Xiao Yao is back to being a girl in Lost You Forever, but not just any girl, she’s a Princess with bloodlines that are the most illustrious in the entire vast wilderness. Her grandfather is the Yellow Emperor and her grandmother was Empress Xi Ling Lei Zhu, the powerful daughter of one of the Four Great Clans. Xiao Yao’s mother is Xuan Yuan Ba (aka Xi Ling Heng) the only daughter of the Yellow Emperor and her actions made her the beloved Princess of Xuan Yuan, not to mention she’s got two daddies that divide up the rest of the world. Her birth father is General Qi Yo of the Sheng Nong Kingdom while and her legal father is the Grand Emperor Gao Xing Shao Hao. So marrying Xiao Yao is pretty much like punching a ticket to ruling the world. That doesn’t mean her life is suddenly sacrificed to politics and ambition, she’s way too savvy to stand for that, nor does the people around her see her as a bargaining chip. In fact, because her mother’s life was so utterly sacrificed to kingdom and country, the people who love Xiao Yao don’t want the same fate to befall her. That might even extend to her romance, as her mother’s love was so Romeo and Juliet, and sometimes dying for love isn’t as romantic as it seems.
Xiao Yao is already a pragmatic leading lady and I don’t see her falling crazy in love for any guy, or at least if she does love someone I don’t think she’ll acknowledge it or even pursue it the way her mother did. Her mother’s demon best friends the winged fox Ah Bi and the swallow Lie Yang were both right that Xiao Yao is nothing like Ah Heng, but that only makes Xiao Yao’s life really fascinating because it’s hard to predict how she thinks, feels, or will do. She’s not loyal to anything other than the people she cares about, and that limited scope purpose of her life will be butting up against her birthright that decrees she’s the top prize in a world she lives in. Xiang Liu has been MIA for awhile but he comes back in a pretty major way in this episode, as usual swanning back into Xiao Yao’s world in his devil may care attitude. Jing is a very straightforward guy to like, he wears his heart on his sleeve to Xiao Yao. Zhuan Xu plays the big brother role to perfection but Xiao Yao is so close to him she might not be able to sense his non-platonic feelings even if he hints at it. And Xiang Liu is pretty much the frustrating boyfriend who rarely says when he means simply because he can’t afford to, and in this case, even if he does Xiao Yao is clueless about it.
Chapter 13 – The Peach Blossom Beauty, Blooming in Glory:
The servants in Cheng En Palace all knew Xiao Yao’s identity because when they saw her they called her “Princess” like they did with Ah Nian. None of them acted strange, as if Xiao Yao lived in the Palace her entire life.
Xiao Yao was impressed with her dad, it was easier to control an army than the details within the house. How much power and oversight did he have that Cheng En Palace was efficiently running through and through.
Zhuan Xu was so busy lately that he could only come see Xiao Yao at night. But he would talk to her the entire night until she fell asleep and then he would leave. When Xiao Yao was bored, she often went to Qi Qing Garden to swim. She worried about running into Ah Nian, but Cheng En Palace was so massive that she never felt like a consort and another princess lived here.
When she was swimming, the maids would would fan out and guard the garden for her so that no one would run across the princess. It was quiet all around and swimming made Xiao Yao think of her mom. She used to think she would never think about her mom, but in truth she still missed her a lot and merely forced herself not to think of her. Back in familiar surroundings, this missing her grew stronger and stronger but along with it came pain. With an ounce of missing came an ounce of pain, and with an ounce of pain came an ounce of anger.
Xiao Yao felt that she must be growing lonely again and forced herself to think of other things. Swimming, swimming…..there must be other things in her life connected with swimming…..Xiao Yao suddenly missed Nine-lives Xiang Liu very much. If he was here, likely she would not have any time to think about the past. But Wen Xiao Liu was gone and even if she ran into Xiang Liu in the future, he would not recognize her anymore.
Xiao Yao floated on the surface and sighed deeply.
That night after dinner, Xiao Yao headed towards Hua Yin Court to find Zhuan Xu and ran into Ah Nian.
Ah Nian was already frustrated after days of not seeing Zhuan Xu, so running into Xiao Yao was like pouring gasoline on the fire. She ordered the maids to step aside and walked up to Xiao Yao. “Why are you keeping Zhuan Xu gege all to yourself?”
Xiao Yao tried to explained “I’m not. He’s too busy, I only see him every night for a little bit.”
Ah Nian heard this and realized Xiao Yao saw Zhuan Xu every day and that made her so angry she didn’t know what else to do. She actually shoved Xiao Yao like a little kid fighting.
Xiao Yao’s powers were weak so she fell on the ground. In an utter coincidence, Zhuan Xu came back right at that moment and saw this scene. He rushed over and helped Xiao Yao up while berating “Ah Nian, don’t you know Xiao Yao has almost no powers? Next time you resort to violence, I’ll have to ask Master to punish you.”
Ah Nian’s tears fell and she rushed forward and violently pushed Zhuan Xu while sobbing “What if I want to resort to violence? I did it so tell my daddy to punish me! Best beat me to death, then you’ll be happy since no one wants me anymore…..”
Zhuan Xu didn’t want to harm Ah Nian so didn’t use any power and was therefore shoved backwards by her.
Xiao Yao quickly snuck away. Zhuan Xu’s servant walked past and she told him “I need to talk to my dad tonight so tell Gege he doesn’t need to come see me.”
Xiao Yao snuck into Cao Yao Court and sat beside the Grand Emperor, peering at what he was doing. He smiled at her and kept on working.
After some time, Xiao Yao got bored and stood up, walking around and touching things. The Grand Emperor asked “Have you learned the “Sheng Nong Book of Herbs” left by your mother?”
Xiao Yao pointed to her head “The Royal Mother said that was a bad thing so forced me to memorize it and then destroyed the manual.” The Grand Emperor said “There are lots of medical books on the shelf over there. If you have time then read it. If there is something you don’t understand, you can ask the doctors in the Palace.”
