This is the chapter everyone has been waiting for up till now. And no, I don’t mean Xiao Yao gets to make out with the hottie dudes who clearly love her. That may or may not come later, but in chapter 12 of Lost You Forever, Xiao Yao finally gets her real face back and we all get our first glimpse of our darling leading lady being actually, well, a lady. My guess is any drama adaptation of LYF will have the actress playing Xiao Yao also play Xiao Liu in drag and just expect that the audience will take it with a grain of salt anyone thinks she looks like a real man. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, but I for one am thrilled to finally meet Xiao Yao. She does change once she returns to being a girl since she can’t get away with all the crass things she does as a guy, but deep down inside she’s still the whatever goes hilarious person we’ve all grown to love. Her return to being a Princess isn’t without its bumps and bruises, and being a Princess again means dealing first and foremost with Ah Nian. I do like that brat, and so does Xiao Yao, but Ah Nian’s gotta grow up sometime and if she doesn’t get over her insecurity and entitlement complex then she really doesn’t deserve to be adored by everyone in her life. The last chapter was an interesting detour to Little Zhu Rong’s Autumn Tournament and the introduction of new characters, but the action moves back to Gao Xing and we also take a trip to Jade Mountain. The famous Jade Mountain is a holy place that contains all the mysticism and spiritual magic that the Gods are imbued with. It is guarded by the Royal Mother, a position much like the Pope and is passed on when one Royal Mother dies and another is chosen to take her place and guard the holy lands with all its mystical powers and enchantments. Like the Vatican, it’s an austere place that no child could possible enjoy, much less one as headstrong and rambunctious as Xiao Yao, so it’s no wonder she ran away. But it’s back to Jade Mountain she goes to start her life again right and proper.
Chapter 12 – A Beauty, At the Edge of the Water:
Today Little Zhu Rong organized a banquet to reward all the victors. Ru So got dressed bright and early and left with his servants. Xiao Liu lazed in bed but was dragged up by Zhuan Xu and Ah Nian to go and check out the festivities.
Zhuan Xu said to Xiao Liu “The last day is actually the most fun at the Autumn Tournament. Before people are nervous before the matches but now the tournament is over and tomorrow everyone is headed home so this is the best time to drink and carouse.”
Arriving at the edge of Chi Sui river, Xiao Liu confirmed Zhuan Xu was right. The river’s edge was blanketed by a lush growth of green grass and the entire length was set up as a banquet. A lamb was roasting, jugs of wine were being drank, people were already drunk and it wasn’t even afternoon yet. Some were diving into the river, others singing, folks were wresting, gambling was off to the side, and a crowd of people were circled together dancing to song.
The step dance was a celebration of the harvest, for farmers to gather and sing praise to the bounty accompanied by clapping and rhythmic stepping. Xiao Liu and Zhuan Xu walked over with Ah Nian in tow and was surprised to see Sheng Nong Xing Yue leading the girls dancing in the center. She had her hair in two braids wearing a narrow sleeved robe and was dancing hand in hand with other girls.
When Xing Yue saw Zhuan Xu, her eyes twinkled and she flashed him a challenging stare. Someone pushed Zhuan Xu into the dancing group of men, and unlike other noble scions he spent years living with commoners so he knew how to step dance. Zhuan Xu smiled and naturally danced and sang to the music, his voice and form strong and elegant.
Whether it was being pushed by others or the two of them were interested in each other, Zhuan Xu and Xing Yue gradually started dancing across from each other and became the center of the circle.
Xiao Liu was getting into watching it when Ah Nian stormed off and she rushed after her. Ah Nian rushed to the river’s edge “Shameless! She’s so shameless!”
Xiao Liu said “Sheng Nong tribe may be royalty in the Middle Plains, but now they are all part of the Xuan Yuan Kingdom. The Xuan Yuan tradition is to be passionate and wild, and Xing Yue grew up in Xuan Yuan Castle for many years where men and women step dancing together is very common.”
Ah Nian turned around abruptly and was about to say something when Zhuan Xu ran over. Ah Nian’s anger faded a bit “Gege seemed to be having a lot of fun. Why stop now?”
Zhuan Xu smiled easily “No matter how fun, nothing is more important than my little sister’s safety.”
Ah Nian smiled while Zhuan Xu admonished Xiao Liu “There are a lot of people here, don’t run off.”
Xiao Liu nodded – she and Ah Nian were definitely the least safe combo. Ah Nian was a trouble magnet and Xiao Liu had zero faith she could protect both of them.
They three went to buy roasted venison and was in the middle of eating when Xing Yue brought a young man over. He looked a lot like her, but the similar features were different enough to lend a very different impression. Xing Yue was spirited and saucy, the young man was reserved and mature. Zhuan Xu smiled and said to Xiao Liu and Ah Nian “This is Chi Sui Feng Long, Xing Yue’s twin older brother.”
