our Qing Shui Town isn’t a lofty place, why do those powerful families children decide to stay here?” Tian Er laughed “Who cares why? I heard Tu Shan clan wants to hurry up with the wedding. If anyone had such a wonderful fiancee he would want to marry her as soon as possible.”
Xiao Liu put his bowl down “I’m full, you guys eat. I’m going out for a walk.”
Xiao Liu walked along the river and sat down on a rock with his mind in a daze. He plucked a flower and pulled off its petals, tossing it in the river. Suddenly a white condor called and before Xiao Liu could even gasp he was wrenched onto the back of the condor by Xiang Liu.
Xiao Liu waved with a smile “Long time no see. How’ve you been?”
“If Xuan was dead, I’d be a lot better.”
Xiao Liu shut up and tightly grabbed Xiang Liu’s arm, afraid that he would get pissed and toss him off. The white condor flew to the same lake they once came to. Before the condor could descend, Xiang Liu suddenly grabbed Xiao Liu and vaulted off.
Xiao Liu was stunned and could only grab onto Xiang Liu with a tentacled creature grasp. The wind whistled past and Xiang Liu stared coldly “Shall I use you as a cushion?” Xiao Liu violently shook his head with his eyes full of pleading but Xiang Liu didn’t appear moved. They were descending so fast as if they were going to be smashed to smithereens. Right at the moment before impacting the water, Xiang Liu suddenly turned and flipped Xiao Liu on top.
With a giant plop, the two of them entered the water and a giant wave rose up. Even though Xiang Liu absorbed the brunt of the impact, Xiao Liu was still rocked by the waves and his head was spinning and his entire body ached. Because his limbs were in such pain, he couldn’t grab onto Xiang Liu and his body sunk into the depths.
Xiang Liu floated in the water staring as he sunk towards the bottom of the lake. Xiao Liu tried to reach out but could grab nothing and his eyes were gradually seeing black. Just as he was about to take his last breath, he felt Xiang Liu embrace him and a pair of cold lips pressed to his and passed air to him.
Xiang Liu held him and they rocketed towards the surface like an arrow. Xiao Liu sprawled on Xiang Liu’s shoulder and violently coughed and took loud deep breathes. His nose and eyes were all filled with water. After some time, Xiao Liu finally asked “If you want to kill me, do it faster.”
Xiang Liu’s body fell backward and he laid down on the water’s surface. Xiao Liu’s entire body was still aching so he couldn’t move and could only lay on top of him. Xiang Liu pulled Xiao Liu’s arm “Does it hurt?”
“He will hurt a lot.”
Xiang Liu laughed “This voodoo bug is decent but not good enough.”
“If it was a life-linked voodoo bug, you wouldn’t even hesitate and would kill me, right?”
“Yup, too bad it just shares pain.” Xiang Liu’s voice shared his regret.
Xiao Liu closed his eyes and felt them rocking on the waves. The water supported everything so there was no need to use any strength and it was quite relaxing.
Xiang Liu asked “Since he’s so precious to you, why not remove the bug?”
Xiao Liu didn’t answer and thought for a long time. Since he was a demon, and demons and creatures and monsters were all in the same world, perhaps he might know something. “It’s not that I don’t want to remove the bug, it’s that I can’t. Last time I was injured, you used all sorts of weird medicines on me. The bug had some type of transformation. He asked me to remove the bug and I lied that I’ll do it when he leaves. Recently I’ve been trying all sorts of ways to coax the bug out of him but nothing works.”
Xiang Liu thought about it “If you don’t want to die, then don’t try calling it back. The only solution is to find a way to transfer the bug to another person.”
Xiao Liu sincerely said “The only person I want to make miserable is you.”
Xiang Liu softly laughed “Then put the bug inside me.” Xiao Liu scoffed “Like you would be so nice.”
“I’ll kill him before he leaves Qing Shui Town, then you won’t have to worry about how to remove the bug.”
Xiao Liu felt his legs weren’t shaking anymore so slid down his body and started swimming. “Can killing him bring back the Sheng Nong Kingdom?” “No.” “Did he ever go on the battlefield and killed Sheng Nong soldiers?” “No.” “Do you have a personal blood feud with him?” “No.”
“Then why do you still want to kill him?”