Xiao Yao walked over and flipped open a book, but it wasn’t a medical book like her dad suggested, but a book on how to harm others. Ah Nian’s push today reminded Xiao Yao that she can’t let her guard down!
Father and daughter, one sat on the throne working, the other rested on a pillow reading medical texts. This went on until late into the night when the Grand Emperor escorted Xiao Yao back to her residence before returning to his.
Xiao Yao started researching poisons again. During the day she went to find the palace doctors to discuss and at night she went to hang out with her dad. Everyday she was busy and it made her feel better. The only regret was that there was no one around for her to test her poisons on.
One night Xiao Yao was in Cao Yao Court admiring the latest poison she concocted, feeling very sad that she couldn’t give it to Xiang Liu.
She took out her most precious mirror and pulled up the memory she saved in it. One was when she drew nine heads on Xiang Liu’s face, and the other was after she moved the voodoo bug from Zhuan Xu to Xiang Liu and walked along the ocean floor with him. She secretly used the mirror to record that moment.
In the dark blue ocean depths, Xiang Liu’s white hair white robe was so elegant and refined as he swam, the white hair billowing behind him, making his already handsome face even more ethereally beautiful.
“Who is he?”
The Grand Emperor’s voice asked and Xiao Yao was so surprised, turning around to discover her dad was sitting behind her and looking into the mirror. He was clearly curious about the man in his daughter’s mirror.
Xiao Yao said “A friend who is not quite a friend.”
The Grand Emperor laughed “I thought at this time you would be missing the Tu Shan clan’s little fox.”
Xiao Yao made a face “Perhaps he’s walking with his fiancee under the moonlight, happy as can be. I’m not an idiot, why think of him?”
The Grand Emperor stared at Xiao Yao and her candid honesty.
Xiao Yao knew she likely spoke too baldly and laughed “I will be careful in front of others when I speak and not embarrass you.”
The Grand Emperor sighed “You and your mother…..are nothing alike.” And that person, they were both so passionate people. Yet Xiao Yao was cold-hearted and rational.
Xiao Ya wanted to put the mirror away but the Grand Emperor took it “The are gorilla beasts in the vast wilderness that can see the past but not the future. I’ve only heard the legend of a beast being made into a mirror but never seen it. Where did you get this mirror?”
Xiao Yao pouted and said “That Nine-tailed fox gave it to me so that I could maintain my face after I saved it in the mirror. Having this mirror is what made me not afraid anymore.”
The Grand Emperor said “Being able to keep something of his, that means you really have moved on.”
Xiao Yao shrugged “He’s dead, why do I want to let him continue tormenting me mentally.”
“You live very freely.”
Xiao Yao laughed “Better said that I’m greedy and don’t want to waste a treasure.”
The Grand Emperor’s hand waved over the mirror and called up the image of Xiang Liu under the sea “Does this friend who is not a friend deserve for you to keep him in your memory forever?”
Xiao Yao took the mirror back “This is just for fun, maybe I’ll erase it tomorrow.”
The Grand Emperor laughed and appeared to want to say something, but Xiao Yao stretched and said “So tired!”
He pulled her up “I’ll take you back to rest.”
Back at Ming Se Court, Xiao Yao wanted some water and was about to drink when she sensed and opened the pitcher to find bugs floating inside. She murmured “Ah Nian, why are you so weak? If you can be as strong and smart as that Nine-headed demon Xiang Liu, then my days would be way more interesting.”
The maid making the bed gasped and Xiao Yao walked over to find the entire bed shredded by a knife. She shook her head wearily.
A maid said “Daily torment like this can’t go on, how about we tell His majesty?” So many days and endless situations from snakes in the bathtub to sand in the rice.
The Eldest Princess didn’t seem to care, she would play with the snake while bathing, and keep on eating the rice and crunching through the sand. But the maids were at the end of their rope with the tricks.
Xiao Yao laughed “You guys tell the Emperor. But if Ah Nian finds out, you guys deal with the consequences!”
All the maids grew silent.
Xiao Yao grabbed the least shredded blanket “Let’s all sleep tonight and tomorrow go get some new blankets.”
The last day of Winter, Ru So brought the ceremonial gown for Xiao Yao to wear at the proclamation ceremony. The Grand Emperor summoned Xiao Yao to try it on and get it tailored.
She went to try on the gown with four maids assisting and then walked back to court.
A white long robe with a cinched waist, it made her figure seem lithe and elegant. An outer robe was made out of long gauze with a train stretched long behind her. The outer robe was embroidered with red and black thread into the design of a swallow and peach blossom portrait. When the entire gown was spread out, it appeared that the entire ground was covered with peach blossoms.
Xiao Yao was walking with the long train behind her and was afraid of tripping so she looked straight ahead and walked very very slow. The cinched waist robe was tightly hugging her waist and she could barely breath. It made her back ramrod straight and she cursed how this gown was designed to torture her. She pursed her lips and her annoyance was clearly evident in her eyes.
When she walked into court, Ru So and all the courtiers felt dazzled by the peach blossoms bursting behind Xiao Yao as she walked. With her red peach blossom birthmark on her forehead, she was enchanting but for the coldness in her eyes.
The Grand Emperor looked at Xiao Yao and his heart clenched in a long sigh. Right now Xiao Yao looked so much like that person – whether it was the dazzling colors of the world, the endless delights of the Earth, it was all just yellow soil under the feet.
Xiao Yao steadied herself and put her hands around her hips and asked “Dad, how long do I need to wear this outfit at the ceremony?”
Everyone let out a sigh of relief and Ru So felt that this Princess was so cute. But he was also looking forward to the day of the ceremony when the Princess would wear this gown and walk up the high altar tower, with her hair done and wearing makeup, the effect would be infinitely more stunning than today. It would surely strike shock and awe into the eyes of every guest attending from the entire vast wilderness.
The Grand Emperor shook his head “This outfit is no good, make another one!”
Xiao Yao was so happy she almost jumped with glee except for her waist being so tightly constricted that she couldn’t move.
Ru So was gobsmacked. How could this outfit be no good? He looked around and everyone else was just as perplexed. If anyone had eyes, only Xiao Yao and the Grand Emperor thought this outfit wasn’t good.