Ah Nian realized his powerful background so smiled and curtsied politely. Chi Sui Feng Long noticed her perfect manners and knew she didn’t grow up in an ordinary family so was equally polite back.
Xiao Liu had a mouth stuffed full of venison and was grabbing more with her oily hands so waved casually, leaving both Ah Nian and Xing Yue to glare at her. One blamed her for not giving Zhuan Xu gege face, the other for not being polite to her Feng Long gege.
Feng Long said to Zhuan Xu “Do you guys know Tu Shan Jing?”
Zhuan Xu breezily said “Of course we’ve heard the famous name of the Young Master of Qing Qiu.”
Feng Long explained “My grandfather sent me to study with Jing at Qing Qiu so we learned together and are good friends. Jing can be considered both my master and my bosom buddy.”
Xiao Liu now connected that the man she saw on the boat with Jing a few days ago must’ve been Feng Long.
Xing Yue added “Yi Yang is also my good friend. Before she got engaged, I traveled with her even. Jing gege and Yi Yang jiejie are good friends to both my Gege and me. So much has happened these past years so it’s really precious that they have reunited. We want to throw a party to celebrate for them.”
Feng Long explained “Not just to celebrate only, I also wanted to express how happy I am to see Jing again.” Xing Yue explained “Tonight our dad Little Zhu Rong is throwing a huge farewell banquet while we two are having a party for Jing and Yi Yang on our ship.”
Feng Long said “We are inviting our close friends only and Yi Yang suggested extending the invitation to you guys. We would be very happy if you can join us, and our friends would like meeting you all.”
Xiao Liu looked at Feng Long and could see the invitation was clearly Feng Long indicating he wanted to bring Zhuan Xu into the group. Looks like Zhuan Xu didn’t waste his recuperating stay at the Chi Sui residence.
Zhuan Xu understood as well “Thank you and we would be delighted.” Feng Long and Xing Yue took their leave to prepare for the party. Zhuan Xu and Ah Nian bid them farewell, and Feng Long glanced back at Ah Nian again before leaving with his sister.
Ah Nian sat down and glared at Xiao Liu “Look at you! It’s like you’ve never eaten venison before in your life.”
Xiao Liu said to Zhuan Xu “You guys go, I’m going back to sleep.”
Zhuan Xu cut a piece of meat and said very casually “I would rather that you go and see for yourself.”
Xiao Liu laughed and stole the cut piece from him and shoved it in her mouth “I am fully aware. Don’t worry, nothing will happen that you are worried about.”
Ah Nian looked at Xiao Liu and then Zhuan Xu “What are you two talking about?”
Zhuan Xu said to Ah Nian “We’re talking about how all men are glib-tongued flirts and not to get tricked by them.”
Ah Nian rolled her eyes and then asked Zhuan Xu “Does that include you?”
Zhuan Xu smiled “Me too!”
Zhuan Xu pulled Xiao Liu up “Let’s go over there to see.”
When the sun was setting, Zhuan Xu had to take Ah Nian to the party and wanted to find Ru So to escort Xiao Liu back but she said in annoyance “Do you think I’m a hothouse flower? I need to be carried everywhere? Without Ah Nian around I can go anywhere so you guys be off and I’ll make my way back.”
Zhuan Xu rapped her on the head “Don’t go back too late.”
It got rowdier and rowdier the later it got and Xiao Liu drank and made merry with the crowds. But she felt like she was wearing a mask, the exterior being happy while the interior watched dispassionately. But there was no one around her so who was she acting for?
Xiao Liu laughed – it’s really quite hard to fool oneself.
Fireworks suddenly hit up over the Chi Sui river and Xiao Liu squeezed to the edge to watch. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple……all sorts of colors were rising from the sky from a ship. It illuminated two people standing at the bow of the ship very clearly. The man was wearing a blue robe, standing still and calm, like a bamboo in a forest. The woman was tall and wearing a red robe and appeared to be drunk. She looked up at the fireworks and teetered a few steps and almost tripped. The man reached out to stead her and she curled into his body like a beautiful vine flower.
The ship gradually moved off into the distance along with the fireworks so the spectators all dispersed. Xiao Liu remained at the river’s edge staring at the darkened river. It was strange, Yi Yang was not the most beautiful woman Xiao Liu had ever seen, but under the fireworks and the way she almost fell and then leaned into Jing, there was a woman’s elegance and beauty that struck Xiao Liu deeply. It made Xiao Liu, who had been living as a man for two hundred years, feel ashamed and envious.