“My position. Knowing that he’s right under my watch and not killing him, I feel like I’m not doing my part.”
“You have some sort of principles?”
“To Sheng Nong I do.”
“It is laughable, and even I think I’m pretty pathetic. If I didn’t have principles, then I would go talk to the Yellow Emperor and personally lead him to destroy Gao Xing.”
Xiao Liu was silent and looked up at the crescent moon like a biscuit with a bite taken out of it. After a long time, he asked “What is General Gong Gong like? To lead to a demon like you giving him your allegiance?”
“He’s an idiot!” Xiang Liu quieted down for awhile and then said “He is a pathetic idiot. He leads a bunch of idiots, doing something pathetic.”
Xiao Liu said “The most pathetic one is you! They are all willing to do it, they don’t think they are idiots. They think they are doing something they would be proud of to tell their family in the grave. To let their descendants be proud. They are happy to go down in a blaze of glory. But you – you mock it yet you do it.”
“Who let me have nine-heads? Of course it gets complicated and contradictory.”
Xiao Liu couldn’t help but laugh out loud and almost swallowed water and quickly grabbed Xiang Liu’s arm “You…..you….didn’t you say you hate people mentioning you are a nine-headed demon? The nine-heads is your big sore spot. If anyone mentioned it, you would kill them.”
“You’re still alive.”
Xiao Liu mumbled “For now….”
“What I loathe is that when they discuss me, they look down on me as strange and weird. I let you discuss it because……” Xiang Liu turned to the side and propped his arm under his head and looked at Xiao Liu “you may laugh at me but deep down inside you don’t think a nine-headed demon is strange.”
Xiao Liu smiled “That’s because I used to be even more weird than you.”
“So you hid in the mountains and refused to see anyone?”
Xiang Liu lightly stroked Xiao Liu’s head and he stared on shock back at Xiang Liu “Is this considered having a heart-to-heart under the moonlight?”
Xiang Liu replied “Until the next time you anger me, then yes.”
Xiao Liu sighed “Peaceful times are short, just like happiness is momentary. Flowers bloom and wilt, the moon waxes and wanes. But the beauty in life is merely this.”
Xiang Liu snarked “Who said once that even the most beautiful view would grow old with time?” Xiao Liu smiled and said nothing. It was sunrise by the time Xiao Liu got home soaking wet.
He dried his hair and thought about taking a nap since Tian Er was manning the clinic. In the middle of a nap, he heard knocking on the door but yelled for them to scram. Then came more knocking and then the door was kicked open.
Xiao Liu angrily stuck his head out and wanted to throw something but looked up and saw Ah Nian standing there. Her face was tear streaked and she was angrily looking at Xiao Liu.
Xiao Liu immediately woke up “What do you want?” Ah Nian started crying “Why do you think I’m here? I would rather never see your face again.” Xiao Liu’s mind twirled and he jumped down “What happened to Xuan?”
Ah Nian turned around “Gege is injured. The doctor can’t stop the bleeding. Gege asked me to come find you.” Xiao Liu grabbed clothes and put it on as he ran out. He know understood why Xiang Liu came to see him yesterday. It wasn’t for a moonlight heart-to-heart. When he was in so much pain he lost all strength and couldn’t move, the same thing happened to Xuan. But Xuan was well protected, and Xiang Liu was with Xiao Liu. Who could break through the Xuan Yuan guards and harm Xuan?
Arriving at the wine shop, Xiao Liu didn’t bother with the front door and vaulted over the walls into the back. Guards came up but Hai Tang yelled for them to halt. She led Xiao Liu to a room where Xuan laid inside, his eyes closed and his face ashen.
Hai Tang shook him awake while Ah Nian cried “Gege, are you better?”
Xuan smiled at her gently “I’m fine. You didn’t sleep at all last night, go sleep now.” He glanced at Hai Tang who walked over and literally carried and coaxed Ah Nian out the door.
Xuan introduced the doctor Wu Cheng, a famous physician in town who specialized in external injuries. Xiao Liu looked at Xuan’s injury, a chest wound that wasn’t very big but the bleeding wouldn’t stop. Wu Cheng explained “Last night an assassin came. The guards protected the young master but suddenly an arrow came from the sky when the young master was also suddenly struck with extreme pain. Thank god a servant pushed him aside so the arrow didn’t hit a critical organ. The problem is that it won’t stop bleeding.”