Ru So stammered “The ceremony is in fifteen days, an outfit worthy of such an event can’t be made in such a short period of time.”
The Grand Emperor said coolly “That is why I am putting you in charge of it.”
“I shall do my utmost!”
When Ru So was leaving, Xiao Yao ran up to him and patted him on the shoulder before whispering “Make it looser.”
“Princess, don’t worry, the seamstresses will measure you properly to make the outfit.” Ru So moved away from Xiao Yao’s hand, not sure when he was suddenly so chummy with the Princess.
The whole world thought the Grand Emperor brought Xiao Yao back from Jade Mountain. Even someone as smart as Ru So didn’t connect the dots that Xiao Yao was Xiao Liu. She smiled and walked away a bit sadly.
The invitations were dispatched to all the prominent families in the vast wilderness and the world was abuzz with news that the Eldest Princess of Gao Xing who had been missing for nearly three hundred years had finally been found.
The Grand Emperor didn’t like pomp and circumstance, but this time for his daughter he actually sent invitations to every important family. All the families had to consider the Grand Emperor, as well as the Yellow Emperor, and even the Royal Mother, and thus everyone accepted and rushed to Gao Xing.
By the night before the ceremony, the Ying Province in Five Gods Mountain was filled with guests from far and wide. Ying Province was part of Five Gods Mountain but it was actually both ringed by a peak and by the ocean. There was inns, restaurants, stores, everything was there for guests to enjoy and visit. The rest of the vast wilderness was blanketed in deep Winter still, but in Gao Xing it was as warm as Spring with hundreds of flowering blooming. Guests who had never visited Gao Xing before marveled at the sights and could even rent a boat out for an ocean cruise.
Zhuan Xu came to find Xiao Yao bright and early in the morning “Feng Long and Xing Yue have both arrived. I’ll be meeting them in a bit to show them around.”
Xiao Yao asked “As a member of Gao Xing, or as the Xuan Yuan Prince?”
“Of course as the Xuan Yuan Prince. If I tell them now, they will be shocked but won’t feel too misled. If later they discovered my real identity on their own, then that would feel like a real betrayal.”
“You go have fun. I have tons of stuff to do today, and later have to try on my new outfit. If you come back late then no need to come see me. Ru So asked me to sleep early today so tomorrow I’m looking bright eyed and bushy tailed and won’t embarrass Gao Xing in front of the entire world.”
Xiao Yao thought about Ru So and fumed, he was basically torturing her these past few days with his endless requirements. She wondered if he was in Ah Nian’s pocket.
“Isn’t the outfit done already?”
“It was so uncomfortable!”
Zhuan Xu was about to leave when he turned back “The Tu Shan clan, other than Jing, his twin brother Hou is also here. Jing should be with Feng Long and them. I’ll be taking two pairs of twins out sightseeing.”
Xiao Yao wanted to say something but decided not to influence Zhuan Xu’s opinion, and let him meet Tu Shan Hou and form his own impression. Xiao Yao waved her hand indicating Zhuan Xu should hurry off.
Zhuan Xu lamented “When Jing sees you, he’ll regret leaving.”
Xiao Yao didn’t understand what he mean and didn’t have time to figure it out. She rushed to eat breakfast afraid that when Ru So arrived she wouldn’t be able to eat any.
Zhuan Xu found Feng Long and Xing Yue at Jing’s residence, where Yi Yang and Hou were also there. Zhuan Xu glanced at Hou and found him a very athletic handsome man.
Feng Long and Xing Yue were very happy to see Zhuan Xu and Xing Yue said to her brother “See, I told you he would come find us when he heard we came.”
Feng Long laughed “You’re a good friend indeed!”
Zhuan Xu immediately said “I have something to apologize to you all for.”
He explained his real identity and apologized again to Feng Long, Xing Yue, Jing, and Yi Yang “I wasn’t intentionally trying to conceal my identity, but that trip I was with the Gao Xing convoy so it would make things awkward if I revealed who I was.”
Xing Yue was shocked but then her heart jumped for joy, and this secret joy made her cheeks blush red as her heart jumped wildly. She lowered her head and said nothing, appearing like she was angry.
Feng Long didn’t care like Zhuan Xu expected “I knew you and Ah Nian were a little strange. I just never expected you were the Prince. Then Ah Nian is….”
“Gao Xing’s Second Princess.”
Feng Long’s eyebrow raised “Her highness the Princess!” He looked at Jing and Yi Yang “See? I’m a good enough friend, right? For your celebration, I even got the Xuan Yuan Prince and the Gao Xing Princess to attend.”
Zhuan Xu bowed “Can you guys let this one slide then!”
Yi Yang walked up to curtsy “I didn’t know Your highness’ real identity back then and injured Your highness. Will Your highness please forgive.”
Zhuan Xu said “You didn’t know, plus we already put it behind us and are friends, right?”
Feng Long laughed and turned to his sister “Don’t be mad, you conceal your identity when you go out as well to play. It’s not intentional lying, it’s for ease of travel.”
Yi Yang put her arms around Xing Yue “Seeing His highness being so solicitous and regretful, just forgive him.”
Xing Yue raised her head and glanced around before smiling “I’ll punish him by making him take us all out to play. And he pays for everything.”
Zhuan Xu “Of course I’ll be paying.”
Zhuan Xu led the group out to try the local foods of Gao Xing.
The restaurants of Ying Province were all well kept no matter big or small. Because the weather was warm all year round, flowers grew everywhere and the stores like to plant fresh flowers in front. Strolling the streets, there was water flowing and flowers in front of each storefront, the entire place was so delightful to the ladies.
Zhuan Xu led them into a restaurant and sat down. The owner picked up melons and wine being iced in the flower stream outside and put it on the table for them.
Zhuan Xu explained “The people in the Middle Plains like to drink wine as is or warmed, but in Gao Xing the wine is drunk ice cold. This wine is made from the fruit in the mountains, try it.”
Xing Yue took a sip and marveled “It’s so delicious.”