It was deep into the night when Xiao Liu returned to the residence. When she walked in, Zhuan Xu was sitting under a lamp light reading a book and waiting for her. He patted the seat next to him “Where did you go?”
Xiao Liu smiled “I suddenly want to find a beautiful skirt to wear.”
Zhuan Xu said “Our grandmother is the most revered seamstress goddess in the entire world. All the most talented seamstresses and artisans have come from her disciples. I’ll have people make you countless beautiful skirts.”
Xiao Liu softly said “But I’m afraid that I won’t be used to it since it’s been so long since I wore a skirt.”
Zhuan Xu stared “What are you scared of?”
“I’m afraid of disappointing you guys. And with your disappointment in me, I’ll be disappointed in you.”
“Who are the you guys? Me and Master? We will never be disappointed in you. If it includes other men….Xiao Liu…..” Zhuan Xu’s hand was on Xiao Liu’s shoulder “Don’t give yourself hope, then you won’t be disappointed.”
Xiao Liu burst out laughing “I thought you have a better tactic up your sleeve.”
Zhuan Xu patted her “Stop over thinking it, get a good rest and when we get back to Gao Xing, Master has a surprise for you.”
Xiao Liu nodded.
Zhuan Xu walked out of her room and lightly closed the door.
The next day as they were departing for Gao Xing, Xing Yue and Feng Long surprisingly came to send them off, a clear sign of how their group had accepted Zhuan Xu. Ah Nian was happy and annoyed but Xiao Liu was just happy. No matter what, Zhuan Xu accomplished what he set out to do when he came to the Autumn Tournament.
Before the ship departed, a servant rushed up and bowed to Zhuan Xu before handing over a big basket “My lord bade me to give this as a parting gift for your journey home. If you visit Qing Qiu in the future, please contact the Tu Shan clan.”
Zhuan Xu accepted the gift “Please thank your master for me.”
Feng Long laughed “It’s a surprise to see you hit it off with Jing. That’s great!”
The two men bid farewell and the ship slowly pulled away from the dock. Gradually land became further and further away, but Xing Yue remained standing by the dock.
Ah Nian scrunched up her nose and humphed before turning to Zhuan Xu “That Young Master of Qing Qiu seems rather aloof but he’s really warm to Gege. Last night when some other rich sons were purposely being rude to Gege, both Feng Long and Jing helped Gege.” Ah Nian understood that in such a setting, if one made a wrong first impression then it would be very difficult later to be accepted into the group.
Zhuan Xu couldn’t see the dock anymore and then turned to look for Xiao Liu who had already found a place under the sun and away from the wind to rest. Zhuan Xu pulled Ah Nian over to sit down and Ah Nian pulled the hat off Xiao Liu “You really are whatever no matter where you are.”
Zhuan Xu opened the large basket sent by Jing and inside was all sorts of snacks and four jugs of wine. Ah Nian laughed “This appears to be perfectly tailored for Xiao Liu that lazy cat.”
Xiao Liu lazily propped herself up “Give me a duck neck.”
Zhuan Xu put the plate of duck neck where Xiao Liu could reach it and she grabbed one and munched. It tasted just like the flavor in Qing Shui Town, exactly the way Lao Mu made it. Xiao Liu picked up a jug of wine and tried it to discover it was her favorite plum wine from before. Xiao Liu sighed, unsure of whether her sigh was meant for herself or for Jing.
The trip home was very enjoyable, sleeping soundly at night, snacking during the day and playing dice and sunning under the sky. In what felt like no time at all, they were back at Five Gods Mountain.
Ru So took everyone to report to the Grand Emperor but Ah Nian went to see her mom. Zhuan Xu and Xiao Liu went back to Hua Yin Court.
It was already quite cool in the Middle Plains but here in Gao Xing it was still warm as to be muggy. After Zhuan Xu and Xiao Liu washed up, they changed into cool Summer robes and sat in the courtyard catching a breeze. Xiao Liu laid on the pallet and chatted with Zhuan Xu until she fell asleep.
When she woke up, she heard voices talking. She opened her eyes and saw her dad and Zhuan Xu, and then two other people as well. She quickly sat up and saw that the two others were strangers. One was a young man wearing all black, very handsome with a pair of beautiful fox eyes that ought to have been rather seductive but on him looked very refined. The other was a young man all in white who wasn’t fully adult yet in height, his features delicate with a pair of green eyes that were filled with anger.
Xiao Liu’s heart was thundering and she was too scared to say anything. She nervously looked towards the Grand Emperor.
Before the Grand Emperor could say anything, the white robed young man transformed into a white swallow and rushed towards Xiao Liu, viciously pecking her on the head. She clutched her head and tried to run and ended up running into the Grand Emperor’s arms “Daddy, save me.”