Xiao Liu looked at the wound while Wu Cheng added “I tested hundreds of different poisons and it’s not a poison.”
Xiao Liu asked to see the arrow which was an ordinary wood arrow that was now snapped in half. Xiao Liu countered “It can’t be an ordinary arrow, it was shot from far away using tremendous force. An ordinary arrow would have shattered already in flight.”
Xiao Liu asked Xuan “What did you feel when the arrow pierced you?” Xuan closed his eyes “In that moment, my body hurt, my chest was in pain, and cold….I felt a cold enter my body.”
Xiao Liu continued “Have you been to the North Pole?” Xuan smiled “No, have you?”
“I’ve been. That place is always blanketed in snow, and then the layers of snow press down it becomes ice, and then the ice is pressed down it becomes glaciers. The glaciers are harder than the rocks in the vast wilderness. Even the sharpest blade striking it will only loosen some debris. After tens of thousands of years, there will be ice crystals in the glaciers as beautiful as precious gems but harder than any mineral. It will always release cold air.
Xuan asked “Will ice crystals melt?”
“Normally no, but since its still ice-based then theoretically yes.”
Xuan slowly understood “You’re saying someone used a special method to wrap a layer of ice crystal around an ordinary arrow, and when the arrow pierced me the ice crystal melted leaving only the ordinary arrow.”
“I don’t know how to manipulate ice crystal so it melts when it touches blood, but that’s likely what happened.”
“The ice crystal from the North plus the extraordinary archery skills, it must be the Fang Feng family!” Wu Cheng yelled anxiously “I’ll go find them, they made the arrow, they will know how to stop the bleeding.”
“Stop!” Xuan’s voice was filled with scorn “How do you prove it was them? A lot of people in the vast wilderness can shoot an arrow, and this arrow can be bought anywhere.”
Wu Cheng thought about it and dejectedly lowered his head. If it was the Fang Feng family, then it had to be the best archer Miss Fang Feng. She could be dealt with, but behind her stood the Tu Shan clan, one of the Four Great Clans of the vast wilderness. Even an Emperor had to be wary.
Xuan asked Xiao Liu “Why can’t my bleeding stop?” Xiao Liu touched his blood and put it in his mouth to taste. Xuan saw it and his heart skipped a beat and he quietly composed himself. Xiao Liu said “Likely this ice crystal has something mixed in and when it melted it is preventing your blood from coagulating.”
Wu Chen stared “What is it, I used all sorts of herbs but cannot stop the bleeding.” Xiao Liu conceded “I don’t know.” Wu Cheng was about to start raging when Xiao Liu added “But I know how to get rid of it.”
“What?” Wu Cheng anxiously asked.
“Anything dark will disappear in the light, use sun powered water from the holy Yang Valley, it cleanses anything.” “The water from the holy Yang Valley is hard to obtain and the batch we have is used up. The Valley is thousands of miles away, rushing there the bleeding will get worse and Master won’t even make it there alive.”
Xiao Liu explained “I have a way to slow down the bleeding so you can make it there. But it’s going to be painful.” Xuan smiled “Do tell.”
“Put an ice crystal in your wound and let it freeze your blood and slow it down. But that is a thousand year ice crystal and you will be freezing all over.” “If it’s a way to live then being cold is not hard. But where to get an ice crystal, it must be hard to obtain from the glaciers?”
Wu Cheng knew someone in town would have it “Go ask for it from the Fang Feng family?” He was surprised Xiao Liu agreed “Yup, go get it from them. But it’s not ask, it’s steal.”
Xiao Liu stood up and said to Xuan “Don’t move, I’ll be right back.” Xuan offered “I’ll send two men with you.” Xiao Liu smiled “I’m going to steal, not grab by force.”
Xuan said slowly “You are very close to Tu Shan Jing, but that is a personal connection. In front of family allegiances, the personal ties mean nothing. This is actually my own problem and nothing to do with you. You don’t need to…….”
“If it wasn’t the voodoo bug in your body, that arrow wouldn’t have been able to strike you. This situation arose from me, how can it have nothing to do with me? Okay, enough with the bull shit, I’m off!”