Yi Yang drank a cup and looked out the window and sighed “If one can put everyone aside and live in a place like this with a loved one for the rest of one’s life, it would be worth it.”
Xing Yue laughed “Jing gege, did you hear that?”
Jing’s body was stiff and he kept his eyes lowered and said nothing. It was instead Tu Shan Hou who looked at Yi Yang and then gulped his wine down.
The entire restaurant was filled with people discussing the return of the Gao Xing Eldest Princess, from her mysterious disappearance to her mysterious return. What made everyone marvel the most was her background – the daughter of the Grand Emperor, the granddaughter of the Yellow Emperor, the disciple of the Royal Mother.
Someone sighed wistfully “To marry her is to vault to the top in one step.”
Another snarked “Maybe she’s hideously ugly, even if one vaults to the top it’ll be accompanied by nightmares every night.”
Some men started laughing but Feng Long noticed Zhuan Xu’s smile that indicated clearly that he disagreed with that assessment. Feng Long asked curiously “What does your cousin look like?”
Zhuan Xu smiled “When you see her, you’ll understand.”
Xing Yue asked sweetly “Because we’re friends, that why we should find out earlier than others!”
Zhuan Xu hesitated “I really don’t know how to describe.”
Women are more fixated on beauty than most so Xing Yue pressed on “How does she look compared to Ah Nian?”
Zhuan Xu pretended to think and said “That’s like comparing the flowers in the garden. The orchid has an orchid’s beauty. The rose has a rose’s beauty. It’s incomparable.”
Xing Yue was not pleased but Yi Yang interjected “No matter what type of beauty, clearly she doesn’t have the looks that would worry a guy.”
Zhuan Xu pointed to the dishes on the table “This is plants from the sea and very refreshing, try it.”
Feng Long and Hou understood he didn’t want to talk about his cousin anymore so started eating and changed the topic to the different cuisine between Gao Xing and the Middle Plains. Yi Yang and Xing Yue also happily joined in.
Jing’s hand was on his knee and it was tightly clenched into a fist as he sat there and never said a word.
The next day dawned as all the guests gathered at the summit of Five Gods Mountain to watch the Grand Emperor and the Princess pray to the Heavens and ancestors as a ceremony to official welcome the Gao Xing Princess home.
No matter how carefree Xiao Yao was, she knew some occasions had to be taken seriously. Such as today. She didn’t know why her dad decided on such a grand ceremony, but she did not want to embarrass him. She kept reminding herself that her every move represented Gao Xing, and if she made a mistake it would shame all of Gao Xing.
She woke up at dawn, washed up and had breakfast, got her hair and makeup done, all the while running through what she had to do today.
Zhuan Xu ran over to check on her and tell her not to be nervous. He conceded Gao Xing’s ceremonial structure was scarily complicated, but that was also why no one really knew all the details, so even if she made a mistake it should be fine and no one would notice.
Xiao Yao knew he was attending today as a representative of the Yellow Emperor so he had a lot of things to prepare as well and sent him on his way.
When Xiao Yao was all done up, Ru So was waiting for her outside to escort her to the ceremony. The maids brought the ceremonial outfit and prepared to dress her.
Xiao Yao liked this new outfit. Due to the time constraint, it wasn’t as elaborately embroidered but the effort was spent on the material and the accessories. The white dress robe was in the design of cloud patterns and paired with jade accessories. It was elegant and refined and way more comfortable than the first dress.
When the maids shook out the dress, there was a collective gasp. Xiao Yao looked over and saw the dress was slashed in the skirt area and dirt was smeared on it. A maid familiar with laundering clothing looked at the damage and said “This is special dirt and cannot be washed out.”
Everyone in the room was white-faced with fear. The Grand Emperor was a very calm person and rarely got mad, but when he did get mad it was like a living nightmare. Many of the maids started crying right then and there.
Xiao Yao sighed. That Ah Nian is really too gutsy. She put on a robe and said to to the maid to bring Ru So in to discuss how to salvage the situation. Ru So rushed in and didn’t even greet her before going to check on the dress. His face changed and hollered “Who did it? If I find out, I will kill her entire family!”
Xiao Yao was sitting on the pallet and said dryly “Then you need to toss in my dad.”
Ru So seethed “Ah Nian that little devious wrecker, does she want us all to die!”
The entire room full of maids couldn’t control themselves any longer and started sobbing.
Ru So pointed at Xiao Yao and yelled “Stop looking so innocent! This is clearly not Ah Nian’s first time doing something, and if it wasn’t for you letting her get away with it, it wouldn’t have escalated to today! Your sisterly fight has now implicated everyone!”
The maids sobbing grew louder until it was a room full of female wailing as some maids collapsed on the floor.
Xiao Yao pointed at her nose and laughed “Sir Ru So, stop acting. If all you want is for me to agree with your next suggestion, then say it and I’ll do it.”
Ru So calmed and bowed to Xiao Yao “I do have an idea. Do you remember the first outfit?”
Xiao Yao thought of it as well which is why she asked for Ru So to be summoned.
Ru So acted all conflicted “We have to use that one one even if His majesty really doesn’t like it. It’s too late to discuss with him, but if we do it without telling him and he casts blames….”
“I’ll take all the blame!” Xiao Yao smiled at Ru So clearly indicating she knew that was what he wanted all along.
Ru So muffled his smile and thought about spending all his time with the Princess these past few days preparing for the ceremony. In the end, he started to understand why the Grand Emperor doted on her so much.
Ru So left “I will order it prepared immediately.”
The maids all stopped crying when they heard there was another outfit and got back to work.
Ru So brought the outfit over and eight maids helped Xiao Yao put it on. When the waist was being cinched, one maid called out instructions while two maids pulled. Xiao Yao moaned painfully “I’m really got to be broken in two.”
The eight capable maids flitted around like butterflies and finally Xiao Yao was all dressed. Ru So called from outside “The time is already here, are you ready?”
“Yes, yes!” The maids called out together.