The Grand Emperor stopped the swallow and said “Lie Yang, that’s enough.”
Lie Yang stopped and flew to the shoulder of the man in black who looked at Xiao Liu with tears in his eyes. Xiao Liu leaned on the Grand Emperor and asked “Are you Ah Bi?”
The man nodded and transformed into his original form that was a winged fox. Xiao Liu knew the demons who achieved human form were very reluctant to transform into their true form in front of people. But Ah Bi willingly transformed back to his true form so that Xiao Liu wouldn’t feel distant.
Xiao Liu kneeled down wrapped her arms around Ah Bi’s neck “Sorry I worried you guys.”
Ah Bi said “We’re the ones who didn’t take good care of you. All that matters is that you’re back safe and sound.” Ah Bi’s voice was famous within the fox clans for being so melodious because it was low with a soothing timbre.
Xiao Liu remembered that he was now a man so felt embarrassed and let Ah Bi go.
Ah Bi and Lie Yang both felt a twinge of deep sorrow – Xiao Yao was the extension of Ah Heng’s life, but she was still not her mother.
Ah Bi said to Xiao Liu “The Grand Emperor told the Royal Mother about your situation. You have a magical spiritual object called the Face Forming Flower in your body. That is an object that was created through tens of thousands of years of power accumulated in the peach blossom forest of Jade Mountain. It allows a person to forever be beautiful, but it can also be used for transformation.”
Xiao Liu quickly asked “Can the Royal Mother remove the Face Forming Flower for me?”
Ah Bi shook his head “She cannot remove it but she can help you find your true face.”
Xiao Liu sucked in her breath for a moment and then turned and burst into tears in her dad’s shoulder. After a few moments she wiped her tears away and turned to Ah Bi “Are we headed to Jade Mountain to see the Royal Mother then?”
Xiao Liu said to the Grand Emperor “I want to go immediately.”
He nodded “Let Zhuan Xu go with you. When you come back I will make an official proclamation to the world that the Eldest Princess of Gao Xing has safely returned.”
Xiao Liu nodded.
Ah Bi said “I’ll take you and Lie Yang can take Zhuan Xu.”
Lie Yang’s body grew larger and Zhuan Xu bowed respectfully “If you please” before vaulting on his back. Ah Bi and Lie Yang rose to the sky at the same time and flew towards Jade Mountain.
Arriving at Jade Mountain, Xiao Liu was very nervous but she found it exactly as she left it. She couldn’t help but smile and all her nervousness dissipated. Jade Mountain was remote from the entire world and time appeared to be stopped there. It was covered in miles and miles of peach blossom forests. The dawn and dusk shone brightly to create an enchanting view, but it was the same view day after day, year after year. Even the temperature remained constant in the last thousands and tens of thousands of years.
They walked through the peach blossom corridors quietly because the Royal Mother didn’t like noise. There were few maids and none looked at them strangely, only giving a curtsy before departing, leaving only reverberating silence.
Xiao Liu couldn’t help but want to create noise and said “Gege, do you see? If I could choose again, I would still choose to run away from here. I would rather wander the world alone in conflict rather than living a peaceful life resembling death.”
Zhuan Xu said in a low voice “Don’t talk nonsense.”
The Royal Mother was standing by the edge of the pool with the thousands of miles of peach blossoms behind her and a valley before her. She turned and saw Zhuan Xu and Xiao Liu, and her face was weathered and her eyes filled with desolation as if to cause the entire mountain to wither in one glance.
Zhuan Xu and Xiao Liu walked up to her and Xiao Liu felt her heart ache and knelt down. Zhuan Xu knelt down with her.
The Royal Mother coldly said “You can get up.”
Xiao Liu and Zhuan Xu bowed a few times before getting up.
The Royal Mother grabbed Xiao Liu’s arm and examined her body. She let go and said coolly “If you stay in Jade Mountain, I might be able to help you regain your lost powers. My remaining life span is at most one to two hundred years. If you want, you can be the next Royal Mother and control Jade Mountain.”
Perhaps controlling Jade Mountain was the greatest dream of many people in the vast wilderness, but Xiao Liu knew exactly what being chained to this mountain was like. She didn’t hesitate and said “I would rather remain this way. Knowing what tomorrow will bring but not knowing what next year will bring. Not too exciting, not too boring.”
The Royal Mother merely nodded her head but her expression never changed, as if nothing in the world or time could ever affect her. A peach blossom branch grew her the tip of her finger and she used it to touch Xiao Liu’s forehead. A bright red peach blossom birthmark appeared in the middle of her forehead.
Xiao Liu asked “The Face Forming Flower is a magical object from Jade Mountain, why can’t you take it out?”
The Royal Mother said coldly “There is much in this world I cannot do.”