Xiao Liu rushed out and vaulted over the walls and was off. He ran to Jing’s current residence and the servant gave him a dirty look before going to announce him. Soon two maids came out “My lady heard it was you, please come in, my lady and my lord will be here shortly.”
After walking down the corridor, a young woman in a red robe quickly walked over and stopped in front of Xiao Liu and bowed respectfully. In front of the servants she couldn’t express it openly so she just said “Thank you.” Her voice was filled with sincere gratitude that Xiao Liu could feel her emotions.
Xiao Liu bowed “My lady please get up.” When she got up, he looked at Miss Fang Feng, and even using the most critical eye, he had no choice but to admit she was one elegant, well-mannered, gentle lady. She made one feel like taking care of her.
Xiao Liu wondered “Did she really shoot that arrow into Xuan?” If it was her, why kill Xuan? What was her relationship with Xuan? Xiao Liu thought but his expression betrayed nothing as he smiled “Where is Master Jing?”
Miss Fang Feng replied “Someone went to get him already, I was going to the front salon to handle a matter so walked ahead. I wanted to thank you personally as soon as I could.”
Xiao Liu said “I am very close with Master Jing, no need to wait for him. I’ll go inside to see him.” The maids all gave him a disgusted look but Miss Fang Feng didn’t look peeved in the least and smiled “Sure.”
Miss Fang Feng led Xiao Liu inside to the residence where Xiao Liu once rested to heal from his injuries. Jing had just stepped out and was heading towards them. He saw Xiao Liu with Fang Feng Yi Yang, the two of them smiling and chatting, and that image made his eyes tense up.
Yi Yang saw him and stopped, gently explaining “Master Liu said he wanted to see you directly so I brought him here.” Xiao Liu smiled at Jing “I have something personal to ask of you, let’s discuss inside.”
Jing replied “Of course.”
He turned inside and Yi Yang followed. Xiao Liu chatted about everything in the courtyard, acting like a country bumpkin who had never seen anything before, but really he was looking for the ice crystal wind chimes but couldn’t see it anywhere. Then he remembered it was Spring and there was no reason to have it out no matter how filthy rich Jing was.
Just as Xiao Liu was trying to find a way to ask Jing for it without alerting Miss Fang Feng, suddenly he heard Jing say “Yi Yang, why don’t you go back. I have something to say to Xiao Liu.” Xiao Liu thought that Yi Yang was a very pretty name. Miss Fang Feng’s smile froze on her face but then she immediately composed herself and gently said “Then I’ll go check in the kitchens to prepare a meal for Master Liu.”
Miss Fang Feng curtsied to Xiao Liu and walked out the courtyard. Jing looked at Xiao Liu who had his head lowered. He knew he couldn’t keep anything from Jing.
Jing gently asked “What are you looking for?”
Xiao Liu tested the waters “I want something from you.” Jing didn’t hesitate “Sure.”
“Anything I want?”
“If I have it, you can have it. If I don’t have it, I’ll find it for you.”
Xiao Liu looked up “I want two ice crystal wind chimes.” Jing immediately called Jing Ye over and gave her an order and she rushed off. Jing didn’t ask what Xiao Liu needed the wind chimes for, only silently staring at him. His eyes were like black warm jade, sparkling with happiness, happy that Xiao Liu came to ask him for something.
Xuan warned Xiao Liu not to trust Jing, but Xiao Liu couldn’t believe Jing would kill anyone so he got up his courage “I….I….I want…..”
Jing leaned forward to hear what Xiao Liu was saying and the medicinal herb scent he was wearing enveloped Xiao Liu who wanted to back up but Jing grabbed his hand “What do you want?” Xiao Liu lowered his head and stared at his feet before mumbling “I want to ask you, under any circumstances, to never hurt Xuan.”
Jing softly sighed as if he was disappointed yet also happy “Fine.”
Xiao Liu raised his head in shock “You agree?”
Jing nodded “I promised to listen to whatever you want.”
Xiao Liu thought now that assassinating Xuan must be the sole idea of Fang Feng Yi Yang. Jing appeared to know nothing about what Fang Feng Yi Yang was up to. She did something so big and never told him?
Xiao Liu wanted to say something to warn Jing, but Fang Feng Yi Yang was Jing’s fiancee. To speak about her behind her back in front of Jing was a very dastardly thing to do. Xiao Liu didn’t care to do that so swallowed his words.