Xiao Yao walked out stiffly while four maids carried her train behind her. Ru So respectfully escorted her onto the cloud carriage. Xiao Yao was in no mood to talk during the ride, thinking through all the specifics of the upcoming ceremony.
The cloud carriage arrived at the summit and the maids helped Xiao Yao disembark. She walked into the cloud tent and the maids checked her hair and makeup one last time. Ru So solemnly reminded her “Princess, many people will be watching you. Don’t look at them and pretend no one is there.”
Xiao Yao glanced at him “It appears you’re more nervous than me.”
A horn sounded and Ru So said “It’s time.”
Xiao Yao took a soft breath and said to herself: This is nothing. Dad is waiting for met at the summit altar. This is the same as the rehearsal, just with one more set of steps.
Xiao Yao slowly walked out of the cloud tent and the maids helped adjust her train.
The entire summit altar was constructed from white jade and consisted of 99 steps to the top, starting out wide and narrowing as it got to the top. Both sides of the steps were ringed with Gao Xing ceremonial guards who looked very imposing. All the guests were dressed in their finest and watching from the stands.
Ah Nian was smiling as she waited for disaster to happen.
Zhuan Xu was calm yet expectant – this moment wasn’t just Xiao Yao’s coming back, it also marked his imminent return.
Jing was filled with anticipation. He wanted countless times to see Xiao Yao’s true form and now he was finally going to see her. But even more nervous was standing with other guests watching from afar, making him feel he was so distant from her.
The sun was shining brightly and flooding the summit with light. A young girl gracefully walked up the summit steps.
Her inky black hair was upswept, a white dress robed with a cinched waist paired with an outer gossamer veil robe with a long flowing train. The robe was embroidered using red and black thread into the design of a swallow and peach blossom forest. As she walked, the robe fanned out on the white jade steps. The peach blossoms extended from her waist on down and created the image of an entire forest of blooming peach blossoms covering the steps.
The girl followed the sound of the horn and walked straight forward with her head slightly raised as she stared ahead to the top of the summit. Her snow white skin, fine features, and a small peach blossom right in the center of her forehead – she was breathtaking. A who’s who of the entire world was here for her but her expression was aloof, her lips tightly pressed together without a hint of a smile, and her eyes conveyed her annoyance and unhappiness to be here, with a dash of scorn.
Whether it was the bright sun shining down, or steps full of peach blossoms, but everyone felt a little woozy like the image was dizzying.
Zhuan Xu and Jing stood in the very front and could see the clearest. Zhuan Xu was slightly angry but didn’t know why he was angry. Jing felt this awe inducing sight before him transformed into unease. It was like he wanted to grab onto something, but couldn’t grab onto anything.
Xiao Yao stood very still before the Grand Emperor and bowed to him. The Grand Emperor sighed – so often fate is on its own tracks and no one could stop it.
The Grand Emperor took Xiao Yao to pray to the Heavens, and then prayed to the Gao Xing ancestors. Xiao Yao’s mind was blank, all she knew was that she was praying praying praying in between all the chanting and bowing. Thanks to Ru So’s daily torturous training, she was able to do this feeling completely numb and just going through the memorized motions. She secretly scoffed, the more one looked totally stiff, the more the spectators would consider her totally proper in such a solemn setting.
Until the very end, when Xiao Yao felt like her body was so stiff it was about to collapse, she heard the announced that the ceremony concluded. Servants escorted all the guests from the summit.
Xiao Yao got on the cloud carriage and let out a huge breath. The Grand Emperor asked “Tired?”
Xiao Yao nodded. The Grand Emperor continued “When you get back, take off the outfit and go rest. You don’t need to come to tonight’s banquet if you don’t want.”
“Dad, aren’t you tired?” Xiao Yao didn’t need to go but the Grand Emperor had to do even if he didn’t like socializing.
“I’m used to it.”
Xiao Yao asked “Dad, how come you’re not asking why I’m wearing the outfit you don’t like?”
“Clearly Ah Nian must’ve ruined the other one.”
Xiao Yao laughed “I knew you were aware of all the stuff she was doing.”
“If I knew this, I would have stepped in. But……Ah Nian is using unreasonableness to hide her unease and insecurity. When it was just her, she was the only and never had to fight for anything. Now that you are here, she compares herself to you. The only ones who can reassure her are Zhuan Xu and myself. I don’t want her to think I’m playing favorites so I’m more lenient with her right now. But I feel like…..some things are between you sisters and you guys need to resolve it yourselves.”
Ah Nian’s fear, Xiao Yao could understand the worry that she would take away her dad and older brother. But insecurity? Xiao Yao laughed “I can take care of it myself, I just wanted to let her vent enough before dealing with her.”
The Grand Emperor sighed loudly “This life, I’ve used everything I have to exchange for everything I want. I have regrets but will still do it again. The only thing I worry about is the two of you sisters. If you can love and accept each other sincerely and look out for each other, then I will have nothing else to worry about.”
This was the rare instance of the Grand Emperor revealing genuine sadness and it made Xiao Yao feel terrible. But there are some things that one cannot do alone. Xiao Yao didn’t have faith she could do what her dad asked with Ah Nian so didn’t want to make a promise she couldn’t keep. But she vowed to try her best.
The cloud carriage returned to the Palace, with the Grand Emperor washing up and heading to the banquet in Qi Qing Garden while Xiao Yao returned to Ming Se Court.
The maids knew her personality so immediately took off her outfit and removed her makeup. After taking a hot bath, Xiao Yao finally felt like she was alive again.
Xiao Yao would never envy a woman with a willowy cinched waist anymore. She had the maid find a loose fitting robe to put on and then she sprawled on the pallet while the maids did her hair. A maid give her a head massage and she promptly fell asleep.
As Xiao Yao was sleeping soundly, she had no idea that a group of youth were discussing her in Qi Qing Garden.
Xing Yue and Yi Yang grabbed Zhuan Xu and wheedled “Call your cousin out. We want to meet her.”
Feng Long and the rest of the sons of powerful families said nothing but also stared at Zhuan Xu. He sighed “She has a very strange personality. I doubt she’ll be willing to come out.”