Xiao Liu asked “Who put this magical object in my body? Wasn’t it you?”
The Royal Mother replied “Who put it in you doesn’t matter. You need only care that I can help you now. Your body may be unique but your powers are weak now so in the future you will need this to keep your face from aging faster than the other goddesses. The Face Forming Flower remaining in your body won’t have any harm.”
Xiao Liu asked “When can I regain my true form?”
The Royal Mother said “Take off your clothes and jump into the pool.”
Xiao Liu glanced at Zhuan Xu who bowed to the Royal Mother before retreating along with Lie Yang and Ah Bi into the dense forest.
Xiao Liu took off her clothes and jumped into the pool naked as if to await a rebirth.
The Royal Mother started chanting as her hands made a seal. The pool started rippling and thousands of peach blossoms flew towards the pool, dancing in the air and creating a giant blanket that covered the entire pool.
Gradually the peach blossom blanket shrank and shrank until finally it became one peach blossom waiting to bloom.
The ripples in the pool ceased and the one peach blossom rose to the surface, its peach petals ringed by verdant green leaves wrapping it snugly. The Royal Mother touched the blossom and it opened to reveal a naked girl curled into a ball like a baby. She was sleeping in the middle, her black hair spread over her dewy white skin, making her seem even more fresh than the just bloomed flower.
The Royal Mother called “Xiao Yao, it’s time to wake up.”
Xiao Yao opened her eyes and slowly sat up. She looked down and wondered if this was herself? She touched her face, is this really me? She leaned over to look at her reflection in the pool but the water was rippling so she couldn’t see.
The Royal Mother waved her hand and a green robe landed on the peach blossom “I remember you loved the colors white and green when you were small.”
Xiao Yao was so dazed she couldn’t speak and could only nod her head.
She hadn’t worn female attire in over a hundred years so Xiao Yao felt so clumsy and took a long time to get dressed. She finished tying the ribbon and then stood up on the peach blossom, looking at the Royal Mother who nodded her head.
Xiao Yao wanted to call Zhuan Xu out but suddenly was so nervous she couldn’t speak. She suddenly remembered her hair wasn’t tied up and reached for it only to also remember she didn’t have a hair pin. She also long forgotten how to do a woman’s hair so she could only let her hair cascade down her back.
The Royal Mother said “You guys can come out now.”
Xiao Yao took a deep breath, both nervous and full of anticipation, her hands shaking slightly.
Zhuan Xu slowly walked out of the peach blossom forest. Initially he didn’t care, no matter what Xiao Yao looked like, she was his Xiao Yao. But waiting in the peach blossom forest for so long, he started to get nervous. He kept his eyes lowered and didn’t dare to look, walking forward and wondering if Xiao Yao looked like Auntie or Master. Until he was at the edge of the pool did he raise his eyes to look ——-
A giant peach blossom rested in the pool and in the middle stood a young girl wearing green. IT was as if someone planted a peach blossom in the middle of a lush green valley, collecting all the perfection of the world in one flower. Black hair like silk fell down her back like a waterfall, a small red peach blossom birthmark in the middle of her forehead, her eyes darting in anxiety like a little deer, afraid to meet anyone’s eyes. She was as exquisite as the morning dew on a peach blossom petal.
This is my Xiao Yao! Zhuan Xu’s heart thundered like the Spring storm passed and he couldn’t say a single word.
Xiao Yao noticed Zhuan Xu was speechless and her heart fell. But then she cheered up, no matter how ugly as least this is the real me! She reached out to him “Gege, help me!”
Her voice was like waking Zhuan Xu up from a dream and he quickly used his power to pull the peach blossom to shore. Xiao Yao came towards him with her hair billowing and her eyes filled with mirth. Zhuan Xu reached out his hand and she grabbed it and vaulted onto land.
Xiao Yao bowed to the Royal Mother “Thank you Royal Mother for returning my true form.”
The Royal Mother said coolly “The Face Forming Flower in your body now only can help you maintain your beauty, it no longer can allow you to transform.”
Xiao Yao laughed “I’ve changed my face enough for a lifetime, I don’t want to change anymore.”
The Royal Mother continued “You mother entrusted you to me but I didn’t do my duty. You are grown now so you can leave Jade Mountain. If Lie Yang and Ah Bi want, they can leave with you. Or if they want, they can stay here.”
The Royal Mother turned and swiftly disappeared into the peach blossom forest.
Xiao Yao walked to Ah Bi and Lie Yang and asked “Are you guys disappointed?”
Ah Bi said nothing but Lie Yang cut to the chase “I thought you would look like Ah Heng.”
Xiao Yao said “I wish that I wouldn’t look like my mom.”