Xiao Liu tried to pull his hand back but Jing wouldn’t let go.
Jing Ye walked over and saw Jing holding Xiao Liu’s hand. Her knees almost buckled and she almost dropped the box she was carrying. She composed herself and handed the box to Xiao Liu “There are two sets of ice crystal wind chimes in here. The crystals have been processed so the cold has been greatly diminished. Not sure if the Master needs it for something so I also put inside two pieces of raw ice crystals. If one does not have enough spiritual power, don’t handle it otherwise your fingers will freeze off.”
Xiao Liu pulled free from Jing’s hand and took the box “Thank you.” Jing Ye looked annoyed and glared at Xiao Liu as if saying “scram, stop bothering my lord!”
Xiao Liu smiled and pinched her cheek “My beauty, don’t be angry, I’m leaving now.” Jing Ye touched her cheek and stared in shock at Xiao Liu. Jing merely smiled at Xiao Liu. Jing Ye felt so insulted “My lord, he….he touched me!”
Xiao Liu grabbed Jing Ye’s hand “Take me the short cut way out the back door.” Jing Ye turned to ask Jing to save her but Jing said “His orders are my orders, do it.” Jing Ye’s eyes were red-rimmed but she didn’t dare disobey. She took Xiao Liu through the short cut and out the residence.
When Xiao Liu got back to the wine shop, Wu Cheng had everyone all packed up and was ready to leave. Xiao Liu handed over the box and had Wu Cheng put two ice crystals in Xuan’s wound. The area around the wound started to turn white and then there appeared to be a layer of ice on it, freezing the arteries and veins to slow the blood flow down.
Wu Cheng’s face lit up “It worked!”
Xiao Liu gave Wu Cheng the remaining ice crystals and Wu Cheng didn’t have a minute to waste and immediately had Xuan carried onto the cloud carriage. Ah Nian and Hai Tang also got on another cloud carriage.
Ah Nian ordered “Depart!”
Xuan called out “Wait! Xiao Liu, come here. I have something to say to you!”
Xiao Liu walked over and Xuan said “This parting, I will likely not be returning.”
Xiao Liu said “Too many people want to kill you here, you shouldn’t come back.”
Xuan continued “You promised me that when I was leaving Qing Shui Town you would remove the bug……so come with me. With your smarts and talent, you will be of great success anywhere.” Xuan might not have told Xiao Liu his real identity, but when Xiao Liu suggested going to Yang Valley for the sun water and Wu Cheng did not indicate any hardship with making that happen, then Xiao Liu ought to know that Xuan’s identity was not someone ordinary. He wasn’t even merely lofty like the son of a noble family either. His invitation wasn’t just to remove the bug, he wanted to give Xiao Liu what a man ought to aim for to achieve with his life.
“I want to stay in Qing Shiu Town and be a little doctor.” Xiao Liu stepped back and carefully said “You are injured so I can’t do what I promised yet, but don’t worry, when you are healed I will write down how to get rid of the voodoo bug and give it to you. You have lots of talent around you, someone will be able to help you remove it.”
Xuan might be hard to sweet talk, but twice Xiao Liu saved his life so he decided to let this one go for now. He sighed “Everyone has their own goals. I won’t force you. You take care!”
Xiao Liu bowed “We both take care!”
Wu Cheng closed the cloud carriage door and the servants got on their winged rides pulling the cloud carriage and it rose into the air headed due South.
Xiao Liu raised his head and watched as the cloud carriage rose higher and higher until it became a black dot and disappeared into the clouds. He silently made a wish in his heart “Gege, I wish that you will achieve everything you want!”
After the wine shop had been closed for many days did the people in town hear that Xuan had left. Both people in town were used to people coming and going so didn’t feel much of it. Sometimes men would miss Xuan’s wine or lament not being able to see the beautiful Hai Tang. But to Xiao Liu, Xuan’s departure made his life a whole lot easier. At least Xiang Liu wasn’t keeping an eye on him, and before long the bustling Qing Shui Town resumed its normal routine.
A month later the wine shop reopened for business but it wasn’t as busy as before. When Xiao Liu passed by he would go buy some wine but he would never see Xuan with his fake warm smile behind the counter.