A guy piped up “We know she’s got a temper otherwise we wouldn’t be asking you.
Xing Yue said to Zhuan Xu “Aren’t we all friends? Later if people ask if we are friends and if we met your cousin, are we to say we know her but she’s never met us?”
With all the begging, Zhuan Xu had no choice and turned to Jing “Help me.”
The normally silent Jing spoke up “You guys stop putting Zhuan Xu in a difficult position.”
Feng Long immediately smiled “Yes, you guys stop bugging Zhuan Xu. There are plenty of opportunities in the future to make her acquaintance.”
Everyone piped down and thus dispersed to look for things to do. Zhuan Xu turned to thank Jing when suddenly Jing said “I want to see Xiao Yao.”
The expression in Zhuan Xu’s eyes changed and he was silent for a moment before smiling “I can only pass word for you. She decides whether or not to see you.”
Jing said “Thank you. Please tell her that I will be waiting for her at the base of the mountain outside the dragon bone prison.”
Zhuan Xu didn’t understand “That is secluded enough but not exactly a good place to go meet a girl.”
JIng bowed “If you please” and then turned and disappeared from the banquet.
Zhuan Xu had a servant deliver the news that “Shi Qi is waiting for you outside the dragon bone prison”. Xiao Yao felt happiness mixed with nervousness, it was a feeling she couldn’t fully understand.
She finished her meal, washed up, and then casually ordered the maids “I want to change to go meet a guest. Pick me a pretty outfit.”
It was the first time the maids heard the Princess ask to dress up nicely and they all perked up in excitement and pulled out all sorts of pretty outfits for the Princess to choose from.
The maids conferred and decided on three to pick from. Xiao Yao wanted one that didn’t have a cinched waist and was told she would look like she was pregnant under the moonlight.
Another maid said “Princess, we can’t wear these outfits even if we wanted because our waist isn’t small enough, legs aren’t long enough, top isn’t pretty enough. You look so pretty in it, why don’t you wear it?”
Xiao Yao asked “I really look nice in it?”
All of the maids nodded in unison and Xiao Yao thought about how this was her first time meeting Jing as a girl and decided to go with pretty over comfortable.
Xiao Yao picked a white and green robe and the maids did her hair with a bell hair pin so it whistled as she walked. She took a few steps and felt tired but the maids were gasping in joy and clapping “Princess, go see the person now. We promise he will never ever be able to forget you.”
Xiao Yao’s face was burning “What are you guys talking about? I’m just going to see a regular friend.”
All of the maids controlled their smiles – yup, just a friend, a regular friend who was so regular that the Princess would spend all that time dressing herself up.
Xiao Yao took the cloud carriage down the mountain and got off to walk the rest of the way. It was a full moon out and Xiao Yao slowly walked until she could hear the sound of the waves crashing against the cliff.
She saw a man standing on the rocks, he was facing the ocean and quietly waiting. It was unclear how long he waited, it was unclear how much longer he’ll continue to wait.
The person waiting for her was Ye Shi Qi.
Xiao Yao felt all her frustration slowly disappear until all that was left was joy and nervousness.
Xiao Yao walked quietly towards him.
At the ceremony, Ah Nian was so excited to see Xiao Yao make a fool of herself, but who could have expected that Xiao Yao would end up wearing an outfit that was even more exquisite than the one she destroyed. She ended up being the center of attention of the entire vast wilderness.
Ah Nian almost rushed out and trashed Xiao Yao’s outfit then and there, destroying Xiao Yao and destroying herself. But her mom tightly held onto her hand, her eyes filled with despair and entreaty. Ah Nian would misbehave towards anyone except her mom. So Ah Nian could only close her eyes and endure until the ceremony was over.
She escorted her mom back to her residence but couldn’t stay in the Palace any longer. Since Xiao Yao returned, the Palace no longer felt like her own home.
Ah Nian rode her swallow winged ride and left he Palace. She didn’t know what she wanted to do, she just wanted to escape for now and not hear the celebration that was for Xiao Yao.
The swallow flew aimlessly and Ah Nian was tired so she had it stop in a little island in the middle of the ocean. It was the size of a ship and Ah Nian sat down on a jutting rock and watched the ocean churning around her. The noise it made was like a beast bellowing, and normally she would be afraid, but tonight she wasn’t afraid. She even felt it would be best if a beast came and hurt her. Her dad and older brother had Xiao Yao now and they no longer cared about her. When she was injured and near dying and they found her, they would come to regret it but would be too late! Ah Nian thought about how sad her dad and older brother would be if they lost her, and she felt some comfort in that.
Another wave crested towards her and riding on the wave was a man in white with white hair, wearing a silver mask. He was smiling at Ah Nian and gently said “It hurt a lot? Your father and older brother have abandoned you?”
Ah Nian recognized him – he was Nine-lives Xiang Liu who kidnapped her once with Xiao Liu. Perhaps it was because Xiao Liu was the one who did all the mean things to her that time, so Ah Nian’s impression of Xiang Liu wasn’t bad. She was nervous now but not afraid of him.
Ah Nian asked “What are you doing here?”
Xiang Liu laughed “What do you think? The entire vast wilderness is discussing the Gao Xing Eldest Princess. Naturally I got curious so came to check out the festivities.”
Xiao Yao again! It was still Xiao Yao! Ah Nian loudly harrumphed.
Xiang Liu smiled “If she wasn’t around, you are still Gao Xing’s one and only Princess, your dad’s only daughter, your older brother’s only sister. But she randomly showed up and took everything from you. Don’t you want to seek revenge on her?”
Ah Nian bit her lips and said nothing. She knew not to make any deals with Xiang Liu, her Gege called him a demon devil, but……there was no such thing as a deal that couldn’t be made in this world, it was only that there was not enough enticement.
Ah Nian struggled “I hate her, but I don’t want her dead. I just want things to go back to the way it used to be.”
Xiang Liu gently said “I confess I might kill Xuan Yuan’s Prince, but I will never kill Gao Xing’s Princess. We Sheng Nong resistance army would never want to get on the Grand Emperor’s bad side.”