Lie Yang looked at Xiao Yao’s face carefully and sighed inside. Xiao Yao didn’t look the least bit like Ah Heng, but her eyes were just like that big beast. But in her eyes, there was clarity like a baby, but looking deep showed a coldness.
Xiao Yao said “I know you are my mom’s friends and she asked you both to watch over me. But I’m grown now so you don’t need to be held to that promise. Go do what you want to do.”
Ah Bi looked at Xiao Yao and raised his paw. She grabbed it and there were tears in her eyes. In the epic final battle at Yi Province between Xuan Yuan and Sheng Nong, Ah Bi was gravely injured. When the Grand Emperor sent him to Jade Mountain, he was in a coma and looked like a burned shriveled up fox jerky. The Royal Mother used a ten thousand year old peach leaf to wrap him and soaked him in the deepest pool of bone essence. Only after 50 years did Ah Bi wake up. Xiao Yao knew how close both of them were with her mother and she knew they saw her as an extension of her mother’s life. But she wasn’t her mother, and she never ever wanted to be her mother.
Ah Bi said “Lie Yang and I will remain at Jade Mountain. The Royal Mother doesn’t need us but we will keep her company for the remainder of her life.”
Ah Bi shook Xiao Yao’s hand “Xiao Yao, don’t let what other people say confuse you. Your mother was the best person in this entire world.”
Xiao Yao nodded but said nothing. Her mom might be the best person, but she was not a good wife, and she was not a good mother.
Xiao Yao hugged Ah Bi “I’m leaving now.” Xiao Yao looked at Lie Yang and didn’t have the courage to touch him so said “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of myself.”
Lie Yang stared at Zhuan Xu who immediately said “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of little sister.”
Ah Bi reminded Xiao Yao “If anything happens…..you know where to find us, right?”
Xiao Yao nodded “I know.” She added “If the Royal Mother…..send word to me immediately. I want to send her off on the final journey even if she doesn’t need me to.”
Ah Bi smiled “I will.”
Xiao Yao couldn’t hold back and rushed back to hug Ah Bi tightly and kissed his fox cheek, and the swiftly touched Lie Yang’s body before turning and disappearing down the corridor.
Ah Bi stared while Lie Yang shook his feathers if he was unhappy but there was a twinkle in his eye.
The Royal Mother’s winged ride took Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao back to the foot of Jade Mountain. The Grand Emperor seemed to know that Lie Yang and Ah Bi wouldn’t be taking them back so had people waiting for them.
Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao took the cloud carriage back to Five Gods Mountain. During the trip Zhuan Xu stared at Xiao Yao who was in her own world and thinking of gods knows what.
Entering Cheng En Palace, the servant led them directly to Cao Yao Court and Xiao Yao finally seemed to snap out of it by then and she stopped in her tracks “I want to see myself first.”
Zhuan Xu took out a mirror from a bag of medicines given from the maid at Jade Mountain and handed it to her.
Xiao Yao took the mirror but covered it first with her hand “I remember I looked like dad when I was small, but girls can change a lot when they grow so even if I’m not as pretty as Ah Nian I shouldn’t be too ugly.”
Zhuan Xu smiled “You can see for yourself.”
Xiao Yao slowly held the mirror up and the girl in the mirror was very strange to her. Only the peach blossom birthmark was familiar. She touched her lips, and the person in the mirror touche her lips. Xiao Yao confirmed this was her and put the mirror away. She said very apologetically to Zhuan Xu “Not too weird, but I look nothing like my dad.”
Zhuan Xu stared oddly at Xiao Yao but she pushed him ahead “I’ll walk behind you.”
Zhuan Xu walked inside with Xiao Yao hiding behind him with her head lowered.
The Grand Emperor smiled “What you are doing hiding behind Zhuan Xu? Didn’t you holler about getting back your true form, but now you’re back you’re hiding.”
Zhuan Xu wanted to move aside but Xiao Yao grabbed him and pressed her face into his back and murmured “Let me prepare a bit longer.”
Zhuan Xu stood there not moving but felt this shallow breathing in his lower back that caused shivers and tingles on his skin. It made him want to move aside immediately, and also not want to. He had never felt so strangely torn in his entire life.
The Grand Emperor asked “Are you done preparing?”
Xiao Yao mumble “Just a moment more.”
The Grand Emperor walked over and pulled Xiao Yao out from behind Zhuan Xu and stared at her. Xiao Yao slowly raised her head and met his eyes “I don’t look like mom and I don’t look like you. Are you disappointed?”
The Grand Emperor answered “I don’t want you to look like your mom, and I definitely never wished for you to look like me. I just want you to be healthy, and now you’re not just healthy but beautiful. I am content.”
Xiao Yao smiled “In the eyes of all daddies, their daughter is always the prettiest.”