One night, Xiang Liu vaulted off the condor to find Xiao Liu sitting cross-legged on the grass, his two arms resting on his thighs, his body hunched forward, staring dejectedly at the river.
Xiang Liu asked “What you are thinking?”
“How to remove that voodoo bug. Xuan’s follower came by once to ask.” With Xuan’s real identity, that bug might not hurt him, but it was more likely one day it’ll kill Xiao Liu since so many people wanted to kill Xuan. Xiao Liu also didn’t want people to use him anymore against Xuan so was genuinely racking his brains for how to remove it.
Xiang Liu said “I told you, find another person and plant the bug there.”
‘”Who would be willing? Maybe one of Xuan’s men?”
Xiang Liu very casually said “It can’t be just any person.”
“You raised the bug, you don’t know?”
“I…..I don’t know.” Xiao Liu confessed.
“Where did you get the bug?”
“Many years ago, I met an old lady from the Jiu Li tribe. You know that the legendary most fearless, vicious, cruel demon of all time Qi Yo was from the Jiu Li tribe. After he was killed by the Yellow Emperor, the entire Jiu Li tribe was demoted to slave status. The men and women were born into slavery. That old woman was a slave that no one wanted anymore. She was smelly and dirty, laying close to death in a pile of dirt. I found her very pitiful so I asked her what her final wish was before she died. She asked for a bath so she could go see her lover clean and pretty. I took her to the river and helped her bath, then brushed her hair into the hairstyle of a Jiu Li woman. She gave me a blackened shriveled walnut, saying that she had nothing on her except this pair of voodoo bugs. She gave it to me as thanks. She told me to leave and then she died. Her body immediately attracted a lot of insects and was immediately devoured clean. Later on, when I didn’t know how to deal with you, I suddenly remembered this walnut I carried with me for a long time. I used it to raise the two voodoo bugs according to the magic of Jiu Li. I fed it pieces of my own flesh and blood, then one bug chose me, and then other was meant for you but instead I planted it in Xuan.”
“How did you learn how to raise a voodoo bug?”
Xiao Liu’s eyes twirled “That old woman told me!” Xiang Liu coldly laughed “You’re full of shit. If she told you how to raise the bugs, how could she not have told you what the name of this particular voodoo bug was?”
Xiao Liu knew what he said was contradictory so just went with it “Why do you care how I know how to raise voodoo bugs. I just do.”
Xiang Liu said “The pair of voodoo bugs you have is very rare. If you want to remove it, the only way is to find another person and lure the bug into that person.”
“What are the requirements for that person?”
Xiang Liu said nothing, and after a moment, he stiffly barked “I don’t know!”
Xiao Liu didn’t believe him, yet he didn’t know why Xiang Liu wouldn’t come out and tell him. So he tried asking “Do you fit the requirement?”
Xiang Liu didn’t answer so Xiao Liu asked more “You are a nine-headed demon. Luring a voodoo bug into you, that can’t be a problem, right?”
Xiang Liu didn’t deny it so Xiao Liu took that as a tacit confirmation. Xiao Liu got all excited “You said with your nine-heads, even if my body hurt then it wouldn’t hurt you much, right? So can I lure the bug over into your body?”
Xiang Liu stood there with his hands behind his back, staring at the moon, saying nothing. After a few moments he said “I can help you lure the bug into me, but you have to promise that in the future you will do one thing for me. If I ask, you will do it.”
Xiao Liu thought about it “Other than killing Xuan.”
“I also can’t kill Tu Shan Jing.”
“You can’t ask me to kill the Yellow Emperor or the Grand Emperor.”
Xiang Liu said incredulously “My nine-heads would need to flooded with water for me to think you can kill the Yellow Emperor or the Grand Emperor.”
Xiao Liu wasn’t mad but asked again “The answer is…..”
Xiao Liu yelled “Then it’s a deal!”
Xiang Liu raised his palm and Xiao Liu clapped it to strike the deal “I promise that if Xiang Liu helps me remove the voodoo bug from Xuan, I agree to do one thing he asks of me.”
Xiang Liu coldly asked “What happens if you break the promise?’
Xiao Liu thought “The Heavens strike me into pieces. With your personality that won’t be enough. What do you think should happen to me?”
“If you break the promise, whatever you love will turn into pain, whatever you enjoy will turn into bitterness.”