Ah Nian knew that which is why she wasn’t scared of him.
Xiang Liu looked at Ah Nian and gently suggested “You want to torment her a bit but not kill her, is that right?”
Ah Nian slowly nodded her head.
Xiang Liu laughed “You are a kind girl, your dad and older brother ought to love you more.”
Ah Nian felt like this was the first true words she heard in a long time so asked “How to give her a good bout of thrashing?”
Xiang Liu said “All you need to do is lure her out and not be detected. I’ll handle the rest.”
Ah Nian asked “Why are you helping me? What do you want me to do for you?”
Xiang Liu smiled “You are the Gao Xing Princess and want for nothing. It’s rare that I can do something for you and I’m happy to. You know the position of the Sheng Nong resistance army. If in the future the situation arises, I would ask that Princess to help me once in return.”
Ah Nian smiled “You don’t even want me to promise, aren’t you afraid I will renege?”
Xiang Liu solemnly and gently said “I trust you.”
Ah Nian smiled sweetly “Fine! If you teach her a lesson, I will do one thing for you in the future.”
Xiang Liu handed a clam shell to Ah Nian “Lure her to the ocean and then smash this. I will be there.” Ah Nian put the shell away and rode her swallow back.
Xiao Yao happily looked at the man standing on the rocks and walked towards him. Suddenly a rock struck her back and she turned to see Ah Nian standing in the distance waving at her to go over. Xiao Yao walked towards Ah Nian when she suddenly turned and ran off.
Xiao Yao furrowed her brows and looked back at the cliff side, and then followed where Ah Nian disappeared to.
Ah Nian’s form flitted in and out of the forest and Xiao Yao knew she was trying to play with her so she went along to see what Ah Nian had up her sleeve. They emerged from the forest to the other side of the mountain and Ah Nian beckoned Xiao Yao to the edge of the cliff.
Xiao Yao slowly walked over “What do you want?”
Ah Nian looked at her and her expression was conflicted. Xiao Yao also looked at Ah Nian and couldn’t figure out what she wanted to do. Even if she pushed her off the cliff, she wouldn’t die.
Ah Nian smashed a clam shell and then rushed Xiao Yao who sighed “You really want to push me off the cliff?” She wanted to duck but Ah Nian used an ice sword to block Xiao Yao’s escape.
Ah Nian said “You guessed right!”
Xiao Yao could kill Ah Nian if she wanted, but she couldn’t beat Ah Nian in a fight. Suddenly Xiao Yao felt a power strike her back and her body flew over the cliff.
Xiao Yao wasn’t scared, she had been cliff diving since she was young and she actually quite enjoyed this free fall before entering the ocean.
The wind blew her hair around her and her robe billowed out so she looked like a falling butterfly with green wings flying towards the ocean.
Xiao Yao stretched out her body and squinted her eyes, when suddenly her eyes opened wide – under the moonlight, in the dark blue ripples of the ocean, a white haired white robed man was laying on the waves. He had a slight smile as he looked up at her, as if enjoying a dance that was for his eyes only.
Xiao Yao wanted to escape but she was in the middle of falling and her only way was down. She could only watch as she got closer and closer to him, closer and closer, until she thought she would fall right on top of Xiang Liu. At that moment he sank into the ocean and she entered the water. He grabbed her hand and pulled her down with him.
He held her under water but Xiao Yao knew he wouldn’t kill her but only wanted to torment her so she endured it.
When the final breath was almost gone, Xiao Yao grabbed his hands and pleaded with him but he ignored her and kept swimming underwater. Xiao Yao felt her entire chest was about to explode and her hands no longer had any strength. She let go and Xiang Liu grabbed her around the waist with a smile and pointed to his lips indicating that if she wanted fresh air, she was going to have to get it herself.
Xiao Yao shook her head. In the past, she was Wen Xiao Liu, she never saw herself as a woman. But now, no matter what happened, she couldn’t do it.
Xiang Liu’s smile disappeared and he embraced Xiao Yao and continued to sink deeper.
He stared at Xiao Yao, and Xiao Yao stared at him.
Xiang Liu was descending faster and Xiao Yao realized that faced with a Nine-headed demon who didn’t give a shit about anything, her identity as the Gao Xing Princess couldn’t protect her.
Xiang Liu was sinking even faster and the soft water was filled with such pressure it made Xiao Yao feel like it would rip her to pieces. Her chest was about to explode and her entire body hurt.
Life and death – it was one simple choice.
Their faces were so close, so close their noses were almost touching. All Xiao Yao needed to do was move forward an inch and she would be pressing to his lips.
Xiao Yao felt all the water rushing into her head. His lips were so close, so close…..and then Xiao Yao lost consciousness and fainted.
Xiang Liu jerked her head forward to his lips and then rocketed to the surface with her.
The two of them broke the surface.
Xiang Liu sat crossed legged on the surface and pulled up the unconscious Xiao Yao and placed her on his leg. His summoned power to his palms and patted her a few times on the back. Xiao Yao coughed and spit out mouthfuls of water. She was gradually regaining consciousness though her entire body as weak and sore and her head was heavy. She couldn’t move so so closed her eyes and rested wearily on Xiang Liu’s lap.
After resting for a good while, Xiao Yao finally was able to think straight and she pressed down on Xiang Liu’s leg to help her sit up. Likely Xiang Liu’s power was forming a solid surface so the waves underneath her felt like a soft cushion, making her movements wobbly but she didn’t sink.
Xiang Liu was expressionless and just staring at her. He said nothing so Xiao Yao didn’t know what to say either.
They were in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by endless darkness, as if the entire world was just the two of them left.
Xiao Yao finally spoke “I was planning to pretend I didn’t know you when I saw you again.”
“I still have the voodoo bug in my body, are you trying to welsh on your promise?”
Xiao Yao said “It ought to be that only I can sense you, but you can’t sense me. How did you know I was Wen Xiao Liu?”
Xiang Liu raised his hand and pulled Xiao Yao’s hair back from her face, holding her head in his hand and carefully taking in her face “This is your true form?”