The Grand Emperor looked at her eyes – the exact same eyes, but in that person it conveyed an arrogance that consumed the world, as well as deep passion as hotly burning as a scorching flame. But in Xiao Yao there was only sweet intelligence, and perhaps something more.
Xiao Yao saw the Grand Emperor staring at her and his mind appeared elsewhere so she asked “Dad, what are you thinking of?”
The Grand Emperor smiled “Nothing. I’m just feeling how fast time flies, my daughter is all grown up and I’ve grown old.”
Xiao Yao purposely checked him out and shook her head “I don’t see it.” But she felt a twinge of sadness in her heart. With her father’s power he could easily maintain his youthful visage but his father’s white hairs and wrinkles genuinely conveyed his world weariness.
The Grand Emperor laughed and shook his head.
Zhuan Xu asked “Master, when are you making the official proclamation about Xiao Yao’s identity?”
“I already ordered Ru So to prepare the ceremony.” He looked at Xiao Yao “Later come with me to see Consort Jing An, it’s time to let her and your younger sister know.”
Xiao Yao nodded.
“Don’t worry, I heard from Ru So that you get along well with Ah Nian now.”
Xiao Yao smiled sheepishly “That’s because she thought you were going to marry her to me and I promised her that would never happen.”
Zhuan Xu laughed “And I was wondering why you two were suddenly whispering off to the side all the time.”
The servants came to announce that dinner was prepared at Consort Jing An’s residence so they headed there.
When Xiao Yao walked in and saw the Consort Jing An who looked so much like her mom, she still felt like something was twisting in her heart and it hurt painfully. She lowered her head, took a few deep breaths, and calmed herself down.
Consort Jing An and Ah Nian greeted the Grand Emperor and went to sit down. Ah Nian helped her mom sit down but her gaze remained on Xiao Yao. The Grand Emperor sat down and indicated for Xiao Yao to sit beside him, and then Zhuan Xu sat down beside her.
Ah Nian fumed “Dad, who is she? How can she sit there?”
The Grand Emperor said nothing and signed with Consort Jing An, which is when Xiao Yao realized in shock that Consort Jing An was a mute! That is why she never heard her speak before!
Xiao Yao looked at Zhuan Xu who indicated that she was like this when her dad married her.
The Grand Emperor finished signing and Ah Nian glared at Xiao Yao like a little beast guarding her own nest but with not enough strength to chase the intruder away.
The Grand Emperor said to Xiao Yao “Greet the Consort!”
Xiao Yao stood up to greet the Consort who also stood up and wanted to help Xiao Yao up but then realized it wasn’t proper so quickly pulled her hand back and then just smiled at her. Xiao Yao realized that the Consort was very different than her mom. Under any circumstance, her mom was calm and serene. Xiao Yao smiled back at the Consort and wanted to show her good intentions.
The Consort’s worried gaze faded once she saw and sensed that this girl was good and would not harm her daughter.
The Consort signed to Ah Nian to greet her sister.
Ah Nian stood up and ask incredulously with mockery “You really are the daughter of my dad and that woman?”
Xiao Yao was torn, she hated her mom and would speak poorly of her and her aunt when alone with Zhuan Xu, but she would never allow anyone else to speak in such disrespectful tone of voice about her mom. Years ago the reason for her hatred of the Nine-tailed fox wasn’t just because he tortured her, she cut off his tail one by one after poisoning him because he insulted her mom.
Zhuan Xu felt the exact same way as Xiao Yao. His relatives, only he and Xiao Yao can criticize them but no one else! Zhuan Xu harshly rebuked Ah Nian “Xiao Yao’s mother is my Aunt, she is also the daughter of the Yellow Emperor and Xi Ling Lie Zhu. And she is also the wife that Master married in the most lavish wedding ceremony in Gao Xing history.”
Ah Nian knew Zhuan Xu always sided within and she had touched upon his sore spot and she spoke out of turn. But…..he always stood up for her in the past! Ah Nian stared at Zhuan Xu and her body shook. She pointed at Xiao Yao with her eyes full of tears “She’s your relative so you protect her. What about me? What am I?”
Zhuan Xu said clearly “Master is like my father and I’ve pretty much watch you grow up. Of course you’re my relative as well.”
Ah Nian felt better but had to ask “But me and her, who would you protect more?”
Zhuan Xu said nothing so Ah Nian’s voice changed and she shrieked “Answer me!”
Xiao Yao shot Zhuan Xu a glance indicating for him to quickly placate Ah Nian, one word would end this, but the normally talkative Zhuan xu was silent and said nothing.
Ah Nian cried “Answer me! Between me and her, who would you protect more?”