Xiao Liu felt goosebumps run down his spine “You’re sure vicious!” He raised his palm to swear the promise “If I break this promise, then whatever I love will bring me pain, whatever I enjoy will turn bitter.” He put down his hand and thumped his chest “Don’t worry, I’ll do it.”
Xiang Liu had a slight smile on his lips “What do I have to worry about? If you can’t do it, you’re the one suffering.”
Xiao Liu asked “Then tell me now, how to remove the bug?”
“I don’t know! Don’t you know how to lure the bug into a person?”
Xiao Liu closed his eyes and his lips started speaking wordlessly as if reciting a chant. After some time “There is a way, but you and Xuan must be within a certain vicinity of each other before I can start the spell. Right now it’s too far.”
Using this method, they had to make a visit to Gao Xing Kingdom’s royal capital Five Gods Mountain. But Xiang Liu’s identity, he’s not someone who could ever just saunter into Five Gods Mountain.
Xiao Liu was fretting and begged “You promised me.” Xiang Liu summoned Furball and vaulted on “Get up here!” Xiao Liu was ecstatic and climbed on the back of the condor. Furball took them South and after flying for a night and some hours they were close to Gao Xing’s Five Gods Mountain.
Xiang Liu knew the security was tight at Five Gods Mountain. Even with his power it was still impossible to remain undetected. He gave up riding Furball and dived into the ocean with Xiao Liu.
The ocean was like Xiang Liu’s home and he swam like a shark rocketing straight ahead through the waves. Xiao Liu tried to keep up but couldn’t. Xiang Liu swam back “At your speed we can’t get there even in three days and three nights.” Xiao Liu grumbled “Even if I’m the best swimmer I’m still a land lubber. You were a nine-headed demon born in the ocean, how can I compare to you.”
Xiang Liu said “This is where the Grand Emperor lives so we can only reach it via the ocean to remain undetected.”
Xiang Liu said with resignation “Get on my back, I’ll carry you.” Xiao Liu bit down on his lip to keep from laughing. That would mean he was treating Xiang Liu like his personal ride. Xiang Liu appeared to read his mind and glared “Back to Qing Shui Town.” He turned and swam North.
Xiao Liu immediately grabbed him tightly around the waist “I promise to stop thinking nonsense.”
Both of their bodies were rigid, and then Xiang Liu slowly turned around and Xiao Liu quickly let go. Xiang Liu glanced at him “Want to go or not?”
“Go. Go!” Xiao Liu climbed on Xiang Liu’s back and grabbed him around the shoulder. Xiang Liu said “The speed will be fast. Hold on tight!”
Xiao Liu clasped his two hands tightly together, but Xiang Liu appeared worried that Xiao Liu wouldn’t be able to hold on so each of his hands grabbed Xiao Liu’s wrist and then he was off like a shooting arrow.
Xiang Liu was like the son of the sea, riding the waves more fluid than a dolphin, more powerful than a shark, more elegant than a mermaid. Xiao Liu never felt his body this light before, it was like riding through the clouds and just as thrilling. Xiao Liu couldn’t open his eyes so could only use his ears to hear the thunderous booming. Many times he was almost swept away by the waves but thankfully Xiang Liu was tightly holding onto his wrist so he could always still hold on.
In the end Xiao Liu didn’t even bother to think and used his hands and feet to tightly cling onto Xiang Liu so he wasn’t washed away by his speed. After some time, Xiang Liu slowed down and Xiao Liu opened his eyes. He saw that they were in a tight cluster of fish on brightly colored hues, swimming around like colored ribbons waving in the wind. Xiao Liu reached out and they weren’t scared and swam through his fingers.
Xiang Liu’s voice was in Xiao Liu’s ear “We’re at Five Gods Mountain. It ought to be close to where Zhuan Xu is. You can try calling the bug into my body.”
Xiao Liu felt the fish pulling his lower body along so he could move with ease. He took out a blackened walnut and bit his own middle finger. He smeared the blood on the walnut and then handed it to Xiang Liu and indicated he do the same. Xiang Liu pierced his middle finger and smeared blood on the other half of the walnut and handed it back to Xiao Liu.
Xiao Liu indicated for Xiang Liu to raise the hand that was bloody and point it towards Five Gods Mountain. Xiao Liu said “You relax, and if possible, feel genuine happiness to welcome the bug to your body.”