“You’re a great liar.”
Xiao Yao wanted to explain “It’s not lying, I really thought I was Wen Xiao Liu.”
“The Princess of Gao Xing?” Xiang Liu laughed coldly “No wonder you would die to save Zhuan Xu.”
Xiao Yao didn’t dare say anything more.
Xiang Liu’s hand seemed to casually rest on her shoulder and his finger passed by her neck and he softly said “What else have you lied about? Why don’t you come clean all together today. I won’t kill you.”
“I told you before, I only bullshit but I never say anything fake. I like to talk because I’m afraid of being lonely. If I’m full of lies, then the more I talk the lonelier I’ll get.”
Xiang Liu’s sharp finger retracted in that moment and Xiao Yao never knew how close she was to death.
Xiang Liu silently stared out at the pitch black sky, unclear what was on his mind, but his entire body was like the edge of the sharpest sword blade, so sharp that no one could get close.
Xiao Yao didn’t know why – she was floating on the surface but she felt like she was sinking into the depths. Her heart ached with this pressure when she looked at him like this, and then she suddenly thought of something and pulled out a wet satchel and took out a small jade bottle. She dumped out colorful pills and showed it to Xiang Liu “Want to try?”
Xiang Liu ate it like he was eating candy, slowly eating it one by one.
“How is it? I made this specifically for you, reading all sorts of manuals, and gathering all sorts of rare ingredients.”
The thrumming intensity in Xiang Liu diminished and he said “It’s passable.”
“Passable?” Xiao Yao was almost in tears “So many ingredients came from the most hard to reach places and takes thousands of years to grow.”
Xiang Liu coolly asked “You still want to poison me?”
“I’m one of the foremost poison masters of this generation, I can even poison a Nine-tailed fox, there is no reason I can’t poison you Nine-headed demon!”
Xiang Liu smirked “I’ll wait for it.”
Xiao Yao felt the mood between them was no longer as intense and dangerous as before so carefully asked “How did you get mixed up with Ah Nian?”
Xiao Yao grabbed his sleeve and sternly said “No! You can’t go mess with her again. She’s been so well protected by my dad, she can’t handle being mentally screwed with by someone like you.”
Xiang Liu leaned forward and laughed “A person like me? What kind of person am I?”
Xiao Yao rolled her eyes at him “You totally know.”
Xiang Liu casually said “She doesn’t see you as an older sister and you’re already rushing to be a good older sister.”
“The relationships between people, one person always needs to make the first move. Men and women, and even parents to children. Before a child is aware, the parents are already giving. I’ve always been selfish and never want to make the first move. But between Ah Nian and I, I’ve decided to make the first move not because she’s worth it, but because of my dad and Zhuan Xu. I’m willing to do it for my dad and Zhuan Xu.”
“Not every sacrifice will get a reciprocal response. She can sell you out to me, that means she can sell you out to someone else. She can push you off a cliff today, next time she may plunge a dagger into your chest.”
“I know, which is why I’m only going to do this once.”
Xiang Liu said “I promise I’ll stop messing with your sister for fun, but you’ll have to promise me one thing.”
“Can I say no?”
“Of course not.”
Xiao Yao looked at him all docilely waiting for him to speak.
Xiang Liu said “Continue making poisons for me.”
This was so easy Xiao Yao immediately agreed “But…but…how can I hand it to you? I’m not in Qing Shui Town anymore, and you can’t come to the mountain top to find me.”
Xiang Liu laughed “This is your problem to figure out. If a prolonged period of time passes and I don’t see a new batch of poisons, I’ll go looking for your sister.”
Xiao Yao pouted “I knew you wouldn’t forgive me for lying this easily.”
Xiang Liu said “I’ve already forgiven you.”
Xiao Yao continued pouting and Xiang Liu coldly humphed, and then he suddenly asked “Why?”
Xiao Yao knew exactly what he was asking – why did she refuse to kiss him and would rather die. She pretended to be clueless “Why what?”
Xiang Liu grabbed her arm and they started sinking so Xiao Yao yelped “Oh, I remember, I remember!”
Xiang Liu stared at her and Xiao Yao “Because I’m scared.”
“It’s scarier than death?”
Xiao Liu thought about it and finally put it into words “My Gege, that is Zhuan Xu, he said one night when we were talking that I was still a girl who dreams. So….so….I’m scared that if I’m not careful, you’ll walk into my dreams. And you…..” Xiao Yao shook her head “You’re someone who is never ever suitable to show up in a young girl’s dreams. That might actually be scarier than death.”
Xiang Liu started chuckling, and it grew louder and louder until he was laughing. He released Xiao Yao and his body drifted away.
Xiao Yao yelled “Hey…hey….don’t leave me here. If you leave me here, what’ll I do?”
Xiang Liu laughed “Swim back!”
Xiao Yao was in disbelief “You want me to swim back from here? This is the deep ocean and sea monsters are around. I’ve got very weak powers, any random sea monster can eat me!”
Xiang Liu smiled with a twinkle in his eye “I’m doing this for your own good. If I’m too tender and considerate with you, I might accidentally enter your dreams and leave you wishing for death. That would be a crime on my part.”
Xiang Liu finished talking and sank into the ocean and disappeared.
Xiao Yao couldn’t believe it and yelled “Xiang Liu, Xiang Liu, Nine-lives! Nine-headed demon! Devil bastard! You damn Nine-headed demon bastard…..”
The waves ripped around her and the sea was desolate. Xiao Yao felt the ocean grew darker and looked around to gather her bearings and started swimming towards Five Gods Mountain.
Initially she was scared a sea monster would come and bite her but after swimming for along time and still not seeing land, she was scared she would drown. She conserved her energy and stopped thinking and just started swimming as if she was in a trance and her body was moving in a steady rhythm.
Initially she felt tired but gradually it all disappeared – the sky was not the sky and the sea was not the sea. She couldn’t feel her own existence and was swimming based on her natural instinct for survival. Swimming like she was letting everything all go and just moving forward, forever moving forward.