The Grand Emperor sighed “Don’t be silly, child, how would you answer if I asked you to pick between your mom and dad. Could you answer?”
Ah Nian lowered her head and wiped her tears but said nothing.
Zhuan Xu spoke up “Xiao Yao is Xiao Liu. On the way back to Gao Xing, didn’t you secretly tell me that you think Xiao Liu is pretty great? Now you have a very capable older sister to take care of you, isn’t that nice?”
Ah Nian jerked her head up. Her dad just told her and mom that he found his long lost daughter but never said Xiao Yao was Xiao Liu.
Xiao Yao smiled at Ah Nian who couldn’t connect the beautiful Xiao Yao with the lowlife Xiao Liu. She felt horrible inside and shouted “I don’t want an older sister!” She kicked over her table of food and stormed out. Consort Jing An stood up and looked at the Grand Emperor who indicated for her to follow and she left as well.
Xiao Yao sat down and stared at the mess. Zhuan Xu comforted her “This is all too sudden, she needs some time to process it.”
The Grand Emperor raised his hand and servants came in and silently cleaned the room. The Grand Emperor ordered “Prepare some of the Princess’s favorite foods and send it to her residence.”
The Grand Emperor resumed eating just like normal, as if nothing had just happened. Xiao Yao stared “Dad, how can you eat?”
The Grand Emperor glanced over “Do you know how much happens in one day in national affairs. If this little fuss causes me to lose my appetite, your dad would have starved to death long ago.”
Zhuan Xu also started eating, and Xiao Yao looked around and also joined in. She ate some but felt full and couldn’t eat anymore, whereas the Grand Emperor and Zhuan Xu ate their normal amounts.
After dinner, the Grand Emperor said to Xiao Yao “Let’s go for a walk.”
Xiao Yao and Zhuan Xu walked beside him and instead of heading towards Qi Qing Garden, the Grand Emperor took her on a walk throughout the entire Cheng En Palace. Every court they passed he would ask her whether she liked it. Xiao Yao knew he wanted her to pick a residence and said “I want some place close to Hua Yin Court for now.”
The Grand Emperor said “Ming Se Court is the closest but it’s not good so pick another.”
Xiao Yao grabbed her dad’s arm “Daddy, you’ve been to Jade Mountain right? I stayed there for 70 years, and later stayed in the mountain for 20 some years all alone, and then that evil Nine-tailed fox captured me for 30 years. I’m not scared anything other than being scared of being alone. I want to be closer to Gege.”
The Grand Emperor’s heart softened and agreed “Yes.”
The Grand Emperor continued to stroll with Xiao Yao and by the time they arrived at Ming Se Court, the entire court was lit up in lights and completely cleaned and ready. Even Xiao Yao’s favorite snacks were prepared, and her maids from Hua Yin Court came out and greeted her. The Grand Emperor said to Xiao Yao “Gao Xing’s tradition is white and the royal family attire is all white-based. But you can wear whatever you want in your personal time. I remember you like white and green when you were small so I ordered them to stock more green robes and dresses in your wardrobe.”
Xiao Yao smiled “I still like green.”
The Grand Emperor said to Zhuan Xu “You keep Xiao Yao company, I’m going to check on Ah Nian.”
Zhuan Xu accompanied Xiao Yao and looked around Ming Se Court. It was small but exactly what Xiao Yao wanted.
Zhuan Xu asked Xiao Yao “Anything else missing?”
Xiao Yao nodded “Years of wandering left me with a few habits. I like to eat, delicious food is the most practical thing. I can sleep anywhere, a pallet is a pallet. I know things are hard to take with me so I have very few desire for objects.” Xiao Yao laid down on the soft pallet “These things, I’ll enjoy when I have it, and when I don’t I won’t miss it.”
Zhuan Xu said “You’re not wandering anymore.”
Xiao Yao lazily drawled “It’s hard to change habits formed when one’s growing up.”
Under the lamp light, Xiao Yao’s snow white skin made the red peach blossom on her forehead even more entrancing. Zhuan Xu couldn’t help but touch it gently with his finger “This peach blossom birthmark is so real, like someone shoved a peach blossom right into your forehead.”
Xiao Yao laughed “You said the exact same thing when we were kids. One time you coaxed me not to move and then used your finger to try and pry it out. You made my forehead all red and raw.”
Zhuan Xu also laughed “I remember now! Then you punched me twice in the face and my mouth was all bruised. Then you went to tattle to my mom.”
Xiao Yao started to get sleepy and slowly closed her eyes “Auntie was torn between laughing and crying and smacked you twice. But I heard her secretly saying that she was so mad because you couldn’t even win a fight with a girl…..”
Zhuan Xu wistfully stood up and said to the maid “Help the Princess to wash up and head to bed.”