Xiao Liu tightly clasped the walnut to his chest and started chanting, summoning the bug in his own body. After some time, Xiao Liu felt his own heart start to beat wildly, and incredibly he felt another heart beating as well. The two hearts were like friends who had not seen each other in a long time, beating wildly in joy to be together. Xiao Liu reached out his hand and pressed it on Xiang Liu’s chest, and it was indeed the sound of Xiang Liu’s heart.
Xiao Liu couldn’t believe it “The bug is planted into your body? That fast?”
Xiang Liu rolled his eyes at Xiao Liu “Someone like you dared to control a bug? A truly powerful voodoo master could summon a bug tens of thousands of miles away to kill someone. Do you think all bugs are like you, slow poke like ambling across mountains and ridges?”
“Eh” Xiao Liu felt something strange in his palm. He opened it to find the walnut glowing and then gradually melting into splashes of color. It was like little fireflies dancing around Xiao Liu and Xiang Liu. Half of each went into Xiao Liu and Xiang Liu’s palms and disappeared.
Xiao Liu couldn’t believe it and shook his hands a few times but it really just disappeared.
Xiao Liu’s expression grew dark and he said to Xiang Liu “I have a bad feeling about this. This bug is sooooo strange. It’s not as simple as I thought it was.”
But then Xiao Liu didn’t feel anything weird in his body so asked Xiang Liu “How do you feel?”
Xiang Liu was very calm and looked upward “I feel like we need to run away now.” The bug summoning could not be done under concealment so it had alerted the guards in Five Gods Mountain. Xiang Liu grabbed Xiao Liu and sank into the ocean and started swimming away from Five Gods Mountain.
All the fishes in the ocean came to help and created a maze to block and distract the Gao Xing soldiers and lead them astray. Xiang Liu held Xiao Liu’s hand and swam in the silent eerie bottom of the ocean. Every time Xiao Liu ran out of oxygen, Xiang Liu would pass a breath of air to him.
The bottom of the ocean was more colorful than on land, with fishes of any shape and color and lots of strange creatures. Xiao Liu stared at everything with wonder and Xiang Liu did not rush him along. The Gods loved to use pearls and jellyfish to make lamps so Xiao Liu saw many of those in the palace but it was the first time she saw a living jellyfish. It’s body was clear and it was fluid, like a natural lantern. It would be an insult to it not to make it into a lamp.
A huge sea conch with brilliant hued shell, Xiao Liu tapped it wondering what its meat tasted like and Xiang Liu said “It’s not tasty.”
There was actually grass growing in the ocean, tall and so green it looked black, billowing in the waves without end. Xiang Liu took Xiao Liu walking through the ocean grass plains and he saw a pair of seahorses laying on the plains.
There was all sorts of flowers growing in the ocean as well and it was like a rainbow so bright. He tried to touch one only to have it spring teeth and try to bite back. So the flowers were predators, too, and Xiao Liu glared at Xiang Liu for not warning him. Xiang Liu smirked and then picked up Xiao Liu’s hand and then held it to touch the “flowers” again. This time the flowers were shivering with fear and Xiao Liu laughed before kicking those “flowers” a few times for good measure.
Xiao Liu knew they were being chased by Gao Xing soldiers but never felt in danger. Because Xiang Liu was so calm that it didn’t feel like they were on the run, it felt rather like Xiang Liu was taking him on a stroll through the ocean. They swam for so long underwater but Xiao Liu was really happy and the time didn’t feel long. It wasn’t until they were completely free of the chasing Gao Xing soldiers that Xiang Liu took Xiao Liu up to the surface.
The gold crowned white condor Furball flew over and Xiang Liu carried Xiao Liu and vaulted on its back. They rode the condor back to Qing Shui Town and Xiao Liu felt hungry and tired. He tightly grabbed onto Furball’s neck and said to Xiang Liu “I’m going to take a nap.”
Xiao Liu promptly fell fast asleep.
Xiang Liu sat on the back of the condor and looked out over the vast cloud sea, his face as calm as a placid water surface without any joy or sorrow. After a long time, he looked down at Xiao Liu in blissful slumber and his hand slowly pressed on his own heart. A smile appeared on the corner of his lips before it swiftly passed.